Noble Outfitters is based in Oakham, Rutland and describe their products as "technical, affordable gear for the equestrian market". Earlier this year they very kindly gave me a selection of their existing products for me to try, knowing I worked outdoors on a daily basis. They were keen to find out what I thought of them. Since then I have been wearing some items daily and many of them several times a week and, having just got back from a Royal Windsor Horse Show which tested everything very thoroughly, I thought it a good time to report back.
I did warn them that I wouldn't pull any punches but, thankfully, I don't need to.
I have been a fan of soft shell jackets for quite a while now. They allow me the freedom of movement I need in my job as a photographer, whilst protecting me from the elements. These are no exception.
Soft shell is a polyester/spandex mixture resulting in a fabric which is wind and rain resistant. These All Around products keep you warm and dry in all but the most extreme weather. I have just returned from a hour long dog walk in typical Spring rain and nothing underneath my jacket shows any sign of leakage.
At Royal Windsor we were working until late at night in a cold Easterly breeze but the combination of the vest under the jacket kept me snug, warm and dry. The vest (or gilet) seems to have been designed in this way. It has a fitted shape which hugs your body contours and doesn't feel bulky. The jacket is slightly looser in design, giving scope for wearing something underneath if necessary.
Both have good design features too. I love having a chest pocket for my phone and on both these products the pocket has cord holes so your headphones can get out without exposing your phone to the elements. The pocket is also big enough for other things if necessary. I keep my racecard in it when I am at point-to-points. The sleeves on the jacket are tapered and then finished with velcro straps to adjust the cuff fit to your requirements. The main hand pockets are zipped and have a fleece lining for added comfort, as does the nice high collar. The front is a two-way YKK design which looks tough and durable.
These are now my go-to outerwear. I wouldn't wear the jacket if I was forced to sit on a cross-country course in the rain all day because at some point the rain would get in. I would stick to much more expensive breathable waterproofs for that, but I would still wear the vest underneath.
The All Around Jacket retails at £79.95 while the Vest is £69.95. Both are available online.
These are a great example of the new style of boot which is very popular at the moment. Gone is the hot, sweaty rubber outer up the leg. Instead a combination of neoprene and 3D mesh are used for everything except the foot itself, resulting in a lightweight, breathable and flexible welly.
The fit is snug and you wouldn't want to wear thick socks in these because there would be no need to. This is good because Noble Outfitters give you a free pair of what they call their Best Dang Boot Socks with every pair of boots. More on these later.
I found the contoured leg of the boots very helpful too. They weren't as wide around my calf as my Hunters and this made the process of getting my waterproof over-trousers on and off a lot easier. I was also very grateful for the anti-microbial insole because not only does it cushion my feet for long days standing in a show ring somewhere, it also seems to do a very good job of making my feet less smelly - quite an achievement!
The MUDS are available online for £79.95.
In addition to the pair of Best Dang Boot Socks I received with my MUDS I was also given a pair of Thermo Thin Socks to compare them with. In short, they are both fantastic and are my first choice of sock, whatever foot wear I am going to wear.
Both socks feature the sort of structured foot you would expect from proper hiking socks, with extra thickness and support where you need it. As a result these socks don't slip at all and are perfect for wearing under wellies or riding boots.
If you don't get your Best Dang Boot Socks with your MUDS then they will cost you £9.95. The Thermo Thins are only £6.95 online.
Riders (and photographers) often have lots of stuff to carry around with them when they are out and about. From a riding perspective this is an ideal accessory for those riders or grooms or have to lead a horse from the stables to the ring with one hand and yet need to carry a whip, bandages, boots etc with them. From my perspective it is just the right size to carry all my waterproof gear when I am walking out onto a cross country course and don't want to get caught out.
Size-wise I can get my camera cover, jacket, waterproof trousers and hat into this with ease. It even has a compartment for a laptop or tablet for those occasions when I need to wire images straight away, wherever I am. That little pocket at the back is perfect for those smaller items: lens caps, keys, sandwiches even.
It is very solidly made, with good zips and a nice wide shoulder strap, complete with chest clip on the front. It has a side pocket on the outside for my water bottle and even a crop clip so you no longer have to stuff your whip down the inside and leave the top open to the elements. It's going to get a lot of use during the coming season of showing, eventing and jumping.
The Horseplay Backpack is a steal, in my opinion, at £39.95.
I suffer from poor circulation in my fingers, exacerbated by any sort of cold weather. If I am not careful I can end up with the tips of my fingers so numb that I struggle to press my shutter release.
I have tried all sorts of gloves over the years, but most are too thick to allow me to effectively use my camera while wearing them, or so expensive that I wouldn't dare take them outside! The Perfect Fit gloves are deceptive, because you pick them up and think, "these are too thin and lightweight". It's true, you wouldn't expect them to keep you warm on their own in sub-zero temperatures - I would wear them under a pair of thick gloves with removable fingers in those situations - but they are just right for what I need. They are well-fitted with just the right amount of material between you and the outside World to keep you warm while allowing you to feel what you are doing. They are also touch screen friendly although, as I have found with these in the past, your fingers need to be warm for it to work well, so put the gloves on before you get cold!
They come in three different varieties: everyday, Cool Mesh and 3 Seasons and retail at £17.95.
I've tried really hard to be honest here, and would love to be able to criticise one of these Noble Outfitters products in some way, but I am struggling. They have all worked exactly as they are supposed to, out of the box.