Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Back from the hills

The trip went well, the weather changed after the first night and stayed good, kit was spot on, Rhinogs behaved as expected. Here's a photo to wet your whistle...

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Bag packed

I've gone with the Gatewood cape and the Enlightened quilt. Pack with food but not water is around the 3.5kg mark. The weather looks pretty reasonable and hopefully we should miss the worst of the precipitation which is Friday evening so no extra waterproofs. My bag's propped up against my new gear closet- more on that later.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Off to the Rhinogs

At the weekend I'm making a return to the Rhinogs with Martyn. It's the first trip I've been on for  quite a while, so there's plenty of kit decisions to make. The weather looks to be changeable and I do'nt feel quite as brave as I have done in the past when I was a little more gung ho. I think probably the poncho tarp is out, but I do want to use the Gatewood cape. If it's really windy i should really take the trailstar. The real question is whether to take waterproofs too- I have gone with the Gatewoodonly for at a similar time of year. Then there's the quilt question. I have the bpl 750 quilt but it weighs twice as much as my enlightened quilt. I can supplement the warmth of the enlightened quilt with extra down clothing, but maybe I should go with a synthetic in case it's really damp. I'm definitely taking my honey stove. I've had a good go with it on the family holiday as a beach cooker and it's good fun. I am taking a bag of twigs though as I'mnot sure of the dryness of any wood I find, which cancels out a lot of the fuel weight savings. Plus I'm taking a meths stove as a backup. Whatever happens I'll shoot some video and make a post when I get back.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Back again

I'll try to get something up soon-promise. I've got new gear, trip reports and ideas to post, it's been incedibly busy though. Here's a pic to be getting on with.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The sh*tting trowel

Wild camping is made up of a series of activities that either make or break your enjoyment of the trip. One of my first trips was a cycling trip around the Ring of Kerry (No sniggering at the back!). That's where I was introduced to the fine art of taking a dump in the great outdoors. An activity akin to that other bastion of a good trip- wild swimming, and so the label, 'wild shitting' was born. A stout saxon label that described it perfectly. On that trip, we used our spoons to dig the hole, the ultimate ultralight implement, but so enjoyable was the activity, I soon upgraded to a real trowel. So of course, what to call it but a shitting trowel. (The companions to the shitting trowel were my piss sandals, used for midnight calls of nature). I'm not the only person to find it a peaceful and contemplative activity. 'Made in England by gentlemen' detailed a trip up the CDT where the author took a photo of every 'poo view' for the entire 6 months.
My first trowel was a good old folding mini entrenchment tool. It dug nicely, cut through heather roots well and had a nice big blade. The handle was always stable but I was a bit nervous of it folding back. It also weighed 150grams. When I began to lighten up I traded it in for a plastic B&Q garden trowel which I bought as a pack of three for a pound. I took the slimmer trowel, reduced the width even further, shortened the handle and drilled holes in it to reduce the weight to a much more acceptable 50 grams, the same ballpark as the legendary orange coghlans trowel.
This was still pretty heavy, however. A snow stake weighs 25 grams and is certainly usable as a trowel. There are tradeoffs here, however. The width of the blade is not so efficient as it's so narrow. It's not so comfortable in the hand and I tend stab a hole in the ground rather than scoop. The rounded end is no good for cutting through heather roots. It does, however double as a tent peg, especially for high tension guys such as the main guy on the Gatewood.
Then I saw the Rob Kelly potty trowel (Americans are much more polite than us Brits about bodily functions it seems). For 10 grams, you can get a fully functioning trowel with a nice wide blade. I splashed out and in a couple of weeks it was here. Stright away I was out to dig a hole in my lawn. It feels nice in the hand despite the thin nature of the titanium. You can use it like a normal trowel and it scoops well. It is certainly very strong, amazingly so for the weight. The main downside of it is that the extremely short nature of it makes it much more difficult to get to the bottom of the required 6 inch hole. Rob also does a 'Big dig' which is bigger and comes in at around 25 grams. I think as a trowel, that it's probably better to get that size. On the other hand, I generally only use the trowel for 5 minutes in a weekend, but I carry it for hours. A little faff doesn't bother me, it's still a step up from the snow stake and much cooler to own!

Which is my best trowel? The B&Q, without a doubt- comfortable, useful, efficient but 5X the weight of the potty trowel.

P.S- apologies for the frequent use of the word 'shit', but I'll leave you with a quote from an American (Stephen King I think?)
"If he stepped in Sh*t, then write that. 'He stepped in sh*t.' don't work around it. but also don't make a habit of overusing it." (Although I suspect I may be guilty of the latter!)

Monday, 13 June 2011

Nice idea

The weight has been steadily creeping up on little bits and bobs. Grams, of course, but the only way I got my weight down was by bits and bobs and grams. The trouble is, I got here by thinking my way through things- I don't need this, I don't need that. Now with everything cut out, I'm going back up- I could do with this, it would be nice to have that. I always wanted light combined with function. Then you get a genius idea like this. For water I carry a mineral water bottle and a 1l platypus which I only fill for camp. So hows about replacing the 25g platypus with a bag ? I always liked Colin Ibbotson's water bag idea, but it seemed a lot of work plus the bag seems pretty vulnerable. Hows about using a pour and store bag? I have to thank Whartson Hall for this-it's tougher than a sandwhich bag, it carries more than the litre the platypus carries if you overfill it. It has a wide opening for filling too. On the minus side, it's going to burst open if you drop it, but I rarely drop my Platypus. As a counterbalance, it's less vulnerable to falling over than the Platypus because of its lower centre of gravity and the gusseted bottom means it's nice and stable. Weight? 11grams- half the weight.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Speaking of cagoules...

I've got a few items to do preliminary reviews for- a cagoule being one of them. The Marmot Mica jacket is part of my wet weather system along with Golite Tumulo pants and Mountain Laurel eVent gaiters. I have gone through a few waterproof jackets trying to find a decent one. Up until fairly recently I had been using a Berghaus Paclite jacket. The jacket is pretty much a classic- simple, straightforward and reasonably light. It was a nice grey colour too. There were two problems with it- one is that it was too big- I got a size medium in a sale which was ok but not fantastic. The other was that paclite tends to wet out pretty badly. I normally prefer to feel slightly chilly when I'm walking. That way when I hit uphills, I don't overheat. For that reason, my windshirt gets used a lot more than my waterproof. For that reason, a very lightweight packable jacket makes sense. I picked up a Karrimor Elite jacket in TK Maxx for £30. I'm guessing it was stock from a time when Karrimor were not the budget brand they are now and it's a pretty nice jacket. I was conscious I could still go lighter though. A pullover jacket makes sense and I really like smocks, but the Haglofs Oz vanished around the time I was deciding which jacket to get. The Rab demand pullover is a nice jacket, but the sizing was way to big on me even in the small. There have been a lot of positive reviews of the Mica, especially on breathability and the price is a real draw.

Clockwise from top left: Stereolab 'Emperor Tomato Ketchup', Marmot Mica, Golite Tumolo pants, Mountian Laurel Gaiters.

When I got it out of the packet, I was amazed at how flimsy it was. The material has a really soft silky feel, not like any other waterproof I've felt. The cut is pretty short and athletic nut because I tend to wear over-trousers if it's rainy enough to wear a jacket that doesn't bother me. There is a fairly stiff water resistant zip up the front which has a tendency to bulge outwards when the drawcord at the hem is tight, but that's something I've found in common with all full length zips. I do worry that it's not going to be super waterproof. The hood is really nice for me.

Having a small head means I find helmet compatible hoods massive.

There is a very simple velcro volume adjuster at the back, which personally I like. I don't have to tighten it much. The hood gives good coverage to the face and is comfortable. The peak covers nicely but is extremely floppy. I'm guessing I'll have to wear my cap to support it, which isn't too much of a hassle. Cuff adjusters are simple velcro and work well.

There's really not much to say about it, which is good. I like my jackets simple with no purposeless features. You can't fit a map in the pocket and the hood doesn't roll away. Fine by me! It packs into a pocket and when packed, it's nice and small. The two handwarmer pockets are made of the same fabric as the jacket, so they're waterproof. They get trapped under a pack hip-belt which is another bugbear of testers but which doesn't bother me because I never carry anything in them anyway. I wouldn't be bothered if they didn't exist. I wore it in the mist on my Christmas trip to the Black mountains and it breathed well on some reasonable cross country ascents. The weight? 183 grams. As yet, it has been untested in the rain...

Even less tested than the Mica are a pair of Golite's Tumulo pants. I've seen a few reviews of the jacket but not much on the trousers. With pleasing (almost) symmetry, they weigh pretty much exactly the same as the jacket- 185 grams on my scale. The fabric is not a silky as the jacket and has a nice matt finish. This, combined with a very lean cut makes them look almost like normal trousers. A nice change from my previous stalwart- Regatta packable trousers which were large, shiny and clearly overtrousers. At the thigh is a small mesh pocket with a water resistant zip. I'd prefer it not to be there, even though it's possible to pack the trousers into it. The zip doesn't have a pull on the inside, so if you want to do this, you have to stuggle with the zip a little. There's a small piece of shock-cord with a mitten hook on it for keys. At the bottom of the trousers, there's a short zip and a velcro closure at the bottom. The zip fits over my New Balance shoes but might struggle a little with larger boots. I have no idea why there are extra velcro patches for a tighter closure- the bottoms are elasticated and approaching shellsuit tightness at the bottom. For those of you who wear waterproof trailshoes-and in the Winter that's me- it seems like a design whose sole purpose is to funnel water into your shoes. The elastic at the waist is a little baggy on me and it's necessary to tighten the shock-cord that is also there. The shock-cord runs beneath the elastic and renders it totally redundant. The crotch runs a little high. I'm not sure if it's the athletic cut or just poor design. Either way, I wouldn't mind a little more sag there, especially when they're pulled up high for a good overlap between jacket and trousers- when I ride them on my hips, they're fine. Still, they're a pretty good price- Pertex shield is supposedly nice and breathable and they're hard to beat for the weight if they're staying in your pack a lot.

Despite what I said about funneling water into my shoes, I have a solution- My Mountain Laurel Gaiters. There's not a lot to say about them, other than they weigh 58 grams, they roll up nice and small and they have good coverage of the foot. They stay up well, which is a bonus for extra breathabilty. I've had the shock-cord on the bottom come untied a couple of times, but that's my poor knotting skills. The hook at the front of the laces stays on nicely and they do a decent job at keeping snow out, which is the main thing I use them for.