Anyone who loves the outdoors is prepared to put up with a few uncomfortable moments for the sake of enjoying the beauty and exhilaration of one’s chosen activity; but biting beasties can often be an uncomfortable moment too far. Foreigners coming to Scotland say they love the scenery, but few fail to pass comments about the midges. So when Craghoppers offered a trial of Â tops and trousers which feature “the world’s first permanent insect repellent fabric”, you’d think they’d be on to a winner.
With a trip to Australia and Malaysia in mind, we tried a pair of women’s convertible trousers with an Atoll top and the men’s cargo trousers and Atoll top. All the fabrics use Nosilife a textile impregnation treatment designed to give 90% insect-repellency. The solar dry fabric alsoÂ provides a minimum UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) 40+, the international standard for clothing to be considered truly protective.
Travelling light is also important if you’re carrying all your kit on foot or trying to pack everything into hand baggage to save precious pounds, better spent on ice creams. Our two tops and two pairs of trousers weighed just under 1000 grammes and rolled up into a shoe size each.
The women’s trousers were very comfortable and light, drying in 20 minutes in a sunny breeze, except for the extra thicknesses where the lower trousers zip off. I never used the leg pocket as it put the weight in the wrong place Â but (sadly) didn’t even realise it had a lip balm pocket until checking the specs just now. I was using the three quarters cut-offs and initially questioned the width of the lower leg, until I realised that it meant the lower leg could be removed without taking off my shoes. Having done enough hopping on one leg trying to remove overtrousers and split trousers that weren’t wide enough in the past, I was very appreciative of this feature. Apart from the hassle, a lot of the paths we encountered in Malaysia were muddy and you really wouldn’t want to put your sock foot down at all. Two niggles: I had to hitch up the upper leg for big steps â€“ not sure if a stretchier fabric would have been better or a different cut. Also, when I wore a Â shoulder bag it caused pilling where the bag rubbed.
The Atoll long sleeved top has a very comfortable fit, againÂ insect-repellent and sun-protective, but also designed to wick moisture away from the skin, which it accomplished very well. Again it dries quickly if you’re washing it on the move but I was pleased to find that even when drenched in sweat it never became very smelly. I also liked the polo collar which could be zipped up for warmth or unzipped when you wanted to cool down. Realising that it just happens to be the colour of my orienteering club, I’ve worn it orienteering in this country both on its own and under a waterproof top and it performed very well, being surprisingly cool even with long sleeves (though I doubt I’d run in it on a really hot day). Somewhere along the line though, and I haven’t been charging through hedges forwards or backwards, itÂ has picked up a lot of snags. For a garment classified as ‘active’ I found this surprising.
The men’s cargo trousers were also very good technically, lightweight, quick drying, sun protecting, Â insect repelling and antibacterial. Clunky pockets are a pet hate though, and if Â you ever used all nine pockets, you could almost get round the world without luggage. Some of these are pockets within pockets, very good for security, provided you yourself can remember where you’ve put things. The semi-elastic waistband provides comfortable adjustment, though dangerous if your pockets are full of heavy things. I exaggerate of course and this is purely a personal thing â€“ lots of pockets are an attraction for some people. All in all these are easy to wear, smart-casual, great for travel and good value for money.
The Atoll long sleeved top is another good product, with all the technology you’d expect from Craghoppers. The off the top shoulder seam is a nice touch and it’s a good tee shirt for in between weather. The body is kind of shapeless compared with the women’s Atoll, but it keeps its shape on washing. Where I was disappointed is that its claimed “moisture-wicking cotton and polyester blend” fell short. I know we’re talking about some steep climbs in 25 degrees and 90% humidity, but there are other technical tops out there that cope better with water, both from sweat and rain. And it was just too hot. In less severe conditions though, it ticks plenty of boxes.
As for the insect repellent that I was particularly interested in, well it’s hard to say. Is it a gimmick? I am naturally sceptical about these things. But, midges are the bane of my gardening evenings and they can ruin an otherwise idyllic campsite so you’ve got to give it a try. I was chased inside the other evening (you could almost see the cloud following me) but it was only my exposed face and hands that were bitten. The question of whether I would have been bitten through my clothes had I been wearing anything else remains unanswered, sorry. A better test is John, who is a magnet for all sorts of midges, mosquitos, blackflies and other beasties. Â The dying embers of a barbecue weren’t enough to protect the rest of us from the mossies, while he sat in his Nosilife top, coolly enjoying his beer after the rest of us had made a grab for our various personal favourite sprays. So yes, you’d have to say it works, and armed with a Nosilife mesh hat and socks you’d probably be nicely set up.
For the full range of kit and combinations see www.craghoppers.com