Bear Grylls is a famous adventurer. After breaking his back in three places in a parachuting accident, he fought his way to recovery, and two years later entered the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest (being 23 at the time). Anyone who ever suffered from a back injury can understand the enormity of that feat.
As other men who achieved fame, Bear has his fans and detractors. Bear’s fans admire his indefatigable spirit, accomplishments and strive for adventure. His detractors, some of which are part of the survival community, criticize his ever increasing risk-taking. Whether you are a fan of Bear or not is irrelevant to this review. I’ll focus on the clothing line Bear created with longtime outdoor clothing specialists Craghoppers. I’ll look at the features and functionality of the clothes and determine whether they are a work of marketing brilliance or a clothing line that offers great value to lovers of the outdoors.
Craghoppers started making outdoor clothing back in 1965 in West Yorkshire, England. They offer winter and summer gear that focuses on various outdoor activities, from safari to mountain climbing. For the Bear Grylls line, they selected a limited number of technical clothes, offered in a limited range of options and colors. We focused on the main Bear Grylls line which consists of three types of long sleeved shirts and an equally small number of fleece and pants (or trousers if you can pull off the accent. For colors, you can choose from the staggering range of two dark variations or one light grey. So is the Craghoppers Bear Grylls line over-confident to the point of offering hardly any choice at all?
I decided to find out for myself, despite the Craghoppers macho marketing descriptions of the “man’s man” clothing and other such nonsense, because I very much liked the proof of concept pictures showing Bear testing the clothing under harsh conditions in different areas of the globe. I needed something comfortable and durable that will survive my Man Tracking work and Search and Rescue missions in the Northwest. This area is cold, wet and full of nasty vegetation (e.g. Devils Club and Stinging Nettles), as well as blood-sucking ground and airborne insects. As a Tracker I spend time close to the ground, often getting on my hands and knees or even flat on my belly to examine Sign; while Search and Rescue work often takes place in harsh terrain and bad weather.
Working so close to the ground, my first concern was keeping insects such as mosquitoes, black flies and ticks from getting under my clothes. The NosiLife technology of the Craghoppers Bear Grylls line offered permanent insect repellent woven into the fabric. The technology was even said to kill the insects.
Next, I noticed that Craghoppers described the clothes as “powerfully sun-protective, quick-drying and moisture-managing”. I would have bought them just based on that, but a few clicks later I found a killer list of features which included: Fast drying wash & wear performances, front venting chest pockets, stretch panels, roll up sleeves with button tab, webbing attached secure buttons, NosiLife insect-repellent and anti-bacterial treatment, sleeve pocket, permanent moisture control, full protection SolarDry UPF40+ fabric, and, last but not least, a confidence-boosting lifetime guarantee.
It was my dream gear wish list—bug repellent clothing that wicked moisture away from the body, dried quickly, offered sun protection and was made with super light fabric. With a 50% off deal, I saw lots of potential benefit and very little risk. I placed an order.
I took the pants, shirt and fleece to a hike in bad weather. The first thing I noticed was their weight, or lack of it. The clothes felt so light they became part of my body, presenting no restriction or chafing anywhere. The stretch panels were situated properly to offer maximum freedom of movement. The pockets were plentiful, and the pants had a surprise waterproof pouch in one of the pockets. The fleece managed to keep my body warm in 40 degrees Fahrenheit with only the aid of Smartwool underpants and undershirt. After I got going and warmed up, the clothing let excess heat out, without letting me get cold. So far, everything worked as advertised and even a bit better.
To test the clothing’s fast-drying properties, I washed them and left them to air-dry in my bedroom. The shirt and pants dried within one hour and the fleece within two. I then washed the pants and shirt again and wore them wet as I went for a walk with my wife. I could feel the fabric drying in the sun. After about 15 minutes, the only part to remain moist was the shirt’s collar. Once more, the Craghoppers Bear Grylls clothes worked as promised. I was ready to take them to the woods for some real work.
An evidence search came up from 0800 to 1600. At the beginning of the day, I was hit with many light-hearted jokes about my clearly labeled Bear Grylls gear. The jokes stopped after a few hours of work. Crawling on hands and knees through rough vegetation, mud, coyote poop and other similarly delightful obstacles, I forgot about my clothing because it did everything I needed it to do—keeping insects away from me, protecting my body from thorns and sharp branches, keeping me warm and never restricting my motions. To really test the pants, I wore internal knee pads and let the pants take the brunt of the contact with the ground and everything else that I crawled on. At the end of the day, everything I wore was full of sweat and filth, as if someone had dragged me through a swamp, but the clothes didn’t tear anywhere. When my team and I signed-out, I found it amusing that the same guys who cracked jokes at the start of the day asked where they could get my hard core gear.
When I got home, my wife understandably made me strip in the garage. Everything went to the wash. The grime had become so engrained in the clothes that it took two lukewarm washes to get them clean. But, amazingly, everything looked as good as new.
Next came an all day Tracker Training, on a cold rainy day with lots of on the ground examination of Sign. Again, the Craghoppers Bear Grylls clothing dried quickly between showers and kept me warm. Best of all, the nasty elephant-size mosquitoes stayed at bay, attacking only my face and neck (I forgot to put on the DET). At the end of the day, everything was so wet and dirty I changed before getting in my car. But, once again, a wash was all it took to return the clothes back to new. At this point, I was really impressed.
In short, from my experience the Craghoppers Bear Grylls clothing is as good as the site claims. Unfortunately, the over-the-top marketing repels the folks that would benefit most from this durable, highly functional outdoor gear. I hope this review helps you see past the hype.
Until next time, stay safe by staying alert
Dan S. Defense