Thursday, 11 August 2011

eurohike backpacker tent - first look

Front view

I was asked to select a tent from those that Millets stock so naturally I went for the Eurohike Backpacker. As it would appear very odd for me to post a review on something that has a frame, sleeps four or more people, and requires the use of a car to transport it!

The tent is a two person, two hooped tunnel one that weighs 2335g without the peg and pole stuff sacks. Splitting the bits between two gives roughly similar weighing bundles. The poles are colour coded as the rear of the tent is lower but it's obvious which one should go where. The height at the front of the tent is 90cm which is too low for me. The inner is solid with mesh at the top at the front and rear, it also has a pocket either side and a hook at the apex, nice touches but pretty standard these days. The space in the inner is what I'd call cozy for two with little room for storage. This isn't too much of an issue because there's space between the inner and outer to store stuff, and whatever you can get down under your feet. The porch space is quite roomy too. Access to the inner is by a left biased D door, and I would personally like it wider on the right to make it easier to get in or out without trampling on your partner.

Offset entrance

It pitches outer first which is always a bonus in the UK because we have weather not a climate! The outer has four guying points, two on each hoop, given that tunnel tents have little rigidity across the width of the tent it does flap. Pitching it tail to the wind would help but I'd be inclined to double the number of guys using the second set to add rigidity to the poles. The outer has two vents at either end to aid ventilation with the rear one with a Velcro closure. The door opens on the left so you can create an area that is covered and ventilated should you need to cook under cover. As already mentioned the porch space is good, easily accommodating a two pairs of footwear even smallish rucksacks. But with the entrance to the side I'd keep the area uncluttered which would make it easier to get in and out of.

Baggy bottom

There is a slight design flaw with the tent. The foot end of the inner clips to the guy out loops of the outer unfortunately as these guy out points are elastic and the pull on these by the inner means that the flysheet wouldn't set properly and became baggy This meant it flapped, and didn't shed water as well as it should. To remedy this I used an extra two groundsheet spikes. Although I didn't try this it may be possible to rig extensions to the inner clip out points, to save carrying the extra pegs. This is a shame because as a budget tent it has it's plus points but it's let down by this.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

mrs crimble's crackers

Finding a decent bread substitute for a backpacking lunch is a pain when on a gluten free (GF) diet. Doubly so because I'm a diabetic and need carbohydrate (CHO) to count against the insulin that I inject.

So lucky for me that I was approached by a PR company, The Ideas Network, who's client is Mrs Crimble's, and they sent me three boxes of cheese crackers to try. As it happens at the beginning of this week I was completing the last leg of the South Downs Way, and whilst in the general store in Alfriston I spotted a box of these crackers, so naturally I bought a box.

The three varieties are Original Cheese, Sundried Tomato and Pesto, and Rosemary and Onion, typical Mediterranean flavours then. Nutritionally they all contain 63.8% CHO however the flavoured crackers have few more calories than the plain ones. I like cheese flavoured biscuits because they can be eaten without any spread or topping, and, if you're lucky to have some, they go really well with sliced chorizo or salami.

Each box contains 7 servings of 4 crackers, giving 11.5g CHO per serving, so to suit my need I'd be looking at having a third of a box for lunch when out on the trail.

The crackers are very crisp, and like all gluten free biscuits and crackers they need careful packing because they will break up. Unsurprisingly it's because it's the gluten in wheat and other grains that hold bread, biscuits, etc together. Another point to note is that GF products are usually made from a mix of various starches, and potato starch likes absorbing moisture given any opportunity. Storage in an air tight container is a must, especially as the crackers aren't packed in portions. That said if there were two of you then sharing a box would solve that issue.

The flavouring isn't overpowering like some others I've tried. I'm always wary when food stuff has onion flavouring as usually several hours after eating I can still taste the onion, not so in this case. And I particularly like the crunchy crispness of the crackers.

I'm glad I was offered the opportunity to try these as they will help break up the monopoly that oat cakes have had on my lunch breaks.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

stealth camping - the rules

Olympiad training ground?

The first rule of stealth camping is... well, there is no stealth camping. And if you're stealth camping and get discovered then you've obviously not been stealthy enough.

Here's my 'guidance' on how to be stealthy - or not.

Bushcrafters wear green and drab coloured clothing for a reason. Wearing a day glo red synthetic base layer isn't going to help. Unless you happen to be hunkering down in an azalea or rhododendron plantation in April.

Similarly the same goes for your shelter. A Vango Force Ten? Too large profile, and foot print. And even in an azalea or rhododendron plantation in April you'd be hard pressed to hide something that orange. Even a green coloured tarp might be too high a profile; how often do you see green pyramids in the woods when you take your dog for a walk?

Planning on taking a mate? Make sure that s/he isn't a prospective gold medal winner in the 2012 British Olympic Snoring team. Or for that matter, whether you're a similarly aspiring Olympiad.

Using the shelter of the woods is often a ploy of would be stealth campers. However the woods are home to a myriad of munchers that range in size, from the micro sized muncher such as the mosquito, to much larger munchers, badgers or foxes, that have been know to munch rucksacks to get at morsels of food. That said if you're ensconced with one of the above Olympiads chances are that their training will keep the larger munchers away. Sadly micro sized munchers like mosquito's are indiscriminate and will not be deterred by snoring however loud.

So you've found a spot just off the track and someone has helpfully built a lean-to out of rotten branches, and put a black spot on the soil marking the spot where you should light a fire, should you fancy one. Think again, it's probably a trap set by rangers or wardens. Or if not they will certainly know of the place, and so will everyone else.

There is no smoke without fire; avoid being the centre of an arson investigation, leave the stove at home. Whilst wood gas stoves like the Bush Buddy are really efficient, if you can't get really dry wood you'll have a lovely pall of smoke hanging over your camping spot. The equivalent of you putting a poster up on the trail side saying, "I'm in here, on the right, behind the huge thicket." And even if the smoke dissipates some vigilant passer by may get a whiff of it and come and investigate.

Dog walkers do take their dogs out for a walk before seven in the morning.

the shropshire hills - caer caradoc

Looking back to Helmeth and Ragleth Hills

In his book the Shropshire Hill Country Vincent Waite says this of Caer Caradoc, "Caer Caradoc is likely to be the first choice of a climber because of its commanding height, bold outline and historical interest." And indeed it was the first of the hills we bagged.

We approached the hill from the east leaving the car at the parking spot under Hope Bowdler Hill. In the Cicerone guide David Hunter's route starts from the car park in Church Stretton but as we drove down from the campsite past this spot it made sense to start from here, especially as there was space. Parking is limited to half a dozen cars but it's free. Unlike the car park in town which is much larger and costs.

What you don't realise if you climb up the eastern slope is how steep and airy the western edge is, it falls dramatically down to the busy A49 and Church Stretton. On our visit there was a lot of haze that so we weren't able to make out much more than the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones. On one of those cold clear days you could see into Wales. But only if it was a still cold day otherwise the only thing you'd make out is the tears streaming out of your eyes, even in the relatively gentle breeze that day my eyes started to well up.

Caer Caradoc is one of the places that Caractacus is said to have made his last stand against the Romans. It's know that the battle took place somewhere in Shropshire but not exactly where, and there are other hills nearby that have the same name. Whether the battle took place here or not it was certainly a settlement because the flat-ish summit is ringed with earthworks. And the imagination is stirred further by the tower-like rock structures that dot the edges of the summit. I could just see these towers, manned by a small bunch of plucky picts throwing rocks, spears and firing arrows at the overwhelming numbers of Roman Legionnaires as they marched up the unremittingly steep slopes.

From Little Caradoc, with Lawley and the Wrekin (in the distance)

From the summit of Caer Caradoc we dropped to the lower peak of Little Caradoc before descending further to pick up the track that runs along the eastern edge of the hill, and we followed this back towards the car.