Sunday, 28 July 2013

Superfeet Insoles

Superfeet Insoles

          Last week I noticed that the soles of my shoes had worn away quite alarmingly on the outside edge of the heel and whilst this normally wouldn`t be a problem and is the way that most shoes should wear (outside heel to big toe) it shouldn`t have worn so quickly in shoes less than a year old, I figured that this must be happening due to the amount I wear the shoes, combined with a collapsed arch and heavy gait.

          Although I`ve known for a while that I needed some sort of support underfoot (especially after the last major walk I did where I ended up with a very sore knee and hip)  I decided it was time to finally get some of these insoles.
         The Superfeet insoles have been around for a number of years and have had some remarkable success stories, including one gentleman who walked from the Falkland Islands back to the UK using them in his boots so surely they would work for me. Having already worked with Superfeet insoles in one of my previous jobs in an outdoor retailers I was familiar with their products already and knew the insole I would require, the blue ones for approach style shoes, (I would also be using them in my mid boots as well) they do come in a variety of colours, blue, green, orange and pink, but this is NOT for looks, each colour means a different thing, usually the style of footwear they are designed to fit and the amount of support they give, there are also black versions but these are custom fitted to indivdual feet.
          As these insoles are designed to fit to your heel as apposed to the shoe they need to be fitted properly, ideally cupping the heel and preventing the fat pad under it from thinning out, as such these insoles ideally need to be bought from a shop rather than online as an adviser not only needs to fit them to your foot but also grind the edges to an angle to fit in the bottom of the footwear.

          Superfeet slowly realign the feet into a neutral position (despite not technically or legally being a corrective insole) meaning greater comfort and easier walking over longer distances and possibly helping with joint problems, they do need breaking in though same as a pair of boots and this unfortunately does mean some pain and discomfort for the first couple of weeks and for that reason it isn`t recommended to wear the insoles for more than about two hours each day for the first week, everyone experiences a different type of pain but the most common is the feeling of a pebble under the arch, other experiences include some joint discomfort or pinching under the heel, personally I only experienced the pebble feeling, so this has probably begged the questions, do they work? and are they worth it? 
          The answer to the first question is yes they do, since I`ve been using them my stride has changed, my pace has quickened and the pain I experienced in my hip has gone so yes I think they do work but I`ll leave that decision up to you. Are they worth it? again that decision I`ll leave up to you but I think for £35 a pair they represent superb value for money because of the amount of time they would be used for and even if they help out only a small amount wouldn`t it be worth at least trying? best of all if they really don`t help Superfeet do offer a money back guarantee.
          I do kick myself for not getting a pair of Superfeet sooner and I really would recommend at least trying them for a little while.

As with all outdoor equipment personal preference is key to any decision you make.

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

useful travel accessories

Useful Travel Accessories

There are a large number of accessories designed for the traveler on the market, below I have listed the accessories I would always recommend and why I recommend them. as usual the choice you make is always yours

power adapter

This may seem like an obvious one to begin with however it is surprising how many people forget these until the last minute, the first thing to mention about these is that few if any are earthed, this means that any current passing through needs to be low to avoid tripping circuits, it is worth doing some basic research into the country you`re traveling to to find out the type of power outlet used, the most common being, European 2 pin, American 2 pin, Australian 2 pin and UK 3 pin.  

travel plug

There can be times when in a hostel or other places where the sinks may having missing plugs or may not have had them to begin with and stuffing paper towels into the hole can only work for so long, luckily one of these plugs will save you having to do that, but they don`t usually come with a chain so don`t forget it when you leave.

washing line

There will be times when you`re traveling that you`ll have access to washing machines or a sink for the same purpose but not necessarily a washing line to dry your clothes on and there are specific lines made for travelers which don`t use pegs, these lines are twisted bungees that grip clothes between them, it is however quite short and this must kept in mind.

first aid kit

A first aid kit should be included in anybody`s kit when they travel overseas, however something that should also be included is a sterile needle kit and if possible a sterile dental kit as well,

water purification 

Any form of water purification is better than none as one of the popular tricks used in some countries is to fill used water bottles with tap water and re-glue the lid to make it appear that the bottle is new, see the blog from last week to see further details.

Mosquito repellent 

Once again there are many alternatives to choose from in this category, these include DEET citronella, and even Avon`s Skin So Soft, DEET comes in 50% and 100% strength, DEET is chemically based and therefore if its possible should be tested on your skin for any allergic reaction, the other thing that you should be aware of with DEET is that it has a slight tendency to melt synthetic clothing, a more natural alternative is of course Avon Skin So Soft but it can obviously be difficult to get hold of.
          another item that can be used is not a repellent but can provide lot of relief if you are bitten  is a bite relief clicker, this provides a short electrical jolt to area to take away the swelling and the itching.
Travel towel

these are towels specifically designed for traveling they pack up incredibly small and dry very quickly, they do come a variety of sizes ranging from small through to giant. 


Although this piece of equipment will make you stand out while your traveling it will make the equipment in your pack safer, this is a flexible metal cage that fits over your pack and resists almost any attempt to break into it, on the downsides however it is heavy and as mentioned above does make you stand out.

2 more pieces of equipment that I would recommend although you probably wouldn`t find it on many kit lists are, a "muggers wallet" and a "muggers phone" these are what they sound like an old wallet, with the lowest denomination of paper money and a few of the local coins as well as some old credit cards inside, the phone is either one of your old handsets or the cheapest ones you can find on the market. if the worst should happen you hand over these rather than your actual wallet and phone.  

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Steri Pen

          I`ve been aware of these for quite a while now but never really had the desire to buy one, until a couple of months ago when Trail magazine offered a free one when people took out a subscription to the magazine which at £50 for 13 editions worked out a lot cheaper than the £67 asked for just the steri-pen itself, even though I do prefer reading TGO magazine I took out the subscription and began the long wait for the device to arrive. How do these devices compare to other methods of water purification though?

          More traditional forms of water purification include chlorine, chlorine dioxide and for those of us lucky enough to remember it iodine, as well as various filters and while these worked they did have they`re various downsides, chlorine doesn`t kill off all the bacteria present in water and leaves a nasty taste behind, unless you use neutralising tablets, iodine kills off more but not only leaves a nasty taste behind but has a tendency to stain everything it touches which then leaves you questioning what your guts look like, although ironically you do get used to the taste and notice it when its gone, they are however easier to get hold off, with the exception of iodine, don't require batteries to work, take up much less space, weigh less and can purify more than one litre at once, although this does have another downside in that there is a period of time to wait for the chemicals to work, anything from half an hour to three hours depending on the chemical and the amount of water that's being purified (add extra time for neutralising tablets).

          Another method of purifying water is through the use of filters such as the Katadyn filters, these work by filtering bacteria from water and without bacteria viruses can not survive, depending on which one you buy will depend on what you get from the filter, some of these filter water quicker but at the cost of having less life, others can filter a lot more water (up to 50,000 litres) but are heavier, more complicated to use and require more maintenance and others are smaller and lighter but take longer to work, the major advantages of filters however is the ability to fit any bottle type, the far greater capacity to purify water and the total absence of electrical power, the major downside is the relative cost of the unit, these filters range in price from £115 to £300 with spare filters and silicone gel sold separately.

          The Steri-pen uses a pre filter to extract dirt particles and then ultraviolet light to break down the DNA structure of the bacteria within water and takes a surprisingly short time to do so, this major advantage means that there is a very short waiting time between collecting water and being able to drink, there is no calculating chemical to volume ratio involved and no aftertaste. it is however limited to the amount of water it can purify, generally one litre at a time, this is a small price to pay though considering how quickly that one litre is done. one other disadvantage to the Steri-pen is that it runs off batteries which are usually 4x AA (which in personal terms means I now have to carry two types of spare battery rather than just AAA) but to make matters a little more complicated Steri-pens work best with Nickel-Metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries, which are naturally more expensive but on the plus side are generally rechargeable. side note; I picked up a rechargeable unit and 4 batteries at my local supermarket for £16 (yeah I know it makes it the same price as buying from a shop, but I still would have needed to buy the batteries anyway), the biggest disadvantage to the Steri-pen however is purely psychological, it may just be me but because I can`t see anything changing or fizzing or taste anything after drinking I`m constantly thinking "has it actually worked?" of course Steri-pens wouldn't be on the market if they didn't work but there is something reassuring about seeing water change colour as iodine works, further use of this new piece of equipment is really going to be needed before I can trust it fully.
          As a further comparison Camelbak also make there own version of a ultraviolet light bottle the advantage of which it has an in built rechargeable battery and a countdown timer but on the downside cannot be used in any other bottle.
          With any overseas expedition or extended expedition in the UK the need for clean water becomes paramount and all the methods mentioned above are all effective the one you choose of course is entirely yours.

As with all outdoor equipment personal preference is key to any decision you make.

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Penny Stove (AKA Toucan stove)

Toucan Stove(AKA penny stove)
I`ve mentioned these stoves in previous blogs, simple, homemade and very lightweight and there are plenty of videos online on how to make these but this is the way I make mine. I only use two tools, a craft knife as it makes a cleaner cut and a multi tool, drills can also be used but are more or less optional and I tend not to use them.

the only other things required are 2 fizzy drink cans, hence the name. the first step is to rest the knife on something in this case I have used a notebook but it doesn't really matter what you use, you then turn the bottom of the can against the blade of the knife without using much force to score and eventually cut through the metal, even when a cut eventually appears in the metal don't force the cut as it will buckle the metal.

before the bottom of the second can is cut off its a good idea to cut the required holes into the can as it becomes more difficult afterwards. there is one main hole to fill the stove up with methylated spirits and 16 holes around the edge of the can, I`ve found the best thing to is to put these holes on the shoulder of the can as this is where the metal is slightly thicker and is just about the right place to get the most heat from the flame without restricting the oxygen, I`ve also found through experimentation that having 2 rows of 8 holes at slightly different heights works better, I`m sure there is a scientific reason as to why this is but I have no idea, word of caution metal burrs will probably be created during this process, so be careful afterwards or use the file on the multi tool to smooth the burrs down.

after both cans have been prepared, the bottom half of the stove must be crimped slightly with the pliers from the multi tool so that it fits within the top half, this is possibly the hardest part of this build to get right and takes a little skill to perfect, too much will result in gaps and too little will result in one half of the stove splitting.

once this is done a decision has to be made about whether to use a wick or not on the inside, again through experimentation I`ve found the best wick to be glass wool/fibre although this can obviously be expensive if only making the one stove, the wick I used in this stove was an old cotton tea towel, again an experiment so i don't know how it will turn out.

regardless of whether you use a wick or not the two halves of the stove now need to be pushed gently together.

the only thing required to finish this stove is to place a coin over the centre hole to seal it when the stove has been filled with meths, hence the more common name for this stove. there are however a couple of things that can be done to refine this stove a little further.
          As this stove has to be primed before it can be used properly it makes sense to have a priming pan and for this I use the lid of a tin can which has been taken off using a side cutting tin opener which leaves a rim around the edge to hold a very small amount of meths in.

something else I have found through experimentation is that these stoves don't really work properly until they have been used a couple of times so I always burn a full fill of meths at least twice before I start using these in the field.

 depending on how deep you make these stoves will depend on how long they last, the stove I have made here should last approximately 35 minutes on one fill.
          As with most things there are alternatives using the same design, one of the main design differences is, rather than having the flame holes on the outside they can be placed on the inside of the supporting ring, this creates a more intense and hotter flame but does have the disadvantage of requiring a separate pot stand.


a further development uses just one can and ends up looking very similar to a Trangia burner, this however requires more tools, measuring and cutting and I found it didn't work anywhere near as effectively, this doesn`t mean you shouldn`t give it go however, it may work better for you than me.

another development of these types of stoves use metal beer bottles but as these are relatively rare in the UK it can be an expensive option and I have only managed to create one of these stoves which works well but I don't use it very often as it would be nearly impossible to replace if anything happened to it and as I always say with equipment personal preference is key to your decisions

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.