I was going to have a rant about Gordon Brown’s incompetence and gall, but I decided to calm down and post another picture. This time it’s Dovedale from Caudale Moor (March 2008).
I was going to have a rant about Gordon Brown’s incompetence and gall, but I decided to calm down and post another picture. This time it’s Dovedale from Caudale Moor (March 2008).
Riggindale and Haweswater from High Street
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!
Dave requested another photo. Here’s one I like, looking from one of Braeriach’s gullies to the River Dee.
…so I thought I’d post a photo. Gleann Einich from below Coire Dhondail
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Charlie’s blog is now fully up and running and you can catch up on her JOGLE progress with this link. She made it to South Laggan yesterday. She’s abandoned camping and is now using B&Bs etc. She had some problems with her feet, but these have improved by reducing her pack weight, hence leaving the tent behind for the moment. Well done, Charlie, keep it up!
I normally carry my camera (Panasonic Lumix TZ5) in the Exped XXS dry bag. I usually trap a bit of extra air so there’s some cushioning. However, here’s a really simple way of converting the dry bag into a padded dry bag and giving a camera a bit of added protection.
Cut an oblong from a piece of spare foam. I used an old sleeping mat.
Fold it into a “U” shape and insert into the dry bag.
Insert camera and seal.
Hey presto! A padded and waterproof camera bag.
Black, blue and red are the staple colours for many outdoor garments, particularly jackets (OK, Virginia, I know strictly speaking Black isn’t a colour). There are good reasons for this. They are generally reasonably flexible in fitting in with other colours (red less so). They are attractive on the eye in different ways. Red looks great in photos. Blue is less “in your face” and combines well with many other colours. Black goes with anything, is discreet and can look sophisticated.
Other colours can be attractive but tend to go in and out of fashion. They also require a bit more commitment in terms of wearing. Why am I blogging about this? Well, I quite like the look of the new Quito jacket from Paramo, but the colours put me off. I’m, afraid green and yellow don’t really appeal to me. Paramo are odd with colours. They are either spot on or miss by a mile. The cobalt blue is beautiful and iridescent. The red (Fire) of my Third Element is very attractive, especially offset with the grey inserts. The Smoke Blue (no longer available) of my Viento also looks good.
It’s a shame that Paramo don’t use both more conventional colours with the more “adventurous” ones for each range of jackets. If they had a red or blue version of the Quito, I might have bought it on spec. Now I’m going to wait to see if anyone else buys it and to see if they will change the colours.
Having said that, it really does look an interesting jacket. It is significantly lighter at 500g than either my Vasco (711g) or my Third Element (756g). Do I really need a new jacket? No, but it might make an interesting combination with the Montane Quickfire that I blogged about before. Using the Quito would almost offset the extra weight of the Quickfire and I would have a very flexible jacket system.
It seems like the whole walking community has gone mad on “Look What We Found” food. To see what all the fuss was about, I ordered some. Over the last ten days I have sampled: Fellside Beef Casserole, Beef in Black Velvet Porter with Potatoes, Pork and Herb Sausage Casserole, Beef and Basil Meatballs in Tomato Sauce, Beef Bolognese, Cumbrian Lamb Hotpot, Beef Chilli Con Carne, Pork Meatballs with Butter Beans and Herdwick Mutton Stew.
I ordered them mail order from their web site and they arrived promptly. My overall observation is that they are tasty and good value. My favourites were the Pork Sausage Casserole, Beef in Black Velvet Porter and Mutton Stew.
However, would I use them instead of Real Turmat? Probably not. Firstly, the portions are quite small, so you would have to supplement them with something else (although two portions cost less than one portion of Real Turmat). Secondly, they would take significantly more fuel unless you heat them direct in the pan. If you use a pan, rather than boiling them in the bag, they leave some of the gravy/sauce on the bottom of the pan, which can be awkward to clean. They are also heavy.
Possibly I would use them as a treat to be eaten on a first night, but the lower calorific value, higher weight, more fuel taken to heat them and mess count against them as backpacking food for me. I think they are great for quick meals at home and I like the lack of additives and the way they source their raw materials.
Charlie Frith is now four days into her JOGLE walk and has already covered 72 miles. I had an email this morning. Things seem to be going well, although a colleague at work said her feet are suffering a bit. She has set up a blog: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/charlief/1/tpod.html , but it doesn’t seem to be active at the moment. I’ll keep you updated when I get more news. If you’re interested in sponsoring her, the charity site is: http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/charliefrith
I’ve given you posts on the two major pieces of “new” gear that I carried, the Western Mountaineering HighLite sleeping bag and the Osprey Exos 58 pack, so I’m not going to bore you with an extensive review of other gear. However, I’d like to highlight what worked well and what didn’t.
I only have one brickbat to hand out, which is for the Mammut Airpillow, which I really didn’t like and have now given away. It was just the wrong shape and felt wobbly. It was nowhere near as good as the Ajungilak pillow. It just didn’t work and I regret not testing it before I went.
On to the bouquets. Most of my gear worked really well, but I would highlight:
I’ve got a pair of Cascadas, but at 600g they are a bit on the heavy side and they are quite a generous cut. Now Paramo are bringing out the Velez Adventure Trousers, weighing 400g and with a slimmer fit. I reckon these look much more interesting and are no heavier than some overtrousers (e.g Berghaus Deluge Overtrousers ). Next Saturday, you can see them in the flesh at the Paramo shop in London. I’m tempted to go along and have a look.
Charlie Frith should be starting her John O’Groats to Land’s End walk today. I hope the rain has stopped. Scotland has had a terrible drenching recently. She’s not given me a URL for a blog, but I’ll keep you up to date with any news I get. Her Charity Giving page is: http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/charliefrith
My trip to the Carneddau was the first time that I’ve used my Exos 58 pack. Originally I was going to use it in March but I discovered a manufacturing fault (the stitching on one mesh pocket had come away). I didn’t take it to Scotland in May, as I’ve learnt the hard way that it is not a good idea to take an untested pack on a long walk.
I’ve generally had good experiences of Osprey packs. It seems to me that they are usually well designed and use high quality materials. Two favourites are the Atmos 35, which is similar to the Exos and the Aether 60 (old version).
The Exos, notwithstanding the small production flaw, carries on in this tradition. The design is excellent. I guess everyone is familiar with the back system and general configuration of the pack, so I won’t spend time describing it.
I found the shoulder straps and hip belt very comfortable. The foam is slightly stretchy, making them more comfortable than my experience of GoLite packs. The hip belt is particularly good, but that is a feature of most Osprey packs. The downside, though, is that they soak up water like a sponge. They get very wet and as I mentioned in a previous post, this is an issue with Paramo jackets as it forces water through the pump liner. It also means they take time to dry.
Staying on the theme of performance in the wet, the pack material is more water resistant than many, but still allows some ingress. The zips on the front pockets are also a vulnerable area. Dry bags are essential to keep critical gear dry. The stretch pocket also holds water and gets very wet.
I liked the pocket arrangement, which helped keep gear organised but easy to access. The lid pocket is quite big, but doesn’t flop like many. I used the mesh pocket underneath the lid to keep my wallet and phone to hand (in a dry bag). The two front pockets hold a surprising amount, although I think I would prefer a single pocket like the Exos 46. The stretch pocket was useful but has more limited capacity than say the mesh pocket on the front of the Mariposa. I didn’t use the hip belt pockets because I use a reversed belt pack, but they are quite large compared to competitors.
The pack was more than large enough for all my gear. It would be easily large enough for a long trek or winter gear. The reason I chose the 58 in preference to the 46 was that for an extra 12L the weight penalty is only 90g, which seemed a good trade off to me. I would always rather have a bit of extra space than have to cram everything into a smaller pack. This is especially useful when it comes to allowing for food.
The most important consideration for any pack is how it carries. Overall it was pretty comfortable. The AirSpeed back was less sweaty than my Mariposa. However the downside was that it didn’t hug my back in the way the Mariposa does and I felt the load tended to “bounce” a bit. The Mariposa feels as though it is part of you and sometimes I can forget that I have a pack on. I missed the flexibility of the Mariposa back system (I use flexible nylon rods, not the supplied carbon fibre stays), particularly when I did a bit of scrambling. However, the hip belt of the Exos is far superior. The other thing I found was that I had to lean forward a little more.
In terms of comfort of carry, I rate the Mariposa the best, the Aether second, followed by the Exos. Where I think the Exos comes into its own is hot weather, when ventilation is important. I think it is not so good where any scrambling is involved as the pack frame is rigid, although the shoulder strap/hip belt material does provide some flexibility.
Overall, I like the pack, but not enough to displace my Mariposa, which is half a kilo lighter and is generally more comfortable. I can see myself using the Exos in hot weather, but the rest of the time, I think the Mariposa is a better pack.
My Exos and me
I think it’s fair to say that my Carneddau trip involved quite a lot of rain. It rained for 12 hours solid from late Tuesday night to midday Wednesday. From Thursday mid afternoon onwards, after heavy showers it rained hard for several hours with strong winds. I walked for around four hours in these conditions. Thursday night through to Friday morning there were very heavy showers with a strong gusting wind. This gave me a chance to see how my gear fared in adverse weather conditions.
Let me deal with shelter first. The Laser Comp was good, particularly the first night when the wind generally hit it end on. Despite the flysheet deforming a bit, it didn’t make too much noise. I’ve never had a leak and it withstands heavy rain very well. Although it can feel a bit unstable at times, it pretty good at standing up to high winds.
On Thursday evening, when I had had to sort myself out in the porch as it tipped down outside, there was a surprising amount of room to get organised. I used a J-cloth and MSR pack towel to wipe away drips from clothes and rucksack that got on the groundsheet.
The porch groundsheet was a real boon, both from the aspect of protecting me against the wet ground, but also being able to leave my rucksack in the porch. I really do think this is worth the small amount of extra weight and I will do the same for the Scarp if and when I get it. So, overall, the Comp/groundsheet worked very well.
Next the pack, my Exos 58. While it was more water resistant than some packs, it did let some dampness in. In the main body I used an Exped dry bag and for various non-critical pieces I used silnylon bags. More on this later. The pack straps with their mesh and foam absorb water quite readily, which is a bit of a disadvantage with Paramo.
Here’s my first lesson: Paramo and the Exos are not totally compatible in very wet weather. The straps, both shoulder and hip get soaked and overwhelm the pump liner of Paramo, such that I was damp on my base layer on the shoulders and around the midriff. I wasn’t drenched but I was wet.
This has happened before with a Deuter pack a few years ago. It didn’t happen last year when I had similar conditions with my Mariposa. The straps on the Mariposa are waterproof on the outside and the contact mesh doesn’t absorb much water.
So beware the combination of Paramo and absorbent rucksack straps. My strategy to avoid this would be to wear a hard shell over Paramo. If I used my Montane Quickfire jacket and my Paramo Vasco jacket as a mid-layer cum windproof/shower proof layer, leaving my warm smock (Liv/Infinity) behind, then the net weight would be not much different. I have used this kind of combination before successfully (Velez/Superfly). Obviously the “purists” will throw their hands up in horror, but it has some logic to it. Using my Mariposa, I would just use Paramo. It is perhaps a little unfair to blame Paramo as I was wearing a merino wool base layer rather than a Cambia base layer, which may have been more successful at dissipating the water.
The Exos stretch pocket also gets very wet. Given that water works its way into the lid and body pockets, I think a light pack rain cover might be worth trying. One advantage of this system is that it makes the pack less wet for putting in the tent at the end of the day. The disadvantage is extra weight and they flap in the wind. However, my Integral Designs pack cover is very light, so I might carry that as a backstop.
Dry bags. The large Exped bag was perfect and kept all the essentials like sleeping bag bone dry. The Alpkit Apollo silnylon bags were less successful, allowing some dampness to get to the contents. I shall reconsider whether to go back to Exped bags. I will probably use two large dry bags for the main compartment. The lower one for all the critical kit, the upper one for cooking stuff/food and things I might need in the day. I’ll still use some of the silnylon bags for organisation, but be more careful about how vulnerable the contents are to damp.
My Inov-8 Race Pro belt pack has quite poor water resistance and some of the dry fruit in small cardboard containers re-hydrated into a soggy mess! In rainy weather it will go in the pack. The mesh also didn’t help with the Paramo damp transfer issue.
Lastly, my Salomon Fastpacker boots kept my feet dry for some time but after the outers wetted out, my feet became damp, presumably because the Gore-Tex membrane was unable to breathe. However, if I had been wearing leather boots, I know my feet would have been a lot wetter. My feet were also warm, so I judge them a success.
I also carried a pair of Gore-Tex over socks (Trekmates) which I used briefly on Friday morning to walk to the car. They prevented my dry socks from getting damp and felt comfortable. I think there’s probably no way of keeping feet completely dry in very wet weather, but the Fastpackers do a reasonable job. They also dry out quite quickly. I have subsequently re-proofed the outers with Nikwax spray to improve the water repellence.
This may sound as though I had a bad time with the rain, but the reality was that I was basically OK. Sure I was a bit damp in places and some gear got a bit damp, but it was an inconvenience as much as a problem. Before I set off the next day, I wore my merino base layer in the tent and it dried quite quickly. Within ten minutes of getting outside in the wind, with no rain, my Paramo Third Element had dried out. The rucksack straps did remain wet for some time, so I still think that is an issue.
My conclusions are:
Those are my observations and thoughts. Next time it tips down with rain, I’ll be even better prepared!