MSR PocketRocket Deluxe with Piezo igniter & Trail mini solo cook set

MSR PocketRocket Deluxe with Piezo igniter

Ultralight, fast-boiling canister stove.

The next-generation PocketRocket® Deluxe stove takes everything impressive about the iconic PocketRocket and combines it with a Piezo igniter making it more convenient than the last but still offers being small and light with a high-performance design.

MSR Trail Mini Solo Cook set

Our smallest and lightest ultra-pack-efficient cook set for soloists.

The size of a large mug, the Trail Mini Solo Cook Set delivers the essentials you need to fuel up—all in a cook kit that’s ridiculously small in your pack. Perfectly sized to make hot water for one pouch meal or a generous cup of coffee, its pot plays double duty as you eat-and-drink vessel. Inside, it nests a PocketRocket® 2 stove and 4 oz. MSR fuel canister. Outside, its bowl efficiently adds a second vessel, making this the ultimate space-maximizing cook set for solo minimalists moving fast with a small pack.

 The pot includes":
0.75L hard-anodized alumium pot
Strainer lid*
Polypropylene bowl*
Mini LiteLifter (pot lifter/handle)
Stuff sack
*BPA Free

A lighter option at only 203g perfect for a minimalist meal for one in this compact and efficient set.
Being able to compact: PocketRocket 2 stove, 4-oz fuel and handle inside with the plastic pot and lid on the outside.

PocketRocket with igniter only weighs 83g and can boil water in 3:30mins/1L with a power of 10,400 BTU.
Pressure regulator: Maintains constant fast boil times even in cold weather and low fuel.
Piezo igniter: Fast, reliable push-start lighting.
Broad Burner: Adds wind protection and combines with simmer control for cooking versatility.
Stove comes with stuff sack for storage

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On Review

When I first got the stove and pot I was excited to see the latest offering from MSR Gear, having heard good things about the previous PocketRocket2 the latest PocketRocket with the igniter could only mean improvements which was the case at first upon first use out. However, further testing in varied conditions drew to a different conclusion.

Firstly, the new PocketRocket has had a redesign and extra pieces built on. Not only the new and convenient igniter to the side but also a new burner which is broader and concaved to help against poor weather and wind but keeps the offering in the same compact and lightweight package as previous models with this new design weighing a small 83g but offers up the quick boil times and constant power throughout use. Combined with the Trail Mini Solo cook set the two are a great combination for those hiking and wishing to keep weight down and reduce pack size.

I didn't have to wait long to try the PocketRocket in poor weather with the first proper outing along the South Pembrokeshire coast at Castlemartin. With a route planned from St Govan’s chapel and to walk along the coastal path to Elegug Stacks and Green Bridge, it was an early start at 4am to try and catch a sunrise however with the latest weather this wasn’t happening.

In packing the bag I was thankful the stove, pot and gas combined could fit in to a small package which was no larger than a large gas canister so keeping my pack light was no difficult in this respect and in set up in the dark was easy to pull out the pots and get cooking within seconds.
The newly designed broader burner is excellent to say the least and the stormy coastal weather and high winds blowing in was no hard feet for the burner to continue through even with heavy showers and this was the same in the Brecon Beacon’s the following weekend and cooking in the clouds or lower in the car parks.

Wind or rain the burner just keeps going!

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The igniter is a handy feature to include in this tiny package. Not many stoves of this size from competitors have included the igniters built in and to be able to keep the weight down is a clever feet of design.

Although handy to have and yes, the igniter still works in the poor weather it doesn’t always light on the first click. It’s very sporadic to say the least and some attempts the igniter wouldn’t do anything so in frustration I would swap to using the old-fashioned method of matches or lighter.

Of all the occasions the igniter wouldn’t work in the better weather and would work on first click in the worse conditions, so I can’t blame the wind for blowing out the flame before getting the pot on to boil. So, with this in mind I wouldn’t rely on just taking the stove out and not carrying matches or a lighter with me. The important thing is you can still light the stove in other methods.

I used two gas cartridges other the course of the weekends. One, nearly empty and the second two-thirds full and using the two I noticed no change in consistency between strength the two cartridges being used. Even up the empty cartridge running out the flame remained consistent till the end and then just went when the fuel ran out.
Keeping this consistency is good and nice to have, I don’t want my stove to be affected just because I’m using different levels of gas.

In the poor weather cooking time remained consistent as it was to good weather and on average the water was boiling at 4 minutes for the 0.75L pot. This wasn’t at full power, so it could be quicker.

I personally didn’t get on with the size of the pot. I found 0.75L was a little small for myself as I like a large coffee with my food, between water for the dehydrated packs and for a large coffee I need to boil just a little extra after sharing out the quantities. If you aren’t greedy like myself then the pot is ample big enough.

The pot is the perfect size however for cooking up plenty of water for just dehydrated packs. It is possible to cook a pack inside the pot, but care is required as it is small, so the dehydrated packs are a better option in combination with this set up.

I found the pot handle pretty useless to be blunt and didn’t get on with this at all. It’s a little awkward to pick the pot up when full of water and to make matters worse if the pot has been cooking you have hot water with an awkward handle. I just found the handle doesn’t grip the side of the pot particularly well in wet conditions.
I would personally prefer to see the handle built in to the pot for added stability and this won’t make the pot any larger or heavier if the handles fold in.

The plastic cup that comes with the pot is interesting in the construction and idea but this as far as I would rate the product.
The plastic cup isn’t strong or insulated so if you are using it for hot coffee or tea, care is needed and a pair of gloves to hold the cup, I also noticed with the hot liquids inside the pot would bow but would always return to its shape after. This is just as well, otherwise it would make packing the cooking set back down rather awkward.

Before cooking it is also worth taking a little extra time to ensure you have removed the pot from the cooking pot before cooking. In a rush I forgot and managed to burn the plastic pot.

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My experience with the new PocketRocket has been mixed. I’m thoroughly impressed with the compact, lightweight option and durability in poor weather from the stove. The stove as a whole is great if you can get over the sporadic igniter, it’s great to see this included on such a small option but it’s not perfect and from my trips out with the stove I found it was very random in when it would work and in the most unlikely of locations vs good conditions.

Igniter would work in strong winds and heavy rain on the coast or 850m on a mountain side but in a car park in the valleys wouldn’t catch or would take numerous attempts to get to work. As this item is a sample product perhaps the final consumer edition that hits shops might be better but from my testing I wouldn’t leave the house with just this stove and not carry another source to light the stove.

Ignoring this issue, the stove is superb, lightweight and compact and easy to use and set up, the new broader burner is excellent at protecting the flame from wind and rain and as a whole is a great little set up for solo hikers.

As for the Mini Solo cook set, again mixed feelings with this set. The handle I found pretty poor and difficult to use with big hands and struggled to keep the pot steady when full of water. The pot was ample big enough to boil up enough water for a small coffee and water for a dehydrated pack, but I prefer a large coffee, and this needed extra water boiling in order to fulfil my needs.

There is no denying however how small, compact and lightweight the cook set and stove combined is. It takes up little to no room at all and the two combined weighs less than 300g and you can stove a fuel cartridge inside the pot as well as a fold up spoon, handle and stove. A few minor tweaks and I think the set are on for a real winner with solo hikers all round.

Boil Time 25/30
Boil times were consistent with little to no gas or full and even in poor weather vs good weather the time to get water up to temperature ready for cooking was quick. At full power I could get the pot bubbling away around 3 minutes but had the ability to reduce power and have a gentle simmer if required.

Weight 25/25
It’s super lightweight and better yet compact. Everything can pack in to the pot which is smaller than C500 gas cartridge. For a solo hiker looking to keep weight and pack size down this is in a different league of its own.

Ease of use 23/25
Easy to set up, the pot pulls apart quite simply and the stove simply twist the arms out and attach to the cartridge. The igniter is simple (when it wants to work) with just a click of the button or simply use matches/lighter to ignite the stove. As with most compact stoves the arms can be a little confusing at first and is like an origami art to fold back in but once you have the knack of it it’s easy.

Simmering 19/20

Total score: 92/100

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Transparency Notice: Please note that MyOutdoors receives free products for review from brands and manufacturers, but we only accept products for review on condition of total independence and no guarantee of endorsement.

Source: https://myoutdoors.co.uk/gear/gear-reviews/general/cooking-lighting/stoves/item/1590-pocket-rocket-deluxe

Upper Ddwli falls, Brecon Beacons

After a wet night on Pen y Fan wild camping, we ventured off the mountains for some respite and cover from the thick clouds and weather. We ventured down in the valley's waterfall country in the Brecon Beacons. With ourselves and most of our kit soaked, we were passed caring about getting wet so what better way to continue the theme by standing in a river to take photos of the waterfalls surrounded by the Autumn backdrop.

We spent most of the day in the valley and darting between one waterfall to the next and spending some time at each. Much of the time was spent cleaning the front of the lens and filters from rain drops.

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Source: https://f11news.com/21/09/2018/upper-ddwli-falls-brecon-beacons-wales-by-matt-holland

How I found Vanguard

I’ve been asked a number of times now, how I came to find Vanguard and what keeps me using the Vanguard kit.

To the first question, how I came to find Vanguard:
Back in 2015/2016 I was using a Manfrotto 055 Xpro 3 aluminium tripod and at the time I didn’t have a great deal of money to spare on high end equipment and didn’t need it for my work at the time but the Xpro 3 was the perfect solution at that time I needed for a semi pro tripod to get the job done.

The one issue was how heavy the thing was!

It was a beast and weighing in over 3kg with a ball head I was very reluctant to take it anywhere with me other than the studio. I needed a lighter option and one that wouldn’t cost a fortune so the search for a travel tripod began.

Here comes Vanguard to the rescue!

I looked high and low looking for the right option that would allow me to get the tripod very low when needed for macro but also had the height required for studio/filming but weighed less than 1.5kg. I had quite the list for features to tick off and in 2016 only one travel tripod gave me all those features - The original Veo tripod.

On Amazon UK the Veo 235AB was only £90 and came with a free carry case, weighed a little less than 1.4kg with everything. Could be strapped or tucked inside my rucksack at the time and the low angle adapter was the perfect solution to get the tripod flat to the ground for macro or real low angle shots.

Fast forward two years I now use the Alta Pro2+ and still use a Veo tripod but have recently upgraded to the Veo2 265cb which is even lighter! I’ve continued to use Vanguard Photo tripods and venturing in to the bags as they give me the high-end quality and build but at an affordable cost that doesn’t hurt my bank account.


I’ve abused my Alta Pro2+ and Veo tripods over the years now and still to this date the one tripod I would recommend to anyone looking for a new tripod that is lightweight, affordable and gets the job done is still the mighty Veo!

You can still pick up the original Veo for £100 on Amazon.

Transparency Notice: Please note that I am a Vanguard Advocate and receive the products for free to review from Vanguard Photo UK and are return after completing the review. The review is no guarantee of endorsement. I receive no monetary gain from Vanguard Photo from the reviews or discount codes. Any Vanguard kit I own has been bought by myself.

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Freeloader Off the Grid Photographer solar power bundle

What Solar Technology say

The ultimate power bundle for amateur and professional photographers shooting in the great outdoors.  No matter how remote the location and how long the shoot, the FREELOADER Off Grid Photographer delivers all the recharging power needed to keep a camera up and running and removes the need to carry multiple spare batteries.

The FREELOADER Off Grid Photographer bundle comprises the FREELOADER SiXER battery pack, the all weather FREELOADER SuperCharger 5W and the CamCaddy2 universal camera charging cradle, that work together to reduce charging times of the SiXER battery pack and deliver power as and when it is needed, night or day to recharge virtually any solid camera battery.

#PowerYourAdventures

FREELOADER SiXER

Power Your Adventures with the FREELOADER SiXER. Super compact and lightweight, the SiXER solar powered battery pack delivers all weather charging performance – providing a full days charge for all electronic gadgets.

With all-weather solar cells, the FREELOADER SiXER is the perfect companion for Smartphone/iPhone, Action Camera, GPS, Sat phone or Tablet with instant connectivity thanks to its integrated charging arms (Lightning/micro USB/USB C adapter) and USB socket. Rugged construction, a water and impact resistant gel case plus Velcro straps to fix securely to any rucksack or bag ensures the FREELOADER SiXER is as extreme as you are.

FREELOADER Supercharger 5W

The FREELOADER Supercharger 5W is an adaptable, portable solar panel charger that instantly delivers power to charge a full range of electronic gadgets, including Smartphones, Tablets, GPS, E-readers  – Just add daylight!

With advanced, high density solar cells, the Supercharger 5W operates at temperatures from -20C to +60C , so you can have power wherever your adventures take you. The Supercharger 5W features a tough, rubberised and fully waterproof case and comes supplied with sturdy Velcro straps, so that is can be easily secured to your bag, clothes, kayak or sled.

Weighing in at 340g, the adaptable Supercharger 5W can also be used as a booster panel for the FREELOADER SiXER, significantly reducing charging times and providing extra power for your adventures.

CamCaddy 2

The CamCaddy2 is the latest evolution of the CamCaddy and has enhanced features for even better camera battery charging performance.
CamCaddy2 can power any digital SLR or compact camera block style battery (max battery size 50mm).   It can be connected to the FREELOADER SiXER and FREELOADER Supercharger 5w solar battery pack to deliver power in even the most remote off grid locations.  The CamCaddy2 is also supplied with a USB cable so should the opportunity arise it can also be plugged in and powered from any laptop, PC or USB mains / in car plug.

An LCD screen indicates: battery voltage (range from 3v to 9v), charge status, charging time and bad battery cell indicator. Tough and lightweight the CamCaddy2 has a rubberised coating and at a featherweight 50g, CamCaddy2 is the ideal camera battery charger to power your adventures.
FREELOADER Supercharger 5W will charge the FREELOADER SiXER in just six hours (empty to full)

From a fully charged FREELOADER SiXER
SmartPhone – up to 3x
Action camera – up to 4x
GPS – up to 3x
Tablet – up to 1x
Camera – up to 3x

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On Review

Getting off the grid has been a common theme this year for many and it’s not just a digital detox storm that has taken. Many are still pushing for renewable energy and surviving without the need of internet, power and waste. I for one am personally behind all of these and in this latest offering from Solar Technology this Off-grid package offers not just photographers but outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to stay unhooked and keep powering through there outdoor adventures.

For many solar charging sets can be irritating due to size and waste of space. However, it’s daft not to go out now without a power bank and whether you use the solar panel or not it’s a useful tool to pack and keep your mobile phone or GPS charged whilst out.

The full Off-grid package weighs a little over 640g which includes the Sixer battery pack, Supercharger panel and Camcaddy2. Of course, the standard Off-grid pack for outdoor enthusiasts lacks the CamCaddy which is an addition to the photographer’s pack as a universal charger for camera batteries.

The Sixer battery pack is the go-to product in the set up. You can charge not only your camera batteries with the pack but of course phones, GPS and even tablets with this. It’s lightweight, compact and weatherproof. Combined with the Supercharger you get a lot more juice and charge of course with a considerably larger solar panel to boost the power which again is not only weatherproof is fully waterproof.

In my trips recently, I’ve had nothing but rain and thick clouds and both packs have been through mud and the rain and continued to charge my camera and phones on the go. I could just leave them strapped to the exterior of my rucksack and just leave them to go and not worry about the rain or dirt causing an issue.

Even in poor weather I was getting enough charge to keep the pack alive throughout the day and charge my phone a couple of times over the weekend as well as two batteries. Of course, in better conditions and bright sunshine it would charge faster but considering how dark and miserable the weather had been I’m very surprised how effective the pack can continue to work.

Perfect in my opinion, the pack shouldn’t only be for good weather. The outdoors isn’t just for Summer and sunshine. It’s for all the wet, snow and dark nights and overcast days too.

With the Sixer pack I could get my phone charged up to 100% in a 3/4 hours and with the Supercharger plugged in with this I could half this time.
Charging the Sixer pack with the Supercharger typically took all day 8-10 hours in cloudy and overcast conditions so in better weather I expect far quicker.

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Once strapped to the rucksack I didn’t notice either the Sixer or Supercharger on the back, I could completely forget they were there. It wouldn’t surprise me if they fell off I’d not notice. This won’t be an issue anyway as both packs come with Velcro straps which are very secure even in the wet and cold and hold the panels in place. For further reassurance the USB cable can be wrapped around and held in place.

If you are based at a campsite you could also leave the panels strapped to your tent to keep your kit charging inside the tent. I did this whilst at the campsite in the evening and used some guy rope to strap the panels to the tipi peak and left the CamCaddy and USB cables dropped inside the door of the tent to avoid the rain.

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The Sixer battery pack can charge two, potentially three products at once via its cables. The pack itself has a micro USB and Thunderbolt cable built in plus the USB and micro USB slots at the base for charging or plugging in additional cables. Removing the case will mean the pack isn’t as protected but gives you the opportunity to use the built-in cables or even the kickstand to help keep the charger upright if required.

The Supercharger is a waterproof panel with the cable coming out, as simple as that but is provided with a high-power USB charger to plug in to the Sixer pack to give you that extra boost when the Supercharger is required. All the items come with additional micro USB cables and although useable I felt they were cheap and a little short so used my longer more robust cables I already own. This just gave me extra cable to play with and pack away. However, this is more a personal preference. It would be worse to not have supplied cables as most electrical products now come with them as standard, in all honesty I was surprised it came with a Thunderbolt cable included showing SolarTechnology have thought about both major users in the phone market rather than going down one route only like many are opting to now a days which is very frustrating.

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The weakest of the three products I feel is the CamCaddy, it isn’t waterproof so some care is needed but it is still plenty robust to take a knock or two.
However some care is needed when a battery is plugged in to charge as I found when knocked it would stop charging the battery so where I placed the CamCaddy in my pack was cruel in keeping batteries charged on the go. It was far easier when I was sat at a campsite as I didn’t need to pack the charger away and could leave it still inside the tent door.

I had a few issues with the charger; the first issue was charging 3rd party batteries. I use a number of Hanhel batteries which came from with a duel charger and it wouldn’t charge these which I found most odd. The second issue was the percentage of charge I could get, although the read out would say 100% on the monitor when the battery was inserted back in to the camera I only had 90%. I had this issue whether I plugged the charger in to a computer, USB wall socket or the Sixer charge pack.

I typically carry a battery pack around me anyway and one that actually has more power in: 10,000mAh vs the Sixer 6000mAh so it lacks as much power but still gives me the same charges over all showing better performance and usage of the cells. This isn’t surprising as the price versus my other battery pack is £20 vs £69 so as battery packs go the Sixer is a lot more expensive and the Off-grid bundle packs can set you back £100 plus.

But for this extra cost you get a waterproof/weatherproof package that is super robust and can certainly take a knock or too. Cheap might be nice from now and then but I can certainly say my £20 pack isn’t weatherproof let alone waterproof so can only be charged in the sunshine, so I rarely used to charge it in this manner.

Both the Sixer and Supercharger panels are perfect for those getting off the grid and keeping charged over a weekend and not have worry of losing power or the weather as both are weatherproof and can survive more than a drop or two and both are easy to secure to tents and rucksacks to keep you on the go.

The CamCaddy is a useful tool but I had some issues with the battery charger at points but easy to get around by making sure the cable is secure and fixed and getting to 90% charge is adequate enough to keep you going. I’d rather 90% compared to a dead battery.

Interested in purchasing your own?

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GP Batteries’ New XPLOR prosumer headlamp range

GP Batteries’ New XPLOR prosumer headlamp range

World leading manufacturer of primary and rechargeable batteries, GP Batteries is pleased to introduce for the first time, its new range of headlamps for the professional outdoor user.

The GP XPLOR prosumer headlamp range offers a range of headlamps that offer quality, style and form for those who demand more. Models in the range meet the practical needs of daily activities, as well as greater technical performance for more demanding tasks.

There are three models which offer different beam ranges; the primary battery powered PH14 200lm (SRP £17.99) , and PH15 300lm (SREP £24.99), and rechargeable PHR15 300lm (SRP £34.99). The lamps deliver the highest performance in a user friendly way and are ideal for a multitude of activities when you need to be hands free in low light conditions including; camping, walking, mountaineering, fishing, hunting and professional outdoor use.

Key features of the range include;

  • Reflective head strap for added visibility in low light conditions

  • Motion sensor brightness mode

  • Distance sensor with auto dimming

  • Red LED SOS

  • Safety lock

  • A regulated output

  • Up to 160m beam length

  • Up to 69 hours run time

  • IPX6 Water Resistance

Ideal for camping, night time activities, walking and night time runs, as well as daily activities and chores, the PH14 200lm is powered by primary or rechargeable batteries (Alkaline/NiMH AAA x3) and features red night vision, spot and flood beams, three brightness modes and a flashing mode.

Offering a greater beam distance, the PH15 300lm is also powered by primary or rechargeable batteries (Alkaline/NiMH AAA x3). The main beam, with motion activated sensor, has three brightness modes, spot and flood beams and a flashing mode. It is ideal for running, cycling and general outdoor recreation.

Perfect for mountain climbing, rock climbing, skiing and running, the rechargeable PHR15 300lm comes with GP’s ReCyko+ rechargeable batteries, which can be recharged via a micro USB port built in to the headtorch. It also features spot and flood beams, over charge and discharge protection, charging and power indicator light, three brightness modes, a flashing mode and is water resistant to IPX6 standard.

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PHR15 300lm on review

GP Batteries in this latest offering bring three headlamps each with individual features to fit various needs. Starting straight out of the box, the packaging gives it a premium look but at a low cost. At £34.99 it sits in the middle with its offering compared to other headlamps on the market. Personally, I feel £35 for a rechargeable and waterproof headlamp is a good price for both new comers or those serious about the outdoors and sports.

The PHR15 offers something unique that the other two don't and this is the recharging element. Packaged with GP's Recyko batteries which can be charged via a micro USB cable direct in to the headlamp or removed and charged in a battery charger elsewhere. You are not just limited to using the Recyko batteries as they are clearly removable. You could opt for single use batteries which may last longer but you then lose the ability to recharge the headlamp on the go.

You can't charge the headlamp whilst the lamp is on and in use. When you plug the lamp in the light is cut off and the charging indicator begins on the side.
This charging indicator on the side is very helpful as it shows you when it is fully charged, when flashing it is charging and when permanently on it shows the lamp is fully charged. Helpful so you know when you are good to go again and not risk of overcharging the device either.

I found the headlamp charged very quickly and was on full power again in a few hours when plugged in to the mains or via a battery pack/solar panel it would take slightly longer but was achievable with this method.

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The PHR15 offers a respectable 300lm which is very bright! The full beam can reach up to 160m which was amble distance to work out where I was going on coastal paths or up a mountain path in the dark, in fact on a clear night the torch could be seen further. Especially with the SOS flashing mode which became very useful trying to find the other photographers on the side of Cribyn on the night of the Perseid Meteors.

The SOS mode was visible over a mile away as they sat below the summit of Cribyn as I came up to Corn Du from the car park so if you are ever in need of rescue the SOS mode is very visible and bright. With constant use I found there was no change in brightness and maintained a constant light until the battery was nearly dead.

The other two modes - half and dim were useable. The dimmed mode less so outside, this was useful inside the tent and smaller spaces. Outside of this the light was lost and you could hardly see where you were going.

It's very easy to cycle through the modes as well with only one button on the top of the lamp which you simply click through each mode and holding down the button top you find the green button now glows red, this is to indicate the motion sensors are active and this will adjust the lamps according to light and distance. The motion sensors and auto dimming are especially helpful for runners in mixed lighting conditions through woodland or towns or for climbers when you want the lamp to adjust when you turn or look further afield of the face.

The sensors act fast and don't feel sluggish to react when changing, in a few seconds the light automatically adjusts to the correct or what I felt adequate light for me to see at close distance or further afield. For the sensors to work it worked best to point the lamp at the direction and pause for a second as it adjusted then carry on, rather than waving the lamp around aimlessly hoping for the sensors to react.

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The lamp itself is very comfortable to wear on your head, I've found some headbands can rub or snag eventually and the fabric can cause irritations making them uncomfortable to wear. I had no issues with this with the band and even in use in the cold or wet the band remained secure and fixed. The band itself is reflective which adds to security and will be especially useful for runners when the nights draw in or for now in Summer helpful to find the lamp in your rucksack.

It is also lightweight and doesn't feel awkward or heavy to wear like some lamps can. I've got a number of headlamps, some with battery packs on the back or just on the front as this does and some can feel heavy on one side. The PHR15 feels secure in its fitting and where it sits, as a whole a well-balanced product, ideal for any activities in general not just running or climbing. The headband can be adjusted so it can stretch further and can be used on a helmet if required.

I've dropped it several times as well as dropping gear on top and the housing and front elements are both intact still, the waterproof housing has helped strengthen the lamp as a whole and I don't worry about the lamp taking a beat in and will last. It's very well made as it has stood up to a fair few heavy rain showers now and cold nights and not suffered any power loss or issues in the damp so if you are caught out in a storm whether it be rain or snow the PHR15 is tough enough to survive the night/storm.

The PHR15 offers a respectable 69 hours of run time. This is ample to last you through a couple of days usage without the need to charge but will easily see you through the night. However, I wouldn't want to rely on this lamp as my only source. When I left the lamp to run on full it lasted 9 hours before the red warning indicator came on alerting me of low battery, by this point it wouldn't run on full power any longer. In fact, it was only dim or off.

So, to make it last the full 69 hours you will need to use it on its dimmed setting which as I found in some situations just isn't bright enough to be wandering around coastal or mountain paths. With 10 hours run time on full power this should be plenty to get you through the night and get to a point to recharge the following day.

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Compared against similar priced models and competitors the GP Batteries headlamp is sat in the middle with features and battery life. Most at this price point (£34.99) are waterproof too but not all have USB charging, offer 300lm and motion sensors. So clearly there is a compromise between the options, either more power or have recharge option so GP Batteries combination of the three at the same price point is great.

Personally, the biggest feature missing for me is the red night vision which most headlamps I've seen at this price and even cheaper offer this as standard but none at this level offer the sensors at the price of the PH15 300 headlamp which is retailed at £24.99. Motion sensors I have typically seen on the more expensive models.

69 hours is ample but it's not the longest lasting torch but at the price point it's a compromise that is acceptable. Similar priced models offer anything from 50-110 hours, again more expensive models will of course last for longer but equally are bigger and heavier with more robust and larger batteries and packs to last the time.

Each lamp from GP Batteries offers different elements, the PH14 although not as bright at 200lm gives users the option of a red night vision mode which I personally missed in the PHR15, the PH15 goes up a level with 300lm as with the PHR15 and both offer the motion sensors, but the real bonus is the recharge feature, giving it the all-rounder, anyone can use.

I still personally feel the lack of a red light is a shame in this torch and with it I feel it would had made it the full package. However, having done this would there be much point in the PH14 or PH15 in that case? Likely not but a red light is easy to live without. The recharge option for on the go is better for long trips away rather than relying on carrying space batteries all the time.


Lumens 22/25
Nice and bright on full beam and SOS mode. The dimmed mode is still bright enough to work with and continue to walk around with and gives you plenty of options for various spaces and locations.

Run Time at full 7/15
I left it on full and the torch ran for 9 hours before going dim and the red warning lamp on the side came on. I left it running the following day and it died at some point during the morning giving the total time at full power 12 hours.

Maximum run time 10/20
Not the worst battery life but not the best - 69 hours isn't long but long enough to get you through a couple of nights without worrying about charging the device. You can pick up similar priced headlamps with double or triple the power. It's saving grace is that it's rechargeable.

Durability 14/15
Tough and can take a knock and be thrown about. Drop test or throw test it didn't scratch or get damaged at * height.
In the rain it kept going and in cold conditions with condensation no issues.

Ease of Use 13/15
Super easy to use. One button on to cycle through the modes - Dim, full, SOS and off or hold down to activate the motion sensors.
To charge you simply flip the plug out of the side to reveal the micro USB port. The strap is easy to adjust to various lengths.

Features 9/10
The PHR15 headlamp offers 4 modes with the lamp - full, half, dim and SOS all encased in a waterproof housing and recharging option if needed via the micro USB. On top of this the motion sensors make it helpful for runners, cyclists or climbers who want a hands-free option.
It would have scored higher if the red light featured. 

Total score = 74/100

For the price point of £34.99 and what features this lamp packs it's a great package. Compared to competitors it offers some nice features other lamps don't but at a compromise of battery life but with a recharge option it's something easy to get over, especially with its fast charge on the go.
I wouldn't want to rely on this being my only torch for long trips but if I had two PHR15 headlamps, one purely as backup in case of something catastrophic happened but for the main simply relying on the Recyko batteries which can be swapped out is a lighter and better method. One set can be charging inside the pack whilst the other is ready to go. Less waste with throw away batteries.

As a whole however I have felt very confident out on the hills at night and not need to worry about the lamp failing or running out of power.

They are lightweight, easy to use and durable headlamps coming in to a crowded and somewhat confusing area of the market with lots offering different features at various prices. GP Batteries headlamp range, especially the PHR15 eliminates this confusion in an easy all-round headlamp.

Overall very happy with this and look forward to further use in the coming months.

 

Transparency Notice: Please note that MyOutdoors receives free products for review from brands and manufacturers, but we only accept products for review on condition of total independence and no guarantee of endorsement

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Source: https://myoutdoors.co.uk/gear/gear-reviews/general/cooking-lighting/torches-head-torches/item/1591-gp-batteries-phr15-300lm-on-review

Anatom SkyeTrail Men's Ultralight Multi-Activity Shoe

What Anatom Footwear say:

The SkyeTrail Men's Multi-Activity Shoe is an incredibly comfortable multi-activity shoe for trail walking and fast hikes made from our latest shoe technology.

The Anatom SkyeTrail Men's Multi-Activity Shoe is designed to be very lightweight, but also durable, the upper of the shoe is made with ballistic polyester and high quality suede that stand up to scratches and abrasions. A thin tri.aria lining creates a waterproof barrier and allows for breathability.

For increased support, unique webbing lace loops add stability as they are tightened. A phylon midsole provides cushioning and a crash pad in the heel absorbs every impact. With a high traction Vibram sole, you have long lasting comfort on every walk.

  • Upper / Ballistic mesh & suede with rubber toe bumper

  • Heel / Heel cradle support system

  • Membrane / tri.aria Membrane System

  • Lining / Performance

  • Last / Comfort

  • Insole / Anatom Bioform Ultralite

  • Footbed / Midsole Calibrated nylon

  • Outsole / Vibram® Sky Running

  • Weight / 373 gms (size 42 half pair)

Interior Comfort. Exterior Performance.

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On review

Anatom describe these shoes as a multi activity shoe so I have taken them out for the past month and used them in about every situation in my daily life and they are yet to meet there limit. From walking, hiking, running, cycling, gym sessions and scrambling. They are comfortable, hardy and robust for about every activity and never give up on the grip and factor in the cost they might even be my new favourite shoes! Now that is saying something.

From scrambling, gym, running, hiking, cycling and just general walks around the Capital city or local woodland and even swimming/paddle in the sea these multi activity shoes fit the bill for everything and are extremely comfortable and continue to support your feet throughout the day.

Straight out of the box the shoes are extremely comfortable, and you can get straight on the trails with them. The first weekend out (mere days after getting them) I wore them for a near 20 hours straight and in this 24 hour they were used at the gym with TRX and fitness then on the road for 3 hours followed by a coastal hike and scramble down the cliff side at 2am in the morning and I had no blisters, rubbing or discomfort.

When Anatom say "Interior comfort. Exterior performance" they really stick to their words.

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You would think for a shoe that can basically do everything it would struggle in one area, but I have struggled to find that point. The grip from the Vibram outer sole is perfect and suits running and light scrambling. On the climb down on the wet cliffs to the beach at Dunraven Bay I had no issues with the sharp edges, rock poles or pools of water and the same on the way up.

The durable outer protects your feet and keeps them secure so even on the uneven ground when my feet were twisting in some awkward angles I didn't feel like I was going to slip, or my feet would give way.

Following the rock poles and sea water plus boggy patches that remained on the Fans in the Brecon Beacons (Yes, some water left on the ground despite the recent heatwave) the shoes waterproofing is superb and even having a dip in the sea my feet inside remained dry.

Of course, if I went in past the lip of the shoe my feet would get wet but the outer shell works and water stays out. I'll be very interested to see how the shoes fair up in the Autumn and even in to the Winter in worse conditions.

The shoes are great at keeping the water out and are somewhat breathable but it's to be expected they don't allow complete airflow.
Wearing the shoes whilst cycling was great and I could feel the airflow keeping my feet cooler but hiking I found in this stifling heat of 35 degrees my feet were getting hot and I did find some respite by taking the shoes off. It's worth noting although hot my feet still didn't rub and experienced no discomfort and I could continue to walk.

 designed for those light and fast trail days

Walking, hiking, cycling, gym sessions or scrambling the really are a multi activity shoe
for it all and will keep your feet secure, dry, comfortable with no issues.
A really enjoyable shoe to where all the time plus you can do anything in them!

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In the hot weather the shoes were on the hot side, but no rubbing or blisters came from it. The extra padding around the ankles help to reduce this and a good pair of socks always makes a huge difference! As they are waterproof they are a little less breathable, but this is a worthwhile compromise, knowing your feet will remain dry in wet conditions.

Although a low ankle shoe, the shoes will likely be very comfortable and good for Autumn and Winter when the wet weather arrives. As they are padded the heat will remain in and keep your feet toasty in the colder weather. However, we have a 4 month wait until this comes around.

As everyone knows we have had an extremely dry and hot summer so trying to test how waterproof something is with a lack of rain is somewhat difficult, but we haven't had to wait long for the rain to appear and boy did it. I spent another weekend in South Wales around the Brecon Beacons and for the most part of the weekend it rained.

Although previously taking the shoes for a dip in the sea and having wander around the cliffs, this was the real test to see if they would hold up.
I'm glad to share they didn't disappoint in protection or comfort and my feet remained dry for the better part of the whole weekend.
The shoes went through a fast and hard hike up Pen y Fan and Cribyn in the evening. The average temperature was 20 which was ideal for getting up fast before the light disappeared to pitch up but as the night set in and the clear skies remained for a night under the Perseid meteors the temperature quickly dropped.

In the cold and with the wind chill my feet felt insulted and the Anatom shoes provided good protection, although nothing strenuous activity wise sat on the mountain side the cold quickly set up.

Another full-on weekend and only taking the shoes off for a small 4 hours during sleep on Friday night. I clocked in some 45000 steps / 421 floors / 21 miles and climbed Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn a total of 8 times collective *Fitbit stats*, followed by the walk in the valley's around the waterfalls and rivers. Thick mud, fallen trees, rivers and plenty of puddles and all were a mere walk in the park with the shoes on.

Even in all the rain and rivers the shoes kept my feet dry and with the wet rock and fallen trees, again didn't feel unsteady walking all day. They maintain grip in any condition which is just as well as these were my only pair of shoes I brought with me over the weekend. I knew it was a risk but a safe risk with these packed.

To be able to find a shoe that you can climb mountains, run, cycle, water sports and walk and continue to be comfortable all day and provide protection from the weather is perfect for a busy lifestyle and someone on the go. As I opened with, these are one of my favourite shoes and it's been a real joy using them over summer and I look forward to seeing how they hold up in the Autumn and Winter.

MyOutdoors Score:

Comfort = 25/25
Wearing the shoes all day for near 24 hours and continue to climb mountains, hiking in the heat or in the rain my feet didn't suffer or feel confined within the shoes.

Grip = 18/20
In the rain, kayaking, river wading or climbing over wet rock the shoes never lost grip and never felt unsecure on the ledges.
Not just in poor weather but the heat too, loose gravel and rocks can be an issue and rolling your feet but this wasn't an issue in these shoes.

Weight = 14/15
The size 42 (size 8 UK) is 373gms which is light, the size 12 which I needed weighed just a little more than 450gms.
Having a light shoe is helpful for multiple activities and keep you fast on your feet for trails and climbs. It adds to the comfort and enjoyment of wearing them and knowing you can do most if not all activities in these.

Water resistance = 19/20
River wading, climbing the Welsh coastline or hiking 20 miles in the rain my feet remained dry throughout and even in the muddy conditions the shoes keep their structure and remain fairly clean too as the water and mud just runs off.

Durability = 19/20
As above - Mud, rocks, water and heat the shoes remain solid and kept going.

Total = 95/100

Transparency Notice: Please note that MyOutdoors receives free products for review from brands and manufacturers, but we only accept products for review on condition of total independence and no guarantee of endorsement

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Source: https://myoutdoors.co.uk/gear/gear-reviews/general/footwear/approach-shoes/item/1578-anatom-skyetrail

Bannau Brycheiniog

Matt Holland tells his story of multiple visits to the UK National Park, Brecon Beacons in South Wales.

The Brecon Beacons is somewhere I’ve only been a few times on expedition, but this has only been leading groups of teenagers and ensuring they are safe out in the mountains, so I’ve had little to no time to enjoy the vast mountain range and scenery the national park has to offer.

So, in 2018 I decided to make use of my weekends and head over to the park on a series of weekends and explore different regions and enjoy what the park has to offer. With the Brecon Beacons being my closest mountain range at 150 miles it’s easy for me to travel down on a Friday after work and enjoy the outdoors with the odd trip down to the Gower.

Over the past 9 weeks I’ve climbed mountains, been sun burnt, soaked to the bone, cold, hot, wet, swimming, bitten, blood, no tears, mud and much more and loved every moment despite poor weather, extreme heat and an average of 3 hours sleep on the weekends.

One of the main opportunities I wanted to take advantage of was the Dark Sky status and improve upon my astrophotography. Capturing the Milky way, Mars, Perseid Meteors and bioluminescent plankton.

Here is a collection of my trips to the Brecon Beacons with each trip bringing something very different from the last.


You can purchase my book from Kozu Books. The book brings together years of expeditions and trips across Wales and England and showcases my time of adventures, detox and the beauty of the countryside.

Click here to buy

Source: https://www.kozubooks.com/blog/matt-holland

Vanguard Alta Sky 51D

What Vanguard say

The ALTA SKY 51D is the ultimate gear-carrying and working backpack. Featuring innovative 1/3-2/3 division the versatile set-up will allow you to decide just how much backpack capacity and how much daypack storage you need. Max storage can fit up to 1-2 Pro DSLRs with attached lens (up to 70-200mm f/2.8), 3-4 lenses, a flash and accessories, or a drone with all related accessories + CSC (Compact System Camera) with additional lens. 

  • Ultimate versatility - 100% gear to 100% personal and anywhere in between

  • ‘Never-tire’ carrying experience - ergonomic Air System back, harness & waist belt

  • Multi-access quick-action – full rear opening, side and top access

  • Drone action - dual use/dual colour dividers for drone set-up*

  • Safety first - double security buckles

  • No fumbling - bright colored interior makes finding things easy

  • Clutter free - stowable connector straps

  • Well organized – numerous dedicated pockets, organizers and connectors for all essentials

  • Stay hydrated - large water bottle side pockets

  • Keep rocking - headset port to extend cable from internal smartphone pocket

  • Business oriented - holds a 15" laptop and/or tablet

  • Stay steady - optimal balance tripod carrying system

  • ALTA LINK - Alta Action Tripod Bag connection for ultimate Vanguard ALTA EXPERIENCE

  • Keep dry - total coverage rain cover

The ALTA SKY 51D is a dynamic backpack that sets a new standard for adaptable carrying and working solutions. It offers versatility combined with reliable gear protection, like never before! Featuring innovative 1/3-2/3 division the larger compartment can be fully accessed from the rear, quickly reached from the side or separately opened from the top, while the smaller compartment enjoys quick individual opening from the bottom front.

The multitude of dividers and access points leave you the choice of just how much professional gear and how much personal gear to carry. Match your workflow preferences by hierarchal set-up and utilization of the multi-access points. Maximum capacity can fit up to 1-2 Pro DSLRs with attached lens (up to 70-200mm f/2.8), 3-4 lenses, a flash and accessories, or a drone with all related accessories, using the dedicated dual use/dual colour drone action dividers in the top 2/3 compartment and a CSC (Compact System Camera) with additional lens in the bottom 1/3 compartment. If carrying less gear one can easily turn this backpack into a daypack or hiking backpack, deciding which separate access point is for photo gear and which is for personal or hiking gear.

Secure rear compartment protects up to a 15” laptop and can also fit a tablet in the additional padded sleeve (*note that double usage is only possible for some laptop + tablet combinations). Organize all other gear and personal essentials such as memory cards, cables, batteries, charger and smartphone, exactly where you need them; either secured in an organizer pocket, or on hand at any given moment in a slip-in pocket. Enjoy pockets with double access points from within and from without. Keep rocking with our headset port which will conveniently extend the cable from the internal smartphone pocket. Avoid human error with our simple coded ‘Full’/’Empty’ media storage. Stay hydrated with two large side pockets for water bottles. Link, hang and sling on anything you can imagine using the multitude of straps, loops and innovative c

onnection features integrated into the surface of the backpack.

The ALTA SKY 51D enjoys additional encompassing protection features, such as our total coverage rain cover, our second-to-none quality, materials, and bag construction, and our grab-and-go sturdy carrying handle along with extra grip handle to facilitate retrieving the backpack from the car boot or overhead bin.

Designed to carry heavy gear loads for extended periods of time, we set the bar for comfortable carrying at a new high. Our advanced ergonomic back and harness system features a well-padded breathable 3D back, uniquely shaped easily to adjust shoulder straps that perfectly contour to your back and torso, adjustable sternum strap and well-padded supporting waist belt. All these join together to promote a ‘never-tire’ user experience!

Various advanced tripod connecting systems enable you to select the best transport solution for your tripod, lighting stands, and hiking sticks.  We also offer the full ALTA EXPERIENCE with ALTA LINK, which enables you to carry along your ALTA PRO TRIPOD in the advanced ALTA ACTION TRIPOD BAG connected to your ALTA SKY BACKPACK!

Reddot award 2017 winner

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This bag is a bit of a beast. It's big, huge in fact and full of pockets, space and features to fit most photographers needs but with its size comes a cost both for the bank and weight. Weighing 2.4kg it's a heavy camera bag and when you open the 51D up you can see why, it has a lot of padding and as it should for a rucksack designed for photographic equipment and protecting your drone, DSLR, CSC or whatever you shoot with.

It's also expensive at £250 so for most photographers they might be put off by its sheer weight and cost. It is a bag for the pros for this reason or serious enthusiast. 

Yes, it is heavy and you won't be using this to walk any long distances, actually you will be wrong on that statement. Despite being heavy Vanguard have padded the shoulders and hip belt out to make them as comfortable as possible and to take a lot of that weight off your shoulders. After several long days hiking and on foot in woodland, coasts, mountains or cities and packing the 51D with either stoves, cameras, tripods, lighting rig, sound kit etc the bag was comfortable to swing on to my shoulder as a light rucksack would be. And, after a long day hiking my shoulders didn't feel sore from the weight of the pack.

So yes, it is heavy but you won't feel it.

The 51D is a very technical rucksack crammed full of pockets and features to make our lives as creatives easier.
I lost count how many pockets this bag has but it's easily 10 and multiple ways to access the content inside. The largest method being the rear access which I found could be a little awkward to access as the shoulder straps would get in the way when pulled tight, when slacked you could fold them up and over.

Through this means of access you can access the main compartment which can happily fit several lens or cameras inside and if configured can hold a drone inside too. You can also access through the top lid, I left this as a separate section for spare batteries, food, water etc as it was handy to grab without taking the pack off, but you could remove the inside velcro pads to give you access in to the main section to grab kit or hold a larger lens like a 150-600mm lens.

Another means to accessing the main compartment is the side with a small zipped pocket which means grabbing a camera on the fly is super easy. 
As I don't use camera bags and opt for large rucksacks for travel and mountaineering I don't get this feature on my packs but now having it back I realised how useful it is and actually how much I missed the convince of this.

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The last method of access in to the pack is from the base. The 51D has a lower zipper section which can hold further kit. Most reviews have typically shown only this section to hold a CSC such as a Fujifilm XT2 or X-T10, nothing really larger but I can confirm it can fit something a lot bigger. I could comfortable fit my Nikon D500 inside with a battery grip attached and fit a 70-300mm lens stood up right and hold two other lenses.

This bag really does have a crazy amount of space inside!

A lot have asked whether this bag is big enough to take for camping however. The answer is no. Yes you can fit a lot inside but sleeping bags and tents are considerably larger and you will struggle to fit these inside, plus camera kit and other items but for a full day out hiking there is plenty of room to fit a gas stove, camera, foot, spare clothing for the day and because it is compartmentalised it's difficult to overload the pack which is just as well considering the weight.

It's certainly big enough for a day’s shoot for video/photography and has the laptop sleeve that can fit a 17" laptop inside, but I've found but just to touch too small for a camp out to use. In terms of pack size, it is equivalent to a 35L.

If you use a drone then this bag is perfect for you as it can fit a drone inside, carry a tripod on the outside and have space for food, spare camera and more.

On the note of tripods, you have two methods to strap a tripod to this bag.
One can be strapped to the side either straight in to the pouch and clips or using an Alta Action bag or the easiest method is using the back fold out carry system which also holds the waterproof cover.

This rear fold out method is best from what I experimented with. It helps keep the bag centred when a tripod is strapped on and avoids the bag from feeling heavier on one side which the side straps can cause the bag to do. The bag can comfortable take two tripods if needed which as well I found especially helpful when packing studio lights and a tripod up for a video shoot with clients. 

If you are not using a tripod in the fold out system this can be used to hold a waterproof jacket or even a snowboard! The 51D really is that versatile.

In addition, if you don't use the side pouch to carry a tripod this can be used to hold a water bottle inside and I could comfortable fit a 1L flask inside the pocket and likely fit larger as the pocket can be stretched to accommodate.

Furthermore if you aren't using the laptop pouch on the rear for a laptop this can be used as a hydration pouch and the pipe can be fed under the arm and mouth piece can be latched on to the sternum straps.

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The bag is very well made and despite weight and size is comfortable to wear for long periods of time even when fully loaded. On the back it sits comfortable above the hips and the large padded hip belts and shoulder padding keeps it locked in place. The hip belt doesn't feature any pockets, instead has a split down the centre to help reduce rubbing which can be common on some large photographic rucksacks. The hip belts can also be tucked away on to the back of the pack if not needed. 

The 51D does come with a waterproof cover which fits into it's on sleeve which is then stored in the fold out carry system for tripods or drones. Now when this is down it is awkward to remove so I found it was easier to remove it from this pocket and put it in another on the side of simply in my coat pocket for when I would need it.

Better yet you can still use the waterproof cover even if a tripod is attached to the bag!
To many times have I seen camera bags with covers only fit the bag but not the tripod too. Yes, the tripod can survive the rain or snow but if you don't want to carry it what then? Remove the cover to your expensive bag and gear?

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Further to the protection the base of the 51D is heavily padded and utilises a rubber bottom to further strengthen and protect the pack from the wet.
This helped keep the bag clean too as I found at the beach during the storm. Whilst setting up for a photo a wave came rushing in further than I thought it would and the 51D was just behind me, before I could do anything the wave had already passed me and my feet, shoes and socks were soaked.

The bag however was bone dry inside and I didn't have the waterproof cover on either. Shocked but very relieved that my remaining lens inside the bag were safe. Wish I could had said the same for my feet however...

The zippers on the rucksack aren't YKK or waterproof, the bag doesn't have tapered zippers either but all are very heavily padded, but some due care is needed still in very poor weather. In short showers I found the bag was completely fine in the rain but for peace of minds the cover is best. However even after a whole weekend in the rain and used the cover very little the inside remained bone dry.

Although the zippers aren't weatherproof they are durable, and I haven't experienced any issues with lock ups, leaks or snags with them over the two months of using this pack. The zipper into the rear of the bag is a big beefy zipper which can't be missed with the huge toggles on the ends in bright yellow. It's good to see this one is larger and more secure as it's the main access to the pack.

Two pockets I always forgot about but when I remembered were perfect are just below the fold out carry pocket. The zippers are subtle and small but are ample big enough to slide 100mm filters inside, phone or smaller items you need to protect fast.

 

The 51D really is a beast and Vanguard have thought about every solution and problem a photographer, videographer or drone pilot might have.
With lots of room inside and out with plenty of pockets to keep your gear protected and organised but at quick access makes it ideal for anyone needing to carry a lot of kit to and from locations.

With plenty of options to customise the interior to fit more lens, cameras or a drone inside it's up to you as a creative to fill the pack which is difficult at times.
It's a tough pack that can last and is very versatile in all needs. It's been a pleasure using the 51D for the past few months for client work with video and photoshoots or out hiking in the mountains. It is as useful in either situation.

Although you won't be using this to go camping with you can happily pack it with spare cloths, food and water plus camera kit and head out for the day and know you have everything you will need.

Find more reviews, discounts and learn more about Vanguard here.

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Transparency Notice: Please note that I am a Vanguard Advocate and receive the products for free to review from Vanguard Photo UK and are return after completing the review. The review is no guarantee of endorsement. I receive no monetary gain from Vanguard Photo from the reviews or discount codes. Any Vanguard kit I own has been bought by myself.

Wigwam Socks Merino Lite review

Wigwam Socks are known for their universal socks for comfort up a mountain or walking around town which has been proven with the Peak2Pub range. In this latest offering the range continues with the merino wool socks. Better suited for the outdoors but will be perfect for those cold Winter nights which are fast coming.

A lightweight merino wool sock offering softness, support and comfort in a range of colours. Perfect for spring & summer hiking.

Features

Lightweight
Merino Wool
Zone cushioned crew
Reinforced Heel and Toe
Seamless Toe Closure
Breathable mesh instep
Elasticised arch

52% Merino Wool
37% Stretch Nylon
8% Polyester
2% Spandex
1% Tencel®

Created for the male foot with zone cushioning, elasticised arch for support, breathable mesh instep and a seamless toe closure for maximum comfort.
Available in Black, Charcoal, Navy, Red Clay (red), Cactus (green) and Bitter Chocolate (Maroon).

Price = £21 and available in medium (UK 5-8) or large (UK 8-11.5)

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On Review

This has been a long awaited review on my part as well having received the socks in May, but these socks are not suited for Summer wear being thick merino wool socks so the opportunities to use them have been very limited with the heatwave.

In the short window I managed to wear the socks previous to the heatwave was on Snowdon and they were perfect for the wet and fast climb up in May on the bank holiday weekend.
The socks were incredibly comfortable with the boots and scrambling up as fast as possible to avoid the rain but once the rain did hit the socks continued to have no issues performing in the wet. It's worth adding the socks are not waterproof so suitable shoes for these conditions are still needed.

The socks although not thick or heavy are not suitable for Summer use or heatwaves as we've recently had. I found my feet were to hot to wear these in the conditions we've just experienced but it's been to hot to wear much clothing at all. However as they are lightweight, leaving them in your rucksack will only take up a small space and weight which is nice to know in case the weather does turn cold on the mountains.

I continued to use the socks for a number of weeks after the bank holiday on early mornings in the Chilterns when it was fresher and still wet underfoot and in the low ankle shoes and long grass it was a nice combination to give my feet and legs some protection again the undergrowth or bugs.

Now with the rolling around in the undergrowth whilst photographing butterflies the socks did get fairly dirty.

Washing the socks is simple and no extra care is required or having to do a special wash on top of the usual washing. Throwing them in the machine and keeping the temperature on 20-30 and a low spin is suited and just leave out to dry on the line. I found the socks were very fast drying and by lunch time on hot days or by the end of the day on cooler days the socks were dry and ready to use again.

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Fast forward several months and August, although Summer the temperatures and weather turned considerable to the previous few months of dry 34+ heat.
Low levels were a comfortable 20 degrees but on top of the mountains on a clear night or in the wet Pen y Fan and Fan Brycheiniog temperatures were hovering above freezing with the strong winds.

I was so glad I packed these socks!

 

Going from my Trail Trax Pro socks during the day and getting to the top and having cold ankles it was a sensible swap to the merino hiking socks. I could instantly feel the extra heat and comfort and the socks remained dry and warm for the rest of the night and running around the mountain tops in the wind and cold I suffered no issues from rubbing.

Although not hygienic, due to the cold and wet I didn't bother changing that morning and packed up fast to avoid the rain and get off the mountain tops so after a night's wear in the cold running about Cribyn and Pen y Fan the socks didn't smell and neither did my feet. Like most of Wigwam Socks range they have moisture control to keep your feet from sweating and rubbing to avoid blisters and other issues.

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That same weekend the socks went through every condition. From the temperature difference of running up and down mountains over night to coping in the wet on the coast.
The last location of my trip was down to Rhossili Bay and it was very wet! The rain and wind was relentless and made the slow walk down to the bay very unpleasant, everything was dripping wet.

The new shoes I was also reviewing at the time were superb and kept my feet very dry and inside the Wigwam Socks kept my feet nice and cosy. When I finally returned back to the car the only items of clothing I didn't bother changing due to being wet were the shoes and socks.

Overall super impressed with the socks and with the overall comfort and durability in multiple activities.
The quality shows and are great for cushioning when hiking on uneven surfaces or for keeping your feet warm at night. It's been difficult to review and use over Summer however due to the extreme heats but would certainly pack these again on any future hikes. They are very lightweight for what the socks offer so there is no excuse not to pack them for any weather.

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VisitWales celebrates 100,000 followers on Instagram

This week @VisitWales celebrates hitting 100,000 followers on Instagram and have put together a montage of photos across Wales and features tonnes of locations and other photographers.

I'm proud to be amongst such names and the third photo in is mine which is from Picws Du, Brecon Beacons on my first trip to the area this year which Grant kindly showed me around the area and how special it can be.

You can see the full video here.

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Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BmobCcKhpfJ/?taken-by=visitwales

Snugpak All weather shelter (tarp)

I typically go for tents over tarps and always told myself it was for ease. I've only used a tarp a couple of times in the passed so Snugpak challenged me to get back out but with a tarp and prove the tarp is the easier set up and not that bad after all so I gladly accepted the challenge and Snugpak sent over the All Weather Shelter and Stasha.

Now most recently I've bought the Backpacking Lite Hex Peak F6a tipi and wondered if I could build a similar structure with the tarp. Several hours of research and playing I've found two that worked and both are super easy set ups and the idea of going out with just a tarp now isn't that daunting. In fact I prefer it as it's so lightweight and flexible in its use.

The All Weather Shelter is a 3x3m tarp and the Stasha is a smaller 2.4x1.6m pocket sized shelter. Both designed for bush craft and wild camping and provide versatile protection from all weather elements. I used the Stasha as a ground sheet to compliment the AWS and the two combine weigh a mere 1.3kg which is super light compared to tents and can compact down to the size of a 700ml flask and using a walking pole as the main support it's an easy set up for anywhere.

For both set ups all you need is the AWS Tarp, Stasha (optional), two carabineers, pegs and a walking pole.
Both are super easy set ups and only need the pegs provided in the pack. Both are enclosed shelters so suitable for most conditions but one is better suited to stormy conditions and high winds.

*Carabineers - I would recommend ones with locking nut rather than the simple clip as in the demonstration here. They are generally tougher and more secure.*

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Square Pitch Set up

This first style resembles the tipi style but more square and it's worth noting It's better suited for people shorter than 6ft.
Over 6ft as I am is a little tight and the material will touch either your feet or head. With this set up you won't be able to use a inner fly sheet due to the structure so the Stasha is recommended as an extra with this set up.

  1. Peg out two in from the corners on one side

  2. Put your pole inside at the desired height (recommend 120) - Use the peg bag to tie at the top to keep the pole more sturdy until the shelter has been built.

  3. Repeat on the opposite side - Pegging two out in from the corners.

  4. With the material left, join the two loops with a carabineer and peg out from each.

  5. Repeat on the opposite side.

This set up requires 6 pegs for basic set up but will require a further 4 to storm proof and stop the extra material from flapping around in the wind.
Any of the four points you've pegged out can act as the door way, personally I would use the point with a carabineer so you can slide the loop on and off with ease.

For poor conditions and a faster set up I would try the next set up. Equally if you are tall likemyself I would skip this set up and try the following.

Download your guide here.

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Enclosed Triangle Set up

Easier to pitch and construct compared to the first style. You can pitch out all of the points before you put the centre pole in which makes it very helpful in high winds and poor conditions. Lots of room inside and you could fit a smaller one man fly sheet inside that you get from the likes of Hex Peak etc. However for a minimalist style the Stasha is a lighter set up.

  1. Spread the tarp out flat and pitch the corner eyelit or with the guyline if you have attached.

  2. Repeat on the opposite corner to form the diamond shape

  3. On the shorter edges left - Join the two loops together using a carabineer or pegs and peg out

  4. Now the tarp is securely fixed to the ground, climb inside and insert the pole at 135 to secure by pushing in to the ground (Spike facing down)

  5. If windy, take the spare material from the two connected points in step three and pitch out on the outside to form an arm at a 45degree angle.

This style is a lot more storm proof and requires four pegs for a basic set up or six for a more secure stormproof option and is better suited for the taller people 6ft2 plus.
You could make the tarp further secured by pegging down the remaining loops around the tarp and guylines to make a very strong shelter.

Download your guide here.

My thoughts?

Both these styles are secure and suitable for different needs. My favourite being the enclosed triangle as it is a much easier set up, especially in poor conditions. Both are enclosed so the doorway is a little more awkward but for this reason both are very warm inside and protect you from the elements.

As lightweight options go, the tarp can't be beaten. Yes it lacks an inner which during mosquito season causes some issues but with a enclosed shelter it's a little easier to keep them out. Personally this wouldn't bother me as I tend to pitch on mountains rather than near water sources or lower ground.

Certainly for Spring - Autumn I will consider the tarp for camping over the tent. It's so much lighter and smaller but offers the same protection and warmth I need for these seasons. I am looking forward to trying more set ups with the tarp which I will add to this list as I take the tarp out more.

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Transparency Notice: Please note that I am a Snugpak Advocate and receive the products for free to review from Snugpak. The review is no guarantee of endorsement. I receive no monetary gain from Snugpak from the reviews or discount codes. 
 

Snugpak Basecamp Airmat

Snugpak are renowned for building solid, military grade, shelters and sleeping bags and in this new offering, the Basecamp air mat with footpump they combine the best of both worlds with the military background with a hardy mat but at a low cost for all to enjoy. Lighter than most mats and considerably cheaper making it perfect for experienced backpackers or those just starting out.

Weight: 630g
Built in foot pump
Available in olive or blue
Dimensions: 183cm x 62cm x 5cm / 72" x 24" x 2"

Packsize: 28cm x 12cm / 11" x 5"

Outer fabric: 240T/75D pongee
Inner fabric: TPU
Filling: no filling

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On Review

I've taken the air mat with me since the beginning of May and used it extensively in all the conditions summer has had to offer. Typically, I opt for the more expensive models from the likes of Exped or Thermarest to name some brands but have had some teething problems with inflation so I was little hesitant about the cheaper Snugpak offering but only time would tell if it was any good.

I typically use the more expensive air mats which are suited for Winter use and come in at the £100 plus. I found the first few camps out with them were perfect but with use and rolling them up inside the rucksack they wouldn't stay inflated through the night and the pumps supplied with them would either get lost, damaged or just lose their kick.

I'm yet to use the new airmat from Snugpak in Winter but expect it should hold up well however no temperature specs are given on this new mat which would certainly help and sway a lot of people in to buying the product. The product is already favourable due to it's lightweight and compact fit.

Weighing in at 630g it’s a very light option. To compare my Exped Downmat 7M weighs 850g and the new Exped mats with integrated pumps are around the 800-1000g and both cost double if not three times the cost in comparison but are perfect in colder conditions as these are made for use down to -10 degrees.
So Snugpak's offering of a lighter option at 630g with a built-inpump and costs only £60 it's a steal at the price for anyone who wants to get started in backpacking or looking for extra comfort at campsites.

The integrated pump is very easy to use with both your feet as intended or by hand. Inflating the mat with your feet is easier and the mat inflates a lot quicker. I haven't timed myself but it's below 3 minutes to inflate. By hand takes a little longer but if its wet or you have been hiking all day and your legs are sore this is easy to do with a coffee in one hand and setting up camp in the other.

I would advise not using the footpump with shoes still on, this will led to damaging the mat or making it wet if you've been out hiking all day.

The mat is perfect to stay inflated and just sit about on in the morning or evening. Using the Snugpak Stasha ground mat underneath I could set up a nice little outside porch/view in the mountains and enjoy a dry and comfortable seat whilst eating dinner. With kit and myself sat on the mat I couldn't feel the ground underneath. Disappointingly I have been able to feel on my other mats when I've sat up on them.

Who said backpacking and camping had to be difficult.

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At 6ft2 the mat is the ideal length for me, my head nor feet were hanging off the edge and the mat is wide enough to roll over without any issues or falling off during the night.
Even pitched on a gradient I didn't slide of the mat or had any issues with the mat.

In some of the storms we've had or locations where camping wasn't permitted I've ended up sleeping in the car and I've set up the mat as added comfort and I'm so glad I did!
It stays inflated through the night and is very comfy and not noisy either when you do roll around. Between this mat and a good sleeping bag you'll have no issues, so it is definitely a great starting point for those stating out in backpacking and even the experienced looking for a lighter option in Summer.

When packed down it rolls up smaller than a 500ml flask so size its perfect and takes up very little space, if anything you'll have problems finding it in your pack because it is so small.
With the integrated footpump there is a method to rolling up.

I found starting with the footpump first and roll out was the easiest method as it keeps the pump on the inside and avoided the mat unrolling or making awkward shapes when packed in to its bag.

Following on from rolling up the mat - Deflating, how easy is this? Very easy I have to say, with two caps on the mat. One on the footpump itself, however this doesn't let any air out but is worth leaving uncapped when rolling up to make it more compact.

The second cap is at the base of the mat, simply untwist the cap and the air comes out. I would do this first then go make breakfast and every time I've come back to pack up the tent and contents the mat has been deflated and easy to roll up. Starting at the footpump you can squeeze out any excess air still in the mat, again I would leave this cap unlocked to help compact further and stops any trapped air in the mat from causing a problem when packed away.

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The temperature test didn't take long to experience but it's not a Winter camp still. The last visit to the Brecon Beacons on Pen y Fan was a bitterly cold night with wind temperatures and the clear night plunging the mercury to above freezing. The relief of climbing in to the tent and in to the sleeping bag was a dream and I quickly warmed up.
Our spot had a lot of long grass and not the most even of terrain but with the mat I experienced no discomfort or an awkward night’s sleep. It was a great night’s sleep and very comfortable and warm.

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This mat could be used all year round, including in Winter but a down filled mat might keep you warmer. The most important thing is to have a mat regardless the time of the year.
If you didn’t know you loss some 70% of your body height when lying on the ground so even if it’s a roam mat, air mat like this or down filled it eliminates this heat loss.

So it’s not just for added creature comforts out camping.

I've been super impressed with the airmat, multiple uses later in a variety of conditions and locations and the mat remains inflated through the night and is as comfortable as the first use as till my last at the weekend just gone. It's very lightweight, durable and super compact and this mat has happily replaced my Exped Downmats for the past few months and I haven't missed the more expensive mats.

Knowing the price and the quality from this mat it's a brilliant trade both for comfort and the bank account.

Whether you are an experienced backpacker looking for a lightweight option without compromise of quality and comfort or whether you are new to camping and backpacking and want a cost-effective method to get you started that won't break the bank and offers the same quality as the more expensive mats then Snugpaks new offering is the perfect place to start. I for one have been extremely happy with the mat will continue to use in to Winter.

Additional comments post review

I’ve continued using the mat now in to Autumn and the mat is still delivering. The past few wild camps due to dire weather and scrambling to get in to the shelter for some respite from wind and rain I have actually been lazy and not blown the mat up and simply used it as a means to stop heat loss. Although obviously not as comfortable as when blown up the mat still delivers in keeping my core temperature as it should be and not worrying about the cold.

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Transparency Notice: Please note that I am a Snugpak Advocate and receive the products for free to review from Snugpak. The review is no guarantee of endorsement. I receive no monetary gain from Snugpak from the reviews or discount codes. 
 

Llyn y Fan Fawr

The weekends plan was to explore the Western side of the Brecon Beacons, an area I’ve not experienced much of, if at all. The first climb started with Pen y Fan in the centre of the park and one of the more popular and tourist attractions. Climbing a mountain straight after work is strangely refreshing but it wasn’t until the following morning when any real photographic opportunities really presented themselves.

The day started at 4am on Pen y Fan and looking over the valleys below and witnessing the cloud inversion lift as the Summer sun quickly broke through the clouds, shortly leaving Pen y Fan and Corn Du we headed back down the mountain to find breakfast and begin the real fun part of the journey.

On the Saturday the plan was to do a fairly length hike across the Fans and end up at our campsite at Llyn y Fan Fawr under Fan Brycheinoig. It was an extremely hot and sunny day with temperatures around 32 degrees and little to no shade throughout the day but the thought of the lake at the end of the day with cold fresh water and a wild swim kept us going.

Fast forward 8 hours and 12 miles across the Fans we arrived at Llyn y Fan Fawr at 5pm ready to pitch, eat and enjoy some well deserved rest bite from the sun. With our plan for the evening to wonder back on ourselves to view the sunset over Llyn y Fan Fach and Picws Du we had one final push which was to climb back up Fan Foel. Exhausted from the day already the first thing we did when we reached the summit and our vantage point was just collapse and enjoy the view.

From each of our sitting points we didn’t really move. Our legs weary and bodies aching from mild sun burn and heat we didn’t need much more than the view that we were graced with.

Unlike the previous evening on Pen y Fan and Corn Du which lacked much in the way of clouds or colour, Saturday evening the sky erupted with colour and catching the clouds. Casting a deep orange across the mountains before us, the contrast between the sandstones and rich greens was just mesmerising. As a first visit to the West side of the Brecon Beacons I was truly spoilt with the weather, conditions and views which has now spurred on a summer of continued visits to the area.

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Source: https://f11news.com/29/07/2018/picws-du-sunset-brecon-beacons-wales-by-matt-holland

Snugpak Endurance 40L review

Snugpak are renowned for building solid, military grade, shelters and sleeping bags and in this classic offering, the Endurance 40L they keep the military theme present with a tough and heavy duty pack that will stand the test of time. It's not the lightest of packs but it is certainly strong and can pack a lot. A great rucksack for all levels for a multitude of activities. 

What Snugpak say

The Endurance is one of our 40 litre rucksacks, and is well-named! Made of 600D Heavy Duty Nylon, it’s reliable and durable with a waist strap for security and padded, adjustable shoulder straps for extra comfort with over 150 MOLLE attachment points.

Weight includes everything = 1400g
Tough, durable, lightweight and tough.
Compatible with most hydration bladders.
Fully compatible with MOLLE for easy integration into your existing loadout.
Fully padded straps for extra comfort.
Volume = 40 Litres of storage space.

  • Velcro® Strips for Flag & Unit patches as well as for Name and Rank tapes

  • Padded shoulder straps with an adjustable sternum strap

  • Hydration System compatible

  • Over 150 MOLLE attachment points

  • Tough, 600D Heavy Duty Nylon

  • Velcro® Strips for Flag & Unit patches as well as for Name and Rank tapes

Dimensions
48cm(H) x 32cm(W) x 22cm(D)
19"(H) x 13"(W) x 9"(D)

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On review

The Endurance 40L rucksack is a classic rucksack from Snugpak which is styled around the traditional military rucksacks. If you are a fan of "Our Girl" on BBC you will have seen similar rucksacks used by the special forces within the programme.

Let's get the one poor point out the way first. The rucksack doesn't come with a waterproof liner although it has the pocket at the base of the bag. Does it need it however? No, the bag is made from 600D Heavy Duty Nylon material which makes it waterproof, however if you are going to go wading through rivers up to your neck or sit in the rain for 5 days then a cover will be needed which you can buy separately from Snugpak for £15 approx. 

The only other feature the bag doesn't come with is hiking pole or ice axe loops, but these are very easy to make yourself on the Mollie webbing on the exterior of the rucksack. For walking poles, I used some of my para cord and looped this around the top and bottom on the Molle. This kept the poles very secure and were quick to release when I needed them. 

With the Molle strapping not only is it a statement/style it also makes the bag very adaptable to a lot of scenarios. Attaching a tent, tarp, solar panels, walking poles or whatever you need. The webbing allows a lot of freedom to customise.

I had several comments about the bag regarding its size, generally how good it looked and how much you could fit in to a 40L rucksack. Its surprisingly spacious and you can fit a lot inside! I could fit my three days camping kit and photography equipment inside and still had wiggle room for more.

Typical base weights varied up to 7kg but overall the full pack would weigh 13kg with water, food and camera. The pack has one entry point at the top which is closed off via a draw string, allowing plenty of access and room to pack kit. On the lid are three zipper pockets, two below the lid and one large above. The larger pocket on the outside allowed me to fit a jacket, food and any small items I would need quick access to. 

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The two pockets under the lid could comfortably fit papers, maps and compass inside for safe keeping. One of the pockets has a clear cover so you can see inside, better for electronics and a phone if you need to open the lid and see what is going on but keep the electrics protected from the weather. In addition to the lid its lip would stretch to accommodate the size of the pack and this would stop water from getting inside. Very handy if you're not particularly good at packing and you end up with bulges across the pack. 

At the back of the pack is a universal hydration point so you can use any bladder pack. The hole is a little small but I've found this is the case on most packs now, so I typically fed the tube through the main access point of the pack and over my shoulder. The side of the pack has two deep pockets, perfect for carrying bottles, tripods or tents and along the side it has two straps to tighten and hold the kit in place ensuring it is secure and not going anywhere. However, be careful not to over fasten as the bag can tear as I found when I over tightened the tent to the side but this is an easy repair to make and some of stitching gave way on the loop.

You can fit a lot inside this pack and for this reason it is easy to overload. As I test I kept packing and managed to get up to a whopping 24kg! This is not only stupid to go out with a pack weight like this it's also going to be very uncomfortable. Some due care and attention to your kit is needed to ensure you don't overload. Yes, the pack was easy to overload and get up to that weight but it was still wearable. The huge padded shoulder straps and hip belt really work a treat and help to reduce rubbing and increase the comfort during wear.

One feature I like about Snugpak rucksacks is the velcro tags on all the straps to reduce the length. It's very annoying with this flapping in the wind so it's nice they've continued this feature.  

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The Endurance 40L is incredible durable and tough. I don't tend to take good care of my kit and throw it on the floor, roll it around and I'm not overly fussed if it gets dirty.
At no point during the time with the rucksack did I feel nervous about dropping the pack to the floor with camera kit inside. Yes, the kit inside is padded and within its own insert or dry bag but knowing you have a tough exterior eases your mind greatly and ensures it is safe and secure inside. In poor weather the pack remained dry inside which is what you need from a pack for the outdoors. A few tears here and there but nothing to cause concern about the integrity of the overall pack or safety for the kit inside.

During the heat the pack wouldn't rub on the hip or shoulders and remains taught and fixed in position despite the fairly heavy load, even off centre with a tripod one side and a tent the other. When you lighten the pack to use for a day use you can feel more of the weight. At 1400g it's not a heavy pack but it's not light either and certainly emptying it for a day pack isn't ideal for the pack.

Due to its size and how much it can carry. The pack sags when emptied and you can feel how bottom heavy it becomes when the kit drops - Once you put a camera, lunch, water and a jacket inside you would notice the odd shape and structure the main pack had but by no means was it uncomfortable to wear like this and the padding of the shoulders would take the burden but it's worth keeping a close eye on your lower back if you have particular problems here.

 

The Endurance 40L is a tough and surprisingly large pack that can carry and hold a lot. With Molle webbing its customisable and you can fix many items to the outside to keep at hand as well as the large lid you can have a lot of items you would need within seconds.

What I particularly liked about the pack was that it is only a 40L but you could continue to use this through the year in any condition or environment as you can pack so much inside for a 40L. It's a rucksack that you can rely on and get the job done! Climbing a mountain, camping, hiking etc you can do it all and know you aren't limited to what you can pack.

Although it lacks a waterproof cover the tough exterior heavy-duty nylon really does the job and if you are in need of a cover, Snugpak do sell them. In all for this pack being £85 it's a good price and it's a pack you will certainly get years of use out of.

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Transparency Notice: Please note that I am a Snugpak Advocate and receive the products for free to review from Snugpak. The review is no guarantee of endorsement. I receive no monetary gain from Snugpak from the reviews or discount codes. 
 

Snugpak Journey Duo review

Snugpak are renowned for building solid, military grade, shelters and sleeping bags and in the latest offering, the Journey Duo, they've gone back to basics to produce a value for money, reliable two man tent. It's not lightweight, but to compensate for the extra weight you get a well-designed and durable shelter that's ideal as a 3-season step-up from entry level to serious backpacking.

What does Snugpak say?

The Journey Duo is a practical two person tent with a low profile design, excellent in high winds, with ample storage in its generous front porch. It has a large front door with a mosquito net ventilation panel. Constructed with a durable ground sheet in a bathtub style.
Supplied complete with a tailored tent footprint to help protect the ground sheet.

Highlights:

Weight - 3200g.
Windproof.
Fly first.
Footprint - Protects the floors and provides a groundsheet for your porch area.
One door - Mesh/nylon entrance point.
One vent - One scooped mesh vent for increased air flow that can be reduced for less air flow.
Repair Kit included.
Waterproof - Includes a 4000mm hydrostatic head flysheet to help keep you dry. Waterproof taped seams
Two person tent - Suitable for 2 people or 1 person with gear.
Two lightweight alloy poles with press fit connections
Supplied with 18 lightweight Y pegs

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My Thoughts:

I got my hands on the new Snugpak Journey Duo for summer to review, trial and take it out in a variety of conditions.
As with any new tent, you should test it before heading out in to the hills. If something is broken or you are not sure how to build it. It's better in your garden you find these snags rather than 800metres above sea level in the cold and wet.

The Journey Duo is however very simple to put together. If you have previously used the Snugpak Scorpion or similar style tents to these, the Journey Duo is the inside out style to put it simply. Building the inner first with colour coded poles, followed by the outer waterproof layer. My first thoughts were okay, this could cause some issues if you are pitching in bad weather, so I tried experimenting with pitching the tent with the two attached. As you can do with the Scorpion tents.

Yes, you can do it but it's fiddly to be honest and you end up climbing all over the tent in order to do so. After a few more attempts doing this however the joint pitch became a little smoother as opposed to that first attempt.

The Journey Duo is packed with the inner and outer, three poles, dri-sak for storage plus a ground sheet for the doorway, pegs/stakes, repair kit and instructions. All of which are clearly labelled, and the instructions provided are very clear to follow. Taking out and putting away the tent in the dri-sak is very easy and never once have I struggled, even when the tent is wet.

The dri-sak has plenty of give and compression straps on the side to tighten once the tent is inside to reduce pack size.

As a whole this is a very simple tent for anyone to put together and is at home in multiple locations, but I foresee this tent being better use in a basecamp or field pitch scenario over camping on mountains.

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The first proper outing with the Journey Duo was in Snowdonia, North Wales. The week before weather was looking glorious and in for a hot one. This changed very quickly on that Thursday/Friday bank holiday weekend and the rain, wind and storms came rolling in.

I know a few others braved that weekend but all of us abandoned ship because of poor conditions and safety. I attempted to pitch the tent, but it was so windy (gusting of 45mph) up near Llyn Ogwen, Cwm Idwal but I couldn't get the tent up in time without the tent becoming soaked as well as myself. So, I gave up with the tent and slept in the car.
Happy to report from this that the Snugpak Softie Osprey sleeping bag and new Basecamp airmat were very comfortable!

Despite poor weather, I would not be defeated and knew I had a month of solid outings in better conditions to see how this tent really held up.

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Between Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons I took the Journey Duo out around my local area - The Chilterns, nothing strenuous or difficult but it was a good opportunity to build the tent repeatedly and check the comfort levels. I found in our recent heatwave the tent does keep the heat in. There are a number of vents to help airflow, but the best means is to open the front door to the tent and allow the breeze to come through. Keeping the flysheet zipped up prevents any bugs from getting inside so if you aren't a fan of creepy crawlies this tent has the means to keep them out.

For the more adventurous campers who like to wild camp or longer treks then the next part will be of interest.
I have been visiting the Brecon Beacons for the past few weekends as it's a good location to get out, have somewhere remote and fairly wild with little people and get the conditions of a dark sky park for astrophotography.

The first night I spent on Pen y Fan, this first night was extremely windy but it wasn't an issue pitching as the wind died down. The lack of rain really helps!
With this tent you pitch the back to face in to the wind to keep the tent more stable and i'm happy to share it was tough and the style and construction of the tent sheds the wind very well.

During the night however, the wind direction changed from round the back to the front. This didn't cause any issues at all and the tent was stuck to the floor like glue and no pegs, guys or any fabric tears.

The Journey Duo can certainly cope with the means for more wild conditions, but it is heavy, coming in at 3.4kg which is rather heavy for some and having walked 16 miles in 32degrees over 6 mountains with the average of 700metres I could feel the pack on my back but in this heat any heavy work like this is tough!

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The tent is somewhat heavy, but you can reduce the pack weight a small amount by not packing the groundsheet or by splitting the tent in two. As the tent is made for two people, you could split the inner and outer plus poles and pegs between two. This is something we regularly do with DofE expedition groups. Even with lighter tents, share the load out is the best means to reducing pack weight across teams.
If you are on your own, you could still split the tent in two and spread the weight out around the pack to make it even on the shoulders. As opposed to keeping it inside the dri-sak lashed on to one side of your rucksack.

As the name would obviously give away, the Journey Duo is designed to fit two people and it can very happily and some. It's very spacious with room inside the main sleeping area to fit two full length roll mats and bags with kit at the top or kept outside in the porch. For one person it's luxury and you can really spread out.
I had heaps of room and could happily sit up inside the tent or stretch out. At no point did I feel like I was squashed in, with the main doors left open it was really lovely with the view out over the lake and mountains.

With regards to the door, it's very simple and easy to use with just a straight old zipper that comes around the whole width of the door. Enabling you to wrap it up to one side to keep out of harm’s way. I did find closing it up it would catch on the tapered seams but nothing that would damage the material or zip. This is likely user error with me being in a rush.

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Now a few will be looking at the colour and thinking why? The bright orange really stands out and you won't be missed that's for sure. I know for some who are trying to be discrete might not favour this new colour and would rather opt for the dark green of the Scorpion. As a whole I would recommend this tent is better suited to lower level conditions and campsites to match the basecamp theme Snugpak is going down. Couple this with the new Basecamp air mats and a few travel sleeping bags and you've got a nice set up.

It's nice to see Snugpak exploring new areas of the market and it's smart in my opinion as traditionally I would know Snugpak to be for the adventurous, expeditions and military background. It's nice to see the brand moving in a new direction and broader market, not alienating others.

The Journey Duo follows the same style and construction as the ever-popular Scorpion tents but at half the price - The Journey Duo is retailed at £170, compared to the Scorpion 2 which is £280. The key difference between the two is the Journey range is constructed inner first. This is my core reasoning behind it's better suited to lower level camping. Not that this tent can't take a bit of rain or wind. It can handle both extremely well, just you'd hope to have it pitched before the rain comes in for ease.

In all a tough tent which is perfect for three season conditions. If you are happy with a heavier tent for hikes, then this is a good tent to bring for summer and certainly a great tent for camping with two people looking to get away for the weekend. It's easy to cool down by opening up the whole tent and allowing airflow but equally it retains heat extremely well.
One last note regarding the orange walls, yes it does block out the light in the mornings, so you won't get rudely awakened by the sun.

You can see the review on the air mat with built in footpump *coming soon* here or the Endurance 40L rucksack.

MyOutdoors Rating:

Comfort = 19/20
Loads of room for one man and plenty for two with gear, the porch area is plentiful big to fit kit inside and even pitch up a gas stove just outside the doors to cook with.

Ease of set up = 15/15
Everything is colour coded and the instructions are super clear and easy to follow with a few simple steps. It’s difficult to get wrong and can pitch this tent in a matter of minutes.

Weather Resistance = 15/25
Would be higher if it were outer build first, this restricts when you can use it making it more suited to Spring and Summer.

Durability = 19/20
Once pitched its tough and withstands a lot but building it in poor conditions is very difficult with the inner built first followed by the outer.

Weight 9/20
It’s not the heaviest as tents go but 3.4kg for a two man is heavy and for backpacking it’s not suitable.
It is best suited on lower levels and for campsites.

Total score = 77/100

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Source: https://myoutdoors.co.uk/gear/gear-reviews/general/tents/2-man-tents/item/1527-snugpak-journey-duo-tested-and-reviewed