Garmin Vivosmart HR+ Review: An 8/10 Hiking Watch

Garmin Vivosmart HR+ review

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…

Continue reading “Garmin Vivosmart HR+ Review: An 8/10 Hiking Watch”

How to Wash A Down Jacket

hippo in mud, eyeing your down jacket!
Hippos and mud: the two mortal enemies of down jackets!

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?

Continue reading “How to Wash A Down Jacket”

Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review: Initial Thoughts

Although I’ve had it a while, I’ve finally decided to write this Garmin Vivoactive 3 review. Okay, let’s see how this sports and fitness watch stacks up.

Before we move on, take a look at what we think are the best hiking watches of 2020.

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.

Continue reading “Garmin Vivoactive 3 Review: Initial Thoughts”

What Makes A Down Jacket Warm? Complete Guide

Lake Baikal in Russia, it's here you'll discover what makes a down jacket warm
Laike Baikal, Russia – you’ll need a high quality down jacket if you’re going to trek this location.

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.

Let’s delve a little deeper.

Continue reading “What Makes A Down Jacket Warm? Complete Guide”

History of Down Jackets: From Innuit to Catwalk

Innuit down-filled parka
The Innuit beat Berghaus to the punch by about 1,000 years

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.

Continue reading “History of Down Jackets: From Innuit to Catwalk”

What Is A Down Jacket? The Complete Guide

carinthis down jacket used in Greenland
Carinthia down jacket, an essential piece of outdoor gear for expeditions such as a crossing of Greenland.

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…

Continue reading “What Is A Down Jacket? The Complete Guide”

Petzl Tikka Headlamp Review: Lumen Overload

Petzl Tikka headlamp review (200 lumen model)
The Petzl Tikka headlamp – note the red light lens that can be used for emergency signalling.

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.

Continue reading “Petzl Tikka Headlamp Review: Lumen Overload”

Sealskinz Cold Weather Sock Review: The Perfect Gift for Hikers?

A quick Sealskinz cold weather sock review - hot off the Lake Baikal press.
The Sealskinz cold weather sock review – photo taken after crossing Lake Baikal as the socks were a little smelly and dirty!

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…

Continue reading “Sealskinz Cold Weather Sock Review: The Perfect Gift for Hikers?”

Spot vs Garmin InReach: The Best Satellite Communicator

Intro

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).

Continue reading “Spot vs Garmin InReach: The Best Satellite Communicator”

Lake Baikal: Crossing The Worlds Largest Lake

Baikal's ice frequently breaks up and re-freezes to form strange, symmetrical shapes.
Beautiful and remote, Baikal’s frozen surface contorts into many shapes.

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 and wolves.

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.

Continue reading “Lake Baikal: Crossing The Worlds Largest Lake”