Kindle Voyage

I’ve had a standard Amazon Kindle for a couple of years. I’m slightly ambivalent about E-readers. On the one hand, they are very convenient and easy to hold. Getting a new book is very quick. On the other hand, you can’t flick backwards and forwards like you can with a paper book. They’re not very good for pictures or diagrams either.

However, for backpacking, they are ideal. My old Kindle developed a small flaw on the screen, so I decided to buy a new one. Instead of buying the basic Kindle again, I decided the Paperwhite version would be better as it doesn’t require an extra light for reading in low light.

I chose to buy the Kindle Voyage rather than the ordinary Paperwhite version. Although it is quite a bit more expensive, it is slightly lighter and smaller and has a pressure sensor for page turns (as well as a touch screen page turn).

I’ve been using it for a few days now, and really like it. The white background is definitely easier to read than the gray background of the basic Kindle. Being able to read in low light without an external light is a significant advantage (handy in a tent). I like the pressure sensitive page turn as well. The shaped back makes it more comfortable to hold than the original Kindle.

I bought the WiFi only version. Whether the Voyage is worth the extra money over the Paperwhite is open to debate. The premium seems a bit excessive. However, I’m pleased with it. Weight is 177g (168g for my old Kindle), which is lighter than a 250 page paperback.

Disclaimer: the Kindle Voyage was purchased with my own money and I have no relationship with Amazon.

TGO Challenge alternatives

Although I’m not going the TGO Challenge next year, I’m pondering whether to do a 4-5 day trip to coincide with the Challenge where the route might overlap a bit with Challengers on their way across Scotland. While it won’t be quite the same as doing the Challenge itself, it would be nice to bump into a few Challengers for a bit of social. 

I’ve been mulling over three possible trips. The first is to revive my Attadale to Beauly trip plan that I had a few years ago. The nice thing about this route is that it is coast to coast, just a bit shorter. The second idea is a circuit of the Monadhliath. The third is Fort William to Dalwhinnie with a couple of side excursions. 

One thing I want to be careful of is not to crowd out Challengers from train seats or hotel beds. The number of places on the Challenge for 2016 has been increased, so that could mean more pressure on travel and accommodation. 

Not that I’m going to Montrose, but I had a quick check on hotel bed availability and there’s hardly anything left. If the camp site is out of commission, it’s going to be a disappointing end for some. Anyway, my plans can be quite fluid and it depends a bit on the plans of other Challengers I know. 

Paramo Quito jacket

IMG_1724(2)OK, strictly speaking I don’t need any more Paramo jackets. However, I liked using my Velez Adventure Light on the TGO Challenge but I fancied a jacket with the new style large side zips. The Quito is also 60g lighter at 500g (M, actual weight).

IMG_1725(2)The double ended side venting zips are huge. They can be opened from either end and give appreciably more ventilation compared with the Velez side zips.

IMG_1726(2)The lower part of the zip opens on to a handwarming pocket.

IMG_1728(2)There are also two mesh stowage pockets at chest height. However, they have to accessed by opening the jacket front.

IMG_1731(2)The Velcro cuffs are simpler than on the older jackets. They are lighter, but, personally, I prefer the older style.

IMG_1729(2)The hood can be folded down and secured with a Velcro tab.

IMG_1730(2)The hood is excellent with a wired brim and a snug fit. The front zip rain gutter is much narrower than on older style jackets. It should be OK, but I liked the wide, popper flaps as the zip could be left undone but the jacket front stayed closed.

IMG_1727(2)Paramo have changed the colours recently. I bought a red jacket. It is very red. Almost eye-popping in fact. The outer material is slicker and shinier than my VAL. It’s similar to my Marmot Stride. It’s very soft to the touch.

image1 (1200 x 1200)Paramo have ditched the old style, dangly zip pullers for something more streamlined. The overall fit is slightly less trim than the VAL but not baggy. The sleeves are slightly longer and can be pulled over your hands.

Overall, I’d say it’s a nice jacket. At 500g, it compares well with many medium weight soft shell jackets. However, it’s far superior than almost all. It is much more water-resistant and has much better venting options. It layers beneath my recently acquired large size Marmot Essence.

As I have said before, I regard Paramo as a highly water-resistant soft shell rather than a waterproof. Having said that, it did really well on the Challenge as a waterproof.

The thin fabric of the Quito probably needs to be treated with a bit of care, although, my VAL shows no signs of distress. The Pasco jacket is almost identical to the Quito but uses the heavier weight outer fabric and has an external pocket.

I’ve taken it out on a few dog walks so far and like it. I think the massive side vents are going to be great. I still think the best Paramo jacket is the now discontinued Vasco, but that’s over 200g heavier.

Disclaimer: this jacket was bought with my own money. I have no affiliation or relationship with Paramo.

Berghaus Dry Pocket

IMG_1720(2)I’ve been looking for a waterproof pouch for my camera for a while but nothing seemed quite right. The other day, I came across the Berghaus Dry Pocket. It looked like a possibility and for £12 with free postage from OutdoorGB, it looked worth a punt.

It arrived today and it’s near perfect for a compact camera like my Sony RX100. The picture above shows it with the Sony RX100 inside attached to my Lightwave Ultrahike rucksack.

IMG_1722(2)The Ultrahike is a bit challenging for stowing things like a camera as it is impossible to attach hipbelt pockets. The shoulder straps don’t have daisy chains either, so I sewed a piece of webbing onto one shoulder strap. The opti-buckle clips onto it, however, the pouch also needs a couple of Velcro loops to make it stable.

IMG_1721(2)This system works really well. If the shoulder strap had a vertical daisy chain, it’s easy to swap the orientation of the opti-buckle to accommodate that.

IMG_1723(2)The Dry Pocket has a substantial roll-top to keep out water. I like roll-tops as they are very waterproof and easy to access. Taking the camera out of the bag and replacing it is a very quick procedure. The taper of the bag towards the base holds the camera nicely and means the pouch doesn’t impede arm swing.

The Dry Pocket weighs 80g, which is pretty reasonable for a waterproof and padded pouch. Also included is a removable shoulder strap if you want to use it as a shoulder bag. It looks like Berghaus has stopped making these, so if you want one, you’d better be quick. It’s a great solution to carrying a compact camera.

Disclaimer: I bought the Berghaus Dry Pocket with my own money and have no relationship or affiliation with Berghaus or OutdoorGB.

MYOG frame sheet for ULA Ohm


I decided that I’d like the back panel of my ULA Ohm to be a little more structured and less flexible. The obvious thing to do was to add a sheet of HDPE to the foam sheet (a cut down Karrimat) that I was using. I ordered some 500mm x 250mm HDPE sheets from Direct Plastics. The sheets are so cheap I ordered 3 x 1mm and 3 x 1.5mm sheets, in case I want to use the HDPE for any other projects.

The sheets are almost exactly the correct shape. I had to cut the top corners off, which was easily done with a pair of sharp scissors. I used the 1.5mm thickness sheet as I felt it gave a little more rigidity and attached it to the foam pad with some duct tape. The weight is about 160g (HDPE sheet).


I’m pleased with the outcome. The back panel no longer bulges when you pack the sack and I can guarantee that no objects will jab me in the back. I’m pretty pleased with it. I think it will make the pack more comfortable, together with my hip belt mod. I had been thinking about getting an old style Gossamer Gear Gorilla pack (if I could find one), but I’m not sure I’ll bother as the Ohm is basically the same but with better quality materials.

Marmot Essence weight disparity

IMG_1475I liked my Marmot Essence jacket so much that I’ve bought a second one. However, I’ve sized up to a Large from a Medium. I found the Medium a bit trim for layering so wanted a larger version. I also wanted a different colour, so I went for red, which is rather nice.

My original Medium Essence jacket weighs 170g. Imagine my surprise when I found the new version weighed 213g. On the Marmot website, it’s listed at 178.6g. Unfortunately it’s disappeared from the website of the company I bought it from. On the UOG site, a Large is listed as 202g.

This is an extraordinary discrepancy. Handling the material, I think they have used a heavier face material. It feels more robust than the previous version. In some ways, that’s quite good as the old jacket is a bit fragile and I had already torn a small hole in it (repaired with McNett tenacious tape.

However, I’m a bit disappointed that the change in material and weight has not been made clear by Marmot. They really ought to have made clear that this was a second generation jacket with a heavier weight. It seems quite common for gear makers to introduce modifications without making this clear on models and is pretty poor practice in my view.

Of course I could have returned the jacket, but, in the final analysis, it still a very light jacket and I’m happy to have a large version to layer over a warm jacket if necessary and to have longer sleeves. I hope I’m right that the material is a bit more robust as well.

Disclaimer: this jacket was purchased with my own money.

2016 TGO Challenge: no go

I won’t be applying for the 2016 TGO Challenge. I gave my wife the veto and she has exercised it. I’m hoping I’ll be able to apply for the 2017 Challenge or failing that, 2018. This almost guarantees that the weather next year will be fabulous, so apply while you can. 

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