New Mariposa hipbelt

I didn’t realise until recently that the new style hipbelt for the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is backward compatible with my old style dyneema Mariposa. The new hipbelt has two significant advantages over the old style.

Firstly, the ends of the aluminium stays locate directly into pockets in the hipbelt. This means that the load transfer of the pack to the hipbelt is directly coupled. Additionally, the hipbelt is stiffer and has more padding, both of which should improve both the dynamics and the comfort of the hipbelt.

Secondly, the pockets are larger. In the old hipbelt, the pockets were only big enough for a small compact camera like the Sony WX100. A larger compact like the Sony RX100 was a bit of a squeeze. With larger pockets, it fits with ease. It also means a bit more space for snacks in the other pocket.

The only modification needed in the old Mariposa is to cut a couple of small holes in the channels containing the frame so they can exit the pack body and locate into the hipbelt. It was really easy. One tip is to insert (and then remove!) a pencil into the hipbelt stay pockets as they are quite tight and need to be opened up a bit. I bought my hipbelt from . Bob has a useful video on how to fit the hipbelt.

I’ve not given it a full test yet, but my initial impression is that it is a signicant improvement over the old hipbelt.  Here’s some pictures.

Travelled Far by Keith Foskett

Travelled Far is Keith’s latest book. Unlike his previous books which covered complete long distance treks, this is a collection of reflections on various shorter walks, with the exception of a revisit to the Camino and his aborted PCT walk. One of Keith’s previous books, The Last Englishman, about his PCT hike, is one of my favourite books. Balancing on Blue, on his AT trek, is also a good read, so I approached this book with relish.

Because it’s not about one trek, you can dip in and out of it, rather than his other books which draw you into the world of the through hiker and constantly nag you to turn the next page. Many of chapters are about his walks in Sussex, which is familiar territory to me as it was where I was raised as a kid and was the starting point for my hiking and backpacking adventures.

Keith doesn’t come from a journalistic background, so it’s been interesting to see his writing develop over the years. His writing has the immediacy and urgency of someone who puts in big miles every day. If I had one criticism, sometimes I wish he would slow down a bit to reflect on his journey. That said, you could never accuse him of sitting still and navel gazing!

The most interesting chapters for me were on the Camino and his aborted CDT trek. I knew a bit of the background to the CDT, but it was good to read the full story. I hope he can go back and do the full trek some time. The Camino is a completely different trek. It’s a shame he didn’t write a bit more on this, although I ought to get his first book, The Journey in Between, about his initial trek on the Camino.

Overall this book is an enjoyable read and hopefully there will be more books in the pipeline. I’d love Keith to do LEJOG and write about it! The book is available both in paperback and on Kindle (both available through Amazon). Keith kindly sent me a paperback copy for review and it’s good quality. One other thing to mention is that all the profits from the book will go Mountain Rescue UK.

My review of The Last Englishman

My review of Balancing on Blue

Disclaimer: Keith gave me a free copy of Travelled Far with no obligations or conditions. 

Langstrath and back gear feedback

I’ve not done a gear feedback post for a while so here goes! 

F10 Nitro Lite 200. I’ve mentioned the flysheet in the previous post. The important thing to note is that it rained on both nights that I was camping and there were no leaks. I think the Nitro Lite is a great colder weather tent. Not only is it very stable, but there’s lots of space to organise yourself with colder weather gear. The porch is great too. It’s very sheltered, big enough to store gear, but also compact. I took a F10 tent footprint. It wasn’t strictly necessary, but gave a bit of extra insulation and protection. In some ways I prefer the Nitro Lite in cold weather to the Scarp as it has a bit more room. I see F10 have replaced the Nitro Lite with a slightly heavier model, the Xenon. It’s a shame the weight has crept up as the Nitro Lite was quite outstanding for its weight. 

Exped Thunder 70. I wanted to experiment a bit with a heavier, bulkier load, so I carried an absurd amount of food, half of which I didn’t eat! My total pack weight was about 16kg, about 3kg more than if I’d been careful. The method in the madness was to test whether the Thunder is comfortable for heavy loads. The jury is out on this one. While the hipbelt is superb, the shoulder straps are a bit thin both in width and padding. The MYOG shoulder strap pads helped but I still ended with a bit of bruising on my colar bone (strangely more on the right than the left). I now have some ZPacks shoulder strap pads, which, hopefully, will sort out this issue. It’s bizarre that Exped don’t use chunkier straps. Apart from that, the pack is great. I also used some Tread Lite Gear hipbelt pockets, which are far superior to the stretchy ones on the hipbelt for very little weight penalty. I’ll do a seperate post on them but they are highly recommended. 

Western Mountaineering Ultralite. As I get older, the colder I sleep. I bought the Ultralite secondhand and it’s turning out to be a bit of a bargain. Although it’s probably not got the best ratio of down fill to weight in its class, it seems to hit the sweet spot for me in the cooler months. It is warm enough that I don’t have to put on extra clothing layers before dawn to stay warm. I seem to be able to stay warm enough to temperatures around freezing. The down seems to be high quality and recovers loft quickly from compression. The inner material is soft to the touch and the outer top material is draught resistant. I love the generous draught collar. All in all it’s a great bag. Expensive new, but a bargain secondhand. 

Arcteryx Squamish Hoody. This has become my “go to” windproof. The material is very breathable, yet windproof, better than my Montane windproofs. It’s also got a nice feel to it. The cut is just right, trim, but not tight. Velcro tabs at the wrists mean they can be sealed or loosened for venting, much better than elasticated ones. The sleeves can also be pushed up above your elbows if needed. The hood is very good too, with a simple one cord adjuster which holds it snug to your head. Finally, there’s a useful chest pocket. If I was being picky, it could be slightly larger. Being an Arcteryx, it is expensive. I like it so much, I bought two, both in sales. 

Patagonia R1 Fleece Smock. This is another expensive item that I bought in a sale. Even then it was expensive for a fleece. I’ve been round and round the houses with fleeces. For me, gridded fleeces seem to work best and the Patagonia R1 fleece seems to be the best. I’ve got both the old version and the newer one. Perversely, the older one seems to be better for backpacking as it’s not quite as warm. I find the grid fleece better at maintaining a stable body temperature than ordinary fleece. The outer face seems to be more robust too, resisting pilling. 

Rohan Union T Shirt. I’ve come to regard blended merino wool and polyester base layers as the best solution to staying comfortable over a range of conditions and not stinking to high heaven. My previous favourite has been Montane Sportwool (no longer made). The Rohan Union T has now become my favourite base layer. Soft to touch, warm when needed, but not too warm and it dries quickly. Add in odour resistance and a sensible non-athletic but not baggy fit and it’s a winner. Just to prove it, I’ve got three and I wear them a lot in winter under shirts when not backpacking. While they’re not cheap, you can often pick them up discounted in Rohan sales. 

The combination of the Squamish and the Patagonia R1, coupled with a Rohan Union merino T, was perfect for cool weather walking, especially with a strong breeze. Even when it was quite cold I didn’t need to use my Paramo Velez Adventure Light smock for warmth, except when stopping for lunch. Conversely, I didn’t overheat either. Basically, I think I’ve hit on almost the petfect combination except for hot weather. 

Great customer service from Vango

As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t used my F10 Nitro Lite 200 for a while before my recent trip to the Lakes. When I unpacked it to use in Langstrath, the flysheet had stuck to itself and I had to peel it apart. It proved to be still waterproof, but I thought I’d ask Vango customer services whether anyone else had experienced this and whether it was a manufacturing fault.

Within a couple of hours they replied. While the flysheet should be ok, they offered to replace it anyway. It seemed to me sensible to take them up on the offer and my new flysheet arrived on Monday.

This is not the first time Vango have demonstrated excellent customer service. In the past they’ve sent me a repair kit, a new pole and some guy lines. It gives great confidence to buy Vango products, knowing that any issues are dealt with quickly and courteously.

Langstrath and back, part 2

There was a bit of overnight rain, but it cleared by early morning. When I poked my head out of the door, it looked like it would be a fine day. My original plan had been to do a shortish day up Langstrath and over to Coledale Tarn. However, that would’ve left me a long day back to Bratihwaite for the next day and the weather forecast was for rain later in that day. So, I decided to change my route to walk back to Newlands and either camp along Newlands Beck or carry on further to Rigg Beck.

The sun was slow in reaching the tent, so I didn’t start until around 10:30, luxuriating in the wonderful spot I’d chosen for a camp. Langstrath is probably my favourite Lakeland valley as it feels wild and is off the beaten track.

Eventually, I got going. I crossed the bridge over the beck and followed the Cumbria Way down to Stonethwaite. The end of Langstrath was quite boggy, but I managed to hop over the pools using some strategically placed stones. The weather was fabulous with even a gentle cooling breeze!

After crossing the bridge by the Borrowdale YHA, I followed the River Derwent north for  just under a kilometre, weaving in and out of the trees.

At Tongue Gill I turned east climb towards High Scawdel. Initially I climbed through pastures, dodging a few sheep along the way. Higher up, there were a couple of broad, grassy shelves that had some good possibilities for camping, although it was way too early to stop.

The upper part of Tongue Gill is quite rough, but the path is quite clear. Just before the mine workings, I stopped for a bite to eat.

After a brief rest it was onwards and upwards. The mine workings were more extensive that I had imagined and quite fascinating. I might return for a longer examination. It must have been very tough working in these mines.Beyond the mine, the path leads to the barren, boggy wilderness between High Spy and Dale Head. Although Wilson’s Bield is marked on the map, it is a rather small, broken down sheepfold. Despite the wet underfoot, the area has a rather bleak grandeur.

From Dale Head Tarn, I followed the well-worn track down to Newlands Beck. I love the head of Newlands. The shadows from the clouds made the valley even more beautiful.

I made a fortuitous navigational error by following the path along the beck rather than contouring below Eel Crags (which is the more normal path). The path along the beck leads to a small sheepfold with lovely close cropped grass and would make a rather nice place to camp. Just before the sheepfold, there’s a spectacular waterfall.

There was some very wet ground after the sheepfold where I managed to slip over and get a wet behind. However, the rest of the path was reasonable and I reached Castle Nook mine quickly. A little look around suggested that it wasn’t a very good place to camp, so I decided to push on to Rigg Beck.

It took me a bit longer than anticipated to get to Rigg Beck. By the time I reached my intended camp spot, the valley was in shadow. Nevertheless, the light lasted long enough to get pitched, get some water and start a meal.

Yet again there was some rain overnight, but the morning dawned fair and my pitch caught the early sun.

By 9 o’clock I was packed and on my way back to Braithwaite campsite. I was back well before lunch and spent a lazy day in the camper van, returning home the next day.



Langstrath and back, part 1

Our daughter wanted to come home from uni for a few days, so it was another opportunity to use the camper van! I toyed with the idea of North Wales, but decided to take the easy option of Braithwaite in the Lake District.

My rough plan was to walk to Langstrath, then possibly over to Coledale Tarn and then back to Braithwaite. In the event, I just walked to Langstrath and back but using different routes.

For early March, Scotgate campsite was quite full with camper vans, motorhomes and caravans. I was glad I’d booked! Before I’d travelled, the weather forecast had been a bit poor, but had cheered up a bit by the time I’d arrived.  It was surprisingly sunny and quite mild when I set off.

After a brief stretch along the A66, I crossed some fields to Little Braithwaite and then followed a good path along Newlands Beck. This is a really lovely walk. Along the way I met a lady with an energetic Collie dog. He laid a stick at my feet, so obliged by throwing it along the path for him.

Leaving Newlands Beck, I followed the lanes to Skelgill. Frustratingly the blue sky was behind me, while the clouds were gathered in the west. From Skelgill, I followed the Terrace Path above Derwent Water. Again, this is a lovely walk, although the best views are in retrospect, rather the in prospect.

Part way along the path, my attention was drawn to a commotion above me on the fellside. An out of control Springer Spaniel was chasing some sheep. It chased one across the path in front of me, nearly knocking over another walker. As it returned up the hill I tried to capture it but it eluded me. It appeared to be reunited with its owner a little later higher up the fell. Hopefully its owner won’t let it loose in future. The sheep were lucky not to be injured.

After the Terrace, there’s a short road walk through Grange, before resuming on a footpath to Castle Crag. Again this is a lovely walk, although the clouds made the light a bit dim for photography. There are some interesting quarries along the way but I didn’t bother to investigate. Part way up the path between Castle Crag and Low Scawdel, I stopped for a bite to eat as it was sheltered from the wind.

I was tempted to go up Castle Crag, but decided instead to push on. I stayed high, crossing Tongue Gill by the footbridge. Below was the contrast of the lush green of Borrowdale and the browns of Rosthwaite Fell and Stonethwaite Fell.

Above Seatoller, I glimpsed the snow-capped mass of Great End.

I took the paths to Borrowdale Youth Hostel, then roads to Stonethwaite.

Beyond Stonethwaite, I walked through the empty campsite until I reached Langstrath Beck and turned south.

I’ve not walked along the western side of lower Langstrath before. I knew I could camp at Tray Dub, but was on the look out for a place to pitch before then. A  few hundred meters beyond the bridge, there is a grassy strip on the river bank, which looked ideal.

Although it was a bit early, it was too good a place to pass up, so I decided to camp there.

I’ve not used my F10 Nitro Lite 200 for nearly two years. I was a bit nonplussed when I unpacked it to find that the flysheet was stuck together and I literally had to peel it apart. In the event it was no harm done as the waterproofness didn’t appear to be compromised, keeping me dry in the overnight rain.

I had a rather good view from the tent door!

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