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  1. Why You Should Wear A Balaclava

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    Man Heating Water For A drink In The Alps Whilst Wearing A Sub Zero Balaclava

    Named after the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War, the original head protection was knitted from thick wool to keep soldiers heads warm during the harsh winters. Nowadays you can buy balaclavas in all types of materials from lightweight base layer fabric to heavy weight polar fleece.

    A typical balaclava fully covers your head and also your neck, with an opening in the front for your mouth, nose and eyes. This can either be a single opening (as the image above) or separate holes – just think of the SAS.

    If you do not own or have never worn one, then let us extol the virtues of the much maligned humble balaclava.

    Hygienic Layer

    Wearing any type of helmet, whether that be a motorbike helmet or a safety helmet, is going to lead to your head sweating due to the poor breathability of the protective outer material. Without wearing a balaclava, this sweat will be absorbed in to the supporting inner foam, creating an ideal environment for odour creating bacteria to prosper. Not only will your helmet be smelly, it will also need replacing earlier as the foam is attacked by naturally occurring acids in your perspiration.

    Wearing a lightweight balaclava under your helmet will help absorb sweat and is easily washed after use.

    Head Protection

    Balaclavas insulate most of your head and neck in one go. If you wanted the same level of protection without wearing one, then you would need a separate hat, neck tube, face mask, and head band. These altogether are not only expensive but also bulky on your face.

    Adaptable Design

    The adaptability of a balaclava makes it one of the best pieces of emergency kit to keep in your backpack should the weather take a turn for the worse. Not only is it a full head and neck covering, it can also be turned up in to a beanie hat, or a neck tube if required. The flexibility of the material will also allow you to cover your nose or leave it exposed depending on the weather conditions.

    Heat Retention

    Most of your head is covered when wearing a balaclava, so there is much less surface area for heat to escape from. The thermal insulating properties can obviously be adjusted depending on the materials used in its manufacture. A lightweight base layer fabric is thin enough to be worn under a helmet and is ideal for Spring and Autumn use as well. When the weather starts getting colder then you will need to change to a mid layer balaclava, whilst winter mountaineering will require a thick polar fleece design.

    Look A Bad Ass

    You cannot argue with the fact that you look ‘well ard’ wearing a balaclava. Just make sure you take it off before entering a bank!

    Buy A Balaclava

    If you are still not sold on the idea of wearing a balaclava then you obviously have not experienced biting cold for any length of time. It may not be the trendiest piece of headgear available but who cares what you look like in a 80mph gale on top of a snow windswept mountain.

  2. Driving In Snow Top Tips For Success

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    Driving in snow can be perilous unless you are well prepared

    There are no dark arts to driving in snow and ice. It is just a matter of being prepared and reacting to the weather conditions. Our comprehensive top tips should be useful to any driver, from the experienced to the inexperienced.

    Road Worthiness

    The first thing you should do before even attempting driving in snow is to check whether your car is road worthy for winter conditions:

    1. Treads on tyres should have at least 1.6mm but 3mm is recommended in the winter for extra traction and grip
    2. Ensure your car battery is working properly by getting it checked at a reputable garage or doing it yourself with a car battery tester
    3. Top up your engines antifreeze to prevent it from freezing in the cold
    4. Add a winter additive to your screen wash reservoir to prevent it from freezing
    5. Check your wiper blades to make sure they clear your window effectively. Old or worn blades should be replaced
    6. Store spare bulbs in your car and wipe the light glass regularly so you can see and be seen
    7. Keep your fuel tank regularly topped up to prevent unnecessary breakdowns

    Be Prepared

    Once you know your car is ready for driving in snow, you need to think about what kit you should store in your boot for an emergency. The amount you take with you will be dependent on the route and the length of the journey, but you should consider the following:

    1. A torch with spare batteries
    2. Stout shoes or Wellington boots – Never drive whilst wearing these
    3. A warm blanket or winter sleeping bag
    4. Thermal hat and insulated waterproof gloves
    5. Waterproof jacket and spare warm clothing
    6. Snow shovel
    7. Bottle of water and emergency food such as a chocolate bar
    8. Flask filled with a hot drink
    9. Fully charged mobile phone with a charging cable
    10. An old rug or sacking for placing under car wheels if stuck

    Driving In Snow And Ice

    1. The first thing you should assess before driving in snow is if your journey is actually necessary. Speak to your employer to see if you can work from home or take the day as holiday. If your journey is necessary and unavoidable then follow these tips for driving safely:
    2. Research your route. All the major breakdown services will have up to date information of road conditions on their sites
    3. Get up early to prepare your car. Remove all snow and defrost windows thoroughly. Ensure your lights and number plates are clean and visible
    4. Leave earlier than normal and be generous with your expected journey time.
    5. Tell a family member of friend your intended route
    6. Dial your radio in to a local radio station with weather and road reports
    7. If your wheels are spinning in first gear when starting out, try pulling away in second gear
    8. Stick to main roads as they will more likely be ploughed and gritted
    9. Drive Slowly and anticipate breaking. On snow and ice covered roads the breaking distances can be up to 10 times further
    10. Apply brakes gently to help prevent skidding
    11. When coming up to a hill, leave enough space between yourself and the car in front to prevent breaking or stopping half way up
    12. Coming downhill, keep your engine in a low gear to slow your car down rather than applying the breaks


    If you should find yourself broken down on the roads or stuck in snow then the first thing to remember is not to panic. There will be other drivers in exactly the same predicament at yourself.

    1. If possible, move your car off the road to prevent other drivers form getting stranded
    2. Notify friends and family members of your situation and contact your breakdown provider
    3. If you are stranded in snow it may be possible to dig yourself out. Place a rug or old mat under the tyres to give extra grip
    4. Do not abandon your car if you do not know where you are or if you are not within easy walking distance of help
    5. Cars loose heat very efficiently due to the high metal content and low insulation so keep warm by adding extra clothing layers
    6. Try and keep your engine running if you want to use electric items such as heated seats and lights. Turn it in for at least five minutes every hour
    7. Ensure the exhaust is clear of snow before turning on your engine
  3. Bargain Thermal Underwear By Sub Zero This Winter

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    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.

  4. Up TO 40% Off Sub Zero Polar Fleece Jackets & Gilets

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    With the last Hoorah of the winter upon us, stay warm when venturing outside  with one of Sub Zeros award winning polar fleece jackets or gilets. For March we are offering these products with 40% discount, so there is no excuse for anyone to be cold!

    The polar fleece jackets are available in both male and female versions whilst the gilet is a unisex design. For a concise size chart please see each listing or click here



  5. Courses On Winter Hill Walking

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    If you’re planning on hillwalking, then ‘Hope for the best; plan for the worst’ is a sound attitude. Just carrying an ice axe and crampons when you’re venturing over the tops in winter conditions is not enough. You have to know how to use them competently and to be able to read the terrain and weather safely.

    A course at one of Britain’s top outdoor centres will give you an excellent start:

    Plas y Brenin – the National Mountain Centre –

    Glenmore Lodge – the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre –

    Useful info, advice and occasional courses and talks can be found at the British Mountaineering Council (BMC); it’s not just for climbers but a useful resource for walkers as well –


  6. Top Travel Tips For Winter Sports Festivals

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    If you’re heading abroad to a winter sports festival this year, make sure you take note of the following points to help you have fun and a trouble free trip!

    • Take out travel insurance: make sure you are fully covered for the activities you are planning and for any unexpected losses or expenses such as missing flights, particularly if you are travelling on ‘discount tickets’. It won’t break the bank and it will put your mind at rest!
    • Passports: It’s all too easy to lose your passport at a festival, so keep it in a secure location ideally behind lock and key. If this isn’t possible, keep it on you securely. Keep a separate record of your passport details, preferably a photocopy of the details pages with next of kin contact details or upload a scan to a secure online safe before you leave. Report lost or stolen passports to the local police immediately.
    • Beware of bag and mobile phone snatchers especially in chalets, on the slopes, public transport, restaurants, cafes ad at the festival. Report the loss of any valuables to the local police and obtain a written police report.
    • Drink & Drugs: know your limits. Penalties for drug possession can be severe, with heavy fines or imprisonment. Don’t carry anything through customs for anyone else.
    • Visas: find out what visas are required for your visit. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office have advice for every country in their travel advice by country section
    • Local Emergency Services. Wherever you are in the European Union you can always reach them (ambulance, police, fire brigade) by calling 112 from any mobile or land-line.
    • British Embassy/Consulate: Before you travel, note down the number of your nearest British embassy or consulate


    It’s worth spending a few moments sorting out your holiday plans now. If something goes wrong… it can not only be very expensive but it can follow you back home. Make these simple preparations, sit back and wait for the fun to begin!

    For more information on winter sports travel, visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website for additional travel details and country specific information.


  7. Top Tips For Walking The Hills In Winter Safely

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    Winter skills are an integral part of venturing onto the hills from November to March and mean much more than carrying an ice axe and crampons – you need to be able to use them competently. Analysis of mountain rescue statistics reveals that the majority of accidents are the result of a simple slip. Skills and preparation are key to enjoying the British hills safely. An essential part of the preparation is being able to navigate accurately in all conditions not just bright sunshine. It’s well worth considering an instructional course to gain the foundation on which to build experience.

    For walkers, an ice axe with a straight shaft of between 50-70cms is not just about aiding balance in snow so walking poles are not a substitute. Technique can be learned that conserves energy and extends safety parameters through the knowledge of how to cut steps and use as an emergency brake. The latter self-arrest skill needs to be practiced until you can do it without thinking; short slopes with no chance of sliding into rocks are ideal and it can be a lot of fun. Tucking the adze end under your shoulder and  the shaft under your body diagonally, the pick can be used to slow and stop a slide on snow and ice. That’s when experience gained safely allows you to judge the pressure required when it’s needed in earnest.

    Boots for winter use need to have a fairly stiff sole that allow the edges to kick steps and can take a crampon. With your axe held on your uphill side, pick pointing backwards, you can make a tripod of three points of contact with the snow. When moving, keep two points of contact and try to move steadily to avoid becoming unduly tired. Crampons should be worn when you anticipate conditions that need them rather than trying to fit them on dodgy ground. Practice moving on easy snow slopes to get a feel for potential; problems of tripping, tightening straps and making sure the crampon points bite into the surface.

    Competence in using map and compass in the hills means being confident in your skills in poor weather and visibility. Again, learning the skills properly and practicing them is a pre-requisite for heading off trouble. As is picking a route appropriate to experience and fitness as well as planning how to adapt the route if needs be through bad weather or tiredness. Before picking a route, check for any physical hazards, the weather forecast (wind, temperature, rain and snow), avalanche risk and estimate the time needed being realistic to ensure you can be back before dark.

    Finally, don’t head off alone but go with others of similar fitness, make the plan together, don’t split up and leave info on your plans with a responsible person. It’s everybody’s responsibility in a party to keep track of progress and to be able to navigate safely. If you need to summon assistance, call 999 and ask for the police.

    Kit and clothing – a simple checklist:

    • Boots and warm socks
    • Ice axe and crampons
    • Map and case
    • Compass
    • Waterproof jacket (with hood)
    • Waterproof overtrousers
    • Gaiters
    • Warm hat
    • Gloves or mitts plus spares
    • Thermal base layer – body and legs
    • Fleece jacket
    • Extra body insulation
    • Warm trousers
    • Head torch (plus spare bulb if needed and spare batteries)
    • Food and drink for the day plus a little extra
    • Survival bag, whistle, watch and first aid kit
    • Rucksack to hold it all easily with a liner to keep it all dry.

  8. Celebration Of Mountain Culture In The Highlands

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    The full programme for the 2012 Fort William Mountain Festival, presented by the Outdoor Capital of the UK, has now been announced and it’s set to be a fantastic five-day celebration of mountain culture, based in the bustling Highland town from Wednesday 15 – Sunday 19 February 2012. The audience coming to Fort William will be inspired, energised and entertained by a superb line-up of lectures from top climbers and mountaineers, mountain bikers, and mountain filmmakers plus and film screenings from cutting edge outdoor athletes and adventurers.

    Opening Night – Join the mountain festival revellers for a four-course dinner at Nevis Range’s new Pinemarten Restaurant and enjoy a special musical performance from award-winning Gaelic singer Mary Ann Kennedy and singers who will perform a unique, contemporary piece called ‘Black Snow’.

    Bike Night – Get ready for a full-on evening of mountain bike action in the company of British mountain bike legend Steve Peat as he talks about his riding, career and what’s next for Peaty. Plus feel your jaw drop as MTB Cut’s Stu Thomson presents his latest collaboration, ‘Industrial Revolutions’ with the incredible street trials riding star Danny Mackaskill. That’s not all – we’ll also be treated to films of other top riders doing those things they do that the rest of us wish we could!

    Mountaineering Night – Join highly experienced Arctic explorer Bob Shepton for the film of his breathtaking sailing and big-wall climbing expedition among Greenland’s fjords. The plan: load a 33-ft sailing boat with climbers, take them to some of the most remote and highest big walls in the world and watch them go! This amazing adventure culminated in an ascent of an 850-metre sea wall straight from the sea. Plus a screening of award-winning film ‘The Long Hope’ by Paul Diffley, featuring the incomparable Dave MacLeod and his 1000ft ascent of St John’s Head on the Island of Hoy in only one day.

    Climbing Night – A lecture from the maverick master of climbing Johnny Dawes. This quirky show involves unseen video, award-winning film, writings, drawings and Dawes’s notorious approach to communicating using metaphor and humour. What lies at the centre of genius and how do you find it? Where does the limit lie? Come along for an entertaining evening exploring the links between climbing and art, the universe and everything!

    The Best of Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour Film Night – Always a sell-out, this is your chance to see the best in inspiring mountain films from around the world. This year’s selection includes incredible films about skiing, ice-climbing, slack-lining, mountain rescues and, oh yes, one Australian’s quest to follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan.


    There will also be plenty of opportunity for both novices and experts to hone their skills through inspirational workshops in mountain skills, avalanche awareness, winter walking and winter climbing as well as both indoor climbing and ice climbing at Kinlochleven’s Ice Factor Indoor Climbing Centre. To find out more and to buy your festival tickets go to –


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