Monday, 11 June 2018

My Silver NNAS with Peak Navigation Courses

I am walking the Pennine Way in August to celebrate 30yrs since I first walked it as a sapling :-)  I learned how to use a compass and give a grid bearing and used it for a while until the advent of Sat Nav's and GPS which I have used predominantly through my cycling adventures.

With the Pennine Way in mind I knew that I would need to re-establish my atrophied navigation skills so I decided to book onto a Navigation Course and came across Peak Navigation courses in Foolow village.

It is run by Michael and Jane Livingstone who met through their love of the outdoors and eventually went on to be Mountain leaders and instructors, you can view their courses and bio here:

Peak Navigation Courses

I had read parking was limited in Foolow so I arrived early and parked by the village green a lovely little pond with ducks and wildlife and was quickly joined by another couple who had come to do the day one which is equivalent to a Bronze NNAS.

Mike and Jane were early which was a good sign and we settled in for the others to arrive, there was about 11 of us on the first day.   We briefly introduced ourselves and got started on the syllabus covering bearings, map scales etc..

It wasn't long before we were taken outside to do a brief exercise on the importance of orienting a map which was enternaining and showed how hard it is to navigate if the map isn't the right way, you may think commonsense but go on the course and you will see!

Susanna & Mike coming back after our first navigation exercise.

the narrow path from the village green at the start of the
first navigation challenge.

 One thing to note this isn't a get talked at all day or watch the instructor without getting a chance to do it type of course, this was a show you now you do it course.   Being an ex instructor I could see clearly the time they took to ensure everyone knew what was happening and was sure of the information before moving on.   They showed patience and support throughout on that alone I would recommend them.

Foolow cross on the village green, you need to park here

some of the group sitting round after and exercise, that's my size 10's in the foreground

A session in the classroom, always friendly and informal, the lessons
are obviously planned to impart the information at a rate that's easy to
take on board.
The day closed with talks on safety, equipment etc..  For day two there would only be four of us but both Jane and Mike were present!

rather than drive home and back again I booked into Air B&B with my
host Phill who lives in a beautiful village called bakewell
he invited me out for dinner and gave me a brief tour
of  the village.

We crossed over a river full of Trout....mmmm

Alas i am in the process of getting back in shape so only soup for me...

Mike tucking into a Pizza

Bridge covered in locks over the river that runs through bakewell

A lovely village seat on the route to foolow

some of the wildlife hanging around by the mill run.

I spent a lovely evening with Phill we talked mainly on life and philosophy and mike showed me the Tin Amps he makes and sells online, it was light and just the right size for my mp3 player when i am touring so I bought one, it would make an amazing present.

Follow this to the Tin Amps website all made by Phill

I did some brief revision, before bed to consolidate some of the new things I had learned.  Phil and I discussed what time I would be off in the morning, I wanted to leave early and happily it turns out Mike is out by 5:50 am every morning for meditation with John Butler we chatted a little about that before heading off to sleep:

John Butler from farmer to enlightenment

A misty morning on day two

I arrived early in Foolow as I had planned to solo navigate the route we had completed the day before which I did to make sure the lessons had embedded themselves.

The village green

The start of your first navigation challenge - or as I liked to think of it:

 Once I had repeated the previous days exercise, I headed off to the Yonderman Cafe about 0.8 miles from Foolow along the A623 - very good breakfast!

at 10 am day two began in ernest and we all headed out in Mike's car to walk a challenging route with contours aplenty and features to recognise and follow.

Navigating over the sausage - you will know what that means when you go on the walk.

Looking a little red in the glorius sun, thank heavens for factor 50!

One of our goals was to navigate to a cairn, nearby was this stone which
we were told was Neolithic artwork.

Don't worry about experience - you go to courses to learn, our class was a mixed bag of ages, experience etc.. so don't worry about no experiece that's what the course is there for:  TO TEACH US!

During day two you are constantly assessed on your ability to put into practice what you have been taught.  We worked as a team, and in two's.   The day seemed to go so quickly and before I knew it the course was over and I was heading back home.

One of the most useful things I learned on the course was pacing, something I have decided to become skillfull at.   I have ordered a 100m tape measure and will be using that in all terrains to get my pacing right as i believe next to the map and compass it is the single most important skill in getting you to where you want to go, especially in featureless terrain and poor visibility.

Another thing that became very clear to me was the value of working with others to both check your own bearings and to assist in pacing and walking to objects not visibile along the route.

I enjoyed the course so much I have decided to do the Gold NNAS in November.

For anyone thinking of doing a Navigation course I can wholeheartedly recommend Mike & Jane.  Some on the course were worried about their ability, which I can tell you is groundless.   Mike & Jane assume nothing and guide you from start to finish in all aspects.

I had only one little surprise in that they cover Declination but don't acutually use it in the UK whereas I always have and will probably continue to do so.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Ortlieb e-bag setup

I got into a discussion with a member of the ctc forum about my setup using the e-werk and the rav powerbank which I use in conjunction with my bike dynamo.  It spurred me on to get rid of the awful dividers that come with the bag and to more firmly secure my e-werk and powerbank.  Pictures below:

I added some velcro strips using the original inserts
I glued them to the powerbank using klebfast glue.

This is where I feed my sat nav charging cable through.

easily tucked under in bad weather when not in use - note no rust
and it's been on there for about a year now.

I store all the the items I need to store in a nice mesh bag
gloves, cycling glasses, phone, wallet, keys etc..
We had discussed making an insert to store things in but for my preference the inside
plastic provides enough rigidity and the bag is more convenient.

Mesh Bag fits in nicely- I use the zippered pocket for my
camera tools and spare batteries.

I use the front of the bag to store a bar towel for wetting and keeping me cool
removing sweat etc.. and storing a mini backpack for going into shops with.

Here is how the ravpower sits and I also wrap excess cable in
a velcro loop that you get for organising cables in a network cabinet.
again using the original velcro strips in the bag.

Using a mesh bag is so much easier
to get at stuff and maximises the room available.
Note the dryer sheets they keep everything
smelling nice, i put them in all my bike bags

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Flask saves my life - Selfless Heroism

Just a quick post, walked the Malvern Peaks this weekend from the clock tower over North Hill to British Camp and back with Vic & Marc.

I was nursing a muscle injury in my neck/shoulder so was being very carefull, on the way back literally the last descent back to the car it is very steep and was slippy.   With literally no warning my feet went from under me I was mid air horizontal and came down really hard with my back hitting first into a rock!!

I was only carrying a small day pack with some gloves water and my Thermos Ultimate Flask, I was stunned for a few seconds, did the normal checks with my mates worried as they had seen me come down very hard on the rock.

I felt ok - stunned not hurt couldn't understand why I wasn't damaged when we got to the car I openend my pack and realised my flask had sacrificed itself for my back....  If it had been a solid flask I would have been hurt.

I was not even annoyed at the loss of the flask really, it was a cheap price to pay to save my back, it does however show that the thermos ultimate is not as tough as other flasks at the expense of it's lightness and performance!

From Flask

To dented hero

It's a real shame, I will buy another one at least I can keep the stopper and rubber bottome etc.. as spares!  I looked at pushing the dent out but the inner wall is compromosed touching the outer wall it won't ever work properly again!

Total damage to me:  Sore back muscules and a sore elbow that got banged as well!

Friday, 6 April 2018

When Slugs & snails attack!!

I was in the garden today, out of nowhere a snail got the jump on me, with little time to think I ran for it I was out of salt and in the vicious world of snails and slugs that means your unarmed and vulnerable....   I made it to garden table and chairs, an hour later the chase was still on he was still coming....

That was just fiction, it really didn't go down like that but the snail was real...  

I have been looking at a new sleeping bag for mid season summer use (my winter bag was now in it's new home) and had settled on the snugpak softie 2 expansion (the expansion should give you a clue).  I had just recieved my new sleeping bag and walked into the garden to open it out when I  happened across the snail of which there seem far less in the garden than slugs.

It's been pretty wet and cold this year and I was enjoying working from home sat in the garden over my lunch break I was doing some surfing looking at others reviews of Snugpak gear when I came across a post on Paul Kirtleys blog,  I always found his posts straightforward and commonsense (of those that I have ead) until his post mentions that some slugs bite Whhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!!!  Terrible memories flooded back of watching a film called Slugs where they had mutated in a toxic dump and made there way into a sleepy American town to eat people in their bedrooms.....  Seriously the film was terrible even then..

The Wolf Slug or Huntsman Slug
defending it's cabbage patch territory

After my head stopped spinning and checking for leaping vampire slugs hungry after the cold winter I did what any sensible outdoors orientated person would do, I hit google (well actually and began my search for the elusive biting slugs.

It turns out slugs do actually bite along with snails, and despite a forum post that talked of the wolf slug that bites and injects you with thousands of babies that hatch out leaving you in excruciating pain (from the forum and my googling it's a fake), they are pretty much harmless, go try nibbling on a local block of flats you will get the idea.

Rubbish I hear you say!!! slugs and snails don't bite!!!  Well here is a video I found of a snail attack on a human:

so indeed it is true that they do have teeth and are dumb enough to try and eat you, they are just not vicious enough to be a problem.  I have woken up to find slugs on my tent many times and now I am wondering if sleeping in a bivvy bag leaves me more vulnerable to that..... I will be keeping mine fully closed even in the future...

For those who have read further some actual facts:

1. Slugs are descended from snails and theoretically gave up their shells in environments without the necessary minerals to build them.
2. The Marbled Cone snail has enough venom in it's barbed bite to kill lots of people but not uk based and it is a sea snail so should be easy to spot in an aqualung.
3. They can carry diseases so listen to your mums advice and wash your hands if you come into contact especially clean out a wound...  Angiostrongylus -  rat lung worm

The best fact of all!!!

Friday, 30 March 2018

Thermos Ultimate 900ml review and some general advice on flasks

Recently I purchased a new flask, I have been using one that was given to me it doesn't come with a cup and whilst useful it doesn't keep the drinks that hot over a longer period of time it was also comparitvely heavy whilst not really holding a lot.

So I did some research and there were a few candidates:

SIGG Hot & Cold ACCENT Aqua 1.0 L 

This looked a good option but was expensive and I couldn't find the weight listed it did claim to keep your drink warm for many hours but didn't say how long on their official website...

Black Trail Break Biker

Now this was a serious contender I liked the design, again not cheap but specification wise it fell down firstly on the weight 610 g   220 grams heavier than the thermos ultimate and it stated would keep drinks warm for 18 - 20 hrs whereas the thermos ultimate stated 24 hrs warm.

Thermos Ultimate 900ml  

slightly less capacity than the other two I was considering, however it weighed in at only 380g and claimed to keep drinks warm for 24hrs.  After going through several youtube videos with nothing but good to say and backing up their claims I decided this one was for me.  

The Thermos ultimate is as expensive as the others however I managed to source one from Amazon for £20.00 because it was listed as used the packaging was damaged, as the packaging would have ended up in the bin this was a no brainer.

(Long term note:  as the flask is extreemely lightweight the walls whilst strong are more prone to denting than a traditional steel flask, it hasn't been a problem for me but something for you to consider.   I just ensure I store mine in the bag not on the outside and wrap it in something.)

Overall then my choice was easy, however I think the Primus Trailbreak is a great contender and if I had more stats on the Sigg I am sure it was also a serious contender, tbh unless weight is a major consideration I think they would all be a good choice.

 (Long term note:  I am consistently amazed at how long this keeps things hot it really does what it says on the tin!!!!) 

 (Long term note:  A feature I never really considered when buying but now find immensely useful is the way you can completely remove all the lids etc.. on this flask and designed so they don't break i.e. push button flasks, this makes it SUPER EASY TO CLEAN!!)


So finally some tips to share that I have gleaned over the years:

1. Preheat your flask, pour some hot water in swill it round let it stand for a minute then empty and then fill it properly.  This will keep your drink hot for the maximum time as it stops the cold flask initially dropping the temprature.

2. If your going to leave your drink for a long time don't add the milk in.  I don't drink milk but have added it for others to find that after hours in the flask the drink can tase like the milk is off.   Just carry the milk with you.   I tend not to put anything in, just hot water it means you don't have to clean your flask, maximum hot water.

3. Make a flask up before you go to bed, then you can wake up in your tent/bivvy and have a warm drink to get you going before you have to venture out into bad weather.

4. Cleaning your flask - crush up some egshell, put that a little warm water and a few suds put the lid on and shake vigourously - really works.

5. Don't leave anything in the flask for a long time - trust me it's never pleasant to clean out...

6.  If you aren't going to use your flask for a while, wash it and leave the lid off till it is completely dry inside.   If you leave it damp with the lid on for an extended period it will smell.

Storing a down sleeping bag

It's getting to that time of year when the tempratures gradually rise and your thinking of storing your down sleeping bag.  

I have a Montane Deep Heat Sleeping bag which I have had modified to be extra wide, I bought a Snugpak Winter Expanda panel and had it sewn into the bag and the existing zip reused, the material was such a close match no one can tell!!! the shop did such a great job on it.

I love the bag, but don't think much of Montanes customer service though there's a blog post about it so I won't bore you with the details.

Anyhow, I wasn't to happy with their storage bag as storing it that way and on top of a wardrobe means the bag is still compressed slightly and I wanted to ensure that it had the chance to fully decompress whilst stored.

After looking about for bags no one seems to make one that allows you to really let the bag breath and decompress.  I then had a little lightbulb moments and bought one of those underbed storage bags which cost me about £4.50 including postage from e-bay, the bag fitted in perfectly and can fully decompress.   It's stored on top of the wardrobe looks tidy so problem solved, a tip I thought I would pass on.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Camping In Norfolk - Christmas Night - New Bivy Bag - Sausage the ferretts first adventure

Dmitry a friend I met through work invited me on a mini adventure over Christmas, he had found a great campsite that was almost as good as wildcamping, with the promise that we would be the only ones on site.

This would be the perfect time to test a new piece of equipment I got for Christmas the Aqua Quest hooped Bivvy!

I arrived late at night to find Dmitry, Max & Michael already set up, it was very dark hammering down with rain so I got on with setting up the tarp and my new bivvy.   I was grateful that they had a good fire going and they put some food on for me on my arrival after a late night drive!

My tarp & Bivvy setup
 As you can see in the picture above, I had a dry night however the rain was so awful that the condensation inside the bivvy was awful, I should have taken a vbl (vapour barrier liner).
Did I mention Sausage the ferret joined us
This was a great adventure for Sausage, the guys were great with him and very patient we walked all the way through the woods to the sand dunes and beach and back with him, the locals were very curious.  Sausage loved every minute of it and showed no fear of the sea!
We took a long walk through some woods with  Sausage and
then down to the beach, this is Sausage swimming int the sea!

A curiosity in Kings Lynn

Michael, Max & Dmitry

Brighter Weather

Treating ourselves to a goodbye breakfast!

Dmitry with a mans breakfast soup
I will give a complete review of the Aqua Quest bivvy at a later date!