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Archive for February, 2012

4/5 Review For Sub Zero Mens Fleece Polar Jacket

February 28th, 2012

There’s a new saying in our household; “As snug as a bug in a Sub Zero Fleece”.

Snuggly!

I’m a bit stingy when it comes to running the central heating at home. With the exception of an hour in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening when The Wife needs her NCIS and cocoa on the sofa, it can be see-your-breath cold in our living room, and the kitchen floor requires crampons. So, I find myself working from home and wearing a variety of very warm jackets. The Sub Zero Polar Thermal Fleece has been my jacket of choice for the last month.

Fleeces, as opposed to micro-fleeces, appear to have fallen out of fashion in the last couple of years. We’re more used to being told to layer up with thin and functional layers, and store shelves are lined with garments which use technical words to convince you that they’re ‘the latest thing’.

Well, this jacket is a more ‘classic’ 200 weight polar fleece which looks and feels like a thick wool. I just measured it and a double layer comes in at a whopping 1.5cm thick. It not only looks warm, but feels warm (psychologically as well as in reality).

With a full-length front zip, and the inherent nature of fleece material to be breathable, wearing the jacket isn’t a stifling experience. It’s easy to vary your temperature by opening the zip and rolling up the sleeves.

There’s an elastic drawstring at the waist to keep out the worst of the chilly breezes, but this isn’t a windproof fleece, so if it’s a cold, windy day then you’ll need a lightweight windproof jacket over the top to stop your heat being pulled away.

Two very large and snuggly handwarmer pockets keep your mitts warm, but aren’t zippered, so are not perfect for storing wallets.

One thing that caught my eye is that the jacket has an SPF of 100+, which is nice to know if you’re on the slopes in sun. I got burnt through a merino T-shirt a couple of weeks ago, so I’m now acutely aware of SPF in clothing.

 

Gear We Are – December  2011

Click here for the full review

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New All-Mountain Enduro Mountain Bike Race In The Scottish Borders

February 26th, 2012

TweedLove, the Bike Festival (26 May – 5 June 2012) set in the very bike-friendly Tweed Valley in the Scottish Borders, has announced a major new all-mountain enduro race to be staged at Forestry Commission Scotland’s Glentress on 27 May 2012. In a new take on the gravity enduro format, The King and Queen of the Hill will see riders compete to be crowned the ‘official ruler’ of Glentress, widely recognised as Britain’s best trail centre.

The course will take riders to near the very top of Glentress Forest’s big hill, and then right back down again, by way of a series of timed race and linking stages, with riders required to have at least one uphill stage included in their overall points score. The King and Queen of the Hill also features a massive final descent stage, running from near Spooky Wood all the way back down to Peebles, with a big proportion of natural trails along the route.

Event organiser Neil Dalgleish said, “If you’re going to be the King or Queen of Glentress, you’ve got to rule the whole hill, which means you need to be decent going up as well as a ripper coming down. The final descent is going to be a real challenge for all the riders with a mix of Glentress signature man-made track as well as off-camber roots, natural, tight technical and fast open sections all the way from the top of the hill, right down to the bottom.”

Another first for the ‘King and Queen of the Hill’ is that it will start and finish in the town of Peebles, in the grounds of the renowned Peebles Hotel Hydro. Dalgleish added, ‘The Peebles Hotel Hydro is a beautiful hotel, with amazing grounds all round it – and the trails roll right down to their door.  It’s the perfect spot for the event HQ.’

Entries for the race are now open on the TweedLove website – http://tweedlove.com/ – which has more info on the race and the whole TweedLove programme – ten days of good times on and off the bike.

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Top Tips For Keeping Safe On The Ski Slopes

February 23rd, 2012

Planning a winter ski or snowboarding holiday? Don’t miss out on the fun – avoid injury and expensive medical costs by following our checklist.

 

Travel insurance

Make sure your insurance covers the activities you want to do. Medical costs can be very expensive if you get injured: for example, it could cost up to £40,000 to be treated for a fractured femur in the United States, or £8,000 to treat a knee injury in Austria*. In addition to this, many policies don’t cover damage of rental equipment or skiing off piste without a guide. So it’s worth checking your policy!

*Figures include medical fees and repatriation. Source: Europ Assistance

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Travelling in Europe? It’s essential that you take a valid EHIC with you. If you have an accident or suddenly become ill you’ll receive the necessary state-provided medical healthcare at reduced cost, or sometimes free. The EHIC is valid in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. But you still need to take out travel insurance, as an EHIC won’t cover all your medical costs, private treatment or repatriation to the UK. Many travel insurance policies only provide full cover if you also have an EHIC. Apply for your free EHIC now at: www.ehic.org.uk

Be at your peak

Get fit so you can enjoy your holiday more; if you’re not physically prepared you’re more likely to injure yourself and you won’t get the most out of your skiing or snowboarding.

Also, be aware that you are exerting considerable energy at high altitudes and it’s unlikely you’ll be fully acclimatised, even at the end of your holiday. The highest skiable altitude in many resorts is up to two miles above sea level, so the air pressure and density is far lower than your body is used to. This can lead to your body tiring faster than usual because it can’t absorb as much oxygen. The air is also much dryer than it is at, or near, sea level. It’s important to drink a lot of liquids (not alcohol!) to maintain your hydration levels. Depending on your size, weight and the level of exertion, you will need between four and six litres of water a day – a gallon or more.

Know your limits

Drinking alcohol on the slopes invalidates some insurance policies and can affect you more quickly at high altitudes. It also affects your resistance to, and awareness of, the cold which can put you in danger. In practical terms it also affects your judgement, co-ordination and reaction times; in other words, your skiing will deteriorate after you’ve been drinking.

Use of helmets

Wearing a helmet is a personal choice and more and more people are choosing to wear them. In some resorts it is a legal requirement for children to wear helmets. Before you travel you should ensure that you are aware of the legal requirements for the country you are visiting. For more information visit: www.skiclub.co.uk/infoandavice

Sun/Snow blindness

The sun is much stronger at altitude and appropriate strength sun cream should be worn. When it comes to eye protection there are two main options; ski goggles or sunglasses, each has their own benefits and disadvantages. Always ensure goggles or glasses offer 100% UV protection. More information can be found at: www.skiclub.co.uk/infoandavice

Choosing the right pistes

It is important to be aware of how pistes are classified to indicate their difficulty. This will make sure you don’t overstretch yourself and get into a tricky situation. It is useful to note that there can be local and national variations in signs, rules and regulations. When you arrive in a resort, you should obtain and study the piste/trail map of the area. Do be aware that piste classifications vary in different ski resorts and countries. Piste conditions change during the day as the sun moves and warms up the snow especially later in the season. What was a cruising blue run mid morning, could be difficult, and more like a hard red by 4pm. Note that this also works in reverse.

 

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Sub Zero Mens Softshell Jacket Wins Top Review

February 21st, 2012

Wandering around the UK’s largest outdoor industry trade show this year we happened across the Sub Zero stand, and since we’ve reviewed a few of their products before the chap warmly shook our hands before announcing that he was glad we’d come along because he really needed a wee. With that he took off, leaving us alone with his gear, which we had a good poke through.

Both Muz and I immediately took to the Windproof Softshell Jacket, which is the type of thing we’d wear under motorbike jackets, to the pub or even when camping. It looks smart, but functional.

Quite sexy huh? Jacket’s OK too…

We decided against stuffing a couple of them into our bags whilst we weren’t being watched, but upon his return we begged and pleaded for a couple of jackets to try out. I’m glad to say that Sub Zero were forthcoming and I’ve been wearing my version now for a couple of weeks.

It’s a really good-looking jacket – fitted design and very flattering. It really is the sort of thing that you could wear on any occasion, be it social or summit. And it feels great on too.

Showerproof, definitely

The outer shell material is a densely woven shell of polyester which is totally windproof. You can tighten up the velcro wristbands and bungee waist and feel completely shut off from the elements. Also, because it’s a tight-weave softshell the jacket is waterproof enough to protect you from a sudden shower. It’s not sold as waterproof, but I’d describe it as showerproof.

The windproof nature of the jacket continues to the main zipper, which is a sturdy YKK number with a stiff , almost suede leatherette feeling wind-baffle behind it. You won’t get that dreaded cold stripe down your chest.

The soft fleecy feel of the baffle continues up and around the neck, where a thin microfleece means no chafing and a snuggly warm feeling. It’s not a tight-fitting neck, there’s room for a Buff in there, but it is close-enough fitting to keep out a breeze.

Arm pocket, with showerproof zip

There are two large hand-pockets on the jacket which have mesh inners. These are good for keeping chilly hands next to your warm baselayers, and conversely for ventilation on slightly warmer days. A third pocket on the left sleeve is perfect for carrying a phone where it won’t swing around and bash things.

The jacket moves with you as you engage in activities. It has a built-in stretch which comes from a small elastane content in the material. You can feel this most when you stretch to put on a backpack or really bend your arm.

At £99 it’s at the more expensive end of windproof jackets, but in the flesh you can see why. Quality of manufacture and detailing is great, and it feels like a hard-wearing and top notch piece of kit.

5/5 Gear We Are – November 2011

Click here for the full review

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Sub Zero Meraklon Bag Boosters Back In Stock

February 20th, 2012

With Easter holidays  just around the corner, don’t get caught out in the cold on your first camping trip of the season. Dust down your old sleeping bag and increase it’s working life by adding a season rating with our Meraklon Bag Booster Liners.  These fleece liners are ideal for when your sleeping bag isn’t quite warm enough, or when you just want a summer sleeping bag. The hypoallergenic brushed fleece inner face provides a warm soft snug layer next to the skin keeping you as snug as a bug in a rug. They are also ideal around camp fires at night when you need that little extra insulation but don’t want to dirty your sleeping bag.

 

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Winner Of Sub Zero Polar Fleece Jacket Competition

February 19th, 2012

Sub Zero recently ran a competition in the Outdoor Enthusiast Magazine to win one of our new Polar Fleece Jackets. A winner was picked at random by the magazine staff from over 4000 entries. Congratulations go to a Mrs Weber from Granton-on-Spey – you’ll need the fleece jacket in this weather!

 

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Skiing Off Piste Safely

February 18th, 2012

Off-piste skiing and snowboarding has become more and more popular in recent years with the attraction of heading off the marked runs and seeking out fresh powder. However, until you are trained and very experienced, it is sensible to go with a group led by a professional guide.

If you do decide to head off-piste, you need to make sure you are fully prepared and equipped. This means carrying the appropriate equipment – at least an avalanche transceiver, a probe pole and a shovel; a spare set of warm clothing such as thermal underwear and ski socks; there are also inflatable ‘floatation’ devices available, and you will need a fully charged phone that operates in the country you are in with the necessary emergency numbers. You must know how to use the equipment correctly, know the avalanche risk grading for the day (as published by the piste authorities) and gather information on the area so you know where you are at all times and how to get back to patrolled areas. You must be able to identify potentially risky areas on the route you are taking. When you are off piste, you should not only consider avalanche risk, but also bear in mind rocks, trees, cliffs, ravines, crevasses and other hazards.

On longer excursions you need to consult the weather forecasts against the possibility of changes and carry food and drink and extra clothing sufficient for the time you will be away. You must let someone in resort know where you are going and when you intend to return. They should be prepared to brief the rescue authorities if it is suspected that you have got into difficulties.

You may also encounter ‘itineraries’. These are runs that are marked on the piste map by a dashed line and on the ground by yellow or day-glo orange signs, but they are not groomed or patrolled. Itinery runs can often be as hard as riding or skiing off piste and you must use them with care.

And don’t forget that many insurance policies won’t cover you for damage of rental equipment or skiing off piste without a guide. So make sure you check your policy!

 

Avalanche awareness

For more information on avalanche awareness (or find out how to be avalanche aware) visit: www.skiclub.co.uk/infoandadvice

Useful Information

You can get information about snow stability from avalanche forecasts. Reading or listening to the avalanche forecast is essential to understand the risks for the day. It will include a danger rating, usually on a 5-point scale. You must understand the definition for the rating.

You also need to get an idea of how unstable the snow is and where the instability tends to be most acute on that particular day. Many factors, including snow layers, temperature history and wind direction affect this. The experts take daily snow sections and samples.

You should ask local professionals especially if in an area that you don’t know very well. Even off-piste and avalanche experts need local knowledge if they are in a new place, or if they are in a familiar place, but haven’t been there for a few days.

Recent avalanche activity is a great clue. If lots of slopes facing one direction and at the same altitude have recent slab avalanches on them, then that’s a clue that similar slopes probably have some instability on them.

There are national organisations in most countries who supply a daily avalanche forecast. These are a good resource both for checking current conditions and avalanche warning levels, but also to gather historical information.

 

Scotland – Sport Scotland Avalanche

Information Service – www.sais.gov.uk

Switzerland – Institute for Snow and Avalanche

Research SLF www.slf.ch

Austria – www.lawine.at

France – www.france.meteofrance.com

Norway – www.ngi.no/no/snoskred

 

The SLF (Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research) website, www.avalanche.org is a useful resource for finding out more about avalanche awareness as well as reading avalanche bulletins (current and historical) and avalanche statistics. A lot of their information is in English.

 

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Top 5 Lake District Pubs For Hungry Walkers

February 17th, 2012

Part of the fun of a winter walk over the Cumbrian fells and summits is looking forward to a warm fire and cheery pint in a Lake District pub. Even better when you can tear into a tasty meal as well. Dress warmly in thermal underwear and be prepared for fast-changing weather. You’ll probably have changed out of your boots when you got back to the car, but if not, be considerate and knock the mud off. Here are a few of our favourite watering holes. For more info on the Lake District check out www.golakes.co.uk.

The Bitter End, Cockermouth
A pub with its own micro brewery where the whole process can be seen through a glazed partition. With open fires, home-made meals and great real ales, this is a top spot to head for. On Tuesdays, there’s a free-to-enter quiz night with a case of beer as the winners’ prize.
01900 828993; www.bitterend.co.uk

Tower Bank Arms, near Sawrey, Ambleside
Hilltop, Beatrix Potter’s former home, is just behind this pub which can be seen in one of the sketches for ‘The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck’. Dating back to the 17th century, this inn offers quality fresh food and a wide selection of traditional local ales. Children and dogs welcome.
015394 36334; www.towerbankarms.co.uk

The Drunken Duck Inn, Barngates, Ambleside
A multi award-winning family-owned inn which serves fine local produce imaginatively prepared and served. The food is complemented by great local beers and a traditional interior with an open fire and Brathay Black slate bar top. Cracking bar meals!
015394 36347; www.drunkenduckinn.co.uk

Watermill Inn, Ings, near Windermere
CAMRA’s Cumbrian Pub of the Year in 2009, there’s a relaxed friendly atmosphere in the Watermill and a micro brewery to boot. There is an extensive menu and a large daily Chef’s Specials board, emphasising traditional dishes.
01539 821309; www.watermillinn.co.uk

The Punch Bowl Inn, Crosthwaite
In the heart of the unspoilt Lyth Valley, close to central Lake District. The inn is a blend of old and new, with excellent food, good beers and wines and a lovely location; the bar is warm and friendly with antique furniture, open fires, polished oak floorboards and  leather chairs.

015395 68237; www.the-punchbowl.co.uk

 

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15% Discount on Factor 2 Mid Layer Thermal Underwear

February 16th, 2012

With the weather in the UK is set to turn cold again over the weekend, isn’t it about time you invested in a good quality set of thermal underwear?

Our award winning Sub Zero Factor 2  mid layer thermal underwear are extremely warm and extremely comfortable without the bulk of traditional insulated clothing.  With an extra 15% off this month why not keep yourself warm whilst the temperature outside drops!

 

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Sub Zero Lightweight Thermal Down Jacket Wins Top Review

February 15th, 2012

“Three hundred grammes. That’s the weight of my wallet and iPhone combined. The two things, along with my keys, that I carry everywhere, regardless of outfit, weather and circumstance. I don’t even feel them any more, such is their familiarity in my pockets, and it’s not like they weigh an awful lot.

In fact, they weight exactly the same as the Sub Zero Thermal Down Jacket, which considering its size, must surely be filled with helium. It’s extraordinarily lightweight, and yet with a fill power of 800+ goose down it is extraordinarily warm too.

Snuggly like a sleeping bag 

I went for a walk this morning in a T-shirt and this jacket. The temperature is 7C and I was, at times, so warm in the jacket that I needed to take it off. It’s like a sleeping bag, trapping huge amounts of air inside its 3-4cm thick down chambers and closely-fitting the body to seal in all your body warmth. It doesn’t make sense that something so light could be so warm – the mind naturally equates weight with insulation – and yet it is.

The external shell material is a 100% Polyamide and extremely thin. It feels like it would rip at the merest snag, but having worn it through a few woodlands it is much tougher than it looks. The only change to this material is the addition of a warm fleece material on the neck, which doesn’t rub or get sweaty and helps trap air from escaping upwards.

The main zipper is a chunky YKK number with an effective chin guard and nice positive action. It has a wind-baffle behind it to seal out the breezes. The cuffs are elasticated, and the waist has a bungee drawstring to keep the wind from chilling you. You get two zippered hand pockets which are perfect for doubling the weight of things with your phone and wallet!

It’s not sold as waterproof, but it has survived a couple of short-sharp showers admirably, which was a pleasant surprise. I suspect that this is due to the extremely dense nature of the shell fibre, rather than any treatment.

The jacket lacks a hood, which keeps the weight down but means you’ll need to match it with a hat on the chilliest days. Sub Zero make a range of good hats, so that’s no bother.

And lastly, as a hint on how the jacket could be used, Sub Zero supply it with a small drawstring bag so it can be stuffed down and carried in a pack until it’s needed when the weather gets cold.”

5/5 Gear We Are – January 2012

Click here for the full review

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