A couple of months ago, I wrote about some of the changes I have made to the major pieces of equipment I use when camping. Now it’s time to look at a few of the smaller items.
My MSR Pocket Rocket stove served me well for my first 5 TGO Challenges but disaster struck a few days from the coast in 2012. It was probably due to my own hamfistedness, but I cross-threaded the stove when screwing it onto the gas cannister and couldn’t get enough pressure to keep the stove lit. I have replaced it with a Coleman F1 Lite which, at less than half the price of a Pocket Rocket, seems like an excellent choice. At first I was concerned that it would be too fiddly to use in the real world of cold-fingered wild camping as the burner has to be screwed onto the stem of the stove. However, I’ve now mastered the technique for leaving everything screwed together and just untightening the burner enough to fold in the pan supports. It then fits nicely in the little protective bag which came with it. I don’t have much experience of other stoves but this is light, easy to use and makes cold things hot – so I’m very happy with it.
When camping I do like to at least try to keep clean and I have experimented with a couple of different types of liquid soap in various containers. In theory, liquid soap should be less messy than a bar; I can still remember picking grass, dead flies and sheep muck off the soggy bar of soap when we used to go camping as a family when I was a kid. In practice, though, I find that it always seems to find a way out of the sealed container in my pack so I always keep it in a plastic bag just in case.
At first I used Lifeventure All Purpose soap which is perfectly adequate for washing body, clothes, hair etc, although I find it does dry my hair out. I kept hearing about the wonders of Dr Bronner’s soap, so I tried that in 2012 and will be taking it on the Challenge again this year – not because of any cleansing powers, but because it lasts so long! The 50ml bottle in the middle of the photo shows how much I still had left at the end of last year’s Challenge; a little really does go a long way! I can’t remember if I have used the Dr Bronner’s on my hair or not but I decided in 2012 that the luxury of a little bottle of shampoo would be well worth a little extra weight.
The bottle at the left of the photo has a press-to-open lid which leaked like a very leaky thing with a leak. I had taken two of these bottles; one with sun-cream and one with All Purpose Soap. By the end of Day 1 I had learned the value of freezer bags – but at least none of my kit got sunburn that year.
I am a Radio 4 addict and could not last 24 hours, let alone a full coast-to-coast walk, without at least the Six O’Clock News or the World Tonight. I have had an excellent pocket radio, with speaker, for years and this comes on every camping trip with me. It has FM (which uses the earphones as an aerial) and MW and can usually pick up something if I slowly and patiently go up and down the dial. As good as this radio is, there are times in the hills when FM just can’t get through so this year I am taking my latest purchase: the Roberts Sports R994. It has FM, MW and Long Wave and, unlike many other pocket LW radios, a loudspeaker as well as an earphone socket. I have not used this whilst camping yet but it seems like a cracking little wireless and I am looking forward to my daily fix of R4 regardless of how many hills are between me and the transmitter.
The 2012 TGO Challenge was my hardest yet. It rained A LOT; it was cold and windy; my stove broke and, worst of all, my Rohan trousers finally gave up the ghost. I had worn those Rohan Goa Double Convertibles for my previous 5 crossings and thought they were great. On a warm sunny day [What’s that? – Ed] I could zip off the legs and make shorts. When plodding through bog, or when walking in particularly hot sun when sunburn was a risk, I would just zip off the lowest part of the legs which I found very comfortable. However, Rohan no longer make this style of trousers so I’m having to try something different. I’ve opted for Trailblazers (at Sale price, don’t worry!) and I hope they’re going to be OK. They’re not as baggy as the Goas but they are very stretchy so they should be comfortable enough. I wore them on the Lauder Bimble and they were fine, especially when rolled up to the knee and worn as shorts. (Yes, I am expecting to be laughed at).
I’ve made one slight modification to my Terra Nova Laser Competition tent since my last gear post. Something that I have always missed, when comparing this tent to my Hilleberg Akto, is hanging loops. Yes, it might seem very trivial but there is nowhere to air socks or hang my FM aerial. I have finally got round to fixing this with a very simple solution. I have sewn a few loops of 1.5mm Dyneema into the seams of my inner tent. It doesn’t look particularly stylish but it should do the job nicely.
That’s enough blogging about gear for now. With only 7 more sleeps until I set off for Ardrishaig, it’s time I started packing my rucksack.