Going Lighter Guide: Sleeping

Is there much to say about sleeping? I’m certainly not going to bang on about ‘sleep systems- as that phrase has always made me laugh. But there is a certain amount of commons sense that I think is probably worth re-enforcing, simply because all of us can get carried away on a lightweight gear obsession.

Other than, perhaps, a single overnight, the most important thing about sleeping on the trail is that — well — you do manage to sleep!  There is nothing worse than walking after a really bad night’s sleep. If all you are doing is walking back to the car or the train then maybe it is not a problem. But if you are about to tackle any kind of reasonably lengthened walk it helps a great deal if you are fresh and have slept well. On any multi-day walk of any length you will have the odd bad night, maybe the wind and the rain have had your tent rocking and rolling all through the night.  There’s not much you can do about this other than make sure on the other nights you do get a good night’s sleep.

So, let me introduce you to a hard and fast rule about life on a trail. It is one of your key objectives to sleep as well as you can!

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Going Lighter Guide: Stoves & Cooking

Bob and Honey Stove

Bob Cartwright on a Pembrokeshire Beach with his Honey Stove

Stoves! Most avid backpackers have a collection of stoves and stove systems. I don’t consider myself an avid collector but I realise I have around 10 fully functional stoves at the moment, and there are probably more hiding in the depths of my part storage places! Bob Cartwright has a collection of stoves going back over years and he really ought to open a backpacking stove museum.

In this section we are not just going to look at pure weight but some of the other factors that are associated with lightweight backing: fuel sources; adaptability; multi functionality and so on.

A lot here rally does depend on what kind of hiking and backpacking you are involved in. An ideal stove for a single overnight might be very different to the system you might use for a multi day or even multi month trip!

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Lockdown Feet —Anyone Else Have This Zero Drop Thing?

I was just reading one of those articles about lockdown, you know the ones about things we don’t do or wear any more. One of the things we apparently don’t wear any more are shoes. And that’s certainly something that is a feature of my lockdown lif

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Going Lighter Guide: Ultralight Shelters

Lakeland Wildcamp

Using a tarp in the English Lake District 

OK, so here is the big one — a chance to go completely over the top and become a real ultralight fan boy! Of course, the lower down the weight scale we get the less things become about flightier weight and, often, more about enjoying and being at one with the outdoors.

Some of you may be generally interested in ultralight shelters while others of you may just treat this as a bit of entertainment while you scratch your heads and wonder what the hell this is all about.

But let’s dive into the ultralight world.

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Probably The Best Stakes Ever …

I thought a lot before resurrecting this blog. In 2020 does anybody actually read anything anymore? Does the written word still work in the way it did? Is even the still photo obsolete in the face of the onslaught from YouTube?

For years I’ve spent time with Bob Cartwright over at the Outdoor Station and have watched him use new media to enhance vlogs, features, reviews and so on. In so many ways Bob was years ahead of his time. I remember we once took a couple of days on the trail to try and work out how you could generate an income in order to facilitate the development of new material.

it was very difficult back then for many reasons. But since then video equipment has got lighter and lighter to the point that it is now possible to spend half a year on something like the Pacific Quest Trail and vlog as you go. You can now carry equipment that is both duper light and capable of professional results. The other major development has been that of YouTube income, essentially youtube sharing with you the advertising income that has been derived from views of your videos.

The explosion of trekking vlogs is something to be welcomed and it really does add to the outer experience. Thankfully the quality of these vlogs had improved massively but as always there are downsides, not least the tendency of some ‘fan boys and girls’ to set out to get freebies from manufactures to ‘evaluate’ in the field. I’m not suggesting this practice is wrong but it needs to be very carefully considered; thankfully the best practitioners are amongst the most popular.  But mixing commercial promotion with opinion is not without problems.

But at the best end of the scale there are now serious trekkers who are beginning to understand make make this stuff work and hopefully people ill continue value their judgement over that of some person who gets review sample tents and silly puts them up in the same old field!

But what’s this to do with tent pegs I hear you cry? Why is he rambling again?

Well, this caught my eye the other day and it made me smile. Here is a video from Darwin on the Trail — one of the best of the outdoor YouTubers (check him out).

Darwin bought a Tarp Tent which he kind of liked but what he really, reallyliked were the stakes that go with it!

I’m glad somebody else has had the same experience. The stakes bundle with TarpTents are Easton Aluminum Nano Stakes and to argue against myself for a moment these are awesome stakes!

Darwin shows inhale video a series of other stakes that didn’t pass muster or bent or broke. Easton stakes are both remarkably effective and remarkably tough. I can tell Darwin that they do break though. But on the plus side, I was using them on an overnight a coulee of nights ago. The Tramplight Shelter requires 6 pegs and I only have three Eastons left now — but they are still ay better than the others stakes I had to choose from.

i feel somehow touched that myself — of the old codger old media world — can agree with one of the new multi media guys on the block.

In the UK you can find these stakes at:

Valley and Peak or Google as others seem to have them in stock from time to time.

 

Finally, to triangulate this view my old mate Phil Turner waxes lyrical about them on walkhighlands — and if they are happy with them then so am I!

So Good To Be Back (Up On The Hills Again)

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I didn’t rush to be one of the first back to the hills but it was finally good to take in a couple of days and an overnight wild camp. I needed to re-charge those memory batteries; I was beginning to forget what it was all about!

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Going Lighter Guide: Tents

First Wildcamp

The Hilleberg Akto, Glendesarry, Scotland.

In this post I am considering tents — ultralight shelters will be in the next post (see introduction to tents).

Over the last decade or so a number of mainstream manufactures (here in the UK) have embraced lighter weight tents. In terms of the mainstream we can probably consider the lightest weight for the solo tent as being about 1 kilogram and the lightest weight for a two person tent being about 1.5 kilogram. But this is the light end of the scale. The more mainstream contenders shouldn’t weight any more than 1.5-1.7 kilograms for a solo tent and 2 – 2.2 kilograms for a double user tent.

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Going Lighter Guide: Tents & Shelters Introduction

 

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Brecon Beacons (Wales), just before Christmas with Bob Cartwright

On to the next major purchase, and probably the most expensive. Tents have come on a bundle over recent years; it is no longer necessary to carry a heavy piece of kit in order to get peace of mind. As with packs major manufacturers have embraced the low weight philosophy. This is not to say that some companies haven’t done this for many years but these days most manufactures have reduced the weight of their tents and they will have at least one lightweight or ‘ultralight’ tent in their range.

But before we jump in let me define my terms.

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Going Lighter Guide: Packs III — Ultralight

This is where I get excited — ultralight packs. Partially, I get excited because — well — I am a bit of a geared (though I’m trying hard to curb the tendencies. Ultralight packs run from very minimalistic bags that can be used by runners and those hiking in very good weather (and don’t need to carry much stuff) up to bigger frames packs and those that have some kind frame system but very light systems. However, for the hiker and backpacker, probably the best thing about these packs is the design.

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Going Lighter Guide Packs II

So, back to packs. In this post I’m looking at try ‘mid-light’ range which may well be where most people land. By ‘mid-light’ I mean packs that weigh around 1.5 kilograms (around 3lbs) to just over 1 kilogram and have a capacity of around 50-60 litres. This capacity should accommodate most backpackers who are careful in their choice of supporting gear.

The choice in this range has mushroomed since I first wrote this guide ten years ago —or was it 15? Many mainstream manufacturers have now realised there is mileage in promoting lighter weight designs using lighter-weight materials. At the other end of the scale many of the ultra light producers have offerings here, I guess as a way of enticing people in and helping them gain confidence in lighter weight  materials. 

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