The postman has just delivered the first production version of the Tramplite shelter from Colin Ibbotson.
Those who know Colin expect great attention to detail. This came incredibly well packaged — it took me 10 minutes to open the package and remove the protective material! BY old profession Colin was an aeronautical engineer who’s job it was to keep some our most expensive air force planes flying; that requires a certain commitment to perfection and you can see that here.
From what I can see all of the seams are perfectly sealed. The guy lines are pre-attached (a nice touch but one that is partly due to Colin’s unique system of tie-outs).
The firsthing I did? Weigh it. Shelter and inner together weight 670 grams. This is comparable to my Duomid and — as I said — it has all of the guy ropes pre-installed.
I shall take this to the hills on Saturday. I’m not sure whether I will spend the night in it (but you never know) but I shall have a chance to put it up in the wild and test against the forecast rain!
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.
The Oppland 3 SL
Now the TGO Awards have been announced I’m in the position to talk a little bit about the products that I ‘auditioned’.
After almost 10 years of writing this blog I thought I have way past the point of getting really excited by new gear, but it is nice to know that true are still somethings that can impress.
When the Oppland 3 (from Nordisk) was delivered I was distinctly -excited. The stuff sack came with a lot of labels attached. These told me that this was a tunnel tent, one of those that is like a Hilleberg Nallo but with an extra bit on the front and aside entrance. You’ve probably seen these in campsites. I’ve never considered these kind of tents as backpacking tents, simply because they weight so much. That being said I have seen these pitched in the Pyrenees and even on the TGO Challenge. Their big advantage is space. I’ve always considered them as the kind of tents that cycle tourists would use.
As I mussed on the package I realised that it was quite light. I immediately rushed to my luggage scales. The whole package, tent, plus and pegs came to just 2kg! For years I used two person tents that were a fraction heavier than this, a Hilleberg Nallo and a Terra Nova Super Solar. Suddenly, I was keen to put the tent up.
These are easy tents to pitch. Peg down the rear — facing into the wind — inset the poles one by one and gradually pull the tent away from the rear, pegging at the appropriate places. There are three poles, two shorter ones (marked in yellow) and a longer one (marked in silver). Simply find the pole sheaths (indicated with the appropriate colour) and carefully run the pole through and then attach to the grommets on either side of the tent. Once the poles are in place it is very easy to stretch out the front, get the hole think reasonably taught and then peg down the front.
Although only 3 kilograms in weight this tent is rated as a three person tent. I’ve never really understood this three thing (I don’t want to know) but there is a lot f space in this tent. The front porch is large enough to spend time in and big enough to stash a couple of bikes in. The inner is generously sized. As a six footer there was ample room for me to lie length wise without either my head or feet touching fabric. If you are taller you may have to sleep at a slight angle but then there is so much space here it won’t impact on your sleeping partner. I suppose there is enough room here for a small child. The fabrics are thin and I suspect it would be a good idea for dogs to sleep in the ample porch. There is also a conventional front door and some kind of pole attachment which you can use to hold it open but I haven’t had a chance to try this yet.
Plenty of space for a lightweight chair or tw0
The fabrics of this tent are very fine indeed and I was a little worried about this. However, this fabric has been used on the Telemark tents. I phoned round and spoke to a few people who have used this fabric regularly and they were happy that it was, in practice, pretty robust. One feedback about the Telemark that I have had was that it can be very prone to condensation. On the Upland 3 SL there are large vents at either end of the tent and from past experience I would imagine this tent is probably better ventilated than my old Nallo or Solar.
The hydrostatic head of these fabrics are not as great as the thicker fabrics used on the normal weight Upland range. This is only to be expected but — again — I’ve not heard anyone complaining about leakage. I wouldn’t worry about the thin nature of the inner floor either. I’ve used lightweight inners for years now and so long as you pitch carefully you won’t have any problems. I do think this is a warmer season tent. The lower hydrostatic head might be an issue in driving winter rain but my main concern with these tunnel tents is that they can get really blown around in gales (this being said the three hoop design seems to offer a little more stability and taughtness in pitch than its smaller 2 pole cousins.
The weight of this tent means that it does work for backpacking. The only challenge you would face when wild camping would be to find a long enough piece of flat ground on which to pitch — this is a long tent. I wouldn’t use this in Scotland (without thinking more about camp spots than I usually do) but I’d happily take this to the Pyrenees or on a trip where most the time would be spent in campsites.
This is, arguably, the perfect cycle touring tent. It doesn’t way much and there is enough room to stash both bikes and luggage in the front.
The only downside to this tent is likely to be the price; it is not going to be cheap.It is on sale for between £440 and £470, however, for this form and weight you may consider this to be something of a bargain/good investment. (It is worth checking this carefully as I’n not quite sure this is the right pricing as yet). Indeed, what impressed the judges was not only the weight and practicality of this tent but the pricing which was sen to be far more sensible than some of the other mainstream ultralight tent producers.
If you are looking for this kind of long form tent, with a lot of vestibule space, then this is definitely work considering. Nordisk has done a fine job here and have pulled off a Dr Who-like trick in producing so much space for so little weight.
I still have the tent and if they don’t want it back too quickly I shall give it a good and proper road test in the spring.
Stratospire II pitched in Glen Mazaran. The branch is there because I somehow contrived to loose a poll in Loch Ness! Don’t ask!
I was in Berlin this weekend (some urban walking photos might follow). Kate spotted these in the window of a chic and expensive looking art gallery in Kreuzberg; there was no price tag!
It does make you wonder! Of course, we are all artists in out own way!
Tonight is the Award Ceremony of the TGO. While I was a judge again this year I am not able to get along this evening — I have to be in London sadly! If you are there, I shall send you my regards.
As usual, it is not easy judging these awards. Some of the categories are exciting and others seem to lag, which I suppose is all down to product development cycles. This year there has clearly been a big push on alternatives to down as a result of it’s hardly rising price. There seem to number of ingenious solutions to this problem and we looked at no end of them.
All of the winners are worthy, however, the most interesting gear development of the year — for me — will happen at my house tomorrow.
I have to keep this a secret for a while, but all will be revealed over the weekend!
Last night I arrived home to find the letter on that mat telling me that I had made the draw in this year’s TGO Challenge. I don’t take this for granted as I’ve been on the reserve list more than a few times.
In many ways I feel — this time — like I did when I entered my first TGO Challenge. 2014 has been an odd year for walking compared to 2013. In 2013 I seemed. effortlessly, to do a lot of walking and spent many nights wild camping. This year has been more modest. Yes, it has included a TGO Challenge (albeit an easy one) but since then my walking has been limited to day walks. I feel I have to approach this one with a degree of seriousness. I need to get fitter and get more miles of preparation under the belt, both on foot and on bike. And i need a more challenging route.
By way of demonstration of how serious I am about planning this year, I have already booked my accommodation for the start, at Lochaillort. This hotel always looks pretty glum as you trundle past it on the train — in the inevitable rain. But, it is not cheap! Still, it is now booked.
For my route I have my eyes set on a variant of a route I walked with Kate a few years ago. On this route we were faced by appalling weather conditions which saw us take refuge in Kinlochleven for a day; it was impossible to get Kate across the mountains in the wind and driving rain. So, I fancy doing this again. the route will take in Coran Ferry, Ossian, Dalwinnie, Gaick, the Tarf Water and so on. There will be the inevitable question of Braemar. I shall probably plan to avoid it again but turn up as usual. From Balloter I shall definitely avoid the Deeside way this time!
By a curious twist of fate I find that Humphrey Weightman is talking more or less the same route and is booked into the same hotel at the start. We will probably trundle on together for a few days before setting of in minor variants and at different speeds (perhaps).
There will be new gear to test — my new tarp tent arrives shortly. There will be old friends to meet — most of them are in the Challenge this year. This includes the wonderful Tony and Lee! It will be great to see them again. My trail ‘spiritual’ adviser David Albon is back again after last year’s dice with death. And in a novel development — curtesy of dual organisers — we shall have an organiser, Ali Ogden, walking the event for the first time. Lou and Phil Le Borwitt will be defying time to come back once again. And, of course, there will be lots of new friends to meet as well. (And there is Sloman but I whisper his name quietly — he doesn’t need encouraging).
Bob and Rose Cartwright will also be there. Who knows? Perhaps, this will be the event on which to start recording podcast material again!
As the famous mad said: ‘it’s all to play for’.
And, once again, I have no doubt. Next year, the sun will shine every day!