Mention one new brand of alcohol stove products and it seems another twenty three come along. Today I shall give a plug to our own Storming’ Norman (it’s a TGO kind of a thing)!
Norman’s innovation is that he produces not only ‘cones’ but windshields or pan/pot/mug ‘huggers’. “The material used for the cones and “huggers” is tensile aluminium, custom made to fit any pot/pan/mug on the backpacking market. Both the cones and “huggers” are made in two halves that are easily stored in their own dedicated pots”. The flexibility of this system means you are not restricted to one pot.
Here is what they look like.
The two section of the cone look interesting!
You do need to order with the dimensions of your pot but no doubt Norman already has the dimensions of the major brands. He sells his products via. eBay:
Norman’s stoves are similar to the Zelph and the Speedster stoves, in other words, small stoves with absorbent material to hold held and a lid to allow you to store unused fuel. Norman says:
Stormin’ Stoves are built using the recycled principle,utilising aluminium drinks cans of 50mm diameter.These stoves are built using a super absorbent wick material,non spillable when filled and with a custom container to store the stove in, eliminating any evaporation of unused fuel. These containers are airtight,thereby ensuring no contamination when stored in your pot.
Finally, Norman produces a reflective baseplate for your stove and shield:
… a reflective baseplate,this ensures a level,even surface for optimum performance of both stove and windshield.This eliminates any heat loss, or dips and lumps which may effect stove to pot heat fluctuation.
No doubt Storming’ will pop around here and answer any questions you have.
There was quite a bit of interest in these on the TGO Challenge and I think I met a very satisfied customer (my memory fades as a result of endless gear conversations!)
In the last years of his life Maurice finally got to make his definitive statement.
ESP, longtime guardians of no-compromise jazz and alternative music, searched Maurice out to persuade him to get back into the studio on his own terms. No compromise. No constraints. Complete freedom.
Emile van Deyk “My God, this was hard! We are not accustomed to this kind of travel. There are no roads, no way by which we could take a vehicle. I did not imagine such things could be.”
But Emile made the journey into the upper reaches of The Dulnain, and convinced Maurice to record once more.
Emile again “He had buried his instrument, can you imagine? His daughter, Eimar, she has a spade and she digs, yes? I am gasping.”
ESP did Maurice proud, and brought in a full field studio with satellite linkage allowing over-dubs for past band-mates who were unable to make the journey.
Maurice was in reflective mood, and opened with Black Orpheus before a magisterial take on Scrapple From The Apple. Four months later he passed, and we shall not see his like again.
Cover art references classic Blue Note, tho’ with a contemporary sensibility. Maurice WoolfThe Dulnain Sessions.
For a couple of years now I have been looking tropical my main waterproof. This has served me well but after almost a decade of use the fabric has got thinner and the jacket stopped being properly waterproof a few years ago!
Choosing a replacement has been difficult. I’ve tried on a couple of jackets in shops that seem to be sized weirdly, X Large jackets that seem not to the right size across the shoulders. The next problem has been price. The cost of the latest designs and fabrics has become quite ridiculous. I’m simply not going to pay silly money for something that might be a wee bit more breathable.
It was fellow Challenger that first recommended the Alpamayo to me two or three years ago. Gordon is a sensible chap. He likes his gear lightweight but not at the cost of comfort of effectiveness. Everything from PHD I hoverer bought has been top-notch and so in the end I finally got round to following Gordon’s advice!
The first thing you notice about the Alpamayo is its size. PHD size their jackets to allow for the wearing of their down jackets below which is helpful I think. The smock fits nice and loosely but is not flappy. There is no scope tail but the smock has a decent, protective, length to it which I like.
The main zip on the jacket is tough and solid and protected by a proper baffle and waterproof seams. A single chest pocket also uses a similar zip and waterproof protection. There is also an inside pocket with a key holder. The hood is properly adjusted and is probably the best hood I have used on a waterproof jacket. The wire frame is tough and the hood is easily adjusted by an adjuster at the read and my two adjustable toggles on the base. The smock cuffs feature very tough and solid Velcro adjusters. Everything about the construction is very solid and the smock oozes quality. The fabric is not thin but is smooth to the touch
In the use the smock is totally waterproof and windproof without being heavy. The walk on the Black Mountains was a real test of any waterproof garment; the smock design proved more comfortable and protective than I think a jacket would have been. The sealed zips and zip protection proved to be very effective.
While the weather in on the Black Mountain Trip was pretty foul it was mild. Fighting against the wind meant working hard and at no time did I feel the smock lacked for breathability.
The Alpamayo uses PHD’s own HS3 fabric. I’m not exactly sure what this is as many waterproof fabrics — including eVent — can be licensed to be used under individual brand names. What I do know is that this fabric is more than breathable enough for me.
My Alpamayo is X Large size and weighs 470 grams. It costs £259 and can only be obtained from PHD using website. Long experience of buying from PHD tells me that you cranky on their sizing guide — for example, you would have to pretty large to have to go up to the XX Large size (which can be ordered). I idk the over sizing as I thing the option of using a down jacket in cold weather — that is not compacted too much — can be a real bonus. There is a jacket version of the smock available which adds about another 100 grams.
You won’t see this garment reviewed that often as it doesn’t use one of the main name fabrics. However, this is a first rate piece of kit that simply won’t let you down.
Over the next few months I will continue testing and report back with a long term review.
Fuji X-Pro1, 1/125, f11, ISO 400. 18mm (28 — 35 equivalent)
In this internet age it is tempting to think that we know all about the great trails of the world even if we have never ever hiked them ourselves. There are many tells journals to read. There are many hikers who now blog or micro blog as they walk. We know all about the trail infrastructure, we can download the maps and, of course, we all now know about the famous Trail Angels of the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT.
Chris Townsend walked the PCT over 30 years ago. Back then the trail was a reality but it was nowhere near as popular as it is today. I think the year Chris hiked it only 11 people completed it. It has taken 30 years for Chris to produce this book and it seems he only embarked on the task after encouragement from his new publishers, Sandstone Press. Sandstone should take a bow as this is a very fine book indeed. When reviewing Chris’ recent Grizzly Bears and Razor clams (I think it was) put forward the view that Chris’ writing is just getting better and better. Rattlesnakes confirms this.
The PCT is an epic trail and 30 odd years ago walking it was even more epic as the trail infrastructure that we have today simply wasn’t there. To make things even more dramatic Chris walked the PCT after one of the heaviest snow falls recorded making much of the first section of the walk quite a challenge.
The PCT runs for 2,650 miles, starting at the Mexican borders and running North (at least that’s how most people tackle it) through California, Oregon and Washington States. The trail takes in the Mojave desert, the High Sierra Mountains, The Cascade Mountains and many of the great US forests along the way.
This PCT walk was Chris’ first mammoth hike and this book combines both the excitement of that youthful walk with a maturity of reflection that is simply beguiling. Above all else it is the natural drama of the trail environment that is the star of this book but the way Chris details the development of the PCT (both before and since his walk) is fascinating.
A modern journal on the PCT would inevitably feature a lot of words about gear and while this is a book about moving through landscape there’s enough to keen gear junkies happy. For this trip Chris was provided with some of the first Gore Tex waterproofs that landed in the UK. It was also on this trip that Chris saw the light and turned (mid trip) to lightweight trail shoes from heavy boots. There is the drama of a broken pack and the search for a replacement. But mostly this is about the walk.
The heavy snowfall results in a trip that seems a very different one to many accounts that I have read. Chris is famous for walking alone but the snow heavy sections dictated walking in small groups for safety. Not only was there a lot of snow to cross but tiny and often dry creeks had turned into raging torrents. What comes over nicely is the relationship that is built up amongst these trail companions. Chris remarks towards the end of the book tat he had walked much of a thousand miles with some of them and yet they ended up knowing little about each other’s lives back in the ‘real world’. However, you do get a great sense of the trail intensity of these friendships. While not having undertake a venture like this myself this — levelling of human experience — is a feature of any long trail walk and, I think, is one of the reasons for the longevity of the TGO Challenge where you often have little idea about the people you are walking with save for their own views of the immediate experience
A lot of the other usual ingredients are on show here, stories of serial breakfast eating in tiny, backwater, trail towns, the joys of a shower after weeks of walking and so on.
But what makes this a joy to read is the sharing of Chris’ discovery of life on a trail like this, the beauty of the desert, the joys of the high mountains, the fascinating variety of the forests and the glorious wildcamps along the way. I wish I could describe this all a bit more eloquently but you’ll just have to go and read the book!
This was the trip that I guess formed the Chris Townsend that most of us know today. I’m glad that he took a long time to write this as I think we’ve ended up with a fascinating and probably more enduring book.
When I finished reading the book I rang up Colin Ibbotson who told me that the book had made him want to go out and hit the trail again. I know when he means. Putting the book down I had to go out for a walk and spend a night camping on the side of the hill, a far more modest experience without doubt but this is what Chris’ books do. They shake you out of lethargy and install in you that love of the natural world that keeps us all going.
This is very firmly recommended.
Regular readers will know that I am a bit of a leftie and that, sometimes, the politics and the outdoors come together (though heaven, not that often). During the long days of Labour’s exile ring the time of Thatcher and Major, I developed the habit of heading for the hills after election night. I tried a number of activities — cycling for instance — but walking (preferably with some camping) proved the most therapeutic. Sadly, in recent years, I have had to revive the tradition, which is why I found myself taking to the hills for the weekend following the EU referendum.
My plan had been to travel up to North Wales on Friday but the news coverage on Friday proved to be strangely addictive. Spent most of the day glued to the news channel. With the Snowden opportunity gone I was left with a quick few days in South Shropshire. And by the time of my return all hell had broken loose and my intentions to write a quick trip report were dashed. Then I somehow deleted my photos during a system reset. So, a bit late — and in prose alone — here is my latest piece!
Speedster Windshield and MSR Titan Pot
I’ve finally got round to having a good play with the Speedster Windshield.
Alcohol stoves need a good windshield. For a few years now I’ve used either a titanium Honey Stove (from backpacking light.co.uk) as a windshield, or a Caldera Cone system. Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages (more later) but what about this system?
The first thing you notice about this windshield is that it is tough and robust. It is far tougher than the foil Caldera Cones and easier to put together than the Honey Stove. The shield comprises of six sections, hinged together, that pack flat.
Flat packing is a great advantage in my view. The Honey Stove packs flat but is a bit fiddly to assemble, particularly after prolonged use; there is no hinge here, interlocking tabs hold the whole thing together. The original Caldera Cones (I still use one with a large pot) had to be kept in a plastic caddy to protect the foil. These caddies could also hold you stove and a full bottle but they were bulky and a bit of a pain to pack.
In recent years Caldera have got over the problem by introducing the ‘sidewinder system’. The cone rolls up and is kept in a cone shaped piece of Tyvek material and the cone fits into your pot for ease of packing and protection. However, the Sidewinder is not available for all pots including the MSR Titanium Titan Kettle. This kettle is very popular with solo backpackers. It has a good capacity (about 650 ml) and a decent profile — it is not too tall which aids stability. The MSR kettle is about the easiest of these products to find in high street stores, which no doubt aids its popularity. So, it is a good thing that this system is available for the Titan Kettle.
I’m not quite sure what the Windshield is made of but it is a reasonably strong gauge of metal but not too heavy. This windshield, together with its soft fabric pouch, weighs 75 grams. This is heavier than a cone but more robust. And the windshield includes a secure pot rest. The cone system secures your pot around the rim but over time and use the pots can slip down into the cone which is a bit messy at times.
This second photo (sorry about the quality) shows how the pot rest works. Three wire pot supports fold out into the pot and support your pot at the optimum height for the stove. The windshield is joined as one by a metal pin which clips the two outside panels of the stove together.
When assembled get a comparatively solid windshield, I say comparatively because this is a piece of backpacking kit but it does feel more solid than a cone. You can see form the top photo that the shield almost completely encloses the pot.
I tested the system in pretty blustery weather. The shield seemed to operate well. There was some wind blow through the small vents at the bottom of the shield and occasionally some blowing around of the flame, however, the stove seemed protected enough and — even with a 30 ml stove — happily took 600 ml of water to a rolling boil. The solidity of the system does make it a bit easier to move around. After heating the panels do get hot so you will need some kind of protector to handle the panels at first. While the panels do get hot you will need to move them in order to blow out your flame and pop the top back on the stove!
All in all this is a solid system that works very effectively. Look at the second photo and you can see how the generic kits will work. Two windshield are available for pots of 100 to 120 diameter or 120 to 150 diameter — you can see how the post rest system will accompany a variety of pots of those dimensions.
Speedster will also custom build such a windshield for your pot. My most used solo pot is from Evernew; this has the same capacity as the MSR but is slightly wider and slightly lower in profile. I’d given up using the Titan as it wasn’t quite so stable on top of a Honey Stove.
This system beats the Caldera Sidewinder for strength and rigidity although it is heavier. It beats the Honey Stove as a windshield, it is easier to put together and does not have the grate slots of the Honey Stove which can let in quite a lot of wind. Of course, the Honey stove can easily be used as a wood burning stove as well. You could use this system to protect a small wood burner such a Bushbuddy but these are fragile and have to be stored carefully as well.
So, there’s not much to dislike here, you get a sturdy shield for only a little extra weight. The one thing I queried was the toughness of the pot rests but these seem to be pretty strong and well made; they should last for quite a long time.
The only downside with this is the pin which clips the sides together. It took a while to work out how best to use this but once you’ve cracked it this is fine. It is best to keep the clip attached as firmly as you can after disassembly as it can easily slip out of the hinges or out of the stuff sack.
A good piece of kit this.
The Speedster Stove: r to l — lid, stove and Simmer Ring
My speedster order arrived with the Post Woman just as I was about to leave for the hills. I didn’t really have time to have a good look at the package, but I did throw the tiny Speedster stove into my pack and I used it for a couple of days. So, here are my first impressions.
I’ve had a few emails recently about these feet conditions as a result of some of the pieces I’ve written about my own feet, and search for solutions. I’m not an expert at this, but this is what I now know! It might be useful!
Apparently, as we get older, 70% of us develop some kind of painful foot condition, often related to ‘Over Pronation’ which is the flattening of the feet or inward rolling of the feet when landing. You can see the often sometimes dramatically with wear and tear on you shoe soles. Pronation is important to the absorption of shock. Over pronation can cause stress, muscle fatigue and whole host of other things.
Ophthalmic inserts and one solution to a lot of these foot conditions. You can have your feel measured by specialists who can supply you with bespoke inserts; I know a couple of people who simply couldn’t walk without these. Bespoke inserts can be expensive as they have to be replaced regularly. There are a number of commercially available inserts which aim to do something of a job and this is what I have been using.
For me Plantar Fasciitis has been very painful and almost debilitating over the last 12 months, partially the reason why there hasn’t been so much walking content here. After the TGO 15 Challenge I was in such a bad way that I basically rested the foot of the rest of the year!
This is a problem I get in my right foot, more precisely with the Achilles tendon on the heel. This can get sore, very sore. The inflamed heel is often very painful to the touch. Using inserts have made a difference.
I recently came across an exercise which gently stretches the Achilles and eases Plantar Fasciitis. As I hadn’t come across it before I thought I’d share it.
The idea is to find a step and to cling onto the step with your toes, leaving the rest of the foot dangling over the edge — hold on to some kind of rail or door handle. Straighten you legs, i.e., from your heel downwards. Hold the position and you will feel burn in your calf muscles. Hold the position as you would with many exercises. I can feel the strain in my Achilles. When you straighten up and walk properly again pain is often significantly relieved.
It is pretty easy to do this on the hills. Some mornings, when breaking camp, it takes me time for the heel to warm up but on other days the main is more pronounced. It is fairly easy to find a large stone, the side of a stream or other steep slope to do this exercise to — use walking poles out front for stability. If you are using a stream then obviously, take care not to fall in. No, I’m not saying anything!
I have been using inserts for a couple of years now, both in ordinary shoes and in training/trail shoes. I’ve been using Dr Feet insoles which are readily available from Amazon and the like. Like Superfeet you need to break them in slowly but they are a different kind of product to Superfeet — we are not talking about the same thing.
Recently I’ve started trying another brand, Pro 11 Wellbeing, as they sell a ‘Dual Shock’ system for running and walking. I’ve noticed that high impact surfaces such as tarmac and small chipping laden tracks are bad. So, I shall report back on these and have a look at whether they are more effective. My pair cost less than £7.
It is claimed that the right insoles can help you with a lot of other walking related issues, bottom of the foot and heel pain, aching ankles and knees and so on. I’m not sure I can really comment on this. At the end of a long day in the hills — carrying a weight on my back — I just ache. I suspect this is an age thing 🙂
I am a bit slow own the uptake these days when it comes to gear. I mean — how many lightweight stoves does one backpacker want or need?
In my recent post about gear I mentioned the new stoves that I ca across on the Challenge and the emails and tweets flooded in.
So last night I decided to take a proper look at Speedster Backpacking Products which seems to be a new company based in the UK —pictures and references to the Lake District abound.
There is no ‘About’ section of the website but the range is built around some new, lightweight, alcohol stoves. The Speedster stove is a little like the Zelph Starlyte stove but with a metallic screw on top which should be more robust and completely leak proof. The come in three capacities, are very light and very,. very cheap. I guess they might not be that robust but at these prices you can’t complain.
So, I ventured out and bought some stuff. If it arrive promptly I might even be able to test it on the hills this weekend but if not I’m planning a number of backpacking trips over the next month. So, what did I buy?
This set me back all of £3.50! It weighs 14 grams.
A snip at £2,50? I’ve not used one of these before but the idea is that this ‘choke’ sits over the flame and reduces its burn and power output, so you can simmer. These simmer rings provide an alternative to the pot cozy apparently; I’l definitely be testing this out.
The most expensive item I bought was at £14.50 and is a Combined Windscreen and Pot Rest for MSR Titan Kettle.
This is an interesting piece of kit not least because the Trail Designs Tri Ti Sidewinder isn’t made for the MSR Titan Kettle. This Kettle is amongst one of my favourite pieces of kit. Rob Slade is a particular fan as he reckons this the only one person pot he haas used where the lid stays firmly in place. It does!
At first glance the windshield resembles the Caldera Cone but in reality it is quite distinctive. Rather than being a cone this windscreen is a hexagon shape. The hexagonal sides are joined with a hinge, which allows you to flat pack the whole screen, something of a real advantage I think.
The windshield doesn’t suspend a pot in the way the cones do. Wire pot ‘rests’ are built into the sides of the shield to hold the pot securely and at the right height for the burner. This may well be a little less fiddly than the cone system. Pot handle cut outs are already located in the right place. The cone system weighs about 70 grams.
There is also a version for each of two very popular pots in the UK, the Alpkit MytiMug and the Primus Clutch (widely available in high street outdoor stores).
However, things don’t stop here. There’a customisable windshield which allows you to use this system with any pan up to 1.3 litre capacity. SBP ask that you mail them with pan diameter, height and position of handles and they will do the rest. Two other versions are supplied which allow you to customise the windshield yourself and these can cope with 100 to 120 mm diameter pans or 120 to 150 mm diameter pots. The large size is very useful as it will accommodate the MSR 1.5 pot, which I use for two person camping.
In SBP sells an interesting looking kit (the Speedster Backpacking Products Cook Kit). This kit includes a pot, windshield, stove and fuel bottle. The pot is not titanium but anodised pot with a lid, capacity 1 litre “no frills but it works”. Unlike titanium you can use this to properly cook. The while kit seems to weigh 330 grams including mesh bag
Also, available are a small number of sensibly judged and collected accessories. These include ground protectors, fuel bottles, pot stands, a 5 litre water carrier and drinking pouches that will keep you wine fresh (this must have been designed with TGO Challengers in mind).
All of the unique products are home made apparently. The site acknowledges that the windshields are not quite as light as some but SBP claim they are “so efficient, sturdy and trouble free that it’s worth carrying a few grammes”.
I’ll review the stuff as soon as possible. This seems to be a new company — there is a note to the effect that the stove design was tested in the field in the winter of 2015 (I think — now I can’t find the reference).
I know nothing about SBP. But …
… if you are reading this, get in touch!