Originally, this was to be a blog about my preparations to enter the TGO Challenge in 2012. For a variety of reasons that didn't happen, so this has now become the repository for my outdoor musings.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

That's a lot of dough!

Saw this interesting blog post today. Google have put $100 million in to this project, which has a total of $2 billion invested in it! When that sort of money is being chucked around, no wonder people are keen to whack 'em up wherever they can...

On a different but similar note, I listened to a podcast from How Stuff Works today that was talking about plasma waste recycling plants. Apparently they can be so efficient that they can actually handle all current waste and can start making inroads in to existing waste piles! What's more the byproducts include sufficient energy to power thousands of homes. I guess they would have to be near population centres rather than on top of mountains, so everyone is a winner!

Acquisition - Part Four (Please let that be it!)

This is a very quick update about progress etc. My wife and I are moving in 10 days time, the house is in turmoil as we pack everything away and there's a list of stuff to do that does not seem to be going down, so blog updates are a luxury!

We recently celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary and this has resulted in an influx of gear and outdoory stuff. My wife bought me "Mountaineering - The Freedom of the Hills" which is an excellent and truly comprehensive volume, it reminds me of an even thicker "Mountaincraft and Leadership". It's very nice.

I also received a Katadyn My Bottle water purifying whatsit, which is probably not coming to the Cairngorms in May (as I understand that Cairngormian water is plenty good enough to drink au naturel) but will be useful on a Wye-based canoeing trip in August, and could be handy for the lowland sections of TGOC2012. A small LED lantern also arrived which hopefully will make the Trailstar a cozy little home from home.

My mum, dad and sis wanted to add to my burgeoning pile of gear but they weren't sure what I wanted/needed. So they supplied the readies to go towards a GoLite Pinnacle and a POE Peak Elite AC. I went for the Pinnacle as it just seemed to be the very best combination of weight to capacity to price that I could find, and when it arrived from Backpackinglight.co.uk I was definitely impressed. I think it's probably lighter than the 8 litre capacity Camelbak that I use when cycling, but holds 9 times as much gear! It also came with a small bag of Skittles, which didn't last long...

I chose a Peak Elite over the Neoair on much the same criteria as the Pinnacle; when you compare weight - price - spec, it really is hard to beat them. Sadly they were out of stock when I ordered, and looked like they wouldn't be in until the end of the month at the earliest. However, a supply turned up sooner than expected and Rose at BPL soon had one winging it's way to me (with more Skittles, which met the fate of their predecessors). Again, initial impressions were really positive. A very small packed size and low weight compared to my Thermarests had me oohing and aahing. Some huffing and puffing soon had it inflated and tested. Soooo comfortable, even for a side sleeper. No hip bone digging in to the ground through the mat. When I rolled off however, it was half deflated. Thinking I hadn't tightened the valve correctly I reinflated and the same thing happened. A quick dunk in the bath showed a stream of bubbles pouring out of the "seam" at the foot end. Humpf. As it was Friday evening I figured Bob and Rose would have shut up shop for the weekend, so I just dropped a quick email to them detailing the problem, and mentioned that I could pop by to pick up a replacement on Monday, to save any postal-based hassle. Well, I got an email from Rose first thing Monday, and by 11:30 I had a new mat in my mitts. Truly excellent service form a small company, they get Ken's coveted "Two Thumbs Up" virtual badge.

So there we have it, pretty much fully geared up for our Cairngorms foray next month, I just need to seam seal the Trailstar, but that's going to be much easier once we move, as we'll actually have a decent sized garden (with a lawn! and a garage!) for me to set it up in. If you're doing the TGO this year, we are aiming to be in Braemar on the Saturday night (having been at Derry Lodge on Thursday night, and then somewhere in Glen Avon on Friday night). If you see us, say "Hi!"

Friday, 1 April 2011

MLD Trailstar - Initial Thoughts

I texted Pete last night to see if he fancied helping me pitch the Trailstar this morning. He's working in Leckhampton so we met up at Naunton Park at 8 and set to work. Now bearing in mind that neither of us had ever set a tarp up before, we were pretty pleased at the results. There is a lot of guyline in the pics, there will be some trimming taking place in time. The centre pole was set to 120 cm, and again, when there's more time, I'll play around with the different height options.

Anyway, first up, using one of the "seam" guypoints for the entrance:

I think if the weather was set fair, and the conditions calm, this would be my preferred pitching option. I really like the open aspect. With a degree of care I think that it wouldn't be too much of a problem to cook under the extended porch either.

Next, using one of the mid-panel guying points for the entrance:

Definitely more sheltered and cosy feeling. If the weather was claggy, a lower pitched height with this entrance would be the way forward.

There's a lot of space inside!

After playing around for a while, we managed to get the pitch a bit tauter:

It was pretty blustery but once everything was tightened down, there was very little movement going on.

Overall thoughts? So far, pretty positive. I like the colour (Olive Brown), the weight, the pack size (in to a generous lightweight drawcorded bag). The construction is excellent as far as I can see. In time, with practice, I can envisage very quick pitching times. The internal space is huge for the weight, and the flexibility of pitching options is also very cool. The simplicity of the whole thing is very appealing; no zips, velcro, pole sleeves, catches or clips to break or snag.
Concerns? Will it be too big to pitch in some spots? How will I cope with switching from a coccooning tent (Lightwave T1 Trek) to the rawer experience of tarp living? Watch this space for the answers to these questions and more!

At the minute though "Two thumbs up!" Now all I've got to do is seal it and use it...