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bomble "bomble" (Cambridge, UK)
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True Mountain - Stretch Sportwool Baselayer - Mens - Buy 2, save £45!
True Mountain - Stretch Sportwool Baselayer - Mens - Buy 2, save £45!
Offered by True Mountain
Price: £60.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A winning formula proudly carrying the Made in the UK label, 29 Mar. 2015
True Mountain came to my attention recently via an outdoors website that featured some of their products at the OutDoor Show 2014 in Friedrichshafen. I was interested to try their product line as they are a small UK brand taking the `Made in the UK' label seriously and seemed to be using some very interesting fabric choices with the UK climate & user in mind.

I was provided with a sample of the Stretch Sportwool Baselayer by the manufacturer for an unbiased review and have been using it almost daily since late January. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I have a bit of a fetish for good baselayer with a wide range of products from leading mountain brands and various materials (polypropylene, nylon, merino wool, polyester & mixes of the above) - so to say that I've been using this all winter is testament in itself of how much I like this top! I have used it on its own or under a windproof for winter off-road running (temps down to about -6C during that cold spell in February), layered as a midlayer for my daily cycle commute and most recently for some hiking in Mallorca's Serra de Tramuntana mountains. It's survived at least a dozen runs through the washing machine unscathed, drying much quicker than a pure merino baselayer. If you just want to know the bottom line, I love it! For a bit more detail on why... read on...

The top is made from two materials - "Danish made 215gm/m2 Sportwool fabric ( 61% Polyester / 36% Merino Wool, 3% Elastane )" in the front, back and outer face of the arms with "UK produced Meryl / Elastane stretch side panels" that run along the underside of the arms, down the armpits and in a strip along the sides of the torso. This is an inspired combination as the Meryl wicks very well and has a low-friction surface so as the faces pass one another (under-arm to torso in running , hiking, climbing...) they don't snag or bunch up. Meryl is very similar to the Supplex nylon/lycra mix that I've used for many years in competition rowing clothing so I know that as well as performing well it outlasts polyester equivalents keeping its stretchiness through many uses & wash cycles. Meanwhile the Sportwool is a technical fibre mix with a brushed interior and smooth outer face, trapping extra air for insulation, wicking and soaking moisture up off the skin (or from lighter baselayer underneath). It has done a good job of avoiding the dreaded baselayer pong and with a smooth outer face it layers well under a microfleece or softshell without restricting your movement.

The cut is long in the body with long sleeves so you can use the thumb holes if that's your preference. As I've mostly been wearing this for cycling, I've not used the thumb loops much as they don't pair well with padded cycling gloves but for running & climbing they work well and there's enough stretch in the fabrics for them not to pull much on your hand as you reach out. The thumb loops are of the `unstitched seam' design so if you don't use them then the sleeves are unaffected. I am 42" chest, 15.5" neck, 34" waist with an unusually long body. I found the large to be a good midlayer fit but I could probably drop to a medium if I wanted it solely as a closer fitting baselayer. My only criticism of the cut is that the neck hole is on the large side; for this warmer midlayer/baselayer style I prefer a zipped collar with half-length zip from chin to sternum. I have got around this by pairing with a neck tube (Gore Windstopper buff).

In summary, I am really taken with this Sportwool Stretch Top. I think it is much better value than many of the big-brand equivalents despite their far-east manufacturing and the manufacture quality is very high with not a single missed or over-sewn stitch on the flat-lock seams. It fits me better than many of the French/Swiss/Italian designed baselayer which don't suit my solid frame and is also much less boxy than the US designed baselayer which tend to be either overly skintight (the Underarmour fashion) or cut for a high BMI population! Well done True Mountain - I can wholeheartedly recommend this to my friends in the outdoors.

Field Punishment No.1 [DVD]
Field Punishment No.1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Fraser Brown
Price: £8.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and memorable tale of 14 much-maligned conscientious objectors., 29 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Field Punishment No.1 [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I write this review with the credits rolling from an utterly compelling and passionately made film about 14 WWI conscientious objectors from NZ whose tale must not be forgotten. As a human story of courage and conviction it is extremely well told - the acting skillful; the filming and production of very high quality given that, as I understand, this was not made for cinematic release. Understanding the limitations of a TV movie, I felt genuinely moved by the story and in particular the acting of Fraser Brown as Archie Baxter. OK - so in a 90 minute film we can't hope to understand the full historical implications and direction of the film takes a few shortcuts via caricature representations of hectoring officers but the message is there to be seen. In particular, the moment when Archie is trying to explain his position to a young private and the sergeant nearby says his troops need their morale maintained highlights one of the many reasons why such objectors caused made their governments so uncomfortable.

Technically, there were some moments when the sound track was substandard - a few passages where the dialogue was unclear or had been so evidently recorded in a studio that the small-room acoustic sounded quite wrong in the tented setting - but these can be forgiven in what is otherwise an extremely well made film that had such an important message to convey. While Hollywood seemingly salutes every military campaign they can remix into jingoistic ends, kudos to these NZ film makers who give us such a potent alternative viewpoint.

Peanut By EGOZ Easy to carry Warm Adult Sleeping Bag Outdoor Sports Camping Hiking With Carry Bag (Army Green)
Peanut By EGOZ Easy to carry Warm Adult Sleeping Bag Outdoor Sports Camping Hiking With Carry Bag (Army Green)
Offered by Sport-Items
Price: £29.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value entry level camping bag suitable for extra bedding, festival going and three-season lowland hiking., 29 Mar. 2015
Two things to note before I review this bag - firstly, I received it free of charge from the manufacturer for an unbiased review. Secondly I am a bit of an outdoors gear nut - I own several sleeping bags for different uses - including high-end down backpacking bags that sell for more than 10 times what is asked for this bag. Having spent plenty of nights out in tents, bivvy bags and under tarps at all times of year in the UK and around the world, I have a pretty good idea what is warm enough for me for a given usage. What I also came to understand is that most sleeping bag warmth ratings are useless and even the standardised EU rating system (EN 13537) is hard to understand unless you spend some time getting to grips with it. In short, what is warm enough for a fit, well fed, rested , young, athletic man could well be totally insufficient for a hungry, tired ,older, unfit woman - as how warm you will be in a sleeping bag is hugely dependent on your metabolic state at the time.

All that said, I consider that this bag is warm enough for me for car-camping scenarios in the UK from late spring to early autumn. As it's fairly spacious in the torso and rectangular, you can readily supplement it with clothing to extend its warmth range a month either side of this but it's definitely not warm enough for winter outdoor use in the UK lowlands and would struggle in spring or autumn in the mountains. I am 1.8m tall and it is about perfect in length for me - anything over this and you'd struggle to get use out of the hood to keep warm without squishing your feet in the bag. I am also fairly solid in build at 86kg and there's room for me all round. All my other bags are mummy style as these are more weight efficient but it's nice to have a bag in which you can spread your legs without feeling restricted.

In terms of manufacture quality, it is a simply made entry level bag. There are no zip baffles or shoulder baffles found in more mountain-focussed designs but as a result it can be readily opened out to make a double quilt. The zips run smoothly but are not the most durable design. At the price I think the quality is more than acceptable - it's a lot better finished than the basic bags sold in UK supermarkets around the summer festival season. The same denier material is used inside and out and it feels comfortable against the skin.

I would recommend this bag car camping when the added weight of a rectangular design isn't an issue. It would be a good crossover as spare bedding, festival going and could be used for summer DofE overnight hikes or similar outdoors excursions but if you are looking for a serious hiking bag then you'd be well advised to go a little up market. In my case, I am glad to have it as it means I can keep my more valuable bags clean and safe when they are over-specced for a given use. Given its size, it would also be a suitable overbag to use with a lightweight down mummy bag if you wanted to extend the temperature range of a summer backpacking bag to winter base-camp use.

TaoTronics® Water Resistant Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Shower Speaker (Bluetooth 3.0, Hands-Free, Built-in Mic, A2DP/AVRCP)
TaoTronics® Water Resistant Wireless Bluetooth Stereo Shower Speaker (Bluetooth 3.0, Hands-Free, Built-in Mic, A2DP/AVRCP)
Offered by Sunvalleytek-UK
Price: £80.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value, versatile and sounds surprisingly good, 28 Mar. 2015
I received this product free of charge from the manufacturer for an unbiased review.

I've been reviewing several Bluetooth speaker products recently including others that were suitable for the bathroom but this is my favourite in the category. The current price being asked on Amazon is excellent - despite the confusing suggestion that this is a bestseller in the 'floor standing speakers' category - as you get here a speaker so versatile that you could just as easily find it attached to a car dashboard for hands-free phone calling as on a shower wall for the bath-time singalong! The sound quality is better than you might expect at the size and price range and, as my job entails being on-call, it's reassuring how well it works for handling phone calls when I would be 'otherwise indisposed' !

Charging, pairing etc. all work as they should - battery life has proven as specified for the first three or four charge cycles and the supplied instructions are much clearer than many supplied with the 'big brands' in this market. If I have one criticism - minor as it would be - it is that when the suction cup is in place the speaker tilts downwards in its mounting which doesn't quite look right. I've used it paired with Apple and Blackberry products with no issues - highly recommended.

TaoTronics® Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Wireless & Mobile, 10 Hour Battery Life, 33 ft Range, Built-in Microphone, USB & Aux Input, NFC Compatible)
TaoTronics® Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Wireless & Mobile, 10 Hour Battery Life, 33 ft Range, Built-in Microphone, USB & Aux Input, NFC Compatible)
Offered by Sunvalleytek-UK
Price: £100.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Very well considered with high quality sound if slightly underpowered., 28 Mar. 2015
I received this product free of charge from the manufacturer for an unbiased review.

I have just returned from trip away from home and I packed this, fully charged, for the journey. It did a fantastic job of turning our iPad's sound output into something enjoyable to listen to and did so for at least 9 hours before needing a recharge. Very impressive. I've tested numerous Bluetooth audio products and find the format somewhat limited - and you can tell the difference between the streamed audio quality and the wired audio quality from this speaker - but forgiving the limitations of the codec this does produce a very pleasing sound. Moreover, for its size it gives a surprisingly effective stereo field.

It pairs readily with all the devices I tried (older iPhone, iPad, Blackberry...) and with the iPad it communicates immediately without having to repeat the pairing process. It looks smart and the call-management functions work well so it could find itself useful in a variety of situations including conference calling.

The only limitation that I have come across is the power output. The speakers are actively driven from a small Lithium Ion battery, supplied separately in the packaging, but even at full volume this is not a room-filling sound. I tried placing the speakers on a hard surface, such as a coffee table, which helps somewhat but ultimately this is a product well suited to smaller rooms or closer listening position - ideal in fact for watching video on a tablet, listening to music nearby but not as a portable jukebox.

Overall it's an excellent travel speaker if slightly underpowered. Recommended.

Braun Silk Epil 7 7-561 Wet & Dry Cordless Epilator with 6 Extras
Braun Silk Epil 7 7-561 Wet & Dry Cordless Epilator with 6 Extras
Price: £84.99

4.0 out of 5 stars As painless as any epilator is likely to be; smooth and quiet but not quite as effective as the Philips my wife was using before, 28 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I reviewed the rather impressive Philips HP6577/00 SatinPerfect Wet and Dry Epilator with Shaving Head which managed to convert my wife from a waxer to an epilator. I applied the same approach to reviewing this (also very competent) epilator from Braun - that is to say I had a go with it, leaving a suspicious patch lacking hair that may need some explaining at the gym - while she did a proper job of hair removal.

Positives :
+ Quick charge (within the hour specified)
+ Relatively quiet operation - certainly quieter than the HP6577
+ Smooth feel on the skin
+ Not particularly painful (slightly less intense than the HP6577
+ Alternative heads for use in sensitive areas
+ Shaver head to use if hair is too long for immediate epilation

Negative :
- The HP6577 removes hair more effectively on legs and arms due to the wider and curved head

So in summary it's a very good all-round product but would take a bit longer to get the same results as the Philips equivalent. Recommended.

Scholl Active Everyday Insoles Gel for Men
Scholl Active Everyday Insoles Gel for Men
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable and versatile insole, 28 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have used Scholl gel insoles in the past and have always found that they lasted well and were an improvement in comfort over most of the generic insoles provided in shoes and boots .In this particular case, I wanted to add to them to a pair of steel-capped safety wellington boots which, having a rigged shank and fairly hard sole composite, have been a little brutal on the feet after a day of working in them. I am glad to say that these insoles slipped in nicely, stay put due to the clinginess of the gel itself and offer a pleasing amount of cushioning without being spongy or overly springy. Of course they cost a bit more than a basic replacement insole but if they last as well as those I've owned before then I have no concern about the value for money.

11+ English Practice Book with Assessment Tests (Ages 7-8)
11+ English Practice Book with Assessment Tests (Ages 7-8)
by CGP Books
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Very well structured, clear and effective, 28 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is about as painless as an English grammar practice book could be for the age-group. My 7-year-old hasn't covered all of the topics yet but the examples and hints were clear enough for her to have a stab at all sections. And if your own understanding of grammar is less than perfect - let's face it that's most of us - there's a complete set of answers provided in a separate pullout section of the book. I've had only good experience of the CGP books in the past and with practice tests included I can recommend this to any parent who wants to help their child prepare for the 11+ in gradual steps.

Matcha Green Tea Powder - ORGANIC - All Day Energy - Green Tea Lattes - Smoothies - Baking - Superior Antioxidant Content - Improved Hair & Skin Health - Now From Japan! Culinary Grade
Matcha Green Tea Powder - ORGANIC - All Day Energy - Green Tea Lattes - Smoothies - Baking - Superior Antioxidant Content - Improved Hair & Skin Health - Now From Japan! Culinary Grade
Offered by KissMeOrganics
Price: £22.00

5.0 out of 5 stars For Matcha lovers - a very good quality culinary product and I enjoy it as a drink on its own., 21 Mar. 2015
I received this product free of charge for an unbiased review.

I tend to use Matcha primarily as a drink in something approximating the traditional usucha style of thin tea. As soon as you add the hot water that full-powered smell hits you and in my case raises an instant smile as I prepare to enjoy the treat... and in the case of many of my workmates, puts a face of utter disgust as they compare it to the smell of fishy pond water! Of course the taste on the palette is far more akin to green sencha made by infusion than the smell would suggest with a beautiful cleanness and a hint of lasting bitterness that keeps me coming back for more. As a 'culinary grade' matcha I am impressed by how nice it tastes straight-up as a drink.

The product is carefully packaged in a high-grade resealable ziplock style bag offering very good value compared to the wider market of organic matcha. I'm not going to suggest I believe any of the marketing numbers about potency or health benefits relative to other forms of green tea - and I'm absolutely sure if you make it into a cupcake you'll be just as indulgent and (probably) unhealthy as without - but it's a nice ingredient for adding twists to dishes and, in my case, will give me many cups of enjoyment whilst my colleagues look at me in puzzlement!

The best culinary grade matcha at the price that I've tried and a big step up from the generic stuff sold in typical asian supermarkets.

Reasons to Stay Alive
Reasons to Stay Alive
by Matt Haig
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A doorway for depression sufferers and those who care about them, 16 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Reasons to Stay Alive (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Matthew Haig's honest, laid-bare account of living with depression is a wonderful and very possibly crucial addition to the body of work demystifying and destigmatizing mental health issues. I am fortunate enough not to have suffered from the conditions he describes - at least so far in my life - but I have been profoundly touched when someone close to me went through this and I wish wish wish that I'd had this book to hand for both of us beforehand both in support of the sufferer and for the excellent practical advice to those living with or loving those with depression. Although I found myself getting through this short and accessible book in a relatively short time, I found it has returned to my consciousness often since I finished it. In particular I will never forget the passage where Haig lists all the situations for which he has experienced more sympathy than for depression; it really drove home just how bad we are as a society at dealing with mental health issues and how much better we could be with just a little added mindfulness. Superb.

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