Tag Archives: notebook

Looking at small light pen options

Gear talk: A few grams here, a few grams there… in search of the perfect pen- again!

 

Three Points of the Compass implores anyone venturing out on to a significant hike over multiple days to document it. If only for your own use. Scribbled notes, how you feel, the people you meet, weather, the sweat on a climb, the shivers on a ridge, the ache in the feet. Anything. Believe me, in the years to come you will read those scribbled notes and many of those recorded moments will come flooding back. That said- you need something to write on and something to write with.

Fisher Stowaway Space pen in the hand

Fisher Stowaway Space pen in the hand

While I still ring the changes on which notebook I take with me on a hike. In 2015 I thought I had found my solution as regards a pen. The Fisher Stowaway was a great, lightweight little solution with a huge ink reservoir. My only issue with it was the cost. It is not outrageously expensive but not a cost I want to be shelling out too frequently. I am not one for losing things on trail, I am pretty careful and methodical. However, when I undertook a five-month hike in 2018 I lost only one item of gear the whole trip. That was my Fisher Stowaway pen, twice. I took a couple of zero days a thousand miles in to my hike, exploring the beautiful city of Chester with just a notebook and pen, the latter came adrift somewhere. I cursed and ordered another to be picked up later in the hike. A hundred miles after receiving that one, I lost it again. I won’t buy another. They are too pricey to keep replacing. This rankles with me and strange as it may seem to those who do not fret over such things, I was determined to find the solution.

Roaming the streets of Chester on a rest day, I walked unencumbered by pack and simply carried a notebook and pen. The latter was lost. The only piece of kit lost on a two thousand mile

Roaming the streets of Chester on a rest day, I walked unencumbered by pack and simply carried a notebook and pen. The latter was lost. The only piece of kit lost on a two thousand mile hike

Over the last couple of months I have been looking again at what lightweight, reliable options there are, pen-wise, for use on trail. I could simply use a nasty little throwaway bic pen, which have broken, smudged or leaked on me too many times, or a pencil. I have many great little mechanical pencils and one of the terrific Koh-i-Noor options would be fine, but it is a pen I am after.

17.3g Victorinox Scribe, with pen extended

17.3g Victorinox Scribe, with pen extended

I wasn’t exhaustive in my investigations by any means. Three Points of the Compass is a big fan of the 58mm series of knives produced by Victorinox over the years and I first considered whether to rely exclusively on one of the Swiss Army Knives that include a pen in their toolset, or even just the pen, removed from the scales, as my main writing implement.

Victorinox Scribe with minuscule pen removed

Victorinox Scribe with minuscule 0.8g pen removed

I frequently carry a 32,5g Midnite Manager from Victorinox on day hikes or of a few days, and they are great for keeping notes then; piggy-backing on the back of other tools I want with me such as blade and scissors. But the ink reservoir is tiny. It will never last the thickness of a moderate notebook. There are a number of 58mm Victorinox knives with pens, mostly in the Signature and Manager series. Probably the lightest of 58mm SAK with a pen is the Victorinox Scribe. Because it eshews scissors, only sporting a small blade, nailfile with screwdriver tip and tweezers (or toothpick) accompanying the retractable pen. This little knife comes in at just 17.3g. It is actually quite comfortable in the hand to write with. By opening the nailfile, it rests in the hand well.

Victorinox Scribe, a very basic toolset that includes a small pen

Victorinox Scribe, a very basic toolset that includes a small pen

Pen from Victorinox SwissCard

Pen from Victorinox SwissCard, this larger option from Victorinox weighs 1.2g

The pens in the 91mm range of knives and SwissCards are longer but still just as thin. There is a larger amount of ink in these but really not a great deal. If using just the Victorinox pen removed from the knife, they are great for just a few scribbled notes but I find them, quite literally, a pain to use for any extended time as their narrow width makes them uncomfortable to hold for longer note taking sessions- the end of a day write-up for example. All of these are pens are pressurised though and write quite well. Which is why I actually include one of the smaller 0.8g spare pens in my ditty bag. If I lose (again) my main pen, or it goes dry on me, I think a less than one gram spare is acceptable if probably superfluous addition. Do note that the Victorinox pens only come with blue ink, always have and it looks like they always will. I prefer black ink and blue is always going to remain a less favoured option for me.

The Victorinox 2019 SwissCard Swiss Spirit comes with a handy set of tools that includes a pen

The 26.8g Victorinox 2019 SwissCard Swiss Spirit comes with a handy set of tools that includes a pen

The True Utility telescopic pen is a lovely robust piece of kit, but the ink reservoir in the pen is tiny

The True Utility telescopic pen is a lovely robust piece of kit, but the ink reservoir in the pen is tiny. One of the replacement refills is shown next to the pen

I then looked at the most minimalist pens I could find. I keep a True Utility telescopic pen on my keyring. Reasonably priced, great for note-taking but surprisingly heavy. Now 8.2g may not sound a great deal but containing such a tiny ink reservoir, I do not think this great keychain pen is suited to backpacking.

True, it does telescope out to a decent length, but the slippery tapering barrel is not particularly comfortable to write with for longer periods. Also that cap in which it is posted, if not attached to anything it is very easy to mislay. I had the same problem with the Inka pens I used to use while backpacking a decade ago. A pen to keep confined to my Every Day Carry I believe.

Even if not suited to backpacking, the True Utility telescopic pen makes a great EDC item, here on my keychain next to a cut down Blackwing 602 pencil

Even if not suited to backpacking, the True Utility telescopic pen makes a great EDC item, here on my keychain next to a cut down Blackwing 602 pencil

The Ohto Minimo is probably the smallest retractable ball point pen on the market

The Ohto Minimo is probably the smallest retractable ball point pen on the market

Ohto Minimo pen

2.7g Ohto Minimo pen

Next up was the cheap-n-cheerful, aptly named, Ohto Minimo ball point pen. This has a 0.5mm line width, is tiny and also comes with a thin little plastic card with pen sleeve that can be slotted into or stuck to just about anything. The clear plastic card is a little larger than most western business cards or credit cards so needs to be trimmed before it will fit a wallet. The work of just a few seconds with a pair of scissors. Refills for the pen are easily available but as the body of this pen is only 3.7mm thick, I again found it too thin to write with for extended periods. It’s weight though is incredible- less than 3g!

I wasn’t getting far in my meagre examination of miniscule pens. Rather than splash out on yet another, I decided to review where I was. I want a lightweight pen, I want black ink, I want reliability, I want affordability and I want it to last a reasonable write length. This all bought me back to my original Fisher Spacepen. Fisher do a pretty good range of pens but it was only the minimalist Stowaway that was ticking all the boxes. How about simply using a refill, by itself? The large ink capacity means that the body is thicker than the tiny little pens I had been looking at. I experimented for a couple of weeks using one to write with every day at work and home but still found the body too slim and a pain to hold for any length of time. Also the smooth body meant it would slip in my grip meaning I had to grasp it more tightly, making it more uncomfortable for extended periods.

Fisher Spacepen refills are easily available, in different ink colours and line thickness

Fisher Spacepen refills are easily available, in different ink colours and line thickness

Fisher Spacepen refill with shrinkwrap sleeve

Fisher Spacepen refill with shrink-wrap sleeve- weight: 3.7g

Some time ago I bought some electricians shrink tubing for wrapping the tops of my shepherds hook tent stakes, the bright red colour increasing visibility in long grass. What if I tried shrinking some of this around the refill body? Five minutes later I had my answer- result! It is easy to do this, cut a length of shrink-wrap, slide over the pen and gently run a hairdryer over it while turning the pen.

The pen is now very slightly wider-  some 6.5mm.  And doesn’t slip in my grip. I originally tried shrinking a length along the whole body, while this worked, I wondered if I could shave off another gram by trimming it to the essential.

Reducing the amount of shrinkwrap on the Fisher refill makes very little difference to the end-weight

Reducing the amount of shrink-wrap on the Fisher refill makes very little difference to the end-weight, this weighs 3.6g

A bare and unencumbered Fisher Spacepen refill weighs 3.4g, shrink-wrapping its length increases this to 3.7g, shortening the shrink-wrapping to a minimum had the negligible effect of reducing it to 3.6g, so barely worth it.

At least for the foreseeable future, that is it for me. For multi-day hikes I have a reliable pen at a decent weight that I can write with for reasonably extended periods though it shall never be as comfortable as a ‘proper’ barrelled pen. In addition, cos I’m a belt’n’braces guy, I have a little Victorinox refill in my ditty bag. For shorter hikes I can favour one of the Victorinox knife options that includes a pen, or if carrying a knife other than a Victorinox (it has been known), take one of the Victorinox pen refills.

It is of course possible to keep a recorded account of a hike on your phone- either as film, audio or in digital note form. However there is genuinely something tactile and pleasant in a dog eared, stained notebook, complete with bits stuffed into the flaps and hurried notes on bus and train times, who it is you have to meet when, resupply lists and phone numbers. I ask, write it down rather than relying on the digital- analogue rules in this format.

A range of lightweight pen options for backpacking

A range of lightweight pen options for backpacking

Gear talk: Journals

Now into 2018 and the start date for my Three Points of the Compass walk gets ever nearer. Time to start gathering together some of those items that will have to be renewed during my trek, sent out to me, while on trail. One of these will be my journal. I have just received my latest order of replacements.

Like many hikers, I keep a written record of my wanders. I have written before about choosing a journal most appropriate to personal needs. However I came across the Rhodia rhodiarama after I had written that post.

My choosing the Rhodia rhodiarama is my compromise between written journal and sketchbook, with an emphasis on the former. I am also taking a small art kit with me which I will use to illustrate my trail record. The hard covers of the notebook, though heavier than soft covers, are useful when sketching and provide a deal more protection with extended handling over multiple weeks. There are 192 pages of cream coloured Clairefontaine brushed vellum 90gsm paper. This will take ink, from both biro and fountain, with little if any bleed through or feathering, it will also handle light washes with watercolour, though it is not ideal for that. A compromise is a compromise. I use blank pages but there are also lined versions of the notebook available.

Rhodia rhodiarama notebook in the hand. This makes an excellent journal for longer trips due to it being robust and well made with quite heavyweight pages and hard covers. Far lighter options are available but will have less pages and are more likely to come apart over time

Rhodia rhodiarama notebook in the hand. This makes an excellent journal for longer trips due to it being robust and well made with quite heavyweight pages and hard covers. Far lighter options are available but will have less pages and are more likely to come apart over time

I include a little pen loop from Leuchtturm1917 in which I keep a Fisher Stowaway pen. The elastic loop keeps a good grip on the smooth, narrow barrel of the Stowaway pen. This diminutive pen gives a write length of some 3500m which is phenomenal compared to the woeful offering of many alternatives.

There is a small gusset pocket in the rear of the notebook, a single ribbon marker and elastic closure. These notebooks come in a wide range of colours but I have chosen the chocolate colour coupled with a tobacco coloured self-adhesive pen loop. The three items- journal, pen loop and pen weigh 161g. Not light, but it is important to me to create a long lasting record of such a trip. Replacements can be sent to me periodically on trail as required.

 

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

Trail talk: 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

Gear talk: 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

Gear talk: 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 CR2032 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