The Vault Regulars

Monday, September 30, 2013

Lifeventure daysack review

When we go on holiday we use the same principles for packing our bags as we do for hiking.

So we weigh everything, don't take items which can be sourced locally, don't take towels or hair driers, don't take items which are "Just in case" and make sure that in total the bags weigh less than 5kilo's so that we can take them into the plane as hand luggage.

This years trip to Greece was only for one week and Sheila's bag which believe it or not included 7 dresses weighed 3.8kg and mine which didn't included 7 dresses weighed 4.8kg. Has she sneaked something into my bag i wondered.

Anyway this lightweight philosophy is definitely the way to travel. So when i received an email in Greece from Rachel at Siverfox Travel Outdoors,  asking me if i would like to review a rucksack or any other product i immediately wondered if i could get an even lighter sack than our current OMM sack.

Upon arrival home i studied the website and was stuck for choice. A couple of sleeping bags and numerous backpacking sacks caught my eye as well as a lightweight stove and a number of other items.
Considering that i had kindly been offered to choose anything from the site i was definitely in 2 minds what to choose.

I eventually stuck to my plan to look for a lighter travel pack which would double for a daypack too.
I chose the Lifeventure black packable 18L daysack.

{Lifeventure packable daysack}

The pack weight is specified as 325gr and so it was good to see that my sack was actually 320gr. That's a 230gr saving over my OMM sack.

 The Lifeventure sack is 18 litres in size and is made from black ripstop nylon. When you receive it, it is in it's neat stow away guise which includes a carry handle and a mesh zipped pocket and behind it an open sleeve.

 Unzipping the pouch and turning inside out, reveals the day sack and the pouch then becomes the front pocket of the sack. Complete with secure mesh pocket and behind that an open sleeve. Just below the main compartment zip there is also a separate zipped pocket which has 2 expanding gussets.

 Each side has a handy mesh pocket that suits 500ml water bottles  and also a compression strap.
 The back of the sack is unpadded. The unshaped shoulder straps are heavy duty mesh with adjusters and also have a small pocket on each strap that have elasticated closures. Suitable for items like glasses, keys, sweets, small change etc but not big enough for phones or GPS.
The main compartment zips approximately 180 degrees and the inside is coated with a waterproofer. It doesn't have a separate compartment for hydration bladder.
All the zippers are YKK.

I have found it a comfy carry and the shoulder straps are far enough apart not to chaff your neck. This can sometimes be a problem with small sacks but not with this one. I found the straps had a tendency to slip off the shoulder especially when i was wearing a smooth outer jacket but less so when wearing just a fleece. I will resolve this by adding an elasticated chest strap. 

The sack does not have a hip belt and it doesn't need one. The shoulder straps are adequate at restricting movement.

It's an ideal sack to take with you on longer trips. With it being light and packable it's easily stowed in a larger backpack. Also just an ideal size and weight for quick trips to the shops.
Sheila has already decided it will be ideal for her gym gear. So it looks like i have lost it already.
I will have to buy another one. It costs £19.99
I wish it had a key clip in one of the secure pockets. I will add one.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A mushroom /toadstool hunt.

 Today as the autumnal colours become more prevalent we decided to incorporate on our walk a mushroom hunt. The walk itself was nothing of any effort. 11k through local countryside and parkland.
Weather glorious with clear blue skies and just a slight breeze. In the sun it was like summer. In the shade you knew autumn was with us.

 The leaves were falling all around but being dry it was crisp underfoot. The colours not yet as vibrant as they will be in just a couple of weeks but still beautiful with the lowering sun highlighting the shapes.

{Autumn colours}

 {Our route took us along a small section of the Rochdale canal with the sun highlighting a lock}

Plenty of bikers out today and hardly a polite word from any of them as we got out of the way to let them fly past. One family group did stop and wait for us to pass and were quite jovial, the little boy who didn't stop said "sorry, dad said i have to keep to one side".  We let him off.

Searching out mushrooms and toadstools is quite time consuming and rummaging around in the undergrowth brings some funny looks from other walkers but if you are prepared to look it's amazing at what beauty fungi really is.
I will let the photo's tell the story.

It's amazing the number of different fungi you can find with a bit of effort. Some tough, solid and last all year. Others delicate, transparent and last only a week or two. I found a fantastic group during the week but to my disappointment they had finished when we got to them today. I have made a note for next year. I wish i knew enough to name them all. I will endeavour to find out.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

You buy cheap you buy twice. Jet Tec cartridges.

We have all heard this saying and it's there for a very good reason.  What seems a bargain usually isn't and you end up buying the genuine one and you spend twice as much money.

So this post is basically to save folks that extra money.

I have a printer connected to my Mac and it's a Kodak C310. I bought it because of the smaller cost of ink cartridge. I was going to say "Cheap" but no ink is cheap for home pc's.
My previous printer was a Canon and wonderful as it was the ridiculous price of changing 5 cartridges at £80 was outrageous and so i gave it away.

I've been happy with my Kodak. I don't print photographs on it, just mundane stuff. When my 3rd lot of ink was almost gone i went to my supplier and asked for the 2 cartridges.
Unfortunately he didn't have any in stock but offered me a compatible set called Jet Tec for about the same price but 2 for the price of 1.

I don't usually go for cheap ink, because it's a poorer grade i am led to believe but this guy was convincing without being pushy and as i don't do photographs thought what the hell, i will give them a go.

I changed the cartridges when the red light said empty and put the compatibles in place. Switched on the printer and low and behold. Red light and Error.

I started again and switched on the printer. Message:- Error cartridges not recognisable. 

Always one for not giving up, i tried to logically work out what was different. How does a printer know that they are compatibles and not Kodak.

Well on the back of the cartridge there is a 3mm square bit of plastic with 2 contacts on it. I just thought these were the signal providers which interface with the printer to tell the cartridge that it's services were required. Well it seems that these contacts also have a micro circuit board on the back and this must also provides "Who AM I" information to the mother board of the printer. Just like a Ewe and lamb they know when it's not one of their own. So it pushed me away.

I thought i could get round this problem by removing the circuit board of the my old original Kodak cartridges and attaching them to the new compatibles ones. So with a bit of carful faffing i managed it.

I reloaded the now disguised compatibles and switched on. I thought the Ewe will never spot the difference now.

Wrong! New error message. These cartridges are empty please replace with new.

So even though there was plenty of ink, the mother board remembers the old cartridge signatures and recognised  that they were empty. So even filling them from a 3rd party source would have the same effect. Once Kodak cartridges are empty, that's it. You have to buy new.

Unfortunately for me because i have now bodged the compatible cartridges i cannot take them back for a refund.

I was never aware of this before and have never come across it. My old Canon printer accepted compatibles and refills no problem. I always thought getting an old cartridge refilled was a viable alternative. Well obviously Kodak don't think so.

Be warned.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Lassi sunset.

Well i finally managed to upload the sunset pic. Hope it was worth all the hassle.

Sent from Samsung Mobile

Beautiful Greek day

We did a 4 hour walk in high temperatures of 30c. It was a stunning day and scenery beautiful. We were pleased to reach the sea for the cooler breeze. We were lucky enough to see the loggerhead turtles.2 off them close up in the harbour. We are informed that there are 7 regular visitors. It was good to see the old water wheel restored at Katavothres and the restaurant open again. It had been run down and closed for years.
The old internet has been a bit hit and miss and would only allow 1 image to upload which is a bit of a pain.
Last evening we had the most splendid sunset. Even our Greek friends wanted a copy of the photo as it was good. (That's the sunset not particularly the photo).
I will try and upload it as a separate post next.
The island of Kefallonia is struggling with the economic measures taken by the government. Many hotels are closed and look quite sad. The ones that have survived seem to be doing ok.
We are off to look at the archaeological and earthquake museum in Argostoli now. So that's it for now.

Sent from Samsung Mobile

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Occassional greek tractors

Sent from Samsung Mobile

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Merrell Chameleon 5 Mid Ventilator GTX boots.

A few weeks ago i had an interesting email from Merrell asking me if i would be prepared to write a review of their Chameleon 5 Mid boots.
Funnily enough i had only just had a look at Merrell’s Proterra boots and quite liked the look of them, therefore it was a bit of a coincidence to be offered a pair of boots FOC from them.
Merrell make good gear (IMHO) and so it was an easy decision on my part to accept the offer.

So, the boots.

They came well packaged. Upon opening the box i was greeted with a horrid smell of a rubber/plastic/glue type pungent aroma, most unpleasant. Thankfully this smell disappeared after a days wear in the outdoors.

 Merrell Chameleon 5 Mid ventilator Gore-tex boots
Weight for size UK 8.5 is 560 grams

 Handling the boots, twisting, bending and removing the insoles i admit to being a little disappointed.
My first impression, and basically the impression that sells a boot was not fantastic, more of a oh?
Apart from the smell, these boots have an RRP of £140.00! I expected more wow factor for a boot in that price bracket.

 I liked the colour, the lacing, the heel support, the toe protection but didn’t like the look of the Vibram sole or the insole. My first impressions were that they were both not up to the job of backpacking. They are after all marketed as a light backpacking boot.

2mm thick, moulded EVA insole.
 So, having got my first impressions out of the way i set about finding out how they perform.
I have now worn them everyday for the past 5 weeks and they have covered about 140 miles.

 Trying the boots out on day 1, 
I found them to be exceptionally comfortable. The size 8.5 was perfect for me and the fit across the toe area was perfect for my foot which is on the wide side. The first outing was in dry conditions, quite humid and 22 degrees C, and i covered about 8 miles of mainly green lanes and woodland. 
 I had a bit of heel lift in my right boot and thought the worst. However it turned out that although the lace was tight around the ankle it wasn’t tight down the foot. I re-laced the boot and the heel lift disappeared. So getting the lacing right is important individually.

 The sole unit, which is Vibram rubber was impressive and getting back home my feet felt good. However when i removed the boots i was a little surprised to find that my feet and socks were quite sweaty. Considering that they are called Ventilator i was a little dismayed, although it had been a warm day.

 5 weeks on,
 I have now covered most terrains and weather conditions although as yet the temperature in the UK has not slipped into single figures and has not been particularly damp.
 I have worn a number of different socks, Bridgedale, Teko, X socks but i still had clammy feet. So venting is not as good as it might be. Taking into considering they do have a GTX membrane i might be expecting a bit too much. However, the boots have been treated with Aegis® which is an antimicrobial agent that suppresses odour. I found this has worked very well so far. Merrell say that the treatment does not wear out so it will be interesting to find out what happens further down the line.

 Walking on stoney paths, loose scree and on very steep grass has presented no problems. The sole unit passed with flying colours. I am pleasantly surprised considering my first impressions.
One of the conditions that usually find out how good or bad a sole unit is is when you are on wet and smooth slab rock. Once again they have surpassed my expectations. Good grip and support. So far so good.
The boot has a 2mm flexible plate in the foot section which protects the foot from stone bruising and a nylon insole which is a tougher grade than is found on the Chameleon 5 shoe, designed with medium pack carrying in mind. The EVA insole has proved to be very comfy.

 The outer boot is made from Pig suede leather, coupled with mesh and a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane. The heel has a pull loop and the tongue is the normal bellows type.
I have found cleaning them very easy with a soft bristle brush. I havn’t yet had the pleasure of entering a bog and so the need to completely wash them has not been done.
 Waterproofing has otherwise worked well and on one completely wet day they kept me perfectly dry. The wet days for testing have been very limited i must state, due to our warm and dry summer.

 The toes are protected with quite a high rubber toe cap but i would prefer it to come a little further over the top.

 The ankle has a tough plastic support arm that stops ankle roll, maintains the heel shape and works well. Even when contouring.

 I found the laces stayed secure all day and the lacing system is easy and adjustable but they are a little too long. There are 8 plastic closed eyelets and final lacing is held with 2 metal hooks either side.

 I wasn’t at all impressed with the material of the inner ankle cuff. It’s comfy but the weave is quite loose and it retained debris to the point of annoyance. Grasses especially, got trapped in the weave and then pierced the sock resulting in uncomfortable walking. Removing the debris was harder than you might think. Not just a matter of removing the boot and shaking out the debris, i first tried wrapping some duct tape around my hand and hoped i could get the grass to stick to the tape, this didn’t work. I had to get a pair of tweezers and pull the grasses out. Very time consuming too. Obviously wearing gaiters would have prevented this problem but you don’t want to wear gaiters in dry summer conditions.

Trapped debris on inside of the boot proved really difficult to remove. 
(Sorry the lower image is a bit blurred). But at least you can see the problem.

Within the time period for this review there is very little i dislike about them. Yes at £140.00 rather expensive but you can buy them on the internet for £84 - £105 which is where i think they should be priced and at this price they are a good buy.
 Comfortable straight from the box, probably the most comfortable boots i have ever had in fact. Great sole unit in all conditions outside of winter. Excellent build quality.
Quite lightweight for a mid boot with a waterproof membrane.
Inner ankle material needs improving.

I am now looking forward to the next 500 miles wearing them.

Update. 12th December 2013.
One point that i have found since my initial review is that they do take rather a long time to dry out.
With the boot having a membrane, you need to keep outside heat sources away from them otherwise your membrane could be damaged.  Drying inside a warm building or in a breeze still takes a lot longer than i expected. I would like Merrell to consider this point, but otherwise my original review stands up. A fantastic boot.

Where to view or purchase.
The boots can be found in pretty much all the major outdoor retail shops on the highstreet or you could just click on the links below if you wish.
The Merrell range at Fitness Footwear.
The Merrell Chameleon 5 Mid boot.

I would like to make the point here that these boots were kindly sent to me FOC for the purpose of this review. I thank Merrell for that.
I have no affiliation to Merrell in any way and the review is completely without bias, timescale or restriction.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What's that racket.

 Yesterday i was painting the rendering on the house. It had to be done for winter.
It was a nice day, just the birds whistling when there was an almighty racket coming from the trees at the bottom of the garden which are about 30 yds away. All the small birds screeched and sped off in all directions and some only missing me by a few feet.

 What the Dickens is going on i thought. Then about 10 Magpies ascended into the tree and making even more noise. I stood and watched as the screeching got louder and louder.

 Then out onto the edge of the tree came a Sparrow Hawk. It stood there bold as brass with it’s head held high and basically telling the Magpies to come and try it. Well the Magpies jostled it but the hawk just laughed at them. Not budging an inch.

I wondered about going for the camera but thought it would be all over by the time i found it. Anyway i had a go, dashing upstairs almost breaking my neck going up, slipping on the floorboards. I grabbed the camera switched it on and when i got outside it was still there.

I managed a couple of pictures and just as i was about to change the shutter speed, off the hawk went. I just pointed and clicked the shutter and hoped. Luckily i managed to get it in frame, just.

I know they are not great shots but here they are anyway.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Prestwich to Manchester City Centre.

 Todays walk was another in our Curry walk series which finds routes into the centre of Manchester from anywhere within a radius of around 15Km from said Curry House.
This walk starts in Prestwich (No not the Hospital) and finishes at “This and That” delicious food emporium in Shudehill.

I was outside a supermarket  at 10.15am waiting for the others to arrive from Timperley on the tram.
I had a call from JJ at 10.36 to say they had alighted. I was surprised to see 3 souls marching my way as i had only expected JJ and Rick. The third was John, a motorbike enthusiast and occasional walker of nothing serious.

11.00am we were on our way, in a different direction to what i had envisaged. I thought we would head through Phillips Park to meet the River Irwell, which is quite a direct route but that wasn’t to be. Rick wanted to go past the old church in Prestwich Village.

The church is next to The Church Inn, well it would be wouldn’t it. But it was still closed thankfully or else this walk may not have taken place. The Church of St Mary the Virgin (and the Church Inn) is well known to Sheila and I as she used to live in Prestwich.

The church itself can be seen on numerous episodes of Coronation St as St. Thomas’s Wetherfield and is a lovely spot and well looked after.
The Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Prestwich.
Records show a church was on this site in 1200 but the current building dates from 1500 − 1600 with numerous additions since.
The cemetery is particularly unusual as it is in a wood rather than a designed plot within the church walls. 
Our path led through the wood and along the clough. Here we came across numerous stone and corbled paths which scream of Victorian days. Although maintenance of these routes has long since finished they still hold a charm to see.
Our route was quite delightful passing under tall trees with the sunlight forcing a path through.
 The clough paths
Victoriana along the clough with Rick, John and JJ faffing at the back.

Heading further along, the tracks became very numerous as this is a recreational area for the locals. We got a bit confused as to which path was which and the signposts didn’t always help. The Irwell Sculptured way was the prevalent one and so we tried our best to keep with it. Eventually and probably the hard way we came to a bridge spanning the Irwell.  
It was quite a while ago that i last walked bits of the Irwell and i remember it wasn’t a pleasant experience. But today it is completely different. The river is actually quite nice and numerous fish were spotted from the bridge and it was noticeably clean.
 The River Irwell looking North
The Aqueduct over the Irwell with the A6044 at Agecroft. It was built by Manchester Corporation Waterworks in 1892 and has 2 large bore pipes running along it. Thirlmere water pipes. The architecture is very pleasing unlike the new road bridge which sits side by side to this one.

Once across the busy road the stretch of footpath passes alongside Agecroft cemetery. A huge place. The views are quite expansive and surprisingly green considering.
Lots of birdlife was encountered on route. And a heronry also. Once we had left the cemetery behind we checked the map. (Just an excuse really to let JJ and John catch up). it was decided to cross the first bridge which leads past the lush Littleton Rd sports ground which is part of Salford Sports City and into Lower Kersal. Walking around this part of Salford i think every house has a dog which barked at us as we passed.
Once back onto the river we stopped for 5 minutes for a piece of Sheila’s fine baking and then it was over another footbridge leading towards Higher and Lower Broughton.
Footbridge at Lower Kersal leading into the woods.
Manchester skyline was now clear and we could pick out the high tops of the CIS, Beetham Tower and Strangeways Prison.
We had been in such a green corridor for so long that it seemed quite strange when we emerged onto Cromwell Rd. A tremendous amount of work is being done here to improve flood defences. 
Just one bit of the flood defences being put in all along the river here. Cromwell Rd bridge in the background built in 1882.

Our route on this bank was blocked due to the works so we had to cross over to St Boniface Rd where we picked up the path along the opposite bank passing Fredrick Rd bridge. Here we cut a corner and headed towards Blackfriers and passing the lovely old white building which is part of the Salford University Campus. There used to be a large reservoir here before the current building was erected in 1915 and was used to make a number of products like shampoo’s for example. It’s history can be found HERE.
 Our stomachs were rumbling and time was getting on. It was 1.30pm and we had the idea that the Curry house would shut at 2.00pm. John was struggling a bit with walking so we waited for him to catch up. 
We stopped to admire the Post Office old Sorting office building which thankfully has been restored into flats and car parking. It would have been a disgrace to knock this gem down.
 The Old Sorting Office.
The new sculpture’s in what was Victoria Bus Station. 
The New Bridge over the Irwell at Victoria.

Rick and I had quite a march on now as we left Victoria and between Manchester Cathedral and The Mitre. We passed Urbis in a flash and into the grotty Printworks we sped. Once out of the gloom we waited for JJ and John to show and then we could smell that curry. A tram just missed us as we took a few short cuts to get to our lunch. We ordered and sat down to eat and still no sign of JJ and John.
How can we lose somebody who knows Manchester and within a hundred yards of our destination is unreal. Anyway they turned up from a completely different direction and 5 minutes later. Where they had been we didn’t ask.

We had a wonderful curry as usual and it wasn’t until we had finished that we realised nobody had taken a photo of our food. I think JJ got one of 4 empty plates. Ha.
Then we marched off to sample some splendid real ale in the Ape and Apple. Now completely refurbished. What a splendid day out.

The walk was 13.3km.
Some more images are available HERE.

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