Wednesday, 23 May 2012

pennine way calamity

It started here... 

...And ended here.
And this is what happened in between... On the first day as I was crossing Featherbed Moss my right foot found a hole in one of the causey stones, a hole! This brought me crashing down knees on the the stones. Luckily my right foot didn't get trapped in the hole so I was saved a possible fracture. Both my knees were bloodied and bruised, and I'd torn a hole in my brand new TNF Meridian Pants. The fall shook me up so I proceeded with caution, some of the slabs were cracked, sunken or had 'puddles' on them and I didn't want to get caught again.

My left wrist and shoulder had taken a jolt and were complaining too. It wasn't until I started descending Torside Clough that the trouble began, my left knee was struggling and was very painful, I was barely able to put it down without wincing. On the flat my knee cheered up and I was able to make Crowden but not without a spasm or two. And my shoulder was happy to be free of the pressure of the rucksack.

I didn't get a good nights sleep despite walking 16 miles, I couldn't sleep on my left side, the bruises on my knees didn't like contact with the ground, and neither did my left knee like being flexed over the end of my NeoAir (it's a 3/4 length).

In the morning I looked at the map and guide book and there wasn't a great deal of decent involved so I decided to continue. The day went well but I wasn't enjoying myself; it was very blustery but the sun was shining. I arrived at Standedge and found the pub that allowed camping, luckily I arrived there at the time the manager was unloading her car. Luckily because they aren't open Mondays. She allowed me to camp, gave me a glass of 'pop', a cup of milk and several litres of water. And I liberated a bottle of Merlot from the wine rack - I had to pay for this but all else was free. Trail magic is what American hikers would call that.

Needless to state but I was in better spirits and the Merlot did it's trick and a good nights sleep was had only interrupted by a few showers, of strange sounding rain on the fly. (I was later to find out that it was hail!)

Rested and feeling more confident, although with a fifteen mile day ahead of me, I set off and made good time. The morning started to unravel as I descended the slope to the footbridge over the M62, my left knee was up to it's old antics again. I'd been walking solidly for a couple of hours so thought a rest would help. Unfortunately not this time. Crossing Black Rocks a few miles south of the halfway point I was in a great deal of distress; wincing pain, spasms and inability to co-ordinate my feet. A repeat of the descent of Torside Clough, I thought I'd never get to the road. Time for a short break, and I snacked on a codeine/ibuprofen pain killer; no point in messing around with pissy other pain killers get the one that's as legally as close to cocaine as you can get.

At the White House PH I had a pint of orange and soda, and with the help of a young local lad I had formulated my escape plan. There was a bus due in fifteen minutes to Littleborough, where I caught the train to Manchester, from Manchester I had a uneventful coach journey home.

The doctor diagnosed a torn ligament, banned me from walking until I'm healed and has put me on a months worth of anti-inflammatory tablets.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

pennine way preparation

With the news of a new job to start in June on TGO magazine I decided that now would be the ideal opportunity to put the spirit burner back under a long term but as yet unrealised project; the Pennine Way.

This last week I've been cooking, dehyrating, bagging  and vacuum packing three weeks worth of food; Borlotti Bean Chasseur, Soya Mince Chilli, and Cheesy Polenta are all on the menu amongst other stuff.

Along side this I've also been some gathering kit; a Power Chimp, a North Face Infiesto Fleece and a pair of Pacer Poles.

The Power Chimp runs on a pair of rechargeble AA batteries, and I've also bought an adapter to charge my Lumix camera battery. AA batteries are easy to come by so I'm hoping to keep my phone topped up to stay in touch. And my camera charged so I can continue to take snaps.

The North Face Infiesto Fleece is new to the TNF line and has been sent for review. The base fabric is Polartec Power Dry and seems thin compared to the TKA100 fleece that I usually use so I'll see how that works out.

Lastly are the Pacer Poles. I've been friends with Alan and Heather for a number of years now and when I caught up with them at the BPC AGM they'd heard the good news about the job and my plans about the Pennine Way, so offered to send me a pair of their carbon three piece poles to try. I've done my reading and my bag is packed.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

mammut t-trail and ambient light dry bag

When I saw this I just had to have one. I am after all a gear head and a sucker for cool looking kit. But most of all I like kit that has more than one purpose.

 Bag and head torch

The Mammut Ambient Light dry bag is a clever piece of innovation; it's a dry bag that doubles as a diffuser for the Mammut T-Trail head torch. Or any other that you could jury rig into place. It has a three litre capacity and weighs 54g, it's just the right size to hold my RAB Microlight Jacket in fact. It's not a coated fabric so should be immersible and I was told that you could use it to carry water by which I assume from a tap back to your tent. I've not filled it with water to see how it affects the diffusion as I want to keep it as a dry bag!

Lamp in place

The T-Trail head torch weighs 82g comparable to a Petzl Tikka. It has four settings; low, medium, high and flashing. This equates to a 10m spread with battery life of 80hrs for the low setting, 20m/40hrs for the medium and 30m/20hrs for the high. And it's powered by three AAA batteries. The lamp has a tilt function too.

In use

To set up the diffuser it's a simple matter of detaching the lamp from the head band, emptying the dry bag, shaping the bag, roll the top down four times and  slot the lamp in place at the bottom of the bag. On the high setting there is a good amount of light enough to fill my Hex3. The lantern can be placed on the ground or hung from the apex of your shelter. In smaller tents this might mean it will get in the way of your head space this wasn't an issue with the Hex3 as you would guess. Hanging the lantern upside down, that is with the lamp above the diffuser, gave the best performance. On the high setting you may need to pack a spare set of batteries if you're out for more than a couple of days in the darker days of the year but if you manage the usage then that shouldn't be an issue.

All in all a great piece of kit. Call 01625 508218 for your nearest stockist.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

kenco millicano wholebean instant

Having just blogged about Nescafe's instant coffee with added microground coffee I found Kenco's offering on the same take.

The box of ten sachets retails for £1.99, and each sachet weighs 2.5g. There's nothing on the packaging about how much water I needed to use, so I made up a mugful. And as expected the coffee had the all important creama on top.

And the taste? I think I prefer it to the Nescafe one.

With three different offerings now in the market place it looks like I'm going to have to hold a head to head blind tasting. Watch this space!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

pimp my hammock

Hugger, soft shackle and paracord sling in use.

The thing I've discovered about hammock camping is that it's ideal for those that love to tinker. And for those that like to MYOG.

As I discovered finding trees of a suitable thickness and distance apart is an art itself. This is where tweaking the suspension system is a valuable thing to do. Using whoopie slings gives a greater range to where you can set up your hammock because they are highly adjustable. Swapping out karabiners for soft shackles saves weight, each shackle weighs a miserly 3.5g compared to 75g for your average locking krab and does the same job. Both the shackles and whoopie slings use the same principle, made from Amsteel a coreless cord, a loop is made by inserting one end of the cord into itself. Thus when loaded locks on to itself - genius! Unloaded and the sling can be slacked off or tightened up as required. Tree huggers, 1" tape slings with stitched loops, spread the load across the trees bark preventing damage, along with two paracord slings complete the system. I got my set up from DD Hammocks, as I did my hammock.

A soft shackle

What's not to like? Well the longer the whoopie sling the more stretch in the system, so if you've had to pitch the hammock between two trees that are a way apart you could find yourself closer to the ground than you may like, even if you place the tree huggers at chest height. Despite the silly weight of the shackles the combined weight of the system versus the tapes that were supplied with the hammock only saves a paltry 14g. Using paracord slings rather than tape means the ends of the hammock are bunched tighter making the ends narrower, giving a more constricted feel around my head.

Hugger, shackle and whoopie sling in use.

It's difficult to pass judgement after only spending one night in a hammock so I intend to put in some more time in on a trip rather than in the controlled conditions of the backyard. But I did discover that getting into a sleeping bag with a short zip in a hammock isn't easy, so side opening one is a better option, or a quilt. Neither of which I own nor wish to purchase. I sleep on my side so I didn't feel quite as comfortable on my back. That said, I fell asleep watching the clouds scud across a star sprinkled sky, and awoke to early spring bird song.

bratwurst - food find

Bratwurst, like frankfurters, are precooked so only require heating through either by simmering in hot water or frying. And are similarly vacuum packed making them an ideal backpack provision, keeping for several days unopened. The net weight is 540g so plenty for two, although I managed to greedily devour a whole pack to myself.

I prefer to fry them because it adds a bit of colour as they are something of a sickly white colour. But don't let that put you off as they have a distinct flavour that marries well with pickled cabbage for example.

On a recent trip I sliced them and cooked them in my skillet, serving them up with instant mash. Other ideas could involve making a pasta sauce or some sort of stew.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

msr quick skillet

I love cooking. At home the two most used pots/pans are a large Le Creuset casserole and a frying pan or skillet as they are otherwise known. Apart from the more obvious job of frying things I use mine to make risottos, pilavs, chasseur sauces, pasta sauces, in fact anything that requires a large surface area allow the food to reduce down and concentrate the flavours.

Out on the trail I'm lazy, I fall back on the same two meals; cheesy polenta, and tuna and mash. Because they're simple, easy to prepare, tasty and filling. And in the depths of winter I don't want to be waiting around to eat.

Come the summer though, the days are longer and there's more time for messing around with fresh ingredients. Cooking uses more fuel so there's a weight penalty but this can be offset. Most campsites stock basic provisions, and there's a chance that you'll pass through a village where things can be bought and then carried for the last mile or so to the campsite. And vegetables don't need boiling to oblivion; red pepper, courgette, and mushroom are edible with the minimum amount of cooking.

The MSR comes with a folding detachable handle which means if you take any of the other pots or pans in the range only one handle is needed. It has a hard non stick finish which is essential for any frying pan/skillet, the capacity is 1.4l making it big enough to cook a meal for two. It's 5cm deep, has a diameter of 19cm and weighs 160g. The one thing it lacks is a lid but I'm sure I can fashion one out of an aluminium pie dish.

With the handle out there will be stability issues with stoves with small pot supports, although it's wise to hold any pot or pan by the handle when cooking especially whilst stirring the food.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

nescafe - food find

This is Nescafe's take on Starbuck's Via. Currently on offer for £1.00 at my local Sainsbury's. A box contains five sachets of instant coffee with added micro ground coffee, just like Via. Each sachet weighs 2.5g and the instruction state to use 200ml of water, so for a decent sized mug you might need two.

And the taste... as you'd expect the micro ground coffee adds taste particularly as you get the all important crema on top but it isn't as good as the Colombian Via because I prefer bolder flavoured coffee. But at the current promotional price it's hard not to like.