The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Test 123
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Smart phones

If these new phones, ie Blackberry Curve are supposed to be "SMART" then why can't they set themselves up.
It's been so close to going through the window. Been trying to set this up for about 5hrs.
I can't get the apps to download because it says email not approved,  but blackberry says it is.......its a nightmare.
Can't get blogger working. Have sent Bloggr email, sms and mms but to no avail. It just rejects any attempt to communicate.

Its probably something simple but that might be just me! Ha.

It might be going back to Orange very soon.

Any tips gratefully accepted.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everybody.

Can we also take this opportunity to say thanks to all of you who have contributed to this blog with your comments and words of advice.
There are some tremendous blogs  and it's quite fascinating reading the diverse stories that people wish  to share.
From the gear reviews and brilliant photographs to the ridiculously long backpacking trips that some people undertake it's a pleasure to be involved in a small way.

Lets hope 2011 turns out to be a good year in all respects.

Best Wishes
Alan and Sheila.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Black Diamond Orbit lantern.

On the recent camping weekend when we tried out the Scarp 2, our old tent light packed up.
I therefore had the opportunity to have a look what was available and buy a new one.
We both have Petzl elites and use them a lot. Personally i think these are the best for a light weight backpacker. I wear mine on my wrist almost permanently when i am walking, it’s light and unobtrusive and can become a talking point in the bar when you get asked what’s that or why do you wear 2 watches etc. It also makes it easy to find when in the tent.
However during those dark extended times in the tent you need something a little more extensive than the 16 Lumens of bright white light provided by the elite.

I scanned the web and what i finally decided to buy was the Black Diamond Orbit Lantern.
When i first came across it, i thought, too big, too heavy and it’s a lantern, something i don’t usually go for. But when i delved a little deeper and to my surprise found it only weighed 85gr and 132 gr with the 4 AAA batteries. So i ordered it.

Reading the enclosed paperwork i noticed that the stated Lumens was 32. I had been expecting 45 as per  the ratings stated on a number of web sites.
I sent emails out and it seems that Black Diamond have 2 generations of this lantern in the market place but for some reason they seemed to have forgotten to tell the retailers.
So you can get the same lantern with both 32 and 45 Lumens output depending on the luck of the draw and yes, they are the same price.

2 web based retailers i contacted did some checking and confirmed the above. They checked their stocks and one found a mixture of both generations and the other only had the first generation 32 Lumens version.
Both were pleased that i had raised this issue with them and amendments to the web pages followed.
The company that had the 45 Lumens lantern offered to swop mine for the G2 version. Extremely kind of them. Thank you for that offer.
The other only had the 32 Lumens but did offer me a 10% discount on my next purchase before the end of the year. (that was if i was going to make one of course).
I have decided not to name these 2 retailers as numerous others sites have made the same mistake and it wouldn’t be fair to single these 2 out.

The lantern packs away quite nicely when not in use. In closed position (as above) the height is 102mm (4”). (and below) in open position it measures 140mm (5.5”) The diameter at the widest point is 57mm (2.25”)

The globe is frosted and this reduces the glare and that sharp white light effect that LED’s produce. Within the extending globe there are 2 light reflectors that enhance the 1 watt light and maximise the output.
The switch is excellent and not just on/off but also dimming to save battery life when full power is not needed.
The lantern always turns on at the brightest power setting and by holding down the switch you get the dimmer working. 
When either the lower or highest light setting is reached the light flashes.
On high setting the 32 Lumens will last for 10hrs and on the lowest setting it will last 24 hrs. The emitted light radius is 2metres. (6.5ft approx).

The lantern has a split loop at the head so that you can hang the lantern or it has 3 legs attached to the base to give firm support.
It can also be used outside and is stormproof although not submersible.

Black Diamond also supply the NRG2 Rechargeable Battery Kit (with Battery Power Indicator) but it’s a very expensive bit of kit and i doubt that many people would opt for it.

It is also warrantied by Black Diamond for 3 years which is excellent. It’s a well made piece of kit, robust and well thought out and is nicely balanced. I like it very much.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    A sad time.

     Last Saturday night when we were sliding around the Lakes roads my mum was being rushed into hospital late on with a burst bowel. We found out on Sunday morning that it was a difficult operation which took 4 hrs and the surgeon only gave her a 10% chance of coming through it.
     When we finally got home and visited her she was seriously ill in intensive care.

    Yesterday morning the hospital rang to say we needed to come to visit her and be prepared for the worst. If anybody knows how you prepare for the worst i would like to know.
    The family sat around the bedside for 24 hours and held her hand and brushed her hair and told her we loved her loads.
    We breathed every struggling breath for her and at 6 o’clock this morning she left us to join my dad.
    We are all upset as you can imagine but we are relieved that her suffering is now past.

    The staff of Salford Royal Intensive Care Unit and Ward B1 were fantastic and we cannot praise and thank them enough for making her last hours bearable and so that she could go in peace.
    We will miss her so much.
    R.I.P Mum 10.01.1929 - 11.12.2010

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Super Delios Water Filter

    A few weeks ago i posted that i received an email from Delios UK,  and i asked for comments from users of the filter either good or bad to send me their thoughts.
    I would then collate the views and send them off to for appraisal.
    I have now completed that and had a reply from Delios Uk. So thank you to all you took the trouble to email me on the subject.
    Below are the issues raised by you and the response from the company.

    1. The small plastic lid hinges are breaking very quickly and are not up to the rigorous use that we put it through.
    2. The neck of the bottle could use some additional support similar to the Playpus bottles.
    3. The bottle needs a larger option. It would be great if you could do a 600mm  and a 1L bottle made from the same material as the current bottle.
    4. It would be nice if the filter had a longer life. ie be able to filter a greater quantity of water. Not shelf life.
    5. We use this in the winter and there is a worry that frost will crack the filter head. If you could provide me with any information regarding cold limits i will pass on the information.
    6. A cold weather cosy could be made an option.
    7. The price came up a few times, but in general people were prepared to buy it even though it was deemed a bit expensive mainly because of it's light weight appeal, easy of use and the filter specification.
    8. Being light weight is very important.

    First Response from Delios.

    1.     Cap
    The manufacturer is aware of this issue, despite no claim has been sent to us to date, and has been in touch with the cap manufacturer for a better design.
    He noted that he would be able to improve the hinge and would need a bit more time to finalise a design.

    2.     Neck of the bottle
    The neck can be changed for stronger structure. However, it will involve the entire re-design of the neck and cap and it is unlikely to do this at this stage.
    3.     Size of bottle
    As I mentioned before, I raised this issue to the manufacturer a while ago as Drip Delios is now likely to be cancelled. Although the current size is the best in terms of carrying (according to customer feedback in Japan), we are very positive to make another size such as 500-600 cc if there is more demand. This is what I have to find out from other users outside Japan.

    4.      Life of filter
    The current 200Litre (squeezing heavily) can be extended. But again, this has to do with demand of Delios.

    5.     Freeze (Use in Cold Temperatures)
    The water in Delios will be frozen if left as it is in very cold weather. The manufacturer noted that the water at a reasonable temperature will be the main source of use recommended. However, an insulated bag is being considered.

    I think this relates to your feedback. As we are still small company, it is bit tough to change the design drastically. However, we are looking into any possibility to make Delios meet demands and requests. It may take a time for us but your feedback is very much appreciated.

       I am not certain whether the manufacturer can come back to me with more answers or comments on the cap this year. However, I will keep you updated once he gives me more answers.

    Mr Yasuyo Fujimoto comments to me on the cost, 

    Currently, I am doing my best to keep the price down despite yen being too strong.

    At the same time, I would like to deliver added value of Delios, which is entirely made in Japan. The manufacturer indeed considered manufacturing outside Japan. However, after he visited a few factories, he found that the hygiene standards were not up to what he wanted to achieve for Delios. Therefore, he is still producing Delios in Japan.

    I will keep you all posted of any other issues i receive. Please be aware of the freezing issue and don’t get caught out with a frozen filter head, that may crack.   Thanks again for all your input and thanks to Mr Yasuyo Fujimoto from Delios UK..... Alan.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    A lucky Lakes trip.

    Sheila’s mums in Cumbria was the agenda for this weekend. We were a little concerned about the weather, especially setting off at 7.30pm Thursday night. The roads in the lakes, as many of you are aware are exceptionally dark and black ice can be lurking anywhere.

    As it happened the roads were very quiet and we took it very easily, following the west coast road. It took us a little longer than usual but we arrived in one piece.
    This journey to Sheila’s mums is a shopping weekend and not a walking one although sometimes we can get the odd days walk in.
    Friday was not too bad a day and we managed to get most things done however it turned wintery as night approached.
    It had been a little while since we had been for a meal in the Scree’s at Nether Wasdale so we decided to do that.
    On the approach to Nether Wasdale from the west, there is a gradual incline and what goes up usually comes down. The descent into Nether Wasdale being quite steep. It was a little icy on the approach to the summit of the hill but once we hit the top that was it! The car decided that it didn’t like my driving and took over the wheel itself. Unfortunately for us, it had not passed it’s driving test.
    For 50yds or so it decided it wanted to go sideways on the wrong side of the road and then it had the mind to do some off roading. Thankfully it missed the walls and the ditches and came to rest on the grass outside somebodies house.
    Deep breaths, a wipe away of the sweat/fear and it got a good slapping.
    Now back under my control i managed to persuade it to get back on the ice slide, sorry road. We still had 50 yds of hill to descend and with some shaking and plenty of handbrake we started off. Gradually we slowly but surely reached the bottom. All was very quiet in the car. A sharp intake of breath.

    As it was now snowing extremely heavy it was decided to abandon the idea of stopping for a meal just incase we couldn’t get out of the village in an hour or so. To be honest we wasn’t hungry anymore anyway.
    We crawled at about 2mph through Nether Wasdale and onto Santon Bridge and back to Gosforth where a huge cry of relief could be heard all the way to Wasdale Head.

    Later that evening whilst still shaking in the Gosforth Hall we learnt that we were not the only ones to come to grief on that hill. Fortunately no injuries though, just a dented pride.

    It was quite a surprise then that i did manage to take a few photo’s without camera shake. Hope you like them.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Scarp 1 and 2. 4 season pole tensioners and clip mods.

    For those poor souls, myself included, who have had one or more sleepless nights in the Scarp when the excess material from the pole tensioners are slapping on the taught tent flysheet and sounding like a mass drum orchestra.
    Also the Glove `Clip is not ideal for this installation because when the clip is located over the pole, the locking tang just gets pushed to the back of the clip. On 5 of my 9 clips the tang doesn’t spring back and lock.
    They are are also quite hard to remove from the pole when packing up the tent. Especially in the cold, snowy and windy conditions that we have here at the moment or when wearing a glove.

    So you could say "well why not just cut off the excess". Too easy i’m afraid.
    The excess is required to create the tension on the pole. Also the length needed can be a variable.

    I was thinking of completely changing the design and just going for Bungie cord loops or Bungie cord with clips already attached. But one of the things i didn’t want to do was modify the actual tent structure and ruin the integrity itself, where i might have to start sewing new ribbon ties in.

    I also didn’t want to increase the weight and i din’t want to spend quite a few quid doing the changes or spending loads of time.
    It also had to allow for a quick and easy removal of the complete tensioner when the 4 season poles are not needed.

    All in all my solution covers all these points.

     The photo at the bottom is a little clearer. First of all you can see that i have removed the tang from the Glove Clip. The pole is now a slight interference fit through the gap.
    Coming down the ribbon you see the double folded and sewn end of the excess ribbon and then below that is a piece of elastic ribbon holding the tensioner ribbon and excess length.

    It’s easy to make.
    Take a length of elastic ribbon, i have used 1/2" wide ribbon but i suggest using 1" wide to anyone slightly interested in this post and doing it themselves.
    Cut the length of the elastic ribbon to exactly twice the width of the tensioner. Don’t make it too long or it will fall down the tensioner with gravity. It must grip the tensioner.

    Sew the two ends together and then turn the band inside out so that the seam is inside.
    Locate the band over the head of the clip and then push the excess tensioner through the loop and voila Bobs your uncle as the saying goes.

    The tensioner cannot fall back through the band due to the folded and stitched end of the ribbon.
    I think it looks quite an unobtrusive and simple modification.

    While i am posting this mod. I have also added 1mm Dyneema cord to all the zip tabs as per photo below.

    I hope Henry at Tarptent will integrate these mods or similar into the next upgrade.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Guess how much snow we’ve had?

    Just for you Gibson.

    The weekends Gear test.

    During our couple of days getting to know the Scarp 2, i also took along some other bits and bobs to try out.
    The first one was a 1.5 metre length of Thermawrap.
    This is manufactured as loft insulation and comes in rolls 600mm wide by 7.5m long and costs £18.74 at B and Q.
    It is supposed to give the same insulating properties as would 55mm of polystyrene. So that sounded good. Worth a trial run.
    You can cut it to what ever length or shape you want and you can make pot cosy’s and such like from it.
    For transporting you can roll it or fold it and its not bulky.
    This piece weighs 200gr.

    Underneath this and covering the tent floor i laid a AMK heatsheet emergency blacket, the strong, quiet type, (that’s the blanket not me) which i purchased from Ultralight outdoors.
    I also put the same blanket underneath the groundsheet.  They measure 213cm X 142cm and weigh 68gr each.
    I then had my Small ThermArest Neo Air,  and Sheila had her Trango World foam mat. weighing 370 gr. Sheila is so impressed with the TrangoWorld mat she has decided to part company with her Neo-Air.

    This set up worked for us and at temperature down to -7 we didn’t feel the cold from the ground and we don’t have to go and buy another set of Mats.

    I took with me 2 cook sets, the Optimus Crux and my homemade Alky stove.
    I took 2 gas cylinders both GoSystem Powersource winter mix of Butane- Isobutane and Propane.
    The 125gr cylinder was half full and the 220gr cylinder was new.
    The cylinders were kept in a Merino wool sock cosy.
     The first time i came to use the gas set up i fitted the part used cylinder to the burner. The temperature was -3. It lit ok but died after about 5 seconds. I tried again only this time turning it up full. It lasted about 30 seconds and died again.
    Letting it cool down i swapped cylinders for the new one and repeated the operation. The burner would only stay alight as long as it was on full blast. Anything less and it died.
    I was not impressed that this stove wouldn’t work properly with a half full cylinder using winter mix fuel.
    So i don’t think i would take the Crux on a backpacking trip in the winter months.

    On the other hand the Alky stove worked well and i din’t have a problem. I kept the meths in a cozy made from the Thermawrap material and my gas lighter in bubble wrap.

    Meths and Lighter protected from the cold temperature.

     Meths bottle, Bic lighter and Spark arrester.
    Lighter with Spark Arrester in situ.
    I like these Bic lighters, they are good for Meths and Esbit cooking. They are also cheap at £2.49. and last quite a while. (price now £3.49. 18th December 2010)
    I use a spark arrester just in case the trigger gets accidentally depressed when it’s in the rucksack. With this in place it cannot light.

    As it happens i didn’t get to use the Esbits.

    Foot Warmers
    Sheila feels the cold more than i do and she fancied getting a pair of down booties, but they are such an expensive item.
    Looking around the outdoor shops in Manchester she came upon these Blue Mountain Thinsulate slippers in the Cotswold Shop (other places sold them too). They were buy one pair get one 1/2 price.
    So she did.
    I admit to being a bit sceptical when i saw them but i hold my hands up now and say they were wonderful. Well worth the price and when the extremities are warm you cope better. I wore them all night.
    You can use them in your sleeping bag and on the groundsheet without compromising either.
    They are a great piece of kit and weigh 88gr each size 42/8

    So apart from the Crux it had been an interesting weekend and a few more bits of gear tested.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Scarp 2 First outing

    We arrived on our friends farm in the Lakes around mid afternoon on Thursday and were greeted with quite a biting NWesterly wind.
    The site was deserted except for one brave couple who were staying the night in their TN Quasar.
    We were there to get to know the new Scarp 2 from Tarptent, to try out some new gear and to help out on the farm, separating sheep ready for tupping.

    Please note! This is only the first time out and therefore it’s not a full review, i need to have used it quite a few times in all weathers to be able to write that, so more to follow.

    The tent is amazingly quick to erect having only one pole, 6 pegs and with the inner attached. Even with a strong wind it takes only a minute or so to have a standing tent.
    Another couple of minutes to make final adjustments to the corner poles and guys and its complete.
    The Scarp 2 (that’s the one on the right.)
    I decided that i would take the 4 season poles with me to check out the assembly. Here we found our 1st problem!
    To assemble the poles you feed them both through a loop in the centre of the tent then pass the ends through a D ring which is located on the top of the 4 corner poles. 
    Then you locate the poles into eyelets which are attached to the corner guy ropes, then fit the ribbon clips to the poles and tension the ribbons.
    This is a bit of a fiddly job and took me about 4 minutes in total. The problem we had was the D rings, they had only been fitted on 3 of the corners, the 4th corner had a guy rope toggle clip fitted in error. Great. I am going to have to find out how to resolve this.
    Guy tensioner fitted to a corner where  a “D” ring should be, 
    and the velcro strip?

    We found the excess ribbon to be a real nuisance as the wind picked up during the night. When it's windy the ribbon flaps against the taught tent and sounds like 10 sets of drums. Also the ribbon clips which locate onto the poles are not ideal and are quite difficult to undo when your hands are cold. This system will have to go. I will design something different myself that's easier to use and is silent.
    The Pole clip and excess ribbon.
    Also located on the 4 corners is a short strip of velcro. I don't know as yet what these strips are supposed to be used for.
    If the 4 season poles are not used then a guying system needs to be found at both ends to maintain material tension. I have not done this yet as it was too cold to experiment.

    Very quickly we found the next issue that had to be resolved. The zipper tabs are too small and impossible to grip with a gloved hand and are hard to locate at night.
    This was resolved easily enough. I attached a loop of 1mm Dyneema reflective cord to all the tabs.
    1mm Dyneema cord attached to the Inner zippers.
    And to the outer zippers.
    Having 2 doorways was certainly a big advantage and it allowed cooking in either porch dependent on wind direction.The porch area is quite narrow but adequate for our needs. ie cooking gear, shoes etc. Their is more than enough room to keep rucksacks inside the tent so it's not a problem.

    When you get all your gear in the tent you realise just what a large space it is with generous head height. It's a very spacious 2 person tent and it kept occurring to me that something in between the Scarp1 and Scarp 2 would be the ideal for backpacking and weight saving for two.
    It was great to have a lamp/torch clip in the centre of the roof. Although the lack of any decent storage pockets proved that i need to do something about it.
    The pocket that is fitted wasn't used and is pointless apart from keeping some small change in.

    After the first night, where the temperature had dropped down to minus 5 it was noticeable that condensation was covering the whole of the inner tent roof. This had occurred with the 2 roof vents and 2 end vents open and there had been a light breeze blowing. It didn't crystalise and it hadn't dripped onto the sleeping bags so that was good.
    It was also noticeable that the bottom of the outer doors had ridden up the main pole. This had let quite a bit of wind blown snow inside the porch area. I shall have to look for a pegging point to stop this happening.
    There is also a loop on either side of the main pole which can be used for additional guying if deemed necessary but no cord or pegs are supplied for this by the manufacturer.

    During our 2nd night we had a blizzard with high winds and temperatures which fell to minus 7. The tent is very stable in these conditions and even though there is a lot of material, it didn't flap about due to the taught pitch.

    When we came to packing the tent up it was quite damp especially with the condensation. It is an awkward tent to pack up with it having fixed poles and an attached inner. However if you get all the poles together first and then fold it extracting the air as you go. I was surprised that i got it into the bag quite easily, even if untidily.

    I have detaching the inner from the outer to see if this would improve handling and packing, but it doesn’t. I don’t recommend doing it.
    Re-attaching the inner is a fiddly job and one that i wouldn't want to do in the field especially if it was windy.
    The clips used to attach the 2 together are the same clips as used on the pole ribbons. They are quite ridged and difficult to unlock and even harder when it's cold.

    I emailed Tarptent regarding seam sealing and a i had a few other questions but they have not replied. I was hoping to attach the reply to this post.

    In Summary, it's a smashing tent, a few initial problems to resolve annoyingly, but the use of the space envelope is 1st class and you get a good feel when your in it. It feels safe, solid and dependable.

    There is room for improvements and quality control is not perfect. Would i buy it again now. Absolutely, yes.
    My first impressions and more tent photo’s can be found here.

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    My First Aid Kit

    Following a useful post on Maz’s blog which you can find here regarding our first aid kits, i have now photographed mine and displayed it here for all to compare and hopefully comment on.
    Contents from top down.
    Non stick pad. Strip of std plasters. A sponge pad. A 2nd non stick pad.
    Iodine wipes. Plaster strip. Moleskin plaster. Cleansing wipes. Insect Bite wipes.
    Blister plasters. A burn sheet. An almost empty Savlon tube. Tick remover. Lip balm. Small Emery board.
    Roll of tape. Paracetamol. Zantac. Whistle. Recently added button compass. Dicloflex. Periton. small bandage.

    I have scissors and tweezers on my Victorinox classic knife.

    I would also carry, foot powder, sun tan lotion, and Insect repellant, dependant on the time of year.
    The whole kit weighs 87gr.

    Well i think that’s it. Any comments gratefully accepted as always.

    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    Scarp 2. First outing.

    A cold weekend for it’s first outing. Base camp in the Lakes. More to follow on the Scarp impressions and other gear thoughts.

    And a milestone for me has been reached with 10,000 hits on the blog, so thanks to everyone.

    Super Delios Water Filter

    I have had a very nice email from Delios Uk regarding the water filter that i reviewed on my blog awhile back.
    It seems that they are pleased with the comments and sales too i would imagine.
    I am putting together a comments sheet for them and i would be interested to know what other backpackers think about their purchase and it's use in the field.
    If anybody would like to post suggestion, good or otherwise about their experience of using the filter then please use my email address that can be found in the View my complete profile  section of my blog. Thank You.

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Hot footing it in camp.

    This weekend's weather has been forecast to plummet in temperature with some snow fall, maybe -5 deg C or further down depending on location and height.
    We are off to the Lakes again tomorrow to test out the Scarp 2. We have also been asked by a farmer friend if we would help him out on his hill farm on Saturday. I will be our pleasure. We gain so much from the Lakes and the local people, that it's nice to be able to give something back.
    With the short days it also means that you spend more time in the tent. (or in the pub if there's one near).
    It's not that easy to keep warm unless you spend the whole time tucked up in the sleeping bag, especially the feet.
    We decided therefore to buy some warm footwear which wouldn't compromise sleeping mats, groundsheets, sleeping bags and the like.
    We wanted something light and had to roll up compact. We eventually went for the Blue Mountain Supersoft's.
    These will keep your feet toasty and they weigh only 88gr for size 42 or 8’s.. so that's great.
    We will see how they perform and i will report back along with the Scarp 2 impressions.

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Shock and Thank you

    Today whilst reading the British Landscape Clubs site i was shocked to see my blog being reviewed. On one hand i think that it would have been polite to at least let me know that they planned to do this, but on the other hand i am overwhelmed that this organisation have "recommended" my endeavors to their readers. Wow.
    I can only say thanks very much and i am delighted.
    For anyone interested in reading the review, it can be found at the link below.

    Saturday, November 20, 2010

    Ice Grips.

    I came across these ice grips today and due to the reasonable price of £12.99 i decided to get a pair.
    They come in 3 sizes. Medium 36 - 41. Large 40 - 45. XLarge 43 upward.
    Spare spikes come in a complete pack of 7 for £2.99. I have no idea why the heel spikes are green and the foot are red. They both look exactly the same.

    They are made by a Swedish company called SpringyArd, so i suppose they should know a thing or two about ice and snow.

    They are graded as tough and intended for running or hiking. The rubber is supple yet very strong and there is very little Give when they are fitted  to a shoe or boot.
    Obviously they have there limitations but at the weight of 165 gr per pair they are ideal to carry in the rucksack for those just in case times.
    They also roll up into a nice compact size as you can see below.

    They are very similar in all respects to the  Petzl Spiky plus but are a little cheaper. I will be taking these along with me this winter that’s for sure.

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