Shell Shocked

Things have come a long way since I was a young lad. An old school waterproof coat was thick vinyl, and you got just as wet from sweating as the rain. Nobody wore “shells” unless they were on a pilgrimage. Not that I think modern is a bad! I love the fact that I can be comfortable when the weather is less than perfect, and carrying less weight is a blessing. The problem I have with new equipment is only that I am always a bit bewildered by the choices available to me when I walk into the big outdoor stores, I kind of know what I want from a piece of equipment, but I am nervous that I will look a fool if I don’t know what I am asking for.

To try and become “up to date” I decided to stick with old school, and get a book.

For the last few weeks I have been Reading “the Backpackers Handbook” by Chris Townsend.

The detail he has put into this book is immense, and the huge amount experience that Chris Townsend has shines through on every page. It is a shame I didn’t get a copy years ago, but I guess I had no need back when my only hobby was smoking. I may have chosen slightly differently for some gear if I had read this first, but I didn’t. From what I have read it seems that for the majority of my equipment, what I have will do for my first Wild Camp long distance Hike. Just as well really, being a man of limited means, most of the time when I get an item, I have to live with it, or spend money I’d rather not getting something else. Chris however has tried and is able to suggest a lot of different gear; stoves, tents, bags, boots,  you name it. What it boils down to is this;

If you had a friend who really knew his stuff, who had walked thousands of miles in all weathers and all over the world, you would listen when he suggested what kit would work for you. In the pages of this book I feel I have found that friend, so I’m listening.

At one point, Chris discusses the merits of windproof outerwear, and in particular, lightweight wind proofs. For me this was a lightbulb moment. It now seems so obvious that a lightweight jacket is a good thing to carry. It is the missing 1/2 layer I needed.

You must have had moments when the wind whistles through your fleece, but if you throw your big raincoat on top you get too hot.  For me, the other problem was that sometimes just adding a fleece over a base layer is too much, but without is too little. A compromise “half layer” seems to be called for.

Having had the seed of this idea planted in my brain, I decided to have a try. In my wardrobe was an old thin top to throw on when jogging. You will have seen one I’m sure, it like the jerseys that cyclists have to wear these days. Rip stop nylon, very thin, no insulation value at all. I wore it everyday to walk to work. Revelation. Light, comfy, and the biggest surprise, I felt warmer. My “Shell” shock moment.

The only drawback with this top is a big pouch on the back, presumably for a snickers, or a map when you are out jogging. The zip got in between me and my pack, and dug in. Not very comfortable, so I had to splash out. I was torn between the Dare2B wind shell, and the Rab Wind Veil, and after a bit of thinking decided to go with Rab, as a Yorkshire company. So far, I am loving it!

You can see the review here Rab Winveil Review


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2 thoughts on “Shell Shocked”

  1. The thing about drawing on the experience of people like Chris is that his years of experience probably help him to come to an opinion more quickly. As a mere punter, I’m probably not really sure how much I like an item until I’ve had it at least a few months; by then it might well have been discontinued, or at least redesigned, so by then recommending it to anyone else isn’t really an option.

    Many years ago I bought a Montane Featherlight smock, even though I was unconvinced that it could be as windproof as some of the reviews suggested, or as tough; it seemed to be about as heavy duty as a supermarket carrier bag. It was a revelation; every bit as good as the reviews suggested and it lasted years. Just shows, sometimes it pays to trust the experts.

  2. I find myself liking things or not quite quickly, then sometimes my opinion changes after living with the item for a while. I think you a right, sometimes its a good idea to seek the advice of an expert, and then see if you still agree a few months later.

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