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The Gear File, Vol 1

Contributing gear editor Mark Watson provides a round-up of the new and interesting products he’s discovered lately.

Fold flat bowls, lick clean

In the interests of keeping my pack weight and size to a minimum, I’ve been using a Fozzils bowl as my main eating and drinking receptacle for the past few months. These weigh only 40g and store completely flat in your pack, pannier or seat bag. The single sheet of plastic is pre-creased and when you want to use it you fold it into shape and fasten four ‘snaps’. The bowls have measurement lines and comfortably hold 500ml – which suits people like me who like generous hot drinks in the hills. Bonus: you can undo the snaps for easy access when you want to lick your bowl clean.   

Back to the past for Kathmandu fabric 

In the early 2000s, I bought a Mountain Hardwear Transition top that I subsequently wore until it fell apart. It was made from a softshell-style Gore-Tex Windstopper fabric that was totally windproof, very breathable and water-resistant. Despite being extremely good, the fabric appeared to slip into obscurity. But last summer, I noticed the Kathmandu Zeolite Hybrid with windproof chest and upper arm panels made from the new Gore-Tex Infinium which appears to be much the same fabric as my old Transition top. It’s a three-layer laminate, like you’d find on a waterproof jacket, except that Infinium has a more breathable (but much less waterproof) membrane and very light lining and outer fabrics, giving it a soft and comfortable handle.

The Zeolite is designed as a trail running top, with the garment combining windproof panels with breathable and moisture-wicking Polartec Delta base-layer fabric. I’ve been using it for mountain biking and bikepacking mostly, and the windproof chest has been appreciated on cold descents and on damp and windy days. 

Ski strap versatility

Not being a skier, I first came across these super useful straps a few years back when I spied them on a friend’s bikepacking bike. Subsequently, they became an indispensable accessory during my transcontinental cycling trip through the Americas; used daily for attaching luggage, such as dry bags or water bottles to cargo cages as well as for attaching overflow luggage when I needed to carry extra food. But they’re also useful for attaching equipment to tramping packs, such as tents and sleeping mats. I much prefer them over nylon straps with ladderlock style buckles as they don’t freeze, are more secure (due to their firm elasticity) and are easier to manipulate with gloves on. 

Black Diamond’s version comes in 50cm and 64cm lengths and features a rubber covered steel buckle and a nice wide grippy strap.