Unusual gear sources

There is something strangely satisfying about finding a bit of gear from a non-specialist source. For instance, M&S do wonderful merino wool socks that make great liner socks. I’ve got two pairs of very thin merino socks that are simply the best liner socks I’ve ever had. I also have a wonderful little multi-tool (pliers, blade, bottle opener, screw driver) that I bought from M&S one Christmas that only weighs 23g.

I’ve got a gilet from Gap, which weighs only 260g is as good as any of the “specialist” brands, has proper DuPont Thermolite insulation, looks better and was considerably cheaper. They key is to be always on the look out.

Lakeland are another great source of bits and pieces, particularly zip lock bags and sealable containers. For instance, their Soup ‘n’ Sauce bags are not only great for storing food, but they are tough enough to use as a peg bag to prevent sharp ended pegs from damaging your tent. Their Lock & Lock containers are excellent for storage.

How about Avon and their Skin So Soft body spray that doubles up as midge repellent and moisturiser? My sunglasses are a cheap pair of folding sunglasses from Next. If you look on the Web, it’s very difficult to get a pair of folding glasses. I’m also always on the look out for small plastic containers to decant fluids into.

Anyone else want to share some canny buys?


Camping controversies

One problem with electronic communication is that can needlessly cause friction and controversy. Comments in an e-mail, web post or forum comment can come across more stridently than the author intended. In my little review of sleeping bags, I was chided (gently) on an OM forum for dismissing synthetic sleeping bags.

However this is nothing to the heated debate that raged (and still rages) over whether Paramo is better than Gore-Tex/Event and whether trail shoes are better than boots. This is now teeing you up for a couple of posts that I will put up soon on these thorny (!) issues with my views.

What I want to say though is that whatever I say on this blog is only my view. My opinion is no more correct (or valid) than someone else’s, save in the light of the experiences that I’ve had. I hope that you take everything I say in the constructive spirit that it’s meant.

Only you can decide what is right for you. If that is a synthetic sleeping bag, then that’s cool (or hot ;0) ). Seriously, don’t take everything too seriously.

Tent trivia

There are a couple of interesting tent items on OM this week. Firstly, Vango is launching a series of lightweight tents under the Force 10 brand. Of most interest is the Helium 1 man, which is claimed to weigh 900g, serious competition for the TN Laser Competition (ho, ho). Without seeing it in the flesh, it does look as though it might be a bit flappy in high winds. For those that like a bit solidity, the Nitro 1 man looks like a very strong tunnel tent, weighing a reasonable 1.75kg. It could be competition for Akto owners as it is only slightly heavier, but a lot cheaper. The tension band system that Vango uses definitely adds to stability and the materials and workmanship are certainly very good on the TBS Micro 100 that I have. I would also like to give a little plug for their customer service as I lost the little repair and spares kit and they sent me a new one free of charge! Unfortunately for Vango, this particular camper is out of the market at the moment as I already have four 1-man tents!

The other article that drew my attention was a video of a geodesic getting trashed by some strong winds. The reason why this is interesting is that while strong winds destroyed the geodesic tents, it left a Lightwave tunnel tent standing, challenging the assumption that geodesics are stronger and better in windy conditions. Tunnel tents tend to bend with the wind whereas geodesics stand firm, which can lead to catastrophic failure. If you really want to strengthen your geodesic, try taping the poles together where they cross, which stops them moving against each other. The other issue that I can see from the film is that the wind got underneath the fly sheet, so a snow valance would have been a good idea. To be honest, if the wind is that strong, you’re better off taking the poles out and just use the tent as a bothy bag/shelter.

Ortik Heat-It

Roman blogged about this the other day and I was intrigued. It’s a revolutionary wind shield that fits around the stove burner and it is claimed to improve efficiency by over 40%.  So I should be able to get near Jetboil/ETA efficiency out of my beautiful little Snow Peak GST 100  stove. The big news is that it is going to be featured in Trail magazine soon and will be available in the UK for £45. I feel another gear purchase coming on! On a slight tangent, how is it that Trail normally gets to test most of the interesting bits of new kit rather than TGO?


TGO Challenge

I had hoped to do the TGO Challenge in 2008, but circumstances wouldn’t allow, so I’m pencilling in 2009. Like many, I’ve been inspired by Bob’s podcasts. Until I listened to last year’s series, I hadn’t considered doing it. Now I’m gagging to go!

Not only have the podcasts given me enormous vicarious pleasure, but the many Challenge diaries and photo albums have given me hours of enjoyment. In particular, I’ve enjoyed Andy Howell’s and Peewiglet’s accounts. It seems from Andy’s blog that viewings of his diary are on the increase as prospective Challengers investigate routes.

Unfortunately, it looks as though we’re not going to get any podcasts as Bob and Andy haven’t made the cut. However Darren has, so maybe Bob can persuade him to take a recorder! I enjoyed reading Darren’s blog last year and shared the disappointment as he had to drop out through illness. In a funny way I feel as though I know quite a few of the characters already.

If you want to read previous diaries, the TGO website carries a page of links. It’s also quite good fun to have a look at the Challenge message board. Apart from picking up a bit of the banter, you get a good insight into how to approach to walking in Scotland in general and the Challenge in particular.

1,000 and counting

I’ve only been going 10 days and this blog has generated over 1,000 page views (1,054 to be precise at 7.10 p.m. 04/12/07). I don’t know how many individual views that represents as the site stats are a bit primitive. Thank you everyone for looking, especially to those that have left comments.

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