Archive for the 'Bargains' Category

Not so smart now, eh?

Posted by on March 11th 2011 in A bit of a rant, Bargains, Discounts, Shiny new kit

Virgin Mobile are doing free smartphones on discounted tariffs for Virgin Media customers so I decided to get me a HTC Wildfire. Ordered yesterday, delivered today, everything was looking good...

I got the old and the new phones into Bluetooth mode so as to get the contacts and calendar entries shuffled across, they do connect but the data wouldn't transfer due to some incompatibility thing. First fail. No worries, I thought, I can set it up for connection to the laptop and for transfer of contacts and calendar entries...

Second fail was on page 4 of the quick-start guide - "Please make sure to copy HTCDriver.exe from your phone's microSD card and install it to your computer". Easy enough, you'd think, but said file wasn't there. After some effing and blinding I found out that things have moved on since the guide was printed, and the file needed from the card is now HTC Sync_3.0 5422.exe so I started to install that only to be told to temporarily disable all anti-virus software. WTF? That's got to be a bad thing these days. I class it as the third fail. Needless to say it was necessary, so I risked it and managed to get away without letting any nasties.

Then the lappy was suddenly running the HTC Sync software in readyness for the USB connection to the Wildfire. Looking good again.

So I connected the phone and it installed but wouldn't connect to HTC Sync. More effing and blinding until I Googled and found out that "USB Debugging" had to be enabled in the phone. Amazingly, there's nothing in the guide or the handbook about the need to do that. Fourth fail.

Eventually it connected, and I told it to transfer contacts and calendar details from my Outlook 2000 installation, which I'd recently synced with the old phone.

No dice. "Unable to copy contacts from PIM" was the message. Oh, FFS! Fifth fail.

Next option was to export from Outlook to a .csv file, import that into gmail and then use the Wildfire to read-in the info. I fired up Outlook and went through the export routine only to be informed that the import/export facility hadn't been installed and that I'd need the Office 2000 installation disk. Fail six. Took me over an hour to find that, I was beginning to lose the will to live.

Eventually I did the export, I even set up a gmail account, I even got as far as doing the read-in using the phone but it's all gone tits-up - the data looks like it's been chucked in from a distance by a blind troll, hardly any of the names have the correct numbers or email addresses. Fail seven.

The phone may well be smart, but the software's shite and the ensuing jumping-through-of-hoops has led me to the conclusion that most of my free time tomorrow will be spent doing manual entry of data for the 237 contacts in my address book.

Arse!

Oh, and it occurs to me that I won't be out of the woods even then - Chris and Anna both got new smartphones too, and it's Muggins here who'll have to do all the setting up for them.

The Buttermere trip – a quick gear roundup

Posted by on November 4th 2010 in Bargains, Great Escapes, Shiny new kit
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Just thought I'd do a short post about some of the kit that my family used during our recent trip to Buttermere. There's not much here to excite the lightweighters out there but when kitting out a family sometimes value-for-money is a more important consideration than grammes-per-litre, and often cheap doesn't mean bad.

Footwear

I wore my AKU Crodas, Ella wore hers. Neither of us had any issues, they were nice and comfy. Chris was breaking-in her Scarpa Mantas - it was her first full-day outing in these stiff boots and they were obviously overkill for the route and the conditions, but they did need to do some mileage before being used in anger. Aside from an issue with the fit around her ankles, they were fine. Anna wore an old pair of hand-me-down Hi-Tec mids, no idea which model, they were fine too. We've promised her some new boots next year. Despite the bog-trotting and beck-crossings, we all enjoyed dry feet all day.

Regarding the performance of the Fitness Footwear test-and-review samples, I wore the Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slams for the walk to and from The Fish on Thursday night and they were fine (apart from the squeakiness), even in the wet. If Friday hadn't been forecast to be wet all day, I'd have worn them on the hill too, but the AKUs got the vote at the last minute. The Salomon Exit Aeros were a dead loss - comfy for driving but dangerously slippery even when getting out of the car and stepping onto a damp motorway-services car-park.

Other Clothing

I was trying out some different socks - for many years I've used only Thorlo KXs, KXLs or STs, but I'd seen some Wed'ze RNS 700 ski/snowboarding socks in Decathlon and I'd decided to try a pair. Actually, they're not bad - nice and long, padded in the right places, thin in the right places, and they stay up!

Packs

I carried the LA Alpine Attack 40 - my standard any-season day-pack for a few years now. It's a tough, solid performer with few techie bits, the easy-access external crampon-pocket this time being used for the bothy-shelter instead of the JetBoil PCS. Ella used her Berghaus Womens Freeflow III 35+8, the shape and the back-size are both perfect for her. Chris was using a new Quechua pack - the Forclaz 25 Air - she said it was a good carry. It's got some nice features for a sub-£25 pack, such as decent-sized and well-placed belt-pockets, a lurid green stowaway rain-cover, and a comfy air-cooling system mesh back. With the rain-cover deployed, there was no way that we would have lost her! Anna had a new Quechua pack too - the Arpenaz 20 - and it was just right for her slight frame.

Shelter/Safety

I figured that having some sort of shelter for the kids during snack-breaks would be a good idea, so I took the Terra Nova Bothy 4. It turned out to be a good call - the kids enjoyed sitting/eating/playing in it. I might invest in a bigger version for whenever we walk with another family.

Obviously we carried, used or wore many other items, but other than the above there was nothing to write home about.

Decathlon gear-raid

Posted by on October 16th 2010 in Bargains, New tricks for an old dog, Shiny new kit

Just got back from a raid on the Nottingham branch of Decathlon. As usual they have a range of bargains and we took advantage in order to kit-out the kids for the winter. I'd been keeping my hands in my pockets pretty well - up until the final minutes all I'd put in the basket was a pair of fleece gloves for a quid, a couple of dehydrated packet-meals at £4.99 a shot and a pair of socks for about the same.

 

But then I found these:

 

TSL 225 Rando snooshows

 

 

Yep, that's £69.00 reduced to £44.99

Bargain!

Sold!

FWIW, they had one pair left when we departed.

------ ooooo OOOOO ooooo -----

Additional pics:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More snippets

In no particular order...

 

  • The AKU Crodas are wearing-in nicely, they should be ready for a decent walk at the first opportunity. The soles are quite grippy now that the as-moulded shiny slip-on-yer-arse finish has worn off, and the uppers are now a fair fit to my feet.
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  • The Trezeta Peaks are now past their best, the toe-rand having worn through down past the membrane. These superbly-comfortable boots never did make it on a proper hike, but they've served well as wear-dailys for all sorts of duties.
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  • The Scarpa SLs, of course, are always on stand-by. Like dependable old friends, they're always there when you need them.
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  • I've broken a long habit of not wearing any socks other than Thor-Los... I've been trying some cheapo Crane Trail walking socks from Aldi. Tactel-lined and with a light sprinkling of Lycra, they seem to be doing rather well considering the £2.99 price-tag. I doubt that they'll cover the same mileage as my standard KXLs, but that's to be expected when they cost about a tenner less. The STs have been stashed in the kitbox awaiting the next outing of the winter boots.
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  • I'm still managing to resist the temptation of a pair of MSR Lightning Ascents in readiness for next winter. What's the betting that when the snow's back, I'm still snowshoeless?
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  • Likewise, the acquisition of a Scarp 2 has been resisted, not least because I'm still waiting on the availability of a UK-version fly as per the Scarp 1 changes detailed by Martin. Now that Alpkit are on the subs' bench in the tentage game, I'll have to wait and see what their two-person and geo offerings are like.
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  • Talking of outdoorsy stuff, we'll be off for our Annual Wildie together sometime in the next month, with the intention of bagging a few more Wainwrights. Expect details in due course.
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  • Furthermore, two family-rooms have been booked at Buttermere YHA for an autumnal weekend. This worked out quite well, as we're paying with Tesco Clubcard Rewards Tokens, our stash having been boosted by 1218 due to the purchase of a new washing-machine from said emporium.
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  • There's been much ado in the garden - the snowdrops and daffs have retired, giving way to bluebells and to the blossoms of the pear, the cherry and the plum. Remarkably, I've even got off my butt and done my bit - the lawns have been cut twice and even the hedge has been shorn. The old willow-tree is sending out new growth from where we had it hacked, so there's still hope for it.
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  • House-wise I'm back to the hell that is known as plastering. Ella's room needed a revamp, but it seems that the only thing holding up the walls was the wallpaper. Oh well, at least it keeps me off the streets...
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  • Blog-wise there are a few new things, not least the addition of a few user-options for comments. Feel free to test them.

 

All that and no mention of elections, volcanic ash or oil-slicks. Hardly news, is it?

A long weekend around Windermere – Part 2 – Two waterfalls

Posted by on April 6th 2010 in Bargains, Great Escapes, Shiny new kit, YHA

Compared to the previous day of constantly overcast but dry weather, Saturday started out as a mixed bag of interspersed drizzle and dry sunny spells. We decided that we were going to have an easier day, and a visit to some waterfalls seemed to fit the bill nicely. A study of the map and a recommendation from a fellow hosteller resulted in us deciding to go to Skelwith Force, followed by a gentle walk along part of the Cumbria Way to Colwith Force.

I won't bore you with a step-by-step text analysis, you can just have the pics instead. Suffice to say that it was a fine morning walk enjoyed by all.

 

On the flat rocks at Skelwith Force

 

Skelwith Force

 

Near Park House

 

Near Park Farm


Colwith Force

 

Staying away from the edge

 

Colwith Force again

 

Above Colwith Force

 

A tributary of Colwith Beck

 

After returning to the cars we spent the rest of the afternoon in Ambleside, as it was necessary to buy gifts for folk back home. We scoured The Mountain Factor, The Climber's Shop, Cunninghams, Gaynors and the like, looking for some good-quality bargain three-season boots for Ella, but to no avail. Needless to say we steered well clear of F***d and T**k. They may well have actually had what we wanted at 99% discount, but we wouldn't have given them the time of day, let alone the cash. We ended up buying a couple of cheap sledges instead, and the others bought Buffs.

Back at the hostel we did the quick wash/change routine and soon were back outside, this time heading for Windermere, searching for somewhere to eat. Most places were either closed or full, but we found The Elleray to be practically empty so getting a table for eight wasn't a problem. The place was brilliant - there was a good choice, servings were vast and the prices were seriously low, to the point where we thought that they'd made a mistake with the bill. The staff were very kid-friendly, supplying our youngest three with crayons and huge colouring-books to use and take home. The place was packed out within an hour, with folk waiting for tables, so I guess that we'd just dropped lucky.

Back at the hostel again and it was time for the kids to chill before they went to bed:

 

The Hostel

 

DS time


Story time


We adults managed some beers and chinwagging for a few hours before retiring to our micro-rooms.

On Sunday our friends had to leave straight away to visit relatives, but we had another morning to enjoy before heading home. The intent was to park up near Hird Wood on the Kirkstone Road and to walk the short distance up Troutbeck Tongue, but heavy rain in the night had made the route a complete mudbath and had made the stream too dangerous for the kids to cross safely. A quick change of plan saw us spend a few minutes in the car-park at the top of the pass, and then detour to Ambleside via The Struggle. The scenery was awesome, according to the kids, but the camera had been packed away so I took no pictures of the snowy landscapes. We carried on to Windermere where I pulled into the small car-park outside The Outdoor Warehouse - by strange coincidence our friends' car was already there. The shop wasn't open yet, so we decided to wait, just in case they had any suitable boots for Ella.

Well, I needn't have doubted. Charlie and Jon opened up the shop for us and we headed for the boots. I saw their AKU display and then saw the sale prices on their clearance lines, and I knew that we'd struck gold. Ella tried on some discontinued Croda GTXs (half-price at £87.50) and fell for them instantly. Despite her enthusiasm, Jon insisted that she wandered the shop in them for a decent amount of time, just to be sure that they really did fit properly and feel comfy.

 

Ella's Croda GTXs

 

While this went on, I had a good mooch around the other wonderful stuff on display, refraining from investing in another Rab VapourRise jacket, and discussing Podcast Bob's Honey Stove, of which a fair few were on prominent display in the shop-windows. When Ella was sorted, I was asked why I was looking so envious. I had to explain that I'd been after a pair of AKUs for ages but could never justify the expense. I was led back into the boot-room where I was "persuaded" to try on some discontinued Edge GTXs, (again at half-price, this time at £80) but they really didn't suit my feet, and besides that I don't really need another pair of B2- or B3-rated boots - the Scarpa Freney Pros that I have will outlast me at the current wear-rate. They (my family) then cajoled me into trying the mens version of the Croda GTX, and I just had to buy them in order to stop them all nagging at me...

 

My Croda GTXs (bought under extreme duress)

 

So, if you're after some discounted AKUs, have a look at what the guys at The Outdoor Warehouse have to offer. When we were there they still had a good range of sizes (and half-sizes) and colours for quite a few discontinued models in the range. If you're into Marmot kit, they have some good 60%-off deals on "sample" garments too. Go see - online if you have to, but preferably in person, as Charlie and Jon are great guys to talk to.

There, I'll bet that wasn't the ending that you were expecting, eh? BG! buys something hi-tech and lightweight, but not "Jessiehiker". Ooda thunkit!

New boots and panties

Posted by on March 31st 2007 in Bargains, Shiny new kit, TKMaxx

Went over to Go Outdoors (Coventry) today to get some kit for Ella's impending school trip to France. She found some Mountain Hardwear Micro Chill Zip Tees for £20, and I couldn't resist snapping up a pair of Raichle Fusion Mid XCR boots for myself, they're not bad for £49. There are some really good boot deals on there at the moment, more than they advertise on their new-look website. We had a look at the Vango Hurricane 200 tent, they are selling for £139 which seems a fair price. I didn't buy one, though, as I can do without the grief I would get from SWMBO.

TKMaxx (Nuneaton) was trawled as well, I picked up some Lowe Alpine DryFlo Briefs for just £4 a pair. Ella found a size 8 Craghoppers Kiwi fleece jacket for £14, it was such a good fit that it had to be bought.

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