Friday 13 June 2008

19 holes.....19!

I just had to post this up because quite frankly I'm baffled! My Robens Lite self inflating mattress has 19 pin-holes in it! I mean Jesus, what the hell is going on?!!

For the second time now I filled up the bath with water and folded the the semi inflated mat into the water - nothing. Not one solitary bubble. I was starting to get frustrated as the rate of deflation without any weight on the mat was astounding. I had to try another tactic.

After having partly deflated and rolled the mat I systematically re-rolled the mat to ensure each section had been submerged, I had still not found the source of the air leak. It wasn't until I was folding it out of the water near my face that I heard a very faint whistle

....5 minutes of trying to locate the the exact position of noise without losing it revealed in was in the bottom two thirds of the mat. I forced more air in to encourage the bubbles and worked on this area in particular. I couldn't believe my eyes. The closer I looked the more and more tiny bubbles attracted my eyes. After getting over my disbelief I marked 19 separate holes and I'm now left wondering if it is worth repairing?

I just cannot get my head around how so many tiny pinholes could have occurred. I could understand a couple of large pinch holes for example but not 19 tiny holes.

As you can probably tell, I not that happy about this! Now that I've taken the time to find and mark them I'd be wasting my time not to try and seal them so its down to the shops tomorrow to buy some glue suitable for the job.


Thursday 12 June 2008

Test Pitch of the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2

The Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 arrived on Wednesday afternoon and the first thing that struck me is how light this thing is and next was the pack size. This is going to be a dream to carry and pack over my Coleman Exponent Phact 2.

Now there's a problem in that last Friday I turfed part of our garden and so now I have nowhere to pitch it. I don't know how I did it bit I managed to wait until tonight to pitch this thing and that was only due to an exchange of favours between a friend and I. The deal was I'd fix his wireless broadband connection and I'd use his garden to pitch the tent.

As it turned out things took longer than planned and by the time I got round to going outside I was running out of time and the light was fading fast. Nevertheless I quickly sussed it out and set about putting it up. I'm impressed with the weight and ease of setup but even more impressive is the space inside. A lot of reviews from users in the US claim that this isn't a true two-person tent and having been inside I can strongly disagree. In lightweight backpacking over a few days I can't see sharing this tent being a problem at all. Just be free and comfortable with your sexuality and smile with glee knowing that sharing the tent has meant your half only weighed in at 750g!

I have to admit that I didn't really take my time putting the Seedhouse up, mainly because I wanted this to be a test to pick up on any little quirky bits before using it for real in the driving rain no doubt. The only issue (I think) is remembering to align the fly with care (to avoid areas with slack) and attaching the clips from the fly to the inner before pegging the fly in. This is just to create more internal space by pulling the inner out slightly. Some people have complained about this but once you know its there it just becomes part of the ritual of setting up the tent and its not worth worrying about.

Although I only used half of the pegs to stake the tent in I am really pleased at the stability of the little thing. With just two pegs in each corner of the groundsheet and 5 pegs to secure the fly it stands its ground well and I bet with experience one could set this up to withstand a fair bit of wind. Of course time will tell!

The bathtub style groundsheet comes up fairly high and I don't expect there to be any problems with water ingress, even in heavy rain. Of course what remains to be seen now is if 1200mm hydrostatic head is watertight and I'll be watching this with nervous scepticism! On a similar note, as per the reviews, the groundsheet is very thin and I've decided that I'm going to make a footprint/protector out of waterproof rip-stop nylon. I'm just waiting on the specs of the fabric (particularly the weight) from the supplier before ordering the fabric and testing my sewing skills.

I'm on holiday a week today so I won't be out to test it until I return so its going to be a bit like going cold turkey until I can get back on the hill!

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Free Gift

I got to reading some 'professional' hiking blogs recently and there is a lot of reference to TGO magazine, Trail magazine and Outdoor Obsessive Nerd Weekly (coming soon to a stationers near you!), and I thought I'd go have a look at what they have to offer.

I currently subscribe to a well known photography magazine and just recently I seem to have lost the will to read them and have several copies still in their plastic wrappers. Given that it is clearly time for a change I thought I'd cancel my existing subscription and replace it with something 'outdoorsy' - so its win win really.

I bought a copy of Trail on Sunday and July's issue was timed perfectly as they ran an article on the merits of going lightweight. Clearly this is the work of the Gods, destiny calling if you will, and so I went and looked at a subscription. As an incentive to buy (so now I'm skeptical about whether or not the publication is any good?) they are giving away a Multimat Superlight Compact 25 self inflating mattress, which claims to be the lightest self inflating mat in the world! This wasn't the reason I eventually bought a subscription but given that my Robens Lite mattress developed a leak since returning from the Hay on Wye trip, it was clearly another sign from the Gods (and who the hell am I to argue with those guys).

I wouldn't of ever considered buying a short (122cm) length mat to save weight as I expect a good level of comfort on my trips. Given that this is free I will give it a try and if we don't get on as sleeping partners then I've not lost any money and my pack will be 350g lighter for that one trip! I'll let you all know how I get on with that once I get chance to use it.

I had a update on my Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 today. It has reached the UK and cleared Customs so Parcel Force should be delivering it over the next 48 hours! My giddy aunt, I'm excited about this little purchase and secretly I think Paul is too. Annoyingly I won't get to test the tent or the sleeping mat until I return from our holidays. I'm not grumbling about the holiday (for Charlotte's benefit) its just its an exciting, new piece of lightweight equipment! Paul and I are hoping to get away for the weekend of July 25th but that is an age away. Actually, thinking on my feet here, Charl and I are returning from our Italian retreat through the south of France and we will be camping each night as we work our way north back to can see where this is going! "Oh Charl, I seem to have packed the new, smaller but really really light tent instead of our spacious, luxurious six berth, damn it"! Charl, if that happened by some silly error on my part, just so I know, how angry might you be on a scale of 1 - 10?!!

Thursday 5 June 2008

Blinded by the light.......weight

Those who have been reading thus far will have noticed that I've had an epiphany on the benefits of lightweight hiking and wild camping. I may have started with the gentle musings of a man on a budget wild camping mission, but there comes a time in a man's life when he must give way to destiny.....or just plain old sensibility.

Since my first wild camping trip in Buttermere earlier this year I've read so much about the various ways people tackle their lightweight issues and about the equipment they use. Despite my new found appreciation of the lightweight movement, I still have this issue with the expense of it all and so I'll be attempting to shed the lbs whilst not spending too much of them!
I've long since known that my 3 heaviest items of equipment are my backpack, my sleeping bag and my tent and quite rightly this is where cost per gram of weight saved is highest. I've wanted a lighter tent than my heavy (but quite frankly bomb-proof) Coleman phact x2 but it wasn't just the money hindering my acquisition of a featherweight shelter. I hike with a friend and we have become accustomed to the space, comfort and stability provided by lead lined Coleman - to go lightweight on a budget means a sacrifice of at least one of these. Paul and I decided after the Hay on Wye trip that a new tent was in order to save weight and that we'd go 50:50 on the cost of a new one. This has widened our options a little but out of principal we decided that we'd try and keep the budget as low as possible and see what we could come up with.
Its a difficult area - lightweight tents. Those who have gone through the process already will no doubt know that choosing a lightweight tent is not an easy process and inevitably ends in a real struggle between very few contenders. A lot of people in the UK trust the new classics, like the Terra Nova Laser (all derivatives) and the Hilleburg Atko for good reason but I wanted something different. I need a true two person shelter that is quick to pitch and has the stability to withstand the variable weather conditions in the UK. The two person thing is the real sticking point since the price shoots up as soon as you cross the threshold from a 1 person lightweight enclosure to a reasonable two person lightweight design. The Terra Nova Solar 2.2 would be my ideal hiking home but principal of the budget dictates that this is not a contender. I should mention before going any further that I'm having to make further sacrifices on the features in order to get the space and performance to match the price. I've considered everything from the Hunka bivvy from Alpkit with a tarp, to a full on Tarptent from Henry Shires. Thinking 3-4 season use I wasn't convinced the Tarptent would be up to weather challenges in the UK (besides the reduced space due to the single skin condensation issues) and the Hunka is a different idea altogether! I was then looking at the Terra Nova Laser but this is a real squeeze for two men.

I came across Big Agnes when reading one of the outdoor forums but initially had dismissed it as it was very expensive to buy in the UK and there wasn't much UK experience with them. I managed to read the review and watch a few videos from Hike-Lite about the Seedhouse SL 2 and this renewed my interest. The design should be stable and the guying points have been improved in the latest design to ensure good performance in the wind. There seems to be enough room for two sleeping mats side by side so we should both squeeze in easily. What remains to be seen is the how the tent stands up to sustained rain intervals since the flysheet has a hydrostatic head of just 1200mm. I'm not sure if this will ever be a problem but this is one of the sacrifices required for a tent weighing a mere 1350g! This would be significant for me and Paul as it would reduce our pack weights by 1300g each - not to mention the reduced size of the the packed tent. Its been difficult to get any reviews from owners in the UK but the consensus is that the Seedhouse is well constructed, designed and has proven itself so far.

So, the tent is a viable option but the price in the UK is around 275 quids, bad times! I had a bit of a search and I
managed to find an outdoors supplier in the States who would ship to UK for a gob-smacking price (due to the $ exchange rate). The result is that in a week or so a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL 2 shall be arriving on my doorstep for the princely sum of around £80 inc of UK import Duty (Paul picking up the other £80 of course). A true bargain!

Tent down, pack and sleeping bag to sort but I'm well on the road to a lightweight expedition.

I'll post some pics and my initial thoughts once it arrives and I have chance to erect it. I'm might kiss that courier when he finally delivers it!

Sunday 1 June 2008

Fairbrook - test for the new boots

so this morning I drove up to the Peak District with some friends for a brief walk up Fairbrook and onto the northern edge of Kinder. There's something about Kinder that makes it feel very strange when you're on it. Its how I would imagine the moon to look, only with more peat and well water I suppose!

The weather forecast had been a little patchy and we were suspecting rain but i wanted to test out the new Raichle walking boots. I gave them a bit of a trail on a recent walk up Sugar loaf (Pen y Fal) in the Brecons last weekend but I found that on this walk they just woke old wounds from the Offa's Dyke Path wild camping trip a few weeks ago.

The result today was quite frankly a shock. I was expecting that my right ankle would be bathed in new walking boot agony, only to find that at the end of the wet 6 miler my feet felt really good! My right ankle seems to have picked up an injury (aside from the blisters) from the previous trip in the old boots and it now doesn't like to be pulled or stretched in forward and upward movement. This problem was almost completely eliminated today and I think over times as it heals I'll feel nothing. There was no rubbing due to heal slip and the boots were fully water proof. The grip on wet rocks and wood seemed assuring too. I think the wet weather may have helped loosen the new leather a bit as they were more comfy as we finished the walk than when we first started out!

The view from the top of Fairbrook was non-existent and so any attempt at finding Fairbrook Naze was pointless. Needless to say we made a brew on the Blackfly 3 and the Orikaso cup and returned the way we came.

The day was supposed to end with a beer and a snack at the Snake Pass Inn but we wouldn't make this destiny! Instead we followed our hearts and made an attempt to re-home an orphaned lamb which we found crying out by it's mothers dead body. The local farmer seemed not to be phased when we passed on the news and gave him the location but I at least left with my conscience intact.

All around a bit of a strange day. Boots work though so good times ahead.

It's Paul's turn to come up with a location for our next trip but I'm finding it difficult to get excited when the brief was: close to home, shorter distances and off the beaten track, which returned Paul's first idea of a Cornish coastal walk! I don't know, maybe there's mileage in it - but I doubt it!