Category Archives: Gear

Skinners footwear

A recent delivery…

Over the years, Three Points of the Compass has struggled over what camp shoes to take. Some hikers eschew the inclusion of anything beside the boots or shoes they hike in, me, I want to change of an evening.

Synthetic trail runners in particular can really stink if wet. I want to get my feet out of my trail shoes or boots, cleaned off a bit (or a lot), dried out and rested. If I am staying at a B&B, any owner is going to take a dim view of muddy footwear going any further than the front door. If wet on the trail, you can be caked in mud and if I am on an official camp site, I don’t want to be trailing that into any w/c. Finally, many Pub landlords want walking foot wear removed at the door, as do some cafe owners.

A good pair of sandals is both comfortable and allow the feet to breathe and recover. However a pair such as these from Merrell, weigh 750g

A good pair of sandals is both comfortable and allow the feet to breathe and recover. However a pair such as these from Merrell, weigh 750g

If I am staying in a campsite or hostel where I am sharing a shower room or block, I also want footwear to reduce the chance of contracting anything nasty off the floor. Put that little lot together and a spare set of footwear it is. However just about everything I have tried is either downright ugly, heavy, or both. I loathe Crocs with a passion, but even if I could put up with their appearance, they are simply too bulky and I hate things dangling from the outside of my pack, which seems to be most hikers answer to the bulk of a pair or Crocs. Flipflops can be lightweight, but I don’t want to be wearing those for walking a mile down to the neighbouring village. I have tried wearing a pair of waterproof Sealskin socks inside wet and muddy trail runners but these begin to leak over time. However, that said, wearing a pair of Sealskinz, the heat from a dry pair of feet can help dry out a sodden pair of shoes or boots.

Three Points of the Compass was intrigued to come across a nifty design of footwear recently and decided to take a punt on a pair of Skinners. First appearing on Kickstarter, these are handmade in the Czech Republic and are made from Polypropylene, Viscose, Cotton and Lycra, they also have silver in the antibacterial yarn to reduce odour. Put simply, they are a stretchy, breathable sock with a waterproof abrasion proof polymer stuck on to the bottom and sides. There is no stiff sole and the socks/shoes roll up for carrying. They come supplied with a little cloth bag but I don’t need that as there are lighter options.

Skinners footwear- low cut, breathable, waterproof sole, comfortable, not bad at all...

Skinners footwear- low cut, breathable, waterproof sole, comfortable, not bad at all…

I ordered online, took the advice of a couple of reviewers and sized up to an XXL (I have feet size 11/11.5 UK), so the ones I ordered were supposed to fit feet size 12-13.5 UK. I should have ignored the advice and simply ordered the correct size as the XXL were way to big. The XXL I emailed Skinners to request an exchange for weighed 203g (7.2oz) for the pair. My new pair of XL fit me just fine. These weigh 183g (6.45oz) for the pair, so 91.5g per single sock. Pretty good compared to just about every other type of footwear I have taken with me for camp use. However, it remains to be seen how these will perform when used in anger. I really am not sure how I am going on to get on with what is, effectively, a toughened pair of socks.

I shall report back.

There is a fair amount of information on the box in which a pair of Skinners is purchased

There is a fair amount of information on the box in which a pair of Skinners is purchased

A small selection of herbs, spices and condiments goes a long way to improving bland trail meals

Additions to a food bag- condiments

 

The term condiment comes from the Latin condimentum, meaning “spice, seasoning, sauce” and from the Latin condere, meaning “preserve, pickle, season”

Wikipedia (T. Nealon)

While on multi day hikes, Three Points of the Compass now carries food in a wide mouth food bag from Z Packs. This dedicated food bag has a wide opening to make poking around inside easier and can hold anything from pre-prepared meals, to pasta/noodles/instant mash/oats/tortillas, to pouch fish, squeezy cheese, yeast flakes, jerky etc. plus a brew kit.

I do like to ensure that I have just a few extras that may add a little flavour to my meals. For a week’s walk this has usually just comprised of salt and pepper in the little paper sachets that can be picked up in fast food outlets. But with time counting down to my Long Walk, commencing April 2018, I have decided to expand on this slightly.

Below are the handful of additions I will be carrying. The idea of carrying these may be absolute anathema to purist lightweighters, but over time, the fairly bland and repetitive nature of stock carbs can get a little boring and a handful of condiments can go a long way to relieving this. With care, such additions add negligible weight to a reasonably lightweight set-up. And a little goes a long way.

A small selection of spices and condiments that will add flavour to meals on the trail

A small selection of spices and condiments that will add flavour to meals on the trail

I could very easily get carried away with what I wished to plunder my store cupboard for, but eventually settled on just five, these are:

  • Crushed and dried chillies
  • Dried garlic flakes
  • Tellicherry freshly crushed peppercorns
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Mixed dried herbs

I have found in the past that the little baggies I use tend to split after repeated opening and frequently don’t like closing after a while due to the fineness of the contents clogging the grooves of the closure. I could use contact lens cases instead but not only do these not hold a great deal but they are fairly weighty considering the original negligible weight of the condiments. Storing in straws, folded back and tucked into themselves is another way, but just a tad fiddly. The various spice holders produced by GSI are well made but simply too heavy, Tic Tac containers get crushed and split, the old 35mm film canisters (remember them?) have the lid pop off when you don’t want it to. None of the various multi compartment pill containers I have seen are light enough, So instead, I purchased a small range of cheap and cheerful lightweight aluminium tins from eBay and selected what I felt was the most appropriate size, which was the smallest, 15ml size. Each empty tins weighs just four and a half grams.

In addition, I have a small bottle of Olive Oil. This is decanted into a 60ml Nalgene bottle that weighs 16g empty. Full, it weighs 74g. The five full tins collectively weigh 72g, but that weight will constantly drop.

Small aluminium screw top tins are easily available. These are fives of the many sizes on the market. 15ml- 4.5g, 25ml- 6.3g, 30ml- 7.6g, 50ml- 10.1g and 80ml- 14.3g. They can be easily dented and knocked around due to their thin metal, but still hold up well

Small aluminium screw top tins are easily available online. These are just five of the many sizes on the market- 15ml- 4.5g, 25ml- 6.3g, 30ml- 7.6g, 50ml- 10.1g and 80ml- 14.3g. They can be easily dented and knocked around due to their thin metal, but still hold up well once the lid is screwed on

I could have added dried onion, dried vegetables or dried mushrooms to the above selection but many supermarkets and smaller shops stock quite small packs of these which can be picked up in many towns on trail, unlike the more flavoursome, often uncommon, quality ingredients listed above. I am still considering on swapping out my dehydrated garlic for garlic salt, and I do wonder if I should have added celery salt or my lovely smoked paprika…

Sorting through the trip piles

Still sorting out…

Have you noticed how maps, guides, books and notes can begin to accumulate into little, and not so little, piles of ‘important planning resources’ over time.

My attempt at sorting out some of those piles has continued into a second day. Once Mrs Three Points of the Compass is happy with how much the accumulated ‘stuff’ has been reduced and sorted, I’ll try and get round to a post or two on a couple of these little adventures. One from earlier in the year, one still to come.

As Tucas

Sorting out

Sadly, despite it being a fantastic, bright and dry autumn day, needs must, and it is a day of sorting out piles of accumulated ‘jobs to do’ alongside family chores.

One of these is making an assessment of a sample of material sent to me from As Tucas in response to a request from me for a bespoke Pack Liner for my Mariposa. It is about 38g/m2, so a good lightweight material. While strong, it is not very tear resistant, but no worse than cuben which is what I originally had in mind as a liner material. This is the fabric that As Tucas use for their Millaris Bivy bathtub.

Only available in black, it is waterproof and very slippery, so contents will slide in and out easily. Marco is doing seam testing for me and we have agreed on a design and price. I am only looking to a simple design with an extended collar and no buckles to keep weight down. That is all I need as I prefer to simply twist the neck of my normal rubble sack and fold down. This is a perfectly adequate way of ensuing no water enters a liner.

I’ll be formally placing my order in a couple of days and will post a picture once it is delivered.

Fabric swatch from As Tucas

Fabric swatch from As Tucas

Three Points of the Compass is taking a variety of pegs on his Long Walk across the UK

Pegging down the pegs

Having purchased a new tent this summer, I thought I would look a little more thoroughly at the range of pegs/stakes that I will be taking with me on my Long Walk in 2018. I have chatted before about the various pegs I have used over the years, and this has helped inform my ‘final’ choice.

As anyone who has read much from my Three Points of the Compass site will know, in 2018, it is my intention to set off from the Lizard in Cornwall, to follow the coastline, through Lands End, to Minehead (via the most southerly compass point of mainland Britain). Strike across country to Bristol, cross into Wales and then head north to and into Scotland via Lakeland. Keeping northward (with a diversion off to the most westerly compass point), I plan on visiting the most northerly point before swinging round to John O’Groats. As you might imagine, the terrain and underlying soil types are going to vary incredibly across this walk, far more so than any other hike I have ever undertaken to date.

It is so that I am prepared for whatever I am pegging down into, that my peg bag is going to show a little more variety than normal, in addition to being a little heavier that I might perhaps wish. Despite having a fairly wide variety of pegs for various ground conditions, I have chosen carefully, and concentrated on good quality products that have kept the weight as low as possible. Total weight, including peg bag, is 152g.

I anticipate good loamy soils, springy turf, grit, rocks, sand, roots, hard compacted earth, strong winds and waterlogged ground. It is obvious that no one type of peg is going to handle all of these, hence my choice. My tent is the Z Pack Duplex. I am not taking a free-standing option, my tent is erected with a peg at each corner plus one for each side that holds the doors out. Finally, a little more internal room can be gained by pegging out the sloping walls. So, six pegs as a minimum, eight pegs ideally. In addition to the eight, I want something for when the ground is soft and pegs just want to pull through the mud etc. Also, a couple of strong spears to pound into solid ground, where taking a rock to the head of any other peg I am carrying is going to shatter it or turn it into a banana. Not much to ask for is it! Additionally, there has recently appeared a new kid on the block- these are stupid light pegs and made of a traditionally fragile material. But I am including four short plastic pegs for additional support, replacement of lost pegs, or when I am stringing up a drying line or similar.

At a pinch, I also have my ti shepherds hooks that work with my cooking set-up as pot supports, these could instead be used to wiggle through a gritty, rocky ground, finding their way through tiny crevices. So while the two ti hooks are really part of my kitchen gear, I include them here. I also have my toilet trowel that can be used as a peg, or bags could also be filled and buried as snow anchors if things get desperate.

Lightweight, yet tough, peg bag from Tread Lite

Lightweight, yet tough, peg bag from Tread Lite

I have previously used a really lightweight peg bag from Tread Lite that weighed just a single gram but I found it too fragile, so I have gone for a more robust bag from the same manufacturer. This is made of Icarex with a tougher Dyneema X Grid base where wear is greatest. Yet the peg bag still weighs less than 5 grams.

  Peg/stake Material number Length Individual weight Total weight
 Carbon and Aluminium 'Full Metal Jacket' nail from Easton Easton nail Aluminium/Carbon 8 153mm 6.2g 49.6g
 Clamcleats Titanium Spear Clamcleats spear Titanium 2 200mm 17.9g 35.8g
 Clamcleats Tornado Clamcleats Tornado Titanium 2 183mm 18.1g 36.2g
 Swiss Piranha Swiss Piranha RT90 Plastic 4 90mm 3.2g 12.8g
 Titanium hook from Cascade Designs Cascade Designs Ti-hooks (potentially repurposed from stove) Titanium 2 160mm 6.3g 12.6g
Tread Lite peg bag Icarex/Dyneema X Grid 1 270mm 4.7g 4.7g
151.7g

[152g]

  • The Full Metal Jackets from Easton have either been shamelessly cloned by other manufacturers, or Easton are now producing them for a few of the smaller (and not so small) retailers under other names. They are an excellent and truly lightweight peg. Incredibly strong, they still have to be put in and removed with respect.
  • The titanium pins I have included can take quite a bit of punishment and can easily be pounded in with a rock. You will find thinner variants of these pins on sale but these are the 5mm thick titanium Spears that have been hammered  through four inches of wood by YouTubers on a frequent basis.
  • In soft ground, the thinner profile pegs shown above can be pulled out either with ease, or will struggle to hold. I wish I could justify a whole set of eight wide profile V pegs but instead, have included two Tornado pegs that can be used where it matters most, perhaps on the windward side of a tent.
  • Swiss Piranha RT90 pegs are short, made of a supposedly ‘unbreakable’ plastic and, in good ground, hold pretty well. At just 3.2g each, I felt I could include four of these as back up.
  • The titanium hooks that can provide pot support in my Sidewinder stove from Cascade Designs, can also be put into service as tent pegs. These thin pegs are good on gritty, rocky pitches, finding purchase where thicker pegs can prove impossible to penetrate the ground.

I am pretty sure that the above is going to be my final peg selection but do want to try this out for a few nights before committing to it. I am walking the Icknield Way Path over the course of a week in October and will be taking this set of pegs with me. I shall also be packing along two additional pegs, just to see if I am tempted to use them, or if they are required. These will be two of the excellent MSR Groundhogs. These are a tried and tested classic aluminium vaned peg.

 MSR Groundhog MSR Groundhog Aluminium 2 191mm Individual weight:  14.3g Total weight: 28.6g
The New Naturalists books make excellent reading. Especially when loaded onto an e reader if visiting an area

A library- leafing through the pages…

Three Points of the Compass encourages anyone who hikes or ventures into the countryside to not only look around and take notice of the surroundings, but to seek answers to questions. Buy a book, a Field Guide, try and remember a new name each trip out, each season, every year

Three Points of the Compass encourages anyone who hikes or ventures into the countryside to not only look around and take notice of the surroundings, but to seek answers to questions. Buy a book, a history, Field Guide, reference work, try and remember a new name and identification each trip out, each season, every year

Over the past few weeks Three Points of the Compass has been pulling a few books off his shelves to share with you. Every single one has given me pleasure, been of interest, has answered questions, acted as occasional expert reference or frustrated me in my ignorance.

I have featured 178 books with another 83 complimentary volumes also illustrated and touched upon. All have been purchased by me or have been gifts from family or friends. In a lot of cases there have been subsequent and possibly glossier editions, some I have purchased, others I have not. Usually it is the edition that has resonated with me most that I have shown on these pages.

Books can be expensive. However if something is of even passing interest, there is usually a cheap little volume available from someone who knows their subject, available and knows how to put it across. The online sites such as eBay and Amazon can turn up well priced second hand books at reasonable prices

Books can be expensive. However if something is of even passing interest, there is usually a cheap little volume available from someone who knows their subject and knows how to put it across. None of the small books above cost me more than a couple of quid and all of them answered a question. Online sites such as eBay and Amazon can turn up well priced second hand books in good readable condition. But do your research first, there is a lot of dross out there

I love books, much to the frustration of Mrs Three Points of the Compass (who happily neglects to mention her own fine collection of fiction). E-versions are often available and I have no problem with that. Like many others, I like the solid feel of a book, find flicking through the pages not only an ascetic pleasure but usually more convenient. However I well recognise the value of actually having a book with you instead of at home on the shelves. That is why I have also shown five e-books in these blogs. Books that, with others not shown here, have accompanied me on my walks and travels at no more than the weight of the e-reader itself.

Though I well remember that sickening feeling when I leant back on my backpack at a rest stop on the fells once, and heard a loud crack from within the pack’s depths. Sure enough, when the Kindle was pulled from the pack later, a series of cracks crazed the face. I now use my android phone instead and the replacement, and now apparently obsolete, Kindle ‘Classic’ escorts me on family holidays.

New Naturalists have been published since 1945 covering a wide range of British Natural History subjects. There have been cheaper editions published of many of these, eschewing the lovely dust jackets artwork and replacing any original colour plates with black and white

New Naturalists have been published since 1945 covering a wide range of British Natural History subjects. There have been cheaper editions (three shown on the lower row here) published of many of these, eschewing the lovely dust jackets artwork (above) and replacing any original colour plates with black and white

So, to finish- buy books. Read them, learn from them. Fill your shelves with them. A good guide can only make your time in the wild more enjoyable and fulfilling. A little knowledge fills the voids and with luck, will make you ask further questions, that all need answering. Now where’s that book…

... and along with a book comes the associated paraphernalia. Who can read any book about bats without wanting a bat detector too!

… and along with a book comes the associated paraphernalia. Who can read any book about bats without wanting a bat detector too!

Books in featured image:

Brecon Beacons, Jonathan Mullard. William Collins, 2014. Source ISBN 978 0007 3677 02, Ebook edition- ISBN 978 0007 5312 57

Yorkshire Dales, John Lee. William Collins, 2015, Source ISBN 978 0007503698, Ebook edition- ISBN 978 0007 5037 11

 

 

Looking at my Z Packs Duplex tent

 

Three Points of the Compass had just a couple of hours over this weekend to put up the newly purchased Z Packs Duplex tent. As number one daughter was visiting, we took time out to visit mother/grandmother and put the tent up in her garden. Daughter climbed inside and pronounced the tent as ‘weird’. What does she know!

Duplex Tent from Z Packs is quick and easy to erect

Duplex Tent from Z Packs is quick and easy to erect

Z Packs say that trekking poles should be set to around 48 inches (122cm) to erect the tent, which is handy as that is the default length of my Pacer Poles for hiking. No zips are included on the two sets of doors, instead there is a toggle at half height and a small metal clip for fixing one or both doors to at the bottom. So, less weight and less to go wrong, combined with greater airflow to keep the condensation down.

One storm door rolled back, there is a lot of room in each vestibule and the bucket ground sheet rises up quite some height from the ground

One storm door rolled back, there is a lot of room in each vestibule and the bucket ground sheet rises up quite some height from the ground

The camo version I purchased is not too militaristic and seems to do a pretty good job of providing a little discreetness inside. This was something I had been slightly concerned with as I am likely to find myself using this tent frequently on public, family camp sites as well as stealth camping where privacy is of less concern.

Three Points of the Compass is a big chap and six feet tall (or long). There is plenty of room at both foot and head when lying on a full length Thermarest X-Therm

Three Points of the Compass is a big chap and six feet tall (or long). There is plenty of room at both foot and head when lying on a full length Thermarest X-Therm

The rainbow zippers on the mesh screens each side work well and the small size mesh looks more than adequate to deny the Scottish Midge entrance. As a first glance, I am very, very pleased with my Duplex. I am very much looking forward to trying it out ‘in anger’. This tent will be home for a great many nights on my long walk next year. The additional space offered is going to go some way preventing myself from going stir crazy if storm bound etc.

Having removed a small roll of repair tape included in the tent and a little paperwork that came with it. I have repacked the tent into a newly purchased cuben long, thin dry bag from Z Packs. Total weight, minus poles and pegs is 632g

Having removed a small roll of repair tape included in the tent and a little paperwork that came with it. I have repacked the tent into a newly purchased cuben, long, thin dry bag from Z Packs. Total weight, minus poles and pegs is 632g