Montane Terra Stretch Pants/Trousers (men’s and women’s)

Couples wearing or using the same gear might be a bit cringe-inducing but it is quite a common occurrence for Chris and I, and there is a good reason for it: if one of you has something that they love and that works well, it’s logical that when the other one needs a similar item, they end up trying the same one. One example of this for us are the Montane Terra Stretch Pants/trousers.


Matching trousers! But different colours makes it less obvious….

Chris had a pair and was raving about them, and I really wanted some technical trousers to replace my worn-out cheap ones, so when I found a pair in a sale, I went for them. That was over four years ago and I am still wearing them, and Chris has a second pair. I have worn mine for every walk I have done since (which is quite a lot!), including ourtwo-week hike across Scotland and they are still going strong, with barely a mark or sign of wear. Chris similarly wears his all the time, often for climbing as well as mountaineering, and we have both found that these trousers just work.

They are described as three season, but neither of us have needed a pair of winter trousers. In winter, if our legs are getting chilly we simply put our waterproofs over the top and we’re fine. For winter climbing, Chris can put thermal trousers underneath. In summer, you can open the thigh vents or even roll them up, as I occasionally have.


The only thing we could complain about is that after so much use, they seem to become a bit baggy, so I now have a bit of a droop around the crotch, but it doesn’t really affect the performance.


I wore them for 14 days in a row…

Happily for me, Montane make trousers in long, medium and short length, so the short length fit me really well, whereas Chris has the regular leg length. I also like the zip and poppers at the ankle for keeping the hems out of the mud and staying tight under gaiters. I can comfortably keep my compass in my pocket and spare hair bobbles in the little security pocket. The belt prevents them working themselves down when wearing a rucksack, but lies flat so is great under a rucksack waist strap.

As mentioned, they are very tough and durable, reinforced at the knees and ankles, but they also stretchy, so they’re very comfortable: we’ve both slept in them several times! 


You can wear them to the beach.

When they eventually wear out, I’ll be buying another pair!


I was even wearing them when Chris proposed!

Rab Xenon X Hoodie (women’s)

Do you have a piece of gear that you always take, wherever you’re going and whatever you’re doing?

For me, one of these essential items is my Rab Xenon X Hoodie.


Having awesome fun on Flying Buttress, a 3* multi-pitch VDiff at Dinas Cromlech in Gwynedd, Snowdonia. My Rab Xenon X hoodie kept me warm through the alternating climbing and belaying.

Since I started climbing I have had a lovely big down jacket but it simply isn’t suited to most British (and especially Scottish) weather, so I never took it out into the hills. Instead my pack would be full of extra fleeces and I would often be very cold.

Having a synthetic insulated jacket changed all that! Now I have something very warm to throw on in any conditions and it made me feel much more confident about going out in winter and poor weather in general.


When the weather gets wild, I feel much more confident knowing I have something warm to throw on over everything else

The crucial aspect is that the Primaloft insulation in this jacket retains warmth even when damp, which means that unlike traditional down jackets, I can wear it in the rain. And I do!

It is also very light (approx. 301g) and packs down to a tiny size so there is simply no need to leave it at home. Even in summer, you never know when a chilly wind might pick up, so this jacket is there just in case.

I don’t just keep it for hiking, climbing and camping either. It’s a cold evening for karate? Throw it on over my karate suit. Might get a bit chilly cycling back from my friend’s house this evening? Pop it in my bag. It’s frosty while I’m waiting for my train to work in the morning? Bring it with me. Going to watch the fireworks? Put it on under my down jacket…..haha double down is the best!


Maintaining a warm core while enjoying the spring sunshine and airing my feet on our walk across Scotland (TGO Challenge)!

With a slim fit (according to the description) and a hem draw cord, I find my size 12 jacket easily layers under waterproofs but also over the top of everything. Elasticated cuffs keep out draughts and a snug, lycra-bound hood keeps your head warm under a helmet or other hoods.

The outer material is Pertex Quantum, which after over two years of constant use, shows no sign of damage. The 100% nylon rip-stop lining feels silky soft against your skin if you have short sleeves underneath (my lining is also a fun purple colour). Washing it is easy: mine has been through the washing machine many times with NikWax TechWash with no problems at all.

My jacket only has a one-way zip, but the website tells me that the new ones have a 2-way opening front zip, which would be perfect for belaying. It does have a fleecy bit to stop your chin rubbing though.


It’s warm but also breathable enough to use while climbing or walking

It has two nice roomy hand-warmer pockets and a huge chest pocket that you can pack the jacket into as a stuff sack; when we walked across Scotland, I didn’t take a pillow, I just used my packed-up jacket!

Basically, this is an awesome piece of kit: I absolutely love it and would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting a warm, practical layer for outdoor activities, especially if it rains a lot where you are!


In Scotland one sunny, summer day can be followed by a day of hail, wind and fog!


Women’s Paramo Velez Light Smock

I do not like waterproofs; but I do like my Paramo!


My Paramo and I having wintery fun in Glencoe early this year. It kept me snug in the wind and snow on the top of Stob Dearg and comfortable all the way down. Thanks to Isabel Jones for the photo!

I have always disliked waterproofs and have never found them to be very effective. As I started climbing and walking in the Scottish hills, I upgraded from my old Regatta jackets, through two Outdoor Research waterproof jackets, to a Rab Vidda jacket (which was a second-hand emergency buy when I needed a helmet compatible hood for a winter skills course). None of them have kept me dry: not in summer nor winter. So, I would avoid wearing them, often to the point of getting rather wet. I don’t believe that all these jackets can have leaked, which leads me to the conclusion that it is a condensation problem, particularly as I get very warm when on the move. So, finally having had enough of being damp and suffering the awful cold clamminess of wearing a hardshell over a t-shirt in summer, I decided to try something different: I bought a Paramo jacket.


The peaked hood ensured I was still happy despite driving rain near Loch Lomond in August 2015. Chris is also wearing his Paramo Velez smock (not the light version).

The fabric and comfort

For their waterproof clothing Paramo use Nikwax Analogy waterproof fabric, which works differently to any hardshell fabric: as well as being breathable, Paramo claim the advantage that it isdirectional too. Their waterproofs are made up of two layers: an inner layer, the Nikwax Analogy Pump Liner, which is designed to push water away from your skin and protect your insulation, and an outer layer of directional microfibre that deflects wind and rain. As a wearer, the first obvious difference between this fabric and that of hardshells is the feel: it is very soft. In particular, the Velez light fabric is almost silky to the touch, more so than that of the Velez, which has a slightly tougher material. This means that it is extremely comfortable to wear, even next to my skin.


It provides great windproofing and insulation in cold dry conditions too! And sheds snow nicely when you fall into a snow drift! Beinn Ghlas in Nov 2016.


The Velez light smock is described as suitable for all outdoor activities; I use mine for walking, munro bagging, back packing, scrambling and winter hill walking and it has been wonderful for them all. The smock has a fully adjustable hood and high collar, which both pull in tight around your face for good protection against driving rain or snow. The large chest pocket is very useful as it isn’t compressed at all by the waist belt of my rucksack, as other pockets usually are. It can fit a lot of items in it, although it isn’t very flattering when full, but that isn’t my priority on the hills! There are two two-way venting zips that run from the bottom of the smock up to the pocket, which also allow access to the two inner zipped pockets; I haven’t used these pockets much as I usually have a pack on, but I use the vents a lot, even when it’s raining. The back of the smock is longer than the front, to keep your bottom warm and dry, without restricting leg movement, and there is a draw cord around the base for adjustment to your preferred fit. Finally, it also has adjustable, reinforced velcro cuffs to keep the weather out: these have a tough bit on them for biting if the need arises!


Comfortable despite the warmth, drizzle and fog whilst climbing munros near, and including Lochnagar, in the summer of 2015. You can see how short the smock is at the front, the two-way venting zips and the size of the front pocket.

Warmth & Waterproofing

My main worries about buying a Paramo jacket were that it would be too hot for me, and that I heard conflicting reports on how waterproof they are. As mentioned earlier, I get very hot when on the move but I have happily worn this jacket in summer and winter. In warm weather I’ve worn it over a short-sleeved base layer and although I have been warm, I’ve also been much more comfortable than in my previous hardshells. In winter conditions, I wear a base layer, wind-proof gilet and soft-shell jacket underneath it: this keeps me plenty warm enough and the jacket also provides great protection from the wind. In the very coldest conditions (or when stopping for lunch), I can throw a synthetic down jacket over the top or underneath.

It has also been bomb-proof in terms of waterproofing; the only time I feel like it may have let in a little water, was on one side of my neck when we were in torrential rain and wind so strong it was knocking me off my feet in Wales. Otherwise, it has kept out lots of Scottish rain and sleet very reliably!


Struggling to stand upright in North Wales in October 2015; the only time I’ve felt like it might have let in a little water (at the neck on the windward side)


The sizing is quite generous: I wear a size 10/12 and needed the size small smock and there is still plenty of space for extra layers. It is also not the most flattering fit: my Rab jacket looks a  bit sleeker but it really doesn’t matter.


I was also a little worried about damaging the apparently delicate outer fabric, but it is now nearly two years old and, despite constant use in the Scottish hills, only has one mark that I have noticed on it, which happened when I caught it in the zip of my primaloft jacket; however it is only tiny and superficial, so I’m surprised and pleased with how durable it seems to be.


Hours of rain and sleet in the Monadhliath hills after waking up to snow on the tent (spring 2016): only my feet got wet though….

Packing convenience

I also thought it might be bulky and heavy, but it folds up smaller than the Rab Vidda jacket as it is softer and doesn’t feel any heavier: I carry it happily in my rucksack whatever the weather.


There are only two very small things that I’m not keen on, which are how cold and wet the cuffs get: the very ends seem to only consist of the outer fabric and it can sometimes get very cold on your wrists if they aren’t covered by something. The other is that when it is very windy, the material of the hood flaps a lot and is very noisy.

Conclusion = Great!

Overall, I absolutely love this jacket and I would recommend it for all the activities I use it for.v In it, I feel like I can take on anything Scotland can throw at me! I will also happily wear it all day even when it isn’t raining, which for me is a revelation: rather than hating my waterproof, it is now one my favourite pieces of kit!


Still in the Monadhliath…still raining….but also still dry and happy!

Scarpa R-Evo GTX Women’s boots: first impressions

Choosing a new pair of walking boots can be hard: at first glance there is a huge variety of possibilities across a wide range of prices, but these options can quickly become limited as you start to think about what exactly you want from the boot. Having suffered the hardships of Scotland for five years, my old boots came to the end of their life, when the sole fell off one of them on a day out on Ben More and had to be duct-taped back on for the remainder of the day.

I have another pair of boots that I bought second-hand for winter (Scarpa Charmoz GTX men’s size 41) when I couldn’t face another day in the boots borrowed from Glenmore Lodge during a winter skills course.  So I wanted my new pair to be suitable for everything else: I wanted them to be lighter and less clumsy than my previous pair (also a men’s), comfy for long days and multi-day trips, cool enough that my feet wouldn’t boil in the British summer and tough – that was very important, I definitely wanted something with a toe rand so they wouldn’t be destroyed by rocky terrain or hours of heather bashing on the Scottish hills. However, I was not fussy about leather or synthetic material as I have had both and not had a problem with either. I also wanted to be able to use them for scrambling if I needed too, so I didn’t want too thick a sole or too much of the rocking motion that can come with some very comfortable boots designed for walking long distances.

I have quite wide/large toes so Salewa and Meindl boots were too narrow and Salomon felt too clumpy. I had been fairly happy with my Scarpa Charmoz, although being men’s they are a little spacious, so when I spotted the Scarpa-R-Evo GTX boots on sale, I thought they were definitely worth a try.

Out of the box

My first impression was that they were very pretty: I love the splashes of colour. They were also instantly comfortable: I felt like I wanted to walk in them straight away. They seemed to have everything I wanted. I bought a size 41 and there is plenty of space for thick socks and toe wiggle room.

20160505_200547 (1)

Just arrived

Two months later

They are designed using Scarpa’s sock-fit technology, and so far I like it. I have found other boots to hurt my ankle bones when done up tightly but these just feel so snug and comfortable, as if they are part of your ankle: it’s a nice reassuring feeling.

I’m not going to repeat all the technical features, you can check them out on the Scarpa website, but I’ve now been using them for two months and I am extremely happy with them! I feel confident going downhill: the Vibram soles are grippy and I don’t feel clumsy in them. Their first outing was a five hour walk in the French Pyrenees in July, where they were hot, but that is not what I intend to use them regularly for. Since then I have been using them on long walks across the Scottish hills (nothing less than 4 ¾ hours) and they have always been comfortable. My feet haven’t been too hot for Scottish summer walking but they feel sturdy and my feet feel well-protected. I have slipped a bit on wet rock but I don’t think any worse than in other boots. They have got very muddy but a brush under water has brought them up fairly clean again. We basically walked up a stream two weeks ago and no water came in so I feel positive about the waterproofing. The lacing system works very well and allows for good adjustment.

Overall, I love them and think we will be very happy together – I’ll give you an update in a year’s time to see how well they last! In the meantime, if you are looking for a fairly robust 3 season boot, I would definitely recommend giving them some consideration.