Category Archives: miscellany

Eggs and hair regrowth

Ok, this is totally off topic but may interest some people. This year, I changed my every day diet. I’ve been reading a load of stuff on the impact of diet on brain function. Our next door neighbour is suffering from dementia and I want to make sure as far as possible that I avoid it. There’s a burgeoning volume of literature that links diet and gut health to cognitive function. If you want to read a couple of books, I suggest Genius Foods by Max Lugavere and The Diet Myth by Tim Spector.

As a result of reading these books (and others), I decided to reduce the amount of processed food (mainly sugar and gluten based) in my diet. I’ve increased my protein intake (especially fish and eggs). I now have a good portion of green vegetables (mainly, spinach, broccoli, kale) or a large green salad every day and instead of puddings I have fruit. Snacks are fruit and nuts. One of the main changes has been to have a good portion of protein at breakfast (poached egg and smoked salmon, in addition to my usual porridge). I’ve found this gives me a lot more energy in the morning. When backpacking, I often have freeze-dried scrambled eggs, sometimes with Biltong for breakfast.

I definitely feel healthier for these changes and they haven’t required a huge sacrifice. Admittedly, it’s more difficult to follow when backpacking, when I tend to eat more sugar and gluten than I would normally. As it’s only for a short time, I figure the damage shouldn’t be much.

After being on this “diet” for just over six months, I noticed a strange, unexpected but welcome side effect. I’ve suffered from male pattern baldness from my late thirties. Both sides of my family have it, so I just accepted it as part of life and made no attempt to mitigate it. Over the past few months, the hair on my bald pate has started to regrow. At the moment, while it’s not thick, it is noticeable and has good coverage.

My hairdresser has noticed it too. It’s got to the stage where I’m starting to use hair clippers regularly to keep it neat. While it’s still not thick, it is getting thicker. It feels very weird but quite exciting. I’ve no idea how far it will progress and how thick it will become, but I’m hopeful that it will continue.

My mind turned to finding out the reason for this strange turn of events. With a bit of digging, it appears that our modern diet, particularly when it is composed of a lot of sugar and carbohydrates is deficient in many vital nutrients. More specifically, L-Cysteine, which is an amino acid which is important for hair growth (amongst other things).

It appears that my daily breakfast of and egg and smoked salmon has significantly increased my intake of L-Cysteine which has kickstarted hair regeneration. Here’s a short article about it It also seems that my revised diet has increased my intake of vitamin B5, which also helps hair growth

Biotin and zinc are beneficial as well. Eggs seem to be a wonder-food with all these nutrients. Now that the eggs and cholesterol scare has been debunked, it looks like eggs are a great food to include in your diet.

I’m sharing this because I suspect that many other men have accepted that hair loss is “just one of those things”. However, it seems that dietary changes can help to reverse it. I do wonder what might have happened if I has adopted this diet in my mid-thirties. Even so, it would appear that it’s never too late to change. I’m not saying it will work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

Footnote: the correct diet is a contentious subject and I have no intention of entering into any discussion about carnivore, vegetarian, vegan or any other diets. It’s really up to you what you want to eat and as Tim Spector’s book suggests, none of us are the same and everyone’s body has a slightly different requirement.


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.

Recent freeze dried meals

I confess I really ought to freeze dry my own meals, but I’m a useless cook and lazy. So I fall back on ready prepared meals. It’s a huge shame that Fuizion Food is no longer trading as they made the best freeze dried meals I’ve tasted by a country mile. Over the past few trips, I’ve been trying other brands, so here’s a quick summary of meals I’ve eaten.

Blå Band Skinnarmo’s Pasta Carbonara: my favourite Blå Band meal. Very tasty with a slight spicy/savoury edge to it. The meat pieces are a bit small and don’t really add to it. Might taste a little salty for some people but I really like it. The pasta hydrates well and the Blå Band sachets are the best designed with clear fill markings, instructions and the pack is easy to access with a spoon (unlike taller ones).

Blå Band Pasta Bolognese: not quite as good as the Pasta Carbonara, but still tasty. Has a good tomato flavour and a slightly spicy edge. Another good one.

Blå Band Creamy Pasta with Chicken: not bad although slightly bland. I would buy again but might add a bit of mature cheddar to add some more flavour.

Blå Band Goulash: I wasn’t that keen on this one. Because it’s potato based it was quite sloppy and doesn’t feel as filling as a pasta dish. It was quite spicy but I didn’t really enjoy it. One that I won’t order again.

LYO Expedition Beef Stroganoff: liked this one. The “noodles” are more like pasta pieces. The meat is identifiable as meat. It has quite a subtle taste. I recommend the large size portion. The sachet is not as well designed as the Blå Band ones, but is wider than some makes.

LYO Expedition Penne Bolognese: again, very pleasant with a fairly subtle flavour. Good meat pieces and satisfying. I had the large portion.

Summit to Eat Salmon and Broccoli Pasta: I’ve not tried Summit to Eat before, but was pleasantly surprised. The salmon pieces were a bit small but I liked having some broccoli to bulk it out. The taste was slightly bland and could do with being a bit saltier, but was pretty good.

Mountain Trails “Food on the Move” Minced Beef Dinner: I had low expectations for this one as the other two meals I’d had from Mountain Trails were a bit bland (beef risotto and spaghetti bolognese). However, I really liked this one. There are two pouches to rehydrate, one with minced beef and one with mashed potato. The mash was creamy and buttery and the mince was tasty and savoury. To start with I kept the pouches separate to eat, but half way through I put the mince in with the mash. I really liked this meal as a change from pasta. It’s a shame they don’t do other mash based meals. I might investigate some more widely available mash potato and add some meat and sauce.

Mountain Trails “Food on the Move” Porridge and desserts: normally when backpacking, for breakfast, I have granola, nut and fruit bars. However, at home, I’m a porridge man. As an experiment, I tried these porridge sachets. While they are very good, they are quite expensive. I’m tempted to make my own but I’m not sure I want to be making porridge in the mornings. I’m happy with bars and a cup of tea. Perhaps in winter, I might have a hot breakfast. The desserts are good too, if a bit sugary. Again, I’m not sure I need a hot dessert and I’m happy with dried fruit (dates or mango are my favourites). Hot breakfasts and desserts all use up extra fuel too. I think I’ll reserve them as occasional treats.

The Blå Band, LYO and Summit to Eat meals were purchased from Base Camp Food. Food on the Move was purchased from Mountain Trails. I have no affiliation with either company.

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.