Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
By Hati Whiteley
28, Dec, 2017
A lot can happen in a year! Here are a few of our favourite moments of 2017
Reviewing your last year is hard! 12 months. 365 days. It doesn’t seem like long, but January couldn’t feel further away and recalling what happened back in the beginnings of 2017 sure requires some thought.
It might be tough, but it’s also enjoyable. A whole year of the Alpkit story to reflect on, where do we start?
Two new stores
We’ve found our way onto the High Street! Don’t worry, we’re not aspiring to world domination, but we’ve made basecamps in two of our favourite places. Alpkit Ambleside and Alpkit Hathersage have marked a turning point in Alpkit’s history: our brick and mortar stores have brought us new team members, new ways to present our products, and new opportunities to meet our lovely customers in the flesh. But somehow, not too much has changed all the same. We’re still Alpkit, we still make good quality gear, and we still use it at the weekends. We’re just a bit more 3D these days…
One big step for the factory team…
We’ve always been proud of our little slice of UK manufacturing tucked away here in our Eastwood HQ. 2017 saw our ‘little’ factory grow up and move out into its own space. That factory team got a bit bigger too… The 14-strong team (and Ben the dog) haven’t gone far – just next-door, in fact – but the new building has given them space to grow the team, shop for some new shiny machines, and develop new products from 2018 (no spoilers!)
Two new bikes
Sonder bikes is continuing to thrive, launching two new bikes this year to create a 10-strong fleet ready to take on any terrain. The Colibri carbon road bike rolled out of the workshops in October ready to tackle the Alpine passes. December saw Bike Guru Neil’s dream bike become reality in the form of the playful and aggressive Evol trail bike.
It’s been a big year for new products! Okay okay, so we say that every year… but we promise we really do mean it this time! And every other time actually… hmm.
Anyway, there’s no rest for the wicked, so our product team have been very busy. Two years of development and even longer in experience have produced the Argonaut, our high-tech, multi-activity waterproof that offers bucket loads of bang for your buck. They’ve also devised the hybrid Morphosis. Breathable yet windproof with zoned gridded fleece in all the right places, it’s suitable for a whole plethora of climates, including AKHQ: Nick’s been wearing his sample around the office throughout most of 2017! The team have also reincarnated the classic 0Hiro in the form of the new Apogee jacket, which sits comfortably over the new and highly popular Griffon mid layer.
We’re always looking for ways to do stuff better, and we’re always looking for a challenge. Making tents that weren’t expensive seemed like a worthy challenge, so the design team swept aside their preconceptions and started with a blank canvas to create a new range of lightweight and reliable tents that won’t break the bank: the Viso 2, Viso 3, and Tetri.
Where to pack all these bits and bobs away? In the new, UK made Ibex and Chamois packs of course! Designed, refined, and made perfect in our Eastwood factory. If your adventures tend to be on two wheels, the new for 2017 Rando range of weatherproof bike luggage might be more your kind of package.
Okay, so we’ve told you all about the gear of 2017, where it’s made, and where it’s sold… but what adventures has it been on?
Our Alpkiteers have travelled far, wide, and deep in search of adventure in 2017.
2017 will be remembered by the Ario Caves Project team for the historic success in their pursuit of the Ario Dream this year. The Ario Dream is to find and document the world’s deepest caving through trip. Having made a vital link-up deep below the Picos de Europa mountains, Spainm Steph Dwyer and her expedition team are a huge step closer to an Ario Dream come true.
During the summer, Libby and Lisa set out to complete a self-propelled, continuous Munro round with aspirations beat the fastest female time. 282 Munros and 77 days later they returned from their adventure having run, walked, kayaked and cycled their way to a new record, and just in time for the Big Shakeout Festival too!
We followed Joe Beaumont on his extended explorations on the Broken Road as he found nearby far away amongst the welcoming people and places of New Zealand.
In 2016 Aleks Kashefi embarked on his challenge to run from the North to the South of Europe, beginning in Norway. In 2017 he completed his challenge in Spain, returning home after 196 days of running over 5000 miles. What do you do when you’ve completed your big challenge? You can read about Aleks’ ProjectBigSwim here…
Considered to be the greatest mountain challenge in Great Britain, the Cuillin Ridge offers Alpine quality terrain with unique views over the surrounding ocean. It also offered up a worthy challenge for Alpkiteer Anna Wells, who bagged the speed record over the summer and got the fire in her belly to go back and try for a faster time.
Pete McNeil from Adventure Pedlars tried out racing this year. And what better way to dip your toe in the water of self-supported, long-distance mountain biking races that to line up on the start line of the Highland Trail with 550 miles of some of Scotland’s toughest terrain ahead of you and 6 days to cross it? Despite some initial lack of enthusiasm for getting places as fast as possible, Pete finished the course in 4 days and 16 hours, and he loved every minute of it.
A Great Big Thank You to everyone who has shared their tales of daring do with us this year!
How could we not mention the Big Shakeout? One of our highlights of the year, partly because we get to have a bit of a knees up with our customers, but also because who doesn’t love a festival? This year was the biggest ever: more music, more courses, more volunteers, more food, more films, and even more people! As always, all proceeds were donated to the Alpkit Foundation. Thank you to everyone who made the Big Shakeout what it was, now it’s time to start planning how we can make it even bigger and better and shakier next year! Watch this space!
Alpkit Foundation turned 2 this year, and 2017 has provided us with many more opportunities to help people overcome obstacles to Go Nice Places and Do Go Things and we’ve award almost £70,000 in donations or gear since the charity was founded. We’re looking forward to hearing about even more of your inspiring initiatives in 2018!
Well, what can we say? This year you’ve really shown your appreciation for what we do, and we can’t express how grateful we are for your support. Earlier in the year the Sonder Transmitter Carbon was nominated for the Singletrack awards, and what better way to see off a year than winning the Online Retailer of the Year award in the TGO reader awards, and being highly commended for the Brand of the Year?
The Crystal Ball
So what’s coming up in Alpkit’s future? We can’t give everything away, but we have a few new ranges on the horizon... Our factory team are making the most of their new space and developing our UK made range. The events team will be kicking off the year with the ever-gruelling Strathpuffer. You never know, Sonder bikes may even have something up their sleeve… Watch this space!!
It’s been a fantastic year here at Alpkit. A year of new faces, old face too. A year of new challenges, new products, new innovations, new shops, a new factory. But alongside all this change, you can rest easy in the knowledge that our vision remains the same. Nice places, good things, and some quality kit to get you there.
Happy New Year! Who knows where it might take you?
Morphosis Jacket [Womens]Hybrid windshell with gridded fleece insulation in all the right places, designed to adapt to your activity and effort levels£89.99
Morphosis Jacket [Mens]Hybrid windshell with gridded fleece insulation in all the right places, designed to adapt to your activity and effort levels£89.99
Gnaro3 litre dual-ended waterproof bar bag for commuting and touring: light attachment points, quick stow bungee and welded seam construction to keeps your kit dry£24.99
Argonaut [Mens]Best in class multi-activity rain shell for getting stuck in and staying stuck in when the heavens open: a not just just-in-case jacket you can trust£89.99
Argonaut [Womens]Best in class multi-activity rain shell for getting stuck in and staying stuck in when the heavens open: a not just just-in-case jacket you can trust£89.99
Viso 23 season backpacking tunnel tent weighing 3.3 kg. A large porch gives increased living space for multi-day trips. Light enough to carry and big enough to sit out bad weather£169.99
Tetri2 person 3 season geodesic backpacking tent weighing 3 kg, Strong against the elements, light enough to carry, easy to pitch with comfortable living space£149.99