I’ve already carried out some side by side comparisons of satellite communicators and navigator devices, but finally decided to get a Garmin InReach Explorer+ review out there for our readers.
Jake, the co-author of TrekSumo, and I have a huge amount of experience using GPS and navigation devices. I’m ex-military, with 10 years service in the British Army, and Jake is seasoned hiker and explorer. Over the course of respective tours, we’ve encountered the good, the bad and the ugly of satellite navigation devices (trust me: the military is great at buying and dumping heavy, U-G-L-Y equipment on the troops).
Anyway, time to quit the meander down memory lane. Let’s get this InReach review on the road.
My Atmos 65 was both a very last-minute and, as it turned out, a very fortunate purchase.
Back in 2018 when I went to Seattle to spend a few days hiking Section J of the Pacific Crest Trail, the rucksack I had taken with me was a Vango Contour 60+10; a decent but by no means top-end piece of kit that had served me fairly well on a rainy three days wild camping in Scotland but which I was becoming increasingly nervous about using. I could ignore most of its (myriad) flaws but the one thing I couldn’t ignore was that what must have been a one-off construction fault meant that the shoulder adjustment strap on one side would always end up digging into my neck, no matter how much I tried to move it.
I’ve now had the Garmin Instinct for over six months, so I finally feel in a position to write a reasonably thorough review of it. I’m going to start off with quickly explaining why I bought it, on the basis that since almost all Garmin products are essentially pretty good, the question here isn’t so much ‘is it a good watch’ as ‘is it the right watch for me’, and hopefully understanding my thought process will help you figure out if the same applies to you.
So, I’ve had Garmin watches for running for years – I think I’ve had five watches in that time, and with my last one (the Vivosmart HR+, which James has reviewed) I made the switch to it being my everyday watch. I really appreciate the notifications as well as the health and sleep tracking, so those were key for me. Aside from that, my use of the watch is probably 70% running, 20% hiking, and 10% other sports. A big factor, however, is that I am a serving Army Reservist and wanted a watch that was rugged enough to use in the field, and could replace the features of my Garmin Foretrex which, while brilliant, was feeling increasingly outdated.
Your plans are set, gear packed and all that’s left is to choose the right footwear for you hike. The age old battle of hiking boots vs trail runners keeps on coming round. What I’d like to do today is make a few suggestions for you to consider.
First though, trail runners have come a long way since I first pulled on a pair (about 18 years ago). Over time they’ve been engineered to be more rugged, with deep treads on the outsoles, and lightweight. And for many trips they’ve become a credible alternative to hiking boots.
Let’s walk through some of the questions you should be asking of your footwear.
Do you know how to choose hiking boots? Well, the process is a little like entering into a long and committed relationship: you’re going to travel long distances together, on journeys that may take many years. Along the way there will be friction, fun and occasional boot envy when you’re hiking the wilds.
Most important of all, you’ll care and protect one another. Mutual respect will grow, and in time you’ll feel comfortable with each other, no matter where you adventures take you both. How to choose hiking boots that you’ll cherish in a way that will make your bobble hat green with envy is a dizzying process.
But don’t worry! This post is part of a new series of article that will bring together all you need to know about hiking boots. Let’s get this love affair on the trail!
Before you finally commit to a match made in hikers heaven, you need to be sure the two of you are compatible.
General: a small, but very capable sports watch. Rugged and reliable, the Garmin Vivosmart HR+ is a great option for outdoor enthusiasts looking for a relatively low cost GPS-enabled fitness tracker that’s ideal for more than just hiking or running.
The Vivosmart HR+: General Information
One of a long line of capable devices, the Vivosmart HR+ has been around for a few years now. That’s because it works and it works well. When it comes to buying a low cost fitness tracker or hiking/running watch it’s worth pausing to look this one over.
I have to admit to really liking the HR+: the GPS tracking is great and there are plenty of applications that just work with it out of the box (more on those points in a while). And the price point is a good one – right now you can pick one up for about $100/£100.
When it first launched back in 2016, the Vivosmart HR+ was relatively expensive. Over time the price has dropped to a point that it’s an easy purchase decision.
Okay, let’s get into the heart of this Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review…
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?
I realised (after buying the Vivoactive…) that it’s only been two years since I last upgraded my running watch, which was itself the fourth Garmin running watch I’d owned. In some ways it’s hard to justify all the upgrades – my very first watch did pretty much what I need for most runs, in terms of providing me with distance, time, pace and a few other key metrics. None of that has really changed – it’s all the additional features that have kept me coming back for newer watches and, in this case, it’s the mix of a decent running watch with all-day lifestyle fitness tracking functionality (sleep, 24/7 heart rate, steps and more) that made this attractive.
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.