“The cool stuff isn’t for you”: gear offerings for girls

I had a great time at the Telegraph Outdoor Adventure and Travel Show this weekend. I saw loads of innovation, sampled lots of energy food and had an excellent climbing masterclass thanks to DMM.

However, I was also slightly disappointed throughout the day as I enquired about gear available for women at various stands. One of those stands that I was particularly drawn to was Jöttnar with their beautiful branding and “conquer giants” motto.

But then I saw the sales rep’s face drop as I asked that question: “what’s your range for women like?

The conversation that followed went something like this:

“Erm, quite small, we only offer down, mid layer and accessories.”

No shells?

“No, most women just buy the men’s version in a size smaller as long as it fits their hips. We’ve kept the colouring gender neutral to allow for this.”

That’s a bit unfair.

“Well, we have to think about the commerciality of the range. We do have three athletes though, one of which is female, and she gives us great feedback.”

Oh, right.

At that point I went back to my friends who were ogling salopettes. You always think of something better to say after an encounter, and I’ve been pondering about Jöttnar over the past few days.

To me, whenever brands offer such a limited female range compared their male one, it sends the message of “the cool stuff isn’t for you.” It just feels like they’re saying “put the ice axes down, step away from the crampons and wait until summer when you can go on an amble.

How do you know making full female range isn’t commercial if you don’t even offer us the chance to buy the gear in the first place?

Furthermore, “just buy the male one in a size smaller” doesn’t sit very well with me. The rep even said himself “as long as it fits the hips.” And that’s the problem here – my body is very different to a man’s body of the “same size.” My hips are probably bigger than his whilst my shoulders narrower. I go in more at the waist and I’m probably going to need a bit more room at the front of a jacket to cater for the female anatomy.

If I’m spending £450 on a shell, I’m not going to settle for shoddy fit. For that amount of money I want impeccable tailoring so I’d head straight to other premium brands (like Haglofs, Mountain Equipment or Arc’teryx,) who actually understand that women’s bodies are different.

The isn’t the first time I’ve had a good moan about the gear on offer for women, and it most probably won’t be the last. This isn’t a personal attack on Jöttnar – they’re not the only ones. I’m just really fed up with being treated as inferior when it comes to the outdoors because I’m female. #GirlsGoAdventuringToo and girls conquer giants too.

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Spring is in the air?

Anglesey Abbey DaffodilsToday I felt like going for a long walk but I didn’t feel like doing anything too epic. In the end, a friend and I headed to Anglesey Abbey (a National Trust property in Cambridgeshire) with our cameras.

We had a good amble round the grounds, getting lost and walking round in circles, whilst having a good catch-up.

The day felt wintry as it was fairly blustery. However, we were rather surprised to see so many signs of spring on our walk: snowdrops, blossom and even daffodils!

I haven’t had the most adventurous of weekends and we probably didn’t walk that far at all, but it was lovely to explore somewhere different.

A Short Winter Walk

It was my first day back at work today after the Christmas break and I was lucky enough to be allowed to head home at lunchime. So I decided to spend my afternoon on a walk round my local National Trust park, having my first go with the camera that I was given for Christmas. The photos aren’t great, I definitely need some more practice ( also I haven’t actually read how to use the camera properly yet.)

It was lovely to be out in the fresh air and I’m going to try to get out more often.

A Multitude of Resolutions

Brisbane Riverfire

2014 has flown by for me and I have no idea where it disappeared to. This year I made the massive transition from university to real life, and before I knew it, 2015 as on the doorstep. Last year I set myself the #15before15 challenge, which I epically failed at as I was super busy with university and work.

Most resolutions are abandoned in January, so I want to keep mine a bit more achievable this year:

#1) Try new things – Whether it’s an activity, a food or a place, I want to make an effort and venture out of the comfort zone more often..

#2) Read more books – My usual New Year’s resolution is to ‘read a book a month’ and I never manage to stick to it. When I find a good book, I devour it. But more often than not, I’ll start a book to soon abandon it. I find it really beneficial when I make time in the evening to read before bed, so that’s something that I want to do more of in 2015.

#3) Climb regularly – When I lived in Australia I used to climb at least two times a week. Last year I barely managed once a month. I love climbing but find myself getting increasingly worse at it. I lack motivation and know that I need to push myself, but I tend to stick to the grades I know I’ll easily be able to do. This needs to change.

#4) Dance more often – At university I used to ballroom dance, which I miss terribly. When I moved home I lacked a partner and that was that. However, at the end of last year I tried belly dancing. It was awesome. I may not have looked like Shakira, but I definitely felt like her. It’s feel good fitness and something I’d like to keep going with.

#5) Keep up the yoga – As well as the belly dancing, I attended a fair few yoga classes at the end of last year, taking advantage of a deal at a local yoga studio. Attending classes can get rather expensive so I’m going to try to do it at home. (It would be great to fit it into my morning routine if I start getting up a tad earlier.) I feel that I know the basics well enough, and there’s plenty of Youtube videos out there for the specifics. It can be really beneficial for climbers – improving both strength and flexibility.

#6) More microadventures – Last year I was really inspired by Al Humphreys’ Microadventures, embracing the bivvy bag. In 2015, I’d like to abandon the tent more often and fit in more of the manageable adventures.

#7) Visit Ireland – I planned to go last year, even investing in the Lonely Planet guide, but my plans fell through. One of my colleagues is from Ireland and we’ve decided that I need to visit her home at some point in the year.

#8) Make the most of the weekends – I managed to reclaim my weekends by the end of 2014, but I was so used to working that I didn’t really know how to use them. I invested in a National Trust membership last year, so I feel that could be a good starting point.

#9) Do something exciting over summer – Working in a school means that I get a glorious 6 week long summer holiday. I’m determined to do something positive with that time rather than fritter it away. I’m currency considering exploring the UK, interrailing Europe or visiting South East Asia.

#10) Be more adventurous – As mentioned earlier, I really like to stay within my comfort zone. This can be a bit of a hindrance. Next year I need to change my attitude and actually go for things. I’ve always liked the look of wild swimming, but I don’t like being cold and I’m not the best swimmer. Maybe 2015 will be the year.

#11) Buy a pair of jeans that fit – You know that pair of jeans that are perfect in every way? Cut, fit, colour? Mine died in 2013 and I am yet to replace them. Hopefully 2015 will be the year.

#12) Reflect – When I look back on my year I think ‘where did it go?’ I thought completing my #15before15 would be easy, but I hardly got my teeth into it at all. Next year I’d like to spend more time reflecting and thinking about what I want to achieve, so that another year doesn’t just get away.

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Outdoorsy Types

I confess – I still haven’t finished my Christmas shopping. Buying for the outdoorsy people in your life can be rather tricky – it’s best to stay away from anything technical, unless it’s been specifically asked for. So here’s a few ideas, if you’re all out. (Mostly novelty, of course.)

2014 Christmas Gift Guide

1. Microadventures: Local Discoveries, Great Escapes by Alastair Humphreys £16.99 from Stanfords // 2. Alpkit Hunka Bivvy Bag £30 from Alpkit // 3. Pierre Bow Tie £19 from Tieroom // 4. Park Tool Pizza Tool £9.99 from GO Outdoors // 5. Ecologie Mushroom Enamel Mug £7.99 from Not The Usual // 6. Boyz Toys Telescopis Magnetic Pick-up Torch £8 from Ultimate Outdoors // 7. Cliff the Climber Tea Infuser £10 from Cotswold Outdoor // 8. 8BPlus Monster Chalk Bag £19.90 from BananaFingers

Checkout my ‘Outdoorsy Gifts’ Pinterest board for more ideas:

* Because it is so close, I can’t guarantee that any of the items mentioned will be in stock or be able to be delivered in time for Christmas. Prices will probably change too, but were correct at the time of writing.

A Few of my Favourite Online Outdoor Reads

BloggingHow did December come around so fast? In the cold winter nights, I love nothing more than snuggling up in a blanket with a cup of tea and a good read, whether it’s in paperback form or on the iPad.

So here’s a few of my favourite online outdoor reads (that just happen to be written by women too):

The Girl Outdoors – I’ve seen a lot of negativity in the blogosphere about The Girl Outdoors since Siân won TGO blogger of the year. I’ve seen claims that The Girl Outdoors isn’t an outdoor blog and has no appeal to TGO readers, which is ridiculous and unfair. The wonderful thing about the outdoors is that it’s for everyone and enjoyed by many different types of people, which The Girl Outdoors demonstrates. Many outdoor blogs bore me – I’m really not interested in long detailed walk reports. The Girl Outdoors is a beautifully balanced blog which covers a variety of outdoor activities and is a pleasure to read. @sianannalewis

Alpine Lily – A relatively new blog but mentionable nonetheless. I found Alpine Lily when she followed me on twitter. With only a few posts so far I’m looking forward to seeing how this blog grows. @alpine_lily

A Floral Crown – I found Abi’s blog rather recently, as she’s now writing more about fitness than fashion. For running and general fitness, as well as some enticing recipes, head over to A Floral Crown. @afloralcrown

Adventurely – I suppose Adventurely is more of an online magazine than a blog. Written by group of outdoorsy ladies, Adventurely covers all sorts of outdoor activities. It’s jam packed with interviews, tips, inspiration, reviews and fun posts. @Adventurely_

Fashion Friday: Nike Flash

On my drive home from work the other week I nearly ran over a jogger. It was dark, she was wearing all black and ran into the road from no-where. Winter is well and truly here, with the nights drawing in earlier and earlier. If running in the dark, it is so important to stay safe by being seen.

However, reflective clothing isn’t known for being trendy. Many people refuse to wear it because it can look hideous. Now Nike has come up with a fabulous solution. Nike Flash:

Nike Flash Banner

Nike Flash is a range of reflective and water resistant running clothes, ideal for running in those winter months. The range is awesome – snazzy as well as safe. My favourite item has to be the Women’s running tights.

If I had a spare £90, I’d snap up a pair of the running tights in an instant. Unfortunately I don’t, so I’ve been eyeing up the Karrimor equivalent instead. But they’re no-where near as striking.

What do you think of Nike Flash? Have you come across any awesome reflective clothing?

Awesome Gift for … Climbers: Crimpme Mugs

Is it too early to start thinking about Christmas? Considering the fact that I bought two boxes of mince pies last week, apparently not. So if you’re already in a bit of a pickle about what to get your favourite climber this Christmas, then check out the offerings on Crimpme.com.

It was a very good friend of mine’s birthday the other week, and he’s an avid climber. I find outdoorsy types can be incredibly difficult to buy for – they’re usually gear nerds and I don’t like spending too much money on gifts. After rather a lot of dithering, I stumbled across the Crimpme shop on Etsy.

James makes a selection of climbing related gifts – my favourite being the rock climbing mugs and rock climbing shot glasses. With climbing holds replacing handles, the mugs let you work on your finger strength whilst sipping tea which is wonderful 🙂 They’re also a bit novelty and rather fun.

I have to say that the customer service was excellent – James was super nice, messaging me straight away that he was having issues creating the colour option I had chosen. By the time I had replied, the matter had already been sorted and the mug was on its way.

Also the shipping was superb – even with the issue over colour choice, the mug took less than a week to arrive on my doorstep in the UK, having come all the way from the US. And the shipping costs were very reasonable too.

My friend absolutely loved the gift and I couldn’t recommend the shop more!

Adventure Anticipation

I’ve been super busy this year – going straight from my final year of university into the world of work (at full speed). I rarely get a break at all these days, and it seems that I work every hour that comes my way. I’ve forgotten what weekends are.

I recently took a small moment to reflect upon my year. I realised that I haven’t really done much at all. This is stark contrast from the few years that have preceded this one:

  • 2012-2013 – I studied in Australia and travelled New Zealand.
  • 2012 – I trekked Everest Base Camp.
  • 2011 – I summited Mt Kilimanjaro.

So this weekend I’m heading to the Lake District and I’m probably more excited than I should be. I’m looking forward to escaping the flats of Suffolk and stepping out onto some hills.

It’s only a little adventure, for a few days. But it’s an adventure nonetheless. There’s something really exciting about having something planned, however small. I’ve bought a map and have been deciding what I’ll be taking with me. I’ve got such a buzz.

I’ve come to realise that I really need to work less and take more little breaks. Even if it is just rediscovering the weekend and taking a day to explore the local area.

Why I Didn’t Join my University Mountaineering and Climbing Society

The students have long flocked back to their universities in their droves. With good intentions of a fresh start many will have partied through Freshers’ week(s), their only remnant being Freshers’ flu. Many will have planned on taking up something new, but just didn’t get round to it. It’s still not too late – whether it’s your first or your fifth year of uni, societies will still open you with open arms.

The focus of my first year of university - climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for charity.

The focus of my first year of university – climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for charity.

The title of this is actually a little misleading:

I did join my university Mountaineering and Climbing society in my second year. (I had wanted to join in my first year, but never saw them at freshers fair and that was the end of that. I spent the year fundraising for a charity climb of Mt Kilimanjaro instead.) There were many reasons why this society just wasn’t for me:

1) I’m not interested in a drinking society that climbs over a climbing society that drinks – I like a bit of a tipple now and again, but I don’t want to participate in heavy drinking games every week. The one thing that I hate about sports teams at university is how central drinking culture is to society life.

(Also socials were Wednesday nights. I had intermediate Latin at 9am the next morning which was one of those modules where if you miss one class, you will never manage to catch up. Ever.)

2) It was sporadic and expensive for what it was – This is probably partly my fault for picking the wrong university. I went from Suffolk to the University of London. (It’s a shame I didn’t look at a list similar to the BMC’s ’10 great universities for climbers and walkers.’) The way the society worked was that there would be a trip to a local climbing wall every week, and you would have to sign up at the social the week before. The minibus there would cost £5 and the climb would also cost £5. On top of this there was a joining fee and insurance to the club.

3) The factional nature of the society – Because there was a climbing trip once a week, and way more climbers than seats on a minibus, you’d only get to climb once every two weeks at best. Furthermore, as soon as you got to the wall, people would tend to break off into their climbing partnerships. It was actually quite difficult to meet new people as many of the more experienced members of the club weren’t prepared to spend time with the new ones.

Australian Climbing 2

I spent the third year of my degree on a year abroad in Queensland, Australia. I thought that joining my university’s Mountain Club would be a great way to meet new people and see some of the countryside. I don’t think I could have joined a better society whilst out there.

1) I learnt alot – in Brisbane there are climbable cliffs in the middle of the city. This meant that I would climb outdoors at least twice a week. And some weekends there would be trips much further afield, where I experienced a 100m abseil and my first multi-pitch. This a massive change from the sporadic indoor trips I was used to and I feel that I really improved.

2) It was super cheap – instead of paying per climb, you just payed $45 for the whole semester. Every Tuesday and Thursday the club would set up 4 routes and a slackline. Also, on a Thursday night there would be a bbq (at no extra cost) without fail.

3) It was super sociable – I found that the Australian club didn’t have the factional nature of the British one, and I think this was due to the excellent set up on climb nights. There usually be four routes set up each night, of varying abilities, and you would queue behind whichever you fancied. Then as the queue went down you’d belay for the person in front of you,  meaning that over a semester you’d chat to everyone.

Australian Climbing 1

I had such an amazing time with the Australian mountain club, that I didn’t think that I could face the disappointment and sporadic nature of the English one again. So in my final year I joined the Ballroom and Latin Dancesport society instead.

Now that I’ve moved home after graduating, I’m considering joining a BMC affiliated club. Any thoughts?