ALPACA HIKER PRO Socks by Vicuna

I’m slightly obsessive about “feet” – perhaps the most abused and neglected part of the human body apart from the gut! When presented with these Alpaca Hiker Pro socks by Vicuna, and considering their purchase price, I decided that any review of their performance should take place after a thorough “road test” which, in this case, was a year’s worth of use!

The socks are perfectly comfortable, so snug that I questioned their ability to be cool in summer! However, the socks have now endured walking expeditions to both the North and South Downs, the New Forest, the Black Mountains and the Peak District. They have been through all weathers, including two Frost Camps and they have now been washed a couple of time by hand. It is recommended not to wash them too often and they stay incredibly fresh given a little airing. Summer hikes proved that they were very warm – but this has as much to do with me not having decent “summer” walking boots I think. Certainly, the cold weather is no deterrent if you have these on your feet! Bliss!

“Luxurious (which our feet deserve!) and they promise longevity.”

The socks are really wearing well, the fibres have of course lifted somewhat like any woollen product, and they now have a fluffier appearance than when brand new. Their overall shape is still perfect: the heel hasn’t stretched at all and the socks still “cling” to the feet and ankles.

These beautiful feeling socks tick so many boxes – they are made from Alpaca fibre, which has enabled these fine members of the Camel family to endure mountain climates where there can be variations of temperature from -20 degrees up to +30 degrees. The fibre has also been protecting the indigenous people of Chili, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru since the dawn of time. The production of fibre is both sustainable and environmentally sound, and sales of the product support local communities with limited commercial opportunities. To make the socks more durable and to help keep their snug shape, they have a small amount of nylon incorporated into their exterior – but even this is recycled nylon!

To conclude, these socks are not cheap – but they are both luxurious (which our feet deserve!) and they promise longevity which makes them a better value for money investment lasting, I would suggest, several years of hard use. They really are a timely addition to the woollen and natural fibre clothing that is beginning to redominate the adventure clothing market.

Treat yourself! You won’t regret it!

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Pop Up Grill

The pop up grill is definitely a neat gadget – matt black sections which compact down to fit in a zip-up nylon carry case. Packed away it is 30cm diameter and just 7cm deep! It also has the prestige of having won the Red Dot Design Award in 2012!

Removing the grill from the carry case to full construction takes literally one minute and the clever three leg design means that it will retain stability on nearly all surfaces. When constructed the bottom of the grill remains 60mm above the ground level and therefore reduces the risk of visibly scorching the ground.It is quite light and weighs in at 1.2kg empty and I added 0.6kg charcoal which, of course, can be carried within the gadget before use.

Yes, it looks great!But, to me, most gadgets DO look great! What we need to test is “Does it work?” and “Who would want it?”. When I loaded the lower section with my home made charcoal it did strike me that it might be a bit small capacity wise to give a good cook time, so I took meticulous timings as the test went along. From light up time to reaching cooking temperature took just 12 minutes – the process being aided the products numerous perforations for air intake. A pack of reasonable quality (80% meat) Lincolnshire sausages where popped onto the grill and where done to perfection 20 minutes later.

With plenty of heat still coming from the charcoal, I popped a couple of fresh Mackerel on and these were also done to a tee in about half an hour! So, take it as read that a full bottom section of charcoal will give around an hour of decent heat – though my charcoal doesn’t last as long as hardwood nuggets so,
depending on your fuel choice, you could perhaps get a longer duration.

I can conclude that the grill certainly works! It’s fuel capacity does limit it’s application in that it wouldn’t be suitable for a party of guests nor for cooking a Butterfly of lamb! But for doing conventional bbq fare such as chops, burgers, sausages and steaks it’s adequate. Of course, you can remove the lower section and site the upper sections over a campfire so it’s cooking ability is flexible too. I also like the fact that after cooking, you just need to pack up, shove the contents back in the carry case and go! Only the cooking grid will need washing and the case ensures that other gear doesn’t get sooty!

Who might really use one of these gadgets? Well, we have established it is lightweight , compact and convenient. Despite this, I don’t see it tempting hardcore hikers and hillwalkers for whom it competes with various propane micro stoves currently available, which are even more compact, lightweight and convenient! Beside which, not many hikers allow themselves the luxury of an hour “off” for lunch on the hillside! However, there are plenty of pleasure walkers who would welcome the opportunity to picnic in style whilst taking in a particular beauty spot. It would also be a fabulous addition to those who travel via motorhomes, campervans, motorbikes and bicycle.

For me though, the folk I’d recommend this to most strongly are the beach brigade! Whether you just enjoy a day on the beach or you are a coastal forager, the popup grill will be useful time after time. It really does tick all the boxes: Easy to carry, easy to use and perfect for fairly quickly cooked foods such as fish, prawns and shellfish.

Retailing at a little less than £40 the Popup Grill needs to be used a fair few times to compete against the readily available disposable BBQ’s sold all over the place for £4 or £5. However, the grill is more adaptable, works more efficiently, won’t scorch the ground and, importantly, won’t add to the mountain of waste that disposables create! Yes, it’s a good product and I hope it sells well!

In the UK it is currently available from and

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