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MSR Elixir 1 – First Impressions.

How many tents do I need?
Looking through my posts on here, that would be a very good question.
The short answer: You can never have too many tents!

For my birthday, I was lucky enough to receive the green MSR Elixir 1. Much more discreet than the red and grey option.
Unfortunately, as we are still in lockdown, I can only do a ‘first impressions’ review based on a couple of pitches in the garden.

As it’s name implies, the Elixir 1 is a one person tent but has loads of space and headroom, almost on a par with some two person tents.

MSR Elixir 1 packed
MSR Elixir 1 pack size compared to Robens Arch 2

Ok, at a total weight of 2kg, it isn’t much lighter than my Robens Arch (2.3kg) and the pack sizes are fairly similar (I may look in to get a compression sack).
I can shave off some weight by using my MSR Ground Hog pegs and, if the weather is decent enough, I can leave the 130g footprint at home.

So, the first pitch.
This was a new one for me.
Every other tent I’ve used pitches the outer and inner together with the poles on the outside of the tent.
The Elixir is different, the ‘standard’ pitch is inner first then put the fly over the poles. The poles themselves are also different from the ones I’m used to, two of them are joined together by swivelling hubs.
Being freestanding, I can pitch the Elixir then pick it up and move it to another spot. Might be handy if I accidentally pitch not facing the views!

The pitching instructions are printed on the inside of the stuff sack but it’s fairly straight forward.
The footprint goes down first, then snap together the main poles and the smaller middle pole. The poles, clips and buckles are all colour coded; match any grey bits to the grey pole and the red bits to the red pole.
Spread the inner tent (the one with all the mesh) over the footprint then put the grey pole in to the two grey coloured grommets then put the red pole in the red grommets. The inner tent has a number of coloured hooks, attach those to the corresponding coloured poles and the tent pulls itself in to shape. Place the separate red pole across the top then pop the ends in to the holes on the inner.

Inner of MSR Elixir 1 tent
Inner only

The tent can be used in this inner only configuration and I do like the idea of spending a barmy evening under the stars without a pesky flysheet spoiling the view.
Whether I’ll ever get the chance with the unpredictable English weather is another mater!

To add the flysheet, just place it over the poles, making sure the outer door is on the same side as the inner door!
The grey and red version of the Elixir makes this even easier by making the door a different colour to the rest of the tent.

Once everything is nice and tight and pegged out, it’s done!

I was surprised how quickly I pitched on my first attempt. It wasn’t perfect but I imagine I could complete a standard pitch in around 5 minutes.

Green MSR Elixir 1 tent

Hopefully, the stardard pitch will be the most used way of putting my Elixir up. I wouldn’t fancy putting the meshy inner up first in heavy rain and risk it getting soaked. I’m having Castleton flashbacks here!

It is possible to put the outer up first with the footprint and I tried this for my second garden pitching experiment.
Yes, it’s a bit of a faff and takes a little longer than standard pitch but it can be done and will keep you and your stuff that bit drier.
Put the poles up in the footprint in the same way as before then put the rain fly on. Once the poles are in the holes of the fly, go inside and clip the inner tent on to the poles and make sure the centre, perpendicular pole goes through both inner and outer.
Putting the poles through the corresponding holes of the corners of the inner is a little awkward but the order you attach the poles shouldn’t make a difference.

There is a third way of getting the tent set up which is outer first and involves some sort of tent origami.
I’ll save that for another day.

There is plenty of space in the porch area for kit or cooking. Additionally, the door has three settings; closed, partly open, fully open. Handy for cooking in less than favourable weather.

MSR Elixir 1 porch
The three ‘door settings’

Speaking of rain, on paper, this tent appears to be shockingly un-waterproof. The fly has a hydrostatic head of 1500, the groundsheet 3000. In comparison, my Robens Arch is twice that value.
Generally, the hydrostatic head value is a good indicator to the protection you get but it isn’t quite so black and white. The fly sheet design, thread count, and fabric used also contribute.
The inner has a good size bathtub floor that should also keep things nice and dry.
As I’ve only done a couple of lockdown practice pitches in the garden, I can’t comment (one for a follow up review!), however, all reviews I’ve read online say there’s no leakage problems and offers plenty of protection from the wind and rain.

MSR Gear loft
Gear loft

Inside the main body of the tent, the first thing that strikes you is the space. For a one person tent it’s cavernous, although you pay for it in the extra weight. I’m about 5 foot 11 and can easily sit or kneel up inside.
To the front and back are handy storage pockets for keeping a mobile phone and other odds and ends.
The ceiling houses the ‘gear loft’ storage pockets and 4(!) loops for lights or a makeshift clothes line.
Another nice little touch is the glow in the dark zip pulls on the tent door.

Light loops Elixir 1 tent
Light loops

So far so good! Obviously the real tests are yet to come. Fingers crossed I won’t have to wait too much longer

Trovat Advanced High GTX Boot Review

My old trusty Brasher Hill Master boots had walked their last mile. Even on fairly dry days, my feet would end up soggy after walking through the shallowest of puddles.
Brasher became part of Berghaus  and continued to produce the Hillmaster. These boots get some very good reviews but, I fancied a change and started reading up.

My ‘go to’ walking shoes are my Mammut Convey GTX approach shoes. Comfortable and reliable on most walks, but, I like a more robust shoe for more challenging weather and conditions.

Many years ago, my first pair of approach shoes were by the Swiss brand Raichle. These were fantastic shoes and we covered many, many  miles together. Now, like Brasher, the brand has been re-badged and has now come under the Mammut umbrella.

Mammut walking boots

I was drawn to the Mammut Trovat Advanced High GTX Boot
At £185 this was above what I was looking to spend, however, I had a £50 voucher for Snow and Rock which made the price rather less daunting.
These brown nubuck leather boots with rubber heel and toe protection have a slightly more ‘old school’ look than many modern boots but, unlike the ‘old school’ boots, these are instantly comfortable.
The nappa leather and memory foam help make these boots very easy to wear.
They certainly look built to last.
There’s a little bit of Raichle still retained too, their logo is displayed on the inside of the tongue.

Raichle Mammut walking boots

These are a big boot, my size 8s  just fitted in my boot bag although at 1,240g they  weigh only a few grams more than the old Hillmaster boots.

As I started loading the car for my first walk in the new boots,  I realised I was wearing Mammut pants and a Mammut jumper. Along with the Mammut boots, I would risk looking like a bad catalogue picture.  Luckily, as it  it was raining so I grabbed my Arcteryx Waterproof to break things up a bit!   Perhaps I was over cautious but I threw my approach shoes in the car, just in case.

The weather forecast fluctuated between dry, drizzle and large down pours – pack for everything!
Driving down the A55 with lights and windscreen wipers on suggested this wasn’t going to be the dryest of walks! At least it would be a good test of the Gortex and the Vibram MT Traction II sole.

Grip Mammut walking boots

My original plan was to park up in Moel Famau and head up a few hills but, as the road to the car park was closed, I turned back towards the car park in Loggerheads for Plan B.
After parking the car I change from my Addidas trainers in to the boots. Yes, they are heavy but so comfortable. Not sure I’d want to be wearing them on a hot summer day though.
I tighten the laces, assuming that I’m going to have to change the tightness a number of times until I got it right but, I struck lucky first time.

The first test was a very wet wooden bridge. So far, so grippy!  My route continued through muddy woodland and over wet stones, none of which caused any problems. These are boots you can feel confident wearing.

I always pack a spare pair of socks. I’ve needed them on walks even on dry days wearing the Brasher boots, one puddle and that was it! In my Mammut boots, however, I was bone dry despite the persistent rain and walking through some long wet grass.

If you look after your kit, your kit will look after you. These boots are very easy to look after. A quick wipe down with warm water and a soft brush and they were as good as new.

In conclusion, the Trovat Advanced boots are on the high end of price points but you do get what you pay for. I’m really impressed with these boots and they certainly seem to cope well with any terrain thrown at them.

Coleman Cobra 2 versus Robens Arch 2

Coleman Cobra 2 tent

I picked up the Coleman Cobra 2 cheaply on an Amazon Black Friday deal.
It ticked all the boxes; small enough to carry, not too heavy (2.3kg) and, being a two person tent, there should be a decent amount of room for one lanky person and their kit.

I’d taken it out on a number of trips, all in good weather…until one trip to North Wales.
I woke up, made a coffee and realised the flaws in the Cobra when the rain started…..
…..there was no porch and the lack of head room made it rather uncomfortable.

I sat in the main body of the tent to drink my coffee, curled up due to the limited head room in a way a that would have put many contortionist to shame.
I decided that breakfast would be best cooked in the small park about a mile down the road. I was dressed in waterproofs but, at least I could sit upright.

As good as the Coleman is, I needed something about the same weight but with some headroom and a little bit of shelter for eating and cooking (with plenty of ventilation, cooking inside a tent isn’t recommended!!!)
I spent a while browsing numerous different tents. I had a good idea of what I wanted and got the shortlist down to two….well three but one didn’t seem to be in stock anywhere.

Robens Arch 2 tent pitched

I purchased the Robens Arch 2 at a sale price of £110.
Robens is a Danish brand you don’t see much of in England, therefore, there were very few reviews online.
I crossed my fingers!
My one concern was how pink it looked on the photos. Perhaps keep the Coleman for more discrete camping!

The tent arrived the following evening. I didn’t have too much time, so I quickly put it up in the back garden to check all the bits where were I expected them to be. I was relived to see the tent was more a muddy brownish-red colour rather than the girly pink the website suggested.

Pitching instructions are provided in the tent’s stuff sack, they are also available on the Robens website which has some useful videos, however, it is an easy tent to put up.

Attaching Robens tent poles

First, put the two colour coded alloy poles through the corresponding sleeve, making sure the flat coloured end goes in first. A rather unusual feature of this Robens tent is that one end is sealed. Push the pole as far as it goes in to the webbing (it may need some wiggling!). The other end goes in to the eyelet on the opposite side of the tent.
Pull the tent into shape then peg out.
Simple.

So, in the battle of Coleman versus Robens, both are equally simple to pitch.
Coleman 1 – Robens 1

For it’s first trip out, I took the Robens to Hebden Bridge Camping which is part of the New Delight Inn.
I was flying a Vulcan Bomber simulator in Stacksteads, about 30 minutes drive away. This was fantastic experience and very different from anything I’ve ever flown before. We took off from RAF Finningley (now Doncaster Sheffield airport) and headed up the coast. I did a few barrel rolls over Blackpool then continued for a low level (500m) pass over Lake Windermere.
Great fun!

As my ‘flight’ took off at 10am, I had plenty of time to get the tent sorted and take a decent walk afterwards. On checking in, I was handed a wooden spoon to put in to the ground next to my tent. A novel way of proving that I had paid!
The camping area is a slightly sloping, fairly small field to the side of the pub car park. There’s two good separate ‘bathrooms’ in a portakabin, both containing a shower which is free to use.

Once again, the tent went up quickly and easily. A nice little feature in the Robens is a pocket to stuff the internal door into when opened fully, this makes it a bit easier to access the porch area.
I changed out of my ‘flying clothes’ and into my walking gear. I was grateful of the extra headroom the Robens tent offered. I can easily sit up at any part of the tent. A big extra point for the Robens.

Suitably attired, I went on a pleasant circular ish walk to Hebden Bridge. The route started at the path almost opposite the campsite then returned on the Caderdale Way which has great views over the village and beyond. The route is available to download as a GPX file from the ViewRanger website.

View over to Hebden Bridge

Back at the campsite, I had dinner at the New Delight Inn. A portion of scampi for starters followed by bacon cheese burger. All good tasty pub food.

As it was a nice evening, after dinner, I followed the bridleway back up to Hebden Bridge for a night cap at Drink?. I was joined on the walk back by several bats. I watched them from the porch for a while before settling down for the night.

Robens tent in Hebden Bridge Camping

First, I had to hook my lantern up.
The Coleman tent has a handy plastic hook on the roof. The Robens just has a loop made of material.
I managed to hook the lantern’s USB charger part through then back on itself which did the trick.
A slight ‘win’ for the Coleman there.
One plus for the Robens is it has two loops ….so why did I hang the lantern over my feet rather than within easy reach?!

Like the Coleman, the Robens has two mesh storage pockets. I put my mobile phone and portable charger in one and my head torch in the other. I plonked myself in the middle of the tent and promptly fell asleep…..

…..I woke up quite late on Sunday morning. The others on the site were busy preparing breakfast or even packing up by the time I surfaced. I think the lie in was partly down to the how much darker it is inside the Robens.
Another point for the Robens there!

After the usual breakfast of coffee and porridge cooked on the Jetboil, I started to put my camping kit away. The Robens is a very easy tent to take down, getting it back in it’s stuff sack, however, resulted in much swearing and cursing. Trying to put it away in rain is almost impossible. Another stuff sack will be used in future – perhaps the wide opening bag the Coleman is kept in.
A definite point for the Coleman and it’s taco stuff sack.

Ventilation and bathtub floor in Robens.

The Robens was fantastic in the horrible conditions during a camp near Castleton.
Both tents have a hydrostatic head of 3000 and taped seams. Both tents pitch the inner and fly together which saves soggy inners if pitching in the rain. Both also have a good deep bathtub inner which gives protection from any wet weather.
The Coleman kept me dry over night on a rainy trip to Wales but it was virtually impossible to keep dry and cook breakfast due to the lack of headroom.
Point to the Robens.

The two tents also have good ventilation so no problems with condensation, however, the Robens does have more vents which are easier to open and close so just wins this test.

If you’re counting, I make it 4.5 points to the Robens and 2.5 for the Coleman.
That’s not to say the Coleman is a particularly bad tent especially as it can be picked up at such a good price.
The Coleman is currently (August 2019) around £85 but can be found for as little as £70.
The Robens is more expensive at about £120.
I like the extra headroom and porch the Robens offers and for that reason it’s now my go to two person tent, but, both are very good tents.
How much is the extra height and porch space worth to you?

A night at Llyn Rhys Campsite, Llandegla

Camping, for me, is done in a tent which can be stuffed  in a rucksack and pitched in a field or woods with basic (if any!) facilities.  This time I was to be camping in the Vango Woburn 500.
There’s always room for comfort.
Well no, that’s not entirely true. There’s not much room for anything when you drive an Abarth 124!
First mission was to find a way of getting a tent, sleeping bag, mat, Jetboil, change of clothes and walking boots in the car. The solution was a Boot-Bag.

This is a large waterproof bag that sits on the boot lid and securely held in place with webbing straps.
I had the ‘original’ which gave me  50 litres of space or, put another way, it easily took the tent.
On first use, I was apprehensiveBoot-bag on Abarth 124 Spider about putting too much in there, however, I could have stuffed a few extra things in there without any trouble.
The other stuff went in to my large rucksack.
My day sack was also loaded in to the boot. I’d be using it to hold a couple of drinks, waterproofs etc for the two walks I had planned.
In retrospect, perhaps just the smaller rucksack may have been better with everything else stuffed around the  boot and Boot-Bag.
I had no seating (the floor would have to do) and no food (I hoped there would be a table free in the pub) but I had my accommodation and a bed for the night.

The Boot-Bag was slightly lopsided but seemed secure enough as I pulled off my drive and carefully made my way to the motorway, getting used to only using wing mirrors as there was zero visibility out of the back.   As I gained more confidence in the Boot-Bag, I increased the speed, it remained stable and I arrived at the camp with everything intact.
I had booked my spot at Llyn Rhys Campsite on their website.  £8 per person per night (as of July 2018) which included use of the showers. Kids cost just £3.
I was met by the friendly owner and given a choice of places to pitch, anywhere I wanted as long as I left 6 meters between my tent and others. I wanted to be as far away from others as possible , that wouldn’t be a problem!
The site was fairly quiet. I’d arrived a week before the school summer holiday started, I suspect it can get a lot busier.  I drove my car down the track in to the large field I pitched up on the side of the field, close to the stream. I didn’t want to venture too far from the track in my rear wheel drive car!

The tent had been pitched in the garden a coupe of times, the first time, just after getting the tent home, resulted in part of a fibreglass pole snapping. After an email to Vango another pole was posted out to me.
Needless to say, Vango don’t send out poles every time one beaks, however, I argued that they should last at least one pitching and, fair enough, they agreed.
Out in the real world, the tent went up relatively quickly, although the little hooks to attached the ground sheet were a bit awkward to fit.
I think Vango say it will take 15 minutes to pitch. Seems a little optimistic to me but perhaps with more practice.

The tent is described as 5 person, I wouldn’t like to fit more than three in there. The Cotswold Outdoors promotional video describes it as a good tent for couples and young families, which seems more accurate.
There’s lots of room in the bright, airy living area. Plenty of space for a couple of chairs. Shame there wasn’t the room in the car!
Comparing it with many of the other tents on site, it did look dinky!
Vango Woburn 500 tentWith the tent up it was time to head out on a walk.
Leaving the campsite, I  headed up to the road junction next to the Crown Hotel Pub. Continuing virtually straight ahead on the A5104, the path started just after the junction to the right. This path was quite well signposted  until I reached a farmers field. Whatever had been growing here had been recently dug up and the route across the field to the road wasn’t clearly defined.
At the road I took a left, before rejoining the same field higher up. There were no signs here either and at the end, it was almost impassable. A large, over grown, prickly hedge hid a fence with no easy way to climb.  If it wasn’t for the large footpath sign at the other side of the hedge, I would not have realised this was the route.

The next path I wanted should have been straight over the road according to the Ordnance Survey map and my GPS but there was nothing obvious so I decided to follow the road back in to the village.
The village has a great little community run shop and cafe, at the front was all the supplies you need for camping, pasties, scotch eggs, wine, jam etc and at the back is the cafe. I just had a cafetiere of coffee but the food looked good.
Offas Dyke sign in LlandeglaHappily caffeined up, I left the cafe for the second loop on this walk. After the poorly maintained paths on the first loop, I decided to take the Offa’s Dyke section at the end  knowing it would be the easiest part of the route to navigate.
I needn’t have worried. This walk was also well signed and I followed it up to the narrow road. From there it’s an easy walk back along the Offa’s Dyke to the village.
Both loops of the walks are available in on one GPX file, downloadable from Viewranger.

Back in the tent, I got changed ready for dinner. It is nice being able to stand up in any part of the tent, something you don’t get with the backpacking one and two person tents!
The Crown Hotel is a short walk from the campsite and serves real ales, wines and has a good whisky collection along with the usual stuff and the food is fantastic!!
I started with the spicy chicken wings. Main course was a perfectly rare steak with chips  and peas. Their monster of a  mixed grill looked and smelt great and, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, they’ve a good choice of deserts and local ice cream.

Suitably fed and watered, I walked back to the tent where I took down the divider to make one large bedroom,  got in to my sleeping bag and settled down for a reasonable nights sleep.
The Vango has a slightly darker bedroom, while not a black out, it did a reasonable job at keeping the morning light out.
Next morning the tent was moisture free, the vents under the main window had done their job. I opened the ‘curtains’ sat in the porch, fired up the jet boil and made a coffee.  The tent is really bright and airy with plenty of large windows. A very pleasant place to be.
Packing up was easy and (amazingly!) everything fitted in and on the car.  The first rule of any camping, ‘leave no trace’!

Breakfast was taken at One Planet Adventure, just up the road. Already the car park was filling up. I paid my £4.50 and  made my way to the overflow car park.
The breakfasts at their cafe are good and the slices of toast are huge!!

I was one of the odd ones, I wasn’t cycling, instead I took the longest of their walking trails, the well marked ,7 mile Moorland trail.
Moorland Trail route One Planet Adventure Llandegla

A pleasant walk through woodland and offering great views.

So, in conclusion…..I love to be miles from anyone and anywhere with a small backpacking tent. This was quite different but still a great trip although I must admit the very un-British sunny, warm weather helped make this such a pleasurable camp!
I’m looking forward to getting out in the Vango again soon….but maybe after a trip in the smaller tent 🙂

Spot testing in Wales

My  SPOT Satellite Messenger  is a second hand Gen 2, purchased from someone who has upgraded to the Gen 3.

The SPOT is a GPS tracking device that uses the Globalstar satellite network to provide text messaging and GPS tracking.  I was about to put it through it’s paces in the Clwydian hills.

But first, lets rewind a little…..
Spot Tracker Gen 2 DeviceThe SPOT is a small (9.4 x 6.6 x 2.5 cm), light  (150g ), rugged, bright orange device.
On the front is the on/off button and three function buttons. Two other buttons are behind protective flaps. It is intuitive to use but can be awkward when wearing gloves.

The three AAA lithium batteries  are housed in a compartment  which is secured with two screws although they can be opened and closed without needing a screwdriver.

Before using it, I had to register my SPOT on their website, www.findmespot.com and pay the annual subscription fee. I also added on the tracking service (included in the Gen 3 basic subscription).
Including VAT, this set me back €164.04 (£138)

So, what was all this money getting me?
I see it a like an insurance. You pay insurance on your home, car or travel hoping you never need to use it, it’s the same with the SPOT.
If  I’m ever in trouble I can get a friend or family member to come to my aid or (if in dire need) the emergency services. Conversely, there is an ‘OK’ button so if I’m in an area where a disaster has taken place, I can let people know I’m  safe at a time when I might not be able to reach them via a mobile phone.
With these scenarios  in my mind, I used the SPOT website to set up two different profiles, each with their own set of messages. You can only set up these messages on the website, not while you’re out in the field so it’s worth taking your time writing them. All messages contain your text and your exact co-ordinates which link to both the SPOT website and Google maps

The first profile I called ‘Walking’, this would contain the details for messages sent while I was out hiking.
First, I set up the Help/Assist. This would send texts and emails to family members if I got in to trouble. I set the following text; “Some minor problem at this location I aim to contact you within the next  hour” My contacts would receive this message and if they didn’t receive a call or OK message they would know where to find me.
For Check In/Ok  I used the following text; “All OK here If you’ve received any ‘help’ messages, they can be ignored” This would be sent to the same people as the Help/Assist.
Next was a custom message, for this I entered something simple, “This is where I am today“.  The message along with the co-ordinates, would be sent to a larger circle of family and friends.

My next profile was called ‘Holiday’. The wording used in my holiday profile is slightly different, knowing family won’t be able to come to my aid if I’m thousands of miles away.

I then had to make sure the correct profile was selected As no holidays were planned, it went to Walking mode.

web1JPG

There is one generic setting for SOS. If you press the SOS button, the emergency services of the country you are in are alerted via GEOS, International Emergency Response. A  message is also sent to the telephone number of your primary and secondary contacts.
An SOS message is transmitted every 5 minutes until the battery dies or it is cancelled.  Unlike the other messages the SOS message will be sent also even if the device can’t locate GPS

Now to set up the tracking by clicking on the ‘Share’ and ‘Create a Share’ links.
As I wasn’t planning any multi day hikes, I set the ‘Share GPS locations to 24 hours then shared the URL with friends and family.
You can set up several pages here and choose what to share with particular people.

website
Spot tracker in useSo now to try it out in the wild.
I parked up in the Coed Moel Famau car park, turned the SPOT on and strapped it to my arm
The power and GPS lights were flashing.
I pressed the tracking button for three seconds and it’s green light also began to flash.
I get little or no phone signal in this area so it would be a good test  for the SPOT.
It was also raining. The heavy drizzle was forecast to remain through out the day, an opportunity to see how water proof it really is!
The device should work in temps between -30C and +60C and up to altitude of 6500 meters. (A SPOT has been used on top of Mt Everest)  so it should easily withstand anything I could throw at it.

Buying egggsI headed North East from the car park and continued towards Brithdir Bach. Here, there was a clear view of the sky so I tested sending a custom message. I pressed and held the button until it flashed. I then paused to take a photo then pressed the tracking button again before heading to Bryn Alyn for some eggs!

I didn’t pay much attention to the SPOT much after that just taking the occasional glance to make sure the GPS, power and tracking lights were flashing.
It felt reasonably comfortable on my arm  over my mid layer and waterproof jacket.

It was a pleasant route covering paths I’ve not  walked previously, it was just a shame it was so wet, muddy and unseasonably chilly (for July) . The 10 mile/16km route is available as a GPX file.
When I got home I eagerly fired up the SPOT website to see how well it had recorded my route…..
……it hadn’t.
It had recorded 6 points along the way covering just two miles of the ten mile route.
I checked my email for the custom message I had sent in the field.  That hadn’t arrived either.I was disappointed when I compared the SPOT track with the track recorded on my phone using View Ranger
spot tracker
ViewRanger
Reading around it seems it doesn’t work too well under tree cover, saying that, as the maps above show, I was hardly spending the entire day under dense forest.
I also read other users carrying out a pre -walk routine of  turning Spot on at the start point, place it down with a clear view of the sky, start tracking, and then send an ok/check-in message.
Remembering the text I had used on my OK message, I didn’t want to start firing those off to various members of family, so my plan was to set up a Test profile with messages sent to only my email account.
With this new approach, I did a very quick test to track my drive to Fencing training and back. Success!
Since then, results have been mixed using it in various locations around Europe.

The real reason for purchasing the SPOT was for emergency situations and, hopefully, I’ll never have the opportunity to test that functionality but, in these days of improved phone signal I really am wondering if the subscription is worth the price when I come to renew.

In conclusion, a clever device and potentially life saving but an expensive and unreliable way of sharing locations with others.

Screenshot_2016-08-06-18-16-48
Update: annoyingly, once Spot have your credit card details, they automatically renew once your subscription expires. To cancel, you have to contact them two or three months in advance. I did this via the “Contact Us” form on their website.
Numerous emails were sent back and forth until they offered me a very good deal on the subscription. I’ve renewed for another year.
Sadly I suspect it will be more haggling again this time next year.

Coleman CHT 15 Headlamp

This last winter has seen the start of some night walking.
A fairly new experience for me, yes, I’ve done often take a ‘passeggiata’ on holidays but up in the hills, away from the sodium lighting of the roads, towns and villages was something very different. It can get dark, very dark!
I needed to invest in a decent head torch, however, given that I was new to night walking, I wasn’t prepared to spend large sums of money.
Moel Famau view at night

I went to my local GoOutdoors to pick up the Coleman CHT 15 Ultra Bright Headlamp.   Winner of Trail Magazine’s Best Value award (February 2014), it is surprisingly good despite it’s ‘budget tag.

headtorchPowered by 3AAA batteries, it provides  150 lumens which illuminate up to 180 feet on it’s highest setting. This setting can be activated with a single press of the big easy to use (even with gloves) button. This button is also used to cycle between the different modes, red, blue, low (35 lumens), medium and full power.
The red setting is useful when taking a break and don’t want to dazzle the people you’re with  as the colour does not appear as bright to the human eye as white LED and it prevents loss of night vision.
The blue light makes for easier map reading as it retains the map’s colours. Blue is the also only light which can cut through fog.

The battery life is around 6 hours on full power. There is a red battery power indicator that warns when the battery is running low. however, changing the batteries is fiddly and best first attempted in the comfort of your own home until you get the hang of it.
A mounded key is attached to the strap buckle and used to unscrew the battery housing end cap. Reattaching doesn’t give a reassuring click but does appear to be tight enough.

It is a reasonably comfortable fit, stays on well, doesn’t feel too heavy and doesn’t leave mark on your forehead.  The headband is elastic, fully adjustable as is the light itself which can be moved to aim the beam.  I’ve worn it in the rain without issues and it does feel durable and can withstand being dropped – although I don’t want to test that too much!

To conclude, for my first venture in to night walking this head torch proved to be a good purchase  Yes, I would always take a spare torch (or two!) but I’m pleased with the Coleman and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a novice night time walker or camper.

 

 

Asda flask, Alpkit cup

Since starting some winter walks recently, I’ve found a warm drink is very welcome.
Popping to my local Asda, I picked up a 0.5 litre thermos flask and christened it on a walk in Wales on a mild Autumn day.
It was quite pleasant stopping for a nice cup of Douwe Egberts , albeit from a slightly leaky vessel.
All was good……at least until the weather got colder…

It was a chilly day in February when I climbed Foel Fenlli in North Wales. Two hours in to the walk I stopped near a stream, the sun was shining and here was a good place for a warming cup of coffee.
The push button pouring lid was badly implemented and  coffee dripped out on to my rucksack and trousers before  I poured  (and promptly discarded) a cold cup of joe.
The same happened again during a walk in Cheshire. Yes, the outside temperature was only 3 degrees Celsius but, I’d only been walking a couple of hours and again, the coffee was stone cold.

A different approach was required.
Rather than try and keep the coffee warm during a walk, why not brew it during a walk!

Step forward a simple meths burner and the Alpkit MytiMug 400.  The titanium construction means this mug is light (74g) and strong. Perfect for chucking in the rucksack yet big enough to hold  400ml (the clue’s in the name).
Not only is this a good size to hold a drink but I can also store my meths burner, lighter, meths bottle, spoon and a couple of coffee sachets in it.

The Myti mug is supplied with a handy little bag and a lid.  A lid doesn’t sound much but it makes a big difference when trying to boil water on a small meths burner. It also keeps your drink warmer once brewed and if you forget to pack a spoon, you can just chuck the coffee in and swirl the mug around without too much splashing!
Finally, the two handles fold away for easy storage, they can get a little warm after sitting on the burner but I’ve no real issues.

In conclusion, a far better way of getting your dose of coffee during a walk!
A larger mug, the 650 and a 900 pot are also available which are more suited for cooking.

Alpkit Myti 400 mug

 

 

True Mountain

We’re constantly being told to ‘shop local’, ‘save food miles’ and such like, but what about walking/running/cycling gear?

Yes, lots of companies claim to be British, using stylised Union Flags on their logos or attaching pages of information proudly detailing their English heritage, but, look on the label and invariably  the garment was produced several thousand miles away.

Step forward True Mountain.
Their products are manufactured only 40 miles or so from my home and where possible, even the materials and components are sourced  from the UK.
True Mountain beanie hatI stumbled upon True Mountain via a re-tweeted message on Twitter.
After taking a quick look on their website, I registered for their mailing list then won one of their Expedition Sportwool beanie hats   This obviously gained them a few Brownie points!
The beanie is a nice tight fit, stretchy and warm.

Before I had chance to try out the beanie, I ordered the SportWool long sleeve baselayer  Shortly after placing the order I received an email stating  there was a delay as they had noticed a flaw on the top and were making it again. If this was a problem, I could have a refund.
That’s not the quality of customer service you get from most kit producers!

Sport wool top
Excuse the crap model!

I ordered my usual size and the fit is good, especially on the arms (often a problem for me).
The top is tight enough to wick away moisture but not too restrictive.
Sportwool (a Merino Wool and Polyester blend)  is soft and not itchy like some wool products.
The stretchy side panels gave good flexibility  and the  thumb loops  add a nice additional layer under gloves.
The design is simple but it works, you really don’t need anything too fancy on a baselayer. Another nice touch is the lack of washing instructions. Some companies attach novels, all you end up doing is cut it off. True Mountain print their washing instructions on a separate magnet. Much better idea!

It’s first outing was a few days in the Lake District. I wore the top for three days without it getting smelly, each morning it felt as fresh as if it had just  come out from the wash.
Now I am nesh, very nesh. I’d complain about a draught in the Sahara in the middle of summer, however, while others were walking past  layered up in jumpers, big  coats and hats, I was only wearing this top.

Admittedly, it was unseasonably mild during my Lakes trip, but, in colder weather and on  night walks both the top and the hat have kept me nice and toasty.

When they do need a wash, both dry nice and quickly. The top even comes with a little hanging loop on the back.

In conclusion, two very nice items. The baselayer in particular will be a ‘must pack’ on my forthcoming multi day walk

 

 

 

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