SNOWDON GEAR REVIEW

03/07/13

SNOWDON GEAR REVIEW

Every summer staff from around the country volunteer to spend some time working in our Capel Curig store. Located in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park the store is a friendly place that caters for the transient backpacker or climber. This summer Paul Clark from our Tamworth store spent a few days in Capel.

Paul is a professional photographer (check out his amazing work here) and also a pretty good skier. He lives in Tamworth and couldn’t wait to get out into the Welsh hills to try a few products out. We kitted him out with the Osprey Stratos 26 Day Pack and some Salomon Quest 4D GTX walking boots and sent him into the rain to give us some feedback. Here is his account:

With only three days to spend in the beautiful Capel Curig in Snowdonia and two of those days being spent working in our shop, I was left with just one day to tackle the hike up Snowdon. I arrived in the village to beautiful sunshine and a relaxing warm climate - bliss! Apparently the top of Snowdon had been visible from Capel for the last seven days straight - a rarity! This was going to be perfect for my walk. I was going to be wearing Salomon Quest 4D GTX walking boots. I'd been looking forward to trying some of these boots for a while. I'd only heard good reports. With tech taken from their well regarded trail running shoes, I was only going to be onto a winner. If anything, I thought these boots were going to be slightly too warm for the amazing weather in Snowdonia, but I wasn't going to complain that it was too warm! I was also equipped with an Osprey Stratos 26 rucksack - a small lightweight day pack perfect for a short walk in the sunshine with enough room to hold a showerproof jacket, my camera and a few bites to eat along the way. The jacket wouldn't be needed of course, the weather is beautiful - maybe I should take more water? The last thing I want is to be dehydrated and sunburnt half way up. More water it is!

Monday and Tuesday were fun days working in the shop. The customers were all smiling, thanks to the weather, and stories of the days walks were shared. I’ve always loved Capel for this. I even shared my plans to conquer Snowdon on the Wednesday. That’s when I first heard the weather reports...

My alarm went off at 7.30am. An early time but I was anticipating a glorious day and the light is never better for taking photos than first thing in the morning, especially en route to the summit. The next noise I heard after my alarm was rain... and then wind... After about an hour of debating whether to get out of bed, I decided that no weather was going to stop me. Maybe the Quest boots were the best choice after all. And there was one advantage to the rain - I would have more room in my bag because that jacket would be on my back. Oh well - more space for food, and maybe a second lens for the camera. After about an hour of getting my essentials for the day ready and packed, I found myself at the Snowdon Car park at Pen-Y-Pass. The rain was not lifting and it seemed like the wind was only getting worse. Thankfully, I was prepared enough for this so I ventured on with the mountain top completely hidden in cloud. At this point my main concern was getting some nice photos. This was going to be a tough photography mission.

Before I’d even left the car for the main track, I rechecked my pack. To my surprise I found a built-in rain cover. This I was not expecting, especially for a pack of this size. Maybe I’ve not had many packs in my time to compare but this was a very welcomed addition, and it was by far the most important part of weather pretection I had - my camera doesnt dry out as well as I do!

The pack was brilliant. It was very light, and although its capacity is only 26l, there are so many little compartments that I didn’t struggle for space at all. It's a top-loading pack, but the two separate pockets in the top cover proved to be my most valuable. Easy access to the things you need most without having to undo any other straps and zips, so of course I kept my food here! There are also two side mesh pockets which I thought would be small but I managed a 1 litre Sigg bottle in each without any effort. Perfect.

By now, with all my little 'essential' additions to my day's walk, the pack was starting to get a little heavier. I knew Osprey were at the top for comfort and ease of use - I already own an Aether 70 which saw me through 5 years travelling around the world and that was just exceptional - but the Stratos 26 way surpassed my expectations for a smaller pack. The hipbelt is key in my opinion for pure comfort and it was more substantial than I thought it would be for the Stratos, but it proved invaluable. This being fully adjustable just like the larger Osprey packs along with the integrated suspension with stretch mesh backpanels makes the pack fit and feel like it was designed especially for you. There were a few times I was brave enough to stop, open my bag, and get the camera out without wondering if that would be the last photo it would ever take, and yet every time I did, the pack did not let me down. The rain cover slips off with one tug - 2 clips to press, loosen the toggle and you're in. And it was even easier to do back up. Bearing in mind I was huddled behind a rock to escape the wind, the rain has its own way of still finding me and I may as well be stood in a river, the ease of use of this pack impressed me alot. A simply brilliant pack.

I'd like to write a long interesting review about the Salomon Quest 4D GTX walking boots I was wearing, but honestly I didn’t even notice I had them on. I suppose that’s justification enough that they exceeded expectations in every way. I always expect a new pair of boots to rub, to feel as uncomfortable as any normal pair of new shoes but these felt like mine straight from the box. I know I put them through their paces, because I'll always be that child that jumps in puddles when it's raining. I like getting muddy, climbing over things that most normal people wouldn’t normally do and purposefully walking off the designated pathways just because I can. On days like this, in weather that makes you dream of roaring log fires, I really did gives these boots a full workout. At no point did I question the fit, the capability or the durability and waterproofness of these boots. A perfect lightweight waterproof boot which will cope with most things you can throw at it and with supreme comfort too. One useful feature that I did notice was the locking lace clips. These are positioned set back on the ankle and two very useful purposes. Firstly, it allows you to customise how you tighten the boot. You can loosen the foot and tighten the ankle or vise versa without the laces slipping into a uniformed position. Secondly, it prevents the boots from loosening around the foot if your lace tying skills aren't up to scratch. Such great benefits from a feature so small.

All in all, the equipment I was using was perfect and highly recommended for those day hikes when you're just a little unsure of which way the weather is going to turn. And in case it turns the wrong way, you know your going to be able to deal with it and stay dry and comfortable so you can enjoy the great outdoors!

See you next year Capel Curig. Hopefully in the sunshine...

Click here to see more of Paul Clark's Photography