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…

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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.

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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…

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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).

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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.

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Best Two Person Tent (2020): 8 Roomy Backpacking Tents Reviewed

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.

The 8 tents I’ve reviewed for this post are:

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Best Down Jacket For Men | Keeping You Toasty In 2020

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”!

Protecting your mid-layer jacket is as easy as investing in a decent shell layer, like the Montane Alpine Endurance.

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Which Is The Best Hiking App? Here’s My Top 5.

You’re keen and diligent, you’re looking for the best hiking app that will keep you alive when the manure hits the whirling thing. But finding a decent app is, well, tedious. Can you really be bothered installing and comparing multiple apps on your smartphone? If not, then read on.

A word of warning before we move on: never, ever come to rely 100% on apps as navigation devices. First learn the essentials of hillwalking and hiking – like how to map read well. Use your smartphone as a backup, or confirmation, only. TrekSumo accepts no responsibility for you walking in a foul-smelling bog.

I’ve put together a list of what I and my fellow hikers consider to the best smartphone apps for hiking. Without further ado, let’s see what’s on the list for 2020.

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Ashridge to Ivinghoe Beacon Circular Walking Route

Bridgewater Monument on the Ashridge estate

Before we dive into this post, I’d like to say that the Ashridge to Ivinghoe Beacon circular route is not one I created. The original was posted on the Chilterns AONB site and is 5 mile walk along some pretty substantial trails and tracks. At 8 miles, the route you’re about to follow is a little longer thanks to my ‘navigation enhancements’. By that I mean map reading errors (something that’s hard to admit considering I consider myself to be a very good navigator).

Okay, let’s crack on…

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Rab Vertex Pants Review: Hiking and Beyond

Hiking pants should be comfortable, breathable and weather resistant. As an added bonus, they’ll make you look amazing when you’re hiking! Over the years I’ve tested and worn many brands. My most recent purchase was a pair of Rab Vertex pants. I’ve been using them for about six months and to be honest I’m actually pretty pleased with them. But rather than try and sell them to you from the off, I’ll let you make up your mind.

I won’t go into any detail about Rab. Most of you already know this UK based outdoor gear manufacturer has a great reputation.

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