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North Ridge Agility Pro Trousers Review   Leave a comment

Those nice people at GO Outdoors sent me through a pair of North Ridge Agility Pro Trousers to review so here’s my thoughts.

A fairly standard pair of soft-shell walking trousers and first impressions were good. Manufacturing quality was excellent. Well shaped with a lighter material around the knee for easier stretching.  The waistband is also comfortable with a softer more cushioned feel and a sturdy belt and fixing. I’ve noticed with a few trousers that I’ve bought that the belt is thin and can cut into you. It’s also almost completely enclosed that holds the trousers up well although this also has some disadvantages which I’ll come to later.

There are two side pockets but these are unzipped. I was about to say that this could be a disadvantage in wet weather but seeing as I rarely do the zips up on my other trousers and never get water in that way I doubt it’s a real issue. There is a zipped back pocket but personal preference is for one on the side – I often use that to hold my compact camera or phone if it’s not raining. I rarely use rear pockets as – ahem – there isn’t much in them when my ample behind is also in that space. 🙂

The leg has a zipped section at the foot to fit over gaiters or larger boots. All the zips have a good solid, well made feel. I have a real dislike for trousers that sag, leaving that cold gap between shirt and waist so I like trousers either with braces or some loops to attach them to. These trousers (and most makes to be fair) don’t have these but you can usually fit them around the belt. Except here as the aforementioned enclosed belt precludes that

In terms of comfort well these are a big win. I have to say they are the most comfortable walking trousers I’ve ever worn with a soft feel. Some other non-lined trousers can be a bit harsh, almost abrasive but these are like a second skin.

Now onto the most important outdoor criteria, wind resistance, durability and waterproofing. I always try to be fair with my reviews setting my comments in the context of the manufacturers claims and the price point. RRP for these is about £70 but they are much cheaper in most instances. That places them firmly in the mid-range end. However in use when compared to the description the performance does not quite live up to expectations. They are described as wind and water “resistant” so what was the problem

I gave these a thorough work-out on a very windy and wet 1 hour walk on the coast of mid-Wales. The wind seemed to go straight through them and worse they were in no way water resistant. The water pretty much came straight through with no evidence of any beading of water at all. I’ve since washed them in waterproofing solution that has improved this a little. After an hour they were completely sodden with water running down my legs and into my socks which were also sodden. Whilst for less than £50 you can’t expect great things, the fact that they failed so badly even to keep a minimum amount of water out was very disappointing. End result is I’m reluctant to wear them when there is a threat of heavy rain. I did try them out in less heavy rain but they still gave me no water protection at all. Their light weight also means I’d wear a thermal layer beneath them in cold winter conditions although again to be fair they don’t claim to be 4 season.

In terms of durability I’ve worn them maybe a dozen times and they still look like new so good marks there. However due to their lightweight construction I am a little sceptical about the terms “active technical use” and “rigours of scrambling” but to be fair in terms of durability they haven’t let me down yet.

Pros

Comfort, Well Made, Light Weight

Cons

Poor water resistance, poor wind proofing, no braces or attaching loops

In summary if they could just improve the water resistance (or play down the claims a little) these would be an excellent 3 season soft-shell trouser and I plan on using them alot more over the coming months (the fact that this has been the wettest winter on record has meant I haven’t used them as much as  I’d like). Considering the price I would have been giving these a 5 star rating had they been at least moderately rain resistant. However in light of that one aspect I’d have to drop this down to only 3 stars.

Thanks to GO Outdoors for giving me a pair to try out. I didn’t include any photos as there are some on the website and to be honest most walking trousers especially blacks ones aren’t exactly Hollywood. You can check them out for yourself on the Go Outdoors page and their full range of walking trousers are in the web links below:

http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/north-ridge-agility-pro-pant-p206624

http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk/mens/clothing/legwear/walking-trousers

Posted March 23, 2014 by surfnslide in Gear, Reviews

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Review – Jetboil Sol Titanium Stove   8 comments

Well here we go my first gear review post!

Over the last few months I’ve been converted to the idea of a fresh cup of tea while out on a day-walk. It’s always been one the best advantages of backpacking that you can pull over for a brew whenever you want a pep up as it were. For day walks I’d been using a small lightweight primus kettle and mini gas burner but I was looking for something a little more compact and lightweight. I also have my eye on some short one night backpacks when the spring arrives so something I could cook up a simple meal for one in would also be handy.

I’d seen a few mentions of the Jetboil range and had my eye on the Flash range but when I did some searching I managed to find a price for the slightly smaller and much lighter Sol Titanium version for £105.00 from The Outdoor Shop online store so I thought I’d go for it as a little treat. Other than my gas burner I have a Trangia that still sees good service and a much more exciting MSR petrol stove that I love but can’t use in a backpacking tent for obvious reasons so this was something of a luxury purchase but there you go.

So onto the review. I’ll say up front that I think this is a top piece of kit. It comes with the main mug and Flux Ring unit, lid, burner unit with push button ignition, pot stand and base stand for a standard gas canister. Every time I mention the flux ring I’m always drawn to think of the Flux Capacitor from the Back to the Future films. Disappointingly no matter how hard I tried I can’t get the thing to go back in time. “You made a stove…….out of a DeLorean!”

Full componants, all fit into the unit as shown in the next photo

As it’s Titanium its extremely light, the figures from the Jetboil site aren’t very useful as they don’t include some of the bits but I weighed it all together on my kitchen scales and came up with 17oz (I’m old school)

When packed for transport it packs up neatly such that the everything including a 100g gas canister fits neatly inside the mug.

Packed and ready to transport

To assemble you just screw the burner unit into the gas canister, clip on the base stand and then twist the mug unit on to the burner and you’re ready to go.

Ready to use

Now to the most important part. Its full capacity is 0.8l but I normally brew up around 0.5l and it does that in a little over 2 minutes which is pretty damn fast in my book. I can assemble it in about 2 minutes and by the time I’ve dug out the milk, teabags, sugar and my lunch it’s boiled. Putting it back together takes another couple of minutes.

Are there any negatives. Couple of minor points. It has a plastic measuring cup that protects the flux ring that can take a couple of seconds to twist off and if you want to disconnect the burner from the mug to drink you tea (you can just pick up the whole unit) it can take a bit of pressure to unclip it. There is also a small online debate going on that the incompatibility between the two metals used in the flux ring and the mug may cause some degradation in the bond and the stove might fail (or explode). I’ve used mine a few times now and I can see no signs of that and it’s by no means a definitive problem for a product recall. Martin Rye over at Summit and Valley has a blog post up about this and you can read that here if you have any worries but I’m not concerned if that helps. Mind you I think lighting a petrol stove in a backpacking tent is fun so my sense of danger and risk might be different to everyone elses

I took it out on my days out last week in the Southern Highlands. My pals were initially sceptical and took the pish somewhat (they still use flasks the Philistines) but when they saw how neat, light and quick it was they were suitably impressed. There are a range of equally lightweight accessories, pots and pans to expand the Sol beyond a one person brew and quick meal machine. I may take a look at that in future to possible replace my Trangia but it would be a very expensive cooking system if you did. For now I’m happy with what I bought it for.

In Summary

Pros

Lightweight

Compact

Extremely fast and fuel-efficient

Easy to assemble and use

Cons

Cost (although factor against fuel efficiency)

Minor assembly niggles

Possible (unconfirmed) metal fatigue issue

Overall Rating

9.5 out of 10

Gets the surfnslide Best Buy award for stoves 🙂

P1080166

In action in the Brecon Beacons

Usual advice to shop around applies here as it’s RRP is up around £140

Posted March 11, 2012 by surfnslide in Gear, Reviews

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