Summer Kit Tests 2020, 2021 & Much More
In this post we're going to preview the upcoming Summer Kit Test 2021, provide some product, site and store updates and bookend all that with a look back over the shoulder to review the 2020 Summer Kit Test.
- Review: Summer Kit Test 2020, Part 1 - The Gear
- Preview: Summer Kit Test 2021
- Product Updates: G-Series Tarps & Spider Windshields
- Store News: Marlow Ropes, English Braids & Bargain Buckets
- Review: Summer Kit Test 2020, Part 2 - The Trek
Summer Kit Test 2020, Part 1: The Gear
As we said back in June of 2020:
If the government lockdown fetishists can control their draconian instincts for long enough, we should be able to squeeze in a kit test this summer.
Well they did, and for just long enough ... but after that, they just couldn't help themselves could they.
The main items we wanted to look at were:
- [ Lightweight (Under 300g) Softshell Non-Hooded Pull-on ] Rab Momentum Softshell Pull-On
- [ Lightweight (Under 350g) Softshell Trousers ] Mountain Equipment Comici Pants
- [ Backpack ] Crux AX50
Rab Momentum Softshell Pull-On
Prior to the kit test, based on a winter test (as a mid-layer) and feedback from the team, we'd characterised the Rab Momentum as follows:
The Rab Momentum is basically a Rab Borealis without the hood, but with thumb-loops and with venting across the back and under the arms.
After the 2020 Summer Kit Test, where I took both the Momentum and the Borealis, I'd characterise it differently. Whereas the Borealis (reviewed here) is essentially a cross between a softshell jacket and a wind-top; the Momentum is more a cross between a softshell wind-top and a long sleeved tee.
Though the Borealis is very lightweight, it's not insubstantial. The Momentum, however, doesn't have the same protective feel about it. It's a quality item; I'm just not sure exactly what it is or quite where it's supposed to fit in (due to its deep zip and venting it could be used solo, as a tough, long sleeved t-shirt - we're going to test this idea in 2021 before we give up on it). We've updated our softshell pairing recommendation to reflect this (and we've slotted in the MH Chockstone Hooded, as the hoodless Super Chockstone is no longer available).
The Chockstone Hooded Jacket was due for a run-out earlier this year, but the UK government got in a tizz and somehow fell under the illusion that they are the issuer of our rights (if anything, it's the other way round) and, in doing so, failed to recognise me, and likely you, as a citizen and instead mistook us all for inmates.
Mountain Equipment Comici Pants
ME's Comicis are an excellent pair of trousers crippled by an incomprehensible decision to provide them with an integrated belt. We recently reviewed them and will make sure Mountain Equipment's design team gets to see our review.
We like Crux, they have a straight-forward ethos when it comes to the gear they make and who they're making it for: climbers and mountaineers.
The Crux AX50 is an excellent pack. We're tempted to squeeze this pack into our recommendations, either as a parallel alternative to the Warthog 40 (which is still our favoured option, especially for winter) or as a replacement for the Karrimor Predator 30 (which we may drop or list as a budget option - to be debated, I imagine).
Though the AX50 has a larger native capacity (than both aforementioned packs), almost everything can be removed (from the floating lid, to the titanium stays, the hip belt padding etc.). This means it can be stripped down to a summer-weight pack for short-duration (<1 week) treks.
It will carry 10 days food in summer without stress, and its mix of Dyneema and Cordura fabrics make it extremely light for its capacity, durability and strength. Mine weighs in at 1155g. That's 145g lighter than the Predator 30 and with 20L extra capacity).
Like the Predator, the pack sits high on the back, leaving room for a belt-bag or harness. The high centre of gravity makes it a very stable and well-balanced pack when climbing and scrambling.
The only things not going for it, as against the Predator, are its more limited scope for modularity and, more importantly, its price. It's not a budget option, but it's not outrageous for what you get either; the full RRP is £179 (versus £85 for the Predator).
Preview: Summer Kit Test 2021
There's a number of new items we're looking forward to giving a run out. The main ones are:
- [ Lightweight (Under 300g) Waterproof Jacket ] Black Yak Bruna Waterproof Jacket
Black Yak have gained a reputation as the Arc'teryx of South Korea. I've ordered a size XL (rather than L) as we'd heard they size a little small. Should be interesting if the weather is anything like it was last year (see below).
- [ Lightweight (Under 400g) Insulated Jacket ] Haglofs LIM Barrier Jacket (recent Primaloft® Aerogel version)
An insanely lightweight (232g) hoodless, synthetic insulation piece that uses Primaloft® Aerogel. In theory, it should be about 50% warmer than Primaloft Gold, so the 40g/m of the LIM's Primaloft® Aerogel should equal 60g/m of Primaloft Gold (the equivalent to an old ME Compressor with the hood down). We'll see how it performs.
- [ Trekking SS T-Shirt ] Rab's Sonic SS Tee
A very lightweight short sleeve shirt with a deep zip to possibly replace the discontinued Ronhill Advance.
- [ Sleeping Bag 2 (Warm + Wet Weather): ~750g 1 Season and 3 Season Outer ] Carinthia G 90 (L)
We're interested in the large version of Carinthia's G 90 to replace the discontinued Nordisk Abel +10. The Carintha G-90 (L) is a wide mummy bag with a gentle, non-aggressive taper (similar to the Defence 4) that will accommodate a light down quilt like Alpkit's Cloud Cover. The G 90 (L) is the same length as the Abel XL (230cm) and nearly the same width (2cm narrower at 83cm) as the Abel L (85cm) with a footbox 5cm wider (at 55cm) than both Abel +10 models (50cm). It's a more premium product and is lighter and warmer than the Abel +10. We'll see how it performs.
- [ Footwear ] Dachstein Super Ferrata MC LTH Boots
These look like they could be the ideal summer boot. We've been saying for a while a cross between Dachstein's Spursinn and Meindl's Desert Fox would be ideal. Well the Super Ferrata MC LTH Boots look pretty close to what we've been after.
- [ Ultralight Food / Return Journey Pack ] Edelrid Lite Bag 30L
An excellent lightweight day sack, competing against Sea To Summit's 20L Ultra-Sil Day Pack. The Edelrid is heavier, but in terms of weight per litre capacity they're identical. The Edelrid will take over food rations duty and then turn into a travel pack on the return.
- [ Accessories / Misc ] Knives & Socks
We're looking at a couple of knives (the chunky QSP Piglet and a Victorinox Farmer Alox) and a pair of Darn Tough's Hiker Micro Crew Socks.
Product Updates: G-Series Tarps & Spider Windshields
We finally found a manufacturer for our lighter-weight gear and currently they're working on the G-55 tarps which (fingers crossed) we should have back in stock around the end of July. We've also, after a ridiculous wait, received our batch of titanium sheet. So we'll start cranking out the Spider Windshields and hope to have them in stock in about two weeks (mid-late July). Sorry to all those that have been patiently waiting - we're doing our best.
Assuming the G-55s all check-out fine, we'll shift over to the G-38s and we'll provide an update once we have lead-times from the manufacturers.
Store News: Marlow Ropes, English Braids & Bargain Buckets
Marlow Ropes and English Braids will be familiar names to most in the marine sector but are perhaps less well known in the terra-firma community. The bottom line is they specialise in premium, high-tech rope and cord. After some serious testing, we've been our normal picky selves and selected a little from the English Braids catalogue and a bit more from Marlow Ropes:
Marlow Ropes and English Braids are elite rope and cord manufacturers both with enviable global reputations. Their high tech ropes and cords are used across a wide range of industries and activities from spaceflight to deep sea marine, from abseiling to elite yachting.
The Scramble Kit Test Bargain Bucket
We've had a great response to our Kit Test Bargain Bucket page on SYSTEM. Money from the sale of ex-test gear goes straight back into our budget for new kit test gear (in a kind of rinse and repeat cycle), while our readers hopefully pick up some quality items at heavily discounted prices in the process. Worth keeping an eye on, as there will likely be some nice bargains appearing from time to time. We back all the items featured with a one year warranty.
Summer Kit Test 2020 (Reminiscence), Part 2: The Trek
I arrived in Wales just in time for the back-end of "Storm Ellen", which brought strong winds, heavy and incessant rain. Six days later "Storm Francis" hit with 80 mph winds and more driving rain. I guessed "there was a bad moon on the rise".
One of the things that struck me, was that I'd never seen the ground in Wales so completely saturated at this time of year. Looking back there was a strange and somewhat punishing vibe to the trek. By the time I got to this spot (pictured below) I was a good half a day behind where I wanted to be and that storm called Francis was on its way. I set up just below the crest of a hill for a little shelter, thinking up here run-off would likely be minimal ....
This was a very freak incident (compounded by complete saturation of the elevated ground which meant zero drainage and rain-water just skidding across the surface) and for some reason I didn't have the hood up on my bivvy - which would have likely altered the outcome somewhat.
It's worth pointing out some tips for dealing with gear when all your stuff gets soaked like this (as in a submersion). It doesn't need to be that cold to get hypothermia, you just need to be very wet - a strong wind will take care of the rest.
I desaturated the sleeping bag in the gale the following afternoon (as pictured above), but the bivvy, turned inside out, dries much faster. So, for the next few days I slept with the bivvy inside the sleeping bag. The sleeping bag, using synthetic fill rather than down, still offered a good degree of warmth even when very wet (as long as I could stay somewhat dry). This meant that my body weight squeezed water out of the sleeping bag, but the bivvy kept me dry.
The following day, saw the first bit of blue sky and enough sun to really begin the drying process.
I'd had a couple of dunkings along the way; one a stream that looked shallow, but had a 5ft dip in it and then some marsh that gave way under my feet, but I quickly grabbed some undergrowth and pulled myself out. What came next though was more serious. Like one of those dark children's stories with a moral you're not supposed to forget ...
I was very fortunate, for one tiny clump of something, slightly beyond my reach. After a slow motion, half-swimming-half-drowning effort, while getting sucked further into this thing, I managed to get close enough to reach out, grasp the clump without yanking it free from its moorings, and it held as I carefully dragged myself out.
I carry a pretty heavy pack (with many days of food supplies), and I'd gone through the moss surface and into god knows what below. The bog was just over my shoulders and I could feel the slow suck. Weird and disturbing (even now thinking about it). I really don't recommend it.
I've got very used to moving relatively quickly and alertly (never carelessly) through marsh, but this was a big lesson in giving marshland / swamp / bog (whatever you want to call it) greater respect. It can be just as deadly as the peaks (where at least if you fall, they find your body ... eventually).
Note: Through all these submersions my camera gear remained bone dry. So those Osprey dry bags with the Lowepro Apex AW100 do a great job.
I suggested to a local that the Welsh should rename their seasons to: spring, warm-winter, autumn and cold-winter. For the first 10 days of the 2020 Summer Kit Test, it definitely felt like a tepid winter.
And then the sun came out ...
The last 3 days actually felt like summer and I got back to scuttling up the rocks.
And there was plenty of goofy stuff along the way, like this prize example of countryside virtue signalling:
2020 Summer Kit Test Summary
An interesting and testing experience, but that why it's called a test. Sometimes the gear is tested, and sometimes the tester gets tested. In 2020 it was about 50/50.
I was pleased with how I handled the saturated gear and not dying was satisfying too. Some valuable lessons learned, and some excellent gear put through its paces. Not the most enjoyable, but perhaps one of the more challenging and rewarding summer kit tests of recent years.
And through a glass darkly, I think I see a good moon rising ...