Wednesday, 25 November 2009

golite peak – first impression

A new model for 2010 which Bob at BPL UK managed to acquire limited stock of this side of the 31st December. Naturally I had to have one because… Well because it’s new but it’s not shiny; I ordered one in black, and I had need of a 40l rucksack (that’s my justification out of the way).

It’s basically a mini-me version of the Jam 2 only smaller and with a few refinements. The bag is made from grid reinforced dynema but with one difference, it’s made from 100% recycled material. In fact all rucksacks in next year’s product line will be made from recycled material (or as their website states 100% Tier 1 EPM’s). The bag boasts the same compactor system allowing you to skinny it down for smaller loads, the same large front pocket, the roll top closure, hydration sleeve, and two side pockets. My Travel Tap fitted snugly in one of these as would a platy or one litre water bottle.

One of the main differences between the Peak and Jam is that the hip belt fins on the Peak are removable and have be re-worked to fit the hips better, a bit like a single strap version that’s found on the Osprey sacks. The hip belt fins have pockets that will hold a couple of cereal bars, compass, GPS that sort of thing. I’ve not detached them yet so I can’t comment on how easy this is to do or undo. The bumph that came with the bag states that you can save 140g by removing these. I like hip belt pockets so I can’t see me removing them but will tinker and report back. Incidentally on my scales the bag clocked 793g.

The other difference is that there’s a foam back panel that’s removable to save weight when not required. I had a look at this and found it slotted in with a tight fit, so didn’t attempt to remove it. It looks like that it can only be taken out if the bag is empty, so no use as a sit pad at lunch then. Also the foam didn’t look like it was closed cell to me, only way to find out is to take it out and run it under a tap. Again that’s a tinker for another time. I’ll stick it on the scales and post a stripped down weight with my other findings.

I used the bag to carry my work bag and other bits and pieces home, and the bag fitted snugly. It was not loaded with a great deal of weight but it felt a comfortable carry all the same. Golite claim that you can carry loads up to 30lbs (14kg) but with no lumber pad and minimal padding on the hip belt fins I can’t help but doubt that, I could of course be wrong. That said the typical load I had in mind for it was circa 6kg, so unless I’m feeling masochistic at some point I’m not going to bother going to that extreme.

The next thing was to look at loading the bag. I stuffed my regular down bag into its 8l dry bag and this fitted with room to spare in the bottom of the sack. With this space to spare I knew that it would be ideal for the type of trip I planned to use it for.

At this point playing with the pack was put on pause – I had supper to cook.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

mardale pile bivi boots

The above items are one of those luxury items that you dream of at the end of a long day when your feet are wet and cold, and no amount of burying in the sleeping bag and wiggling of toes will make them warm up.

These are like buffalo pile mitts for the feet. The extra large (10-12) weigh 172g so not as light as I’d like. And being pile they are bulky too. Perhaps I should have indulged myself and bought some down booties from PHD but there’s one big advantage to these; they have a thin but durable sole so you can walk around in them. Non-lumpy ground obviously, I wouldn’t want to stand on a stone in these. Answering the call of nature in the damp dead of night is a foot wetting thing of the past.

The boots have, rather strangely, a pointy toe, very much like a Teddy Boys Winkle Picker. As a ice breaker in an alpine hut I could break in song, “Don’t you step on my blue pile shoes…” Or perhaps not.

Monday, 23 November 2009

savoy cabbage with white beans

Savoy cabbage is one of my favourite vegetables from this time of year. And one of the best ways of serving it is like this.

One Savoy cabbage
Can of cannelli or butter beans
Three rashers of smoked back bacon

Strip the leaves off the cabbage and rinse under running water to remove any grit. Use a sharp knife to cut either side of the stalk to remove it. Stack the halves of the leaves and shred into pencil width strips. Place the shredded cabbage in a steamer, rinse the beans and place on top, steam for about 5 minutes, the cabbage needs to be cooked but with a little bite.

Cut the rashers of bacon into strips. Whilst the cabbage is steaming heat a small glug of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the bacon bits, stirring until the fat runs and the meat is cooked. Add the cabbage and beans to the bacon stirring to coat with the fat and to mix the ingredients together. Season with pepper to taste, it shouldn’t need salt.

Serve as a side with gammon or, my favourite, rustic sausages like the Toulouse ones from Sainsbury’s. (I cook the sausages first in the same pan!)

vargo titanium sierra cup

I must be spending too much of my online time chatting with American backpackers; seems their influence has lead me to buy the one piece of kit that is THE symbol of backpacking in the US - the sierra cup.

With a capacity of 270ml it doesn’t really fit in with my perceived camp kitchen ideal. That said I’ve often wanted to take just the Snow Peak 900 but think that it looks ridiculously big as a mug! The sierra cup sits nicely on top of this and the Primus 1L pot that I use with my Bush Buddy, so perhaps there was some reason for the purchase. That said once I’ve found one of those dinky Alpkit karabiner clips I’ll be hanging it off my rucksack :)

The big benefit with the cup is the ease in which it can be filled from the barest trickle or the shallowest of water sources, which makes filling the Travel Tap a whole lot easier. I’ll take it to the Lakes next week but I can’t see me needing it to that…

Friday, 13 November 2009

tgo challenge - round up

The fat brown envelope arrived from Roger.

What's interesting about it is that it includes the names, location, how many challenges the lucky participants have done, and their age.

Scanning through the list many names jump out; Christine Roche, editor of the BPC's newsletter, Darren Christie, and Geoff Gafford. All three I've spent time on the trail with so I'm looking forward to catching up with them along the way. Alan Sloman, Phil @ Doodlecat and Martin Banfield (phreerunner) are outdoor bloggers that I've gotten to know. Alan and Phil's antics in the challenge are legendary - if they'll allow me to state that - and I'm looking forward to being a whitness to whatever they get up to next year. George Griffin, another blogger I've gotten to know, had a run of bad luck with his last few applications but has been given a chance to make up for it and is also down on the list.

And then there's Colin Ibbotson and Shirley Worrell. I've been following Colin's radical approach to kit with interest on Andy Howell's website. (Andy didn't make the first cut but is 18th on the waiting list so is almost certain to fnd his way on.) Shirl did a series of Podcast on this years Challenge that kept a smile on my face as I communted to and from work. Shirl has just finished posting her experiences on the Challenge on her blog, where you can also download the podcasts too. Essential reading for a never before Challenger like myself.

From across the pond, Philip Werner @ has secured a space and who I've gotten to know over the summer, so it will be good to met in an actual rather than virtually sense.

Also from the US Henry Shires deserves a mention, Henry is one of the US cottage industry manufacturers of tarp tents. I ordered one of the newly modified Scarp 1 tents from him last night, which I plan to use on the crossing. I hope to meet him somewhere along the way and perhaps if he'll allow do a 60 second interview with him.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

vale of pewsey

“There doesn’t seem to be much of a distance between the two campsites,” Ramblin’ Jay enquired of the BPC new members meet. Which was true but what she didn’t know was this area of Wiltshire is studded with tumuli and other ancient remains that are connected by a network of paths, tracks and trails. Enough to make up several weekends walking in fact.

The weather on the run up to the weekend was poor and I ditched the idea of packing the Bush Buddy as I doubted that I'd find any fuel dry enough to use. Although I did pack the tarp as I’d found a set up that would give the best weather protection from a rectangle of green nylon and a couple of trekking poles.

Tarp pitched at Wilcot

Friday night's pitch was a very sheltered spot and I pitched the tarp facing a wall but I didn’t need the extra coverage. We sat out side watching the stars slowly disappear behind the encroaching cloud until we felt spots of rain that had us diving for cover. The rain was short lived and the cloud passed leaving a clear sky with tumbling temperatures and rivers of condensation running down the tarp. Not that it mattered I was comfortably cocooned in my sleeping/bivi bag combo.

Saturday got off to a leisurely start despite the pre sunrise up farmyard cacophony of cockerels. Introductions and greetings were exchanged over breakfast and coffee. And several ideas for routes were proposed and debated. Two loose groups set off in differing directions with these breaking down into smaller groups as the morning progressed.

On the Wansdyke Path, West Woods

Ramblin’ Jay, Mark, Steve and I splintered from the group we started out with and headed on to pick up the ridge that ran from east to west along the northern edge of the vale. We loped over rolling down land in bright but breezy sunshine, stopping for a break in a small depression on the side of the chalk escarpment. I used the break to eat a home made gluten free pork pie and to flick the remaining moisture off my tarp and into the breeze.

The southern edge of the Marlborough Downs

At Adam's Grave on the Pewsey Downs Nature Reserve we headed south to Honey Street on the Kennet and Avon canal and in doing so the white horse on the hill side revealed itself as we retreated to the pub.

One of the many white horses

At the pub Mark and I discovered that a book we both owned had had a big influence us when we were much younger and was instrumental in getting me backpacking. The book was Derrick Booth’s The Backpackers Handbook. Even more bizarre was the fact that Mark, a fellow blogger, had written about the book and Derrick had contacted him. Here’s Mark’s post on the subject.

From the pub it was a easy ramble along the towpath to Wilcot. The sun was beaming and in the shelter of the vale it was hot enough to strip off the legs and walk in shorts to the campsite. Unlike the previous nights site this was more open and I was a bit concerned about my kit being on view under the tarp. Due to the prevailing wind the open end was facing across the site to the road which didn’t help. I cooked and chatted to others as they floated by and had a snooze before heading to the pub.

The following morning started grey and threatened rain. Ramblin’ Jay and I opted to take what was meant to be the most direct route back to the car. Along the canal, over a bridge and along the White Horse Trail north.

Ramblin 'Jay on the way

Everything was going to plan including the increasing dampness of the day until we headed up on another ridge near Oare and somehow we managed to drift slightly off route going further to the east than we needed to. We handrailed a fence and then a forest enclosure heading north, with the rain and clag reducing visibility and adding to the challenge. All way marking and signs of any footpath vanished so we dropped down across a meadow and located a path running along the edge of another enclosure. At the junction of this path and a track there was a OS map planning application that indicated that we had found our way back to the White Horse Trail and highlighted the dog leg diversion that we’d managed to take in doing so.

Before leaving Wilcot David Topley (the weekend’s organiser) had mentioned that the final leg of the route back to our starting point was through a field of maize that was head high and difficult to pass through. When we arrived at the field and we took one look and didn’t even bother. We circumnavigated the field, which in itself wasn’t without problems as we had several barbed wire fences to get over/under.

An enjoyable weekend where I made some new acquaintances, caught up with some old ones, and tried out some kit.

Monday, 9 November 2009

golite peak rucksack

Bob at BPL will have some pre-release stock of the above. And of course, as I really need another rucksack I’ve ordered myself one up in the tastefully subtle shades of black and grease, in the long back length.

The Peak looks like a mini me version of the Jam 2 with a stated weight of 765g and 40l capacity for the large back length model. Given this spec I’m expecting that the rucksack will get used for overnight trips or two or three night trips in warmer weather. But that won’t stop me from trying to stuff all I need in it for a longer trip to the Lakes should it arrive before the end of the month.

I’ll post a first impression review once I’ve got my hands on it.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

tgo challenge 2010

I've received an email from Roger Smith confirming that Liam and I have been successful with our application. I've just sent him a text with the news and his reply was - Oh fuck LOL. Probably because he now knows that he owes me the thirty quid fee.

Time to buy that copy of Scottish hill tracks then.

And I've spoken Darren as he spotted that I'd got a place, as has he.

Monday, 2 November 2009

normal service will be resumed

My blogging has taken the backseat over the last few weeks mostly due to stuff going on in my personal life; Some good things have happened and some not so good ones too.

The shenanigans around the house sale and purchase have finally finished and we have the date of 18th November for the move – hurray!

The ongoing issue around contact with my son is steadily improving and I spent four days with him last week. In the past, any time we had together was always put to good use, going to museums and the alike. So it was a joy just to spend time doing mundane every days things with him that I’ve not had the opportunity to do before. Although this time was nearly hijacked by the very people that are responsible for ensuring that he gets time with me. Go figure.

On the work front, El Bow the Iberian Archer, has paid a visit and I’ll be leaving at the end of this month. Not the best timing. I briefly toyed with the idea of doing the Pennine Way until Dave Mycroft pointed out that even with parts of it paved canoeing across some of the boggy bits (of which there’ll be many more of than say in September) will be required. Unless we get a stunning couple of weeks of deep freeze which is unlikely in this age of global warming.

Despite all this I still managed to fit in some backpacking and I’ve two trips to write up; The Vale of Pewsey BPC meet and the 1066 Country Walk weekend.

I’ve managed to pimp my audio arrangement thanks to some button pushing by Ben, I discovered that that the crossovers on the speakers was between the mid/tweeter units and the bass units. Why have the power amp driving the bass unit when I can harness it’s muscle to drive the mid range and tweeter instead? So I dropped Massive Attack’s Protection in the tray and had a listen to the first minute of the first track. I then powered down, swapped the leads, and replayed the track. The bass was leaner but the detail in the mid and treble was greater, and noticeably so. Sweet.