Category Archives: Food

Leatherman Style CS and Leatherman Micra

Leatherman keychain multi-tools: which is best for hiking?

A choice of nine keychain multi-tools…

Three Points of the Compass likes to carry a knife on trail. This is most often used for food preparation. However I have found that the most useful tool by far is a pair of scissors. I have used these for trimming nails and skin, cutting plasters, bandages and gauze, opening packages, Mountain House and a myriad of other tasks. These are the two tools I want with me on any folding knife or multi-tool when backpacking. Any other tool is a bonus. That said, if I am not going to simply take a Victorinox Classic SD with me, then whatever tools are on a multi-tool, have to add something that the Victorinox doesn’t deliver. I look here at what the smallest of Leatherman keychain tools has to offer the hiker.

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. A Leatherman keychain multi-tool formed a vital component of this

The ditty bag/repair kit that Three Points of the Compass carried on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018. A Leatherman keychain multi-tool formed a vital component of this

Various Swiss Army Knives have proved themselves fantastic for taking hiking, others less so. I am also a big fan of the small ‘keychain’ multi-tools produced by USA company Leatherman over the years. Some have been carried on my backpacking trips and I liked, and again, others less so. There is one little Leatherman in particular that is usually stuffed into my ditty bag or First Aid Kit and has been carried with me for thousands of trail miles. I’ll come to which one in a later blog in this series. But I thought I would spend some time here looking at some of the very small multi-tools produced by Leatherman over the years that incorporate both my desired scissors and blade. Particularly as some of these models are now discontinued and beginning to get harder to find.

History

Leatherman began making multi-tools in 1983 when it released the PST (Pocket Survival Tool). At their release Three Points of the Compass looked at these new offerings in the outdoor gear shops and wondered why anyone would ever want a pair of pliers on their knife. Having purchased one out of curiosity, it subsequently got me out of a fix on many an occasion, but only at work, it was never taken with me when hiking as it was simply too large and heavy.

Just three years later, in 1986, Leatherman shrunk their tools and released a new smaller model, that was the MiniTool (in production until 2004). However that had no scissors and at 114g was no keychain tool, it didn’t even have a ring for attaching it to anything. It was what it was named- a mini tool, with fold handles to make it full size. I actually purchased one when they were released and worked it into the ground, another of my multi-tools that never survived the years.

Leatherman have released a huge variety of tools over the years, they continue to do so, always seeking out another niche market or tweaking existing tools for the collector market. In 1996 they released the first of their keychain multi-tools. This was the Micra. So popular and successful was it that it is still manufactured today. On the back of this popular product, Leatherman went on to release another eight keychain models, the most recent in 2011. At the time of writing (2019), five of the keychain tools are still manufactured new and are available for purchase. The retired models can still be picked up on the second hand market, though one or two are beginning to get scarce.

The nine keychain sized multi-tools released by Leatherman

The nine keychain sized multi-tools released by Leatherman

Nine Leatherman keychain tools- the Micra, Squirt and Style series

There have been nine key-chain tools released by Leatherman over the years. All but one, the Squirt E4, would make a great little multi-tool for taking on trail. The intended user of the E4 is not me, it being aimed more as a pocket tool for electricians. The tool was produced in much smaller numbers and is now quite difficult to find. Despite owning one I am not a great fan of it and any of the remaining eight keychain tools would make a better choice for taking on trail.

Below, I cover the primary tools- scissors, blade and pliers and subsequent blogs over the next few days will look at some of the more specialised tools built into the various tool ranges.

Small Leatherman scissors compared with those on Victorinox Classic

Small Leatherman Style scissors on the left compared with those on Victorinox Classic

Scissors

There are seven tools with scissors in the range of Leatherman keychain multi-tools, These are the Micra, three in the Squirt series and two in the Style series. All seven are shown below. There are two major differences in these scissors.

Three tools have quite large, reasonably powerful and efficient spring-loaded scissors, using cams and back-springs, as their jaws when the tools are unfolded. The scissors on the Micra are a very slightly different form to those on the Style CS and Squirt S4, more akin to the scissors found on Swiss Army Knives, however all three are equally efficient at cutting.

The remaining four have small scissors, akin to those on the Victorinox Classic, that are accessed from the back of the multi-tool when still closed. Each of have a captive torsion spring, though to a lesser efficiency than their spring loaded larger cousins. The scissors can be opened wide to enable resharpening. The springs on these smaller Leathermans are more robust than the scissors found on small Victorinox multi-tools such as the ubiquitous Classic. They will still break though, especially if put to too heavy a task. Leatherman will fix these under their excellent warranty. The remaining two keychain tools, the Squirt E4 and P4, do not have any scissors.

Leatherman scissors compared. Top row: Leatherman Style CS, Squirt S4, Micra. Bottom row: Leatherman Style, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Style PS

Scissors compared. Top row: Leatherman Style CS, Squirt S4, Micra. Bottom row: Leatherman Style, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Style PS. The Squirt E4 and P4 do not have scissors

Blade

Eight of the Leatherman keychain tools have blades, the Style PS is the exception. In theory, this means that the Style PS can be taken through airport security. There are many accounts of this tool being confiscated however so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Blades are made from 420HC stainless steel, chisel cut, which can annoy some users but I have never had any trouble with them. They come with a good edge from new and can easily be sharpened. The steel will retain an edge for some time. I do wish Leatherman had produced an option of 154CM steel as they have on some of their other, larger tools.

Blade length is 41mm (1.6″) however not all of this is usable length. Flat cutting length is only some 27mm (a little over an inch) however there is another 10mm or so of curved bade beyond this. It is usually imminently sufficient for most tasks while hiking or around camp. Note that this is all very easily within UK legal requirements but as is now usual, you are never going to be allowed to fly with this.

Short chisel cut blade

Close up of the short chisel cut blade on Squirt PS4. This is 420 HC stainless steel

Most blades are of approximately similar depth though this will alter slightly over time as they are periodically sharpened. My Style CS is 8.45mm while my Style is 9.15mm at widest depth reflecting the greater use and consequent sharpening of the former. The slight notch at the base of each blade varies slightly in depth, being most pronounced on the Style and Squirt S4 where it can most effectively be used as a thin wire bender or possibly wire stripper.

Because of their small size, food can gunge up one of these tools pretty easy, especially the holes in the blade on the Style range. Leatherman CS in use on the Tabular Hills, 2019

Because of their small size, food can gunge up one of these tools pretty easy, especially the holes in the blade on the Style range. Leatherman CS in use on the Tabular Hills Walk, Autumn 2019

The size and nail nicks on the blades varies a surprising amount. The holes on the blades in the Style series are there for aesthetic reasons only. Food, especially cheese, gets stuck in the holes and the nail nicks were moved down the blade to accompany them, to the tools detriment as the blades are consequently harder to open as a result. More recently it appears that Leatherman have begun to put standard blades into the Style, this is a welcome change.

Small Leatherman blades compared. From left to right: Style, Style CS, Squirt P4, Squirt S4, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Micra

Small Leatherman blades compared. From left to right: Style, Style CS, Squirt P4, Squirt S4, Squirt ES4, Squirt PS4, Micra. Only apparent differences are minor styling on the Style blades, size and position of nail nicks, and a slight drop point to the Micra blade. All are made of the same quality 420HC stainless steel

None of the blades lock, so a little care has to be taken when using them. I much prefer the ease with which the blades can be accessed on all of the Leatherman keychain tools other than the Micra. The Micra has to be opened to access all tools, including its blade, from the inside. As to the other eight tools, if pocket carried, fluff and general crud can build up under externally positioned tools more easily than with the Micra, however I have never found this an issue. On trail I don’t carry one in my pocket. More commonly you will see hikers hanging one of these tools from a pack’s shoulder strap daisy loop, however I prefer to keep it in my food or ditty bag.

Pliers

There are many hikers that feel a pair of pliers can be particularly useful on trail. Three Points of the Compass is not necessarily one of them. There are certainly times when they can be useful, if not almost indispensable. It can be difficult to repair a zip without pliers and lifting a pot off a stove is often easy with pliers. Pushing a needle through tough cordura or leather is made far easier with pliers, though a rock could be used with care. It is all about determining where your particular emphasis, needs and wishes lie. Myself, I prefer full size scissors, however others may feel a small pair of scissors suffice which frees up the opportunity to potentially include pliers tips.

There are three choices of jaw in the small Leatherman keychain multi-tools. These are scissors, pliers and the less useful electricians pliers

There are three choices of jaw in the small Leatherman keychain multi-tools. These are scissors, pliers and the less useful electricians pliers. All use backsprings and cams and are very efficient for lighter tasks

Two types of pliers can be found on the Leatherman range of keychain sized multi-tools- these are the needlenose pliers on the E4 and later ES4. These also have regular, if small, pliers in the same head. The two Electricians’ tools, the Squirt E4 and ES4, have needle nose pliers, wire/hard wire cutters and wire strippers- 20GA, 18GA, 16GA, 14GA and 12GA.

If taking a multi-tool on trail, any of these have numerous crevices in which food and gunk can accumulate and fester. A decent periodic clean will help reduce the chance of cross-contamination

If taking a multi-tool on trail, any of these have numerous crevices in which food and gunk can accumulate and fester. A decent periodic clean will help reduce the chance of cross-contamination

Colour

It is pretty obvious that on trail, a brightly coloured knife or multi-tool can be a preferred feature. Put any item of muted colour down in the long grass and you asking to lose it. It is one reason why the classic red Victorinox Swiss Army Knife is a great choice for backpacking. That flame red sticks out like a sore thumb. That said, Three Points of the Compass does like muted colours, you will not see me wearing bright reds, orange and yellow. I like to blend into my natural surroundings. Whatever your choice, many of the Leatherman key chain sized tools came in a variety of colours, especially the Micra which has received numerous scales and wraps over the years. Even the diminutive and minimalist Leatherman Style, which only enjoyed a four year production run, came in four colours- black, red, blue and pink. If you want a really brightly coloured option, one of the few keychain tools released by Leatherman with pink coloured scales is always going to stand out.

In 2012 Leatherman announced their Pink Program- this was their support for breast cancer awareness and they released three of their tools in a striking pink colour. These were the Micra, Style and Style CS. Each of them features the breast cancer awareness ribbon laser etched on to the blade. The Micra and Squirt also feature the ribbon on one of their scales. Note that not all pink Leatherman tools were part of the Pink Program

In 2012 Leatherman announced their Pink Program- this was their support for breast cancer awareness and they released three of their tools in a striking pink colour. These were the Micra, Style and Style CS. Each of them features the breast cancer awareness ribbon laser etched on to the blade. The Micra and Squirt also feature the ribbon on one of their scales. Note that not all pink Leatherman tools were part of the Pink Program and not all have the ribbon feature

Future blogs will look more closely at some of the other tools found in the various ranges. I shall end with a particular recommendation from this useful little selection of small multi-tools.

The production dates, dimensions and weights for all nine Leatherman keychain tools are shown below.

Weights and dimensions of the Leatherman keychain multi-tools
Micra Micra- with added aluminum scales Squirt S4 Squirt P4 Squirt E4 Squirt PS4 Squirt ES4 Style Style CS Style PS
Production dates 1996-Present ?- present 2002-2010 2002-2010 2003-2010 2010-present 2010-present 2010-2014 2010-present 2011-present
Maximum length (including keyring if present) x width (when closed) x thickness (across scale screws) 66mm

X

19.25mm

X

12.40mm

66mm

X

31.25mm

X

13mm

60mm

X

20.55mm

X

13.60mm

60mm

X

20.65mm

X

13.70mm

60mm

X

20.60mm

X

13.70mm

60mm

X

19.65mm

X

13.80mm

60mm

X

20.80mm

X

14.00mm

59mm

X

10.80mm

X

12.40mm

76mm

X

20.60mm

X

10.45mm

76mm

X

20.60mm

X

10.50mm

Weight 49.9g 55g 52.3g 55.3g 53.5g 56.9g 54.3g 23.1g 41.7g 44.9g
Dark chocolate, nuts and Sea Salt Kind bar

Trail snacks- Kind bars

Kind Protein bar. 50g bar containing 59% peanuts provides 12g of protein and 252kcal

Kind Protein bar. 50g bar containing 59% peanuts and 15% peanut butter coating provides 12g of protein and 252kcal

Like most hikers, Three Points of the Compass does enjoy a snack on trail. Easily my favourite are the various Kind Bars. Made in the U.S. by Mintel and first available in 2004, they are almost exclusively made from unadulterated foodstuffs that have undergone a minimum of processing. Stuff like nuts, fruits and spice. Oh yes, often a decent amount of dark chocolate too.

Multipacks

Just a few of the varieties of Kind bar available

Just a few of the varieties of Kind bar available

Obviously there are any number of alternative bars available on the supermarket shelves but if I can find them, then Kind bars are my number one choice. Decent taste, decent amount of calories, decent hit of protein too. Kind proudly boast- Kosher, gluten free, dairy free and no artificial colours, flavour or preservatives.

I am pretty sure that every one of the varieties I have come across contains nuts. Bad news for Mrs Three Points of the Compass as she can’t handle them. All the more for me. The minimum amount of nut content I have seen is 49%, the most 73% and we all know that nuts are the hiker snack of choice. The Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate bars were recently awarded Taste Test Winner in Good Housekeeping magazine. There are also 50g Kind Protein varieties with 12g of protein mostly derived from peanuts.

If you can find them, the 20g Kind Minis each provide around a 100 calories

If you can find them, the 20g Kind Minis each provide around a 100 calories

It is hard for me to nail down my absolute favourite amongst the twelve or so varieties I have come across, but if forced to choose, I would go for the dark chocolate, nuts and sea salt bar shown above. The 40g bar provides 197kcal.

The contents of my food bag photographed midway through the 177 mile Offas Dyke in 2018. I see that I had managed to locate Kind bars somewhere and a solitary one remains as a treat

The contents of my food bag photographed midway along the 177 mile Offa’s Dyke in 2018. This was sufficient for around three days.  I see that I had managed to locate Kind bars somewhere and a solitary one remains as a treat alongside Snickers and bars of dark chocolate

 

 

Three Points of the Compass enjoys a lentil curry as the sun sets over Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Trail food- lentil curry

South Downs Way in winter. A hot meal of lentil curry being prepared

Three Points of the Compass on the South Downs Way in winter. A hot meal of lentil curry being prepared. The zip lock freezer bag containing this is sitting beneath my down beenie

Three Points of the Compass was talking to another long distance hiker a couple of days ago and I was asked what I favoured as an evening meal on trail. That was easy to answer. Lightweight, easy to prepare, plenty of flavour, cheap and loads of carbs and protein- Lentil curry. A perfect backpacker’s meal. That is what I am eating above as I watch the sun setting over Sandwood Bay on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2018.

Resupply at Fort William prior to setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail.. Included are the makings of six-eight lentil curries with a variety of carbs- instant mash, couscous and noodles. July 2018

Resupply at Fort William prior to setting off on the Cape Wrath Trail. Included are the makings of six-eight lentil curries with a variety of carbs- instant mash, couscous and noodles. July 2018

Boiling up beside Loch Shiel. Cape Wrath Trail, August 2018

I make most meals on trail in ‘pour ‘n’ store’ freezer bags. These will take boiling water, will sit flat with a gusset base and can be simply sealed up after a meal until reused if there is no opportunity to wash out, or water is limited.

After a days hiking I want a good filling meal with the least amount of hassle. Also, to use the minimum amount of fuel in preparing it.

Tubes of tomato and garlic puree are easily found in most supermarkets. Garlic puree is 55% garlic and remainder mostly sunflower oil. Tomato puree is 65% tomatoes and the remainder different oils and flavourings

Tubes of tomato and garlic puree are easily found in most supermarkets. Garlic puree is 55% garlic and remainder mostly sunflower oil. Tomato puree is 65% tomatoes and the remainder different oils and flavourings

Lentil curry with noodles. Cashel. West Highland Way. July 2018

Lentil curry with noodles. Cashel. West Highland Way. July 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All I do is heat an almost full 900ml Evernew pan of water, Once boiled, pour over four handfuls of split red lentils in a freezer bag and seal the top. This then sits in my reflectex cozy with either a hat over it or wrapped in a puffy jacket or something else. The remainder of the water goes to making a tea or oxo. Then I simply rest and wait for around twenty-five minutes. I might munch on a block of cheese or something while waiting.

We can never say that fried onions are a healthy choice, but they add flavour, crunch and calories to a meal

We can never say that fried onions are a healthy choice, but they add flavour, crunch and calories to a meal

Once the lentils have continued cooking in the boiled water, I test them, almost always soft though I will tolerate al dente if in a hurry. A quick squirt of garlic puree and rather more of tomato puree along with two or three good spoonfuls of madras curry powder. A brief stir then I add a carb to the water. This is either a couscous or instant mashed potato (my favourite), less frequently, I drain a little water and add scrunched noodles. I don’t like doing the latter as it wastes precious water. I have sometimes added both noodles and potato. Another stir and, if I have them, a handful of dried fried onions. I have found that these are not the easiest of foodstuffs to be found in lonelier spots of the country but if it is just a week’s hike then a small ziplock containing a few handfuls weighs very little, and that, is that…

Lentils curry with couscous, Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Lentil curry with couscous, Sandwood Bay. Cape Wrath Trail. August 2018

Another resupply. This time at Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Again, the makings of lentil curry's for the evening meals are the preferred option. August 2018

Another resupply. This time at Ullapool on the Cape Wrath Trail. Again, the makings of lentil curries for the evening meals are the preferred option. There are around four to five days supplies here. August 2018

Duncansby Head, the most north easterly point of mainland Great Britain

Three Points of the Compass- I’ve done it!

Atop Pen-y-Ghent, Pennine Way, June 2018

Atop Pen-y-Ghent, Pennine Way, June 2018

It took a month longer than I thought it would, but Three Points of the Compass is now home after completing my hike across mainland Britain. I reached Duncansby Head, the most north easterly point of mainland Great Britain, on 29th August 2018.

I have yet to tot up the total mileage, but it is around the 2000 miles mark. I was on trail for one hundred and fifty two days (around five months) of which eleven were zeros, or rest days. Though a handful of these were forced upon me due to weather. So one hundred and forty one days actual hiking.

Approaching the Peak District, 21st June 2018

Approaching the Peak District, 21st June 2018

It is some time since my last blog. At that time I was still in Wales on the Offa’s Dyke Path. I completed that when I reached Prestatyn around mid-June. From there I followed the Wales Coast Path round to Chester for a couple of days rest, where I was able to briefly meet up with Mission Control for the second and final time of the entire hike. I then crossed the less interesting part of England to enter the beautiful Peak District.

A major element of my hike was to experience many of the local customs and my arrival at Youlgreave was timed to coincide with the Well Dressing. Here, the local community and visitors were making frantic and last minute preparations for the dressing that took place late that night and following morning

An important element of my hike was to experience local customs where possible and my arrival at Youlgreave coincided with the Well Dressing. Here, the local community and visitors were making frantic and last minute preparations for the dressing that took place late that night and following morning

The gritstone walking led me to Edale where I joined the Pennine Way. It had originally been my intention to mix up my northward walking, switching around between paths, but as it was, I enjoyed the Pennine Way so much that I mostly stuck to the official route. The work carried out to restore the heather moors, repair damaged peatlands and lay flags across the worst of the denuded and damaged peat hags is remarkable. My arrival coincided with one of the hottest summers on record which bought its own challenge of hydration. Many small streams and springs were dried up as a result of the weather. I was also very aware of the moorland infernos, the one on Saddleworth threatening my onward progress. It was subsequently described as the largest English wildfire in living memory.

Three Points of the Compass on the Pennine Way, safely past the fire on Saddleworth moor, seen behind

Three Points of the Compass on the Pennine Way, safely past the fire on Saddleworth moor, seen behind

I found the Pennine Way a much more varied walk than originally anticipated. Only the northern part of the Peak District, the Dark Peak, is on the route. Moving on to the Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines bought equally excellent walking, as did the Northumberland National Park where I crossed Hadrian’s Wall and began to encounter midges for the first time on this trek.

The Pennine Way isn't, by any means, simply flagstones across peat hags. 28th June, 2018

The Pennine Way isn’t, by any means, simply flagstones across peat hags. 28th June, 2018

Entering Scotland I then followed a mixture of routes- St. Cuthbert’s Way, the Roman Dere Street (giving opportunity to see the Lilliard memorial), the Cross Borders Drove Road, then the Union Canal, Forth and Clyde Canal, pausing to admire the Falkirk Wheel and the best preserved section of the Antonine Wall, eventually joining up with the West Highland Way.

Lilliard Memorial

Lilliard Memorial

Fair Maiden Lilliard

Lies under this Stane

Little was her stature

But muckle was her fame

Upon the English loons

She laid monie thumps

An’ when her legs were cuttit off

She fought upon her stumps

A.D. 1544

 

Gargoyle at Melrose Abbey

Gargoyle at Melrose Abbey

I enjoyed being back on the West Highland Way. I walked this path with Mrs Three Points of the Compass (now promoted to Mission Control) and our daughter in 2013. This is a very well known and popular route, especially with international hikers and I met, chatted and frequently briefly hiked with people of a wide variety of nationalities.

It can't all be hard work- a stop for important carbohydrates in Kinlochleven, West Highland Way. 27th July 2018

It can’t all be hard work- a stop for important carbohydrates in Kinlochleven, West Highland Way. 27th July 2018

Resupply of new maps and some essential equipment was sent on as required by Mission Control. Here, my worn out Altra Lone Peak 3.5 were sent home to have the last few miles left inthem used up at some point in the future, while replacements stand ready for another five to seven hundred miles on this particular expedition

Resupply of new maps and some essential equipment was sent on as required by Mission Control. Here, my almost worn out Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s were sent home to have the last few miles left in them used up at some point in the future, while replacements stand ready for a further five to seven hundred miles on this particular expedition

After a short pause in Fort William for food resupply and send maps off and receive replacements, I moved onto and into the roughest and hardest terrain of my entire Three Points of the Compass hike- Ardnamurchan, Morar, Knoydart, Torridon and Assynt. I joined the Cape Wrath Trail for a single day before branching off for six days to reach my Second Point of the Compass- Corrachadh Mòr.

I can certainly see why this particular point is not more heavily marketed and most visitors settle for the more accessible Ardnamurchan Point, complete with lighthouse, cafe and road for access. The walk out to the correct place is a splash through bogs and gives scant reward for the more casual enquirer. But still, I was delighted to finally reach this place as my First Point, Lizard Point, in Cornwall, had been reached many weeks before.

Three Points of the Compass reached Corrachadh Mòr on 3rd August 2018 and celebrated the occasion with a good swig of two year old warehouse release maturing spirit from the new Ardnamurchan Whisky Distillery, at 53.8%, a few more bogs were wandered into on the return journey

Three Points of the Compass reached Corrachadh Mòr on 3rd August 2018 and celebrated the occasion with a good few swigs of two year old warehouse release maturing spirit from the new Ardnamurchan Whisky Distillery. At 53.8%, a few more bogs were wandered into on the return journey as a result

This is a pretty wild part of Scotland and I enjoyed great views of some rather special wildlife- Otters, Porpoises and Golden Eagle were seen well, and I put to flight more Red Deer than you can shake a trekking pole at, by chancing across them unexpectedly and suddenly as I crossed trackless moors.

Yet another crossing, Cape Wrath Trail

Yet another crossing, Cape Wrath Trail

Having returned to where I left the Cape Wrath Trail, I continued northward on this. The weather had deteriorated dramatically from the fine days of earlier in the summer and burns were in spate, feet wet all day while hiking and fierce winds encountered on exposed hills and wildcamps. My foot care regime was good though and I experienced no problems health wise.

Lunchtime halt at Soulies bothy. Cape Wrath Trail, 7th August 2018

Lunchtime halt at Sourlies bothy. Cape Wrath Trail, 7th August 2018

Fraying, strained and worn tie out points on tent vestibule

Fraying, strained and worn tie out points on tent vestibule

My Z Packs Duplex tent was used throughout my five month hike however whenever I could, I would take advantage of Youth Hostels or bothies if on my route. The Duplex is no mountain tent though and in Scotland it began to show a number of points of wear, fraying tie outs and strained seams.

Cuben fibre repair tape 'stitch' across strained seams at apex of tent

Cuben fibre repair tape ‘stitch’ across strained seams at apex of tent

I kept on top of repairs where I could with cuben or tenacious repair tape and less frequently with gaffer tape. But site selection for wild camps had to be made with care whenever possible, but on just a couple of occasions, late in the evening etc. there was little choice.

All that said, while this particular shelter is now worn out, and I wouldn’t use it on any further hike of any distance, I would not hesitate to purchase another of the same make and model.

A fairly high wild camp on a more exposed ridge than I would have wished. A rare fine evening detrioted into strong wind and rain for much of the night and following day. 8th August 2018, Cape Wrath Trail

A fairly high wild camp on a more exposed ridge than I would have wished. A rare fine evening deteriorated into strong wind and rain for much of the night and following day. Meallan Odhar, Cape Wrath Trail, 8th August 2018

Evening at Maol Bhuidhe bothy with Ken Maclean, a hiker out to bag a few hills and fish in the lochans. Good chocolate, good whisky and good conversation made for a convivial time

A night was spent at Maol Bhuidhe bothy with Ken Maclean, a hiker out to bag a few hills and fish in the lochans. Good chocolate, good whisky and good conversation made for a convivial evening

A midgy evening. I met hikers who complained that the little beasties were able to crawl through the mesh of either their shelters or their head nets. This is simply poor choice of equipment

A midgey evening. I met hikers who complained that the little beasties were able to crawl through the mesh of either their shelters or their head nets. This is simply poor choice of equipment

While the often poor weather meant less midges, when the rain dropped to a drizzle or infrequently ceased and the wind dropped, needless to say, I had arrived in the heartland of midge territory and the worst possible time in the year, some evenings were ‘interesting’ to say the least. The bug netting on the Duplex is superb and the roomy two-man interior made for comfortable living space for a single occupant.

I don’t use DEET, but found Smidge was enough to put them off, slightly, from me. It also worked brilliantly in killing them off if sprayed into the apex and corners of the tent, where any midges that had followed me into my tent would eventually land.

Beside these, I left horseflies behind in England and only had to remove two embedded ticks. A nightly ‘tick check’ was an essential task to be carried out.

 

Food supply was not, perhaps surprisingly, a problem. Here is around a weeks worth of food- Centered around a reinforced oat based breakfast, flapjacks, cheese, the makings for a simply lentil curry each night with added carbs etc. Plus various brew kit items and sundries. I also carried one emegency dehydrated meal that made a 'last supper' eventually

Food supply was not, perhaps surprisingly, a problem in Scotland. Here is around five days worth of food- Centred around a reinforced oat based breakfast, flapjacks, cheese, the makings for a simply lentil curry each night with added carbs etc. Plus various brew kit items and sundries such as Tablet. I also carried one emergency dehydrated meal that made a ‘last supper’ eventually. I would also, wherever possible, make use of infrequent cafes etc. to supplement what I carried

I reached Sandwood Bay on 20th August. In keeping with what seems to be a rite of passage, I wildcamped atop the dunes at Sandwood Bay on a rare quiet, calm evening. My journal entry for that evening describes it thus:

”Evening meal of lentil curry with couscous, mug of tea and packet of peanuts with three mini cheeses. Went and stood on the large rock outcrop behind me to eat it and watch the sunset. Quite magical. Feel privileged to be here”

Three Points of the Compass on reaching Sandwood Bay, Am Buachaille beyond

Three Points of the Compass on reaching Sandwood Bay, the Torridonian Sandstone sea stack of Am Buachaille is beyond

The following day was another fairly strenuous hike, this time round to Cape Wrath where the Cape Wrath Trail ends. I spent the night in the new, if basic,  bunkhouse that the owner of the Ozone Cafe has built inside one of the buildings he now owns there. Despite this having been the toughest walking of my entire trail, and my feeling pretty pleased with myself, it wasn’t the end for me. Though the walking became far easier. I was now walking into the Flow Country of eastern Sutherland and Caithness.

A final stay in a bothy. Strabeg, a short distance up the glen from Loch Eriboll

A final stay in a bothy on my Three Points trail. Strabeg is a short distance up the glen from Loch Eriboll

I was both surprised and delighted to see White Tailed Eagle here. This is the largest bird of prey in Britain. I had just about given up hope of seeing one of these birds as I had moved away from their widest favoured distribution. It was actually while viewing the Dounreay Nuclear Development Establishment through my monocular that I carried, that I picked up this raptor. Dounreay itself is now being decommissioned, originally built here purely because of its remoteness.

Three Points of the Compass reached Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Great Britain on 28th August 2018

Three Points of the Compass reached Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Great Britain on 28th August 2018

Despite my having reached Dunnet Head, my final point of the compass, I had just a little more hiking to do. I wildcamped on the sheltered eastern side of the peninsula and the following day walked a little further round the coast to John o’Groats, thereby also completing a Land’s End-John o’Groats hike, then the very short jaunt further along the coast to Duncansby Head. This is the most north-easterly point of mainland Britain and it was here that my Long Walk finished.

I stayed in the Seaview Hotel that night and the following day set about getting home. I had planned and booked nothing in advance. As it was, it was simple. I walked down to the John o’Groats jetty, booked myself onto the Orkney Coach which left there at 10.30, This took me to Inverness in three hours, a short wait until the bus to Inverness airport where I had been able that morning to book myself onto an afternoon flight to London Gatwick. Once there it was a swift walk through to the Gatwick Express to London Victoria railway station, twenty minutes later my train was transporting me to north Kent, and home. I arrived home less than twelve hours after leaving John o’Groats. My only loss on the journey home was that my battered, slightly bent and very knackered Pacer Poles couldn’t be unscrewed and separated, so couldn’t join me on the plane. They were left leaning outside the hotel.

Three Points of the Compass reached John o'Groats on 29th August 2018. Having left Lands End on the 30th April, 31 days after I had set off from Poole

Three Points of the Compass reached John o’ Groats on 29th August 2018, having left Lands End on the 30th April  31 days after I had set off from Poole

I shall be chatting more about various gear choices, trails walked, logistics and food etc. on both website and blogs in the future. For now though, that’s it!

A glass of red wine

Six days until my ‘Big Walk’- Food, water…. and wine

 “If you can drink the water

 I will drink the wine”

Frank Sinatra

In less than a week I am setting off on one of the longest, most beautiful, rugged, long distance walks in the UK. This is the South West Coast Path, and its 630 miles will be the springboard into the rest of my walk the length of the UK.

Being a coastal route it passes through or near many towns or villages and I anticipate little difficulty in resupply of food. That said, I am setting off from Poole with a handful of meals and some longer lasting supplements I found time to tuck into my food bag.

For the first two evening meals, I am taking the hiker’s staple- a couple of simple noodle meals. Mine are the ‘Fiery Sweet Chilli’ Fusion noodles from Maggi. Not only do these have, in addition to the noodles, the standard bag of flavouring, albeit superior, with dried veg, they also have a little sachet of Sunflower oil for extra flavour and calories, though I wish this were Olive oil. Another staple being carted along are two packs of the Idahoan dried potato flakes: Butter and Herb, and Roasted Garlic. Each of these will have protein added in the form of a pouch of Tuna.

Setting off over the Easter weekend means that a modicum of supplies needs to be carried

Setting off over the Easter weekend means that a modicum of supplies needs to be carried

With over half of its weight consisting of protein, 70g of Yeast Flakes in a zip lock baggie provides additional protein to a few meals in the days to follow, as does 60g of Freeze dried Grated Red Leicester Cheese, in zip lock baggie. These can be added to just about any meal to boost it slightly. Breakfast for Three Points of the Compass usually consists of porridge with added milk powder, so for the first three days I have six ‘Oat So Simple’ sachets (Sultanas, Raisins, Cranberry & Apple and Blueberry & Banana). After that, it is whatever I can find.

Other than  water, for hot drinks in the first week or two I have ten OXO cubes- I like one of these at the end of a days walk immediately after having set up camp. No low salt versions of these for me, these are the full fat, harden your arteries, cubes. Also, 30 decent tea bags will last me a fortnight or more. I am not a fan of full fat milk in tea but will have to learn to accept it as I am also taking 200g of full cream Nido dried milk powder in a zip lock baggie. I have a little plastic 1.5g medicine measuring spoon in this as I find it preferable to use one of these rather than my Ti spoon that has been used for stirring, tasting etc.

I have chatted before about taking a small number of condiments and flavourings, my chosen selection should last many weeks. The ten tough 1 litre ‘Soup ‘n’ Sauce’ bags I am tucking into my cuben Z Packs Food Bag will be washed out periodically and will last quite some time. These save considerably on the mess when preparing oatmeal, noodley or mash type meals. They can simply be fastened after the cooked contents are consumed, to be washed out at a later stage.

Also for the first couple of days I am carting along some snacks- three different Kind bars, easily the tastiest of this type of bar, also a single Cypriot peanut and sesame bar found sitting in a cupboard after last years holiday to Cyprus. After those are consumed, it is probably locally purchased Snickers bars from them on.

Final choice on my hydration system- BeFree filter with a 2 litre HyrdaPak Seeker, 850ml bottle for clean water to drink 'on the go' and a two litre Evernew soft bladder

Final choice on my hydration system- BeFree filter with a two litre HydraPak Seeker, 850ml bottle for clean water to drink ‘on the go’ and a two litre Evernew soft bladder, also for clean water

The BeFree water filter weighs just 35g. The 42mm screw thread limits what it is compatible with

The BeFree water filter weighs just 35g. The wide 42mm screw thread limits what it is compatible with but does mean that filling a bladder is easier

My gear list is just about finalised, and so it should be, I hear you cry. I continue to drop the weight being carried where I feel I can do it sensibly. I wrote only a few weeks ago, about the excellent MUV water filter that I had initially planned on taking with my equally new Cnoc water bladder. At the time, I had concerns about the weight and subsequently decided to simplify my set up, shave a few grams and just take a BeFree filter screwed into a 2lt Hydrapak Seeker.

I remain concerned about agricultural run-off in lowland Britain and will have to exercise greater caution as regards this. The BeFree filter weighs just 35g and will handle up to 1000 litres of water. If this proves insufficient for my hike I shall simply order another BeFree filter or revert to the MUV 2 Module that can be sent on to me via Mission Control back home. The filter can be cleaned ‘in the field’ via swishing or backflushing. The flip top cap does a good job of keeping the mouthpiece clean.

For clean water I have a 2lt Evernew bladder and an 850ml SmartWater bottle. With a combined capacity of around 4.8 litres, these all weigh a collective 174g when dry. A fairly significant drop from my previous 342g set up.

Recently I have been concentrating on getting a few necessary jobs completed prior to my leaving next weekend. The car has had an MOT, the lawn had its first cut of the year (Mrs Three Points of the Compass– you are on your own with the mower now!), a decent haircut and the last weekend saw a bit of packing, general household chores and most enjoyable of all, a couple of farewell type family meals. Oh yes, and a number of pints of beer were drunk too.

But why am I rambling on about wine? When Frank sang about the choice of water or wine, I believe he was singing about life choices- the safe and familiar, or the riskier path with greater reward. As I sit of an evening with a large glass of Shiraz, I frequently contemplate my challenge. Yes, it is daunting, but it is the riskier path with greater reward that I am seeking, onward to the 1st April…

Someone said, drink the water, but I will drink the wine.
Someone said, take a poor man, rich don’t have a dime.
So fool yourselves if you will, I just haven’t got the time.
If you can drink the water, I will drink the wine.
Someone gave me some small flowers, I held them in my hand.
I looked at them for several hours, I didn’t understand.
So fool yourselves if you will, you can hold out your hand,
I’ll give back your flowers, and I will take the land.
And I will drink the wine.
Sometimes I’m very very lonely, there’s only me to care.
And when I’m very very lonely, I want someone to share,
I’m going to drink the wine, I’m gonna take my time,
And believe in a world that is mine.
Someone gave me flowers, held them in my hand.
Looked at them for many hours, didn’t understand.
Go on and fool yourselves if you will, you can hold out your hand,
I’ll give back your flowers, and I will take the land.
And I will drink the wine, and I will take the land.
I will drink the wine.

Paul Ryan

100g and 240g gas cartridges

Still looking at my gas stove choices

Beside the MSR Windburner and Jetboil Flash that Three Points of the Compass pulled from the gear boxes to play with recently, I already have four other, mostly smaller, gas stoves that I could consider for my long walk beginning in April. There are two from Primus- a multifuel stove and a remote gas canister stove, also a couple of wee little canister top gas stoves.

Three Points of the Compass and family car camping in Exmoor, 2009. One or both Primus Stoves were used on these trips

Three Points of the Compass and family car camping in Exmoor, 2009. One or both remote Primus Stoves were used on these trips. Primus Omnifuel running on White Gas on left, Primus Gravity running on canister gas on right. Both of these stoves were capable of ‘proper’ cooking, hence the chopped mushrooms in the foreground. Note that we had a penchant for the folding Orikaso ware at that time, the earlier popper type not seen here were the better option

Primus Omnifuel 3289

This stove has been taken on many car camping trip over the years as my family grew up but has never accompanied me on any more than the odd day hike. The Primus Omnifuel (8000 BTU) is an almost bomb proof, well made stove that can also be disassembled in the field if necessary to service or repair. While it is actually a multi-fuel stove, capable of running on petrol, paraffin or even diesel, I have tended to use Coleman Fuel (White Gas) which is a very pure 100% liquid petroleum naphtha. If not Coleman Fuel, then I have run it on canister gas, with which it works very well. It is a very stable, low to the ground stove with three wide pot supports. It is possible to get a fine simmer or roaring flame with the control knob, it sounds like a rocket when fully on. This type of stove should NEVER be used inside a tent as the fireball occasionally produced can be ‘interesting’. There are newer, more compact versions of this stove available now but mine works fine. While I have no idea what the new versions weigh, mine weighs a whopping 352g. It is a terrific stove but I don’t think this monster will be coming with me on my long walk later this year.

Primus Omnifuel in use with gas canister. Note that jets had to be changed for use with liquid fuels and the fuel bottle and pump are not shown in this image

Primus Omnifuel 3289 in use with gas canister. Note that the jet has to be changed for use with liquid fuels (a simple task) and the fuel bottle and pump are not shown in this image

Primus Gravity 3279

My other Primus stove, that has been taken on similar car camping trips, a couple of cycling jaunts and a lone canoe trip, is the Primus Gravity 3279 (10500 BTU). This is a slightly more spindly, less robust product than the Primus Omnifuel. Factors that are reflected in its lower weight of 261g. This despite it also having a preheat coil, four wide pot supports and a piezo ignition. The latter is as useless as all of these eventually are, every piezo ignition I have ever had has eventually failed.

The stove has a good fine control knob and the legs can be pinned down to the ground if desired, though it is a very stable affair that will handle large and heavy pots. The legs on this stove fold up and it is a less bulky affair than the Omnifuel, however you could never says it packs small. This stove has always worked faultlessly for me and I have never felt the need to dispose of it despite it rarely seeing the light of day in recent years. There was/is also a Primus Gravity MF version that can burn multi-fuels, not the model shown here. Again, there are newer variants available today.

Primus Gravity 3279. The pre-heat coil enables low temperature use

Primus Gravity 3279. The pre-heat coil enables low temperature use

While excellent products, I really want to keep the weight and bulk of my stove of choice down. It was time for me to pull the smallest gas stoves I own from by gear boxes and see what they have to offer.

MSR Pocket Rocket 2

MSR know their stuff when it comes to making good stoves. It is no surprise that I have one of their Pocket Rocket stoves. I held off for many years from buying the original Pocket Rocket. Not for any particular aversion, it was just that I was undecided as to whether to buy the MSR Micro Rocket instead. I dithered so long, that in the interim, MSR took the best features of each of their canister top stoves, combined them, and released the Pocket Rocket 2.

MSR Pocket Rocket 2, with home-made tyvek baggie

MSR Pocket Rocket 2, with home-made tyvek baggie

I purchased my Pocket Rocket 2 in 2016 so have had very little opportunity to put it to use, relying instead, on my various meths/alcohol stoves for my backpacking trips. That said, I have still managed to put it to use on a small number of occasions and have got on well with it. For someone who appreciates the unhurried silent manner of a meths stove, the apparent frantic haste that  a canister stove such as this presents means a complete rethink on my setting up process. Normally, I can get to camp, drop the pack, select and clear my pitch, tent up. Then put a boil on to quietly do its thing to one side while I sort out sleeping mat and extract my quilt to allow it to decompress and pull the trail shoes off and let the feet breathe a little. By the time that is done, I have water reaching a boil ready for a hot drink. With a canister stove, it deserves and requires undivided attention.

My favourite pan for some years has been the Evernew 900ml shallow pan. This wide bottom pan is a great size for one hiker and very suitable for the wide spread of flame from most meths stoves. With the tighter, narrower flame pattern of the Pocket Rocket 2 stove, for no other reason than curiosity, I have looked at some choices of pan in my gear set that could prove more functional.

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 with MSR Titan Kettle. Note the directed flame. Less spills from the sides of the pot as lost heat, but care has to be taken so as to not burn any food in the centre of the pot

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 with MSR 900ml Titan Kettle. The pot supports are wide enough to provide a firm support to the pan. Note the directed flame. Less spills from the sides of the pot as lost heat, but care has to be taken so as to not burn any food in the centre of the pot

The 75g Pocket Rocket 2 comes with a handy little plastic holder with flip top lid, sized just right for the stove and provides great protection from knocks etc while in transit. However this holder alone weighs an additional 31g and reduces the practicality of packing the stove inside many pots or pans. Instead, I either wrap the stove in a small cloth, Lightload towel etc. or inside a little home made 1g tyvek baggie.

MSR Pocket Rocket 2- a quite fantastic, ultra reliable product

MSR Pocket Rocket 2- a quite fantastic, very reliable product

BRS 3000-T

While the Pocket Rocket II is a pretty small piece of kit, I snapped up one of the Chinese made BRS 3000T stoves when I heard of them just to try one out. I could afford to take a punt on one of these as it cost me less than a tenner on eBay. This is truly tiny stove measuring around 35mm x 50mm when folded or some 63mm x 90mm maximum width when unfolded, including the protruding wire valve control. I doubt that it is actually possible to get much smaller or much lighter than this and still be a functional item.

Tiny 25g BRS 3000-T stove

Tiny 25g BRS 3000-T stove

The BRS 3000-T is advertised as being made of titanium, but there are other metals in its construction as well. The design is such that it weighs just 25g and it comes with a little nylon carrying pouch that adds a further 2g.

The BRS 3000-T is delivered from China in simple packaging and comes complete with a little green carry pouch

The BRS 3000-T stove is delivered from China in simple packaging and comes complete with a little carry pouch. This stops it rattling when carried inside a cook kit

The stove is perfect for carrying inside a titanium mug along with a small gas cartridge for midday hot drinks or food on day hikes. That said the pot supports on this ‘Bumblebee’ stove are pretty narrow and I have to take care to ensure my pots sit on it square. I am not over keen on using this stove with my wider pans. While the largest pot I use is around a litre, I wouldn’t like to use anything larger, or more accurately, heavier on the pot supports. I am loathe to use it on longer, multi-day hikes but I am well aware that many hikers have used one of these stoves for weeks on end with no problems other than struggling to work with it in windier conditions. Some users have also experienced problems with the pot supports bending.

The flame from the BRS 3000-T is pretty narrow and directed. The pot supports obstruct and flare the flame quite badly and the titanium supports glow red even with quite modest flames. Some users have reported that these soften as a result with disastrous results

The flame from the BRS 3000-T is pretty narrow and directed. The pot supports are close to the flame and obstruct and flare this quite badly, the small titanium supports glow red even with quite modest flames. Some users have reported that the supports soften as a result with disastrous results. The pot is a simple 1 litre titanium pan with no lid or handles from MSR. This 140mm wide pan has an indentation on the underside in which the pot supports fit and centre well

I think the BRS 3000-T offers around 9200 BTU, it is advertised as giving out 2700W but works better and less frantically with less flame spilling up the sides of pots if not on full, which does, of course, mean a little longer to boil. But speed isn’t everything, hence my affection for meths/alcohol stoves over the years.

The BRS 3000-T stove does not perform well in even light wind. It pairs well with the 68g Primus windscreen but requires quite a narrow pot to prevent dangerous overheating. This windscreen inverts when not in use and nests around a 240g/250g gas cartridge

The BRS 3000-T stove does not perform well in even light wind. It pairs well with the 68g Primus windscreen but requires quite a narrow pot to prevent dangerous overheating of the cartridge. This windscreen inverts when not in use and nests around a 240g/250g gas cartridge

There are alternatives- The BRS 3000-T is almost certainly modelled on the the 45g titanium Fire Maple Hornet. This is a stove that also has its fans, or one of the badge engineered copies such as the Alpkit Kraku, Robens Fire Midge or Olicamp Ion. You pays your money and makes your choice, they are all the same stove, which is no bad thing. But I don’t own any of those stoves. I see no reason to buy another stove when I can use the excellent Pocket Rocket 2…

… or the MSR Windburner!

 

Winter Spiced Mixed Nuts

Trail snacks- Festive nuts

Three Points of the Compass is a great fan of nuts as trail food. If ever I am including a bag of snacks, invariably one sort of nut or another is a constituent. Of course this time of year, for some unfathomable reason,  the supermarkets are swamped with various nuts for the festive household. Time to take advantage of this.

I do not show an allegiance to one supermarket over another but Mr and Mrs Three Points of the Compass do pop in to Marks & Spencer on a not infrequent basis… A recent visit saw a seasonal addition to the food hall, and with a couple of quid knocked off too, I snapped up a couple of tubs to try them out.

A handful of the M&S winter spiced mixed nuts

A handful of the M&S winter spiced mixed nuts

The 300g tubs of M&S Winter Spiced Mixed Nuts comprise almonds, cashews and peanuts with cinnamon sugar and ‘a warming hint of cayenne pepper’. These really are quite a lovely mix, sweet with just a touch of heat. Many trail foods can get a little boring after a while, this tasty addition will make a change for a few months of day hikes. At 563 kcal per 100g, calorific content is high. Though I do note that the M&S plain roasted and salted mixed nut tubs, containing almonds, cashews, macadamias, hazelnuts & pecans, come in at a whopping 673 kcal per 100g. Not only have I returned and stocked up a little with a few extra tubs, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for any post Christmas dip in price too as the supermarket clears their shelves.

M&S Food Hall is a slippery slope for the lover of nuts

M&S Food Hall is a slippery slope for the lover of nuts