Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A Very Norwegian Affair - Brynje, Real Turmat and some Arctic Expedition Training

In a recent post, I outlined my objectives for 2012, particularly in relation to kit. At that time, I was in discussions with Brynje about testing kit for this excellent Norwegian manufacturer who have only just begun to carve a presence in the United Kingdom. And, following some very useful, informative and enlightening conversations with each of them, over the course of the next year, this is precisely what I'll be doing.

In so far as Brynje is concerned, I'll be working with them and with their UK distributor, Nordic Life. Brynje have a strong arctic pedigree with their kit being designed for use across a variety of spectrums but traditionally in high intensity, cold weather environments. That has changed over the years with the introduction of a broad range of layers for wide-ranging conditions. I will test the whole gamut of base and mid-layers, with a view to feeding back to Brynje how that kit performs in UK and alpine conditions, when compared to the traditional environments they have been hitherto used in. Additionally, I'll be using them in other theatres too - sailing and biking, in particular. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity to be working with a manufacturer with a limited presence currently in the UK, experimenting and experiencing new approaches to kit, and helping to introduce that kit to UK hillwalking and outdoor enthusiasts. But it's not just their base layers I'll be testing - for reasons which will become clear over time, I can't reveal too much but I'll be working with them on some other unique and innovative stuff too.

As the bulk package arrives, it is the mesh that attracts me. This unique, intriguing and innovative layering system grabs my attention like the distant roll of thunder. Like something from a 70's porn film, I am unlikely to permit my partner to see me in this in anything other than comedic, tongue-in-cheek circumstances. Yet the theory is clear - nothing insulates better than air (it says so on the box, look). I am keen to try this gear as soon as possible in all manner of environments and see where I end up. I've been chastised for my love of merino - so I am eager to bring on sopping wet weather and try my best to persuade it to turn into the "soggy mess" I've been hearing so much about. I like to try everything, so here goes nothing.

I've been provided with several different base layers, mid layers and shell layer to test:

Classic Wool Mesh T-Shirt - merino wool/synthetic mesh base layer 
Super Thermo T-shirt - synthetic mesh base layer
Super Micro T-Shirt - finer weave synthetic mesh base layer
Classic Wool Zip Polo and T-Shirt
Classic Wool mesh boxers
Arctic Double Zip Top
Arctic Double Hat
Skald Jacket (I'll be spending quite a bit of time discussing this shortly)

I've been using the Super Micro as my cycling base layer, underneath a Montane Lite Speed windshirt, doing 22km a day for an hour in total (11km, 30mins each way). I've been washing it once a week and found it to be superb. A more detailed review in time. Also pictured below are the Classic Wool Mesh t-shirt and the Classic Wool Zip Polo. Again, reviews in time as I use them.

Real Turmat Dried Food
The next Norwegian manufacturer I have been invited to get involved with is Real Turmat - again through Nordic Life, I am trialling some Real Turmat food. I am a fan of Fuizion Food and Mountain House, so trying a well known and highly regarded European brand, with a view to comparing it with what is available to the UK market at the moment, is another fine opportunity. Food places a distant second to 'real' kit except when it comes to those who know how important it is to settle down in a warm down bag with a steaming hot beef stew that hasn't required a hernia operation to get it up a hill.

Arctic Training with ATE
I have also been invited to boreal winter Norway in January next year to take part in an Arctic Training Course run by Arctic Training and Expeditions (ATE) of NorwayThe people behind ATE are Norwegians with considerable polar heritage. Their experience comes from generations of conquered frigid environments all over the world. 

The course will teach me what it means to be comfortable in the extreme cold, learning the mentality and attitude required of a polar explorer, what kit to take, survival skills, skiing and pulk-handling proficiency as well as fundamentals of polar navigation. I'm there to write about, and photographs of, the course and to help promote it. Again, a great experience and something I am sure you'll all find interesting, useful and engaging.

Finally, there are more Norwegian and Swedish links to come over the course of the next 12 months - research for a guidebook, some more wild camping trips, plenty more photography and at least one more kit manufacturer waiting in the wings. It's an exciting year, especially as my new business Facebook page has finally gone live and my Google+ page will take on a new focus too. I hope you enjoy it and you continue to make your opinions known.