Tag Archives: Hydration

Sign for the GR131 as it crosses the Istmo de La Pared, Fuertenventura

Sign of the Month- Fuerteventura: GR131

Long distance path GR 131, part of the E7 European long distance path, crosses all seven of the Canary Islands. The section that traverses Fuerteventura is the longest and is known as the ‘Camino Natural de Corralejo a Punta de Jandia’-  A ‘Natural Trail’ stretching from North to South. In the South of the island it passes through what the locals call ‘El Jable’- The Sand.

Now mostly hidden from view beneath the shifting fossil sands of the dunes, this section of the path closely follows the route of the Old Way of the Prisoners; cobbled sections of limestone forming an almost forgotten road constructed by political prisoners between 1946-1948.

The GR long distance paths are a European network. In the Spanish Canary Islands, ‘GR’ stands for Gran Recorrido and, on those islands, paths are maintained by the Spanish Mountain Sports Federation (Federación Española de Deportes de Montaña y Escalada). Trails are normally marked by a white stripe above a red stripe, with additional marks for changes in direction or to indicate a wrong way has been taken.

 

A new purchase- The Gossamer Gear Mariposa

As a change from my normal office bound life, work this week took Three Points of the Compass on a small road trip. From Kent up to Norfolk, up and across to Manchester and Southport, then down to Malvern, back to Essex and off home to Kent. ‘Ah ha‘ I thought, ‘I know a business in Malvern I want to visit‘.

Backpacking Light offices at Hanley Swan, in the Malvern Hills district

Backpacking Light offices at Hanley Swan, in the Malvern Hills district

I have been considering my next upgrade of pack for some time now. My current ‘pack du jour’; the Osprey Exos 48, excellent as it is, hasn’t quite been cutting it for me on longer treks when carrying full backpacking gear. In amongst a small short-list of possible replacements, I was undecided between one of the ULA packs and the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I have seen the ULA Circuit and Ohm before but had mostly only seen the Robic 2015 incarnation of the Mariposa on the excellent review by Bob Cartwright on the Outdoors Station.

Bob’s review had almost settled it for me but I am reluctant to make a large and expensive gear purchase before having had a good rummage round and feel first. This is difficult to manage with products from USA based cottage industry. Dropping an email to Backpacking Light, a prompt reply immediately invited me to their offices and store rooms at Hanley Swan to try on a pack or two for size. Having finished my business on the Friday I popped in to their offices and was immediately made welcome by  proprietors Bob and Rose and offered a cup of tea.

Trying a Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack for size and fit at Backpacking Lights offices

Three Points of the Compass tries a Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack for size and fit at Backpacking Light offices

Bob sized me up for a Mariposa pack, loaded weights and I was encouraged to go for a wander round the grounds to get the feel of it.

The pack is an excellent product. As I suspected, the configuration of pockets and overall dimensions suit my requirements admirably. Once I have made my future change from my current single skin Nigor Wikiup shelter to the one I have in mind (watch this space), this will slide into the long wand pocket on one side. This pocket stretches the height of the pack and is one of the features that drew me to this particular pack. The Large size pack fits my frame well but the bigger question for me was which of the detachable hip belts would prove most suited.

Having determined that the Large size hip belt was best, I was chatting to Bob and mentioned my dislike of the hip pockets on the Osprey being too far round to the side. ‘Hold on‘ he says, and disappears for a minute to re-emerge with one of the earlier Large size belts made by Gossamer Gear. The latest belts have decreased the extent to which the padded section extends round the front, pushing the hip pockets further round to the side. However the earlier pattern of belt has just the same thickness of padding over the hips but the padding extends about an inch further forward, in turn putting the hip pockets in a much more usable position.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted hip belt

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted hip belt

One addition to the latest incarnation of the Mariposa is the return of the inbuilt whistle on the chest sternum buckle. Three Points of the Compass has looked at the effectiveness of whistles recently, the results of that test mean this sternum whistle will remain a back-up to my primary whistle. The internal hydration sleeve is also unlikely to be used for its primary purpose but I like to slip either ‘next up’ maps and documents in to these sleeves, or a sit mat.

The addition of a sit mat to anyone’s gear list is a desirable I reckon. Not only are they a real bonus to be pulled out at sit down rest stops at wet, cold or muddy points, but as a place for kneeling in the tent they are much appreciated. A Thermarest Z seat weighs 59g but the Mariposa comes with a 30g ‘SitLight‘ pad slotted into the back, so a handful of grams saved there.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted SitLight pad

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted SitLight foam pad

Minus food and drink, my base weight these days usually comes in at sub-10kg, well within the load capacity of this pack. As to the weight of the pack itself, needless to say, Gossamer Gear’s listing of weights is slightly dubious- despite their website stating an ‘average’ weight of 986g for large pack, belt, frame, lid and pad, mine totalled 1026g on an accurate set of digital scales. I am not complaining, this still comes in a handful of grams less than my Osprey Exos 48 in large which weighs 1150g. However the Mariposa has an increased capacity (around 60lt.) and is better configured. This may mean that I am unable to meet the desired, if ambitious, 3-4-3 target, but that is only a guide, not a firm rule, we shall see.

I am keen to get out and try the pack out in anger. I am convinced it will offer the performance I am after. If so, this will be the pack that accompanies me on my Long Walk.

Having made my purchase I hung around for a while chatting all-things gear, walks done and to be done and the merits of various stoves. Both Bob and Rose gave generously of their time, it is very much the personal touch with their customers that sets R&R Enterprises apart from your more average retailer. For this customer, it makes a refreshing change.

 

 

Re-filling with fresh water on The Ridgeway

The Ridgeway- water sources

Those who read an earlier post will have noted that I took a water filter with me on my recent six day backpacking trip along The Ridgeway. The path itself is some 87 miles but I chose to start at Avebury, adding a handful of miles to my total. That, combined with a couple of short side-trails to overnight stops, meant that I covered 106 miles in total.

Most springs and rivers occur below the level of The Ridgeway and accessing them often means descending off trail

Most springs and rivers occur below the level of The Ridgeway and accessing them often means descending off trail

The Ridgeway is not an exclusively ridge walk. For much of its distance it traverses the hills above the villages and towns situated at the spring line on lower contours. It can be quite dry on the trail yet water intake has to be maintained by the hiker throughout.

Day two, especially, was a wet day. In contrast to the strong sun, high temperatures and lack of cover of the first day. Regardless of conditions, it is important to stay well-hydrated throughout the day to lessen fatigue and maintain progress

Day two, especially, was a wet day for me on The Ridgeway. This was in contrast to the strong sun, high temperatures and lack of cover of the first day. Regardless of conditions, it is important to stay well-hydrated throughout the day to lessen fatigue and maintain progress

So, did I find a water filter of use? Simply put- no. Even without finding it necessary to leave the trail specifically to seek out water, I did not need to use a filter at all. If not abundant, I certainly found that with a little planning I could carry all the water that I required and kept well hydrated throughout. This was partly achievable because almost all of my overnight halts were at recognised sites. The only night I wild-camped, I took an extra litre with me for that night. I usually drank at least a litre of water, sometimes as much as one and a half, each night. This would  mostly be in liquid form, water, tea or my favoured OXO. Some water was used to rehydrate meals.

Most water taps are well-signposted from the path

Most water taps are well-signposted from the path

All of the water points that I located on the trail were sign-posted, were working and provided good, fresh, cold water. I started out on the walk carrying 1900ml of water with me in two 850ml Smartwater bottles. This was enough to see me through my short half day to my first halt at a farm near Ogbourne St. George. There is supposed to be a water tap available at Southend (SU198734), just prior to the village, but I failed to locate it. I camped in the horse paddock of Fox Lynch, filling up for that evening and the following day from a tap in the farm yard. If stopping for water there, do ask first as not all of the taps provide potable water.

Day two saw me set off with 1900ml. I refilled one empty bottle (850ml) at a tap on the path near farm buildings at Idstone Hill (SU263835). This day was especially wet compared to my first day. When it is raining it can be difficult to drink sufficient fluids and I was careful to keep a high intake.

Water tap at Idstone Hill

Water tap at Idstone Hill

Further along there is another tap near Hill Farm (SU338854). Again, I took the opportunity to not only drink a bottle of water (850ml) but fill up as well. This saw me through to my days end at Court Hill Centre (SU394844) south of Wantage where water is readily available to those staying, or for visitors on request.

Water tap near Ilsley Barn Farm

Water tap near Hill Farm, it would be easy to miss some of these points amidst the growing vegetation

I set off on day three, again loaded with 1900ml of water though I could have carried less as the next ‘on path’ tap is apparently near Ilsley Barn Farm. I say apparently as I walked past the tap, or signage, or whatever there was, without seeing it. Fortunately this is a fairly short stretch and my two bottles easily saw me to Streatley where there are many town facilities, including the YHA very near to trail.

Water tap near Grimsdyke Cottage

Water tap at crossing point near Grimsdyke Cottage, only shortly before reaching Nuffield

Tap in wall of Holy Trinity Church, Nuffield

Tap in wall of Holy Trinity Church, Nuffield

Tea, coffee, soft drinks , cake and biscuits, on offer inside Holy Trinity Church Nuffield. Be sure to leave a donation

Tea, coffee, soft drinks , cake and biscuits, on offer inside Holy Trinity Church Nuffield. Be sure to leave a donation

Day four, needless to say that I was well hydrated as I set off and also carrying water. A full load is not required as Nuffield is well provisioned. There is a very welcome tap (SU660871) at a Crossing Point only a little way before entering the village. However possibly the most welcome point is that at Holy Trinity Church in Nuffield (SU667873). There is a water tap in the exterior wall of the church but if you are fortunate, as I was, then you can enjoy the thoughtful provision of the local parishioners.

I stayed at a campsite that night- at White Mark Farm, two hundred metres or so from the path (SU697939). There is a water tap provided for walkers to the side of the entrance road to the site.

Water tap at the entrance to White Mark Farm, only a short distance from The Ridgeway

Water tap at the entrance to White Mark Farm, only a short distance from The Ridgeway

Keep an eye open for signage. This one pointed toward an unexpected source not far from Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve

Keep an eye open for signage. This one pointed toward an unexpected source not far from Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve

The following day, day five, I was not expecting to pass any water taps and knew I had a wild camp to provide for, so carried an extra litre when I set off. Needlessly as I came across an unexpected water tap at (SU727976). This tap is not shown on the Harvey route map but is mentioned in the Cicerone guide.

Again, I took the opportunity to drink a full bottles worth (850ml) before filling up again and walking on. Obviously heavily laden but very necessary.

There are many opportunities to wild camp on The Ridgeway, none are officially sanctioned and the obvious rules apply- arrive late, stay discreet, set up late, leave early, leave no trace. I stayed that night at a pleasant location with a good view over the Vale of Aylesbury. A litre of water was plenty for my needs that evening but left little for the following morning.

Water tap at near Aston Rowant. On right, near building just before the first minor road after having passed beneath the M40

Water tap at near Aston Rowant. On right, near building just before the first minor road after having passed beneath the M40

Crumbs in Wendover

Crumbs in Wendover

The following day, day six (my final day on the trail) I had an early descent from height down into the nearby market town of Wendover to partake of a thoroughly unhealthy but, oh, so welcome, Full English Breakfast (and two mugs of tea) at Crumbs Sandwich Bar. While there, I asked them to fill up water bottles for me, thereby preparing me for my final day.

Does a cafe in Wendover count as a water point? Damn right it does...

Does a cafe in Wendover count as a water point? Damn right it does…

This meant I was well provisioned for my remaining miles. I completed The Ridgeway a few minutes after two in the afternoon on day six and only had a two mile walk to Town Farm where I was camping that night. Water taps (SP949165) are situated some distance from the entrance to the site.

Dew ponds are situated at many points along The Ridgeway. Many are now restored and have butyl liners so no longer dry out as frequently as they used to. However water is intended for horses etc., is standing water and likely to be contaminated by animal faeces and is njot recomended for human consumption,even following very necessary treatment and purification

Dew ponds are situated at many points along The Ridgeway. Many are now restored and have butyl liners so no longer dry out as frequently as they used to. However water is intended for horses etc., is standing water and likely to be contaminated by animal faeces and is not recommended for human consumption,even following very necessary treatment and purification

Water on the stove for my post-hike OXO. Valuable rehydration and replacement of lost salts

Water on the stove for my post-hike OXO. Valuable rehydration and replacement of lost salts

Beyond a hot OXO at the end of each day (400ml), water for rehydrating meals and breakfast tea (400ml) with a home-mix breakfast, further liquid intake consisted of the odd pint or two in pubs at Ogbourne St. George, Streatley, Watlington and Ivinghoe Aston.

Cattle troughs are frequently encountered. Stop cocks are all automatic or closed from access. Only the water in the trough is accessible and requires treatment. Alternative sources are recommended

Cattle troughs are frequently encountered on The Ridgeway. Ballcocks are all automatic or closed from access. Only the water in the trough is accessible and definitely requires treatment. Alternative sources are recommended

Not that many public houses are actually passed on the trail itself. When they are, invariably it is at an inconvenient time and may be closed. Most easily utilised are those located not far from night stops, as here with the Carriers Arms near Watlington

Not that many public houses are actually passed on the trail itself. When they are, invariably it is at an inconvenient time and may be closed. Most easily utilised are those located not far from night stops, as here with the Carriers Arms near Watlington

The above is accurate to the month when written- May 2016. Circumstances are likely to alter over time and there is already a seasonal provision at some locations.

The Ridgeway- water filter

I took a few minutes today to sort out my water filter for my Ridgeway walk that starts in a few days time. Water points are not exactly prolific on this trail and there are conflicting reports as to the continued existence of one or two of the traditional fill-up points.

Aquaguard Micro and associated 'dirty water' bladder and hoses

Aquaguard Micro and associated ‘dirty water’ bladder and hoses

While I can easily divert into a number of hamlets etc. not too far off-trail if things get desperate, off-trail is off-trail- extra miles to be avoided if at all possible. Despite its name, the Ridgeway does not follow a ridge its whole length. I am hopeful of finding opportunity at lower levels to fill up bottles and water bladder along my way, hence my inclusion of a water filter in my gear.

Unlike many hikers, I have not moved on to either of the incarnations of the Sawyer- Mini or full size. Instead I am still relying on my Drinksafe Aquaguard Micro water filter. While I could use this as an in-line filter,  I am instead, taking it to be used as either gravity or squeeze. I have included a 1lt Platypus bladder for dirty water, a Sawyer Fastfill adapter, short hose, long hose, male and female quick disconnects and a ziplock to hold it all, this totals 239g.

In addition, I have two 850ml Smartwater bottles (33g each) in pack side pockets and a 2lt Evernew Bladder (42g). The latter specifically for camp. Not the lightest of set ups by any means, but it’ll do. I’ll report back as to how things went.

The Harvey map for the Ridgeway shows a handful of water supply points en route. Typically, these two are within a kilometre of each other!

The Harvey map for the Ridgeway shows a handful of water supply points en route. Typically, these two are within a kilometre of each other!