B&W Eventing Reviews… Calm Leisure Ladies Shaped Equestrian Underwear

Having reviewed almost everything from tack, to rugs, bandages and all manner of breeches, boots and riding shirts, it was a little different to be sent underwear to review for my blog.

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As any rider knows, be they a happy hacker or a seasoned pro, comfort in the saddle, is all important. Speaking quite frankly, as I always do, a pet hate of mine is riding in uncomfortable knickers. Let’s face it ladies, those who can ride in their best lacy knickers are few and far between. I have learnt the hard way after thinking my finest La Perla would be an on-point option for a day’s eventing in midsummer! Knicker regret of the highest order… So, from that point on I have been on the search for the most flattering, non VPL, comfortable riding knickers, that don’t cost a fortune, will last and perform. For a while my knickerage of choice has been classic Calvin’s. Hard to beat for sports style and function, but you pay for that logo!  Looking for alternatives, I was keen to try the shaped equestrian underwear from British brand Calm Leisure. Specialising in innovative clothing products that is ‘innovative in design, comfortable and purposeful.’

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What Calm Leisure say…

‘The shaped Equestrian Underwear is designed to fit like a boxer in the back but with shaped arching at the front to reduce “bulking ” of material around the front of the legs. The sides are shaped in to maximise a fantastic fit and stay in place.’

The knickers are made from a luxurious Bamboo Fibre material for super softness next to the skin. This has natural antibacterial and wicking properties to keep you dry and comfortable. They have a bound leg trim rather than elastic to reduce the risk of any chaffing.

They are also designed and made in Great Britain which is always a plus point for me.

Priced at £19.95 a pair and available in black or white, sizes XS to L.

What I thought…

At first look the Calm Leisure Equestrian Underwear looked quite large, however when I tried them on I realised that the style was definitely more of a boy short look and although they were a larger cut than the normal underwear I’d wear when riding, they were incredibly flattering. I was supplied with a Size L and I am about a size 14-16 normally.  I wore them for yard work and hacking out for over 3 hrs, under breeches on quite a chilly day. Immediately I noticed how well they fitted under breeches, with no vpl! The style literally just glides over your hips and bottom, being slightly higher rise they give a nice flat finish under breeches fastenings. Without being overly warm I found they felt really snug and breathable, which was pleasant on a cold day. When riding, I found the style very comfortable with no bunching or chafing, the bound leg trim really works well in this respect and I think this style of equestrian underwear would be great for long days in the saddle, or hunting. Overall, I was really impressed with the design and the soft Bamboo fibre fabric, which kept me both warm, but not too hot. They also washed and dried well, which is always a major factor for a busy person.  In sum, I think Calm Leisure have done a great job with their Equestrian Underwear, they certainly ticked many boxes for me and I’d be interested in trying out some of their base layers, made from similar fabric. Available in white and black, they offer a simple, functional option, especially for those who spend many hours a day riding. I’d love to see the same design in a nude colour, so that they were completely transparent under my thinner white Italian Dressage breeches. Maybe a development for the future?!

The Verdict

A 5/5 for style, design, comfort, practicality and quality.

To find out more & to buy click here

B&W Eventing Reviews Lucinda Grip Corkshell II Winter Breeches by Pikeur

These breeches came as a welcome Christmas present from my OH as I don’t actually own any winter breeches and have been wearing thermals for months – it’s cold on our farm! I’ve been wearing my new Pikeur breeches for the last few days in some very cold, damp and windy conditions; both riding and on the yard.

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The Pikeur Lucinda Corkshell II breeches feature some really interesting tech in the form of Corkshell™ fabric (made from natural cork!), combined with high performance textiles. The resulting fabric is wind and water resistant material helps keep you dry and the corkshell fabric is soft and warm against the skin, but also breathable. The manufacturers claim that the bi-elastic LUCINDA GRIP Corkshell™ breeches allow the rider to benefit from an up to 50% higher heat insulation combined with the best possible breathability for the first time ever.

The low waist fit breeches also offer a full Schoeller GRIPit seat which is really noticeable when riding, but isn’t intrusive when moving in the saddle, it also adds detail which is smart and fashion centric. On the left thigh, the breeches are embroidered with the Pikeur logo. They have a soft ankle cuff and I found the fit is superb and very flattering, despite being slightly thicker than normal breeches. They feel great quality and look really smart, I opted for the black (dark shadow) style as I figure I could get away with wearing these for XC for spring eventing.

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So, the question is do they perform? The answer is a resounding yes! I’m not a big fan of wearing layers of thermals, particularly when schooling and jumping. These breeches kept me warm in some pretty cold winds and sub-zero frosts, but I didn’t feel clammy or sweaty. They were great for yard work and riding and I didn’t return home with pink legs as usual! It’s a shame they aren’t manufactured in beige as I think these would be a massive hit with hunters and those going to winter shows.  The breeches aren’t cheap – hence why they were on my Christmas list! (RRP is £169.95) – but shop around as there are deals to be had. However, they perform so well I think the Lucinda Grip Corkshell II Winter Breeches by Pikeur are worth the expense as they are built to last and make winter riding much more fun.

For more information and retailers click here

It’s the little things… one pair of shoes and a whole lot of lifestyle

With Burghley well and truly done and dusted, the touring spectacle that is Eventing has moved onto Blenheim. Despite the awful weather on Saturday, Burghley was a great success, with the publication that I developed, with uptown E Store, ‘A little Book of Burghley Style’ receiving some great reviews from readers and the brands that were involved. If you have yet to read it, I’ve embedded a copy at the end of this blog.

A featured brand was Fairfax and Favor, who I’ve been working with since their early days. It has been wonderful to see Marcus and Felix develop their product and brand identity. From small stands at their local event Burnham Market, to showstoppers at major internationals and the likes of The Game Fair. Knowing how hard it is to work these events, keep stock levels up to scratch as well as running the business itself, their shows schedule is beyond impressive. The team will have earnt a well-earned break after Olympia in December!

I’m sure many of you are familiar with their famed tassled ‘Regina’ boots, always seen at trot ups and a country girl’s staple footwear. As I said in the Burghley magazine,

‘It’s definitely not a case of what riders will be wearing Fairfax boots at the horse inspections… but who won’t be!’

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Fairfax and Favor have now established themselves within the eventing and country markets, with some exciting news about brand ambassadors on the way, so keep an eye out for that. Their social media channels are on point with huge followings and almost cult status amongst their customers, who are now not just the country set, but city dwellers wanting classic shoes, that are stylish, classy and comfortable. With the business rocking, and my marketing head on, I set about thinking what makes customers ‘come back for more’ and what makes new customers want to purchase their own little bit of Fairfax and Favor.

So what was my conclusion? Well, in my opinion it’s all about the detail. At Burghley I purchased a new pair of driving shoes, the new style Henley’s. You can read about them here

They are a slightly different shoe from the classic Drivers launched last year (I’ve lived in mine and they are part of my everyday wardrobe on the farm and in meetings… and obviously for driving!). The Henley’s are more refined ‘smarter’ style, with plaited leather detailing, the classic drivers grip sole which makes you feel like you are walking on air, stippled rubber across the outside of the heel which means the shoes aren’t worn away or damaged when you drive. I’d say a smarter, more ladylike version of the driver. There are also little details like the metal ends on the ties and a really smart Farifax and Favor shield stud on the heal. Subtle branding that suits the shoe. Speaking to Felix Favor Parker at Burghley he positively gushed about this new detail, telling me of the trials of finding a manufacturer to get the logo ‘just right’. It’s this attention to detail and careful consideration that really makes a difference and keeps customers coming back. With a few new designs launched every year – from bags, to purses and new boot designs, the brand keeps a fresh identity, but still is very much Fairfax and Favor.

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One of the biggest treats (for a packaging geek like me) is receiving a delivery. This is where the brand gets things ‘just right’. Open the shoe box – it slides open like a draw and you want to keep it just for that… and you see two beautiful navy dust bags with gold embossed logos. I’m maybe a little OCD but I’m a sucker for dust bags. Why not look after your treasures well? Next is a lovely navy branded envelope containing a beautifully printed catalogue – because you will be thinking of your next purchase already right? A lovely hand written note hoping my shoes will fit perfectly – a lovely touch! Then two A5 ivory, gold embossed cards, one inviting you to the list of events that FF will be attending, and to stop by for a drink or two – well who wouldn’t? And another inviting FF fans to tag the brand their Instagram images, with a customer every month winning a £250 in store credit voucher for the ‘best Fairfax & Favor photo’. Simple marketing, stylishly executed and totally fitting with the brand.

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It’s this quality detail, working with a great manufacturer to keep stock levels up to scratch and the quality high that makes the Fairfax ad Favor work. Using all the best bits of tech, in a classic way to keep the brand faithful happy. Add to this excellent customer experiences on-stand or online, plus the ability to have your order arriving the next day. It is true to say that Fairfax and Favor are here to stay and with marketing and an attention to detail they deserve all the recognition they have received.

To find out more visit: www.fairfaxandfavor.com

 

 

The B&W Creative guide to taking on-point Flat Layout Photos

Flat lay photos have been popularised over the last few years or so on Instagram, and way before then in glossy mags – they are a classic, simple and chic way to show off your favourite objects and current addictions in a way that captures interest. I’ve seen them used loads in Food & Fashion editorials, blogs and on social media platforms… but now they are working their way into the equestrian industry.

Flatlays are a really simple way to create interesting and very personal posts, specific to your brand and what you do. I personally love Paris in Four Months, Flatlay@bali_ayu and mamiaoyagi

So, you if you want to try taking some flatlays images here are some B&W tips to creating cracking shots and some ideas of apps and software to help you edit and refine them.

  1. Keep your background clean and neutral

You don’t want the surface behind the objects to take away from the products you are taking pictures of. If you are contemplating taking a series, then consider keeping the background consistent. Backgrounds could be a white or plain wood table top, granite counter, a white sheet or even a simple concrete floor (like my images in this blog – I did sweep up first!)

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  1. Find a suitable light source – ideally sunlight

Natural light is the best light source to show off the objects you are taking photos of. For sure you can add a filter later on in an app (but this won’t get rid of unwanted shadows). A good light source will really support the quality of your images, so work in the daytime if possible.Equally I don’t use a flash on my camera as I’m not keen on the quality this gives. At a push I use an angle poise lamp with a super white bulb, but rarely go down the artificial light route.

  1. Theme it up…

Think about creating a series of flat lays with a linking theme, for example, the types of objects or their colours. This not only will help you construct visually interesting images, but when they are uploaded to social media they also show a consistent theme. Consider the colours of the objects, contrasting colours and snippets of really piercing colour can lift a composition. Likewise pairing a shirt, belt and a necklace and show an outfit inspiration and can be laid out interestingly.

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  1. Layout

This is the hardest aspect to crack and needs consideration and practice to get it right. Flat objects, by nature are easy to capture as they sit or lay flat. Clothing needs arranging and folding to work well, so in this sense is trickier to capture. Objects can also angle off the image, you don’t have to include the whole object in shot. You can also try layering objects as I have with this boot composition. Experiment with contrasting textures and props to develop your theme. Flat lays are all about creating a lifestyle image so think about what that could or should be.

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  1. Space it out

Give your objects space to ‘breathe’, less is more! Too many elements can be visually confusing – especially to someone viewing via their phone. Think of arranging in 3’s and 5’s when choosing your objects as these groupings can often work best together.On an iPhone iOS7 there is a handy ‘square’ function which helps you to template up and arrange a flat lay ready for Instagram uploading – so use tech to your advantage!

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So you’ve thought about your background, light, theme and layout… now what are the best apps to edit images in to share?

Instagram –  Instagram (iOS / Android) – Pretty much the number 1 favourite for many and growing massively in popularity over the past few years due to the ability to tag. The filters and overlays are pretty good to. A great app, just remember slick images and hashtags are king! 

VSCO (iOS / Android) My personal favourite as I like the simple layout and the trademark filters (which VSCO prefers to call “Pre-sets”). It’s like Insta for cool kids. (the images in this blog were edited via VSCO).

Flatlay (Coming Soon) You use any image you have already taken on Instagram, Pinterest or within your library and plug it alongside a collection of products you have curated. Share it with the Flatlay community and the world via your page and social channels. The app that’s set to make flatlays even more commercial.

Snapseed (iOS / Android) A retouching and photo editing tool that helps enhance your photo to give you the cleanest image. Some useful stock filters and effects that will help you make the most of your images.

Lightroom (iOS / Android) An industry standard piece of software created by Adobe. There are a selection of photo shoot pre-sets and you can adjust hues, colour tones and add effects to your images.

Bazaart (iOS) An app to help you make really clean backdrops and crop product shots against a flat white background. You can then collage products together and share via social. There is an upgrade that connects directly with the desktop version of Photoshop for the Mac. New import and export options let users easily switch between Bazaart on mobile and Photoshop on the desktop at will via your Creative Cloud account. A handy one for apple users.

Enjoy your image creation! Let me know how you get on x

WOOF WEAR launches Two New Products

With a social media leak earlier this week, Woof Wear fans had a taste of things to come with their inspired new medical hoof boot, which will be available from UK Stockists from September. Social media was alight with the news, with Woof wear deciding to push the product to launch earlier than expected. I am pretty certain this will be an award worthy product to look out for, filling the gap for intelligent and contemporary design, for an age old problem. No more gaffer tape!

To see this amazing piece of kit in action follow the link here

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The leak sadly overshadowed the release of  another new product, the new Woof Wear Dressage Wrap, a quick and easy alternative to bandaging and offers support to the fetlock and tendons.

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Smart and flexible, the Dressage Wrap allows full flexibility of movement and the 7mm breathable neoprene keeps joints and tendons cool. The plush outer material allows for a wide range of strap adjustment around the leg.

Suitable for everyday use including schooling, warm up, training and clinics. Priced at £33.00 per pair they are an affordable and well designed option for the amateur or professional rider. In my own experience Woof Wear boots are also extremely robust, so they most definitely fulfil their tagline ‘Protection by Design’.

Sized at S, M ,L and XL in White, Turquoise, Brown or Black. For more information click here

 

 

B&W Reviews… The HAAS Brush Collection

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Priced at £65 for a set of 4 brushes, the HAAS collection is a top end choice for riders wanting the ultimate in brush tech for their horses. Made in Germany, the HAAS website explains that many of their brushes now use specially selected synthetic materials as the basis for all brushes and combs. You may think this lessens the quality and makes them feel a little ‘plastic’ but by using synthetics their brushes can offer better hygiene (as all products are washable), increased reliability and longevity, comfortable handling (they all have a hand strap like a body brush), water resistance, retention of bristles and a stronger build quality. Looks wise, I couldn’t tell the difference between these brushes and some of my natural ones and they were certainly easy to use.

So it makes total sense that the way forward is synthetic. Add to this the very engineered manufacturing process where the hand loop together with the bristles are directly incorporated with the body of the brush. HAAS brushes don’t use nails, spikes or screws when making their brushes so this lessens any risk of injury. There is also no glue, so nothing can fall apart.  So they certainly build a great description of informed design and manufacture…

BUT… how do they work in reality? Watch our video review HERE and see the brushes in ‘real life’ here (excuse my German pronunciation!)

So you like the sound of HAAS and would like to buy some yourself? There are 3 UK stockists which are listed here.

I purchased my set of HAAS brushes from Eqclusive who offered a prompt service and the brushes came in a really smart black card box – very luxurious! They are also the only supplier who sells sets of 4 brushes – a new inititative and a fantastic idea!

If you order from Eqclusive in July and use the code JULY all UK orders will receive free shipping and orders above £100 will receive a tub of Equinox.

You can watch the HAAS promo video here and read more from their website here  They literally do brushes for every need, an amazing collection in many sizes, colours and bristle types.

HAAS is also on Facebook… @haasbuersten and if you have any questions about my experience of the brushes send me a message.

Happy grooming & enjoy your horses!

NicolaGoldup0931

Riding Wear Trends for 2016

Often I like to collaborate with friends and contacts, to swap ideas and expertise. My most recent blog swap was with Personal Trainer and Fitness Consultant Carys Jackson from the Activerider (check them out for some great in house and online rider fitness plans and tips)…here

***Riding Wear Trends for 2016***

Featuring brands such as  Montar UK Cavalleria Toscana Tredstep Ireland Noble Outfitters UK Kastel Denmark euro-star , many of which are available at one of the companies I work for Uptown E Store

Read more here

Enjoy! x Nikki

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B&W Reviews… FreeJump Safety Soft’Up Pro Adult Stirrups

Over the past few years there has been a surge of technical stirrups new to the market. From the very popular Sprenger Bow Balance (from £160) to the lightweight metal, and very popular Jin Stirrups (from £125), and recently the ‘safety’, ergonomic option FreeJump.  With prices over £100 to the £200 mark these are big investments and loved by a pro’s and amateur riders alike. The latest offering from FreeJump is the Safety Soft’Up Premium Pro Stirrup. But just how good are they and are they worth the extra spend?

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What Freejump Say…

FreeJump Safety Soft’Up Pro adult stirrups are the latest innovation in safety stirrups. They have a bendy plastic arm which will stop your foot getting trapped however, if you get really stuck (for example in a fall) the arm will snap away completely if the right amount of pressure is applied. Should the stirrup snap in a fall FreeJump will replace the stirrup free of charge. The stirrup is strengthened with steel and the foot grip is wider and thicker than usual which makes for a more comfortable ride, it also has a slight angle to help give you the perfect position. If you lose your stirrup during riding, it is specially designed to swing back to you.

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My Experience – Soft’Up Lite – For Children…

I purchased a pair of FreeJump Soft Up Lite stirrups for my son at the start of the year. He is only 8 so I went for the slightly less expensive and smaller children’s style. I actually managed to grab a virtually new pair on EBay for less than half price (the full price is £145) – bargain! The SOFT’UP LITE by FreeJump is inspired by the SOFT’UP PRO but reduced in size for younger riders. I wouldn’t normally splash cash on things like stirrups. But was prompted after Henry fell off several times and got his food stuck in his traditional elasticated safety stirrups. He has found his FreeJumps have really helped this issue – and I have seen the safety mechanism work very well in real life when a particularly naughty pony bolted with him! The outer side of the stirrup is made from notched plastic so bends open should his foot get caught in a fall and in my opinion the style of the stirrup looks tidier than an elastic sided or bent stirrup. Henry has found the secure grip on the tread helps him maintain a good foot position in the stirrup (he rarely loses a stirrup now). I’ve also noticed that this section of the stirrup is generally broader so he puts more weight through his feet and ankle. In my opinion his lower leg is more stable, more often than not in the correct position and looks more balanced than before. This is likely to be due to the design of the stirrup and the 45° angled eye at the top of the stirrup. Henry likes the way you can clip the stirrups on and off the leathers to clean or change them to a different saddle. He has mentioned, without me prompting him, that they feel more comfortable, are easier to ride in and feel safe. I think they have been an asset to his riding from a safety, and balance perspective. As a parent I have been very impressed with their safety, styling and ease of use / care. Well worth considering for the young rider.

These stirrups accommodate a shoe size of up to UK size 6, the 10.7cm width fits soles not exceeding 10.2cm, so very petite adults might get away with a children’s pair!

Available in Black, Brown, blue, pink, yellow and red, from £145. The new edition ones have metal plates on the outside that can be interchanged and customised with national flags and other designs.

 

My Experience – Soft’Up Pro – For Adults…

With Henry getting on so well I decided to treat myself to some FreeJump Soft Up Pro’s (RRP £215) but splashed the cash and purchased the new silver styled Premium version (£230). I wanted to see really how good they were, but as anyone working to a budget understands, I was a little worried I’d just spent a fortune on something that wouldn’t benefit my riding, apart from looking smart.

Overall the adult version of Soft’Ups are larger, with bigger grips on the tread and built to take a heavier rider. They are much more weighted than the children’s versions which is an asset. They have a very distinctive design and incorporate all of the features of the children’s style.  So they look great, have loads of features to make them feel comfortable, help you to gain a better position and grip, but do they work? The answer is a resounding yes! It took a while to work out how to attach them to my traditional stirrup leathers, but they were easy to clip on and off. Immediately my feet and lower leg felt very secure. I noticed this getting on my mare who often won’t stand still when I mount. The wider tread helps your balance in these situations, as it does when you have sudden spooking at kamikaze pigeons and pheasants out on a hack! For riding long distances, I found the stirrups gave a nice balanced feel, I particularly liked them for canter work on the gallops (I felt less tired in my legs and ankles). Although I haven’t gone cross country in them I think they would provide a really solid, balanced feel. When jumping I have found the Soft’Ups great. I think my leg sits in a more natural, unforced position, that is very stable, leaving my knees freer and soft. The grip is excellent and it would take a lot to lose a stirrup unintentionally.

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Overall the FreeJump Soft Up Pro’s are a large investment for the amateur rider, but are easy to change from saddle to saddle so can be used with multiple horses. The colours add a fun, team colour element to their styling and I wold be tempted to buy a red pair for XC. The new silver professional range style gives a more traditional colour, but with the FreeJump contemporary design these are most definitely stirrups for the 21st century. I wondered if they would be worth the extra spend but have found they really do live up to the manufacturers claims and in that sense offer something different to the market, that can help support your riding in a variety of disciplines.

Available in Black, Blue, chocolate, Green, Orange, Pink, Silver, Red, Vanilla from £215

Further Details…

The FreeJump stirrups can be used with any stirrup leather and boot.

The FreeJump stirrups have the following features:

  • Tempered spring steel single-branch with extra high mechanical resistance (1200MPa)
  • Elastollan® overmoulding
  • Open eye for fastening to the single strap
  • 45° angled eye for a perfect foot position
  • Patented flexible outer branch made of Elastollan® which helps free the foot in case of fall
  • Extra wide tread made of Ixef® 1022 (fibreglass loaded polyarylamide)
  • Elastomer grip
  • Screw fastened protective cover
  • Branch situated at the front of the tread for a natural slope
  • Rectilinear bevelled rear leading edge for better lateral stability
  • Exclusive LOOK CYCLE® technology nonslip studded tread surface

For further information and stockists visit: http://www.freejumpsystem.com/en/

 

 

A Little Book of Badminton Style…

A labour of love over the past few days… possibly not as much content as I wanted but it was great to get some ideas down on paper (or screen) and have some fun thinking about dream Badmintons and all things fashion and design.

It’s aspirational content for sure but looks can also be found on the high street and styled up.

Many thanks to those who supplied words and the brands that help me so much, but also to the Uptown Eventing team who are fantastic to work with and have some really exciting plans for the future.

Enjoy and have a great Badminton week!

Nikki x
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NEW REVIEW. The Noble Outfitters Elite Performance Jacket

As part of my day job I get to review some of the best kit on the market for Uptown E Store . A very nice perk to have, and it means I get to cast a very objective eye over new stock. Basically if it isn’t great we wont stock it!

One really stand out piece that I have reviewed has been their Elite Performance Jacket. Not something I’d be expecting to wear in May but with frost on the ground this morning it has been in full use! The jacket has a really considered design, with loads of functionality, great use of tech and performance that quite honestly outstrips any other jacket I have. Priced at £139.95 it sits mid range price wise and I feel offers as much in terms of style, practicality and quality as its much higher priced rivals.

A piece of kit really worth checking out. Read my review in full here

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