Following on from my initial comments — see here — I can know post a proper review of the Brooks Cascardia shoes.
My previous doubts about sizing were quickly dispelled. Very quickly the fabric on the shoes relaxed a little and the shoes were very comfortable. As soon as these shoes catch the wind you know that they are going to be very good at shedding water! In cold winds you will want to be wearing these with wool socks. And indeed, once you start encountering water you soon find that they are very good at shedding water.
From my experience so far the grip on these soles is good. The grip grass very well and cope with rocky tracks just as effectively. I’ve not really tried them on sheer rock yet and, of course, this was where the Inov-8 Terrocs excelled but I don’t expect any real problems on that score. The shoes are very well constructed and there should be nor problem with the upper fabric ripping or tearing against heather. The mid sole has the right amount of cushion in it to protect your feet from rocky trails even when carry in a full backpacking load.
I have bought these as a substitute to the Inov-8 Terroc 330s that are no longer in production. As the Terrocs were so popular, how do they compare?
In terms of sizing the shoes are comparable, indeed, if anything the width of the shoe at the front is a little wider than the Terrocs. I was able to make a straight size swap. I have worn the Cascadias with both X Socks Trecking Lite socks and Teko merino wool socks and had not problems with tightness of fit. The width I found to be more comfortable than the second generation Terrocs.
These are very effective at shedding water, as effective as the original Terrocs and more effective than the second generation Terroc.
The shoes have more cushion and protection in the mid sole than the original Terroc and are as good — if not a little better — than the second generation of the Inov-8 shoe.
When ordering over the next take a little care. I recommend going to the USA site brooksrunning.com. A popup window will tell you there is now a UK site. Simply dismiss and ignore this. On the Cascade page you will see a button ‘What’s my Size?’ Click this and you will find a calculator that allows you to compare the sizing of this shoe with many other models, for example, with the Terroc 330s. You are comparing US sizes. Order from a UK site (such as Amazon) and you will see the sizes quoted as UK sizes (this is correct). I have found that the US size comparisons work just as effectively for UK sizes.
All in all these are a fine replacement for the original Terroc 330s and are super trail shoes. I’ll post a longer term review up sometime during the spring.
Routebuddy’s new Coast to Coast Challenge Map utilises the company’s unique screen ‘stitching’ technology to reduce a new map and add-ons that will be useful to anyone planning a coast-to-coast walk across the Scottish Highlands.
On this occasion I thought it would be more useful to you if I produced a video review, as you really have to see it in action to appreciate what this system can do. The review is in html format and should be viewable by all up-to-daye systems including tablets.
The 1:50K base map is available at a reasonable £19.99.
In addition, Routebuddy has created a number of specific 1:25 add-ons which stitch into the base map. These range in price depending on the ground covered. They start at £4.99 for part of the Torridon hills to £25 for the Cairngorms — good value for money.
Any other Routebuddy map can stitch into the base map and this review also displays a Harvey/BMC 1:40 working with the base map.
Not only can you view stitched maps on the same screen but you can print out the stitched maps on the same sheet of paper.
As we approach winter I know that a lot of hikers begin to reappraise their kit and think about new purchases for the winter or the spring. I’ve had a lot of interest in the Exodus pack. I’ve reviewed it before — Review: Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 2011 Backpack — but this ha the benefit of prolonged use.
I’ve also written this as an introduction to lightweight packs and their use in UK or cooler climate conditions.
25 seconds, f11, ISO 11, 24mm, Big Stopper ND +10 stops filter, ND Grad +2 stops filter
From the world of books you could easily get the impression that treks and trail walking are things of great extremes, undertaken by athletes who suffer significantly for their art! But, of course, it does not have to be like that and the mere mortals amongst us can still enjoy the thrill of a trek albeit one that is measured in weeks rather than months, where camping is often on campsites or where gites or B&Bs are used frequently.
New technology and the internet has made small run publishing — or self publishing — very popular over the last few years. I have reviewed a number of self published books in these pages, books that I have very much enjoyed reading. At the bottom of each review I include an Amazon link. This link allows you the reader to quickly check out other reviews and, if you choose to order the book via this route, I can see how many have been sold. By far the most ordered book from this site using the Amazon system is a self published book. These books fill a real niche somewhere between a travelogue and a conventional guidebook; they can give us a good idea of life on a particular trail.
Every Day Above a New Horizon is another successful self published book which centres around a walk on the Stephenson Trail in France. A few weeks ago I reviewed Max Landsberg’s A Call of the Mountains a book which described the project of a Munro bagger; Max’s book while having a strong narrative also gave many hints and tips that will be useful to those beginning to Munro bag. In this book John Davison does much the same thing for trail walking combining a strong narrative with quite a lot of useful information about wild camping, treating water and so on.
Like John I have had the Stephenson Trail on my list of to do walks for years. The Trail has been developed to commemorate the walk undertaken by Robert Louis Stephenson from the Massif Central to the South of the Cevennes just above the Mediterranean. Stephenson wrote a short book about his trip. Travels in the Cevennes with a Donkey is often considered to be the first modern travel book.
My problem with this trail is that I never seem to be able to find the time to slip this walk into my annual schedule. I have the route planned almost completely but there it sits until, well, one day …
I was pleased to read that John has had the same experience. He too harboured the dream of walking this trail for many years. He even carried around some text from Stephenson as a poster which sat on his office wall. It sat on a number of different walls over the years before he found the time and space to walk the trail.
So, Every Day Above a New Horizon, not only focus on this walk but on those trail expeditions that led up to it. In building up to the Stephenson Trail John walked and backpacked in Derbyshire, Wiltshire and in the Highlands. He then graduated to longer trails including the West highland Way, the Great Glen Way and the East Highland Way before moving on to tackle the big one.
The really great thing about this book is that John writes well. He has a sparse and simple style and is successful in avoiding the flowery language we get from many inexperienced writers. He has a nice gentle sense of humour and a keen eye for important detail. Anyone who has regularly trailed walked will recognise many of the experiences and characters that are encountered along way. There’s the gear bore who carries massive weights and dominates every meeting at a campsite. There are walking companions who value the pubs along the route more keenly than they do the landscape and who sometimes hail down a taxi and thumb a life to get from one place to the other. There are hotels and B&Bs who, faced with a smelly and muddy trekker, suddenly decide that they are full. And there are honest pieces about the horrible nature of the early stages of the West Highland Way which is often more reminiscent of a rubbish dump than of a national trail. I agree with John’s observation that the decision to ban camping in the Loch Lomond area has been a disaster as it simply encourages improvised bivouacs which leave behind tons of debris.
The Stephenson Trail takes up the second half of a book. For me, this gives a pretty open and honest account of a first time excursion on a French Trail, including that rather touchy issue of the French and their dogs!
The Stephenson Trail is not a particularly difficult trail in itself although some of the days are long. However, John makes it clear that UK walkers need to respect the upland areas many of which are higher than any territory in the UK and which can (often) be subject to pretty dreadful weather conditions. Although this is a trail that can be broken with very comfortable evenings in lovely villages it is one which needs to be prepared for properly.
I enjoyed reading this book. It had the right air of authenticity to it. As I’ve already mentioned John writes well and this is an easy book to digest; I read it in two sessions over a Sunday afternoon and earl evening.
If you are thinking of tackling one of these trails for the first time I think you would find this book useful. If you have a lot of experience of trail walking then there is also a lot to enjoy.
I think this is only available in paper cover at the moment, but it is easily bought through Amazon.
For a couple of years now I have been looking tropical my main waterproof. This has served me well but after almost a decade of use the fabric has got thinner and the jacket stopped being properly waterproof a few years ago!
Choosing a replacement has been difficult. I’ve tried on a couple of jackets in shops that seem to be sized weirdly, X Large jackets that seem not to the right size across the shoulders. The next problem has been price. The cost of the latest designs and fabrics has become quite ridiculous. I’m simply not going to pay silly money for something that might be a wee bit more breathable.
It was fellow Challenger that first recommended the Alpamayo to me two or three years ago. Gordon is a sensible chap. He likes his gear lightweight but not at the cost of comfort of effectiveness. Everything from PHD I hoverer bought has been top-notch and so in the end I finally got round to following Gordon’s advice!
The first thing you notice about the Alpamayo is its size. PHD size their jackets to allow for the wearing of their down jackets below which is helpful I think. The smock fits nice and loosely but is not flappy. There is no scope tail but the smock has a decent, protective, length to it which I like.
The main zip on the jacket is tough and solid and protected by a proper baffle and waterproof seams. A single chest pocket also uses a similar zip and waterproof protection. There is also an inside pocket with a key holder. The hood is properly adjusted and is probably the best hood I have used on a waterproof jacket. The wire frame is tough and the hood is easily adjusted by an adjuster at the read and my two adjustable toggles on the base. The smock cuffs feature very tough and solid Velcro adjusters. Everything about the construction is very solid and the smock oozes quality. The fabric is not thin but is smooth to the touch
In the use the smock is totally waterproof and windproof without being heavy. The walk on the Black Mountains was a real test of any waterproof garment; the smock design proved more comfortable and protective than I think a jacket would have been. The sealed zips and zip protection proved to be very effective.
While the weather in on the Black Mountain Trip was pretty foul it was mild. Fighting against the wind meant working hard and at no time did I feel the smock lacked for breathability.
The Alpamayo uses PHD’s own HS3 fabric. I’m not exactly sure what this is as many waterproof fabrics — including eVent — can be licensed to be used under individual brand names. What I do know is that this fabric is more than breathable enough for me.
My Alpamayo is X Large size and weighs 470 grams. It costs £259 and can only be obtained from PHD using website. Long experience of buying from PHD tells me that you cranky on their sizing guide — for example, you would have to pretty large to have to go up to the XX Large size (which can be ordered). I idk the over sizing as I thing the option of using a down jacket in cold weather — that is not compacted too much — can be a real bonus. There is a jacket version of the smock available which adds about another 100 grams.
You won’t see this garment reviewed that often as it doesn’t use one of the main name fabrics. However, this is a first rate piece of kit that simply won’t let you down.
Over the next few months I will continue testing and report back with a long term review.
Bob and Andy’s Big days out are nearly always a combination of over-ambition and lousy execution, although this usually results in a good audio show! This year’s Christmas adventure was no different.
We headed for the Black Mountains on the welsh/English borders. Our plan was to climb high onto the moors, pick up a main track over the hills and down to a sheltered camp spot next to a river. In the event we started walking an hour or more later than planned. We somehow strolled off the path. As we set a course to cut corners over the moor mist descended, leaving us with visibility of about 100 metres. And then night fell. We picked up a small stream and descended to a point where we regained the path. The path (from the direction we had come was well defined but on the other side — in the dark and gloom — it was impossible to find an easy course. Bob had a full Christmas dinner to prepare and so we descended the stream until we found a little flat patch of grass that would make for an impromptu campsite.
Rain was falling hard and the wind was picking up. In the event the evening was spent being buffeted by high, gale force, winds. This was one of the three of four worst nights that I have spent under canvas and worse than the last one which was a couple of years ago just under the summit of Ben McDui! Pitching the shelter for the first time in anger in the dark, driving rain and gale force winds in perhaps not advised. However, the experience was useful by way of testing the Tramplite Shelter. So, what did I learn?
Despite being a minimalistic shelter it has a reasonably large footprint. My first pitches craftily located behind Bob’s shelter so that he would take the full force of the wind. The spot seemed just about big enough. At the front of the tent was a rise in the ground although this was no problem due to the raised beak. The problem with the pitch was at the rear. The tension of this shelter depends on the mid, rear, peg out point being very tight and there simply wasn’t enough room to peg this out properly as Bob was in the way!
So, I re-pitched on the other side of Bob effectively acting as a windbreak for his shelter. The back must be fixed into the wind. As I have said before this is a wide shelter and you will have to think a little about your pitch, especially in high wind.
After I we had eaten I retired to the shelter which was in good shape. As the night progressed the winds became stronger and I was thrashed around quite a bit. I needed to re-tension the shelter but – frankly — the weather was so horrible I decided to simply lie the storm out and put up with flapping fabric (cuben is a very strong material and I didn’t have any worries on this score).
In the morning I emerged to find that the shelter had lost some tension but not its shape. Most of the flapping had been at the top of the shelter; towards the base the three peg out lines at the read of the tent had stayed tight which had meant there was no material flapping into my face, which has happened with shelters in the past in these kinds of conditions.
On returning home I checked this out with Colin. The tension of the shelter is controlled not only by the mid, rear, peg out point but by the front guy. This guy is effectively a long look adjusted by a mini line-loc. Putting the tent up in the dark and the gale I hadn’t paid much attention to the position of the line-loc. During the storm I could see the tension slipping on the front guy but couldn’t easy access to the loc — I really needed to get out of the shelter. In the event I simply tightened the pitch on the two door guys. This kept the beak door firm but Colin confirmed what I had suspected, that the front guy line needs to be kept tight. Not only that but the tightening of the door guys actually slackens off the main guy somewhat. Next time I pitch I will add the positioning of the line-loc to my pitch checklist. Still, I am happy to have suffered to your advantage folks?
Beyond the nightmare of the evening what else to I learn.
Firstly, this is a long shelter and tall people will have no trouble sleeping in it. For me — at exactly six feet — there was a lot of space above my head and below my feet. The inner shelter attaches to the outer fly by means of three loops (two on the sides and one on the rear) and an adjustable toggle. Tighten the toggle and the material of the inner is effectively moved away from your body. There is no danger here of loose material flapping around your head, which I know drives some people mad.
Secondly, the zip along the floor at the rear of the inner provides access to a very useful space. I stored my wet waterproofs and socks here and there was masses of space here.
The front beak is not only effective but protects are surprisingly big space. From inside of the tent the space under the beak looks huge. There is no danger of rain being driven again the inner. My pack and cooking gear were perfectly dry under the beak.
The versatility of the beak is impressive. For the first half of the night I pitched down the doors but kept the zip open (using the bottom clip to keep things tight). This seems to haven real impact on the shelter in the wind. Half way through the night I did close the zipped door but this seemed to make no real difference to the performance of the shelter.
Overall, I was very impressed and — while I would rather have have my first night in more comfortable conditions — I have the confidence to know that it won’t let me down in dreadful weather. I can see this is going to be my shelter of choice for many years to come.
As I said in my earlier piece everything about this shelter shouts quality of both design and construction. I have only found one fault. The inner attaches to the top of the outer by a toggle that slips into a loop. When using poles with big handles (such as my Pacer Poles) I had a little problem getting access to the top loop. Having said this Colin had already identified this as a potential problem and has already increased the size of the loop.
All in all a fabulous shelter. I’m just determined to use again, soon, in order to pitch it properly!
Updated 11 December 2014 — Ed.
The Cascardia Trail shoes arrived late this afternoon. So how’s the fit?
To recap I used the Brooks US site to check the comparison between size and fit of the Inov-8 Terocs and the Cascardias. The site seemed to suggest the sizing and fit was compatible. I then ordered these from Amazon who quote sizes in UK measurements.
I ordered my usual size 9 but thought about going to the bigger half size (these are available). I have two feet that are different sizes. One is probably a little bigger than the standard size and the other feels a little lighter. While I have wide feet I have narrow heels and up-sizing often leads me with shoes that are not tight enough at the rear.
The Cascardias are very compatible with the Terrocs. The fit on my feet is right enough. These being trail shoes they will stretch a bit and so allowance has to be made for that. I often find one small toe struggles with new shoes;this was never a problem with the original Terrocs although more of an issue with the second generation. these gave me some problems using thick Smartwool socks at first but were fine when I switched to Teko lights. There should be no problem with X-Socks with the Cascardias. Overall, I would say that they were marginally more comfortable out of the box that the second generation Terrocs.
I understand the point about the soles now; they are nowhere near as aggressive as those on the Terrocs but they look as if they will do the job.
I hope to take them out onto the hills on Saturday. I shall report back.
I took Andy Walker’s comments below seriously and have spent more time with these shoes (before going onto the hill) and thinking about whether I needed to exchange these for a half size up.
My shoes are pretty similar to me now worn in Terrocs. I have one foot bigger than the other. One foot fits well and the other maybe could do with a tad more size. My problem is that as the sizes get bigger I loose grip around the heel and on multi day trips this is where I would get blisters,
There is no stress on toes with this fit. I have tried them with both X Socks and Teko merino socks and they feel OK. My main problem is with big toe space in my right shoe and thought I might want a bit more clearance there is no pressure or tightness here. In terms of feet expanding through heat there seems to be enough room for that (as feet don’t get longer).
On balance I will stick with the UK size. It is a balance though and should you order these I think you have to prepared to experiment and move up half a size. I need a new pair of trainers and so will stick with these whatever.
I think I am going to be OK with the size, but I will report back!
I’ve been talking to a first time Challenger who is interested in a second hand Trailstar; I think he is a bit cautious about over-spending on his first crossing. If anyone has, if knows of, a Trailstar that might be fore sale could you get in touch — andy.howell at me.com
My only real bit of gear dilemma to deal with at the moment is what to put on my feet! After the best part of 10 years Inov-8 have killed-off my favourite trail shoe, the Terroc 330.
A couple of years ago the Terroc was ‘improved’. A new design was a little more robust, had a bit more cushioning in the sole and was pretty comfortable. What I liked about both Terroc models were that they were reasonably wide fitting, as I have awkward feet. Inov8’s Roclite range were just too narrow for me. I bought a few pairs of the latest 330s when I realised they were to be discontinued but I’m now down to the last pair.
One of the great things about the internet is that you can instantly take advantage of the experiences of others and this morning I’ve received a lot of recommendation. Inov8’s range (since being bought out by a North American outfit) has become more and more bewildering. Back in the day the company recognised that hill walkers were going for their shoes and they included this category on their website. These days their site is nowhere near as helpful.
So, you’ll see how pleased I was to find an alternative that boasts just about one of the most helpful websites I’ve found so far.
Keith Foskett (and a few others) recommended a new trail shoe, well at least new to me. This is the Cascadia 9 shoe from Brooks. These shoes are now available in the UK but — if you are at all interested — I urge you to gave a look at the Brooks website and not just that of resellers.
The Cascardia 9 looks promising from the start but the web page is incredibly helpful. A little bubble with ‘What’s my Size?’ takes you to a really helpful interactive display. Using this display you can input the brand and model of a shoe that you have traditionally liked. I inputed Inov8 and then Terroc 330 and got a read out that told me what the corresponding size was for the Cascadia 9. The interactive tells me that this is a good fit in terms of size, comfort and — most importantly — width. I was able to order with confidence.
These look promising and I have ordered a pair. I shall report back!
Well done Brooks in helping customers make informed decisions. You’d almost think they have Inov8 owners in mind when they devised this. But, surely not?