Tag 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
Two very different books on the making of a landscape

A library for historians…

The  British Landscape

 “to care about a place, you must know its story”

Nicholas Crane

I could just have easily posted these books under my section- ‘a library for geologists…‘, but they are both as much, if not more, about the people that inhabit a landscape. The two volumes look at a similar subject but approach and share it with the reader in different ways.

The first is very much a scholarly work, but don’t let that put you off. Nicholas Crane is an excellent writer and communicator who may visit again in this series of books from my library. I thoroughly recommend The Making of the British Landscape to just about anyone. The author is proficient in explaining meticulously researched detail in an accessible manner. It is a hefty volume, and all the better for it. Sub-titled ‘From the Ice Age to the Present’, that is an ambitious target and the bigger picture is broken down in to the step-changes that have shaped this country and its people.

Page from The Making of the British Landscape

Page from The Making of the British Landscape

 

“Our country is like a historical onion: layers and layers of human endeavour, overlaid and overgrown, but still visible”

Mary-Ann Ochota

I was unaware of Mary-Ann Ochota’s writing before I came to her ‘Spotter’s Guide‘. I had seen her co-presenting of Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ but it is mostly through reliance on her formal training in anthropology and archaeology that this book has been produced. It is a very accessible book that looks at big and noticeable features and then attempts to explain them, usually quite successfully in a series of chapters- Lumps and Bumps, Stones, Lines, and, In the Village.

A selection from Mary-Ann Ochota's chapter on Lines

A selection from Mary-Ann Ochota’s chapter on Lines in her book Hidden Histories

Books in featured image:

The Making of the British Landscape, From the Ice Age to the Present. Nicholas Crane. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016. ISBN 978 0 297 85666 5

Hidden Histories, a spotter’s guide to the British Landscape. Mary-Ann Ochota. Francis Lincoln, 2016. ISBN 978 0 7112 3692 9

Three specialist books on waders

A library for ornithologists…

Waders

I have spent countless hundreds, probably thousands, of hours peering at mud. The tide comes in, the tide goes out, the mud is covered, the mud is revealed. Muddy fringes of dykes, muddy banks of lakes, mud edges of flood plains, anywhere there is mud. Some might call it sand, no, it is mud, and in that mud are millions upon millions of invertebrate life, and feeding on that larder of life, are waders…

Waders are a very popular group of birds for both dedicated birdwatchers and the merely interested. However, with their extremely variable plumage, waders are also one of the most challenging of birds when trying to separate quite similar species, or being confronted by a myriad of dull grey birds, all in winter plumage.

Three very different books from my bookshelf have helped me make sense of this rewarding and fascinating group of birds. Colston and Burton’s Waders has long been a favourite of mine. One of the few field guides to a specialist group of birds that has occasionally accompanied me into the field. The plates are superb. It is almost a shame that I choose to only show an example of these here as the species detail is also good- broken into Identification, Voice, Habitat, Distribution, Movements, Feeding, Social and breeding behaviour, Nest, eggs and young. The text is succinct and a surprising amount of detail is included in just 234 pages.

Detail from A Field Guide to the Waders of Britain and Europe. Phillip Burton is a skilled illustrator

Detail from A Field Guide to the Waders of Britain and Europe. Phillip Burton is a skilled illustrator

I have spoken before on the faults of photographic guides to birds, but used alongside a good field guide with well drawn plates, they can be very useful. North Atlantic Shorebirds includes a good selection of photographs usually showing at least- juvenile, adult summer and adult winter plumage. I think the species text is of less practical use but buried in the book are some species comparison details that are hard to find elsewhere. But if it is going to be found elsewhere, it is the next volume.

My final selection- Guide to the identification and ageing of Holartic Waders is not intended for easy bedtime reading. This is something practical, containing detail that has been ascertained from skins in museums and measurements , drawings and photographs of birds in the hand. If you are involved in trapping or ringing, this is indispensable. But help in sexing Avocets via the drawings of the respective curves to their bills can be useful to any birdwatcher sitting in a hide, such gems are throughout this authoritative volume.

Useful guide to separating seven Calidris species included in the BTO guide to Holarctic Waders

A useful guide to separating seven small Calidris species is included in the BTO guide to Holarctic Waders

Books in featured image:

A Field Guide to the Waders of Britain and Europe with North Africa and the Middle East. Peter Colston, Phillip Burton. Hodder & Stoughton, 1988. ISBN 0 340 39936 8

Guide to North Atlantic Shorebirds. Richard J. Chandler. Facts on File Inc. 1989. ISBN 0 333 45880 X

Guide to the identification and ageing of Holartic Waders, B.T.O. Guide 17A.J. Prater, J.H. Marchant, J. Vuorinen. British Trust for Ornithology, 1977