AMAMAYA GOKYO HAT and LUKLA BASE LAYER

“We are a kids’ outdoor clothing start-up with no intention of pretending to be something we are not.”

So say Simon and Laura, the entrepreneurs behind the all new outdoor clothing line for kids, Amamaya. And fair play to them. They know what they’re doing and they do it well. At present their range is fairly limited – just the Gokyo hats and Lukla base layers, with Ama Dablam T-shirts coming soon. But their products are wonderfully colourful and beautifully made right here in the UK.

Woven from 100 per cent merino wool, the Gokyo hats are double-layered so there are no uncomfortable seams, while the Lukla has been designed to be worn as a base layer or an outer top in warmer weather.

Clearly some thought has gone into the creation of these to ensure that the kids wearing them are as bright and happy as the gear itself. It’s just a shame it doesn’t come in adult sizes. Parents, prepare to be jealous of your kids – these garments are gorgeous.

www.amamaya.co.uk

Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody (2015)

Features

The Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody is a good all-rounder in terms of features, so you get a medium-weight fabric that offers medium level of insulation, wind and water resistance – potentially ideal for general hill and mountain use. There are two well-placed main pockets and a hood with face and volume adjustment. The 566g weight is reasonable too, so overall a good feature set for walkers. 5/5

Fit

The men’s comes in sizes S-XXL and the women’s in XS-XL. Mine fitted me slightly closer than some others (but it was an M rather than an L), but I could still wear it over a thin fleece. There is no adjustment at the cuffs, apart from elastication; but they fitted me fine, and the cuffs and hem didn’t ride up. The length is average, while the hood fits and moves well. 5/5

Comfort

The polyester double-weave fabric offers good airflow, making the Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody ideal to wear under waterproofs, but it is also windproof enough to make it comfortable on the hill. Inside you get a polyester grid fleece layer for just the right amount of insulation for year-round use. There is a little less stretch here than some fabrics, but overall this is very comfortable. 5/5

In use

The two pockets are positioned high enough to allow access to them while wearing a rucksack hipbelt, and they are large enough for maps. The hood fits well and moves well with the head with its stiffened peak providing good protection, even though it isn’t wired. I would really like a third chest pocket, and Velcro adjustment tabs on the cuffs may improve fit for some, but overall the Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody is great. 5/5

Value

The priced is appropriate for what you’re getting here, which is a good set of features and materials for the hill. 4/5

Verdict

The Arc’teryx Epsilon LT Hoody is not perfect, but this product offers most of what is needed from a soft shell jacket when heading into the hills. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Arcteryx%20Epsilon.jpg

Mammut Nordpfeiler / Westgrat (2015)

Features

The Mammut Nordpfeiler / Westgrat offers high abrasion resistance with stretch thanks to Gore Windstopper fabric (its membrane will help fend off wind and water). Pit zips add ventilation while the hood has a stiffened peak. There are three pockets on the body, which can all be accessed above climbing harnesses or rucksack hipbelts. But the weight of 728g is quite high. 5/5

Fit

The Nordpfeiler comes in men’s sizes S-XXL while the women’s version – the Westgrat – comes in sizes XS-XL. The Nordpfeiler is slightly longer on me than some other soft shell jackets we looked at. The cuffs are only elasticated and I noticed they tended to ride up easier than others when raising the arms. Hood fit was not ideal either. 3/5

Comfort

The fabric is relatively soft and stretchy and as the Mammut Nordpfeiler / Westgrat isn’t as highly insulated as other jackets it feels a little comfier on. But the cuffs don’t fit as closely, so draughts are possible here. As this is a Gore Windstopper fabric it traps warm air quite easily and fends off wind and rain well. But under a waterproof it won’t be as breathable as more open-weave options. 4/5

In use

The hood has no volume adjustment and its peak has no wired stiffening, so this resulted in the face drawcords being too close to my eyes and the peak being distorted in shape, which wasn’t great. The women’s Westgrat has well-placed pockets; but the Nordpfeiler has pockets that are slightly lower, so a climbing harness or rucksack hipbelt will impede access a little. 3/5

Value

The price is higher than other jackets that have better-designed features, so it feels expensive by comparison. 3/5

Verdict

The Mammut Nordpfeiler / Westgrat is designed for mountain use but it’s hard to justify paying the price as it isn’t as well-designed as lower-priced options. 3.6/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Mammut%20Nordpfeiler.jpg

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT Shell (2015)

Features

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT Shell is made for durability with Schoeller stretch woven nylon, which lacks a membrane so it is very breathable but resists wind. Nanosphere technology enhances its ability to shed water. The design has a hood with a stiffened peak, a chest pocket and two hip pockets that are a bit low for easy access while wearing a rucksack. The weight of 614g is tolerable but not ideal. 4/5

Fit

The men’s sizes are XS-XL and the women’s sizes are XS-XL with the fit being averagely close while allowing a thin fleece to be worn underneath. The fit of the sleeves is exceptionally good, with the hem and cuffs not budging when raising arms. The cuffs have Velcro tab adjustment too. The hood fits and moves with the head exceptionally well. 5/5

Comfort

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT Shell is not the warmest option as it doesn’t have that pile finish of some, but it is very comfortable in a wider range of temperatures and can be worn effectively over insulating layers or under waterproofs as it is very breathable. It is a soft fabric too, so it doesn’t restrict movement or feel bulky. The fabric is stretchier than most so it’s ideal for climbing and comfort. 5/5

In use

The drawback is the hip pockets, which are too low to allow easy access when wearing any sort of hipbelt or climbing harness. The chest pocket is good and larger than most, so it just about takes an OS map. The hood peak isn’t wired and is quite large, but it is stiffened and didn’t distort as badly as some; however a wired peak would ensure better vision. 4/5

Value

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT Shell’s price seems high as feature-wise it is similar to others or in some cases it has fewer features, so the price is hard to accept. 2/5

Verdict

The Black Diamond Dawn Patrol LT Shell offers good year-round performance and some excellent features, but other models offer similar benefits at lower prices. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Black%20Diamond%20Dawn%20Partol.jpg

Montane Tigertooth Pro (2015)

Features

The main fabric used in the Montane Tigertooth Pro is Polartec Power Shield, which has a membrane sandwiched between the outer and inner layers, making it more water- and wind-resistant. The outer is very abrasion-resistant while the inner is a very thick fibre pile layer. You also get four main pockets with great access and a hood with a wired peak. The drawback is the 794g weight. 5/5

Fit

The Montane Tigertooth Pro is available only in men’s S-XXL; it fits closely but I was able to wear a thin fleece under it for more insulation. The body length is average but the sleeves fitted me particularly well with no hint of the cuffs or hem riding up. The hood also fitted exceptionally well to allow great protection while maintaining perfect vision. Pity there’s no women’s version. 4/5

Comfort

This is a very warm jacket although as it is a bit thicker than others it does feel a little bulkier and stiffer. Also that weight of 794g impacts on the comfort. It fends off wind and water well, and as it has a membrane it won’t be ideal under a waterproof, as non-membrane materials will be more breathable. But overall this is ideal for the depths of winter. 5/5

In use

The Tigertooth Pro is really dedicated to Alpine or Scottish winter climbing, where it would excel. The hood, pockets and general design are ideal for climbing but it would also be great for walking across the Cairngorms in winter or battling through wind and snow up to any mountain summit. The problem is that it is so heavy you need to be wearing it all day. 4/5

Value

The Montane Tigertooth Pro’s price is high but you are getting a lot of jacket here and it is very, very warm. 3/5

Verdict

If you want a soft shell jacket for winter conditions this is it, but for any other situation alternative Montane jackets are better. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Montane%20Tigertooth.jpg

Rab Torque (2015)

Features

Matrix Double Weave Stretch (Matrix DWS) fabric is used to make the Rab Torque very breathable as there is no membrane; also it’s very durable, with hood and elbow reinforcement. The hood is helmet-compatible and has a wired peak. The weight of 488g (size L) is great, but you only get two Napoleon chest pockets. Rab’s Sawtooth jacket (£100) has more pockets. 4/5

Fit

There is no women’s version of this jacket, but Rab’s Sawtooth (men’s and women’s) is the nearest equivalent in this material. The Torque men’s sizes are S-XXL, and the fit was relaxed enough to wear over a thin fleece without being too baggy. The sleeve fit, hood fit and movement were outstanding. It has a longer body than average too. 4/5

Comfort

The low weight plus the softness of the fabric make the Rab Torque very comfortable over a base layer or a thin fleece. It can be worn under waterproofs too as it is so breathable. It keeps off the wind and the worst of the rain but isn’t very well-insulated. Think of it as a stretchy, durable windshirt to be worn with other layers, and it’s great! 5/5

In use

I love the fabric as it can be used in so many situations, from summer to winter, in fine weather or wet weather when combined with other layers. The hood is outstandingly good, thanks to a super fit and a wired peak. The two chest pockets are great, but you aren’t getting any handwarmer pockets, which are available in the men’s and women’s Sawtooth. 4/5

Value

The cost is acceptable, but for a similar price you can get the Sawtooth (more hand-friendly pockets, less abrasion resistance). 4/5

Verdict

The Rab Torque  is an ideal windshirt for mountaineering, but walkers may prefer Rab’s Sawtooth jacket in the same material with its better pockets. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Rab%20Torque.jpg

Rab Ventus (2015)

Features

The Rab Ventus provides just a little more wind and water resistance than a fleece but lacks the insulation of one. It has two main pockets placed high on the body, plus a hood. There is hem drawcord to keep out draughts, while the cuffs are elasticated but there is no hood adjustment. It’s minimalist compared to most soft shells for sure. 4/5

Fit

Men’s sizes are S-XXL and women’s sizes are 8-16, with the jacket fitting closely without being tight or restrictive. The hood even fitted okay due to there being stretch in the material, which allowed it to hug my head and move well. The cuffs too – despite only having elasticated cuffs – fitted well, and the cuffs and hem didn’t budge when I raised my arms. 5/5

Comfort

The Rab Ventus is a thin, stretchy, wind-resistant top with minimal insulation. Its comfort level is high, but it is not very warm, so in summer you could wear it over a base layer but in autumn you’ll need a thin fleece or thick base layer system. Not as water- or wind-resistant as other soft shells, but for walkers who carry a waterproof all the time this may be a benefit. 4/5

In use

This is superb at what it does, which is provide a stretchy, comfortable, slightly wind- and water-resistant layer. The pockets have very easy access, and are nice and large. The hood is great too. My problem is I’m not sure how useful it is. Some people will love it while others will prefer a fleece or thicker soft shell. But it is unique in what it offers so well, and for that reason it demands a look. 4/5

Value

The price is good but not stunning as the Rab Ventus uses much thinner fabric than higher-priced options, but it’s a better design than similar options. 4/5

Verdict

The Rab Ventus is a thin and stretchy spin on the soft shell concept that is ideal for climbing, backpacking, and fast and light activity. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Rab%20Ventus.jpg

Berghaus Winter Valparola (2015)

Features

Gore Windstopper soft shell fabric makes the Berghaus Winter Valparola durable and very water-resistant with a micro-grid polyester lining for extra warmth, but the drawback is the weight of 774g. There are four chest pockets, however, plus pit zips for ventilation and a hood with a peak, so you’re really getting a lot of features. Definitely built for the mountains in winter. 5/5

Fit

There is no women’s version of this jacket; it is just available in S-XXL for men. The fit is close but I could wear a thin fleece underneath. The body is very long and covered my bum better than many waterproof jackets. The helmet-compatible hood fits and moves with the head really well, the only niggle being the sleeves, which tend to ride up when reaching up. 4/5

Comfort

Apart from having sleeves that can ride up, the Berghaus Winter Valparola is very comfortable and warm. It does feel heavy, though, and as it has a membrane in the Gore Windstopper fabric, breathability is not as good as open-weave soft shell options. But you do get pit zips to prevent overheating. It is warm and will keep you dry in all but heavy rain, though. 4/5

In use

In damp but not winter conditions this would be a great jacket. The four chest pockets are all quite large, so you can warm hands easily or stuff a GPS receiver or maps and guidebooks inside them. The hood is very good, but the peak isn’t wired and there’s a lot of fabric that may soak up water rather than shed it. The body length is a real bonus, but the extra weight is a drawback. 4/5

Value

Considering all the features it boasts and the material used, the Winter Valparola’s price is acceptable. 4/5

Verdict

The Berghaus Winter Valparola is built for winter mountain adventures in cold, snowy and icy conditions, but it is heavy and too warm outside those conditions. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Berghaus%20Winter%20Valparola.jpg

Patagonia All Free (2015)

This jacket was originally designed for climbing, but walkers can get a fair bit out of it too. Freedom of movement is great, as you might expect given its roots, and it stretches beautifully. It’s very lightweight, and water just glides off it, even when subjected to a ruthless water-bottle dousing. The neck is high and snug with no danger of chafing. But there are some odder features. The handwarmer pockets are zipless, which makes them very insecure, as well as inaccessible under a backpack hip-belt. Then there are the unusual cuffs: they look almost tailored, more akin to a linen jacket than an outdoor layer. There’s no adjustment, but they are made of stretchy stuff so you can pull them up easily and comfortably. So it has a lot of merit as a walking piece, but a few strange decisions rather let it down. On the plus side, on looks alone, it doesn’t half look smart.

Specification

Weight: 292g

Fabric: Polyester with DWR finish

Colours: Black, blue, green, purple

Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 08000 260 055

www.patagonia.com

Verdict

Good for street-life and lower hills, but you’ll want a tougher beast for anything higher.

Originally reviewed by Sarah Ryan in Country Walking April 2015

patagonia.JPG

Helly Hansen Challenger 2 (2015)

The Challenger is modelled on a running design, but walkers can benefit from its breathability and ease of movement too. Where the Regatta jacket prioritised weather protection, this  takes a lighter approach. The front is made from standard soft shell polyester, hardy enough to beat off wind and rain, while the back and underarms are made from lighter, stretchier material. All this means you can move with freedom. Cleverest of all is the H2Flow design. This consists of a series of soft, raised discs inside the jacket which trap air to increase insulation without additional weight, while tiny holes in the armpits vent out the heat you don’t want. The result is that I never once felt sweaty in this jacket. But I would only recommend it as your main layer on fine days. If the weather’s closing in, you’ll want your hard shell on hand, with this working as an insulating mid-layer.

Specification

Weight: 388g

Fabric: Polyester & elastane with DWR finish

Colours: Pink, black.

Men’s version: Yes C

ontact: 0800 142 2210

www.hellyhansen.com

Verdict

Lightweight and easy to move in but not snug or secure enough for changeable British weather.

Originally reviewed by Sarah Ryan in Country Walking April 2015

Helly%20Hansen.JPG