Tag Archives: small stuff

The Icknield Way

After my autumn wander on the Icknield Way- a bit of a gear review

My last post covered my recent six day hoof across the Icknield Way Trail. With a bit of wandering, also a mile backtrack to retrieve a map I thought I had lost, but hadn’t, and one or two momentary periods of confusion when my route abandoned me in a couple of towns, I covered 120 miles.

Day two on the Icknield Way Trail for Three Points of the Compass

Day two on the Icknield Way Trail for Three Points of the Compass

I used this walk as an opportunity to further drill down my gear selection for my Three Points of the Compass walk commencing 1st April 2018. I thought I was just about there, but even at this point, I realise I still need to drop a handful of items, change a couple of others and make one, for me, large change in my approach. I’m not going to cover everything in this post but if you want my thoughts on any item in my Icknield Way gear list, do ask.

Z Packs Duplex on my third night on the Icknield Way Trail

Z Packs Duplex on my third night on the Icknield Way Trail

Z Packs Duplex

This was a perfect opportunity to try out my new Z Packs Duplex shelter. This single skin, cuben hybrid, two person tent proved to be absolutely excellent. I never timed myself erecting it, but it is easy to put up and takes less than five minutes. Even on sloping ground on the first night, I was still able to achieve a taut pitch. I had taken a selection of pegs/stakes and it took only a couple of nights to realise that best results were achieved using the carbon core Easton nails on the four corners, and a longer MSR Groundhog on the two sides (nearest and furthest sides in the image above). My final night on trail was on short springy turf and heather, this coincided with strong gusty wind for most of the night. For this, I double pegged the guys on the windward side and had no problem with anything pulling out. I conclude that my handful of extra pegs is a necessity in the frequently changing soil types of the UK

Last night of wild camping on the Icknield Way Trail. Cavenham Heath proved to be a windy location

Last night of wild camping on the Icknield Way Trail. Cavenham Heath proved to be a windy location despite my finding the most sheltered spot I could in the failing light

I had taken a tall thin cuben dry bag for the tent. This fitted the long ‘wand’ pocket on one side of my Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack well. I had to take care to roll the shelter tightly otherwise it was a pig to get into the drybag.

Many people fixate on the condensation issues inherent in single skin tents. Obviously I have much to learn and experience with this tent, but I found condensation no more of a problem than with a double skin tent. Ventilation is everything. On three nights I set up well, had a through breeze and had zero condensation. I did have a wet interior after a night camping on long wet grass. None dripped on me and my feet and head remained clear of the wet interior. A wipe down with a bandanna in the morning sufficed. If anything, this was handy as it gave me a clean water soaked cloth for a wipe over of my body. The other night had just a little condensation, not enough to worry over.

My base weight was around 11kg with consumables on top of that. My Mariposa pack from Goassamer Gear carried the weight well and was comfortable until a problem manifested itself on day two

My base weight was around 11kg with consumables on top of that. My Mariposa pack from Gossamer Gear carried the weight well and was comfortable until a problem manifested itself on day three

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

Laying my pack down at a halt on day three, I was dismayed to see the internal aluminium stay poking through the belt. There was little, if anything, I could do to fix it

Laying my pack down at a halt on day three, I was dismayed to see the internal aluminium stay poking through the belt. There was little, if anything, I could do to fix it

I purchased by Mariposa pack in 2016 and had already used it on couple of hikes prior to taking it with me on the Icknield Way Trail. This was my one piece of kit to break on me, the first breakage I have experienced for some years beside the wearing out of trail shoes. Some say that lightweight gear isn’t robust, I have found that if properly looked after, such gear is usually no less robust than many a cheaper, heavier option.

However, as I say, I had a problem with the pack. Just before the half way point of the trail, the aluminium stays poked their way through the webbing slots that they nest into on the hipbelt. This meant that much of the weight that was supposed to be transferred to the hipbelt, was mostly placed on the shoulders due to the resulting lack of internal pack structure. There was nothing I could do to repair it. So I released the velcro tab holder at the top of the stay, inside the pack. A couple of days after I returned home, I emailed Gossamer Gear to ask if there was a fix I could carry out. They replied within a couple of hours:

“Sorry to hear about this! What is your best mailing address? I would be happy to send you a new belt and little plastic caps for your frame. We have not had this happen in mass but we have started to put little caps on the stays to prevent this”

Stays poking their way through the hip belt

Removed from the pack, this shows how the stays poked their way through the hip belt

Within a week, I received the replacement belt. I cannot fault Gossamer Gear’s customer service. While an annoyance. I believe the caps on the end of the stays should prevent a re-occurrence so am more than happy to continue with what is, overall, an excellent pack. The external pocket configuration is exactly as I like it and I find myself using the external stretchy mesh pocket on the back far more than I initially thought I would. For example, it is very useful for putting wet socks in to dry.

My original, damaged, Mariposa hipbelt below, and its replacement above. Note how the design has altered slightly, the belt pockets are now positioned further round to the side. Not an advantage I fear

My original, damaged, Mariposa hipbelt below, and its replacement above. Note how the design has altered slightly, the belt pockets are now positioned further round to the sides of the wearer. Not an advantage I fear. Both belts are size Large

Autumn on the trail meant that temperatures varied from close to freezing to into the 20's. A variety of clothing is necessary for such a range that could have ranged still further. My spring/summer walk in 2018 will present a similar problem

Autumn on the trail meant that temperatures varied from close to freezing to into the 20’s. A variety of clothing is necessary for such a range that could have ranged still further. My spring/summer walk in 2018 will present a similar problem

Montane Terra Pants, these are the 'graphite' coloured version. Photographed on Inishowen Head, Co. Donegal, Ireland in 2015. Note the side zips on the leg to provide additional ventilation

Montane Terra Pants, these are the ‘graphite’ coloured version. Note the side zips on the leg to provide additional ventilation. Photographed on Inishowen Head, Co. Donegal, Ireland in 2015.

Trousers

For this walk, Three Points of the Compass took his normal choice of leg wear, the Montane Terra Pants. I have used these for years and will continue to do so until something better comes along. Not light at 367g (including 29g belt) for a size XXL. They are a tough product with a couple of features that I really like. The side zips on the leg are fantastic for a bit of ventilation and the side poppers on the fairly narrow ankles stop an excess of material flapping around. Really useful in muddier conditions which helps to keep the lower part of the trousers much cleaner. I do wish I could find a lighter option though, that still has these features. I wish there were a side cargo pocket too.

 

Maps are essential, guide book a desirable on the Icknield Way Trail. I took a photocopy of the small initial section starting from Tring railway station (from O.S. 181), plus O.S. Explorer maps 193, 194, 209, 210 and 229. Each weihed about 110g. The 'Walkers' Guide' from the Icknield Way Association weighs 154g

Maps are essential, guide book a desirable, on the Icknield Way Trail. I took a photocopy of the small initial section starting from Tring railway station (from O.S. 181), plus O.S. Explorer maps 193, 194, 209, 210 and 229. Each weighed about 110g with covers removed. The ‘Walkers’ Guide’ from the Icknield Way Association weighs 154g

Electronics etc.

I took far more in the way of electronics and gadgets than I required for a walk of this length. Again, this was a deliberate decision to try and duplicate as far as possible the gear I am taking with me on my long hike next year. It may have transpired that I required something from my ‘electronics bag’, as it was, all I needed was my phone.

Phone, mp3 player, headlight and power- Little was required

Phone, mp3 player, headlight and power- Little was required

Phone

Rug Gear RG730 phone. IP68, 3020mAh battery, 5″ Gorilla Glass 3 capacitive screen. No lightweight at 215g, this android phone does me well

Rug Gear RG730 phone. IP68, 3020mAh battery, 5″ Gorilla Glass 3 capacitive screen. This android phone is no lightweight at 215g but does me well

Three Points of the Compass uses a RugGear RG730 android phone. Not particularly lightweight at 215g, it is a rugged phone, rated IP68, so I have no need for an additional protective case. This saves me a little weight, however I do keep it in a poly bag, usually with other electronics, as I am not daft. I don’t use it much on trail and keep it switched off if not in use during the day. On the Icknield Way, I sent daily messages to my wife and daughter, keeping it switched on for a few hours each evening. I also used the OS Locate ap once just to check my co-ordinates, and accessed the web over two pub lunches. Where it was probably most useful was when calling for a taxi at the end of my walk. The Icknield Way finishes at a car park in the middle of nowhere. I found that there was no service with 02 in that locale. Fortunately, another reason I chose this particular model of phone came to the fore. It is a Dual Sim phone, so I switched to Vodaphone, obtained a signal and Bob’s your Uncle.

From a 100% charge when I left home, this had dropped to 66% by the end of the walk. I never had the need to charge it at all, despite having the necessary lead and powerbank with me. The RG730 has a 13mp rear camera, but beyond a few photos sent to my daughter on the phone, I use my Olympus Tough TG-4 camera for capturing photos.

Stopping early morning to cook a hot breakfast and prepare a hot drink on the Icknield Way

Stopping early morning to cook a hot breakfast and prepare a hot drink on the Icknield Way

Cooking

I am very careful to be as frugal as possible with my meths stove. I light it, pan of water ghows straight on and the flame is extinguisehed as soon as water is heated. Unburnt fuel is retained in the tightly closed burner for the next use. Over six days of walking, with five nights of wild camping, cooking meals and making hot drinks, I used just 179g of fuel

I am very careful to be as frugal as possible with my meths stove. I light it, pan of water goes straight on and the flame is extinguished as soon as the water is heated. Unused fuel is then retained in the tightly closed burner for the next use.

I have long preferred meths (alcohol) for cooking with. I find it pretty much fuss free, silent and my little burner, when combined with the very efficient Caldera Cone, is as efficient a system in a breeze as you are ever likely to find.  I have no real issues with my system, particularly for shorter jaunts such as the Icknield Way. I store my fuel in a bottle that use to hold hot sauce, this has a nozzle cap for directing and controlling the fuel issued.

My MYOG meths burner worked very well. So well that I will certainly use it unaltered when using this system again. Over six days of walking, with five nights of wild camping, cooking meals and making hot drinks, I used just 179g of fuel. However I do recognise that the maths has been done by others and gas does come out as a lighter and more efficient system over longer hikes. So, I will be making the change to a gas system next year.

I’ll comment on what I am going to be using at some point in the future.

 

Hygiene

Compressed towlettes are pretty fantastic. Extreme low weight, low bulk and a drop of Dr. Bronners soap and a smidgen of water converts them into a one-use wash cloth

Compressed towelettes are pretty fantastic. Extreme low weight, low bulk and a drop of Dr. Bronners soap and a smidgen of water converts them into a one-use wash cloth

Three Points of the Compass has been looking for an alternative to the excellent Gerwhol foot cream and balm for some time. I may have found it with the Foot Balm from Naturally Thinking

Three Points of the Compass has been looking for an alternative to the excellent Gehwol foot cream and balm for some time. I may have found it with the Foot Balm from Naturally Thinking

Unlike our hiking cousins in the US, walking in the UK means that we are are in the company of a clean smelling general public on a more frequent basis. I don’t mind getting dirty, but I do like to try and get myself as clean as I can on a hike. Teeth get brushed, hair gets combed and an attempt is made to clean as much of the days grime and sweat off, even if it is only the face, feet and pits that get the most attention. That said, I stank pretty badly at the end of my hike and it was mostly synthetic clothing to blame.

Wash bag and contents. The razor went unused

Wash bag and contents. The razor went unused. Alum stick is heavy but useful. Lanacane anti-chafe gel is an essential

Drying clothes at a midday halt

Drying clothes at a midday halt

I am pretty happy with what I took but the weight and, less importantly at present, the bulk, is still too great and I shall be further refining it. It is very, very easy to slip in too many ‘what if’ and luxury items, I think I need to do a fair amount of inward looking and remove a few of my many comfort items from my gear list. My Three Points of the Compass gear list is currently a work in progress but may be of interest nonetheless.

As I said at the head of this post, I am only reviewing here a handful of the items I took with me. Do ask if you have any questions.

Three Points of the Compass- The End...

Three Points of the Compass– The End…

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

Pegging down the pegs

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

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

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

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

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

Lightweight, yet tough, peg bag from Tread Lite

Lightweight, yet tough, peg bag from Tread Lite

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

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

[152g]

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

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

 MSR Groundhog MSR Groundhog Aluminium 2 191mm Individual weight:  14.3g Total weight: 28.6g
A few grams here, a few grams there... in search of the perfect lighter

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

I have used many types of stove over the years- white gas (Colman), gas, paraffin (kerosene), petrol, even diesel in an omnifuel stove once (just once, never again!) I only ever used hexamine blocks in army days. However my preference for most trips, where I will be cooking, is meths (denatured alcohol).

I have a number of beloved Zippo lighters sitting around the house from my days as a smoker. One of my most sentimental possessions is the old brass Zippo my dad used to have. None of these are in any way suitable for backpacking use when using meths as they are too bulky, run out of fuel too quickly and are pretty hefty too. What is required is one of the lightweight butane gas lighters. There is a butane Thunderbird insert for a Zippo but one of the plastic disposables weighs a tenth of that.

For most short trips, matches will do just fine for fire making. Be they waterproof (sic) or long 'cooks' matches. All are OK unless there is any sort of breeze. Lifeboat matches, with their extra long, varnish dipped, heads will continue to burn in wind and rain. However they are an expensive option. I like using a flint and steel, but this can be a right pain when meths is cold. For longer trips, something that will light hundreds of times is required and matches are only useful as back-up

For most short trips, matches will do just fine for fire making. Be they waterproof (sic) or long ‘cooks’ matches, all are OK unless there is any sort of breeze. Lifeboat matches, with their extra long, varnish dipped, heads will continue to burn in wind and rain. However they are an expensive option. I like using a flint and steel, but this can be a right pain when meths is cold. For longer trips, something that will light hundreds of times is required and matches are only useful as a back-up, but keep them dry…

There are a lot of disposable lighters on the market. The range of models from any one maker is huge and my experience of what is available from this huge offering is obviously minuscule. But I have explored, slightly, a handful of the options available to me.

Disposable lighter from Cricket

12g disposable lighter from Cricket

For quite some time I have simply used an Original Cricket Lighter. In 1961, Cricket were the first company to release a disposable lighter on to the market and, in common with just about any other brand out there, they all work pretty well.

There are various offerings from the brand. The one that has sat in my cook kit for years (these lighters really do last a long time) was given to me in a pub, advertising the UK chain of public houses. Mine is the Original model, long and slim, to sit in a pack of cigarettes, not that I am a smoker these days.

Mini-Bic lighter

11g Mini-Bic lighter

Cricket do make a small version of their full size offering, however I went with the mini Bic lighter when I was looking to shave off a couple of grams. Though actually, my only saving was a single gram! But the slightly smaller presence of the mini lighter is an equally mini-bonus I suppose. Bic are a far younger producer of lighters, having only purchased the French lighter manufacturer Flaminaire in 1973, however they dominate the disposable lighter market. Well known and respected for good reason- cheap, reliable consistency. So good are their mini lighters that I carry a spare when backpacking.

The 'soft' flame from a traditional gas lighter can drift around a little in a breeze

The ‘soft’ flame from a traditional gas lighter can drift around a little in a breeze

A 'jet' flame from a disposable lighter is more directed, with less chance of scorching fingers

A ‘jet’ flame from a disposable lighter is more directed, with less chance of scorching fingers.Note that just like a meths flame itself, the flame from a lighter can be invisible in daylight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disposable lighter from Italian distributor Afruni

34g disposable jet lighter from Italian distributor Afruni

I have found on occasion when lighting my little Speedster stove that I can burn my fingers in any sort of breeze as the flame drifts around a little. So I went looking for one of the ‘turbo’ or jet lighter options. There are a lot of these available but for the past year or so I have been using one of the Euroflame models from Italian supplier Afruni. I can’t find a lot about this company online but as to the lighter itself, I liked the jet flame produced, which aided sideways lighting of my stove. I also like the flip top cap on the lighter. Which I felt may prevent debris from clogging the nozzle. However not only do I feel that keeping the lighter with the cook set obviates slightly the need for a cap to the lighter, but, in common with many other turbo lighters on the market, my lighter was too heavy at 34g, even if it is possible to refill this option. The piezo ignition is another step above the simple flint striker on my Bic and Cricket options but both those manufacturers also offer piezo alternatives now.

2014 advertisement for the Torjet 'all weather' refillable windproof lighter

2014 advertisement for the Torjet ‘all weather’ refillable windproof lighter

Torjet lighter, wrapped with Hemp Wick. Total weight- 24g

20g Torjet lighter, wrapped with a couple of metres of Hemp Wick. Total weight- 24g

What I have settled on is one of the 20g offerings from Torjet. This is supplied by Tor Imports who were founded in 1992 to supply cigars and smoking accessories. Yet another cheap ‘n’ cheerful product that does exactly what it sets out to do. I am keen on the refillable aspect of these lighters. When you reflect on the fact that Bic have sold over 30 billion of their disposable lighters, anything we can do to reduce this landfill just slightly can only be good.

The lighter is refillable and has piezo ignition. The jet nozzle is closed and protected when not lit. It has a long slim profile that fits in the hand well. It lights well and has never failed me.

All that said. It makes sense to be prepared and I do carry a spare lighter with me. There is no need for another Torjet however so a bright red mini Bic is my back-up. A bright colour lighter makes sense as they show up well in the grass when cast to one side while cooking.

Hemp Wick

Hemp Wick

Hemp cord is coated with beeswax and is easily snuffed out once the job is done. Being stiffened, it keeps its shape when wrapped around a light

Hemp cord is coated with beeswax and a flame is easily snuffed out once the job is done. Being stiffened, Hemp Wick keeps its shape when wrapped around a lighter

99% of the time I use my lighter as a lighter, simply pressing the ignition and sending a red hot jet of flame in from the side. For those odd times where I want to be a little more distant, usually for a wood fire. I wrap a couple of metres of Hemp Wick round the Torjet lighter. Not only does this provide a better grip in the rain, but it is handy to pull off a couple of inches, light it, and it then works as a handy, fairly slow burning wick. This will not work in any sort of strong breeze and needs the good shelter provided by my Caldera Cone. The Hemp Wick is not required often, but is there if required.

I only occasionally use the Inferno insert to convert my Caldera to wood burning mode and can see my Hemp Wick being helpful at lighting this at times, either catching the end of torn paper, grass or a smidge of Hammaro tinder card.

My lighter arsenal for multi-day backpacking trips. A 20g mini-Bic disposable lighter and 20g refillable jet Torjet lighter wrapped with 4g of Hemp Wick

My lighter arsenal for multi-day backpacking trips. A 11g mini-Bic disposable lighter and 20g refillable Torjet lighter wrapped with 4g of Hemp Wick

I note that Thunderbird make a jet style ‘torch insert‘ for Zippo lighters, I just have to refrain from indulging myself…

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

 

 

Group of emergency whistles

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

“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and … blow.”

Lauren Bacall, To Have and Have Not, 1944

A simple wolf whistle may have suited old Bogey, but none of us can sustain the energy or ability to keep shouting or whistling without mechanical means for assistance in the event of an accident or when trying to attract attention over distance. For that reason, anyone venturing into the countryside should be carrying a whistle.

A whistle he says, he’s ‘avin’ a laugh! Also, who cares what and which damn whistle is carried? Well, I would argue that a little thought should be given to this essential piece of kit, then purchase the right one, attach it to your pack, belt or hang it round your neck, and promptly forget about it until the, hopefully never realised, time comes to use it.

3.8g anodised aluminium whistle from Lifeventure. A not particularly loud whistle from this

9.2g anodised aluminium ‘mountain whistle’ from Lifesystems. Supposedly a 108dB whistle, I don’t think that it is a particularly loud item when actually blown and would question this statistic

Three Points of the Compass carries a whistle in his pack. The actual one carried has altered slightly over the years. Usually because I have lost one and simply picked up the next brightest, shiniest one on offer near the till in an outdoors equipment shop.

A small, brightly coloured, almost indestructable whistle- but is it a good choice?

A small, brightly coloured, almost indestructible whistle- but is it a good choice?

There are some quite large and chunky whistles available that combine any number of functions- mini compass, mirror, holder for matches etc. However I believe that none of those are a particular benefit. This is one item where dedicated practicality and effectiveness is to the fore. The point of a whistle is to be heard. When looking to change my whistle recently, not only was I looking at effectiveness, I was also looking to shave a few grams off if possible. In really cold weather, a metal whistle can be painful on the lips, even sticking to them. Plastic is a better medium for a whistle, being robust and long lasting, provided the whistle is well made from a reputable manufacturer, such as any of those looked at here.

Pea less whistles have no moving parts that can jam in the whistle body cavity or become gunged up with mud and other grime encountered on the trail, or inside the pack for that matter. While this is perhaps unlikely to occur for most of us, it may be a consideration for some.

The volume stated on some manufacturers websites needs to be taken with more than a pinch of salt. Many manufacturer tests will have been in optimum conditions and a general look around secondary sources seems to indicate that many have failed miserably to replicate claimed ‘loudness’. I had a glance around at those whistles Three Points of the Compass has carried and used in the past, also those whistles that gain favour with many hikers. A whistle is not a particularly expensive piece of kit so I purchased an additional handful and set about trying them out.

The recordings I have made and include below were all made together, in exactly the same circumstance, same amount of ‘puff’, same distance from microphone, same recording volume. I have only edited them in length and recording output is the same for all.

Where you will carry a whistle will also influence your choice- hung from the belt, around the neck, or in the pack. I prefer to carry mine clipped just inside a pack pocket. Obviously not the best location should I be separated from my pack, that is my choice. Therefore, the bulk of a whistle is a secondary concern for me. Just as well it turned out when I tested this small group. Some whistles come with a length of cord or similar, some do not. This is very much of little concern to me. Far better to attach your own length of whatever length and colour you want, or attach a mini ‘biner if that is your choice. If using a neck cord, you may like to consider if it should incorporate a ‘break-away’ in the event of your getting snagged up. Any whistle carted along with you for hundreds of miles should be robust enough to stand rough treatment, work in wet, hot and cold conditions and be easily bought into use. It is no use carrying a whistle and when having to use it in an emergency, finding it almost impossible to use with frozen fingers or gloved hands.

 

Perry Whistle

Perry Whistle

Perry whistle

6.5g

The orange marine safety whistle, or Perry whistle, has been knocking around in various guises for decades. Made of lightweight plastic, it floats, is pea less, and, in common with all those shown here, will work in the wet.

I carried this whistle for quite a few years before moving over to one of the tubular metal whistle that tempted me at the cash-till one day, why, why…

This is a cheap ‘n’ cheerful whistle that is idiot proof to use. It floats and clears easily of any water inside once blown. The long body on the Perry whistle means there is no problem holding it with gloved hands while not blocking the whistle window. It is quite flat in profile and hangs well round the neck with a large 6mm hole through which to pass a length of cordage, split ring or mini-‘biner. The only thing that counteracts its suitability is its performance . I believe there is nothing inherently wrong with the Perry whistle, or the sound emitted, however these days it is only moderate in performance when judged against a couple of the others looked at here.

Perry Whistle 

Fox 40 Micro

Fox 40 Micro

Fox 40 Micro

4.8g

The Fox 40 Micro is the smaller version of the popular Fox 40 whistle. Originally developed as a pea-less whistle by Ron Foxcroft while he was a referee, who had experienced problems with his typical refereeing whistle and its pea becoming stuck or clogged with dirt or water. The ’40’ in the company name refers to Foxcroft’s partner at the time- Joe Forte. If the whistle is submerged, once removed from the water, any water in the whistle chambers drains immediately upon blowing the whistle.

The accompanying blurb to this small pea-less whistle states that it ‘cannot be overblown’ and can be heard for miles. Perhaps in perfect conditions I would say. The whistle is too small. Even with the un-gloved hand it is easy to block the side windows on the whistle body, muffling the sound emitted. This small whistle may suit children in a hiking party though. Despite Fox advertising these whistles as emitting 110dB, I don’t believe this, I also find the high pitch a little indistinct, the deeper tone of its larger sibling carries better I believe and would be more noticeable. All that said, there is little to go wrong with this whistle, it is robust and is unlikely to suffer crush damage. The shallow profile also means that it would hang around the neck comfortably. Despite its small size and not being the easiest to blow, this is now my EDC in my work bag, its small size and weight acting in its favour here.

Fox 40 Micro whistle 

Large combined pack buckle and whistle

Large combined pack buckle and whistle

Combined pack buckle/whistle

5g (though part of a pack suspension system)

Many modern packs; Osprey et al, come with a sternum strap that combines a buckle and whistle. Obviously these are going to be quite modest affairs, some are very small indeed. So it may be questionable as to how effective they are. Well, listen to the recording below. This, admittedly on the larger scale of buckle type whistles, is actually a pretty effective whistle. The sound is sharp, clear and penetrates well.

That said, if you are wearing your pack, the whistle is always convenient and to hand. The sound emitted is quite high pitched and could easily be lost in the surroundings. For any apparent fault, these are a handy back-up to a primary whistle, just not something to be relied on in isolation.

Sternum strap whistle 

Aluminium whistle from Lifeventure

Aluminium whistle from Lifeventure

Lifeventure aluminium whistle

9.2g

I purchased one of the tubular Lifeventure whistles quite some years ago, not only that, but I also kitted out my family with one each. I may have given a brief toot in the store when I bought it, but it hasn’t touched my lips in all the years since. There any number of versions of this whistle from countless suppliers, many no doubt applying their name to a generic product. You can even find a titanium version if you want, please don’t bother. You may think that this whistle is defective so bad is its sound, but I tried it against two other identical whistles I have and the results were the same. A moderate blow is OK, it is when you really blow that the sound utterly fails to emanate. The suffering from over-blowing is to its detriment.

I was quite shocked to find just how ineffective it was when recording a couple of blasts for this test. A modest puff in a shop may produce a good clean sound, giving it a good blast with the intention of alerting someone simply overwhelms the chamber and results in nothing discernible. Listen to the recording below and you will see what I mean.

Lifeventure whistle 

 

Fox 40 Sharx

Fox 40 Sharx

Fox 40 Sharx

13.6g

This is a classic piece of kit. Justifiably so when you hear it. Four internal chambers gives a loud, clear sound and the two slightly different tones emanating from the two sides of the whistle are effective. The harder you blow, the louder the sound.

The Fox 40 Sharx is a good size, fits comfortably in the hand but may be a little bulky in profile to hang comfortably around the neck. The raised plastic bars on the side mean that it is easy to hold in the fingers without obstructing the side windows. It is also possible to get a newer variant of this whistle made of “polycarbonate with co-moulded elastomer for slip resistance“, which will, supposedly, improve handling in the wet. But this carries a weight penalty (almost doubled in weight) and, as whistles go, this basic model isn’t exactly a lightweight. But come on, who is going to complain about carrying a sub 14g whistle!

As to what colour to have, well, take your pick. There are quite a few on offer. The bright red shown is a good choice though.

The cord loop holder offers a choice of attachment methods. All in all, this is a well thought out, well designed and effective whistle. An excellent whistle, it has now become a favourite of mine and accompanies me on Day Hikes.

Fox 40 Sharx whistle 

 

Jetscream Micro. Bright orange, flat pea-less whistle is not going to be lost easily in the undergrowth

Jetscream Micro. Bright orange, flat pea-less whistle is not going to be lost easily in the undergrowth

Jetscream Micro

3.2g

The Jetscream Micro, a flat ‘micro floating whistle’ from US company UST (Ultimate Survival Technologies), is an orange ABS plastic item made in China. It is high pitched if not as high as others reviewed here, and loud when blown with gusto.

UST

Jetscream Micro, from UST

Weight is negligible with supplied 140mm loop cord attached, it weighs 3.8g, or 3.2g without. Which is more than the advertised 2.8g, but I am not going to be writing to the manufacturer to complain.

The small hole for the cord is not particularly well orientated for practical use however the flat profile should mean that it is reasonably comfortable if worn round the neck.

Like others here, the sensible bright orange build means that this diminutive whistle should not easily be lost and will float if dropped in the water. However, you want another colour? you got it! There a quite a few variants available.

This is another pea-less design and there is just about nothing that can go wrong with this product, being virtually crush proof.

This whistle has its fans. I am not amongst them. As to its suitability for hiking- I think its small size and moderate sound work well if utilised as a keychain item, or if the preference is for something to be worn around the neck, which I do not. It is small, and therefore it is possible to block the side windows with fingers, however the design of the whistle makes this less likely an occurrence.

Jetscream Micro whistle 

Windstorm

Wind Storm

Storm Whistles- Wind Storm

12.5g

The Wind Storm from Storm Whistles is the smaller sibling of the famed Storm whistle. The Storm whistle is a quite phenomenal piece of kit, however I felt it was too large and slightly heavy to consider it here. Hence my looking at the smaller Wind Storm (right) instead. This smaller whistle is advertised as being the second loudest whistle on the market, the loudest being the Storm. Listening to them both, I can quite believe the hype. The Wind Storm comes in three colours; black, yellow and orange. I purchased the latter as it is a safety item and not the time to be looking at more muted colours. The quoted statistics, on paper, appear less impressive than some rivals- 103dB that ‘can be heard up to a half mile away’, however these appear to be verifiable statistics, and again, you only need to hear this whistle in comparison to the others to appreciate its effectiveness. As to the capability of being heard up to fifty feet away under water, I am not sure that many hikers are going to put that to the test.

Cross section of whistle

Cross section of Wind Storm whistle

There are two main chambers in the design of this whistle, an upper chamber that contains a ‘pea’ and a lower resonance chamber. The ‘pea’ or small ball inside the chamber creates a pulse in the whistle cavity. The resultant sound is multiple in tone and really carries well. My notes on this read- “good rumbling multi-tone that reverberates“- not sure what I mean by rumbling, but it certainly reverberates. Another whistle that can not be over-blown- the harder you blow, the louder the sound.

You can see the seal joining the two halves of the body together. I am unsure how much stress this would take compared to the almost crushproof capabilities of other whistles looked at here.

When this arrived in the post, I held it in my hand, compared with the others looked at and thought ‘no-way’, it was just so much more bulky. However, having blown it, heard it, and compared it. It is the Wind Storm that now finds its way into my pack for longer excursions into the back-country. Note that while seemingly bulkier, it is more that the shape gives an initial bulky appearance, it lacks the smooth almost uninterrupted lines of many whistles. The Wind Storm is more ergonomically suited for use as a whistle, being easier to hold and blow. It also actually comes in a little lighter than the also excellent Fox 40 Sharx. Should the pea design on the Wind Storm ever prove problematic, and my belief is that it will not, then the pack sternum strap incorporating a whistle is there for back-up

Wind Storm whistle 

The International Distress Signal

The simple distress signal is shown on the back of the Perry whistle

The simple distress signal is shown on the back of the Perry whistle

By way of reminder, the International Mountain Distress Signal is six three-second blasts of a whistle followed by a minutes silence, then repeated. The reply is three whistles. Keep blowing so that location can be determined. In North America the distress call is usually three blasts of a whistle with two as a reply.

Many people are more familiar with the Morse Code ‘S.O.S-‘. Three short blasts, three long blasts, three short blasts. While correct in a maritime environment, it is not correct on the trail. That said, who is going to mind? It is still a repeated three blasts and most people will know what it means.

On no account should a distress signal be used ‘in jest’ as it is quite easy to put others in either danger or at least greatly inconvenienced.

A whistle can also be used for general communication, just be careful not to put blasts too close together or they are likely to be mistaken for distress. Also, try not to use whistles with impunity, they are intentionally loud, and can be quite obtrusive to other hikers, perhaps hidden from you. A single blast asks- ‘where are you‘? Two blasts request ‘come to me‘.

 

Conclusion

The relative sizes of the Fox 40 Sharx and Wind Storm compared side by side in the hand

The relative sizes of the Fox 40 Sharx and Wind Storm compared side by side in the hand

I stated at the beginning of this post that I was hoping to shave a few grams off the weight of the whistle carried, instead, I ended up with a whistle that is far more suited to the job in hand- i.e. making a racket in the event of an emergency.

Not only do the majority of the whistles tested produce at least reasonable results, as would many others on the market, but two in particular stood out as quite supreme items- these were the Fox 40 Sharx and the Wind Storm. One is pea less the other has a pea. Both are almost, if not quite, perfect. You pays your money and makes your choice…

As for Three Points of the Compass. I will now carry the Fox 40 Sharx on Day Hikes and the larger, lighter, Wind Storm on extended, multi-day hikes. It is on the latter that I am more likely to be getting off the well-beaten track. With not only a lower number of people within earshot, but potentially, a greater risk to myself due to the terrain.

The Windstorm, an almost perfect distress whistle

The Wind Storm, an almost perfect distress whistle

Precision point tweezers

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers

 

I was looking recently at the various First Aid Kits that accompany me on various treks, be they day walks or longer. One item that I always like to ensure is included in a kit is a pair of tweezers. It is difficult to make do with anything else when attempting to extract thorns, splinters, grit within a cut, pick loose pieces of skin from torn blisters etc. A sterilized needle may be used on occasion but is never going to be as useful as a pair of tweezers. There are various hacks- smoothing a piece of duct tape over a splinter may ease it from the skin, but for some purposes, a pair of thin nosed or precision tweezers is what is required- for careful removal of ticks for example.

Tweezers come in a variety of sizes and even materials. The heads can be blunt and wide, or thin nosed and pointed. They can be quite large scissor operated for precision and strength, or a tiny pair slipped into the end of a Victorinox multi-knife. Stainless steel is an excellent material for medical purposes, doesn’t stain, doesn’t rust, strong. This is what most pairs of tweezer knocking around my house were made of, but I was also intrigued to see if there were any alternatives.

I had been looking at replacing a perfectly functional pair of tweezers with something equally as practical yet a little smaller and lighter if possible. I didn’t want to be too financially extravagant about this, it is only a pair of tweezers I was looking at. However I found that there wasn’t much choice out there. I found a number of surgical tweezers that looked the ticket but their cost frightened me off. The lightest pair of titanium thin-nosed tweezers I could find weighed just 10g. Perfectly acceptable, a pair of these has accompanied me on many trips in my First Aid Kit- but the search continued…

Stainless steel Sliver Gripper tweezers and key chain holder

Stainless steel Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers and key chain holder

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers

When I came across Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers I realised that my search was mostly over. These tweezers are small, of pretty good build quality and lightweight. You can get them in a couple of guises, each coming with the small incorporated key chain holder that does so much to prevent them poking a hole in anything whilst in transit. The original precision point design was produced by their inventor Bill Jones (if ever anyone could claim to have invented a product that had been in use for thousands of years already) in small numbers until development and manufacture was taken over by the West Hartford firm that took them to the next level. The firm takes its name from the owner- Elwyn Harp and his wife, Elsie Martha, hence El. Mar Inc., who still make them

These tweezers are quite tiny in the hand

These tweezers are quite tiny in the hand

The tweezers are made from a single piece of metal which is bent, providing the springiness that keeps the points apart. The small size and width mean that a precision grip is usually easily obtained. So simple and effective is the design that the U.S. military purchased them in very large numbers. These carry the National Stock Number (NSN) 3740-01-474-7377. Being described on  stock as ‘spring tempered stainless steel tick tweezers’. It is the tick removal aspect that El. Mar have focused on to an extent to boost sales numbers to the general public in recent years. Many years ago these tweezers underwent a degree more of finishing than they do now. The famed ‘precision points’ were achieved by bevelling the point, however they are now simply stamped out and finished on a machine belt that, while it removes most of the rough edges, does little to impart improved accuracy of use. That can be rectified post-purchase though. Many might argue that having purchased a product, it should not then be necessary to make any alteration to rectify or improve performance.

There is very little chance of the tweezers coming separated from the clip holder on their own account

There is very little chance of the tweezers coming separated from the included key chain holder on their own account. This is extremely useful in preventing them from poking holes while in transit

Each pair of tweezers comes with a little holder in to which the tweezers are inserted, they then open and are securely gripped until squeezed together to release them. It would be easy to leave the little holder at home but it is such a lightweight and functional offering that its inclusion is a sensible choice. If taken, it can then be hung from a key fob, round the neck on cord/dog tags, looped on to a mini carabiner or simply slung inside a ditty bag.

One of the prime purposes for a pair of tweezers on the trail is removing ticks. Some, but not all, ticks carry Lyme disease. Instances of this are increasing, both in North America and Europe. Once picked up from vegetation lining the trail and latched on to a hikers skin, if not removed carefully with an appropriate tool, a tick can be stressed or squeezed. Thereby disgorging its stomach contents, which may include Lyme, into its host, us. I usually carry a 2.2g pair of O’Tom Tick Twister dedicated tick removers when ticks are in season but a pair of tweezers will do the job almost as well.

 

“I have never had a pair of tweezers in my life that was worth a damn. Now I do and I appreciate it very much.”

General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the allied forces during Desert Storm, writing of the Sliver Gripper tweezers, 26 September, 1990

 

Anodised version of Sliver Gripper tweezers

Black anodised version of Sliver Gripper tweezers

The perfect product to prevent the enemy seeing you removing splinters...

The perfect product to prevent the enemy seeing you removing splinters…

For the tactical minded amongst us, OK, amongst you, there is a version that may excite curiosity. This is the ‘military’ version; a black anodised Sliver Gripper tweezer. Anodising is a process where the metal is coated with a protective (in this case, black) oxide layer by electrolytic action. The black tweezers do look good, having an almost gunmetal finish.

Be warned though, while using the black tweezers should prevent reflected light revealing your position to the enemy (plenty of them on the trail) these black tweezer points will not help you in seeing fine splinters etc. The very opposite in fact. They are also more susceptible to being lost if dropped so perhaps are not the best choice for the trail.

 

 

Of course I was not only engaged on a search for a decent pair of tweezers to take on the trail, I was also after saving a few grams where I could. So I was pleased to find that a ‘Grade 1’ titanium version of the Sliver Gripper tweezers has also been made.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. Made in the U.S.A.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. Made in the U.S.A.

Titanium, a word that immediately draws the attention of anyone looking to reduce the weight carried on their back. But this material comes at a cost though, and it is for the individual to decide if the doubled cost of a pair of tweezers is worth such minimal weight saving, I suspect the answer is no. Usually the only way that increased cost can be justified is if the weight saving is large, an item was being replaced anyway, or if the titanium product offers any improvement in function as a result of its material. Both stainless steel and titanium are suitable for using on skin and will not cause adverse reaction, neither metal rusts. So I was interested to see how the titanium version of the Sliver Gripper tweezers held up against the normal product.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers and clip holder

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers and clip holder

Careful filing of the points of the titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers corrected the poor manufacturing finish and bought the points together

Careful filing of the points of the titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers corrected the poor manufacturing finish and bought the points together

I was frustrated to find that the quality of finishing, or quality assessment, was a little disappointing.  Out of the packet the points do not quite line up and precision of use is lacking as a result. So not quite meeting the description on the packaging- “Accurately ground precision manufactured points”. However this was easily and quickly rectified with careful filing. Though this is not something one would expect to have to do with a brand new purchase.

 

A few minutes with a fine file adding chamfered edges improves the precision points of these tweezers immensely

A few minutes with a fine file adding chamfered edges improves the precision points of these tweezers immensely

The non-magnetic titanium Sliver Grippers lack the degree of finishing that the steel versions exhibit. Edges feel rough to the touch and benefit from a slight filing in the hand. I am unsure why a thicker gauge of metal has been used too, surely strength would not have been compromised by using a similar gauge to the original steel tweezers. The ‘springiness’ in operation feels different too, though I  don’t think this affects performance.

A small pair of Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers are included in this kit. With holder, these weigh 4g (or 2.8g for those who wish to leave the holder at home)

Small and lightweight titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. With key chain holder, these weigh 4g and are very functional

The remarkably light weights for any of the three variants looked at mean that any of the three would be suitable for a lightweight backpacking kit. As mentioned above, it makes sense to include the small and functional key chain holder with whichever is taken as it will certainly prevent them poking a hole from within expensive packs and dry bags.

Type Weight of tweezer Weight of clip holder Total weight
Stainless steel 3.7g 2g 5.7g
Black anodised steel 3.7g 1.9g 5.6g
Titanium 2.8g 1.2g 4g

Of course I can now be really anal. Having purchased the three, I could, if I wished, take the stainless steel version, with its superior gripping tip (on account of the serrations) with the titanium clip, thereby saving a grand total of 0.8g …

… nope, I don’t think so either!

Top: Stainless steel tweezers, centre: Black anodised, bottom: Titanium

Top: Stainless steel tweezers, centre: Black anodised, bottom: Titanium

Serrations on stainless steel tweezers

Serrations on stainless steel tweezers

All of the three types of tweezer measure 47mm in length and are 9.5mm wide. The gauge of sheet metal differs however, being 0.6mm for the steel versions and 0.8mm for the titanium.

No serrations on titanium tweezers

No serrations on titanium tweezers

 

Some improvement to grip is also provided by slight serrations being added to the inner 6mm of the tip. However these are only present on the steel versions, not the titanium for some reason. This is a surprising omission as their inclusion would improve the titanium tweezers immensely.

Black anodised tweezers also have faint serrations

Black anodised tweezers also have faint serrations

The little key chain holders for the tweezers are all of the same type of metal as the tweezers that they contain. 28mm long and 9.5mm wide. Much of their strength in gripping comes from the broad head of the tweezer, tapering toward the tip. This is cut to an angle of 40° which may prove troublesome for getting into tight spots but is probably the sweet spot between strength and impracticality.

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers are easily found on-line and come with a lifetime guarantee. I purchased my three from two different suppliers, and costs are reasonable, even when purchased in the UK. They can also be bought in dual packages, or in small plastic tubes. Though I see no need to prefer those last over loose ones unless a pair was going to be kept in a tool box and there was a wish to keep them clean and separate from all the crud around them.

The much advertised 'precision manufactured points' are dissapointing

Fresh out of the packaging the much advertised ‘precision manufactured points’ are mostly disappointing, being quite thick and lacking any chamfer

These tweezers, whichever type you go for, are not perfect. The tips could be narrower and chamfered and the titanium ones are quite rough out of the packaging. However, as a lightweight pair of tweezers, they are mostly ideal for picking out thorns, splinters, bee stings, gravel from road rash, peeling back loose and torn skin, even plucking eyebrows! Particularly if a few minutes are taken post-purchase to file off the rough edges and improve the point. They are then a worthwhile inclusion to even the most lightweight of backpacking gear lists. However their most important attribute must be their suitability for dealing with that most menacing and increasing of trail threats, the Tick.