On A Budget

Budget buys

Kit yourself out for under £30!

Thirty quid doesn't go very far in an outdoor shop these days. You'll maybe manage a technical T-shirt, a sweater or a cheap drizzle-proof jacket. There is one place, however, where you can dress yourself for a day on the hills in return for three crisp tenners - and come away with change in your pocket! Where, you ask, are such amazing bargains to be had? Primark, of course. Acting on a tip-off from our columnist Fergus Maclean's value-conscious missus, walkscotland.com trotted off to the chain's store in Dundee's Overgate Shopping Centre to rifle the shelves for garments that could be put to the test in the great outdoors. We picked up a bodywarmer, a fleece, a pair of trousers and a top, all for just £28. And to our surprise the gear is not tat but really pretty good quality stuff. Here's our four best outdoor buys from the pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap high street retailer (we would have bought more, only we got lost in the lingerie section)...
All four products reviewed below were field tested in the Scottish hills in November 2002.

C.S. Active Performance Wear Padded Bodywarmer

Sizes S, M, L, XL.
Colour navy.
Price £10.00.

This is a traditional sleeveless body warmer, but at a fraction of the price. The outer shell is 100% polyester and has a nice soft feel about it. This extends into the collar, giving greater comfort around the neck. The inner lining 100% nylon and the filler 100% polyester. There are two zip-fastened outer pockets and one zip-fastened inner pocket. All of the outer zips have extended fabric pullers, handy if you have gloves on, and the main front zip has a flap behind it to prevent the wind blowing through. In addition, there is a concealed hood zipped into the collar.

The jacket ; performs very well, the quality is good and it is ideal for wearing at the end of a day on the hills, or around a campsite in the evening. It looks fashionable too. A bit too bulky to take up the hills, but a superb bit of extra clothing for just a tenner.

C.S. Active Performance Wear Fleece

This has to be our gear discovery of the year - a great fleece for just £6! Amazingly, it has out-performed some fleeces I've worn costing upwards of £40. Made from 100% polyester, the top is ideal as a mid layer in cold, wet and windy weather and will sit quite comfortably as an outer layer in better conditions. It is not wind or waterproof, although did cope admirably with light drizzle during a breezy and rather misty November hike up Hill of Wirren in Angus. It has a smock design with a chest zip, complete with handy fabric puller. There are two zip-fastened front pockets and an adjustable elasticated cord around the hem. The neck is high enough to keep chills out and the collar has a soft fabric lining.
Sizes S, M, L, XL.
Colour navy, red.
Price £6.00.

Denim Company Cargo Pant Zip Fly

Sizes 30 inch waist up.
Colour olive.
Price £8.00.
Like C.S. Active, Denim Company is another of Primark's own brands and the Cargo Pants make ideal walking trousers. Made from 100% cotton, the cut and fit is very good and the bottom hem is wide enough to sit comfortably over boots. There's a metal zip fly and button, loops for a belt and a small keyring chain loop. There are two pockets for the hands and two Velcro-fastening back pockets. All are well sized. In addition, there is a Velcro-fastening pocket on the side of each leg which is just big enough to accommodate an OS map. Being made of cotton, the trousers are not waterproof but when they do get damp, they dry pretty quickly.

Primark Essentials Roll Neck

Sizes S, M, L, XL.
Colours black, white.
Price £4.00.
The roll neck top, made from 100% cotton, is a fine base layer and can be worn over a T-shirt or thermal vest in colder weather. The fit is very flattering with the neck comfortably tight to prevent chilly air getting in. The sleeves are a good length and the cuffs are elasticated. The overall quality is very good. Being cotton it will not shed sweat in the way a wicking garment would, but at just £4 you can't really complain.

Primark sizes (to fit chest)
Small 36-38 inch Primark - part of Associated British Foods plc - has 110 shops around the UK (eight in Scotland) and in the Republic of Ireland with more opening all the time. The company trades under the name Penneys in Eire.
Medium 38-40 inch
Large 41-43 inch
X-Large 44-46 inch For more info log on to www.primark.co.uk