What’s new in the kit bag? SKIING AUSTRIA

Six countries, fifty-four hours of driving and many frankfurters later – we are all home after an incredible two weeks. In August this year my Dad proposed the idea of a skiing road trip for the Christmas holidays, inviting all the ‘kids’ (of whom I am the youngest) plus partners, friends… whoever fancied it. And so we did. A week before Christmas day my dad and I packed up the truck (nicked named Truck Norris in our family) with everyone’s kit and hit the road for a 3 day drive to Austria (via Switzerland to collect my brother and Vivian who now live in Zürich).

Despite having grown up skiing, my skis have hardly touched snow over the last five years while being at uni (i.e., skint). Which, unfortunately for my bank account meant my kit bag needed some updating. My skis, boots and poles were all still intact thankfully – but my old ski pants and jacket were so worn and miserable looking I wasn’t up for trusting them to keep me warm.

SO – on the list was new ski pants, a jacket, thermals, goggles, gloves and socks. Which was just enough to almost bankrupt me for the year. But good kit is worth the price tag if it’s going to last years upon years.

Deciding what to get was so tricky, ski trends change ALL the time and it’s too expensive to ever keep up. But I am really really happy with what I ended up buying so I thought I’d share some pictures and info about the kit I got. (My only regret is not going for something brighter, but hay ho). I decided on something a little more glam than I’d usually wear, really fitted and supporting a bit of faux fur – there’s a first for everything and I loved it!

Jacket £399

Poivre Blanc Women’s Stretch Ski Jacket

Thumbs up

  • Very insulated and warm – I only needed one base layer underneath
  • Fitted and flattering
  • Three way stretch fabric was great for movement
  • Weatherproof and breathable
  • Good pockets (ski pass, phone, + 2 more)
  • Stylish and technically good
  • Long sleeves and long body – perfect for tall girls (I’m 5ft10)
  • Detachable hood/fur

Thumbs down

  • Snow skirt didn’t go tight enough around my hips
  • Pockets aren’t big enough for a spare goggle lens

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Ski pants £199

Poivre Blanc Women’s Stretch Ski Pants

Thumbs up

  • Waterproof and warm (no needs for thermal bottoms)
  • Elegant cut and well fitted
  • Although being tight, they are as stretchy as gym leggings!
  • Inside snow gaiter worked perfectly
  • Zippered gussets at the ankle for ease when putting boots on

Thumbs down

  • Slightly short on my leg – but not really an issue when wearing ski boots

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Goggles £180

Smith I/O MAG (bought from Tiso)

Thumbs up

  • Magnetic lens changing system is so quick and easy you can do it without taking the goggles off your face!
  • Includes bright light and low performance lenses
  • Lenses didn’t fog up at all
  • The photochromatic lens works virtually in all conditions and the rose lens is a game changer in flat light
  • Fit comfortably on my face and around my nose without any air gaps

Thumbs down

  • No complains at all – i’d highly recommend these goggles to anyone

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Thermals £110

Icebreaker 250 Vertex Long Sleeve Half Zip

Thumbs up

  • 100% merino wool
  • Extremely soft, flexible and comfortable for wearing all day
  • Lightweight and very warm – I wore only this under my jacket
  • Half zip was perfect for temperature regulation
  • Seems are offset from prone rubbing areas

Thumbs down

  • Zero complains – it’s the perfect base layer

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Gloves £75

The North Face Women’s Montana GTX Mitt

My hands are badly affected by raynauds disease which causes quite a bit of pain and discomfort when they get cold, so finding a good glove was really important. I’ve waisted so many hours in previous years sitting inside mountain restaurants trying to defrost my hands – but I have finally found the solution in these gloves.

  • Completely waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX insert
  • Insulated inner with inner glove separation for maximum warmth
  • High rise wrist to stop any snow or wind chill getting into the glove
  • Wrist bands were really handy when pulling gloves on and off (usually to take photos!)

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Socks £28

Falke Women’s SK2 Ski Sock

All round great skiing sock – merino wool mix – warm and breathable!

Overall,

I was extremely happy with all of my new and old kit on holiday. Having good quality kit really makes a difference in enjoyment as well as safety in the mountains. Getting cold is always miserable in my experience, and I never last long once the cold reaches my hands – those North Face mitts were an absolute find! And fingers crossed, now that my kit bag is full I won’t need to top it up or change it for many many years.

Huge thanks to Tiso for all their help and advisement before my trip. I was kindly gifted my ski jacket this season in exchange for a review, which I am extremely grateful for.

Thanks for reading – if you have any questions feel free to send me a message on Instagram @ronamcmillan

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Christmas Day attire

 

 

Two Bare Feet Review – 12ft SUP

*please note this is not a sponsored post – we bought this larger board for bigger and better adventures

Two Bare Feet Sport Air 12'0 x 6" Inflatable SUP

It’s been almost a year since I first got my SUP board from Two Bare Feet, which is a smaller 10ft board. It is perfect for me, and I still use it weekly for solo paddling. I’ve tried a few times to attach various dry bags to the board with adventure kit inside – with the aim to paddle to an island and set up camp… however this board isn’t really designed for super stability. It is perfectly stable for my weight, however anything added (or anyone heavier than me) does struggle with the wobble! SO, this spurred the idea of another board.

We’ve had the 12ft sport air for just over a week and it has been INCREDIBLE – what a difference. It was advertised as being designed to meet the demands of today’s SUP explorer – with maximum volume, stability and speed ‘making long distance a breeze’. It does all of that and more…

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The good things
  • Super stability – so much so you can easily carry two people. This board has a flatter and wider deck than my 10ft board – making it much easier to balance.
  • Speed – for some reason I thought this board (because it’s HUGE) would be slower than my smaller SUP, but it feels more streamlined and cuts through waves with its pointer bow.
  • Improved carry handle – these boards aren’t heavy to carry anyway, but sometimes a little tricky and awkward due to the size especially when the wind is blowing… so the extra comfortable handle does make a difference. This board also came with a attachable shoulder strap which I imagine will be really useful if we need to carry the board for any distance.
  • New and improved pump – big thumbs up for the high pressure dual action pump. Having a gauged pump is a must – without it I don’t think I’d ever know when the board was pumped up enough. The dual action also makes deflating much faster – and the board can be packed away much tighter.
  • Appearance – I am loving the design of the 12ft sports. They come in three different colour options, and they’re all pretty cool – but we went for the navy, teal and orange. I also really like the choice of text used on the board… TBF have really upped their design game!
  • Size matters – how this is possible I do not know, but the 12ft board packs down into the same size dry bag as my 10ft board… a bit heavier to carry, but still easy enough to put on your back.
  • Extras – with this board you get a repair kit, paddle, dry bag, pump, centre fin and a shoulder strap. This is a basic starter pack, but you can also upgrade to deluxe/ultimate packs that offer added extras.
The bad things

So far, I genuinely have no complaints or improvements to suggest towards this board. It is quick to pump up, efficient in the water and easy to pack down. The board does exactly what we wanted it to. I guess the only thing I would say is it is big, duh! But if you’re buying for a child/lightweight person, a 12ft board wouldn’t be necessary – I’d defiantly recommend a 10ft board – I still love my smaller SUP.

A few days onboard ‘Jolanda’ in Plymouth – paddling English ChannelIMG_2563IMG_1436We also went for a bit of a fancy paddle this time – TBF brought out a new range of carbon pro paddles with this lovely wood effect. It is super lightweight and feels a lot stronger than my original paddle. Processed with VSCO with c8 presetIMG_1426Angus and Callum free diving for scallops – Sound of Mull IMG_2752IMG_2730IMG_1503IMG_1509IMG_1500IMG_2716Day trip with Emily and Callum – paddling on Loch LubnaigIMG_2545IMG_9285IMG_0188Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

 

Thanks for reading – if you have any questions about SUP boards please don’t hesitate to drop me and email or send me a message on Instagram @ronamcmillan

R x

Spontaneous Wild Camping Mull of kintyre

There are few experiences in life that can overrule the excitment and the freedom of sleeping in the wild. Sleeping outside, whether the experience is good or bad will undoubtably set the scene to be one of those unfogettable moments in your life. Camping in a campsite is fun too, but it doesn’t give the same buzz of being totally alone miles away from anyone the way wild camping does.

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Views of the Kilbranan Sound – looking across to Arran

Wild camping can be a bit of hassle if you’re not prepared, and this is exactly what happened when Emily and I jumped in the car for an adventure at the start of the week.

Shall we just go find somewhere to camp?

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We were pretty unprepared, and we ended up taking a TON of stuff we didn’t really need. You know when you panic pack and end up with a million bags and ten outfits you don’t need? We had ALL the kit in the world, for every kind of adventure and we were only planning to be away for 24 hours. I would also just like to say that this is not a female thing; all my male friends and family members are just as guilty of the panic pack.

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5 star bedroom views

So what was the plan? 

There wasn’t much of a plan. I made a kit list just to be sure I didn’t forget vital items, stuffed it all into the car and we hit the road. I had a rough idea of where we could camp so that made things a little easier. I grew up in a tiny village called Skipness on the Mull of Kintyre which is very remote and quiet – so I thought it would be cool spot to revisit and explore again.

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Basic Kit list 

  • Tent & sleeping bag & mat
  • Camping stove & gas
  • Torch & lighter
  • Sharp Knife & sporks
  • Pan & mug/bowl
  • FOOD & water
  • Small first aid kit

Extras (if your not walking far)

  • Fire wood
  • Bluetooth Speaker
  • Book & playing cards
  • Sketchbook & pen
  • GoPro/camera/tri-pod
  • Wetsuit & snorkelling kit
  • Quick dry Towel
  • Wine
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We didn’t have far to walk since we camped by the beach – so we took quite a lot of food & wine

Is it allowed? 

The beauty of Scotland is, you can almost camp wherever you like as long as you’re not causing any harm to the environment or people who live nearby. Wild camping is legal; however elsewhere in the UK you are supposed to ask landowners permission first.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says this: 

Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply, but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner’s permission. Leave no trace by:

  • taking away all your litter
  • removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire (follow the guidance for lighting fires)
  • not causing any pollution.

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Side note – it is really important when lighting a fire in the wild that you do it somewhere that isn’t going to kill surrounding vegetation – and all your wood should be burnt to a fine ash to leave no trace. 

What else did we do? 

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We walked around Skipness, and visited the castle which has beautiful views of Arran from the top.

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We took lots of photos!

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We drank beers in the sunshine

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…and wine round the fire

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We also wrote a few bad poems

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…and took some really pretty selfies

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Then, on our way home we detoured for a swim at Westport Beach.

Thanks for a fun night away Emily –

R x @ronamcmillan

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Two Bare Feet review – snorkelling kit

Snorkelling is an awesome way to explore the blue shallows – most people have given it a go in warmer waters abroad, but there are some incredible snorkelling spots on our door step if we are willing to face the cold. Kit wise… not much is required and what you do need; doesn’t come at too much of a cost. I think most of my Scottish snorkelling experiences have been fairly unplanned – I carry my kit bag around in the back of my car everywhere I go just on the off chance I stumble upon a a beautiful stretch of water.

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So – I got some new snorkelling kit from Two Bare Feet last week and after taking it out for a spin I am going to write up my first impressions. I also have a few tips for buying new kit that could be helpful if you are looking to get in the water.

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Hood

I went for this 5mm hood in size M – I found the sizing pretty hard to work out/took a total guess and luckily it fits perfectly. The hood is snug around my whole head and neck – so much so I don’t think any water got in, my hair even stayed dry under the hood. The water temp was sitting at 8° on the surface, and quite a bit cooler as I dived down – the 5mm of neoprene kept me very toasty – so a big thumbs up from me.

My only negative for this product (other than the size guess) is that the neck panel was too bulky to go under my wetsuit. I thought this would be a bit of an issue for water leakage – but since the hood was so snug, I didn’t seem to have any problems.

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Fins

I’d usually opt for a longer fin (more of a free diving style) – however I thought a short pair would be really useful for wild swimming if I wanted to do any distance swims this summer – and they’re also a bit easier to manoeuvre!

These guys have an adjustable back which meant my feet didn’t slide back and forward while kicking and there is enough room to wear a very small boot with these if your prone to cold feet. I wore a neoprene sock and it worked perfectly with those too. No section of the fin rubbed on my ankle (which usually happens for me). So I’m pretty delighted with these – no negatives.

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Mask

I choose this silicone mask with tempered glass – reason being… silicone trumps PVC in colder waters. PVC masks look as good as silicone, and are usually cheaper; however they loose their flexibility in cold water which effectively ruins the fit of the mask around the face. Choosing a mask with tempered glass is also a good idea – tempered glass has a better resistance to scratches and is also better suited to changes in water pressure when diving down.

My only negative here (which is actually a fault of my own) was that I had some trouble clearing my mask when I first went in – I did the old saliva in the lens, then rinse with water etc and it continued to fog up. My mum gave it a good scrub with a soft piece of fabric and that seemed to do the job. Since then i’ve read that putting a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and rubbing it into the lense and washing it also helps prevent a foggy mask – so i’ll give that a go next time.

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Snorkel 

LOVE this snorkel – it’s the first time i’ve ever had a proper dry top snorkel and it makes such a difference when diving. FYI – a dry snorkel is a snorkel that has a mechanism on the top that prevents water from entering the snorkel as the snorkeler dives underwater. Very handy, and this one works very well. This snorkel also features a splash guard, and purge valve and the mouth piece is made from silicone (also good for cold water). No negatives here!

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Hood & Mask

Side note – usually I’d wear my mask seal under the lining of my hood… but as mentioned previously my 5mm hood is super snug and the width of the mask is greater than the width of the hood, so that didn’t really work when I tried. Instead, I wore the mask seal on the outside of my hood and I was really surprised that my mask stayed sealed.

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Gloves 

I was a bit stumped over getting 3mm or 5mm gloves – and given I always have frozen hands 5mm would have probably been wise. BUT I feel like I can’t move wearing such thick neoprene, turing a GoPro on and off is a bit of a struggle with thick gloves – so I went for the thinner ones and i’m really happy with them. I got a size S and the fit is great – they also have a velcro wrist fastening which stops water creeping in.

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Croc says 8

Why choose Two Bare Feet? 

– British company – based in Devon 

– Extremely helpful customer service – always happy to answer questions and give recommendations 

– Fast delivery – and easy returns

– As a returning customer (my SUP board is from this company, and have also bought a few different paddles and accessories in the last year) I have always had a fantastic experience, and have recommended to many friends. 

– Very reasonably priced – with incredible sale prices too

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A little bit from Two Bare Feet...

'In an age where everything is available at your fingertips, we thank you for shopping with us and for your continued support of Two Bare Feet.

We pride ourselves on delivering the best possible experience whilst shopping on our site and exceeding expectations from there on in. We moved from our retail shops to online e-commerce in 2008 and have continued to evolve, enhance and expand our product offerings whilst ensuring your shopping experience with us remains hassle and fuss free.

We appreciate all feedback as they help us to keep focused and on top of our game and of course exceed your expectations.'

With thanks to Two Bare Feet for supporting this post – all opinions are my own.

Thanks for reading 

R x @ronamcmillan

Bothy Culture

First Bothy adventure of the year - UAGS

Unless approached by sea, Uags Bothy is at the end of an extremely boggy scramble from Toscaig (south of Applecross). We (Callum, Ewan and I) did plan to paddle there in sea kayaks – launching from my mums front garden in Kishorn and exploring the coast line until we reached Uags. Typically the weather came in, and the wind would’ve made it impossible for my wee arms to manage the 10 mile paddle – Ewan and Callum would’ve been fine, but they kindly joined me for the walk instead!

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We left Kishorn in Ewan’s new van, excitedly arriving at Toscaig at 4pm – we expected to be over the hill and at the bothy for sunset.. which we almost made; if only the path didn’t keep disappearing from under our feet!

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Arriving at Uags, we saw the very last of the sun dip behind the Cuillin mountains on Skye – which the bothy looks straight out to. January adventure meant darkness at 5pm, so we set up camp inside the Bothy and began prepping dinner – steak, rocket, peppers, broccoli, camembert cheese? Possibly THE poshest bothy dinner ever, but so delicious! The rest of the evening was spent huddled round the small fireplace, listening to the flames crackle, we chatted and told stories – and once the Jura was finished we hunkered down for sleep.

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I can’t say it was the best sleep I’ve ever had; Callum convinced me the Bothy was ghost infested and the creaking of the building warming up with our presence totally spooked me… I think i’ll sleep in a tent next time! In the morning Ewan went beach scavenging for fire wood (to restock what we had used the night before) as Callum and I swept, and tidied up the inside of the Bothy.

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We walked back to Toscaig – following the correct path this time, and headed home for a bowl of mums soup! Great adventure with the best people!

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Bothy Etiquette
  • Leave the Bothy in as good (if not better) condition as you found it
  • Take ALL rubbish home
  • Don’t leave food – this encourage mice and other hungry rodents
  • Double check all the windows and doors are closed tight before leaving
  • Bring some extras to leave behind – maybe a lighter, some candles, fire lighters etc
  • Collect fire wood for the next visitor – and stack indoors to allow it to dry – but don’t cut live wood!
  • Respect and welcome other people visiting the Bothy at the same time as you!
Kit List
  • Roll mat
  • Sleeping bag
  • Torch
  • Candles + matches/lighter
  • Firewood + firelighters
  • Pan + spork + sharp knife
  • Bin bag
  • Hip flak/whole bottle
  • FOOD + water
  • Waterproofs + boots + socks (with spares) + LOTS more warm stuff
  • MAP!

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Thanks for reading!

R x