Tag Archives: 1st look

Straight out the box 1st look review

Montura Skisky Insulated Jacket

Montura Skisky Insulated Jacket

Photograph courtesy of Michael Thomson

Promises made and promises broken. I said I was going to post more often and I haven’t but less of my moaning, lets have a quick look at more gear. Like the other post, that you can see here Montura Magic G Active Shell, I have to qualify this review as more of a first look as I only had the jacket for a couple of days as part of a meet Petesy organised. These are my initial views and thoughts. Remember what works for me and what I like might not be for you or be to your liking.

There was a lot on offer to test and next up was the insulated gear. Down as well as synthetic jackets. I went for for the Skisky by Montura. For those that haven’t at a look at my last post about Montura Magic G Active shell, Montura are an Italian outdoor apparel manufacturer. Their website is under construction at the moment and can be found here at http://www.montura.it/

The jacket was red and black a more of a colour combination that I would go for, personally. The outer shell is made from TS165, a PU (polyurethane) coated polyester taslan that is very water resistant. It was mainly red with the black being on usual wear points, the shoulders, back and elbows. The hood was also black. The filling is about 40g of PrimaLoft. I’m not sure of the overall weight of the jacket but it didn’t feel excessively heavy.

Again my first impressions like that of those for Magic G were good. Another really well put together jacket. Even for a sample this was very good. No loose threads. The jacket had some very nice features which made you think that they had really thought about the little details that make a difference during the design process. The ones that really caught my eye were the lined hand warming pockets, two large long, Sigg bottle shaped internal pockets and my favorite, the long thick ribbed elasticated cuffs with monkey thumbs. Essentially turned the bottom of the sleeves into fingerless gloves. I really do like thumb holes on sleeves. It also meant that wearing your gloves over the cuffs meant that you are effectively sealing out the drafts and the cold. The hood was interesting as it wasn’t really adjustable in the true sense but was made from an elastic fabric which kept it tight to your head. The recommended retail price for the jacket is £195 should someone in the UK decide to stock it.

Once on the fit of the jacket was again accommodating, like the hard shell I had. This meant there would be no problem getting a fleece below for some extra insulation if needed. There was plenty of freedom of movement. I wasn’t restricted in anyway and the hem didn’t ride up as can sometimes happen when stretching. After that quick initial wear in the car park the jacket got packed away in the rucksack until later. It compressed down reasonably well into one of my small dry bags. As soon as we got to our camp spot it was the first thing out the bag. It was getting really cold, with the snow and wind blowing. You all probably know that when you stop moving, you start losing heat really fast. No problems with this jacket. I was snug while pitching the tent.

The next day I decided to give the jacket another go, this time in a more active scenario. We had all decided to climb The Cobbler and with it being cold and the stop start nature of my climbing, due to my fitness and wanting to take loads of photographs. I thought it would be ideal for this jacket. The jacket was good at no time on the entire climb was I too warm or felt wet on the inside and I never got cold when I stop for extended periods, either to talk to the others, take photographs or mostly just to catch my breath

I couldn’t pick fault with this jacket, I really liked and wished I didn’t have to give it back. I thought it was a very good insulated jacket. I would love to have it in pack for winter. I really liked the fit and the comfort and the warmth. Just a shame no-one in the UK seems to be stocking them.

Montura Magic G Active Shell

Montura Magic G Active Shell

Photograph courtesy of Michael Thomson

I have to qualify this review as more of a first look as I only had the jacket for a couple of days as part of a recent meet Petesy organised. These are my initial views and thoughts. Remember what works for me and what I like might not work for you or be to your liking.

The shell that I was given, volunteered to in the car park was the Montura Magic G Active shell. Montura are an Italian outdoor clothing manufacturer that I couldn’t find that much about. They have a website that’s under construction but by all accounts they are an up and coming company doing well over in Italy and that side of the Alps.

The jacket was a very bright green, not sure if it’s an attractive colour but it would certainly get you noticed. For those of you who don’t know Active shell is a new fabric from GORE-TEX® and it’s a bit of an enigma, some people love it and others hate it. According to the official bumph from GORE-TEX® the jackets engineered from the fabric are built to provide durable water and wind protection as well as extreme breath-ability. The Ret value for the material is less than 3. The fabric is a 3 layer construction and lighter in weight to deliver excellent comfort when being worn next to the skin. The garments are ideal for highly aerobic activities like mountain biking, fast alpine ascents and trail running. They also claim that garments made with Active Shell will have a maximum weight of 400 grams. The test jacket weighs in at 307g according to Montura. I’m not sure if that was for the size medium that I had or for the largest jacket they sell.

My first impressions were very good on having just been handed the jacket straight out the boot a car. I was very impressed with the quality. It did also feel very light in my hand and the fabric was very soft and subtle to the touch. With a more robust feeling version of Active Shell on the top of the arms and shoulders. The classic rub points. It was a well put together jacket. The quality was very evident, no loose threads or badly taped seams that I could see. Nothing extravagant, just a couple of hand pockets and a hood, no toggle adjustments. The cuffs, hood and hem were elasticated. The hood had a Velcro volume adjustment at the back. There are reflective strips on the hem and around the jacket and the logo. On the cuffs it had a couple of elasticated thumb loops which I thought was interesting, I do like thumb loops on tops. It also had robust waterproof zip with a really big storm flap behind it. The expected retail price in the UK is £185.

The fit of the jacket was quite accommodating for a medium including my beer belly which is fine in my opinion as it means you can get a layer, or 2 at push below the waterproof shell, like an insulating jacket or fleece. Maybe that’s what they call an active fit. I was very nice on, it felt as light as they claim and my initial hand hefting. There was good movement in the arms and torso.It was one of those days and the jacket got all sorts of weather thrown at it; snow, rain, sleet and wind, a really strong driving wind. A typical west of Scotland day. I’m not sure how it would cope in extended periods of rain over a few days. However I was fine in the jacket and felt that the fabric was breathing well as I wasn’t wet or damp even with all the exertions my unfit body was going through pulling up the track to the Cobbler and it was coping really well in the wind as well.

The only thing that I could pick fault with and fault is not the right word. It was more of an annoyance I found that because the hem of the jacket was elasticated it would and could ride up. The thumb loops worked well, keeping the sleeves down over the cuff of my gloves and therefore sealing out the drafts. The hood was good, not sure how it would deal with a helmet but was fine over my watch cap and I had no issues with the fabric. All in all I had a great time in and found nothing wrong with a very well made jacket from a brand I hadn’t heard of before. Very impressed indeed.

Therm-a-Rest Haven Top Bag – 1st Look

Therm-a-Rest Haven

I’ll start with the disclaimer this is another bit of kit courtesy of a very kind Phil and I have no vested interest in the sleeping bag other than to share my views on it. These are my intital thoughts having carried and used the Therm-a-Rest Haven top bag once on an overnighter at the end of January.

Phil had let me know in advance that he would have this bag, the Therm-a-Rest Haven would available if I wanted to have a go. He had indicated on twitter a few days before that the bag was a bit small for him. With me not being shy and an official small person, I jumped at the chance to test some gear out. Knowing this I had a quick google at the sleeping bag. I was intrigued by the concept. The bag has no zips and an elasticated hole in the back as well as a couple of straps to attach it onto a mat. It comes in a Pewter grey color and is filled will 700 goose down. The shell fabric is Nylon Ripstop with a DWR finish and it’s lined with Nylon Taffeta. Looking then; that night, at the photographs it would seem that you can insert a sleeping mat into the Haven or strap it down to mat (a Neo-Air) on the website. All very interesting.

When Phil first handed it to me in the car park at Ballantrae it was in the big storage sack that it comes with and I really didn’t have a proper look at. Phil and I talked about the no zips and the straps. That it was rated down to -6C which would be plenty for that particular Saturday night in January. I run warm anyway and the old adage is true for me, you heat the sleeping bag the sleeping bag doesn’t heat you. Nothing to worry about there. I also said that I reckoned there was a couple of ways to insert yourself into the bag having seen the website but maybe not if you’re a 6′ 2″ Phil.

It went from the storage sack in to the stuff sack. I remember thinking it felt nice and soft as I stuffed it. At the time I wasn’t sure of the size but having measured it once I got home, it measured in at 27cm x 18.5cm and weighed about 638g 668 grams in the stuff sack on my scales. With the stuff sack weighing 20 grams on it’s on. Less than half the weight of the synthetic bag I usually carry, nevermind the difference in stuff sack size. In the Alpkit rucksack it went and that was the last I thought about it until we were pitching the tents.

Once the tents were pitched and I had inflated my sleeping mat, a POE Ether 6. I got out the Haven to let it breathe and loft after being squashed for most of the day. I gave it a good shake out and it lofted well and there is left it until after dinner. This was where the fun began, trying to figure out the best way to use the Haven. I started off with inserting the Ether 6 and sliding in up to my oxsters this was fine while I was lying about talking to Phil over in his tent but when it came to bed down for the night. I found even for me; it was tight, me in the fully inflated Ether 6 inside the Haven but I was willing to give it a go, for a while at least. That lasted until I tried to turn on to my side. Too tight with POE pad.

I decided that this was probably the best time to take a leak and then come back and sort it out. By that time I think Phil was already in the land of nod so I tried to be as quiet as I could. Once back in the LiteHouse Solo, I removed the POE and straped the Haven down and got myself back into the bag through the elasticated hole in the back. Much easier way in than through the hood, rat up a drainpipe experience of earlier. However i think that had a lot to do with the sleeping pad being inside that bag.

Now much more comfortable in the Haven, with plenty of from I settled down for some sleep. Ten minutes later I found myself having to strip off, down to my underwear and my baselayer. I found the bag to be warm and cosy. A lot warmer than the synthetic bag I was used to. At that time of year I would usually be sleeping in my clothes. Comfortable again, I drifted off to sleep but a few hours in I found myself waking because of a cold spot. My bum was straight onto the sleeping mat because of the elasticated hole. That hadn’t happened when the mat was inside with me. After much fiddling and rumbling, I tucked one edge of the hole under me and that removed the gap enabling to get a good sleep the rest of the night.

It’s a curious design in that it has no zips an well elasticated hole in the back and a couple of straps with clips to attach it to the mat of your choice. I’m not sure how much weight you save by not having a full length zip. I suppose the grams are a bit like pennies in that if you look after them the pennies will take care of themselves. I have no real complaints about the Haven sleeping, the pocket was too small to be of much use to me. Not sure what you would use it for. I judge these things on can I store my glasses safely. Which I couldn’t. The cold spot, maybe but it could have just been the wrong mat. Having check up on a few things when I got home. Therm-a-Rest recommend using a tappered matteress like their TrailPro when the weather is cold. This still of mat would allow more room when inserted in and more than likely eliminate the cold spot but I managed to sort that for myself. Maybe that’s my next move get hold of a tappered mat and try it with that. All in all I had a very good sleep in a very decent sleeping bag and I’m looking forward to testing it again.


Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo

Photograph from the Gram-Counter Gear website

This is new country for me; doing a first look, well my first look at a bit of kit. The disclaimer part. The tent, a Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo I have is from Phil Turner, you can follow or find him here @MrPhilTurner on twitter or his website Lightweight Outdoors. Phil is also a good friend of mine. He’s had a play with this tent before me. You can see and read that here. I had read Phil’s post and had commented that it would be interesting to see how it tested. It has now come my way and these are my initial thoughts and impressions.

I’ll start at the beginning. I met Phil in the car park at Ballantrae. Where he handed me the tent, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. Lucky guy, yes I am. Phil gave me the low down. It weighs roughly 850g; in my hand it didn’t feel like 850g of tent, lighter if anything. The Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo feels very light for a tent. It is a classic ridge design with a single skin and fully stitched-in mesh interior with a sewn in groundsheet. The groundsheet is not the bath tub type you are used to with a traditional tent, some care is need when pitching. Also I had the nice happy yellow version. The website says orange but it looks yellow to me, there is however a green version available should you wish to blend more into your surroundings.

The pack size is great it fitted into my Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre rucksack width wise very comfortably leaving plenty of room for the rest of my overnight gear. I can’t find any details of the stuff sack size but having measured it once I got home, it came out at 33cm by 12cm.
Once we arrived at our camp I was handed a set of pitching instructions, immediately I’m thinking uh oh. Nothing to worry about, it’s just like every other tent you’ve ever done. It’s a comprehensive pitching guide as the version I had came with 3 different styles/sizes of pegs. Two large aluminium pegs, 6 titanium micro pegs, 4″ long and 5 titanium pegs, 6″ long. I think that’s just so you are aware which pegs have to be used where. It was definitely a good thing to read especially being new to lightweight tents.

The pitching is quite simple and admittedly I did have an expert on hand but his input wasn’t really needed. More just a check to see if I had it down correctly. Having pitched it once it will be really easy next time.

The four corners get pegged first with 6″ pegs then in goes your first walking pole, stabbed in to the ground. That gets held in place with the tension on the first guy line and a large aluminium peg. Then its round the back with second pole but doesn’t have to be a walking pole, a branch would suffice. This is what gives the height at the rear by using the guy line to create the ridge line. Again this guy line is pegged using the other aluminium peg. After that it’s just a case of securing the other points with the remaining pegs and tightening everything up.

My description makes it sound a bit of a long process but it’s not. I reckon ten minutes max and that would be pushing it. Nothing complicated even although using walking poles was completely new to me.

Once pitched the gear porch gave ample room for my boots and Alpkit sack. I had plenty of room inside for the Pacific Outdoor Equipement Ether Elite 6 and the Therm-A-Rest Haven top bag. I actually had masses of room inside meaning I could bring in my rucksack. I should point out that I’m not the tallest person on the planet, being only 5′ 7″ on a good day. It was a good day. I can also sit up comfortably in the doors of the tent for cooking, putting on boots or just watching the sun go down and the stars come up.

It was my first time in a single skin tent and I had read and heard that they can have problems with condensation but don’t all tents? I had none or nothing noticeable inside the tent and it was a very cold night. Not quiet double minus figures but somewhere around -5. There was however plenty of ventilation in the tent which certainly helps. There’s venting all round where the groundsheet meets the the sides. Nice big mesh panels which also keeps out the creepy crawlies in the night.

The only things I could find fault with and fault is not the right word. They are just niggles, trifles or personal preferences. I found the pockets inside not to be of much use to me. They were too far down for me to reach easily. I would have much preferred them closer to the door of the tent. Then when I’m lying in my bag they are within easy reach but I had plenty of room to place my specs safely out the of the way. The other would be better guy locks on the strings, don’t get me wrong there is plenty of tension there but it could be tighter in my opinion. However it’s nothing that hampers the use or enjoyment of the tent.

All in all the Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo is a great wee tent. So much so I can’t wait to pitch it again and give it another thorough testing.