Monthly Archives: July 2020

Changing the measuring scale in Morris's Patent Chartometer

Map Measurer of the month- Morris’s Patent Chartometer

Morris's Patent Chartometer

Morris’s Patent Chartometer

This months map measure is a wonderful chunky, clunky piece of Victorian engineering invented by Englishman Edward Russell Morris, of the Morris Patents Engineering Works, High Street, Birmingham. It dates from the 1870s and is capable of measuring a wide range of scales due to interchangeable card discs.

Back of Chartometer

Back of Chartometer

The earliest versions of ‘Patent Chartometer’ were patented by Morris in 1873. He produced two versions of this large measure. A simpler device with rotating pointer, and the one shown here, with rotating pointer and totaliser.

The totaliser counts the number of revolutions of the pointer. Small red painted figures, counting from 1 – 10, can be seen through a small window to the right of the rotating pointer.

Face of Chartometer without scale card inserted. Revolution counter can be seen to the right of the hand. The lower stud protrusion ensures an inserted cart is correctly orientated

Face of Chartometer without scale card inserted. Revolution counter can be seen to the right of the pointer axis. The lower stud protrusion, between the words Morris’s and Patent, ensures an inserted card is correctly orientated

Morris's Patent Chartometer and scale cards with leather bound wooden case

Morris’s Patent Chartometer and scale cards with leather bound wooden case

The map measurer shown here is serial number 705 and came supplied in a leather bound wooden case, with silk interior. Scale cards are stored below the measure in the case.

The map measure, or Chartometer, has a hinged glass front opened by a press button catch on the side of the brass case. With the desired scale card inserted and hinged front closed, the measure is held in the hand and the steel wheel at the bottom trundled along the line of whatever requires measuring, be that road, path or anything else. The measurement is then read off against the scale card and any total revolutions of the hand, as indicated by the totaliser, accounted for.

Morris was a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers from 1880 and designed and manufactured map measurers in a range of sizes, this is possibly the largest he produced. A bijou map measure also constructed by Morris was shown here recently. That weighed just 15g, the larger Chartometer shown here still only weighs 80g. The measure is 3 1/8″ tall, or 80mm in new money.

Morris's Patent Chartometer. Cast into the underside of the hinged front is- "THE MORRIS PATENTS ENGINEERING WORKS BIRMINGHAM"

Morris’s Patent Chartometer. Cast into the underside of the hinged front is- “THE MORRIS PATENTS ENGINEERING WORKS BIRMINGHAM”

Scale card measures furlongs

6 inch to the mile scale card measures furlongs. Five turns of the dial will indicate 40 furlongs, or five miles. Dials are 2″ / 50mm diameter

Nine cards, giving 13 direct scales, are supplied with the measure. These are:

  • Scale 1/2500, or 25.344 inches to a mile
  • Scale, 6 inches to a mile
  • Scale 1/500, or 10.56 feet to a mile
  • Scale, 1 mile to an inch
  • Scales, 2 and 4 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 3 and 6 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 5 and 10 miles to an inch
  • Scales, 7 and 11 miles to an inch
  • Scale, 5 feet to a mile
Scale cards for Morris's Patent Chartometer

Scale cards for Morris’s Patent Chartometer

Morris's Patent Chartometer

Morris’s Patent Chartometer

The word ‘chartometer’ was described in Scientific Instruments 1500 – 1900 An Introduction, by Gerard L’Estrange Turner, with Andrew Turner (first published in 1980 as ‘Antique Scientific Instruments‘) thus:

“The opisometer is a small device for measuring the lengths of roads, rivers, walls etc., on maps. It is a milled wheel on a screw thread with a handle. The wheel traces the route, and is then wound backwards on the scale at the edge of the map. The chartometer is the same but has a dial and pointer to give the measure immediately.”

An example of an opisometer from the mid-nineteenth century was shown here earlier and it is clear what a step forward Morris’s Chartometer was for those measuring lines and routes.

 

 

Hygiene on trail

Gear talk: hygiene on trail

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes, these include a wash kit and w/c bag

This is another glance at some of the little bags and pouches that Three Points of the Compass takes on longer, multi-day hikes. This time, my wash and ‘poop’ kits. Not the most thrilling of blog subjects- nonetheless, some vestige of cleanliness should be kept on trail despite being difficult to maintain at times.

A high camp on the Cape Wrath Trail. Tent wash and tick check is the order of the day

A high camp on the Cape Wrath Trail. Tent wash and tick check is the order of the day

Wash kit

Sections on longer hikes may mean that an opportunity for a decent shower and washing clothes can be infrequent. This is not so much the case in the UK, more so in the US where many hikers apparently prefer to ’embrace the stink’. There are few days while hiking in the UK when at least some small hamlet or village is passed. It is really only the more lonely reaches of North Western Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland where we can truly detach ourselves properly and pitch up in the evening far from a comfy bed indoors and a hot shower. A slightly higher standard, or at least frequency, of washing and body hygiene is usually maintained by hikers on UK and European trails. Certainly this is the case for Three Points of the Compass, and a few small items of kit enable me to do so.

Contents of my wash kit

Contents of my wash kit

Three Points of the Compass carries enough to be able to carry out a fairly decent body wash in the tent of an evening if wild camping, with the expectation of staying somewhere every few days where a more thorough scrub can be conducted. While I could simply carry things in a zip lock, I prefer a more robust DCF bag that will last multiple hikes and weighs roughly the same as a short-lived plastic bag.

Toothy Tabs from Lush- perfect for backpacking

Toothy Tabs from Lush- perfect for backpacking

Oral hygiene is an absolute necessity. I am not going to attempt to scrub back teeth with a pathetic little half brush with the handle chopped off, or one of the little brush heads that you slide over a finger tip. I want my none too clean hands outside my mouth, so use a full size toothbrush. The weight of this child’s bamboo brush is ridiculous at only 5g and despite their mostly recyclable construction, last well. There is no need to take a tube of toothpaste, or dry it out before snipping pea sized lengths in advance. High Street cosmetics shop Lush sell a range of toothy tabs perfect for backpacking. I take a number of these in a baggie. I have carried a whole bottle of them on multi-week hikes.

Dr Bronners castile soap- a large bottle will last many years of backpacking

Dr Bronners castile soap- a large bottle will last many years of backpacking. Simply decant a little in to a tiny dropper bottle for use on trail

I have tried soap leaves in the past but found they eventually get damp and turn to frothy mush. The solid bars of soap and solid shower bars from Lush are pleasant and effective but pretty heavy. Most often these days I simply carry a tiny dropper bottle of liquid castile soap. This is a vegetable based soap that comes in solid or liquid form and is extremely concentrated.

Years ago I purchased a 32 fluid ounce / 946ml bottle of Dr. Bronners and am still working through it. Some hikers will even brush their teeth with this stuff but I find that pretty nauseating. I may be carrying a disposable razor in my wash bag, a little Dr. Bronners is also enough to soften the beard for shaving.

Disposable razors are all light but obviously do not last long. Have a look around as many of the actual blade heads on these easily clip off and can be exchanged for a used head on the lightweight plastic handle. For a week or so, I will go unshaven, longer than that I simply look scruffy and prefer to shave. For those able to grow a decent beard, go for it.

If carrying disposal razors, only one handle need be carried as the heads are often interchangeable

If carrying disposal razors, only one handle need be carried as the heads are often interchangeable

I have hair, if increasingly thinner these days, so carry a small 7g Kent ‘Slim Jim’ comb. Also a tiny brush that is used both for scrubbing the body and when clothes washing. I may carry a small square of microfibre cloth for a tent wash, but do prefer the little compressed dried pucks/towelettes that can be purchased by the hundred online quite cheaply. Each can be used for a single wash, or with care, for a few days before falling apart. I also keep a couple of these in the First Aid kit that can be used for cleaning up any wounds as necessary.

What I tend to do is add a couple of drops of Dr. Bronners to the unwrapped ‘puck’, then a squirt of water to wetten and loosen it. Face, pits and bits, torso, feet and legs get a wipe down to remove as much of the days grime, sweat and salts. I always feel the better after this. I carry camp/town clothes and then change into these to allow my hiking clothes to dry off prior to the following day. These compressed towelettes are not particularly good for the environment I appreciate, but they are bloody handy. I have a little 480mm x 480mm Nano Towel from PackTowl hanging from my packs shoulder strap. Used of an evening, this can also be used to wipe sweat etc, during the day, washed in any stream passed, and left hanging while hiking to dry.

Sealed towel 'puck', and an uncompressed and wetted towel- large enough to cover my hand

Sealed and compressed towelette ‘puck’, and an uncompressed and wetted towelette- large enough to cover my hand

foot balm

foot balm

Five years ago I was suffering badly from Plantar fasciitis. It took me over two years to recover from that, even now, after a long hard days hiking, I will feel a twinge. Part of my treatment for this is a deep massage of my feet every evening. I may even do this at a lunchtime halt. While massaging I will rub in a dab of foot balm. For many years I used the fantastic Gehwol foot creams but have switched over to a deodorising foot repair balm from Naturally Thinking. This includes things like peppermint, lemongrass and enough camphor to bring tears to the eyes at time. It replaces oils that frequently soaked feet have lost, removes any stink and after this and a massage, my feet invariably feel great, they are then slipped into a pair of non-trail socks. Socks are either waterproof Sealskinz if I still have to wander around outside the tent. Or sleeping socks- thin merino in the summer, or lovely comfy and warm possum down socks in the colder months. A little of the foot balm can also be used on the body to disguise a few days trail stink if visiting cleaner and fresher smelling non-trail company occasionally. There is no need to take a whole tin of this balm on trail, I decant some into a little 40ml screwtop plastic pot.

A small piece of alum stick is carried to reduce the hiker funk

A small piece of alum stick is carried to reduce the hiker funk

I do include one other small item that keeps the stink down a little. This is just a nib of left over alum stick. I use this stuff at home anyway. A rub onto wet skin, or wetting the end and rubbing over dry skin, keeps bacteria at bay and stops the armpits smelling. The solid alum sticks last weeks, months even.

This is yet another item that does double duty as a First Aid item. Rubbed over small cuts, it constricts the blood vessels and will reduce or halt bleeding. Hence their use by shavers worldwide.

Travel sized spray deodorants don't last long and still need to be packed out once empty

Travel sized spray deodorants don’t last long and still need to be packed out once empty

It is usually necessary to ‘train’ the body to use this over a number of days, or even weeks. It works for me, possibly not everyone. As said, there is no need to take even one of the smallest that can be purchased, I just take a small piece wrapped up in a little baggie. Just don’t drop it from slippery wet fingers onto a hard floor, it will shatter into a thousand pieces…

Three Points of the Compass has tried deodorising creams in the past, though pretty light and effective they stain clothing

Three Points of the Compass has tried deodorising creams in the past, though pretty light and effective for a while, they stain clothing

Travel sized spray deodorants and roll-on sticks could be carried but these either don’t last long or are mostly ineffective. Spray scents simply mask one smell with an overpowering chemical stink. If necessary, the foot balm is enough for me, being at least based on natural oils. Anti-odorant creams simply don’t work for me and end up causing rashes and staining clothes yellow.

I mentioned that I will do some deep foot massage of an evening. I also carry a 2 inch diameter hard cork ball in my wash bag. Weighing 17g, this ball can be rolled on tight muscles if required though I confess to being hopeless at maintaining any form of regular routine with this.

Rolling out foot on hard cork ball

Rolling out foot on hard cork ball

Another task that invariably needs to be carried out most evenings in the tent, that results in a lovely series of confined space contorted callisthenics, is the nightly tick check. A mirror can be helpful for this and I use the one carried in my First Aid Kit, more on that in a future post.

What do bears do…?

‘Poop’ kit

I am often dismayed by the thoughtlessness of many visiting the countryside and our wilder places. It seems the concept of Leave no Trace is alien to many. Crap left for the next person to find, TP ‘flowers’ left to be blown around and decorate our paths, fields and woods. The idea of digging a hole in an appropriate place in which to shit just doesn’t seem to exist for many. No need to go into practical ‘how to’ detail here, there is plenty of good advice from others available on t’internet.

'Poop' kit

‘Poop’ kit

Many people say that a suitably deep enough hole (6-8 inches) can be dug with a stick or the heel of a boot or shoe. Well I find there is never a stick around when you want it and I can’t dig that sort of hole with my shoe. Nor am I relying on my trekking pole to cut through roots. That is why, on every single hike, be it day hike or multiple day, I slip my ‘poop’ kit into an outside pocket of my pack. There is not a lot to this- simply a plastic bag with a trowel, some more plastic bags and plenty of toilet paper. I do use a plastic bag for this kit as the very nature of use means that the possibility of bacteria is higher and the bag gets changed out after each hike.

My favoured implement is an 18g titanium QiWhiz Big Dig trowel. This is light, strong and will cut pretty well into hard ground and roots. It is thin and is uncomfortable in the hand sometimes but I am happy to put up with that.  I stuff a number of plastic bags into the main bag, these are for anything I may need to pack out. And a roll of minimum ply toilet paper (TP). Always take more than you think you will need.

Leaving waste in a drier environment results in a product that will remain for many years. Paper needs to be packed out and disposed of later. Fuertenventura

Waste left in a drier environment will remain for many years. Used paper needs to be packed out and disposed of later. Desert stretch on Fuertenventura

I often include a Mini-Bic lighter in this bag. This is my spare carried. While it can be used to burn used paper, this often cannot be done, usually for reasons of safety such as peaty soils that could potentially hold a flame below ground for weeks before bursting out, or in ‘no-fire’ areas. In some waterlogged parts of Scotland, dig a hole with a shovel from the bothy and the hole has more or less filled up with water by the time you have completed your business. Used paper may have to be packed out.

Hand washing

The statistics for hikers falling ill on trail are pretty impressive. Most of that is undoubtedly down to hand to mouth transmission. People sharing trail mix etc. This has to be guarded against. For a start, don’t share trail mix.

37ml GoToob. Used to wash hands with soap and water while on trail

37ml GoToob. Used to wash hands with soap and water while on trail

Most people favour hand sanitiser on trail. I prefer soap and water. To that end, we come to my final item in my hygiene kit- a small 32g, 1.25 fluid ounce / 37ml  GoToob. This is a squeezable travel tube with a flip lid. Each morning I put a drop or two of Dr. Bronners soap in this, top up with water, and use it and refill it throughout the day to wash hands and fingers as required, both after ‘doing my business’ and before eating. Completed with a rinse off with clean water from my water bottle.

Some hikers seem to embrace the concept of being unkempt and dirty on trail with little regard as to what potential harm can result. Obviously cleanliness standards while hiking are not what are found at home and within general society, but that is no excuse to become completely feral on trail.

My next glance at the small bags and pouches of ‘stuff’ carried on trail shall peek inside my First Aid Kit. Hygiene in itself is part of first aid- looking to reduce chafing, sores, rashes and also attempting to prevent ingestion of bacteria. Such things can end a hike.

 

 

 

 

Ditty bag contents in 2020

Gear talk: ditty bag contents

On longer lonelier trails, with habitation potentially days away, a handful of carefully thought out simple and lightweight pieces of gear can solve a problem, make life a little more comfortable, or even prevent injury or worse

On longer lonelier trails, with habitation potentially days away, a handful of carefully thought out simple and lightweight pieces of gear can solve a problem, make life a little more comfortable, or even prevent injury or worse, photographed Scottish Highlands

It is a number of years since I showed the contents of my hiking ditty bag. That place where I keep this ‘n’ that, bits ‘n’ pieces, spare stuff, repair stuff, essential stuff, non-essential stuff and ‘where the hell else can I keep this?’ stuff while on trail.

Ditty bag

Ditty bag

I am not going to delve much into weights here. These contents are the type of thing that is personal to everyone. What I show here is pretty lightweight and what I have evolved to what I like to have with me. Every single item listed here has been used by myself on trail but I am more than aware that many would not even bother to pack along the type of things I do, fine.

Quilt cords and line

Quilt cords and line

Three lengths of cordage are packed in the ditty bag. The two yellow lengths are quilt cords for me to attach my Katabatic quilt to the pad on colder or draughtier nights.

Quilt cord used to hand food bag away from rodents in bothy on South West Coast Path

Quilt cord used to hand food bag away from rodents in bothy on South West Coast Path

It is seldom that these have to be used as my quilt is wide enough to tuck around the small of my back etc if there is a lazy breeze working through my Duplex shelter. I usually have a door or two on the shelter open at night to keep down condensation and give me a view outside. The cords are occasionally used around the pad in shoulder seasons and in winter. One of the cords has had to do double duty on a particularly long hike a couple of years back- over two thousand miles I lost so much weight that my non-elasticated town trousers, with no waist draw cord, were so loose that I had to tie them up to prevent them falling down.

I have also used one of the cords as a rough and ready way of measuring a distance on a paper map. Simply flex the cord around the bends and turns and trails of tomorrows path, pinch where you get to between finger and thumb, then measure off against the scale at the base of the map. Old school, but easy and reasonably accurate.

Quick and easy attachment method for thin drying line. Can also be used as an extra guy

Quick and easy attachment method for thin drying line. Can also be used as an extra guy

The 6g of green cord shown is usually used as a washing line, often strung between shelter and whatever is nearest. My hiking shirt is often sweat soaked at the end of a day’s hike. I will also try and wash or at least rinse skiddies and socks each evening.

300lb breaking strain braided line. A lifetimes backpacking supply

A lifetimes backpacking supply of line

The green cord is actually 10 metres of tough and thin braided fishing line with a 300lb breaking strain. Really slippery stuff, I could use a knot but tend to rely on a couple of little plastic ‘thingies’ slid on, to which the line is simply returned and wound around a couple of times. This holds it securely.

Gear drying on final day of The Ridgeway. Town Farm campsite, below Ivinghoe Beacon 2016

Gear drying on final day of The Ridgeway. Town Farm campsite, below Ivinghoe Beacon 2016

On a five mile hike in 2018 Three Points of the Compass lost so much weight that town trousers became too loose to wear and had to be cinched up with a quilt cord to prevent offending sensibilities

On a five month hike in 2018 Three Points of the Compass lost so much weight that town trousers became too loose to wear and had to be cinched up with a quilt cord to avoid offending sensibilities

Peaty brown water may look unpalatable but is fine to drink, particularly after the addition of a couple of chemical sterilisation tablets. Sandwood Bay, Sutherland, NW Scotland

Peaty brown water may look unpalatable but is fine to drink, particularly after the addition of a couple of chemical sterilisation tablets. Sandwood Bay, Sutherland, NW Scotland

I use a Katadyn BeFree water filter on trail. I touched on that in a recent post looking at my hydration set-up. But, accidents and loss of filter can occur, so I also pack along a half-dozen or so chemical water treatment tablets. These are Chlorine Dioxide, each tablet will treat a litre of water.

It is not often that I chemically treat water, preferring to filter. But it is a fool that doesn’t try to look to ensuring that water is safe to drink. Regardless of stomach upsets that may occur, there is growing incidences of viruses in our water supplies and the former reliance of a ‘cast-iron’ stomach wont cut it today.

The orange items are ear plugs. Some hostels and bothies, and close camped pitches too, can get pretty noisy with snorers. I confess to hating using these but they are included for last, desperate, resort. These are kept clean in a small baggie.

Ear plugs can also be helpful in trying to get a good nights kip when the wind is blowing and the tent is rattling and flapping like a good ‘un. Though I tend to just pull a beenie further down over my ears instead.

Infrequently required

Emergency water treatment and ear plugs. Infrequently required but extremely useful on occasion

Another tiny baggie keeps a plethora of little ‘stuff’. My sewing kit comprises two needles; a No. 7 embroidery/crewel needle (that has occasionally been pulled into blister duty) and a large eye No. 18 chenille needle. These are kept in a small plastic tube with end caps, along with a trimmed needle threader and a back-up pen. I say pen, this is one of the tiny 1g pressurised pens that pops into a 58mm Victorinox knife scale.

Small stuff

Small stuff

The remainder of my sewing kit comprises a single medium sized button and around five metres of black Gütermann Extra-strong polyester thread on a 0.4g bobbin. I have overdone the sewing kit in the past but am happy with what I have pared down to. The larger chenille needle will still handle tougher fabrics that will shrug off the No. 7 embroidery needle.

On longer hikes, some damage and wear to clothes and gear will occur. Sewing the crotch of my shorts midway along the Cape Wrath Trail

A sterilised needle passed through a blister and the thread left behind, stops the holes closing up and enables the blister to drain overnight, a bit of tape over the blister the following day enables a hike to continue almost pain free, provided the problem that caused it has been dealt with

The needle and thread can also be used for work on any blisters, though I seldom suffer from these there has still been the combination of events that has led to problems. I think the last time was walking through the surf on sloping beach shingle for more miles that I would have preferred to. Catching it way too late to tape over, the sodden skin had become loose and hot. Increasingly I find I am having to assist fellow hikers as few seem to have any clue how to prevent blisters, deal with them, or carry anything with which to treat them.

I carry a little P-38 tin opener, not often used, but if I have an infrequent opportunity of finding a tin of food that lacks a ring pull, I want to get into it. I have learnt my mistake on this, and for the sake of 4.5g, I’ll continue to pack it along now.

Bobby pin being used to hand a washed Darn Tuff sock at tent door to allow it to dry

Bobby pin being used to hang a washed Darn Tuff sock at tent door to allow it to dry. Another sock hangs from the other door

Two bobby pins are used as simple clothes pegs. They work adequately well. Also tucked in to my ditty bag is a spare o-ring for my BRS-3000T stove. If that were lost or damaged and I have no spare, it is goodbye to hot meals and drinks for the remainder of my walk. My final item carried is a spare type 400 bottle cap (shallow, one thread turn).

Three Points of the Compass carries a small knife or multi-tool on trail. For many years I have favoured the key-chain sized Leatherman Squirt S4 because the selection of tools on this is almost exactly what I want. Usually, the only tools I require are scissors, modest blade, small screwdriver for my glasses, nailfile and a bottle opener on occasion. Just occasionally I have required a screwdriver to fix a stove or trekking poles. The S4 is now discontinued though it has been replaced with others in the Leatherman line up. If I am not carrying this I am invariably carrying one of the terrific little 58mm Victorinox tools.

However I am currently looking at returning to what I used when I first started off backpacking decades ago, taking separate dedicated tools. More on that in a future post.

Leatherman Squirt S4 multi-tool

Leatherman Squirt S4 multi-tool

I carry a little wallet. I am on my third of these as zips do fail and they hole quite often. They have varied in material from X-Pac to 70D Liteskin to my current which is DCF Cuben Fiber. These are all simple zippered pouches containing travel/bus/train tickets (and Gold discount card if necessary), house key (and British Waterways water key on occasion), cash and a variety of cards- I probably carry more cards than most as I like to visit places on my trails and you never know what you may unexpectedly happen upon. Current cards are YHA membership, English Heritage, Museums Association membership and bank card.

Wallet and contents

Wallet and contents

A squirt of gel super glue kept a trail shoe that was coming apart from progressing further

A squirt of gel super glue kept a trail shoe that was coming apart from progressing further

Another baggie contains repair tape. This varies according to length of trail but is currently a 11cm x 7.5cm rectangle of clear tenacious tape, 10.5cm x 8cm rectangle of clear DCF (Dyneema Composite Fabric) repair tape, 30cm thin strip of camo DCF repair tape, that matches my shelter, and a single square of Thermarest fabric repair patch for my sleeping mat. On occasion I have added some self adhesive hook and loop velcro.

Like many others, I keep a few turns of duct or Gorilla tape around the shafts of my trekking poles. This gets changed out each season.

I also include a tiny 1g tube of super glue gel. I have tried the 0.5g tubes but they do not include enough to effect most repairs and the larger tubes contain too much. I also find the gel easier to control than the runny glue. At a pinch, this could also be used for skin repair in the event of a particularly bad injury.

Repair tape and glue

Repair tape and glue

Disaster averted. When a guy pulled out on my shelter, leaving a large hole in the side, it was only having a large patch of adhesive repair cuben tape that prevetned a series of damp nights following. Offas Dyke Path

Disaster averted. When a guy pulled out on my shelter, leaving a large hole in the side, it was only having a large patch of adhesive repair DCF tape that prevented a series of damp nights following. Offas Dyke Path

The small journal that Three Points of the Compass carries will vary according the to the length of trail, but is always pretty small

The small journal that Three Points of the Compass carries will vary according to the length of trail, but is always pretty small

Three Points of the Compass seems to be amongst a declining number of hikers who still likes to keep a written journal. Most people simply record their memories on their phone, if at all. Size of journal varies according to how long a trail is, but it is usually a modest sized journal that will be filed away on my shelf back home, dedicated to that trail and those memories. It takes dedication to fill out a days record each evening, and I have skipped days when simply too tired or finishing late. I will also have a hostel or museum stamp a page, ask people to write their contact details on occasion, record train and bus times. Phone numbers for hostels, draw small town maps on exactly how to find a place. Record insects, birds and animals seen, tuck in receipts, feathers. I have even glued in volcanic dust from the trail. On occasion, I will sketch a church, a sea stack or the view before me. To accompany the journal, I have a simple pen.

Fire kit in baggie

Fire kit in baggie

In the shoulder months and winter I also include a small emergency fire kit. This contains just a small selection of items that may get me out of a sticky situation. I used to also carry this in summer months when carrying an alcohol/meths set-up as I would then also have the ability to set up for wood burning for cooking. However the past couple of years have seen some extraordinarily dry periods with bans on both open and meths cooking in favour of a cooking set-up that allows for it to be instantly extinguished, which means gas. So I find that I am now using a gas set-up for the majority of my backpacking excursions these days.

The simple and minimal contents of my fire kit include tinder and matches

The simple and minimal contents of my fire kit include three Tinder-Quik fire starters, a little tinder, Lifeboat or stormproof matches, with sealed match strike card, and a minute ferrocerium rod

These are the contents of the ditty bag being carried by Three Points of the Compass in 2020, not that any of us are getting out much in this coronavirus year. I used to include a spare pair of glasses in this but I now pack them deep within my clothes bag for added protection.

The ditty bag will no doubt continue to evolve in the future, though I suspect little will change much. My next post looking at the smaller pouches and bags carried on my backpacking trips will peek inside my hygiene pouch/wash kit.

A notebook forms an important part of the contents of my ditty bag. A scrappy sketch of High Cup Nick on the Pennine Way in 2018 takes me back to the moment I made it, above, the carefully scrawled name of the little girl who spent that night in Gregs Hut with her father and me, reminds of Lexi's overwhelming excitement at toasting marshmallows that night

A notebook forms an important part of the contents of my ditty bag. A scrappy sketch of High Cup Nick on the Pennine Way in 2018 takes me back to the moment I drew it. Above, the carefully scrawled name of the little girl who spent that night in Gregs Hut bothy with her father and me, reminds me of Lexi’s overwhelming excitement at toasting marshmallows that night with ‘daddy’

Gear talk: hydration

Today is a brief glance at the favoured ‘on-trail’ hydration set up that Three Points of the Compass is using. This is not an in depth review nor any form of recommendation, simply a peek inside the pack contents that I am currently using.

It is important to keep well hydrated on trail. El Jable, Fuertenventura 2017

It is important to keep well hydrated on trail. El Jable, Fuertenventura 2017

Complete hydration set up weighs 182g and has capacity to filter and carry 4.85 litres of water

Complete hydration set up weighs 182g  (6.42 oz) and has capacity to filter and carry 4.85 litres of water

Hydration is all important. I believe that many of any stumbles, slips, accidents and mistakes, even navigational, be they small or large, that occur to hikers, are as result of being dehydrated. You sweat more on trail, this fluid has to be replaced. I have come across hikers that do not like to drink because it means they will have to pee. Or they don’t want to carry water as it is heavy- it is. Little in a pack will weigh as much as water does- 1 gram per millilitre, or 1 kilogram per litre.

I drink constantly throughout the day, in fact before I even hit the trail. Even while hiking, if I see an opportunity for a mug of tea, I invariably take it. If I am out for multi-days, amongst the first thing I am doing when making camp is preparing a pint of oxo, tea or similar, followed by more drinks later.

My hydration set up on trail is fairly simple. A bottle to drink from during the day, plus a water filter attached to a ‘dirty water’ bladder, and a ‘clean water’ bladder. I keep most of this together in a lightweight blue (for water) 150mm x 280mm drawstring, 0.5oz  Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF) stuff sack from Tread Lite Gear. In case of emergency, I also carry a few days supply of water purification tablets, usually in my ditty bag. My final item carried is a spare type 400 bottle cap in my ditty bag. Lose a bottle cap and a bottle is pretty useless.

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes. My water filter and clean and dirty bladders are carried in the blue drawstring bag top left

On hikes over many months, disposable bottles can wear out and require changing. Replacement botle for one that sprung a leak after three months of daily use

On hikes over many months, disposable bottles can wear out and require changing. Replacement bottle for one that sprung a leak after three months of constant and daily use

Hiking in wet locations means that less water has to be carried. In Scotland, with water everywhere, I am relying simply on one or two 850 millilitre bottles, probably one, and refilling from the many water sources available as required. Any plastic bottle will suffice but like many hikers I like the Smartwater bottles as they are smooth sided and taller, slipping into pack side pockets better.

I have to buy replacement bottles extremely infrequently, I have some ten or so knocking around the house and they continue to be rotated into use as required. There really is no need to carry the good, but heavy, aluminium or steel water bottles available from gear shops as a plastic bottle can have a long life if refilled and used with a small degree of care.

Further south I will be carrying one 850ml bottle and a 2 litre clean water bladder. I have used Osprey, Platypus, Evernew and Cnoc bladders extensively and prefer the Evernew. These are light, reliable, have a cap permanently attached to the bladder, which prevents it being lost, and a gusseted bottom which means it stands well when filtering into it. Alongside that I will often be carrying a water filter.

A simple hydration kit- two litre 'dirty water' bag with attached filter. Water bottle with flip cap for on the go and a two litre bladder for use in camp or to camel up on drier stretches

A simple hydration kit- two litre ‘dirty water’ bag with attached filter. Water bottle with flip cap for on the go and a two litre bladder for use in camp or to camel up on drier stretches

Katadyn BeFree filter has a wide screw thread. The partially exposed filter membrane within the plastic cage aids in effective occasional cleaning

Katadyn BeFree filter has a wide screw thread. The partially exposed filter membrane within the plastic cage aids in effective occasional cleaning

Everyone seems to have their individual preference as to water filters. For the past few years I have favoured the  Katadyn BeFree. I like the semi-exposed filter that can easily be swished around and cleaned. It has a good flow rate and the wider thread size (42mm) means that bottles are easier to fill from streams and the like though does limit you to what bottles will connect. On a day hike I might simply carry the 0.6lt flexible Katadyn bottle/soft flask, but that is a bit small. The small 0.6lt flexible bottle that comes with the BeFree is made by Hydrapak, a company that also makes the 2lt Hydrapak Seeker flexible bottle. I normally carry this 2lt bladder permanently attached to the filter as my ‘dirty water’ bag and leave the small 0.6lt bottle at home.

Water filters should not be allowed to freeze as the expanding water within the membranes causes these to split and even though it can appear fine, it will no longer be filtering effectively. If the weather is even close to freezing, my filter is kept deep within my pack during the day or next to my person (in a waterproof bag) through long cold nights.

2 litre HydraPak bladder and 0.6 litre BeFree TPU bottle, also made by HydraPak. Cap and filter are interchangeable

2 litre HydraPak bladder and 0.6 litre BeFree TPU bottle, also made by HydraPak. 42mm thread cap and filter are interchangeable

When hiking in much of lowland Britain there is considerable agricultural run-off into streams, this is accompanied by occasional industrial or effluent pollutant. Few lovely clear looking chalk streams are actually pollution free and a filter will struggle to clear contaminants such as pesticides, molluscicides and fertilisers. The BeFree will continue to filter out bacteria and protozoa including Giardia and Cryptosporidium, but not viruses, just fine, but diluted chemicals is another matter. I will frequently not even bother to carry a filter in lowland South East Britain for that reason.

Filtering water from a cattle trough on the 630 mile South West Coast Path

As mentioned previously, this blog is in no way a recommendation. It is simply the set up that has worked for me on the majority of my hikes over the past few years. That said, I have had minor disasters that required immediate change. Hiking in Scotland on one occasion I had my little blue bag containing filter with clean and dirty bladders stored in my packs side pocket alongside my water bottle. Not going in to detail, pure stupidity on my part combined with bad luck saw the whole hydration ensemble come adrift and sail happily down a stream to never be seen again. I had to fall back on to my emergency water purification tablets I stow in my ditty bag until I reached a town three days later where I could purchase a replacement bladder and bottle. My main lesson from this was that I no longer stow my blue hydration bag in my packs side pocket, instead it is now kept either within the expandable back pocket on the pack, or inside it.

On a foul day Three Points of the Compass was pleased to sereditously find an unlocked salmon fishermans hut to shelter in for the night. Two litre Platypus water bladder provides enough water for evening and morning meals and drinks

On a particularly foul day in Scotland serendipity provided an unlocked salmon fisherman’s hut to shelter in for the night. Two litre Platypus water bladder provides enough water for evening and morning meals and drinks

Bags and pouches of small stuff carried on longer hikes

Gear talk: bags and pouches of ‘small stuff’

Three Points of the Compass could never be considered an ultra-lightweight backpacker. Though I suppose I push it into the ‘lightweight’ bracket by any stretched definition. Many hikers will shake their heads in disbelief at what I include in my gear, I care not a jot.

I like to segregate and organise my gear, especially on trail. That way I know where things are, I can easily check off that everything is with me, that nothing gets left behind in a hostel, bothy or, god forbid, at home! To that end, I tend to carry a selection of small and light bags and pouches in which different groupings of trail gear are carried. With these I can carry out a ‘roll-call’ when packing, ensure that I have the most fragile stored appropriately within a pack, guarded from knocks and damp. I can have what is required during the day to hand, my First Aid Kit within easy reach and damp gear kept away from electronics.

On longer hikes Three Points of the Compass will normally have seven different pouches of smaller gear. Other hikers will either not be carrying such ‘stuff’ at all or if they are, will aggregate it differently, very probably by grouping into less units. Fine, this is simply how I do things. This isn’t a recommendation, just a part explanation. The seven groupings are:

  • Hydration
  • Ditty bag
  • Hygiene
  • ‘Poop kit’
  • Electronics
  • First Aid
  • Day ‘stuff’

Over the coming weeks I’ll be having a brief glance in each of the seven bags and pouches shown above. I won’t be getting bogged down with weights, simply personal rationale.

The Great walking match at the Agricultural Hall- The Finish. from The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. November 1878

Trail talk: Pedestrianism

Sitting at home with seemingly no opportunity in the near future of undertaking a decent long hike, Three Points of the Compass instead finds himself intrigued while reading of Pedestrianism. This was a form of long distance endurance walking that was extremely popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Often quite poor men, and on occasion, women, would undertake incredible walking feats. Around them, numerous enthralled spectators wagered vast sums of money on the outcome. To mention here just some of the characters and the astonishing feats that they achieved.

Foster Powell. Possibly the first of the great pedestrians

Foster Powell. Possibly the first of the ‘great pedestrians’. Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, March 1876

One of the first to demonstrate his astonishing stamina was Englishman Foster Powell. In 1764 the law clerk ran the fifty miles to Bath in seven hours. In 1773 he walked 400 miles from London to York and back, and it should be remembered that this was on poor, rutted roads. Three thousand people escorted him the final miles to Highgate. He repeated the feat many times in the years following. At his fastest, he managed to complete it in five days, 19 hours and seventeen minutes. In 1788 he walked 100 miles in 21 hours and 35 minutes.

Robert Barclay Allardice won a 1000 guinea wager by completing a thousand miles in a thousand hours, a distance that seems to have become almost a standard expectation. Distance walking seems to have run in the family blood. Captain Barclay’s father was also a noted pedestrian- walking the 510 miles from the family seat in Ury, Scotland, to London, in ten days.

Captain Barclay built up to his 1000 mile feat. In 1796 he walked 110 miles in 19 hours 27 minutes. In 1802 he covered 64 miles in ten hours and in 1805 he fitted in 72 miles between his breakfast and dinner. In 1806, on poor roads, he walked a hundred miles in 19 hours and in 1807 walked 78 miles in 14 hours on hilly roads.

The walking exploits of these men and women usually took place on either roads across the country, passing through towns en route, or on marked sections in enclosed grounds. Entrance fees were charged to mostly willing spectators, others chose to clamber the fences and gain entry for free. Captain Barclay’s 1000 miles took place on a marked half mile section of track at Newmarket in 1809 and he kept a pace of one mile per hour, resting and snatching sleep between the miles. His strategy was simple but ultimately successful, by walking one mile at the end of an hour and the next at the beginning of the following hour, he was able to rest for some 90 minutes between exertions. Sounds simple, but he had to sustain that for 42 days.

Captain Barclay surrounded by spectators. Those in the foreground seeme to be making something of a party of the occasion. Drawing by Thomas Rowlandson. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Captain Barclay surrounded by paying spectators. Those in the foreground seem to be making something of a party of the occasion. Drawing by Thomas Rowlandson. Image: Wikimedia Commons

As a further indication of the sort of man he was, in 1808 he walked thirty miles grouse shooting, starting at five in the morning, then walked sixty miles home in 11 hours. Having dined, he then walked 16 miles to a ball. He returned home at seven the following morning and then promptly went shooting again. This is perhaps not the day-to-day regime of a modern athlete. For most of his walking feats Captain Barclay eschewed any form of training, instead eating and drinking prodigiously, his walking attire normally included top hat, cravat and woollen suit.

Fifteen year old Richard Mullen completed 102 miles in 24 hours in 1822

Fifteen year old William Mullen attempted 102 miles in 24 hours in 1822

The 100 mile challenge was attempted by many would be pedestrians and still remains a standard today. By 1842 Irishman William Mullen was already an accomplished 100-miler. The Newry Examiner reported on the large number of spectators that had gathered at Wateringdam to watch Mullen repeatedly walk the half mile out and half mile back on the Belfast road over 24 hours , he frequently stopped at the spectator stands to converse, despite his feet suffering badly, five blisters being cut out, he finished at pace. Afterwards, he ‘walked through town apparently not much fatigued’.

Richard Manks was the second person to walk a thousand miles in a thousand hours, completing his feat in the year of the Great Exhibition, at the Surrey Cricket Ground. Illustrated London News, 8 November 1851

Richard Manks was the second person to walk a thousand miles in a thousand hours, completing his feat in the year of the Great Exhibition, at the Surrey Cricket Ground. Illustrated London News, 8 November 1851

The wonderment over pedestrain feats is evident in the prose of the time, 8 Nov, ILN

The wonder over pedestrian feats is evident in the prose of the time, The detail on Manks’ achievement in 1851 is illuminating. 8 Nov, Illustrated London News

In 1843 the famed pedestrian James Searles, a man of modest stature, succeeded in walking a thousand miles over six weeks. His track was the public road, measuring 63 yards over a mile, between the Shakespeare Inn and the Peacock inn on the Huddersfield Road in the vicinity of his hometown Leeds. His favoured expedient was that of Captain Barclay, to walk a mile at the end of an hour followed by another mile at the beginning of the next, then rest in the intervening period before repeating the exercise. It sounds so simple, but to keep that up for six weeks must place an incredible mental tole on the individual. Searles earned almost nothing for his feat, he was provided with food and a bed during his task and was given a few presents over the weeks.

James Searle walked 2000 miles in 2000 half-hours in 1852

James Searles walked 2000 miles in 2000 half-hours in 1852

On 20 September 1852 Searles set off on a momentous attempt to walk 2000 miles in 2000 half hours on a track near the Pineapple Inn, in Toxteth, Liverpool. Searles was reported as eating eight pounds of ‘animal food’ a day while he achieved his feat, but he lost a great deal of weight and finished 30 lbs lighter. This regime paid a tole on his health, he suffered dizziness at night and his knees troubled him. However he completed his task on 1 November. To celebrate his walk, he danced a hornpipe in clogs at an evening benefit dance, though whether it was the slow or fast variant isn’t recorded.

Despite the money surrounding these events, both betting and large amounts of entrance money being taken by those promoting such walks in town arenas, particularly where more than one walker was involved, the challenge walks often became a morally dubious test of ‘who breaks first’ and there were many that regarded the sport as cruel exhibitions of self-torture.

Some of the more accomplished pedestrians became celebrities. The ‘sport’ of pedestrianism had already crossed to the US and as a result challenge matches between celebrity walkers were staged. One in particular was the 1877 match between two superstars of the time.

The ‘Great Walking Match for the Championship of the World’

The famed American Edward Payson Weston had become a household name by walking 1200 miles from Portland, Maine to Chicago in 30 days, winning a $10000 wager as a result. He was the first man to walk 500 miles within six days, achieving the feat in 1874 in New Jersey with 26 minutes to spare. The press of the day pitted him against another noted pedestrian, the Irishman Dan O’Leary who had walked 116 miles in 24 hours. A few minutes after midnight on a Monday morning, 15 November 1875, a Chicago audience watched as the two set off round a track. The challenge- the first to complete 500 miles. Exceptionally, there were rules, only walking was permitted, no running. Also, the race had to be over by the following Sunday as no sporting events were permitted to take place on the sabbath. 500 miles in six days, it sounds insane.

With just two or three hours rest each night the men battled it out. O’Leary was the faster and his lead was established on the first day. On Wednesday he was 26 miles in the lead. On Saturday morning he had increased his advantage having walked 425 miles with Weston 30 miles behind. The two men were exhausted but surrounded by thousands of over enthusiastic and noisy spectators, they continued. O’Leary completed his 500th mile with forty five minutes to spare. At midnight he had walked 503, Weston managed 451 miles. Each competitor received some $4000 for their exertions that week.

Agricultural Halls, Islington. The two great pedestrians- O'Leary pitted against Weston over a six day 500 mile race. London Illustrated News, 14 April 1877

Agricultural Halls, Islington. The two great pedestrians- O’Leary pitted against Weston over a six day 500 mile race. London Illustrated News, 14 April 1877

The two men were pit against each other in a repeat of the 500 mile challenge in April 1877, the event taking place in the Agricultural Hall in Islington, London. Again, O’Leary was the victor having walked 519 miles and the header image above depicts the two men at the end when 35000 spectators roared them to the finish. Each received around $14000 for their efforts but continued to push the boundaries of what was achievable. The following year, while competing in the inaugural Astley Belt challenge, O’Leary walked 520 miles in six days, but his rival somehow pushed it even further- walking 550 miles over six days in 1879. Even that distance was surpassed. Racing in New York in 1888, George Littlewood achieved 623 miles in six days in 1888. Despite the fervour of the time, such events were eventually regarded with disdain, to the extent that in 1899 six day races were banned in New York state. Weston continued to achieve quite amazing walking feats. In 1910, aged 71, he walked from Los Angeles to New York, a distance of 3600 miles, in 78 days.

'Finish of the Great Walking-match on Saturday at the agricultural hall, Islington'. The first of the annual international 'Asley Belt' six-day races was held in London in 1878. Competitors could walk, trot or un as they pleased. Dan O'Leary beat 17 other competitors, completing 520 miles in the time span. ILN, 1878

‘Finish of the Great Walking-match on Saturday at the agricultural hall, Islington’. The first of the annual international ‘Astley Belt’ six-day races was held in London in 1878. Competitors could walk, trot or run as they pleased. Dan O’Leary beat 17 other competitors, completing 520 miles in the time span. Illustrated London News, 1878

The term ‘walking’ was a loose expectation during many of these distance events. It was the distance that mattered to those watching and wagering. Pedestrians would very occasionally launch into a trot to ward off cramp, or probably simply to vary the miles. The codification on gait, pace and strict definition of what constitutes ‘walking’ came later.

Emma Sharp dressed in her 1000 mile attire, reported as-

Emma Sharp dressed in her 1000 mile attire, reported as- “male clothing with the exception of her straw hat which was adorned with ‘feminine ornaments'”, 1864

Pedestrianism was not just a male exploit. Emma Sharp also walked a 1000 miles in 1000 hours. She is thought to be the first female to have achieved this challenge, completing it 29 October 1864 to an audience of 25000. Over a 120 yard course, she repeated Captain Barclays technique of walk and rest. So outraged were some members of the public, presumably male, that her food was drugged and numerous attempts made to trip her up. She carried a pistol for the final two days to protect herself and fired it on 27 occasions to warn off assailants. Few expected her to achieve the ‘Barclay challenge’, including her husband, and having bet heavily on herself, she won a considerable amount and combined with her share of the entrance fee profits, she and her husband opened a textile factory. During the walk her only reported ailment was swollen ankles.

“I would not attempt it”

There was one walking challenge that the great American pedestrian O’Leary refused to attempt as he believed the required sleep deprivation over many weeks was too much for the human body to endure. This was 1500 miles in 1000 hours.

William Gale completing 1500 miles in 1000 hours in 1877. Supplement to the Illustrated London News, 6 October, 1877

William Gale completing 1500 miles in 1000 hours in 1877. Supplement to the Illustrated London News, 6 October, 1877

At night, Gale was escorted on the track by two other walkers, one carrying a lantern

At night, Gale was escorted on the track by at least one other walker, carrying a lantern

London born William Gale was another of the great and celebrated pedestrians. In 1877 he undertook not only the challenge of 1500 miles in 1000 hours but also committed to walking a mile and a half at the beginning of each hour, never getting more than 37 1/2 minutes of rest at a time for the duration of the walk. This amounts to 36 miles a day for six weeks. Gale was recorded as keeping a pace of around four miles an hour, always starting stiffly but loosening up quickly. He suffered immense leg pain and took cold baths for relief. Despite his exhaustion, he couldn’t sleep at all for the final 48 hours.

When Gale had previously completed a 1000 quarters of a mile in consecutive ten minutes, he managed that with even less rest, no more than seven minutes at a time for the two weeks it took to complete the walk. Endurance walking over such huge distances became as much about the ability to perform despite sleep deprivation alongside pure physical ability and determination.

Ada Anderson, an extraordinary pedestrian

Ada Anderson, an extraordinary pedestrian who went on to earn $8000 as a result of her 1879 challenge walk

Gale was the only person to have walked 1500 miles in 1000 hours and also trained the second to achieve it- Ada Anderson. Working in the uncertain world of theatre, it is very likely that Anderson saw the financial opportunity in pedestrianism after her husband died in 1877, plunging her toward financial ruin.

This was not her first foray into pedestrianism however as she had already walked 1000 miles in 1000 half-hours over three weeks in 1877 in Newport, Wales, despite having to carry an umbrella and lamp due to several days of heavy rain. The difficulty in these events should not be under estimated. Attempting a 100 mile walk in 28 hours, the air was so thick with pollution from lamps and cigar smoke in the indoor arena that she collapsed unconscious after completing 96 miles. Later that year, both Anderson and Gale set off to walk a new record distance of 1250 miles in 1000 hours. Walking separately, with different staged breaks, they both completed the distance in the allotted time. The press immediately dubbed her ‘Champion Lady Walker of the World‘. Anderson set off to walk 1500 miles in 1000 hours on 8 April 1878, completing the challenge on 20 May. Having won a considerable amount of money from her various walking exploits in the UK, she remarried (two days after her 1500 mile walk) and moved to the US. Some of her subsequent pedestrian challenges were obviously intended to capture the public’s imagination, these included 804 miles completed within 500 hours in Cincinnati in April 1879. 2052 quarter miles in as many quarter hours, in Buffalo in August 1879 and 351 miles in six days in New York in December 1879. Ever the show woman, her chosen walking garb consisted of loose leather shoes, scarlet stockings with silver tights and black velvet breeches ending at the knee. She wore a long flowing robe of blue and scarlet and a similarly coloured cap decorated with braid and feathers.

Thomas William Green, Racewalker was one of the leading British race-walkers, a sport that evolved out of pedestrianism. He won the 50km event during the 1932 Olympics. He won the London-Brighton walking event three times and In a Nottingham to Birmingham walk in 1933, set a new record of 50 miles in 7 hours 48 minutes 42 seconds. Gallagher Park Drive cigarette card: No. 10 of 48, 'Champions' series,1934

Thomas William Green, was one of the leading British race-walkers, a sport that evolved out of pedestrianism. He won the 50km event during the 1932 Olympics. He also won the London-Brighton walking event three times and in a Nottingham to Birmingham walk in 1933, set a new record of 50 miles in 7 hours 48 minutes 42 seconds. Gallagher Park Drive cigarette card: No. 10 of 48, ‘Champions’ series,1934

So whatever happened to pedestrianism? Why did it almost vanish despite enjoying great popularity and encouraging considerable betting on the outcome?

It is likely that as the events became more commercialised and therefore enclosed, within sporting grounds, that rules and and strictures took over. The free-for-all ‘for the hell of it’ attitude was replaced by regular sporting fixtures. Matches and scheduled races steadily took over in the mid-nineteenth century.

Race walking became the norm. The sort of race for which a spectator could turn up, pay their entrance fee, see the sporting celebrities of the time, and also view an event that began and finished on the same day.

There was also a new kid on the block, the growing popularity of bicycles in the Victorian era quickly resulted in staged races. Spectators could now choose between watching the familiar- athletes steadily walking round a circuit or road route, or the frenetic peddling of race cyclists, with the associated risk of crashes and tumbles.

Wenger and Victorinox nail clippers

Knife chat: Nail clippers

Foot care for the hiker is all important. Part of that regime is ensuring that toenails are kept trimmed. If you don’t- bruising, split nails, ingrown nails, lost nails, blisters, fungal issues, pain and holed socks can result. Potentially enough to end a hike.

Most hikers can simply give a bit of a trim and a file to nails at home prior to setting off on an adventure. In fact it should form part of the final ‘tick list’ before leaving home. However, some hikers are fortunate enough to occasionally enjoy a multi-week excursion. During a hike of that duration, nails will grow and have to be kept in check otherwise problems can arise. Three Points of the Compass does occasionally embark on a trip greater than six days, and this can include a fortnights holiday overseas when hiking could be undertaken at any point, I have always felt it wise to pack along a small pair of nail clippers.

Three Points of the Compass had a glance at the Victorinox SwissCard Nail Care previously, I concluded that particular SwissCard was mostly unsuitable for use on trail. The scissors included on most Swiss Cards are pretty good however a better alternative is covered below.

Victorinox offer a wider range than those shown here, but these are most suited for backpacking purposes

Victorinox offer a wider range of nail clippers and scissors than those shown here, but these are most suited for backpacking purposes

It may be possible to purchase a pair of cheap clippers in a pharmacy if required, or perhaps borrow a pair from a fellow hiker/traveller, however you can be assured that any opportunity to borrow clippers is rarely going to be available when necessary. Others may happily cut nails with a pair of scissors but I find that a dedicated pair of clippers is both easier to use and does a better, neater, and therefore safer, job.

Wenger Nail Clip and Victorinox 580 nail clippers are built on the same frame and combine clippers with a basic set of tools

Wenger Swiss Clipper and Victorinox Nail Clip 580 are built on the same 65mm frame and combine clippers with a basic set of tools

As usual, there are various offerings from Swiss manufacturer Victorinox that have your back on this one. There are always alternatives to theirs, but good efficient clippers are rarely also lightweight. Pop yours on to a digital scale and see what they are. All of the clippers looked at here are French Style. None are Post clippers. French style are more widely available in a format that suits backpacking, being less bulky and lighter overall. Whereas a good carbon steel would be preferable for prolonging sharpness of the cutting edges, I have never found any French Style clippers that are light enough to consider. All of the products shown here are made from good quality stainless steel.

Wenger Swiss Clipper

Wenger were one of the two companies that manufactured knives for the Swiss army. They advertised themselves as makers of the “Genuine Swiss Army Knife”. One of the resulting actions after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks when four passenger aircraft were hijacked, was the clamping down on both the sale and carrying of knives. Wenger, who relied on large sales of their products in airports could not survive the drop in sales and in 2005 were acquired by Swiss rival Victorinox, the makers of the “Original Swiss Army Knife”.

Wenger Nail Clip

Wenger Swiss Clippers

Wenger Swiss Clipper has a pair of folding nail clippers

Wenger Swiss Clipper has a pair of folding nail clippers

Many of the Wenger range of knives were retained by Victorinox and reissued under the “Delémont collection” brand, tools being manufactured in the Delémont valley in the Canton of Jura, Switzerland. The Wenger Swiss Clippers were built around the long-standing ‘Esquire’ tool and was one of those models subsequently available for purchase following the takeover. All of the Swiss Clippers came with ergonomic ‘EVO’ synthetic scales, moulded for easy grip. Various colours were available, the example shown here is translucent Ice Blue.

Tweezers and toothpick are slotted into the scales of Wenger Swiss Clipper

Tweezers and toothpick are slotted into the scales of Wenger Swiss Clipper

As well as a pair of folding nail clippers, the tools are small pen blade, nail file with nail cleaner tip (that will also tackle small Phillips screws) and scissors. The scales also contain tweezers and toothpick.

The frame of the Wenger Esquire is 65mm compared to the rival Victorinox Classic which is 58mm. The Swiss Clipper retains the slightly longer size of the Esquire. This means a slightly larger pen blade and scissors than those found in the smaller Classic. The scissors in the Swiss Clipper are not only larger, but are also serrated and ‘self sharpening’. Scissors have a lever type back spring, unlike the Victorinox which usually incorporate a small spring. The small springs on Victorinox knives are known to occasionally break or come adrift but replacements are easily obtainable.

Main tools opened on Wenger Swiss Clipper- pen blade, nail file, scissors and nail clippers

Main tools opened on Wenger Swiss Clipper- pen blade, nail file, serrated scissors and nail clippers

The Swiss Clipper nail clippers work well however the main problem with this tool is its bulk. Only 65mm long and 19mm wide, it is 19.80mm thick, whereas the simpler Esquire, with no clippers, is only 9.40mm thick. Quite an increase in bulk for the addition of one tool that is going to be used very infrequently on trail.

Wenger Swiss Clipper in use

Wenger Swiss Clipper in use

The scale tools on the Victorinox and Wenger tools are rarely used by Three Points of the Compass. I loathe the toothpicks, feeling that the manky bacteria subsequently harboured in its scale slot thoroughly off-putting. As for the tweezers, fine that they are, there are far better options. But if these are the only tweezers you have, then that is it. The 40mm long toothpick and tweezers on the Wenger tool are 5mm shorter than those on the Victorinox equivalents.

Wenger Swiss Clipper and its replacement Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Wenger Swiss Clipper and its replacement Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Victorinox Nail Clip 580

With the Nail Clip 580 Victorinox bought the Wenger nail clipper in house and under its own name. However it has retained many of the Wenger features and it retains the Delémont branding. It is still housed in a 65mm frame, albeit now with slightly thinner smooth cellidor scales, with a subsequent change to the longer Victorinox tweezers and toothpick. Both toothpick and tweezers are 45mm long. A small range of some eight scale colours are available- these include standard red cellidor scales, transparent red (shown here), white, black, camouflage and others, The scissors remain exactly the same as those found on the Swiss Clipper, as does the nail file with nail cleaner tip. The file surface measures 27m x 6mm and is akin to a match strike surface that works on smoothing nails just fine. The nail clipper itself has been refined, there is a slight design change but folding/unfolding, operation and performance remain unchanged.

Victorinox Nail Clip 580

Victorinox Nail Clip 580, model 0.6463.T (‘T’ denotes transparent scales)

As a result of a change to thinner scales, the Nail Clip 580 is just a tad thinner than the Wenger Swiss Clipper, only by a little more than a millimetre but it is still noticeable. For all that, it is still bulky in the hand when closed. In common with the Wenger there is a keyring fitted but it would add some heft to a bunch of keys. Weight is only a gram less than the Wenger.

Discreet but important changes were made to the Victorinox/Wenger nail clipper to improve reliability and reduce its closed depth

Discreet but important changes were made to the Victorinox/Wenger nail clipper to improve reliability and reduce its closed depth

Blades on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Blades on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Scissors on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

Scissors on 58mm and 65mm Victorinox knives compared

While this is a handy tool for the backpacker, and there are potentially better options covered later, this little aid to manicure, combined with a modicum of basic tools, is possibly more suited to an urban commuter. The clippers are small, inoffensive but ready to pull into use at a moments notice.

Small pen blade and nail file open from the same end on Nail Clip 580

Small pen blade and nail file open from the same end on Nail Clip 580. There is no flat ScrewDriver tip option with the file however the nail cleaner tip will tackle some smaller Phillips screws

Comparing the spear point stainless steel blade on the 65mm tools with their smaller 58mm cousins it is only too apparent how much more useful the, admittedly still small, 65mm blades are. The larger blades are 47mm with a cutting edge of 39mm, compared to the cutting edge of 34mm on the 58mm Victorinox Rambler shown here.

Scissors on the Nail Clip are larger, have the better main back spring and are ‘self-sharpening’ serrated whereas the 58mm Victorinox knives have traditional straight cutting edges that require an occasional touch up.

The back of the Nail Clip 580 is smooth and unobtrusive, tucked beside the nail file are the scissors, the only back tool

The back of the Nail Clip 580 is smooth and unobtrusive, tucked beside the nail file are the scissors, the only back tool

The nail clippers on the the Victorinox 580 have a curved 9mm cut, the same as those found on the Wenger Swiss Clipper and Victorinox 582 covered below. This is fairly narrow and a couple of extra nips will usually be required on wider nails but that is no hardship. Clipper cutting tips are aligned and meet well, but all those mentioned here have the same degree of accurate machining and manufacture. There is also a really attractive wooden scaled version of the 580. This is the Nail Clip Wood 580, all folding tools are exactly the same, kept inside sculpted Swiss walnut ‘Evolution’ scales. In common with all walnut scales on Victorinox knives, these do not include slots for tweezers or toothpick.

Victorinox 580 Nail Clip in use

Victorinox 580 Nail Clip in use

The Victorinox Nail Clip 580 is a handy little aid to manicure needs. Victorinox also took this model a couple of steps further and provided the user with two additional options- Either keep the folding clipper within the scales, with scale tools, but lose all the other tools, or lose everything else and simply have the clipper itself, with no scales.

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

Victorinox Nail Clip 582

The Nail Clip 582 does away with the scissors, blade and nailfile and is simply a folding nail clipper within red cellidor scales (the only colour option), together with scale stowed toothpick and tweezers of the Victorinox variety. This means that this is a tool that supposedly is airline friendly and there should be little chance of it being confiscated. Dropping the other tools also means that the weight is reduced by some 10g but its overall usefulness is very much reduced too.

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 opened but not unfolded

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 opened but not unfolded

The nail clippers are exactly as those found in the Nail Clip 580, and open, unfold and work just as easily and efficiently. There isn’t a great deal to say about these clippers. They work, are neatly folded when not in use and look like a Swiss Army Knife, but they aren’t.

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 in use

Victorinox Nail Clip 582 in use

To now move on to the next clipper option, simply carry and use a pair of clippers totally removed from protective scales. This immediately removes and excludes any accompanying tools and, importantly, reduces weight (and bulk) considerably. Weight decreases anything from a half to a third of the red-scaled alternatives.

Four Victorinox nail clippers, two with traditional scales, two without

Four Victorinox nail clippers, two with traditional scales, two without

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1

The Victorinox nail clipper, model 8.2050.B1 is simply the nail clipper from the cellidor scaled models 580 and 582, given a plastic cover to the tang. It now becomes a no frills folding clipper with no other features other than a hole in the handle to which a lanyard or keyring can be attached. There is no nail file included with these clippers.

When folded, the Victorinox nail clippers take up little room. There is a hole in the handle to hang it from a keychain if required

When folded, the Victorinox nail clipper model: 8.2050.B1 takes up little room. There is a hole in the handle to hang it from a keychain if required

The various exposed crevices does mean that it is susceptible to picking up pocket debris and fluff. However, if it sits in a ditty bag in a pack for the majority of its time then this isn’t a problem. Being without a clip or sheath the clippers can come loose and unclipped if simply hanging from a keyring.

The Victorinox nail clipper is simply the tool from the cellidor scaled version removed and given a small covered handle

The Victorinox nail clipper 8.2050.B1 is simply the standard tool normally found with celidor scales, given a small plastic handle instead

This little clipper is possibly the most suitable lightweight option shown here for longer backpacking excursions. Thoroughly recommended and Three Points of the Compass has adopted it in 2020 for future multi-week hikes. Though to be honest, being so light and small, it will probably continue to sit in my ditty bag on anything longer than a day hike.

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1 in use

Victorinox nail clippers. Model 8.2050.B1 in use

The Vic model 8.2050.B1 is currently in the process of usurping my previous favourite, the Victorinox model 8.2055.CB shown below. While both are equally as efficient at clipping nails, the next model shown, the 8.2055.CB, provides just a couple of additional functions beyond simple clippers.

Two small Victorinox nail clippers- Similar sizes. Possibly one of these is the best option for taking on longer trails

Two small Victorinox nail clippers of similar size. One of these is possibly the best option for taking on longer trails

Victorinox nail clipper. Model 8.2055.CB

In common with the Victorinox Nail Clip 582 and simpler red handled clipper above, this stainless steel model eshews the addition of any other major tools but does include a nail file. The file also has a 2.5mm flat tip to it that is advertised as a ‘flat screwdriver’ but would have benefited from being a nail cleaner tip instead. I have used the small screwdriver on the odd occasion but it suffers from being both slightly rounded and too large for the minute screws on my glasses. It really isn’t a very effective screwdriver so consequently is a tool that I can easily live without. The nail file is handy though, particularly as it is immediately to hand when clipping nails.

Victorinox nail clippers with slip case

Victorinox nail clippers with skai slip pouch

The nail file surface on the model 8.2055.CB is not aggressive but still effective. The size of this is pretty good too- measuring ≈ 28mm x 12mm. However the added nail file is a luxury as I am normally packing along a small knife or multi-tool (normally a 58mm Victorinox or a Leatherman Squirt S4 keychain tool) and both of these come equipped with nail file. There is a small ring for a keyring permanently attached to the nail clippers but I have never used this, anymore than I have used the pleather slip case it comes with. This model is also available from Victorinox supplied with a decent sized keyring (model: 8.2055.C), if you want that feature, take care when ordering to ensure you get the right one. Other than the key ring there is no difference in the clippers themselves.

Small nail file beneath the clipper lever

Small nail file beneath the clipper lever

You will see in the image below that I have the clippers inverted in use. I have found that they are easier to manipulate in this manner, preventing your thumb from sliding down the narrower and slippery lever.

Victorinox nail clippers in use

Victorinox 8.2055.CB nail clippers in use

Three Points of the Compass has carried the little folding stainless model 8.2055.CB clippers from Victorinox on the majority of longer hikes for the past five years and they have never failed me. Prior to this I was using the Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers (covered next). Despite the lighter weight of the Zwilling clippers I eventually decided that I preferred the easier to use Victorinox model 8.2055.CB so switched.

Nail Clippers carried by Three Points of the Compass on longer hikes over the past seven years. The larger Victorinox clippers behind eventually usurped the thinner and lighter Zwilling clippers in front

Nail Clippers carried by Three Points of the Compass on longer hikes over the past seven years. The larger Victorinox clippers behind eventually replaced the thinner and lighter Zwilling clippers in front

It is not all Victorinox obviously. There are lightweight options from other manufacturers. Sadly these are frequently not that lightweight and some suffer terribly in build quality, hence my having preferred to stick with the various Swiss products for so many years. Those shown next are very well made, clip nails well and are of smaller dimensions than others covered here and are still available if a little hard to find. They have their faults though.

Three Points of the Compass carries a fairly comprehensive First Aid Kit on longer hikes of greater than a weeks duration and this includes a pair of nail clippers if not in my ditty bag. My 17g Victorinox clippers (seen here) have usually formed part of this kit for many years of hiking . Photographed on Ardnamurchan, Western Scotland, 2018

Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers

Three Points of the Compass blogged on these clippers five years ago. I still stand by everything I said at the time, these are both great clippers, and eye wateringly expensive…

Zwilling clippers have a reasonable nail file beneath the lever handle

Zwilling clippers have a reasonable nail file beneath the lever handle

The Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers have an astonishingly thin profile, only 4mm when folded. This is made possibly by their incorporating a sliding cam mechanism to operate them. It is this that I eventually decided made them too awkward for use on toe nails. Scrabbling around on a tent floor, I have often found this hasn’t engaged properly and have to take several attempts to clip the smaller toes. No problem with finger nails. It is one of those minor issues that has to be experienced to appreciate.

Zwilling ultra-slip nail clippers

Zwilling ultra-slip nail clippers

Despite the tiny size of these clippers, they still manage to include a nail file, this is beneath the clipper lever/handle. The file surface is quite narrow, measuring just 29mm x 5mm and is not particularly aggressive. It is somewhat hidden away and I find it works well with finger nails but less so with toe nails, being a tad difficult to manipulate. The clippers come with a leather carry pouch as befitting their high-end credentials, however few people are likely to carry the pouch on trail.

Ditty bag and contents

Zwilling nail clippers formed part of my hiking kit until c2015. Almost all of the contents of this ditty bag kit have altered considerably since then and only three items remained unchanged in 2020. The 16g nail clippers have subsequently been replaced by a slightly heavier model that are easier to use

Despite their small dimensions, these clippers have the widest cutting curve of any of the clippers shown here. Almost all of the Victorinox offerings are 9mm wide, those from Zwilling are 13mm wide. Shockingly expensive, these clippers are still reasonably effective and small enough to be used on occasion. However I preferred something less fussy for use on trail. Therefore the Zwilling clippers moved into a small ‘Urban Altoids kit’ carried in to London on a daily weekday commute. Here they found their forte, where small size was all important and they get called upon infrequently. If I get round to it, I’ll do a blog on that mini kit at a later date.

Zwilling nail clipper in use

Zwilling nail clipper in use

Tool Length Width Thickness (depth) Weight Cutting width of clipper
Wenger Swiss Clipper 65mm 19mm 19.80mm 37.8g 9mm
Victorinox Nail Clip 580

0.6463

65mm 17.30mm 18.95mm 36.7g 9mm
Victorinox Nail Clip 582

0.6453

65mm 15.40mm 17.05mm 26.4g 9mm
Victorinox Nail Clippers (red handle)

8.2050.B1

59mm 13mm 7mm 11.3g 9mm
Victorinox Nail Clippers (folding, with nail file)

8.2055.CB

59mm 12mm 6.25mm 17.3g 11mm
Zwilling J. A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim nail clippers 59mm 13mm 4mm 15.6g 13mm
What Three Points of the Compass packs along on longer hikes to tend to nails- As well as a pair of dedicated Victorinox clippers, the little Leatherman S4 has scissors and nail file

What Three Points of the Compass has carried on longer hikes to tend to nails over the past five years- as well as a pair of dedicated Victorinox clippers, the little Leatherman Squirt S4 has scissors and nail file

As previously mentioned, Three Points of the Compass doesn’t like to rely solely on scissors for nail care, though there are many content to do so. Regardless of use on nails, a pair of small scissors is also always handy for cutting tape, opening packages and ‘Mountain House’ type meals etc. Which is why having a small pair of scissors included on a Victorinox knife or similar multi-tool means these are always to hand. Otherwise, there are plenty of small stand-alone scissor options.

Tiny pair of soft-grip, stainless steel Westcott scissors with titanium-nitride coated blades. These are just 76mm long and weigh just 7g. Model: E:30420 00

Tiny pair of soft-grip, Westcott scissors with titanium-nitride coated stainless steel blades. These are just 76mm long and weigh only 7g. Model: E:30420 00

A smaller set of scissors, such as the Westcott fine point scissors shown here will cope with most nails other than those on the toughest and thickest of gnarled big toes. One problem with these is the risk of scissor points puncturing gear whilst stowed in the pack so a thin tube such as a straw or short section of electricians shrink tubing will slide over the closed ends. I often take the little Westcotts in a First Aid Kit on day hikes when I keep the points of the scissors in the centre of a small roll of leucotape.

Three Points of the Compass has carried the little folding stainless clippers from Victorinox on the majority of longer hikes in the past five years. After trying the Zwilling clippers prior to that, I found I much preferred the easier to use Victorinox clippers and switched to them. I have now further refined my multi-week kit and the even simpler Victorinox 8.2050.B1 clippers today sit in my virtual ditty kit in readiness. These, purely coincidentally, have the additional benefit of being the lightest clippers shown here, if not the smallest.

The six choices in nail clipper covered in this blog

The six nail clippers covered in this blog. Though any would make a great choice for an extended multi-week hike, Three Points of the Compass has his preferred option amongst these- the 11g red handled folding model 8.2050.B1, shown centre-back

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.