Musings from a very hectic March – camps, videos, kit and Alpkits new range of tents

Beautiful morning in Lathkill Dale, Peak District National Park

Currently, I’m busy beavering away on my PC editing videos – ranging from the usual Peak District town/villages, holiday cottages, landscapes and even one for the Peak District National Park Authority. March has been a helluva hectic month for me and April doesn’t look like it will be any less different on that front so far.

Nevertheless, I’ve had a great time seeing new sights, meeting new and interesting people along with pleasurable camps out on the hills.

A particularly memorable one was spent amongst the crags of a well known limestone gorge in the White Peak – the air was still and warm, the sky was clear and glowing pink from a distant setting sun. Hares and rabbits wondered close by, dippers bobbed along the river below, cock pheasants called to mate and even a peregrine falcon nested opposite me flew around shrieking away as they do.

Quite simply, it was wonderful. Perfect even. It made for a very charming scene that only a wild camp can bring.

Terra Nova Solar Competition 1 on White Edge
Ā – you can just see my video camera filming the sunset

The Terra Nova Solar Competition 1 tent I’m testing continues to surprise – it’s really grown on me and it’s got to the stage where I’d happily buy one. It’s roomy, quick to pitch and very strong. I have my quibbles with it, mind – but more of that in the coming weeks via a thorough review.

Rab have sent me some other gear to try out – the Neutrino 400 down sleeping bag, and a couple of wind shirts (Nimbus and Cirrus). The sleeping bag packs down next to nothing, weighs little over 800g’s yet is fully featured with a comfort rating of -4c. Not bad, eh? And the wind shirts are exceptionally light (as they should be) and can be compressed to the size of a small tennis ball.

Rab Cirrus, Nimbus windtops and the Neutrino 400 sleeping bag

They shed the rain very very well as I discovered one wet day meandering through Wolfscote Dale.

And talking of kit – I’ve accepted to try out gear from Millets the outdoors store. Yes, you read that right!

Specifically, their own Eurohike and Peter Storm products. The reason? Because I think it’s good to bring balance to thoughts and opinions on gear.

After all, budget gear can be great value for money and perform as well as some of the bigger brands on occasion. I’m interested in seeing how they’ve improved their designs and materials when compared to my early ‘outdoor’ adventures – which was all I could afford and quite relevant in these austere times.

And on top of that, I’d like to show ‘newbies’ to backpacking that they don’t have to cut off their right arm to get hold of gear that performs. Granted, there will be some compromises – but that’s how life is anyway, isn’t it?

The Argos ProAction 1 backpacking tent is one famous example of how cheap gear can be really good. Along with some of Gelerts products and even the well known Alpkit.

Which leads me to the following video – featuring AlpJim from the aforementioned company showcasing their new range of tents (including a mention of a backpacking range to be launched next summer):

And here’s another video, providing a tiny glimpse into what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks:

You’ll note the many faces which appear in this video (and there’s more) – they include Shirley Allen Jackson a Community Champion from the suburbs of Sheffield, Robert Gosling a dairy farmer from near Parwich in the White Peak, Jon Stewart from English Nature, Lesley Savage a community volunteer and David James Chief Executive from Visit Peak District tourist board – all interviewed with the intention of expressing their thoughts and opinions of the Peak Park Authority’s new management plan.

Local businesses are represented by Michael Shuttleworth of Hathersage Hall and Jim Harrison from the Thornbridge Brewery near Bakewell – so, quite a varied selection of folk talking about what the Peak District means to them and where they hope the park authority can guide the area in the coming years.

It’s proved to be an insightful, inspiring and interesting project to work on – so, we’ll see how the final video goes. It’s one I hope will maintain interest and have ‘my stamp’ all over it.

Exped Synmat 7 – buckling under pressure after just 3 months regular use!

Just recently I’ve experienced a fault with my Exped Synmat 7 mattress – one evening I noted a loud pop. I looked around thinking I may have inadverdently punctured the bed but saw nothing of concern. It was only on the following nights use that I noted one of the inflatable tubes had buckled and it got worst for the rest of my trip.

Fortunately, Exped have speedily sent me a replacement (within 5 days) and apologised for any inconvenience caused – impressive customer service courtesy of George Fishers in Keswick, Cumbria. It’s a cracking mat and though there is a weight and bulk penalty to using it – I just cannot resist taking the mat everywhere I go. It’s so damn comfy and warm!

And finally, I’ve been seeking ways of improving the food I consume on my regular trips out. Freeze dried food is too costly for me, now and I’m not keen on Wayfarer boil in the bag meals due to their bulk and weight.

I’ve tried coming up with products/meals that are cheap, nutritious and light as possible – more of which in another blogpost (I think I’ve come up with some winners but if you have any tips or advice, do feel free to let me know!).

So, on that note I’ll sign off and go back to cutting video and then afterwards read a wonderful book I’ve purchased concerning the geology of the Peak District – a bloody fascinating read as it happens!

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22 Comments Add yours

  1. Martin Rye says:

    Nothing wrong with Peter Storm kit Terry. I had a wonderful summer weight shirt by them. I lost it moving but still it was good kit. I shall have to look at what kit they have now. RAB kit is good kit. My RAB collection is growing but I don't get it free like some people;)

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  2. terrybnd says:

    Hi Martin, I'm looking to try out some of their shirts actually as it happens. We'll see what gets sent.

    Rab are churning out some great kit indeed of late and (shhh) some very special stuff will be coming out later in the year and next.

    That aside, the kit has to go back (8 times out of ten). I don't mind as it all helps with my trips out.

    It's funny, cause some things I've expected to last the distance have already shown early signs of wear and tear – not good.

    And then there's others where I've been initially indifferent and ended up really liking. LOL

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  3. Tomas says:

    Interested in seeing your post on food, it's something that I've been working on for ages, I am way too cheap to buy prepackaged dehydrated meals and so have tried to make simple DIY dehydrated food, with mixed results šŸ™‚ It's a lot of fun to experiment though!

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  4. terrybnd says:

    Hi Tomas, Thanks. I'm not considering on purchasing a dehydrator, for example. I reckon it be too much hassle for not very good results.

    So, my aim has been to find alternatives that any one can pick up off a supermarket shelf.

    Made a Thai Curry today on my meths stove šŸ˜‰ Cost Ā£2 and weighed (before prep) 243g's. Which aint too bad – more so considering it was a healthy nutritious meal šŸ™‚

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  5. Those Alpkit tents are going to sell like hot cakes!

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  6. terrybnd says:

    @blogpackinglight – What intrigued me was their 2 man, 1 kilo tent for release next year. That's their goal and it includes pegs (decent ones they say).

    But the materials used and thought behind it all was only a reflection of their other great products. Good on em!

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  7. The 1kg tent intrigues me as well, especially as it will be a 2 man tent. It will move the goal posts for a price/weight trade off.

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  8. Terry- For meals have a look at beanfeast. It's damned cheap and all you need to do add is some rice/pasta and you have an evening meal. I've yet to figure out how to soften the kidney beans however. The only downside is that they have a very limited range, chilli or bolognase…

    On the subject of the Alpkit backpacking tent, I'm putting off buying a new tent until this comes out. It's going to be very interesting to say the least.

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  9. terrybnd says:

    @blogpackinglight – Defo intriguing the 1 kilo tent for 2 persons. I asked if it was going to be single-skin or an all mesh inner tent. Both answers were 'no'. They got it in the works right now.

    @Charlie Penny – Thanks. I'll take a look into them. My attempt at a simple Thai 'curry' worked out OK. Very filling and tasty. Now, trying to work out a way to make a English breakfast with just one pot and a meths stove. Nearly there on that one! šŸ™‚

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  10. Mac E says:

    Hi Terry, regarding the Millets gear I agree that low cost kit isn't always poor quality. I've also happily used a Hike Lite tent and I feel it's important to show that you don't need to spend Ā£Ā£Ā£Ā£'s. Some of us are fortunate to be able to buy some top end kit but if the truth be told it's probably over specified for the conditions we usually find ourselves in (the extra insurance is nice of course and it does allow for outings in less favourable conditions) If however a bit of decent low cost kit allows someone to experience the outdoors or saves them having to run up a credit card bill then so much the better.

    Keep up the good work, Richard

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  11. Moonlight Shadow says:

    If you don't mind a big mix that does not necessarily look brilliant but taste rather good, just fry some bacon in the pan first, then add eggs, stir, then add beans. If you can keep it warm in a foil wrap, you can then toast a couple of slices of bread on the flame. Tried the other day at car camp and both Loz and I were happy with the result.

    Otherwise, have a look at ready made stir fry noddles, come in little bags, oiled up so easy cooking. Just pour on top a ready meal then stir.

    In fact I bought meself a mini-wok from GSI outdoors. Steel but quite light and looks the bizz for my cooking. I'm sure I can pack a pair of chopsticks too šŸ˜‰

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  12. terrybnd says:

    @Mac E – Thanks. I agree with your comment 100%. Hence, my agreement to try out samples and existing gear. You read my mind! šŸ˜‰

    @Moonlightshadow – I've looked at the noodles šŸ˜‰ However, you say bacon and such – well, I'm wanting to take/think food where care is not needed. ie, I don't have a fridge and can't keep raw bacon. Or containers for eggs. That kind of thing.

    Plus, I don't want to take any other cutlery etc. My challenge is to keep my MSR Titan Kettle and meths stove and work from that.No doubt some compromises may arise, but we'll see.

    Expect some emails from me Moonlightshadow concerning this subject! LOL I'm gonna give the English breakfast idea we drummed a go and see if it's worth it!

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  13. Moonlight Shadow says:

    Unless it's really warm, bacon in an airtight container will keep quite nicely. Have a look at those pancetta cubes small boxes (come in two) you find in every supermarket, just the right size, little bulk. Bacon was kept long before fridges arrived mate šŸ˜‰

    For the egg, wrap one in some foam and shove it in one of your boxes/containers. Never broke one (also what I do with my lantern which is not particularly robust either…)

    That said, you are severly limiting yourself if you only want to take one pot, unless you enjoy tea tasting of bacon, beans and eggs šŸ˜‰

    I've thrown the wildcamping rule book when it comes to cooking stuff, a great help has been the Orikaso stuff, taking an extra bowl and mug, no problem, just slide them in the bag and you barely notice them…

    Anyhow, about bloody time we meet up for a night out chap!!!

    Y

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  14. terrybnd says:

    LOL I know about bacon – those pancetta cubes are what I'm after now.It's a challenge I'm after. Lightweight(ish) tasty food that happens to be cheaper than the usual pap we pay for.

    My Thai meal was a good un.

    Next camp? If it's a weekend? 15th mate. Back in the Dark Peak for me now. Got to film round Roaches, Kinder, Bleaklow, Hope Valley, Upper Derwent Valley šŸ™‚

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  15. Peter Crawford says:

    Terry – I agree with Martin Rye that Peter Storm gear is perfectly good for the money. Be interested to see your reviews. I have a PS jacket that is still going strong after ten years and still use for low level walks (it is not very breathable and uphill slogs get a bit sweaty). It cost about Ā£30 ten years ago.

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  16. terrybnd says:

    Hi Peter,
    I still got Peter Storm gear from a few years ago, too. I hand them down to friends when taking em on wild camps in the summer months.

    I'll be interested to see how their gear has improved.

    Which reminds me – I still haven't emailed them back! LOL Best do that now…

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  17. Anonymous says:

    when is the solar comp review going up?

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  18. terrybnd says:

    Couple more weeks or so. Needs a couple more stormy nights and humid ones, too to suss it out for all possible eventualities.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    Looking forward to the solar comp review. Particularly the head height. No shops near me have this in stock, or the laser comp on display. The head height comparison between the two would be particularly interesting.

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  20. terrybnd says:

    Well, to get you started – if I sat on an Exped Synmat (which is 6cm thick) in a Laser Comp, my head would be brushing the inside of the inner tent. I'm 5'11″.

    Doing the same in the Solar Comp and there's a little more room above my head.

    There's lots to consider (pros and cons) between the two tents to be honest.

    May be worth considering a Solar Photon 2 – weighs under a kilo (with the titanium pegs) but is a 2 man tent and a strong tested design.

    I'm due to have that on test next….so, we'll see.

    I'll have a review up for the Solar Comp 1 in the next week or so. By then it will have had around 25-30 nights use in varying conditions.

    I really like it and perhaps a little more so than a Laser Comp namely due to it's strong design (for little more weight to be frank)

    Hope that helps.

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  21. Anonymous says:

    That's very interesting about the headroom. Thanks for that. The TN site lists it as 90 cm, same as an Akto, but your mat plus 5'11 torso makes it sound more like >95.
    The Solar Photon 2 is intriguing. I can't see it under Ā£366 online (Solar Comp 1 is Ā£240 from TN using the TN trade in) and its hydro head is 2k & 3k (fly & floor) rather than 3k & 5k for the Solar comp 1, but the space looks great!

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  22. terrybnd says:

    Your welcome. Thorough review online next week.

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