View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy
Showing posts with label Gear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gear. Show all posts

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Solar Charger, Wednesday 2nd May 2018

A new bit of kit

Having *just* taken the decision to get back into doing more backpacking & wild camping this year (any excuse to get away) I took the plunge and bought a Solar Battery Charger for the princely sum of £33.90 including shipping, from

My choice was influenced by my mate Rob (photographer extraordinaire, box player, dance caller, drinker of beer and all-round good egg). Rob used the lower power version of this charger on our recent Via De La Plata trundle in Spain. The sunlight levels in Sunny Spain (the clue is in the name) are significantly higher than in UK and his charger performed well.



I’m quite realistic, the UK isn’t known for high levels of sunlight so I don’t expect this to be a cure-all for charging problems. This bit of kit has an advertised 3watts of (solar) charging rate, allowing for UK conditions I’d expect something like 1 – 1.5watts, maybe a little more in very strong sunshine.

From the website:


My initial impression is that it’s fairly robust and will probably stand a bit of knocking about. It’s not waterproof although I expect it will stand a bit of spray for a short time, and at 270gms it’s not horribly heavy.

Time will tell, I’m off on the TGO Challenge next week…we’ll see.

Details here.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

6th November 2013, Paramo Alta II

On offer at Go Outdoors

I’ve been a fan of Paramo gear for a good few years now, it’s not for everybody but it works for me. I’m the very proud and happy owner of a Paramo Velez and a Paramo Alta II.
An email from Go Outdoors popped into my Inbox earlier offering the very excellent Paramo Alta II for £150, not a bad deal at all – I paid £200 for mine around 5 years ago. The current list price is £245.
Have a look here. This link is for the Men’s garment, ladies needn’t worry – the offer is valid for their garments too!
The Alta II isn’t the lightest waterproof in the world, but as long as it’s cleaned and re-proofed from time to time it’s an excellent bit of kit – everything is in the right place, it’s comfortable, and of course it’s extremely breathable.
You can read the full spec on the Paramo website here.
The good bits about the Alta II for me are:
Under-arm pit-zips. These not only improve ventilation, but you can pop your arms through the open zips in warm weather – it’s almost like a gillet,
Sleeves can be rolled up, great in warm weather
Warm, although sometimes it can be too warm! In cold weather I usually just have a merino wool T shirt (Aldi, £15) and a long sleeved Helly underneath.
Decent hood, does exactly what a decent hood should do
Pockets, enough and in the right places
Oh, and it’s waterproof – PROVIDED you keep up to speed on the cleaning & reproofing. Once a Paramo garment fails, it’s TOTAL failure – water just soaks through. In my experience a Paramo garment doesn’t lose it’s waterproof properties gradually, it’s either waterproof….or it’s not. This is the bad bit, so keep it clean and re-proof it a couple of times a year – it’s not a difficult procedure.
I’ve used my Alta II in all sorts of situations, the TGO Challenge is probably the hardest test it’s been through, but it’s always come out smiling, and with me cosy and dry inside it.
I use Go Outdoors a fair amount and have found them to be on the better side of okay, if you can get hold of a sales person with the appropriate product knowledge you might be surprised.
I’m not being paid or receiving any freebies for this post, I’m just very happy with Go Outdoors and Paramo….especially when the stuff’s being sold at a damn good price!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

21st August, Kit review: La Sportiva Raptors

A posting on the TGO Challenge Message Board a couple of months ago alerted me to Snow and Rock’s half price offer on La Sportiva Raptors.

I’m currently doing the groundwork for my Home to John O’Groats via the TGO Challenge Walk (HTJOGVTTGOCW….easier to remember that way) which I have pencilled in for next year. Kit choice is an important part of this groundwork.

Now it just so happened that I’d been chatting to Alan about his choice of LEJOG footwear and Raptors were mentioned… I legged it over to our local Snow and Rock shop to be disappointed to find they only had Size 10.5 in stock and I really need Size 11. Not deterred, I tried a pair on….and the fit was perfect. Disappointment evaporated.

P1020674My Raptors….and yes, I know I need to mop the floor – a chap only has so much spare time for doing domestic stuff. 
A couple of days later I tried the Raptors out on the Long Suffering Rick’s LDWA walk around Walton, a flat 14-15 miler. The shoes were excellent, so excellent that I went back to Snow and Rock to grab the only other pair of Size 10.5 Raptors they had in stock.

I’ve done around 150 miles in the Raptors so far, Gritstone Trail, a curry walk :-), various LDWA walks and a few brain-straightening solo walks. I’ve even done a bit of trail running.

Raptors aren’t waterproof, and on Alan’s recommendation I bought a pair of Sealskinz waterproof socks but I’ve not had the opportunity to try the combination out yet. It’s summer y’see and I’m told it doesn’t rain in Timperley. And I’m gullible, but you know that.

The shoe has a solid feel with plenty of support. Unlike some fell / trail running shoes the Raptors feel solid enough to offer good protection against bashing into rocks.

The laces are good, staying tied up nice and tight after a full day out. There’s nothing more irritating than having to stop every now and then to re-do loosening laces!

The sole is very grippy, inspiring confidence on muddy descents….and I’m not good at decents. The La Sportiva website lists a number of approved resolers, unfortunately none are in the UK. The importers, Lyon Equipment in Cumbria, may be able to help, I’ve found them to be helpful in the past.

Overall I’m delighted with the Raptors. For £45 they’re an extremely good deal. Not so sure whether I’d have been quite so happy paying £90, at the end of the day they’re a glorified pair of trainers. They’re comfortable over distance and carrying a medium-weight pack although I’ve yet to try them with a heavy pack over distance. Looking at the quality of build, which is good, I expect these shoes to last me a long while – so even at £90 they’re still a good buy.

Now the bad news. Retailers flog stuff off cheap for a very few reasons. The reason for this particular flog-off is because La Sportiva appear to have brought out a newer design. Having said that, the new design looks to be very similar to the old design and on that basis I have no reason to believe the newer design will be any less comfortable or hard wearing.

The acid test….
Q: Would I buy another pair?
A: Yes, even at 90 quid.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Aldi waterproofing aerosol spray

You all know that I've arranged for good weather for my next Challenge, TGOC2014....but just in case it all goes pear-shaped again I thought you might be interested in this latest offering from Aldi.

At £1.99 for a 300ml can it's got to be a steal - provided it works of course!

I shall report back.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

My brilliant Akto…

….has suffered a bit of damage.

Over the last year I’ve noticed that my Hilleberg Akto has suffered from a leaky groundsheet. It coped okay on TGOC 2012 but on subsequent trips I’ve seen dampness, and more recently wetness becoming evident under my sleeping mat in the mornings. I suppose the groundsheet of a one person tent isn’t designed to take THAT much hammer. Having said that, I know of many Akto groundsheets that have survived much more abuse for far longer than mine. I was probably just careless in pitching the tent – it only takes a prickly field.
There wasn’t any one point where moisture was getting in, it seemed as though the groundsheet was developing porosity over a substantial proportion of it’s area. Unfortunately this was the actual sleeping area. In spite of this leakage problem I still rate the Akto as a brilliant all-round backpacking tent. There are lighter tents – cheaper ones too, but the Akto is still the dog’s wotsits. In bad conditions I’m glad to have my Akto, it’s far more stable than my other backpacking tents.
imageAn Akto or two, pitched in the Geldie
Anyroadup, I contacted Hilleberg who in turn put me in touch with Scottish Mountain Gear in, er, Scotland. Scottish Mountain Gear are Hilleberg partners and as such are able to carry out repairs to Hilleberg kit to their quite exacting standards.
Two weeks and £50 later, my Akto was returned to me with a new groundsheet. To be honest it’s impossible to tell that a repair has been carried out – apart from the fact that it doesn’t have a leaking groundsheet anymore.
I can’t speak highly enough of Scottish Mountain Gear. Their repairs are carried out quickly, to a very high standard, and at a sensible price. Nuff said.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Frozen Flounderings kit review

I have a fair amount of kit, but it all gets used – I don’t like to buy stuff willy-nilly, on a whim. If I buy kit it’s for a reason – and it gets used.

The low temperatures endured on last weekend’s Frozen Flounderings trip in the borderlands of Scotchlandshire entailed careful choice of kit – and food, so I thought some comments on a few items of my gear were in order.

Hilleberg Akto Not the lightest tent in the world at around 1.6kg, but quite bomb-proof. I’ve had my Akto for around 8 years and I’ve been more than pleased with it. Aktos  do have a condensation problem. Correct pitching will help, proper use of the vents also helps, but it’s still a problem. One mod I’m intending carrying out: sewing a loop onto the outer door at the bottom of the zip – this is to allow another guy to be attached so the door can be guyed open, forming a sort of porch-shelter.
It’s not a cheap tent – current list price is around £425, but you get what you pay for. Interestingly (bloody annoyingly), the US price of a Hilleberg Akto is $465 = £300. This begs the question: why does a European-made tent cost so significantly less in the US than in the UK – especially when the damned thing doesn’t need shipping across the Atlantic?

Mountain Equipment Helium 3.8 self-inflating mat. Bought from Cotswold recently for the special price of £45, reduced from £80. Another heavy bit of kit (750gms) – but supremely warm and comfortable. I couldn’t find any info on this mat on the ME website which leads me to suspect it may now be discontinued. It’s a big mat, 183x51x3.8cm, I’m sure a shorter mat would be quite adequate for my 173cm frame – combined with a stuff-bag pillow, a 160cm length mat would be sufficient for me…and lighter of course. The mat is made of significantly more robust (= heavy) materials than a NeoAir and I would therefore expect it to be much more resistant to puncture damage. Time will tell of course!

A Mountaineering Designs modified Mountain Equipment Dragon II down-filled sleeping bag. An obsolete bag that has seen much action – it’s level of down has been increased making this a warm bag at a good price. Another heavy bit of kit (1.3kg), but quite warm. If you’ve got a down-filled sleeping bag that could do with improving, a call to Mountaineering Designs could be the answer.

Alpkit Gamma headtorch. At £15 these are just brilliant. Sorry about that. 3 x AAA cells power 5 LEDs giving a wide range of illumination options: a 1w white LED for ‘searchlight’ mode, red, green and white 5mm LEDs for general use, and a red LED for use as a ‘rear lamp’, a particularly useful feature for walking on the road at night.  I first used this in anger on the night section of The Woldsman, a 50 mile challenge walk last year, it did a great job. Highly recommended.

Peter Storm down-filled and hooded gillet. On special offer from Millet’s just before Christmas, at £20. Warm, light-ish…and cheap. For that price you can’t go wrong. I’m chuffed to bits with mine. I’m not a fan of getting clobbered-up to go to bed, but I wore this in my sleeping bag last weekend and it made all the difference.

Vango Compact Gas Stove Cheap and cheerful – and quite light. At just over 100gms it’s around 20gms heavier than a Pocket Rocket, but at less than a quarter of the price it’s got to be a good deal. I’ve had mine for around 4 years, it works very well. Nothing more to say.

Fire Steel Say goodbye to worrying about keeping your box of Swan Vesta (Average contents: 85 matches) nice and dry, a Fire-Steel is far more reliable way of lighting your stove. I’ve had my Fire Steel for around 4 years and I wouldn’t be without it. I keep mine in the stove storage box.

Paramo Velez Adventure Light My second piece of Paramo kit – I also have a Paramo Alta II. I find the Velez to be very comfortable and ergonomically just about right. I’ve only ever had one failure with the Velez – on a very wet Sunday in the Lakes last autumn. It was my fault, Paramo stuff is easy to re-proof and I hadn’t cleaned the Velez since May last year – lesson learned!
A couple of features I’d like to see, purely to increase ventilation because I over-heat easily: 1) Under-arm pit-zips (like on the Alta II), 2) A method of holding the chest flap open, perhaps rolled-up, when unzipped – perhaps a couple of press-studs or a couple of elastic loops at the bottom of the chest-flap? I feel a modification coming on.

Pacerpole trekking poles. Mine are the heavier alloy poles, quite robust – and VERY comfortable. No more gripping pole-handles, the “unique contoured handle is designed anatomically to integrate with the hand - for controlling the arm's stride-leverage and transferring power directly and effectively.” Well that’s what it says on the Pacerpole website – and I ain’t going to argue. They’re brilliant to use, but….
In spite of following Pacerpole’s instructions to dismantle, clean and dry the poles after each use – then storing them in a dry place, the twist-lock system has major seizing problems. It’s simply not practical to strip, clean and dry the poles whilst on a multi-day backpacking trip, but for day walks, and when they haven’t seized, I always strip, clean, dry & store them properly…..and the twist-lock mechanism STILL seizes. Interestingly, a single latex glove is supplied with Pacerpoles, the idea being to afford better grip on the pole shaft – for when they seize? That does rather suggest a known problem…
I’ve used other poles (Leki and also el-cheapo Go Outdoors poles @ £5 a pair) that use a twist-lock system that don’t have the same seizing problem, I’ve also used (and own) Black Diamond poles that use a flick-lock system – it would be wonderful if Black Diamond and PacerPole could get together and produce a hybrid pole….I don’t think that’s going to happen though! Pacerpole have offered to take a look at my poles, perhaps I’m doing something wrong. I’ll be calling in to Pacerpole the next time I go to Cumbria – Mr & Mrs Pacerpole seem very keen to try to sort the problem, very refreshing.

Obviously I took far more kit than this, but these were just some of the more significant items. I’ll wait until after my next trip before I write a report on my choice of backpacking foods.