It’s always difficult to keep track of new hiking gear, but here’s a guide to the products which I’ve been testing recently. As always, my emphasis is on lightweight durable equipment which works as well in town as high up in the mountains.
Osprey Transporter Carry-On 44
This is the latest pack from Osprey which conforms to most airline carry-on regulations. It unzips like a suitcase and has two retaining straps inside to secure your clothes. Inside the lid is a full-sized mesh section, whilst outside there’s a separate padded laptop sleeve and a top exterior pocket nicely divided into smaller sections.
You can carry it like a backpack, with a waist belt, or with shoulder strap and there are padded grab handles on the side and top. The straps and harness all stow away if you want to send it as hold luggage. Fabric is tough and water-resistant and the zips are lockable. There’s even a sternum strap with emergency whistle.
Weight: 1.54 kg
Dimensions (cm): 56 (l) x 35 (w) x 31 (d)
Keen Men’s Venture Mid
I’m always fond of Keen footwear and these waterproof hiking boots are suitable for all terrains. The lightweight mesh upper is lined with a KEEN.DRY® membrane that stops the water yet is breathable. The rubber outsole provides high traction on slippery surfaces and there’s an EVA midsole to cushion any jolts. Straight out of the box, they feel comfortable.
One new innovation is their KonnectFit system which extends the laces around the back of the foot. It locks the heel into the bottom of the boot, so the foot is anchored tight, perfect for scrambling and those long descents down uncomfortable scree. It’s a stylish boot, the rubber enveloping the mesh, with no sewing visible, so should last longer. The insoles are eco anti-odour, reducing the stink foot factor.
Bridgedale Trailsport Lightweight T2 3/4 Crew
There’s no point having lightweight boots if you don’t have socks to match. These are a mixture of natural and artificial fibres, creating a highly ventilated and cushioned sock. They’re 29% Merino wool, 29% Endurofil®/polypropylene, 41% nylon wicking moisture away from the foot. The 1% Lycra which ensures the sock returns to its original size and shape with every wash.
There’s a flat toe seam, minimising bulk, and an elasticated arch and heel cup which ensures the sock stays securely in place. These are definitely lightweight, designed for the summer, and work equally well in trainers as in boots. Note that they’re so thin that if you’re used to wearing something thicker, your feet may end up rattling around in your shoes.
Jack Wolfskin JWP Pant
These are made from ultra-light, stretchy fabric, giving you full freedom of moment, perfect for rock scrambling or biking to work. They’re also UV protective and have a special odour inhibiting treatment. Add to that, easy-care and fast drying makes them perfect for travel.
Two side pockets and a zipped back pocket add enough storage but the waist is elasticated. That means no belt loops, which is a slight minus factor as I like to carry my compact camera slung from my belt. Like all in the range, they pack into a tiny supplied bag
Weight: 200 g
Jack Wolfskin JWP VEST
From the same range is this quilted vest filled with environmentally friendly synthetic fibre insulation. It’s also super light and has a great feel to it, perfect for pulling out when temperatures take a plunge. There are two zipped hand pockets and a roomy inside open pocket
It’s windproof so works well over a top as an outer layer. It’s not waterproof, so you’ll need to add a rain jacket in wet weather. It also packs down small into its own supplied bag.
Jack Wolfskin JWP Wind Jacket
Another item from the JWP range is this ultra-lightweight softshell jacket. It’s made from breathable Flex Shield Airlite fabric which is slightly stretchy and has a mesh lining. It’s windproof and fairly waterproof, designed to withstand showers but not heavy rain.
The sleeves are secured by two Velcro cuffs and there’s a drawcord at the waist. Although the hood is fairly spacious, there’s no way to secure it, not so good for heavy winds. There are two zipped side pockets, and the jacket stows away neatly into one of these.
Weight: 459 g
Columbia Men’s Sweet As™ II Softshell Hoodie
This is a lighter softshell jacket, without a lining, and made from 100% polyester dotted double weave fabric. I like the stretch panels at the sides, so it feels snug. The cuffs are elasticated, no Velcro tabs and the elbows are articulated. There’s a drawcord at the waist but none for the hood.
It has good rain resistance but probably is not as breathable as the JWP jacket. They make a point of the abrasion-resistant chin guard, which I suppose feels soft when you’re all zipped up, but I can’t see the point. Unlike the JWP products, there’s no packing bag.
Columbia Men’s Powder Lite™ Hooded Insulated Jacket
Great for autumn or early winter, this quilted hood jacket is packed with synthetic insulation, making it very warm indeed. The inside is lined with Omni-Heat™ thermal reflective – a breathable fabric with little silver dots that reflect body heat, a bit like the stuff you wrap your turkey in.
This is a serious jacket and is cut long so it keeps your vitals warm. There are two zipped side pockets and a zipped interior security pocket. Drawcords secure the hood and the waist and the cuffs are elasticated. The outer shell is breathable and fairly rainproof. No packing bag
Tell Me More This About Hiking Gear Update
While writing this article I was pleased to see that many of the list prices are discounted, often on the manufacturers’ websites, so it pays to shop around. As always sizes vary – the Columbia jackets seem to be cut slightly smaller than the Jack Wolfskin, so try them before you buy if you can.