Wednesday, 25 September 2013

trekmates travel towel

 TrekMates TravelTowel

My approach to personal hygiene on the trail is akin to that of a young boy’s aversion to soap and water. With a few exceptions; I brush my teeth, wash my hands before preparing food, and after going to the loo. I may even splash water on my face if the occasion calls for it, which isn’t often. On some trips I’ll have a wet wipe sleeping bag bath. With all these there is no need for a towel and if needs be I can dry myself with either my buff or bandana. And there’s the fickle nature of the campsite shower; on some sites the showers are free, on others there’s a charge, occasionally no shower at all, and as for the temperature of the water… let’s not get started on that one.

However on longer trips, and especially on those in hotter climes, I’ll pack a towel. Microfibre towels like the TrekMates TravelTowel are a stock item; soft to the touch, absorbent and quick to dry. The towel has a handy loop so that I can hang it off my rucksack or tree, fence… you get the idea.

Mine came from Silverfox Travel and Outdoors and is currently on offer at £6.99.

lentil and cheese slices

Lunch is served

It’s often a good thing to get a fresh pair of eyes on things. The subject of food is very close to my heart and a regular topic of conversation with others who have an interest in the same subject. Inevitably I’d end up quizzing people with what they pack for lunch.

The basis of my lunch is oatcakes along with pate or squeezy cheese, not exactly exciting fare but does the job especially when bolstered with the usual suspects such as dried fruit and nuts, fresh fruit, chocolate or cereal bars. On rare occasions, I’ll bake a gluten free flat bread flavoured with cheese, garlic and rosemary.

After a couple of trips, the oatcakes and mushroom pate had lost their appeal, and I was out of gluten free bread mix for making flat bread, so one of the group volunteered to make some lentil and cheese slices ‘for a change’. My first thought was, ‘What amount of carbohydrate (CHO) are these going to have?’ because although pulses are high in CHO not all of it can be digested. Her recipe, below, cunningly includes gluten free bread crumbs to increase the amount CHO. These will keep for a couple of days so make a great option for weekend trips. They don’t have to be an exclusive lunch item – I’d happily have a slice as part of breakfast or supper!

Lentil and cheese slices

225g split red lentils, rinsed
450ml water
1 onion
25g butter
100g strong cheddar
1 tsp mixed herbs
2 slices of gluten free bread
1 free range egg


Cook the lentils in the measured water until soft and all the liquid has been absorbed. Chop the onion, then melt the butter in the saucepan and fry the onion until transparent. Combine all the ingredients together and press into an oiled 23cm swissroll tin. Bake in the oven at 190c for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and cut into wedges, wrap the wedges in foil, any that aren’t going into the rucksack can be frozen. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

frio cooling wallets

Double pen wallet in use, and wide wallet dry
Now that summer has finally arrived I dug my Frio wallets out of my gear box to keep my daily use insulin pens cool. Insulin degrades at heat so it is important to keep it at a temperature where this doesn’t happen, and this is exactly what these do.

They come in a range of sizes to suit, I use the double pen wallet and the wide wallet for storage of spare cartridges. The Frio is a very effective and simple device, you simply drop the inner into water, and the gel pellets swell up retaining the liquid. In the heat the water evaporates and cools the contents using the principle of latent heat of evaporation. Simply, to turn water from liquid to vapour requires energy and that is taken from the contents of the wallet, the insulin and pen, and cools it down. Clever, simple and effective.

 Double pen wallet

The wallets are made from a black breathable fabric; breathable to allow the process to work, and black optimises the process by absorbing heat. So it’s best to carry these in an outside pocket, a mesh one is obviously best, if you have them.

I’ve used these on my travels for over ten years now without a problem. The only downside I can think of is having my life sustaining drugs in an outside pocket which could make them vulnerable to breakage. However that is easily remedied by having a spare set carried by someone else, which is sensible at any time of the year – unless of course you’re going solo.

Available here

Friday, 5 July 2013

merrell trail gloves

Merrell Trail Gloves

I was toying with the idea of trying a pair of these for backpacking last year but for whatever reason I never got around to buying a pair. Fortunately for me I got sent a pair of Trail Gloves for review.

Merrell Trail Gloves utilizes barefoot technology something that I’ve been intrigued about although from what I’ve read it is a matter of great debate in the runner world. I usually wear Innov8 Terroc 330’s for walking and general use so in order to make the transition I wore the Trail Gloves on the walk in to work and home not a great distance but enough to start to see how they work. It was still fairly cool (and let’s face it we haven't had much of a summer) but my feet stayed comfortable with the mesh top apart from in the keenest of breezes but I’m used to that with the Terrocs. Despite a reservation about how thin the sole of the shoe might be, they coped with walking over the nobbled dropped kerbs at road crossing. And I went out of my way to find as many different surfaces as I could.

Off track run

I then progressed to longer walks and short jogs. And it was the later that I found the most interesting my feet felt incredibly ‘free’ and I started getting a taste for running! This was something of a shock because I’d never really fancied the idea probably being put off by enforced cross-country runs whilst at school. I’m incredibly lucky living close to Richmond Park as that meant that I was able to make use of the park to run in but also pick a route that had climbs, descents, streams and logs to up in other words it was interesting and fun (and a bit like cross country but far removed from an urban north London ones I had earlier experienced).

I was about to progress to using them on a backpacking trip when I suffer an injury to my knee, the left one which I pranged on the Pennine Way a little over a year ago. Not by running, walking, biking or climbing but by trying to fix a light. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Nice drop to stream and rise in distance

I’m working hard with the treatment so that I can get back out running, and of course filling my Golite Peak with a few bits and pieces for gentle backpacking trip as I don’t want to overdo it too soon. 

Merrell footwear is available from

Thursday, 7 March 2013


Currently experiencing some technical difficulties, normal service will resume in due course.