I hesitate to venture in here again but I think I have set a few hairs running by giving the impression that the winning blog (in the TGO Awards) won by a large margin. I had meant that there was quite a gap between those at the top and those at the bottom of the voting pile!
I don’t think I’m at liberty to reveal that actual voting figures not do I think I should) but I can say that the winning blog pipped the runner up by a glorious five votes. A spread of 45 votes cover the top four. A spread of 234 votes covered first and last place. While I don’t know the actual numbers of votes cast it looks to me to have been less than 300. The voting was quite tight at the top.
Now I mention this because of some of the comments being made rather vociferously and a suggestion that somehow the voting here was infleunced by gender considerations, although personally I wouldn’t see anything wrong in that per se. In fact, two men were in the top four and within close reach of the winner and runner up.
The ten nominations that received the most nominations were there ten that were shortlisted. The last of the nominated 10 received less that 50 votes and so it seems reasonable to me that a blog receiving less support that this probably didn’t merit shortlisting.
I certainly have never spoken to or heard of the winning blog and I believe that is also the case with TGO staff, although they will make their own position clear.
I said in my original post on this that I was not a great fan of these things but they are a common occurrence in all parts of life now. If it is the case that somehow people could have voted more than once then this should be dealt with in future, however, given the small number of votes actually cast I would be surprised if this had any real significance.
Personally, I can’t see any evidence of this being anything other than an open vote. it is, of course, the reality that a celebrity or somebody attached to big audience product will have an advantage over the rest of us. As I said before, it is almost impossible for a pub, B&B or campsite outside of the Lake District to win anything — simply because the Lakes are so popular.
So, do people encourage people to vote for them? Of course they do. Bloggers take to Facebook and Twitter to ask for support. Organisations and company’s might even have mentioned the vote on their web pages. What else do you expect!
Across the public vote categories there were two stand out results which suggested many more people voted in these categories than in others. in other words people voted simply once for their chosen champion. In both cases I don’t think anybody would quibble with the result.
I gave to tell you that this is an extraordinarily common process, even in — or especially in — alternative vote and TV elections for really important things! Considerably numbers only vote once for their preferred candidate or Party, choosing to forge a second or third choice.
At the end of the day this just isn’t that important, but I will end by reflecting on a few things.
Firstly, there are many different kinds of outdoor blogs. Some are like mine and Alan’s. These are labours of love and are based on a simple desire to share information and experience. we might see these as pure but there is no reason why everyone has to adopt these tactics. More than one person has tried to generate real income from their site and often it results in something that is almost unreadable — but you know it’s like the Mary Whitehouse thing (for younger readers don’t worry) — you don’t have to red them. I have once blogger friend who I love dearly but who’s site has so many adds on it I can’t read on on my iPad!
Secondly, we should be aware of new trends in journalism training and, of course, there impact on freelance techniques. Is shall paraphrase Jeff Jarvis an ex mainstream editor and now Professor of Journalism at a New York University. He makes it clear that anyone applying for his course should be writing a blog — if they are not writing and practicing their technique themselves they have to have a good reason why.
There are a number of blogs in the outdoor sphere that are written by journalists or copy writers with, presumably, the intention of promoting their talents. Does anyone read them? I don’t know but a few people are happy to vote for them.
Despite everything else these blogs are outdoor blogs it’s just we don’t know who these people are; they are probably too young to take the TGO Challenge seriously
I hope all of this dies down quickly. I am left with the rather uneasy feeling that the biggest problem this winner has is that she is a woman. i hope I’m wrong about that.
These votes are not really that important or that serious. they are a bit of fun and allow the readership to have a direct input into things. I’m not sure I would want to see the judges or staff deciding who goes on a short list or not. Taking the top ten nominations for a shortlist seems reasonable to me.
I shall end with another thought.
It is very difficult for anyone not famous to win the outdoor personality of the year. I think we have had Ray Mears, Bear Ghylls (or whatever he is called) and Chris Bonnington as winners. Fair enough I think I think in the ways that nobody should be surprised that Alan Hinkes (bless his award Yorshireness) wins book of the year. I have suggested that the judges might consider an Outstanding Contribution to the Outdoors award as a way of promoting those who are no sexy enough or well known enough. We moved in this direction last year with a special award.
Public votes have to be straightforward and open. And occasionally the public will surprise us.
So, while I am happy to ridicule this particular blog for this content and approach I don’t think it’s winning is part of some great consipracy; it simply wasn’t.
Routebuddy’s new Coast to Coast Challenge Map utilises the company’s unique screen ‘stitching’ technology to reduce a new map and add-ons that will be useful to anyone planning a coast-to-coast walk across the Scottish Highlands.
On this occasion I thought it would be more useful to you if I produced a video review, as you really have to see it in action to appreciate what this system can do. The review is in html format and should be viewable by all up-to-daye systems including tablets.
The 1:50K base map is available at a reasonable £19.99.
In addition, Routebuddy has created a number of specific 1:25 add-ons which stitch into the base map. These range in price depending on the ground covered. They start at £4.99 for part of the Torridon hills to £25 for the Cairngorms — good value for money.
Any other Routebuddy map can stitch into the base map and this review also displays a Harvey/BMC 1:40 working with the base map.
Not only can you view stitched maps on the same screen but you can print out the stitched maps on the same sheet of paper.
As we approach winter I know that a lot of hikers begin to reappraise their kit and think about new purchases for the winter or the spring. I’ve had a lot of interest in the Exodus pack. I’ve reviewed it before — Review: Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 2011 Backpack — but this ha the benefit of prolonged use.
I’ve also written this as an introduction to lightweight packs and their use in UK or cooler climate conditions.
25 seconds, f11, ISO 11, 24mm, Big Stopper ND +10 stops filter, ND Grad +2 stops filter
From the world of books you could easily get the impression that treks and trail walking are things of great extremes, undertaken by athletes who suffer significantly for their art! But, of course, it does not have to be like that and the mere mortals amongst us can still enjoy the thrill of a trek albeit one that is measured in weeks rather than months, where camping is often on campsites or where gites or B&Bs are used frequently.
New technology and the internet has made small run publishing — or self publishing — very popular over the last few years. I have reviewed a number of self published books in these pages, books that I have very much enjoyed reading. At the bottom of each review I include an Amazon link. This link allows you the reader to quickly check out other reviews and, if you choose to order the book via this route, I can see how many have been sold. By far the most ordered book from this site using the Amazon system is a self published book. These books fill a real niche somewhere between a travelogue and a conventional guidebook; they can give us a good idea of life on a particular trail.
Every Day Above a New Horizon is another successful self published book which centres around a walk on the Stephenson Trail in France. A few weeks ago I reviewed Max Landsberg’s A Call of the Mountains a book which described the project of a Munro bagger; Max’s book while having a strong narrative also gave many hints and tips that will be useful to those beginning to Munro bag. In this book John Davison does much the same thing for trail walking combining a strong narrative with quite a lot of useful information about wild camping, treating water and so on.
Like John I have had the Stephenson Trail on my list of to do walks for years. The Trail has been developed to commemorate the walk undertaken by Robert Louis Stephenson from the Massif Central to the South of the Cevennes just above the Mediterranean. Stephenson wrote a short book about his trip. Travels in the Cevennes with a Donkey is often considered to be the first modern travel book.
My problem with this trail is that I never seem to be able to find the time to slip this walk into my annual schedule. I have the route planned almost completely but there it sits until, well, one day …
I was pleased to read that John has had the same experience. He too harboured the dream of walking this trail for many years. He even carried around some text from Stephenson as a poster which sat on his office wall. It sat on a number of different walls over the years before he found the time and space to walk the trail.
So, Every Day Above a New Horizon, not only focus on this walk but on those trail expeditions that led up to it. In building up to the Stephenson Trail John walked and backpacked in Derbyshire, Wiltshire and in the Highlands. He then graduated to longer trails including the West highland Way, the Great Glen Way and the East Highland Way before moving on to tackle the big one.
The really great thing about this book is that John writes well. He has a sparse and simple style and is successful in avoiding the flowery language we get from many inexperienced writers. He has a nice gentle sense of humour and a keen eye for important detail. Anyone who has regularly trailed walked will recognise many of the experiences and characters that are encountered along way. There’s the gear bore who carries massive weights and dominates every meeting at a campsite. There are walking companions who value the pubs along the route more keenly than they do the landscape and who sometimes hail down a taxi and thumb a life to get from one place to the other. There are hotels and B&Bs who, faced with a smelly and muddy trekker, suddenly decide that they are full. And there are honest pieces about the horrible nature of the early stages of the West Highland Way which is often more reminiscent of a rubbish dump than of a national trail. I agree with John’s observation that the decision to ban camping in the Loch Lomond area has been a disaster as it simply encourages improvised bivouacs which leave behind tons of debris.
The Stephenson Trail takes up the second half of a book. For me, this gives a pretty open and honest account of a first time excursion on a French Trail, including that rather touchy issue of the French and their dogs!
The Stephenson Trail is not a particularly difficult trail in itself although some of the days are long. However, John makes it clear that UK walkers need to respect the upland areas many of which are higher than any territory in the UK and which can (often) be subject to pretty dreadful weather conditions. Although this is a trail that can be broken with very comfortable evenings in lovely villages it is one which needs to be prepared for properly.
I enjoyed reading this book. It had the right air of authenticity to it. As I’ve already mentioned John writes well and this is an easy book to digest; I read it in two sessions over a Sunday afternoon and earl evening.
If you are thinking of tackling one of these trails for the first time I think you would find this book useful. If you have a lot of experience of trail walking then there is also a lot to enjoy.
I think this is only available in paper cover at the moment, but it is easily bought through Amazon.
If you’ve read the previous post you will know that I need a new daypack overnight pack. This is the choice, the Gossamer Gear Kumo pack. this is rated at 36 litres in total, 28 litres in the main pack. My version, large back size and including a mat insert, weighs dead on 500 grams.
I’ve not had this that long but it has already spent a few days on the hills and has been taken to Berlin as my main luggage and then strolling-around pack.
So far I’ve found this to be pretty comfortable even when carrying more than the maximum carrying weight (which is about 11 kilograms).
Basically, this is simple frameless pack. Structure to the pack is given by a sit bad which skips into a fabric holder on the rear of the pack. The mat is made of the same material as the GG Nightlite mat. I used one of these mats for years and, indeed, have it down the back of my main MLD Exodus pack. The mat doesn’t help in distributing weight but it does make the whole thing a little more rigid and comfortable.
The hip belt is reasonably wide but minimalistic — there is no padding on the hip section of the belt. In practice I don’t find the belt necessary to help carry weight, it is more useful to keep the pack from moving. If I was walking on reasonably flat trails I wouldn’t be worried about using the hip belt at all; it is removable. I used this pack in Berlin without the hip belt and it was comfortable enough even when over weight.
Most of the pressure here is taken up by the shoulder straps. These aren’t padded either, rather they are made of a reasonably thin foam which does seem to absorb pressure well. It helps that the straps are generously wide to help distribute the load.
There are no pockets on the hip belt, though you can buy these as extras. The two side pockets are generously sized and have drain holes built into then. The pocket on the front (which you can see in the pic) is pretty generous. The base of the pocket and the base of the pack has extra reenforcement from another lightweight fabric.
There are no compression straps as such. On each side of the pack is a line of lightweight bungee chord that can be tensioned to both reduce pack volume and to secure tall objects stored in the pockets — you can’t see well here but this chord is securing both two poles and a water bottle/filter on the other side.
The lid is interesting. Inside the lid are two clips that allow you to tighten things a bit. The lid itself connects to the pack using two small and light line locs. This may be a lightweight arrangement but these lines work well in ensuring the pack is tightly closed. This lid has a compartment that is accessed by the zip on the left. The zip is designed so that it is closed when at the bottom of the zip line; I like this as it means the zip can’t gradually open from the top. I’m not a fan at all of pack lids as there is a tendency to stash too much weight in here and things can get a little unstable. On this pack the lid has a limited capacity but the design means the pocket is quite useful.
So far I have enjoyed using the pack. It is a proper lightweight pack which I appreciate. it can happily carry a load for an overnighter carrying even a winter load.
I shall report back after it has had a little more use but if you are in the market for something in this range the Kumo is well worth checking out.
I like having a decent daypack that can be used both on the hills and in town; as such I like the pack to be as light as possible while still being practical.
This is the current state of my ULA Relay pack. they say dyneema is indestructible but, of course, this is the material it is embedded in rather than the white dyneema thread itself. However, before you worry this pack is the best part of 10 years old and has been used for everything from overnighters to doing the shopping!
This pack wasn’t on sale for long. It has a narrow opening at the top and this made it difficult to pack especially after a cold night on the hills. However, this has been my go to daypack, hand luggage on planes and it has carried most of my food shopping over that period!
While this looks a mess it is still quite functional, although the hole is growing at an alarming rate. The basic fabric of the pack is simply perishing from age. Ten dyneema thread itself is the white stuff which is so tough they make bullet proof vests out of it — it is white because no dye can adhere to it.
Mind you, this does seem to have taken a hell of lot of use and abuse. If every piece of gear lasted as well I would be a happy man!
Colin has kindly allowed my to use some of the photographs that feature in the shelter instructions sheet. First off, here isa photo of the outer that Colin took during his recent Scandinavian trip.
You can see how stable this is at the rear and the sides.
This is the dual loop system Colin uses for the base peg out points; this is kind of attention to detail you will get with this shelter.
This is the shelter fully closed. It is not a tent that goes to the ground but a tarp that gives a lot of weather protection. Note the way in which the front guys are working.
This gives you a very good idea of the way in which the door works. Each side has it’s own line loc. The chords can be easily slipped out or re-inserted into the locks from inside of the shelter.
Front door closed but zip open.
Attaching the inner
Inner fully attached with tarp open. Note the door guys are now unattached and on the floor (orange). It is pretty easy to attach these to the door line locs.
I thought I’d produce an occasional series of posts that talk about the gear that I shall be using on next year’s TGO Challenge, mainly because it might help first timer who planning what might be their first trek of this kind and length.
I shall start with clothing choices.
On my feet I shall be wearing my usual X Socks Trekking Lite socks. These work brilliantly with trail shoes (more on those subsequently). I shall also have a pair of Teko merino wool socks for cooler weather and as dry camp socks. I also carry a pair of Seaslkinz waterproof sock. I find the Sealskinz almost impossible to walk in but they dome for good waterproof socks to put over ordinary camp socks or down socks (I shall deal with down clothing in a separate post).
Base layers will be merino, boxers and tops, most likely a mix of product from Chocolate Fish (my favourites) and Smartwool. I tend to carry two pairs of lightweight merino boxers and two tops, one a T shirt and one sleeved base layer.
My walking trousers will be Jack Wolfskin Activate Pants. JW are not often thought of as being at the peak of the gear world but these are fabulous trousers, lightweight, slightly stretchy and with decent vents that are protection by bug netting. They also have decent gators built-in. I also carry a lightweight pair of Paramo summer trousers mainly for civilisation but they work if the weather suddenly turns very warm.
My voice of mid layer will be left to nearer the date when I can gauge the weather. If the weather is likely to be very cold I shall take my Chocolate Fish Possum/merino jumper which although wool is reasonably light and wicks and breathers superbly; it is warm. If the weather is more like the norm I shall probably take a Rab Vapour Rise jacket, a kind of micro fleece with a good which is pretty well wind resistant and can cope with a fair amount of rain. The Vapour Rise is very breathable.
For waterproofs I shall taking conventional stuff this again time and not Paramo. My waterproof trousers will be Berghaus Pac Lite trousers, the only gear I own from Berghaus or featuring any kind of Gore Tex. However, these over trousers are light, tough and very breathable in fact almost perfect for trekking in the UK.
My waterproof jacket is new and is a PHD Alpamayo. PHD are a superb company and although I’m not sure what the fabric actually is I’m advised that is effective enough. PHD garments are generously sized so that you can easily get bulkier mid layers underneath them, especially their down products. I like this. Not everyone sizes i this way. This jacket is also pretty long and again I like the protection it gives. My X Large size weighs 470 grams. Expect a proper review shortly.
I also take a lightweight Montane windproof smock and last year I took a lightweight Jack Wolfskin shirt, which in the heat of last year was a great choice.
A good wind cap is also a good thing to have with you. I think the best — which are not too hot — are from Paramo. I also cary a Chocolate Fish merino wool hat and a Tilly Hat for coping with sun, rain and almost everything the elements can throw at it!
Next: Sleeping and Camping Gear.
I took the Colin Ibbotson Tramplite Production Shelter #1 out onto the hills yesterday. I wasn’t quite ready to spend a 14 hour night out in it for you lot, but I did have a good chance to pitch and play with it. I took a few photos on my iPhone, so forgive the quality. Colin has some excellent photos taken for the instruction leaflet and I will see if he will allow me to post some of these here.
So, how did I get on?