Well that’s that then, over 100,00 page views since November 2007. Not surprisingly, the most popular pages have been the ones on my Laser Competition modifications. I even seem to have a following in France who are busily adapting their Comps. I wish I could have posted more on trips rather than on gear, but I don’t have a huge number of opportunities to get into the hills living down south as I do. I’ll tone done the gear buying now although I do like the look of Hendrik’s ULA Ohm pack and I still fancy a Soulo. However, I’m not going to buy anything more for the moment, although I’m still awaiting a pair of Montrail Streaks to replace some aging Hardrocks. I’m hoping for a further wander around the Carneddau in just over three week’s time. I’m toying with taking out some gear that I’ve either not used yet or haven’t used for some time. Happy hiking everyone!
I’ve never really bothered that much about blog stats. However, a few days ago I noticed that page views since inception were nearing 100,000. Hence, I put the little counter on the right. A couple more days and it should tick over.
I’ve really enjoyed this year’s TGO Challenge podcasts. Thanks, Bob, Andy and Shirley for your efforts. I think the format of an audio diary interspersed with a few interviews worked really well. There was a much more even pacing this time and it really felt like I was travelling with you. Wonderful vicarious pleasure.
Nigel mentioned that my Laser Competition is a TARDIS. However, the real TARDIS is my Mariposa Plus. How do you get this (bear in mind my sleeping bag is already in the Mariposa):
It’s a mystery. What a great rucksack. It will look even smaller when I take out the end stays of the Competition to pack separately with the the tent pole. The fly/inner can then be packed inside the main pack and I can dispense with both the Exped stuff sack that I put the tent in and the foam that I wrap it with.
I’m in a disaster area. I’ve had a stomach bug for the past three days, our kitchen is being replaced and now the broadband phone line is dead.
I was concerned that I might have the dreaded swine flu, but I’ve not had a fever, so it can’t be, just an unpleasant stomach bug (is there a pleasant one?). Someone at work has contracted swine flu, so I should count myself lucky.
We have been without a functioning kitchen this week. The sink has been removed today, so it’s all a bit tricky and will remain so for the next two weeks. However, not wanting to waste an opportunity for a bit of testing, I had a Real Turmat game stew to avoid cooking and washing up. Although not Michelin three star, it was good for a dehydrated packet meal. No MSG type tang. Nice meaty bits and reasonable taste. It was a bit salty, but that would be welcome after a hard day’s hiking. Real Turmat is still the gold standard.
The phone line for broadband packed up today, so this is being typed on my iPhone. We have an old telegraph pole/copper wire system that has been a bit flaky for a while. BT are coming round tomorrow to fix . It feels weird not to have broadband, but I’m glad I’ve got my iPhone. As a consequence, though, I’ve not been able to download the latest Bobcast of the Challenge. Hopefully tomorrow. However I have been able to read the latest Rondane Romp from Dave.
A big thank you to George for kindly sending me his surplus White Box stove to play with. Actually I don’t count George as a stranger, even though I’ve not met him. That’s the strange thing about blogging, you connect with people that you’ve never met and may never meet, yet you feel as though you know them. It may be too strong to say it’s a friendship, but it’s more than an acquaintance. Even if you don’t have a blog, but comment on blogs, I expect you have the same feelings.
Anyway, thanks, George. I’m very impressed by the quality of workmanship and the robustness of the White Box. I suspect one disadvantage may be a lack of stability for these types of stoves. For my gas stove, I use canister feet, which make it very stable. I’ll update you when I have a chance to use it. Whatever, it does look like an ideal back up stove weighing 30g, 64g with base and windshield.
Thanks to Roman for his posts on the OutDoor 2009 trade show. Last year he did a great job getting us all excited over the Osprey Exos packs and the Thermarest NeoAir. This year he has kicked off with some of the tents on show.
Of particular interest is the Vaude Scutum Ultralight (no giggling at the back, it is Latin for “shield”), which looks like an interesting development with design cues taken from the Competition. I have wondered for a while why the Competition doesn’t use clips rather than a pole sleeve, especially as Terra Nova use clips for the Wild Country Sololite. Vaude make an interesting claim that it is stable in high winds. It will be interesting to see whether that claim proves correct in real world use. Will it be less noisy in high winds than the Competition? It certainly looks spacious and not much heavier than the Comp.
The other tent that is worth a look is the GoLite Eden 1. I got all excited when Roman quoted 1045g as a pack weight (now corrected), but I see that is only the tent. The whole set up (tent, pegs, poles) actually weighs 1558g, so it is more of a competitor to the Akto. It does look a very neat design though. The two end hoops ought to make it a very storm worthy tent I would have thought.
The Terra Nova Solar Elite and Solar Competition don’t look so appetising. They look rather small and claustrophobic. I find Terra Nova quite a frustrating company as they have some great ideas but don’t quite execute them, hence, the myriad of tweaks and adjustments to the Laser Competition. I just don’t understand why they don’t do a slightly larger Sololite with truly lightweight materials. It’s a great design, spoilt by a lack of headroom and weight. Here’s another idea for them for free. Why not a Laser Competition with slightly higher ends but using an “A” frame at each end to aid stability and hopefully get rid of the noise in high winds. It would be worth a try.
The hardest walk I’ve ever done was the Pennine Way in 1978. Apart from the fact that it was nearly three weeks of walking, some of it in foul conditions, the other thing that made it difficult was the gear. I don’t know what my base weight was but it would have been at least 14kg. Even though I had a lightweight tent (Saunders Backpacker S, 2kg), a down/feather sleeping bag and a simple Karrimat, the rest of the gear would not be described as lightweight these days. My friend had an even heavier pack and tent, so he must have been carrying a base weight of near 20kg.
I had a petrol stove, aluminium mess kit and saucepan, frame rucksack, woolen breeches, wool cardigan, the first ever Moutain Equipment Goertex jacket. Lots of bits and pieces were garnered from everyday life and weren’t specifically for backpacking. Although we used Vesta meals, most of the other food was heavy: cans of stew, cheese etc.
The other thing that made it hard was boots. Heavy Zamberlan leather ones with a full leather lining and no shaped foot bed. Blimey they were uncomfortable after ten miles. A couple of days we did 17/18 miles and I was on my knees by the end. The leather linings when wet gripped my socks making blisters a certainty. After one day the whole of the skin on the back of my heel parted company.
While we did it, at times it was sheer hell. However, this pales in comparison to the Challenge account of Mike Daniels in 1987 on Doodlecat. Have a read, these guys were tough! It’s a great read and shows what backpacking used to be like. Nowadays we have it easy with slippers for boots/shoes, ultra lightweight tents/sleeping bags, inflatable mattresses, breathable waterproofs, lightweight gas or meths stoves, titanium cookware. It makes sense to use the best/lightest.
I enjoy backpacking much more than I did then and I no longer have to grit my teeth as much. Perhaps the feeling of achievement against the odds is not quite as great. I have no desire to go back to the old gear. However, I salute Mike and Iain for their epic journey and true Challenge.
Thanks to Andy for pointing out Joe’s Hardanger trip. It looks absolutely spectacular. I don’t know how I missed it. So that’s three for Norway now. Coming up on the outside though, is a trip report about Ireland by James. It will be very interesting to see how this develops as, again, it’s an area that I don’t know much about. I’m afraid I can’t compete with such exotica. I’m hopeful for a weekend revisiting the Carneddau in August.
Backpacking blogdom is getting a real treat at the moment. We’ve got two fascinating trips from Norway with Dave Hanlon and Neilsen Brown. Rondane and Jotunheimen look like amazing places. I’ve only walked in the UK and it’s great to read about trips in other countries. Scandinavia looks a great place to go hiking. I thought Scotland was quite extreme, but the photos of Rondane show that it’s a serious place!
To be honest, it’s very unlikely that I’ll be going anywhere outside the UK for the near future as it’s difficult to square family commitments and time away. If I could get two weeks away, the first thing I would do is the TGO Challenge. There’s so much more of Scotland I want to see. However, when I retire (some way off), I’m going to do all this stuff.
I’m also enjoying the TGO Challenge podcasts from the Outdoors Station. I think Bob, Andy and Shirley have excelled themselves this time. It feels like you are participating in their walk. I much prefer the audio diary type approach. In fact it’s even made me think that I might have a go myself as I have a small digital Olympus voice recorder.
On a completely different tack, I see that Gayle discovered that her silnylon “waterproof” stuff sacks didn’t cut the mustard. I’m not sure I should have bothered with the silnylon pack liner. I’m still going to do my adaption of the Alpkit Apollo stuff sacks for non-critical gear, but I’m thinking that I’ll stick the Exped XXL roll top for my sleeping bag and clothes.
Thanks for the feedback everyone, much appreciated. Thanks, George for the offer of a White Box stove, I’ll take you up on the offer and email you. I don’t think I’ll ever be a true meths convert, but I’ll give it a go as a backup.
I’m extremely grateful to Holdfast (Joe) for pointing out the Jim Wood article. It’s an absolutely fascinating read. It makes me think that I’m actually not over cautious. It’s interesting to know that silnylon is not very waterproof under pressure, which may mean that the silnylon pack liner I’ve bought may not be the best way to go. I may go back to my original Exped XXL roll top for sleeping bag/clothes. Even so, I will do the conversion of the Alpkit Apollo bags into roll tops for non-essential gear. I may keep one Exped bag for hats/gloves though.
Pack covers are quite controversial. I agree with Jerry that 225g is too heavy for a cover, but that was all I had. I didn’t encounter heavy or persistent rain while I was walking, so it wasn’t strictly necessary, but I would have been grateful if the weather had been worse. However, a 76g (69g without the tiny stuff sack) pack cover is much more like it. I reckon it is worth it to keep the rain out of the mesh pockets and the main pack of the Mariposa, although I certainly wouldn’t rely on it completely for waterproofing.
I’m thinking of another Carneddau trip in August for a long weekend. I’ll probably take my Exos as I’ve not really used it yet. If I do, I won’t bother with a pack cover as the material feels quite water resistant and there won’t be much in the mesh pockets. To be honest, May was only the second time I’ve bothered with a pack cover and it was only because of the way the Mariposa is constructed. I think for more conventional packs like the Osprey, it is probably not worth it.
Returning to Jim Wood’s article, paranoia about keeping gear is very justified when you consider the risks of hypothermia, especially travelling solo. My one experience of incipient hypothermia taught me a valuable lesson to be careful. Admittedly it was not through getting my gear soaked; rather it was through not having enough layers.
Anyway thanks for all the feedback. It’s been interesting to read.
I really recommend that you pop over to The Armchair Adventurer and read the start of Dave Hanlon’s adventure in Norway. Super stuff. What’s that got to do with meths stoves, I hear you ask? Well, Dave and his mates were planning on using gas, but when they arrived at their destination, they couldn’t find the right gas cylinder and had to buy a meths stove. Now this made me think. Even a hardened gas stove user like myself might benefit from a backup meths burner as they are so light. So I’m going to see what might suit. Most of the time it may be superfluous, but it could be handy if I ever venture somewhere where gas might be tricky to find.
Stuff sacks. A number of you, quite reasonably, seem to think that I’m a bit OTT on stuff sacks and a rain cover. OK, I don’t think I’m that mad. In the Cairngorms I used an XXL Exped roll top bag, which took up about half the sack for my sleeping bag and clothes. These were in four Alkpit Apollo bags, which are very light. I like to keep my clothes organised. Two other small Exped roll top bags were used for hats/gloves/buffs etc stored in the outside mesh pockets of the Mariposa. Clearly these need to be waterproof. One roll top was for plastic bags and rubbish. Another for toilet kit and wash kit. I also put my Drywalkers in another, which wasn’t strictly necessary. Food was in a Lock and Lock plastic food container and another Alpkit Apollo bag.
Why bother with a pack cover I hear a cry from the back. Well, although its not strictly necessary, heavy rain penetrates the rucksack (as I found in the Lakes last year) and also water collects around the mesh pockets. So the way to avoid those issues is a pack cover. The trouble is the Osprey cover is a bit on the heavy side at 225g, which is why I wanted the Integral Design one. My other weight reduction technique will be to convert some of the Apollo bags into roll top bags with some velcro. Although they won’t be 100% watertight they will be good enough. I reckon swapping the Expeds for Apollo sacks will save a bit of weight. I’ll work it out when I’ve got a bit of time.
So that’s the logic. If I was reducing weight to the nth degree I wouldn’t bother with the pack cover, but at 76g, it’s not exactly a huge penalty for keeping the rain out. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
What a great little company. I came across them on the Ultralight Outdoor Gear website. I’ve come to realise that all the stuff sacks etc that I use actually add up to quite a lot of weight. I like to be organised, so you won’t persuade me to stick everything in one liner. The design of the Mariposa with its external mesh pockets means that it’s sensible to have a rain cover, just to keep the wet out, even if most of my gear is in waterproof stuff sacks. I don’t wear gaiters very often, but I like to have them just in case a bit of bog trotting is required.
Integral Designs have enabled me to save a fair amount of weight with their products. The Shortie eVENT gaiters weigh 71g vs 186g for the Aguille gaiters I have been carrying. A saving of 115g. True, they are shorter, but they’ll keep the bog out of my boots.
I bought a silcoat pack cover (small) weighing 76g vs the 227g of the Osprey one I had been using. It fits the Mariposa almost perfectly. 151g saved. I also bought the large size pack liner (which is enormous) weighing 85g against the 130g of the Exped sack I’ve been using, saving 45g. All in all, that’s 311g saved. It just shows how, with a bit of care, significant weight savings can be made on less obvious bits of gear.
It was a bit ironic today. It rained for the first morning for a while as I went into Boots to look at sunscreens. I saw the sachet ones that I highlighted before, but there were even smaller alternatives:
As Boots had a 2 for 1 offer and both suncreens have a shelf life of 18 months, I bought them both. All sorted for the sun. I’m hoping I’ll manage a couple of days walking in August. It will probably rain!
Thanks for the feedback. Dermatone doesn’t appear to be very widely available, unfortunately. Yes I could decant some. In fact the best stuff I’ve used is P20. I bought some more small plastic containers so I could do that. It also appears that Boots do their own brand Soltan in 50ml collapsible containers, so I might see what they are like. They are probably slightly lighter than the rigid plastic ones and presumably you can squeeze all of the sunscreen out of them.
All this hot sunny weather we’ve been having reminded me of a very useful little discovery I made before going to the Cairngorms in May. Last year I suffered a bit from sunburn, so this year I was determined not to make the same mistake. The problem with most sunscreens is that the containers are far too large. I’ve been hunting for a small tube or container for ages. By chance the weekend before I left, I stumbled on a pocket size version of Nivea’s children’s sunscreen. At 50ml, it’s more than enough. I got the factor 50, but it also comes in factor 30. It’s not greasy and is water resistant. It’s ideal when you only want a small quantity. Most supermarkets and chemists seem to stock it or you can get it online at Boots.
I enjoyed reading Ian Battersby’s coast to coast trek of Wales in this month’s TGO. It’s certainly one I would like to try and looks feasible even using our disintegrated public transport network. I’m thinking of plotting my own version on Tracklogs for future use.
It was interesting to note that he suffered from bad blisters on the first two days from his new Smartwool liner socks. It sound like the same experience I had last year using them, except that I took them off almost immediately they started causing problems.
They really are the most extraordinarily uncomfortable socks I’ve ever worn and in total contrast to all the other Smartwool socks I’ve ever worn. In fact everything else I’ve had from Smartwool has been fantastic. A very strange aberration from a normally reliable company.
My liner socks at the moment are the very excellent Bridgedale Coolmax liners and the most recent iteration of M&S’s merino wool suit socks. Bridgedale’s for hot weather, M&S for cool. Both are a gazillion times better than the Smartwool ones. Used in conjunction with the Chocolate Fish Merino Walk socks, they are the perfect combination for me.