I had a minor panic yesterday. I couldn’t find some gear that I knew that I had put somewhere: MLD eVent gaiters, Petzel e+lite, Integral Designs silnylon pack cover and some ID short gaiters. I just couldn’t find them wherever I looked. I wanted to take the MLD gaiters and the ID pack cover in particular to Dartmoor. I resigned myself to slightly heavier alternatives. Joy of joys, I found them today in a stuff sack that had slipped behind one of the plastic crates of gear in my garage. Phew! I need to have yet another gear sort out as it’s got a bit messy recently.
Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones, Chairman of the Panel on the Future Direction of Forestry:
“It’s clear that the public care passionately about our forests and woodlands, and one of the panel’s very first tasks will be to meet with the grassroots campaigners who recently showed how much they valued their local woodlands”.
If you want to write to him to make your feelings known, here’s his address:
The Rt Rev James Jones
Bishop of Liverpool
Liverpool L25 6DT
Ever wondered what the doyen of SUL backpacking carries in his pack? Well now you can find out. (The video below doesn’t appear on Google Reader, so click through to the original post)
I’d like to see you walking on Dartmoor with only that little lot, mate!! Seriously, it shows how little you need if you are walking in a hot, dry climate. Having said that, there’s no way I wouldn’t take a change of clothes and a decent sleeping mat (look out for butt ring!!). His medical kit puts mine to shame. I’ll have to take another look at mine. I’m surprised he has so much for blister care. Perhaps he should get a better pair of shoes or socks. Great video. Makes my pack look like super-ultra-heavyweight.
This is only one of the excellent videos on the Gossamer Gear site. I was looking for the Mariposa video to see the aluminium stay. My pack has the old carbon fibre arrow shafts. It would be interesting to have one as a contrast. If I meet up with Maz, perhaps I’ll borrow the one from his Gorilla .
As an observation, I really like the use of these videos to demonstrate and explain the products. Tarptent also do some excellent videos. I even learnt something new about my Scarp (how to hook up the roof vents in a different way). I hope that more manufacturers take the trouble to shoot some videos of their products (a nice business opportunity for you Terry!)
You can tell I’ve got too much time on my hands! After some trial packing this afternoon, I thought I’d try the combination of my Pipedream 600 with my GG Mariposa. It fits! Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised as the Mariposa absolutely swallows gear. The pack body is a bit wider than the Ohm and it makes all the difference. It also has more flexibility with its mesh pockets. So I’m now thinking of returning to the Mariposa as my pack of choice. It feels so comfortable. Decisions, decisions!
On Monday, the week after next, I’ll be off for my first backpacking trip to Dartmoor. Excitement is rising, and I’m starting to look at the weather forecast. Although I don’t mind what the weather will be, it will dictate my gear choices. In particular, my sleeping bag choice.
Having suffered some cold nights in the Lake District recently, I’m tempted to take a warmer sleeping bag (my Pipedream 600). However, if the forecast is for unsettled weather, the nights are likely to be milder, so I could get away with a lighter sleeping bag and supplement it a warm jacket.
What sleeping bag I take will dictate what rucksack I take. If it’s the PD 600, then I’ll have to take my Ultrahike 60. I tried a bit of experimental packing this morning and the extra bulk of the PD 600 is too much for the ULA Ohm. It means a bit of a squeeze for the rest of the gear and I don’t like compressing gear too aggressively. If I take my Cumulus Quantum 350, I think I should be able to fit everything into the Ohm.
I’ll just keep an eye on the weather over the next week and make a late decision.
That is the question.
A feeling of deep despair is overwhelming me on reading Alan Sloman’s post of plans for more wind turbines in the Monadhliath and the Balmacaan. There’s nothing more I can say.
I spotted this in yesterday’s FT (not the picture!):
Renewable Energy Generation, the green energy developer and operator, blamed “abnormally low wind speeds across the UK” for widening pre-tax losses.
REG, which runs 10 onshore windpower projects in locations including Cornwall, Yorkshire, Cumbria and Cambridgeshire, said lack of wind knocked £1m from its interim profits.
Andrew Whalley, chief executive, said: “December was the worst month in 10 years for wind in the UK, and January was pretty awful as well . . . but it goes in cycles.
“We’re not seeing a long-term reduction in wind speed, it’s just that the past 12 months have been a really bad period for wind.”
Aim-quoted REG has a goal of investing £100m in the sector by the end of 2012, which Mr Whalley said the group was on target to achieve. “We’ve got lots of projects, lots of cash, and we’re ready to invest it in UK wind.”
That just about sums up how useless wind energy is. In the coldest December since the 1960s, wind energy couldn’t deliver the energy we needed to heat our homes. Brilliant! When does it deliver energy? When it’s windy of course, which usually means Atlantic depressions and mild weather. The last sentence also fills me with horror.
I also found some interesting stuff on Denmark the other day. Denmark generates about 20% of its energy from wind. Have a read of this and weep. One of the startling observations is that because wind fluctuates wildly, it causes instability in the electricity grid. Obvious when you think about it. Will Alex Salmond/Jim Mather/Ed Milliband/Chris Huhne look objectively at wind power? Don’t bet on it.
The die is cast. My train tickets have been booked. In two weeks, I’ll be off! A single from London to Ivybridge and another single from Exeter to London cost £88 altogether. With bus fare and tube fares, I guess total travel will cost around £100, which is not hugely different to the cost of petrol for a round trip.
Thanks to everyone who has helped me with pieces of information, which has helped the planning process. At the moment (this is subject to amendment) the route looks like this:
Day 1: arr. @ Ivybridge at 15.18. Two Moors Way from Ivybridge diverting over Butterdon Hill, Piles Hill, camp somewhere between Three Barrows and Leftlake (SX 647 634). Distance: 5.5 miles. If I’m feeling energetic I may carry on until Huntingdon Cross.
Day 2: Leftlake, Quickbeam Hill, Brown Heath, Huntingdon Cross, Huntingdon Warren, Ryder’s Hill, Down Ridge, Hexworthy, Dartmeet, Babeny, Riddon Ridge. Distance: 11.5 miles.
Day 3: Riddon Ridge, Bellever Tor, Postbridge, Hartland Tor, Grey Wethers, Teignhead Farm, Whitehorse Hill, Hanginstone Hill, Steeperton Tor, possibly Hound Tor. Distance: 12-13 miles.
Day 4: Steeperton Tor, Okement Hill, Dinger Tor, High Willhays, Yes Tor, Rowtor, Okehampton. Distance 9-10 miles.
The end of day 3 and day 4 are a bit flexible and I may camp at Dinger Tor or somewhere on the way. Much depends on the weather and conditions under foot. If it’s fine weather and reasonable under foot, I would expect to made good progress.
OK, let’s get back on track. James’s Dartmoor jaunt has inspired me to have a look at Dartmoor for my next trip. The last time I was on Dartmoor was on a geography field trip when I was at university, a looong time ago. I’ve been a bit lazy going to the Lakes a lot over the past year. The Lakes takes next to no planning. Dartmoor on the other hand is taking a bit of time to research.
Firstly, I have to consider whether to drive or go by train. Driving brings flexibility, but where to park the car safely is a bit of a concern. I’m looking to take a train this time, I think. It means I can do a linear walk from Ivybridge in the south to Okehampton in the north. A midday train from London can get me to Ivybridge (with one change) by 15.18, which seems quite fast.
The return journey is not quite so straightforward as I’ll have to get a bus from Okehampton to Exeter. The National Rail app on my iPhone indicates a frequent service but I’ve got find a definitive timetable somewhere on the web.
I’m looking at walking up the eastern side of Dartmoor keeping mainly to access land. I now have three sets of maps to consult, OS 1:50,000, OS 1:25,000 and Harvey’s BMC 1:40,000. Each shows a slightly different set of paths, however, on the high moor, I imagine I’ll just be able to walk in a straight(ish) line. I’m going to avoid obvious boggy hollows where I can.
While wild camping is allowed on a lot of Dartmoor, it’s not permitted everywhere. There are some basic maps and an interactive tool on the NP website (I’ll do a separate post on resources that I’ve found/used). Basically, most of the south and the north moor is OK, but the central bit from Princetown to Dartmeet is sparse, so it’s worth checking. I’ll put my exact route on another post when I’ve firmed it up.
I was concerned about the Army firing ranges on the north moor, but the information on live firing is readily available and there shouldn’t be any on the Okehampton range at the beginning of April, when I’m planning to go. I’m only going to skirt the eastern edge anyway.
I bought the Cicerone guide “Walking on Dartmoor” by John Earle, but, quite frankly I’ve found it a bit disappointing. The background stuff is reasonably informative, but the walks are mainly day walks. There’s no master map of where all the walks are and the descriptions of the long distance walks are cursory or just a list of places.
In terms of gear, I’m hoping to take my Duomid. Sean at OookWorks is making a bespoke inner for me and hopes to have it ready soon. It will be slightly larger than the floor area of the Scarp 1 (same width, but slightly longer) and weigh about 500g. With pegs and pole extender, the Duomid will be about 1.1kg. It should be palatial!
I’ll see what the weather forecast is before I leave but I’m inclined to take my Pipedream 600 after being cold in the Lakes. I must be getting old as I seem to be sleeping cold now. I’ll probably take my ULA Ohm pack, assuming that I can fit everything in, but that will depend on how much space my sleeping bag takes up.
The “extras” that I will take compared with a Lakes trip are gaiters and my lightweight waders for stream crossings. The waders weigh less than 300g, but they a very useful for stream crossings so it seems sensible to take them as whatever route I take will require some river crossings.
I’ll post some updates as I firm things up.
My blog stats indicate that this blog has attracted over 300,000 page views in the nearly three and half that it has been in existence. Is that good or bad? I’ve no idea, but thank you for reading it. At the current rate of viewing it should reach 500,000 page views just before its fifth anniversary. All I need to do now is think of some more twaddle!
Gossamer Gear sell some Evazote foam pads, but they don’t seem to be available from UK gear suppliers. However, you can get them in various thicknesses and colours from here: algeos. I’ve not ordered from them, so this is not an endorsement.
Webtogs has just sent out an email for their clearance sale. There’s some heavily discounted stuff from Western Mountaineering that’s worth a look if you are in the market for a down jacket. A few year’s ago I wanted a WM Flight jacket but couldn’t find one in the UK. Now I’ve got a PHD Minimus jacket, there’s not a lot to be gained by getting a slightly lighter down jacket. However, it might be something that others would like. Apart from a lightweight hardshell, I’m not in the market for jackets now. Most of the WM stuff has nearly a 40% discount.
Why won’t governments listen???? The consultative panel on forests looks like a stitch up. It makes you weep. They had an opportunity to regain a bit of public goodwill with a sensible panel and now they’ve blown it. It reminds me of the quote on Yasser Arafat: he never wasted an opportunity to waste an opportunity. Back to the battlements. More letter writing.
Addendum: protest email duly despatched to my MP.
My resolution is going to pot! I suppose it’s fatal to go into a gear shop. I popped into Cotswold to get a map and spotted the POE Peak Elite AC. Cotswold have a 10% off everything offer if you give them your email address, so it was rude not to. Instead of £75, it was £67.50. Strictly speaking I don’t really need this mat. Although it is slightly warmer than the Ether Elite, it’s not really that different. However, it is in black, which I prefer instead of a gaudy orange.
When I got home I weighed it. Much to my surprise it is much lighter than advertised. The mat on its own is 325g, vs advertised 396g. Even with the repair kit and bag, it’s 356g. My Ether Elite is 390g, so the weight saving is a useful 65g or 16.7%. So what was a marginal purchase has become a justifiable purchase. 325g for a full length inflatable mattress is very impressive. No wonder they are rarer than hen’s teeth at the moment. I’ve not bothered with a picture as everyone knows what they look like!
If you haven’t already, it’s worth listening to Statler and Waldorf aka Alan Sloman and Andy Howell on Res FM, interviewed by Paxo aka David Lintern. Some interesting and thought-provoking comments were made. It would be good to see a 38 Degrees type campaign(s) emerge from this, but I suspect the issues are too complicated and that there are too many vested interests for that type of campaign. However, both Scotland and Wales desperately need some kind of rallying point to oppose the desecration of their wild lands as 38 Degrees provided for the forest sell-off issue.
It’s gone quiet but it’s not gone away! Here’s the One Voice newsletter to keep up with developments.
My gear abstinence ended with a bit of a bang yesterday. I’ve been looking for a new pair of shoes for the summer months. After my less than happy experience with the Inov-8 Roclites, I wanted to have a look at the HiTec Infinity shoes. However, I wanted to try a pair on as my experience with HiTec is that the fit is a bit variable. The only place near to home that sells them is Go Outdoors in Harlow, so I drove there yesterday.
It is my first experience of Go Outdoors. The staff were very pleasant and helpful. The store itself was a huge industrial shed crammed with all the familiar stuff. Anyway I tried a pair of Infinities. The fit is more roomy than Adidas/Salomon, but they were very comfortable so I got a pair. As usual I weighed them when I got home. 618g for a pair of size 8s. I’ll give you an update when I’ve worn them a few times.
I also wanted to have a look at an intermediate synthetic warm jacket between my Minimus and my LIM Barrier. The jacket I was interested in was the Montane Prism jacket. However, when I tried it on, it didn’t feel quite right. Next to it was a Rab Generator jacket. It felt a much better fit and the insulation felt more lofty. Despite both using Pertex, the material used in the Generator feels better, silky smooth. Even though it is slightly more expensive, I went for the Generator. Notionally they are similar weights 440g and 420g. However, when I got home, I weighed the Generator. To my surprise it is 364g (medium).
Rab Generator Jacket
Next to the Generator jacket was a Montane Krypton jacket, I think you know where this is leading! I’ve not really taken much notice of this jacket, but seeing it in the flesh, it looked very good. It has a Pertex shell with a thin fleece lining, very similar to the one used by Marmot in their DriClime clothing. However, it looked like a better jacket than any I’ve seen using this combination. The pockets are mid-chest height, above a hip belt. They are mesh and act as vents as well as pockets. The roll down hood has a proper elasticated volume adjuster and a wired peak. The collar is deep enough to hide your chin from cold winds. The sleeve cuffs have velcro adjusters (hooray!). Given the fit of the Prism was not quite right, it was surprising to find the fit of the Krypton much better. The advertised weight is 375g. Apart from the superfluous small compass/GPS pocket on the sleeve, it seemed an ideal garment. The GO price is £78.30 compared to a RRP of £125, so it had to be bought. It looks like an ideal jacket for times when the Paramo VAL is overkill. Incidentally the weight was slightly heavier than advertised at 399g, but I’m a Large in Montane, rather than a Medium.
Montane Krypton Jacket
I also bought yet another buff and the Cicerone guide-book on Dartmoor. James’ posts on Dartmoor have inspired me to have a look at a visit to Dartmoor this year. I’ll fill you in with my research in another post, but it looks like an interesting place to go. I’ll give some updates on my purchases as I use them.
A big thank you to Richard of Stayin’ Alive for sending me some B&Q foam underlay to put under my POE Ether Elite for insulation. The sheet (220 x 102cms) weighs 170gms, which I reckon is about half the weight of the tent underlay I had used before. It looks like it will fold down into a compact roll or indeed a sheet. One of the delights of blogging is the kindness and concern that people I’ve never met show. Thanks, Richard, you’re a star.
I’ve now uploaded them to my Picasa account.
Apart from being cold, this was not a strenuous gear test. With that in mind here’s some comments on the gear I took.
Adidas Terrex Fast X FM Mid GTX: I guess this is the one that you are most interested in. Bearing in mind 5.5 miles in dry weather is not a severe test, these were very comfortable. Grip is good. I only suffered a couple of minor skids going downhill. My impression is that they are not as grippy on rock as my Fastpackers, but better on grass. The speed lace system makes adjustment faster. The only downside is that the thin laces are uncomfortable if tightened too much. Indeed, I found it more comfortable to have the boots fairly loose on my feet. I used Superfeet Green footbeds. I think these are better than the ones supplied and helped stability. On hard ground the cushioning excels. It’s not that they are soft, just that they absorb the ground well. I think they are probably more comfortable in that respect than the Fastpackers. They seem a bit warmer as well, which might be to do with the higher cut. All in all, I’m very impressed and will use them on a longer walk next time I’m out.
Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover: A fleece is a fleece, all right? Wrong. This is head and shoulders the best fleece I’ve worn. It has an uncannny knack of regulating temperature better than anything I’ve worn before. Perhaps it’s the grid pattern on the inside. At 300g, it’s slightly heavier than alternatives, but I really like it. It works well either as a mid layer or a top layer.
Outdoor Designs Fleece Liner Gloves: Originally I bought these as liners for my skiing gloves. Because they are thin, they enable better dexterity than most gloves. They also dry very quickly if they get damp. They were great to wear both when walking and in the tent.
PHD Minimus Jacket: I have the version with the M1 outer. It’s very warm and compresses to a small volume. It was a real life saver to wear around camp and in my sleeping bag. It’s the best backpacking down jacket I’ve owned by far.
Paramo Velez Adventure Light: This has overtaken the 3rd Element as my Paramo jacket of choice. The double zips give better venting than the 3rd Element and the sleeves can be rolled up to make almost a gilet. I like the roll away hood and the deep collar means you can hide your chin from cold winds. The one area of uncertainty is whether the zips are fully watertight, as I had an issue with leaks in an earlier version of the Velez. However, given that the VAL is 200g lighter, it’s difficult to see me using my 3rd Element where weight is a consideration. However, the 3rd Element is still a great jacket.
POE Ether Elite: This is not a winter sleeping mat. I should have taken some foam underlay to insulate the mat. I’ll know next time. It’s still the most comfortable mat I’ve used, better than even the Exped Downmat. The Downmat has much better insulation though.
Cumulus Quantum 350: While I’m still very happy with this bag, it wasn’t warm enough and I should have taken my Pipedream 600. I’ll know in future!
M&S Ultrafit Active Hipsters: These are the best underwear I’ve found so far. Very comfortable.
Lightwave Ultrahike: This is the most comfortable rucksack I have. The hipbelt mod has cured the slight niggle I had. I like having a bit of extra volume so I don’t feel I’m cramming everything in. The stretch side pockets are surprisingly capacious. I found I could also access the lid pocket without taking the pack off.
I also wore my Berhaus Equilibrium trousers which were brilliant, but have been out of production for several years. Berghaus should revive these. If they had a double seat and zips on the pockets, they would be the perfect cold weather trousers.