EOCA enables European expansion of The North Face Explore Fund

The European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) is delighted to announce that it is working in partnership with The North Face (TNF) to support the brand’s grant funding programme for conservation projects in Europe

The TNF Explore Fund aims to create access and drive equality in the outdoors by funding non profit organisations around the themes of Enabling Exploration and Loving Wild Places.  Having met with extraordinary success in the United States, the TNF Explore Fund is expanding its funding across Europe and has turned to EOCA to help find suitable conservation projects with a lasting legacy.

Julian Lings, CSR and Sustainability Manager for The North Face said, ”The Loving Wild Places part of the Explore Fund is all about valuing wild places for the mental and physical benefits they bring – and therefore protecting them and looking after them so that those opportunities are available for everyone, now and into the future.  We are thrilled to be working with EOCA to find some really exciting projects to fund.  The Association has been working in exactly this area for the last 13 years and its knowledge and experience in funding, assessing and managing this type of conservation work is invaluable.”

EOCA will be looking at organisations working in the UK, Germany and Italy and once projects have been shortlisted, the The North Face employees in those countries will get involved in choosing which projects they would like to see funded.  Tanya Bascombe, Joint General Manager of EOCA added,” This is a fantastic opportunity to show what kinds of projects are out there, and to be asked to help The North Face in their search for their prestigious Explore Fund shows how well regarded the projects that EOCA funds are.   The North Face automatically becomes a Summit Member of EOCA through its funding of the projects it chooses.  It has also generously signed up to become a Sustaining Member, thus helping to finance the running of the association, and we look forward to many more fruitful years of cooperation together”.

Sprayway Kalmar soft shell jacket

I’ve been told I need a soft shell jacket to take with me on the Grand Traverse

I have searched and searched and searched for the right one and was getting close to the point of giving up when up stepped Sprayway with their new Kalmar jacket and this is what they say about it….

Lightweight, packable weather resistant protection for the British summer.

New for Spring Summer 2019, the Sprayway Kalmar Hooded Jacket offers superb weather resistance for unpredictable summer days out.

The Kalmar has a technical look and feel, made from Stretch TecWEAVE™ with a TecSHELL™ fabric overlay for added durability. The 4-way stretch TecWEAVE in the main body and arms has a PFC free DWR coating for added weather resistance. This is topped off with a 30D TecSHELL ripstop fabric also coated with PFC free DWR through the chest and hood.

Sprayway has also insulated the hood with 20g INSOtherm and added a wired peak and the jacket has plenty of pockets where needed and fully adjustable cuffs and hem. The Kalmar is an extremely versatile jacket as it is lightweight and packable, wind and rain resistant, durable and can be worn as an outer or a mid-layer dependent on conditions.

It is the ‘Go To’ jacket for the unpredictable summer weather, perfect for nearly all outdoor activities and looks as good as it performs.

My initial joy on receiving the jacket is how light it is, perfect for the Grand Traverse! Every other jacket that has been described to me as “Soft Shell” may well be soft but everyone of them have been heavy and totally unsuitable for carrying for 38 days!!!

Passing Melrose

Heading back down from the Central Belt, Scotland on the A68 I have always been intrigued by what I thought was a single lump of rock sticking out of the ground to the right as I pass the sign for Melrose.

Monday 29th April was a beautiful day and so I detoured and in doing so came across a road sign for the Rhymer Stone!

I couldn’t resist and turned onto a no through road that initially lead me past the local crematorium and a horse riding stables before coming to a halt at an information board for Thomas the Rhymer and his stone. It was at this point I asked two riders carrying bridals on there way to collect some horses “Where is the stone?” to which the male replied “Just up there on the left”, this was a matter of a few hundred metres away. I then asked him if it was worth a look and his reply was “Not really”, at which point a lady joined the conversation from behind and said “It’s a great view!” to which I replied “Surely the better view is from up there?”, pointing to what I now know as the first of the Eildon Hills. The male horse rider agreed with me and said it would take me 40mins to get to the top! Much to his colleagues surprise at that point I committed to the climb!

Following the sign for the Border Abbeys Way I set off along a green track between two hedges and ascended the first hill!

Booked the TGV from Paris to Dole

So excited to have booked the TGV from Paris to Dole! It was saying to me “you’re committed now, next stop Nice!

When I saw the difference in price between 2nd Class and 1st it was a no brainer, 1st Class all the way, after all a trip on a TGV is on my bucket list so why not do it in style?

Ticket booked I then did some research and posts on Trip Advisor suggested I’d made the wrong choice as all you get for your extra euros is extra leg room, unlike the Eurostar and 1st Class in the UK you don’t get free food on SNCF!

Even without the food I think Trip Advisor contributors are wrong! Although I’ve not yet had the TGV experience I am very much looking forward to it and all the more so because I could afford that little extra to go 1st Class at the start of my journey of a life time, so thank you SNCF!

SNCF Thank you

Bridgedale Hike Ultra Light T2

Just put on a pair of Bridgedale Hike Ultra Light T2 boot height walking socks for the first time!

Stripping away the cardboard packaging I realised how light these socks are and wondered how on earth they are going to comfort and protect my feet on a hike?

Putting my feet into these “Fusion Tech” socks made “of the highest quality yarns”, “wrapped with high performance microfibres” I immediately felt the wrap around comfort and support that Bridgedale promised.

First impression is they will be great for walking the Grand Traverse of the Alps in the summer.

Next stage is to put them into my boots and start walking!!!

12 hour heat retention test on 5 flasks

It was the Fire and ice box that set the challenge, HOT 12 HRS COLD 24 HRS so at 7am on Friday 6th April we took five flasks and filled them with boiling water, recorded the start temperatures and left them outside for twelve hours before opening them up and taking the temperatures again. The heat losses are shown in the table below.

The flasks are from left to right

Mizu Adidas Terrex 650ml / 22oz

#mizulife http://www.mizulife.com

Hydro Flask 532ml / 18oz (New)

Hydro Flask 532ml / 18oz (Old)


Chilly’s 500ml


Fire and Ice 500ml


Please note that the tests where not carried out in the lab but in the great outdoors!

As Spring progresses here in the United Kingdom we will look forward to a hotter day to test the COLD 24 HRS challenge on all five flasks in a similar fashion.

Both the Chilly’s and Fire and Ice were purchased. The Mizu and Hydro Flask were given to us free of charge for review.

Keen Karraig Mid WP walking boots

Keen Europe have kindly supplied me with a pair of Keen Karraig Mid WP men’s UK size 10 walking boots to trial for the Grand Traverse of the Alps.

It’s great to see that Keen Europe are continuing to support boot manufacture in one of boot making’s traditional heartlands, Romania.

In the coming weeks we will be taking these boots out for a number of test walks to get the feel of them prior to my departure on the Grand Traverse of the Alps and will let you know how we get on.

We’ve just taken them out of the box and this is what they look like and…

Keen Karraig walking boots front elevation
Keen Karraig walking boots tread
Keen Karraig walking boots side side elevations
Total grip Keen Karraig walking boots
Keen Karraig walking boots full frontal!

…we’ll follow their instructions on how to put them on!

Instructions on how to put on Keen Karraig walking boots
Keen Europe logo with link

LifeStraw, bladder or flask?

Two of the major considerations on any long multi day walk are the weight on your back and hydration on route.

I realise that utilising any container to carry fluids will add considerable weight to my pack so have looked at ways to avoid this where possible.

In the main the Grand Traverse of the Alps passes through a landscape that will provide plentiful opportunities to re hydrate. It is only in the last few days in the Southern Alps where there is a need to carry sufficient water to last the whole day.

Given the geography of the route I have decided to use a LifeStraw for water on the majority of the walk as it is both light compared to a full flask or bladder and more compact.

The size is 212mm x 28mm dia including solid sealed caps at either end that protect both the entry and exit of the water.

The only difficulty I have in using it is my own physic! You do need to get close and personal to the water source from which you attempting to drink!

One other aspect of using the LifeStraw that only became apparent on first use is that the water you are drinking can be very cold when it hits the back of your throat.

I will be taking an empty flask or bladder to use on the last section because of the rarity of natural running water there.

First practice walk with full pack!!!

OK not totally full, limited clothes and no sleeping bag but I did have the tent, cooker, food, air bed, spare socks, Rab shorts and body cleaning fluid!

Start of first full pack practice walk
Further south towards Bilsdale Mast
Looking North towards Teeside and Roseberry Topping
Heading East towards  Round Hill
Cairn guiding the way
Looking over to the incline
Approaching Round Hill summit
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Start and finish Clay Bank, North Yorkshire grid reference NZ573036

Approximately 11 km with 400m of ascent and descent. 5km section of the Cleveland Way and Coast to Coast on the edge of the North York Moors. Great workout descending the incline and steep, wet ascent up Jackson’s Bank.

It was a beautiful day and I was alone for most of the walk which was a shame. OK there had when rain the previous day and it was a little windy but that just added to the pleasure in my mind.

The outdoors is such a fantastic gym and in the main it’s Free!!! I wish more people would step out of their comfort zone and experience more of our green, brown, blue pleasant lands.

Osprey Atmos 65litre pack contained a Snugpack Ionosphere single person tent, Therm-a-rest airbed, Primus stove with gas and five packs of Summit to Eat dehydrated meals, Bridgedale and Darn Tough socks, Rab shorts, Hydro Flask, Lifestraw and SeaToSummit wilderness wash. Supporting me was a Leki Softlite trekking pole.

I wore a Craghoppers fleece over a T Shirt, pair of Rab walking trousers and on my feet I had a pair of Keen boots.

Very happy with my first practice walk. Answered three valuable questions

Do I need to take a large rucksack? The answer is yes and I was certainly comfortable with the Osprey and the weight of its content.

Do I need two trekking poles? No, I definitely need one hand to hold a camera so one trekking pole will be sufficient.

Do I need to take the Lifestraw? Yes, certainly on at least the first half of the GTA as this has such a weight benefit when you know there is copious amounts of running water to tap into.

Bridgedale Summer Socks

Following extensive research, Bridgedale has identified a growing demand for non-wool warm weather socks. Building on this research the focus from Bridgedale for Spring 19 is the non-wool Warm Weather Hike collection

Adding to their hugely popular Hike Lightweight Coolmax Comfort style, made by combining Coolmax with Cotton yarns, Spring , Summer 19 will see the introduction of new Coolmax styles, giving Bridgedale a complete and comprehensive range of wool, non-wool and waterproof socks 

Bridgedale Hike Ultra Light high ankle

‘Coolmax™’ is well known as one of the very best warm weather yarns being quick drying, highly breathable and boasting excellent wicking, & thermo regulation properties.  The socks also have an incredibly soft feel making them extremely comfortable all day long.   Fusion Tech from Bridgedale brings together Coolmax™ with technical synthetic fibres in a knit to provide a thin, close supportive fit with targeted T2 padding, balanced insulation and outstanding durability.  Making it the ideal choice for walking and trekking in warmer climates in lighter footwear.

Bridgedale Hike Ultra Light low ankle

Bridgedale are suggesting that the socks will be suitable for tackling hikes similar to the Coast to Coast, Camino de Santiago,  or the Appalachian Trail (AT) so I’ve suggested they’d be good for both my practice walks and the Grand Traverse of the Alps (GTA) itself, so there’s a pair on it’s way to me to trial and review.

The new styles include Lightweight and Ultralight with men’s and women’s specific FIT.  Highlights include the men’s and women’s Ultralight Boot length HIKE Lightweight T2, Coolmax Performance, Boot length, and men’s and women’s Ultralight Low Cut – HIKE Ultralight T2, Coolmax Performance, Low cut.

Bridgedale logo