Monthly Archives: June 2020

Euroschirm Swing Liteflex trekking umbrella on Saxon Shore Way

Gear chat: EuroSchirm Swing Liteflex umbrella

I never thought the day would come when I would include an umbrella with a lightweight hiking set-up. But it has. For the past few day hikes, enjoying some of the best summer days the UK has experienced in some time, Three Points of the Compass has been tucking a Swing Liteflex umbrella from EuroSchirm into the side pocket of an Osprey Manta 28.

Umbrella is still large even while stowed

Non collapsible umbrella is still large even while stowed

Umbrellas do not form part of traditional British hiking. They have been used by thousands of long distance hikers in the US for years, especially when passing through hundreds of miles of desert sections on longer trails, but in our less UV intense, wetter and windier climes, there are very few hikers using such an item on UK trails.

Furled umbrella, kept closed with velcro fastening

Furled umbrella, kept closed with velcro fastening

An umbrella is obviously of use when it rains. I have commuted to London for decades for work and hate with a passion the use of umbrellas on crowded streets. I have been poked in the ear and eye, walked into, jabbed, bashed and scraped by hundreds of unwary, uncaring and selfish umbrella brandishing folk. If not literally scarred, I am mentally scarred for life. You will never see me using an umbrella in a city. Even as a glasses wearer, where rain is the bane of our life, I simply put on a brimmed hat, sometimes combined with the raised hood of a waterproof. Perhaps that is one reason why I have resisted carrying an umbrella for so many years while hiking. However I attempt to be open minded, there are obvious benefits to an umbrella. The question is do the benefits from an umbrella on trail outweigh the increase in weight and bulk when carrying such a piece of kit?

Width while walking has to be considered

Width while walking has to be considered

EuroSchirm is a family business based in Germany, Eberhard Göbel have been making specialist umbrellas since 1919 and Three Points of the Compass has been considering purchasing one of their trekking umbrellas for a number of years. It was only while browsing their website toward the end of 2019 that I noticed their move toward the cheaper, possibly more rubbish, end of the market that I began to wonder how long they would bother to continue to offer what is quite a niche and relatively expensive product. So I bought one. Then put it on a shelf and ignored it for another half a year.

'Socially distancing' on station platform, waiting for a train to take me to the beginning of the days hike

‘Socially distancing’ on station platform in 2020, waiting for a train to take me to the beginning of the days hike. Umbrella sits with single trekking pole in pack side pocket while en route

In this strange, dangerous and odd year, my hiking plans have gone awry. About the best I am managing are day walks. Living in the South East corner of England, I have no grand mountains to scale, sweeping airy ridges to stride along, few decent cliff paths to speak of. I have walked most of the longer named trails in my corner of the country- North Downs Way, South Downs Way, Wealdway, London Countryway, London LOOP, I am steadily working through the Greensand Way with Mrs Three Points of the Compass, so it was time for me to finally complete the Saxon Shore Way as a series of day hikes. This is something that I can tackle mostly by utilising trains to return to each days start point.

1m wide with a silver coating

Umbrella is one metre wide with a silver reflective coating

This long distance path is 163 miles (262km) and commenced in Gravesend, Kent, then follows the coast of South East England as it was in Roman times, following the line of Roman and later fortification, ending at Hastings in East Sussex. Walking through a grand summer, I felt this may be an ideal opportunity to carry this umbrella with me to try it out with intense UV. If it is a wet winter, I’ll be giving this umbrella another crack to see how I get on with it while hiking in constant rain.

Umbrella has a black interior surface

Umbrella has eight ribs and a black interior surface

The  Euroschirm range includes trekking, golf and city umbrellas. The trekking collection includes fixed length and collapsible umbrellas in a wide range of colours. I purchased the Swing Liteflex. This a fixed length umbrella that cannot collapse. While this means that it has a length that constantly has to be contended with, there is less to go wrong and break, and less moving parts so less weight. There are no metal parts to this umbrella at all. There are no clips to the opening/closing mechanism, it simply slides and locks into place under tension. The umbrella has a fibreglass shaft and ribs. Covering the ribs is a Teflon coated polyester canopy. It has a short, dense EVA foam handle with a short adjustable wrist loop. My canopy is a silver metallic outer that reflects sunlight, with a dark interior. This has a UV protection of UPF 50+. The classic hiking umbrella for many years in US circles was the Golite ‘Chrome Dome’. More recently, other US companies also advertise their own variants. Almost all of these are actually the umbrella that I have purchased, made by Euroschirm, and simply re-branded with their company logo. There are eight ribs on my model, this gives greater strength over the six ribbed models also available.

The weight of an umbrella is an obvious downside, even with a model such as this that excludes excess fittings wherever possible. My Swing Liteflex tips the scales at 241g (8.5oz), EuroSchirm advertise it as weighing 207g, it does not. Weight is excluding the carry case that I immediately dumped. The other hassle with this umbrella is its length. I realised this prior to purchasing it but I prefer the lack of things to go wrong over any advantage from a collapsible model. It is 635mm long and you can see in a couple of images here how it looks when stowed on my day pack. There are collapsible trekking versions available from EuroSchirm that close to a length of 275mm but, as said, these probably introduce points of failure to the product. I may yet buy one of those too as they will probably travel better overseas.

When in use, it is a doddle to hike with hands free. I have my sternum strap done up over the shaft, the wrist loop is passed through my packs hip belt before that is fastened, then it simply rests on my pack and back of my head. It can be carried over one shoulder or the other depending on sun aspect, or in the case of wind and rain, from what direction that is coming.

Orientate according to where shade is required

Orientate according to where shade is required

The umbrella is a metre wide and provides total shade to head, shoulders and top of upper body. I haven’t carried a thermometer with me to accurately measure, but on a recent day hike, on an exposed section of seawall, the sun in a cloudless sky and measuring 32°C (89.60 °F), I would guess it was between five and ten degrees cooler beneath the umbrella.

Swinglite Flex

The umbrella simply sits across back of head and top of pack

This umbrella would have been absolutely fantastic on some hikes I have done on exposed Mediterranean islands. I have sweltered along relying on my faithful Tilley LTM5 AIRFLO hat to keep shaded. I will definitely be taking this or a similar umbrella when I next return to those hot and exposed islands.

View from rear

View from rear

I haven’t carried an umbrella with me while hiking since I packed along a small folding city type ‘brolly’ when hiking the bald Bavarian hills over a couple of summers in the 1980s. After almost forty years it feels strange to return to one. The upside is that I can walk hands free with no bouncing or discomfort from such a piece of kit. Downsides already noted is the width and extra height. This set-up is in no way suited to paths with overhanging branches, nor on narrow tracks with brambles and thorns. I shall persevere, for now.

Sheep look for shade on a hot day. I carried mine with me

Sheep look for shade on a hot day. I carried mine with me

 

Victorinox 84mm Waiter

Knife chat: 84mm Victorinox Waiter and derivatives- the Bantam and Walker

Small in the pocket, a basic set of handy tools, well made, cheap, what’s not to like? If you have ever felt overburdened by an excess of tools on your standard Vic tool, the simple little 84mm long Victorinox Waiter, or two of its derivatives, the Bantam or Walker, may be all that you require. Perhaps it is time to agree that less is more…

84mm Victorinox Waiter, Bantam and Walker

84mm Victorinox Waiter, Bantam and Walker

The range of 84mm ‘Small Officer’ knives from Swiss manufacturer Victorinox are amongst what are termed their ‘medium pocket knives’. The 84mm range is not large, especially the single layer knives, which includes the Waiter. The great majority of 84mm models released over the years have been discontinued and, sadly, the 84mm scissors are no more. For much of our everyday purposes all that we require is a very small and simple choice of tools, hence the continued popularity of the smaller 58mm Classic from Victorinox, with it’s ‘holy trinity’ of blade, scissors and nail file.

Back of blade tang stamps on Waiter and earlier Ecoline Waiter

Back of blade tang stamps on earlier Ecoline Waiter (left) and Waiter

84mm Victorinox Waiter:

The single-layer Waiter, though larger than the 58mm Classic, doesn’t include scissors, nor nailfile. It appears that the machine that manufactured the scissors for Victorinox 84mm tools broke, rather than repair it, subsequent models simply excluded scissors. This means that scissors on an 84mm Victorinox are now long gone, much desired and sought after by collectors.

What the 84mm range of knives does retain though, is a reasonably sized small blade in a knife that sits comfortably in the hand. The 84mm sized frame is about the smallest offered by Victorinox that actually nestles well into all but the largest of mitts. Too large for a keyring, they fit the pocket well.

Blades are v-ground, drop point stainless steel that comes pretty sharp out of the box, these blades are easily sharpened. Blade is non-locking so compliant with current UK knife law. The 63mm blade has some 53mm of cutting edge and is 2.08mm thick across the spine.

Victorinox Waiter with two of its main tools opened

Victorinox Waiter with two of its main tools opened. Model no. 0.3303

The other main tool included on the Waiter is the Combo tool. This combines bottle opener/cap lifter, tin/can opener, 4mm flat screwdriver and wire bender/stripper. The latter being a tool that I have never had to put to use. When introduced by Victorinox in the 1980s, the combination tool replaced two tools that used to provide the functions separately and despite being slightly thinner than its two predecessors, it is perfectly capable. The combo tool also has a half stop to allow the flat screwdriver tip to be used at a ninety degree angle with greater torque. Or alternatively, as a light duty scraper or pry bar.

The 84mm Victorinox Waiter has a number of handy functions- a small flat Victorinox screwdriver can be stored on the corkscrew, a steel pin or needle stored behind the corkscrew (half removed here), and scales contain useful tweezers and a large toothpick

The 84mm Victorinox Waiter has a number of handy tools- a small flat Victorinox screwdriver can be stored on the corkscrew, a steel pin or needle can be inserted behind the corkscrew (half removed here), and scales contain useful tweezers and a large toothpick

On the backside of the 34.8g Waiter is a corkscrew, which is hardly surprising considering its name. These days, with greater movement toward screw-top wine bottles there is a decreasing need for such a tool. However, while it is also possible to drill a hole in a leather belt, or loosen a knot in cordage with this tool, Three Points of the Compass finds the corkscrew most useful as the ideal home for one of the micro flat tip screwdrivers that Victorinox make, these are easily purchased online as an add-on. Handily, there is also a small hole in the cellidor scale, hidden behind the corkscrew, in which a straight stainless steel pin can be secreted. Ideal for fishing out splinters and the like. Alternatively, a needle could be stored in the hole instead.

Standard shiny cellidor scales compared with the matt nylon Ecoline scales (below)

Standard shiny cellidor scales compared with the matt nylon Ecoline scales (below)

A variant of the standard Waiter that may occasionally be seen is the economy version that Victorinox produced. This 34.5g Ecoline tool, model no. 2.3303, has red nylon scales and also comes with slots for toothpick and tweezers. While very different in look and feel to the more normally found smooth red plastic cellidor scales, the slightly textured grip to the handles makes it easy to hold and just slightly less slippery. 

84mm Ecoline Waiter (model 2.3303) has economy nylon scales compared to the Cellidor scales on the standard model

84mm Ecoline Waiter (model 2.3303) has economy nylon scales compared to the Cellidor scales on the standard model

Mini Victorinox screwdriver is handy for specs wearers and can be wound onto the Waiter's corkscrew for storage

Mini Victorinox screwdriver is handy for specs wearers and can be wound onto the Waiter’s corkscrew for storage

Alternatively, the Victorinox Bantam could also be considered as the best of the 84mm range for general carry. That little knife does away with the corkscrew and simply sports the remaining tools. However, why not have the option of corkscrew, particularity if it can carry the useful little micro-screwdriver?

I wear glasses so appreciate having a small screwdriver, though you might not require this bonus. The addition of a corkscrew on the Waiter does mean a minuscule 2g weight penalty over the lighter 32.8g Bantam. The extra anchor point for the corkscrew on the Waiter also adds a little more stability and durability to the whole tool. 

Victorinox 84mm Waiter with Bantam behind, the Bantam carries exactly the same toolset as the Waiter less the Corkscrew

Victorinox 84mm Waiter with Bantam behind, the Bantam carries exactly the same toolset as the Waiter minus the Corkscrew

The cheap ‘n’ cheerful Waiter is easily available today and comes as standard with the classic red plastic cellidor scales. These also house the scale tools- a handy set of tweezers and less useful toothpick. I appreciate that toothpicks may have their fans but I shudder to think of the bacteria that can lurk within the scale and I for one am not putting a toothpick that has been residing there anywhere near my mouth. As usual, it is shame this scale wasn’t utilised for a more useful pen or LED light. The almost useless toothpick is longer than that found in Victorinox’s smaller knives however the 45mm long tweezers are exactly the same as those found in the 58mm Classic range of Victorinox knives, other than the grey plastic tip of the tweezers having a slight chamfer due to the slot being situated in the curve of the end of the scale. All three of the knife models shown here have the same keyring, this is a 12mm diameter split ring on a small protruding lug that does not fold away.

Victorinox 84mm Waiter features:

  • Weight: 34.8g
  • Length: 84mm, width: 26.40mm (at widest point), thickness: 11.2mm
  • Blade
  • Combo tool
  • Corkscrew
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Straight pin
  • Keyring
  • Optional– Mini flat screwdriver 
Open 84mm Victorinox Bantam with closed 84mm Victorinox Waiter

Open 84mm Victorinox Bantam with closed 84mm Victorinox Waiter

84mm Victorinox Bantam:

The single-layer Bantam has the same large main blade as found on the Waiter and a combo tool that opens out at the keyring end of the knife. Plastic cellidor scales hold the usual tweezers and toothpick. Only having one layer, this is another quite thin knife that carries comfortably in the pocket.

84mm Victorinox Bantam, with all tools opened. Model no. 0.2303

84mm Victorinox Bantam, with all tools opened. Model no. 0.2303

The combo tool is the same as that found on the Waiter and the one found on the Bantam also has a half stop to allow it to be used with greater torque in the half open position. 

Both 84mm Bantam and Walker have two rivets holding the frame and tools together, one less than the Waiter but there does not appear to be any increase in the sideways flexibility of any tools as a result.

Victorinox 84mm Bantam features:

  • Weight: 32.8g
  • Length: 84mm, width: 23mm (at widest point), thickness: 11.05mm
  • Blade
  • Combo tool
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring
Victorinox Bantam. A simple set of tools in a thin traditional frame that is comfortable in the hand

Victorinox Bantam with both blade and combo tool opened out. A simple set of tools in a thin traditional frame that is comfortable in the hand

84mm Victorinox Walker:

The Victorinox Walker adds a layer, making it a slightly thicker tool than both Waiter and Walker. I find this extra thickness noticeable, preferring the slim profile of the single layer tools. However the extra thickness of the two-layer Walker does mean this tool sits more comfortably in the hand when using the extra tool provided. Again, even with two layers, this is not an intrusive knife when carried. It is the three and four layer knives that really start to show, both with bulk and weight.

84mm Victorinox Walker, with all tools opened. Model no. 0.2313

84mm Victorinox Walker, with all tools opened. Combo tool on half-stop. Model no. 0.2313

The blade, combo tool, toothpick, tweezers and keyring are exactly as those on the Waiter and Bantam. Again, there is half-stop position on the combo-tool which while allowing it to be used with greater torque in that position is usually of less use as a screwdriver is better situated for use at the end of a tool, in the fully open position.

The saw on the Victorinox Walker, though quite small, is wickedly sharp

The saw on the Victorinox Walker, though quite small, is wickedly sharp

The saw on the Victorinox Walker will easily saw through dry wood as thick as a child's arm

The saw on the Victorinox Walker will easily saw through dry wood as thick as a child’s arm

Obviously the major difference with the walker is the inclusion of a saw. This is non-locking though has a good snap that ensures it stays open, but, with back pressure it will over ride the strong spring and can close on the unwary.

The saw on the Victorinox Walker is 69mm with a saw cutting length of 59mm. Teeth are sharp, retain their sharpness well and cut on both forward and backward strokes. Teeth are 1.85mm thick and the spine of the saw 1.10mm which helps prevent it jamming while cutting. When sharp, it saws with ease but is limited by its shorter length. The 90 degree back edge of the spine will allow a ferro rod to be struck. There are no other tools on the Walker.

84mm Victorinox Walker with all tools open, with closed 84mm Victorinox Bantam

84mm Victorinox Walker with all tools open, with closed 84mm Victorinox Bantam

Victorinox 84mm Walker features:

  • Weight: 45.9g
  • Length: 84mm, width: 23mm (at widest point), thickness: 14mm
  • Blade
  • Combo tool
  • Woodsaw
  • Toothpick
  • Tweezers
  • Keyring
Viewing the backs of the tools, the greater thickness of the Walker with its extra layer is apparent

Viewing the backs of the tools, the greater thickness of the Walker with its extra layer is apparent, despite the inclusion of a corkscrew on the thinner Waiter

These three knives are all great tools. But to return to the Waiter. It is a lovely 84mm option from Victorinox. Don’t get hung up on the name. It will open a bottle of wine, but the remainder of the small set of tools are perfectly capable of dealing with the majority of tasks encountered daily, or what a hiker would require on trail. There is also a 91mm Waiter Plus, that beside being larger, adds a pen to the scale tools, however that is getting into the larger knives that Three Points of the Compass feels are a little large for using while hiking if weight and bulk is a primary consideration. I don’t carry a Waiter on trail, preferring some other great options out there, but I have EDC’d a Waiter on many an occasion as these quite discreet single-layer knives slip into a pocket and are in no way bulky. 

It is not often that I find myself requiring a saw while on trail. Even on the few times when I am using a wood stove, I usually find relying on dry twigs no more than finger thickness means that a saw isn’t required. If I was using a wood stove more frequently, or was more of a bushcrafter, then I may feel differently. The simpler Bantam, with no back tools, is a fantastic knife and this blog shall return to the even thinner alox version in the future. Of the three however, Three Points of the Compass feels that the Waiter provides the best selection of tools with nothing superfluous.

Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands but the 84mm Waiter is comfortable to hold

Three Points of the Compass has quite large hands but the 84mm Victorinox Waiter is comfortable to hold

If the Waiter is used while multi-day hiking an additional small pair of scissors would be useful. For additional scissors, those from the Victorinox Swiss Card , perhaps carried in a First Aid Kit, would suffice. The Victorinox Waiter is easily found, an additional bonus is how cheap it is and it can frequently be found at a reduced price too. Snap one up when you see it.

Waiter tang stamp

Waiter tang stamp

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

Top to bottom- 84mm Victorinox Waiter, Bantam, Walker

Top to bottom- 84mm Victorinox Waiter, Bantam, Walker

Bux Measure

Map measurer of the month- The BUX map measure

The plastic Bux map measure frequently comes up for sale on the second hand market. This is a little surprising as it is amongst the simplest of map measurers ever manufactured. Often described as being made of bakelite, it is probably more likely to be catalin.

Bux measure works most easily with a 1″ to 1 mile map

Cheaply made, probably in the 1960s, the Bux measure was made in England and attempted to rival the far more expensive, more robust and certainly more accurate metal cased opisometers available from France, Switzerland and Germany.

Almost nothing seems to survive today that explains the origins of this little measure yet they were likely produced in their tens of thousands.

Each measure came in a small flapped paper envelope. This is printed with the simple to understand instructions on how to use.

Despite this type of measure having been used for many purposes- namely, with any undulating line that required measuring, the instructions that come with the measure only indicate use with maps.

THE BUX

MAP MEASURE

The measure is marked for scale 1″
to 1 mile. For 1/2″ to 1 mile simply
multiply the reading by 2; for 4
miles to 1″ multiply by 4 etc.
Before commencing a reading it is essential to 
see that the dial is at zero then to wheel the 
instrument lightly but firmly along the route
in the direction indicated by the arrow on
the case.

 

Bux map measurer in the envelope in which it was supplied

Bux map measurer in the envelope in which it was supplied

The Bux measure is very simple in construction. The small measure is moved by hand along a line on a map, pressing firmly onto the map when moving rotates the small metal wheel at the base. This has a fine toothed brass cog attached at its spindle, this in turn rotates another brass gear that engages with the plastic dial that rotates through the small window in the front. The gearing moves the dial through one fifth of a mile increments per inch of travel along a line on a map. Be it mapped path, bridleway, river or road.

Red and black numbering and incremental markings on Bux dials

Red and black numbering and incremental markings on Bux dials

A change was made in the colour of the plastic measuring dial at some point during its production. Numbering and increments on the dial changed from red to black, or vice versa. The dial is marked in five mile increments, so one full turn of the dial represents 50 miles of travel on a one inch scale map. Accuracy of measurement is pretty good.

So why is the measure called the ‘Bux’. Nothing seems to survive in print today to explain this. I can only hazard a guess, aided by the text that appears on the face of one of the examples that I have. This says ‘BUCK ENGLAND’. Buck almost certainly refers to the English County- Buckinghamshire. This Home County borders Greater London and was likely where the manufacturing was carried out. The word ‘Buckinghamshire’ is normally shortened to ‘Bucks’, and pronounced ‘Bux’.

The lighter plastic cased measure weighs 7.5g. The darker bodies, with a slightly different casting, weigh 8.2g. Three Points of the Compass has identified four generations of this little measure. These have one of the following:

Front of case Rear of case
text text
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. large text, around case, no case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. small text, in case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUX

  blank case recess
1″ = 1 ML

BUCK

ENGLAND

MADE IN ENGLAND PAT. PEND. large text, around case, no case recess

The rear of four generations of case castings

The front face of four generations of case castings

The rear of four generations of case casting

The rear of four generations of case casting

These little measures do not stand up there with the finest of scientific measuring instruments produced in the UK. They are a poor replacement for the finely made precision measurers made some fifty years prior. What they have done is bring such measures within reach of the pocket of just about anyone. They must have cost just pennies when new. Yet all four examples that are shown here still work, probably fifty to sixty years after manufacture.

Tenerife: Nov - Dec 2018 Gofio on the supermarket shelves

Trail food: Gofio

Visit many restaurants on the Canary Islands and you will find a small dish or bowl of pale finely ground flour in the centre. This is gofio, roasted and milled, made from wheat or varieties of maize. Just occasionally it is made from other plants such as barley or even beans. Gofio is a good quality carbohydrate, and quite high in protein and fibre. It is low in fat and sugar and high in minerals.

Gofio can be purchased in handy 25g individual servings, perfect for a breakfast dish

Gofio can be purchased in handy 25g individual servings, perfect for a breakfast dish

The word Gofio was used by the original inhabitants of Gran Canaria for roasted and ground barley and the original natives of Tenerife, the Guanches, called this ahoren, where it became a staple food. Eventually gofio became standard across the archipelago for a flour made with any cereal or legume. That found on Tenerife is most usually derived from wheat with a little added salt. Fuerteventura favours ground chickpeas. All of them are a great source of carbohydrate.

Gofio in centre of restaurant table. Bodega Monje, Tenerife

Gofio in centre of restaurant table. Bodega Monje, Tenerife. A spoonful can be added to many meals, particularly to thicken more liquid dishes

Gofio is wholemeal, all parts of the cereal are utilised. Roasting prior to milling is common to all gofio, which has the benefit of killing mould and parasites, increasing shelf life and purportedly improving flavour. This process also has the welcome effect of making the flour easily digestible, suiting those with delicate digestive systems, the elderly, children and fortuitously, hikers!

So, if looking for suitable hiking foods while traversing the Canary Islands, perhaps on the GR131 long distance trail, keep gofio in mind. It has satiating powers meaning that hunger does not appear for some time due to its slow absorption, so is also suited for diabetics. It is not an unpleasant taste but Three Points of the Compass finds its distinctive smell the most noticeable characteristic.

Most supermarkets on the larger Canary Islands will have shelves groaning beneath a wide range of Gofio. Tenerife, 2018

Most supermarkets on the larger Canary Islands will have shelves groaning beneath a wide range of Gofio. Some will be milled from pure maize or wheat, others will be mixes of ground ingredients that could include barley, rye chickpeas or even beans. Photographed Tenerife, 2018

A simple breakfast- gofio with milk and honey

Breakfast of gofio with milk and honey

Gofio is not a dish in itself, it is more usually an ingredient to be added to other dishes. Gofio can be sprinkled on a breakfast cereal or simply mixed with milk. Tins or tubes of condensed milk make a handy and tasty addition too.

Gofio can be added to fish and meat stews to thicken these. Adding thick fish stock (or occasionally meat stock) to gofio results in the dish Escaldón, found as a starter in some restaurants. Probably the best approximation of this that could be achieved on trail would be using a fish stock cube or fish stock pot, which would likely see a native canarian throw their arms up in horror. Three Points of the Compass does like to finish a days hiking with an Oxo cube in boiled water prior to an evening meal, not a particularly healthy option unless carrying out strenuous activity as these beef stock cubes are pretty high in sodium. But on trail I find this both refreshing and rehydrating while replacing some lost salts, it was time to see what resulted from adding gofio to the mix…

25g of Gofio will mix to a smooth paste with a little cold water easily. Topped up with boiling water and with an added Oxo, this makes a satisfying light liquid drink on trail during a days hike or to add lost salts at the end of the day

25g of Gofio will mix to a smooth paste with a little cold water easily. Topped up with boiling water and with an added Oxo, this makes a satisfying light liquid drink on trail during a days hike or to add lost salts at the end of the day

Condensed milk, in various containers, is usually found on supermarket shelves beside packs of gofio. Gran Canaria

Condensed milk, in various containers, is usually found on supermarket shelves beside packs of gofio. Gran Canaria

Gofio is, or was, almost a staple for many Canary Island children- a bowl of gofio mixed with milk being consumed before school. Many older inhabitants will share fond memories of growing up with it and it remains a favourite. It would make a good alternative to porridge/oatmeal if backpacking in the Canaries. Or seek out Gofio de Avena which is made from milled roasted oats so not far removed from porridge itself. Milk powder or a tube of condensed milk could easily be packed along, and the dish supplemented with nuts or dried fruits.

Simple breakfast dish of gofio, milk and figs

Simple breakfast dish of gofio, milk and figs

Gofio on in Gran Canaria supermarket, stacked beside sugars and condensed milk

Gofio in Gran Canaria supermarket, stacked beside sugars and condensed milk. The two are a popular mixture in nearby western Sahara due to the Spanish influence there.

Gofio de Millo (roasted maize/corn) provides around 387Kcal, 8.6g protein and 73g carbohydrate per 100g. Gofio de Trigo (roasted wheat) provides some 371Kcal, 10.8g protein and 81.6g carbohydrate per 100g. Gofio de Avena (roasted oats) provides 400kcal, 13.1g protein and 70.6g carbohydrate per 100g.

Gofio de Millo is made from ground and roasted corn (actually maize) while Gofio de Trigo is roasted wheat

Gofio de Millo is made from ground and roasted corn (actually maize) while Gofio de Trigo is roasted wheat

Gofio can be easily found in almost all Canary Island supermarkets in bags of various sizes. The 25g individual serving size are convenient as a single breakfast. Condensed milk is usually found on adjacent shelves. While a little difficult to find away from the Canaries, should you come across gofio, do try it.

An easily found foodstuff if hiking on the Canary Islands. Gofio, in its many guises and sizes, can easily be packed along with milk powder or a tube of condensed milk

An easily found foodstuff if hiking on the Canary Islands. Gofio, in its many guises and sizes, can easily be packed along with milk powder or a tube of condensed milk

Gerber Vice and Splice, two affordable keychain multi-tools

Knife chat: Gerber Vice and Splice, two affordable keychain multi-tools

Many hikers will simply rely on a small Swiss Army type knife while on trail. Not a lot is actually required of such a tool. Open the odd package, trim cord and thread, help with food preparation, perhaps help with first aid on occasion. That is about it for 99% of the time. However I have almost always preferred just a little more functionality. I have had to adjust stoves, fix trekking poles, bend and re-attach zips, tighten screws on glasses and so on…

Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice sizes compared with Leatherman Squirt S4

Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice sizes compared with Leatherman Squirt S4

A good, well made, small key-chain type multi-tool does not weigh a great deal. On longer hikes Three Points of the Compass tends to rely on a now pretty old but trusted 52g Leatherman Squirt S4. This small multi-tool is no longer made and has been replaced by others in the Leatherman line-up. Other manufacturers have also been quick to introduce their own key-chain sized multi-tools. Much cheaper than the Leatherman options are those by Gerber Legendary Blades. This company was established in 1939 and introduced their first multi-tool in 1991. Acquired by the the Finnish Fiskars Corporation in 1986 much of the manufacture transferred to China, prices became extremely competitive as a result, but quality suffered.

“Designed and engineered in Oregon… made in China”

Two little Gerber multi-tools in particular may suit some hikers unwilling to splash too much cash but still want certain functions out of a tool they are carrying. These are the Gerber Vice and Gerber Splice. Both are built on a similar frame with anodized aluminum handles. The two tools look simple and have understated styling. Each tool puts a specific function front and centre. A small pair of pliers backed up by other tools in the case of the Vice, and an effective pair of scissors, with the same accompanying secondary tools, on the Splice. Released in 2009, these two tools replaced the slightly larger Gerber Clutch (with pliers) and Shortcut (with scissors) introduced in 2005.

Gerber Vice

Gerber Vice

Main jaw tools:

Gerber Vice tools

Gerber Vice tools

The Vice is centred around a small pair of plier jaws. These comprise not particularly thin needle nose  pliers, standard pliers and wire cutters. Only the tips of the needle nose meet, there is a small gap to the rest of the pliers when closed. They are two millimetres wide at the tip, widening to three millimetres prior to the wire cutter. These pliers are a general purpose tool that performs pretty well with gentle work. It will ease tent zipper pulls and pull thorns from flesh. Put any great strain on these and they will fail.

Gerber Splice

Gerber Splice

Gerber Splice tools

Gerber Splice tools

The similar looking Splice is based around a pair of scissors. Though small, these are good and comfortable to use. The effectiveness of these shouldn’t be a surprise as Fiskars, the parent company, have a long standing reputation for well made scissors. The plain blade, not serrated, scissors are smaller than their Shortcut forerunner, blade cutting length is 23mm. In common with the plier version, the scissor jaws on the Spice are spring-tensioned by a small spring hidden out of sight around the pivot. If this loses tension (springiness) or breaks it cannot be replaced by the user.

Gerber Vice is centred around a pair of pliers, the Gerber Splice has a pair of scissors as its main tool. The two keychain share exactly  the same complimentary secondary tools

Gerber Vice is centred around a pair of pliers, the Gerber Splice has a pair of scissors as its main tool. The two keychain share exactly the same complimentary secondary tools

Other features:

Both the Vice and Splice share the same complimentary tools and both tools suffer from having tight implements that are difficult to open. A particular aspect of these tools meets with my approval- that they can be opened from the outside of the tool without needing to unfold it. This makes it so much easier to use but does mean that they are more prone to picking up debris and fluff if pocket carried. Though that is unlikely to be the case if taking one of these on trail. The stainless steel tools are-

  • Blade
    • Non locking. Usable cutting length is less than 35mm
  • Serrated Edge blade
    • This non locking serrated blade is chisel cut, 35 mm long and is sharp out of the box. It will cut cordage with ease.
  • Small flat head screwdriver
    • This has a fine 2mm tip and will handle many small screws, however I find its short 15mm length, protruding from a wide body, prevents it being used in smaller spaces, such as when glasses screws are set tight against a frame. It can also be used as a awl, but tears more than cuts.
  • Medium flat head screwdriver
    • This forms one half of the bottle opener, though short, this 4mm tip works adequately well
  • Flat Phillips head screwdriver
    • Will work a small range of Phillips heads but seats uncomfortably with most. This will tear out if put under too much pressure
  • File
    • Found on the shank of the flat Phillips screwdriver, this is single cut on one side and cross cut on the other. Referred to as coarse and fine files, there is not a great deal of a surface to either. I cannot even file my nails on these. Each file surface is just 6mm x 18mm and is pretty much useless.
  • Bottle opener
    • This is one of the best bottle openers you will find on any small to medium sized multi-tool bar the Gerber Dime, let down by the fact that you will break a nail trying to open it. But anyone familiar with the technique can use the end of just about any closed multi-tool to lever off a cap, it is just knowing how to do it.
  • Lanyard hole
    • Remove the small 9mm diameter split ring and the lanyard hole will retract into the tool.
Excellent bottle opener but difficult to open

Excellent bottle opener but difficult to open

Rubbish and small files are included on both multi-tools

Rubbish and small files are included on both multi-tools

 

 

 

 

 

Both multi-tools have hollow ground blades that make for easier sharpening. Gerber has probably used 420HC (High Carbon) stainless steel for these blades. The tools are assembled using torx bolts rather than rivets (as with Leatherman tools) so disassembly is a possibility, though that would be difficult in the field.

Plain and serrated blades are found on both the Vice and Splice

Plain and serrated blades are found on both the Vice and Splice

Tools:

Small screwdriver is poorly finished and suffers from rounded corners

Small screwdriver is poorly finished and suffers from rounded corners

  • Mini-pliers
  • Flat Screwdriver – medium
  • Flat Screwdriver – small
  • Phillips Cross-point Screwdriver
  • File (coarse & fine)
  • Bottle Opener
  • Fine blade Blade
  • Fully Serrated Blade
  • Key-ring with retractable lanyard ring
Serrated blade and bottle opener are indicated visually on both tools

Serrated blade and bottle opener are indicated visually on both tools

Dimensions:

  • Vice- 68g, Splice- 66.2g
  • Both- length: 58mm, width: 26mm (one inch!), thick 13.30mm
There is a little variety of nail nicks found on both blades on both Vice and Splice, some have small nail nicks while others have an easier to use larger nick

There is a little variety of nail nicks found on both blades on both Vice and Splice, some have small nail nicks while others have an easier to use larger nick

The finish on these tools isn’t great. The black anodising is a tad rough in places, but I quite like their simple, almost agricultural, appearance. Each tool is compact with no parts extruding when closed other than the medium screwdriver being a little proud..

Gerber Vice in the hand

Gerber Vice in the hand

In conclusion:

Both of these tools offer good value for money. Both Vice and Splice share common faults however. The external opening tools are all incredibly stiff and hard to open. Sadly, some of the tools are hopeless, the files are useless and the Phillips barely capable. Do you need a serrated blade on trail? That is debatable though it could be useful to have a back up blade for specific tasks such as food prep. The short little straight blades are perfectly adequate for most minor tasks but the lanyard ring does get in the way and can get food gunk in it easily. All tools close with a good snap and there is no overall looseness or floppiness to the tools. For me, the usefulness of a pair of pliers on trail is over-ruled by how helpful having a pair of scissors can be. And those on the Splice are very good scissors. 

Gerber Splice in the hand

Gerber Splice in the hand

There is another key-chain tool from Gerber that may rival both the Vice and Splice on trail, this is the Gerber Dime. Three Points of the Compass will take a look at that particular tool in a separate blog. Though it may be worth noting here that, perhaps a little surprising, the Splice actually comes in a hair lighter than the smaller, if chunkier, Gerber Dime. 

Three Points of the Compass has looked at quite a few knives and multi-tools that may, or may not, be suitable for backpacking, day treks or Every Day Carry. Links to these can be found here.

Plier jaws on Gerber Vice only meet at the tips

Plier jaws on Gerber Vice only meet at the tips

 

Trail talk: FREE London walking maps- Sporting occasion

This is a final glance at the free paper maps that have been available to the public over the decades to aid in navigating the streets and green spaces of London- one of the most congested and built up cities on the planet. London has played host to many sporting events over the centuries though few appear to have warranted the creation of dedicated free maps for the public. Three Points of the Compass is aware of just a handful of events and sporting occasion where maps were freely available and some of these are shown here. Click on any image to enlarge it.

Wembley

The British Empire Exhibition Stadium was built in 1923 for the 1924/5 British Empire Exhibition though it hosted the first ever FA Cup Final in 1923 due to being completed ahead of schedule. More commonly known as the Empire Stadium, it was renamed Wembley Stadium and subsequently used for football and rugby matches and finals, also speedway, greyhound racing, the 1948 Olympics and other sports and concerts, including Live Aid in 1985.

Free street map showing the streets area surrounding Wembley Stadium. With compliments of McGlasham & Co. Surveyors and Estate Agents. Map copyright Maurice Linton Publications

In the first half of the 20th century, there were few free map resources to aid a pedestrian in walking to a sporting fixture. Beyond bus maps, local knowledge and ‘follow the crowd’, one of the complimentary maps from an estate agent would have been of great help. Street map showing the area surrounding Wembley Stadium. McGlashan & Co. Surveyors and Estate Agents. Map copyright Maurice Linton Publications, 1950s

The stadium closed in 2000 and a replacement opened on the same site in 2007. The site is easily accessed by public transport and few free maps seem to have been produced specifically as aids in finding it though an example for the 1948 London Olympics is included below. The stadium and immediate area does obviously appear on more general London street maps such as bus route maps and those given away free by estate agents.

Cover of small Euro '96 map sponsored by Mastercard

Cover of small Euro ’96 London map sponsored by MasterCard, this includes a simple diagram of the Wembley Stadium and its approach

MasterCard was one of the eleven official sponsors for the 1996 UEFA European Football Championship, more commonly known as Euro ’96 and was behind the production of a small credit card sized folding map that as well as including simple detail on Wembley seating and stadium approach, included a simple street map of central London.

Produced by Z-Cards, and extremely limited in size and area covered, it is actually a fairly good street map of central London, including most major streets, which are named, places of interest but it lacks any detail on paths across green spaces.

Doubly folded sheet card produced by Z-Card showing Wembley Stadium seating plan, Euro '96 fixture list, travel information, map of central London and the sponsor MasterCard's 'welcome centres'

Doubly folded sheet card produced by Z-Card showing Wembley Stadium seating plan (on reverse), Euro ’96 fixture list, travel information, map of central London and the sponsor MasterCard’s ‘welcome centres’

Simple diagram map of Wembley Stadium and its approach. Intended to prevent external congestion of spectators. Produced for 2018 London NFL Games game between Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans, the Chargers won 20-19

Simple diagram map of the ‘new’ Wembley Stadium and its approach. The free map was intended to reduce congestion of spectators in the streets outside. Sent free with tickets to the 2018 London NFL Games game between Los Angeles Chargers and Tennessee Titans, the Chargers won 20-19

London Marathon

One of the largest and most well attended marathons globally is that held in London each year. Marathon runners enjoy free travel on the London Tube and Docklands Light Railway on race day. Many spectators decide to walk to their vantage point rather than struggle to travel on an overburdened transport network. In anticipation of this, and additionally expecting many spectators from out of London that may be largely unaware of even the rough layout of both city and race course, free ‘maps’ are produced each year by Transport for London.

Free map with travel information produced for the Flora London Marathon, 2009

Free map with travel information produced for the Flora London Marathon, 2009

Maps they may be, but the information on them is cursory in the extreme. There is just about enough information to orientate in London but considerable reliance would have been placed on maps situated in Tube station concourses and online mapping.

The leaflets advise those walking to view the race to visit tfl.gov.uk/walking for routes and tfl.gov.uk/journeyplanner to plan their journey. It is a shame that the decision had not been taken to simply include a good map and trust spectators to plan their route accordingly rather than rely on an automated system that continues to funnel the majority of people through what Transport for London and the race organisers feel is their preferred route, rather than actually create less congestion as a result of independent route planning. Is map reading that much of a lost skill? If it isn’t, then we are certainly heading that way as an over reliance on algorithms and event planners relieves us all of individual thought and expertise.

Map detail in 2009 'Marathon' leaflet produced by Transport for London

Map detail in 2009 ‘Marathon’ leaflet produced by Transport for London

Wimbledon

Free map given to some attendees at the 2019 Wimbledon Tennis Championship, with hospitality pass. Walkers Map 2019

Free map given to some attendees at the 2019 Wimbledon Tennis Championship, with hospitality pass. Walkers Map 2019

Some 7 miles south-west of central London is another of the capital’s great sporting venues- Wimbledon, home to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships each year. Some attendees are provided with a small folding map of the grounds and a map showing how to walk from either Southfields or Wimbledon Underground stations to the tennis courts.

Both are a short walk and signposting is excellent however it is refreshing that, possibly reluctant, walkers are still encouraged to use ‘shank’s pony’ and walk the streets, aided of course, by a paper map.

Walk the Circle Line

Free leaflet detailing the Walk the Circle Line for Sport Relief event held on 13 March 2016

Free leaflet detailing the Walk the Circle Line for Sport Relief event held on 13 March 2016

Soon after its establishment in 2002, the charity organisation Sport Relief teamed up with Comic Relief, and the two have subsequently aired, in association with BBC Sport, on alternate years in March each year. Many charity fund raising exploits are completed by the public throughout the year and in 2016 Transport for London (TfL) promoted a ‘Walk the Circle Line’ event. Thousands joined the above ground 14.5 mile walk around the original route followed by the Circle Underground Line. The great majority walked on 13 March, with sponsorship going to Sport Relief. Participants could start at one of four locations on the route- Fitzroy Square Gardens, St Botolph-without-Bishopgate Gardens, Christchurch Gardens and Kensington Gardens. The map is perfectly adequate to follow the route but poor once it is left as few streets are named. It is interesting to note that this map actually includes one of the best printed representations of the myriad of paths that cross Hyde Park.

This is a good walk to take in many of the notable landmarks of London- Westminster, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge amongst them. The free leaflet and map also included a diagram of the underground system, which included an estimate of walking times between stations.

Sponsored by Sainsbury's and produced by TfL, this free map enabled participants to navigate their way around the original route of the Underground Circle Line, 2016

Sponsored by Sainsbury’s and produced by TfL, this free map enabled participants to navigate their way at street level around the original route of the Underground Circle Line, 2016

The London Olympics

London has hosted the Olympic Games three times- in 1908, 1948 and 2012 however I can find no examples of free maps provided for the public in 1908. This is to be expected as there was no established practice at that juncture in producing free street maps for the public. As an aside, it was at the 1908 Olympics that race walking made its debut as a standalone sport.

1948 Olympics

Free London Transport map to 1948 Olympics

Free London Transport map for the 1948 Olympics

While the situation in 1948 was little changed from the 1908 Olympics in that few free maps were being produced for the public visiting London, the issue of small, pocket-sized and free transport maps was now well established. It is therefore unsurprising that London Transport produced a free paper map for those visiting the capital at the time of the Games of the XIV Olympiad. Additionally, competitors and officials were provided with free travel (bus and underground) passes and maps of the transport network. The success in securing a free map must have been a bit of a coup considering that more commercial offerings, such as a special Olympic transport guide and map produced by the Daily Telegraph, cost two shillings and sixpence.

Huge numbers of additional visitors to London were expected. Many of these would be unfamiliar with the street network, transport options or how to access any of the areas where Olympic events were scheduled to take place. In the wake of a financially crippling World War, the events were termed the Austerity Games and sixteen existing sporting venues were utilised. The free, two sided, fold-out leaflet included tourist information on London Museums and Art Galleries, general places of interest, embassies and consulates. Alongside a rail map showing the London Transport Railways in central London, a second street map showed the Wembley area which included the Empire Stadium (later named Wembley Stadium) and the Empire Pool (later named Wembley Arena). A new road linking Wembley Park Station with Wembley Stadium, named Olympic Way, opened on 8 July 1848.

Map to Wembley area in free 1948 London Transport Olympic guide

Map to Wembley area included in free 1948 Olympic guide produced by London Transport. The designer- ‘Hale’ is shown bottom right. Printed by Waterlow & Sons Ltd.

2012 Olympics and Paralympics

It has been the London Olympics, especially those held in 2012, that has seen, by far, the greatest number of free maps produced to aid those in walking London’s streets.

The Cultural Olympiad

Careful to not use any official branding, for which a licencing fee would have ben required, The Times newspaper gave away a free 'London for free' map in 2012

Careful to not use any official branding, for which a licencing fee would have been required, The Times newspaper gave away a free ‘London for free’ map in 2012

By 2012 many visitors to London were relying on what online resources were available for finding their way through unfamiliar streets. Only official sponsors and those licenced were permitted to use any Olympic branding of any form on any product so this may account for the lack of much in the way of third party mapping. In particular this would have been relevant to anything that was supplied free of charge as production of these had to be paid for somehow.

“from riverside fireworks to athletic parades, fashion displays to world-class exhibitions, The Times brings you the best things to do during the Olympics- for free”

One of the few free maps produced was that given away to the public showing what could be enjoyed for free across London in 2012. From parks and walks, to museums and galleries, many locations were indicated on the map. However the map itself is woeful and more intended just to indicate what was available and roughly where in the Capital it could be experienced. It would be very difficult to navigate by foot using this map alone. This hinges on a statement made in the first of these blogs on free maps for walking in London- The production of a map costs money, to produce a good map costs a lot of money.

'London for free' pocket sized guide produced by The Times newspaper in 2012. The reverse includes a tube map, river view, guide to free museums, galleries, cultural events, parks, walks and where major markets and shopping was located. The Olympic venues are also shown. Important or distinctive buildings are indicated on the simple map but only major roads are included

‘London for free’ pocket sized guide produced by The Times newspaper in 2012. The reverse includes a tube map, river view, guide to free museums, galleries, cultural events, parks, walks and where major markets and shopping is located. The Olympic sporting venues are also shown. Important or distinctive buildings are indicated on the simple map but only major roads are included

Large free map produced by TfL for Summer 2012

Large free ‘Summer 2012 Map’. produced by TfL. This is probably the best walking map that TfL has ever produced

In 2012 there was strong concern that the public transport system would not be able to handle the huge number of additional visitors to London. There were some 8.2 million tickets sold for Olympic Games events and a further 2.7 million tickets for the Paralympics that followed. Demand for most events often far outstripped supply and while ticket holders were entitled to free use of London’s public transport system on the day of their event, the public were encouraged to consider walking to their venue to reduce congestion.

Alongside the summer Olympics, everyday London was still going about its business, with commuters, traders and residents being joined by thousands of tourists and those visiting the capital for one of the cultural events associated with the Olympiad. There were also many tens of thousands of people expected for the free events such as the marathon, triathlon and road cycling. A very large number of free maps were produced showing how pedestrians could get around an unfamiliar London. Advice for commuters and travellers to London was provided by Transport for London (TfL) as part of a combined information hub termed Get ahead of the Games. Alongside various publications and maps, a dedicated informative and updated website was maintained.

Free leaflet that included two maps containing helpful information for visitors to London. This was aimed more at those not attending sporting events and aided street level navigation and exploration of various associated events and tourist destinations. 2012

Free leaflet that included two maps containing helpful information for visitors to London. This was aimed more at those not attending sporting events and aided street level navigation and exploration of various associated events and tourist destinations. 2012

Olympic torch and marathon routes:

The Olympic Torch made its way through London on 26 July 2012 and a free ‘Square Mile‘ map to the route was available that also included the Olympic and Paralympic marathon course routes.

Both sides of the freely available leaflet were printed, Torch and Marathon routes were shown on one side and a more general visitor information map on the other. Both maps are very simple in design and are very much aimed at people unfamiliar with using maps for navigating. Helpfully, distinctive tall buildings such as St. Paul’s cathedral and the ‘Gherkin’ are included to enable even the most inept to orientate themselves.

A little surprising is the inclusion of two ‘Stroll Discovery’ Trails on the visitor information map. These yellow and blue trails took in London’s East End, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Monument and the River Thames. However the respective trail map format is very different to those produced for four other Stroll Discovery Trails shown below.

Visitor Information map on free 'Square Mile' leaflet produced in 2012. This includes two short 'Discovery Trails for those walking around London

Visitor Information map on free ‘Square Mile’ leaflet produced in 2012. This includes two short ‘Discovery Trails’ for those walking around London

Stroll Discovery Trails:

One of the Stroll trail maps produced for London visitors in 2012. This is the Purple Trail that mapped out a short 3.4km walk around Mayfair and Soho taking in Berkeley Square, Grosvenor Square, Bond Street, Hanover Square and Piccadilly Circus

One of the Stroll trail maps produced for London visitors in 2012. Purple Trail is a short 3.4km walk around Mayfair and Soho taking in Berkeley Square, Grosvenor Square, Bond Street, Hanover Square and Piccadilly Circus.

Four small maps that encouraged visitors to explore parts of London by foot were printed on thin card that was slightly more robust than more cheaply produced paper maps. This is probably because many would have been clutched by young children guiding their families around the short trails. The covers of the four 2012 ‘Stroll’ maps featured Big Ben and the two official Olympic mascots. The London 2012 mascots divided opinion and while appreciated by most, there were many that felt they were, simply, rather odd. The mascots were Wenlock, named after the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock (where the Wenlock Olympian Games were an inspiration for the revival of the Olympic Games), and Mandeville, named after Stoke Mandeville hospital (the birthplace of the Paralympic Games). Each Discovery trail was supposed to be walked in a clockwise direction, walkers would come across the two mascots at various places en route “highlighting some great photo opportunities on the way”.

Each folded map card is small, measuring just 98mm x 210mm and they are pretty basic in design despite being based on Ordnance Survey mapping. There is little street naming added and few paths across green spaces are included. However their production and free issue is to be applauded. None of the trails were particularly long, varying from 2.6km to 4.8km. Though simple, each map is easy to follow and actually encourages the pedestrian to explore and learn a little of London.

Stroll Green Trail- 3.7km

Stroll Green Trail- 3.7km taking in Regent’s Park

Stroll Red trail- 4.8km

Stroll Red trail- 4.8km on the side of River Thames

Yellow and Blue routes are included on the ‘Square Mile’ map, the remaining four had dedicated print runs. The six Discovery Trails created in 2012 as part of the Cultural Olympiad were:

    • Route 1- Blue Trail 4.4km. St. Paul’s Cathedral, Monument and banks of River Thames
    • Route 2- Pink Trail 2.6km. London’s West End
    • Route 3- Green Trail 3.7km. Regent’s Park
    • Route 4- Red Trail 4.8km. Political London, South Bank
    • Route 5- Yellow Trail 3.2km. London’s East End
    • Route 6- Purple Trail 3.4km. Piccadilly and Oxford Street

The six trails were also shown on the ‘Summer 2012 Map’, produced by TfL, the blue cover of which was shown earlier. A small detail is taken from that large map and shown below, compare how the 3.7km Green trail through Regent’s Park is depicted, with the dedicated Green trail leaflet reproduced above.

Detail from TfL's 'Summer 2012 Map', showing the Green Discovery Stroll through Regent's Park

Detail from TfL’s ‘Summer 2012 Map’, showing the Green Discovery Stroll through Regent’s Park

Why not walk it? maps:

Eleven maps, each centred on a London railway station, were distributed free of charge to aid visitors to London during the 2012 Olympics

Eleven maps, each centred on a London railway station, were distributed free of charge to aid visitors to London during the 2012 Olympics

Detail from Victoria 'Why not walk it?' map. The detail included on this free map is impressive

Detail from Victoria ‘Why not walk it?’ map. The detail included on this free map is impressive

London, purely as a result of historic anomaly, with many disparate companies building their own railway and subsequent London terminus, has eleven mainline railway stations. Each of these railway termini had a dedicated Get ahead of the Games map produced in 2012.

An unprecedented eleven ‘Why not walk it?’ maps were available free of charge to visitors to the Olympics and Paralympic Games. The maps are very well produced. Production and distribution costs were met by the London Mayor’s office, Network Rail and Transport for London. Based on Ordnance Survey mapping, each is roughly centred on its respective station and features concentric circles depicting 10, 15, 20 and 25 minute walk estimates.

'Why not walk it?

Large free map centred on Stratford and East London given free in 2012. There is a lot of detail on this map which includes the Olympic Park. 980mm x 620mm

Large free map centred on Stratford and East London given free in 2012. There is a lot of detail on this map which includes the Olympic Park. 980mm x 620mm

Greenwich & Woolwich map available during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One of two larger area London maps available free of charge to the public

Greenwich & Woolwich map available during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. One of two larger area London maps available free of charge to the public

In addition to the eleven station maps there were two similarly promoted maps available free of charge. These covered the Greenwich & Woolwich area and Stratford & East London. The second map was especially important as it focused on an area of London historically poorly served by map makers. Each large map included a smaller reproduction of the other on its reverse.

These two specially produced complimentary maps covered parts of London that were receiving the greatest number of unique visitors, especially the Olympic Parks area in a part of London that benefited greatly from the injection of money on the back of the 2012 Olympics. Again, these maps were based on Ordnance Survey mapping and included a central London planner map on the reverse with associated travel information. These are amongst the finest of free map resources ever produced for someone intending to walk in London.

The Olympic Park:

The 2012 Olympic Park was a 2.5 square kilometres area divided into four zones: Orbit Circus, Britannia Row, World Square and The Street Market. It was a focus for anyone attending the Olympics and Paralympics and away from events themselves was where the main buzz was to be experienced.

Olympic Park map. Specifically prepared in support of the Paralympic Games that took place 29 August to 9 September 2012

Olympic Park map. Specifically prepared in support of the Paralympic Games that took place 29 August to 9 September 2012

Olympic Park map. Specifically prepared in support of the Olympic Games that took place 27 July to 12 August 2012

Olympic Park map. Specifically prepared in support of the Olympic Games that took place 27 July to 12 August 2012

Events were screened live, music performances, street performers, street theatre, choirs, poetry and buskers abounded.

Needless to say, simple maps of the park were produced and were freely available for both the Olympics and Paralympics that followed. There was little difference in the map itself or information included. Though note the slightly differing logo used for the respective Games.

Based on Ordnance Survey mapping but including very simple detail. There is sufficient information on this map to enable those unfamiliar with maps to navigate around the 2012 Olympic Park

Based on Ordnance Survey mapping but including very simple detail. There is sufficient information on this map to enable those unfamiliar with maps to navigate around the 2012 Olympic Park. An identical map appeared in both Olympic and Paralympic park maps. Different Games partner sponsors were shown at the bottom. Print courtesy Geographers’ A-Z Map Company, who were an official London 2012 licensee of printed maps

Borough guides:

Guide to the Royal Docks and Stratford districts. Produced by Newham Borough Council, 2012

Guide to the Royal Docks and Stratford districts. Produced by Newham Borough Council, 2012

“Welcome to Stratford, gateway to the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games”

If ever parts of London were going to be affected by huge numbers of additional visitors in 2012, it was the six host boroughs for the Olympic events. In addition to spectators travelling to and from their chosen event, there was obviously considerable peripheral commercial opportunity.

The London Borough of Newham lies some 5 miles east of the City of London and contained most of the Olympic Park including the London Stadium. The local council produced a free leaflet of Stratford and Royal Docks London ‘setting out their wares’.

The map makers have, as usual, removed helpful street naming for the sake of simplicity. This design brief aids the pedestrian visitor in accessing their sporting venue, but also directs them to the commercial outlets within the borough.

Detail from 2012 Newham Council leaflet showing the included map of Royal Docks London

Detail from 2012 Newham Council leaflet showing the included map of Royal Docks London. This includes detail on the Excel centre, which hosted the largest cluster of Olympic and Paralympic events outside the Olympic Park, including boxing, judo, fencing and table tennis

In addition to the maps available for free to the public there were official maps produced and supplied to support staff, media and the athletes themselves. The Olympic/Paralympic Village at Stratford had its own map showing locations of transport, shopping and post office.

Ticket pack sent to someone fortunate enough to have gained a ticket to an Olympic event.

Ticket pack sent to someone fortunate enough to have gained a ticket to an Olympic event. This ticket to the Basketball taking place at the North Greenwich Arena includes a street map to the locale

It is astonishing that so many free maps were produced in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics. There had never been anything like this produced before. The closest historically has been the many bus and tube maps that could also be used for walking the London streets and parks however those have been specifically aimed at providing travel information and the pedestrian has suffered as a result. Anyone visiting London during 2012 with the aim of exploring the capital by foot was well served. And it didn’t end there, people attending the many sporting events were also aided by free maps. Individuals that had been successful in obtaining a ticket usually had an event guide included with the ticket posted to them.

Event maps:

Fifty-one official event guides for spectators for the various Olympic sporting events, taking place in London and elsewhere, were produced and distributed free of charge in 2012. Despite being small and very simple in their design, omitting considerable street detail, the small individual paper guides, with accompanying map where necessary, would have been of immense help in guiding spectators to their event. The list is long but it is included for completeness below.

Olympic Event guides:

Archery (Lords Cricket Ground), Athletics (Olympic Stadium), Badminton (Wembley Arena), Basketball (Basketball Arena), Basketball (North Greenwich Arena), Beach Volleyball (Home Guards Parade), Boxing (ExCel), Canoe Slalom (Eton Dorney), Canoe Sprint (Eton Dorney), Closing Ceremony (Olympic Park), Cycling (BMX- Olympic Park), Cycling (Mountain Bike- Hadleigh Farm), Cycling (Road: Road Race- Box Hill), Cycling (Road: Road Race- The Mall), Cycling (Road: Time Trial, Hampden Court Palace), Cycling (Track- Olympic Park), Diving (Olympic Park), Equestrian (Eventing, Dressage, Jumping, Greenwich Park), Equestrian (Eventing: cross-country, Greenwich Park), Football (City of Coventry Stadium), Football (Hampden Park, Glasgow), Football (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff), Football (Old Trafford, Manchester), Football (St James’ Park, Newcastle), Football (Wembley Stadium), Fencing (ExCel), Gymnastics (Artistic, Trampoline- North Greenwich Arena), Gymnastics (Rhythmic- Wembley Arena), Handball (Basketball Arena, Olympic Park), Handball (Olympic Park), Hockey (Olympic Park), Judo (ExCel), Marathon and Race Walk (The Mall), Marathon Swimming (10Km- Hyde Park), Modern Pentathlon (Copper Box, Olympic Park, Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park, Greenwich Park), Modern Pentathlon (Riding and Combined Event- Copper Box Olympic Park, Aquatics Centre Olympic Park, Greenwich Park). Opening Ceremony (Olympic Park), Olympic Park, Rowing (Eton Dorney), Sailing (Weymouth), Shooting (Royal Artillery Barracks), Swimming (Olympic Park), Synchronised Swimming (Olympic Park), Table Tennis (ExCel), Taekwondo (ExCel), Tennis (Wimbledon), Triathlon (Hyde Park), Volleyball (Earls Court), Water Polo (Olympic Park), Weightlifting (ExCel), Wrestling (ExCel).

Every ticket holder for the 2012 Olympic Games was provided with an ‘Official spectator guide’ that included a simple street map to the event location. This is the map for the Table Tennis competition held at the ExCel North Arena 1 that took place 28th July – 8th August 2012. Map based on 2011 Ordnance Survey mapping.

Paralympic Event guides:

Free map sent to holders of tickets for Paralympic events taking place in the Olympic Park. The park was large and much of the layout temporary for the games themselves. 2012

Free map sent to holders of tickets for Paralympic events taking place in the Olympic Park. The park was large and much of the layout temporary for the games themselves. 2012

In addition, there were 13 official Paralympic spectator guides produced, again, taking place in London and elsewhere. These included park and stadia maps etc. where necessary. These were:

Athletics (Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park), Closing Ceremony (Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park), Cycling (Road: Brands Hatch), Cycling (Track: Velodrome, Olympic Park), Equestrian (Greenwich Park), Excel Centre (for Boccia, Judo, Powerlifting, Sitting Volleyball, Table Tennis and Wheelchair Fencing), Marathon (The Mall), Opening Ceremony (Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park), Olympic Park (for Football Five-a-Side, Football Seven-a-Side, Goalball, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby, Wheelchair Tennis), Rowing (Eton Dorney), Swimming (Aquatics Centre, Olympic Park), Shooting and Archery (Woolwich Artillery Barracks), Wheelchair Basketball, (North Greenwich Arena).

Small fold out maps from the pocket guide given to the many thousands of accredited individuals attending the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Adapted from Ordnance Survey mapping and produced by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

Small fold out maps from the pocket guide given to the many thousands of accredited individuals attending the 2012 Paralympics. Adapted from Ordnance Survey mapping and produced by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

It wasn’t just the spectators that were attempting to get to each sporting venue, many by foot. There was also media, officials, support staff and the athletes themselves. Almost every tranche had their own published guide on location, facilities, transport arrangements and many of these free resources also contained a map of respective locations.

Street map of The Mall central London sporting venue, pages 61/62 from the 98 page Athletes' transport guide, published by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited, July 2012

Street map of The Mall central London sporting venue. Based on 2012 Ordnance Survey mapping. Pages 61-62 from the 98 page Athletes’ transport guide, published by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited, July 2012

The considerable number of guides and publications that were produced and distributed included pocket guides for accredited individuals and a large ring bound guide detailing transport arrangements for athletes. Every event venue and the lesser known training locations had an immediate area street map produced. The hundreds of guides produced in association with the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics resulted in the largest ever distribution of maps, many free, to aid people in walking in London. It is quite phenomenal how many were produced.

This concludes this brief glance at some of the free paper maps produced for those visiting London over the decades. Today, most visitors intending to walk the London streets and parks will very likely place their faith on what is available online. A shame, as there is something tangible in using a well produced map and having the ability to see the ‘bigger picture’- not being confined to the dimensions of a phone screen. Discovery is as much a part of exploration as anything else. The relation of place to place is how one truly understands London.
The previous three blogs in this short series can be found at-

Part One: Free maps for exploring London by foot

Part Two: Free maps produced by Transport for London

Part Three: Free maps produced for Royal occasions

Lightweight tin opener options for backpacking

Gear talk: carrying a tin opener on trail

While it is doubtful that many backpackers would dream of packing such an item, Three Points of the Compass advocates carrying a tin opener while on trail, especially on a multi-day hike. Most of us will either pack along dehydrated pre-prepared meals to eat, or rustle up a meal with some easy prepared foodstuffs- couscous, powdered potato, noodles, my particular favourite on trail is preparing a lentil curry. However, especially in the UK, there is often the opportunity to supplement this type of dried and lightweight food with heavier tinned food. Particularly if staying the night on an official pitch, with either on-site or local shop selling simple goods, if usually at an extortionate price.

Not every tin of food comes with a ring pull. Without a tiny lightweight opener, gaining access is difficult

A welcome tin of protein purchased in a Youth Hostel while on trail. Not every tin of food comes with a ring pull. Without a tiny lightweight opener, gaining access is going to be difficult away from the hostel’s ‘campers kitchen’. This opener weighs just 4.1g

Not all tins come with ring pull tops and few of us are packing any sort of large multi-tool that includes a tin, or can, opener. Rather than attempt to bash a way into a tin with a tent peg, or slice open a finger attempting to gain access via a small folding penknife or simply do without the contents, why not simply pack along a tiny lightweight opener. There really isn’t much else that will perform the task they do and for a handful of grams weight penalty, such ‘food-joy’ could be appreciated…

The contents of my 'ditty bag' photographed on a longer multi week hike in 2018. The contents of one small baggie here are further shown below

The contents of my ‘ditty bag’ photographed on a longer multi week hike in Scotland. The contents of the small baggie bottom right are shown below

When it comes to lightweight openers, the military have our backs. And it is to the various tin/can openers that have been produced by the armies of the world that the backpacker should turn. I seem to have an assortment of these around the house and have pulled together what I could find for the header photo above. One I won’t be covering is the large Czechoslovakian Army issue ‘Perfex’ opener shown above. While well made and effective, there are simply too many alternatives to this folding 26g tin and bottle opener.

Some of the contents of my backpacking ditty bag- Money, sewing kit, house key and British Waterways water key, emergency fire starter kit, spare water bottle cap, hair grips, to be used as clothes pegs, and a small tin opener

Some of the contents of my backpacking ditty bag- Money, sewing kit, house key and British Waterways water key, emergency fire starter kit, spare water bottle cap, two hair grips (used as clothes pegs), and a small tin opener. This is the 4.5g P-38

One of the largest viable options that a backpacker could consider is the Field Ration Eating Device, or FRED. This pressed steel device was introduced during the Second World War and issued to the Australian military. It has the Defence Stock Number: 7330-66-010-0933. Still manufactured today, mine was made in 2007. Various clone rip-offs have been made in recent years. As well as the effective tin opener, one end of the tool has a bottle opener and the other end has a shallow spoon. The 90mm length makes the tool easy to use and twist in the hand. While you can eat with this, its short spoon length means that you put yourself at risk of cutting yourself on the edge of a freshly opened tin, while the shallow bowl is useless for more liquid foodstuffs. It has not endeared itself to everyone forced to use it and earned the unfortunate sobriquet- ‘Fucking Ridiculous Eating Device’. For backpacking, there are better options.

Australian issue FRED

Australian issue FRED weighs 11.6g but also incorporates a simple spoon

There are quite a few small, but actually medium sized opener options. These include the well known P-51, centre in the image below. Supposedly given this designation due to its 51mm length, mine is actually a 53mm long British Army equivalent. Every 24 hour ration pack I had while serving in the Army had one of these included, it came in a paper sleeve wrapper with printed instructions on how to use it. I had dozens of these ‘Baby Can Openers’ but they have all gradually gone and this 1981 example is my sole survivor. Stamped with- ‘1981 – W.P.W ‘crows foot arrow’ 129 – 9982′, it has opened hundreds of tins and is still in perfect operating order. There are many clones (BCB- second left) and alternatives both used by other armed forces and subsequently manufactured for the civilian market. The Highlander Survival opener shown here, combined with a bottle opener, is widely available however I don’t like it. It doesn’t operate particularly well, ripping open a tin rather than piercing and cutting easily. Also the bottle opener section makes it uncomfortable in the hand while opening tins. The opener on the right in my hand was issued to the Swedish Army and these work well. However the larger military opener on the left is a horrible tool with a very blunt and barely usable cutter, it is only the slightly longer length that enables sufficient force to be applied.

Medium sized openers

Medium sized openers. Weights left to right: 13.0g 7.7g, 7.7g, 8.6g, 7.0g

The small holes punched in many of these openers enable them to be hung from a keyring however the cutting tip can swing open and rip holes in pockets. An easy solution to this is to use a small rare earth magnet to keep it closed when not in use.

Rare earth magnet on my army issue opener

Rare earth magnet on my army issue opener keeps it closed when not in use

Most backpackers constantly strive to remove excess weight from their packs. Even the lightest option shown above, the Swedish 7g opener may cause some to baulk. Despite this, Three Points of the Compass suggests that one of the lighter and smaller tin openers should still be seriously considered. Ranging from around 4 to 7 grams there are truly lightweight options.

Smallest and lightest of the opener options

Smallest and lightest of the opener options. Weights from left to right: 6.6g. 4.2g, 7.2g, 4.5g

These are tiny, the smallest here is only 38mm long though the shorter length does mean that it is uncomfortable to use for any extended period. However none of us are using one of these for an extended period on trail. All we want to do is open the odd tin on occasion. The rounded ‘Weekend’ 6.6g opener shown on the left in my hand is probably the best of the small military issue openers. However they are not the easiest to find. After these, the famous P-38, on the right in my hand, is a superb choice and weighs under five grams, this is stamped ‘US Shelby Co.’ indicating that it was made by Mallin Shelby Hardware inc. These openers were developed in 1942 and are still made today. Smaller than the P-51 shown above, these are not quite so comfortable to use but are just as simple to operate. The P-38 has a wide and loyal following. For a good deal more information on these, there are a number of sources online, one of the more informative can be found here.

The 84mm Victorinox Alox Cadet weighs 45.9g and includes a really efficient tin opener

The 84mm Victorinox Alox Cadet includes a really efficient tin opener but weighing 45.9g it is not the lightest of options

Some pocket knives come with a tin opener amongst their toolset. Three Points of the Compass has looked before at two of the military knives that include an opener, these were the British and German options. For myself however, if not carrying one of the small keychain sized multi-tools from Leatherman, Three Points of the Compass prefers one of the smaller 58mm long knives produced by Victorinox for backpacking trips. Sadly, none of the 58mm Swiss Army Knife options includes a tin opener amongst their tools. Some of the larger knives that Victorinox has produced do include fantastically efficient openers but for most hikers, they are probably either too heavy, or equipped with tools not required on trail. The 28.8g Alox Bantam and 45.9g Alox Cadet from Victorinox both have excellent tin openers, however the first has a combination opener on a single layer knife that lacks scissors, which some may regard a necessity on a Swiss Army Knife, while the second is a better equipped two layer knife, with an even better dedicated tin opener, yet also lacks scissors. Interestingly, these two types of opener work in opposite directions.

Victorinox's instructions on how to use its combination tool, as found on its 84mm Alox Bantam

Victorinox’s instructions on how to use its combination tool, as found on its 84mm Alox Bantam

While all of these openers are easiest to use by right-handers, left-handers can also use them- holding them in the left hand and working round a tin in the opposite direction. So, to carry a tin opener or not? That is your choice. I do. If you do decide to pack along a small opener I suggest don’t bother with any of the civilian clones. Instead choose one made for the military, they number in the millions and were specifically produced to be both durable and efficient. Most of those shown above can be found, with a bit of searching, on the second hand market so simply buy the real thing.

6.6g Weekend opener in use

6.6g Weekend opener in use

Lock laces in Altra Lone Peak

Gear talk: Lock laces

Three Points of the Compass has worn trail runners for most hikes for the past ten years of so, prior to that boots were worn. A variety of makes of trail shoe have been tried- Inov-8, Brooks, Salomon and Altra. I won’t mention a couple of others that were really quite poor. It seems as though as soon as I found a make and model that suited me well, the following year it was ‘tweaked’ and I didn’t like what resulted.

Three Points of the Compass hiking in Cyprus in 2016. Footwear was Injinji socks, Altra Lone Peak and Dirt Girl gaiters

Three Points of the Compass hiking in Cyprus in 2017. Footwear was Injinji socks, Altra Lone Peak trail shoes and Dirty Girl gaiters

I have really enjoyed using Altra Lone Peak for the past few years, they have tweaked the design a little but are still suiting me- I have used the 2’s, 2.5, 3, 3.5 and now the 4’s. I actually have a couple of pairs of the 4’s tucked away waiting to be pulled into use when required as my fairly large size is either popular and sells out quickly or is not produced in large numbers. I never seem to be successful in snapping them up in sales and usually pay full price, I also often struggle to buy the more sober colour variants as more garish colour schemes seem to be more popular, though not with me. These are zero drop trail shoes with breathable uppers, decent tread and lovely wide toe boxes. If I have a sole complaint about these is that I often find the laces loosening for some reason. This is a problem I have not had with other shoes, usually I have to double knot or similar but frequently forget or can not be bothered, with the result that hours later I find a loose lace flapping around. On trail the last thing that is wanted is to be frequently adjusting or amending a piece of gear, it interrupts your progress and eventually becomes a BIG thing.

Battered Lone Peaks with original laces and replacement

Battered Lone Peaks with original laces and replacement

I wear Salomon XA Pro shoes for work but they do not suit me for trail walking, I simply don’t get on with them for that activity finding the toe box and overall shoe too narrow. On a long days hiking my feet frequently swell and the Salomons simply don’t allow them to comfortably expand. However one aspect of these footwear that I do like is the Quicklace system that Salomon use. With a little time on my hands at home in recent days, I thought I would try Lock Laces on my Altras for a change to see if this is a decent solution.

Lock Laces are elasticated laces that once fitted are pulled through a locking eyelet then simply tucked under a turn of the lace. They are a doddle to fit, taking around five minutes.

Kit come with two laces, two lock eyelets and two cord clips, one set weighs 11g before excess length is trimmed

Kit come with two laces, two lock eyelets and two cord clips, a set for one shoe weighs 11g before excess length is trimmed

Replacement lace is threaded onto the shoe

Replacement lace is threaded onto the shoe

Laces are longer than required and need trimming

Laces are longer than required and need trimming

Once trimmed to required length, seal off the ends with a lighter

Once passed through the double eyelet lock slide, trim lace to required length, seal off the ends with a lighter

Ends are placed into the open cord clip

Ends are placed into the open cord clip

Cord clip is snapped shut on loose ends of trimmed laces

Cord clip is snapped shut on loose ends of trimmed laces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice is to leave three inches clear below the lock when cutting, I have left it a little longer to allow the shoes to be opened up more easily when drying them

Advice is to leave three inches clear below the lock when cutting, I have left it a little longer to allow the shoes to be opened up more easily when drying them

My current pair of Altras only have a couple of hundred miles left on them which should be enough for me to see if I want to extend this type of lace replacement to the next pair to be worn. I note that you can get replacement Salomon Quicklaces so might try them in the future if the Lock Laces are not durable enough. Lock Laces have a six strand elasticated core while Quicklaces are Kevlar and have a different locking system. There is also a ‘Pro Series’ Lock Lace that are thinner, having only five internal strands and what is touted to be a stronger locking eyelet.

For the gram weenies out there- one old lace weighed 5.6g, one replacement Lock Lace, locking eyelet and cord clip weighs 11g, once trimmed this fell to 9.8g.