All posts by Robin

GramXpert eLite Apex 133 quilt

I bought this primarily to use in my camper van. However, I thought it would also be useful as a summer quilt as it opens up to make a flat blanket. I took it on my Carneddau trip to give it a bit of a test and I was very pleased with it.

I sized up and bought a Wide/Long. I’m glad I did as I think a Regular/ Medium might be a bit constricting. The W/L has plenty of wiggle room, which is important for me as a restless side sleeper. It’s important to be able to rotate within the quilt to keep the fasteners underneath you to prevent losing heat. I’m 1.75m in height and I found it just about long enough to wrap over my head. If you are taller than that, I suggest getting the XL.

Weight came in at 505g without the stuff sack, which was lighter than the advertised 536g. I had the longer foot box zipper (70cm), which I think was a good choice. Indeed, if it had been totally customisable, I might have had a slightly longer zip. The foot box has a simple draw cord with a unique pull closure (see website for details) and worked well. The closure was tight to prevent draughts.

The closure snaps are easy to locate and engage. I might add an extra one between the bottom two. The worry with quilts is always that they might gape when you turn over, but having extra width meant I didn’t find this a problem. There is a neck draw cord with a cord lock. I found this a bit annoying as it tended to dangle in my face, so I’ve cut it off.

The materials are very nice. The outer fabric is smooth and silky to the touch. It’s not quite as nice as the Schoeller fabric used in the As Tucas quilts, but it is lighter. The Apex 133 insulation is soft but resilient and has a decent loft for a synthetic. It feels quite robust too. Pack size is reasonable, although not as compressible as down, obviously.

The Apex filling has very even coverage, unlike down quilts/bags with low down volumes, so there were no cold spots. I think this is an advantage of synthetic fillings over down in very lightweight quilts. Having said that, in my As Tucas Foratata quilt, which has 250g of down, I’ve never had a problem.

The quality of the workmanship is very high. I can’t see any faults in it at all. It was dispatched to me within seven days of ordering and arrived within four days, which included a weekend. I was kept in touch with emails to confirm the order and dispatch.

How did it perform? Overall, it was very good. It’s not as warm as down, obviously. I’m a bit of a cold sleeper and I reckon, for me it’s about a 10c quilt. I found it very comfortable to sleep in and it was nice to open it up to lie under in the evening as a bit of extra warmth. The design is very good, simple but functional. I really like the zipped foot box. If you’re in the market for a synthetic quilt, it’s definitely worth a look. There’s a good range of colours and sizes too.

Photos courtesy of GramXpert website

Disclaimer: I bought this quilt with my own money and have no relationship with GramXpert other than as a customer.

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Carneddau September 2018

Last week I had a window of opportunity for a short trip to the Carneddau in North Wales. It’s been three years since I last visited, so I was looking forward to returning. As regular readers will know, Maeneira is one of my favourite places and it was a joy to go back.

Maeneira

My original plan was to camp at Maeneira and then walk the next day to Carnedd Llewelyn, down to Ffynnon Llugwy to camp and the next day to return to Maeneira either via Pen yr Helgi Du or Llyn Cowlyd, depending on the weather.

However, when I reached Ffynnon Llugwy, the spot that I had used before for camping was covered with sheep droppings. No amount of clearing could make it fit to pitch. Unfortunately the other potential pitches had only thin soil and secure pegging points were problematic.

The weather forecast overnight and for the next morning was poor with wind and rain, so I decided to return to Maeneira. This made it a long day, over ten hours of walking and more than 25km of distance (over 1,100m of ascent too).

I didn’t get back to Maeneira until dusk, although one advantage was that I was able to swing by the car to pick up a warmer base layer as it was surprisingly cold at night.

In the end it was a good decision as it started raining during the night and was pretty foul with wind and rain until early afternoon. Lazing in the tent was definitely preferable to trudging along in the rain. Amazingly, about 2 p.m., the clouds broke and I was treated to a glorious sunny afternoon (although the wind was quite cold).

Overnight there was some further heavy rain, but by the next morning it was clear, so I was able to pack an almost dry tent and return to the car to go home.

True to form, I met very few people, which is one of the joys of the Carneddau. It has a real feeling of solitude, unlike Snowdon or the Glyderau. Despite having to collapse two days walking into one, it was an enjoyable trip. Enjoy the video slide show!

Route:

Is blogging dying?

When I started this blog in November 2007, blogging seemed to be an exciting new adventure on the internet. Since then, this blog has had just under 1.3m page views. However, views peaked in 2014 at 180k for that year and have been declining ever since. Indeed, last year saw less page views than in 2009. Part of the explanation is that I have published less posts, especially on gear.

However, I have noticed that other blogs that I read have also been less prolific in posting. It seems that enthusiasm (and perhaps interest) in blogging is waning. I guess it following a natural life cycle of growth, maturity and decline. Maybe I’m reading too much into my experiences.

I think there’s another reason why blogging is declining and that is the rise of YouTube and vlogging. I know I am much more inclined now to watch short videos of trips than to read blogs. In the past I’ve produced a few slide show videos but they’ve been a bit haphazard.

However, I was pleased with my slide show videos for Dartmoor and Not the TGO Challenge. This was not because they are technically meritorious, but because they seem to be a good way of presenting the visuals of a trip.

In the past, I’ve probably been guilty of trying to cram too many pictures into posts. Using a slideshow video is a good way of overcoming this limitation. What I intend to explore is a combination of still photos and short clips of video.

It will be a bit experimental, but hopefully it will improve my trip reports. One thing that is frustrating about straight YouTube videos is that generally no maps or background information is supplied. To that end, I will publish some maps and comment to accompany any videos on a blog post.

At least for the moment, one thing I’m unlikely to do is to provide any spoken commentary. The videos I like most have little or no spoken word and let the landscape speak for itself. I don’t want to be a YouTube personality. Too many videos appear to contain mundane babble or cod philosophising. I don’t meant to offend anyone, but that’s not my cup of tea.

Initially any video content is likely to remain fairly simple but I will investigate some ways of improving the output. At the moment I’ve compiled my videos on Picasa, but I will look at other software. I might invest in a video camera like a GoPro as well. Any comments are welcome.

Dartmoor Running Festival Detritus

On my recent trip to Dartmoor I came across these discarded signs between Pupers Hill and Ryder’s Hill from a running event held on the previous weekend (not obvious from sign, but I looked up their website). Being a good Womble I picked them up and deposited them in a bin at Postbridge. Subsequently I reported this to the Dartmoor National Park Authority. The NPA has replied saying that I’m not the first to report an issue with this event.

If you’re on Dartmoor, please be on the lookout for further detritus from this event and remove it if appropriate. I’d also encourage you to report it to the NPA. Hopefully Something Wild will take more care in the future. I’m certainly not against these running events, but I think more care needs to be taken to leave no trace.