A Two Year Review On Two Essential Bits Of Kit
I’ve been a huge Bear Grylls fan for six years now, ever since Man Vs Wild began. I’ve purchased thousands of pounds of kit either endorsed, designed or worn by Bear himself. I’ve got trousers, a lot of different fleeces, a coat, a tracker top, both short and long sleeved performance t-shirts, various shoes he’s worn, knives, fire strikers – the list goes on.
While all the kit is fantastic, there remain two items that I wouldn’t do without. Both having been worn excessively by myself over the past two and a bit years. I purchased my first item of Bear Grylls endorsed Craghoppers clothing in early 2010 – the Survivor Trousers and shortly after, having seen him wearing them in a number of Man Vs Wild episodes, a pair of Vivobarefoot Kariba’s.
I buy the gear he uses for a number of reasons. 1, because he wears it. 2, because of him wearing it, I know it’s good quality and designed specifically for the task at hand. 3, if it’s good enough for Bear….
The Survivor trousers come at a premium, most likely because it carries Bear’s name on the left leg. A standard Craghoppers pair retail around £25 cheaper than these, which come in at £70 (though they’re regularly on sale!). For the reasons above, that doesn’t matter. Standard Craghoppers trousers carry no significance to me, I want to wear the Survivor trousers simply because they’re better. When I have them on, I feel better, as though I can do ‘more’ of what I want without worrying about damaging my clothes. Bear claims the range is “wrecked then rated”, which should mean I can catch them on brambles, scrape them down trees or throw myself down rocky slopes safe in the knowledge that my trousers won’t have a hole in the backside when I come to a stop.
The trousers have a great fit to them, snug and tightly fitting around the waist, not baggy at the back and an appropriate length that I won’t tread on them, nor will they be half way up my shin when I crouch down. There’s a plethora of pockets, pouches and zipped compartments to store virtually anything you need on your person. There are two main hand pockets, one with a zipped security compartment, two pockets at the back, secured with re-inforced webbing and a tough button. A pocket on either leg, one having an additional inside pocket which is elasticated and on the other, another zip compartment. Super handy. There are drying loops which are secured with poppers, all the belt loops are re-inforced with incredibly strong stitching, there’s heel tape to make sure you don’t snag and rip them on sharp objects, buttons are held on with a crazy amount of webbing – they’re going nowhere!
The main feature of the trousers is one that adds to the look, makes them instantly recognisable but more importantly, helps your movement, as you’re completely un-restricted. Stretch panels.
These are located over the entire backside area, both knees and both insides of the ankles. It’s hard to believe how much restriction other trousers give you, before you wear these. Climbing trees, squeezing through thin gullies, or simply bending and crouching is far, far easier when the material isn’t pulled tort over your knees or at the back. There have been numerous times where I’ve wished I’d had my Survivor trousers on because of this simple, yet incredibly effective feature. As well as other occasions where I’ve been grateful for having them on.
They also come with Nosilife protection, which keeps away bugs and mosquitos. I’ve never been too bothered by these, nor in an environment where they’re prevalent, but at times when there’s been a lot of midges, I’ve been unaware of their presence on my skin and have absolutely seen them fly directly away from my trousers, taking avoiding action. Whether that’s my mind playing tricks, I’m not sure, but it most definitely happened.
Having used these trousers for literally thousands of hours over the past couple of years, in many different situations, I can without doubt say these are something I rely upon time and time again. Wearing them in the Lake District, through a horrendous thunderstorm and being soaked to the skin, the trousers were first to dry in a matter of minutes once it had cleared up. They don’t retain moisture for long at all, especially when you’re wearing them and constantly generating heat through the material.
The great thing about the Survivor trousers is that they work so well in so many different situations and environments. They keep you cool when it’s hot, and surprisingly warm when it’s cold. They look great around town, while being the perfect pair when you’re adventuring. They’re ideal for taking abroad, for those mild evenings or for wearing on the plane – lots of pockets, nice and light and flexible.
I now own three pairs of these trousers, in three different colours. Charcoal, Metal and Dark Khaki. All the same, aside from the ‘upgraded’ hand pockets which aren’t netted anymore – a good step forward, as those two pockets were prone to rips after a lot of use. They’re the only trousers I’d wear for adventuring, climbing and generally messing around. Yet, they for-fill so many other occasions as well. I genuinely cannot rate these highly enough.
The second bit of kit I’m incredibly proud to own are my Vivobarefoot Kariba’s. They also came at a premium, costing me nearly £160 in mid 2010 but having also spent so much time and covered so many miles wearing them, they’re still nearly as good as new. Which makes the price a little less concerning. While Vivobarefoot didn’t really market these boots as an off road, adventuring kind of footwear, that’s exactly what I’ve used them for. That’s all down to Bear as well, he wore them for quite a lot of the Man Vs Wild episodes in 2010 and I subsequently purchased them shortly after.
The boots have a pretty wide toe box, as do all Vivobarefoot shoes. This allows for your feet to spread when you walk, un-restricted, rather than being crammed against the sidewalls like in most other shoes. The sole is an ultra thin 3mm puncture resistant rubber, which gives incredible ground feel through your feet but is strong enough to protect you from sharp objects. The insides are lined with suede down the sides, which is a nice touch. The insole is removable and can be replaced. The laces can be done up right to the top, giving the Kariba more of a slipper feel, rather than a clumpy and heavy walking boot.
In comparison to my Merrell walking shoes – which are specifically designed for the job – I can walk 20 miles in these without feeling the weight on my feet. It’s close to walking barefoot, which of course is the path Vivobarefoot have gone down – it’s all in their name! Removing my Merrell’s after a long walk, I immediately feel the difference. They’re so heavy. Of course, the Kariba’s aren’t as rugged, nor as water resistant but the difference is huge. While we’re on the subject of waterproof boots, I’ve found these to be surprisingly resistant. I’ve had damp feet on a couple of occasions, but that was after a thorough downpour and walking through a handful of large puddles. They were never marketed to be great for walking through rivers so I never expected them to be. I’m therefore more surprised that my feet are bone dry, when they should more than likely be sopping wet.
Aside from adventuring and in the same vain as the Survivor trousers, these boots are great for around town and general use too. I’ve never been a boot kind of guy, but trousers sit nicely over the top of the ankle part of the boot which means they’re just a low shoe to anyone who doesn’t know they’re Kariba’s. They’re stylish and I love the little details like the red ‘V’ on the sole, as well as the red suede inside which give the boots a real feel of quality. They work brilliantly with jeans, chinos and especially my survivor trousers – with which I’ve combined the two so frequently.
I’ve always been a big sucker for the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ and I don’t think that can be any truer than with these two products. It’s because of their quality, their durability, their flexibility and their style that I’ve ended up being a huge subscriber to both Bear Grylls by Craghoppers and Vivobarefoot. It’s because of these two initial purchases, that I now own a pair of Vivobarefoot Ultra’s and thousands of pounds of Bear Grylls clothing.
Wherever I go, these two items come with me. They never fail me and it is for that reason that I recommend them so highly. It’s also the reason why they’re two essential bits of kit.