Down is the fluffy plumage that waterfowl grow next to their skin to help insulate and aide buoyancy. It is not a true feather as we understand them, but a much simpler form that has soft and fluffy filament shafts growing in all directions. These down ‘clusters’ are extremely lightweight and provide a large surface area to trap air and warmth from the body. True feathers grow over the top of the down and help shield the birds from wind and water penetration, as well as aiding flight due to increased aerodynamics.
Why use goose down?
All waterfowl produce down, but geese and duck down are the most popular as it is a by-product of commercial farming practices. The most sought after down comes from adult geese as they have a very fine cluster construction, providing more loft than juvenile goose down or duck down.
Advantages of down insulation
One of the major advantages of down is its warmth-to-weight ratio. No synthetic insulation even comes close to matching it. So producing a like-for-like jacket, the down insulated one is going to be much lighter than the synthetic insulated one. Combined with this is the compression advantage of down. You can scrunch up down jackets in to very small shapes without damaging the clusters. If you want to wear one that has been jammed in to an awkward shape in yor backpack, just like a duvet, all you need to do is waft it a little bit to increase the loft.
Negatives of down insulation
Downs Achilles heal is moisture. If it gets too damp or is waterlogged, then the clusters stick together, drastically reducing the surface area and thus the insulation properties. Drying down takes a very long time unless you have a tumble dryer, so if it gets wet when you are outside, then it is going to stay wet and offer little protection from the cold. Fortunately, new hydrophobic treatments have started to be applied to down clusters to help repel water for longer. Using this treated down produces an insulated jacket that is not waterproof, but it will function a lot better in damp and wet weather, will dry quicker, and will retain the loft of the down even when wet.
If you are struggling to come up with ideas for the walker in your family then we have picked our top ten products that will keep them happy when outside in all weathers.
A cold walker is a miserable walker. Treat them to some good quality base layers this Christmas and watch them transform from a prickly plodder to a happy hiker.
2. Bottle Flask
If you are rather partial to a brew when walking and do not want to carry a stove, then taking an insulated vacuum flask with the tea or coffee already made is a great way of grabbing a quick cuppa when outdoors. Thermos flasks come in all shape and sizes these days, from wide mouth lunch jugs to robust stainless steel bottle flasks.
3. Waterpoof Hat
Keeping your head dry in wet weather can be achieved either by pulling up your waterproof jacket hood or by wearing a waterproof hat. The advantages of using a waterproof hat rather than a hood is that they are more insulating, give you a better field of vision, and can be stored easily in a pocket or backpack.
4. First Aid Kit
Everybody has an accident at some point when walking, whether that be from stumbling on uneven ground, cutting a finger on map edges, or wearing poorly fitted walking boots that lead to blisters. If left untreated for any length of time, these wounds may hinder your progress or become infected. The solution is to carry a first aid kit in your backpack or pocket, allowing you to treat any minor injuries sustained by yourself or your walking group.
5. Survival Bag
Like all good boy scouts you should be prepared when stepping out in to the great outdoors. Lightweight and compact, these survival bags and blankets are manufactured form space age materials to keep you warm and dry until help arrives. They can also double up as a large visual aid should you get lost when walking.
6. Insulated Down Jacket
The ultimate in walking comfort, insulated down jackets are like wearing a duvet on the hills. Being lightweight and compact, they can easily fit in to odd spaces in a backpack, and just need a good shake before being worn to activate the down insulation.
7. Outdoor Compasses
If the walker in your family is always getting lost then invest in a field compass to keep them on the straight and narrow. These compact lightweight navigational devices easily fit in to your jacket or trouser pocket, and come in a variety of styles with different features.
8. Solid Fuel Camping Stoves
Not the smallest of stoves we must confess but they eliminate the need for fuel to be carried. When you want a brew, just forage around for twigs, fir cones and leaves, and these Ghille Kettles will light with ease and boil water in a matter of minutes. Pan sets can be suspended above the top exhaust, allowing for a meal to be cooked at the same time. Manufactured in the UK from lightweight anodised aluminium, these solid fuel camping stoves are a very useful gadget for the survival enthusiast and minimalist walker.
9. Walking Socks
Blisters and sores on walkers feet usually occur due to poor quality socks and bad fitting boots. Wearing a constructed walking socks will help to manage moisture, cushion your heel and sole, and help to prevent internal slipping and rubbing.
10. Waterproof Gloves
Wet hands quickly start to feel cold in the cooler months. Being able to keep them dry and also functional means that good fitting waterproof gloves are required.
What is the best lightweight thermal underwear for changeable Autumn weather?
Autumn can be an unpredictable month as one day it can be scorching hot whilst the next day you can get out of your tent and find ground frost. This swing in the weather cycle is not ideal if you are out on the hills for a prolonged period of time as you have to pack for all eventualities. But how do you fine the best lightweight thermal underwear for the job? Researching the following four properties when buying thermal underwear should help you get the best from your purchase.
To lighten your load it is a good idea to wear thermal underwear that will adapt to both hot and cold conditions. This is not an endorsement for thermal brands that claim they will keep you cool in summer and hot in winter. Anyone with a simple grasp of physics or textiles knows this is an impossibility. The best you can hope to achieve is a lightweight thermal base layer that will insulate you in the cooler weather, but not be so insulating that you start to cook when the sun comes out.
But how do you know how insulating/warm a thermal underwear brand is going to be? A simple but underused test is the TOG, which measures the thermal resistance of a fabric. You have probably seen it used on duvets, mattresses and pillows, and the lower the figure, the less insulating it is. In the Autumn you need a lightweight thermal underwear brand that has a TOG rating of between 0.35-0.50. Anything higher and you are going to be too warm, anything lower and you will chill.
What this means is basically how quick perspiration is moved from the skins surface to the outside surface of the fabric, so it can evaporate or be moved on to the next clothing layer. The best lightweight thermal underwear garments will have a hydrophilic treatment applied to them. These chemicals actively aid the movement of moisture – hydrophilic means water loving – so vastly improve the fabrics own moisture transportation system. In the cooler Autumnal weather this process keeps a dry layer of air next to the skin (air being the insulator) helping you to keep warm. In warmer weather you will probably wear the lightweight thermal underwear on its own. A quick wicking rate will pump moisture out to the surface of the thermal and allow evaporation. This will help to cool you as water has a high heat capacity and needs a lot of energy to phase change i.e. transform from a liquid to a gas. In layman’s term, your excess body heat is absorbed by the water on the fabrics surface to change to a gas, or evaporate as us mere mortals know the process.
Construction and Fit
Thirdly, the lightweight thermal underwear must be snug fitting. By snug I do not mean restricting blood to an appendage so it goes purple with loss of circulation. The base layer must be close fitting so no air can be wafted when you move. For someone who has not got the body of David Beckham this is not going to be a pretty sight as a good fitting thermal will contour to all your lumps and bumps. However, this close fit ensures that air is trapped next to the skin, insulating the wearer. It also aids hydrophilic treatments as they only work efficiently when there is a heat gradient. The best way to achieve this is by having the fabric in close contact to the skin.
The best lightweight thermal underwear garments will also be constructed sympathetically to your activity. Look for thermal underwear that has a long body length so when you bend over to pick something up or tie your shoe laces your lower back does not become exposed. The sleeves should also be of a significant length that when you lift your arms they do not ride up and expose much your skin.
Finally, your choice in colour will also play an important part in how cool and hot you feel. Black is a good absorber of light wavelengths and will attract more energy from the sun than a lighter colour. However, black is also a good radiator of heat so in overcast weather it will loose heat quicker than a lighter colour. White is obviously the best colour for reflecting heat as it absorbs very little light. If you need thermal underwear in the autumn and are not sure on what weather conditions you are going to be subjected to then choose a colour between the extremes of white and black.
Bargain sub standard thermals by Sub Zero are an inexpensive way to keep warm this winter
Take advantage of Sub Zero sub-standard bargain thermal underwear this winter for a real warming treat.
Unlike the vast majority of outdoor thermal brands, here at Sub Zero we manufacture our own products in our own UK factory (Leicestershire). On very rare occasions during the production process, some garments have faults. If it is a manufacturing fault then these are normally rectified before being re-examined and packed. If the fault cannot be mended then the garment is completed and then placed in to stock as a sub-standard – there will be no missing arms, huge holes or differences in sizing, they will work just as well as their perfect siblings. In some circumstances the garment may be finished perfect but a fabric fault such as a pull, small stain or a slub found during the final examine process means we cannot sell them as perfect.
To recoup some of our production and fabric costs, we sell these sub standard garments at a bargain price, usually around 60-75% off the recommended retail price. We are constantly updating the sub standard stock levels on sub zero store but the styles and colours available will be dependent on what we are manufacturing at that moment in time. If you cannot find what you are looking for then please keep checking on a regular basis as these sub-standards are popular and rarely stay in stock for a long period of time.
Currently the most popular ranges in our sub-standard garments are the Factor 1 Plus thermal base layers and the Factor 2 thermal mid-layers. These are ideal for cold morning commutes or for walking the dog at night when the temperatures start to drop. If you are more adventurous then a combination of the two are ideal for winter mountaineering and cold weather expeditions.
Adventure travel can be physically challenging but it’s not all about summiting mountain tops or exploring remote areas. Even the most challenging of adventures usually offers the opportunity to learn more about a region’s culture, people and food. Started in 1973, Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) has gone on to print over 120 million books in nine languages to almost every destination on the planet.
It explores the worlds best spicy food in a new book which shows you where to find and how to make some of the fieriest foods from around the globe. The Worlds Best Spicy Food (£14.99) explores 100 of the world’s must-eat dishes for hungry heat lovers and takes the reader on a tour of the culinary hotspots which are loved by locals and travellers alike.
In this follow up title to 2012’s The Worlds Best Street Food, Lonely Planet authors’ destination expertise is accompanied by great photography and local knowledge, showcasing culinary creativity from every corner of the world.
Incorporating a mixture of best-loved dishes (Thai Green Curry) alongside new favourites (Tunisian Shakshouka), each delicacy in the book is given two dedicated pages detailing the history and culture behind the food, alongside the recipe to recreate the dish at home.
Other recipes include:
Devil’s Curry from Singapore
Doro Wat from Ethiopia
Pica Pau from Portugal
Saliva Chicken from China
Piccalilli from England
The book’s foreword is presented by renowned foodie Tom Parker-Bowles, who talks passionately about his love of spicy foods. “This book is not about chillies alone, rather ‘spicy’ food in its every guise; the pungent, nose-clearing honk of wasabi, mustard and horseradish; pepper’s pep and paprika’s punch; the warming allure of cinnamon and mace, the bracing crunch of piccalilli. These are dishes to make the taste buds punch the air with elation, flavours that kick-start the palate and infuse every sense with joy”.
Coast To Coast new John Muir Way is close to opening.
This new 134-mile lowlands trail will officially open on 21st April 2014, during the first ever Scottish John Muir Festival, to mark both the conservationist’s birthday and the centenary of his death. The new trail which runs between Dunbar and Helensburgh echoes John Muir’s own personal journey growing up in Scotland’s east coast town of Dunbar before travelling to the west coast, where he set sail for life in America. The route has been designed to take in castles, historic towns and villages, stunning coastal scenery as well as Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
The John Muir Way has much to offer and some may wish to undertake the challenge of walking or cycling the whole 215km route. The route is designed to be accessible for everyone and the terrain is easy-to-moderate and can be done end-to-end on foot or by bike.
For cyclists, it is recommended that hybrid or sturdy touring bikes are used to tackle some of the steeper and bumpier sections, although a few parallel lines or braids give smoother and flatter options. It is estimated that cycling the route will usually take about four days.
The hard work involved in developing the route is being carried out by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Ron McCraw of SNH, said, “We hope the John Muir Way will inspire people to both explore and protect Scotland’s countryside. John Muir was inspired by the wildlife and beautiful scenery in Scotland as a young boy, and as an adult in the U.S. he inspired people around the world with his writing. We’re hoping plenty of other people – from both inside and outside of Scotland – will enjoy this new coast-to-coast route and learn more about Muir’s beliefs.”
To get updates about the John Muir Way route, visit ‘John Muir Way – Slighe Iain Muir’ Facebook page, and to find out more about the John Muir Festival visit ‘The John Muir Festival 2014’ Facebook page. For further information about the John Muir Way, visit www.johnmuirway.org – a new dedicated website for the 134-mile route with key information to help people plan their trip. Features include an interactive map and section descriptions, nearby attractions, accommodation, food and drink providers and details on accessibility.
Photo caption: On the John Muir Way by Linlithgow Palace
Charity Walks may not be overly challenging, but you still need to prepare sensibly before setting off, especially if longer walks are not part of your normal routine.
Regular walks of a few miles two or three times a week will head off problems if you’re new to walking longer distances for fun and fitness. Do take a few minutes before setting out to stretch muscles and get warmed off. Plus, build up your pace steadily rather than setting off like a rocket – remember the hare and the tortoise!
Dress sensibly in layers to allow you to regulate how warm you feel as you step out. A key element is a good wicking baselayer to stop sweat evaporating on clammy skin and causing a chilly feeling. An easily adjustable mid layerfor warmth and a wind/waterproof outer layer should ensure you’ll stay comfortable. Don’t forget a hat as sunshine and rain can be expected in the same day in our climate!
Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly – there are several options for carrying water from bottles to hydration packs.
Walking briskly in warm weather and being well-hydrated means you should be sweating to help release core body heat. That’s good but can feel uncomfortable. A thin handkerchief soon becomes sopping wet but a small hand towel can be a welcome accessory.
Suffolk Walking Festival 19th May – 10th June 2012