Posts tagged quality
LincsGeek and I are fairly new to the skiing game. We went on our first ski holiday just three years ago after some ski lessons at snozone. Before that first holiday we kitted ourselves up as cheaply as we could – we wanted good quality at low cost, and so bought coat, pants, gloves, socks and thermals in the sales and at discount stores. Skiing is expensive, and you can spend a fortune on kit if you wanted to. I want to, there is so much fabulous kit about, but can’t warrant it.
So when The North Face offered me one this season’s jackets for our trip to Finland I was delighted. You already know I like The North Face as a brand, I find their clothing fits me nicely and their shoes are comfortable. And I love my down slippers! But they are a technical brand with very high price points.
This is the Honee Snugs Delux Parka, and as soon as I saw it I knew that this was exactly my kind of coat. Just look at the colour for a start, the muted green (Boyce Green) is just lovely, so much better than the (boring) black of my existing ski coat. And it just looks comfortable and warm. I couldn’t wait to try it out.
A military-style parka offering skiers and boarders serious protection from the elements. This longer-length jacket is built with Heatseeker™ synthetic insulation, ensuring a warm ride whatever the weather. An adjustable hem system, adjustable cuffs and powder skirt provide a secure and comfortable fit. When the holiday is over, convert the parka into street wear by removing the powder skirt and unzipping the hood down the centre to reveal long-pile fleece lining. Core zip-vents help to prevent overheating when pounding the hill or park. Chest, hand, wrist and media pockets provide ample storage for all necessities. Created to look effortlessly stylish, The North Face Women’s Honee Snugs Delux Parka is street cool for the mountain and beyond.
I was a little worried about the length – this is a long line ski coat – and as I am short it could have looked silly and restricted my movement. I think you’ll agree though that it looks great on (I hope you agree!) and thanks to the shorter front and longer back I can move my legs about with no trouble at all. Actually that lower bit at the back is genius – it was just right to sit on when I was on chair lifts, which made a big difference to keeping me warm on the way up to the top of the slopes. There was plenty of room under the coat for me to layer up (I had the medium); while this coat has a feminine cut it isn’t tight.
I could tell this coat had been designed for winter sports. The large goggle pocket, the internal phone/mp3 player pocket with hole for the headphone wires, the powder skirt, the sleeve pocket in exactly the right place for your lift pass – all make this coat very useful on the slopes. That sleeve pocket even has a glasses cloth attached, which was a very useful feature, and the long toggles on the zips mean you can use them with gloves on. The two pockets at the front are massive – I could easily fit my wallet and some chocolate in one and my camera in its case in the other – and those little hand warmer pockets half way up were also useful for my poor cold fingers.
All the pockets aside, the whole point of a ski coat is for it to keep you warm and dry. And it did. Thankfully. The insulation did its job and I stayed totally dry for the whole holiday and in all the weather conditions Finland threw at us. The main zip has a flap over the top to stop wind and moisture getting through, and it does right up over your chin which helped keep my neck warm and dry. I think it goes without saying that I wore this coat over the required thermal layers, and needed a neck tube too, but it definitely went a long way to keeping my body warm and comfortable. I was very thankful for such a good quality coat when it was -22 and blowing a gale in the middle of the day. I wonder if the addition of comfort cuffs would have helped keep my hands any warmer – LincsGeek has them on his ski coat and I like the idea, they stop snow going up the sleeves and fit underneath his gloves adding a layer to his wrists.
[I will never make a model, but we had a great laugh taking these photos at the bottom of the Ski Jump in Ruka, Finland... below shows what happens when you run in the snow and it suddenly gets a lot deeper!]
This coat isn’t just for wearing on the slopes. The North Face has designed this for casual wear at home too, and you may have seen me sporting around and about quite a lot since we got home. The powder skirt comes out, the hood zips down the middle leaving it flat on your back, and you are left with a very nice parka style coat for everyday winter wear. The double zip is also very useful when wearing this coat casually – it means you can unzip it a little bit when you’re sat in the car driving.
I think you can tell that I really like this coat. I love the style, I really love the colour, and the fact that it’s great for the slopes and in town is perfect. It also fits well and is flattering – it’s not too bulky. This has become my “go everywhere” jacket, fit for all my winter activities. As for whether it’s worth the £260 price tag to be honest I really don’t know – I am not and probably will never be in the position to spend that much on any item of clothing, and so have nothing to compare it to. I know that with outdoors gear you get what you pay for and it is certainly superior to the ski coat I bought a few years ago, as well as my other winter coat. It has immediately become my coat of choice when heading out in the cold, wet and snow, and I think that is down to the design and quality.
Here’s another in-ear headphones review for you – this time Bass Buds classic in the limited edition white colour, complete with Swarovski crystals and memory foam earbuds.
One of the things to remember about headphones is that you need to get a good fit in order to get good sound. A good fit also means less noise leakage. Bass Buds come with a plethora of earbuds to sort that out for you – with these I got a set of white ones, a set of black ones, and a set of memory foam ones. You just swap over to the ones that work for your ears best; think comfort and size. I have the middle-sized memory foam buds on now and they are comfortable and fit well. With the small white ones on they were getting a bit uncomfortable after an hour or so, but the memory foam ones work much better for me. I also now find the noise leakage is a lot less, which my colleagues in the office must prefer!
Sound quality wise, once I found a decent fit, these do product a clear sound. Before the good fit I found them a bit rubbish really – noisy, crackly, overly bassy and not really any good for the kinds of music I listen to. Thankfully, with the memory foam ear buds in they became much better. They are still very bassy, but it is clear. Over the last week or so I’ve used them for hours, and they have become better with time too. They’re still not what I would consider a really top quality sound – there are elements in tracks I can’t hear and I don’t like how some tracks sound. Where they are great is listening to the radio or the television – where pin point quality isn’t as important but clarity is vital. Bearing in mind that these currently retail for £35, they do live up to the expectations I might give that price bracket – definitely superior to the headphones you get with an iPod, but not as good as a decent set of Sennheisers or Klipsch in ear phones.
I often moan about cables. It doesn’t matter how neatly you wind up a headphone cable, it will always tangle up. Apparently this is to do with probability and the number of ways the cable can be – literally 100s of ways it can be tangled but just the one untangled (thanks BBC Science Club!). Anyway, Bass Buds have a “anti-tangle” cable that is double wrapped to make it durable. I wouldn’t say that my cable has remained completely tangle-free, but it certainly hasn’t got knotted or been too difficult to sort out. The little (actually it’s quite large, too big really) storage bag helps keep these nicely too, and at least means the headphones don’t get all tangled with everything else in my handbag!
The in-line control and microphone means you can use your phone and music player without taking it out of your pocket. It works fine with my iPhone – I can answer calls and have a conversation as well as start, stop, skip etc music tracks, and even use voice control. That’s great when out walking, there’s no need to take my phone out of my pocket or bag to use it, especially important when the weather is a bit rubbish. It does really lack a volume control though, I would find that very useful.
You can get Bass Buds in a really wide range of colours, and the fashion range come with Swarovski elements in the ear pieces. Much more subtle than the Quarkie headphones I reviewed, they do give a feminine charm to them – who doesn’t like sparkles?!
These fairly low cost headphones (currently £35) have an okay sound quality and with all the earbuds you get you’re sure to find a decent fit. The in line control is useful but lacking volume, and the simple shape and sparkly crystals make them a fashionable gadget.
The nice people at Bass Buds have given me a £5 off code to share with Splodz Blogz readers, which makes these perfectly affordable and a great idea for a Christmas present. Order from www.bassbuds.co.uk and use code BB38468 to get the discount.
Ever thought that your in-ear headphones look a bit dull? That they don’t stand out enough? That they don’t fit your personality? No? Me neither.
Quarkie, a British headphone brand, has launched its first collection of headphones this year – and they look rather different to anything else on the market, featuring snakes, bolts and eyes. Yes, snakes and eyes. Priced at £69 they are not designed as a gimmick; Quarkie claim to have an excellent quality headphone here that just looks unusual.
They are designed to offer studio quality sound. I’ve never been involved in studio sound recording (sadly!), but I can say that these are incredibly clear, they provide an excellent clarity to the notes. They also have a lovely bass sound, but it is not overwhelming, it’s just there as it should be. The four sets of ear pieces means you should get a decent fit, which helps with sound quality too, and means they are comfortable to wear and won’t fall out when exercising.
When LincsGeek was trying these out he noticed a bass riff at the start of a well-listened to track he’s not heard through headphones before. Unsure, he went back and tried his Sennheisers and no, he couldn’t hear it on them. He also tried my Phonak Audeo headphones through which he could just about make it out (now he knew what to listen out for), but it was very feint.
You do get a bit of sibilance with these headphones, which is a little off putting at times. Some say headphones need many hours of use to “burn them in”, which means this may disappear with time.
I do prefer a material cord on headphones, it’s less liable to break or crack. The cord used on these, though, gives a lot of noise when it rubs on your tshirt when walking about – I end up holding the cord still to stop this happening. Quarkie have included an in-line control which works with my iPhone phone functions and the music player, but I can’t understand why there is no volume control with it – I can stop/start/skip tracks but not turn the music up or down.
These are annoyances though, overall the sound coming from these headphones is very good, they are a pleasure to use.
But the very thing these headphones are being marketed on is the looks. They are a fashion statement, and a fashion expert I am not. These cats eyes ones are all sparkly and totally bling – something to make you stand out from the crowd. And I’m not sure I want to stand out that much.
I think I imagined something smaller. There’s a little inlay on my Sennheisers which can be silver, black or white depending on which colour you buy. When I saw the pictures of these I think I thought the cats eyes on them would be that size – like a small earring, a bit more subtle. But they’re absolutely massive! I expect the driver for the headphones is in that space, which is why the headphones themselves are like that. Not discrete at all. I wonder how big the snake ones are? A bit scary!
So for sound quality absolutely, these are excellent. But for looks? Not for me. I will be using these regularly, but only in the privacy of my home.
Socks, I have leant over the last few years, are as important as good quality footwear. They help support, protect and cushion your feet while you walk, run or do pretty much anything else.
Brasher recently sent out a really interested direct mail to its customers. I generally take those sort of mailings with a pinch of salt – I mean, Brasher were doing it to try and sell their socks after all, but it was actually really interesting:
Did you know?
On average you walk 10,000 steps a day, that is approximately 5 miles. Just imagine how many steps you take when enjoying a walk in the great outdoors. Every step creates impact on your feet on every step.
Did you know, you have 250,000 sweat glands in your feet. They can produce up to half a pint of sweat in a day. Damp feet can cause blisters and spoil a good walk. Socks with moisture wicking technology will keep your feet on every step.
Did you know women are 9 times more likely to get cold feet than men as they have 4 times as many cold receptors. Our women specific socks are constructed with a higher wool content for extra warmth.
Our complete sock range is designed, tested & manufactured in the UK to ensure true British quality.
We offer truly gender specific socks as men’s and women’s feet are different. We optimise design, construction and yarn selection to meet both men’s and women’s needs.
Whether you are walking in the Lake District hills in the winter, or strolling through the forest trails in the summer, we have a sock for you.
Our socks are designed with the latest fibres to ensure your footwear and socks delivery the ultimate walking experience.
Anyway, as a result of that mailing I was sent a pair of the men’s Hillmaster socks to try out. These are three season socks made from Merino wool for warmth and coolmax fibres to wick moisture away. They are designed for hill walking to dog walking, autumn to summer.
I know these are the mens ones but I decided I’d try them rather than giving them to my other half. Brasher do a women’s specific ones which have thermocool fibres for temperature control rather than the coolmax, but I found these mens ones very comfortable and very nice on my feet. They have a great fit – I find the fact these are designed for left and right feet separately an excellent feature of Brasher socks, you know it makes sense. They are thick socks, perfect for cooler weather, and have a decent height to them making them perfect for hiking boots or walking shoes depending on your preference. Oh and they wash well.
I do like a good quality sock and am gradually building up my supply of them and discarding my old cheap walking socks, it’s well worth it. I do recommend Brasher and would happily spend my own money on these socks.