Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The North Face Venture 1/2 Zip Waterproof Pant Review






5 out of 5 stars.

I bought these fantastic looking waterproof pants in October last year to replace an old pair of cheaper waterproof pants that had begun to leak. The North Face Venture Pant were my first choice out of a large range of waterproof pants on the market today. I was looking for performance, quality and style.
I love the look of these, bringing a sense of style to waterproof bottoms, most importantly from that perspective - they are not baggy like a lot of the same types of waterproof pant that are out there! This is particularly important in my view, for instance getting a pair of Gaiters over the top of my old waterproof pants was a nightmare, and if you popped them underneath 'Bear Grylls style' then you ended up looking like you had gone out specifically to buy a baggy pair of pants - they also when wet wet seemed to get even bigger! The North Face's Venture Pant however are not by any means tight, but instead taken in a lot more than other waterproof pants currently on the market - thus allowing freedom of flow when trekking  for long distances, scaling a hill or mountain, or when simply crossing rocky and uneven terrain. There are as standard Velcro adjustable fasteners at the bottom of each leg allowing you to adjust the tightness around your boots or Gaiters as you please too.
One of the first things you notice about the pant is the feel of them, the outer Hyvent DT material is a tough anti-rip, light weight, extremely waterproof and highly breathable fabric - the feel of quality indeed. The pants come in a large choice of sizes too with three leg lengths to choose from which is a bonus for me - again my last waterproof pants had a tenancy to catch underneath my boots which obviously damaged the material over time. I was able to get a slightly shorter leg length with these stopping the drag, but also still preventing water from getting the bottoms of my combat pants underneath wet too.
 The pants have a half zip leg, which can be slightly annoying sometimes. I personally do prefer a full zip leg allowing for quick pull on / off when out in the wilds. This means that sometimes if you’re exhausted or in the dark perhaps – can tend to lead to you jumping around on one leg trying to get the pants over your boots! But I knew this when I bought them so was something I had planned for. My old waterproof pants only had a quarter zip, so these new pants still outdid them massively in that respect too.
The waist draw cord is pretty basic, but effective feeling secure with an elasticated waist...
 So, the overall performance has been awesome, I love these waterproof pants – and I always seem to wear them on a hike somewhere, and they've never let me down. They look great next to my jacket, and in my view give a professional look to other hikers or passers-by too. To be honest I couldn't recommend these enough, and retailing for around the £50 mark you can’t go wrong with these at all.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Brief Note on Fatherhood


I am currently on two weeks paternity leave after the birth of my son, Spencer! This is one of the greatest moments of my life, if not the greatest. As he arrived, nothing can prepare you for the emotions that go through you, to see your baby being born, as I’m sure it is for any father simply over whelming.

The nurses at the hospital are some of the most kindest and supportive human beings that I’ve ever encountered, which was surprising as I’d expected very strict midwives that did the job all the time and so this one was no different, so were harsh. But no, they are not paid enough in my view, supportive caring, kind natured, and to keep all that up over my wife’s 24 hour labour was amazing! Also a note of the support of my Sister-In-Law who after having 3 children was a massive help too, and helped calm my wife at times of desperation and uncertainty, and was with us all the way through.

So now comes the sleepless nights, and the constant worry etc – well bring it on, this is going to suit me down to the ground. If anything it can give a man more of a purpose in life, a reason to work extra hard that day, a reason to try for that promotion. It’s like the astronauts that touched the monolith on the moon in 2001: A Space Odyssey  - now is time to progress.

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.
- Sigmund Freud from Civilization and Its Discontents

Friday, 8 June 2012

Berghaus Men's RG 3-in-1 Jacket Review




4 out of 5 stars.

Berghaus have created a classic walking jacket with the RG 3-in-1 combining the tough, and well liked RG1 jacket, with the removable Berghaus Integral light weight fleece.
 I bought this jacket just over a year ago, and it has served me well. I liked the tough feeling AQ™2 outer shell, which is very waterproof and surprisingly highly breathable, and the jacket looks smart and mature.

 The RG 3-in-1 is seemingly becoming more and more popular, great for popping on to take the dog for a walk, going shopping in town, for work, or when out in the hills. I have noticed the jacket being worn by quite a few hikers when out, and who can blame them, retailing at about the £70 mark – this is a tough jacket to beat in performance for that price range.

The RG 3-in-1 has the detachable Integral fleece, which will hold off cold breezes when you don’t want to wear the jacket with it. The fleece itself connects into the jacket via a series of toggles. But you don’t have to connect these all up if you want to put the jacket on quickly. I bought my jacket in a medium, and I'm glad I did, the jacket is fine but if I had bought it in a small size I'm sure the fleece wouldn't  fit!


My first test for the jacket was in my home county of Shropshire for a trip up the Wrekin – a well known hill in the area. It was coming up to Christmas time and the week leading up to my trip it had been snowing every day on and off. When my friend and I got to the base of the hill it was bitterly cold, and climbing it was made hard by the ski-slope style slippery path way. By the time I had got to about half way up I was sweating, but the jacket let the sweat out – rather than it collecting on the inside of the jacket. When we finally made it to the top, a snow storm had enveloped the summit along with high winds and hail mixed in, the jacket held up against everything. It was actually quite cosy wearing it in such harsh conditions. 
 The only real let down, of which has sadly for me let the whole jacket down, and the reason why I have awarded this great looking, and popular jacket only four stars, is simply because of the hood. To me if you’re going to make a good quality jacket, then why not make the hood great too? I can only guess that due to the price range it’s in, then you won’t get a good hood for using in the great outdoors. The hood is fairly basic, just two bog-standard volume adjusters either side of it, and unlike most of the Berghaus range doesn't have a stiffened or wired peak. To me any outdoor jacket should have a volume adjuster at the rear of the hood so you can get the required tightness to your head that prevents the hood from blowing down - and crucially unlike with just two either side of the hood - stops your vision becoming impaired by the hood itself.

  However, here is the jacket, and me taking a pounding from the weather on the summit of the Wrekin last year...
The jacket has an overall smart appearance, completed with a waist drawcord to adjust to your liking...
 Another plus for the jacket, the cuffs. Berghaus have kept to Velcro cuffs for the RG3-in1…
 The AQ™2 outer shell is tough, and rough to touch. This does mean that it can become slightly bitty. Mine seems to pick up cat fur, fluff, and anything that has fallen onto the material, and it’s hard to brush off too. Here you can see the outer shell's appearance up close...
 The impressive Integral Fleece is a great fleece that can be worn under any jacket…
 So sadly it’s the hood in my view that lets this great jacket down, hard to get right so it’s in a good position to use when walking without it either falling in front of your face, or you having to pull the volume adjusters tight to your forehead! It is however a good size, and shape, but is let down by the lack of a rear drawcord…
So overall after well over a year of use, 4 stars – but to be fair a good jacket for the price. If you do decide to buy a Berghaus RG 3-in-1 I'm sure you would be satisfied with it, come whatever weather, knowing you have bought a quality jacket from a quality manufacturer.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

KWVR Diesel Gala 2012 25.5.12

Yes, once again it was time for the annual pilgrimage to Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, this time with a few guys to 'bash' what traction we could.
 I had got the Friday off from work, and so had my work mate Dave, the weather was set to be hot and with the traction booked for the event, the day was looking good!
 So after a bit of confusion at Leeds railway station where Dave and myself ended up on separate trains at the same time due to an old lady asking for directions from the bus driver of the bus I was on into Leeds city centre (long story), we eventually made it into Keighley at just after 10am...

Here 33103 rumbles into a roasting Keighley station as we arrived...
33103 was coupled to 31466, together they filled the station with fumes...awesome. Here 31466 waits to be uncoupled from the coach stock...
It was now time to get some traction, that would come courtesy of 33103 returning to Oxenhope (the last stop on the line) on its own power. Here Dave trying avoid getting in the way of my camera at stunningly hot Oxenhope...
It was now time for visiting loco 50026 and KWVR's Class 20 - 20031 (the beast) to make an appearance. Here they are running around the coaching stock at Oxenhope...
So now back down the line to Keighley, hauled by the above monsters which sounded particularly good in the morning calm of the Worth Valley.
 Then it was time for a few more photo's, here John, Dave and Dan enjoying the glorious sunshine at Keighley's picnic area...
John, me and Dan...
Me and Dave...
Well it seemed that 50026 was not quite herself on the day, and blew a traction motor when hauling us out of the steep bend from Keighley Station. It was a shame, but at least we got haulage from it from Oxenhope - even if that is downhill. 50026 failed Saturday morning too apparently, but was rescued by the end of the day, and went onto do a couple of runs Saturday evening, and all day Sunday!
 Here Dan enjoying the replacement haulage...
The only hoover working properly on the day...
Everyone enjoying the atmosphere of the Bar Car...
Enjoying this beautiful line...
K.W.V.R's latest buy, 37075 coupled up to 31466 at a baking Oxenhope...
We got off at Haworth for the famous fish & chips (which some would say is the law to eat on a gala). By now the afternoon sun was reaching its maximum temprature of 27 degrees!...
33103 and K.W.V.R's very own 25059 rattle into Haworth...
However we waited for 31466, and quickly becoming favourite loco of the day 37075 coupled to it, to take us back to Keighley...
Despite the times being messed up because of the failure of 50026, the staff at K.W.V.R did magnificently well to keep the gala as good as it was. Here waiting for the coupling up of 37075 that would take us back up the line to Oxenhope...
37075 growling away up front...
37075 was totally thrashed up the line to Oxenhope, probably one of the best experiences ever behind a 37. Hats off to the driver!!!
 Here 37075 heads back to Haworth shed for the night, ready for Saturdays fun...
So by this stage it was 18:30, and the next train back wasn't until 19:30 which was to be hauled by 25059. After enjoying some real ale at Oxenhope we made the return, and last run of the day to Keighley.
 Here Dave and John having a discussion...
Well, what a day, easily the best Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Diesel Gala I've been to. It was a shame that 50026 failed, but 37075 made up for that. And with that being K.W.V.R's very own loco, I'm looking forward to future events!
 I'll leave you with this video of 50026 failing with us being hauled behind it, watch out for the traction motor blowing out in a flash, shaking the loco. Yes it was us with the air horns you can hear at the beginning of the video!...

Friday, 1 June 2012

The North Face Men's Resolve Jacket Review


4 out of 5 stars.

You could argue that the Resolve Jacket by The North Face is their most popular jacket. It's a great all round jacket, with a stylish cut. This jacket is at home in the city, or out in the hills, and with it retailing at around the £70 mark - is a good quality jacket that won't break the bank.

 I bought this jacket admittedly for casual wear, it goes great with a pair of jeans. And I have to admit I'm a big The North Face fan, I would put my trust into any of their gear.
 The Resolve is a good jacket to pop on for a bit of shopping, perhaps a day trip somewhere, and with suitable clothing can be worn affectively all year round. The jacket however is also at home in a rucksack ready to be put on when you're on a hike somewhere, it will pack down very small too for ease of carry. I have used it quite a few times on a summers hike, when rain has set in, or perhaps on a high hill or mountain where it has provided cover against cold winds.      

 The North Face have used their popular HyVent ripstop nylon fabric for the construction of the jacket, and trust me it can take a few knocks and scrapes against rocky cliff sides, and so can take abuse from your rucksack too! The material is also very breathable, strong yet lightweight, and extremely waterproof!  

The overall look of the jacket is functional, but stylish. And carrying The North Face logo, has a perception of quality to it. In store, I tried on a medium fit first, I normally buy a medium jacket size, but in this case I was surprised to find the medium quite so large and baggy on me. So I bought mine in a small size, and this gives me more than enough room... 
The hood has a nice look to it, great shape to keep rain away from your face, and it can be rolled away if you wished. It is however quite a basic hood, with no wired peak or anything like that. I'm not keen also on the fact that there is no drawcord (or cinch cord as it seems to be known on this jacket) at the back, just the usual two on either side of the hood. So this mean't that in strong wind, is near impossible to stop it from blowing down. To me the hood is the most important part of an outdoor jacket, so I found this particularly disappointing...
It's a shame because if it had a rear draw chord, this would make a near perfect hiking jacket. You can see here the nice cut of the hood, and the traditional rear logo too...
The cuffs are pretty basic, just normal jacket standards here - being simply elasticated...
Here a close up of the collar, with its very nice and comfy feeling fleece lining...
The jacket has a mesh lining keeping you warm and dry, and two zipped hand pockets that are at a nice height to pop your hands into quickly when they get cold. The central front zip is nice and easy to use, doesn't have a tendency to get caught in its own lining like a lot of jackets, and to add a bit more security against the elements, the zip is protected by a Velcro attaching storm baffle!...
Overall a great all round jacket for hiking, climbing or just for a quick walk around town. I like this jacket very much, a great performer on all fronts, providing your not going to extreme. I think this will remain a favourite of mine for a long time to come as it has over the past year.