Outdoor blogs are fluid creatures. Good ones adapt to changes in attitudes. Reviews of kit have always been useful to new purchasers - that much is clear from the traffic to my own journal. Discussions on kit and changes to technology, as well as what works and what doesn't (and why or when), are also useful to those taking part in the discussions as well as those observing them from afar. We learn from others' mistakes (or successes) rather than making our own. It saves us time and money, as well as frustration. Personally, I enjoy trying kit that others have disliked - perhaps it is the curmudgeon in me but I prefer to make my own observations. Sometimes I agree, often I don't. I like making mistakes, I learn more that way. I have no problem with bloggers getting free kit in return for testing/reviews - I don't think it necessarily compromises their independence - only you the reader can ascertain that from reading their blogs. The more kit I am asked to test, the better the chance people following me have of learning, as I do, from my mistakes (and, of course, successes).
I am testing kit this year, and next, on behalf of Arc'teryx. This is something of a coup for me as I have long admired their innovation and attention to detail. Their kit is uniformly superbly manufactured and they have long been front-runners in creating new approaches to old ideas as well as using fabrics others do not. So I am thrilled to be working with them. They sent me a number of items to test over the course of this year, on the most important of which - the Atom LT Hoody, an insulation layer, and the Venta pant, a soft-shell alpine trouser - I'll do a short Initial Analysis and Review which I'll update later in the year after more use. Later this year, I'll be testing some more kit for them, including a new lightweight pack.
I am also changing my approach to shelters. Despite the protestations of Martin Rye, I have a cuben Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid on order and Sean Clayton, of Oookworks, has created for me a bespoke Oooknest for it. Robin Evans loaned me his Silnylon Duomid for Jotunheimen and the Oooknest had a quick run out during that trip. I'll detail my reasons for this change, beyond sheer devilment, when I post on the Duomid and Oooknest once my cuben version arrives in a month or so.
I have also been sent an Icebreaker Quantum 260 Hoody from The Nature Shop in New Zealand which I have been using as my cold weather base layer for a few trips now. There'll be a post on that shortly, but I like it a lot. I am a fan of merino, not particularly bothered about the sourcing of it as long as it is ethical, and I find it very effective. I know others have different opinions but so far I have yet to find anything that is as comfortable, adaptable and which does not smell after days of hard use on the trail. Perhaps in that post, there'll be some discussion about base layers and the sourcing of merino wool, two somewhat inflammatory topics.
For winter and cold conditions, I am enjoying my new Rab Infinity 500 bag. Brand new from Rab, taking the Pertex Quantum technology from the Infinity Jacket and making a bag from it, I took it to Jotunheimen recently. Stop Press! It was good. Down to -9C and only 848g without it's stuff sack (I put it directly into a 13L dry bag which compresses it better too), it's big but warm. It fills a wintry void which the Summerlite cannot.
Finally, as a consequence of a (slow and plodding) move towards professional photography as an essential cog in a new career path, I now take a DSLR into the hills with me. I want to talk a little about why I do that, how I carry it and what kit I take with it. I also want to talk a little about what I have found about shooting in RAW and using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 and Elements 10 to process my RAW exposures. Thanks to Terrybnd for the photo above and my brother-in-law Sofus (with me in Jotunheimen) for the one below. I think you'll agree both are very different but equally superb exposures in their own way. Mood and emotion conveyed completely differently.
So, there'll be some new posts coming up dealing not only with specific items of kit, but also the essence of their function in the outdoors. I'll be interviewing a few people too - publicising some good commercial companies and (well known) charitable organisations that deserve some great PR. Early 2012 has been a little slow on the Journeyman Traveller. The second half will see some great new content. And my burgeoning feature writing career means that there'll be some posts on a variety of outdoor subjects rather than just kit reviews and trip reports. That said, there'll be more international trip reports as I am working on two guidebooks at the moment, and I may well have another one or two in the pipeline as well.
As always, thanks for reading and please keep commenting. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter - @JourneymanTrav or stop by my 500px page to see some of my better photography work as I experiment and grow.