[travel] HAUL – Outdoor Walking and Snow Gear

Outdoor Walking Gear Haul
The past two months have been pretty awful, so I decided to cheer myself up with a little shopping spree with the Sports Direct sale:

corner boots1

haul outdoor gear

sandals2

Let’s start with the Karrimor Walking Sandals.  The box said they were reduced from £49.99; I actually paid £13 for them because there had been another reduction since they were first put on sale.  I wore them the very next day to walk two miles and they were very comfortable – apparently needing no “breaking in” period, as most shoes do.  They felt odd when I first put them on at the store, until I realised that the strap at the very back needed loosening, then they were super comfy.

Karrimor walking sandals

I really like the ’90’s style they’ve got going on and I also love how lightweight they are – I can’t wait until summer to go hiking in them.  They also have super-grippy soles so I think these would be good for hillwalking.

Karrimor walking sandals

I bought size 6 which is an EU 39.5.  I’m usually a size 40 (which gets interpreted as a 6, 6.5 or 7 depending on brand of shoe) but these fitted fine in the 39.5.

box for walking sandals

The snow shoes I bought were also intended for hiking.

snow boots karrimor

Those of you who have been following for a while will remember I have a list of 20 Must-Climb Mountains in Europe that I want (no, I NEED) to climb before I turn 30 in 20 months’ time, because they’re on my to-do list.  I had the opportunity to tackle Scafell Pike recently and had to turn it down because I didn’t have any footwear that was suitable for winter mountains or for fitting crampons to.  I have now remedied this with these beauties:

How nice are these snow boots?
How nice are these snow boots?

I was a little bit disappointed because they also had them in pink but didn’t have anything resembling my size, so I went for the blue ones which were allegedly for boys.  The only difference I could see was that the blue ones were blue, and the girls’ ones had pink laces.  If you really wanted them to be more like the girls’ version, you could always buy some pink laces to put on them.  They didn’t do a version that was strictly “for adults” but since the children’s ones went up to a UK size 6 (which was actually an EU 39.5 again) I was more than accommodated, which is interesting because it’s the first time I haven’t had to get a size 7 in a walking boot.  One thing I like about sports direct is the staff never try to steer you to a particular gender or target-age of a shoe, they just let you get on with it.  They were so comfy (in the words of a furniture store we saw in Salzburg, they felt “so schlaft, man”) I actually felt like my feet had got their own cosy beds to sleep in.

Sorry about my feet, the boot wouldn't stay put!
Sorry about my feet, the boot wouldn’t stay put!

I felt a bit sad having to take these off both in the store and after taking the photos.  The inside is padded with something that feels suspiciously like memory foam, which, along with their fake-fur plush lining, is what makes them feel so comfy.
Another thing I really like about these is that they have a 100% waterproof part at the bottom, so that you can’t get wet from stepping through puddles etc.  While I’d love to be able to afford something in Gore-Tex that was completely waterproof, as a cheap boot for winter walking these really look a lot better than all the others – I always slightly distrust nylon-looking fabric that claims to be waterproof because in my experience it’s “light rain proof” not “puddle proof” but as you can see, these are 3 inches of rubber so unless you’re fording a stream you’re gonna be dry:

snow boots waterproof karrimor

The label says they’re completely waterproof, and certainly in the snow they shouldn’t get my feet damp.  They were £29.99 which was a reduction from £59.99, as you can see on the box:

snow boots karrimor waterproof
I really can’t wait to go walking in these boots.

Next there was a pair of No Fear winter sports gloves.  I wasn’t expecting to buy any gloves, but then ended up spending quite a bit of time in the shop trying different ones on.  The ones I settled on were reduced from £24.99 to £9.99, and I couldn’t be happier with them:

No Fear winter sports gloves

They have a clip so you can clip them together when you’re not wearing them, to avoid losing them, because there’s nothing more irritating than losing one glove under normal circumstances.  Out on the slopes in the snow, you could end up with frostbite if you lose a glove, so it’s extra important.

No Fear winter sports gloves with clip

There’s also a good grippy bit where your fingers go – unlike another pair I tried, the grip on this one felt comfortable in the Make A Fist test (make a fist, if you’re fighting your glove all the way, get a different glove, it’s going to make it hard to hold things when you wear them).

No Fear winter sports gloves waterproof snowboarding grip side

I also liked the baffle inside the glove – a strip of fabric that went all round the inside to stop wind blowing down the glove and making your wrists cold.

No Fear winter sports gloves with clip

These ones had elastic at the wrists AND adjustable velcro on the back of them, making them give a good fit without letting the cold or wet in.  Lastly, the label said they were waterproof.  I tested this in the sink today, and they didn’t let any water in when the tap was running over them.  I absolutely LOVE these gloves.  They were Extra Large size because they were “for girls” not women, but I found the fit more comfortable and felt I was getting more features than any of the ladies gloves.  Additionally, they didn’t have any for adults that looked this good.

Lonsdale mini backpack

I bought a Lonsdale Mini Backpack for £5.99 because when I went to Italy, I was a little fed up with having to drag my shoulderbag up and down big hills and endless steps around Salzburg.  I thought a nice lightweight backpack would be perfect.  I looked at all the daysacks, but I found them all to be overly-technical and overly expensive for what I needed (we were talking over £20 for one, and I don’t need it to be Camelpak compatible or have an MP3 headphone port or an air cooled back).  I wanted something I could roll up and stuff in my suitcase.  So I got this, an absolute steal at £5.99.  It comes in a range of colours, I picked the black one because I thought it would suit every outfit and mood.  It’s much smaller than most “sports” backpacks so my lunch and bottle of water won’t be bouncing around everywhere inside it when I walk around, and there’s a little pocket on the front where I can put postcards.

Lonsdale mini backpack rear view
I liked this one better than the Nike version because they only had the Nike one in Lime Green.  The Lonsdale one (which I bought) also had the advantage of padded straps, which a lot of standard sports-type backpacks don’t have.

Then there was the waist pouch.  I have been toying with the idea of a handsfree type area around my waist for festivals, concerts and other places that require the use of my hands to declare my love for whatever song is playing.  I liked this one because it was the smallest one available so I thought it wouldn’t look as bulky on my tiny size 8 frame:
pouch1

It’s another Karrimor discount, and it cost £5.99, so the same price as my backpack.  I like it because it has a little pocket at the front to keep your MP3 player or iPod, and a headphones out port, so when you’re at a festival and that band you hate starts playing, and you can hear them still across the other side of the field, you can drown them out.  Not that I have ever done this, but I did consider it during one act at Sonisphere last year.  I shan’t tell you which band it was because I profoundly loved most of the bands that played and don’t want to be mean spirited.
The back of the pouch looks like this:
karrimor belt pouch for money etc

I can’t wait to try this out so I can keep my coins on me without having to worry about the safety of my purse while I rock out like a loon at my line-up of festivals and concerts which I’ve got planned for this year, and I also thought it would be very handy when I go to Spain and Morocco later this year as well, to avoid pickpockets, because the zipped money pocket is on the inside.

Lastly, I got some spare laces.  Every time I see some cheap ones I buy them because, in a house filled with five rabbits, shoelaces often get chewed when you are least expecting it, and this means a supply of new ones is essential.  They were only 99p:
karrimor spare shoe laces

I was pleased with the whole experience on my shopping trip, and I really enjoyed the shopping process because I didn’t feel pressured into buying anything and felt like I could still ask for help when I needed it.  Even at the till when I changed my mind about something and was super-apologetic, they were really nice about it and just put it to one side to be re-stocked.  The equipment I bought at Sports Direct will help nicely with my plan to do some of the Via Ferrata in Andorra this year as well, since for Christmas my aunt got me a Via Ferrata Harness and safety line, and a guide book on all the Andorran Via Ferrate.  I will show you these and tell you what I think of them in a future post.
Have you done any new equipment shopping so far this year?  Let me know in the comments.

How to build an igloo

So with all the boxing day snow we’ve been having, I decided to show you how to build an igloo; we built this in our drive in 2013:

1. Get some large plastic boxes:  Recycling boxes or storage boxes will do just fine for igloo building.  A packing crate isn’t very good as it’s not very strong and the sides are full of holes so the snow falls out instead of making solid igloo ice blocks.

This is the sort of box we used for the first layer - it's a 70 litre plastic box.  The lid wasn't much use.
This is the sort of box we used for the first layer of igloo ice blocks – it’s a 70 litre plastic box. The lid wasn’t much use.

2. Fill the boxes with snow.  Pack the snow down in the box to make giant bricks of ice.  You will need to repeat steps 2 and 3 a lot to make an igloo.

These are the stronger plastic boxes we used to make the bricks from the 2nd layer upwards.  I don't know where they're from - my OH was using them to store Lego before this.
These are the stronger plastic boxes we used to make the bricks from the 2nd layer upwards. I don’t know where they’re from – my OH was using them to store Lego before this.

3. Tip the boxes upside down in a circle (leave room for an igloo door) and pat the bottom to get the snow-bricks out (see picture):

This was the first layer from a different angle.  We left loads of room for the doorway.
This was the first layer of blocks for the igloo from a different angle. As you can see our first box cracked and we used a smaller one for the igloo’s other layers (which made our igloo really strong). We left loads of room for the doorway.

4. Once you have a complete layer, do the same above – but don’t line the bricks up (think about how brick walls are built), and make sure the ice blocks are facing slightly inwards so your bricks eventually meet at the top.

This was what our igloo looked like at our halfway point.  The igloo doorway was improved with bricks set at a different angle for structural stability.
This was what our igloo looked like at our halfway point. The igloo doorway was improved with ice bricks set at a different angle for structural stability.

5. At the top of the igloo, you have two choices – some people prefer to build a capstone out of ice, to stop everything from falling apart.  Otherwise, leave a hole in the top to let air in.  We left a hole in the top of ours.

This is what it looked like when it was nearly finished.  The MDF at the front was used as a door when we camped out in it over night and to keep cats out while we were building.
This is what our igloo looked like when it was nearly finished. The MDF at the front was used as a door when we camped out in the igloo overnight and to keep foxes out while we were building.

6. We used polystyrene and wire mesh to support the door of our igloo because the size of our ice blocks (and the ambient temperature being only -5 or so) meant the whole structure may have collapsed if we hadn’t used any support.  Smaller boxes (than 70 litres) or hardening the blocks of ice using cold water would have both prevented this problem, but it wasn’t cold enough for water-hardening the ice blocks and they just melted when we tried it.    For the amount of time we put into building this igloo, I was very happy to complete it and didn’t worry too much about it being 100% Eskimo-worthy.  Whether you end up with a perfect building made only of ice or not, you will feel damn proud when you go inside your finished igloo.

This is what the finished igloo looked like.  It took us about 5 hours to build, including a break every hour or so when we went indoors to defrost.
This is what the finished igloo looked like. It took us about 5 hours to build, including a break every hour or so when we went indoors to defrost.

7. Now admire your igloo.  Can you sleep in an igloo?  Definitely!  We camped out in ours with some roll mats and a double sleeping bag and it was surprisingly cosy (although we did this wearing serious layers).  It also confused the neighbours which was hilarious.

This is the finished result.  We had a LOT of fun in this igloo last year.  Hope it snows as much this year so we can build another one in our new house (and get some better pics)!
This is the finished igloo. We had a LOT of fun in this igloo last year. Hope it snows as much this year so we can build another igloo in our new house (and get some better pics)!

8.  Take plenty of photos and share them with me via Twitter @invokedelight so I can see your awesome creations!

Have you built an igloo?  Share your igloo pics with me on Twitter!  Who needs an expensive package holiday to Iceland?  You can do this in your own front garden!