Hopefully, you’re already aware. Here at Above & Beyond we’re working with a team of new brand ambassadors and kit advisors to pull together, vet, and ultimately create a range of items, clothing and equipment you can trust because they’ve been pushed-to-the-limits on real life adventures.
That’s what we mean by “Adventure Tested” and things are already underway.
In July, we took one of our new kit advisors, Megan Hine, to meet manufacturers such as Findra, Haglöfs, Fjällräven and more. While there, she personally helped us curate our new range of outdoor clothing for women by handpicking items from their new ranges to evaluate in the wild. You can read about our trip here.
Megan will be testing equipment for the guys too. Items like knives, rucksacks and machete’s will all be put through their paces by this awesome adventurer. Here, we catch up with her between expeditions and speak to her about the Adventure Tested project. We wanted to know how she’ll be putting kit to the test and how she thinks it will benefit customers like you.
1) Hi Meg, thanks for taking the time to speak to us today. Can you tell our readers who you are and what you do?:
I’m Megan Hine, I’m an incessant global wanderer with an insatiable thirst for exploration and pushing limits just to see what happens. I split my time between leading expeditions for private clients to exciting places and working behind the scenes as a survival and safety consultant for major adventure and survival shows across International channels such as Discovery, Nat Geo etc. I also offer bespoke expeditions and survival training for celebrities taking on action/wilderness hero roles in TV shows and movies.
2) How exactly did you get into your line of work?:
I started working in the outdoor industry when I first left school at 17 and other than the odd bar job, toilet cleaning and nannying roles to pay for qualifications this is what I have dedicated my life to. It has been one heck of a ride – long may it continue!
Initially I had an obsession with mountains – particularly cold mountains – but by a strange twist of life I spent several years carrying out an apprenticeship in bushcraft and survival, and the combination of survival and mountaineering techniques set me on the path I currently wander.
I now spend my time bouncing between environments. I can literally be at high altitude one day and dropped into a jungle the next – although I never take it for granted, I’m happy I can look after myself and others in most situations that could be thrown at me.
3) One of your tasks as an A&B Ambassador and Kit Advisor is helping curate and evaluate our range of clothing and equipment. You’ve already hand-picked some items, so how do you see “Adventure Tested” working?:
The #adventuretested range is something I am incredibly excited to be trail blazing with Above & Beyond. As an outdoor professional responsible for the safety and lives of the people I guide, lead and look after in more-often-than-not remote and challenging terrain, the last thing I want to be thinking about is whether my clothing and gear will withstand the environment and my lifestyle.
I have been living in the Alps for the past 10 years. I moved back to North Wales at the beginning of this year and something I was acutely aware of since being back is the lack of seriously tough, women’s outdoor clothing on the market in the UK. I see #Adventuretested being a range that has been pushed to it’s limits and has shone; clothing and equipment that is life-proof and that when outdoor enthusiasts see an Adventure Tested stamp on an item they choose they can be sure that piece of clothing gear has been tested by outdoor professionals who are pushing boundaries to bring them honest feedback.
4) Do you think testing items on real adventures differs to brands testing their own garments in a lab? If so, what sort of unique insights do you think you’ll be able to give our customers?:
I don’t personally know much about the testing that goes on in laboratories but the way I see it is I’m buying gear or clothing for a purpose and it must live up to what it’s being sold as and then some. I can be deployed to any environment with only a few days notice and often don’t come home between jobs. Therefore my gear and clothing must be able to cross over between environments, unless I am on a particularly specialised job.
Although I think both lab testing and realtime testing should work hand-in-hand, any lab testing is irrelevant if the product fails or doesn’t perform out on the ground. The clothing I will endorse as #adventuretested will have visited various environments and have been fully immersed for weeks – sometimes months-at-a-time – in the outdoor environment.
5) What do think the problems are with women’s outdoor clothing right now?:
I remember when I first started getting out and playing in the outdoors, there were only a couple of brands who catered for the female adventurer. Those that did exist were aimed at older women, with waist beads up round your armpits and terribly tailored leg fits. I ended up buying guys clothes from military surplus stores. Now, many brands have a women’s range and are thinking about different cuts to suit different figures and waist heights etc.
When I was living in the Alps it was quite easy to find well fitted alpine mountaineering clothing that was functional and tough in the mountains but didn’t look out-of-place grabbing a beer on the way home from the crags or mountains. When I go into many of the main stream outdoor chains in the UK a lot of the clothing seems to be black or pastel shades and decidedly frumpy.
When I spend more of my life in outdoor clothing than I do ‘civilian’ clothing, and when good outdoor clothing is expensive, it isn’t shallow to want to feel good in the clothing you wear. I am a professional. And similar to a business woman heading to her office in her smart business suit wants to look and feel the part, so do I.
That’s a normal feeling. And in this day and age where fashion is so accessible, why have some of the brands not caught up? Why is there not more functional, hardwearing, fitted (and I don’t necessarily mean form fitting) stunning clothing? Part of what I am looking for with the women’s range for A&B is clothing that makes me feel good and has been tailored to take into account the different body shapes of active women.
6) What are the potential hazards and repercussion of not having good quality equipment?:
With the job I do and some of the environments I visit, at the risk of sounding a little melodramatic, shit kit can really mean the difference between life and death. Even in the hills of the UK people lose their lives due to wearing the wrong clothing and succumbing to hypothermia.
Clothing systems should be considered a topic as important if not more so than the fundamental skills of venturing into the British hills such as Navigation.
7) Can you share an example of when a piece of clothing or equipment failed or let you down?:
I remember on a bouldering trip to Fontainebleau, when I was a poor student, the arse ripping out of my trousers as I bottom shuffled down a rock. Although my friends found this hilarious, this was the only pair of climbing trousers I owned. It’s amazing what half a roll of duct tape can do, though it does result in a sweaty backside.
8) What are looking for in items you test and recommend?:
Whenever I recommend kit or clothing to clients and film crews I morally only feel comfortable recommending clothing or kit I have tried and tested myself and so known is suitable for the task at hand. I am personally looking for kit that can withstand my lifestyle and the demands I ask of it.
I am not gaining any financial incentive to recommend this kit and feel under no obligation to make up false reviews. If any of the kit I put forward has any interesting quirks you will be made aware of it. The things I will be looking at most closely are; durability, functionality, fit (I know this is subjective and this will be taken into account), performance, colour options – and this may sound like an odd one – but I’ll also be thinking about how I feel when I wear an item.
9) A lot of huge outdoor brands have been in the firing-line recently as their manufacturing processes are harmful to the environment. Are green credentials something you’ll be taking into consideration?:
Most of the people I know who work in the outdoors or who participate in adventurous activities have a huge respect for the environment and with social media showing us the consequences of our materialistic lives it seems strange that some outdoor companies who, on the surface, are all about sustainability and ethics are behind on getting on board with creating products that minimise impact on the environment.
In their defence, I would imagine that it’s expensive to ‘go green’ and I would hope that most brands would get on top of this over the next few years.
I think it’s important nowadays for people to know where their products come from. For example, FINDRA can trace their wool back to the sheep and Fjällräven can trace their down insulation back to the bird it came from, and both companies believe in the welfare of the animals involved with their brands.
10) What sort of environment is the most demanding on clothes?:
Hot humid and wet environments are the toughest on clothes. Within a couple of days of being in full on jungle if you don’t have good personal admin your feet literally start to rot and can take on a rather unpleasant odour.
Materials in this environment are subject to the same forces and stitches and weave need to be high quality or kit literally rots at the seams. The jungle also often tends to be rather prickly so materials needs to be able to withstand the threat or it rips.
11) What do you need from your clothes and why?:
I want my clothes to fit in the right places; this depends on environment. In hot-humid and hot-dry environments I like my clothes to be slightly looser so air can circulate and help cool me down. In the mountains, when I may be climbing or scrambling, I like my clothes to be closer fitting and to move with my body.
In the cold I work a layering system and therefore I need my clothing to be able to be part of a technical layering system which works with my body to keep warmth next to my core and push moisture out.
My clothes should protect me from the environment and need to be hardwearing. Good quality clothing is expensive and I would expect to get several trips out of each item otherwise it is not worth investing in.
12) What do you hope will come of working with A&B and the Adventure Tested project?:
I have always lived my life by following my heart rather than my head. This has led to some incredible opportunities and adventures but has certainly not made me rich financially. I am working with A&B because of Darren, Tracey [Above & Beyond’s Directors] and Tom [Head of Marketing] and their passion for what they hope to achieve.
They view education as being as important as selling their products and I resonate with this. I have seen people lose their lives to the wilderness and I have lost friends to the mountain gods. Every time we enter the wilderness, as much as we try to mitigate and minimise risk to ourselves we cannot by the very nature of the wilds remove all risk and danger. I want to build a platform where it is not your clothing that causes you to lose your life.
13) You’re off on an expedition next week, and while you’re away, you’ll be evaluating some items for us. Until then, can you share your first impressions – do any pieces stand out?:
I’ve received a pair of Fjällräven Vida Pro pant which I know from previous experiences of Fjällräven trousers will totally kick arse and survive what I’m about to throw at them.
The piece I am super excited to receive and try out is the Keb women’s jacket. First impressions are that this has really been thought about and designed with the female figure in mind. The hood also stands out, remember Kenny from South Park!?! This hood means business.
14) Finally – as well as Adventure Tested – do you have any other exciting project’s in the pipeline?:
I’m excited and to be honest a little nervous about having a book commissioned. ‘Mind of a Survivor’ takes a look into the psychology of survival. Through as series of my own stories and real life survival stories I explore and aim to challenge the phenomenon of why most of us wouldn’t make it out alive.
Thanks Megan. And good luck on your next adventure:
You can keep up to date with Megan, her work and all her adventures via here website and across social media. You can follow her her on Twitter, Like her on on Facebook and see her at work out in the field on Instagram. You’ll also find out more about her and our Adventure Tested project on Megan’s Ambassador page. And why you’re on our site, why not visit the store and take a look at our current selection of top quality women’s outdoor clothing. We’ve just had a huge delivery of new designs for Autumn.