Hiking is hard work. With the sheer physical effort associated with hualing your gear through forests and over mountains come the inevitable post-trip aromas! You trekking gear will achieve a degree of ‘ripeness’ normally only associated with that that six week old salad hiding at the back of the fridge. With that unpleasant thought in mind, we’re going to walk through how to wash a down jacket.
This step by step is part of a series of posts designed to help you look after your down jacket (including a collection of reviews of the current best down jacket offerings. Each one has been written with a specific question, or topic, in mind and aimed at helping you choose, maintain and understand various aspects of down-filled jackets. If you enjoy the posts please do let more people know by sharing on social media, or linking to the content you like.
Okay, you’ve just back from your latest big hike. Your hiking pants and base layers now have a breezy freshness, the scent of home that reinvigorates you halfway through a long distance hike. Carefully following the instructions for washing your Sealskinz cold weather socks (links to a review) has dispelled the lingering odour of sweaty feet.
Now it’s time to clean you down jacket. Where to start?
Note: This is part of our what is a down jacket series of articles. Now let’s get into this – the easy answer is: eider (the soft down feathers that insulate bird’s bodies). But that’s too simple of an answer. What makes a down jacket warm is a series of construction features combined with differing weights and quality of feathers.
Continuing our ‘what is a down jacket‘ series, it’s time to explore the history of down clothing. The 1922 summit of Mount Everest by an Australian team is the first acknowledged use of a down jacket. But the evolution of down jackets, and their predecessors, is rooted deep in the history of mankind.
Use of down goes way back in time. North American tribes have been using bird feathers as part of religious ceremonies that date back thousands of years. Images of native American war bonnets (headdresses made with eagle feathers) show us of the importance placed on birds and their integration into various cultures.
Caribou Innuit, inhabitants of the North West Territories, Canada have used down-stuff parkas for countless generations. The heavy overcoats were designed to keep hunters warm during the harshest weather. Tracing the origins of the parka is hard, but researchers believe that this form of cold weather clothing has been used by the Innuit for many thousands of years.
More recently, from the 1600s onwards, down feather became a key component in the construction of clothing worn in cold environments. In this era, Dutch merchants were regularly buying down feathers from Russia.
Fast forward another couple of hundred years and we can see examples of duck nesting sites in Norway being protected. Eider was harvested by Norwegian communities and stuffed into both clothing and blankets. This method of farming, thought to date back to the 1800’s, appears to be an early form of mass supply of eider.
When Jack Frost decides to pay us a visit it’s time to wrap up and beat the chill. For most of us that means ditching t-shirts in favour of something a little warmer – usually a down jacket. But what is a down jacket? And how do they keep you warm?
Down-filled clothing has moved from the kind of specialist gear sported by only huge-bearded explorers and mountaineers to everyday wear. This trend has been driven by outdoor gear companies who have taken popular models and redesigned them for less extreme climates.
Let’s go on a guided tour of the ins and outs of down jackets…
Can you ever recall a time when someone asked to name a decent brand of headlamp and your mind didn’t go to Petzl? Nor me. Over the years I’ve used a number of models, all of which performed admirably (which is why I’m writing this Petzl Tikka headlamp review for you).
The Tikka I own is a couple of years old now, but the basic design principles and functionality still apply. Newer models boast over 300 lumens of output, whereas my headlamp creaks at about 200. I’m not going to get ‘Lumen jealousy’ as my Petzl provides more than enough light output for my needs.
Right now, there are a number of different Tikka models available at Amazon and outdoor gear stores. I’m reviewing the Tikka 200 in this post.
Note: this Seakskinz cold weather sock review is based on my own experiences during a recent hike/run along the length of Lake Baikal, Russia. Constructed from a mix of merino wool and Gore-Tex, the socks have been designed to keep your feet warm and dry, even when travelling through extreme environments.
But do they live up to the Sealskinz high standard we’ve all come to know and respect? Let’s find out…
Today we’re going to do something different. Instead of a simple GPS review (such as the eTrex 10), I’m going to put two of satellite messengers side by side. Ladies and gents, here’s an in-depth guide on the Spot vs Garmin InReach.
Garmin has been building quality GPS and Satnav since as far
back as I can remember. My first GPS, an eTrex 10, is what could you reasonably
call ‘bomb proof’. Honestly, it’s been lost in the deep Norwegian (and found by
a skier who returned it to me), survived the jagged cold of the North Pole and
even bounced down the side of a mountain. It’s scarred, but still going strong.
Exactly Which Satellite Messengers Will We Be Comparing?
Findemspot’s SPOT Gen 3 and the InReach Explorer +. Both are GPS devices, each with a similar set of core capabilities that we’ll look at in a minute. Each device come in a range of models: the InReach Explorer, InReach SE and InReach mini. The SPOT and SPOT X (the latter being a miniature device comparable to the InReach mini).
This year I decided to go the next step up from my long distance UK hikes and travel the length of Lake Baikal. And what a journey it was – this is one destination you have to add to your expedition bucket-list.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Baikal, here are some tips for hikers. All of them are were learned during my 400 mile winter run/hike/ski traverse of this vast expanse of frozen water.
Lake Baikal: The Facts
1 mile deep and over 400 miles long, Lake Baikal is the largest source of fresh water on planet Earth. The dark abyss is also probably home to more cars than the all the scrap yards of the world combined.
Okay, I made up that last ‘fact’. Truth is,
the bottom of the lake is a burial ground for vehicles that that gone through
the ice (during winter, many Russian locals use the frozen surface as highway.
Their routes vary: from town to town; fishing site to fishing site; family
outings to Olkhon island).
Located in southern Siberia, Baikal
experiences the full force of Arctic winter, with temperatures dipping as low
-30C (the coldest recorded temperature being -61C).
Wildlife is abundant. Bears and wolves roam
the forests for three seasons of the year, the former hibernating at precisely
the time peoplelike myself mount expeditions to
traverse the lake. In the east, freshwater seals spend their time feeding on golomyanka
(a local fish) and rearing their young, whilst avoiding being eaten by bears
Note: Lake Baikal is the only known home to this species of seal.
In total, the lake’s basin supports a human population of around 100,000.
I’m writing this as winter continues to skulk outside the front door of my house. Frost glistens on the roads and across the fields which means it’s time to get some cold weather hiking done. Most of my backpacking trips involve at least one night of camping. Even though I usually hike alone I tend to carry a tent that can accommodate me and all my gear. So today we’re going to look at the best two person tent options available in 2020. (I almost wrote about the best two man tent, but a wise woman reminded me that it’s not only men who like camping out).
The best two person tents for hiking sit at the crossroads of needs. They are:
Large enough to accommodate two people and all their gear.
Provide protection from the very worst the elements can throw at us.
Light enough to carry, possibly for long distances. Models reviewed need to fit into the ‘best backpacking tent’ category.
With these criteria in mind, I went in search of a selection of tents that
matched the points above. Prices range from affordable to ‘ouch’!
For anyone looking to travel light and fast, take a look my review of the 5
best one-person tent models.
Weaving your way through the web, searching for the best down jacket for men is no fun. I mean, where do you start? Are you really prepared to pay a premium price in order to save a few grammes in weight? Or does a high fill power tick the right boxes for you?
Down jackets have many uses. Heavier, higher fill power options are ideal for journeys into extreme cold environments. Lighter, easily packed variants are better suited as a thin insulating layer to fit over a t-shirt, or base layer.
Note: most down jackets are not waterproof. In fact, down and rain do not mix will. Just anyone who’s ever been caught in a downpour – at some point during the conversation you’re likely to hear the phrase, “Smells like wet duck”!