Prototype: Cioch Liner Jacket – Truly Summer-weight Paramo

I’ve been dropping hints about this for months now… finally I can show you the first prototype Cioch Liner Jacket.

Neil and Helen at Cioch may decide to call it something different if they ever decide to put it into production but at the moment “Liner Jacket” seems the most appropriate name. And since I “designed” it, that is what I’ll call it.

Well, I say I designed it, but it’s so simple that’s probably over-stating it. Helen and Neil also came up with some great tweaks particularly to the hood.

As you may have noticed, we both really enjoyed using the Glamaigs during the winter. I was not looking forward to going back to my eVent shell for the summer. Impressively breathable though it is. So I started wondering about how I could reduce the weight of the Paramo fabric based system even more.

A Paramo fabric based jacket is made of two fundamental parts; the outer and the pump-liner. The outer is there partly as a windproof but critically, it is there to slow raindrops down.

If they hit the pump-liner at terminal velocity, they explode through it. Making you wet. But it struck me that I carry something just like that anyway during the summer; my Montane Litespeed jacket. Importantly, the Litespeed has a hood.

So surely, I thought, all you need is a pump liner on its own that you can wear under the Litespeed when it rains?

The answer is a resounding – yes!

You can see the design in the pictures. Bear in mind these were taken in a very stiff breeze so the material is rippling and plastered to me in places. (I am trying to do my best Eddy Meechan impression, but I haven’t got the eyes… the eyes…)

Helen has come up with a good face panel that I’d not thought of. There are poppers instead of a zip and short sleeves to save weight.

I’m reserving final judgement on the short sleeves. They do save weight and I have only had one, brief couple of minutes when I had cold arms. And although wearing a micro-fleece under it meant the arms of the fleece got wet they were still warm and dried quickly. This is for summer use after all.

The only thing I’d change is the Velcro Omni Tape (they now seem to have re-branded it Anti Snag) volume adjuster at the back of the hood (Cioch don’t use Omni Tape – I supplied that to them). It should be vertical along the centre line of the head, allowing as much or as little of it to be overlapped as required to change the volume of the hood, but we got our wires a little crossed. But the hood fits so well I’m not convinced that it even needs a volume adjuster.

Price on application (to Cioch not me) but Neil reckons a maximum of £80.

Weight is excellent at 252gms, bear in mind I’m not small. The event Rab Drilium that it replaces is 353gms. But for a full waterproof you also need the Litespeed: 186gms. Making a total of 438gms for the Liner + Litespeed.

But of course I’d be carrying the Litespeed anyway. It’s too versatile during the summer not to.

So that’s a total of 539gms for the Drilium + Litespeed. Meaning an overall weight saving using the Liner Jacket of 101gms.

But the weight isn’t the main point for me. In fact I may even have considered carrying this if it worked out heavier. It being lighter is just a big bonus.

The main point is the supreme breathability.

I’ve tried it in very warm conditions in late June during wet weather mixed with bright, hot sunny intervals and I found that it had my hoped-for massive comfort range. I would have been throwing my eVent jacket on and off regularly but with the liner jacket I hardly had to change at all.

So it might be warmer in a sense, it’s two layers, but they’re thin layers and they are as breathable as a T-shirt. Which means overall, even in summer conditions, you remain comfy.

Is it the perfect summer rain jacket? Well not quite, but as as I’ve said before; there’s no such thing as perfect kit.

The poppers are a slight fiddle. The fact that you have two jackets to throw on in a downpour is a slight extra faff.

Though of course you’re less likely to be changing clothes so much as I’ve just mentioned.

Probably the worst point is that the hood has no peak. I’ve not had time to think about it in much depth. Maybe it could be given a stiffened brim but that may interfere with the brim of the Litespeed.

So far though I’ve had no problem since during the summer I walk with a Tilley hat (hey if Ryan Jordan and Chris Townsend love theirs who am I to argue?).

As you can see from the picture, it forms its own brim nicely. Again it’s not perfect, the rain does tend to run around and onto your cheeks.

But for a very, very wet weekend in the Peaks recently it did me fine.

Does it keep me dry? Do I really need to say? Of course it does. Bone dry.

To give you an idea of how much I like it and already trust it, it will be coming to Iceland this week, a very wet place indeed, instead of the eVent jacket.

Landmannalaugar To Thorsmork: Maps and guides

What are we using for information on the Landmannalaugar to Thorsmork trail?

There are no English language walking guides that we can find for the area, so the best we can find is the description in the Lonely Planet Iceland guide. I’ll be copying the few relevant pages onto a single sheet of A4 paper rather than carrying the whole book.

There is a single, 1:100,000 map of the L to T trail and surrounding area;  Special sheet No 7 1:100,000:  Porsmork/Landmannalaugar.

It’s specially produced to cover the trail, and the trail and huts are marked out. I don’t know how accurate the mapping is but considering it’s only at one to one hundred thousand and the landscaping is a shifting mass of rock being affected by streams, glaciers and even volcanoes I’m not expecting anything quite up to the standard of Ordnance Survey.

As usual I’ve sent it off to Aqua 3 to have it laminated. Total weight 78gms without the paper sleeve.

The actual trail sounds to be well marked but I’ll be carrying the little Garmin Gecko GPS regardless. From what I hear, the Icelandic rely very heavily on them even when driving, especially in the winter. It seems sensible to have along.

There are also other sites that have write-ups of walks in Iceland that are helpful for background info such as making sure you have sunglasses, something to cover your face and gaiters against the volcanic dust storms that can blow up. One of the best I’ve found is Jonathan Ley’s A Hike Across Iceland which is fascinating reading.

It’s certainly not like we’re heading into uncharted wilderness but the lack of detailed information does make it rather fun planning.

A Good Night’s Sleep

Back from a great trip to Sweden to see the Out-laws (the last summer that I can refer to them as that before they become the In-laws…). Managed to fit in a couple of gorgeous days of canoeing, with an overnight camp, on a long narrow lake; Stråken. The weather was very hot and sunny almost the entire twelve days we were there with temperatures often in the low thirties centigrade. Magic.

So, what of the sleeping?

I’ve already posted about sleeping bags but they are only part of the story.

Sleeping Bag Liners

We use silk bag liners to keep the sleeping bags clean and add a fraction more warmth. They also give some flexibility if it’s hot because you can use them instead of the bag. Not a problem we expect to encounter in Iceland however (the clue, being in the name).

Silk liners are usually eye-wateringly expensive but the ones from Jag Bag of New Zealand are far more affordable. They are available very easily in the UK from Paul over at Terre Vista Trails.  They come in either Fine (lighter) or Endura (heavier, tougher).

They are very light – the fine is reckoned to be only 85gms on the site but I must admit mine is 108gms.

It’s worth the weight in my opinion because it keeps the bag so much cleaner. And clean down is warm down. Also I don’t want to send them to W.E. Franklin more often than I really have to.

Sleeping mats

Foam sleeping mats won’t deflate so on long trips this can be quite an advantage. Just try finding a leak in an inflatable mat without a bath full of water and washing up liquid! But foam mats aren’t as comfortable or as small as an inflatable mat.

We’ve been experimenting with all kinds of things. Including aluminium faced bubble wrap used as insulation in construction. However we’ve found that it’s far better suited to use as a pot cosy or wind-shield since it’s actually heavier and colder than the same-sized piece of cheap foam mat.

For the main mat we’ve been using Torsolites. They’re very comfy and warm, at least for the area that they cover.

They take a little getting used-to as you tend to roll off them more easily than a larger mat. But for the weight and incredibly small packed-size they’re worth it.

We’ve discarded the stuffsacs that came with them in favour of a loop of 4mm shock cord of the same diameter as the stuffsac. Although the cord is fractionally lighter (only by about 2gms) we mainly prefer it due to the lack of faffing-around trying to get the mat back in the bag.

Torsolites don’t work so well on their own though since there’s nothing under your legs and so they can get cold. So one third of a cheap Gelert camping mat does the trick. It only weighs about 58gms once the edge has been shaved down by 10cms. Who needs that much width anyway?

With the foam mat we also get some contingency should the inflatable mat get a puncture.

It’s worth pointing out that, despite what this picture might seem to show, the mats actually cover the whole length of the sleeping bag apart from my head which I rest on a Gecko Micro Fleece. I simply pulled the silk liner down a bit to show the PHD bag underneath and hadn’t realised that it makes it appear as if the mats are even more minimalist than they really are.

Ear plugs

If you’re sleeping in a hut, or even with a snoring tent partner, ear plugs can be a lifesaver. We’ve recently been using Ear Seals Earplugs and find that they really do block out noise.

Hat

A hat isn’t the first thing most people think of for sleeping kit but the difference they make is astonishing. All this winter I’ve been using one of my all-time favourite bits of kit; the Extremities Power Dry Beanie (Extremities is the brand name used by Terra Nova for their clothing range).

I’ve found that if I ever wake up cold, it’s because the hat has been pulled off my head as I’ve moved about. Putting it back on warms me up in just a couple of minutes.

We’ve also found that hats are especially useful if you’re hair is wet, like after a sauna for example.