My Review of The Reel Rock UK Tour 2013


I was fortunate enough to win two tickets to the Reel Rock UK Tour 2013 thanks to Peak Mountaineering. Here is what I wrote for Paul from Peak Mountaineering about my thoughts on how the evening went…

Reel Rock 8 was my first experience of the adventure film tour, so I had no preconceptions of what the evening would be like. In a nutshell, it was awesome! Each film was introduced by the Reel Rock team who welcomed the audience as if we were one big family. An intermission with prize giveaways and freebies was a nice touch and gave the event’s sponsors a chance to shine, without it being too ‘in-your-face’ or the evening feeling sponsored. 
 
Each of the four films shown carefully represented a different element to the world of adventure in the mountains from the hedonistic Stonemasters teaser which left me wanting to grab a tent and get out there and explore, to the relaxed yet passionate and determinated Hazel Findlay in Spice Girl whose film should probably be renamed Spider Girl, for her effortless ability to cling to the rock.
 
The Sensei had me gripped from the beginning; following the story of Yuji Hirayama and Daniel Woods as they team up to work on Yuji’s incomplete project on Mt Kinabalu. The film was beautifully captured, showing the contrast between Yuji’s and Daniel’s experience but their shared passion for climbing and dedication to supporting each other in achieving their goals. 
 
One of the big stories of 2013 in the mountaineering world was Ueli Steck and Simone Moro’s early departure from Everest after a fight broke out between them and Sherpas. The Reel Rock team were there and the exclusive footage revealed in High Tension offers an unbiased insight into what really happened that day and the reaction from the climbing community. 
 
After an excellent introduction to the Reel Rock world, I will certainly be returning next year to get another dose of adrenaline, enthusiasm and fun that is so neatly portrayed in the films. Reel Rock showcases the adventures of some of the climbing world’s most promising, legendary and talented sportspeople out there but keeps each film down-to-earth, showing that these epic explorers are just like you and I, and we all need to keep challenging the boundaries and living the mountain dream.
 
Thanks again for the tickets; I loved every minute!

Read this on the Peak Mountaineering Blog here: http://www.peakmountaineering.com/blog/2013/11/15/Reel_Rock_UK_Tour_2013/

Striders Edge update


So not so long ago I wrote a bit of a review about some Striders Edge gear that I was given for Christmas. If you didn’t read it, check it out here. Sometime before receiving these wonderful items I had been searching the internet, sports apparel clothes shops and even keeping an eye out in charity shops for a long-sleeved, hooded base layer top that would be suitable for running in autumn/winter or cool spring days. Would you believe there was not a single one to be found that fitted the bill? I searched everywhere and eventually ended up finding a bright blue/high vis yellow loose polyester jacket from TK Maxx. The hood was enormous so fell down while I was running, it was so loosely cut that putting things in the pockets would make the bottom hem jump up and down with each stride. Long story short, it didn’t really fit the bill for running.

I was so desperate to find one that I even contacted Striders Edge via Twitter, knowing that they always replied and perhaps could consider making one for me. Of course I expected a reply (which I did get) but I had no idea that months later, this week in July 2013, they would Tweet me to let me know they had actually made one: “can you remember you once asked if we could add a hood onto our engineered climate map products? Well we did it x” And here it is…

From Striders Edge website: http://www.stridersedge.com/ec-map-hoody-crag-grey/

You can find this (crag grey) and a pink one (raspberry fuchsia) here: http://www.stridersedge.com/ec-map-hoody-crag-grey/

It’s not uncommon for companies to say “We listen to what the consumers want” but I am absolutely astounded and impressed that my humble request was listened to and acted upon. I will be placing my order soon and will be creating another blog about that once it arrives.

Striders Edge, you have a customer for life here.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Striders Edge clothing


You know when you have that dream where you’re running down the street and all of a sudden you realise you’re naked and everyone is staring at you? Now I sort of know what that feels like. I’ve been going to the gym for around 6 years, and I started running in November 2011. During that time I have used various items of clothing for my workouts, most of which I haven’t had any inclination to write about… until now.

The first time I wore my Striders Edge Peak Elements tights and Engineered Climate Map Vest to go running I stepped out of the house and I was sure I had forgotten something. The fabric was so soft and fitted so well against my body that I didn’t feel like I had any clothes on at all! In honesty is a weird feeling to begin with, but then it occurred to me that this is exactly what sports apparel should feel like. You shouldn’t feel a waistband rubbing against your skin, or have to worry about those annoying itchy labels while you’re halfway through a run.

Photo taken from Striders Edge website: http://www.stridersedge.com/peak-elements-tight/

There is so much I love about Striders Edge clothing that I will write bullet points to avoid this becoming an essay:
– Exceptionally comfortable to wear (as described above!)
-Perfect number of pockets. With the Peak Elements tights and CM vest combo I have 3 really good sized pockets for keys, phone and my mini  mp3 player. Plus, I should add that despite the pockets on the tights being at the front you can’t feel anything in them while you’re running. I don’t know how they’ve managed it but it’s amazing!
– The colours of their products are lush. I am SO tired of female sportswear brands thinking it’s all about the pastel pinks and blues, lilac, white and maybe a black if you’re lucky. Striders Edge seem to actually understand that some women have a sense of style and even when they look like a sweaty mess they can also wear colours they like.
– The fabric their products use is very flattering and easy to wear, and being antibacterial and wicking I can wear them for a couple of workouts without any risk of them getting smelly (less laundry = happy me, happy earth!). The real test for the CM vest will be 7 days constant use on Kili in May as a base layer!
– The length of the vests are longer than most other brands. As someone who has a long torso but little legs having tops riding up while I’m running is a sure-fire way to distract me. The vest comes right down over my hips which is not only flattering but also prevents the top riding up.

Photo taken from Striders Edge website http://www.stridersedge.com/engineered-climate-map-vest-atmos-green/

For me, there are only a few downsides to Striders Edge, and the main one is the price. I was lucky enough to be totally spoiled at Christmas which is why I ended up with two vests and the tights – prior to that I had been desperately wanting them but couldn’t quite justify them financially. However, now I know they are worth every one of my husband’s pennies I will feel more inclined to treat myself in future. The Engineered Climate Map 1/2 Zip Base Layer in Ruby Wine is next on my list!
The other one is where the garments are made. I don’t know why (perhaps the price) but I had assumed that Striders Edge products were made in the UK. The Peak Elements tights are made ‘with love in China’ and the CM vest is made in Portugal. I was a bit sad when I learnt this but I suppose I can understand it. I just hope that the garments are made in the happy factories we all hope our clothing is produced in. I’m sure they are.

Anyway, I want to finish on a positive note because I do believe that Striders Edge are an excellent brand, made with young (and young at heart), dedicated, enthusiastic sports women firmly in mind. Getting into my sportswear is no longer a chore, and if people stare at me while I’m running or in the gym I know I’ll be looking my best (while puffing and panting, with a bright red face dripping with sweat).

Why not check them out for yourself http://www.stridersedge.com.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Berghaus BIOFLEX Light 35


Last year I was fortunate  enough to get my hands on a pre-release Berghaus Bioflex Light 35 rucksack. It was an absolute delight tearing open the packaging to reveal the Atlantic Blue pack I was soon to fall in love with.

You can read the specifications and details here: http://store.berghaus.com/p/backpacks-rucksacks/mens-bioflex-light-35-rucksack/420812/

I should perhaps point out at this stage that yes, I am a female and have a ‘mens’ pack. At 5’6, I have a long torso and short legs meaning that for rucksacks I have to go for the ‘mens’ fit instead of the ‘ladies’ fit. This isn’t just specific to Berghaus but in my experience it applies to all brands of rucksack. ‘Mens’ and ‘ladies’ fit is just a label Berghaus have used instead of the gender neutral ‘medium’ or ‘small’  (but that’s a debate for another day!).

The Bioflex technology is an innovate idea focused on a free-moving hipbelt for optimum comfort and fit and I am very, very impressed. To date I have used this rucksack for three different types of activity.

1) Trek to Everest Base Camp
12 days of hiking in the stunning Everest region of Nepal was probably one of the best test runs I could do for this rucksack. I have always used Berghaus rucksacks for hiking trips and the difference between the Bioflex Light and the previous ones I have used is black and white.

– The hip belt is wide and soft and the padding feels like it moulds to your hips (almost like memory foam), which makes the free moving part of the belt incredibly comfortable even when carrying a fairly heavy load.
The Berghaus website says “The waist belt is attached to a BIOFLEX® Light pivot; this allows the pack to move with you as you walk providing a higher level of carry comfort and weight transfer.” This is no exaggeration; it is exactly what the Bioflex system does and my opinion is that this system made each step easier, particularly when hiking at altitude where carrying even a small load can feel arduous.

With this being my first major use of the rucksack I did come across some teething problems. Adjusting the shoulder straps and back system for comfort took some playing around with and at times people pointed out that the rucksack was leaning left or right where I had over tightened one or the other shoulder strap (although despite this, at no point did I feel unbalanced- possibly due to the Bioflex system).

2) A walk in the hills, Lake District

14361_10151110864281467_1342138151_nA month after returning from EBC I was out in the Lakes with some friends for a crisp winter walk (read here for the story). The Bioflex Light came with me again, this time loaded with gingerbread, hot chocolate and other essentials for the hills. By this point 12 days of hiking in Nepal had got me totally used to the feel of the rucksack and I had adjusted the system to fit me like a glove. It was like I was hiking without any kind of pack. Weightless, comfortable, cosy.

– The Bioflex Light is a 35 litre capacity and is perfect for me – I like to have plenty of room in my rucksack so it’s easy to dig around in, and to have the option to help lighten other people’s loads if required. It looks larger than 35 litres on the inside, yet smaller from the outside (I’ve managed to use it as hand baggage on multiple occasions with no problems).
One of the things I adore about the Bioxflex light are the mesh zip pockets on the hip belt. As soon as I start walking I get a runny nose so one pocket fits a pack of Kleenex and the other is the perfect size for sweets! The side pockets are roomy too, easily fitting a 1-litre bottle into each.

3) Introduction to Scottish Winter Mountaineering

Scottish WinterI love trekking and have been doing it for almost 6 years but this year it was time to take things up a notch and try my hand at mountaineering. The Bioflex Light travelled up to Scotland with me (Easyjet didn’t even question the size of it for hand baggage) and new skills were learnt in Glencoe with JCG Expeditions.
Being nimble but sure-footed in the Scottish hills in winter is essential and carrying a cumbersome rucksack would be a sure-fire way to losing balance and possibly sustaining a serious or life threatening injury. The Bioflex Light reigned supreme again, hugging my body and to a degree, keeping me warm on the chilly winter days.
-The only possible drawback I can seee to this rucksack are the two small buckle clips that close the main hood are quite fiddly to undo and clip up again. I found I had to take my gloves off to do it, which in a winter scenario is a time waster and depending on the conditions, possibly risky to your fingers (particularly if you dropped a glove in the meantime). I also wonder how robust they are, given their size. Only time will tell.

 

Final comments
There is a large front pocket under the bungee cord which is made of the same soft, stretchy fabric for the side pockets. There is a small hole at the seam of the side pocket where I suppose I caught it on something. This gives me some cause for concern about whether the other areas might end up with a hole and I’ll lose something from them.

Apart from the questionable fabric mentioned above, it’s great to see Berghaus returning to using good quality, water resistant (rip stop?) fabric for this rucksack. The Bioflex Light has renewed my faith in the brand, after it had previously been shaken by the quality in the Freeflow packs dropping below that which I would consider acceptable (to the point where I wrote an email of complaint to the company). I’m pleased that things are on the up and I will now consider Berghaus for gear going forwards.

As with most hydration systems, the inner pouch isn’t long enough to fit the older version of the CamelBak (Omega) without it poking out from the elasticated top. It really makes no difference to the function, weight bearing or appearance but it’s just something that bugs me. I am yet to test it with the newer version of the CamelBak (Antidote), which is shorter and fatter, but I suspect this will fit much nicer.

It’s a real pleasure to find a rucksack in my favourite colour!

The real test for this rucksack will be on Mount Kilimanjaro this May. It will be my third ascent of Kili. I used a Karrimor pack on my first trip, Berghaus Freeflow on my second and the Bioflex Light will join me on my third ascent. Being able to compare the load bearing at altitude on a trek I’ve done twice before will be when I can say for sure what I think of it.

Big thanks to Berghaus for creating, to date, the best rucksack I have ever used.

Happy travelling!

PRODUCT REVIEW: Osprey Ariel 65


I was quite excited when it arrived in the post. The first thing I noticed upon removing it from the packaging was how many straps and clips there were on it, that I hadn’t noticed on the one I tried on. I was told in one of my many shopping visits that for a good mountaineering pack you needed something that was basically a bag with shoulder straps and a hip belt – this is significantly more fussy than that.

Nonetheless, I was quick to adjust the pack and get it packed with something to test it out. I was delighted. With this being a ‘Ladies’ fit pack, I had opted for the Medium in this style because the back size extended up to 47cm in Small and from 46-52cm in the Medium. My back size is around 47cm so I thought it best to go for the Medium and adjust it down rather than take the risk of the Small being too small.

The fabric seems strong and water resistant and the size seems to be a very generous 65l (in fact, I reckoned that I could actually fit myself inside the pack – althought I haven’t tried it…yet!). The hip belt is one of the most comfortable I have experienced and the shoulder straps sit nicely where they’re supposed to without any rubbing or soreness whatsoever.

The only possible gripe is with the hip belt size. At last measurement my hips are around 33 inches and the hip belt on the Medium pack has to be tightened to its fullest extent to fit snugly on my hips. 33 inches is not that small for a female so I was quite surprised by that. I believe you can buy custom hip belts but I will need to do more research into this and the associated costs (or I’ll just have to eat a few more pies!).

I won’t list off all the features of the pack because you can find this all on the Osprey website here: http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/product/womens/ariel_65_1

So far it has already travelled with me to China and back and it held up well. In 90% humidity and 30C temperatures it wasn’t cumbersome or frustrating to carry, although it was pretty sweaty on the hip belt and back (to be expected). Not being used to using a toploader for ‘normal’ holidays took a bit of getting used to and I have discovered that either I am terrible at packing efficiently or really forgetful about where I have put X, Y and Z in my pack, so I’ll have to work on that before any major expedition as disorganisation can be life or death on big mountains.

Overall, currently I am really pleased with it and feel that the £140 I paid for it (April 2012) represents good value for what it is. There may be additional reviews as I use it for different things so keep your eyes peeled.

Happy travelling!

PRODUCT REVIEW: ProBalm


I recently became aware of ProBalm. Described on their website as “a new 100% natural product, made in the UK, designed for active people who are hard on their skin and so need rapid and effective skin repair“, I was intrigued. I asked the team some questions on Twitter (friendly bunch – always replying to my tweets) and took the plunge.

You can buy the product on their website using PayPal (effortless shopping) and £5 and free P&P for 3 mini versions of the main product I thought it was worth a try. It arrived 48 hours after I ordered it and the first thing I noticed was the fragrance. It was somewhere between church incense and spice markets in India. It’s one of those smells you’re not really sure if you like but can’t stop smelling! You can detect the faint smell of beeswax so you really feel as if you are using a totally natural product.

My instant thought when looking at the packaging was that it was a shame it didn’t come in a little container for easier storage as the full-size ‘puck’ does, however as I would consider these 11g minis to be testers the little plastic zip-lock bags they come in are just fine.

After a long weight lifting session at the gym yesterday my hands were sore and red in the area I tend to get callouses (at the base of my fingers). I applied ProBalm to these problem areas on each hand and noticed that it soaked into my skin quite quickly and instantly felt quite moisturising. I reapplied before going to bed.
The texture of ProBalm is quite oily when you rub it into your skin, but once application is complete I found that rubbing and residue onto my hands or wrists takes away any oiliness from my fingers and you are just left with the subtle fragrance of the oils (a list of which is below).

When I woke up this morning I was genuinely surprised to find such a remarkable result. My hands felt and looked normal – certainly not what I’m used to after such a heavy workout (which would usually include flaking skin and minor blistering). But the thing that really convinced me that ProBalm worked was that where I hadn’t applied it I have a sore, hard callous whereas my usual problem areas (middle and ring fingers) where I used the balm feel 90% normal, with just minor hardening.

After just the first trial, I am very impressed and will continue to use it and update on the progress. I am curious to find out how it copes in hot weather (it will be coming with my to China in May, and Tanzania in June) and whether the oils will leave any staining on my skin. The next test will be my much-neglected feet… watch this space!

ProBalm contains:
Bees Wax {Cera alba}
Jojoba Oil {Simmondsia chinensis seed oil}
Grapeseed Oil {Vitis vinifera seed oil}
Comfrey Infused Almond Oil {Prunus amygdalus oil, Symphytum officinale leaf extract}
Petitgrain EO {Citrus aurantium amara leaf/twig oil}
Patchouli EO {Pogostemon cablin leaf/stem oil}
Tangerine EO {Citrus reticulata peel oil}
Black Pepper EO {Piper nigrum fruit oil}
Cypress EO {Cupressus sempervirens leaf oil}
Vitamin E {Mixed Tocopherols}
Benzoin EO {Piper nigrum fruit oil}

If you suffer from any dermatological problems, consult your GP or specialist to ensure this is okay for you to use.

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