Category Archives: Fire

Zippo lighters

Gear talk: Liquid fuel lighters- do they have a place on trail?

Three Points of the Compass has covered his quest for a decent lighter before. I mentioned then that I prefer a mini Bic or Torjet lighter for use with my stove set-up, be that meths or gas. However these lighters can struggle in colder and/or windier conditions. Usually this can be circumvented by keeping the gas lighter in a pocket until required if cold or sheltering if windy but there are occasions where one of the well-built, tried and tested liquid fuel lighters would be appreciated. If you have one at home anyway and are heading out for a day hike at altitude, or on a cold winters day, why not throw a liquid- fuelled lighter in to your pack? Two makes of lighter have proven especially useful in harsher conditions over the years.

IMCO lighters

The lightweight IMCO lighters make a good alternative to the more familiar Zippo lighters even if they lack that satisfying sound while being opened. The company began making buttons in Austria in 1907 but diversified following World War I. The 1918 design of their first lighters was based on used cartridge cases and that can be seen in their design. The most popular of IMCO designs was their Triplex Super, first developed in 1936, improved in the fifties and still made until the business closed in June 2012 (I won’t mention the copies produced subsequently). Many hikers would argue that the original IMCO lighters are a better option than rival Zippo for winter hiking; preserving their fuel more efficiently than Zippos though they are not quite as wind-resistant. Around seventy different designs were produced. It is a shame that original production has ceased but second hand examples can easily be found as they have a long life.

Nickel plated steel IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Nickel plated steel IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

The IMCO 4700 Triplex lighter was first developed in 1937 and underwent a revamp of its internal workings in the 1960s, following which it was renamed the 6700 Triplex Super. One of the great features about many of the IMCO models is the ability to remove the fuel reservoir and use it as a candle. A handy little wheeze I picked up somewhere was to stuff a bit of cotton wool into the base of the fuel reservoir, this can then be extracted and used as a fire starter if required, lighting it with the sparker even if run out of fuel by putting it where the wick is exposed and opening and closing the lighter a few times. Operation of an IMCO lighter differs from the Zippo, It has a one move operation- opening the lid also strikes the wick. Flints can wear quite quickly but there is a built in well for a spare in the side of the lighter.

IMCO Triplex Junior 6600 in 'candle' mode

IMCO Triplex Junior 6600 in ‘candle’ mode

IMCO lighters have a lighter construction than Zippos, the latter are frequently solid brass whereas an IMCO can dent and ding with ease. There are more moving parts to an IMCO too, so a greater chance of something breaking or wearing. Certainly they will rust more easily if not cared for. As said, all of the originals are pretty old now but can still be picked up pretty easily as there is a ready collector market for them.

Base of Austrian made IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Base of Austrian made IMCO Triplex Junior 6600

Probably the three best lighters made by IMCO for use backpacking and camping are the Junior 6600, 6700 and 6800 lighters. I have the Triplex Junior 6600 which is a tad smaller and lighter than the other two, but the 6700 does have some flame control. Beware of fakes!

 

 

Clink, clunk- Zippo lighters

Serving in the British Army, Three Points of the Compass purchased this Zippo in 1981. The squadron crest now worn, it is, nevertheless, a much loved memento of those years

Serving in the British Army, Three Points of the Compass purchased this Zippo in 1981. The squadron crest is now worn, it is, nevertheless, a treasured memento of those years

Inspired by the Austrian cigarette lighter made by IMCO, the Zippo manufacturing company was founded in 1932 by American George G Blaisdell and the first Zippo lighter produced the following year. Since those modest beginnings, over 500 million Zippos have been sold. Especially popular with servicemen, it is an icon of design, characterised by the clink sound it makes when opened, lit and closed- clunk. While the company has gone on to make butane lighters and inserts, the original metal cased lighter, where lighter fluid is fed by wick to a metal chimney and lit by sparking an enclosed flint, is a handy thing to have when struggling to light a fire in blustery conditions as the flame is highly resistant to being extinguished. While I have experimented a little with the pipe lighter variety of Zippo, I am not a great fan of these for backpacking as the flame drifts around too much. Also, if alight for any extended period, the metal case of a Zippo can get pretty hot.

Zippo released a slim version of its lighter in 1956. Originally aimed at the female market it proved just as popular with men and is still made today. Lighting a Zippo is a two-part operation, flip the lid and thumb the knurled wheel against the flint. Simple- but an operation that has led to probably thousands of tricks. Though if you want to avoid damaging the hinge it is probably best to stay clear of these.

Just about any good quality lighter fluid can be used in liquid fuel lighters

Just about any good quality lighter fluid can be used in liquid fuel lighters

Lighter fluid  (naphtha) is used as fuel, other fuels can be used but invariably either struggle to light or will emit foul smell or smoke. Even naphtha itself is a broad term for a range of petroleum distillates and it is best to simply use dedicated lighter fuel. There is no need to keep to the Zippo brand. The main problem with these lighters is that over time the fuel evaporates. So unlike a Bic which will retain its fuel for years, within a couple of weeks an originally full Zippo will not light, even if hasn’t been opened and used in that time. They need to be refilled about once a week.

Genuine Zippo spares are easily available

Zippos enjoy a great repair warranty and all the genuine spares you would want are easily available- flints and wicks are cheap enough to keep a couple in a drawer around the house

There are different hacks to slow evaporation, such as sliding a section of cycle inner tube over the body of the lighter. This will also stop water ingress to a degree. A rubber gasket such as this also has the benefit of doubling up as an emergency fire starter. Or you could just encapsulate the entire lighter. Flints do wear, but it is a simple task to tuck a spare or two under the felt flap in the base. Be aware that the flint from an expired Bic is perfectly suitable for use in a Zippo.

Solid brass slim Zippo and the full size well tarnished version that Three Points of the Compass inherited from his father

Solid brass slim Zippo and the full size well tarnished version that Three Points of the Compass inherited from his father

Both Zippo and IMCO are old school lighters from an age when lighters sat in most pockets, were used daily in all weathers and had to work, every time. Because of this reliability they remain a viable option for outdoors folks to consider. These are by no means lightweight options. Bone dry, my old Zippo from army days weighs 59g, both my brass and stainless slim Zippo’s 41g each and the lighter construction IMCO 6600 32g. Charging them with fuel adds considerably. So not lightweight by any means, and the faff of having to ensure they are fuelled up can be a pain to those used to hassle free Bics.

Three Points of the Compass used to be a smoker. I gave that up following the birth of my daughter over twenty years ago. However a number of Zippos still sit around my house, if infrequently pulled out to do duty these days. Next time I am out hiking in below zero conditions on a short day or weekend hike and am expecting to have to battle wind while lighting a stove, I may very well be slipping one of my old liquid fuel lighters into my pack.

most zippos can be dated by deciphering the code stamped on the case

most zippos can be dated by deciphering the code stamped on the case

Dating your Zippo

The year, and often the month, of manufacture of a Zippo lighter can frequently be determined from a code stamped on the base. I have included a guide to these below.

Zippo lighter identification codes- found on the bottom of lighter

Dot and slash method replaced in 1986 with year and month code (A=January to– L=December)

Year

Left Right Year Left

Right

1933

Patent Pending

1990 A to L

VI

1937-c1950

Patent 2032695

1991 A to L

VII

1942-1946

Black Crackle, Patent 203695

1992 A to L

VIII

c1950-c1957

Patent 2517191 with patent pending

1993 A to L

IX

c1950-c1957

Patent 2517191

1994 A to L

X

1958

Patent Pending

1995 A to L XI

….

….

1996 A to L

XII

1959

…. 1997 A to L XIII

1960

1998 A to L

XIV

1961

.. 1999 A to L

XV

1962

.. .. 2000 A to L

XVI

1963

.. . 2001 A to L

01

1964

. . 2002 A to L

02

1965

.   2003 A to L

03

1966

IIII IIII 2004 A to L

04

1967

IIII III 2005 A to L

05

1968

III III 2006 A to L

06

1969

III II 2007 A to L

07

1970

II II 2008 A to L

08

1971

II I 2009 A to L

09

1972

I I 2010 A to L

10

1973

I   2011 A to L

11

1974

//// //// 2012 A to L

12

1975

//// /// 2013 A to L

13

1976

/// /// 2014 A to L

14

1977

/// // 2015 A to L

15

1978

// // 2016 A to L

16

1979

/ // 2017 A to L

17

1979

// / 2018 A to L

18

1980

/ / 2019 A to L

19

1981

/   2020 A to L

20

1982

\\\\

\\\\

Slim lighters

1983

\\\\ \\\ 1957 …. ….

1984

\\\ \\\ 1958 ….

….

1985

\\\ \\ ….

1986

\\ \\ 1959

1986

G to L II 1960

..

1987

A to L III 1961 ..

..

1988

A to L IV 1962 .. .
1989 A to L V 1963 .

.

  1964 .

 

1965  

 

Stove making

Gear talk: making a stove on trail

Like everyone else, Three Points of the Compass is currently social distancing while staying at home on Government advice during the current Coronavirus pandemic. My plans on completing two longer trails this summer lie in tatters. My consolation is that with good fortune I can enjoy them both next year, they will still be there.

I am very pleased that I managed my coastal walk on the North Kent Marshes to Faversham a few days ago as that form of extended exercise is very much frowned upon by the authorities today. Who knows when I, and all of us, will be able to get back out on the trails again. Amongst other things, not least attempting to share the house PC with Mrs Three Points of the Compass while the two of us struggle to fit in enough hours working from home, there is a degree of sorting out of backpacking gear taking place. For a change from that I thought I would practice my stove-making skills.

There are hundreds of YouTube exponents detailing how to make various forms of pop-can/alcohol/meths/penny stoves. I don’t tend to use any of these on trail as I find the well made commercial stoves robust, light and invariably efficient. Admittedly the traditional and bomb proof Trangia, which was my route in to meths stoves decades ago, isn’t the lightest of options however my Evernew Alcohol stove is a truly cracking piece of kit and only weighs some 36g. Three Points of the Compass did spend some time producing a home-made version of screw-top burner with insulating felt inner (Part 1, Part 2) and this has worked well on a couple of trails. But with a couple of hours to spare at the weekend and a break from work, I thought I would indulge myself with a bit of experimentation and see what home-made stove I could produce, with the tools I typically carry with me on trail. It is easy for anyone to knock something out with sharpie pens, robust scissors, dremel, steel rulers, felt wadding, grit paper and work gloves etc. however I wanted to see if I could make a workable option, that I could knock up in the event of unexpected loss or breakage of my stove while actually on trail.

Look in any hedgerow or bin and you will invariably find an empty can of coke, energy drink or similar. My choice for constructing my DIY stove was a single 250ml drinks tin. I have written before on my favourite knife for taking on trail. While I do occasionally switch things around just for variety, nine out of ten times I am carrying the excellent Leatherman Squirt S4. This provides five things for my task- Scissors, knife blade, ruler, a ‘punch’ (in this case, the thin eyeglass screwdriver) and a straight edge.

Everything required to make my 'basic, on trail, pop-can meths stove

Everything required to make my basic on-trail, drinks-can meths stove, with two completed examples

I only required the ruler to identify another item from my regular kit that I required for the job- ‘something’ that was 1.5 inches long. Five years ago I wrote about the small nail brush I carry in my ditty bag. I still include the 7g brush in my kit list. It has often been useful for a bit of clothes washing on grottier trails, even for its intended use of cleaning my nails of trail grit and grime. It has been changed over the years, but I bought a handful of the cheap brushes at the time so have enough spares in a drawer somewhere for another few years yet. It could have been something else from my various bits of kit carried, but this measures 1.5 inches, so made the ideal second tool for my task. And that was it- a 1.5 inch measuring block, my Leatherman and the donor drinks tin.

Resting my knife blade on my one and half inch block, the drinks can is rotated against the edge to produce a scored line

Resting my knife blade on my one and half inch block, the drinks can is rotated against the edge to produce a scored line

Inverting the can and placing my plastic block on it's long edge, another line is scored

Inverting the can and placing my plastic block on it’s long edge, another line is scored

Ends are cut off with the Leatherman scissors, final neat trimming will follow

Ends are cut off with the Leatherman scissors, final neat trimming will follow

Slowly, with care, the two straight edges are tidied up and cut

Slowly, with care, the two straight edges are tidied up and cut

The cut tube, one neat edge, one rough edge, is inverted so that the tidied neat edge is flat against the worktop, then again rotated, holding the tube against the 1.5

The cut tube, with one neat edge and one rough edge, is inverted so that the tidied neat edge is flat against the worktop, then again rotated, holding the tube against the 1.5″ measuring block and knife edge, producing a final scored line

With care the final rough cut edge is tidied up with the Leatherman scissors

With care the final rough cut edge is tidied up with the Leatherman scissors

The metal tube is then rotated in the hands, and folded against my straight edge, producing a ring of creased folds around its circumference

The metal tube is then rotated in the hands, and folded against my straight edge, producing a series of creased folds around its circumference

Two small holes are punched just below the top rim of the tube, these reduce pressure in the stove when burning

Two small holes are punched just below the top rim of the tube, these reduce pressure in the stove when burning

Time for burn tests. 25-30g of fuel. I tried the stove both au naturel and with a 7g titanium trivet that raised the pot

The crimped tube is inserted inside the bottom section of the can and pushed firmly down. That is it, the finished stove. Having made a few more to see if I could do a neater job, it was time for burn tests. 25g-30g of fuel. I tried the stove both au naturel and with a 7g titanium trivet that raised the pot

Pots were a 1lt MSR Titan, and a 900ml Evernew pan, each holding 600ml of water. Stoves were stable and rigid with no evidence of buckling. The trivet raising the Titan pot enabled the meths to boil and burn faster from the centre as well as the jets. The Evernew resting directly on the stove dramatically reduced the burn, producing a far slower and controlled burn

Pots were a 1lt MSR Titan, and a 900ml Evernew pan, each holding 600ml of water. Stoves were stable and rigid with no evidence of buckling. The trivet raising the Titan pot enabled the meths to boil and burn faster from the centre as well as the jets. The Evernew resting directly on the stove dramatically reduced the burn, producing a far slower and controlled burn

With pan resting directly on the home made stove the burn is steady, controlled and slow. The water boiled eventually but takes three times longer than when raised

With pan resting directly on the home made stove the burn is steady, controlled and slow. The water boiled eventually but takes three times longer than when the pan is raised

Cheap and cheerful pop-can stove works. Not a refined tool at all, but it works

Cheap and cheerful pop-can stove. Not a particularly refined stove at all, but it works

So, lessons learnt…

This would be a very easy stove to construct on trail provided I can find a donor can. I am almost always carrying the only two other items required to make it. So, if I ever do lose my meths/alcohol stove and have to make one, this will do the job.

While I do occasionally pack along the little 7g titanium trivet, this isn’t always the case. Using the trivet speeds up a boil time considerably however. But the water will boil given time and I am never one to look for the fastest possible burn. This actually gives the opportunity to simmer as well. I never bothered with recording times as that is largely irrelevant. This project was indoors, with no wind and a stable warm temperature. No doubt a windscreen would aid use greatly if outdoors. But it shows the principle is sound. One final point of note- over sixty minutes I knocked up six of these stoves, their weights were between 5.1g and 5.5g, so truly a lightweight option. A couple of hours well spent while on lock-down.

campsite on Gran Canaria, closed due to recent fires

Trail talk: Official campsites on Gran Canaria

Three Points of the Compass does like to disappear off to one of the Canary Islands once in a while. Not only are they all a fantastic place for a holiday, be it alone or with family, the hiking is often superb. If I get round to it I’ll try and write a little on this in a future blog. One aspect of the Natural Parks in Gran Canaria that I have yet to experience however are any of the official campsites.

official campsite, closed due to recent fires

official campsite, closed due to recent fires

Three Points of the Compass hiking Cruce de la Data, Gran Canaria in October 2019

Three Points of the Compass hiking Cruce de la Data, Gran Canaria in October 2019

Anyone visiting Gran Canaria soon, possibly to hike part or all of the GR 131, the 560 km (348 mile) that crosses the seven islands, may not have heard of the state run campsites to be found in its heart. You may come across one or two if driving across the mountainous interior but there is surprisingly little to be found on these. Ask in most tourist information centres and they will look at you blankly.

This is a bit of a shame as these are invariably welcome and shaded camp sites for hikers, protected from strong sun and occasional strong winds. And they are free to use.

Investigating the procedure, it took me a while to hunt down the municipal offices in Las Palmas where permits are obtained. Once found, everyone was very polite and efficient. Handily pointing out the ticket machine from which a very necessary ‘queue’ ticket is obtained. The official at her desk however was very different- curt and dismissive, there was no way that any permits were being issued for camping, fair enough, I had heard of the fires, but she seemed cross that I would even consider hiking in such areas, as to tie-ing her down to when sites might re-open, no way! The best I got was probably by December 2020. But I can see that some sites have already re-opened.

Be sure to pick up your ticket on entering Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria, it will save you queuing twice!

Be sure to pick up your ticket on entering Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria, it will save you queuing twice!

Ticket machine at entrance to municipal building in Las Palmas

Ticket machine at entrance to municipal building in Las Palmas

The GR 131 stretches 566 kilometres across the seven Canary Islands

The GR 131 stretches 560 kilometres across the seven Canary Islands

While free, a permit has to be obtained to use the camping sites. You are not permitted to simply rock up and use the sites without a permit though sites can be reserved for up to three days. There are wardens and they do visit the sites on a frequent basis. Permits can be ordered online, and picked up in person from the Office of Information and Citizen Services (Oficina de Informacion y attencion Ciudadana) Cabildo Insular de Gran Canaria. This is found, with a bit of searching, in Las Palmas.

Campsite near Llanos de Garanon. Facilities at these sites vary from the very basic to provision of w/c's, drinking water, parking and tables and benches, even brick barbecues in places

Campsite near Llanos de Garanon. Facilities at these sites vary from the very basic to provision of w/c’s, drinking water, parking and tables and benches, even brick barbecues in places

Simple but free campsite on Gran Canaria

Simple but free campsite on Gran Canaria

When I last visited (autumn 2019) all Gran Canaria campsites had been closed following recent severe fires. There was also a blanket ban on any fires at all even in the roadside picnic areas. This is not surprising considering the widespread devastation that had resulted. However I note that a handful are beginning to be reopened. If you are planning on using any of the campsites, up to date information can be found online.

Trails mostly remain open following a fire but it can be pretty horrible walking through ash and charred pine and cacti. It is remarkable how one side of a hill will be burnt out while across the valley or over the brow, it hasn’t been touched. In 2019 over 9000 inhabitants were evacuated from more than fifty villages. Edges or more of villages were burnt out and I am sure that some towns and villages will have seen heart wrenching loss of livelihood and possession. However building work springs up, and life, largely, goes on. The tourist pound is important and visitors are encouraged, so long as respectful.

Segregated camping pitches. The ground is mostly hard and rocky and can be hard to drive pegs into

Segregated camping pitches. The ground is mostly hard and rocky and can be hard to drive pegs into

Most sites segregate hikers camping from those arriving in cars and vans. Large boards situated near the entrances explain where you may, and where you may not, camp. There are few officials on site, if any, and arrivals are expected to position themselves on trust. This needless to say leads to some people camping or parking just about wherever they want. Though not usually the locals, they respect the rules.

There are a wealth of hiking trails across Gran Canaria, boards showing many of these can be found adjacent to many of the state provided camp sites and picnic areas

There are a wealth of hiking trails across Gran Canaria, boards showing many of these can be found adjacent to many of the state provided camp sites and picnic areas

There a number of paths that loop out or pass each of the campsites on Gran Canaria, maps are shown on large boards at each site, or simply pick up a copy of David Brawn’s Gran Canaria Tour and Trail map. Paddy Dillon has also written a series of island guides detailing walks. Most recently he has completed a Cicerone guide to the entire GR 131.

Due to recent and extensive fires, all fires were banned in all campsites on Gran Canaria

Due to recent and extensive fires, all fires were recently banned in all campsites on Gran Canaria. This is slowly being relaxed

Note that wild camping is illegal, though you can camp on land with the owners permission. But try and track down the relevant owner of a rocky, tree covered slope, just off a path, as evening draws in! By all accounts, wild camping without permission does occur. Just note that it is frowned upon.

running water at state provided campsite

running water at state provided campsite

Gran Canaria is a great place to hike and Three Points of the Compass looks forward to his next visit to this island. Hopefully the recent fire damage will have been overgrown. It is remarkable how the natural flora bounces back, as do the villagers in their fire damaged abodes. If you do visit, please take care with any fires, it is a dry island and carelessness leads inevitably to further devastation.

Useful facilities provided at campsite on Gran Canaria. It is along way to the nearest bin from here....

Useful facilities provided at campsite on Gran Canaria. It is a long way to the nearest bin from here….

Lone Peak Altras

Gear talk: 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

Knife chat: 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

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.

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

Gear talk: 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!