Friday, 29 May 2009

pembroke gear round up

Having shaken my kit list down since walking a bit of the south west coast path over Easter I felt happier with what I’d packed. A post trip debrief showed that the only items that didn't get used were the waterproofs and my pack weight was just 50g over 6kgs, excluding food and water.

The Vaude footprint I picked up proved to be an excellent choice, neatly fitting under the Hut2 and giving enough ground cover for two.

Ready for a good nights sleep.

The pole holder that I’d found (part of the packing from the tag a long bike) did the trick but I might tinker with it to give a few more centimetres lift.

Puncture proofer.

Monday, 18 May 2009

mobile blogging

I’ve been following the progress of various people on the Challenge and LEJOG. There are various options available to do this so it’s interesting to see how successful they’ve been up to date. Especially as I’m still in the market for a system myself wanting to blog whilst on the Pennine Way.

Brendan started well, blogging daily as he tackled the hard opener of the LEJOG by going along the South West Coast Path. He was using an iPhone with a wordpress app and disaster struck when the app started to delete the posts that he was working on. Not that impressive and deeply frustrating for him.

Over on the Challenge Weird Darren managed three days blogging before his iPhone carked with charging problems. Not helped by the fact that the Freeloader charger he’s carrying doesn’t work. But that could of course be down to the weather that they’ve been enjoying up in Scotland.

More successfully Geoff has been using the Pocket Mail system to chart his progress on his LEJOG. This system does have it’s shortcomings though; you cant embed photos and the one he uses requires a call box to upload the text. Whereas some where in the Highlands Mick and Gayle are posting regularly with their Pocket Mail which they are able to use with a mobile. Go figure on that one.

There is one system that’s standing out above all others (at the moment) and that’s the one that Martin and Sue are using; a Blackberry on the Orange network. Martin has been able to post to his blog several times a day including photos taken at lunch stops on the tops of the various Munro’s that they’ve been bagging.

Mobile signal can be a bit hit and miss particularly in mountainous areas so we’ll see how those dependent upon one fair. And I must ask Martin how he’s managed to keep his Blackberry charged. Has he been using hamster technology or stashing spare batteries in Sue’s bag without her knowledge? I think we should be told!

tag a long on the thames

Our first trip out on the tag a long and to keep things simple it was a straightforward peddle down the Thames to Teddington Lock and back up the Surrey side of the river.

River Lane, Petersham Meadow

Rain over night ensured that there were enough puddles to ride through and as neither my bike nor the tag a long had mud guards Ben earned his first cyclist stripe. Two in fact; one up the front and one up the back.

Splattered face; sign of a true off roader

I’m glad I didn’t opt for a detour into Richmond Park via Ham Gate because the pull up to the bike track that runs from Kingston Gate to Pembroke Lodge is quite sharp. I was happy to stay on the relatively level tow path, at least for now.

My bike’s close gearing made it easy to change up and down to suit the terrain but I did notice that controlling the bike was harder when I dropped a cog at the front rather than at the rear. He did do with some of the peddling which helped speed us to the Tide Tables Cafe for refreshments and a well deserved chocolate muffin.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

a simple trail mix

Cant remember how I came up with this but it’s a real delight; the creamy texture of the brazil nuts, the toffee sweetness of the apricots and the tart, fizzy, sharpness of the kiwi compliment each other remarkably well. And nutritionally it ticks a number of boxes too.

250g dried un-sulphured apricots
250g broken brazil nuts
5 kiwi fruits, sliced and dried

To prepare the kiwi fruit; top and tail, peel and slice into four, then cut each slice in half. Place on dehydrator trays and dry for six to eight hours, turning occasionally to dry evenly.

Add the three ingredients to a zip lock bag and enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

midhurst and cowdray park

I wasn’t really paying much attention on this walk; my mind being preoccupied with other things. And because of this I wasn’t able to engage with my surroundings as I usually do so my recollections are rather scant.

Cowdray is an impressive ruin of a Tudor Castle and it was only at the end of the circuit that I realised this; going for a walk does help clear the mind.


The route was a six or so mile circuit lifted from the Jarrold’s Pathfinder Guide to Surrey and Sussex and over the last year or so I’ve pretty much done most of the walks in this book. The route follows river bank, woodland path, sunken lanes and wide buttercup filled river meadows.

River Rother meadow

At Heathend copse a detour was taken as a conifer plantation had sprung up since the book was published and the bridleway had vanished underneath it. In the copse several cuckoo’s called to each other.

Harry hunts for Hobbits

At Steward’s Pond I stopped and carefully balanced my way across reed tufts to the pond’s feed to fill the Travel Tap. And under the cover of some trees nearby I cleared a spot, set up the Gnome and set to cooking lunch. More of this here.

Hornbeam and Bluebells

From the pond the route tacks across a golf course and back to Cowdray, Midhurst and the car park.

pembrokeshire coast path

After my last outing along the South West Coast Path I'm keeping a very close eye on my kit list for this trip over Whitsun bank holiday. I'm not going to let any superfluous bits of kit to sneak into my bag. The phrases, 'just in case' and 'this might be handy...' have been banned.

I'm leaving the Exos at home despite the fact that it's a great bag but at 49l it's all too easy to stuff it with unnecessary bits and pieces. The Villain will take it's place, and being a smaller capacity bag, it will force me to be more disciplined in my approach to packing.

I'm going to invest in a double groundsheet for the Hut2 so that the bivi bags can be left out. This will save the combined weight of 490g and the groundsheet will protect my NeoAir from any nasties that might be lurking in the grass.

I’ve got my pack weight down to 5.8kg without food or water. Subject to some last minute decisions, in particular over which sleeping bag to pack (Marmot Hydrogen or Mountain Equipment Skyline), the weight should there or thereabouts.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

‘beef’ quinoa soup

This is a gluten free reworking of one of Sarah Kirkconnell’s recipes. Like her original it’s hearty fare ideal for cool early spring or late autumn lunches, it's less a soup more a stew in fact. This makes a big portion for one person.

4 dsp unflavoured soya mince
8 dsp cooked and dried quinoa
1/2 beef stock cube (low sodium)
1/2 tomato and herb stock cube
2 tsp dried thyme
half a packet of mixed dried peppers
1 dsp dried onion
1/2 tsp dried garlic
salt/pepper to taste

Add all the dried ingredients to approx 450ml (3/4 pint) of water and bring to the boil stirring. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the veg and mix are reconstituted. Alternatively place pot in cosy and leave for 5 or 10 minutes. Season and serve.


Ingredient notes

I sourced the soya mince from Holland and Barrett, the stock cubes are Kallo, and the dried mixed peppers/dried onion are Whitworths.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

dehydrated cheese

As bizarre as this sounds you can buy this stuff from Asda. Drying cheese doesn't reduce the weight by much however it does help it keep longer. It's what Sarah over at would call shelf stable, so ideal for backpacking trips.

It's got a good taste, if you like Parmesan added to your pasta dishes this is the stuff to have. As I cant eat packet cheese/pasta sauces this stuff makes it possible for me to cook a gluten free macaroni cheese. I've yet to sort out a recipe for this so it will get added to the ever expanding menu ideas that I seem to be accumulating. Must spend some more time in the kitchen with a camp stove some time soon.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

osprey grab bag – update

I wrote a few words on the problem I had with using one of these here. I contacted Osprey in the UK and have since had a conversation with Tom Entwistle their European Sales Manager about the issue with the bag. Having used one himself with the Exos he stated that he hadn’t experienced any problems with it. Although he could understand the point that I was making about the buckles combined with the width of the straps on the Exos being the problem. He offered to replace the bag without reservation in case the buckles were at fault. And to feed my comments on the problem to the design team.

After the conversation I realised that I hadn’t tried the bag on another rucksack (with wider straps) to test whether is was the buckles, the straps or combination of both. At home I fixed the bottom right buckle on a Berghaus 64zero that has straps that are approx 3mm wider than the Exos.

The buckle with some load and the strap clearly not contorting.

The same again but on the strap on the Exos.

Clearly the positioning of the slots and the width (and possibly thinness of the material) of the straps on the Exos mean that when loaded, that is tightened into place, the straps contort and move into in a position that allows escape, which is in fact what they do. A design fault then which, I believe, can be remedied by using buckles with the slots at the other end to where the strap tightens against.

I’ve written to Osprey to point this out and I hope that they take this on board and sort for future production of the accessory.

Unfortunately for me the buckles aren’t reversible, so I cant pick them apart and re-stitched the other way around. But I have found a simple solution.

I cut two one inch lengths of wider black strapping and inserted these between the Exos strap and the buckle, this effectively blocks the slots and helps prevent the Exos straps from twisting. It don’t look that tidy but at least I rescued the product from the not to be used ever again box in the attic.

the joy of backpacking

It’s early April. The sun has been blazing all day but it’s now slipping down below the distant skyline. A thin band of dark cloud wrings the last drops of colour from the setting sun. The clear sky beckons a cool, dew damped night.

My stove murmurs as my supper simmers in it’s pot. With the sun gone there is a noticeable drop in air temperature and I shiver slightly. I’m glad I’m sitting on my mat with my legs in my bivi covered sleeping bag. I fidget in the bag and the shivering stops.

Supper is swiftly eaten and with a bellyful of warmth I begin to relax and reflect on the day. I didn’t walk as far as could have, I didn’t do as much ascent as I might but it didn’t matter. I’d walked new places at my own pace, without want or need of a timetable. I pondered on how free and unshackled I felt as I looked up at the stars above. A final shuffle and I was snuggled down in my sleeping bag and drifting off to sleep. 

Friday, 1 May 2009

Pennine Way

Last year I started planning a backpack along the PW. That was until I was waylaid with a problem with my right knee. This seems to have resolved itself but other non outdoors related events took precedence and got in the way. Then there was the incident where someone booked tickets for two weeks in the Picos de Europa this July. Well, said individual mentioned the PW at the weekend whilst we were enjoying a trundle along the Monsal Trail... I should be thinking about and planning the trip in July but the lure of that life long ambition is strong.