Tag Archives: notebook

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.

Older books in my natural history library

A Library…

Three Points of the Compass seldom carries any book, beyond a journal, when hiking. Instead I keep a small library at home; to be dipped into on a whim, or referred to when trying to nail down that ‘something’ seen, or in a vain attempt to educate my failing memory in the hope that I can identify with what I see on my travels. Any walk is vastly improved and enjoyed all the more when I can put a name to some of that around me, or at least understand the relationship, the ecology of the environment through which I am hiking.

Collins have periodically renewed and refreshed their most popular natural history books. I have certainly never purchased every one, but every few years am tempted to the shelves of the nearest Waterstones to buy the latest version of a favourite

Collins have periodically renewed and refreshed their most popular natural history books. I have certainly never purchased every one, but every few years am tempted to the shelves of the nearest Waterstones to buy the latest version of a favourite

I have always purchased books. I believe a fairly well stocked, carefully chosen, library of books on the natural sciences and the people who have helped define it, should be the aim of any inquisitive mind and especially anyone that hikes on a regular basis. Those shown at the top of this page are from ‘secondary’ shelves in my house. They are a small sample of those volumes that have been relegated off of my first division shelves that sit nearest my desk.

As a young lad I bought a number of the thin volumes in the Jarrold Nature Series. I never had a lot of money and would frequently buy one or two with the extra ‘holiday spending’ I would be given on family holidays. Far better spent on these little booklets than ice creams and fairground rides I felt. The Birds of the Mountains and Moorlands shown above (volume 4 in the Jarrold Bird Series) would have been bought when we visited some such area, I forget where, when I believed these would help me in my identification of the local wildlife.

I have little regard from where my books are obtained. I have purchased new, remaindered, second-hand (and third, fourth et al) volumes aplenty. I have scoured second hand shops, libraries selling off volumes, perused dealers typewritten catalogues and, increasingly, I turn to eBay and Amazon. There are virtual spaces on my shelves too, some books I have lent, never to be returned and only infrequently replaced.

The Caterpillars of the British Butterflies volume shown above was a companion to The Butterflies of the British Isles in the Wayside and Woodland Series published by Warne. It is a second hand copy, withdrawn from the Westminster Public Libraries and sold off by them in one of their periodic clear outs and would have already been very old when I got it. This reflects a particular period of my childhood when most weekends I went out from dawn til dusk (or until hunger struck) to scour the undergrowth of woods near my home, or go fishing in the little stream or local canal, watching dragonflies, Kingfishers, Water Boatmen or catching White Clawed Crayfish in a time before the American Signal Cray invaded our waters. Caterpillars, and a clump of whatever herb I found them on, were kept at home to see what wonder might emerge from the chrysalis.

A page from the AA/Readers Digest book- The Birds of Britain

A page from the AA/Readers Digest book- Book of British Birds

Collins were the publisher of many of the Field Guides I have purchased over the years. Some volumes reflect another era. I am almost ashamed to admit that, in common with most of my pals, we would go out ‘bird-nesting’- collecting birds eggs. I had stopped by my mid-teens and it never advanced further than the few eggs from songbirds. I am so thankful that oölogy lost its interest for me. I became far more interested in learning what came out of an egg rather than the ‘prize’ itself.

Instead, I learnt to stalk animals through the undergrowth and stream edges and went through a period of carting along packets of Plaster of Paris, purchased from the local chemists. I would make paper rings and, with the heavy contents of my rucksack, make impressions of tracks of deer, fox, badger and the great prize, water vole.

I have shown a couple of older Collins volumes in the featured image above, my shelves also groan under the weight of many a later edition, but as to getting rid of older volumes, the horror.

The Readers Digest Book of British Birds was read on many an evening when I was a boy. There were probably few bookshelves down our street that didn’t carry a copy of this particular volume with its superb painting of a glaring Tawny Owl on the front cover. I read how a roosting owl could be located by following up noisy parties of smaller birds such as Jays, Blackbirds and Chaffinches who would mob the predator. On probably hundreds of occasions I have dived into the neighbouring thick woodland, having heard the ruckus from within, in the hope of finding a roosting tawny owl, never once with any success. I still do on occasion…

The small volumes that formed the Observer's series have been much loved by generations

The small volumes that formed the Observer’s series have been much loved by generations, my own included, and available for pocket money too. Despite the huge number of titles available I never had more than a dozen or so of these little books

Other books on natural history on my shelves are a little more eclectic. I went through a phase of no more than a year or two where I determined to learn everything I could about slugs, snails and the shells on the beach, well, who wouldn’t!

Over the next few weeks I shall blog daily on just some of the books, or sets of volumes, that sit proudly on my shelves. Some are seldom pulled out, others can be left in situ for a year or two and then sit on my desk for a month or so to be reacquainted with. Others, are works of pure reference to be consulted when bafflement descends. One or two may be deemed a classic, whatever that is and I am sure that many reading this may shake their head in dismay over my woeful choice. These will not, in any way, be book reviews, simply a brief glance at some of my favourite volumes that frequently have and often continue to make my walking experience all the greater. There are many that have not made the cut, I will not be showing my lovely old, battered (and slightly smelly) set of The Handbook of British Birds by Witherby, Jourdain, Ticehurst and Tucker for instance. And just a slight tease, my definition of ‘Giants‘ will, no doubt, raise hackles in some readers.

 

Books shown in featured image:

The Caterpillars of the British Butterflies (including the Eggs, Chrysalids and Food-plants), R.South. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd. 1944

The Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers, David McClintock and R.S.R.Fitter. Collins, 1956

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe, F.H.Van Den Brink. Collins, 1967

Collins Pocket Guide to Nests and Eggs, R.S.R.Fitter and R.A.Richardson. Collins, Reprinted revised edition, 1969 (First published 1954)

Book of British Birds, Readers Digest/AA, Second Edition 1974 (first published 1969)

Identification of the British Mollusca, Gordon E. Beedham. Hulton Group Keys. Pitman Press, 1972

Birds of the Mountains and Moorlands, text by Reg Jones. Jarrold, 1974

The Norfolk Coast Path

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path- Part Two

 

The Norfolk Coast Path

Sandy isolation as I walk towards The Firs at Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve

Sandy isolation as I walk towards The Firs at Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve

Paths were invariably well maintained, it was often possible to find myself having strayed offf the official path on to one of the many other alternatives, but they all went in the same direction

Paths were invariably well maintained, I often found that I had strayed off the official path on to one of the many other alternatives, but they all went in the same direction

Starting on 1st April 2017, I walked the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. On day four, I finished off the Peddars Way and began the Norfolk Coast Path, the flavour of the walk changed immediately and dramatically. On my walk northward from the Suffolk/Norfolk border, I had encountered very few people on the trail, as soon as I hit the coast, this changed. Not that anyone was doing, or appeared to be doing, the national trail. It was just that I was now in the midst of holidaymakers, fishermen (and fisherwomen, or is it just fisherpeople?) and the residents and workers in the small and larger towns that were lined up, like pearls on a necklace, along the coast.

There a number of map and guide options for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, I took the relevant 1:50 000 O.S. maps as I already had them. I also purchased the Cicerone guide and the official trail guide. Both are excellent but I only took the Bruce Robinson guide with me

There a number of map and guide options for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. Knowing I would be going ‘off trail’ on occasion, I took the relevant 1:50 000 O.S. maps (sans covers) as I already had them. I also purchased the Cicerone guide and the official trail guide. Both are excellent but I only took the Bruce Robinson guide with me

My next few days comprised 20 miles from my last campsite on the Peddars Way, the lovely Bircham Windmill, to Deepdale, then 14,5 miles to Highsand Creek,  followed by 16 miles to my only stay at a hostel on the walk, the YHA hostel at Sherringham, leaving me a simple six miles to finish my trail at Cromer pier and then to the railway station. In all, I did 98.5 miles. This was certainly taken over the ton by my little wanderings and evening sorties from my tent. But, with map miles, it sits at 98.5 miles.

Because I knew that the nature watching was going to be so good on this trail, especially the Norfolk Coast Path, I wanted to include some optics in my kit list. Eschewing my heavy binoculars, I took a 109g 8x20 monocular. I was pleased I did as it was often used

Because I knew that the nature watching was going to be so good on this trail, especially the Norfolk Coast Path, I wanted to include some optics in my kit list. Eschewing my heavy binoculars, I took a 109g 8×20 monocular. I was pleased I did as it was often used

Someone had been playing silly buggers at Brancaster and had sawn off the finger posts. My own fault, I sauntered straight on and needlessly walked a mile and a half out to the point and back

Someone had been playing silly buggers at Brancaster and had sawn off the finger posts. My own fault, I never noticed and sauntered straight on, needlessly walking a mile and a half out to the point and back

I used to visit this part of the coast, almost as a pilgrimage, in the 1980s/90s when I was a keen birdwatcher. It is amongst the very finest of places to view birds- residents, migrants, raptors across the reedbeds, fantastic. But for me, it was the visits each late autumn/early  winter to see the thousands of geese, wintering away from the harsher conditions of Siberia that will live with me forever. Even hoofing along with a pack on my back and stopping infrequently, the Norfolk Coast Path was still a nature-watching marvel.

The early fine weather had encouraged many car borne visitors but few could be bothered to walk more than a mile or two from any carpark, as a result I had much of the coastal walking to myself  for hours on end.

Brent Geese, Shelduck and waders were constant companions

Brent Geese, Shelduck and waders were frequent companions. Seals were also often spotted

Smoke House in Cley

Smokehouse in Cley

Lobster and Crab pots are set all the way along this part of the coast

Lobster and Crab pots are set all the way along this part of the coast

Much of this part of the coast continues to change from the industry of old- fishing and smoking of fish, to the new, the tourist. However the flint built buildings are, mostly, well maintained, the natives friendly and opportunity to buy provisions vastly improved on anything I had experienced over the previous few days.

Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas enjoyed at Wells-next-the-Sea

Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas enjoyed at Wells-next-the-Sea

 

 

While I carried food for most meals over the Peddars Way part of this walk, I had known beforehand that opportunities to eat locally were going to be much improved on the second half of my walk.

Whereas I carried eight meals for the inland section, I only had two for the coastal section. All other were purchased locally. Though perhaps surprisingly, I only ate fish and chips the one time, When I reached busy Wells-next-the-Sea.

 

 

Superb breakfast at the Deepdale Cafe

Breakfast at the Deepdale Cafe included award winning Arthur Howell sausages and Fruit Pig Black Pudding

My two campsites on the coast were both perfectly adequate. Deepdale was a small field and I camped next to car campers, but I had no problem with that. There are plenty of opportunities to re-provision here but I only partook of a fine breakfast in the Deepdale Cafe.

 

£10 got me a huge field to myself and hot showers in the modern toilet block

£10 got me a field to myself at High Sand campsite and hot showers in the modern toilet block

A pint, good quality burger and writing up the days notes in the Red Lion, Stiffkey

A pint, good quality burger and writing up the day’s notes in the Red Lion, Stiffkey

Camping the following night at the High Sand camp site at Stiffkey saw my tent sitting alone in a huge field. The trail passed only a hundred metres away and I was content to treat myself to good food and ale at the Red Lion Inn in the local village.

 

 

This part of the coast was once the 'gateway to England' but silting up of creeks and changes in economics has reduced its importance. Blakeney is fairly typical of many towns along the coast, struggling to retain an identity. Small fishing boats take visitors out on seal watching trips when they are now out checking their lobster and crab pots

This part of the coast was once the ‘gateway to England’ but silting up of creeks and changes in economics has reduced its importance. Blakeney is fairly typical of many towns along the coast, struggling to retain an identity. Small fishing boats take visitors out on seal watching trips when their owners are not out checking their lobster and crab pots

The distinctive windmill at Cley next the Sea can be seen for miles across the marshes. The path goes right past it and I regretted, slightly, not pausing to sketch it

The distinctive windmill at Cley next the Sea can be seen for miles across the marshes. The path goes right past it and I regretted, slightly, not pausing to sketch it. The reeds here did offer up Bearded Tit though

There were a couple of miles of board walks in all

There were a couple of miles of board walks in all

 

Coastal walking was almost always on good paths, though I should think that many would be pretty claggy after rain. Reedbeds, sea defence walls above marshland, scrubby sand dunes, pine woodlands, saltmarsh, sand and shingle shoreline- my walking was through a number of special and specialised habitats, it was never boring for it changed so much.

Every few miles another coastal town would be encountered, I passed through these quite quickly as there was little to hold me.

 

Remains of an Allan Williams gun turret. 199 of these were made during World War II

Remains of an Allan Williams gun turret. 199 of these were made during World War II

This part of the coast was thought to be at risk of attack and invasion during World War II. Surviving coastal defence installations survive to this day

This part of the coast was thought to be at risk of attack and invasion during World War II. Coastal defence installations survive to this day

 

The coastline stretch from Cley next the Sea to Weybourne Hope is four miles of lonely splendour. The few dog walkers at the beginning were soon left behind. Sand gave way to shingle and I found myself racing the incoming tide, only having to move up on to the punishing stone for the final quarter of a mile

The coastline stretch from Cley next the Sea to Weybourne Hope is four miles of lonely splendour. The few dog walkers at the beginning were soon left behind. Sand gave way to shingle and I found myself racing the incoming tide, only having to move up on to the punishing stone for the final quarter of a mile

For such a busy stretch of coast, I often found myself alone. Few people will walk more  than two miles from their car and it is usually just the odd birdwatcher or sea angler that would be seen any further afield, again, there seemed to be few people walking purposely, and those I saw with small backpacks were either day walkers or slackpackers.

 

Beyond Weybourne Hope the path begins to climb as cliffs take over. This penultimate day saw me completing my biggest climb of the whole trail- the highest point was still only 346 feet (105 metres) above sea level. Norfolk really is a pretty flat county

Beyond Weybourne Hope the path slowly begins to climb as cliffs take over. This penultimate day saw me completing my biggest climb of the whole trail- though the highest point was still only 346 feet (105 metres) above sea level. Norfolk really is a pretty flat county

Beach huts below Sheringham Cliffs

Beach huts below Sheringham Cliffs

My final night was in Sheringham YHA. No private rooms were available so I shared a dorm with two other guys, we battled each other in the snoring stakes that night but I am pretty sure I won.

I like to put my trade toward the YHA where I can as I think they are still doing a grand job, mostly, in a difficult modern circumstance.  However I reckon I made a mistake eating an evening meal there. There was no ‘proper’ option on the menu at all, everything was snacks, so I settled for an ‘OK’ pizza. Breakfast was little better, the only egg option was scrambled, and I hesitate to guess how long it was since they had been scrambled! I queried at the counter, the server looked at me with bafflement- “I’m French” was her reply. OK, so no eggs forthcoming then.

My £12 overnight stay at Sheringham Youth Hostel was an adequate stop for my last night on the trail

My £12 overnight stay at Sheringham Youth Hostel was an adequate stop for my last night on the trail

Signposting and marking of trail was excellent on the Norfolk Coast Path

Signposting and marking of trail was excellent on the Norfolk Coast Path. You might think how difficult can it be to simply keep the sea on your left, but the trail often diverts inland where access rights have not been obtained, or where erosion has caused the path to disappear into the sea

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path ends at Cromer Pier. Much of this popular resort town is Edwardian in age and flavour

The National Trail ends at Cromer Pier. Much of this popular resort town is Edwardian in age and flavour. The Norflok Coast Path is now part of the ambitious plans for an English Coast Path, still in the making

Reminders of a seafaring community can be found everywhere

Reminders of a seafaring community can be found everywhere

I was so pleased to have completed both halves of the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. While the walk through the interior of the county had been interesting, with a few points of interest, the coastal element was much more to my liking. Busy seaside towns nestled up against lonely saltmarsh and dune systems stretched for miles across a wide landscape.

The call of the nesting Curlew and Lapwing that I had gone to sleep to in the agricultural heartland was also encountered on the coast, to be joined with the burbling of hundreds of Brent geese and the frantic shriek of the ‘Sentinel of the Marshes’, the Redshank.

Dunlin, Sandpipers, Oystercatcher and Turnstone shuffled along the edge of the surf, only flying ahead when I got too close. It really was lovely coastal walking and I resented it when lack of Rights of Way took me on pointless and annoying diversions inland. I doubt that I shall return to this part of the country for quite some time but hope that the fragile eco-systems can withstand what appears to be growing numbers of visitors.

WORDS IN THE SAND, HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW

 

Fuertenventura Feb-March 2017

A lightweight art kit- Fuerteventura

Three Points of the Compass descending from Morro Jorjado via the Cuesta de la Villa, Fuerteventura , March 2017

Three Points of the Compass descending from Morro Jorjado via the Cuesta de la Villa, Fuerteventura , March 2017

I have just returned from a fortnight’s family holiday on Fuerteventura. This is the second largest and the longest of the Canary Islands. I stayed in a large hotel in the centre of the east coast. It was to be a holiday of many parts. The primary aim was to rest from the rigours of work, to see some early sun, to get a bit of walking in and explore the most interesting sites, history and geology that the island had to offer, to discover flora and fauna never seen before and to, hopefully, get in a little bit of sketching. To this end, a modicum of space was found in the suitcase for a compact art kit that could also go into the day sack on days out.

I continue to not only work on my, woefully inadequate, artistic skills, but also to refine a lightweight art kit that can accompany me on longer walks, in particular my Three Points of the Compass walk in around a years time. I wrote last year of a lightweight art kit that accompanied me to Sicily in 2016. This was another opportunity to further drill down the equipment I will carry.

Three Points of the Compass urban sketching in Puerto del Rosario, Fuerteventura. Time was always limited and I attempted to work pretty quickly

Three Points of the Compass urban sketching in Puerto del Rosario. Time was always limited and I attempted to work pretty quickly, at least before my spouse became totally bored and wandered off…

I will be blogging later in a little more detail on the specific materials I took with me and others that never made the cut, but for this trip, all I wanted was a simple little self contained pouch in which to keep most art materials together. Something that could be pulled out almost anywhere and provide me with a small, discreet and self-contained choice of medium.

I took a small pouch containing the majority of materials, two small sketchbooks, a cotton wrist band and all important bottle of water

I took a small pouch containing the majority of materials, two small sketchbooks, a cotton wrist band protected in a baggie and all important bottle of water, the latter was for my hydration as I made use of a water brush for painting

Whereas I would normally wish to sketch directly into a hike journal, this wasn’t that sort of break, so I took two of my favourite little sketch books. One is a 3 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ (88mm x 139mm) that has somehow become my default sketchbook for churches, the other a square format 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 140mm) – though page sizes come in a little smaller, used for anything else. Both of these hand books are from Global Art Materials.

For such a small kit, I had a fair amount of choice and flexibility in materials

For such a small kit, I had a fair amount of choice and flexibility in materials

My palette was a home made affair that, again, I will be blogging on in the future. This contained a minimal selection of single pigment watercolours- Quinacridone Gold- (PO49), Hansa Yellow medium- (PY97), New Gamboge- (PY153), Cupric Green Light- (PG36), Cerulean Blue- (PB35), Ultramarine (Green shade)- (PB29), Monte Amiata Natural Sienna- (PBr7), Permanent Rose- (PV19).

This is an exciting selection only recently developed by myself that is going to prove a little challenging for me to use, being much reduced from what I am more used to, so this trip was an excellent opportunity to try it out. My intention was to increase the quantities of each pigment in my small palette so that it was more useful on longer trips, but still offer good mixing capability. As it transpired, I did so little painting that I have not, by any means, fully explored its capability nor identified any faults. Though I have already noted the difficulties presented by such limited mixing space. You can see the seven small wells I have built into the lid.

The small selection of coloured leads fro Koh-I-Noor that I took allowed me to occasionally swtich medium. This poor and scrappy drawing was completed in less than ten minutes whilst standing on the pavement waiting for a bus to hove into view. With a few minutes to spare, the windmill opposite me in Tiscamanita was a superb subject

The small selection of coloured leads from Koh-I-Noor that I took with me allowed me to occasionally switch medium. This poor and scrappy drawing was completed in less than ten minutes whilst standing on the pavement waiting for a bus to hove into view. With just a few minutes to spare, the windmill opposite me in Tiscamanita was a superb subject that could not be ignored

To accompany this, I had a medium Pentel Aquash Water Brush. My lovely little Lamy Safari Fountain Pen was loaded with black Noodlers Bullet Proof waterprof ink, Pentel black ink brush pen (not used at all), Rotring Tikki Graphic 0.1 technical pen with pigmented waterproof black ink and a white Uniball gel pen. I simply cannot eschew my pencils entirely, so took one of the gorgeous Koh-I-Noor Toison D’Or 5900 clutch holders loaded with 2mm 2B graphite from Faber Castell. Despite there being a sweet little lead pointer in the cap of the clutch holder, I slipped in a 2mm lead pointer made by Faber Castell. To be honest, I should really have taken a pointer that would retain graphite slivers when sharpening, such as my Uni pocket sharpener from Mitsubishi, but I forgot it. As there was room in the pouch, I took a small, thin lead holder made by Acme for their spare graphite leads, but instead of their leads, I loaded it with the waxy 2mm coloured leads made by Koh-I-Noor (brown, blue, green, red and yellow). Also carried was a shaped eraser from Derwent and a small bulldog clip. All of this was carried in a zippered Lihit Lab Compact Pen Case.

Three Points of the Compass hiking in Fuertenventura February-March 2017

Three Points of the Compass ascending to Degollada de la Sargenta, Fuertenventura. March 2017

Fixating on the small stuff- an Every Day Carry

OK, time to fess up. This post has got very little to do with hiking. I never, ever, carry the stuff I am chatting about here on any hike. It is bulky, heavy and other than one or two of the contents, mostly of little practical use on any backpacking trip.

What it is, is an example of what I am prone to do. Which is plan. Learn from my mistakes and inaction and be better prepared for repeated events in the future. I have been like this since I was a nipper.

Every day I go to work I have a pack slung over my shoulder. For the great majority of my time I work in London, but I always have a torch, screwdriver set, multi tool, water bottle and any number of other items in various pockets of my battered urban commuting 35lt pack from The North Face. Also, being in England, I have a waterproof  packed, every single day of the year…

The Vanquest EDC SLim Maximizer pouch that Three Points of the Compass carries on every work day and trips away from the house by car

The Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer pouch that Three Points of the Compass carries on every work day and trips away from the house by car

Recently I have been pulling much of my oddments together into one of the fantastic Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer Organisers. I have also added a few recent purchases and am now content that my Every Day Carry (EDC) has the tools and other equipment that have not only proved themselves of use to me over the years, but now also give me a little more practicality and usefulness. I can put many of the contents to use most weeks, and on occasion most weekdays. It can get slung in the car for trips away and visits to my Mum where there may be the odd task that requires completing, as her battered old red biscuit tin under the sink with its even older selection of poor tools isn’t quite cutting it these days.

I have packed a lot into my EDC. Not only can I carry out a number of repairs, alteration, fixing or general ‘handyman’ tasks that require attention, but I also carry a modicum of First Aid items and small selection of hygiene products that will see me through the very occasional unexpected overnight stay.

Vanquest EDC Maximizer with contents installed

Vanquest EDC Maximizer with contents installed

Hygiene and First Aid

I have included a minimum of hygiene equipment for the occasional and unexpected overnight stop. Two of the great little compressed towels are incorporated. These can be used with the mini dropper bottle of Dr. Bronners Castille soap. This is a very concentrated and versatile soap that I can also use for shaving, brushing teeth or washing out clothes. A small compact Avid razor is included. These are of a very thin profile and I wish they were still made as I have few left. The mirror is one of the mini Star Flash acrylic mirrors (in a baggie to prevent scratches) and the toothbrush is a two-part affair from Muji. I also carry a small dropper bottle of hand sanitizer. For convenience, I have this more easily available and packed outside of the wash kit.

My First Aid kit is basic, a few band aids, dressings, tape, a couple of alcohol wipes, nitrile gloves and a little medication: Ibuprofen and Piriton. There are a few extra meds in my ‘midget’ EDC kit that I also carry. This is so very heavily based on that devised by The Urban Prepper that I need not show it here. Though I do also include 5m of 1mm spectra cord, different meds, a razor blade, emergency cufflinks (yes, really) and a couple of other items in my ‘Altoids’ tin in addition to his list.

Electronics

Electronics in my Vanquest EDC are limited but useful. I have included a high quality Micro/USB charge cable, folding Mu USB plug. The 200mm long Innergie charge and sync cable is very adaptable. This will fit USB to Micro/Mini/30 pin Apple, I also have a Lightning adaptor on the end. Spare batteries carried are two CR2016 and two CR2032. All of this is in an especially tough and waterproof baggie. Two torches and a flood light are carried- the Thrunite T14 Penlight takes two AAA batteries (fitted), has a Cree XP-G2 LED  and delivers four forms of light:

  • Firefly (0.3 lumens for up to 137 hours)
  • Low (24 lumens for up to 12 hours)
  • High (252 lumens for up to 51 minutes)
  • Strobe (252 lumens for up to 90 minutes)

As back up to this, the Photon Freedom Micro belies its diminutive dimensions. While it can deliver any strength of light from dim through to its maximum 5 lumens, the almost indestructible body holds two CR2016 or one CR2032 batteries. and will run for up to eighteen hours. Also in the kit are two AAA batteries stored in AAA to AA cell converters.

These will also fit the Lil Larry Nebo floodlight. This is handy piece of kit that will provide task lighting. It has a magnetic base so can be used for changing tyres or during power outage. While in its full length it takes three AAA batteries (fitted), it can also have a section of its length removed so that just two AAA batteries can be utilised. In full configuration it provides:

  • High (250 lumens for up to 3 hours
  • Low (95 lumens for up to 10 hours)
  • Red Hazard flasher (for up to 10 hours)

    The contents of my EDC kit. It is pretty much stuffed to the gills

    The contents of my EDC kit. It is pretty much stuffed to the gills

Leatherman Raptor shears

The Leatherman Raptors are tough enough to cut a penny into quarters

The Leatherman Raptors are tough enough to cut a penny into quarters and the strap cutter is quickly and easily bought into use when required

These are an amazing piece of kit and really well made. Invariably they get used most as simply a better set of scissors than those on the Leatherman Charge carried in my EDC. However the 320HC stainless steel blades on these shears will cut through just about anything I may encounter- clothes, leather, webbing, straps etc. The tiny serrations on one blade really grip well and prevent items sliding out of the blades. There is a carbide glass breaker for auto glass windows in the base and a seat belt cutter that is easily deployed yet remains locked away until required. Obviously this can be more often used simply as a box cutter. There is handy little ring cutter placed discretely and un-noticed under the handle too. I seldom require the 5cm ruler and have never used the oxygen tank wrench incorporated. One of the best features of these 163g shears though, apart from their high quality, is their ability to swiftly fold away, or open, easily, with simple little lock buttons. They do come with a holster for First Responders, but I don’t include that in my kit. Instead I have it fixed to a mini carabiner hanging from the Maximiser pouch key fob and keep it in place, nested against my Leatherman bit extender, with one of the rare earth magnets in my kit.

Bit, driver and drill system

This kit has a complete and highly adaptable system. It mostly involves the excellent Leatherman Charge. Mine is one of the older models. Most frequently tasks will utilise the bit holder in the Leatherman Charge, possibly with the Leatherman Bit Driver Extender, extended still further if necessary with 1/4″ hex extender. Or the 1/4″ extender can be used just with the Victorinox Bitwrench. I can also use one of my three drill bits in any combination here. While it takes a little time, I have drilled clean through 2 inches of wood with the 6mm drill bit attached to the Leatherman Charge.

The Gator adapter will fit a wide range shapes of head- nuts, screws, bolts, rings, hooks etc.

The Gator adaptor will fit a wide range shapes of head- nuts, screws, bolts, rings, hooks etc.

The majority of the bits included in my EDC are the ingenious flat, double ended, Leatheman Bits plus a couple of extras. In total there are 44 bits in my EDC, plus four tiny Phillips and flat head mini bits. Two sockets are also included. A dedicated 10mm head/ 1/4″ hex drive, while the Gator socket adaptor grip will fit heads from 7mm-19mm.

With the contents of my EDC I can loosen and tighten most common and uncommon screw heads, bolts and nuts from 1mm to 19mm. While Torx head bits are included, what I am looking for, to eventually include, are some 4mm micro bits for Security Torx heads. As an aid to this capability, a small adjustable spanner or the (smallest available) Knipex water pump pliers can be pulled from the kit. The pliers have recently replaced the small set of mole grips I used to carry.

1/4" hex drive drill bits can be used in a number of configurations

1/4″ hex drive drill bits can be used in a number of configurations

Solkoa Grip-S handles

Solkoa Grip-S handles with 24" flexible wire saw fitted

Solkoa Grip-S handles with 130mm wood saw blade fitted

Separated Solkoa Grip-S handles with 24" flexible wire saw fitted

Separated Solkoa Grip-S handles with 28″ flexible wire saw fitted

Though expensive, the hard anodised 6061 aluminium Solkoa Grip-S handles (there are two, joined together) are very useful. Not only can any standard flexible wire saw be fixed in using the set screws in each handle, and I include a 28″ wire saw in this EDC kit, but the handles can also take any round or hexagonal drive tool, up to 1/4″  diameter. A two ended flat/Phillips head bit is stored in the handle and the two handles are quickly separated by loosening one of the set screws with the flat screwdriver on the Gerber Shard pry bar. Any universal saw blade can be fitted into the Grip-S handles. I could have included a couple of the small jigsaw blades, which fit, but instead included two larger 130mm blades. One for wood (and nails) the other for metal.

Other items

I won’t go into detail on every item as reading from the list below they really are self-explanatory. There is an emergency twenty pound note secreted in the rear of the notebook. Tape measure gets used frequently. The titanium short-handled spoon is a ‘must have’, nappy pins can be used for hanging washing to dry and a thousand other uses, as can the paper clips and bobby pins. The lengths of wire can be bent into hooks for retrieving items or combined with the rare earth magnets to similar purpose. I would add a sachet of Sugru but it goes off too quickly if stored out of the fridge.

Item Description Notes
Pouch Vanquest EDC Slim Maximizer  
Combination padlock   TSA compliant
Adjustable spanner Small- 100mm. Jaws open to 13mm Unknown make
Pliers Knipex Cobra water pump pliers. Grips up to 27mm wide

 

Model 87 01 125. The ‘125’ in the model number refers to their length
Leatherman Raptor- Folding medical shears 420HC stainless steel scissors, strap cutter, ruler (1.9″/50mm), oxygen tank wrench, ring cutter, carbide tip glass breaker  
Leatherman Charge Ti  multitool Titanium scales. needlenose pliers, regular pliers, hard wire cutters, wire cutters, crimper, wire stripper, S30V knife blade, 420HC serrated knife with cutting hook, saw, scissors, 8″/19cm ruler, can opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, diamond coated file, large bit driver (double ended 1/8″ / 3/32″ flat screwdriver bit fitted), small bit driver (small, double ended flat/Phillips screwdriver bit fitted), medium flat screwdriver. Pocket clip fitted  

 

Leatherman bit driver extension Fits into bit driver of Leatherman Charge, other end accepts Leatherman bits and 1/4″ hex bits 10mm socket is stowed attached to end of driver
1/4″ extension piece 75mm, magnetic  
Victorinox Bitwrench 1/4″ hex drive VICBW
23 double ended Leatherman bits – Hex 3/32″ ; 5/64″
– Hex 1/16″ ; .050″
– Square bit #2 ; #3
– Square bit #1 ; pozi #3

– Pozi#1; pozi#2
– Torx #10 ; #15
– Torx #20 ; #25
– Torx #27 ; #30
– Phillips #0 ; #3
– Phillips #1 ; #2

– Phillips #1-2; screwdriver 3/16″
– Screwdrivers 3/32″ ; 1/8″
– Screwdrivers 5/32″ ; 3/16″
– Screwdrivers 7/32″ ; 1/4″
– Hex 1.5mm ; 2mm
– Hex 2.5mm ; 3mm
– Hex 4mm ; 5mm
– Hex 6mm ; 1/4″
– Hex 7/32″ ; 3/16″
– Hex 5/32 ; 9/64″
– Hex 1/8″ ; 7/64″
2 x – Phillips; flat tip eyeglasses screwdriver

In two Leatherman bit holders with one mini bit and one double ended bit in the Leatherman Charge.

46 bit options, though a couple are duplicated.

Wolfteeth universal gator socket adapter,with 1/4″ drive adapter Fits 7mm – 19mm sockets. Also fits various nuts, screws, hooks, bolt heads, broken taps and knobs  
Socket- 10mm head/ 1/4″ hex drive   A common size
Gerber Shard pry bar In addition to pry, has Phillips head, two flat screwdrivers, wire stripper and bottle opener  
Solkoa Grip-S handles 2 x hard anodised handles with set screws joined together over double ended Phillips/flat head screwdriver Will hold any round or hexagonal, up to 1/4″ head, tool or any standard flexible wire saw
28″ flexible wire saw (in baggie) For use with Grip-S handles  
Stanley 152mm wood saw blade For use with Grip-S handles Model STA21192
Stanley 152mm metal saw blade For use with Grip-S handles Model STA22132
Retractable steel razor With snap off stainless steel blades  
Excel aluminium handle Handle has adjustable jaws. Inside handle are six various mini file needles and an additional sewing awl Model 70001
Hex drive drill bits- 6mm, 4mm,2mm For use with either Grip-S handles, Leatherman Charge or 1/4″ drive turn key  
1/4″ plastic turn key    
Double ended steel craft tool Arrow point and spatula end  
2m steel tape measure Muji Code: 8215607
1m x 16swg tin plated copper wire    
1m x plastic wrapped 12swg steel wire Use with magnets for retrieving lost screws, keys etc.  
4 x small rare earth magnets   Three stored attached to the bit holder and one attached to the bit extender keep tools in place in the pouch
Small tin with slide top Contents:

2 x stainless steel M6 hex bolt, nut, washer

3 x zinc plated wood screw

2 x small countersunk brass woodscrew

2 x rawlplug

2 x nails

1 x small, 1 x large stainless steel screw eye

1 x stainless steel split ring

 
2 x nappy pin    
1 x paper clip

1 x medium paper clip (insulated)

1 x small paper clip

   
2 x bobby pins    
1 x binder clip    
Anker Powerline USB/Micro 3′ braided cable. Very tough double-braided Aramid exterior and toughened Aramid fiber core
Mu folding USB plug Single USB outlet. 1amp There are two USB oulet Mu plugs available, this is sufficient for my needs
Photon Freedom Micro Button torch  
Thrunite T14 Penlight Cree XP-G2 LED

Firefly: 0.3 lumens, 137hours
Low: 24 lumens, 12hours
High: 252 lumens, 51minutes
Strobe: 252 lumens, 90 minutes

With 2 x Alkaline AAA (Duracell Plus Power).

One cell reversed to prevent accidental discharge

Lil Larry Nebo- floodlight Magnetic base, C.O.B. LED chip technology

High: 250 lumen, 3 hours

Low: 95 lumen, 10 hours

Red hazard flasher:  10 hours

3 X Alkaline AAA (NEBO). One cell reversed. Light can be reduced in length with just 2 AAA batteries but I keep mine full length
2 x Li-ion Duracell AAA batteries Stored in Sodial AAA to AA battery cell converters  
2 x CR2016 batteries    
2 X CR2016 batteries    
Sharpie pen, stainless steel Black, refillable, 0.4mm fine point Model 1849740
Zebra F701 ball pen, stainless steel Black medium Model 44970
Faber Castell Perfect Pencil With eraser and integrated extender/sharpener  
Backpocket Journal Tomoe River Edition From Curnow Bookbinding & Leatherwork
£20   Stored in back of notebook (above)
5m x 550 paracord In quick deploy hank  
2 x velcro cable ties    
6″ Nite Ize Gear Tie    
2 x 400mm cable tie

1 x 150mm cable tie

  These are threaded into the lining of the pouch interior
2 x mini-biner    
1m gaffer tape   Flat wound onto silicone release paper
Sewing kit 2m black Gütermann Sew-All  thread

1 x large black button, 2 x small white buttons

Threader

2 x No. 7 embroidery/crewel needles

1 x No. 18 chenille needle

1 x Microtex 60/8 machine needle (for use with Excel handle)

Stored in SD card case
Spoon Small, Sea to Summit, hard anodised alloy  
Mini Bic lighter With 1m electricians tape wound on to it Has quick release mini  zip tie on it to prevent accidental discharge of gas
Hand sanitiser Alcohol free  In mini dropper bottle
Hygiene kit Mirror (mini StarFlash), Razors (Avid, fold flat), 20ml Dr Bronner’s liquid soap in mini dropper bottle, folding toothbrush, 2 x compressed travel towels All in 130mm x 120mm Aloksac
Uncle Bills Sliver Gripper Tweezers With holder  
Fox 40 Micro whistle    
Shelby mini tin opener    
First Aid kit 2 x alcohol wipes, 2 x plasters (silver), 1 strip ‘cut to size’ plaster (10cm), 1 x dressing (small), 1 x Melolin dressing (5cm x 5cm), 4 x 45cm strips Leukotape, 30cm x 1cm zinc oxide tape, 30cm x 2.5cm Transpore tape, 4 x Ibuprofen, 7 x Piriton.

1 pair Nitrile gloves

All in baggies

 

 

Sicily- pen and ink drawing in holiday journal

A lightweight art kit- Sicily

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare

W. H. Davies

The Leuchtturm1917 journal Three Points of the Compass kept in Sicily 2016

The Leuchtturm1917 journal Three Points of the Compass kept in Sicily 2016

I have just returned from a family holiday on the quite lovely island of Sicily- Prior to leaving, when preparing for half a month in this hot and historic location, situated just off the ‘boot’ of mainland Italy, I was considering what artists’ materials I should take with me. I am a strictly amateur ‘doodler’, attempting to occasionally capture sights and impressions in my notebook/journal.

In recent years I have been attempting to capture more of my experiences in my notebooks. Beyond a few notes or ticket stubs stuck in, I find that spending just a few minutes attempting to produce a poor drawing forces me to look more closely at my subject, noticing more, understanding and ‘seeing’ aspects that a cursory glance may have failed to appreciate. Taking a little time to ‘stand and stare’.

Three Points of the Compass walking in the Madonie Mountains, Sicily,

Three Points of the Compass walking in the Madonie Mountains, Sicily, August 2016

My artistic skill set is low. In the past, I have frequently just relied on the pen and notebook I am carrying with no supplementary materials. More recently, not only have I been looking at the lightweight and less bulky options open to me (a work very much still in progress), but have also been experimenting slightly with mediums, moving away from simply pencil or pen and into watercolours or coloured pencils. To this end, hoping to find the time to do a little drawing on Sicily, I left my usual selection of graphite pencils at home, pared down my artists’ kit but also took a few inks with me to have a play with this medium and see how they suited a lightweight set up.

Six Winsor & Newton inks were transferred to small glass bottles

Six Winsor & Newton inks were transferred to small glass bottles. This reduced the bulk taken immensely

I selected a small sample of Winsor & Newton inks and, with a pipette,  transferred these to glass 5/8 dram (2ml) bottles with orifice reducer. I also use these in my First Aid kits and, with a little care, they are robust and have never broken on me. Just for extra care though, they were encased in a small ‘lock ‘n’ lock, box and double wrapped in bags in the suitcase which went in the airplane hold.

Colours chosen were Black, Scarlet, Blue, Peat Brown, Apple Green and Canary Yellow. Amongst these, only Black is actually permanent to light in the long term but this is less important when simply doing simple washes in a notebook. All these inks can be mixed with each other, or thinned with distilled water.

For painting washes I took no traditional brushes at all. Instead, encouraging further experimentation, I took one of the 7g fine tip Pentel Aquash water brushes.

Fine tip Pentel Aquash water brush. Also available with medium, broad and flat tips, these brushes each hold 10ml of water in their 'water tank'

Fine tip Pentel Aquash water brush. Also available with medium, broad and flat tips, these brushes each hold 10ml of water in their reservoir. A gentle squeeze on the body sends a little water down to the nylon brush tip

Small, lightweight, plastic pallets

Small, lightweight (16g and 11g) plastic pallets were also taken for watering down and thinning, or mixing inks

I must say that I rather liked using this brush and am keen to experiment further. I think one of the flat tip water brushes might compliment this fine tip water brush quite well. The brush did away entirely with the need for a little water pot, which as they get smaller and made of lighter materials, can easily be knocked over or even blow away. I have frequently upset a little collapsible lantern water pot in the past. These brushes also work well with my Derwent watersoluble sketching pencils (not taken this trip). I presume also with watercolour pencils or sticks, but I am keen to experiment further using a small travel pallet of watercolours.

Sakura Pigma Micron 01 pens

Black and Brown ink Sakura Pigma Micron 01 pens

Pen and Ink- Temple of Juno

Pen and Ink drawing of the Tempio di Giunone, Agrigento, Sicily, August 2016

Eschewing my normal Faber Castell PITT artist pens, I decided to take two of the superb Sakura Pigma Micron 01 drawing pens. The 01 pens have a 0.25mm line width opposed to the 0.3mm of the S and 0.1mm line width of the XS Faber Castell. The waterproof Sakura ink shows through the pages to a lesser extent than the ink from the Faber Castell pens. I also feel that the 0.25mm width is more suited to the small notebook I was using.

I took Black and Brown ink Sakura pens, each weighing 9g, and they performed faultlessly. I also used these for my note-taking, seldom bothering to pull out the tiny 8g telescopic True Utility pen that I took for the purpose.

Incidentally, my journal on this family holiday was the Leuchtturm1917, soft-back, 121 page, pocket A6 notebook I have written about before.

 

Beside experimenting with ink, and in the end I did very little for reasons I shall come to later, I still wanted at least one pencil, so settled on the quite lovely Palomino Blackwing 602. This is a modern revisit of a classic design and is very well made. The smooth graphite is akin to a 2B. Not cheap and purchased by the box, they each weigh 6g prior to sharpening. The extendable black rubber in the flattened ferrule is replaceable.

Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil

Palomino Blackwing 602 pencil

Pencil sketching- The Telamons. Valley of the Temples, Sicily, August 2016

Quick pencil sketching with Palomino Blackwing 602- The Telamons. Valley of the Temples, Sicily, August 2016

I was able to include another graphite pencil by taking a mechanical pen with me. This was a 115mm ‘shortie’ pen made by Koh-I-Noor. This clutch pen takes 2mm leads and has a tiny sharpener under the push button. It weighs 12g with pocket clip and an HB lead installed.

Kol-I-Noor 5228 mechanical clutch leadholder

Kol-I-Noor 5228 Versatle mechanical clutch leadholder

A favoured form of transport- Sicily

Pen, pencil and coloured lead. A favoured form of transport- Sicily, August 2016

A 13g Staedtler pencil sharpener and 27g Faber Castell kneadable eraser (in case) were also taken. Lighter alternatives could easily have been used instead

A 13g Staedtler pencil sharpener and 27g Faber Castell kneadable eraser (in plastic case) were also taken. Lighter alternatives could easily have been used instead

I also wanted the opportunity to add a little colour to my drawings without breaking out the ink all the time. So took a little Koh-I-Noor plastic holder with their coloured ‘leads’ within- these waxy leads come in black, brown, blue, green, red and yellow (16g, total weight). These are Koh-I-Noors longer 120mm leads and required shortening slightly for use. 2mm coloured leads can be difficult to find and I wish I could locate a wider selection of colours.

Plastic holder and coloured 2mm leads for Kol-I-Noor mechanical clutch holder

Plastic holder and small range of coloured 2mm leads for Kol-I-Noor mechanical clutch holder

One last item I took along in my 22g Derwent pencil wrap was a 7g highlighter. This bright orange ink pen is made by Muji and features a thin nib at one end and a broader nib at the other. I use this for highlighting notes in my journal and for marking routes on maps. I notice that the design of these has changed since I purchased mine.

Two ended, orange highlighter from Muji

Two ended, orange highlighter from Muji

Derwent Pencil roll with my selection of artists materials

Derwent Pencil wrap with most of my small selection of artists materials

I am fairly content with the selection of artists materials I took. My kit was light without considerable bulk. I had opportunity to experiment with mediums unfamiliar to me yet also fall back on quick and easy materials where necessary. I had intended to include another pencil in my armoury, this was to be a Prismacolor Col-Erase 200028 Copy Not Non-Photo Light Blue. This produces a very light mark that I use for initial lines on drawings. However, discovering I had none in the house, a frantic order was placed which failed to turn up in time for my trip. Having turned up today, a week after my return, I have yet to use them but I note that production has been switched from the USA to Mexico, some have reported on a fall in quality in the pencil as a result.

Prismacolor Col-Erase 200028 Copy not NP Blue pencil. The mark produced by this pencil is barely discernible on the paper

Prismacolor Col-Erase 200028 Copy not NP Blue pencil. The mark produced by this pencil is barely discernible on the paper

Pen, graphite pencil and coloured pencil. San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Palaermo

Pen, graphite pencil and coloured pencil. San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Palermo, Sicily, August 2016

A minimal kit

A minimal kit

Much that I enjoyed using inks on some drawings, I found they simply didn’t work for me as an ‘on location’ medium. I will definitely use these again at home, but I found them unsuitable for use en plein air. I much preferred to compose a picture, a rough sketch perhaps, in the field, and spread the inks out for use across a table in a hotel room later.  If I had ever attempted to use these within the confines of a tent for instance, I would now be the disgruntled possessor of a multi-coloured ground sheet. My biggest problem though was the extent to which they bleed through the lightweight paper of my notebook. These inks really needed my taking a small Moleskine watercolour album with its far heavier 200g/m2 cold pressed paper.

As I said at the start of this post, I am no great shakes as an artist. This is one reason why I am not sharing more than a handful of my artistic efforts in this post. However I do get much enjoyment from my sketches, no matter how poor. So I shall continue to not only strive to improve my technique and renditions, but will also work on refining the type of materials that I cart along with me in a lightweight set-up. I may follow up with a further report should I develop my travel kit to any great extent.

Three Points of the Compass drawing en plein air, Sicily August 2016

Three Points of the Compass sketching en plein air, Parco delle Madonie, Sicily August 2016

 

a few grams here, a few grams there… in search of the perfect notebook

“A page of my Journal is like a cake of portable soup.

A little may be diffused into a considerable portion”

James Boswell, 1740-1795

Scan-12_edited-1

Scribbled notes and rubbish drawing in 'policemans' notebook. Discovery of a Red Flanked Blue Tail in Kent, UK, 1998

Scribbled notes and rubbish drawing in ‘policemans’ notebook. Discovery of a Red Flanked Blue Tail in Kent, UK, 1998

Three Points of the Compass has almost always carried a notebook (or journal) on longer hikes, frequently on day hikes too if wanting to take nature notes etc. (above). In my younger days this was simply a scruffy, soon dog-eared, little notebook from the corner shop or Woolies. Leaking biros soon proved to be an unwanted nuisance so a pencil sufficed. And that is all that is really required by anyone today that wishes to keep a journal, make notes, record expenditure, or leave scribbled words for someone trailing along behind.

Scan-16_edited-2Scan-17_edited-1While it is possible to pick up a cheap little covered book for journalling for just a few pennies if looking in the right place. That will not necessarily hold up to much abuse, offer good quality paper or be of a size that is suited to what we want from a journal. I now prefer something more functional. Something that may actually look good even if what it contains is the demented ramblings of a fool. My own preference is usually for blank pages as this gives me the opportunity to include maps, scribbles, handstamps and, if feeling particularly inspired, a poor artistic rendering of a scene. I will also occasionally stick in ticket stubs and oddments picked up- feathers, leaves, flower heads etc to make the memories more vivid. Though my journalling is strictly amateurish compared to that created by some others. If you want to see the type of memories that can be put into a journal while hiking, have a glance at The Hike Guy, Kolby Kirk has done a great job of working found objects, rubbings, beer bottle labels, notes, paintings and much more into his journals.

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori Traveler’s notebook. Pages waiting to be filled

To this end, and always with the notion of replacing good with better, acceptable with lighter, functional with still functional (and possibly multi-functional), I have taken a glance at some type of journals available. This list is not exhaustive, not by any means, but every single one is a decent notebook. As a result of my labours, I find that one or two rise head and shoulders over others shown here, including the one that Three Points of the Compass has used for the past decade or so- the classic Moleskine journal. I now find that I can replace the Moleskine with one of a couple of quite stunning products.

Taking a page from each of the notebooks, I have run a streak or two across of three colours from the Winsor & Newton watercolour range: Intense Blue, Sap Green and Cadmium Red Deep. These are followed by a range of pens including the brush pen from the Faber Castell shades of grey range. I also tried a small variety of pens and an orange highlighter, finishing off with two 2B pencils, the last being water soluble.

Notebooks I looked at for this post are listed below:

Name Type Type of cover Pages Page type Size Weight Country of Origin
Field Notes Memo book- ‘Expedition’ Soft 48, stapled Dotted, white 90mm x 140mm x 3mm 31g USA
Field Notes Memo book Soft 48, stapled Plain, white 90mm x 140mm x 3mm 28g USA
Rite in the Rain All weather Memo book No. 954T Soft 56 perfect bound Dotted, tan 90mm x 127mm x 8mm 71g USA
Leuchtturm1917 Notebook Soft 121 thread bound Blank, cream 92mm x 148mm x 10mm 95g Germany
Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines notebook Hard 185 thread bound Lined, white on grey 93mm x 150mm x 14mm 152g Germany
Moleskine Cahiers Soft 64, stitched Plain, ivory 90mm x 140mm x 4mm 41g China
Midori Passport size 003 Traveler’s notebook Soft 80, stapled Plain, ivory 90mm x 124mm x 4mm 29g Japan
Backpocket Journal Tomoe River Edition Soft 48, hand sewn binding Plain, cream 89mm x 133mm x 2mm 19g USA

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Field Notes, Memo Book- Expedition edition

A memo book for those that will buy just about anything with the Field Notes name on the front. When this edition was released in 2012, the first printing comprised 60,000 volumes.

Field Notes. Expedition edition

Field Notes. Memo Book- Expedition edition. Purchased as a three pack. The wrapper is made of the same Yupo paper as the internal pages, the manufacturers eventually recognised that inks suitable for use with this paper are limited and advise buyers to try inks out on the wrapper

The makers state that these booklets stand 139mm tall, however I measure mine at 140mm x 90mm x 3mm. Lets not quibble- 3 1/2″ by 5 1/2″ in old money. Each journal has 48 pages held in place with three staples. Pages are not numbered and have no features at all beyond a dot matrix design.

The FNC-17 notebook was the fifth of the ‘Colors’ range (that commenced in 2008) produced by Field Notes. They seem quite proud of their bright orange cover (Antarctic Survey Orange apparently) and all black back cover (‘Polar Night Black’!). The paper itself though is where the innovation lies. This is a water and tear proof Yupo synthetic product with a dot grid design printed on light grey.

inside-front-cover-of-field-notes

inside front cover of Field Notes Expedition. There is space provided for personal information. The squared dot page design can also be seen here

inside-rear-cover-of-field-notes

inside rear cover of field-notes. Fairly useful 120mm rule and, well, that’s about it as regards practical inclusion

I am not a great fan of the paper used in this notebook. It seems to take forever for ink to dry; easily resulting in smudges unless great care is taken. The very smooth surface holds on to an ink with reluctance. Writing with my default pen for ‘outdoors work’, the Fisher Space Pen, results in a poor line. The worst I have ever experienced from this pen. This despite Field Notes claim that the ‘paper’ works well with this pen. Most water based gel and roller ball pens are simply not a practical option for use with this book.

All that said, if you can find a pen that suits you and writes on this paper well. The bright colour means you are unlikely to lose a journal and the tough paper will hold up well in damper conditions. The lack of perforations does mean that attempting to tear out a page is a difficult task. Beyond its construction materials and lack of compatibility with most pens, this is a fairly no-frills product. Pencils are a decent medium to use on the smooth paper but the dot page design may discourage many from using the journals for sketching.

Field Notes, Expedition

Field Notes, Expedition. The long drying time for inks on this paper is all too apparent. The watercolour paints eventually dried well with a lovely translucence. The pencils wrote well on the smooth paper

Field Notes, Expedition, reverse

No sign of anything at all on the reverse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field Notes, Memo Book

This is the classic, much coveted little journal purchased every year in its tens of thousands. Beside the Rite in the Rain journal, the basic Field Notes is possibly the most popular notebook used by travellers. Not surprising really. Field Notes have recognised that there remains a niche for this product, while also bringing out a consistent range and stream of new products to satisfy the loyal collectors and completists out there. This would include the orange and black Expedition product shown above.

Field Notes Memo Book

Field Notes. Memo Book

Field Notes Memo Book

Field Notes Memo Book in the hand

The brown covered, plain paper Field Notes Memo Book looked at is the basic run-of-the-mill product from this company. Each volume has 48 pages, none are numbered or perforated. Pages are held in place by three stainless staples. That shown here features plain paper but there is a product for all- Graph and ruled also being available. A three pack containing three of each or a mixed pack is available.

None of the pages are perforated, there is no gusset pocket in the cover. It is simply a note book, no more and no less. And the product is all the better for that.

Catching up on my journalling. London LOOP, November 2015

Catching up on my journalling on the train. Field Notes on return from a day on the London LOOP, November 2015

Memo Book, inside rear cover

Memo Book, inside rear cover. Unlike the metric rule in the Expedition version, this includes a printed five inch rule in the back. The usual useless information also appears

Field Notes Memo Book, inside front cover

Field Notes Memo Book, inside front cover. There is space here for personal information to be entered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fieldnotes

Fieldnotes, front. The paper takes the pen and pencil very well. Even the paints failed to cockle the paper and some variation of shade was easily achieved

Fieldnotes, rear

Fieldnotes, rear. The heavier inks all showed through to an intrusive degree, as did the watercolours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rite in the Rain All-weather Memo Book- No. 954T

The Rite in the Rain paper concept was first developed in the 1920s to answer the challenge presented by the wet weather of the Great Northwest of America. The paper meets stringent archival specifications so any of these products that you do purchase and use is likely to be around for some time…

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, No. 954T

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, No. 954T

These little notebooks have a large following. Quite why I struggle to see. They may hold up well to inclement weather, resisting any urge to turn into wood pulp, but they also resist most types of pen too. If the small format of this notebook appeals to you, and it fits into a shirt pocket with ease, be sure to try out your pen of choice before leaving home. But, horses for courses and all that. If you do like the technology behind this, perhaps living in a rainforest, then have a look at their website as there is a bewildering choice of product available. One possible option is to buy loose Rite in the Rain pages and store them either in the proprietary binder or whatever takes your fancy.

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, No. 954T

Rite in the Rain All-Weather Memo Book, No. 954T

The cover and paper of Rite in the Rain 954T are tan in colour. The journal is also available in a green format (954). Pages are perfect bound; this is not a favourite method of mine for securing pages as they can come adrift, particularly with age as the substrate dries and cracks. However I have not had enough years experience with this journal to be aware if this is an issue. The cover is termed by Rite in the Rain as their ‘Field Flex’ which is supposed to be their toughest variant. Certainly it feels durable. I do like the rounded corners which last well, resisting curling with use and feel good beneath the digit when thumbing through.

rite-in-the-rain-back cover

Rite in the Rain- back cover. Useful metric and imperial scale if measuring flora or tracks, not sure how useful otherwise…

rite-in-the-rain-inside-front-cover

Inside front cover

 

The 1/25,000, 1/50,000 and 1/100,000 scales on the inside front cover are potentially useful if working to maps of one of these scales.

Rite in the Rain, paint

Rite in the Rain, paint

Many people just want to keep the odd note or jotting. With the right pen and ink, this notebook will hold up well, but don’t even think about using it for any artistic renderings utilising either paints or water soluble pencils. Hardly surprising, given its ‘Rite in the Rain’ promise, the paper fails to hold on to a pigment at all.

I could never persevere with one of these journals if I wished to continue including the odd (very odd) sketch and field drawing. The reluctance of the paper to hold on to just about any writing or drawing medium is a very real issue to me. Even though they are by no means one of my favourites, this is a bit of a disappointment as these little volumes have quite a lot going for them.

Rite in the Rain

Beyond the black ink Fisher and the 2B sketching pencil, none of the other pens resulted in acceptable results

Rite in the Rain, reverse

The sturdy paper ensured that there was no bleed through at all. The page pattern is Rite in the Rain’s ‘Universal’, with heavy lining and fainter vertical dotted lines giving a grid pattern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leuchtturm1917 Pocket Notebook

German company Leuchtturm have been making stationery for decades. Founded in 1917, their experience is there to be seen in this carefully designed and feature rich product. If some of the products looked at elsewhere on this blog can be deemed simple in design, that can not be applied to the Leuchtturm1917 range of products. The company pride themselves on making a premium product- ‘we are convinced that small details make a big difference’. Having used Moleskine for over twenty years (and there is a simple product if ever there was one) I cannot help but agree with that statement. I have looked at two Leuchtturm’s products; the pocket notebook and another; that features their ‘Whitelines’ technology.

Leuchtturm1917 Notebook

Leuchtturm1917 soft cover notebook

-leuchtturm1917-soft-coverindex

There are three pages for contents to be recorded

leuchtturm1917-soft-coverinside-front-page

Leuchtturm1917-soft cover, inside front page

The A6 sized book I purchased has blank pages but it can also be bought with a choice of either dotted, ruled or squared pages. This is a soft backed notebook and has 121 numbered pages. Before these, there is a name and address page at the front, followed by three contents pages. The final eight pages (sixteen sides) are perforated and can be detached. These notebooks have the widest margin left once pages are detached that I have come across’ a remnant measuring 10mm being left intact. The book is thread bound and comes with a gusseted flap in the rear of the book. The page marker is black, as is the elasticated closure band. You buy these notebooks with a single page of stickers to apply to outer cover for archiving purposes. The paper is ink proof and acid free to aid in this. Obviously the first few pages could be cut and removed if wished to reduce weight by a negligible amount however with the large number of internal pages, a contents page could be useful for some.

leuchtturm1917-soft-cover-blank

leuchtturm1917-soft cover notebook, gusseted pocket in the back adds some thickness to the volume

 

leuchtturm1917-soft-cover-thickness

 

It is a joy to write on the paper in these notebooks. The 80g/m² paper feels good under the pen, smooth with no drag but holding an ink well. The more I use this notebook, the more I like it. For longer, multi day hikes, this journal would take some beating. What I don’t understand is the preference in the UK for Moleskine over these when there is so little price difference.

Leuchtturm1917

The paper handled all of my chosen pens and pencils well. Both 2B pencils felt good and the wash from the water soluble Derwent was even and dried well

Leuchtturm1917, reverse

The three watercolour paints are just visible through the paper. All three of the Faber Castell inks are extremely visible with the Sakura and Fisher being the only acceptable inks below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leuchturm1917 Whitelines

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines

This notebook is useful when there is a considerable amount to be recorded. Perhaps on a trek lasting multiple weeks or months. This is the larger and tougher version of the soft backed variant above. The hard backed cover means that this will stand up to continual and extended use. Obviously this has a weight penalty- this 185 page volume weighs 152g against the 95g, 121 page soft back book looked at earlier.  Pages are both ink proof and acid free for long term archiving. White lines on grey pages are designed to prove less of a distraction and disappear when copied, scanned or faxed. The notebook is only a little bulkier in the hand than the soft backed version (above) and is comparable in height & width dimensions to the Field Notes memo book.

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines- Comfortable in the hand

leuchtturm1917-whitelines-ruledthickness

This is a pretty thick volume at 14mm

This is a chunky hard backed notebook with 185 numbered pages. Before these, there are three blank tables for contents. The final eight pages (sixteen sides) are perforated and can be detached. The margin left in the volume once pages are detached is narrower than the soft back version above; measuring 6mm. Being thread bound, the book is advertised as opening flat, however it may require a little persuasion before it does so. There is a gusseted flap in the rear of the book, this is actually a usable feature. There is bright orange page marker and elastic enclosure band, as with the previous journal, this adds some bulk to the overall volume.

Leuchtturm1917-whitelines-ruled-page-layout

Three contents pages at front. The four squares in each corner are what are picked up by the mobile device app when capturing a page

The makers of this notebook proudly boast that it incorporates ‘Whitelines Link‘ technology. Having scribbled, doodled or drawn on a page, it is then possible to open up the (free) Whitelines app on a mobile device, capture the full page, then tick a ‘quick’ box to store or share via email, Evernote or Dropbox. Once scanned the white lines on the page are not visible.

Leuchtturm1917-whitelines-ruled-perforated-pages.jpg

White lines on grey paper. All notebook pages are numbered, the final eight pages are perforated

 

leuchtturm1917-whitelines-ruled-internal-flap

Useful flap in rear of notebook. There are stickers to apply to the front cover and/or spine

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines. I did not like the dried watercolours at all, the grey undertone lent little and the colours are a little flat. Faber Castell pens did not take to the paper well but everything below those was OK with the exception of the medium wash pencil

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines, reverse

Leuchtturm1917 Whitelines, reverse. I was surprised at the amount of bleed through with what I had thought would be a sturdy paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moleskine cahiers notebook

These little journals come in sets of three. They are a very simple affair and therein lies their effectiveness. No bells, no whistles, just 64 plain pages in a cardboard cover. They also comes as ruled or squared variants. The inside of the rear cover has the ‘famed’ flap for gathering loose notes in. This is open at the inside and top edge and has no gusset so does not hold a lot before gaping open or having contents spill out.

Journalling at a 'sensible' lunchtime pub stop on the West Highland Way. 2013

Journalling at a ‘sensible’ lunchtime pub stop on the West Highland Way. 2013

Paper is an ivory coloured 70 g/m² acid-free. The  rear sixteen pages (32 sides) are perforated and can be detached. There are no page numbers. Each journal weighs 39g, though I have found some variation in this having come across examples that weigh 41g. Word has it that outsourcing supply in recent years has resulted in some quality control issues. I cannot say that I have encountered any problem with recent purchases, but that may be that because it is such a simple product that exceptionally high quality is not going to be found anyway- as I say, they have kept it simple and that is what it is.

Moleskine cahiers notebook

Moleskine cahiers notebook

The closest rival to this product reviewed here is the Field Notes Memo Book. While that is an excellent, if basic, journal, the Moleskine wins out with the addition of the inside rear flap and, particularly, the perforated pages. However, taking in to account the tendency for inks to bleed through, in truth, there is little in it.

moleskine-plain-notebookinternal-flap

Moleskine plain notebook. Internal flap in back cover

The only slightly above average quality of the paper is apparent with uneven drying of paints and inks. However the paper does not drag on a pen excessively and feels fairly smooth to write or draw on.

 

 

 

 

 

Moleskine

Uneven drying of all inks and pigment is apparent, however the pencils write smoothly and the paper makes a perfectly adequate drawing medium

Moleskine, rear

Every pen and pigment used shows through the paper to some degree. The pencils are the only ones sufficiently faint to be acceptable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midori Traveller’s notebook- 003 Passport size

‘a notebook for life’

While I use the large Midori Traveler’s Notebook, complete with thick leather cover and various sundry parts, for work, I had never experimented with the smaller format ‘Passport’ size for hiking with. This is to a different size format than all others looked at in this blog, being squarer in design, annoyingly so if you want to slip it into a shirt pocket or similar whereupon you will find it too wide. In addition, the pages could do with rounding at the corners.

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler’s notebook, in wrapper

These notebooks are amazingly light. There is a fair bit of guff on the interior page, presumably made to ‘mimic’ a passport. The lightly perforated pages are useful. But do require a page to be folded before attempting to detach from the entirety otherwise will rip. I think the paper used is similar to, if not the actual paper, to the famed Tomoe River product.

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler’s notebook. A wide, squarish book

The soft back cover keeps 80 ivory coloured pages together. Even with the minimal ‘special pages, this is a lightweight offering at only 29g. A perfectly functional basic little notebook that can be married with similar sized, completed notebooks in Midori type folders/binders should you feel a burning need. I don’t.

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori notebook, inside front page

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Inside back page. Handmade and printed bookplate anyone?

Midori Passport size 003 Traveler's notebook

Midori notebook, stapled pages and lightly perforated pages

 

Midori

Midori. The watercolours dried well but the medium wash pencil gave a pool of grey tone when dampened that dried in a very unsatisfactory manner

Midori, reverse

Midori, reverse. Unsurprisingly with such a thin paper, the reverse of the pages are unsightly and unusable for anything beyond an untidy writing over what is showing through

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be warned, the Midori community is large, passionate and can suck the unwary in. YouTube is rife with hundreds of videos explaining how to personalise your Midori, what to add, what to stick in. To be frank, what I have seen has been mostly excruciating. There is always the off-switch.

Backpocket journal- Tomoe River Edition

Ordering is an overseas affair for a UK based walker

Ordering is an overseas affair for a UK based walker. But still, what an exciting package to receive, and handwritten note to accompany!

While only offering 48 pages, this is one of the most promising and exciting (yes, really!) journals that I have looked at. It is minimal, yet presents a good quality product (paper) in a format familiar to most.

Backpocket Journal- Tomoe River Edition

Backpocket Journal- Tomoe River Edition

Backpocket journal, Tomoe River Edition.Internal stitching

Internal stitching

These journals are made by Steve Curnow at his Curnow Bookbinding & Leatherwork business. It is a slightly peculiar affair ordering these, you contact Steve via his Facebook page. Send him an email with your enquiry and he replies pretty promptly with what’s available and shipping costs. Curnow Bookbinding produces three packs of a standard Backpocket Journal, with a variety of snazzy covers, or alternatively, you can step up to the little gem shown here. The journal reviewed here features 52g/m² Tomoe River paper (the clue is on the front cover).

Backpocket journal, Tomoe River Edition

Backpocket journal, Tomoe River Edition

The Backpocket Journal is larger than the Midori above. Any serious lightweight hiker would think that Curnow had been interviewing hikers as to their requirements. This is a basic, no frills journal that utilises fine quality papers and thin covers. My only wish would be for it to come in a double or even triple format as the 48 pages is pretty meagre, though this is the same as the Field Notes offerings. I will probably either contact Steve and see if he can run me up a few thicker versions or try and sew a couple together myself.

 

When writing about this particular journal (September 2015), I see the various editions from Steve Curnow featuring Tomoe River paper comprise those below. The one reviewed here is the first listed:

Backpocket Journals (3.5″ x 5.25″, 48 pages):

Tomoe River Edition (creme paper, blank) …….. $12.50
Tomoe River Edition (white paper, blank) ………. $12.50

Backpack Journals (4.375″ x 8.25″, 60 pages):

Regular (blank or lined) ………………………………. $15.00
Tomoe River Edition (blank, white or creme) …. $18.00
Tomoe River Jumbo Edition (blank, 128 pgs) … $32.00

A5 Journals (148mm x 210mm, 80 pages):

Tomoe River Edition (blank, white or creme) …. $19.00
Tomoe River Jumbo Edition (blank, 128 pgs) … $33.00

 

Lined insert shows adequetly through pages if required

Lined insert card shows adequately through pages if it is required. The insert adds a further 2g

 

 

Backpocket Journal

The paper accepted all the pencils, pens and paints tried.

Backpocket Journal, reverse

Not surprisingly, the rear of the paper belies its thinness with all writing and pigment showing through

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a lovely paper! It is very pleasant to write on and takes a 2B sketching pencil well. Paint and ink dry quickly and, despite the thinness of the paper, without cockling. This is probably my favourite of all the papers looked at for writing on, though the thinness could prove problematic if being stressed too much, such as if being used for rubbings or sticking heavier mementoes to.

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Digital journalling

Dell Axim x51v PDA- Despite being an intuitive and good looking device, this was an unsuccessful diversion into digital journalling

Dell Axim X51v PDA- 117mm x 73mm x 16mm (4.7″ x 2.9″ x 0.7″). Despite being an intuitive and good looking device, this was an unsuccessful diversion into digital journalling

A word about electronics. Three Points of the Compass has dabbled in digital journalling. In 2005 a high end (at the time!) Dell Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) proved fun for a while but was both heavy (179g) for backpacking and laborious to input notes and diary. This had speaker, microphone,  a 3.7″ VGA screen, ran on Windows Mobile 5.0 (later Windows Mobile 6.1), Windows Media Player 10, 624 MHz processor, 256 MB flash ROM, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. I did later try and improve things with a Think Outside Stowaway portable keyboard. This connected via Bluetooth but also proved simply too bulky and heavy (289g). Despite having a removable 1100mAh battery, life was only ‘OK’. I did get a double size 2200mAh replacement battery for the device but this stuck out the back quite awkwardly beneath the large replacement battery cover. The device came with both Compact Flash and Secure Digital card slots for expansion and other pretty useful features, using the pocket pc proved unsatisfactory to me and, to date, I have been disinclined to repeat the experiment with the smart phones that followed in the PDA wake.

Being an oral historian (part of my day job) I am also looking at options for sound recordings on my trips. The professional quality Marantz equipment I use at work is simply too heavy and bulky for hiking with and most Dictaphones I have seen and used do not offer the quality I am after. While it is possible to use an iPhone or similar, I am probably looking for something that is unavailable at present, the search goes on…

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64p, 39g Moleskine cashiers journal and its replacement 48p, 19g Backpocket journal

64 page 39g Moleskine cahiers journal and my replacement for it- the 48 page 19g Backpocket journal

So, what has Three Points of the Compass determined from this exercise? As I mentioned earlier, I have happily relied on the easily found, fairly cheap to purchase, simple yet functional plain Moleskine Journals for years. Field Notes are just as good and some may say they possibly have the edge with their ever increasing range of cover options etc- wood anyone? Looking around at alternatives has shown that there are better, if pricier options easily available. It is possibly to hunt out very lightweight and minimalist offerings, or more fully specc’ed products. It will depend if it is day hikes or longer trips that I am looking to supply. For the next few years at least, I believe I have found a worthy successor… or two. Only time will tell what is the perfect notebook. But in truth, it is the actually using anything, of any make or design, that results in the perfect notebook

 

Relative sizes of the eight journals compared

Relative sizes of the eight journals compared, the squared edge of the Midori is the oddity here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When there is no space left inside, then the cover will do. Dragon tree on Madeira, 2015

When there is no space left inside, then the cover will do. Dragon tree on Madeira, 2015