Backpacking Gear list

Backpacking Gear list

Introduction

Given that I design, manufacture, and sell outdoor clothing and equipment for a living I often get asked what gear I use when I’m out on the hills.

So, I decided to go through a list of the main gear and clothing that I use when I’m out and about.  I’ve broken it down into section, purely because this will be a quite extensive piece, and the reader may with to digest it in sections, or look for specific information.

Where I have dropped links to items through this piece, they are either to where the best price can be found or, if they are pretty much universally priced, an Amazon Affiliate link.  A bloke has to earn a living…

Load Carriage

I am a big fan of modularisation and scalability.  I want one bag that I can tailor to my needs.  I also want something that has a good strong frame and an adjustable back.  I also am not a fan of bright colours for my gear.  When I’m out and about I prefer to blend in somewhat rather than stick out like a sore thumb.  Finally, I like to be able to attach some useful items to my waistbelt.

I opted to go for the Karrimor SF Predator 80-130.  The first thing to note is that Karrimor SF is not the same company as Karrimor sold by Sports Direct.  They were the same at one point but the “civilian” side of the business was sold to Sports Direct and the “military” side became Karrimor SF.

The Predator is a “military” oriented pack, in that it is covered with PALS loops so that MOLLE pouches can be attached to it.  I opted for this, over the Sabre (identical pack, but no PALS loops), because I wanted to be able to manage my gear dependant on my activity.  For example, if I am through hiking, I will have several pouches on the outside of the pack with things I need to have to hand, like waterproofs and a puffy jacket.  If I am using a basecamp and doing day hikes then I will attach my daysack to the outside.  If I am bushcrafting, then I can attach pouches for my saw, my spade and my axe.

In terms of what I can carry, this bag is a beast.  It starts off at 80 litres, that can be expanded to 130 by unzipping the sides, and it can go out to 155 litres if you add the side pouches.  There are nice long compression straps on the sides to manage the load and to attach things like tents.  There are also pockets on the base at each side so that you can stow things like walking poles without them slipping through and out.  Finally, it has a built-in rain cover.

In terms of what is attached to the outside, I will have; my daysack, a Karrimor SF Predator 30 (although I will be upgrading this to a Karrimor SF Sabre 45 in the near future); or, 3 large Kifaru Belt Pouches; and/or a 3 litre Hydration System; and/or side pouches. If I am carrying a tent, I will strap it to the side and my hammock setup goes into a side pouch. On the belt I have a Water Bottle Pouch, and a small Utility Pouch for my boo boo kit and other small items I want to hand.

Shelter

This is again dependant on what I am doing.  If I am through-hiking, I will carry a lightweight tent.  If I am using a basecamp, I will use either my hammock set up or a heavier and roomier tent.

My lightweight tent is a Vango Scafell 200.  I chose this for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, for the porch.  It gives me a covered space to do things like cooking or to leave wet gear outside the sleeping area.  Secondly, its weight at 2.5 KG.  Finally, its ease of pitching.  It only takes 5 minutes to set up and has a couple of pitching options.  I can set it up with the outer first, or outer only which lets me have a really lightweight option; or I can set up the outer and inner together.  This is important to me because I don’t want the inner getting wet if I’m pitching in the rain.

My bigger tent is a Freedom Trail Toco 4LX.  This tent is an outer first tent and has 2 sleeping pods inside.  I can either use it with one pod and have a larger admin area, or I can have both pods up to share with a bit of space for 2 people.  I have happily camped for a week at a time in this tent.

My Hammock setup is a bit more elaborate… I use a Hennessey Explorer Deluxe Zip XL with a Hennessey Hex Rainfly.  Both of these are stored in Hennessey Snakeskins.

Sleeping System

For me, a sleeping system is made up of three parts.  Sleeping mat/pad, sleeping bag, and Bivi bag.

Sleeping Pad

In terms of sleeping pads I am a huge fan of Klymit’s products.  I have four pads that I use regularly.

For through hiking, I use the Klymit Inertia X frame.  This is a super-lightweight, skeleton air mattress.  It has cut-outs which allow your sleeping bag to loft underneath you adding to your bottom insulation.  It blows up in 3-4 breaths and is about the size of a fizzy pop can when it’s deflated and rolled into its stuff sack.  It is a trifle narrow and some people might find that an issue, especially if you move a lot in your sleep.

If I am going to be at a static camp, I will use the Klymit Static V.  This is a bit bigger than the X Frame, being about the size of a wine bottle without the neck.  This is a great full-length and full width pad.

When I hammock camp, I use Klymit’s Hammock V sleeping pad.  This is basically a Static V with some “wings” added to the side so that it stays in place in your hammock.

For family camping I use the Klymit Double V.  This is basically a double version of the Static V.

Sleeping Bag

Carinthia Defence 4 all day, every day!  I absolutely love this sleeping bag.  It is billed as a 3-season sleeping bag but has a comfort raring of -15⁰C.  The outer layer is loose on the fill to provide an extra air layer for insulation, as well as being water resistant.  It has a central zip, which makes it much easier to get in and out of, especially in a hammock.  It is roomy at the shoulders, without being too big so you get cold.  The only thing it is missing is a couple of internal pockets so you can keep items like your phone inside the sleeping bag.

Bivi Bag

I use a bivi bag for a couple of reasons.  First is that it provides an extra air layer around the body adding to your insulation.  Next is to stop my sleeping bag getting wet.  We’ve all at some point managed to touch the side of our tent when we’re sleeping, especially when sharing a small hike tent.  Finally, it waterproofs my sleeping bag in my rucksack and allows me to more loosely stuff my sleeping bag into my rucksack, filling space better than if it is in a compression sack or canoe sack.

I use a British Military surplus bivi bag.  You can get these for a very reasonable price on eBay, and they are made of Gore-Tex.

Sleeping System Extras

There are a couple of additional Items I have for my sleeping system that I’ll use in the coldest of conditions.

First up are the Snugpak Insulated Tent Boots. These are great for sitting around in the tent in the evening.  You can take your boots off and keep your feet warm.  They are also great in the winter when your feet feel like little blocks of ice in the bottom of your sleeping bag.

If it is particularly cold, then I will wear a merino beany hat to ward off any draughts getting into my sleeping bag.

Water

Water carriage

I try not to carry a large water bladder unless water is not readily available to me.  We are very lucky in the UK that most of our wild places have plenty of streams running through them.  You can usually make sure that you are camped by a good water supply and find plenty of places to top off a water bottle along the way.

I do have a 3-litre bladder from Karrimor SF.  I got it because it is designed to attach to my rucksack.  Mostly though, I’ll use a 1-litre, stainless steel, Nalgene bottle with a Nalgene OTF lid.  The wide mouth of the Nalgene makes for easy filling, but messy drinking… The OTF lid makes it much more useable.  I chose stainless steel purely for looks, although it could be used to boil water if I need to.

Water Purification

I never drink straight from a wild water source.  It might look nice and clear, but you may miss seeing that dead sheep a few metres upstream.  I don’t like purification tablets, because of the chemical taste you are left with.

My water filter of choice is the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System.  I love it because it is really compact, low maintenance, low cost, and one filter will treat 1000,000 gallons of water. The whole kit fits into a pencil case.  It is designed so that it can attach directly to the neck of any ordinary drinks bottle, so is perfect for any travel where you don’t quite trust the water.

You can use it with the squeeze pouch to drink direct or fill a water bottle; use the straw to drink direct from your water source; attach it to a standard water bottle; or, put it inline on your drinking hose from your water bladder.  The only real weakness to the system is its vulnerability to freezing in very cold weather.  If I am out and it’s that cold it lives inside a pack and comes into my sleeping bag at night.

Cooking & Eating

Cooking

I love my Jetboil!  The clue is in the name… Very rapid boiling of water.  Great for an on the fly brew or for rapidly heating a boil-in-the-bag scoff.  It is somewhat bulky, but I’m prepared to trade that off against the convenience of the unit.

I keep it in a padded stuffsack I bought from HM Supplies.  It is also well worth buying one of the fold up stands which clip to the gas bottle.  They only cost a couple of quid and will happily fit inside your Jetboil.

I will either use boil-in the-bag meals like Wayfarer, or I will use dehydrated meals like Summit to Eat.  Given how expensive hiking meals are, I have started making my own dehydrated meals.  It’s actually a lot easier than you would think.  I bought a bunch of resealable silicone bags which I use to carry them in and to rehydrate and eat out of.  The biggest cost to this is the dehydrator, but you soon get a return on your investment when you look at the difference in cost from the commercially produced meals.  REI have a great YouTube Playlist of backpacking recipes to get you started https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7tqTAgUK4UxPYmeuI3Tz-QHkQcsY2i9q.  I will be covering food in more detail in another post/video.

Of course, I also carry a brew kit.  I can’t be without my morning coffee, and a hot brew during the day is a real pick-me-up when the weather’s not great.  Everything lives in pots so it stays dry.  I have Coffee Bags, Tea bags (redbush), Sugar and Milk sticks (usually stolen from MacDonalds on the way to the start point).

Eating & Drinking

One of my affectations is to carry an enamel mug for a brew.  I love to be able to warm my hands on it as I’m sat watching the sunrise or sunset.  It is a little extra weight, but there is something about the nostalgia of it that I really like.

On the go, I have a Stanley One Hand 6440-001 Classic Mug.  It keeps a brew nice and hot for a good while and is built like a battleship!

My only other piece of eating gear is my spork.  I have a long-handled titanium spork so that I can reach the bottom of a meal pouch without getting my fingers covered in food.

I organise my food into daily “ration packs” rather than just chucking it all into one bag.  It makes sure that I keep an eye on my calorie intake, and is less faff at meal times.  I keep each day’s food and snacks in individual canoe sacks.  This way I can leave the bulk of my food inside my pack and have the stuff I want today at hand, either in an external pouch, or in the bottom section of my rucksack.

Clothing

I use a layering system.  It lets me manage my clothing to my activity level and climatic conditions.

Baselayer

This is the layer that is next to the skin.  I love me some merino!  Apart from my socks, all my baselayers come from Decathlon.  Their clothing products are really high-quality material and well made.

First up are the Forclaz Men’s Mountain Trekking Merino Boxer. They have a good length on the legs to prevent thigh rub, fit snugly everywhere you want them to and are very comfortable.

Next is the Solognac 900 Long Sleeve Merino Wool Hunting T-Shirt.  I really rate these tops.  Great length, feel good on, and a very keen price compared to the competition.  I highly recommend these.

In the summer I usually wear a Karrimor moisture wicking t-shirt.  Although, I’ll probably be swapping over the Decathlon Merino T-shirts in their Forclaz Mountaineering/Trekking range.

Mid-layer

In the winter I like to use a lightweight fleece.  It generally only stays on in the coldest of weather.  I’ll mostly walk in my baselayer, or I’ll throw on a Cierzo Shirt to keep the wind off.

For trousers, we’re back at Decathlon.  I’m a big fan of the Solognac Light and Breathable 500 Trousers.  They are a European fit, that is to say somewhat tighter in the leg and higher into the crotch.  I personally find this more comfortable as it pretty much eliminates any rubbing anywhere I don’t want it.  They are a stretch fabric, so have a really good range of movement in them.  I never wear shorts.  I simply prefer to keep my legs protected from the elements and anything like gorse and rocks.

Outer Layer (Warm/Waterproof)

Warm Gear

My main warm jacket, if I’m not using one of our prototypes, is a Dutch Army surplus jacket.  It is a version of the Snugpak Sleeka Jacket that has been a British Forces favourite for so many years.  I prefer a synthetic fill over down for reasons of practicality.  A synthetic fill does not lose its loft after having been compressed as much as down does.  Down also tends to settle in its channels in the jacket after a while and that creates cold “stripes”.  Down is greatly affected by moisture, which causes clumping and diminishes its effectiveness.  Down is also completely compromised when it is wet, whereas a synthetic can maintain up to 80% of its effectiveness.  For these reasons I am content to pay the penalty in weight and bulk for something that won’t let me down (no pun intended) when I need it most.

When it’s really cold I will carry a set of Softie Salopettes.  These are only for use in camp or in a bothy.  They are VERY warm and I wouldn’t want to hike anywhere in them.

I have two pairs of gloves that I like to use.  A lightweight pair and a set of mittens.  I use the lightweight pair to cut the wind so my hands don’t freeze on my trekking poles, but when it isn’t cold enough for serious gloves. When it’s really cold out come the mittens.  I prefer mittens over gloves with fingers because they are warmer.  I don’t need the dexterity most of the time, and if I do, I have my lightweight gloves on inside as liners.  I use Sealskinz because gloves are not good if they are wet, and all their products are totally waterproof.

One of the best ways I have found of feeling warm is to keep your neck warm.  It is really surprising how effective wearing a simple neck gaiter actually is.  I have a very warm and compact merino wool Buff that I use.

 Waterproofs

I have a great set of waterproofs that came from Decathlon.  They no longer sell the specific models that I have, but they still have really high-quality waterproofs that are just as effective as “big brands” at a significantly lower price.  I would recommend checking out their offering before you go courting any “big brands”.

I have three main things I look for in waterproofs.  Hydrostatic head – this is how much rain can be thrown at it before it gives up the ghost.  This is tied to the second feature, breathability.  If you want your jacket to breathe it will at some point let water through.  Modern waterproof fabrics are a fine balance between hydrostatic head and breathability.  Next is length.  I like a long jacket so that when I bend over or reach up, I don’t expose waist areas to the rain and wet.  For my trousers I look for the same in terms of breathability and hydrostatic head, but I like trousers with braces.  I find that trousers with a simple drawcord always sag down and feel restrictive on movements.  A set with braces stays in place and you don’t get saggy crotch making walking uncomfortable.

Depending on the terrain or weather I may also carry gaiters.  Normally only for long grass/gorse or for snow.  I use Army Surplus green gaiters.  They are really tough, breathable, and they have a steel cable that goes under your boot.  That cable means that you won’t ever wear through the tie under your boot and have to faff about trying to replace it in the field.

Headwear

I have different hats for different weather and different activities.  I tend to run quite hot when I’m out so most of my headwear is pretty lightweight.

My normal go-to is our Timmy Hat.  I love this hat for all the reasons we shout about on the website.  It’s lightweight, comfortable, has a good length peak, and is designed specifically to keep your head cool.

If I’m moving and it’s cold, I have a couple of options I go with.  I’ll either use a fleece headband, just to stop the tips of my ears from stinging in the cold; or, I’ll wear my merino beany that I also wear in bed.

In camp or if it’s cold and wet I use the Sealskinz Waterproof Extreme Cold Weather Hat.  It has to be cold for this hat though as it is very effective and can get too hot if you are really active.  Like all of Sealskinz’s products it is totally waterproof, which is why it tends to only come out when it’s wet.

Other Items

There are a number of other items I carry along the way, which I will detail below.

Hygiene Kit

Personal hygiene is really important, especially if you are out for a protracted period of time.  You don’t need a lot of gear for this though. I carry:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Baby wipes.
  • Anti-fungal foot powder (used prophylactically to prevent athletes’ foot).
  • Alcohol hand gel.
  • Loo roll (in a waterproof bag).
  • Trowel.
  • Milton Wipes (to clean eating utensils)

Entertainment

Generally, your walking day will end fairly early, i.e. while it’s still light, because setting up in the dark sucks.  This means that you will be left with some time on your hands before you are ready to sleep.  I have a couple of things I usually throw into my bag to deal with this.

Reading is my standard go-to if I am in my own.  Given how fast I read paper books are not really an option for me on a longer trip.  That’s why I rock the Kindle!  Battery lasts for ages; it has a built-in light and I can store multiple books on it.

Mobile phone.  I carry this for the obvious need to have some form of emergency contact (if I can get a signal), but it spends most of its time in airplane mode to save battery.  I use it for filming and photos, and also for podcasts and audiobooks.  There’s something really cool bout striding through the mountains listening to Tolkien describing the Misty Mountains! My phone lives in a clear waterproof bag unless I’m taking a picture.

If I am hiking with someone then I throw in a deck of cards or a travel game like
Ludo.  In fact, the cards are good for solo hiking to, you can play patience or teach yourself card tricks.

The phone and the Kindle need occasional charging, along with the Earpods I use for camera work or general listening to music and podcasts.  So I carry a nice big Power Bank.  I can charge my phone fully about 9 times from this.  I have a nifty little case for it that takes the Power Bank and any charging cables I need.

Miscellaneous

Light

A head torch is a pretty much essential item for hiking, mostly for its utility.  Most are pretty underpowered for use walking at night and there seems to be a trend towards internal, rechargeable batteries.  I’m not a fan of this because Murphy says it’s going to run out of battery right when you don’t want it to most, and you can’t plug it into a tree!  Personally, I want a headtorch that can light up a large area if I have to navigate in the dark.  It’s really easy to miss a track junction when your perception of the world is no further than 6 feet from your face.  My final issue with a lot of headtorches is that they aren’t actually waterproof.  Why on earth something intended for outdoor use should be this vulnerable I do not understand.  I use the Silva MR350 Militaire Headtorch.  It will run at 350 lumens for 40 hours off of 3 AAA batteries (the same batteries as my GPS takes).  It has 3 brightnesses of white light; red light for preserving night vision; orange light, also for preserving night vision, but allows you to see contours on a map; a battery health LED that gives you a traffic light colour to show how much power is left in your batteries; and is certified waterproof to the IPX7 Standard.  It also comes with a white drawstring bag for storage that you can hang in a tent for ambient light.  All this and it only weighs 53g!  All that is why I decided we had to sell it.

The other light I use is the OmniTorch.  This is a great little lamp.  It’s a one-inch metal cube with 5 different attachment methods and throws out a respectable 60 lumens.  I have one permanently clipped into my tent inner, and another on the ridgeline of my hammock.  I just roll them away with the shelter and they’re in place right when I need them.  Another item I knew I had to stock once I found it!

Check Out the New OmniTorch!!!!

Safety

Given that I am usually Mr Earth Tones, I tend not to stand out.  This can be a disadvantage, if I had to walk along a road for example.  So, I have a Marker Panel attached to my pack for when I need to announce my presence.  I usually hold it in place with a couple of Grimloc Clips.

On rough or steep ground, I will use Trekking Poles.  These are not an affectation; they serve very well to aid you with maintaining balance and also take pressure off of your knees.

I do have a more comprehensive safety kit, but that lives in my chest pack, and will be the subject of another post.  This kit also differs slightly when I am away from my rucksack, or if I am escorting Scouts on a hike.

Maintenance Kit

I have 3 main items of maintenance kit.  A boot care kit, a hussif and other gear repair.

My boot kit consists of spare laces and boot polish & brushes.  I’m old school, I will polish my boots while I’m out on the hills.  It adds wax to the leather, keeping it waterproof and supple.  After spending £250 on boots I want to make sure they last!  All of this sits in a handy little pouch that I got years ago as a gift.

My Hussif, or sewing kit, has some sewing needles, thread and spare buttons in it.  Just enough to do some on-the-fly clothing repairs, should I need to.

In terms of repairing other gear I carry a roll of Tenacious Tape for outer layers and shelter damage.  I also carry some spare ladder locks, side-release buckles, and zip-ties in case I manage to break something of that ilk.  Carrying a 30kg rucksack on one shoulder isn’t fun!

1st Aid

I carry two first aid kits.  In my belt pouch I have my boo boo kit which has plasters (Star Was of course!), Compeed blister plasters, and paracetamol etc.  All the things for minor issues.

I carry a more comprehensive/group 1st aid kit in my rucksack.  This is to deal with things like lost fillings or more serious injuries.

I will go through both of those in more detail in another post/video.

Other

There are three other items I will carry dependant on my need.

The first of these is a camera tripod.  If I want to do some talk-to-camera or some filming, or I want a selfie that catches a whole view I will drag out the tripod.  Currently I have this simply strapped to the side of my rucksack.  However, I am thinking about getting a custom pouch made so that I can keep it somewhat more waterproof.

Next is a pair of 10×42 binoculars.  These aren’t expensive glass by any means, but they are pretty good.  They can be really worth while to carry.  In May, in the Galloway Forest I saw Eagles!  They are also very handy for checking your route.  Nobody wants to climb down a steep hill just to find it is a bog at the bottom and then have to climb back out again!

Finally, is a set of TRC Outdoors Quick Clips.  This is a simple bungee assemblage with a clip at one end.  They have literally 1001 uses.  I have used them to replace a tent peg loop, to strap bulky items to my rucksack, to hold someone’s rucksack closed after a buckle broke, and many more things besides!  I wouldn’t be without a set of these, they are so useful.  They quite happily sit in my bag out of the way until I need them.

Quick Clips

Conclusion

I hope that this magnum opus is of interest, and will generate some good discussion.  You may have noted that I am by no means an ounce counter, I am happy to take on a bit of extra bulk if it means having something that is high quality.

This will be the first of a number of posts and videos.  I will probably also make a video of this too, to give a more general overview of what I’m carrying.

Into the Jungle

Your first task is to look to yourself, your basic fitness and general well-being before you hit the bush are very important. An individual who is physically fit will adapt to new environments more rapidly and with less stress on the body. Secondly, get any underlying health issues squared away before you go, even the most minor… you’d be amazed what a mild case of athletes’ foot can turn into!

Whatever it is, as far as is possible, get it resolved before you go away as the extreme environmental conditions can massively amplify even the simplest of health issues.

Next task is protection. Given all the exciting beasties which live in the bush your primary task should be to prevent them getting access to you, or more specifically the inside of your body. Forget about looking ally in the bush, shirt tucked in, top button done up, cuffs done up and full brim on your bush hat. Get yourself a mossie headnet, you’ll look like a nob but it’ll bring some comfort. Wear some fingerless cycling type gloves to protect the backs of your hands. Next protect from sunburn, you won’t always be under the tree canopy. The best product for this is a brand called P20, you can get it in Superdrug and Sainsbury’s. It’s a factor 50 sun block but the best thing about it is that it is an oil which soaks into the skin and stays there, you can’t sweat it off and it doesn’t come off in the rain. I have used this in many different types of environment and it has never let me down.

Next keep the beasties away, don’t miss the opportunity to get your clothing treated with permethrin. If you can don’t stop at your clothes get your doss bag and mossie net done too. You’ll also need a personal mossie rep. There’s been lots written about Avon moisturiser and it actually does work, the only drawback is you smell like a tart’s knicker drawer. To my mind get something that’s Deet based, as it’s tried and tested.

Something I found also helped was to take garlic supplements. You can buy these from health food shops, after you’ve been taking them for a while it begins to come out through your pores and the mossies hate it. Don’t panic, you won’t end up smelling like an Italian waiter’s apron, it’s why Mediterranean types don’t get bitten much, it’s the garlic in their diet.

Also to bear (sic) in mind is that your warm sweaty bits are going to be even warmer and sweatier in the bush. This is the kind of environment that fungi love! First off make sure that you give all these bits a good scrub every day. Don’t use soap, it can dry skin out leading to other problems. Once you’re clean and dry give your groin and feet a good dusting with and anti-fungal powder like mycota or similar. Also try to avoid getting exercise claw, get that Norwegian formula hand cream and use it liberally, cracked skin is a great source of ingress for all sorts of nasties.

The bush being what it is, you will get lots of little cuts, scrapes and bites. The key thing here is to ensure that you keep them clean. Get some antiseptic wipes, again easily available from boots etc. Give the wound a good clean and then seal it with either synthskin, which you paint on, or the Elastoplast spray advertised on telly, which looks quite good.

Right, insect bites next. Don’t scratch them! Anthisan do a great product, it’s a little spray bottle, like a breath freshener, a couple of squirts from that and the itch just goes away. A tube of witch hazel gel is good for bites and stings too. Don’t pull leeches off, you’ll probably leave the mouth parts in your skin and bleed like a bugger! Drip mossie rep on them and they’ll just drop off. Burning them off with a lit cigarette is also really dumb, it looks macho but isn’t very effective.

Sorry to be so long winded but there’s no point in giving you a list of things to buy without explaining what they’re for. See more comprehensive list below: –

P20 sun cream (factor 50)
Deet based mossie rep
Garlic supplements
Anti-fungal foot powder
Canestan cream (for if the foot powder doesn’t do the job)
Norwegian formula hand cream
Antiseptic wipes
Synth-skin/Elastoplast spray
Anthisan bite relief spray
Witch hazel gel
Loratadine tablets (this is the active ingredient in Claratyn, cheaper to buy boots own, use this for any more extreme reactions to bites/stings)
Vaseline (use on eyebrows to make sweat run away from eyes)
Sudocrem (Big grey tub in the baby section, use for sweat rash especially soothing on the bum!)
Zinc Oxide tape (Get the issue version, the stuff for sale on the high street just isn’t up to the mark)
Tweezers (Get pointy medical ones, eyebrow ones are no good for getting hold of thorns etc)
Sterile cannula set (good to have your own stuff if you’re going somewhere outside the Brit med chain, and good for digging out thorns etc)
Alcohol hand gel (use before eating or preparing food)
Aloe Vera gel (great if you do get caught out by the sun look in the sun tan section)
Lucozade/PowerAde powder (or similar electrolytic to aid with hydration)
Paracetamol
Ibuprofen
Anusol
Plasters

That should just about cover it, add any medicines you take regularly and of course any antimalarials etc.

My Five Favourite Bits of Kit

In this article, Brand Ambassador Glen wrote about his five favourite bits of kit that he used on his expedition to walk the 2200km length of the Orange River.

Glen was born in South Africa where he was South African paddling captain 2005/2006. He moved to the UK 2010 to joined the Royal Marines, where he served with 42 Commando and Special Forces Support Group (SFSG). In 2014 Glen kayaked 350 miles down the Vaal River for the Royal Marines 350th birthday. He completed an Operational tour in Afghanistan with SFSG in 2016. He was then a private security contractor until 2017. At present Glen is a Counter Poaching Specialist working with Veterans4Wildlife, training Counter Poaching Rangers across Africa.

Number 1: Boots

As they say in the military ‘your feet are your mode of transport, so take care of them’.

On a walking expedition a decent pair of boots are absolutely paramount. The boots I will take for my upcoming walk down the Orange River, which is 2200km and the furthest I will ever have yomped, will have to be robust enough for the task.

They will also have to be comfortable to help prevent the onset of blisters. I am torn between my pairs of Asolo and Lowa Zephyr, but leaning more towards my Asolo boots for the Orange walk.

They are heavier and my feet may sweat a bit more, but they are by far the most robust of the two pairs. I have given myself enough time to get out and about to test both pairs and make my decision.

If I have a new pair of boots I also make sure that they are well worn in before embarking on any walking or mountaineering escapades.

NUMBER 2: Bergan/Rucksack

I am all about having robust and hardy kit, especially when it comes to a bergan so I prefer military surplus bergans.

The bergan I have chosen for my Orange river walk is a MOLLE II rucksack which was issued to the U.S Army infantry a few years back.

I chose this bergan because it is a bit of a big boy when it comes to capacity at 80 litres (130 litres with pouches) so I can get a tonne of gear in it for long expeditions.

It has an external frame which does make it around 8 lbs with no kit in it, but external frames are far stronger than internal frames and also creates a gap between the rucksack and your back creating a free airflow when working hard and sweating.

There are MOLLE attachments all around it as you can see in the photograph and pouches of all sizes can be attached to your liking. According to the manufacturers stats it can take a load of up to 150 lbs, but the best thing about it is that it is the most comfortable rucksack I have ever put on.

NUMBER 3: Filtered Water Bottle

Walking with heavy loads especially in Africa during summer time is going to be sweaty business, so we will be drinking copious amounts of water (luckily we will be walking along a river).

I have used these filter water bottles before on a kayaking expedition and they are one of the best bits of kit you can get, you can fill them up straight from the river and drink immediately.

This particular filter purifies up to 150 litres of water before having to be replaced. Filling up the camelbak takes a little more time as I fill up my filter water bottle and then squeeze the clean water into the camelbak thereafter.

I always make sure I carry a spare filter or lifestraw and purification drops if needed.

NUMBER 4: Bush Hat

When it comes to the sun, the African sun especially gives you no quarter, so a decent wide brimmed hat is always on my kit list.

The hat I have is leather, which is a little heavy. but it is a few years old already so it definitely lasts. It is also waterproof.

I combine my head wear with a cap for cooler days, a shemagh and or a sweat buff.

NUMBER 5: Wrist GPS

A map and compass always need to be carried when navigating, but if you have or can afford a decent wrist GPS then why not.

They do make navigating a hell of a lot easier, especially when you are knackered and human error is more likely to occur.

On our walking the Orange expedition, yes we will be hand-railing the river most of the way, but the GPS will provide accurate waypoints. Especially when trying to find the source of the river, important safe havens en route such as airports, hospitals and giving you an accurate grid reference of your location in extreme emergencies.

A basic GPS will also give you supplementary information such as average speed and a great one to know, overall distance covered. My GPS is also waterproof so no worries when it comes to heavy rain and river crossings.

Boots!

Boots

So today we’re talking all about boots. This might seem like a pretty simple topic, but there’s quite a bit to it. I am an Infantryman by background, this means that I am borderline obsessive about my feet. I will not accept anything which will cause them to be in anything other than top condition. If you spend any time on your feet you will rapidly find out how important the right footwear is.

Image result for foot anatomy

The human foot is a biological masterpiece. Its strong, flexible, and functional design enables it to do its job well and without complaint—if you take care of it and don’t take it for granted. It contains within its relatively small size 26 bones (the two feet contain a quarter of all the bones in the body), 33 joints, and a network of more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments, to say nothing of blood vessels and nerves.

This is why getting the right boot for you is so important.

Boots are a very personal thing. What is perfect for one person is not necessarily the best for another. I have had tons of different boots over the years. Always trying to find the perfect boot. I think I’m there now, but I am still looking just in case!

The first thing to be considered is the environment you are going to be wearing the boots in. Thick leather boots lined with a Gore-tex membrane are great in a northern European winter but not so great in the desert. Feet need to breathe otherwise they start to rot and cause you all sorts of problems.

The next thing you need to look at is your gender. Lots of manufacturers will market boots as being unisex. Avoid these at all costs if you are a woman. Women’s feet are shaped differently from men’s. Rather than just being smaller proportionally, women’s feet are narrower at the heel and particularly at the arch, the lateral side of the foot, the first toe and the ball of the foot. Given these differences any boot that is manufactured to fit a man will not fit a woman properly. This can lead to obvious injuries such as blisters but also to more long term issues such as sensation loss and stress fractures. So quite simply if you are a woman, buy women’s boots!

Image result for woman hiking boots

The easiest way to give you an idea of what might work is to talk about my boots.

I love Altberg boots! After many different pairs of boots these are the manufacturer that are my go-to.

This is for a number of reasons;

As I have gotten older my feet have somewhat spread. Where as a young lad of 18 I wore a size nine I am now a 9.5. Altberg make ½ sizes. Many manufacturers do not, so straight away you will be buying a boot which does not fit properly. Altberg have consistent sizing across all their boot styles. They still hand-make their boots using an old fashioned last for each size. This means that I can simply order up the boot knowing that it will fit regardless of the style.

I also really like the range of boots that Altberg make. They make jungle boots, desert boots, lightweight patrolling boots, heavyweight winter boots, and hiking boots, all in different colours. This means that they are a one stop shop for me. Finally, they replace the soles on their boots when they wear out. Because I like leather boots, and I bother to take care of them with regular cleaning and polishing, the uppers always outlast the soles. Given that their boots are over £100 it is a no-brainer to be able to get the soles replaced for about £40 rather than be forced to buy a whole new boot.

If you are feeling particularly flash, or like a mate of mine are oddly shaped, you can go to Altberg’s factory in Yorkshire and they will make a last of your feet so that your boots are truly custom made.

My current pair are Altberg Mallerstangs.

 

I like these for a number of reasons.  Firstly the sole.  It has a really aggressive tread that grips well in all sorts of conditions.  Next is the fit.  Quite simply they fit me really well.  My heel locks nicely in the back of the boot and my toes never hit the end when I am going down hill.  This fit of the heel and the toe is due to the clips the boot has between the instep and the ankle.  I can set my foot into place, tighten the laces comfortable, and then lock my foot into place.  Next is the ankle collar.  It is supportive, without being too tight.  I get good articulation of the ankle without losing protection should I turn my ankle on rough ground.  The ankle collar is also shaped so as to not aggravate the achilles tendon.

I will deliberately try to avoid any boots with a Gore-tex type lining except for some specific circumstances. Firstly, they are very hot to wear. This means that your feet sweat a lot which means they stay wet, not good in terms of growing foot fungus and other pleasant things. This also encourages your socks to rub at your feet inside your boots making hotspots and causing blisters. My last reason is because if they get wet inside they stay wet! When I was a young soldier I had a pair of Gore-tex lined boots that I wore onto a week long Infantry exercise. On the first morning of the exercise we went through a waist deep swamp. My boots stayed wet for the whole exercise. Given that we couldn’t take boots off at night due to tactical constraints I wore wet boots for the whole exercise. My feet were rotten! As a rule, I have avoided Gore-tex lined boots ever since.

I really dislike fabric boots. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, they lack robustness. If you are hard on your boots like I am you will soon end up with tears, rips and damaged fabric on the boot. Leather boots can handle this without a loss or performance. Secondly they lack basic water proofing. Without a Gore-tex membrane, which I dislike, a simple walk through dew sodden grass will get your feet soaking. Equally the fabric will naturally retain water at the surface level which can leach the heat out of your feet on cold days and cause non-freezing cold injuries, even with a Gore-tex membrane. A well looked after pair of leather boots are much more robust, concomitantly giving your feet more protection, and shedding water at the surface level.

My final piece of wisdom on boots is that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince! I don’t know how many different boots I have had over the years until I found the ones that were best for me. Finding the right boot is an expensive pass-time especially as the only way to tell they are right being to sling them on and cover some mileage. By the time you’ve done that there’s no chance of getting your money back for them being badly fitting. Persevere though, once you get it right you won’t look back.

Socks

I also want to spend a bit of time talking about socks. Socks are just as important as boots! A decent sock is more than just a fabric tube to stop your toes getting cold. The way it fits to your foot and the material it is made of is of equal importance.

Firstly, it should fit your foot. This sounds like a no-brainer but if you take a close look at the socks you own you will find that they don’t really fit you. This is because socks are manufactured to meet a size range, unless you are at the upper end of that range, you will often find that they are quite baggy at the toe and at the heel. In terms of this then being inside your boot, this means that you have a potential issue with this excess fabric bunching up and rubbing your foot to cause blisters.

You will also find that some socks are pretty loose around the arch too. Same issue as with the excess fabric, it causes rubbing. When you buy socks check that they don’t have too much excess fabric at the toe and heel and that they contour snugly to your foot arch. When you are selecting socks to go in boots it is advisable to buy proper walking socks. Walking socks will have smaller size ranges and will be properly fitted to the contours of your foot.

Next make sure they are appropriate for your foot wear. If you wear high leg boots and ankle length socks guess what? Yep more rubbing! Think about what they are made of when you select your socks. Avoid synthetics if you can. Natural fabrics such as cotton and wool, regular and merino, are by far the best way to go. I personally love Danish Endurance Merino Hiking Socks.  They are really well fitted, comfortable, and are made from pure merino rather than a blend.  You can get them on Amazon for around £30 for a pack of three pairs.

The final point to consider is that socks wear out. If they go threadbare then they are not protecting your foot from the inside of your boot. Once they start going, get rid of them. Pay careful attention to them inside if they are pile lined. Some socks are filled with loads of thread loops to create a cushioning effect around your foot. After a while this all starts to breakdown and matt together turning into something that feels like a bit of sandpaper after a few miles. Once they start to go, get rid. Don’t wait until they cause you an injury. If you wash them inside out, not only will you get rid of all the dead skin and nasties that fester inside other people’s socks, but you will be able to spot more easily when your socks need to go in the bin.

Original Outdoors Cierzo Shirt and Timmy Hat Review

 

https://originaloutdoors.co.uk/blog/review-trc-outdoors-cierzo-shirt-and-timmy-hat/

TRC Outdoors Cierzo Lighweight Windproof Shirt Review

Ultralight windproof layer in subdued colours

I’ve been aware of UK veteran-owned brand TRC Outdoors for a while, so when Brian from surveillance and fieldcraft specialists Kamouflage Ltd offered to send me the TRC Outdoors Cierzo shirt and Timmy hat to try out over the summer I was happy to help out.

I had the opportunity to try them both out over the last few weeks on some of our Outdoor Professional courses and a few mountain trips. This review is based on that use in the mountains and forests of North and Mid Wales and a few Scottish excursions.

trc outdoors cierzo review
Tiny packed size
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Comfortable fit for all adults
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Simple hood with no frills
lightweight windproof military
Elasticated cuffs with plenty of room
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Subtle branding on elasticated waist
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Subdued colours and matching stuffsack

First Thoughts

I suppose the focus of this review should be on the Cierzo windshirt. The supplied review sample was in a brown/dark khaki colour they call ‘Earth-Tone’, and in the standard length. As I am 6’2″ I should have gone for the new, longer option they offer but the regular length wasn’t noticeably short. The overall fit is quite generous, but if worn with a chest-rig or rucksack then no flapping or bagginess is noticed.

It’s about as simple as a hooded shirt gets – made from a 30D ripstop nylon with chainstitched seams for extra strength, and without zips, adjustments or pockets. It’s just a shirt with a hood and elasticated cuffs and waist. The fabric is not waterproof, although it can be made slightly water-repellent by washing in Nikwax TX Direct or similar to add a bit of a DWR effect.

The TRC Outdoors Cierzo comes with a stuffsack in matching fabric, again with no adjuster or drawstring toggle. There is a small logo tab on the edge of the shirt near the waistband and on the stuffsack and that’s about it – which is probably exactly what the likely user for a windshirt like this will want.

Putting it to use in the field

I have a pile of ‘windshirts’ in my gear room. Most are made from a nylon, Pertex-like material that is meant to be breathable, but in reality act as a slightly porous vapour-barrier and become uncomfortably hot and moist after a bit of energetic uphill movement. So why would the TRC Outdoors Cierzo be any different? Well, anyone who served in the UK military and remembers a ‘Zoot suit’ will probably know how useful this kind of windshirt can be…

That loose fit is part of the reason I quickly came to love this shirt. It allows for complete freedom of movement either as a standalone garment or under another layer. I can pull it on top of any of my midlayers, or add any shell or block-insulation layer on top of it and not really notice. It keeps out enough wind and traps enough warm air against the body to work as a quick insulation option for sitting on a mountain summit in the summer, or stopping by the side of a path and waiting for someone to catch up (or to finish faffing about).

The lack of features (zips, toggles, velcro etc) is another reason to like it – it’s simple and easy to use and packs down to a tiny size (and weighs 150g in the standard length). The hood is enough to pull on over a hat or helmet, but low=profile and can be equally used UNDER a hat or helmet without causing pressure points or restriction.

The Earth-Tone colour works for me and most of my work, and the photos below are from a M.I.L.E.S Tracking course where I was the only person not wearing camo/MTP and I did not feel out of place. There is also a ‘Night Camo’ option (the same as the Timmy hat pictured in this review) and a generic ‘multi-camo’ pattern that would fit in with lots of camouflage styles currently in service around the world.

As this is a very lightweight garment (although made from 30D Ripstop) I wouldn’t expect it to be the perfect outer layer for scraping over rocks, but I have been mildly surprised with how well it has performed when pushing through branches and vegetation.

It dries quickly, and I have not really had to give much thought to care or maintenance other than just unpacking it and putting it bag in the gear store after every trip.

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Easy layering under rucksack or chest rig
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Perfect for damp, cool conditions and high-energy movement
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Plenty of room for movement and minimal snagging

TRC Outdoors Timmy Hat

My name is Richard, and I have a massive head.

Not comically huge (well, I don’t think so) but big enough that I cannot assume that a hat is going to fit me. I have tried to get on with baseball caps for use in the outdoors, but so far they have all made me look like I should be called Cleetus and have a complicated relationship with my immediate family members. But the TRC Outdoors Timmy hat is the first one that not only comfortably fits me, it actually looks good AND is suitable for outdoor work. Result!

As well as being ‘sensibly’ sized (63cm for my noggin, plenty of adjustment left for either smaller or larger heads) it is low-profile in both thickness and features. There is a mesh rear and it will fold down to little less than the thickness of an OS map for easy stowage in gear or pockets.

Again there are several colour options, a ‘day’ and a ‘night’ camo. My review sample was the night camo, which is a nice, subdued grid pattern with irregular splodges.

I have repeatedly soaked this hat with sweat, rain and even seawater and it still looks fine. I like the mesh and the ventilation, and the dark underside of the brim that prevents glare. It didn’t take long or this hat to feel ‘worn-in’ and be comfortable for pretty much every day at work.

And why is it called the Timmy? Because apparently that’s the name of the spider on the TRC Outdoors logo.

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Simple fit, subtle branding
military baseball cap
Low-profile and folds easily for quick stowage
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Brim stays out of the way when you need it to

Conclusion

Layering for the outdoor environment can be tricky business. Equipment choice is the key, but you also have to know when you are likely to need to use it. It can be all too easy to just keep adding gear to your rucksack until you’ve got the biggest pack in the group, and that’s just going to slow you down and make you sweat some more.

Thin, lightweight and unobtrusive layers like the TRC Outdoors Cierzo windshirt help take some of that decision away from you – when there is little penalty for carrying it, why not ALWAYS carry it? That’s what the Cierzo has become for me – an item to always have in the pack that can be worn by myself or a client, one that doesn’t take up much space nor weigh more than it has to. It isn’t a substitute for a waterproof shell layer, but it does become useful in that weird transition period where it’s a bit too cold for just a base layer, but not wet or windy enough to bring out the hard shell layer.

The hat is just a hat – except the Timmy is the first baseball cap for the outdoors that I have actually chosen to wear repeatedly. Considering that I have been doing some kind of outdoor work in the mountains for the past 15 years and it has taken until now to actually find something that works for me it makes it worth taking a second look at. If you need a low-profile cap with subtle branding and sensible sizing then head over to the Kamouflage site and take a look.

This review sample was supplied by Kamouflage Ltd. You can read our policy on gear reviews here.

Reptile House – Cierzo Shirt Review

https://thereptilehouseblog.com/2019/03/24/the-redback-company-cierzo-wind-shirt-review/

The Redback Company Cierzo Wind Shirt Review

Introduction

At the end of January, I received a Cierzo Shirt for review from The Redback Company. It was a nice surprise and because it was gifted to me, it meant I could really put it through its paces before reporting back.

It arrived packed down, in its own little bag – and this is how I’ve carried it around as an emergency layer (after removing the brand tag).

Around the time the Cierzo arrived I published a primer on the subject, in the form of an interview with Ben O’Toole – The Redback Company’s CEO. I’ll be referring to it in part here, but it’s well worth a read as a standalone piece.

Amazingly, given its price, the Cierzo shirt is made in the UK by the company responsible for procuring silk for parachutes during WW2. This is a delicious irony, given the item’s history – which you can read more about in the primer.

The Fit

First, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. The shirt is not a flattering fit.

The item is bat wing shaped and oversized. It’s a smock, so the design has to allow the shirt to be doffed and donned over the head.

This voluminous nature also allows it to be worn over layers of various degrees. In addition, it means size differentiation is kept to a minimum – which presumably keeps costs low.

As far as sizing is concerned, it’s ‘two sizes fit all’ – standard and long. Mine is “S” for standard. I’m 5’11” with a 42″ chest and there’s bags of room.

Speaking of keeping costs low, the price point is extremely reasonable. The shirt was £39.95 at time of writing. Compare this to my £140 Arc’teryx Nodin, which does exactly the same job. A £40 wind shirt is a consumable. A £140 one is not.

So that’s £100 extra for the more engineered Arc’teryx article, which I’d be afraid to wear in woodland for fear of damaging it. That said, the Nodin is a smart enough fit to wear for work and urban EDC; the Cierzo isn’t.

And nor was it designed to be.

Fabric

The fabric is a super light, 100% polyester with a ripstop weave. It’s highly packable and tougher than it has an right to be (it’s used in the manufacture of parachutes) though it’s not indestructible.

It’s also fairly windproof, but breathes extremely well (something a goretex shell does not do well, regardless of marketing). The breathability means the Cierzo excels when worn during vigorous activity.

The fabric is slightly water resistant, but this can be improved using a hydrophobic DWR (durable water repellant). The Redback Company recommends Nikwax. However, it’ll never be as water resistant as a shell so don’t expect miracles. Having said that, when it does wet out it dries extremely quickly from body heat when shelter is found.

Needless to say, it dries fast after washing too.

Construction

The Cierzo – though simple – is well made, with high quality stitching throughout.

It’s a real testament to The Redback Company’s ability to partner with high quality U.K. manufacturing; and to the manufacturer itself, for turning out such excellent construction. You don’t see it that often and certainly not at this price point.

Features

The Cierzo is a hooded smock. The large hood is most useful for keeping off light precipitation. It’s not practicable for very windy conditions – having no cord to bind it to your face – but it is fine in a light breeze; or if you need that extra bit of warmth.

The cuffs are elasticated and this is a useful feature. Not just to keep the elements out, but so that the sleeves can be pushed up your arms and stay put. This is great for washing items or collecting water from streams; and also for heat management.

Needless to say, in order for this to work the sleeves have to be voluminous – which they are.

The sleeves are also overlong, which means that in conjunction with the elasticated cuffs they don’t ride up when climbing.

As much as I love the Cierzo overall, I have a poor relationship with elasticated hems. This is because I find them uncomfortable to wear.

They also have a nasty habit of riding up. The Cierzo’s additional volume prevents the latter – so regardless of your activity, the elasticised hem stays where you put it.

The hem staying put is actually really useful if you have to visit the ‘restroom’ outdoors while wearing the shirt. Pull the Cierzo up around your waist – where it will stay – and you’ll have no worries.

Having said that, on balance I’d much prefer an open hem. Granted, open hems don’t keep the wind out; but really, if it was that windy, I’d want to be wearing a goretex shell to absolutely block the wind.

One thing The Redback Company could look at instead, is a simple drawcord hem.

Performance

In the primer, Ben claimed the following about the Cierzo and it’s what I sought to test:

The garment is meant to be used as a windproof outer layer or as an intermediate layer. They can even be worn under a damp outer layer while it dries out. Cierzo Shirts punch well above their weight in terms of the warmth they offer, especially in windy conditions and mountainous terrain.

I can confirm that it’s all true.

Its incredible just how much warmer you feel with the Cierzo layered over a fleece, but the combination remains breathable. Because the shirt’s fabric is super light, I did also wear it underneath a fleece to protect the shirt from damage. Again, it’s a useful combination.

One time while wearing a shell in a deluge, it completely saturated. Taking shelter I assuaged the discomfort of precipitation wicking into my mid layer, by inserting the Cierzo between shell and mid. Once the rain had abated, I set out again feeling much more comfortable. The combination also allowed my shell to dry out through body heat.

Conclusion

Much as the price seems like a no brainer for a cool looking night camo layer aimed at outdoor pursuits, the real bonus is that the Cierzo shirt actually works as anticipated. Having owned a number of wind shirts over the years, I knew the theory was sound – but it needed to be tested.

I said earlier that the Cierzo isn’t smart enough for work or EDC. With use, I found that’s not entirely true. As an emergency layer, I found that I didn’t give a shit what it looked like if it was the difference between staying relatively warm and dry or discomfort.

Over the last two months it’s been in my work bag every day. Packed down, it’s so small as to be unnoticeable unless needed.

If it’s not an emergency it’s probably one for the woods, however.

Reptile House – Cierzo Wind Shirt Primer

Cierzo Wind Shirt Primer with The Redback Company’s MD Ben O’Toole

Ben O’Toole is Managing Director of The Redback Company. He’s a British Army Veteran, who has also worked in the private security and crisis management sector. In addition to this impressive vocational portfolio, Ben is an Explorer Scout Leader.

I reviewed The Redback Company’s impressive Timmy Hat in November 2018 and it has become a firm favourite of mine. I’m not the only one to hold this view. Everyone I know who has bought a Timmy Hat has been blown away by it.

This week I received a Cierzo Shirt for review – with no strings attached. Strings are a red line for me, so I was glad to learn that The Redback Company is so confident in its products that I can write what the hell I like. Anything less and I don’t accept the product.

That said I really wasn’t expecting it, so it was a nice surprise and greatly appreciated. I’ll be assessing it in due course, but until then this article offers some background.

The Cierzo Shirt is The Redback Company’s signature product. It’s a simple and practical garment which is designed to do a job. Its namesake is a strong, dry and usually cold wind – similar to the terms Mistral and Bora.

Ben has sublimated a lifetime’s experience and passion for the outdoors into this product, so I knew there was a story to tell…

Ben – welcome to the blog and thanks for taking time out to explain the Cierzo’s story!

Tell me about the item’s history.

Cierzo Shirts have a nerdily interesting history. The first mention of them we have found was as garments made by SAS Troopers from their parachutes after they had dropped into France prior to D-Day.

They were a UKSF and Airborne Forces staple all throughout the BCE (Before Crye Existed) era, falling out of fashion during the GWOT. During the BCE days they were known as Zoot Suits and were all home-made, usually from artillery illumination parachutes because they weren’t re-usable like jump and cargo parachutes.

We resurrected them and bought them up to date with modern fabric, a few design tweaks and modern construction techniques. The original pattern we updated was made from a Zoot Suit I have that I’ve had for about 20 years.

What’s the Cierzo’s purpose?

The garment is meant to be used as a windproof outer layer or as an intermediate layer. They can even be worn under a damp outer layer while it dries out. Cierzo Shirts punch well above their weight in terms of the warmth they offer, especially in windy conditions and mountainous terrain.

Where are the shirts made?

Our Cierzo Shirts are manufactured in the UK by the company responsible for procuring silk for parachutes during WW2, which is a rather neat connection we think!

Tell me about the colourways.

So, when we launched at the end of 2018 we had two colourways. A camo and a solid colour. Multicam and Khaki. We made an effort to get as much feedback as we could, which is why we also altered the pattern slightly and created the Long size. The feedback was that people would prefer something darker in the solid colour, hence why we have the Earth-Tone.

We went with the night camo for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s cool. It’s camo without screaming wannabe operator. It transcends tactical and outdoor gear; and also slips into fashion. Just look at Adidas’ latest range in duckhunter…

Secondly, when we did the Timmy Hats in that camo they flew out the door as soon as we released them. We also had significant pre-sales. To add to that, a friend of the brand asked us to make him up a Cierzo out of some genuine issue Night Camo fabric he’d acquired from somewhere or other. When we put a picture up on our social media we got bombed with requests for Cierzos in night camo.

We do a multi-terrain camo which is multicamish… It’s listed in the website under the “Military” tab. We’ve separated it out for marketing reasons. Outdoor retailers can be put off by anything too “military” in a product line. That’s why SnugPak et al list their camo stuff separately. Our ultimate goal is to sell through selected retailers rather than just our own online sales.

We deliberately don’t use genuine multicam. Frankly it is just too expensive to be economical, and the fabric we use would have to be a special order with a frighteningly big minimum order quantity. Given that there a large variety of multi-terrain patterns around the world we used a commercial pattern that will fit with the vast majority of them. The Cierzo not is intended as a combat outer layer, so there is no real gain to be had from using multicam other than as a marketing piece.

I have always felt that a lot of what is on offer is grossly over priced given the low production cost, especially with regards to the volume the big brands are manufacturing. I would rather offer the customer something of high quality at a fair price. Even with UK manufacture.

Many thanks Ben!

Noble & Blue – Timmy Hat & Cierzo Shirt Review

https://nobleandblue.wordpress.com/portfolio/the-redback-company-timmy-hat-and-cierzo-shirt/

The Redback Company – Timmy Hat and Cierzo Shirt

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Intro

It was not long ago when this new little company popped on our radar through social media, but they immediately caught my attention quite fully for one simple reason: cool-ass camo patterns! The very first Redback Company product I noticed was the Timmy Hat, a baseball style cap with one of the coolest camos out there: the Rhodesian Brushstroke.

So needless to say I jumped to the chance to get one and little did I know, one hat turned quickly into two, a shirt and a new friendship!

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The Company

The Redback Company is a small veteran owned British outfit. Their goal is to produce gear fit for all outdoors adventures. Ben O’Toole, the manager of the RBC, is a veteran of the army himself and he also leads a Redback Explorer Scout unit in Kent UK, and that is where the company gets its name from.

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Even though their products have a very distinct look, their main aim is in performance and their inspirations come from vast scout experience, military background and history too. They have quickly become known for their choice of rare camouflage patterns and interesting functional appearing designs.

To my knowledge, the RBC does not manufacture their products themselves, but hand pick manufacturers from elsewhere to bring their designs to life and they maintain an iron grip on the quality control. They have had a few very cool products in the making that have been scrapped in the end due to technical or manufacturing reasons.

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They are steadily expanding too, and I have heard from the owner that there are lots of interesting things in the works, of which I will tell a bit more in the end of this review. The Redback Company are definitely worth keeping an eye out for!

The Products

This review will be a bit different, as I am going to review two products from the RBC rather than just one. Because both of their current flagship products are quite simple and so reviewing them separately would result in very short reading, yet still very significant so they definitely deserve to be reviewed!

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The Timmy Hat

Misleading First Impressions

So I am starting off with the Timmy Hat. The original Timmy Hat was the first Redback Company product I had the pleasure to own. I ordered one and it was promptly shipped out to Finland with no hassle.

noble and blue the timmy hat

The fabric is mostly polyester, with some cotton mixed in the front two panels and the sweat band is cotton through and through. The Price for a Timmy Hat is £19.95.

The hat is really light and this might give off a somewhat flimsy first impression. But it quickly comes apparent that the polyester mesh and all amount to an extremely comfortable cap! Dare I even say the most comfortable cap I have ever worn?

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Soooo Comfortable

And to me that is the main thing about the Timmy Hat and also where the material choices really make sense. The hat is incredibly comfortable! Rarely a cap feels so good on your head from the box.

When I got the hat we had record breaking heatwave washing over Finland. The mesh back is phenomenal in keeping your head cool and protected at the same time! The sweat band absorbs well the moisture from your brow and wicks it nicely off to the light outer construction of the cap.

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The front panels are a bit prone to creasing due to the structuring on it. This is something that the very first batch of Timmy hats have, but they have changed in the newer versions of the hat in both Day and Night Camo variants. I have heard that they still have some of the first batch caps in stock, so if you would like to get a soon to be “limited edition” hat, now is your chance!

The light construction excels under ear protection, so the Timmy is a perfect pick for range days. Also the sweat wicking properties make it a great hat for hiking and outdoors activities.

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Picking mushrooms in the Timmy Hat

The Look

The next best thing about the Timmy Hat is the look. The front panels are solid coloured with the “Timmy” the Redback spider embroidered in the left hand side. And the rest of it is covered in camo fabric. The “Day Camo” is the based on (or rather: really is) Rhodesian Brushtroke camo, which is a quite rare one and especially appreciated by camo nerds like myself. Due to the rareness, I think the Timmy Hat is not played out of the “civvie” scene despite looking so military.

And that same goes to the second version of the Timmy Hat. The Night Camo is indeed modelled after the legendary US Deser Night Camouflage designed in 1976 for the Gulf War. For some strange reason, I absolutely adore this camo and I just absolutely needed one ASAP they released it. And because the pattern really does not look as military as more common camo patterns, it is a good hat for the summer streets too.

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Conclusion

All in all the Timmy Hat is extremely comfortable and incredibly lightweight. Despite it’s flimsy first appearance it is my one of my definite favourites amongst all of my caps. I love both of the camo patterns and the fact that both of my hats are limited editions.

As I stated above, my Day Camo hat is of the first batch with the structured front panels. I actually somewhat prefer the structured version, but I do understand why they changed it. And my Night Camo Timmy is of a very limited edition, because there are only two like it and ones mine and one belongs to Blue! The man himself, Ben, sew by hand Finnish flags to our cap’s sides! Now if that is not awesome, I do not know what is!

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The Cierzo Shirt

A Tipping of the Hat

The Cierzo shirt is the first product to come from TRBC and it has both well thought out purpose and a ancestor in the history of British armed forces. It is a true tip of the hat to the starting of the Special Air Service, who used to make shirts from their parachutes and wear them on the battle field, especially in France.

I have a very special and great book from the first Chaplain of the SAS, rev. Fraser McLuskey, called “Parachute Padre”, that mentions these parachute shirts in many occasions. I will update this review with a quote as soon as I can find the book, but in the mean time you can imagine this: a SAS trooper driving in the lush forests of France in his sand beret and white billowy parachute shirt, firing the twin Vickers machine guns bolted on the Jeep at the German patrol they have just ambushed, laughing in the face of danger! It does not get more badass than that.

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I think there even was a special edition of the Cierzo done from an actual parachute for an early GAW of The Redback Company! But the production versions are a bit updated versions of the original design, as I describe in the part below.

The Shirt

The Cierzo Shirt is an ultra lightweight windproof layer. This modern version of the parachute shirts are made of 30D ripstop nylon, with reinforced seams for strength and the standard version weights incredibly only 150g! It also packs down to a considerably small size,  the RBC website has a picture of the bundled up shirt next to a drinks can and it is practically same sized.

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My own comparison between a CAT Tourniquet and the Cierzo Shirt

The shirt has a hood without any drawcords and a small separate bag that you can stuff it in. At the moment they offer it in Earth-Tone, which is a kind of dark earth or dark tan by the looks of it, and in the same Night Camo as the Timmy Hat. They also have had a Camo variant, that was close to Multicam, but it is under the Military tab. Mine is Khaki, a discontinued colour because there was a demand for something a little darker (Earth-Tone).

They used to only offer only one size of the Cierzo when I got mine, but now there are two. Standard is for all average and smaller build characters, but the Tall is for people over 180cm! This has been done by extending the sleeves and torso rather than the whole size of the garment. So if you do not want a new tacticalish night gown for yourself, make sure you order the right size!

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They have also extended the torso a bit in the standard model to prevent the hem from riding up when reaching far out. The shirt is very roomy and allows you to wear almost any kind of jacket or top underneath

The shirt costs £33,95 and the camo pattern or size does not affect the price.

The Extra Layer

For me it took a while before I figured the Cierzo out. It is a quite large and billowy type of garment and it looks odd enough not to be the top choice for you to take the dog out in the neighbourhood. But gladly I live in the middle of nowhere now, so what neighbours think of what I am wearing does not bother me that much!

I have tried the Cierzo Shirt in a few different configurations and some have worked pretty well. I especially liked it with my TAD Shagmaster (read the review of the Shagmaster here) that does not have any wind resistance. I tried it on top to keep the wind away and it did that wonderfully, although the roomy build of the Cierzo still let some wind in. I think I could have remedied that by having a scarf to tie down the neck!

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But so far I have enjoyed the shirt on a winter hike a few weeks back. I had my First Spear Wind Cheater on. That with the layers underneath kept me well warm own the move, but when we stopped for a cup of coffee on the top of a windy cliff I found that I quickly lost heat. I popped the Cierzo on top of the Wind Cheater and I was snug and warm through the whole break.

The beauty of the Cierzo shirt is that it is so small that you can just throw it in your bag, forget all about it. And when you find yourself in desperate need of an extra layer, just dig it up and as quickly as you forgot it even was there, it has saved your day.

The Hood

Only thing that bothers me a bit is the hood. As I mentioned above, the lightweight fabric billows a bit and even though this is easily remedied by a scarf etc. to keep the wind out of the body, the hood is a different matter. The hood is roomy enough to allow even a helmet underneath (tried it with Team Wendy Exfil LTP) which is nice, but the thing is that it does not have a draw cord.

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I have had the hood blown back from my head a few times. A few times the hood has just filled up with air, making my head look like a balloon! It is funny more than really bothering, but an issue all the same. They have told me that this is a very conscious decision to keep the design simple, easy to manufacture and the price of the product low. Very understandable reasons all.

In soft breeze the hood works very well and keeps your head easily protected! The issue only seems to rise in hard blowing winds, where you might want a proper jacket anyway, so it is not really that big of a deal.

Conclusion

So to sum it it is a brilliant emergency windproof layer that acts as a quick extra layer of insulation too! Due to it’s light weight and packability you will not even notice it is there. The 30D ripstop nylon means that it is very durable and the simple and sturdy construction means that it is practically bomb proof. The hood is a bit light, but it does not dismiss the fact that this is a quality product for the application it is meant for.

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The Future of the RBC

So you might be thinking, like me, whats next? I want to see more cool gear from the Redback Company in cool camo colours!

I have been chatting with Ben and I have had the permission to tease a few on coming products from the RBC.

First of all (and my absolute favourite!) there will be a series of SAS Smocks, inspired by the legendary smock design of the British military! There will be three different variants, with different pocket configurations, fabrics and camo/colour options and I can tell you these will be something to really look out for!

There will also a laser cut laminate wallet with RFID protection. I have seen a picture of these and I think my Magpul DAKA Essentials wallet will be threatened as a part of my EDC.

They have a Cobra buckled belt in the works too, that sounds by the description to be something special. And lastly there will be a set of kevlar boot laces, that will serve as you as a survival item, as well as keep your boots laced up!

There are a few other things coming too, but lets not give away all of their secrets just yet! I am looking forward to getting my hands on all of the above and seeing the Redback Company thrive and grow even further in 2019!

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I drew this Rhodesian soldier inspired by the Timmy Hat and send it to Ben, who made a very limited amount of stickers out of it. I am extremely proud to have this #1/24. I have an image in my head, which will hopefully realise into something similar about the Night Camo hat too!

Likes / Dislikes

The Timmy Hat

Likes

The most comfortable cap I have worn
Extremely lightweight
Coolest camo patterns
Who does not like Timmy the Spider?

Dislikes

No real dislikes. All doubts you might have about the cap are gone the moment you put it on. Excellent cap!

The Cierzo Shirt

Likes

Extremely lightweight
Very packable
The ultimate survival wind proof shirt
The coolest camo patterns too!

Dislikes

The hood might bother you a bit, but as the cost of the shirt is very low, you will look over this minor thing too.

Further Reading

AKU Pilgrim MK2 GTX Review
Connemara National Park, Ireland, an adventure story
PDW A.G. Watch Cap Review
Claw Gear Aviceda Fleece Review

Material Disclosure

I received these products via my own funds. I am not bound by any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a good review. All opinions are my own and are based off my personal experience with the product.

Reptile House Timmy Hat Review

https://thereptilehouseblog.com/2018/11/18/the-redback-company-timmy-hat-night/

Words and pics: Rich Norman

I’m glad we’re experiencing usable weather this far into autumn, and with the sun so low in the sky in the U.K. it’s no surprise that peaked caps are still extremely useful.

I picked up The Redback Company’s Timmy Hat – Night a few weeks back after hearing from a few trusted sources like thecaffeinatedsoldier that it was super comfortable.

 

 

I can’t comment on durability, because I’ve not had the cap long enough; but TBH I’ve wrecked very few hats, aside from imbuing heavy tide lines of salt from high tempo summer use. However, with a super low price of just over seventeen quid, I see the item as a consumable in any case.

The first thing to say is that it is indeed super comfortable, and I think that has a lot to do with the perforated technical fabric which composes the rear 4 panels.

The fabric allows for decent mechanical ventilation, wicks well and is fast drying. It also has a soft hand, which allows it to conform well when worn.

The night camo pattern is sublimation printed where, under high temperature and pressure, the dye turns into a gas and permeates the fabric and then solidifies into its fibres.

The company’s logo is embroidered up front: a redback spider, apparently called Timmy and where the cap gets its name.

The front panels and peak are are 65/35 polycotton twill and are a deep green, which will become nicely salty with use.

Aside from Timmy the Spider, other embroidery is included at the rear of the cap and inside; the latter featuring a quote from Jung:

The brim is a decent length and is curved, with the deep green repeated on the underside as an anti-reflection measure:

 

The sweatband is 100% cotton:

The cap is one size fits all and adjusts for size using hook and loop at the rear:

I like this cap. It’s cheap, comfortable and looks great. It also wicks well and is extremely fast drying.

What else do you really need?