Category Archives: Fire

Lone Peak Altras

What gear wears out on a long hike?

 The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of trail. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of walking. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

Lightweight modern gear can be surprisingly tough. With care much of it will last many thousands of trail miles. My 900ml Evernew pan is titanium and flexes with ease. Yet other than being blackened and scratched, with scorched silicon covered handles, it is still in good working order and I expect it to last me many more years. It wasn’t cheap when new but has more than paid for itself. I like it and feel no need to replace it with shinier, newer cook wear.

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point. When they began to fray I would line them with a piece of duct tape

Lone Peak Altras were light, breathable and comfortable. However I knew that I would be lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair

I find the toes on my trail shoes tend to come unstuck and flap around after a couple of hundred miles. Sometimes I would glue them back with a 1 gm tube of superglue from my ditty bag. Frequently I couldn’t be bothered

Lone Peak Altra trail shoes are light, breathable and comfortable. However I know that I am lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair. I had purchased four pairs prior to my 2018 hike as they aren’t the easiest to source. I expected my feet to spread and I used pairs a size larger than normal. Just as well, as they did.

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out. I carried tow pairs for walking and alternated them. Both pairs were replaced during the walk.

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out as a result of silt. I carried two pairs for walking and alternated them each day. Both pairs were replaced with new during the walk

Needless to say, footwear- socks and trail shoes get a battering. I had the option of wearing boots but have been using lightweight trail runners for years. I prepared spares in advance of my walk for Mrs Three Points of the Compass to send on to me as required. I don’t think a long hike is the time to be changing out to unfamiliar footwear and it made sense to have reserves ‘back-home’. Particularly as I would no doubt be using them on future hikes if they were not required for this trail.

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa's Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing and other items carried. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested this over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa’s Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold, brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic baselayers lasted the fine months

My pack of choice was the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I found it a comfortable pack if a little ‘saggy’ if not carrying much food. There were tears and abrasions and the hip belt began slipping in the final two hundred miles. It put up with much abuse and I will be buying another exactly like it. Caithness

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary as I crossed the Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the sticthing in the back of the neck

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the stitching in the back of the neck

I carried a small selection of repair materials. The aforementioned mini tube of superglue, a carefully thought out sewing kit, patches for Thermarest sleeping mat and self adhesive tenacious tape and cuben dyneema. Everything was put to use at some point and tape was replenished twice.

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

Sewing the crotch of my trekking shorts on a zero day

Sewing the crotch of my Champion 365 training- 9 inch inseam trekking shorts on a zero day

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working in order to put in the miles

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working well in order to put in the miles

Three Points of the Compass invariably uses a BeFree water filter for purifying water. However thought it prudent to pack along a few Chlorine Dioxide tabs in case of failure or filter freezing. As it was, due to carelessness, I lost my entire hydration kit at one point- bottle, bladders and filter. Fortunate that I was able to switch to tablets with a couple of half litre bottles purchased two days later.

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

MSR Pocket Rocket and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items

MSR Pocket Rocket2 and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items. However the lighter did rust badly

I never expected to have problems with the reliable stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn't lost

I never expected to have problems with the previously reliable MSR stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off from half way through my hike. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn’t lost

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn't up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn’t up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

One of the most exciting materials that has found its way into hiking gear in recent years is cuben fibre, more recently known as dyneema composite fabric. Very strong, very light. Also very expensive. I carry a few items made of this but was well aware of this materials biggest drawback. It doesn’t suffer abrasion well. The only cuben items I used were a few stuff sacks (a big fan of these as I like to compartmentalise) and my shelter.

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me. Strath na Sealga, Scotland

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

I put cuben 'stitches' across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

I put cuben ‘stitches’ across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Three Points of the Compass used Pacer Poles not only for trekking but also as supports for my shelter. I like their raked, moulded grips and find them comfortable to use. I am not a fan of their twist locks though and found these bound up over time and frequently couldn’t loosen them Rocky steep paths on the Cape Wrath Trail put a bend in one of them. Unable to separate the sections I was unable to fly home with them at the end of my trail and, reluctantly, I was forced to leave them at John O’Groats. Despite their faults, I have bought another pair since my return.

2018 08 29_5990

It is doubtful that I could have completed my 2000 mile Three Points of the Compass hike without my Pacer Poles. At the end they were missing much of the paint on their shafts, one tip had been replaced mid-trail, the sections couldn’t be separated and one pole was bent like a banana. Nonetheless I was saddened to leave them behind

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail. August 2018

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives

A top five of 58mm Victorinox knives- my number five choice

‘Simple’ knives on trail

Very frequently all that is ever required of a knife on a hiking trip is a single blade. Opening food packages, trimming tape, cutting cheese. Simple tasks, for which a small blade is all that is required. I have used the Spyderco Bug, with its 33mm blade, or the Opinel No. 8 with its longer 85mm blade, on some camping trips. In fact the former knife still sits on my keychain as part of my EDC, but it no longer accompanies me hiking.

The ubiquitous Swiss Army Knives produced by Victorinox are familiar and affordable tools. The knives that Victorinox have made over the decades are broadly classed by length: 111mm, 108mm, 100mm, 93mm, 91mm, 84mm, 74mm and 58mm. Of these, a knife from the smallest, the 58mm stable, is often all that is required while backpacking. Three Points of the Compass has selected a ‘top five’ from these that would make a good trail companion.

58mm Victorinox Princess and Escort knives. Two simple tools

58mm Victorinox Princess and Escort knives. Two simple tools

Princess

Victorinox have produced two extremely minimalist keychain knives that I think are particularly suited for taking hiking. The first is extremely thin at only 7.20mm thick. This is made possible by the exclusion of any scale tools such as tweezers and toothpick. The 15.4g Victorinox Princess has a small 34mm drop point pen blade in common with most blades found on the 58mm range of Victorinox tools. On the other side of the single layer tool is a small nail file with nail cleaning tip. There is also a small keyring positioned at the other end of the open blade but lets not get too excited over that. You will see that my example has a blade opening toward the keyring, this is an error in design as it makes it more difficult to use the blade if it is hung from anything and used while still attached.

The Princess is a very simple single layer knife from the Victorinox 58mm range

The Victorinox Princess is a very simple single layer knife from the Victorinox 58mm range

Escort

Offering just a little more functionality is what I feel a better choice than the Princess as a simple bladed knife to take on trail. This is the 16.4g Victorinox Escort. Just a little thicker at 7.70mm, the very slight extra width of the red cellidor scales allows the inclusion of a small set of tweezers and a useless toothpick. If taking one of these knives on trail I suggest replacing the 0.3g plastic toothpick with a 1.2g emergency Firefly ferrocerium rod.

The Victorinox Princess and Escort models are both slim single layer tools

The 58mm Victorinox Princess and Escort models are both slim single layer tools

The pen blade on the Escort is the same as that on the Princess however my version is more practical in use as when open the blade is situated at the opposite end to the keyring, making it easier to use if still attached to a lanyard or similar. Be aware that other versions of this knife have the same opening configuration as the Princess. The nail file is also the same as that on the Princess other than the change of the nail cleaning tip to a 2.5mm flat ‘SD’ screwdriver tip, which could potentially be of more use on trail. So, due to it being only a gram heavier than the Princess, the Escort is my fifth choice of 58mm Victorinox knife for hiking with- particularly suited as a very simple bladed tool.

As a spectacles wearer I am still frustrated by the small flat screwdriver on the four-way Victorinox screwdriver not being small enough for tightening screws on my glasses. On occasion I may therefore include one of the tiny 0.6g screwdrivers, that have a 1.5mm flat tip, in my ditty bag

As a spectacles wearer I am frustrated by the smallest flat screwdriver on the four-way Victorinox screwdriver not being small enough for tightening screws on my glasses. Frequently I include one of the tiny 0.6g Victorinox screwdrivers, that have a 1.5mm flat tip, in my ditty bag

These two knives are very simple affairs and many other 58mm Victorinox knives feature either flat or Phillips screwdrivers, occasionally both. I will be looking at those in later posts, however there is the option of also carrying a simple little screwdriver if it is felt there is the need. You could do worse than taking one of the unique, flat, four way screwdrivers that were first produced by Victorinox for inclusion with their Quattro SwissCard in 2000. There is no need to purchase the whole card as the screwdrivers can be easily obtained singly.

These little flat three gram screwdrivers are never going to handle heavy work but may get you out of a fix on trail. I have certainly been able to use one of these to change internal workings of a trekking pole and tighten and release a screw-on tripod to the base of my camera when I had nothing else with me that would suffice for the job.

The unique flat 3g screwdriver that has been included in various Victorinox SwissCards will is suited to Phillips #00, Phillips #1-2, 3mm flathead and 5mm flathead screws

The unique flat 3g screwdriver that has been included in various Victorinox SwissCards is suited to Phillips 00-0, Phillips 1-2, 3mm flat-head and 5mm flat-head screws and take little room in a ditty bag

The Princess is a pretty old tool, first produced around 1980 but, just like most of the small 58mm Victorinox knives I am covering over the next few posts, it can be fairly easily picked up on the second hand market. The Escort is more easily purchased. Another plus factor for the Escort is that it is incredibly cheap and you can find it for a tenner or less. Despite this, for just a few quid more and a handful of extra grams, I feel that some other Victorinox 58mm tools can provide a great deal more functionality. I will cover many of these in subsequent posts.

The Escort is the choice from of Three Points of the Compass from the Victorinox 58mm range as a very simple tool for taking hiking

The Victorinox Escort is the fifth choice of Three Points of the Compass from the 58mm range. Well suited as a very simple tool for taking hiking

Model Length Width (at widest point) Height Weight
Princess 58mm 17.05mm 7.20mm 15.4g
Escort 58mm 18.35mm 7.70mm 16.4g
Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Escort is far left

Top five Victorinox 58mm knives. The Escort, at number five, is far left

The Firefly can be ordered in different pack configurations, I ordered two Firefly and two Firefly Mini. Toothpicks can be stored in the pack when swapped with the firesteel

Firefly- a simple addition to your kit

I recently received a sweet little package through the post. I ordered the Firefly firesteel when I came across it on Kickstarter. It is one of those simple ideas that you wonder why no-one had produced before. A very small, very slim ferrocerium rod that takes the place of the toothpick in a Swiss Army Knife.

Large and small Firefly inserted into the slots provided for toothpicks on my Victorinox Spartan and Classic SD Swiss Army Knives

Large and small Firefly inserted into the slots provided for toothpicks on my Victorinox Spartan and Classic SD Swiss Army Knives

One of these fire steels is not going to last any great length of time. Instead, they work well as an emergency carry, for those times where you get caught out for some reason, wet matches, ineffective lighter etc.

A good edge is required to raise a spark so not every tool in a Swiss Army Knife is effective. You will see me use the back edge of a saw in a Wenger Swiss Army Knife in the film below. But scissors, awl and fish scaler are effective too. The suppliers of the Firefly, Tortoise Gear, say that a can opener or file tool could also be used, however I have had less success with these. The knife can also be used but I’m not wrecking my blades attempting to do so. The back of a tool in a Swiss Army Knife can also be filed to give a good ninety degree angle for striking a steel, but likewise, I’m not butchering the tools on my knives.

There is an additional technique required when using these mini firesteels, you have to support the steel with a finger to stop it being broken. Also, strike along the thin edge rather than the wide edge, this stops it being worn away during use and no longer fitting tightly into the slot in the scales of your Swiss Army Knife.

Should you be interested, the larger 52mm Firefly weighs 1.7g , and the smaller 44mm Firefly Mini weighs a paltry 1.2g. So if you carry a Victorinox with you on trail or as an EDC, you may like to consider these. Alternatively, simply slip one into your ditty bag along with a small striker. One word of warning though, if living in the UK, watch out for those customs fees!