Oh, but where to begin with choosing my top five outdoor products of 2012? I am fortunate enough to have a job (well, one of my jobs) testing outdoor kit. Some of the products are brand-new to the market. Others I come across and like the look of and ask to test. Others are favourite items that have stood the test of time and come with a few 2012 modern tweaks. I test kit for walking, running, cycling and snowboarding mainly. And sometimes, when I like the look of a product and no one is willing to let me test it, I even buy my own!
Gore-Tex Pro fabric: This is a bit of a cheat because the official products are not in shops until next autumn. The new Gore-Tex Pro fabric was handed out to a few press people in November and I am currently testing a sample jacket made form the new generation material. It’s impressive – and if you are thinking of buying a new top-of-the-range Gore-Tex waterproof jacket I would wait until brands, such as Berghaus, Haglofs and Mountain Equipment, bring their new Gore-Tex Pro jackets out. Check out our launch blog of the Gore-Tex Pro fabric. Gore-Tex Pro is the new Gore-Tex Pro Shell. P.S. If you are a fast mover in the hills, whether walking, running, skiing or even cycling, the Gore-Tex Active wear fabric range of clothing is another great product. I first tried this in 2011 when it was launched and I have continued to enjoy my Active Wear jacket all through 2012.
Spotty Otter: I do not have a child young enough to appreciate the amazing outdoors clothing products from Spotty Otter, but my test reviewers who do have young children were mightily impressed with the jackets and all-in-one outfits that they tried on their children. Spotty Otter have created children’s jackets and outdoor clothing to suit children. Not scaled down adult clothes but child-specific. Certainly the reviews form my testers would make you want to buy a Spotty otter product. See Patrol Chillipup kit review and Drift Down jacket
Canyon bike: I was recommended this brand by a great cycling friend. He owns many, many bikes and has bought and sold many more. He also cycles a lot and has done for 30 years so I trust his recommendations. I needed a bike that I could use in the winter (I didn’t want to trash my carbon fibre bike with road salt and potholes) so it needed to be cheaper and fairly robust. I was keen that the bike would be light enough to feel like a joy to ride but cheap enough to allow me to buy food for my family. The Canyon brand scored very highly. I bought one of their lower range bikes made of aluminium. The Road Lite 6 cost £800 and another £50 for safe delivery from its home country of Germany. It is super light and included a choice of male or female seat and Shimano 105 group set. I have ridden the bike at least a dozen times since it arrived last month and I think it’s one of the best bikes I have ever seen or owned. It’s a dream to ride (and this comes from someone who usually can’t see past carbon). There are many, many gears and position on the bike is lovely. The women’s seat is the icing on the cake.
Jack Wolfskin: This year I have rediscovered Jack Wolfskin. I can recall seeing these products in “country walking” shops in the English Lake District a couple of decades ago and while I loved the logo I thought they looked over-priced and not so useful for walking in Scotland’s mountains. But the company seem to have upped their game more recently. I have tested various products, including a waterproof jacket, fleece and flyweight running jacket and I have been delighted by the performance of them all. In particular, the Jack Wolfskin Performance Fleece is the warmest lightweight fleece I have ever come across and if my friends believe I have been wearing this non-stop for months they would be right (expect I have managed to wash and dry it overnight on a number of occasions!)
Mammut Eigerjoch gloves: Gore-Tex have been a winner for me this year. The latest product on my testing radar is the Mammut gloves. I suffer very badly with Raynaud Syndrome, which means my hands go ice cold in even the mildest of temperatures. So if I’m walking, cycling or snowboarding I need gloves to keep my hands warm in tough conditions. Until now I have relied on silk liner gloves and ski mittens, but not anymore. The gloves to beat all gloves are the Eigerjochs. Amazing insulation and waterproofing, combined with a lobster finger set-up, which allows three fingers mostly unused to stay close together and therefore warmer. The index finger and thumb have their own section of glove for improved dexterity. It might sound like an over-statement but don’t think I could live without these gloves in winter.
Tell us your top outdoor products and kit of 2012.