Vango Venom 400



I have been using he same sleeping bags pretty much for the past few years so when the opportunity to try something a wee bit different came along I jumped on it !

It can be too easy to loose track of whats going on with kit if your view is brand/model blinkered.


Vango go way back in camping history and as a bonus they are not only a Scottish company but a local company to Glasgow (Vango is Govan backwards).

Also Vango always tends to be associated with cheap festival stuff or the old orange canvas Force 10.

If we open our eyes we will see that there is a technical accomplished brand still pushing techy kit.

The Venom 400 is a great wee bit of kit !

The tech specs

Full Size 210×75/50
Packed Size 22×16
Weight 950g
Season Rating 3 season

Comfort Temp (°C) 2

Extreme Tem (°C) -20

Apart from the obvious great colour choice of Orange, the bag feels and looks the part.


I used this at the start of spring for some low level expeditions and in my mind the rating is spot on.

Although I am not sure how many clothes you would have to wear to go down to -20 at the extreme end !

At about 0 degrees C is does start to get a bit chilly.


The 700 fill down compacts down nicely into the roll top dry bag supplied and also lofts nicely when laid out in the tent.

The Toe box and leg area first feels a bit narrow but after a while you get used to it and it helps to retain a bit of heat.

Bag length is 2m 10 so will fit people happily up to 1 m 90, after that you might be a bit tight.


Baffle detail is nice and includes a we pocket for your I pod, torch etc

A bit of detailing on the zip stops the material jamming in the zip so much,avoiding that agony of trying to get out your bag in the morning for a pee and getting stuck in your bag as you can’t get the zip undone.

Different coloured cord for the drawstrings on the baffle and the hood is also a nice wee touch just to make your life easier.

Retail on this is approx £170 which is not to be flinched at but Silverfox Travel have it in the sale for a bargain price of £140.

It also has the DofE Recommended stamp.

It will probably be in my expedition sack for this season (unless I have to send it back :o(    )

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Montane Autumn / Winter & now

Spring / Summer stuff is hitting the rails right now and I haven’t even had a proper sniff at winter yet !

PTC and I met with Rob from Montane a few weeks ago in Tiso Cafe for a catch up  !

It had been a while since we had seen Rob and an age since we had the chance to talk kit etc.

So much so yet again I forgot the camera so that’s why there’s Web page photos from the site.

It’s good to see Montane have not sat on their arse and said ‘aye we have good kit, lets just keep making the same stuff”.

There has been more development and even the die-hard pieces like the Extreme Smock have been tweaked for Winter.

One of the big changes is sizing, we and others have been constantly blabbing on about how in consistent the sizing is and how small made the Montane stuff is, so the guys have bitten the bullet and changed the sizing.

Much to PTC’s dismay samples are a Medium (my size !!) and the fit is good, my old Resolute was an XL !

The Fireball smock has been an awesome bit of kit, but it might end up getting replaced by the Fireball jacket!

57g more on a medium gets you a full jacket than a smock and check out the colour !

I was impressed when Montane launched their pack range and its good to see that expanding with their involvement in the ever-expanding Ultra Running scene.

The Dragon, Jaws and Fang take on the vest type shape that is becoming more popular, the samples feel good and it will be good to get the finished product out on the hill.


A new addition to the range is sleeping bags and as with a lot of Montane stuff they have went for something a bit radical.

The foot box is a bit interesting and it will be interesting to see how that feels when you are moving about in the tent.

Glow in the dark zip pulls and a non snag system on the zip are just little tweaks that will make a big difference.

The Minimus is a super light weight waterproof bag with 800 fill and a Pertex Shield outer giving a really versatile bag sub Kilo (965g) and a comfort rating of -2 degrees.

On the accessories front the usual’s are in there like the Power Dry glove that I have worn for the past year and amazingly still not managed to kill !

But then there is an amazing bit of kit that makes my life so happy !

Available now is the uber light Prism Glove

52g for a size medium, Pertex outer and a Primoloft lining they will be great for running and as a back up pair of gloves in the winter.

For the winter range there is a mitt as well coming in at 46g.

Nice to see development in an already great line of products.

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Haglofs 100 Years and more

Continuing the theme of kit I was invited to attend a day of training at Crieff Hydro organised by Haglofs UK.

Avid readers of my drivel will know that I wear a lot of this kit, not because I get it for free but because it works for me !

The Haglofs UK Team were here to deliver training for shops that stock the brand, so that you the customer get the best service and advice to help you chose the best and most importantly the right product for what you want it to do !

Outline for the day

As part of the brand identity Haglofs are keen to push the brand as a leader of Technical Outdoor clothing with a keen eye on sustainability !

Their business concept is simple

“To offer a responsible , premium and authentic outdoor brand with products that deliver a high level of function, design and value for people who invest in an active outdoor life”

The brand has been kicking about for a while, even older than home brands like Berghaus.


It all started in the little hut above with Wiktor Haglofs, amazingly Haglofs still own this hut !

It started with packs made of canvas and wood with leather straps .

In 1935 the factory moved  and in 1963 Haglofs had manufactured  20,000 packs and by 1964 had 25 employees.

In 1975 Wiktors son’s sold the company but the brand still sticks by the original values of  taking a good product & make it with the most applicable materials available.

In 1993 the Tight Pack was released, this saw a more modern younger Haglofs, the millionth Tight pack was sold in 2008.

In 1996 Haglofs partnered themselves with Gore tex to produce clothing, their slogan in 97 was “save money-buy more expensive clothes”.

2000 and the Halgofs “H” as we all know it was released and has been used for the past 14 years.

2008 brought Haglofs UK to us and probably made Haglofs equipment a bit more readily accessible to us in the UK.

2010 Haglofs became a fully owned subsidiary to Asics and we can see the Asics influence creeping into the footwear range.

You would think that Haglofs would be shouting from the roof tops that they are 100 years old, instead in true Scandi fashion they are chilled out and its not a big deal.

One of the things that is a big deal is Ethical and Sustainable manufacturing.

Lennart Ekberg started working for Haglofs in 1989 and is now Director of Sustainability, in 2002 (earlier than a lot of other brands who shout about Sustainability) Haglofs upped the anti on this matter.

Its an interesting point which when you speak to people out there in the outdoors they either don’t give a crap or are highly passionate and educated about the subject.

If we love the outdoors so much then why would we not do everything we can to protect it so we can enjoy it more !

As it says above, 40 % by weight of clothing sold is Blue Sign approved, As Haglofs use other factories to make  their products they take great care and time inspecting these factories and making sure they are working to the Blue Sign standards.

This in turn helps bring on Industrial change which can only be a good thing.

Approx 70% of this years catalogue is Blue Sign, Haglofs acknowledge that they want this to better and will continue to improve.

You can read how they are going about that HERE

One thing again worth highlighting is the traceability of the down used in Haglofs garments, there is no live plucked down in any Haglofs garments and they all have an individual ID number so you can trace the down.

Most of us have probably come across Blue Sign but something new to me was the Fair Wear Foundation.

Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is an independent, non-profit organisation that works with companies and factories to improve labour conditions for garment workers.

FWF’s 80 member companies represent over 120 brands, and are based in seven European countries; member products are sold in over 20,000 retail outlets in more than 80 countries around the world. FWF is active in 15 production countries in Asia, Europe and Africa.

FWF keeps track of the improvements made by the companies it works with. And through sharing expertise, social dialogue and strengthening industrial relations, FWF increases the effectiveness of the efforts made by companies.

At the end of the day as well as all the production regulations that are put in place described above Haglofs still believe in making robust kit that lasts “so buy cheap buy twice” directly effects the environment and the modern throw away culture needs to grasp this.

In order to make the most durable equipment Fabric choice is crucial, designers will choose the most durable and usable fabric available and sometimes have the like of Gore Tex make up fabrics especially for them.

Another major point in quality is design and taping.


Above is AN OTHER manufacturers idea of a quality finish !

One Gun show from the Escape Route boys and its all over !

Attention to detail means the jacket works better and the customer has faith in the brand.

It takes an average operator 2 years to be trained to the appropriate standard to be able to tape Gore Tex like this !

Attention to detail on design like beard guards and using techniques like Tuck stitching and Laminated seams make garments lighter, more durable and more waterproof  but do cost more.

Stu from gore Tex gave a quick run down on all the products which have been greatly simplified in grouping to stop confusion.

They are “Products” “Pro” and “Active”

Haglofs also sponsor events and not just High level ones.

In Scotland they have presence in the likes of the Strathpuffer and the Fair City Enduro.

The Spring / Summer 2014 Products are hitting the shelves as you read this.

Great news that L.I.M is back !

Trekking makes up a staggering 60 % of the products in the range.

The range is trousermagedon with every Climatic trouser being Blue Sign.

Rugged Crest Short

Mountain Rugged’s in “RED”



The trouser design as been tweaked slightly so that the lower leg is a bit less baggy but you can still get them over your boots but not stand on them when wearing trainers.


Again attention to detail on the women’s trousers.


The LIM Proof Jacket has some great features and is on my wish list. (Dan does not look so impressed )



The Escape Route boys are all happy in the LIM Barrier Pro Hood.


Another very different bit of kit is the Ares Jacket as modelled by Gus and I.

Some might call it a dog walkers piece but I can see its technical merits as a longer trekking piece.

Do you shop in House of Bruar too !

And lets not forget the funky colours like on the Lizard

No matter how hard I tried I never managed to steal the ROC Lite Pull !(trust me Gus was watching me like a Hawk so much so I did not get a photo!)

Ding Dong ! I so want one !


It was a good to see the shop staff getting in about the kit !




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Its all about the kit !

Its funny, my interest in kit roller coasters like the Scottish weather !

Sometimes its pushed on by getting involved in a new sport or rekindling interest in an old one I participated in years ago .

Every now and then a new “thing” comes out and you say wow at last some innovation & sometimes you go to trade shows or outdoor retailers and think “wow how uninspiring”.


I have been to a couple of shows this year including Snow Baws and ROK, PTC could not make them so the banter was on a back foot straight away.

I dropped in on Si from Lyon Equipment to see what treats they had.

Firstly was the changes on the Petzl head torches, the NAO has been leading the way with Reactive lighting and a rechargeable battery that is more programamble than Dr Who’s Tardis !

This has continued now into the Tikka R+ and the Tikka RXP to expand the Performance range of which we might see more of on here.

The “bog” standard Tikka

get a wee makeover so that the shape continues through the range.


Petzl have also expanded into ropes, which I guess is no surprise as they make everything else Climbing !


Another Big brand that Lyon has is La Sportiva

One thing we normally skip past on the fast & Light mantra is big boots !

But La Sportiva have been working on their Nepal boot,offering different models to suit use and shaving grams off for the weight weenies.

And some rather techy light weight Trango Cube boots at only 1350g

Thing I have noticed with both these boots is that although they are high up the ankle La Sportiva have managed to keep flexibility in the upper boot so they feel like you have a shoe on but have a bit of protection from the upper boot from debris getting in the top and smacking your ankles off rocks.

La Sportiva are branching into the Ski Mountaineering and Skimo market big style, their boots look amazing as does the new range of apparel and its not all tight fitting lycra either !

Lots of people are making Dry bag rucksacks, I am not sure how the market is in Scotland for these and have yet to see someone walking up a hill with one on their backs !

But I guess for commuting etc they can be handy.

Aquapac have taken their experience in making stuff waterproof into a simple but functional pack with a nice back system.

28Ltrs on the Toccoa makes it a handy size for all sorts of trips.

Jumping stands I gate crashed John for Ardblair Sports.

Aware of time we got down to the highlights of the stand.

Hillsound have expanded the family of crampons with the Trail ultra.

The blurb says “Made from high-strength stainless steel, this crampon brings the Trail’s legacy of superb traction performance to those needing to travel faster and lighter.”

At 404g for a medium it puts them 20g lighter than the standard Trail and mixing in the pattern from those and the free step.

I have been wearing a few pairs of Aku boots with mixed results, mostly positive !

On the subject of a bigger boot like La Sportiva Aku have been shaving the Grams off.

The Montagnard Gore has a carbon Mid sole a primaloft lining and still manages to weigh in at 1020g .

Again the boot has a snug shoe like feel with a really nice flexible cuff.

330 squids a pair it defo an investment !

We bantered about Leki poles but I got so caught up in the chat I did not take pictures but safe to say there will be some pole chat on here soon !

At ROK there was the usual brands but the show had a different feel !

Keela had some stuff on show that is a departure from their heavy weight uniformed org gear.

OMM have upped the anti and tweaked their range a fair bit which was nice to see, Ark appear to have respected the heritage of this brand and where it is in the market place instead of reducing it to a low end Sports direct alternative !

A new brand to me was Aclima, a Scandi brand that makes wool products.

There was some interesting stuff on the rack for sure !

So there was some good and bad as always and it was good to catch up with some of the regular contacts.

The most asked question ?

Where is Petsey ?


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Is there or isn’t there ?

A weekend of no commitments had me floundering for a plan !

The guys from the Meet way back were planning on heading out west and that was an option,Fri night and people were cancelling left right and centre so I had a look at MWIS and made a decision based on what was looking best weather wise.

Everywhere was looking crap in the morning but Southern Cairngorms was looking better in the afternoon and Sunday was looking good.

I packed my stuff, it seemed harder than normal as if out of practice.

My alarm went off at 7:30 am, I turned it off quickly and went back to sleep as I could hear the rain hitting the window.

Finally I got up and loaded the car and headed for Pitlochry, stopping in to Escape Route for a coffee and some bits and bobs.

I had to pick a book up from Glacier Books, great folk with an amazing amount of cool books.

So in PTC’s words “it was late when I started”

But hey the sun was out for a change.

As I walked up the track  from Loch Moraig I was surprised how little snow there was, especially after all the snow that fell on the A9 the night before.

I could see Ski marks on the patches of snow and contemplated if I would be faster on Ski than foot, I decided on foot would make more sense for the moment.

Carn Liath was not quite clear as is the norm for the Rocky Grey Hill, as I got near the junction to head up I could see people skiing and boarding down the slope.

As I got further on I stopped to speak to some guys who had just came down, they said it was baltic and they had headed down from about half way up.

I plodded on up the main track skirting Carn Liath until i got to the junction.

There is a faint track in the heather from here heading North East, this turned out to be full of snow so I stuck the skins on and started to ski the next few K’s.

I traversed round the hill, the snow was a bit better at the 500m mark but the wind was still strong.

I started looking for a campsite, aware that the light was starting to fade and to go any higher up or round the hill would put me in the firing line of the heavy gusts.

I found a spot and dug in to protect the tent from the wind and to give me a more level surface to sleep on.

I used my skis and ice axe for anchors on the guy lines as there was no way the pegs would hold.

As I had a brew the tent got battered from gusts from all directions, I think it snowed to or the wind was just moving existing stuff around with force, A few times I had to hold the tent pole up.

I regretted my tent choice thinking I should of opted for the heavier Haglofs Genius rather than the Hellsport .

I have used this tent a few times and have had not much success with it !

The zip on the door doesn’t stay down so all the way through the night I had to keep pulling it back into place.

In one of the rare gaps between gusts a noticed it was light outside, the moon was pretty full as the clouds zipped past it.


I drifted in and out of sleep between the gusts and then woke up at about 7am, I packed my kit and had a brew as the sun broke the ridge line to the east.

It looked like it had indeed snowed a bit as there was not many heather tops sticking out the snow


The sun was right up and the wind had died a bit, it was still gloves weather as the temp was not much above 0.

The snow was hard an icy which was good in that there was no sinkage into the heather but bad that you really had to make sure that the ski was flat so the skin could grip.

I contoured round as far as I could till the slope just got too steep so I shouldered my skis and started kicking steps up the hill.

It was further than I thought and it was getting steeper so I stopped and strapped the skis to the side of my rucksack.

I continued up breathing hard and finally popping out of the top just near to the summit of Carn Liath.

I spotted the cloud coming in from the Cairngorms and as I sat down at the summit to drink my coffee the weather changed.

The wind was strong and the cold was biting as I set of Northwards along the ridge, I could make out the cornice line on my right as I slid along with my skins still on.

My thumb on my right hand was getting cold as I only had light gloves on, I pushed on till it got steeper and then took my skins off, my thumb was agony as I put my heavier gloves on.

The first few turns were nervous ones, it had been ages since I had skied with a pack on !

I linked a couple of turns concentrating on being forward on my boot, each turn my grin got bigger .

I got to the saddle at Braigh Coire Chruinn bhalgain in no time and then contemplated my next move.

The sun was out as I contoured East slightly down hill till I hit the shoulder and then I went down the shoulder on a mix of ice and squeaky snow.

From there I crossed the river and a short walk later I found myself at the top of Beinn Bheag.

I had a bit of lunch and the headed down the SW face of the hill, dodging patches of heather closer to the bottom.

Looking back at Beinn Bheag


Skins back on and I crossed the burn staying high to try in stay in the snow line as much as I could before joining the track and humphing everything out on foot for the last 5km’s

That will be my first Munro  then !



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