Still Loving My Keela Clothing!
Me & in my Keela gear whilst filming for a piece for Countryfile with Ellie Harrison
I’ve been a Keela clothing partner for almost two years now and I can’t recall a day I haven't worn at least one of their garments, I’m sure those of you that have met me or know me will verify that!
I’ll briefly recap on how my partnership with Keela came about (feel free to skip to the next few paragraphs if you know the story!)
I’ve owned many outdoor garments over the years but have never found any that really perform when I need them to. A few years ago I spent £300 on a supposedly “top of the range” jacket for outdoor enthusiasts only to discover one particularly nasty day whilst out on the hills, the rain poured through it. Now in normal circumstances this wouldn’t have been a problem, but on this day I had a client with me and we were a long way from the car. On the hour long walk off the hill, I became soaked to the skin and thus chilled to the bone. It was potentially a very serious situation, not only for me but also for my client whose safety and welfare was my responsibility. This was a real wakeup call; don’t believe the hype of advertising! This jacket is now only worn for walking the dogs.
This got me thinking. What was the best outdoor jacket I’ve ever owned?
In a previous life I was a ski instructor on Cairngorm, the weather was always a challenge and at lunch time the chat in the cafe would often be about gear: What’s good? What’s not so good? It was during one of these conversations with a ski patroller friend of mine that he recommended a brand called Keela. “Never heard of them” I said, “Where are they based?” “Scotland” he replied. Good quality, well made outdoor clothing from a Scottish manufacturer? No way!
I searched out a stockist and purchased a black and red Munro jacket. Fourteen years later and I still have that jacket and it performs as well today as it did on its first outing. Today, it may be a bit tight around my middle but that’s not a manufacturing issue, it’s an issue I have with donuts!
Fast forward two years and I still rely on my Keela kit to perform day in day out, and I have so much confidence in the garments I don’t ever worry about anything the Scottish weather can throw at me. I have absolute peace of mind knowing I’ve got the correct gear for the conditions.
So, as I’ve said before I don’t believe you can really blog about gear until you’ve really put it though its paces, and I don’t mean a weekend trip to the Lake District, I’m talking about daily wear and tear by wearing and challenging the gear for almost a year, crawling, lying, sitting and walking in the locations as extreme as the Cairngorms, Shetland, Mull.
I took delivery of a range of garments from Keela in October last year, these consisted of the following:
Harris Tweed Bush Smock
Camouflage Belay SF Smock
Country Check Shirt
I’ll give you my review and personal thoughts on each garment mixed in with some some technical information from Keela’s own website.
For me these trousers are as near to perfect for me as I’m going to find. They are comfortable, they dry really quickly when they get wet, they are robust and durable, they have lots of pockets (zipped and stud closure) ideal for lens cloths, lens caps, Werthers originals… you get the point! The material is a mid-weight green cotton with rather snazzy wax cotton knee, butt and boot scuff protection panels. One of the most simple but really effective features of the knee protectors is that the bottom seam is unstitched so you can easily insert knee pads - how simple is that?! I love these trousers so much I’ve got two pairs, I couldn’t stand the thought of them being in the wash, so I’ve got a second pair to ensure I’ve always got a pair to hand.
Along with water and wind resistant fabric, the trousers feature British Millerain Stay Wax Cotton panels at the knee and inner leg. With extra reinforcement in the seat area and articulated knees for increased freedom of movement, these trousers are built for the outdoors.
• Wax Cotton panels
• Belt loops
• Articulated knees
• Slant & Cargo pockets
Harris Tweed Bush Smock
For the fashionistas out there this is the garment for you. Harris tweed is really en vogue just now, it’s not uncommon to see it featured on the catwalks of London, New York or Milan. Let’s not forget why Harris tweed has passed the test of time, it’s warm, it acts as a barrier against the wind and has a natural water repellency. I must admit I’ve only worn this garment out “in the field” on a handful of occasions. Why? Because it’s too lovely to get dirty! I’ve worn it in our red squirrel hide and when I’m out photographing dolphins. It’s my garment of choice when I’m traveling around the country giving talks and lectures; not maybe what it’s designed for but as I said earlier this is a beautiful garment and is almost too good to be subjected to the wilds. BTW. This would make a fabulous gift for someone that wants a practical but fashionable top… Not long until Christmas!
Developed in partnership with Woodland Ways, the Smock combines a Harris Tweed body with British Millerain Stay Wax Cotton panels; creating an attractive water and wind resistant jacket which features a unique built in fire steel loop.
The Harris Tweed is sustainable and naturally fire resistant while the Wax Cotton offers strong abrasion resistance over the shoulder area.
• Harris Tweed
• Wax Cotton panels
• Stand collar
• Button closure
• Side vents
• Fire steel loop on chest
• Chest pockets & pen pocket
Me with Ellie Harrison form BBC Coutryfile (I'm wearing the Belay Smock & Heritage trousers. No idea what Ellie's wearing!)
Ok, I’m going to get straight to the point with this one (please forgive the swearing) This garment is BLOODY BRILLIANT! It’s the best outdoor garment I’ve owned, EVER! Let’s put it this way, if I was able to (and I’m not) I’d offer you my personal money back guarantee on the Belay, I would. But why do I love it so much?
Well pulling on a belay smock is like putting on a warm and cosy sleeping bag, sounds crazy I know but it’s really hard to describe the cosiness of this garment. When warn on blustery days instantly the wind chill is drastically reduced, if not eliminated completely. It’s lightweight, dries really quickly after a rain shower and is made from rip-stop nylon, has a very practical large zipped pouch, zipped underarm vents, a micro-hood and velcro adjusters on the cuffs and sides. This is my definitive garment of choice, for dog walking, sitting in a hide, walking in the Cairngorms, lying in snow, you name it!
I’m about to embark on a month long photographic trip to Canada so I’ll be taking two belays with me, a black one and a green one, just to be different you understand?!
All I can say is that anyone that hasn’t discovered the benefits of this awesome garment needs to order one now!
Originally developed for use by Tactical forces, the belay smock has now become a firm favourite for those that prefer a over the head design.
Featuring PrimaLoft® insulation with a highly functional design means this jacket takes its place for professional users.
• Water resistant
• Neck baffle
• Rollaway hood (not insulated)
• Zip neck
• Main chest pocket
• Two hip pockets
• Adjustable cuffs
• 2 way zip ventilation from hem to upper arm
Adjustable side tabs
Me wearing the Camouflage Belay SF in the Cairngorms
Camouflage Belay SF
This is the Daddy of all outdoor garments, a serious piece of kit designed and manufactured for the most demanding conditions and to be worn by the most demanding and highly trained soldiers in the world; the special forces. Basically it’s the ruffty tufty version of the Belay smock and it’s specked up to perform and be effective to temperatures of below minus twenty degrees celsius. Everything has been toughened and reinforced, elbow pads, zips, outer materials, everything!
As this smock is super well insulated I can only wear this on days when the temperatures are well below freezing, and there were a few days last winter where it came in to its own especially as I lay in the snow for up to five hours whilst photographing mountain hares, and that’s when this garment showed its true colours, even if I did get mild frost-bite on my feet!
This garment is only available through selected outlets, for more details please contact Keela directly.
Image of a Ptarmigan taken on the same day as the image of me above
Country Check Shirt
A while back I noticed that almost every man (especially wildlife photographers) in the U.K owns a checked shirt! I joined the masses last October when Keela sent me one of their Country check shirts, though of course, mine has been beautifully embroidered with my logo so it's unique!
I wear this shirt on days when I want to look a wee bit smarter, when I’m giving talks or lectures or promoting my business. It’s made from really soft and comfortable cotton, it washes and dries really well and needs little or no ironing. All-in-all a really nice piece of kit, and as it makes for a great travel shirt, mine will be getting a lot of use on our forthcoming trip to Canada.
With button-up sleeves and a supersoft feel this shirt is perfect for everything from a UK summer stroll to winter travel. The classic cut combined with quick-dry feature means you can look stylish while staying practical and protected.
• Classic cut
• Quick dry
• Easy care
• UV Protection
• Lightweight & comfortable
• Patch pocket
• Brushed handle
Me wearing my Country Check shirt at the opening of my exhibition
I’ve reviewed the Pulse fleece before so this is a bit of a re-cap. I really love these fleeces, so much so I now have four of them, and there’s hardly a day goes by without me wearing one of them. They are so practical and perform for me, day in day out, without any fuss. The Pulse fleece is a mid-weight and highly practical garment, super lightweight and warm. I love them so much that my guests on my winter tours are given one by me as a wee gift. They wash time and time again without any sign of pilling, and they dry very quickly. In my opinion for the price this garment must be pound for pound one of the best value fleeces on the market. Don’t let the price deceive you, reasonably priced but delivers so much more.
The Men's Pulse will quickly become an essential part of your outdoor kit.
Lightweight for use in warmer conditions, and with excellent thermal properties for colder climates, it's perfect for use during a variety of activities.
The Olive Pulse includes specialised Heritage trims, including leather badge on left sleeve.
• Breathable & wickable
• ½ zip at collar for ventilation
• Slight scoop at back
• Quick dry
• Easy care
• Works well as mid or base layer
• Flat lock seams; improves comfort and fit when worn as part of layering system
• Warm; high warmth to weight ratio
• Lightweight, soft and compressible for easy packing
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, as Keela clothing partner I can share with you my own personal discount code (terms and conditions apply)
This will give you a 20% discount of non-reduced Keela garments ordered through the www.keela.co.uk website
20% Discount Code: AHAK36
Ellie Harrison of the BBC's Countryfile programme & Me (Wearing a Belay smock & Heritage trousers)