Category Archives: Gear Reviews

The OMM Kit List Pondering

Every week we seem to keep saying that autumn has finally set in and summer, (or whatever that thing between spring and now is really called), has left us, but for two weeks running now we’ve had glorious sunny Sundays with the London Rat Race taking place in glorious weather and then Sunday just passed being one  of those blue sky days to remember where we were in the Lake District. Of course, the day beforehand we were sure the apoclypse was on the way and the racers taking part in the Dirty Weekend Adventure in Grizedale, Cumbria were wondering whether arks or kayaks were being supplied during the race.

I’d been feeling rough all week so decided to skip the race and spend a nice weekend with Mrs L in the same area. After a non-event for us on Saturday other than some Adventure Driving on the Lake Districts flooded, narrow roads, we had a glorious little ride up to Skiddaw House above Keswick and around Lonscale Crags. Just wish I’d brought a bloody camera!

Just looking forward to the OMM now and thinking about kit.

Here’s the kit list with my current ideas:

Rucsac – OMM Adventure Light 20

Tent – Polaris Eventlite or Vango Ultralite 200

Sleeping Bag – Macpac Epic 300 or OMM 0.5SSL

Sleeping Mat – Balloon Bed

Full length tights – Skins or iRule Whistlers if weather really cold

Baselayer top – Helly Hansen Lifa Versa

Underwear – Smartwool boxers

Fleece top/warm layer – Patagonia R1 pullover ( or howies NBL Baselayer

Waterproof Trousers – OMM Kamleika (250g)

Waterproof Jacket – OMM Kamleika Jacket (400g) or Smock (300g) – need to decide

Windproof – Depending on conditions I’d probably like a Pertex Quantum Gilet but who makes them? Montane do a Pertex Microlight one…

Hat – Smartwool Training Beanie(40g) – If weather really shit then perhaps need Paramo Balaclava or Lowe Alpine Mountain Hat

Gloves – Smartool Liner Gloves

Socks – Smartwool Running Light Mini Crew (44g) or Bridgedale X-Hale (30g)

Shoes – Inov8 MudClaw 330

Headtorch – Hmm tricky one do I need enough light to navigate in the dark or just enough light to see around the camp? We have a late start so will have to think carefully about this.  Choices are a Petzl Tikka XP (95g) or getting something like a Petzl eLite (27g)

Stove – MSR Pocket Rocket (86g) and some tin foil for wind break

Pans – 2 x foil takeaway dishes (12g) and some tin foil for lid

Other kit – 3 x sealable food bags. Spork. Ear plugs. Casio Altimeter Watch. OMM 500ml water bottle. Plastic camping mug and small karabiner. Tiny amount of first aid supplies

OMM Kamlieka Pants

One thing that has bugged me for a long time is finding waterproof trousers/pants/whateveryoucalltheminyourneckofthewoods, that work while running AND biking. I’ve recently been using Rab Latok Pants and Paramo Cascada Trousers, the first made from eVent fabric and the second from Paramo’s own Analogy fabric. As mentioned in a previous post, the eVent fabric on the Rab pants has been more than disappointing and I have to think twice before putting them in my pack. My old favourite lightweight Macpac pants have got a little cut up from some skiing crashes, and they just aren’t long enough for biking, so I’ve had to go with the Rab’s. The Paramo’s have been awesome but really are a winter choice – they’re just too warm for year round use, and I even find them too warm for really active winter use. Great for walking but running is a bit much for them.

So when OMM recently sent me some Kamlieka Pants to try, I was very interested in seeing how they lived up to some pretty tough standards to go in my kit bag.

Kamleika Pants
Kamleika Pants - £70

For starters they are a good athletic cut and are fairly figure hugging in the legs. Defintitely designed to fit over tights rather than looser walking trousers. The fabric is from Gelanots and is unusual in being a knitted fabric with a hydrphilic coating, meaning it stretches in use and therefore is perfectly suited to running and biking. In partcular on the bike it doesn’t ride up from the ankle anywhere near as much as other waterproof pants I’ve used, the close cut elasticated ankle helping with this too. Waterproofing and breathability seem ok so far but I’ve yet to really test them in bad conditions so we shall see and I’ll report back.  It’s just great to see a product that many neglect to put much effort into because it seems so simple, when in reality it’s quite a difficult mixture of compromises to get something that works for all mutlisports.  These have had some serious thought put into them and I appreciate that.

Marmot Essence Jacket

Another Sleepmonsters Review. Ok lightweight jacket, shame about the hood…

Marmot Essence Jacket
Marmot Essence Jacket

The Essence Jacket is a super lightweight waterproof shell designed for weight critical activities like short adventure races, biking, endurance races and speed climbing. It’s made from Marmot’s new PreCip Plus, their “most advanced” fabric yet, designed for high aerobic sports and situations where breathability is critical.

The theory behind the fabric’s breathability is its “unique” microporous polyurethane barrier that is impregnated with silicon dioxide (sand) particles to create many small consistent holes that allow small water vapour molecules to pass through but not larger liquid ones. This sounds to me like the successful Triple Point Ceramic fabric that Lowe Alpine have used for years, but Marmot have aimed for super low weight and compressibility rather than durability. It certainly ticks the low weight and compressible boxes stuffing easily into a water bottle or cycle jersey pocket and weighing only 280 grams.

The jacket is designed to fit over fleece or soft shell underlayers so is sized slightly larger than normal, but still retains an athletic fit. The shoulders feature an ‘Angel Wing’ design, allowing a full range of motion without the jacket riding up when reaching for climbing holds or stretched out on the road bike. With an adjustable elastic drawcord on the hem it really doesn’t budge when you need to use a bit of body language. Cuffs are non-adjustable but are elasticated with enough stretch to pull up over your elbows if required. A pair of large internal mesh pockets are supposed to be pack friendly but because the mesh is so deep a pack waist belt stops you getting your hand down to any contents at the bottom, though opening up the pockets does add a ventilation option.

The fabric has so far impressed with its waterproofness and the water repellent coating is still working well. However, despite claims and some figures provided to ‘prove’ breathability, real world testing says it gets out of its depth pretty quickly when working a sweat up. Let’s be honest, there are very few waterproof jackets that can cope with the amount of moisture generated when working hard, but the Essence does seem to get rather clammy rather quickly, even when just sauntering along with my dogs. Bear in mind that all jackets of this type, with a polyurethane coating on the inside, will feel damp as moisture vapour condenses on the surface before being passed through the barrier along molecular chains or through pores, only a mesh hanging liner or other inner layer will stop this damp feeling, but will add weight and reduce packability. Swings and roundabout as always.

The weight, fit, and waterproofness (so far) of this jacket are definite positives, unfortunately, the hood is a real let down. The volume adjustment iswoeful and the small tab of velcro on the back of the hood that should allow you to tighten it snug against the head, is pitiful. It doesn’t hold under any force, such as moving your hard in any direction, and the tab is so small anyway that there is minimal adjustment there anyway. Tighten down the drawcords at the front to pull the hood around your face and the back velcro will rip open. Use it in the wind and you are asking for a soaking as it billows up big time. The slightly stiffened peak would be alright if the volume adjustment on the back was better but as it is the peak flops down over your face. With some improvement this could be a good value, featherweight waterproof, but at the moment I wouldn’t want to use it for anything other than emergency use or as a backpacking/travelling jacket.

Marmot Ion Windshell

Marmot Ion Windshell
Marmot Ion Windshell

The Ion Windshirt is a featherweight hooded windshell made from Marmot’s own P-170 fabric with Defender DWR. Details are a bit thin on the ground as to what P-170 fabric actually is, but essentially it’s a low denier tightly woven polyester with a highly effective water repellent treatment added to it. It’s very light at 148 grams and easily stashes away into a cycle jersey pocket without noticing.

For convenience it folds into the chest pocket and has a small loop to clip a karabiner, useful for attaching to a pack but might be more practical if it had an elasticated buckled belt so it could be easily carried round the waist.

Out of the bag the water repellency was superb and held up to some heavy rain before eventually wetting out. The nature of the weave meant that moisture spread out over the surface and evaporated quickly once conditions were better. Breathability of the fabric was excellent and was enhanced by the full length quality YKK zip. I used this in the Turas expedition race and was great for keeping off light showers and water splashes when working hard on the rowing stage.

Overall cut is a bit square, but with ‘angel wing’ arms the body stays put when you reach above your head, giving full freedom of movement without exposing your midriff. The cuffs are simply elasticated with no adjustment but with enough stretch to pull them up above the elbow if needed and enough length to pull them down over your hands. Body length was good in our large sample and chest size not overly large, so tending towards a more athletic fit than the more leisure fit that most American outdoor brands favour. There’s no elastic or drawcord on the waist hem which didn’t seem to affect its performance at all – most of the time I had a pack on with a waistbelt which held things in tight enough to stop any draughts.

Unusually for a windproof the hood is actually quite good with a nice close fit and two minimalist elasticated drawcords tightening things down enough at the front to stop the hood billowing up in the wind even on the bike. It doesn’t look pretty but it’s effective and would be ideal when you need a little extra protection from midgies or just a bit more warmth when stopped on a mountain top cairn for a few minutes. When rolled away the hood is only held down by a small poppered flap of fabric which does a pretty poor job of holding the hood down when running and it inevitably bounces its way to the side and becomes a little annoying!

There’s no reflective on the jacket so those looking for a bit more visibility will need to look elsewhere, but with its low weight, great water resistance, impressive breathability and useful hood it’s a very useful top to have in your pack. All in all, for £35 this has to be recommended.

Rab Bergen Pants

Instead of tucking them away in that tab up there on the top right I’m going to start putting my kit reviews here on the main page for all to see and comment…

First up some Rab Bergen Waterproof Pants

Rab Bergen Pants
Rab Bergen Pants

The Bergen Pants from Rab are an eVent fabric set of waterproof overtrousers. Rab are a company with a deep foundation in extreme mountaineering clothing, only making a move into the ‘lightweight’ world in recent years, so you’d expect some sound bad weather protection from these togs.

eVent is an expanded PTFE membrane fabric, similar to Gore-Tex but claiming improved breathability for the same level of waterproofing. These pants use the three layer version for extra durability but with minimal features they retain a low claimed weight of 340 grams.

The men’s large size was great on me and allowed a good range of adjustment with an elasticated drawcord waist and unusually was long enough for my 33″ inside leg. (Most large size garments just seem to increase the waist size and not the leg!). With an articulated knee design, movement was unrestricted and the pants didn’t catch on whatever legwear I had on underneath, even on the bike. With the addition of an elasticated drawcord on the hems to cinch things in tight, the fit works great on the bike, articulating well, not riding up and not catching in the chainrings. The waist sits high too, so provides a good overlap with a jacket when conditions are rough, and stops the lower back being exposed when bent over on the bike.

3/4 length water ‘resistant’ zips on each leg feature a two way zip making them very easy to get in and out of in a hurry or with crampons or ski boots on. A popper closure at the bottom of the leg means you can simultaneously open the zip at the bottom and the top to create a chimney effect to aid cooling. This combined with the impressive breathability of the fabric makes them very versatile and I have used versions of these for over a year for skiing, running, biking, hiking, standing in the rain placing checkpoints and walking the dogs.

Fit and form are top notch, however, as much as the theory is good and other reports commend them, I have been deeply disappointed with the eVent fabric’s waterproofness. I am on my second set of trousers after the first were returned because they were leaking, but unfortunately the second set have suffered the same problems. This set have only been used for some dog walking duties and a few short bike commutes so certainly are not suffering from being dirty or being overworked with sweat evaporation. They wetted out very quickly particularly on the thighs and rear, and attempts to revitalise this on the first set were short lived and a good 20 minutes of rain on the bike would have them leaking like a sieve. Many other users have reported great things of the fabric so perhaps I have been unlucky but this is the fourth eVent fabric garment that I’ve had problems with leaking, so despite being taken with the theory of the fabric, I’m yet to be convinced of its performance. These pants will continue to be my first choice for skiing when I will value the wind resistance, breathability, fit and durability, however, when it comes to use in the rain I’ll use something that inspires more confidence in the protection it will provide.