Helly Hansen – Odin Mountain Softshell Pants
Designed specifically for backcountry adventures, these soft-shell pants are extremely comfortable thanks to four-way stretch fabric, and they also provide a good mix of windproofing and breathability, whilst protective membranes on the seat and knees help keep you dry while sitting/kneeling in the snow and scrambling around. The fabric also has a DWR coating to further keep moisture on the outside.
They come with a well-thought out array of features too; the waist has Velcro adjustable tabs and decent sized belt loops so you have two options for keeping them securely in place, and below this are two zipped hand pockets.
There’s more storage space in two cargo pockets, the right pocket having a zip and the left a Velcro closure for fast and easy access on the move. There are generously-sized zippers on the outer thighs for venting, and also on the lower legs along with integrated boot gaiters with multiple adjustments, making it easy to get the pants on over your ski boots. The whole lot is rounded off by burly scuff guards and a Recco reflector.
You get a lot for a very reasonable price with the Odin pants; the only thing missing – and this is being picky – is a rear pocket and perhaps a mesh backing for the thigh zips. If you would like to read about the Odin jacket that Alf has reviewed click here.
Leki – Helicon Lite ski poles
The Helicon Lite is Leki’s ‘budget’ ski touring pole, but still comes with all the essential features you’ll need when heading into the backcountry.
Made from high-strength aluminium, this is a two-piece adjustable pole with diameters of 16mm and 14 mm, making it incredibly robust, which is important considering the abuse touring poles tend to get. It slides out smoothly and easily to the required length, and when packed away measures 99cm in length, which is not as short as some adjustable poles but still allows pretty easy storage on your pack.
The Helicon Lite features Leki’s ‘Speedlock+’ system, a light and reliable locking system which enables quick and easy individual adjustment of the pole length from 110 to 145cm (lengths are marked on the bottom section) and can be operated easily with gloved hands. This is a new Speedlock system from Leki, which is 35 per cent lighter and 27 per cent smaller than the previous SpeedLock 1 but maintains the same holding force.
I liked the Evocon Soft Core Grip, which is ‘sticky’ enough to provide a very secure grip whether wearing gloves or in bare hands and also allows a variety of grip variations for ascents and descents, whilst the strap can be quickly and easily adjusted to length (useful if changing from gloves to bare hands and back in warmer days).
The whole thing is rounded off with touring-specific baskets which have a one short edge to assist with adjusting the heel lift on your bindings, and one long edge on the opposite side which can be used to scrape ice from your skins.