Tuesday, 28 September 2010

New balance 840 first look

Regular readers of this blog will know about my ongoing struggle with getting into non-waterproof shoes. When I found out that Gore Bike wear socks were back in the UK, It opened up the possibility again.

Innov8 seem to be the market leaders amongst UK hikers. Various bloggers seem to have created a cult following, but while I was getting into ultralight hiking, it was always New Balance shoes that were mentioned by US hikers. Phil Turner seems to like them (An even brighter pair!) and, more importantly, they have a wide forefoot which suits my foot rather than the narrow toe box which Innov8 have a reputation for. They also have a UK factory, although these are made in China. Add to that a nice cheap price at Wiggle and I decided to have a punt.

So why the 840s? Reviews suggested they were shock absorption was good, they drained and dried quickly and grip was excellent, however to say that the look of them didn't have anything to do with it would be a lie! They're supposedly blue, grey and yellow. It's more like purple, silver and yellow- they're bright! I always like the yellow of my Golite shoes, it's about as far away from the brown boot/red sock look as you can go.

There's not much to say about them apart from that. They weigh 331g each in a UK size 11. The New Balance sizing is odd though. The insole is almost exactly the same size and shape as my NF Hedgehogs in a size 10. A tiny bit longer. The New Balance size chart gives excellent guidance for selecting the correct size and it's worth using. The 'N' on the side of the shoe supports tapes that pull the shoe tight around the foot. The laces are bumpy and stay tied- I really like the laces. The yellow studs on the bottom of the shoe are soft and the purple ones are more firm. On the photo, they look a bit flat but they're chunkier than my Hedgehogs. That's it really. More detail when I manage to get them out- potentially in the next couple of weeks. Yup, my hill drought should end reet soon. Excited I am.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The answer to the question posed below..

is no. Imagine my disappointment when I discover that the package posted to someone with the same first initial and surname as myself contains a stuffed gruffalo. I knew there was a reason why I shouldn't call my son a name that begins with the same letter as my own. Balls.

Friday, 24 September 2010

A package too big for my letterbox..

has arrived. Is it the Trailstar? I certainly hope so. It's awaiting collection at the post office which suggests I've escaped customs unscathed.......

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Katabatic Windom down hood

Down filled trousers seem to be getting pretty popular and rightly so. Responses to a first wear on a cold wild camp are often couched in phrases akin to Paul chatting to his mates after his stroll along the road to Damascus. While I like my down trousers, the real eye opener for me was my down hood. The warmth compared to any hat I had worn previously was startling. I pinched that hood from a chav’s jacket, took off the poppers, sealed up the holes with seam sealer and Robert was my sister’s brother. Ultimately, however, that hood was a little bit uncomfortable- the Velcro at the front was a bit scratchy and the volume was to big for my head, even with the front cord tightened. I began to look for another.
A few companies make them- Jack’s R better and Feathered friends for example but Katabatic made the lightest. It also appealed because it was a true balaclava with a whole face sized opening. The hood itself weighs 41grams. That includes shock-cord arm loops to stop it twisting around when you’re in your sleeping bag. Construction is top notch and loft is a more puffy than I was expecting. Photos can only ever give you a vague idea- this is the chin area. The hood actually fits my head (which might make it a little small for some people) but it is loose enough to feel comfortable. The opening isn’t tight to my face. It uses a lycra binding rather than a cord, and I was thinking I might need to tighten it a little to stop draughts, but the hood lofts up enough to fill the gap. It’s probably more comfortable loose. The lycra does catch my stubble a little and I may stitch a little pertex over the chin area. The bottom opening is easily wide enough to fit over the collar of a down jacket without compressing it. The shock cords pull it down onto your shoulders to seal out draughts. I was going to take the cords off (they’re removable) as it works well without them and I didn’t like the idea of them cutting up into my armpits but they definitely stop the hood twisting in a sleeping bag. I have taken the cordlocks off as I don’t need to tighten them any more than the maximum length.When I combine it with my down vest, trousers, jacket and socks, plus my minim ultra sleeping bag I’ve got a system that weighs somewhere in the region of 1kg, comparable to many winter sleeping bags. Of course this system gives me a lot more flexibility- most people would take a warm jacket as well as a winter bag anyway. I used a similar system in temperatures down to around -5 and I have a few tricks to help me if the temperature goes lower. Taking these photos, I became unbearably hot- it was about 18 degrees- there’s not much of me that is exposed and able to get rid of the excess heat.

So why are people not singing the praises of down hoods? Look at the photos-it’s impossible to wear one without looking like a complete idiot. Still, when you’re sat on the top of a mountain next to someone freezing in their warmest hat, you understand the difference between looking like an idiot and actually being one…..

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

MYOG pot lid

I had a spare five minutes the other day. I've been using a piece of foil for a lid for my Snowpeak mini solo ever since I discovered that the original lid weighed as much as my cuben fibre rain chaps during my weight purges of a year or so ago. If I'm really honest with myself, the foil is a bit of a pain. It was useful when I had to fold it all up to fit in my original caldera, but now that my cone fits inside my pot, I felt like i wanted a bit more functionality. The rain chaps were still in the back of my mind, however. Enter the beer can pot lid.

It's another super easy job- cut apart a beer can, lay it flat, trace round the pot but leave a margin and then fold the edges over. I found it needed a fair bit of re-folding and checking with the pot to get the right shape and roundness and there are still a number of corners on it, but it is a fair fit. Whe I was happy, I placed it on a flat surface and pressed it all down with the base of a pint glass to make it smooth. To create a handle I folded over another piece of can, cut a slit in the lid and made a washer to stop it ripping through. Total weight 4g. To transport it, I simply flip it over so the handle doesn't get damaged.