Friday, 6 April 2018

Expedition Equipment

Expedition Equipment

 So its now April, its officially spring which means alot of people are starting to think of their next outdoor activity, it also means that Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and such like are going to start running properly again, this means lots of kit list, lots of choices and lots of money spent, money that could potentially be wasted, how? I hear you cry, think about how many people buy something use it once and thn either grow out of it, throw it away or wont do it again because something was uncomfortable, point of note here I`ve been in this position many many times whilst growing up, boots that dont fit was my biggest nightmare in one case resulting in a blister that covered my whole heel, it was that big I had to use duct tape rather than compeed to cover it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of equipment but will concentrate primarily on the three most important pieces of equipment to buy;

Boots, Rucksack and Sleeping bag. 

Why are these the most important things to concentrate on? why not waterproofs or insulation?
its quite simple, unless you are very unfortunte you won`t be wearing your waterproofs all day but you will have your boots on all day so they need to be comfortable and supportive and no trainers will NOT be OK, rough ground and a heavy load on your back require ankle support, something not provided by trainers.

Speaking of heavy loads you will also be wearing your rucksack for anything up to six hours on your back so it must not only support the weight you are carrying but it must also fit properly and be comfortable, a badly fitting rucksack can cause back ache, shoulder ache, neck ache, make knee problems worse, potentially giving a poor nights sleep.

sleeping bags, hands up those of you who have heard tales of sleeping bags that don`t work...there is nothing worse than 8 hours of cold misery when your sleeping bag just wont keep you warm,  (there are a few tips I will give later that will make sure you get the best possible nights sleep you can) and as this can affect the next days adventure it is essential to get a good, well insulated, easily compressible sleeping bag.

So how much should you spend?
Allow me to answer a question with a question, how much do you want to spend?
I`m being serious just on those three item alone you could spend up to £900, yes really,

£500 for a sleeping bag, (arctic sleeping bag)
£200 for boots (summer walking boots, winter boots can cost up to £400)
£200 on a rucksack,

Thats the extreme end of course but gives you an idea of what you could spend if you really wanted to.

I will make clear right now, I don`t get paid to write this blog and is not intended to be a full review of each item, so what I will say is completely from the heart, don`t scrimp on these three item spend as much of your budget as you can on them, don`t borrow this equipment if you can help it, this stuff needs to fit you properly to make your expedition enjoyable and now with that out of the way, what would I recommend.


weather its your first time wearing boots or the 100th pair you`ve bought, spend time breaking them in, don`t go to the shop the day before and ask for a pair, its the quickest way to blisters and sore feet, most stores have a policy that as long as they are not worn outside they will allow you to bring them back if they don`t fit. be sure to have your feet measured as the "add half a size for socks" doesn`t always work, for example I have size 9 feet and only one pair of boots did I need to go up half a size (they were my winter boots so extra padding was required), you will of course have a choice of leather or fabric, the difference here is not in the waterproofing but in the weight and support, leather boots tend to be heavier but are more supportive where as fabric boots are lighter but not as supportive, although honestly it really doesn`t make that much difference.

When it comes to boots there are two varients to look at, mid Boots and full boots, mid boots tend to be softer, easier to wear, lighter, more flexible however they don`t offer the ankle support or weight baring of a full boot, whereas a full boot has more ankle support but takes longer to break in and is heavier, for a first pair of boots I would recommend full boots just for that peace of mind that it less likely  you will hurt your ankle.

The options I put forward here are by no means your only options so shop around and see what you can get, for this catagory I have set a budget of £50, £100 and £150 and I will start with full boots.

Image result for peter storm brecon boots

Peter Storm Brecon boots £49,

full leather and waterproof lining this boot blurs the boundary between mid and full while supple enough to be a mid it is also high enough to be considered a full boot.

Image result for hi tec bandera

Hi Tec Bandera currently £40 (usually £80)

if you prefer fabric this is probably your best option lighter and more flexible but still waterproof thanks to the lining.

for those of you who would prefer a mid boot the options to consider are

Image result for peter storm camborne
Peter Storm Camborne £40

as I say these boots do not offer the same protection as full boots but are more flexible and dont take as long to break in, these boot are however still fully water proof.


Image result for hi tec dexter

Hi tec Dexter £40

as above this boot is still fully waterproof but you do lose the support of the full boot

moving on to the £100 range, this is by far the most inclusive price range with the most variety of boots and brands as well as fit.

Image result for peter storm snowdon
Peter Storm Snowdon £80

with its full full grain leather and waterproof lining this boot will keep your feet dry as well as offering considerable support for your ankle too.

Image result for brasher country walker

Brasher country walker walking boot £99 (normally £120)

classic boots, very popular and for good reason, they never wear out, the only downside to Brasher is their naming policy which can get confusing, these are the country walker boots but also in the range are the country roamer, country hiker and the country trekker which are completely different.

Image result for brasher country trekker
Brasher Country Trekker, £99 (normally £120)

Essentially the fabric version of the boots above although more flexible

in terms of mid boots, ones I would recommend to look at would be,

Image result for berghaus expeditor trek
the Berghaus expeditior trek 2.0 £100,

still fully waterproof but just remember that its not got the support

Image result for salomon mudstone mid 2 gtx

the Salomon mudstone £99 (originally £130)

Image result for merrell moab rover mid

Merrell Moab mid £89 (originally £125)

As you can imagine going up into the £150 range offers almost everything you can think of in terms of what you would ever need, with the exception of being crampon compatible

boots in this range to consider are

  Image result for berghaus hillwalker 2 gtx
Berghaus Hillwalker 2 £130,

a couple of years ago Berghaus and Brasher merged into one company as such names of products switched round, these were originally the Brasher hillwalkers, which many people adored, the only thing that has changed is the name, the quality is still exactly the same, full leather fully waterproof and a proper classic.

Image result for scarpa terra gtx

SCARPA terra GTX £145

one of Scarpa classic boots, many people have started in these boots and stuck to Scarpa ever since again full leather with a Gore Tex lining.

Image result for salomon quest prime gtx
Salomon Quest Prime £140

the quest range from Salomon has been around for a while so there is a pedigree when it comes to these boots, very solid for a fabric boot with Gore tex lining and a contra-grip sole

in terms of mid boots the option are as wide and varied as you could imagine, my pick from this range would be
Image result for scarpa bora gtx

the SCARPA  Bora £120, remembering that mid boots do not offer the same ankle support these boots make a nice compromise between comfort and support

Image result for salomon ultra 3 mid

the Salomon ultra 3 Mid £125, these would be my other choice for a mid boot, well priced in its range and very comfortable too.

and just as a little bonus if money were no object the boots I would go for in terms of a full boot would be

Image result for meindl bhutan mfs

The Meindl Bhutan, £210 but just putting this boot will make you realise why this boot tops my list,

for fabric boots

Image result for asolo flame

the Asolo Flame (my actual boots) £150, snug fitting, comfortable, light weight, almost perfect for me.


A well fitting rucksack is a thing of joy and can really make the difference between a painful expedition and a expedition to remember for the good times, whichever rucksack you buy make sure it at least has a frame inside it, a frame in most cases is two bars that run down the inside of the rucksack to help carry and distribute the weight, as you go up in price the frame can become more elaborate but will never be outside the rucksack itself. Also do not even consider a travel bag, these tend to be the bags that have a smaller bag attached on the outside and therefore end up upsetting you centre of balance considerably. As I already mentioned please don`t borrow a rucksack if you can help it, while one rucksack may fit the person you are borrowing it from it may not fit you properly, again as with the boots I will list the rucksacks that I would choose in particular price brackets but again please shop around until you find the rucksack you are happy with.

the budgets I will use are

£60, £100, £150 and £200

the reason I have started at £60 and not £50 is most of those at £50 do not come with a frame
AmazonBasics Internal Frame Hiking Backpack with Rainfly
amazon basics £49.99 (55l)

a basic rucksack with a frame a rain cover, the only issue with this is you wont be able to try on before it reaches you.

Vango Sherpa 65L Rucksack

Vango Sherpa, classic bag that has been around for ages, fits most people,

in the £100 range the three bags I would consider looking at would be

Berghaus Men's Trailhead Outdoor Rucksack

the Berghaus Trailhead, £99 this is a bag that`s been around a while and has had a number of tweaks in its time to get it to the point where it is a highly respected rucksack.

Lowe Alpine Cholatse II Men's Hiking Backpack – Tabasco/Amber, 82 x 37 x 34 cm 55 Litres FMP – TB

Lowe Alpine Cholatse £85, check the price on this one as I have seen it for several different prices

in the £150 range the options for quality rucksack really open up.

 Image result for lowe alpine atlas 65

Lowe Alpine Atlas £115, this rucksack is from a line of ruicksacks that can trace its heritage back to the 1960s, Lowe Alpine has always been on the forefront of rucksack technology.

Image result for berghaus ridgeway

Berghaus ridgeway £115, essentially a more advanced version of the Trailhead

Image result for exos 58

Osprey Exos 58, £150, slightly smaller than the others I`ve picked but if you can get your gear in here you will not be disappointed,

in the £200 range you are obviously paying premium prices but trust me, just try them on weighted and you can see where your money will be going.

 Image result for osprey atmos ag65
Osprey Atmos 65ag £190, always a favorite, always a winner

Image result for gregory rucksack 65l

Gregory Baltoro

Image result for mammut creon crest

Mammut Creon Crest £192.95, being an "alpine" style backpack this has minimal straps on the outside to get caught on anything.

as with boots there are many many many options to choose from, so shop around for what you feel is best for you.

if it was a case of money no object the rucksack I would choose personally would be

Image result for osprey levity 60

Osprey Levity 60l, £240, a 60 litre bag that weighs less than a kilo....

Sleeping bags

you will find two types of sleepingbags for sale, synthetic and down, as a basic overview, down is warmer for its weight, compacts down smaller so fits in your bag easier and is lighter on the downside however if these bags get wet they lose all their insulation capabilities from which it is almost impossible to recover. synthetic bags on the other hand will lose some insulation properties but not all when wet, but these bags are heavier and bulkier and not as compressible, I would recommend synthetic for your first sleeping bag but of course this is entirely up to you.
As promised have a couple of tips on keeping warm in a sleeping bag,

firstly, sleeping bags reflect whatever heat you put into them so if you wear seventeen layers when you climb into your sleeping bag it will have no heat to absorb, less in this case is better.

buy a decent sleeping mat to go underneath your sleeping bag, a thick roll mat mat is good but doesn`t provide a lot of comfort, the other alternative is a self inflating mat, warmer, more comfort but requires maintenance. 

secondly, and this also goes with good maintenance as well, with the exception of your expedition do  not keep your sleeping bag stuffed in its stuuf sack as it will lose it insulation abilities over time.

I will stick to the £50 £100 and £150 and the first category will be synthetic, comfort rating is subjective and temperature listed is as a guide only,

Coleman  North Rim Unisex Outdoor Sleeping Bag available in Olive Green/Black - 208 cm

Coleman North Rim, £49.95, comfortable down to -2, but bulky to pack away

Vango Latitude 300 Sleeping Bag

Vango Latitude 300, prices vary, comfortable down to -5, bulky but not as bulky as above

Image result for berghaus transition 200 sleeping bag

Berghaus Transition 200, £50, comfortable down to 0 degrees, least bulk at of all on here

in the £100 synthetic range, my pick of the bunch are

Mountain Equipment Starlight II - Reg
Mountain Equipment starlight 2, £100, comfortable down to 0 degrees

Glacier II

Robens Glacier 2, £80, comfortable down to 0 degrees.

and now for the £150 range, if i`m honest the insulation in these bags is probably going to be a little too good however these bags compress down next to nothing .

Montane MT PRISM 0 C

montane MT prism, £150, comfortable down to 0 degrees, least amount of bulk

Mountain Hardwear Lamina Z Flame Sleeping Bag Long yellow/olive Design left 2018 mummy sleeping bag

Mountain Hardwear lamina Z flame, £150, comfortable down to -7

Mountain Equipment Adult's Starlight IV Sleeping Bag 197 x 78 x 10 cm in Cobalt / Midnight
Mountain Equipment starlight 4, £150, comfortable down to -7, very bulky

onto the down sleeping bags, as I mentioned these bag have to be kept dry otherwise they will not keep you warm.

I have to skip the £50 range as I could not find anything


Vango Fuse 2° Hybrid Down Sleeping Bag - Nuclear Blue

Vango fuse 2Degree, hybrid down, £100, this bag is a fusion of synthetic and down insulation and as the name suggests comfortable to 2 degrees

Kathmandu Pegasus Down Sleeping Bag

Kathmandu Pegasus, prices vary, comfortable down to 0 degrees

last but not least in the £150 range

Vango Venom 300 Sleeping Bag

Vango Venom, £150, comfortable down to 0 degrees, absolute classic of a down sleeping bag

Mountain Equipment Helium Solo - Reg
Mountain Equipment Helium £150, comfortable down to zero degrees, another classic that hasn`t changed in years, because it really doesn`t need to.

Vaude Lightweight Cheyenne 200 Unisex Outdoor Right Zip Sleeping Bag

Vaude cheyenne 200, £130, comfortable down to -3

as I said at the beginning this was only intended to be an overview of what is available in the price ranges, do some reasearch before purchasing and please remember what I said about getting a good fit for you.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Micro travels day 2

Micro travels day 2


Another day, another micro journey and once again another list, this list

having been to Cambridge yesterday I obviously had to change the fifth choice on the dice, that done I once again rolled the dice and this time it came up 6, so it was off to Bury St Edmunds in the morning for me, 
I arrived in Bury just before midday and set off into the town centre, the Abbey Gardens were the first place I went to and spent quite a while wandering around the ruins, an interesting thing I didn`t know was that it was in the now ruined abbey where the Barons of the land swore an oath in 1214 to make King John sign Magna Carta, the basis of democracy in England,

with the Abbey Gardens explored I made my way into the town centre, during my wanderings I came across possibly one of the best discoveries, The Nutshell, the smallest pub in Britain, a mere 15ft by 7ft and just about enough room for ten or so people, so I decided to call in for quick pint because it would rude not to,
after I had my pint, I spent the next few hours wandering around seeing what else Bury had to offer until sadly it was time to make my back to the station and once again make my way home ready for the next days journey

Monday, 22 September 2014

Micro travels day 1

Micro travels

A couple of weeks ago a picked up a book called micro adventures by Alistair Humphreys, its a book that I would highly recommend to anyone, the basis of the book is that adventure is a state of mind and that it doesn`t take a huge amount of time, money or effort to go on one, with this in mind and not having much money I decided to go a few one day adventures to different places around the local area, this will be the first in a series of short blogs about these travels, to make this a true adventure I chose to randomise where I was going each day, to do this I chose six places with train stations and then rolled a dice to see where I would be going.



The Sunday night before I set off on my first journey I made a list of six places I haven`t been before the six choices were Woodbridge, Sudbury, Norwich, Lowestoft, Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds, if I`m honest I was secretly hoping for Woodbridge or Sudbury but that wasn`t my choice as I was leaving it in the hands of fate and fate would have to choose the furthest destination, namely Cambridge,

as I was in no great hurry I looked at the departing times from my local station and decided to catch the 9.50 train, which would get me to Cambridge around 12.15, however due to delays I didn`t actually get there until nearer 12.45, as I said though I wasn`t hurrying anywhere and the only time factor was the departure time of the train back, knowing I had about four hours before my train was due to depart I set off into the city to try and see as much as I could.
Originally being from the other major university city in the UK, I was surprised at how much the architecture of Cambridge reminded me of that place, the other thing that reminded me of Oxford was the amount of bicycles and university shops there were and how it seemed impossible to turn a corner without seeing one of these shops somewhere along that street, my wanderings finally inevitably brought me Kings College where a very famous picture, perhaps the most famous picture of Cambridge is taken and I thought as I was there, I might as well try and replicate it, however they wanted to charge me to enter so that put pay to that, until I wandered down another street and crossed the river Cam, where I got the idea to try and walk back up the other side, that was easy and Kings College soon came back into view with its famous church , however I couldn`t get as close as I liked as the Uni had cut off access to the side of the river I was on and wanted to charge entry, they don`t go to uni for nothing these guys! below is the best I could do,

some of you might be thinking there`s something missing in this picture and you`d be right, the river Cam, its actually in the middle of the picture and from this angle looks like it concealed in a little   ha-ha, with that done I walked a little further to look for a way back across the Cam and another picture opportunity arose 

with time running out I made my way back to the station to catch the train back home fired up and ready for the next days adventure.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Canoeing the Stour

Canoeing the Stour

 its been quite a long time since I wrote my last blog so I thought it was about time to do another, this time about something I haven`t done for a little namely canoeing, this is mainly because I don`t actually own my own canoe sadly, however I saw a leaflet in a local supermarket advertising canoe hire I jumped at the chance to get back onto the water.
as I would be on my own for the trip I agreed with the hire company not to do the full distance normally suggested, from Sudbury to Cattawade, but to go from Nayland to Cattawade, even this shorter distance would take me most of the day to complete, having put in at the Anchor Inn, I headed downstream, it took me a little while to remember what I was doing but eventually it came back to me which was just as well as the first part of the Stour was narrow and very overgrown requiring alot of manoeuvring between reed banks and overhanging branches and it would be this way for quite a while down river.


 eventually the river widened and became easier to navigate and the journey became alot more pleasant, after five kilometres of paddling I came to the first obstacle, Boxted mill, now a private residence, because the mill would at one time have had a waterwheel to power the machinery, it would also have had a pond to hold the water and a weir to control the flow, obviously I couldn`t have paddled down the weir and so had to portage around this, thankfully the owners of the land had thoughtfully provided a path to do just this but how was I to move a 16ft/40kg canoe by myself? by putting wheels on the bottom of course, I`m not kidding

 see wheels

having successfully portaged around the first problem I carried on my journey, a few kilometres later I came across my second problem, Langham flumes, again these were originally built to control the flow of water downstream, if I actually owned the canoe I was paddling I might have actually attempted to go down them in the canoe but as I didn`t I decided not to and portaged around it.

after this there followed a couple of kilometres of easy paddling, and fairly soon the bells from Higham church could be heard,

 this was soon passed and I was heading quickly towards Dedham. after another portage around Stratford St Mary lock

and paddling along the border between Essex and Suffolk I reached Dedham mill, where I once again had to portage around the weir,

 this is where the journey got a little difficult and I had to change my position in the boat from towards the back to the middle to give me more manoeuvrability around all the other boaters, usually called unfavourably (or Not) "rent a crash" or "rent a wreck" this was the hardest section of the journey and would last until I reached Flatford, if your of an artistic nature you may have heard of Flatford as its where Constable painted the Hey wain and involved yet another portage.

thankfully that would be the last of the portages and I was now only about an hour from the end of my journey, not far after Flatford came the potentially frightening Judas weir where the stour split and signs along the river warn you to "keep left at Judas weir", as it turned out, you couldn`t do anything but keep left as the weir had actually been blocked off by floating buoys and the water was barely flowing through it, but that wouldn`t prevent Health and Safety having their way, 45 minutes after passing the (not) very scary Judas weir I was reaching the end of my journey but before I did I had chance to try my hand at wildlife photography and judging by the result National Geographic should be on the phone any day now, 

  and so my day ended, I would recommend this to anyone wanting an adventurous but pleasant day on the river.
my thanks go to the Outdoor Hire Centre for the hire the of the canoe and for ferrying me to and from the centre