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Following on from the Essens and continuing with the Less Is More gear, here we have the Haglofs L.I.M. Power Dry Hood.

Haglofs Power dry hood

 

At first glance this seems like a base layer, but it’s designed to be a lightweight mid-layer. It’s made with Polartec PowerDry which has a tight knitted face with an open brushed grid on the back. It makes for something that looks like a mesh of little fleecy bumps. It’s thin, you can see your hand through it easily. There’s no way that can be as warm as a fleece mid-layer surely?

Haglofs Power Dry hood

There’s a full length zip so it’s easy to vent and there’s a wee chest pocket, along with a hang tag on the back. The hood is a snug fit and there are thumb loops to complete the feature set.

How does it all work on the hill? Well, the cut is excellent, there are no seams in awkward places and the tail is long enough to avoid becoming untucked at important moments. Turn out it is warm, roughly comparable to a micro-fleece, but with a fraction of the bulk and minimal weight (180g for my sample Large) and it’s extremely breathable and dries super fast.

Haglofs power dry hood

The bit about it being a mid-layer is only part of the story. This also does a fine job as a heavier base-layer in the winter, the fabric is great next to the skin, so much so that it’s been go-to gear for every outing I’ve had since it arrived, either as a base or mid-layer. The hood is handy in winter, it’s a built-in balaclava you can just pull up quickly and it won’t take up any space under your helmet. In warmer conditions you can wear this over a base-layer and it works a treat for moisture management and it won’t bulk you up when you put a shell on top.

I’m not kidding about this being go-to gear. It’s one of the first things I reach for when I’m packing, it’s extremely versatile, and if you take it off you won’t notice it in your pack.

Another piece from the L.I.M. range that just does the job beautifully, you’d think they made this stuff just for me. Highly recommended.

Haglofs Power Dry hood

Instant warmth that weighs nothing? Surely nirvana for lightweight hikers. This is the Haglofs L.I.M. Essens jacket.

Haglofs LIM Essens

The L.I.M. bit stands for Less Is More, and is the descriptor for a whole branch of kit under Haglofs’ Trekking range. It’s core remit is all about weight and functionality. Cutting down on the bells and whistles to just make solid performing kit that’s easy to carry.  Lightweight kit made with the best materials? Count me in. I’ve got a few LIM pieces in to work with, and the Essens has stepped to the front of the queue.

This jacket is a cut down variant of the standard Essens, which I was already a fan of. The L.I.M. version is a polyamide 7d face fabric, stuffed full of 800 fill down. The sustainability aspect is covered, the down is 90/10 goose, all traceable and bluesigned. It’s box baffle construction and the contrast colours on my sample let you see the down distribution, the production colours slightly less so.

Haglofs LIM Essens

Features are scant, as you’d expect: two handwarmer pockets (no zips), a small main zip baffle and neck guard and a hanging loop on the back. It’s stripped down to keep the weight down and it shows when you hit the scales. My Large sample weighs in at 180g. It packs down to tennis ball size, so you won’t know you’re carrying it.

On the hill, when it comes to rest stops and hanging around at summits and camp,  it’s nothing short of awesome. It’s a pocket furnace. Don’t bother wearing it on the move, you’ll be too hot and you’ll get the down damp. This is purely for standing about in cold places. Lunch break at summit? No problem. Sitting in the bothy on a frosty winters night? Sorted. Hanging about taking sunset photos at camp? Done.

The only real downside is erm… down. It’s not ideal for our damp climate, although hydrophobic treatments help. It’s not going to keep you warm in the hosing rain or really humid environments. Keep it for the sub-zero days. The zips a wee bit fiddly with gloves on, but that’s to be expected. You couldn’t have a lightweight piece with a huge chunky zip, compromises have to be made somewhere.

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I’ve used this all winter as an insulation piece and frankly, I love it. It gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t.  If you want your kit well designed, and manufactured in a sustainable way with high quality materials,  you need to pay for it, so it’s not the cheapest insulation layer on the market,  but it’s a luxurious piece that’ll make you smile every time you pull it’s cheery orange glow out of your pack.

It’s best-in-class kit. Essential.

Haglofs LIM Essens

Kirsty’s been wearing the Mammut Misaun for autumn and winter for the last three years.

It’s the women’s version of the Marangun, which is one of my favourite insulated shells. This version is Mammut Drytech with synthetic fibre insulation. The current model is now 2 layer Gore. The warmth is like a 100 weight fleece under a standard shell. Great for winter layering.

Very similar to the Marangun, but the Misaun gets internal cuffs and is cut a good bit longer to keep your bum warm. The hood is great with good adjustment and the wee patch of fleece at the back of the neck is genius. Pockets are roomy enough for gloves and the high pocket will take a phone or small gps.

It’s done more than 600 days work and the DWR is gone completely, but otherwise it’s lasted extremely well. The photos show some bobbling and wear, but it’s pretty minor. Kirsty loves it and will be sad to see it go.

Mammut Misuan Mammut Misuan Mammut Misuan Mammut Misuan Mammut Misuan Mammut Misuan Mammut Misuan

Given that my day job is taking almost all of my attention at the moment, I’m struggling to get through the backlog of stuff to write up. Time for some mini reviews.

These chaps have been in use for the last year, these are the Dolomite Sparrow Evo High GTX.

Dolomite Sparrow Evo

Dolomite footwear, as the name would suggest, is made in Italy. The name of the boot gives you some clues too, it’s a high top and it’s equipped with a Gore membrane. These guys like to tell it like it is.

The upper is brushed leather with fabric sections, with a substantial rand, which seems to be ballistic nylon. The DAS system is an EVA moulding designed to improve comfort on harder terrain.

Dolomite Sparrow Evo

Dolomite Sparrow Evo Dolomite Sparrow Evo

The sole unit is Vibram (well they are Italian) and it’s not a tread pattern I’m familiar with.  Not the most aggressive pattern, but surprisingly grippy.

Dolomite Sparrow Evo

The Sparrow is designed for ‘light outdoor activites’ which suggests that they’re really just for popping to the corner shop with the dog, but the reality is that they are a decent mid weight boot. They are flexible and comfortable straight out of the box, they grip well in the wet and they’re fairly tough. My size 11s weigh in at just under 900g for the pair, which ain’t bad.

 

Yes, there are lighter options out there, but the Sparrow strikes a nice balance between weight, robustness and price.

Dolomite Sparrow Evo

This is the first in what I plan to be an occasional series, looking at some of the classic howffs, dosses and bothies of the Highlands.

In the golden age of Scottish mountaineering in the fifties and sixties, climbing was becoming less about the gentry and more accessible to the common punter and that meant the rise of the weekenders,  those who would work in the factories, mills and yards all week and then hitch up into the hills for the whole weekend, to stumble back to work on the Monday after two days of adventure and camaraderie. In those days tents were heavy, expensive and rare things. Bothies were the staple residence, along with sundry howffs in more suitable (and generally higher) locations to maximise opportunities for climbing. Howffs comprise of all sorts of things, caves, nooks, and man-made shelters.
In these days of cheap and lightweight tents, the need is reduced, although the bothy culture continues to some degree. Next time you’re heading out, you might want to try leaving the tent behind.

If I’m going to start anywhere on such a guide,  it needs to be here: the secret howff of Beinn a’Bhuird.

Slugain Howff

 

I was first introduced to the idea of the secret howff in my foundling years in the AMC in the late eighties.  Beinn a’Bhuird was a mecca for Aberdeen climbers in the fifties, the main issue with the great coires is that they are bloody miles from anywhere. There’s no nearby bothy and in those days you had to get the bus to Braemar and walk from there. On nights in the pub as a fresh-faced youth, I was regaled with tales of the legend;   a howff built under the very noses of the less-than-friendly Invercauld estate, hidden where no-one would stumble over it, with it’s location a closely guarded secret, known only to those who had been told word-of-mouth. Those who stumbled across it would be welcome, but it’s location would never be written down or published.

Imagine the hi-jinks as the relevant building materials were sneaked in under cover of darkness, big beams and tin sheets.The local stone used to make as secure a residence as any bothy.

Slugain Howff

As an aspirant the idea was exciting and adventurous and it engendered the climbing tradition and culture that I wanted to be part of. I made several solo jaunts in an effort to find it, hunting up and down the fairy glen. I pestered Donald, one of the old hands to fill me in on the location. It took months for him to cave in, but even then he would only give me some signposts to watch for, not the exact location. A small party of us set off one Friday night determined to find it and climb in the coires the next day.

The signposts did their job, and we found it after a couple of minor detours and it was everything I had imagined and more. It’s tiny door like a lilliputian gateway to a cave of wonders. Weather-tight, well provisioned with floor, seating and a multitude of shelves and cubbies. Walls covered in mementoes and graffiti from those who had come before. It was Scottish mountaineering history made stone. I had my first night there, barely able to sleep due to the sheer delight of feeling the link with the tradition and the characters who helped shaped what climbing is today. The whisky helped.

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I visited on and off in my Aberdeen years, sometimes with groups and sometimes solo, and the nights there were always magical. Filled with drunk tellers of tall tales; filled with the steam of stoves heating delights to be savoured; filled with laughter, banter and blethers after a belter of a day on the hill, there is no better place.

Slugain Howff slugain howff

When I moved south in the mid nineties, the Cairngorms were no longer my stalking ground and the steeper western peaks grabbed my attention and so a long time would pass before I would return.

Some eighteen years since my last visit, I returned in 2014. This being the age where everything is online, I doubt it’s that it’s much of a secret anymore, it feels like every inch of the country is mapped and photographed. I was overjoyed to find the howff still in great shape despite being over 60 years old.

Slugain Howff

The book showed 75 entries for the previous year, suffice to show that it’s busy, but maybe not quite so much public knowledge as I expected. Maybe there’s still some mystery and delight to be found out there for the current generation.

Long may it continue.

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And no, I won’t tell you where it is…

  • March 16, 2015 - 12:40 pm

    andy heald - It’s not going to stay secret very long with this kind of publicity is it! Are you trying to turn it into another Shiel of Castlemaddy?

  • March 17, 2015 - 8:53 pm

    MT - Publicity? I think you might be overestimating the number of readers I get….
    Unlikely that the eejits who ruined the Galloway bothies will be heading up Slugain any time soon.

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