Thunderbirds are go

It looks highly likely that I will be able to do a long weekend trip at the end of October. I’ve already been doing a bit of pre-planning. My gear spreadsheet has seen a bit of use this weekend, in between filling in my income tax return. My base weight is just over 9kg, but 865g is my tripod and Quickfire jacket which are not strictly essential, so I kid myself that it’s nearer 8kg.

I found the tripod very useful in Wales and think, on balance, it’s worth taking. I could take my Gorillapod, but it’s nowhere near as good. The Quickfire is an experiment to go over my Vasco jacket after my (seemingly controversial) experiences of the Exos and Paramo.

Now this is going to sound a bit odd as I’m probably not going to take the Exos, but use my Mariposa Plus (saving 340g, neatly offsetting the weight of the Quickfire). I just want to see whether it works together. It also gives me an extra layer of protection against cold winds. Last year, admittedly in November, I could have used an extra layer over my Viento.

I am taking a heavier sleeping bag (Pipedream 400) and I want to see how good the NeoAir is. I’m tempted to take my Exped Downmat, but it’s double the weight. I’m going to take a thin piece of foam tent underlay to put under the mat, which only adds just over 100g, which is a strategy I’ve used before to good effect.

Most of the other gear is going be be the same as I used in the summer. I’ll fill you in with a few more details nearer the time. Where to go though?

I think it’s going to be the Lakes, as I’ve not been there this year. I am tempted to do a similar trip to last year, only with wild camping: Dovedale wild camp, Fairfield, Grisedale wild camp, Angle Tarn Pikes, Kidsty Pike, Riggindale wild camp, Harter Fell, High Street, Hayeswater wild camp. The mileage is not very ambitious. Hopefully this means that I will actually be able to do it! I’ve got some time to mull it over so it could change.

 Lower Dovedale, plenty of flat pitches!


Dr Bonkers soap

I bought some Dr Bronners liquid soap from Bob and Rose recently and have been using it daily for washing for about two weeks. I bought the unscented and the tea tree varieties. I felt that lavender didn’t go with the manly image. I’ve mainly used the unscented soap and I’m very impressed. You only need a small drop, which makes a good lather and is a very effective and gentle cleanser. It should last a long time, as a little goes a long way. I would liked to have tried the citrus and the peppermint varieties as well. I’m not sure that I would like to use it as toothpaste, but I’ve not tried. One slight disadvantage is that it does tend to solidify. I decanted some into a small squeezy bottle and it blocked the spout after a few days. It’s easy enough to unblock with a toothpick, but worth bearing in mind. The bottle has some slightly zany philosophy on it, amplified on their website. Very hippy! However, it is organic and Fair Trade accredited, so your conscience can be as clean as your body.

dr bronners 2

“Improvement”, not

Apple are not the only ones that have messed up an improvement. I saw the new Panasonic Lumix TZ7 this week, which is the model replacing my TZ5. I can’t tell you whether it takes better pictures. The body is slightly slimmer, but the stupid change has been to the bar that you grip when you hold the camera. Below on the TZ5, you can see a nice, chunky, grippy bar for your fingers to rest on.


The new TZ7 replaces this grip with a thin bar, which is absolutely no use. Seeing it in the flesh made me realise how poor this modification is. Form triumphs over function again. Why do companies do this? One of the reasons I really like the TZ5 is that it is much easier to hold and grip than other cameras I’ve owned. It’s a shame, because some of the other features look attractive.


Camera bag mk2

I’ve changed the design of my home made camera bag slightly. I’ve cut the corners of the foam sheet:


I fold the foam sheet into a “U” and insert into the dry bag. The camera then goes into the bag, between the foam. The closed bag looks like this:


Cutting the corners of the foam makes folding the dry bag easier and neater. Total weight: 36g

Boot washing

At the end of my last walk my Salomon Fastpackers were quite grubby and the water-repellent had worn off. I think the outers wetting out was the reason for the dampness that I had in the boots rather than a leak. I also think that an accumulation of sweat in the liners doesn’t help either.

A couple of weeks ago I got round to giving the outers a good clean and reproof with spray on Nikwax. The water is now beeding nicely. This morning I decided to rinse the inside of the boots. Together with a small amount of Nikwax Techwash, I filled the boots with warm water and left to stand for 10 minutes before rinsing out.

Encouragingly, there appeared to be no leakage from the inside of the boots to the outside. This is in marked contrast to when I performed the same operation on a pair of Aku Icaros, where I was concerned that they had sprung a leak. I think (and hope) that the Fastpackers will last longer than the Icaros. One reason why they might last longer is that the linings do not seem to crease as much, suggesting that they are less likely to fail in stressed areas.

At the same time I also cleaned up my Aku NS564s. With no lining, there’s nothing to go wrong. It reminded me that there is more than one way to skin a cat and I shall be using these again as we transition into less clement weather. I’m tempted to use them in conjunction with GoreTex booties on my next outing (end October?). They are a different boot to the Fastpackers. I like the way they make your foot feel close to the ground. They are very good for rough ground and scrambling.

It’s a shame that Aku have decided to discontinue them. The Fastpackers remain my favourite boot, but the NS564s are still a good alternative.



Is Apple becoming Microsoft?

I have an iPhone and I’ve generally been pleased with it. I’ve never been a big mobile phone user, but the iPhone has been a constant companion. I like the cross-over between a phone/computer/MP3 player. However, the latest update to the operating system to 3.1 rivals Microsoft in its ineptitude and arrogance.  Across the technosphere there have been howls of anguish as 3.1 screws up iPhones. Here’s a sample of complaints. Apple have managed to mess up my phone by ruining the interface with Goole so that email gets mixed up, I can’t use Google Reader and searching has become almost impossible. iTunes has also lost half the album artwork that I painfully amassed. Others have had worse experiences with phones randomly shutting down and batteries draining.

Apple have been a byword for user friendliness and software robustness. This has really set back their reputation. 3.1 is rubbish. If they don’t get a new version out soon that works, they will have lost a lot of goodwill. I searched for an apology from Apple, but have yet to find one. Apple seem to be evolving into Microsoft in their attitude to customers. I noticed some concerns about the way that they control iTunes and apps for the iPhone. Apple need to be careful that they don’t believe their own hype and become as reviled as Microsoft in the tech world.