Webtogs Road-Trip to the Brit-Brand Trio & Marmot!

Aptly-named snack of the week. Great value too.
Aptly-named snack of the week

I should probably start out by explaining that when I say ‘Brit brand trio’, I’m referring to Rab, Mountain Equipment and Montane. These three brands are the standard-bearers for the UK outdoor industry, and between them they account for over half of the products ranged on Webtogs.co.uk at any given time. It was these brands, along with another of our suppliers; US brand Marmot, that Webtogs MD Keith and I set out to visit last Sunday on a 5-day buying road-trip. I can report that it was epic thanks to the exciting new products on show… and the added bonus of getting to take the bike out on some awesome trails in the Lakes (Altura Trail, Whinlatter & The North Face Trail, Grizedale) and Peak District!


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Festive Montane Test! Further Faster Neo and Alpha Guide Jackets

As I posted before Christmas, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of Montane test garments to try out over the festive break – the Montane Further Faster Neo Jacket (shell) and Alpha Gide Jacket (insulator). Sadly they have now been dispatched back to Montane HQ (wish I could have kept them), and I am left to report my thoughts and findings.

Dartmoor - the perfect place for a Montane test!
Dartmoor – the perfect place for a Montane test!

As always seems to be the case over Christmas, I was not able to be quite as active as I’d have liked… multiple food-based family gatherings and grandmother-courier duties getting in the way of my plans to test out the Montane pieces through the trinity of walking, cycling and climbing. I was, able to wear them day-to-dayday-to-day though, on a couple of short walks, and on one longer one on Dartmoor last Friday. I plumped for one of my old favorites, the ‘Widecombe Round’. It’s a varied, scenic route around the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, and even more so in the right conditions. Luckily conditions were just perfect for beautiful pictures on this occasion, so I’ve interspersed my Montane review with them to liven up any dry technical details!


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How to reproof your waterproof gear.

Having a coat that’s lost it’s breathability and soaks up rain makes for a seriously uncomfortable day out. After our guide to washing down products, we’ve had a fair few requests from folks whose waterproofs have started to be, well, slightly less than waterproof! All jackets slowly lose their ability to repel water, to have rain bead or “rest” on the outside and that’s without even taking in to account your gear getting dirty. So if have been wondering just how to get that new jacket performance back, we’ve put together this guide on how to get your togs repelling water, and breathing easy again with Nikwax.

Rain beading on a waterproof jacketThere are two things you can do to get your jacket working as good as new. First up Washing. You need to wash your jacket first to ensure it is clean, and in case it’s necessary make sure any reproofing can go on easily. In many cases simply washing your jacket will have it back performing near it’s best. It isn’t just a case of washing in normal detergent though as that will make things worse for technical outdoor gear. You need a specialist wash that will get rid of any residues that block breathability and attract water to make your gear “wet out”. There are a few products that will do this, but we really like Nikwax Tech wash for the washing bit. Not only does the hippy in me like it (it’s water based and environmentally friendly man) but it won’t damage the water repellent treatments on the outside of your jacket, nor any waterproof membrane either. To get the best results we reckon our foolproof instructions below will have you covered;

  1. Clean your detergent dispenser. Very important this bit, if there is any gunk left from your day to day washing, it’ll clog the pores of your gear, stop it breathing as well as stopping any reproofer from going on effectively afterwards.
  2. Run your washing machine on it’s hottest wash with nothing in it. This is doing exactly the same thing as cleaning your dispenser by getting rid of the gunk inside. If you have a really grotty machine you might want to do it twice :-) As a side note, our resident Dorset washing repair man Laurie reckons you should do this once in a while anyway to stop stuff building up that can damage your washing machine.
  3. Get your gear ready. Loosen all draw cords and close all zips and Velcro so the jacket doesn’t catch. If there are any really filthy bits, rub a bit of neat Tech wash directly on to the affected area(s).
  4. Wash a maximum of two items. Simples really, ensures that your stuff gets properly clean.
  5. Follow your clothes care instructions.  Most washes should be on a delicate/synthetic wash with a slow spin to stop abrasion of your gear, follow the instruction label on your gear first and foremost.
  6. Allow to dry naturally. This is really important if you are using a spray on reproofer later.
Nikwax at Webtogs

Just in case you didn't know what a washing machine looked like.
Most times simply washing your jacket will bring back the ability for water to roll off your gear. If it doesn’t though, you’ll need to head on and take a further step, reproofing your jacket to bring water repellency back to “shiny brand new coat” time. There are loads of old wives tales about what you should wash your jacket in for this bit. After an article in Trail recently, Fabric conditioner was shown to be a great reproofer, with water beading sweetly on the outside after a wash. However, breathability of the jacket was then transformed in to something similar to a plastic bag! There are a few options but again we like our mates at Nikwax, specifically their TX Direct stuff. There are several options from spray on to wash in, we reckon that wash in is the easiest solution and best for fabrics without a backing scrim such as Paclite, Marmot’s Membrain or Montane’s Atomic DT etc  as it means you won’t iss any spots. With 3 layer fabrics, Gore-Tex themselves recommend a spray on solution to stop the scrim becoming water repellent. Either way as with the Tech wash it’s earth mama time, having no flurocarbons, solvents or bad stuff that will damage planet earth.
Assuming you have followed the instructions above for washing your gear, you won’t need to clean out your washing machine again so it’s just the following;

  1. Maximum of two items. Same as above
  2. Follow your clothes care instructions. Delicate or synthetic wash on a slow spin thanks people.
  3. Warm dry your coat. This last bit isn’t critical but we find that heat ensures that repellency treatments lasts longer. Our order of preference for most effectiveness is tumble dry on a low setting if your garment allows it, shoving it on a hot radiator, popping in an airing cupboard, putting it out to dry in the hot sunshine, or (and be very careful here…) Ironing it on a very low setting.

And there you have it. The Webtogs easy peasy guide to getting your coat back in to full weather battle mode once again. Our buddy Hendrik over at Hiking in Finland did a great review of the Nikwax stuff which still has us chuckling away. Take a look below if you want some full on Finnish German bearded reproofing madness!

Have any of you folks reproofed your gear recently? If you have any tips for reproofing or keeping your waterproofs in good nick, post up in the comments below!>

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GoreTex Active Shell – What’s the story?

The 1980′s saw a fabric introduced that revolutionised outdoor clothing – the introduction of Goretex. As the worlds first waterproof yet breathable fabric, it was a sea change in the way that people enjoyed outdoor activities. Before, your choice was simple. Drown in your own sweat, or drown in the rain. I wasn’t the only one who dreaded being made to wear a “Cagoul”, and the feel of wet clammy rubber against my skin. The world outdoors definitely became more of a comfortable place as a result.

One of the first Goretex pieces, the Berghaus Lightning Jacket

So here we are nearly 30 years later, and Gore have come up with the latest version of their technology, called Active Shell. We are going to be getting in several Active shell pieces this winter, and before they come in, we wanted to explain just why we think these new pieces of clothing are so darn cool. Our job is so easy though. We can sum it up thus

1) It’s more breathable than previous versions of Goretex. High aerobic folks such as runners, cyclists, and climbers are going to be big fanboys and girls of this new fabric

2) It’s lighter than any of their other fabrics. It’s ideal for those who want to move fast and light, yet retain decent levels of weather protection.

3) This is just our own opinion having tried on a couple of different jackets, but we think that they are a step up in terms of comfort as well. Less like a crisp bag, they are a bit more flexible and comfortable next to skin. Please note that this is based on the samples we have tried on, so the real deal could be different. Oh apparently the value of your house can go up as well as down.

So how have they done it I hear you ask? Well you will be pleased to know that there was no magician with a rabbit, or a pentagram on the floor. They have managed to make the membrane itself lighter, and by getting the scrim, or backing fabric to integrate straight on to the membrane itself. Both of these manufacturing processes have made the garments lighter, and reduced resistance for water vapour and sweat to get through.

Now we have two of these new jackets coming in for Winter, first up, the Adidas Men’s Terrex Gore-Tex Active Shell Jacket. Adidas are a relative new player in the outdoor market but they have hit the ground running in our humble opinion. We actually got to have a bit of a sneak peak of their gear earlier in the year. The weight is a paltry 370 grammes, we love the laser cut and bonded detailing, and the built in vents. Check out our Video on the whole range here, the new jacket is first up;

Second up is a British classic, it’s Mountain Equipment’s Firefox Jacket. Now the firefox jacket was released a couple of years ago with a unique fit. The fit’s become much more of a standard ME fit, and they have now changed the fabric to Goretex Active Shell as well. The weight is slightly lower than the Adidas coming in at 320 grammes, it features their Mountain Hood adjustment system, and pit zips in case you are on fire.

ME Firefox Jacket

So more breathable, lighter and more comfortable is the new order of the day with Goretex’s Active Shell. We’re getting them in this September and already the anticipation is building here. If you have any questions at all on the new fabric, or any comments, please post away below.

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From Rain to Shine

Take On Africa: Latest update from Cordoba, Spain

It’s now a month since I left England on that dull grey, wet day. In that month, I’ve seen and done so much, the time has just flown by – I can hardly believe it. The cycling is going great – better than expected – I’ve now pedalled over 1500 miles since leaving home and am now accustomed to cycling day-in, day-out come rain or shine.

Trujillo Plaza Mayor

1500 miles brought me to a pretty town on a hill in the hot, arid Spanish Extremadura, Trujillo. As I’ve been progressing steadily south through Central Spain, the thermometer reading has steadily risen -I happened to see the weather on television today and it’s topping 38 degrees here.

The heat is stifling in the afternoon and makes cycling almost unbearable, especially when having to tackle a particularly steep uphill section where I can’t even go fast enough to create a small breeze. The simple solution I have found is to just not cycle then. There’s clearly a reason the Spanish have a siesta and I’ve certainly found out why! So from now on, it’s up before dawn to be cycling in the cool mornings, the added benefit is also some gorgeous sunrises. Then as the evening draws in, I can get back on the bike to cover a few more miles until sunset. It also means I get to relax and see some lovely little towns along the way, with old churches, impressive castles and remains of fortified walls. I can also enjoy an ice-cold beer or ice-cream in the plaza mayor (the central square in every Spanish town), which makes a refreshing change from my bottled water which is warm again within ten minutes of re-filling from a fountain in town.

It’s certainly not to say it’s been hot and dry all the way though. There have been a number of wet days; first in France and then again in northern Spain where the weather is known to be variable.

Fortunately I had my Marmot waterproof jacket (and I love the lime green colour – makes me visible in the driving rain too) which I’m really impressed with.

In my Marmot waterproof jacket

It’s kept me dry from the rain and even when pushing hard to make town or campsite it’s claims for breathability have been put to the test and definitely passed. The other great thing is it packs down so small, I hardly know it’s in my bag – so I don’t mind carrying it with me over the next few months, when chances are I won’t need it (not if the current weather in central Spain is anything to go by!).

I’ve just arrived in Cordoba and shall be taking it a little slower, giving me chance to re-organise, ready for the crossing over into Africa and the ensuing challenges to be met there. I’m can hardly wait!

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