Usually a gear test takes the best contenders from various brands and weighs them up against each other, but for my first Walkhighlands gear feature I’m going to test a familiar claim made by many of the manufacturers – that they’ve created a clothing system that works perfectly from base layer to shell layer meaning you don’t need to shop elsewhere.
I like lighter weight kit, but never at the expense of performance. I want comfort, protection, usability and also durability if I can get it. Haglöfs’ new L.I.M. series seemed to tick all the boxes and they sent through a selection of the range which I’ve had on test for the past few months. L.I.M means Less Is More, the designs are stripped down and they use top end fabrics and construction. The features are aimed at backpackers and walkers and that’s exactly what I’ve doing with gear: walking, hauling camping kit onto the tops, scrambling on the Cuillin, trail running, mountain biking, it’s been slept in, had soup spilled on it and I’ve even got round to washing it once or twice.
Haglöfs L.I.M Tee
I know, it just looks like a t-shirt, but there is more to talk about. The L.I.M Tee is well cut, neat without being tight in my regular size large. It tapers a little at the waist for avoiding fabric bunching under a pack hip belt or tucking in to your trousers. The arms are long-ish which is good for keeping the sun off and helps with layering as the sleeves don’t bunch up. The construction puts the flatlocked seams well out of the way of any rub points and the neck. Cuffs and hem are neat and fine against the skin. The fabric is soft with good stretch to it which returns to shape very well, even after lots of washes and wear. The fabric is recycled polyester with a smooth outer and a brushes inner for better wicking. It does wick very well and also dries fast, the neater cut helping this process along nicely. It has an anti-odour treatment based on volcanic ash which seems to be doing something, I’ve worn this for a few days in a row a few times and while your nose does start noticing you’ve been living in it pretty quick, it’s much better than the stinky polyester base layers of a few years ago. In general synthetic base layers have got much better at odour control in the past few years, but we’re still not at merino wools magic stink destroying powers yet.
Haglöfs L.I.M Power Dry Hood
A few years ago we all decided that fleece was out and all sorts of other midlayers took its place. But light fleece layers well, insulates as much as you need depending on fabric weight and dries fast: it’s still got a place in our outdoor wardrobe. The L.I.M Power Dry Hood takes Polartec’s grid-backed PowerDry base layer fabric and makes it into a do-it-all midlayer, just like a very lightweight fleece. It has a full zip, long arms with thumb loops, a single chest pocket and a neat fitting hood. The seams are all flatlocked and well placed, the fit is neat with good length on the body with a slightly scooped tail.
The fabric is very comfy, the fleecy micro-grid inner face is soft and pulls sweat away from you very quickly with a drying time to match. There’s a good amount of stretch and with an active cut, you can reach for the high holds on a scramble and the hems stays inside your hip belt. There’s just enough insulation for comfort on the move on cool days and to stop you getting sweaty under a shell when working hard and I’ve found it takes the sting out of a cool breeze and I’ve found myself pulling this on instead of a windshirt. I’ve slept in it a few times and it doesn’t get too stinky, we’ve become good friends and it’s a proper go-to bit of kit.
Haglöfs L.I.M Barrier Pro Hood
Lightweight insulation is very versatile, it’s summer camp wear and can be a winter midlayer too. The L.I.M Barrier Pro Hood follows the same slim lines we’ve seen above and keeps the features to the basic necessities. There’s a full zip, elasticated cuff and hem, neat fitting insulated hood and two deep pockets. The pockets have elasticated openings and your hands slip down behind the insulation and sit against your belly, a double hit of warmth when you’ve been pegging out a tent with bare hands on a cold evening. The pocket entries are above a pack hip belt and the bags extend below, so you can’t pack a lot of gear in there, but for me it’s been worth it for the hand comfort.
The very light shell fabric is polyamide, nylon to you and me, which means it’s harder wearing than its soft feel might suggest. The fill in the nylon sandwich is Quadfusion+ which is Haglöfs’ own in-house polyester fibre insulation. It’s very compressible and feels warm for the weight. The fill weight here is light, the L.I.M Barrier Pro Hood is wearable on the move when it’s cold and has been great on summer camps. It deals with sweat well, wicking and drying fast which means it does work fine as a midlayer. You don’t want a soggy mess hanging off your shoulders on that winter ascent.
Haglöfs L.I.M Essens Jacket
The L.I.M Essens Jacket is down filled alternative to the synthetic insulated Barrier Pro. The neat cut is the same as are the excellent big hand warming pockets. We lose the hood and get a collar instead; and it’s a decent height, so the chill still gets sealed out.
It’s the down makes the difference here, the 800 fill power goose down is ethically sourced, something which is becoming an ever more visible issue for outdoor consumers and it makes for a nicely warm jacket for that low weight. It’s a great jacket for camp and rest stops, for casual use for that matter, but the down is vulnerable to moisture so the Essens doesn’t see any on the move use.
Haglöfs L.I.M Parka
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember the days before we all had to wear short alpine style shell jackets and just had to make do with thigh length waterproofs with all their extra protection that we don’t need any more apparently. Well, the L.I.M Parka takes me back to those days, both in design and the wacky 70s colour scheme.
The fit is neat but relaxed, there’s plenty room to layer underneath and there’s a full range of movement so the Parka feels good on. The stripped down approach continues with elastic cuffs but the hem is fully adjustable, there’s two reasonably sized chest pockets with water resistant zippers and a fully adjustable, protective mountain hood with a stiffened visor. The big talking point is the length, this size, large, reaches just over half way down my thigh – I’m five foot eleven. The extra protection is immediately noticeable when you’re out in wind driven rain and long hours of long distance path walking in poor weather is what the Parka was born for. On the hill, the chunky-ish two-way main zip can be zipped open from the bottom to give you high stepping ability while still keeping your backside covered.
The fabric is the much maligned Gore-Tex Paclite, a very soft, breathable, packable waterproof fabric which with careful use can manage sweat very well. Layer less under it and keep ventilated and it works okay, overload it with sweat and it gets trapped in beside you.
I’ll admit the Parka looks a little odd given what we’re used to these days, but pull it on and you’re the one that’s laughing.
Haglöfs L.I.M conclusions
So does it all work as a system? It does, the sizing of the various layers means they mesh together well, I can wear all the hoods at the same time quite comfortably. There’s some L.I.M range branding to tie it all together so you know you’ve got it all the right way round – subtle orange/yellow/white stripes on one cuff and the rear hang loops.
Can you mix and match? Of course you can, the manufacturer’s master plan isn’t fooling anyone, I’ve used the kit all-together many times and one piece at a time many times more and if anything that shows the character of the individual pieces better.
The Parka’s length makes it stand out, it’s a joy in poor weather but two lower storage pockets would use up some of that blank fabric space and might make it nearly perfect. The zippers on the other jackets and hoodies are fiddly, they’re zips you have to look down at to fasten, but heavier zips on such lightweight clothes probably wouldn’t work so you have to take the compromise.
Is Less More? I think it can be, using this kit I’ve never felt short of pockets, wished I was much warmer (or much cooler!) and the fabrics and designs all do what they set out to do.
Wear and tear from regular use and washing is visible but not worrying and maybe that’s one of the most important thing when we reach for our wallets.