Archive for the 'New tricks for an old dog' Category

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.

  • 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.

  • The Scarpa SLs, of course, are always on stand-by. Like dependable old friends, they're always there when you need them.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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...

  • 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?

Never rub another man’s rhubarb

Posted by on March 19th 2009 in New tricks for an old dog

I've never tried forcing it before...


Oo-er, Missus


Outdoor Trade Show 2008

Click on any of the pics to open up a bigger version in a lightbox thingy, you'll need to wait until the page has finished loading.

Darren "" Christie called me up and asked me if I wanted to attend the Stoneleigh Outdoor Trade Show 2008 with him. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, so we arranged to meet there on Tuesday 30th September.

I'll spare you the ordeal of a full rundown of events, I won't even give you lists of kit-specs - you can get all that stuff at Darren's blog. Instead, I'll give you the edited highlights:

The first place of any note was the Inov8 stand, where we were treated to a lengthy demo of some of their lightweight hydration systems and Race Elite/Race Pro packs, and some other stuff. Nice kit, some of which is in "His 'n Hers" designs, just like in the following pic:


His 'n Hers pack designs - Inov8

I was impressed with the overall design of these packs, but I've still got reservations about that central zip and the way that the compression system pulls on it - I was assured that the zip's been tested and not found wanting, but if it failed, I can't see how the contents of the pack would stay inside. Oh, and I can't see the point of having a "waterproof" zip on a pack without sealed/taped seams. Maybe I've missed something there, eh?

Next up was the ARK display, where we concentrated on the OMM packs. I liked their Leanweight Link modular clip-on system, which means that you can "build" a carrying system from any bits of their range, piggybacking smaller packs onto bigger ones, and/or strapping other bits underneath. And what a great colour-scheme! This was my first encounter with the much-acclaimed Trio 4 litre chest-pouch, and it looked like a cert for a future purchase until the claim of "it'll fit onto any other pack" was blown out of the water when I offered up my Alpkit Gourdon... which has no "D"-rings on the straps. Anyway, here's a shot of a pack and belt-bag linked together in perfect harmony:

OMM Last Drop Pack and Ultra Waist Pouch

A bit later we arrived at the Terra Nova display and had a chat about their 1g Titanium Pegs - I have to say that I wouldn't be confident in using them - any thinner and they'd be cutting their way through the ground like cheesewires in the slightest breeze. I've no doubt that there's a use for them, but I don't have that use. I might be cajoled into trying them with my hooped bivi, but that would be the limit of my adventure, as I like my shelter to be secure without having to rely on my bodyweight to hold it down in a hoolie. Just for the record, the pegs are £15 for a six-pack.

Their lightweight Laser packs looked OK, with that waspy colour-scheme again, but we're back to full-length waterproof load-bearing zips again. They're not for me.

Lightweight Laser packs

Further on, Darren was keen to dig for info about Hi-Tec's use of ion-mask technology on their footwear, I was content to keep quiet and take some pics:

Hi-Tec ion-mask footwear - upper

Hi-Tec ion-mask footwear - tread

At the Big Agnes stand we had a chat about gear-testing bloggers. A certain Mr. Macfarlane was mentioned by the staff. Seems he has the odd bit of kit from them, now and again.

Anyway, out attention was drawn away from the tentage to the Clearview sleeping-mat and the associated Cyclone SL Chair kit. I was quite taken with that mat/seat combo, it's got a certain simplicity and cleanness to it. For a short time, it was at the top of my list of must-haves.

Big Agnes kit

We spent a fair amount of time at the Rosker stand, being treated to a set of first-class demos of the latest Primus stoves. First up was the Primus Eta Packlite, more of a multi-person stove system, and there's a lot of bits packed away in there. A neat bit of kit.

Primus Eta Packlite

Second was the Ti-Lite, a lightweight pot/burner/canister combi:

Primus Ti-Lite

and finally there was the EtaExpress. We were assured that it wasn't a competitor for the Jetboil PCS, but it was hard to see it in any other way - the similarities outweighed the differences:

Primus EtaExpress

The conversation strayed to other items such as in-line water-filters for hydration systems, but my attention was dragged back on-topic by the kind and timely offer of a freebie pack of Reiter Vegetable Risotto which was gratefully accepted on behalf of SWMBO.

Then it happened. I was idly perusing the gear on the First Ascent display when my gaze was drawn to the sleeping mats, and to the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir in particular. It just looked right - a mat with transverse cells so there's no fighting to keep shoulderblades from slipping into chasms between long cells such as those on the Insul-Mat Max-Thermo, which was the most comfy mat I'd ever tried until then.

It had to be tried, and soon was. After having a good lie down on it, I really didn't want to get up. Now I'm in love all over again!

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir mats

For the record, the packaged one in the inset was labelled up as 20" x 48" Regular, which seems to be a labelling error. The deployed one in the main pic is 20" x 72". You can't tell from the pics, but the underside is slip-resistant, so there'll be no nocturnal migration downslope when used in anger.

One surprise was the encounter with HJ Hall. This company is located in my home town, being one of the few hosiery businesses still standing after the demise of the local industry. I took a good look at their new range of socks, especially the lined heavyweight Technical 4 Dual Skin and I'm tempted to ask them for some test-samples to see how they stand comparison to the other socks that I use (mainly Thor-Los, some others). They retail at under a tenner, which is much less than the others in my sock-stash, so I reckon it's worth keeping an eye on these.

Now I wasn't planning to visit the ENGO stand, but their product was intriguing. Blister prevention patches. Fitted to the boot, not the foot. If these work, the outlay on Compeed/Spenco/Zinc Oxide tape can be reduced. We were given some samples to test, all I have to decide now is which boots to test them in - I suspect that the Scarpa SLs will be at the top of the list.

The ENGO stand

ENGO patches

The Anatom stand was demonstrating Pacerpoles. Now I'm no lover of standard walking poles, being firmly rooted in the biped camp, but I must admit that these things have piqued my interest. The first thing of note is the camera attachment widget that pushes into the accessory hole (I've an interest in all sorts of camera attachments - yes, it's sad, but it's not as if I've an all-consuming stove-fetish like another blogger that I could mention). Then came the coup de grâce - there's another attachment that links two poles to form an A-frame, which fits to a bespoke(?) tarp, which is a neat idea, something designed for the job, rather than using odd poles and whatever tarp is to hand.

Carbon Pacerpoles with camera attachment

I'm nearly converted. My bank-manager won't like it, but at least I can use the pointy ends of the poles to fend him off.

While we were at the Anatom stand, Darren allowed himself to be talked into having some Superfeet footbeds fitted. Now I'm not saying that he really needed them, but this is what they were replacing:

Not-so-Superfeet footbed

Just before leaving we went to see the Garmin display on the Dalesman stand. I had a very informative chat about their new range of do-it-all GPS units, and I got to play around with the Oregon 300 - very nice indeed. I left with a press-pack in a shoulder-bag, and an offer to contact them about acquiring a unit to test. It wasn't until I got home that I opened the press-pack to find that most of the promo material was on a 1gig USB datastick - how cool is that?

This was my first time at the OTS, so I've got little to compare it against. For gear-heads it's better than the OS Outdoor Show, there being more "cutting-edge" stuff to look at, and more time to discuss developments and ideas. Maybe they'll let me in again next year!

My thanks go to Darren for the invitation and the good company. It was a good day out.

Cheers, Darren.

Just in case you were wondering…

Posted by on September 14th 2008 in New tricks for an old dog

Those crinkly rings in the previous post have quite a few uses:

  • Stick one around a water-bottle or similar when camping - it makes it easier to find in the night, no need to fumble about for the torch and ruin your night-vision;
  • Put two around your SLR/dSLR lens when taking night-shots (one on the zoom-ring, the other on the focus-ring). This way, I can adjust the zoom in the dark without moving the focus by accident;
  • They're useful for marking various bits of the telescope setup - the focuser, the auto-focus control box, the ends of the tripod legs etc..

They're currently on offer at Lakeland.

Crinkly rings

Posted by on September 13th 2008 in New tricks for an old dog

... can it be true? That I hold here, in my mortal hand, a nugget of purest Green?

Wassat? #2 – 3 for the price of one


OK, time for me to fess up.

Last time I was out on a wildie, I lost one of my standard-issue U-Dig-It folding trowels. Well, actually, it's not really lost, it's within 20 yards of the summit of Kentmere Pike, but I'm damned if I'm going back for it. Anyway, I considered buying a replacement, but had second thoughts. You see, I'd been tinkering with a prototype titanium version for a while, but never got around to finishing the job (no pun intended).

Then I got to thinking about those times when I want to go lightweight and give the Jetboil PCS a rest. Mike Bell had kindly distributed free samples of his beer-can stoves (pic) during the OM Beddgelert Meet, and I was keen to try out mine. The only thing missing was a pot-stand and somewhere to stash it.

So I came up with this idea. A digging tool, stable pot-stand and windshield all in one. And just for good measure, it fits neatly into my Alpkit Mytimug, leaving plenty of room for other stuff. It's been suggested that it could be used as a mouse-trap, but frankly I fear for the sanity of anyone who could conceive such an idea.

This prototype's made from 1mm aluminium alloy, cut with secateurs, folded over the doorstep, neatened up with a Brummie screwdriver and curved by forming it around the drainpipe on the side of the house. OK, so it's rough-and-ready, but it works well enough to prove that the idea's worth following up. The next version will be in a decent grade of 0.5mm stainless steel and made with proper tools. I'm not sure if it's worth wasting good titanium on a final version, but time will tell.

Anyway, here's the pics and stuff, sadly there are none of it in use with the beer-can stove, as it's been terminated (I stood on it by accident):


Dig with the pointy end downwards. Use 2 hands. Think "SnowClaw" and you'll get the idea.


Stick the pointy end into the ground to stop it falling over. It's more stable than it looks.


A neat fit inside the Alpkit Mytimug.

Wassat? #2

Here we go again. This time, it's a gadget that I spent an idle 10 minutes knocking up from a spare bit of ally sheet.

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