Tuesday 27 January 2009

Video Diary – A Winter Wild Camp

First things first: I'm sorry.

I've been having problems with file compatibility in Windows Movie Maker and Adobe Premier Pro (V1.5) so it's taken me until now to put this together. I'm new to video (as you will quickly see) so hence the apology.

Anyway I had a mammoth converting session over the weekend so now I can edit all those clips taken on my mobile - Sweet! It wasn't until I started the editing though that I realised that the content isn't as good as my disillusioned mind had me believe! Having spent the time converting them I'd gone too far to turn back and so here is a compilation of video taken from our first winter wild camp on a beautiful weekend last November in the English Lake District.

I've tried a little workaround to link to the higher quality version but if it doesn't work the YouTube is here

P.S. We’re not normally this idiotic – Honest.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Starstruck In The Malverns

Charl is working potatoe day so i headed for the Malvern Hills. As I approached the Worcestershire Beacon, i'm pretty certain Bob and Rose from backpackinglight ran past! Unfortunately i didn't get chance to introduce myself as they ran off into the distance but it was quiet a suprise! Been listening to the TGO podcasts again over the last week and it just makes it that much more real. Anyway i'm doing a bit of video for the blog so i'm off to make a brew with the new gear. Should have asked bob and rose over for a quick tea!

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Shiny New Kooking Kit

Posty Pat delivered this yesterday:

minibulldesign_unboxAnything that arrives with a ‘John Austin’ label on it is always bound to contain good things – and it was. A complete Krazy Kooking Kit with Mini Atomic stove, 24oz Super Pot, Zip lock container and fuel bottles. Life is good.


The idea behind all this kit is that I have two different sized cooking systems for those ultra-light trips. The original intention and most likely use was solo wanderings. Having tested the Mini Atomic though, I can’t that Paul could moan about boil times – its surprisingly fast. 4 minutes and 54 seconds to boil 450ml, using only 20ml of fuel.

The Krazy Kooking Kit consists of the stove, wire pot stand, the 16oz (454ml) pot (with lip guard and wick wrap)wind shield and the Zip Lock container to house it all in. It weighs in at 140g as written and 275g with 5oz (140ml) bottle of meths. That my friends is nuts! My lightweight gas and titanium setup is 465g and so the potential saving of 190 for solo trips is welcome.

The weight aside, there’s a convenience advantage too. The Zip Lock container is of course a bowl and is more easily cleaned than the pot itself. This setup (with a suitably made pot cosy) will mean that I can re-hydrate the food in the plastic bowl and still boil water for a Yogi Bhajan special, with no need to wash the pot. Simple but a such a relief from the usual ball-ache of washing up after the evening meal before making another brew.

mini_atomic_setup I’m really hoping to get Charl out on a wild camp this year (short walk, fair weather stylee) and I’m thinking that the larger 24oz (680ml) Super Pot will work for two whilst saving weight. The Mini Atomic will boil a full pot of cold water in a smidge under 10 minutes….I know, impressive hey! I’m hoping to do a video with me using the new gear this weekend – so better get cracking on a pot cosy….

Saturday 17 January 2009

From Lakes To Peaks

Weather isn't looking too pleasant for tonight and sunday, so I had a little fit and drove to Edale instead! I'm on my way up kinder via Grindsbrook and its lovely if not a little windy. Just stopped for a slice of pizza - real hill food! On the look out for a quite pitch to wild camp sometime in the near future. More later.

Friday 16 January 2009

Happy S*dding Birthday!

In an exercise on how to be a complete and utter twerp, I managed to completely miss the first anniversary of this fast growing toddler of a blog - which was Wednesday. Having reminded myself on Monday, you would have thought this was a difficult to miss but alas I did. The only viable explanation is that I must have had to make room for some other useless piece of information and promptly forgot.

This aside, I'm quite frankly shocked that I have managed to keep it going so long, mainly as the whole idea of a blog was being shunned back at home as just another one of my fads. Faddy McFadderson.

I had intended the blog to cover a few topics, but wild camping/backpacking took over and stole the show. I've come a long way since that first post, where I was still clinging on to quite a few naive ideas about backpacking. One short trip was all it took to teach this ignoramous that lightweight camping isn't just for wimps. Of course that wasn't the only lesson I learned the hard way and the boot caper was the next chapter in this baptism of fire. I didn’t realise then that I would eventually succumb to the power of trail shoes.

Probably the most significant epiphany during backpacking puberty was when I realised that no body has all the answers, its not all about what the magazines say, what other people do or tell you to do; you have to find your own way of doing things in order find backpacking enlightenment.

On reflection its been a productive first year. I’ve not managed to get out as much as I would have liked but when I did I tried to move things forward a little each time. The first Wasdale trip was the first time I felt comfortable with my kit. Like most, I still have things I’d like to replace but these are now less critical items. I confess that I am one of those annoying backpackers who loves gear and despite what people say it does make a difference. The gear that changed everything for me was trail shoes – a revelation, nuff said.

The solo trip around the Coniston Fells was probably my backpacking graduation and I cannot recommend this enough was you have a bit of experience under your belt. Winter wild camping was another highlight and a great way to finish off the first year.

I’m not sure where or what for this coming year but its obligatory to say “I want to get out more” at this point I’m sure! I’d love to plan and complete a TGO Challenge but this takes a lot of commitment and doesn’t seem viable at the moment - 2011 perhaps? I’ve been reading Alan Sloman’s 2005 account of the crossing and isn’t doing my pangs for the hills any good! A more achievable outing this year would be a few days in the Cairngorms or elsewhere in the Highlands. A multi-day trek taking in as much of the wilderness as possible is how I see it – almost like a mini TGOC but with less whiskey!

Cheers and Happy Birthday A Little Bit About Not A Lot!

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Next Outing

I’ve been staring at maps the last few evenings, looking for a destination for this weekends dash to the hills.

As time is short I should be looking closer to home, but as I cannot tell when the next chance for a night on the hill will come between now and April I need to make the most of this opportunity.

I’ve been looking at the Lakes then but wanted access to be nice and easy to minimise driving time and the fells around Thirlmere got my attention. Checking the weather, its looking a bit nasty over the weekend so Helvellyn et al as home for the night is looking unlikely at this stage. Looking at lower ground in the same area though offers what could be an amazing pitch. Keeping my cards close to my chest at the moment but if the weather calms down a bit its likely I’ll head up there for a solo trip.

As this is a bit of an impromptu trip, testing the new stoves and cooking gear from minibulldesign isn’t going to be possible as they haven’t been shipped yet. I will however be giving the Canon Ixus its first proper outing to really make the most of the wide angle lens.

Fingers crossed the weather gods have a change of heart.

Sunday 11 January 2009

Run To The Hills - But Which?

Right folks. I need some help here and I know you guys will have the answer. I've got a chance of a one night solo backpack this Saturday as Charl is off to see Old Men Falling Off The Block (or something like that).

I was thinking a quick wildcamp back up on Grey Friar - starting in the Duddon Valley, which became an impromptu stop on our last trip! The only issue is that I want to be back fairly early on Sunday as we have a pre-booked event on Sunday evening I don't want to miss. So, the question is: Do I turn the key and drive to the Lakes or opt for something closer to home like the Peak District.

It has become a bit of dilemma as every opportunity to get out is precious (as I'm sure most will know) and I want to get the best out of it. I need to check the weather over the week but if you guys want to make any suggestions - all will be seriously considered.

Over to you....

Saturday 10 January 2009

Gear Review – Cumulus Quantum 350 (update)

I thought I’d post a review of this down sleeping bag now I’ve had chance to use it on a few occasions.Given that the last trip was fairly wintry, this review has come a bit sooner than expected.

I've used the bag several times now, once at around 3C and this latest time at what I'm guessing was somewhere around -3. The bag on both occasions performed perfectly and I was warm whilst inside. To be honest I expected the night on Yewbarrow to go smoothly as it wasn't forecast to drop below zero that night. The wind was blowing a gale though so life inside the tent was fairly brisk despite the weather man and I thought the conditions were a good measure of general conditions on the hill.

The last trip was particularly cold with the water in our bottles freezing inside the tent so was another good test of the lightweight bag's ability to keep me warm. This time is was essential for me to keep as much heat in as I could and so before I settled down I took the time to work out the hood. Like most things that don't work out in my life - the last time the hood didn't work too well turned out to be my fault! The bag was new and I was an idiot and was too gentle to tighten the draw cord properly. This time I was keen to keep the cold out and pulled that thing with the appropriate amount of gusto and guess what.....it worked! Unlike my initial review suggested, the hood fits around my head nicely and was enough to form a nice seal against the face! Inside that bag - life was good.

I'm not particularly an expert on down bags (not least because this is my first) but I do know that this bag is ridiculously light and still very warm below freezing. I would think that with a few clothes on and perhaps matched with a down jacket, this bag would work well in very cold temperatures. Those crazy guys at Cumulus say the bag is good for a comfortable sleep down to -6C and I reckon with a down jacket it would be good down to at least double that. Ridiculous when you consider the bag only weights 680g!

If you need an ultralight light bag for 3-4season use – get one. I can thoroughly recommend it.

Thursday 8 January 2009

New Year Jolly and Questionable Mental Health

I’m grinning right now and its not flatulence. No, not today. Today there’s another reason, in fact there are 2 reasons. One you might be interested in, the other you definitely won’t! The main reason for this stupid grin is because today i found that the Eagles of Death Metal will tour the UK and the other is that I have purchased some more gear from Tinny at Minibulldesign. Yes oh yes, EODM will come to Birmingham in April and when I have finished this post I shall return to rocking out in the dining room pretending I’m already there. This is “high voltage” I tell thee.

On a more restrained note, when I got back from Paris I decided I would see what Tinny had been up to since purchasing my first stove nearly a year ago (in fact the subject of which was one of my first real blog posts – see here). I knew he’d been busy and when I spotted the fire making, brew boiling goodies I almost had a panic attack. Looking for a couple of solutions I settled on the QMH kit and a Krazy Kooking Kit with mini Atomic. Time will now slow to half its normal pace until this arrives. Of course a review will follow in due course.

Its been quiet on here lately I know and mainly due to illness over Christmas and our Paris jaunt. Christmas over though and its time I looked into planning the first trip of the year.

In the meantime, some pics from our recent trip (taken with the new Canon IXUS ) for those who have not yet lost the will to live….

Parc-de-Andre-Citroen Parc de Andre Citroen

La_defence The view from the top of Le Grande Arch De La Fraternite – La Defense

canal_st_martin Snow on the Canal De Saint Martin