Perhaps I’m a bit old-school, but sometimes I tend to stick with my proven favourites. After all, you don’t want unproven gear to fail on a trip. But this review is about my new-found favourites. I discovered them during a recent climbing trip to Mt Arapiles and Grampian National Park in Victoria, Australia. These new pieces of Macpac kit have earned their place in my wardrobe: I’ve pushed this gear and proven it. In short, I am a convert.
For context, I need to describe the rock at Mt Arapiles and the Grampians. These mountains started life as seabed, before turning into varying types of metamorphosed sandstone. Generally, this means it’s gritty like sandpaper that’s filled with pebbles. This highly-abrasive surface is excellent for climbing, but it’s also really rough on your gear. That’s why it was the ideal place to test some new kit.
Limitless Long-Sleeve Shirt (arriving in-stores and online in December)
This technical base layer was excellent for climbing and hiking, and there are several reasons I liked it. First of all, the shirt performed incredibly well in a highly abrasive environment. Some of the climbs involved chimneys, which require you to use your hands and back to ascend. I wore my Limitless Shirt during one such climb and expected the shirt to be half-trashed by the end. However, the natural stretch of the garment meant that the shirt survived without any problems. I was blown away.
The body-tight fit, fabric and tubular design are also worth noting. We often spent a lot of time climbing beneath the hot, Australian sun. Worn under a pack, the tight fit and fast-drying fabric meant that I never experienced any chaffing, despite perspiring heavily. With woven-in ventilation panels, the shirt was highly breathable and quick-drying, all while providing excellent sun protection. During the times where there was no wind or little air movement, the shirt did sometimes feel quite warm. With a windproof layer on a cold morning, this was an advantage. In the sun, as soon as I got moving again, the garment felt beautifully cool.
This is another fantastic technical base layer that differs from the Limitless Shirt in it’s intended purpose. Ideal for hiking, the loose-fitting, light and breezy Take a Hike Shirt is beautiful to wear on a hot day. More than the Limitless Shirt, I’d happily wear one of these travelling, at the gym, or cruising around town on a hot Saturday afternoon.
The lightweight fabric is remarkably cool at all times and does a marvelous job at managing moisture, even under a backpack. While the coolness of the Take a Hike Shirt may out-perform the Limitless shirt on a hot day, the brilliance of this high-performing fabric does come at the cost of durability.
It is hard to emphasise enough the aggressive level of abrasion we were exposing our gear to. This considered, the Take a Hike Shirt did remarkably well and came away with only a couple of small snags. This shirt also features a handy pocket, hidden just above your hip. If you were wearing the shirt with a heavy pack for extended periods, I do wonder if it may chafe slightly. Nevertheless, if you’re after a lightweight top for summer, the Take a Hike Shirt is excellent.
In my opinion, the Mannering Jacket is a game-changer. In the past, I have not always been a fan of softshell jackets — often heavy and not that soft, in my experience. The Mannering Jacket, on the other hand, is lightweight, highly breathable and amazingly stretchy.
The Mannering made the perfect windbreaker. We spent a couple of days climbing in the shade. It was a relief to get out of the sun, but with a cool breeze, I needed an extra layer to stay warm. This is where the Mannering shone. The durability of the fabric (Pertex Equilibrium) is excellent and, with a high degree of stretch, gave no restriction to my range of motion. It is the perfect climbing jacket and will see a lot of use on days spent cragging.
Beyond the crag, I frequently use the jacket at the climbing gym. As I write this, it’s spring, and sometimes it’s a bit chilly at the gym. The Mannering Jacket is perfect for warming up, and then for maintaining that warmth while I belay.
Stretchiness and durability are the primary criteria by which I judge a pair of pants. By these measures and a few others, Endurance Pants come out on top.
The Endurance pants offer an impressive range of motion. This makes the pants ideal for climbing, hiking and all those moves meant to highlight your flexibility. The majority of the garment is constructed out of a lightweight and highly breathable fabric, making them perfect for use in warm weather. However, the highly abrasive climbing surface did result in the odd snag on this fabric — lightweight does come at the expense of durability. That being said, the pants’ knees and seat are made out of a thicker, highly durable softshell fabric. This material survived a week of abuse without any issues at all.
I loaded the climbing guide onto my phone, which lived in my pocket. Dangling 140m above the ground, the last thing I wanted was for my phone to drop out of my pocket. That’s why I loved the zips on the Endurance Pants, eliminating that risk. Of particular use is the leg pocket, easily accessible while wearing a harness.
A small-big-pack, the Fiord 28 is my new favourite. There are several reasons I particularly like it. First, the pack is amazingly versatile. Built with a roll-top entry and compressible sides, the Fiord can grow or compress, depending on your requirements. This means that your load always sits comfortably against your back. But climbing gear is heavy. On our way to the climb, we would often throw our rope, camera gear and water into the bag. At these moments, we wanted to rely on the pack’s excellent load transfer through the hip-belt. Other times, we were carrying lighter loads and didn’t need the hip-belt. This wasn’t a problem, as the hip-belt is easily removable. Adding to the pack’s versatility is the front pocket and bungee cord — the ideal spot for stuffing a jacket or chocolate bar.
The Fiord 28L is also lightweight, which is a definite advantage. For me, this fact makes the pack highly usable, particularly for small trips, where a larger, more heavily constructed backpack is unnecessary. Travelling to and from Melbourne from Christchurch, the Fiord 28L also made an excellent piece of carry-on luggage.
My bomber 80L Duffel has carried my climbing gear around the world and is still going strong. Constructed out of super-durable nylon fabric, the Duffel 80L just keeps on going, despite all the abuse it has received, travelling through airports all over the place. Even though it is highly durable, the bag does not weigh much — a definite plus when you have a lot of heavy gear.