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freediveheaven

freediveheaven
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Member since: 22.06.2004

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      08.01.2011 20:53
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      Excellent luminous friend

      One piece of kit I always check that I have and that it is in tip top working condition is my head torch and this little beauty is my second head torch made by Petzl, the first is now relegated to a back up one and this is now my primary source of light when trekking, camping or just plain old night hiking. Head torches are not just for camping they are useful for any activity where you need a light source which also gives you use of both hands, unlike a conventional torch and where there is no other alternative source of light. So for all you car booters and doggers (sorry that should read dog walkers) it can be a useful device.

      The reason I upgraded from my old torch to this one is primarily this one has a much more powerful beam and a longer burn time, this is in part due to the fact that rather than AAA batteries that are stored in the body of the torch this head torch takes 3 AA batteries (a set of which comes supplied with the torch ready for use) which are housed in a separate compartment which then sits on the back of your head. The rear compartment is a soft rubbery outer with a hard plastic back that is curved to allow it to fit the contour of your head and the strap slides through it. In addition to the added advantage of more power from three AA batteries I have also found two other advantages with this design, it is a lot easier to change the batteries when they need changing and if you are forced to change them in the open in wet weather then you are not opening the back of your torch to do it, secondly it reduces the weight on the front of your head and distributes it more evenly which I find makes the device a lot more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

      I have found that the burn time when using this torch is very impressive, with three levels of beam the most efficient will give your 150 hours of burn time and you get 80 hours from the maximum beam, most of the time unless I'm in my tent I find myself using the optimum (middle) beam and then you get 100 hours, only when inside my tent or a shelter do I have it on economic. The torch also has a simple traffic light system on the top of the casing which illuminates to indicate the amount of charge remaining in the batteries depending on what beam setting you currently have the torch running on, I have found this to be useful and also very accurate and when it hits the red you really do need to change your batteries as there is not a lot of time left before you are plunged into darkness.

      The three different settings that are easy to toggle through will vary the intensity of the beam and the range that the light is projected forward. There is also a small boost button on the top of the torch which allows an intense beam of light for short periods however this does use up a lot of juice if you use it a lot. It has an excellent range to it with the beam illuminating the ground 30 to 40 metres in advance when on the optimum setting, you should note that the longer the torch is in continual use the range does start to decrease, this is obviously relevant when hiking at night as most of the time in camp it will only be on for relatively short time periods. On maximum it can have a range of up to 72m when initially switched on which blows my old head torch out of the water when it comes to illumination and range.

      In terms of design it is a nice piece of kit, a mix of black and grey moulded plastic with bright green control buttons on the top, one that operates the boost and the second that operates the various settings and switches it on and off, to toggle through the various beam settings you simply double click to move to the setting you need and this is very easy after a couple of goes, the buttons are a different size so it is easy through touch to be able to locate them and distinguish between the two. It uses a single led bulb which is deeply recessed to protect it behind hard clear plastic and there is a reflective strip at the bottom of the torch to help cast the beam out further and wider.

      Another nice feature is the fact that not only does the head torch pivot easily to allow you to alter the range of the beam but when it is fully pushed back then there is a small plastic moulding that fits over the on/off button to stop it switching on while in transit, this is very useful as on my old head torch this feature does not exist and I have to remove the batteries when in transit.

      It has a wide strap (bearing the Petzl lettering) which makes this an incredibly comfortable head torch to wear and the battery pack is connected to the torch body by a plastic wire which is coiled at one end and runs through a retaining slot on the strap so that it does not get in the way, to ensure that the head torch stays in place there is also a strap that runs over the top of your head as well, this is detached when it arrives and it is optional whether you fit it however it does make it more secure and is good when walking at night to give you extra stability.

      I have been mightily impressed with this great bit of kit. I cannot find anything that I would change on it, the intensity of the beam, burn time; robust manufacture and comfort are excellent. There is one downside I guess and that is the fact that this does not come cheap, I have a 20% discount with Cotswold and it still cost me £52 at their slightly inflated normal prices (my opinion I'm sure not theirs), on Amazon you can get it for £58 which is a good price in my opinion for a product that has so many uses and is a nice piece of safety kit.

      Thanks for reading and rating my review and if you have any questions leave me a message.

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        05.01.2011 22:11
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        Good product just do not like the smell

        Having discovered that a beard is not a look I can carry off, rather a few days growth soon looks like a tabby cat has been squashed against my face, I'm now resigned to the fact that I will always have to shave as a minimum every other day and really I need to shave every day. Also I find that a wet shave is the only real way to effectively shave, I have yet to find an electric shaver that can do a closer shave no matter what the adverts might claim.

        Normally my skin is fine after a wet shave as I tend to shave while under the shower thanks to a conveniently placed mirror however occasionally I do get some irritation and this is where a shaving balm comes into its own. I'm currently using the Nivea for Men sensitive balm. Unlike the Dooyoo picture mine comes in a white box and inside there is a white bottle with a screw top lid. The first time I used this I did get caught out as without really paying attention I expected a small aperture for the balm to come out of however that is not the case, once you take the lid off the whole top of the bottle is open hence you have to be very careful when tipping it up otherwise you will be left with hands covered in the white balm.

        The balm is alcohol free and is meant to be a neutral fragrance however it does have an odour and for me this is the big negative for this product as to be honest the smell reminds me of my grandmother as it has that slightly musty, clinical smell to it. I have to say, with no disrespect meant to Gran, that it is not the most pleasant of smells. Fortunately it is not that strong and easily masked with a little aftershave so after you have applied it then it is no longer noticeable unless you do not use aftershave. Then you will be able to detect it as I rubbed a little on my wrist and after a couple of hours there was still a feint smell.

        On the plus side it does do a very good job at protecting your skin against inflammation and irritation. I have also found it very easy to apply, you only need a small amount and it absorbs really easily into your skin without being greasy or oily. The balm contains Chamomile, Vitamin E and Provitamin B5 and these do have a soothing effect on your skin. In addition the product does help to moisturise your skin which does help to keep it smooth feeling.

        I certainly did not notice any markedly improved visual impacts from using this balm, it will not make you look younger or anything like that, having said that when you look as good as I do who cares, however it does do a good job at reducing any post shave irritation which is the main point of using this product. I have found that it is very gentle on my skin and there have been no adverse reaction to using it.

        I paid £5.99 for a 100ml bottle at Superdrug. Personally I'm happy to use the remainder of the bottle however I'm not sure that this is something that I would buy again mainly because of the slightly unpleasant smell that it has.

        Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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        • Vango Force 10 Helium 200 / Tent / 71 Readings / 68 Ratings
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          02.01.2011 18:13
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          Great expedition tent

          I would like to welcome you all to a review of my second home, or my little escape to the country as it is commonly known, like every well off double home owner my second home is a little rural retreat that is not quite as big as my main home but is somewhere that I go to get away from the hustle and bustle of suburban Northampton and to enjoy a bit of solitude. I have little choice when it comes to the solitude bit as there is not enough room to swing a hamster within the confines of what is billed as a two man tent but in reality would probably struggle to hold myself and Janet Krankie.

          Vango are a well known brand of tent makers, many of you who were in the Guides or Scouts may remember the orange Vango tents from the various camping expeditions, well this Force Ten Helium 200 is billed as a two man tent which is ideal for trekking expeditions and those looking for a light weight shelter while camping in remote areas where you are carrying your equipment on your back for long distances. Let me be clear this is not the sort of tent I would take on a week's holiday on a campsite where once the tent is pitched it does not move again and you can drive onto the campsite. This is the tent I take when I'm going on a weekends hiking or abroad on expedition as it is light weight, easy to put up and very strong and well made. It is billed as part of the range for mountain marathon athletes and multi activity racers so as you can imagine it is functional rather than luxurious where minimising the weight and pack size are the two key priorities, needless to say these are also qualities that are ideal when trekking with all your kit in your rucksack.

          Now this is billed as a two man tent however I use it as a solo one just for me, it could handle two adults but it would be rather snug and there would be no room to move about at all, for me it is ideal as the extra space allows me to store my rucksack next to me, something that would be more difficult in the 100 version of this tent. The tent is able to handle extreme weather conditions, this one has been with me to Snowdonia, Buxton and the Lakes in this country as well as the Andes in Venezuela and it has been used in everything from tropical jungles to mountain sides and I have even pitched it in 40mph winds in snowy Buxton a few weeks ago and it has coped with everything thrown at it.

          There are a few features that I really appreciate about this tent. The first is the weight, it is only 1.3kg which is pretty good for effectively a two man tent and when folded into the stuff bag it only measures 40 x 12cm so it slides easily into my rucksack. You can deploy it either complete or with the flysheet first and then attach the outer afterwards, as most of the time I'm pitching it in cold or wet weather I tend to like the fact that it can be pitched with the fly sheet and outer already attached.

          Pitching the tent is very easy and is designed so that one pair of hands can do it, having said that in 40mph winds a second pair of hands was much appreciated. It is a effectively a single pole construction which is a F10 Flexlite pole which is pre angled and the external pole sleeves are easy to locate and are on the outside of the tent. There is a small inner pole that goes at one end of the tent to help form the frame and this was the only one that took me a while to suss out exactly where it went as the hole in the webbing was cunningly disguised, the instructions were not clear and it was only by locating a video on YouTube did it become clear, but once done it is pretty obvious and was just me being a Muppet really. After a couple of practice goes I was soon in a position where I can have the tent up and secure within five minutes, probably less if I really rushed it.

          The tent design is a hybrid tunnel design with access on the side of the tent with a mesh panel on the inner door and the flysheet door can be partially opened as a vent and with the mesh inner you can protect against those pesky mossie's getting in. Some further technical jargon will tell you that the flysheet is Protex 20D SPU-RN nylon 3000 which effectively translates as pretty tough and keeps the wind and rain out, it has a 70D ripstop polyester inner which is very strong and a HD Nylon 5000 groundsheet. All of this means that this is a tough little tent.

          As I said before this is a tough tent that is easy to erect and very secure, the design means that you only need to deploy four pegs on the inner and four on the outer and there is only one guy rope to set up, it is amazing how stable this little tent is in a high wind and the lack of guy ropes means you are not worried about some clumsy oath bringing the whole thing down.

          So what is like spending a night in my country abode? Well the one downside for me is that I'm rather claustrophobic so a small tent like this is not ideal. To give you an idea of how bad I am I even had a panic attack trying to sleep in a hammock with a mossie net above my head. For me it is a trade off between the slight feeling of panic I get from being enclosed and the fact that it weighs next to nothing and at the end of the day the thought of carrying a heavy tent while doing a tough days hiking is just not worth it, besides I know how to deal with the panic attacks I get, I just wish I could stop them in the first place. Anyway the high point of the tent is 90cm which is plenty high enough to allow you to get changed into fresh clothes, the length is 270cm in total with 210 on inner space and a width of 120cm at the widest and 80cm and the narrowest, so not problems for a short arse like myself plus room for my rucksack. I can deploy my thermarest easily and generally have a dry and comfortable night's sleep, well as comfortable as it gets in a tent and on a light weight thermarest.

          This is not the sort of tent you would buy to go to a festival and trash and the price reflects that, it needs taking care of and checking regularly but it is very easy to maintain and also to store. I paid £210 for mine, currently on Amazon it has an rrp of £220 but is reduced to £192.95 however there is an additional £7.99 delivery charge as well to factor in. Personally I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a robust light weight tent for the type of camping that I have described otherwise it is not worth the expense.

          Thanks for reading and rating my review and feel free to call into my country gaff anytime you are around.

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            31.12.2010 10:46
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            Good mid priced poles

            Just before Christmas I wrote a review giving advice on the use of trekking poles and now I want to review my current pair that I have used in both this country and abroad. These are the poles that I use for travelling with and they are a top set of trekking poles (I always use two) and indeed they have to be because sometimes they are being used on a five or six day trek and so get a really good workout across some pretty tough terrain.

            These are not the cheapest poles on the market, a pair will set you back about £50 however that does not make them the most expensive you can buy, they are a very good mid priced walking pole and certainly if either of these were to demise over the coming twelve months I would certainly replace like for like. The one slight niggle I do have is that even for this amount of money they did not come with rubber stoppers on the end of the poles and this is an additional expense all be it a minor one.

            These poles have a lovely balance to them and they are reasonably light as well coming in at 607g so they are ideal for going into your pack when flying, they also collapse down to 72cm so they do not take up a great deal of room. They extend to 140cm in length and use the classic Leki adjustment system which is a simple twist and release method, you reverse the action to lock the poles into the desired length and there are plenty of markings on the two extension poles to allow you to tailor the length to your own preferences.

            Where these poles really come into their own is in the comfort that they provide and the additional support when you are either ascending or descending a mountain or hill. The grips are extremely comfortable and they have a slightly forward leaning angle when using the safety straps that are attached to the top, this helps improve your walking position and the moulded grips are excellent whether you have gloves or not on. I have used these in the sweaty jungle and my hands did not slip and I have also worn them with thick snow gloves on and they worked equally well in both sets of extreme conditions. They also provide some great shock absorbing qualities with a three spring antishock system which you can feel giving and absorbing the pressure as you apply it to the poles, I find this particularly beneficial when descending which is when my knee joints come under most pressure and need the help the most.

            The main body of the pole is made from aluminium and is coated to avoid scratches however my predominantly black poles bare the scars of a number of scratches however the poles are certainly strong enough and there are no dents or bends in mine even after one of them had a 30 metre fall down a rock face once, fortunately I was not attached to it. The tip is a carbide flextip and there is a plastic retaining basket as well which can be removed, I tend to do this when travelling especially as it is not essential. The tip is strong and has been able to cope with the very icy conditions over the Christmas period when we have been out walking on Dartmoor.

            Leki do make very good and reliable poles, the black with a splash of bright yellowy green on the shaft also means that these poles have one other very important use. You can wave them around like a light sabre or samurai sword and make the noises as well, an important feature and something every male has done at some point in time; then again maybe it is just me.

            Overall these are a robust set of poles that are light enough and collapse down to a reasonable height making them good for travelling, in addition they are strong enough to provide support in a rescue scenario (mine have done just that) and the anti shock system will provide extra support for joints and make walking easier. Other than the generic downside of all poles when scrambling up or down cliffs there are no negatives for me with these poles which have been faithful servants to me over the past eighteen months and I certainly recommend them.

            Thanks for reading and rating this review.

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              30.12.2010 09:43
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              Bit lemony

              When I was younger D & G Masculine was one of my favourite eau de cologne and a staple on my dressing table and I was rather surprised to get a bottle of it this Christmas from one of my aunts, especially as I had forgotten that she still bothered to send her nephews and nioeces presents each year as she lives in Boston.

              Having used the fragrance again for a couple of days over the xmas period I have started to wonder what it was that I actually saw in this fragrance, it is not terrible but it certainly does not smell like the total babe magnet I imagined it to be when wearing it in my mid twenties on a night out in London after a hard day working in the city. Rather now I detect a rather strong citrus lemon smell to the fragrance that is not something I remember from those days.

              It comes in a silver box and the bottle is a simple cylindrical design with clear glass showing the yellow fragrance inside and a silver top which accounts for a third of the height of the after shave. It looks ok but is nothing flashy.

              I had to look up all of the relevant notes and these are taken from the website basenotes.net which from the title I guess it knows what it is doing.

              Top Notes
              Living Kumquat, Bergamot, Lemon tree leaves, Petitgrain Leaves.

              Middle Notes
              Thyme, Basil, Peppermint Leaves, Rosemary, Helional, Ozone living flower.

              Base Notes
              Fig Wood, Teak wood, Vetiver, Tonka beans, Vanilla Pod, Musk.


              So what does my little nose detect, well initially when I put this on it is a rather sharp and quite strong fruity smell which I would say is rather lively, I always remember having to apply this a good 30 minutes before going out with it as it needs a bit of time to settle down, after a while it does begin to be less acerbic and although you do still have a lemon citrus smell to it there is a more musky and woody smell to it as well which I guess are the base notes comming through. It then does settle down to give a fairly consistent strong male smell. For me this is very much something I would now wear for the work place rather than on a night out.

              It can be a bit over powering initially so you do have to be careful with the amount you apply however one thing I have noticed is that it is not the longest lasting of fragrances, I reckon the smell had diminished quite a bit after five hours or so and given the fact that initially it is rather lively and not overly pleasant I would not want to be topping this up during the working day as it might be a little potent and noticeable to those around me.

              Personally this is probably for me a fragrance best left in the memory bank rather than one I will be going back to again. Checking out Amazon you can currently get a 100ml bottle of this for £27.95 which I guess is a reasonable price to pay however I would say this is more suitable for a younger wearer maybe, the under 25 brigade are probably more suited to this.

              Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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              • Speedo Mariner Goggles / Water Sport / 46 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                29.12.2010 09:12
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                Good quality training goggle

                I'm a pretty regular swimmer, as a minimum I'm in the pool once a week and usually it is twice a week as I find it is good to break up and vary my exercise routine, also swimming works large groups of muscles and does not produce and impact pressure on your joints, for me that means less pressure on my knees.

                I cannot swim without swimming goggles, well obviously I can just not for very long, as I need the protection from the irritation caused by the chemicals in the water combining with the chemicals that should not be there. Here I'm going off topic for a moment to rant about those people who do not shower before entering the pool and the worst offenders I'm afraid are women especially the dolly dry hair brigade who go swimming in full make up.

                I have been using my set of Speedo Mariner Goggles for about four months now, my previous pair of goggles got so scratched that visibility was poor even in clear water, I really noticed how badly they were scratched when putting these on. They are a smoke tinted colour and the thing I really like about them is that they are not overly large and this means they form a very good fit on my face. The plastic lens area is flattened out however they are not the totally flat competitive style that I used to wear; there is a little depth to the lens so it is not on top of your eye socket.

                They are very comfortable to wear with a smooth plastic eye socket which is flexible and moulded to my face very quickly, it leaked for the first couple of lengths the first time I wore them however they soon formed a tight seal and now no water gets in until I have taken them off part way through any swimming session, then I may get some water entering but again after a length or two and a slight adjustment they are fine.

                Visibility is good with these goggles, both in the water and out, it is easy to sight both the lane rope and end wall while swimming front crawl and provided you spit in them before they get wet they do not fog, I find good old spit much better than any of the anti fog sprays you can buy and the same goes when I'm scuba diving in a full mask. They are supposed to be covered with anti fog spray on the lenses so they should not fog up but I find that they do need some extra help.

                The back strap has a split in it to form two straps however there is a single point where the two segments join up so it is stronger and thicker rubber where the strap attaches to the lens however the split section at the back does make it easier to adjust the position of the rubber strap on your head and makes it more secure and comfortable, this also means that the strap does not have to be really tight to stay firmly in place, I have completed lengths doing all four of the recognised strokes with these goggles and they have always stayed in place. I have also dived in with them on a few times and again they stay in place comfortably, that naturally assumes you know how to do a racing dive in the first place.

                You have a choice of lens colours and each one has different benefits, I have the smoke ones which reduce brightness, given that I use them in a gym swimming pool these are ideal as it is rather blue, there are also lilac coloured lenses that are good for outdoor swimming in the sea or lakes as they provide better visibility in such conditions while the blue lens is meant to reduce glare. To be honest I have had blue ones before and the difference is not that noticeable between the two, I have never come across the lilac ones.

                I find these to be a good pair of general swimming goggles, they are comfortable and do not leave any marks on my face, they give good visibility and are pretty robust, and my last pair lasted a good couple of years. They retail for £7 which is very reasonable and you can also get them with prescription lens fitted and that boosts the price up to £18.

                Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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                  23.12.2010 18:15
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                  Hiking boots are rather imporatnt don't you think.

                  There are many pieces of important kit when you are hiking and one of the most important are the boots you choose to put on your feet, after all by the very nature of hiking you are reliant on your feet to get you from A to B safely and in comfort and therefore the choice and care of your boots is very important.

                  There are a massive range of boots to choose from a multitude of producers and retailers and if you get it right then you will have many years of comfortable hiking and walking ahead of you. My current pair of leather Karrimor have been with me for four years now and they have been up mountains, through the jungle, across rivers and around the wilderness that is Northampton town centre, in summary they have been everywhere and coped in many different challenging conditions.

                  The starting point has to be an understanding of the type of hiking you will be doing, if it is just flat short walks then it seems hardly worth the outlay on an expensive pair of hiking boots, plus if it is summer time only walking then lightweight hiking sandals may be the best option however if it is going to be places like Snowden or the Moors then you are looking at needing a quality pair of hiking boots.

                  For me boots have to be as comfortable as possible and this all starts with the purchase process, I always take with me the types of socks that I will be wearing to do my hiking, that means a pair of under socks and a thick pair of outer ones and I always try boots on wearing both as your foot is a lot wider with these on, plus I have quite wide feet to start with so not all boot makes are suitable. I will also spend at least ten to fifteen minutes in the shop wearing them and I only buy from retailers that have a raised platform in the shape of a bit of rough sloped terrain which allows you to see how they feel while you are climbing, Cotswold Outdoors often have this piece of kit and it is very useful as you can stand in a climbing walk to check there is no rubbing on the heel or across the top of the boot.

                  Fundamentally there are two types of boots, those made from leather and those made from fabric, certainly the ones made from fabric and probably the most popular, fundamentally this is because they are lightweight and very flexible, further they require less time to break them in, my previous pair were fabric but to be honest I never got on with them, probably more to do with being a poor fit than anything else. The other benefit with a fabric boot is that they are good in warm climates as they breathe a little better and can look more like a training shoe.

                  The benefit of a leather boot is that it is sturdier and provides better support to the ankle, for me this is of paramount importance as it is very easy to turn an ankle over uneven ground especially in the jungle and the solid form, of my leather boots helps me to continue walking. They are heavier which is a downside especially on treks lasting a few days. The other downside is that they take longer to break in and this should be done gradually and on a regular basis. Going straight into a day's hiking with new leather boots is likely to be an uncomfortable experience for a few days afterwards with sore or blistered feet. One of the advantages for me is that they are a little more solid and thus can double as a work boot when abroad when we do any charity work as that sometimes involves small scale building work. They are not work boots but they give a bit more protection.

                  All good quality hiking boots are waterproof with the use of such materials as Gore-Tex to keep your feet dry so care and maintenance are an important part of prolonging the life of your boots. They should be treated on a regular basis with a waterproofing and conditioning cream; my personal preference is Hydrobloc which can be applied to the boots when dry however some of the Nirwax products are also really good as they can be applied to the boot when wet. Before any water proofing it is important that all dirt is cleaned from the boots.

                  Prices will vary hugely however for me personally price is not an issue when it comes to such an important piece of kit, I have seen boots for as little as £25 in the sales rising up to £140, my own pair were £80, reduced from £120 however to be honest I would be happy paying the higher amount to replace them as I have had such great use out of them.

                  I hope this advice has been useful, thanks for reading and rating my review.

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                    22.12.2010 12:51
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                    Good solid male fragrance

                    Now no son likes to hear a bad word about the woman who delivered him into this world but if it is me uttering those words then it is ok and it has to be said that my mother past history of buying me aftershave has not been a great record and she has bought me a couple of real stinkers (literally) however with Calvin Klein Eternity for Men she has earned some sort of redemption for past transgressions. It is not total absolution as I'm not totally sold on this particular fragrance but it is a perfectly acceptable rather manly fragrance that I tend to wear for work.

                    The spray version comes in a pretty plain and boring solid square bottle with a simple silver spray top to it; it has a pale green tint to the contents and simple lettering across the front. It is functional rather than attractive in my opinion. It delivers a short precise amount of spray which means you will not find yourself dousing yourself too much with what is a fairly strong smelling scent.

                    It is certainly a very masculine smell; it has a light slightly sweet smell to it however after a while this settles down into a much more woody aroma but at the same time a certain lightness that is hard to define. There is an underlying fruity smell to this which is rather citrus in smell and apparently there is some lavender in the fragrance as well alongside some of the citrus fruits. There is also meant to be basil and sage but I could not really detect either of these in it. Like many fragrances for men there is the staple sandalwood that gives it the woody base notes alongside rosewood as well.

                    It is quite a nice smell that settles down from its initial strength to provide a rather warm and manly aroma and one that I see more as a day scent rather than something I would wear to go out in. For me it works well as something I can wear to work. It also is long lasting so it is ideal to wear for work as it will last a full day without any significant loss of scent.


                    This was given to me as a present last Xmas in the 50ml bottle which on Amazon is currently retailing at £25.95 so it would make a nice stocking filler for the man in your lives ladies and any same sex couples out there.


                    Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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                      21.12.2010 10:31
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                      Essentials for me but not for everyone.

                      Trekking poles are an essential part of my kit when I go trekking or walking in the countryside, I would tend to take them on any walk that is over three miles in distance or involves some ascents and descents. I have two sets of poles, a set of Craghoppers which I tend to keep in the car so that I always have a pair available to me, one of these has a slight bend in the middle section following a rescue lift that did not go to plan so does not fully retract and my pride and joy a set of Leki poles which are lightweight and I use for major treks and foreign travel, these are currently awaiting a Dooyoo product suggestion for a full review.

                      So why are trekking poles so important to me? Well after years of playing hockey on unforgiving astro turf pitches as well as squash and tennis and if you add into that equation my advancing years then my knees are not as good as they should be, in fact earlier this year after the ravages of a trek in the Andes I had to have knee surgery to remove some of the cartilage from my right knee. Add to the fact that I also get a little back pain and you might surmise that I'm falling apart at the seams. Well the poles help take some of the strain off your knees when ascending and in particular for me descending as you are exerting some force through your arms and shoulders rather than solely the legs. If they are set up properly then they can be a valuable aid in making your trekking a lot easier on your leg muscles and joints and thus allow you to walk further and higher than you would without them.

                      Another advantage is that they provide additional stability especially when carrying a heavy rucksack with all your kit. I tend to use two poles at a time; some walkers prefer just the one. I certainly find the stability of being able to plant a pole in the ground, particularly when moving across ice covered or slippery ground a real advantage, they are also very useful when completing a river crossing as well both for stability and also checking the depth of the water before taking the next step. I have also found my walking poles useful while in the jungle as a means of stopping branches flying back on you when the person in front is not being careful as they can act as a blocking shield and protect your body from cuts and abrasions. In addition my poles have been used to help pull someone out of a ditch and also to help form a makeshift stretcher with some tent material so all in all a very versatile item.

                      So what makes a good walking pole? Well the poles come essentially in three parts, a top section which is the main shaft and handle, there are then two extendable sections that are released by rotating them and then you extend them to your preferred length, there are distance markings on the side so that you can ensure that both poles are the same length however after a while the pole will get markings which makes them easy to adjust. The base of the pole there is a metal tip and also a round plastic disc a few cm's up the pole, this disk helps stop the pole going too deep in the ground however I usually remove it as it makes storage in a rucksack harder. Some come with a rubber stopper at the end to cover up the metal tip as well although some do not and you have to buy these as an extra. For me there are a couple of important features that make a good pole, firstly the handle is very important, it needs to be comfortable and not cause any blisters. Also a walking pole needs to be strong but as light as possible for when I'm travelling. Finally the amount of shock absorption it has is important. When using your poles you will feel them give a little as the inbuilt suspension device works to absorb some of the strain.

                      When setting up your poles it is important to have them at the right height and of course, even, if you are using two. If you drop your arms to your side and then bend your elbow bringing your forearm forward to 90 degrees then that should be the resting position of your arms when gripping the poles. I find that this is the ideal walking position for me over flat ground, I then make a slight adjustment when climbing or descending to the length of the poles, it is important though not to over extend them and to go beyond the maximum length of any section. Also on the handle there is usually a strap to slide your hand through to help secure the poles, ideally this will also provide support if you loop your hand through correctly and allow you to apply more pressure on the pole and less on your arms.

                      Are there any downsides to using poles? Well I only really have a couple. The first is storage in a rucksack especially when travelling as they are very rigid and as such take up space; you also have to make sure the tip is covered to avoid damage to your dry bag or the rucksack itself. Secondly they can get in the way a bit when scrambling, especially when climbing and it is a pain to have to keep stopping to secure them before starting, or you adopt my flailing arms technique and hope for the best.

                      There is a huge range to choose from and you can get some good quality poles for a very reasonable price, the Craghoppers for example were £20 for the pair however some makes like Leki can set you back £40 per pole. My advice is to tailor the pole to your needs and avoid any gadgets that manufacturers try to add in, I once had a pole which had a built in light, and needless to say it turned out to be rubbish and never really worked.

                      I hope this has contained some helpful advice, thanks for reading and rating my review.

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                        20.12.2010 09:48
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                        Nice fragrance, worth a try

                        I would have to describe this fragrance from Paul Smith as being a distinctly manly smell whuich has a spicey, earthy quality to it. This is a good quality fragrance from fashion designer Paul Smith and one that is worth exploring if you have not yet tried it. It was actually bought as a gift quite a while back, I assume because the purchaser had recently seen me splurge a large amount of money on a pair of jeans and a suit as well as owning a couple of his shirts, anyway it was a nice idea and one that is very much appreciated.

                        The packaging is very stylish, it comes in a cylindrical cardboard container that is a very dark blue in colour, in the pictures it looks like it is black but there is a hint of blue in the colour. On the box there is some simple white lettering that provides a nice clean contrast. The bottle inside also a dark blue colour and is shaped like one of those Arabian bottles that a genie emerges from when you rub it, in me that stirred teenage hormonal fantasies surrounding reruns of the sitcom "I Dream of Jeanie", anyway from a solid base the bottle tapers up to the narrow spray nozzle, it is a simple piece of stylish design with smooth lines and a simple elegance that is not always easy to achieve. Whether you store it in the box or just the bottle it will be an attractive addition to bathroom or bedroom shelves.

                        So to the actual fragrance itself, well like many fragrances it has a rather fruity smell to it when first applied, now my rather insensitive nose could not pick out any individual fragrances but apparently in consists of "violet flower, mint, mandarin leaf, vetiver, orange, jasmine and lavender" to steal the advertising blurb, now individually I could not detect any of these (I have no idea what vetiver even is let alone what it smells like" but I will say that the initial smell is quite appealing and lively. Once it has settled down a bit I started to detect a brandy smell (one smell I can recognise and appreciate) and I was pleased to see that this smell is intentional and not just me being an alki. I could also detect sandlewood which is s staple of male fragrances and together these two combine to give the fragrance a mature, earthy feel to it and one that is distinctively male. It does take a while for this combination to settle down and emerge and initially I did not like it but after about twenty minutes it really started to grow on me. This does mena however you want to apply this a good half hour I reckon before going out in it as for me it needs time to settle down.

                        What you do get with this product is a fragrance that lasts, I have worn this both as something when I'm going out and also for work and it certainly will last out the day, I do find as well that the smell does get into my clothes a bit especially when wearing a cotton shirt when I'm at work however it does wash out easily so that is no major concern for me.

                        I had to do a search on the price and the cheapest I could find was a heavily discounted price of £14.99 for a 30ml bottle on theperfumesuperstore.co.uk however it was currently showing as out of stock on that site so it may take a bit of tracking down. However the search would be worth it in my opinion as this is a fragrance that will not break the bank and has a distinctive, refined male smell all of its own.

                        Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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                        • Play.com / Online Shop / 56 Readings / 54 Ratings
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                          18.12.2010 21:53
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                          Good online store

                          Play.com is my primary source of new music to purchase partly because of the extensive range of music albums that it sells but also because there is no postage and packaging to pay for and it is cheap, I rarely pay more than £5.00 for a cd and this works out a lot cheaper than downloading it legally at the moment. What I tend to do is use we7.com to listen to music for free (it is like spotify) and then go and find the album on Play if I want to purchase it.

                          The site is primarily a music selling site however it also has a wide range of other products such as DVD's, clothing and electrical items to name but a few of the categories. I picked up an excellent battery powered 4GB MP3 player from Play for £14.99 which I use whenever I'm trekking in remote areas and I know that charging an ipod could be an issue and also given that it is so cheap I do not have to worry if it is stolen or lost. The range and availability of products on play is excellent and they cater for a wide range of music and film genre.

                          The site is well set out and easy to navigate, the search engine is very accurate and also there are category lists along the side and top of the web pages, in addition the home page has links to any offers and promotions and as there always seems to be some sort of sale or promotion on at any time it is a busy page indeed.

                          You do not have to log in to search, in fact the only time I log in is when I go to the checkout page and then my details are stored so paying for items is quick as once it is input you do not have to input your payment details unless your card has expired.

                          The free p&p is a major plus for me as I can buy one cd at a time and do not need to bundle items to avoid postage charges unlike some other sites which set a minimum spend to qualify for free postage. The delivery is pretty consistent, it is slightly annoying that you get an email saying your item has dispatched and can still be waiting five days later, personally I doubt the accuracy of the dispatch email. The items are always well packaged in cardboard and I have only had one non delivery issue and this was resolved fast with just one email and another item was dispatched with no quibling on behalf of the site. Items are dispatched from the Channel Islands a lot of the time which might expalin the delivery delays and is I assume done for tax reasons.

                          I have no hesitation in recommending Play.com, it is easy to use, has a huge range of products with current and old music to select from as well as films and the pricing is very competitive as well.

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                          18.12.2010 10:18
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                          Good travel gadget

                          I bought this Flip Ultra HD for a couple of very specific purposes and the best thing is that it did not cost me a penny as it came out of my departmental budget. I actually paid £109.99 on Amazon for it and never having owned one before I was not very sure what to expect with regards to picture quality and options. So far I have used it to record students delivering presentations as part of the Young Enterprise programme and also a training weekend at Buxton for World Challenge, the idea is to take it away with us this summer to record some footage of the expedition.

                          The size of this little device is one of its main attractions, it is the size of a mobile phone, all be it a chubby mobile phone that has binged on the mince pies and it weighs a mere 170g so it is ideal for travelling as it takes up little space, the dimensions are 10.8:5.6:3 cm, and can be carried easily in your trouser pockets or attached to a belt thanks to a separate case that I also purchased which is designed to keep it free from dust and sand. This makes it easy to conceal and thus reduce the risk of being a target for bag snatchers and the weight is just enough that you would notice if it was being lifted from your pocket. Plus because of the size it will fit in the zipped pockets of the travel trousers like Craghoppers Kiwi's. The other big attraction is that there are no cables needed to download your films as it has an usb arm that flips up at the press of a button and is located on the side of the video camera.

                          The video camera itself is black in colour, on the back is a small viewing screen which is 2" in size and has a very clear picture quality, there are then a minimum of buttons, the power on button is one the side of the camera and on the back there is a large red button which acts as the record and stop start button and at the four points on the compass there are smaller icons to operate the rather limited zoom options and also to skip forward and back when in playback mode. There is a separate play button and also a delete button to remove and footage you do not want with the rubbish bin symbol to warn you as to what this button does.

                          Setting up the camera to start is easy, it comes with a AA NiMH rechargeable battery pack however it will also work off two AA batteries as well, the battery pack comes partially charged however the first thing to do is to charge it fully which takes about six hours. Again just plug it into your laptop using the flip usb and you are away. Now I said that no cables are needed and technically this is true however if like me at work you have an upright PC which means the usb points are located at the top of the machine this means that while plugged in using the flip usb all of the devices weight is on the usb which I figured may not be that good so for work I have invested in a cable. While it is charging you can complete the set up by switching the power on and then setting up the language, time, date and various other settings. Apart from the charge time it takes only a couple of minutes and is easy to do.

                          So now to the important bits, recording and picture quality, well the first thing to say is that the device does have its limitations, mainly in the fact that the x2 zoom is pretty limited and not very responsive. This is very much a point and press operation and if the objects get too close to you then you have to step back to get them in, similarly it has its limitations on distant objects as well. On the plus side the picture quality is very good, I have been impressed with the quality of the images on my PC, there are pretty crisp and clear with the colour being sharp and well defined. For sure an expert will not be bowled over but it is not designed for that end of the market. The HD picture quality is good and it has an 8GB memory which allows you to shoot plenty of material. Fully charged the battery pack will give you about two hours of shooting time as well however start playing back material and that diminishes fast. I have not yet tried it with separate batteries but no doubt will while in China.

                          The sound quality is pretty good and the inbuilt mike picks up quite a lot including my out of breath efforts to film and climb at the same time but again it has its limitations but due to the size of the whole thing it is perfect to provide a running commentary of what you are filming or recording a message home to family.
                          There is built in Flip software to make it easy to transfer your footage to either your PC or directly onto file sharing sites like YouTube and I have found this easy to use and quite quick as well. You can also edit your films using the software something I have only just started to experiment with but it is fairly intuitive and has not presented any great challenges to a complete novice like myself.

                          Would I recommend this product, well for certain purposes it is ideal, if you are looking to record epic masterpieces of the family holiday to Skegness then maybe not, however if you want something that is very portable and easy to conceal, something that is easy to operate and is in the point and press mode of video filming then this little baby does produce a very acceptable picture quality. It is a hand held device so if you have a shaky hand then you will get a shaky film but for me it was money well spent and has been very useful so far both as a teaching aid and preparing students for interviews.

                          Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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                          • amazon.co.uk / Online Shop / 32 Readings / 29 Ratings
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                            17.12.2010 22:19
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                            Online store

                            Well I had hoped to have been the 1000th reviewer of Amazon on Dooyoo but that honour can go to someone else in 50 plus reviews time. So what can I tell you that you did not already know about the site. Well it was founded by an explorer who struck on the idea while lost in the jungle, I forget where exactly, probably Borneo or somewhere like that. So there you have it, nothing new to tell in this review.

                            What I do know is that Amazon is a truly heavenly place where the males of the species can do his xmas shopping in a matter of minutes and then sit back and contemplate the growing consumerist culture in western society, or go to the pub. Amazon is an online business that provides a platform for a variety of sellers and the company itself to sell a vast range of products. It mainly rose to notice on the back of online book sales and it has market power when it comes to this particular marklet however now the range of products is immense, as well as books in my time I have purchased such diverse products as a tent, laptop, blue tooth kit for the car and a V for Vendetta mask, all with a few simple clicks of my mouse and the combination of Dooyoo vouchers and a credit card.

                            Signing up to the website is easy however you can shop without signing in right up to the purchase stage, however signing in does mean that you favourites and products linked to past purchases are displayed. One of the strengths of the site is the fact that it has an immensely sophisticated logarithm behind it that matches your purchases and search history to provide suggestions for similar products or when such categories are on sale, it then will send out emails or create suggestions when you next visit the site, it will also display the purchasing patterns of other users who have searched similar items.

                            As an Economist I find Amazon fascinating and a brilliant example of what is known as "the long tail" of online retailing. What is all the more important though is that as a customer I cannot really fault the shopping experience either. The search options are excellent and there are a wide range of methods for finding the products you desire, the site is set out simply and the categories all make logical sense.

                            The whole check out proces is easy and nowadays it is rare that I ever pay for post and packaging unless it is from a third party vendor, if you are prepared to accept standard delivery times of 3-5 days then postage is normally free, if you want it quicker then there is a cost.

                            I have only ever had a problem with two items and both times the issues were dealt with promptly and efficiently. The site also hosts consumer reviews of the products and also ratings for the third party vendors so you can gather informatuion before you purchase which certainly helps you feel a lot safer as a shopper.

                            Amazon is a big part of my online shopping experience alongside Play.com and together they take a large percentage of my total online spend. For me Amazon might not always be the cheapest on price but it is one of the most convenient to use as the range of products is immense.

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                              17.12.2010 17:36
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                              Nice simple product

                              Being irresistible to women is not always as enjoyable as you might imagine but it does mean that I save a fortune on hygiene products and in particular after shave as I get a lot of use out of a bottle and is also the reason why I have quite a collection of products on my dressing table.

                              Davidoff Cool Water is what I would describe as a mature well rounded after shave, it is a solid little number and there is nothing flashy about it. The bottle is simplicity, an ice blue affair with a flattened design and a functional black screw top that is easy to remove and allows access to the narrow aperture to splash some of the after shave into your hand. It has a rather strong smell so you do need to use it sparingly in my opinion otherwise you will rather dominate any room you enter and not in a good way.

                              Now I do not have the most sophisticated of noses, I have always been envious of those able to detect specific aromas in a wine and with after shave it is no difference, what my nose does detect initially is some fruity over tones to this scent however after it has been on for a while (read 90 minutes which is the length of the nap I've just enjoyed) these tend to dissipate and you are left with a more woody and zesty smell, at least that is the combination I get on my skin.

                              It is a mellow aroma but also quite musky as well, not over powering but it does have a certain presence. Not a regular wearer of after shave people close to me do notice when I wear this product.

                              According to the advertising blurb it is "A calm aquatic note is livened by mint and green nuances, spiced with coriander. The unmistakably floral neroli essence and geranium based middle note makes it typically contemporary and masculine. The cedar and oak moss end note is lightened up with musk".
                              So that makes it all the more obvious, seriously the people who write this stuff have quite a flair for the bull but what I will say is that it does explain both the initial fruity smell and the more musky woody smell that you are left with.

                              In terms of price you can get a 75ml bottle for between £25 and £30 if you shop around and I reckon that this is a pretty fair price given that the product is very wearable and also lasts a good deal of time on the skin, certainly one application is enough for a night out just remember to not over do it when putting it on.

                              There is also a similar product by the same name for women and Davidoff also do a "hot water" version as well.

                              Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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                                16.12.2010 22:45
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                                Good entry level model for well under £100

                                My father bought a new car a while back and while it did not have a built in sat nav system included in the package was this TomTom Start, now my Dad is a real technophobe and had no desire to try and master a sat nav system and personally I had never really been that keen on buying one as I had never really had a pressing need for one other than when driving in France, in this country I'm quite happy relying on a good old fashioned map and a journey planner. Having said that I was quite happy to get a freebie as if I did not get on with it I would just sell it on eBay for him.

                                This is a very basic and quite simple to operate sat nav system which is suitable for driving in the UK and is aimed at those drivers who have a limited use for a sat nav and want an entry level model. Looking on the internet it retails between £70 - £100 generally however it is easily available at the lower price so that would be the most I would advise paying for it.

                                It comes with an usb cable and also a charger for the car which slots into your cigarette lighter socket and has 2GB of memory built in. It comes with a 3.5 inch screen which I find is plenty big enough to be able to read from while I'm driving and is made from black plastic. It also has a suction pad however do be careful with these as the marks they can leave on your dashboard or windscreen can indicate that you have a sat nav to the criminal element out there increasing the risk of a break in as they go looking for the device which is usually stored in the glove compartment.

                                Underneath the suction pad is the devices speaker and the sound from this device is very clear with good clarity and it is relatively easy to follow the directions. Once the device is plugged in it powers up quickly and you have two simple choices, you can either browse a map or plan a route, I do find that it can be a little slow to fix on the GPS signal and I have noticed that on a couple of journeys there have been a couple of occasions that it has lost signal completely and you are left high and dry, this happened once up in the Lakes and again on route to Snowden so it clearly does not like the high ground. However in built up areas it has never failed me which is when I find it is most useful.

                                What I like about the device is that it is very easy to operate, you can load up your home address however again I would not advise this for safety reasons (watching the Real Hustle is very instructional but does make you paranoid) and there are a number other options like current location and recent destination to name a couple as these are the ones I use the most. The keypad appears on the screen and is almost like predictive text in that as you type a place name options start to appear so you do not need to type the whole destination, naturally it works best with a postcode and is at its most accurate when you have this. It is pretty quick to load a route once the input is done.

                                There are a number of other settings, be able to change the brightness to a night setting is good and the sound can be adjusted as well in case you have sleeping passengers or have trouble hearing the instructions. You can also vary the voice of the instructions but I'm quite happy with Doris who is the default setting (my name for her).

                                The screen is surprisingly easy to read and while I tend to use the 2d setting pretty much all of the time there is a 3d setting which is useful in built up areas when close to your destination. The read out which shows speed and distance as well as time to destination are all nice features and relatively easy to read however they are not the sort of thing I'm concerned about as I rely on the car displays for speed and the like. The built in speed camera alerts are a nice feature especially when in an area you are not familiar with.

                                It is easy to upload the updates to the maps using the software and usb cable provided and you can also upgrade to a European set of maps as well, something I will do when next driving on the continent.

                                I have found the display to be able to cope with a variety of weather conditions from bright sunshine to days when it is cold and the car starts to steam up a bit, the screen is clear and easy to decipher. I'm still not a total convert to such devices, maybe it is the control freak in me but the device is a nice, easy to operate, almost idiot proof introduction to the sat nav family and I would be quite happy if my next car had an integrated sat nav in it.

                                Thanks for reading and rating my review.

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