Wild Family Fun

Tales of living, working and enjoying life in the outdoors


May 08, 2015

Calm Leisure Base Layer – Review

I find that I spend a lot of time researching performance stats, when to comes to buying new outdoor kit and clothing. I talk to my colleagues and research online to find the right piece of equipment, and also relay on to others the knowledge and review results, as getting a good item of clothing is very important.

When I was asked to review a baselayer by Calm Leisure, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to try a product directly from a company, and to expand my knowledge of outdoor clothing providers.

I was sent a baselayer to review. This is an item of outdoor clothing that is an important part of the layering system that most people wear when doing something outdoors. A baselayer starts next to the skin, and is designed to trap a thin layer of warm air against the body. It also works to pull sweat away from the skin, which is known as ‘wicking’. A good baselayer will keep you warm, and acts as the first step to correct clothing while in the outdoors.

The Calm Leisure company ethos is to deliver a range of products that are incredibly comfortable, innovative in design and also purposeful. Designed and manufactured in Great Britain, the baselayer is ideal for activewear in a multitude of outdoor activity environments.

Calm Lesisure

I thought it would be a good idea to try the baselayer in a few different outdoor activities that I had going on. First, I used it while I was on a Duke of Edinburgh camping expedition in Brecon, Wales. The weather was due to be cold, so it was a good way to test out how warm the baselayer would keep me. While walking between checkpoints, I normally wear a baselayer, a thermal and my windproof coat. It seems like a lot, but this was March and we were in Brecon.

Initially, what I noticed was how the baselayer fitted. It was really lovely. Snug enough to have beneath clothing, but not too tight to the point of feeling uncomfortable, and an additional plus-value was how long the baselayer was. Sometimes, I find outdoor tops designed for ladies can be a bit small in length, and don’t fit at the back of your body. By the time you’ve moved about, sat down, fitted your rucksack, etc, the top has ridden up and you spend the day tugging it down to cover yourself. However, for me, the longer length of the baselayer was a real positive point. It was long and stayed well-fitted for the duration of my walk.

It was great for walking. It kept me warm and it wasn’t until I stopped, waiting for a group, that I got a bit cold and had to put another layer on, which is very normal when you’ve stopped moving. I was very happy how comfortably it felt, and very happy how warm it kept me through the day.

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Starting the day with a Calm Leisure baselayer, under a long sleeved thermal top.

Next, I used it on a river paddling afternoon. I wore it under my cag, (which is like a waterproof paddling jacket that keeps the prevailing wind off the body), then on top of all this was my buoyancy aid. Again, I felt very warm throughout my paddling session, even though the baselayer was short-sleeved. It’s so off-putting in any outdoor activity to feel cold early on, but I was very comfortable. I was not too hot, but found that I felt the right level of comfort with the minimal amount of layers on. I really don’t like having lots of layers on while paddling, as I find that it doesn’t help with the physical mobility aspect of paddling, so to have a base layer that kept me warm enough throughout the day was really great.

I also tested the baselayer on a family walk up to the summit of Pen Y Fan, in Brecon. The weather was scheduled to be windy, with a slight chill in the air. So, I started the day with the baselayer and a long-sleeved thermal over the top. I was very warm and comfortable, and it wasn’t until I reached the bottom of Corn Ddu that I had to put another layer on. It was a really good test and proved that this particular base layer was a success in this environment.

In short, this base layer performed exceptionally well, and really did its’ job on a number of different outdoor activities.

Another good endurance test was how it retained integrity after washing. I always stick to the recommended washing instructions to ensure the quality of the product lasts well. After washing, the baselayer kept its shape, and there wasn’t any discolouring in the fabric. The best aspect was that there wasn’t any shrinkage of the material. This is where the old addage ” buy cheap – pay twice” came into its’ own. The total quality of this product is consolidated in performance, value and durability and, when you’ve invested a little bit more money in equipment, you really don’t want it to fail in any of these aspects. This Calm Leisure base layer doesn’t, and will not let you down.

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Showing the length of baselayer, the rounded neck and the length of sleeve.

I would recommend this product and I’ve talked with, and shown, my colleagues this baselayer. I think that finding good outdoor clothing for women is such a positive thing, and it’s one of the biggest topics of any conversation when we get to discussing the various brands and styles.

To find a top-quality item of clothing that does its job, fits well, and also lasts after washing is fantastic. The Calm Leisure baselayer shows that if you pay a little extra, you will be rewarded in so many ways.

 I was lucky to be offered a Calm Leisure base layer for the purposes of this review. My opinions are my own, and are un-biased.

For further information and to see the range of clothing offered by Calm Leisure please visit : www.calmleisure.co.uk/

Calm Leisure can also be found on Twitter :@CalmLeisure

We found snow!!!

We’ve just returned from an amazing walk up Pen Y Fan! The best part was that we had snow at the top of the mountain!

My daughter has been watching the news reports, praying that we might get some snow in Wales. As we drove around bend in the road to Storey Arms in Brecon, she let out a huge squeal as she could see snow on the top of Pen Y Fan!!

We met some friends who’d never walked up Pen Y Fan, so it was very special to be able to take them up, in these beautiful conditions.

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The start of our walk was slow and steady, but everyone was so in awe of the clear blue skies and beautiful walking conditions of the day.

As we got to Corn Ddu, (the first peak), the layers and extra jumpers went on as the wind picked up. The girls were still determined to reach the top.

After taking it slowly and steadily on the uphill path, (due to the ice), the girls had smiles when they saw the top of the mountain, and the crowds of people milling around waiting for their picture to be taken.

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After a brief stop for a lunch of the “ever popular” chicken noodle soup, we posed for our ” summit picture”.

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Over to Corn Ddu and down the rocky path, we started our descent with lots of happy chatter. We were all full of the Christmas feeling due to the weather, and the fact that we were, at last, out in the snow!!

It was a lovely day out, and it’s made the Christmas holidays a little bit more special for us.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Learning for Life



My Sunday Photo

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This taken was taken at Afon Argoed, which is a brilliant bike route in Wales. We did it twice that day and, with a 500 metre uphill at the start, I was very happy to see the mini bus at the end!

 

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The Royal Welsh Show and Joules Clothing

Last month, (July 2014), my family and I were very lucky to be invited to visit the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells.

Not having been before, we were a bit sceptical, (and a little intrigued), about what to expect. The first thing that we noticed was how completely organised and well planned the event was, even from a visitors’ arrival. There were a large number of attendants, who guided visitors into a field where a park and ride system was in place. We noted our field number, then had a very short walk to a queue of buses, with only a few moments wait before we were seated and on our way to the showground. It was a brief drive to the venue, during which the driver kindly informed us what time and what bus stop we should attend when we wanted to return.

Walking through the entrance gates, we were totally overwhelmed. We were presented with so much to see and to do, that we decided to spend a short time just wandering around to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings. We did invest in a programme, which was very fairly priced and a great help. It included very useful map, along with details of everything that was happening that day, including the times and locations of venues of the attractions or demonstrations that we wanted to visit. It helped us plan everything in the day with ease.

Delicious smells of freshly-cooked foods wafted on the light breeze from the various stalls, enticing us here and there to taste little samples of this or that. This is a great way of showing people how produce from Wales is picked, packed and ultimately presented in various supermarkets. We sampled little pots of lovely curry, miniature pasties, cheeses and pickles, various ice-creams and mixed berries, all offered by different producers, sellers or supermarkets. There were also lots of cookery demonstrations, which all contributed to a great interactive experience for children to understand about Welsh produce. This was a good way of linking what we eat and where it comes from, how farmers work, and how produce arrives on our shelves.

One of our favourite displays was the put on by the RSPB. This took up a huge area offering fantastic learing opportunities and interactive activities for families. My daughter had a wonderful time pond-dipping. She was given a net with a pot, and the very friendly staff showed her how to safely dip her net into a pond, to try to retrieve some creatures to put under a microscope. She spent ages transferring her creatures into little dishes, observing their movements the microscope, and then working her way through the “spotting sheet” to identify her finds. Then we simply had to “Make A Bug Hotel”. She was given a piece of piping and natural materials to make her own Bug Hotel, that could be put into her garden to allow various wildlife to come and live in her hotel. We moved over to the tree section, where we learnt about the different trees that could be found throughout the country and their contribution to our eco-system, Finally, we were given our own Elder tree, to take home and plant in our garden.

We learned that trees don’t only produce oxygen and fruits etc, as well as habitats for wildlife, but also that if managed properly, they become materials for this like fencing, building and decorative features. We saw fantastic traditional Welsh fencing techniques, with the men building fences made from the indigenous bushes and trees etc. I loved this display of traditional crafts, and I hope that this skill won’t die out.

We watched the young farmers (ie children), showing their sheep in competition, and we were amazed to hear how some families had travelled from London and beyond, just to compete in the show. The young farmers were very confident displaying their sheep, and it was one of my daughters’ favourite parts of the day.

Another fantastic part of the day was that I was very lucky to have been sent some vouchers for Joules. For a link to the Joules site please click:

http://www.joules.com/Womens-Clothing/Equestrian

Joules are a high-quality brand that celebrate British heritage through their clothing styles. Joules started producing and selling clothes over two decades ago, when the founder, Tom Joule, started out by selling robustly-made, functional and stylish country clothing at equestrian and outdoor events. Joules had a marquee at the show, and so we decided to look in.

Thoughout the day, I’d seen and overheard so many people talking about their Joules bags full of goodies, so I was excited when I eventually found the marquee. Upon first glance at the queue of eager visitors, my heart sank a bit. I looked at my husband and thought “should we just keep going” but he said to join the queue as it was moving very quickly, and I’d been looking forward to visiting. We only queued for a few minutes and then we were in the door. It was a really good system, allowing only a limited amount of people in at a time, and it didn’t feel too busy or too full of people, especially on such a hot day.

We were able to wander around the store at our leisure, looking through the fantastic bargains. The staff were very friendly, helping people find different sizes and keeping queues down with kind words and engaging conversation. There were a huge variety of items on offer, all in every different size, which is something not normally found when hunting through bargains on this magnitude. I found two beautiful jumpers which will be really functionally warm and stylish when camping. Also, my daughter chose some comfy fluffy bed socks, which she immediately wore during her snooze on the journey home !!

My bag of goodies are wonderful, and I was very pleased. I was especially happy with my stunning yellow jumper, that I can’t wait for our next camping trip !! It’s colourful and bright, it’s not baggy but fitted, and I can wear it with a pair of jeans to glam up an outfit, or throw it on with a pair of shorts while camping. I love it !!

The clothes were beautifully-made, in a fantastic range of rich country colours and, what I liked, was the variety of styles. It can be so difficult to find outdoor clothing that’s fit for purpose, colourful and flattening for women, while still being very fashionable. Joules ticks all the boxes !!

There’s so much more to write about, including the fact that everything at the Show was very fairly priced. Usually, with events such as these, visitors are viewed as a “captive market” and subjected to the inevitable price-hike for food, drinks, etc. But everything was made available to suit a range of budgets, from the Members Tent a the top-end of the facilities, right through to outlets offering home-made pork sausage or vegetarian hotdogs for kids, priced at £1 !!

All in all, we enjoyed an amazing day, full of interactive displays and events for all ages. My daughter learnt so much about Welsh culture. She can’t wait to get back to school, to show and tell about everything she learned.

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I was sent tickets for the Royal Welsh Show and vouchers for Joules for this review. My opinion is honest and unbiased.


Size Matters

To begin, I was a bit unsure whether or not to write this post.

I thought that it might come across as being a bit over the top and just a bit of a rant from my soap box but, after talking to a friend about this, I decided to give it a go and share one of my absolute pet hates when it comes to buying outdoor clothing.

I view the outdoor clothing that I need for work as an investment. Yes, some of these items tend to be a bit pricey but, with some research, I try to buy kit that will stand the tests of time and is fit for it’s purpose. Based upon the amount of use I get out of my kit, I don’t mind investing a bit more to get hard-wearing, durable clothing.

However, my problem is the sizing and styling of women’s clothes.

I am a curvy size 16. That’s my shape and size, and I’m fine with it. What I’m not fine with is how some companies seem to produce clothes without understanding that women come in ALL shapes and sizes.

My reason for this post is largely (pun intended) the result of my recent experience endured when I went to buy a new waterproof coat. Living and working in Wales, a good, solid, functional waterproof coat is an essential piece of kit.

I went to my local specialist outdoor shop, keeping the afternoon free so that I could spend time choosing carefully and ensuring that I had the best possible purchase. In the shop, there were lots of different waterproof coats in a variety of prices and styles. I started to choose a few in my price range, enlisting some considerable help and advice from the shop assistant.

The first one in my size would not even zip up. I was able to put the zip together, but that was as far as it went. (OK, deep breath, this only the first choice). The second one zipped up, but only up just under my chest area. (Not a good idea, or a good look, for a waterproof coat). Off came this one and, knowing that this was fast becoming the usual routine, I started to get slightly dismayed.

For my next attempt, I decided to go up a size, just for a try. I just wanted a flippin’ coat to keep me warm and dry. Guess what…….. the next coat, (a size 18), wouldn’t zip up either. I enjoyed my Christmas, but I can’t possibly have put on that much weight? My old cosy (if worn out) coat, which I had on in the shop at the time, is a size 16 along with all of my other usual clothes. After trying on 6 different coats, each with similar problems, the friendly female shop assistant coyly suggested that I try on some men’s jackets! I HAD to be polite, (my team use the shop a lot), but inside my head an angry voice was growling, “Are you having a laugh”! I don’t know what I was hoping for, as it’s not her fault. She doesn’t make the jackets but, come on, is that the only solution!

The problem with having to buy men’s jackets, if you’re a woman, is that they’re simply not designed for women. The length in the arm is longer. The shape of the hip area is generally bigger in mens jackets, which leads to a baggy and puffy look. While functionality is the acheived, feminity is obviously clearly not present. Overall, many women find themselves compromising in so many requirements, just to buy an essential piece of kit that, let’s be honest, is going to cost a fair bit of money.

I really wasn’t happy, standing in front of a full length mirror wearing a man’s XL coat, and looking like I was wearing a very expensive coal-sack! I really wasn’t going to spend over £100 on something that didn’t fit correctly and made me feel unhappy about my shape. I think the shop assistant could see it in my face and told me that new stock was arriving the following week. Would I like to wait and try on some new stock? Uh, yeah!

I thanked her for her help and left the shop, feeling so deflated. A wasted afternoon, no coat for me but, more than that, I was generally fed up with the same old routine and couldn’t be bothered thinking about it any more!

You see, this experience isn’t a new thing. I, like many other female colleagues, tend to struggle with a variety of outdoor clothes because we’re not the average, “normal” size. I am an outdoor pursuit worker who happens to be a size 16. I’m happy in my skin. It’s not a problem for me, but why is a problem when I have to buy outdoor clothing?

This story does have a happy ending as, the following week, I went back to the shop ever hopeful that the new stock of jackets would offer a bit more choice. As I entered the shop, I saw a lovely new-style Rab jacket hanging from the shelf. It was slightly over my budget but, if that was my only choice then I had to give way a little.

I sceptically slipped the size 16 off the hanger and tried it on. Hello, it felt fine! It was snug enough over my vest, thermal and jumper. It was still a great fit when I tried it on with just my thermal. Then I tried it on with a rucksack on my back. I found lots of room in the arm, and the length at the back was enough so that it didn’t ride up, which would give me a cold back! It really was very comfortable. The hood was a great fit, as I pulled the elastic bits and moved toggles, ensuring a tight fit when I would have to battle against the rain and the winds. Also, I have to be honest, I loved the almost-pastel colour, which was an added bonus.

I didn’t try anything else on, as I knew instantly that this was the coat for me and I didn’t feel like wasting any more time. Now, Rab has become a favourite of mine. I’ve since bought another outdoor coat by Rab and have found it a consistently great fit. A size 16 is a size 16, curved in all the right places and increasing in a realistic ratio with an increase in size. They are superbly built for purpose, being warm, waterproof and very robust.

I’ve worn them on a few outings for hill walking and orienteering, and I’m very glad of my choice. I recently had a very wet hill walk in Brecon, when it felt like buckets of water were being thrown at us from the above. But my new coat did its’ job and I came off the mountain still having warm, dry layers beneath. I didn’t even get cold when traversing the misty, boggy marshland in Brecon.

I know that everyone has a preference, or a favourite kit supplier. I know that I do. But it’s nice to be able to be offered a choice in, what should be, a very specialised and competitive market. I would urge outdoor clothing manufacturers to cater for the growing percentage of wild women who are built in all manner of shapes and sizes.

Intense work in an outdoor environment helps to tone muscle, strip away excess fat, and promote a healthy body-shape. Unfortunately, we don’t all conform to the much-publicised image of a “perfect 10”. Here the comes the rant, as promised…….I’m an outdoor worker with hips and curves, so please, when you’re designing functional, rugged outdoor wear, spare a thought for me and those other wild women like me.

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