Sunday, 28 September 2008

Losing Weight Whilst Getting Fat

Whilst laid up for the past few days now I had to make the most of the time devoid of human contact - the time when normal people go to work! I haven't been particularly dexterous due to the injury so I've had to find other ways of keeping myself away from Jeremy Kyle and that jumped-up pensioner claiming to be Judge Judy.

Losing weight
It is highly likely that I will pile on the weight now I'm inherently less active and to compensate my sub-conscious mind got me thinking about the pack weight!
I decided I'd have a look at my gear list on the spreadsheet again to work out the expected weight of the pack now that I've upgraded some gear and lost a few unnecessary items since Coniston.

The Cumulus sleeping bag has made a huge difference as expected but its the other 'ancillary' items that have began to knock off the weight too. I've changed my fleece layer which shaved off nearly 100g. On top of this I'm being treated to an Aquagear Survivor water filter for my birthday which saves 275g on my MSR Miniworks.

My Nokia N82 is performing the duties of a camara/GPS as well as a phone so saves around 100g if I factor in the Icon-X emergency charger to keep it juiced.

Although last time I planned to bring an empty pillow case (and fill it with spare clothes) I lost my way with this idea before I packed and ended up using my 180g 'pointless pillow'. Now I've got a better, proven solution. That is I will use the terracotta Exped dry bag from the Cumulus sleeping bag and fill that with clothes. Because you can trap air inside the bag as well as the clothes for filling, you can really get a plump, usable pillow. This solution also saves me 125g despite accounting for the 55g dry bag.

Retail therapy is always easier than physio therapy so I popped over to TK MAX today having been given the nod about some cheap Marmot gear. I picked up a Marmot Precip water-proof for £30 and this has inadvertently saved me 98g on my TNF water-proof.

These little things and the sleeping bag have saved me over 1900g and I'm adopting the trail shoes approach with the Merrells so I am once again lightening the load there too. I'm pretty excited about getting out to enjoy the hills again and even more so knowing I'll be able to forget about the weight even more than last time.

Pack weight to date excluding food/water: a shade under 6kgs!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Little Accident, Lot of Trouble

It has all gone a bit wrong for me over the past 23 hours or so. Last night when riding home from work I lost control and managed to clip my handle bars on a metal railing at speed. I don't remember much of what happened next because I was knocked unconscious, but I clearly landed on my head and face and managed to break my 4th and 5th Metacarpals on my left hand.

My sincere thanks to my good friend Jim who brought me round, called the ambulance and carried two mountain bikes home on his own!

Today I had to attend the Fracture Clinic and my 3 day trip in the lakes next week is looking like a tall order. Doctor says three weeks until movement is recommended and 6 weeks for full recovery. Needless to say I'm not the happiest individual around (especially since typing is a huge part of my job and its a one-hand chore right now) and I'm just concentrating on being well enough to do the Wast Water trip next weekend. Fingers crossed - OUCH!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Stuff it

This is mainly for Shuttleworth but I guess this might be of interest to others too. When taking the photos yesterday I didn't want to come across like a real amateur who just got his first down bag, so didn't take a picture of it in the stuff sack!

Well, here it is for your viewing pleasure. Its stood next to a 1 litre wide-neck Nalgene bottle for scale.

Surprisingly you can compress the bag more but I'm a little nervous handling it since its so new! I don't think you would need it much smaller but I have tried it in a 5L Exped drybag (the yellow one) and because you can expel all of the air from the bag and close it off to prevent the bag lofting, it stays a lot smaller. I'm not sure if keeping it like this for any extended period would affect its performance but I won't personally be using this method for space saving purposes.

Anyway, hope this helps.

Saucy Pics of My New Sleeping Partner

Well not quite but I thought it might stimulate interest. I bet my Google stats have gone through the roof!

Anyway, hi folks. Some pictures of the new bag to wet the appetite. From feedback it seems I'm not alone in the lunacy stakes and my behaviour since receiving my first down sleeping bag is strangely normal!

Apologies for the pictures my DIY studio in the loft has had to be set aside for helicopter tuning hence the bad lighting and angles. Sleeping bags aren't particularly photogenic though either!

Here it is in the supplied storage sack. I think I'm going to hang it in the loft when not in use - just for peace of mind.

This shows the foot box construction which feels particularly plump for extra toastie feets.

Cumulus' Quantum range don't feature a full neck baffle. Instead to save weight they feature a 'Neck Warmer'! I was sceptical of this until it arrived but as you can see the it pretty much resembles a top loaded baffle - scepticism subdued!

Guess What I Got Last Night?

Walked in after work and there it was, a large brown paper parcel with my name on it - a new Cumulus Quantum 350.

Not being that bothered about its arrival I just let it sit there unopened for several hours before I fought back the boredom and opened it. That didn't happen - I bloody legged it upstairs before tearing it out its packaging and jumping inside the thing like a real twerp!

The first thing I noticed was how soft and surprisingly nice the Pertex Quantum material is. It feels luxurious compared to my old Vango bag. It came in its mesh storage bag and once out it lofted so much that at first I couldn't envisage it ever going inside its tiny stuff sack! Its quite amazing how small this thing packs and you will be pleased to know that it does indeed fit.

Initial impressions are that it seems very well made, with a slim yet comfortable fit. The foot area has been constructed with extra fill for warmth (this is immediately obvious) and the one-handed draw-string for the hood/neck does what it says on the tin. I gingerly tested the DWR treatment on the outer of the bag to find that also performs as promised in the marketing blurb, the water beading nicely on top.

Clearly I'm yet to test it on the hill but so far I'm very impressed, especially with the weight. As I've hinted at before, the bag marks a bit of a milestone for me as my coming of age in lightweight wild camping.

A full review with follow once I've used it (Wast Water fells circuit in October) and I'll post some detailed pictures tonight when I get a spare moment for those who haven't seen one up close and personal yet.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Trip Preparations - Wast Water Fells

Since the next trip location and route have been decided I thought I'd make a start on the necessary arsing about, getting a few things ready.

The Big Agnes gets her second outing but this time she will house both Paul and I and so I had to make an important addition to the tent bag – a footprint. I knew when I bought the Seedhouse SL2 I would eventually need a footprint as the groundsheet isn't thin its almost molecular! On the Coniston trip I found a great pitch and since it was being used solo I wasn't so worried. This time however, with two of us in it, I don't want to risk a hole or a tear so yesterday after painting the hall (oh the glamour) I set about making my own lightweight footprint.

I ordered some 70gsm waterproof rip-stop nylon from Penine Outdoors and aside from it being a gopping green is perfect the job. I set about marking the outline of the tent by simply drawing around it and then cut inside the line by around an inch. I then just measured 4 lengths of webbing strap and set about attaching eyelets to insert the tent poles into.

Now I have a fully secured footprint which packs down really small and the whole thing only adds 145g to the weight. I doubt I'd need this so much when going solo but, given that Paul and I are sharing the load of the tent, this is a small price to pay for the extra protection.

Those who read the post below might be interested to know that I am now the owner (although it is yet to arrive) of a 665g Cumulus Quantum sleeping bag. This is going to make such a huge difference to my pack in terms of weight and bulk. This purchase alone has saved me 1185g and enough space in the pack for a few extra layers, more food, or just a less bulky pack.

One other trial I had to perform was in relation to the Icon-X emergency charger. I have been using the Nokia N82 for a month or so now but I have never tried to charge it from flat using this new technique. I'm glad I did try this before using in the field because I have found that a standard 1.5v AA battery does not have enough grunt to instigate a charge cycle. It must just be that the charging circuit in the phone needs more voltage input to get the thing going because if the phone has any charge in it when I plug it in to the emergency charger, it will happily charge away. I can get over this by making sure I don't let it run flat and charge it before the phone turns off. Moreover, I have also found that rechargeable Ni-MH do actually work and seem to deposit more charge than a standard alkaline battery. I think the perfect combo is going to be a standard Alkaline to kick off a charge and the rechargeable to give it a boost. Glad I have the sad side that made me check this now. “There's a good geek”!

I have a few more things to do before I think about my final kit list and that is to proof my LiteSpeed backpack – an arduous but worthwhile chore me thinks...

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Sleeping Bag Encounters of the Out of Stock Kind

The ongoing upgrades to my kit list took a drastic hit yesterday when Alpkit confirmed that they wouldn't be getting any more Pipedream 400 sleeping bags in until November. Normally this wouldn't have been a problem but with my Birthday fast approaching and the October trip planned for the weekend before, I'd taken the executive decision that I'd treat myself to a new warmer, lighter sleeping bag. I have spent a small portion of my life deciding on what I needed and how much I'd need to spend to get it. The Alpkit bag was an attractive and very viable option for obvious reasons so I was sold on the dream that this little problem was sorted. Not so.

Now I've had to have a re-think and its a serious one because nothing touches this bag on spec for the same money. Increasing the budget now I know the Pipedream is out there means I'm looking for something that is either lighter/smaller/warmer - or all three. Enter the Cumulus Quantum 350. Its slightly more expensive but on paper weighs in at 665g, has Pertex Quantum fabric and packs down really small. Why did they have to go and do that!

Now I have a dilemma because my current bag weighs nearly two kilos and is now the weakest element of my kit and in fact the only item letting me down on weight and, more importantly, a warm nights sleep. I've read a few reviews on the Cumulus bag and from the limited number I've found they are well made and perform well.

Its on offer at the moment with £30 off, surely this is a sign from the God's that we're meant to be together.....and by the 2nd October....clearly

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

I'm alive, I'm just waiting!

I just wanted to make this clear as I haven't posted for a while and I now seem to hate losing touch with...well no one in particular, but if you're a blogger - you know what I mean.

I've not been doing much in terms of getting outdoors lately, not least because I picked up a bit of a cold and then a chest infection which left me feeling a bit deflated.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it on the blog but some work colleagues and I had planned to complete the Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge on Saturday 30th, but since I hadn't fully recovered I had to do the sensible thing and drop out. In a suspicious show of solidarity (more likely a lack of interest) the guys were happy to postpone the trip until another time - Funny that!

Given that I had expected to be doing the challenge and I knew I was gearing up for a two day backpacking trip in October, I decided I would see if this trail shoe phenomenon is a stroke of genius or another lesson for the novice! I had read an article in Trail from PTC I found the whole idea intriguing. Not because I was surprised by the claim that trail shoes could change your experience on the hill but because I'd always found I move with more confidence in shoes rather than boots and this was getting me thinking.

I looked at the key brands and models and decided to get out and try a few on. I'd read a lot about The North Face Hedgehogs but they are in limited stocks everywhere at the minute so couldn't try on my size. I tried on a pair of Vindicators but I'd decided on a waterproof shoe if I was going to risk these for anything but winter use.
I tried on a pair of Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slam XCR's and they felt really good in all the right places. I tried on a pair of Scarpa Enigmas but I didn't feel that the heel was deep enough for my profile and to be quite honest wasn't excited by the style. I tried on the Merrell's again, went away and thought about it, tried them on again and bought a pair! Oh how I come on since the Brasher disaster!

The Three Peaks trip would have been a good introduction for them but now it looks as though I'll be trying for the first time in October. I have one concern so far and that is their ability to grip on slippery surfaces like wet brick, and I'm hoping this isn't the case on wet rock - like everything though I guess time will tell.

Having worn them for a few hours walking to work recently, I am seriously excited about the positive effects the reduction in weight and increased fluidity of movement will bring to my time on the hill. I'm not sure if this is true but I read somewhere in this crazy world that weight savings at your feet count for a larger proportion than in your pack. I think this might have been you PTC in Trail but I've been to sleep since then so correct me I'm wrong here! I'll let you know how I get on with this after the October trip.

All the best folks.