The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Air tight seal bags.

These Pour and Store bags are brilliant and most of all cheap. A box of 8 bags cost me £1.08p from Tesco. I have used them for a couple of years now and depending on what you put in them you can reuse them time and time again.
I put personal items in them for example my wallet, phone,GPS etc and they keep everything dry and they are strong enough to withstand rough treatment.
I also use them to put dehydrated food in and also my porridge.
They are not effected by boiling water or freezing conditions as this is what they are made for originally in the home. The good thing as well is that they are light at 10gr.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Manchester Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone. Thanks to all who have been on the blog and sent emails etc.
Sheila and I usually go away for Christmas either to Scotland or to the Lake District. This year we didn't book either. As it turned out it was a good idea. The driving conditions in Scotland would have resulted in the trip being cancelled and us losing our deposits.
We decided to have Christmas on our own this year. The first time ever. It was decided that we would have a busman's holiday and be tourists in our own town. We checked into the Midland Hotel in Manchester. We have stayed in many of Manchester's hotels but we have agreed that this hotel has come top of the list so far.
The rooms, staff, food and the bar were excellent. What more did we want.
Well that was the good part. Manchester city centre was something else. We had booked 3 nights in the hotel and was looking forward to the towns Christmas festivities. Christmas eve, Manchester was dead. No pubs open, well not that we could find. Christmas day the odd pub was open from 12 o'clock until 3.00pm. We expected the pubs on Christmas day to close early so we were not too disappointed that the city was again dead. It seemed surreal walking around with nobody in sight and all the streets empty of cars. There was fog in the city and it reminded us of the old streets of london scenes from the victorian times.
We had booked our Christmas Lunch in Chinatown and it was a very enjoyable banquet. We were a bit shocked at how few people were booked in for the meal. When considering that thousands of apartment have been built in Manchester, where was everybody?
Boxing day, we were all set up in the Old Monkey on Portland street for a few beers. There was a good crowd in and we didn't even mind it having a few city supporters in. The game had just finished with the blues winning but enough said about that. The atmosphere was very good when we were told that the pub was shutting at 8.00pm. The pub went silent for a second and then "what" was heard from all around. In total disbelief we had just 15 minutes to get another pint, drink it and leave. There were people coming in, one's and two's and big groups and being told it was shut. Turning out a full pub has got to be madness.
Having left the pub we wandered round trying to find another watering hole which we did, Wetherspoons was open, just off Albert Square, until 9.00pm !!!! wow. After 2 pints here we ended up going back to the Midland Hotel bar. Nothing wrong with that but we like the pub atmosphere.
We later found out that there was some refreshment palaces open in the Gay Village. By then we were a bit worse for wear anyway so it didn't matter.
All in all we had a very stress free break and would do it again, but we were disappointed with Manchester's lack of festive spirit. Cheers to everyone at the Midland.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This weekend trip

With a poor weather forecast predicted we decided to do a quick dash up to Cumbria and stay over at Sheila's mums. We drove up 1st thing Friday morning and it was very cold as we set off. The car said -4 degrees. On the way over we decided to go up Whitfell as its only a quick bimble. The views were fantastic although not as much snow as we thought there would be.
When we picked Dorothy up we decided to go to Wastwater and take some photo's. (Some pics in the gallery) It was a beautiful clear day but very cold and windy and you needed to be well wrapped up. We had a bit of a stroll as it was too nice to miss but the thought of a nice malt scotch and a pot of coffee was called for. We got back to the car and headed off for the Screes pub at Nether Wasdale. Pity i had to drive but i would make up for it later in the Gosforth Hall hotel.
One of the reasons we went was to try out the Golite Fly trail shoes. They surprised me how good they were, even on frozen ground . I thought i would slide everywhere but they were quite stable. Another good buy.
Driving back today, we decided to go over Birker fell and get some photo's of the Scafell range. When we got up there the cloud base was too low and we couldn't see any of it. More's the pity.
We then headed over to Seathwaite, Duddon valley to deliver christmas presents. From here we headed home just as the weather was turning stormy.

Thermos Flask Ultimate

My Thermos flask which i use on day walks has started to leak. It was only a cheap thing so i didn't expect it to last as long as it did. About 8yrs.
We decided that we should replace both mine and Sheila's with something a bit more decent. After a search on the web i came across this flask. It's a Thermos Ultimate. 0.5L capacity and the weight is 0.29kg if you remove the rubber strips. The good thing about this flask is that it keeps drinks hot for 24 hours. Lots of other flasks only manage 8hrs.
Not many places had this flask on offer but i found it at Asda on line for £20.
Having received it i was pleased at just what a quality piece of kit it is. It's double skinned and insulated. The stopper has no buttons or flip up pourers which are basically leak spots anyway. It just has the 2 side grooves so when you unscrew it you can pour out the contents without removing the stopper completely. The cup/lid is not too big but i think its just an ideal size.
The flask is guaranteed for 10 years and the bumf says it is dent proof. Well we will see about that in the future. All in All we are pleased with our purchase.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Petzl E+Lite

I was reading the January edition of TGO magazine and was very surprised to see the reviews of head lighting did not include the Petzl E+Lite. For some reason better known to Chris he has omitted what i consider to be one of my best pieces of functional lightweight backpacking gear. Maybe he reviewed it in 2007 i don't know or maybe because its not brand new. However it should be compared because its so good.
The E+Lite is so small and light but perfectly formed. It weighs in at 28gr and has 45 hour battery life. It is waterproof down to 1m. It packs away in its own case, nice and tidy and you can keep spare batteries here as well.
It costs £21 generally, but you can get it cheaper if you search the web.
For me this head torch is one that all backpackers should have and we never leave home without it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Golite fell shoes

Just been into TK Max and they are selling Golite Fell shoe/ running shoe (Trail Fly model) for the bargain price of £21.50. Hurry up and grab an early christmas present for yourself. They had all sizes and lots of them and in a number of colours.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Vaude Odyssee Winter

This is our backpacking tent of the last couple of years. We like it very much. It's an ideal tent for 2 persons as long as you are not too tall. 5ft 10 max i would say. We looked at other manufacturers and other designs and decided in the end that this suited us best. The main criteria was 1st the weight, 2nd the materials and running very closely was the cost.
The stated weight was 1.8kg and this is acceptable for sharing by 2. I have made some modifications to the guy lines and cleats and we don't use the bag provided. I changed 4 pegs for lighter ones, although the pegs provided are very good. Now it weighs in at 1.6kg. Fly: 40D Polyamid Ripstop 240T bothside siliconised 3000mm
Inner: 30D Polyester Ripstop 285T
Floor: 40D Polyamid Ripstop 240T PU laminated 10000mm. Great groundsheet.
Poles: Al 7001 T6; Featherlite 8.8mm.
Putting the tent up in adverse weather is very easy and one person can do it while the other is making a brew. There are 2 main poles and one small cross pole to keep the porch supported.

The tent stands up well in high winds and ours has not leaked from either the flysheet or ground sheet at any time. The worst weather we camped out in was Feb 2008 in Langdale. The forecast from MWIS was for atrocious weather so we decided it was ideal to see what it could do. The wind howled and the rain was stair rods for most of the weekend. Langdale flooded as usual but we were prepared for this happening and pitched on slightly higher ground. The forecast said gusts of up to 70 miles per hour and i guess it wasn't too far from reality. We had to put some rocks on the pegs to stop them flying out but the tent was fine. After a few beers in the Old DG we didn't hear the wind or rain anyway.

The saturday night temperature dropped down quite fast and i guess it was just above freezing. Quite a bit of condensation was on the inner tent and i reduced this by leaving the top of the doorway open slightly just underneath the peak of the porch. We don't use a groundsheet footprint as we believe that this is defeating the object of being lightweight. If you want an extra groundsheet then just buy a stronger tent.

We paid £225 for it from ultralight outdoor gear but i have seen it this year for sale at £170. Bargain. We certainly won't be changing it any time soon.
Q. Would we consider a tarp.
A. Nope.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


This weekend my mum and brother travelled up to Cumbria for a couple of days. We were staying with Sheila's mum so it was good to have us all together for a change.
Mum and Les were both walking pretty badly so we decided to go to Brantwood on the eastern bank of Coniston water. This is the former home of John Ruskin. I've had it on my mind to visit this house for quite a few years but because we are usually out walking i hadn't had the chance to go there. Brant is the Norse term for Steep, hence steep wood.
Ruskin bought the house in 1871 and lived there until he died in 1900.

We had a good drive there. Going over Birker fell and then up Kiln bank into Broughton Mills. Over Broughton Moor to Torver and then into Coniston. We never met one single car all the way. How unusual was that. Coniston village was like a ghost town.

Brantwood was very quiet. Mainly staff cars in the car park. We had the house to ourselves. Its a fabulous house, especially the views from the dining room and the turret bedroom. Views across to the Old Man of Coniston and north to Wetherlam and Swirl How. There was a covering of snow on the tops and the mountains stood out well against the clear blue sky.

The furniture was a big favourite with our crew, especially in the study and dining room. However i am not sure if this is original or not. After Ruskins death the house was left to the Severn family. They went against Ruskins will and sold off most of the fine art work and then later auctioned off the remainder of the contents.

What a brain and social conscience Ruskin had. Its a pity our politicians don't take a lead from his book.
He instigated so much its amazing just how he managed to find the time to do everything. It puts modern man to shame.

We couldn't take any photo's inside the house so have a look at the Brantwood website for more info.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Walna Scar road.

I had these 2 photographs sent to me showing the devastation that the recent floods in Cumbria have caused to the bottom section of the Walna Scar road. The pictures were taken by Alwyn Batton from the Newfied Inn.
The pictures are taken on the Duddon Valley side of the Walna.
Incredible pictures Alwyn.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tasmania - Walking/Backpacking.

Its not everybody's cup of tea to travel 24 hours on a plane to Tasmania but if it doesn't bother you the trip is well worth it. Tasmania is fantastic walking and backpacking country. In a lot of respects it reminded me of Scotland very much. You can have all 4 seasons in one day. And don't think that it's hot like Australia because it isn't. Some days if the wind is blowing up from the south the temperature can plummet. We had 30 degrees down to -6 while we were there.
There are many, way marked trails to be found and quite honestly it is best to stick to these if you are on a walking holiday.
If you are there for a lengthy period of time and want to stray away from recognised tracks then be aware that the going is very tough. Much tougher than Scotland due to the dense vegetation and boggy land. Let somebody know where you are heading for and get local knowledge of what's ahead.

We mainly stuck to 2 trails. One was the Cradle Valley/mountain trail and the other was the coastal Fracinet trail. Both very different but equally beautiful in there own right. We only did day walks but the urge to come back and do some backpacking was very strong as the scenery is stunning.

Anybody interested in having a go at Tazzy should read a couple of books 1. A man and a Mountain by Margaret Giordano and 2. The East Coasters by Lois Nyman. These are not walking guides, which you can pick up in any walking shop. These are historical books relating to the terrain, the people and how it all came about. Well worth reading.

Also do please note that in some of the national parks permits are required to enter.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

St Bees to Fleswick Bay

A few weeks ago Sheila and I walked some of the Coast to Coast route. After we had been going about a hour we came across Fleswick Bay. It looked really nice and we said at the time we would come back and spend a bit more time here.
This weekend we decided due to the lousy weather forecast to do just that. On Thursday night we drove up to West Cumbria, to Sheila's mums. It hammered it down most of the way and there was a lot of flooding. We picked up Dorothy and went for a couple of beers in Gosforth Hall.
Friday morning we drove to St Bees in wonderful sunshine. So different to yesterday, and we set of walking along the Coast to Coast path.
It was so bright, that from the viewpoint on St Bees Head we could see Isle of Man 30 miles to the west with the twin Peaks of Snaefell and North Barrule clear, the Scottish coastline and hills behind was also visible. Getting down to the bay from the path was a bit precarious as the sandstone bed was very slippery. But it was worth the effort.
We explored the cliffs and rock pools. The sandstone weathering was fantastic especially where the water had come down the cliff faces from the land above and worn the ground rocks into what looked like red icing. (See pics in gallery.)
The remains of a large engine, a gearbox, a transfer case and some winding gear can be seen in the surf. These are possibly the remains of the fishing boat Coeur de Lion, (Lion Heart) which foundered in 1993.
The light was just fantastic as the clouds were lit by a watery sun and the surf caught the rays as well. Its difficult to explain the beauty of Freswick bay but have a look at the photo's and you will get my drift. Its a great place to spend an hour or two and we never saw a soul.

The Travel Tap

Just want to share this brilliant bit of kit i purchased from Bob and Rose at backpackinglight, its called the Travel Tap and its made by Aquagear. Cost £35. Its a water bottle come water filter. We used it on our St Bees to Penrith trip and found it to be well worth the money.
At first sight i though it was a bit expensive. I now know that it's worth every penny. On our walk we were chased off by some horses from our wild camp site. When we were at a safe distance away from them we set up camp again. The only problem was that we were away from a stream. The land was very boggy with many pools so i decided that this was as good a time as any to try out the water filter. Well we are still here and we had no ill affects what so ever. It will be coming with us on all future trips.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Walna Scar shepherds meet

This weekend saw Sheila and I off to Cumbria to enjoy the Walna Scar shepherds meet. This years show was at Broughton Mills. Saturday dawned very wet but farmers are not put off by the weather and the show goes on. We stayed with friends in Seathwaite, Duddon valley, so we didn't have far to drive. On arrival at the field we found it was very muddy as you can imagine and it was chucking it down. Stair rods even. It was good to see some old friends and discuss sheep and the weather. In the hospitality tent, was free tea and coffee and some homemade cake and biscuits. Very nice.

Alan and Tina Linnit had arranged some photographs from previous years which was very interesting.

At lunch time the landlord from the Blacksmiths arms put on a Tattie pot, as they say in this part of the world, followed by sticky toffee pud and it was simply the best. I had a good pint of Dent Aviator and Sheila had a Coffee and Brandy to keep out the cold, honest. More sheep showing, more rain, hound trailing and more photographs in the afternoon then it was back to Seathwaite for a homemade Chilli and rice supper. Thanks Tina.

After supper we got a lift back to the Blacksmiths for the evening session. We sat in the singing room and listened to the Shepherds singing solo traditional Lakeland songs, hunting songs, comedy songs etc etc it was a pleasure to be there and we enjoyed the atmosphere greatly. We would both like to thank the shows organisers, also Tina and Alan Linnit, the farmers and The landlord and Landlady of the Blacksmiths Arms for a fantastic day.

Monday, November 2, 2009

St Bees to Penrith

I am writing this post from my comfy leather chair now that we are back home. I don't have the capability to write and send as i walk. My phone is for emergency use only.
As Sheila had a week off work we decided to walk some of Wainwright's coast to coast. I myself had done this some time back but this was Sheila's first assault.
Fortunately Sheila's mum lives near St Bees so having somewhere to leave the car was a bonus.

We set off on a beautiful Saturday morning and dipped our feet in the sea. There were quite a few other walkers setting off and we criss crossed each others paths continuously.

One of the things i am not going to do on this post is bore everyone with the route. This has been written about in books and blogs to infinitum. What i want to do is mention what we found that probably hasn't been written about very often or maybe not at all.

Walking round St Bees head is delightful and although you walk around 5 miles before going east, it is still worth it. Fleshwick bay is worth a longer look and we will go back and explore it when we have a bit more time to spare.
When we got to Sandwith at 12 o'clock we expected to find the pub open for some lunch. Please note that the Lowther Arms has gone and the Dog and Partridge has shut as well. So no lunch here.
After you cross the B5345 you drop down to the railway and go under a bridge. This path which runs south of Stanley pond and up to the disused railway line is a complete mess. When we crossed it we had to wade in the bog for about 200 yds. This is one area that needs some footpath replacement work on it. Also if the weather has closed in this can be an area where you can take the wrong path, so care and attention is required here.
Once under the disused railway bridge the path is easy up to the main A595 road.

When we got into Moor Row we were pleased to see the Pop in cafe. The lady running it is quite a character and its run from her home and garden. She said that when all the shops in the village closed she opened it up in the main for Coast to Coast walkers. Thank you, it was just what was required.

The next hurdle was Dent. A piddling little hill that took an age to get up. We were certainly tired when we got to the top.
Once through the lovely Nanycatch valley we looked for somewhere to camp. We wanted to walk south of Grike tomorrow and then pick up the track down to Ennerdale water via Red Beck rather than go into Ennerdale bridge.
We found a nice spot just North of the Kinniside stone circle and just prior to the cattle grid on the road going down to Ennerdale Bridge. We started making tea when all of a sudden we were inundated by horses which had been let out from the nearby horse riding stables. They were into everything. Our rucksacks, food, tent etc. It was very scary and we were lucky to get out of there without any damage to the tent. We headed off very quickly across Blackley moss until we came to the path leading into forestry. We stopped here and finished eating our meal which had been kept warm in the pot cozy's. We got the tent up and luckily the horses stayed back towards the road.

Next morning we set off through the forestry on good paths. We noticed as we walked that there were no decent places to put the tent up. So it was a good job we pitched prior to entering the forestry. When the path emerges from the trees it heads for a wall which on the other side leads to Red Beck.
With hindsight i would not decide to come this way again. There may be a path marked on the map following Red Beck but it is non existent on the ground. The way down to the lake shore is very steep and slippery. It had 2 metre high ferns growing more or less the whole way down. Most unpleasant and not recommended as a route for walking with a pack.
The route from here up to Black Sail Hostel was great. We took the path on the south side of the river rather than the suggested north path. The reason for this was that the views are much better.
Black sail Hostel is a fine place to have lunch. You can make yourself a brew here and have a piece of home made cake if you are there early enough. The warden asks you to leave some money in the honesty box for the privilege of using the facilities. BUT! Please note, there are no toilet facilities for those not staying the night.

From the hostel we headed up Loft back and across to Honistor Pass and then down to the campsite at Rosthwaite. The views from the path between the top of Loft Beck and Drum House are spectacular.
The campsite at Rosthwaite is adequate with some nice pitches and at £6 per person and £0.50p for a shower is fair enough. The facilities could do with some updating, especially the showers. Although that said they were hot and lasted long enough and i am not complaining.

The next morning we went via Stonethwaite up to Greenup edge and then down Far Easdale into Grasmere. A fantastic walk although Lining Crag is a bit of a shock to the system and good map reading is required at the top of the crag until the path drops away down to far Easdale Gill if the weather is poor.
On the way down into Grasmere i noticed my right foot was giving me some jip. This was unusual as i had not had problems before. It got so bad that once in Grasmere we went into Cotswold Outdoors and got the problem resolved.
Cutting a long story short, after a great deal of time and patience, it was found that my boots were slightly narrow for my foot and a size to long. I must say that the 2 guys in the store gave me the best customer service i have ever had in any outdoor shop anywhere in the world. So many thanks to them you were fantastic.
I purchased some new lightweight boots and they sent my old ones home FOC.

There are no campsites in Grasmere unfortunately but there are 2 hostels many hotels and B&B's. The hostels would probably allow pitching a tent if required. We opted for the luxury choice and booked into a hotel for a bath and some TLC to my foot.

We had a wonderful breakfast in the hotel and set off refreshed to go to Side Farm campsite in Patterdale. The walk up the track to Grisdale tarn is fairly easy and then its a stroll down into Patterdale if you are not doing the striding edge route..

Booking into Side Farm Campsite , i thought i recognised the lady we were paying the fee to. It turned out that i had walked with her a number of years ago when we walked a route from Seathwaite in Borrowdale to Seathwaite in the Duddon valley. A cracking walk over Esk pike, Bowfell, Crinkles, Swirl How, Brim fell, Dow Crag and down the Walna Scar track to the Newfield Inn.
We were disapointed with the pitches on the campsite as the grass on any flat ground had worn away and where there was grass the land sloped away quite steeply. The facilites were very good though. We went for a few beers in the White Lion and very nice it was too. We had eaten our dehydrated food so we were not hungry but the food served in the pub looked fantastic. We didn't give in to temptation.

We checked out our next move as we had to end up in Penrith the next day to get the bus back to Workington. There didn't seem to be any places to camp between Bampton and Penrith so we decided to get the bus from Patterdale to Penrith. This was a bit disappointing because i know what a lovely walk it is past Angle Tarn and down Haweswater. But i had no idea if there was any transport from Bampton. I must address this issue for a future walk.

All in all we had a fantastic walk, breathtaking scenery, truly amazing weather and met some very nice people.

Monday, October 19, 2009

After the weekend - Stoves?

Well it was an unplanned weekend of everything but walking. First the microwave packed up, then the steamer and the kitchen monoblock tap was leaking. So, off to Curry's to buy replacement appliances.
Replacing the taps was quite an awkward job due to the restricted space under the sink and the fact that the retaining nuts were siezed. And of course its never a straight forward job, one of the new pipe joints leaked and had to be changed and the waste pipe had worn so that wouldn't seal properly either. Happy days.
On to more interesting things:-
Today and for the last few weeks i have been thinking about a lighter cooking set up. The internet has absolutely loads of light weight cooker designs so its just a matter of trawling through them and see which one you fancy.
For me the Caldera cone design is a good starting point, when you think about the heat that is retained within the cone it must be one of the best ideas. However getting the frustum shape needs good maths.
Then which pan to use? Going to the lightest pan would have to be titanium BUT they are very expensive and i don't want to splash out. I currently use a Hi Gear 0.6L pan which will do. Photo of pan can be seen on the 16th October post.
However my thoughts are turning towards using a 500ml beer can with the top removed as a pan. Basically all we do is boil water for rehydrating meals and brewing up so we don't need an expensive pan. The beer can is also very light.
I am going to give this idea a go.
Then onto fuel, which type? Wood, gas, meths, petrol, fuel tablets? Or a combination? My current choice is meths. It has never let me down but in some countries it can be hard to get hold of. Take Scandinavia for example. Meths can only be bought from behind the counter in chemists and how many chemists do you find in mountainous areas! The outdoor shops don't sell it.
Then there's wood, again not always available. Gas and petrol are both generally available in mountainous areas but can be heavy and bulky to carry.
That leaves fuel tablets, Esbit for example, but there are a number of alternative makes available in outdoor places. I'm not sure yet as to how many tablets would be required for a weeks backpacking or what the total weight would be but i will be considering using these.
Stay posted!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pot Cozy

Today i have made 2 pot cozy's. I take no credit for the design as i have seen a similar one, i think it was on Colin Ibbotson's site.
I first made one from roofing insulation, similar to the type sold on and AntiGravity Gear but i couldn't find a good enough tape to hold it all together. I tried the usual duct tape and carpet tapes but they fell apart very quickly. I tried exhaust tape but again it didn't last long.
I have made the cozy from an old karrimat and glued the pieces together with araldite. They work a treat keeping your dehydrated food warm for ages, are very light and don't fall apart.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jobby Trowel

Well this week i have been giving the Jobby Trowel some thought and have eventually come up with this design.
It's made from Marley waste pipe 40mm i/d to Bs 5255, this tube seems tougher than other plastic waste pipe i checked out.
I have cut the pipe to length 20cm and then sliced it length ways into 2 halves retaining the curve of the pipe to act as the scoop.
Then shaped it to suit the job!
The tools used were hacksaw, file and 3mm drill.

At this stage as per photo it weighs in at 29 grams. It can be made lighter if required by adding holes down the length of it. Also it could be made shorter. Its up to you.
Hope you like it and make your own.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sorry there is not much going on at the mo. Just finding my way round the menu's etc

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