Posts tagged 'Alpkit'

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.

Alpkit goodies

Posted by on April 5th 2008 in Shiny new kit

Today saw the arrival of a couple of Filo jackets, just in time for the snow that we've been promised over the next few days. These follow hot on the heels of the Hunka bivi bag which I put my name down for at the Outdoors Show. My thanks go to the Alpkit team for their commitment to customer service and for their never-fail next-day free delivery policy.

This influx of new kit has rekindled the outdoors spirit in Chris - all of a sudden, she's reminding me that we've still got to sort out our annual "probably illegal" wildcamp together, and that we've got to get the kit lists sorted for our family summer holiday in Norway and Denmark.

Alpkit Sale

Posted by on April 3rd 2008 in In the News, Shiny new kit

Just in case you missed the heads-up from those nice peeps over at Alpkit - they're having a clear-out of their Filo down jackets, the clearance price is just £50. Grab 'em now while stocks last!

So, which colour do you fancy?

Chris will be Chilli, and I'll be getting a Rocket. So, nothing new there, then.  🙄

Our OSOS08 Weekend

Posted by on March 17th 2008 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes

The arrival of Duncan at BHX heralded the start of our OSOS08 weekend and the start of the inclement, and probably appropriate, weather. After the "hail, fellow, well-met" handshakes at the terminal, we hiked through the rain to the vast car-park and, surprisingly, found the car quite easily in the midst of the sea of steel and glass that goes by the name of "Long Stay 1".

After making sure that Duncan was awake (by nearly losing the car on a tightening left-hander (I blame the shift in the centre of gravity)), we escaped the confines of the airport site and ploughed our way through the orange-tinted drizzly gloom that had settled over the M42, M6 and M69.

On arrival back at home, Duncan was introduced to Chris and Ella, vittles were consumed (including the gifted cloutie duff, thanks here to DM and his mum) and the chat went on into the night. The idea of wildgardencamping was abandoned due to the number of branches that were falling from our willow, so Duncan bagged himself a comfy(?) spare bed at no extra charge.

We were up bright and early on Saturday morning, unfortunately the weather wasn't quite as bright but at least it wasn't torrential. The mad dash to the NEC was as dull as ever until I decided to ensure that the passengers were still awake by driving over the kerb at the entrance to the car-park. It was an accident, honest, I couldn't see the kerb from my seat. Anyway, everybody else in the car-park was alerted to our arrival by the grating sound of underbody on concrete, so I reckon that our guest was quite brave to volunteer to queue to buy the parking ticket (thanks for that, Duncan) while we got our packs out of the boot.

After the trek past the lake and through the tent display area we left Duncan at the entrance so that he could meet Darren to pass on one of the tickets kindly donated by Lay, the Outdoors' Bloggers Forum admin. When we made it past security and check-in, Ella was in retail-therapy heaven. We wandered the stands and bought some bits and bobs before Chris queued to put Ella's name down on the waiting-list for a go on the zipwire.

Meanwhile I wandered off to find the Alpkit stand and try to buy the Hunka bivy bag that I had fondled so keenly at the 2007 show. Sadly they were out of stock, so I had a gander at the latest incarnation of the Gourdon (the "20", complete with mesh pockets and bungee attachments) - I was tempted, but could only justify getting one if I parted with the "25" that I was already carrying. Sadly, the Alpfolk wouldn't do me a part-ex, so I had to walk away empty-handed (but not until I had tried on a few of their Filo down jackets - they look to be excellent value for 65 notes). I met George while I was there and we managed to communicate without an interpreter, despite his use of equatorial rhyming slang. Anyway, he was the bearer of good tidings - his missus is on the mend, that made him happy. Get well soon, Mrs. LBP.

Alpfolk - happy smiley people. We likes them, don't we, my Preciouss? Oh yes, we does

We parted company so that I could retrieve Chris and Ella, then we went over to the Gear Show Case area where Ella was disgruntled when she didn't nab any of the freebies being chucked into the audience. Undeterred, after the presentation she went and remonstrated with the freebie-chucker and was invited back to a later showing.

Next to the Gear Show Case was the Gibbon Slacklining display stand, and the gymnastic side of Ella's persona just couldn't resist having a go at negotiating the tautliner straps. She did well but couldn't manage to emulate the jumping antics of the resident expert. Indeed, we were to return to this place a few more times during the day, but by the time we had decided to shell out on a set, their stock had all gone. Never mind, we'll get one somehow.

Tentative steps



Then it was time for the Outdoors' Blogger Meet at the pub, where old acquaintances were renewed and new faces were matched up to names that had been, up until then, just virtual friends (I won't bore you with the full cast list). Sadly I missed Sally's killer butt, but hey, there's always next year. There were some deep and meaningful conversations to be had, with plenty of blox thrown in for good measure, and a good time was had by all. Andy tried to get some podcast material from me, but I had to decline. I'm not one for fame and fortune, you see... I'm the shy, retiring type. I did, however, condescend to appear in a group-photo of our bunch of happy campers, but alas the photographic skills of the bloke that I harassed into taking the pic left something to be desired. He has my thanks anyway, though, as this is the only group-shot we have so far:

Movers and Shakers... just like the cameraman

Of course, I was well down my second pint of dishwater (Cumberland Ale is excellent in it's natural habitat, but it doesn't travel well and it rebels at the evil concept of being served in tacky plastic plant-pots) when it was time for Ella to do her fly-over on the zipwire, so the pics are a bit wobbly, but nowhere near as wobbly as my legs would have been if I had dared to do the zipwire myself!

Cleared for launch

In-flight entertainment

We took in a few more stands to push the e-petition a bit further before going outside for lunch, then it was back to the show. Ella had a go on the bike at the Tourism Ireland stand, but she was never going to get far without that missing front wheel, and lifting the rear wheel was a tad unfair too...


After the mandatory visit to the Buff stand, where Ella got a cool Blue Fire, we nipped across the aisle to bag her some red sunglasses to complete the rebel adolescent biker look.

Hall 3 and the rest of Hall 2 were toured quite quickly, there being little of interest to us there (we're not into water-borne activities or touring the world) so we repaired to Hall 1 where Ella chatted up some of the Royal Marines. I seized this opportunity to nip back to the pub to catch up on events, and soon it was time for the E-Petition meet-up in Hall 3, where the John Hee Steering Committee did a sterling job of drawing up a plan of action for the post-OSOS08 wildcamping-legalisation campaign. Chasrle popped in to join us, and I'm pleased to report that he looks nothing like his OM avatar.

Then it was back to Hall 1 and a session of buying more bits and bobs (now don't laugh, but I bought a travel hair-dryer... it's for removing condensation from the scope optics, not for my lank locks and bristles. Honest!). Ella had been back to the Gear Show Case and had fluttered her eyelids and sweet-talked the freebie-chucker into throwing her a T-shirt and a hat. He got a hug from her as his reward.

We met up with Duncan again and went to watch the fallers... sorry, that should be climbers... in their attempts to (occasionally) defy gravity and complete the testing route to the suspended car. Meanwhile, Ella had been queueing patiently for a go on the not-ice climbing wall, and watching her ascend the synthetic verglass I reckon she'd got the right idea. Looks like that's yet another set of kit to spend money on in future years, eh? 🙁


Planting the pick

And that was it. After losing Ella yet again (don't go there!) and bagging a pressie for Annabelle (who was spending the day with Grandma) we made our way home, collected said pocket-BG, and sat in expectation of a relaxing wind-down evening and a tasty meal.

But it was not to be...

Our chosen Nepalese restaurant had cooked a fine selection of dishes for us, but had entrusted delivery of them to a bloke who couldn't discriminate between arse and elbow... several polite but firm phone-calls to the restaurant confirmed that the vittles had been despatched on time, but they arrived nearly two hours late (hmm... the restaurant is only five minutes away by car, 15 by foot) and the food was, well, tepid, despite claims that it was still hot. Duncan will vouch for the fact that I was just a little put out by this. Next time I will be serving my own dehydrated meals, or we'll invade their establishment and eat on the premises.

After shooting the breeze until the small hours, we got some shut-eye before I had to ferry Duncan back to BHX for his return flight. Suffice to say that it stopped raining soon after he boarded the plane, and when his "I'm back home now" text arrived, the sun came back out.

So, by way of a summary, we had a great time with good company, we made a few new friends, and we ended up richer for the experience, despite being poorer for the purchases. Top stuff!

Ennerdale wildcamp post-trip kit report

Posted by on October 11th 2007 in Camera kit, Great Escapes, My reviews, Wildcamping

OK, let's start with the tent. I took the Vango Spectre for it's first wildie and it performed well, but then again conditions were good so it wasn't tested to the max. It was easy to put up, it took about 5 minutes, which I think is acceptable. In the morning there was a small amount of condensation on the underside of the fly, it would have been much less if there had been any sort of a breeze flowing through the end-vents, but there wasn't. I still need to replace the original guy-lines with Dyneemas. Oh, and I'll just take the right amount of pegs next time (14 Tikes, instead of the bag of 30 that I lugged around).

The pack. I was going to take a 40l pack but changed my mind at the last moment, opting instead for the Lowe Alpine Warp70 which allowed me to take the full camera kit. Features that I particularly like are the Torso Fit Duo back system (which suits me better than most other systems do) and the big external flap pocket at the back, which easily stores all of the food and drink for the weekend and which is so easy to access, being almost independent of the main body of the pack. I reckon that I had about 40l of walking kit and 10l of camera kit, so there was room to spare.

Navigation. As usual, I took the trusty Silva 15TDCL compass and A4 print-offs (printed at 1:12500) of MemoryMap maps stored in the A5 Ortlieb mapcase, backed up with the Garmin Geko 201. I hardly used any of that stuff, though, as I got by just fine with the O2 Xda with the inbuilt satnav working with the MemoryMap software that I have loaded onto the 2gig micro-SD card. I always got a good satellite signal and the positioning was fairly accurate and fast, plotting the positions directly onto the map overlay instead of having to transpose the position from Geko readout to paper-map. I started the walk with the Xda fully-charged, it was down to 81% when I got back to the car. I think that the Geko might be going on eBay soon, it's good kit but the Xda does the same job and much more besides (except the Xda's not waterproof, so I have to bag it in bad weather).

Cooking. The Jetboil performed impeccably, starting first-time every time, so there were no more beard-burning flare-ups. Fuel economy was acceptable - I had three hot rehydrated meals each day (pro-rata) and regular brew-ups, using just less than a quarter of a Coleman 100 canister.

Boots. Having got bad heel-blisters from the Raichle Fusion Mid XCRs on the Brecon Beacons meet, I went back to the Scarpa SLs and they were much better than they have been before, no doubt due to the liberal amount of zinc oxide strapping wound around my heels. The boots have now shaped themselves to my feet, so things can only get better.

Sleeping. I took the Alpkit AD700 bag, expecting the nights to be cold due to the clear skies that had been forecast, but it was too warm and I ended up using it as a blanket instead of as a bag. The mat was the InsulMat Max Thermo - it's light, comfy and packs down small. I've now got used to the fact that it needs re-inflating a bit just before use (when it's first inflated, the air inside is warm, but this contracts as it cools and needs to be "topped-up" to ensure the mat's fully inflated).

Clothing. I didn't bother to take a shell-jacket and over-trousers, opting instead for the Montane Featherlite Smock and Pants (Trousers), but I didn't need to use either of them. Most of the time all that was needed on the top half was a Lowe Alpine Dri-Flo LS top, with the Rab VR Climb for those odd post-effort chills.

Camera kit. This is an area where I didn't skimp on the weight. I took the camera and a couple of lenses (18-55mm and 70-300mm), a spare battery, cleaning kit, filters and a LowePro case to stash it all in. It added a fair amount (weight and volume) to the load, but I'm prepared to sweat that bit more if it means that I get some decent pics to help me remember the trip. I now know that I need a lens-hood for the 18-55mm kit-lens, and I reckon that a tripod would have been useful for the low-light and/or long lens shots.

Taken but not used:

  • 1 pair spare socks
  • Montane Featherlite Smock and Pants (Trousers)
  • 1 Mars Bar
  • 16 Tikes (doh!)
  • Spare battery for camera
  • Garmin Geko and spare batteries
  • Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap
  • 1 spare dehydrated meal
  • First Aid kit
  • Compass

Stuff that I almost ran out of:

  • Isotonic drink powder (I had enough left to make up 0.25l)
  • Bog-roll (I was down to the last sheet! TMI?)

Making stuff

Posted by on September 4th 2007 in Camera kit, Making stuff, Projects

At last I got some time between DIY jobs to make a few of the things that I can't be arsed to buy, or which just can't be had at the shops.

First up - I made a footprint for the Vango Spectre tent. Same plan as usual - get a cheap green woven plastic tarp from the Pound Shop (cost 50p, no, I can't figure that either), cut to shape, fold over the cut edges and iron them down to make them stick. The addition of three plastic eyelets (10p each) is the only other cost. Making a few X-shaped cuts in the fabric (for drainage) finishes the job.

Next up - a reflector for the Nikon remote unit. The D50's IR sensor is on the front of the body, so it doesn't detect a signal from behind. There are a few proper gadgets available for dealing with this situation, all of them involve an unwieldy fixed-attitude plastic reflecting plate that's attached to the lens with a bit of bungee cord, like this:



I made a more compact hinged version by cutting down a redundant sd-card case and attaching a rubber band. Using this, the remote works a treat from behind and from the side, and the whole thing is a better fit into my camera case.

Finally - pull-loops for the latest batch of Alpkit Tikes. These pegs come with a length of heavy-duty red cord attached, it's fine for most applications but I find that a) the bulk takes up room in the pack which I could use for something else, and b) the red colour is difficult to see at night. Said cords have been replaced with off-cut lengths of fluoro-yellow dyneema which is much easier to see in the dark and which has very little bulk. You can just about see them in the following picture of the "big red slug":


Jetboil PCS – stability, packing etc.

Posted by on March 28th 2007 in My reviews
Tags: ,

The Jetboil PCS. Either you're a fan or you're not. I'm not about to try to sway your preference for stoves, this is just a bit of info about stability and the like, as I've experienced it.

OK, they're fairly stable with a bigger gas canister (e.g. a Coleman 250), but not so much with a smaller one (e.g. a Coleman 100). Never mind, things can always be improved.

Jetboil make a set of legs that fit into the system and pack away neatly, but these little beauties by Vaude / Markill fit on a Coleman 100 a bit better, IMO:



Vaude/Markill legs folded (above), unfolded (below)

OK, now it's a lot more stable with the legs attached. But let's not stop there. How about the widget on the right in the piccy below? It's a blowtorch canister stand:




It fits onto a blowtorch canister and it can be pegged to the ground for great stability, as shown below:









It can be held down and supported by small rocks (above) or you can ditch the widget and dig a small pit for the canister as shown below:





You've just got to be careful that you don't clout the top bit too forcefully, as there's a slight risk that the setup will part company at the weak-spot (where the canister is screwed in). You have been warned!

Anyway, back to the Coleman 100 canisters. One of them can be stored in the Jetboil mug, beneath the burner unit. But what about when there's two of you and you need more gas? Well, two more will fit snugly upside-down in an Alpkit Mytimug:





Conveniently, the Jetboil and the gas-filled mug stack rather neatly into a stuffac that used to hold an Outwell pillow. There's room at the sides for a couple of long-handled spoons (or similar), the folding feet and a few bags of dehydrated food. Neat and versatile, I reckon, and just for good measure, this package fits perfectly into the external crampon pocket on my Lowe Alpine pack (the Alpine Attack 40), where it's handy to get at for a quick brew without the hassle of having to dig it out of the main compartment of the pack.





All that, and I didn't even rave about how good the stove is. I must be slipping in my old age 🙂


Mike "The Doctor" Bell has come up with a lightweight, cheap and simple method of using pans on the Jetboil.

Alpkit Gourdon video

Posted by on January 17th 2007 in Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Found the Alpkit Gourdon video on YouTube - excellent!

Top marks for Alpkit!

Posted by on January 9th 2007 in Shiny new kit

It's less than 18 hours since ordering and the AD700 is here! It's "evil" black which looks great but after its travels it needed to go upstairs for a lie down (no pun intended) in order to regain some loft. Looks like I'll be setting up the bivvytent in the garden at the weekend so that I can see how the AD copes - let's pray for a good deep frost on Friday night. Hopefully I won't have to take advantage of Alpkit's 7-day returns policy and change the 700 for a 900.

The Tikes look quite mean too. If they don't keep the bivvytent nailed to the back lawn, nothing will.

No more frozen nads for me!

Posted by on January 8th 2007 in Shiny new kit

It's bad news for the bank manager but good news for me - there's more gear on the way from Alpkit. Hopefully there's an AlpineDream 700 and a pack of Tikes on their way here. I'm looking forward to breaking-in the bag at the OM Sykeside Meet later this month.

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