Thursday, 21 February 2019

Another month, another video blog

So another month has passed and i`ve been waiting for 2 things to be delivered to do blog/vlogs to be honest these things still havent been delivered (as of 21/02/19) so in the meantime i have made a short video showing how I dry birch bark for increased flammability

Drying birch bark

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Saturday, 5 January 2019

Infinite match, Is it worth it?

Just recently I`ve decided to branch out into trying my hand at video making for You Tube, I`ve already mad a couple of videos and posted them, the link below should take you straight to the latest video in which I am reviewing a product I bought a while ago called an "infinite match" I hope you enjoy.

Friday, 24 August 2018

camping gas stoves

Gas stoves 

          Once again I`ll start with a disclaimer, I`m not sponsored to do these blogs nor am I going to go into great detail about each model on the market as I have to use my own money to buy this equipment, so I have bought three models that represent the main types of hiking stoves on the market and rather than going through boil times, weight, accessories, burn times and so on I will be focusing on what I usually do which is pros and cons of each type to give you an overall assessment of what you can expect from each to help you make a choice should you wish to buy one.
          Gas stoves are normally the next step on from Trangia stoves and sit quite comfortably in between Trangia`s and petrol stoves, on the one hand they are clean, quick to set up, get going and boiling water, on the other they require more maintenance than a Trangia, although far far less than a petrol stove, gas cylinders can be hard to get hold off but they`re biggest drawback is at high altitude or low temperatures gas becomes inefficient and can in extreme cases freeze altogether.

          The three types of stove I have chosen are the Primus Express spider, the Coleman Fyrelite and the Jetboil flash, the first thing to note about both the Express spider and the Fyrelite is that neither of them come with a Pietzo igniter which is not unusual, you can buy versions of these stoves with the igniter but beware they will cost more and they can be damaged so even if you do get a stove with a pietzo igniter always carry an alternative means of lighting your stove.

          I`ll begin with the jetboil, these stoves have as many people who love them as hate them, personally I can see and sympathize with both sides, its compact nature and stupidly fast boil time (usually around 90 secs for 1/2 litre of water) means quick brew times and not much room taken up in your pack and if put away correctly and with the smaller gas cylinder everything can be packed inside the pot itself.

 First is the gas cylinder, then the burner, the pot support and finally the adapter ring so you can use normal pots with the jetboil burner, using this with normal pots however means you will lose that incredible efficiency, on the other hand however without buying the after market accessories you are rather limited to what you can do with this stove, it biggest detractors will say you can only boil water and cook boil in the bag meals, which maybe true but I bet someone will have found a way to cook more than that in these stoves.
          As I stated these stoves are now coming with an adapter for normal pots to be used, 

but this isn`t the focus for this blog as the Coleman fyrelite will be covering that particular role.
          So what makes the pot of the Jetboil so special? firstly it actually locks into place on the burner so the whole thing from cylinder to pot are one unit and combined with the pot stand (which I didn`t use as the other stoves do not come with one ) make this quite a safe unit, secondly is "heat exchanger" (their words) which stops an incredible amount of heat from escaping from the sides into the atmosphere and with the heat directed where its needed makes for the fast boil time.

          So apart from the downsides mentioned above what other downsides are there with this stove? well firstly let me say that i don`t like "stack on top" stoves this is where you get the pot sat on top of the burner sat on top of the cylinder, because of the height that be gain, uneven ground can become a problem, any slight angle and you pot could fall off and you stove fall over causing an inevitable fire and the higher the stack the more likely this is, for this blog I got two cylinders, the standard jet boil cylinder and the bigger Coleman 500 cylinder, both cylinders fit the pot stand increasing its stability making this an even safer unit to use but it still stacks high.

about 28cm high with the standard cylinder 

and over 30 (35ish?) cm with the 500 cylinder 

With everything locking together however the safety aspect of this stove is good, you can practically, ALTHOUGH NOT RECOMMENDED OR SUGGESTED, tip this stove over completley and not have anything catch fire, once again I DO NOT SUGGEST YOU TRY THAT AT HOME...
All locked together as one unit, please note it was not lit at the time i took the photo

The jetboil is so efficient at directing its heat that it can almost be held while the stove is lit, once again PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!! with the flame turned all the way to maximum I could practically hold the stove while it was burning.

stove lit, I could get my hand that close before I could feel heat

Jetboils are expensive but they do have alot of pros if you are willing to put up with some cons, there are now a number of accessories on the market to make these more flexible but for the stove as it stands providing you remember the limitations they can quite quickly become one of your favourite stoves.

          The Coleman fyrelite is the lightest stove in this line up weighing in at just 77 grams it is also the smallest and the easiest to set up, no pipes no interlocking, just screw on top of the cylinder turn the tap and light. 

As I stated above I don`t like stack on top stoves and this is one of those types of stoves, I do understand the appeal of them though, small and lightweight, whether they are more efficient because they have no additional pipework however is a matter for debate, average boiling time for a stove of this type is about 3 minutes but alot of heat is lost around the sides, in terms of the height of these stoves will of course depend on the cartridge you use. on the jetboil cartridge there is an overall height of 13.5 cm and for the 500 cartridge a height of 21 cm. 

The primary reason I don`t like stack on top is because of the relative lack of stability when it comes to pots, for this blog I am using standard army mess tins made from aluminium, even a small amount of tilt or lean can result in your pots falling off the stove and/or the whole thing falling over, as I said you can use the pot stabilizers from the jetboil but I am not using them in this test, 

Using the 500 cartridge this is the amount the stove has to lean before the mess tin falls off.

With the smaller cartridge this lean is slightly increased before the tins fall off which is perhaps no surprise.

The other reason I don`t particularly like these stoves is the placement of the control, more or less directly underneath the flame, now in fairness there isn`t many other places to put these controls but there is an increased risk of burning yourself.

The Primus Express spider is the last type of stove and I have heard this type of stove referred to as a "lander" type stove, presumably because they remind people of a moon lander, these types of stoves can usually take bigger pots and are not affected by the height or size of the gas cartridge. 

I do prefer these stoves for there stability and the fact that the controls are away from the flame, in this case on top of the stove itself, on the downside the pipework does add bulk and as with the Fyrelite a lot of the heat escapes from the sides, average boil times for these types of stoves is about 4 minutes, in terms of the stability the angle is much greater before the mess tin fell off .

on a side note, the Primus Express spider can be adapted to run off lighter liquid fuel, petrol and naphtha primarily.
as I say this blog is more of an over view of the main different types of gas stoves on the market, the choice you make is ultimately up to you.

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Saturday, 21 July 2018

Wolf Tracks, the Dedham Vale

A simple beginning AKA
don`t you dare use the `R` word on me Sir!
or short and sweet

          A while ago ITV showed the 100 greatest walks in the UK, as I was watching the program I was mentally ticking off all the walks that I had already completed, there were the usual suspects Ben Nevis, Scafell, Helvellyn, Snowdon, but there were also some low level and close by (to me at least) walks in and around the Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Kent regions one of these walks was only 5 minutes away, so the question you`re probably asking yourself is why didn`t I get round to doing this walk earlier? simple answer, life just got in the way.
          Eventually I found myself with a day to spare so I decided to finally get round to doing this walk, at only 11 km long the walk should have taken me around 2 and half hours to complete as it was it took me nearly 3 with breaks, the walk itself starts at Manningtree railway station and follows paths through Dedham vale to Flatford and past the cottage where the Hey wain was painted.
         The walk started off on decent well maintained paths but soon turned into rough narrow tracks until reaching a section of river 
          The interesting thing about this walk is that for the most part you are actually following the St Edmunds way, which like this walk starts at Manningtree railway Station and goes all the way through Bury St Edmund`s to Brandon in Suffolk
          with this being a low level route and right next to the Stour you might expect to see the river at points along this journey and you would be right, although not an exclusive river side walk the vast majority does follow the river as it twist and turns and spreads out before finally heading into the estuary

the first stop I took was once I had reached Flatford mill now owned by the National Trust who not only look after the place but as is usual for them also set up a little cafe that will force you to remortgage your house for a bottle of water!
          It was while I was here that I heard one of the visitors to the area mutter under their breath while passing me "rambler", OH NO, no no no, you did not just call me a rambler, a rambler is a special type of person, I sir am a walker, we are different, for one we will not stand at a gate arguing with a farmer and his shotgun about the right of way that crosses his field that he now has a bull in and has closed off for the maximum permitted amount of time, we do not exclusively wear Berghaus and nothing else because my mate said it was the best and nothing else will do, nor sir nor do we wear leather hiking boot and woolly red socks every time we walk, we try different combinations for the prevailing conditions and we don`t have a map in a map case around our neck, we generally put it in our map pockets or the top of bags and only pull it out when necessary... well I would of said all this if I could have been bothered, anyway onwards the next half an hour or so was an uphill and down hill section and although not long was quite steep (for the area) until reaching the highest point of the walk overlooking Dedham vale and Dedham itself

          It was while I was here that I saw at least three kestrals hovering and hunting in the fields in front of me, following the path down and across a bridge led me onto some wider and well maintained footpaths leading through some woods and fields into Dedham itself
          At this point the walk took me through a familar setting, a few years ago I paddled the stour and came to the same place
this is the mill that I had to portage round just taken from the other side, the walk now went through Dedham village itself, which itself is a little bit of tourist attraction. a brief walk through the town lead me to a business centre where we once again picked up footpaths and followed them back down to the river, 
and followed it back through fields to Flatford and centre again, at parts of the river you can hire boats and row a small section between Flatford and Dedham and it was encouraging to see people make use of the river and its surroundings even if most of the time they ended up crashing into the banks! having reached Flatford there was nothing left but to head back along the initial path I took to get here back to the train station.
          this walk is easy enough for most people and although the time stated is just over two hours, it is short enough that you wouldn`t have to worry too much about this and just take it at your leisure and enjoy the surroundings.

taken from ITV`s Britian`s 100 favourite walks (number 77)

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Monday, 30 April 2018

Wolf Tracks (International) Iceland

Iceland, fire and ice

          A few weeks ago I decided to take a short break and go to a country  hadn`t been to, (to be honest this is one of my goals this year, to visit at least three countries I haven`t been to) and with the ever reliable Groupon discount voucher scheme I decided to fulfil to bucket list entries, see the northern lights and visit Iceland, I chose the 3 nights package and promptly filled everything out that I needed to, with everything sorted I now just had to wait for the date of departure, well actually the day before the date of departure.
          As I was flying from Luton airport very early in the morning I had made the decision to go the night before as most people would, what I found slightly amusing was it took longer to get from where I live to Luton than it did flying to Iceland, Colchester to Stratford by train, Stratford to West Hampsted via London Overground, train to Luton airport.
I had my first big shock of the trip when I arrived at the hotel I had booked for the evening, to say it was overpriced was putting it mildly, £120 for one night in a box room!
          after a pleasant two and half hour flight to Iceland the adventure could really begin, the bus ride in Reykjavik provided the first of many many spectacular sights, the mountains beyond the city at once calling me to walk in and explore them.

           My hotel was located just outside the city centre, reception was open 24 hours a day and although I had to wait for my room to be ready having arrived at the hotel early the reception was a pleasant place to spend an hour or so with plenty of books to read and leaflets to browse to make plans for the next few days, although a couple of things had been planned at the time of buying the package deal I had been left with a couple of days where I had to plan my own excursions, with so much to choose from I had to narrow it down for budget and time reasons, I eventually chose the Golden circle tour, with this tour there are two versions, the Golden circle and the golden circle direct, out of the two I went for the direct tour, this tour is shorter and misses out one of the usual stops but you still get the essence of the Icelandic wilderness, our tour guide was fantastic at pointing out places and points of interest as we went along, as most of you will probably know the vast majority of Iceland`s electricity comes from geothermal technology (a technology I`m hugely in favour of, its just a shame that Iceland is only one of a few countries that can exploit it effectively) however the Icelanders also use the the hot water to directly heat their homes making it doubly effective, the golden circle tour takes in several waterfalls as well as a well known geyser, please don`t ask me to pronounce the names of the waterfalls because I really couldn`t do it, although there are some interesting stories surrounding them 

the next stop on the tour was the geyser, interestingly the geyser that people might associate with Iceland is longer the case, a few years ago an earthquake in the area changed the geology of the area and changed the active geyser.

the above photo is the geyser that people used to visit although it no longer erupts it is still "active"

it was unfortunately while at the geyser site that I encountered my first "problem" I was trying to film the geyser erupting but kept getting interrupted by other tourists particularly of a certain nation which I wont mention here, either pushing me out of the way for their own selfish behavior or standing directly in front of me blocking my view. it took me at least a dozen times to get the resulting video.

opposite the geyser is a visitors centre selling all the usual stuff, at this I decided it was time for lunch, although I don`t eat red meat I had been persuaded to try the lamb and I have to admit, it was one of the sweetest succulent pieces of meat I had had in along time and was well worth the price which ironically cost more than the Irish coffee I had with it, after lunch it was back on the bus to the next waterfall, this was where the conservation movement in Iceland really took off, without going into too much detail it involved a young girl, her father and an electricity company, geologically the waterfall is interesting as the waterfall and the gorge it flows through was formed at the same time during an earthquake and in one movement.

from one spectacular site to another, in this case the geographical fault line between the Eurasian tectonic plate and the North American Tectonic plate, many people think that this gap is only a few feet across but actually its a couple of miles wide, 
the hills on the left of this picture are on the North American plate and the hills on the right are on the Eurasian plate, the white building in the bottom right of the picture is the approximate position of where the worlds oldest parliament took place (from 900ish AD) before it moved into Reykjavik, 

I haven`t seen the show but I`m also told that this is where part of Game of Thrones was filmed. 

with the golden circle tour done and the relativity close sights taken in it was time to return to the hotel and plan for the next day. 
the next day had already been planned for me by the people I booked the trip with, this was a trip to the famous blue lagoon, the natural geothermal hot springs on the outskirts of the city, stunning is one way to describe this attraction and rightly so, another word is expensive, something I will mention later on, unfortunately slightly too expensive for me, although I did have a drink and watched other people enjoying themselves in the lagoon.

  after a couple of hours at the lagoon I returned to the hotel and prepared myself for the afternoon activity which in this case was a self guided tour of the city, there are numerous maps taking in different parts of the city, 

the tour took in some of the more interesting sights including a couple of museums and the artworks in the pictures above, i did have to cut the tour short however and head back to the hotel to prepare for that nights excursion.

the northern lights

          So of course the main reason for visiting Iceland was to see the northern lights, this was also part of the package that I had bought, I will state right now that I didn`t get any pictures of the lights themselves as I didn`t have the right equipment (a camera with a slow shutter speed), I was staying in Iceland for three nights and tried every night to see the lights, every time we ended up going to the same place to see if we could see them, and every night I encountered the same issue I had with the geyser, other tourists, in what was supposed to be a setting of awe and natural spectacle I found myself surrounded by people ignorant of where they were, selfish towards others (letting camera flashes go off when asked not to, shouting to each other, pushing people out of the way and being loud) this really did spoil the whole atmosphere for me, so did I see the lights? yes on the third and final night I was rewarded with the spectacle of the lights and for a brief moment everyone there was quiet and enjoyed the same sights I was witnessing.....until a massive whoop was shouted and everyone went back to their ignorant selfish ways, being late in the season (March) the lights weren`t as bright or distinct as you see in pictures but the ribbon of greens and reds dancing across the sky made me more than happy and crossed another thing off my list.

the only thing left to do was enjoy my last night in the hotel before heading back to the airport and heading home.

this trip was made possible through Groupon, the deal I selected cost £379 and included a three night stay in a selected hotel with breakfast, the northern lights tour and blue lagoon, flights were with Easy Jet flying out of Luton airport.

Is Iceland as expensive as people say it is?
I found the prices fairly reasonable for a Scandinavian country but you have to remember I was travelling alone, I can see however that for more than one person Iceland does get very expensive, a basic meal by myself cost the equivalent of £15 of course double this for two people and so on, alcohol is expensive as you would expect, a small bottle of beer was the about £6.50, if you are planning a trip to Iceland take all of this into account.

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