Archive for the 'Shiny new kit' Category

The simple things you see are all complicated…

Posted by on April 28th 2017 in A bit of a rant, In the garden, Shiny new kit
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A "Barrow-in-a-Box"... with only one moving part, seven components and a handful of nuts & bolts, drawing up accurate assembly instructions really ought to have been a doddle.

In an episode of madness we decided to defy male instinct and years of engineering & assembly experience. Instead, we followed the instructions to the letter, just to see how things would work out. What could possibly go wrong?

You can find the instructions here in .pdf format, but to save you the hassle I'll walk you through the odd bits.

First up - tools required. It says that I'd need a flat-bladed screwdriver for the M8 bolts which are parts 7 and 9:

but that's bollocks, parts 7 and 9 are all Torx-headed:

 

And then there are the 2-off front supports  - parts 6. Whoever specced the folding of the ends of these is an idiot:

And just for good measure, whoever made those supports didn't deburr them, so they have edges like ragged razors.

Eventually we bent the supports into submission with minimal effort, tightened all of the fittings, and stood back to admire our handiwork.

It doesn't live up to the expectations I had for it being a "HEAVY DUTY BUILDERS BARROW" (yes, on the box they omitted the apostrophe). Compared to my previous barrow it's cheap and tacky even though, allowing for inflation, I paid almost twice as much for it. The old one's front support was 32mm dia 1.5mm wall powder-coated steel tube and was part of the 2-piece welded-together braced frame, this one has those 2 pressed straps which, although described as "robust", appear to have been made from compressed KitKat foil - if I can bend them easily by hand, I can't see them withstanding the rated 150kg load for very long. They are bolted to a 3-piece 30mm dia 1mm wall painted steel frame that's held together by 2 bolts and wishful thinking.

After having previously had barrows with pneumatic tyres, and after having to replace the tyres or inner-tubes every few years due to punctures or perishing, this time I opted for a puncture-proof job. I've used such barrows before and they've been fine, but this one is awful - there's no "give" or "bounce" in the tyre, it may as well have had an iron-banded wooden wheel off an old hay-cart. The axle is the shank of a long M10 low-grade steel bolt sleeved with a bit of flimsy 12mm dia steel tube, unlike the old one which had an axle of hefty galvanised 32mm dia 2mm wall tube.

The tray's pre-galv steel is a gauge or two thinner than my old one and the edges are turned but not re-turned, so there are exposed sharp and ragged edges which have already cut my hands and gloves.

And the nuts... barrows have to put up with a lot of abuse, so there's a fair chance of nuts coming loose, therefore locking-washers or nyloc nuts are what's needed, but no, here we have low-grade soft-steel flanged nuts and no washers, except for the nut on the axle-bolt which isn't even flanged.

I'm not impressed. An Eastern European migrant builder may well think it's the Bentley of barrows, but a burly Brummie brickie would probably think it's more of a Trabant.

Hen’s teeth

Posted by on April 25th 2017 in Projects, Shiny new kit
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These are as rare as rocking-horse shit and could well be the world's last decent pair in my current size*:

Dutch Army DPM trousers. Renowned for their durable thicker temperate-rated fabric and for their superb no-drawcord no-belt-required waist-adjustment system which allows the waist-band for be resized +/- 2 inches, or the complete top-end to be opened, with minimal hassle.

I was lucky to find these, they were on Fleabay, described as "used, like new" or something like that. When they arrived I was pleased to see that they were unissued, unmarked and still in their original unopened military packaging. Result!

But this could be the last pair I ever find. I might have to make the move to temperate-weight MTP jobs which don't have the same durability and versatility. That said, I do already have some ongoing projects involving MTP 🙂

Air Arms S200 Mk II with HuMa external regulator, quick-fill & gauge, Mobius ActionCam (25mm lens) & USB power-bank, a GBFO scope and some MTP tape.

It's a work-in-progress 🙂

* 80-96-112 or 7585/9000 - another work-in-progress 🙁

Optimism

Posted by on February 19th 2016 in Bargains, Shiny new kit

The trouble with being "unbusy" is that it allows too much time to spot online bargains.

Since being told that I'd have to wait about 18 months to be well enough to get back in the mountains, I've been snapping up outdoors kit at fairly decent prices.

I nabbed some new Keen Newport H2 sandals to replace my ~10yo originals which have been stuck back together (not to each other, obviously) too many times. A bargain at a reduced price of £48, even better with a 25% discount on selected items code, and only £3.95 p&p. So, less that £40 all in. Tops! Milletsports (not to be confused with Millets) was the place to be looking that day - the deal was for only my size, in an acceptable colour-scheme (India Ink and Rust?!?!) and the 25% discount was applicable that day, so I was just plain lucky and I'm not complaining. Go have a look online and see if there's anything that floats yer boat.

Then I found the almost half-price Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee in my size and with free P&P at Joe Brown. It's a brilliant bit of kit for the money - works as baselayer or midlayer, asymmetrical zip, hood, face-guard, drop-hem... so many good features, and perfect for the recently-shaven bonce & chin.

Resistance was futile.

I may post pics soon depending on camera availability and whether I can be arsed. I doubt that anyone will be interested in a review of the Keens, but I sure as hell want to be wearing that ME Hoodie up a mountain for the first time during Late Spring 2016, not during Summer 2017 as the doom-mongers predict, so I might try to hash together a review with pics of it in action before the garment is discontinued. I'll have to regain some body-bulk beforehand though. And some hair would be welcome too.

The kids made me do it

Posted by on August 31st 2014 in In the garden, Shiny new kit
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After seeing Avatar they've acquired a liking for digital camo:

Instead of shelling out about £40 for a set of branded pre-cut vinyls I saved myself 90% by taking the cheaper option from eBay.

I doubt that the Woodpigeons and Grey Squirrels can see any improvement.

Pop gun

Posted by on June 27th 2014 in In the garden, Shiny new kit
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When I was a kid I was never allowed anywhere near anything like this:

Now I'm 40 years older and getting into this "growing old disgracefully" malarkey, so I thought that I might as well give it a pop.

It's a tad more interesting than reading all of that Saga Holiday junkmail 🙂

Here's the business-end:

Shooting with the fibre-optic irons is OK but I'm hoping that a suitable scope will be forthcoming on my birthday. After all, I've dropped enough subtle hints.

FWIW

Delivery mileage only

Posted by on March 24th 2014 in A bit of a rant, Shiny new kit

Due to the disintegration and subsequent disposal of my "holy" Trezeta Peaks I was in the market for a new pair of knocking-about boots. Nothing technical, just something suitable for the lowland walking required as part of the cardiac rehab programme.

I found some on clearance on the Go Outdoors website - the reviews were middling but the price was right so I took a chance and ordered a pair. All I had to do was sit back and wait for them to arrive.

Of course, that's when it started to go awry. Go Outdoors did their bit perfectly - I was kept informed via email and they sent me a working tracking-number. It was the courier that managed to conjure a balls-up from what should have been an easy process. I waited in on the assigned day, referring hourly to the tracking page that kept telling me that the goods had been scanned as "out for delivery" at 08:45 on Tuesday. Sometime after 16:00 I checked again only to find it telling me that I'd been "carded" at... wait for it... 10:24. No way! I'd been in all day, at no time more than 30ft from the door, and I'd seen nowt, heard nowt, and there wasn't a card.

I got Go Outdoors to contact the courier to find out WTF was going on. The courier insisted that he'd called at and left a card at our house, "the one with a white door" but he couldn't confirm that the door bore the correct number. Hmm... most of the houses in our Close have a white door. Anyway, the boots were on their way back to the distribution hub and couldn't be redelivered that day. I insisted on a redelivery before noon the next day.

Not content with the Tuesday balls-up, the courier tried to compound the error on Wednesday. True, he did arrive in good time, but my correction of his "Hello, mate" to "Hello, sir" didn't go down well and the parcel he bore didn't look right. He got annoyed when I took the time to inspect what I was being asked to sign for - it was an insulated polystyrene crate with "Fresh Food - Handle With Care" or something similar printed on the sealing-tape. I took great pleasure in refusing to sign for it, pointing out bluntly that he really should try harder to match the address digits on the package label with either of the two sets of digits identifying my property - the food parcel was for number 11, we're at 20-something. After uttering a curse he took back the food parcel and threw it through his open driver's door. It hit the passenger door and fell onto the seat, I assume that the contents didn't benefit from the impact.

After much rummaging in the back of his van he emerged with another package. "Definitely yours, mate!", he proclaimed. "Definitely yours, sir!", I insisted. Of course, I took some time to inspect the package, just to be sure, but eventually I signed for it and took it indoors. I expected him to return immediately to his van but in a final act of dumbness he looked around, turned back to me and asked "Which one is Number 11, mate?"

What else could I say?

"You mean "Which one is Number 11, sir". Try the one with the white door".

He scowled and drove the 20 or so yards to number 11. Or it could have been any number between 9 and 14, I really couldn't have cared less.

I think that there's a lesson to be learned here - courier drivers should be capable of visually comparing digits even if they're unable to actually count.

Oh, and I've yet to find out who received the card, if it ever actually existed.

Anyway, the boots are fine. So far they've been walked into town and back and have done light duty in the garden and around the house. Later this week I might treat them to a walk to the pub followed by a stagger home. I'll keep you posted about how they fare in wilder parts.

 

Trezeta Cyclone Mids. Cheap, very comfortable, durability TBD.

Review – Berghaus Faroe Softshell Jacket

Posted by on May 13th 2013 in My reviews, Shiny new kit

This item has been supplied on a "review-and-keep" basis by an agent representing Berghaus.

The jacket being reviewed is the Men's Faroe WINDSTOPPER® Softshell Jacket, the relevant Berghaus web-page is currently here, and here's a screenshot of that web-page:

 

 

This jacket was billed by Berghaus as "a perfect lightweight barrier for those cool, breezy, summer trails" and they claimed that "The WINDSTOPPER® Softshell fabric will stop wind chill in its tracks and the 4-waystretch AF softshell fabric allows you to stay mobile". Well, now I've had time to test the thing and to see how it stood up to expectations.

Let's start with the general fit. I'm a medium bloke, that's the size of jacket that I tested and yes, the jacket did fit. It's not a what you'd call a "technical" or a "sporty" fit, it's straight up-and-down and relies on stretch to go around my middle-age curves even when the only garment under it is a lightweight baselayer. Basically it's fine on the shoulders, chest, belly and waist but it's tight around the arse, making the hem draw-cord system redundant:

 

 

As you can see, the jacket's arms are long enough for the cuffs to stay put during extension and there's a bit of a back-end drop-tail that doesn't ride up more than an inch. The light-blue "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side/underarm panels are responsible for that, they stretch really well. There is a downside to that fabric but I'll come to that later. In short, wherever you put your arms, the rest of the jacket stays where it should be. Ideal for dodgy folk with dodgy armpits:

 

 

Now, let's look at some of the details. Pockets, zips, cuffs and that sort of thing. Here's a full-frontal:

 

 

What juicy bits can we see here?

  • A one-way front zip with an anti-snag strip and a puller-garage thing at the top end but no beard-guard. The zip's nice and smooth as you'd expect from YKK.
  • Hem draw-cords: Two off, single-handed, externally-adjustable.
  • Collar: Comfy when up, won't stay folded down. A snug fit around a 15" neck when fully zipped up: 

     

  • Cuffs: These are a bit cheap and naff. They're ever-so-slightly elasticated and there are no adjusters. This means that they're too slack (and hence not windproof) on the wrist but don't allow the sleeves to be pulled or rolled up over the forearm: 

    Cuff detail

     

     Too slack

     

     Too tight

 

  • The two pockets are zipped (again with smooth YKKs and puller-garage things at the top ends). The zips don't chafe wrists and the pockets are roomy and well-placed for casual hands-in-pockets walking (but a tad too low if you're carrying a pack with a hip-belt). With hands in pockets the "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side-panels stretch forwards to give some volume to the pocket area: 

     

     

    The pocket inners are mesh which means lightweight but also draughty when open. If you're using this jacket as a windproof and you're using the pockets to keep your hands out of the wind, you get a draught around the torso. That said, the mesh inners are sewn in on three sides so they form pockets that can be accessed internally. As you can see, they're plenty big enough for a folded OS map:

     

     

  • Those "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" side/underarm panels... they both make and break this jacket. As I've stated, they allow a full range of arm-movement and they stretch forward to allow the pocket area to expand... but they're NOT windproof at all! Stand in a wind and you get cold armpits and more torso draughts. In short, they work wonders for achieving fit and flex, but they completely ruin the windproof potential of this garment:

     

     

     

Overall, the construction is sound - the fabric panels are overlocked and then stitched through, it's generally neat stitch-work and there were no dangly threads to snip off before use.

So, is it really a softshell? Well, no. It is soft but it isn't a shell. There's no working DWR and the main fabric (WINDSTOPPER® Softshell) is windproof but isn't showerproof. The "4-waystretch AF softshell fabric" is so permeable that it leaks air and water like a sieve. To be fair, if it had been promoted as a general lightweight summer jacket then I would have been OK with it.

Would it have been worth the £110 RRP? No, because it doesn't do what it says in the advertising blurb.

I suppose a lot depends on what you're used to. Rab make excellent softshells and Montane make excellent windproofs. This garment tries to compete but doesn't really cut the mustard in either category. Mind you, this jacket was part of the Berghaus Spring/Summer 2011 range. The 2013 range may well be a lot better - the Men’s Cadence WINDSTOPPER® Softshell Jacket seems to be the current equivalent (and a tenner cheaper) but for that outlay you could have the Men’s Pordoi Softshell Jacket with a hood and more (and better-placed) pockets, and which looks to be an altogether-better bit of kit.

Details of the current range of Berghaus softshell jackets can be found at http://store.berghaus.com/c/jackets/mens/softshell-jackets

Anyway, I'll continue to use it and I'll try to like it. If my opinions change I'll let you know.

Ah, that’s better

Posted by on January 12th 2013 in Shiny new kit, Thanks

As you know, I've had my fill of poor customer service recently.

I can now report that good order is beginning to be restored. Top marks go to Nevisport, who took the time to do it right and wasted no time in sending the goods. Furthermore, they were kind enough to extend the 14-day returns period so that I could buy on Boxing Day and still have a return option up until the end of January, thus covering a rather important birthday.

To be fair, I don't think there's the slightest chance of me sending them back. Right now there's no way that Chris is going to be parted from her new Scarpa SL M3s.

Thanks, Nevisport!

 

Proper boots, none of yer Jessiehiker membrane rubbish.

Lucky Bs

Posted by on November 24th 2012 in Bargains, Shiny new kit

No, not

 🙂

I'm on about the Extremities® Lucky Bags that Terra Nova have on sale here.

I ordered a couple after reading about them on Grahame's blog - see here.

So, what did we receive?

Chris got these:

Winter Hacking Gloves (RRP £27.00)

 Boreas Windy Took Hat (RRP £29.00)

 Merino Took Hat (Est £25.00)

Super Neck Gaiter (RRP £21.00?)

 I got these:

Lightweight Mountain Mitts (RRP £80.00) - outers on the left, inners on the right

 Balaclava (RRP £22.00)

 

 Windy Took Hat (RRP £26.00)

and between the two of us we got five mini-karabiners and a bottle-opener:

Unless I've lost the ability to do basic addition, that lot comes to a total of £230.

Yes, I know that Extremities® kit can be had from discount outlets such as TKMaxx, but I've yet to see the Mountain Mitts there for less than £20.

I'd say that these Lucky Bags are worth getting. If you're considering getting one, act soon - they're going fast.

  Now, you'll have to pardon me but I have to get back to the fight for possession of that Merino Took!

Oh and if you're wondering what a Took is, this might help.

Review – Vango Banshee 300 – Re-jigged

Posted by on June 25th 2012 in Shiny new kit, Testing for review

I've re-jigged the lines on the front-end of the Vango Banshee 300. I didn't like the way the running-loops at the line-lok ends ran through fabric loops on the vent-flap, there was potential for "sawing" during adjustment. Also, having vee-lines meant that it was impossible to adjust the angle of the vent-flap without altering the angle of the line that pulls out the centre of the end wall - the direction of pull there should be fixed. Weightwise I've measured nowt but I've lost a yard of line and gained a peg and a line-lok. If there's any extra to carry it's hardly going to break my back, is it?

Anyway, here's what it looked like out-of-the bag:

 

 

 Front with original (dodgy) guy configuration - 2 vee-lines and 2 pegs

 

And here are a couple of shots showing the new config:

 

 

 Front with revised guy configuration - 3 single lines and 3 pegs

 

 

 As previous

 

There, that's better. You can't beat having adjustable flaps  🙂

Next I'll be adding a webbing-strap across the secondary entrance. Experiments with a bit of shock-cord indicated that it makes getting the correct pole-spacing much easier on that side, leading to less strain on the entrance-zips.

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