I’ve field tested many different brands of outdoor clothing over the years on my wild adventures through the African bush, and one brand has consistently outperformed the others. That brand is Craghoppers, from our very own British Isles.
The story goes that in 1965 some chaps from West Yorkshire were planning an expedition to climb Mount Everest. Not content with the offerings on the market, they decided to design their own clothing for the adventure. They made it to the summit, returned home safely, had a cup of tea and founded the company which is now based in Manchester and attracting a sizeable and loyal following of outdoor enthusiasts.
Among their fans is Bear Grylls, who readers will have seen on television eating insects and throwing himself down rocky hillsides in godforsaken places to show us how to survive when everything has gone wrong (tip: don’t throw yourself down rocky hillsides for a start). Bear is such a big fan that Craghoppers have given him a Bear Grylls-branded range of clothing. Good marketing on their part, good brand choice on his part.
So why are their clothes so great? Well, they seem to have covered every angle. The clothes are intelligently designed; pockets are in the right places, seams are not in positions that cause chafing, and they are very, very robust. Double or triple-stitched seams and buttons are quite typical, and materials using a mixture of cotton and polyamide ensure that you stay cool and dry, and that you don’t rip your garments to shreds on particularly rough treks. Not only are the clothes robust, but they are exceedingly comfortable too, which is what all good outdoor clothing should be.
My favourite product is the Nosquito Lite shirt, in long and short-sleeved versions. This is my first choice for travels into the bush. It’s very lightweight at a mere 220g (the short-sleeved version) and the 100% polyamide material is breathable, tough, and dries quickly. It’s also impregnated with their ‘nosquito’ insect repellent, though to be frank I have tried every repellent on the market and some off the market too (dried elephant dung on a campfire is remarkably effective) and nothing will really stop a hungry mosquito; if she wants to suck your blood, that’s what she’ll do (I say ‘she’ because it’s only the females that pierce you for your blood, in order to get nutrients for their eggs).
After a five-day trek through the dense African outback, the Nosquito Lite shirt got its share of stabbings from the infamous sickle bush thorns, but held up very well with only one strand of fibre being pulled out of place. No holes or rips to speak of, but I can’t say the same for my skin. The quick drying capacity means that you don’t return to camp sodden in sweat and humidity, and after a wash and rinse in a river, the shirt will be dry, clean and ready to wear for the next day of fun and tumbles in the undergrowth.
Craghoppers also have a wide range of trousers which are great for walking adventures, whether it’s through an arid desert or just a weekend away in the Brecon Beacons. In fact you can’t go wrong with any of their clothing. They now offer a range of accessories too, from rucksacks to walking poles, but having already found my favourite tried-and-tested rucksack brands (Osprey and Macpac respectively), I haven’t yet given the Craghoppers packs a chance to prove themselves, though Bear takes them through their paces on his television shows and they appear to be quite versatile.
If you’re preparing for that next expedition to Burma or a weekend’s walking in the Scottish Highlands, get yourself into the fitting room of your nearest Craghoppers stockist immediately.
Craghoppers clothing is available from outdoors specialist stores and online. Visit www.craghoppers.com for a list of suppliers or to order online.