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.

37 comments:

  1. Maz in the early 70's, lots of people wore string vests as insulation under the their shirts. Standard thing to wear to school during the winter and it always kept me warm. Fell out of fashion, but a recent review by Chris Townsend in TGO and your post suggests to me that it might be worth going back to the 70's :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's always worth going back to the 70's if only for disco! It's not a novel concept but new does not always mean better. I've liked the Super Micro so far - more so than most other high intensity active base layers. Still, whilst cycling is great for short bursts of high intensity activity I'd like to see how the others work in longer term use - say over a 2-3 day trek.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bring the string vest to Scotland.  If it rains we go over a munro or two, then we see who gets a soggy mess.  Question if the test kit and food is no good, will you say so?  

    ReplyDelete
  4.  Real turmat food is good stuff, shame I can only eat two of their meals (fish) though. Shame so pricey.  Rate much better than Fuizon which gave me the shits after each meal whilst in Sweden!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm looking forward to this series immensely. 
    I've been a big fan of Real Turmat for 6 years now - I ate it exclusively on my four month LEJOG - it's vital to look forward to your evening meals on an extended walk and I always did with Real Turmat. 

    ReplyDelete
  6. Guess we'll see Martin. I'd say I would as I have done many times before.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I like Fuizion but Robin Evans swears by these so I am keen to try them. Sorry about your digestive issues in Sweden!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Evening meals are sometimes what see you through a cold day so are important.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Just want to point out that we have some places available on the ATE course for January 23rd-27th. If anyone is interested please get in touch at rhodri@nordiclife.co.uk 

    ReplyDelete
  10. As I said on Twitter before, I've used the Brynje mesh shirts on every expedition I've been on so far. It's great stuff. On Denali I used the long sleeve shirt and also the pants. In the alps I only use a short sleeve shirt under a a light merino. Brynje mesh and light merino is a match made in heaven, as far as I'm concerned. 2 baselayers on top of eachother may seem a bit too much, but the mesh, and the air trapped in it, keeps your body temperature always right - not too hot, not too cold.
    If you can, though, use the coloured versions - I like the blue - as the whites don't stay white very long in my experience...

    ReplyDelete
  11.  I suppose ' digestive issues' is a more polite way of putting it!  I don't know why but most freeze dried food upsets my stomach.  Real Turmat are one of the few that dont.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I remember some excess air created by one well known brand which is not good for the chap climbing below you...

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good stuff mate, I like how you're continuing to carve out your own niche, not being content with the status quo!

    Real Turmat is some of the best food available, but its biggest fault is the exorbitantly high price. 13€ or more for one meal just isn't reasonable, however good it might be. 

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think Norwegian companies exporting to other countries need to take account of their own high prices in-country and discount abroad if they are to sell at their highest profit margins.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'd never even heard of Real Turmat before now.  13 Euro a pack?!  Jesus Rollerblading Christ.  What's wrong with cous cous and a tin of mackerel? 

    ReplyDelete
  16. I had a Brynje mesh long sleeved crew neck way back in the late eighties, or early nineties.  It was made of polypropylene and was excellent in really cold weather.  Good to see them back

    ReplyDelete
  17. Cous cous, spices, apricots, dates and some salami cost a fraction of one Real expensive Turmet and will be tasty as heck.  Agree Jake.  

    Andrew way too high for a lot of people at 13 euro and what is the string vest price wise?  

    ReplyDelete
  18. The Super Thermo is still made of polypropylene, as is the Super Micro, both of which I have used - the latter every day now for two lots of 30 minutes high intensity cycling (for about two weeks). Washed once, it never seems to smell, dries in no time and feels great. Sure the mesh is a little embarrassing, but you cannot fault its weight and its effectiveness - two things that are important to fast moving athletes, hillwalkers, mountaineers and backcountry adventurers. Frankly, I've still aways to go before I reach conclusions and I want to be honest about their shortcomings, but I am really pleased so far.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Martin, I agree that Real Turmat and Norwegian products as a whole are suffering from coming from a country with naturally high prices. They'll have to decide what pricing system to adopt and accept the corresponding demand for their products. Home made stuff is good I accept - I've certainly not ever suggested otherwise - and I agree that €13 is too much.
    As for the Brynje mesh layers - SS all retail around £38-42 and LS £60-80. Again, expensive but still around the same as Montane and only a bit more expensive than Rab. As you asked me yesterday, I will certainly tell you what I think about these layers but so far, I have seen nothing but positives and more than any other base layers I have used, ever. Also, many comments on this post alone from people who do all sorts of activities, and have done for years, are again positive. Stow your scepticism Mr Rye and open your mind to a new possibility!

    ReplyDelete
  20. We shall see in Scotland.  RAB, or Montane stuff and no holes in my base layer thank you  I like to stay warm :)

    ReplyDelete
  21.  Prices up north are rather silly to be honest.  I paid £3.50 for a packet of biscuits, £9.50 for some Ba Bland couscous and then £30 to use a shower and a sit down loo. I have never spent nearly £50 so unwisely before.................

    ReplyDelete
  22. What stays warmer than air which is at the same temperature as your body?

    ReplyDelete
  23. I agree. I once spent £20 on lasagne and coke in Oslo. I asked if I was paying someone else's bill as well...

    ReplyDelete
  24. As I have been sent test kit, I don't have a choice with colours ;-) Thanks for the comment Sieto and glad you like them. I've been impressed so far. I've always used two merino layers in the higher parts of the Alps and colder UK days and loved it so I am deploying the same philosophy with Brynje.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Trapped air mate. I don't see how through convection how a string vest will keep one warmer than the likes of a fleece to be honest.

    Currently I've been wearing a sports shirt with lots of holes for the summer and yes it's a great way of regulating my body temperature but I can't possibly see (and know from experience) how that would keep me relatively warm when walking.

    Like I said, 'trapped air' and I guess there may be something in a string vest, but in the real world, I don't see it being of much use. Breathable aye lol

    I think I'll stick with the tried and trusted evolution in baselayers. A nice merino top :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. The idea is that the layer on top of it traps the air. That outer layer prevents convective heat loss. A fleece does not permit as much air close to the body as a mesh vest does and certainly does not breathe as much. I don't think a Brynje top will keep you warm on its own - of course not - it needs something on top but if it is warm enough not to wear anything on top, you're not worrying about heat loss, are you? It's a similar principle to neoprene in so far as a natural element (air/water) is directly on contact with the skin, and not the outside air, and therefore remains at the same temperature as that skin. That's the principle. I am not saying it works - I haven't used it enough yet - but the principle seems sound to me. Additionally, mesh will breathe better than any other type of base layer by definition which means when you balance the requirements of a base layer, these mesh tops have the potential to work very well. As I said, after a while of using them I'll report back but Europeans commenting here and on other blogs/websites and to whom I have spoken swear by them. It just remains to be seen how they perform in the wet, miserable UK weather at its worst but I remain optimistic.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Oh brilliant. We are very pleased for you Maz, well deserved. I'm particularly looking forward to your arctic training as this is what i used to enjoy years ago.
    On route back home once we got to Bergan and only had £6 left. I managed a packet of buscuits but couldn't afford the cheese. I have never forgotten how hungry i was then.

    BTW, can i ask you about your header. The 2nd line. Should it not read "and leave NO trail? 

    ReplyDelete
  28. Leave no trail? A trail need not be a scar on the landscape and introducing others to something wonderful you have found is no bad thing. No, on this we disagree Alan and Ralph Waldo Emerson encapsulates in tightly woven words I could only dream of my philosophy.

    ReplyDelete
  29. My dad had string vest waaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the day (he's 65 and has lived through every outdoors fad, and succumbed to each and every one of them I might add) and chuckled when I mentioned that string vests are back on the market.  So here is his quote, paraphrased because I wasn't really listening:

    'They were OK.  Possibly more comfortable than an ordinary top, but only slightly.  Until you started sweating a lot.  Then they felt weird as hell.'

    When I mentioned the potential price, he went quiet for a moment and asked, 'Do they come with a moustache?'

    Actually he didn't, but if they DO come with a moustache, I'm buying one.  Andrew, let the honchos at Brynje know.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Will do. Moustache. Got it. Any particular shape - handlebar? Oddly, I sweat a lot cycling and this is the first synthetic top that doesn't feel weird as hell...

    ReplyDelete
  31. Ok, we will disagree on this one. My philosophy is to pass unseen in wilderness areas. Leave no trace or trail.
     I havn't read any Emerson as far as i can remember but i don't understand why you would want to leave a trail.

    ReplyDelete
  32. So others can experience what I've experienced. 'Trail' can be metaphorical too Alan - it need not be a visible scar on the landscape! It might just be the provision of information to inspire others to get outdoors!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Ok i will change my disagreement. I”ve started writing 100 lines. Must look deeper. Must look deeper. Must....

    ReplyDelete
  34. It's only my view Alan! You don't have to agree!

    ReplyDelete
  35. No. I can see where you are coming from Maz and understand the logic now. It just didn't seem right when i first read it. How fun with the gear testing.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Hi, can I use one of your images? I'd like to feature the Brynje shirt on my site at http://www.grumpyfoot.com. Let me know. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete