Long term tests: my hero kit

I’ve reviewed a lot of gear over the past years, and whilst I try to put new kit through the toughest situations possible (sometimes desperately hoping it’ll thunderstorm so I can get out in a new waterproof) there’s nothing like the test of time to know if gear is really worth splashing your precious pennies on. These are my favourite long-term bits of kit.

Long term test outdoors kit


SEVEN YEARS OF GEAR REVIEWS
People sometimes ask me how I test gear. Simple – I wear or use it as often as I possibly can in the outdoors and in daily life for a month or two. I don’t get paid for review posts, period, so if you see a review with a verdict at the end of it, it’s my honest opinion. Am I a gear expert? Probably not, but I spend a lot of my time out in the elements. I often get sent items by outdoors companies to review, just like magazines and many other bloggers, and if I like the item enough to think I’d recommend it to a friend then it goes on the blog. If I don’t like it enough to recommend it, it gets sent back to the company. I only review kit on the blog that I like, that I think works well and that will last, and that looks good.

All that said, I often wish I could test out an item for a year or two before posting a review – we’ve all had that awesome rucksack with a zip that broke after a month, or a jacket whose incredible waterproof abilities faded after one winter. So this post is to shout about my absolute favourite pieces of reliable outdoors kit. They’ve gone on adventures with me, kept me warm and dry, withstood washing, mud baths and many a downpour and in general proved their mettle. And they aren’t always the expensive bits, either! I’ll be adding favourites to this post as I go.


 
NORTH FACE BOREALIS 30L DAYPACK
Long term test outdoors kit
Read my original review
Owned for: Six years
Why I still love it: Hands down the best all-purpose rucksack I’ve ever owned. I’m a serious fan – if I were to recommend one great bit of kit to someone keen to get out in the outdoors it’d be the Borealis Daypack. My Borealis has travelled around the world with me, gotten muddy and sweaty, been rained on, been slept on. It holds a surprising amount of stuff and has great pockets and bungees for your bits and pieces, plus strong straps and padding to support your back. It takes a laptop with no fuss. And it’s reliably waterproof, even in heavy rain. It’s my carry-on bag of choice, and unlike many rucksacks, its zips and lining have withstood abuse for years, with no breaking.
North Face have has a slightly different design for their new Borealis, which has also gone up in price a bit, to £75. I haven’t tried the new model, but the specs look pretty much the same.
Buy it here
 
EASY CAMP POPUP TENT
Long term test outdoors kit
Owned for: Six years
Why I still love it: I’ve kipped in many a posh hiking tent complete with techie design features and brain-withering instructions, but for easy festival camping and lazy weekends with friends all you need is this popup number from Easy Camp. It’s pretty much instant to assemble, it’s roomy enough for two people plus gear, it’s waterproof and it’s an absolute steal at only £50. After six years of regular use the zips on my tent are finally a bit tired, but until now it’s been a delight.
Buy it here
 
MERRELL GRASSBOW HIKING BOOTS
Long term test outdoors kit
Read my original review
Owned for: Three years
Why I still love them: My boot of choice for warmer weather, Merrell’s Grassbow boots (£125 but worth it) are insanely efficient against rain. On a day hike through a storm on the Isle of Skye I had completely dry feet for hours longer than my fellow walkers, who were grumpily tying their boots up in plastic bags. They’re super light, too, and the longer you walk in them the more you appreciate not having heavy clompy leather on your feet. These are the perfect boots for spring, summer and autumn hikes, for travelling in warm countries and just for kicking about on rainy days. I’ve yet to wear them in the depths of winter, though, as I usually pick something heavier for cold weather.
Buy them here
 

TARGET DRY WATERPROOF JACKETS
Long term test outdoors kit
Read my original review
Owned for: Four years
Why I still love them: There’s no need to spend tons of money on waterproofing – all Target Dry rain jackets are well under £100. I’ve tested out the Olivia and Emily (now replaced by newer models) and the Mac in a Sac, and they’ve all been reliably waterproof, lightweight, comfortable and flattering. I’ve lived in my Olivia jacket for years – it scrunches down small in a rucksack, comes with plenty of pockets and feels comfortable to wear all day, even in rain and hail. Target Dry’s Macs in Sacs are under £30 and ideal for slinging on for cycling, lightweight hiking and commuting.
Buy it here
 
DIDRIKSONS RONJA PARKA
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Read my original review:
Owned for: Three years
Why I still love it: The most versatile jacket I own. This cosy parka can take any amount of rain and snow – I’ve ridden across Dartmoor in it in a storm and taken endless falls off-piste without it batting an eyelid. It’s still completely waterproof, repelling rain like a duck’s back. It’s warm and comfortable to wear, even in snow and bitter winter conditions. And the design is timeless and flattering. If you need a trustworthy outdoors coat and can only invest in one for winter, pick a Didriksons.
Buy similar here

 
TIMBERLAND EARTHKEEPER BOOTS
Long term test outdoors kit
Owned for: Three years
Why I still love them: Okay, so these buttery soft leather boots aren’t really what I’d call outdoors gear, but I’m keeping them on my list because they are the Best. Winter. Boots. Ever. Fully waterproof and super warm, they mold to your feet and are comfy as hell, but tough and weather resistant enough to wear in mud and puddles. I wear mine almost like wellingtons on rainy days, on my bike, to work – anywhere I need to look a bit smarter than hiking boots will allow. Mine are still waterproof years later and look even better with age.
Buy them here (pick a pair listed as ‘waterproof’)
 
DECATHLON NABAIJI SWIMSUIT
swim costume
Owned for: eight years
Why I still love it: Water baby? This is the best £2.99 you’ll ever spend. I’ve worn my Decathlon swimsuit for years and it’s never lost its shape or colour. It’s flattering, comfortable and stays put even if you’re wearing it to jump off rocks or swim long distances. It usually comes in plain blacks and blues (currently there’s a nice blue one in stock). I’ve had mine for eight years, which is pretty staggering, considering how good it still looks.
Buy it here
 
OLDO BASE LAYERS
1
Read my original review
Time owned: One year
Why I still love them: When I first reviewed Odlo’s inner layers after a couple of ski trips, I was impressed. They were warm, comfy and flattering. Since then I’ve worn them dozens of times in snow but also on pretty much every winter excursion, including camping in the bitter cold. And they’ve always kept me warm and snug and still fit perfectly, with no saggy bits. Worth investing in.
Buy them here
 
BERN SKI HELMET
bern
Time owned: Six years
Why I still love it: My Bern lid got me through a ski season unscathed, and I still use it for snow sports now. It’s hard wearing, goggle compatible and comes with interchangeable inner layers for warmer or cooler weathers. Plus (and unlike the great majority of snowsports helmets), the designs actually look really good – no mushroom heads here. Bern do separate cycling helmets which are just as decent.
Buy onw here
 
PETZL TIKKINA HEAD TORCH
tk112sm
Time owned: Four years
Why I still love it: Now this may be just a fluke, but somehow I’ve used my Petzl headtorch for countless hours of nocturnal adventures over the past four years and have yet to change the batteries. Pretty impressive, no? Petzl’s Tikkina costs under £20 and is simple to use, easy to adjust and shines a decent light for hiking and camping at night. Job done.
Buy it here
 

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4 Comments

  1. August 10, 2015 / 8:23 pm

    Definitely agree that some things you will love forever- I have a Craghopper synthetic down jacket that is just perfect. Its budget and everything I wanted it for! Glad to see you have some hero products.

  2. August 11, 2015 / 9:09 am

    A really interesting recap of the things you have stuck with. A good idea – might “borrow” it myself if that’s ok? There are things I’ve been sent to test that I still use nearly daily, others that haven’t seen the outdoors since I wrote the blog post.

  3. sian
    August 11, 2015 / 9:14 am

    yes of course! would love to see yours too 🙂

  4. sian
    August 11, 2015 / 9:14 am

    Craghopper are great too! It’s lovely when something just lasts, isn’t it 🙂

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