Tag Archives: tent

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…

Looking at my Z Packs Duplex tent

 

Three Points of the Compass had just a couple of hours over this weekend to put up the newly purchased Z Packs Duplex tent. As number one daughter was visiting, we took time out to visit mother/grandmother and put the tent up in her garden. Daughter climbed inside and pronounced the tent as ‘weird’. What does she know!

Duplex Tent from Z Packs is quick and easy to erect

Duplex Tent from Z Packs is quick and easy to erect

Z Packs say that trekking poles should be set to around 48 inches (122cm) to erect the tent, which is handy as that is the default length of my Pacer Poles for hiking. No zips are included on the two sets of doors, instead there is a toggle at half height and a small metal clip for fixing one or both doors to at the bottom. So, less weight and less to go wrong, combined with greater airflow to keep the condensation down.

One storm door rolled back, there is a lot of room in each vestibule and the bucket ground sheet rises up quite some height from the ground

One storm door rolled back, there is a lot of room in each vestibule and the bucket ground sheet rises up quite some height from the ground

The camo version I purchased is not too militaristic and seems to do a pretty good job of providing a little discreetness inside. This was something I had been slightly concerned with as I am likely to find myself using this tent frequently on public, family camp sites as well as stealth camping where privacy is of less concern.

Three Points of the Compass is a big chap and six feet tall (or long). There is plenty of room at both foot and head when lying on a full length Thermarest X-Therm

Three Points of the Compass is a big chap and six feet tall (or long). There is plenty of room at both foot and head when lying on a full length Thermarest X-Therm

The rainbow zippers on the mesh screens each side work well and the small size mesh looks more than adequate to deny the Scottish Midge entrance. As a first glance, I am very, very pleased with my Duplex. I am very much looking forward to trying it out ‘in anger’. This tent will be home for a great many nights on my long walk next year. The additional space offered is going to go some way preventing myself from going stir crazy if storm bound etc.

Having removed a small roll of repair tape included in the tent and a little paperwork that came with it. I have repacked the tent into a newly purchased cuben long, thin dry bag from Z Packs. Total weight, minus poles and pegs is 632g

Having removed a small roll of repair tape included in the tent and a little paperwork that came with it. I have repacked the tent into a newly purchased cuben, long, thin dry bag from Z Packs. Total weight, minus poles and pegs is 632g

 

 

Z Packs Duplex Tent

A new purchase- Z Packs Duplex tent

 

So, with eight months to go until I set off on my Three Points of the Compass walk, I collected a new purchase this evening. This has been on my radar for quite some time and I am delighted that I finally have my mitts on it!

The image above is perhaps not the most gripping, but I shall have to wait for a weekend before I am able to put it up, in the meantime, a little more information can be found here.

I went for the camo version. It is not the most military of camouflage designs thankfully, more a pleasant leafy type thing. This should give a slightly less opaque appearance and looks pretty good in my opinion. These tents, made of Dyneema Composite Fabric, formally known as Cuben Fiber, provide fantastic strength/weight/waterproofness. Another great benefit of the material is that it doesn’t stretch and sag when wet like silnylon. I still can’t get used to not calling it cuben though.

This is an expensive material and I have been saving a long time for this tent. There are smaller, single person tents available from Z Packs but I purchased the larger two man tent as I will be living in this space for many nights and possibly wet days, so it has to be a usable space. The tent as purchased comprises fly (tarp), sewn in bathtub ground sheet, doors on each side, insect screens each side of living space and guys, but excludes pegs and poles (the tent is erected using my two walking poles as support).

In its cuben stuff sack it weighs 626g. However I will be changing out the supplied stuff sack and carrying mine in a long thin cuben dry bag from Z Packs which puts the weight up to 637g. That’ll do nicely thank you.

Can’t wait to try it out…

The Norfolk Coast Path

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path- Part Two

 

The Norfolk Coast Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brent Geese, Shelduck and waders were constant companions

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

Smoke House in Cley

Smokehouse in Cley

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

Superb breakfast at the Deepdale Cafe

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

There were a couple of miles of board walks in all

There were a couple of miles of board walks in all

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Beach huts below Sheringham Cliffs

Beach huts below Sheringham Cliffs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reminders of a seafaring community can be found everywhere

Reminders of a seafaring community can be found everywhere

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

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

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

WORDS IN THE SAND, HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW

 

Few of the older signs for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path remain

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path- Part One

The Peddars Way

“Peddars Way”- said to be derived from the Latin “pedester”, meaning “on foot”

Back in 2016, I completed The Ridgeway. I quite enjoyed this ancient trackway, walking from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon, and resolved then to complete the Greater Ridgeway which comprises a number of ancient (and not so ancient) paths that stretch some 360+ miles from the South Coast at Lyme Regis in Dorset to the north Norfolk coast at Holme-next-the-Sea. It is mostly made up of four long distance paths- the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way. The latter is half of the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, a National Trail that I completed last month.

The Peddars Way has a number of sculptures, by Tom Perkins, along its length. These form part of the Songlines art project. This attempts to link current day travellers with events and people of the past. I prefrred to keep myself in the dark as to when these would be encountered and come across them unexpectedly

The Peddars Way has a number of sculptures, by Tom Perkins, along its length. These form part of the Songlines art project. This attempts to link current day travellers with events and people of the past. I prefrred to keep myself in the dark as to when these would be encountered and come across them unexpectedly. This is the third, found near Swaffham

A fine walk for a fine spring

A fine walk for a fine spring

I had considered walking the trail with Mrs Three Points of the Compass last year but reading up on the route decided that, if not actually likely to be boring, that there probably wasn’t going to be much of interest for the two of us. Nonetheless, on 1st April 2017 I set off to walk the 92 miles. Hopeful of at least a night or two wild camping, just a little preliminary research revealed that I would find water sources difficult to locate. To make it far easier, I stayed at recognised camping sites where water would not be a problem. I took my single skin Nigor WikiUp 3 SUL, the inner nest being correctly deemed unnecessary. The remainder of my gear can be seen here.

Other than my tent, which will be changed later this year, this walk was a bit of a final ‘shake-down’, seeing if my current kit list is where I want it for my Three Points of the Compass walk that starts exactly a year after I set off on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path.

So typical of many National Trails, the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path has an inauspicious start. Setting off from a car park opposite Blackwater Carr on Knettishall Heath

So typical of many National Trails, the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path has an inauspicious start. Setting off from a car park opposite Blackwater Carr on Knettishall Heath

Sedgeford Magazine, now a private house, was built as a powder store or armoury in about 1640

Sedgeford Magazine, now a private house, was built as a powder store or armoury in about 1640. The trail passes right past it

Instead of being a boring route, I found much of interest. Both halves of the National Trail were a bit of a homecoming for me. I spent some time as a teenager, when I was an Army Cadet, traipsing through dripping foliage in the Military Training Areas of the Brecklands of north Suffolk and South Norfolk. The heavy, rubberised poncho I wore then proved to be excellent protection from the heavy rain all those years ago. The ponchos eventually gave way to lighter silicone coverings that were equally as effective  when strung as tarps for night halts. No rain was experienced on this last trip, unsurprising in one of the driest parts of the country.

The great majority of the 46 miles of the Peddars Way is in Norfolk but the path starts just a few hundred metres into neighbouring Suffolk. Here is Three Points of the Compass crossing the Little Ouse River which marks the county boundary

The great majority of the 46 miles of the Peddars Way is in Norfolk but the path starts just a few hundred metres into neighbouring Suffolk. Here, Three Points of the Compass crosses the Little Ouse River which marks the county boundary

A page from my trail journal

Part of a page from my trail journal

Catching a series of trains from home to Thetford, a £19 taxi ride took me to the start of my walk. It wasn’t long before I was in to acid grasslands, chalk grasslands, heathers and pine woodlands. The first couple of days also saw me passing more pig farms than I had ever seen before. Overhead, Buzzards were frequently seen but sadly no sight of the Stone Curlews for which I used to visit this area to see a couple of decades ago.

Easy and pleasant, if unremarkable walking with few 'ups and downs'

Easy and pleasant, if unremarkable, walking through mostly agricultural land with few ‘ups and downs’

I passed few people on the Peddars Way, frequently the only people I would see for hours would be farm workers in the fields

I passed few people on the Peddars Way, frequently the only people I would see for hours would be farm workers in the fields, or just the very occasional dog walker if near habitation

Little Cressingham combined water and wind mill as it once was

Little Cressingham combined water and wind mill as it once was

Where a walk of a mile or so would take me to something of interest, I would occasionally turn off the well marked path. The unique water and windmill at Little Cressingham is just the sort of little gem that adds so much to a walk such as this. I passed a number of windmills in Norfolk, few, if any, now filling their original purpose.

On just a few occasions I reined in my forward motion and paused for a few minutes to indulge in a brief sketch. Again, I am narrowing down my lightweight art kit that will accompany me on my Big Walk in 2018 and wanted to see how my small selection of materials is performing.

Just a brief diversion took me to the unique combined water and wind mill at Little Cressingham. Built in 1821, two stones at the base were turned by the waterwheel, while two further sets of stones were turned at the top by the sails. The sails were dispensed with in 1916 but the mill continued to work under oil or water power until 1952. The small white building to the left housed another waterwheel that pumped water up to Clermont Hall a mile distant.

Just a brief diversion took me to the unique combined water and wind mill at Little Cressingham. Built in 1821, two stones at the base were turned by the waterwheel, while two further sets of stones were turned at the top by the sails. The sails were dispensed with in 1916 but the mill continued to work under oil or water power until 1952. The small white building to the left housed another waterwheel that pumped water up to Clermont Hall a mile distant

The Dog and Partridge at Stonebridge

Landlady Karen welcomes the trail weary, dirty and sweaty walker in to The Dog and Partridge at Stonebridge

Ostrich Ale at the Green King Ostrich public house in Castle Acre

Re-hydrating with Ostrich Ale at the Green King Ostrich public house in Castle Acre

Other than halting to poke around ruined churches and the like, I happily stepped in to just a handful of pubs. Entering Stonebridge, I followed a road for no more than a couple of hundred metres, but walking past the door of the Dog and Partridge close to the end of a days walking was enough to tempt me in for a couple of excellent pints of Woodfordes Bure Gold. After all, it is almost a duty to put a little trade the way of the local businesses, isn’t it?

It was near Stonebridge that I was almost flattened by a group of off-road motorcyclists. Leaping to the side of the path to avoid being hit (and no, it wasn’t a By-way) I lived to walk another day.

 

“You’ve got to call it Swaaaaffam these days…”    Tony Garrod

Lunch stop at St. Andrew's Church, the south west tower fell in 1781 and lies in ruins, but the church is still in use

Lunch stop at St. Andrew’s Church, the south west tower fell in 1781 and lies in ruins, but the church is still in use

Tony Garrod of the Milestone Society was pleased to stop for a chat. Busy cutting back the vegetation around a freshly painted Mile Post dating from c1905, he belied his 82 years and told me of his 'patch' of Mile Posts on the Swaffham-Fakenham road

Tony Garrod of the Milestone Society was pleased to stop for a chat. Busy cutting back the vegetation and planting Hollyhocks and Sunflowers around a freshly painted Mile Post dating from c1905, he belied his 82 years and told me of his ‘patch’ of Mile Posts on the Swaffham-Fakenham road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving North Pickenham, the old Roman Road soon follows a lovely wide and grassy path known as Procession Lane. A name thought to derive from the ceremony of beating the bounds. I passed between the brick remnants, dating from 1875, of the former Swaffham - Thetford railway line

Leaving North Pickenham, the old Roman Road soon follows a lovely wide and grassy path known as Procession Lane. A name thought to derive from the ceremony of beating the bounds. I passed between the brick remnants, dating from 1875, of the former Swaffham – Thetford railway line

The path crosses right through, and close to, much of interest, even if there is often very little remaining to actually be seen on the ground now. I was thankful that I took my trail guide as I walked along the quiet and lonely Procession Lane. I would never have known that to my left was where B24 Liberators of the 492nd Bomb Group had set off for their 64 missions in just 3 months in 1944. It was here that the Thor ballistic missiles had been sited in 1959, setting off vehement anti-nuclear demos. Nothing remains of that to be seen. Little remained too, of the former Swaffham – Thetford railway that crossed both former airfield site and my path.

The gem of the Peddars Way is probably the remains of the Cluniac Priory at Castle Acre. I chose not to join the hordes of people, instead, walking the circumference

The gem of the Peddars Way is probably the remains of the Cluniac Priory at Castle Acre. I chose not to join the hordes of people there, instead, walking the circumference

Cooking up an Almond Jalfrezi from Tentmeals on my second night on the Peddars Way

Cooking up an Almond Jalfrezi from Tentmeals on my second night on the Peddars Way

Each of my camp sites was more than adequate. Day one saw me 8.5 miles to Puddledock Farm, day two took me 11 miles to Brick Kiln Farm and the final overnight halt on the Peddars Way was at the lovely Bircham Windmill after a 22.5 mile yomp.

The first time I have ever camped in the shadow of a windmill. Campers get free entry to look around Bircham Windmill, but sadly, I arrived after it had shut and left before it opened

The first time I have ever camped in the shadow of a windmill. Campers get free entry to look around Bircham Windmill, but sadly, I arrived after it had shut and left before it opened

Quiet leafy lanes. This was the least used of National Trails I have ever seen

Quiet leafy lanes. This was the least used of National Trails I have ever seen

Littleport Cottages, reached just prior to crossing the B1454 Sedgeford - Docking road, are typical of the little hamlets passed through or close by. No shops, no Post Office, this is the reason I took the majority of my meals with me- there are few opportunities to buy anything en route

Littleport Cottages, reached just prior to crossing the B1454 Sedgeford – Docking road, are typical of the little hamlets passed through or close by. No shops, no Post Office, this is the reason I took the majority of my meals with me- there are few opportunities to buy anything en-route

Every now and then on my three-ish days on the Peddars Way, there was a reminder of the thousands of people- soldiers, traders, pilgrims and the itinerant, that had used this route in the past. Fields are dotted with marl pits, there is the occasional tumuli from the Bronze Age, but I had to look hard for the traces of Roman Forts. I suppose the finest record of their passing is the trail itself.

Close to the Anmer-Houghton road, the Peddars Way passes a number of tumuli dating from around 1300 - 1500BC. This is one of Norfolk's most important Bronze Age sites and of national importance

Close to the Anmer-Houghton road, the Peddars Way passes a number of tumuli dating from around 1300 – 1500BC. This is one of Norfolk’s most important Bronze Age sites and of national importance

While there was a great deal of easy going trackway, I had to contend with quite few miles of road walking. This had already begun to cause me problems with my feet, but I will write about that issue another day.

Crossing the River Nar on the Peddars Way. The trail is well marked but I was still pleased to have both map and trail guide with me

Three Points of the Compass crossing the River Nar on the Peddars Way. The trail is well marked but I was still pleased to have both map and trail guide with me

Is the Peddars Way worth doing? Absolutely. However I would add that it is essential to also complete the Norfolk Coast Path in order to gain the contrast. My next post will cover that section of the trail.

Walking the Peddars Way

Another piece in the Greater Ridgeway jigsaw completed…

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

 

Right from the outset let me say that there is no such thing as the perfect tent peg, or stake as many prefer to call them, or even ‘sardine’, a name for which I have an inordinate fondness. What there is, is a good peg for specific circumstances. It is better to hammer a decent pin into rocky solid ground than a Y or V profile peg or similar. However the latter type peg is going to provide a far better fix in soft or sandy ground. A Ti shepherds hook will do nothing in soft snow but burying a bag of snow or a stray branch with the guy tied round it will provide an incredibly efficient anchor. All that said, lets have a look at just a handful of the options available when it comes to selecting pegs or stakes to suit a tent or tarp and associated ground conditions.

Alpkit

Nottingham based, and apparently ‘fuelled by doughnuts’, UK firm Alpkit have been designing, sourcing and manufacturing good quality, well priced gear since 2004. Their titanium V peg is a well thought out design and is an easy hop into saving a few grams in tent weight. I have used them in most types of ground, I found that they were just about perfect for the dry, sandy Brecklands of East Anglia.

Alpkit pegs can bend with ease if used in unsuitable ground

Alpkit pegs can bend with ease if used in unsuitable ground

However I have probably relied on these too much and often attempted to use them in unsuitable ground conditions. It is almost certainly this reason, and my fault, that I have bent so many over the years. The large, brightly coloured cord loop is not only almost essential to pull a peg out, but also enables the grey muted colour peg to be found in the undergrowth. Every peg has its problem, and I feel that the holes in the sides are part of the problem with these pegs. Over the years and following unfair abuse, you will begin to notice that too many are starting to show bends, buckles and curves in various places along their length. This is a problem that manifests itself with many pegs that utilise holes in their length. To my mind, while this is a potential weight saving device, it is too much to the detriment of the strength of a peg and is usually an undesirable feature.

Alpkit

Alpkit peg has cut out holes to reduce weight. These same holes can make a peg prove problematic to withdraw from ground that has frozen on occasion

The basic peg, shown above, is in a simple V configuration. This bent piece of titanium provides a good strong profile and the media saves the weight. Weight is also saved by the ten cut out holes in the shank, five on each side. I am told that this design provides more than a weight saving in winter as snow (ice) will apparently freeze in the holes providing increased grip strength. Unfortunately this can be at the expense of gripping a peg more tightly when you wish to retrieve it. If so, just remember to tap each peg into the ground a little further to release the grip before attempting to draw it out.

Alpkit

If subjected to an excess of force when driving into the ground, just about any peg will bend at the weaker points. The Alpkit peg is no different. Both on the main shank where weight saving holes are punched, but also at the cut out near the head of the peg

Alpkit

The cut out near the head is possibly a little to aggressively cut and this has created a problem that should not be there

Even though the damage shown in some of the images here is a little (OK, a lot) excessive and unwelcome. It really is as a result of hard usage. But not what you want to experience on a longer hike. If this is a style of peg you like, yet possibly want a stronger variant, then the aluminium DAC J-stakes (or North Face J-Stakes et al) may meet your needs. These measure some 165mm and weigh 10g each. The extra strength is gained partly by avoiding the hole cut outs in the body of the stake. Again, the cordage loop in the top aids considerably in retrieving the peg from hard or frozen ground.

Alpkit

Alpkit have not just sat back, they have continued to consider and implement improvements to the pegs they sell. Decently priced, their products are definitely worth consideration not only by people watching their expenditure on an item that can easily be lost or damaged in the field, but also by those looking for decent savings in overall weight carried.

 

Hilleberg Viper

This is a hardened aluminium tent peg sold by Hilleberg with their Kerlon 1200 tents or as an optional accessory. The V profile, or perhaps more properly, a half-round U, lends itself best to soft to somewhat firm ground however I have found that they do not last over time. I think it a little surprising that Hilleberg actually sold this peg as they simply do not meet the exacting and high standard of the tents themselves. Hilleberg believe in quality and recognise that their high end, expensive products may be used far beyond a base camp site. They have been supplying products for some of the toughest expeditions for decades however these pegs somehow slipped through the net. Lightweight, yes. Adequate for a decent site, again yes. Take ’em into a tougher region and you are (were) asking for  trouble.

Pegs can bend in to an irretrievable shape if used unsympathetically

Pegs can bend in to an irretrievable shape if used unsympathetically

While I have found these perfectly serviceable in some peaty grounds in Scotland, other pitches in the same country, with stony ground lying beneath a shallow soil covering have proved too much for these pegs and I have destroyed a number of them as a result. It takes little below ground to force them out of shape. The supplied loop in the top of each peg is a necessity as once in, they hang onto the ground well.

Hilleberg

Hilleberg

Hilleberg Viper has a decent bi-coloured cord loop to aid removal

 

Hilleberg Pro peg

Hilleberg

Hilleberg. Note how the red in the bi-coloured cord fades with age and requiring possible replacement

Hilleberg Stinger pin

Stinger Titanium. One of  the newer school of Hilleberg pegs that have replaced the Pro-peg

These earlier aluminium pegs, with aluminium heads, have thankfully been upgraded by Hilleberg to their Stinger Titanium (shown on the right) . It was the type shown that came with my Hilleberg however the earlier pins simply weren’t robust enough and despite their generous 9mm diameter will banana out of shape with ridiculous ease.

Hilleberg

Hilleberg Pro peg. Bends with little persuasion

But, in good ground, often found on organised camp sites, these pegs gave me many years of service until the great majority succumbed as that on the left did. I have never had any issue with the caps coming adrift, and the cord loops, though faded from light exposure, are still there and doing their job

The newer pegs from Hilleberg are better but I feel the alternatives from other suppliers are superior. Rather than upgrade to other Hilleberg pegs I have continued to use the old ‘uns supplemented by pegs from other manufacturers. A couple of which are discussed below.

 

Hilleberg square pin

Hilleberg

Hilleberg square peg

These small and lightweight pegs have very often found their way into my peg bag over the years. Despite faults in design and being a bit short for really good purchase, they are a lovely little product. Their shorter length and lightweight have made these an excellent addition to a peg bag to be pulled out for shallow soils with an underlying grit.

Hilleberg

I am not too keen on those square edges when being used with guys

Hilleberg

Chisel point drives into ground well

Together with the Viper pegs, these square solid aluminium pegs were sold by Hilleberg to accompany their Kerlon 1200 tents. Designed to be hammered into hard ground they are surprisingly strong and resistant to bending out of shape. Supplied with an integrated loop at the top to aid removal I still find myself using these pegs on occasion. They are great for the metal rings found on the Hilleberg tents but I am wary of using these on guys as I feel the hard corners of the square pegs will fray a guy over time. Possibly I am a  little over cautious, but that is my prerogative. These are quite similar to the MSR Needle stakes that used to be available but now seem to be unobtainable. There may be other versions that you can find, but I would not like to attest to their quality.

 

Clamcleats Y

Clamcleats

Clamcleats

Clamcleats

Bent, bent, bent

These bright blue aluminium alloy CL622 pegs are a favourite of many. They come at a reasonable cost and are a good lightweight solution. I have used them for years and will continue to do so on occasion. They are a useful all-rounder, often being effective in hard as well as softer ground, though I have had these bend with ease on tree roots in the New Forest. Strike a piece of flint in the chalky ground of southern and eastern England and the peg is wrecked. The anodised colouring to the aluminium alloy peg shows up well if lost temporarily in long grass or leafy foliage. The red pull loop further aids visibility. While ‘reasonably’ robust, they will bend if not used with care. Buy a dozen and change out those that get knackered over time. But I would prefer something a little more sturdy for longer trips. That said, these have given me good anchorage for weeks on end in the Lake District, proving very suited to the mostly good soils of that region.

Each Y profile peg is 190mm long and while Clamcleats advertise these as being both 13g and 16g [each] on the same website, on my scales, pegs are just a shade under 14g. This ensures that a bunch of these is both acceptable and wont break the bank.

Clamcleats

Clamcleats- a simple yet reasonably cheap and effective peg

 

Clamcleats Tornado

Titanium CL620 wide V profile peg that is especially suited to soft ground, including snow. The titanium construction means that it can also be hammered into pretty hard ground too but the large surface means that any below ground obstacle is going to prove problematic.

Tornado

Clamcleats Tornado

The dull grey of titanium can be difficult to find on the ground, getting lost in the surface covering, to this end, the red pull cord is a boon, don’t lose it or you will lose the peg.

Tornado

Clamcleats Tornado

Tornado and Alpkit

Tornado and Alpkit side by side. Despite being only five grams heavier, the Clamcleat offering is almost 50% wider in profile

These are not the longest of pegs but their wide V profile will provide a very good resistance to being pulled out. They look the type of simple product that any number of manufacturers would be churning out, but for some reason they are not. If you frequently pitch your shelter on soft ground, either sandy, friable  or waterlogged, one need look little further than this Clamcleat product. In the past these have seldom made their way into my peg bag. I am usually looking for pegs of greater length and more suitability for a variety of ground types. Particularly in winter, if I do need a wider profile peg, I would usually have an MSR Blizzard stake to hand to pull into use. Though possibly only at the windward end of the tent. If so, it could prove difficult to utilise the dual purpose that these pegs offer.

 

MSR Groundhog and Groundhog mini

MSR Groundhog

MSR Groundhog

While shorter pegs of around six inches will suffice for much of the time, it is also advisable to have at least a couple of longer pegs for use with ridgelines, really soft ground or when wind gusts etc are going to place increased or tugging strain on the peg. Shorter pegs can work loose in the middle of the night. What do you prefer- the additional weight of a few grams or getting up to replace errant pegs? I know which my preference is. 

MSR Groundhog

MSR Groundhog, deep notches cut beneath head, no signs of weakness at this point yet.

The MSR Groundhog and  Groundhog mini are the most popular stakes produced by MSR. The red anodised 7000-series aluminium of both the large and smaller cousins means they show up well if sent flying by a gust of wind. Though it would take a hell of a wind to pull these free. Both sizes of Groundhog come as standard with MSR’s range of tents. It is good to see a mainstream manufacturer actually supplying a decent set of pegs that don’t need to be swapped out almost immediately. These are a slightly beefed up and better thought out, if more expensive, version of the Clamcleats Y offering shown above.

If you are looking for an MSR stake specifically for loose, unconsolidated ground, then MSR’s twisted Cyclone stake may be the answer. At any rate, the additional length of the Cyclone stakes will prove advantageous. However, there are many that may feel the standard MSR Groundhog more than they actually require and may look to shave off a few grams by taking a set of the smaller MSR Groundhog mini

MSR Groundhog Mini

MSR Groundhog Mini above, larger Groundhog below

MSR Groundhog Mini

MSR Groundhog Mini, the curve to the vanes on both the mini and the full size peg are apparent, the purpose less so

One last point re these popular and efficient pegs. Beware the cheaper, substandard copied that are available. Though I have never knowingly encountered such an item myself, reading the forums, it would appear that many of the complaints regarding heads shearing or easily bending stakes, despite yielding soils, can be put down to the fake versions on the market.

 

MSR blizzard stake– dual use

This concave profiled peg is often carried by hikers looking for dual purpose, though I will come to the second later.

If you can accept the extra 32.4g weight these are a useful carry for a thru hiker. Every now and then you can come across a flooded meadow, soft sand or snow packed surface where, possibly with the additional complication of strong or gusting wind, any other peg you carry just wont cut it. Being pulled out either with ease or when most inconvenient (read: small hours of the morning in torrential rain or whiteout). The facility to use a blizzard stake on the windward side can be a boon. The 7000 series aluminium pegs are drilled along their length. Because of the greater bulk and integral strength of the Blizzard stake, unlike with smaller pegs, these save a little weight and have little effect on strength (it would really take something to bend one of these beasts), more useful is the potential to attach a guy to the mid-way point and bury it in sand or snow as a dead anchor.

MSR Blizzard stake

MSR Blizzard stake

Easily the longest peg I have looked at in this blog, the extra length is only a positive but will mean that it has to usually be stored separate from the other pegs. You may feel that the size of this monster peg is overkill, after all, you can often find a length of branch or similar, even use a walking pole or filled stuff sack, to achieve the same anchoring effect- if using as a dead anchor

MSR Blizzard stake

MSR Blizzard stake

And what of its other use? This peg functions very well as a toilet trowel, don’t leave home without one.

 

Clamcleats Spear Titanium tent peg

Vargo Titanium Nail

Clamcleats Titanium Nail

Vargo Titanium Nail

Clamcleats titanium spear

Vargo Titanium Nail

The clamcleats spear has a good point to it that aids greatly in forcing it into the ground. Just be sure to prevent it poking a hole in your pack or shelter

Titanium nails or ‘spears’ as Clamcleats likes to call them, are available from a number of manufacturers. The 6″ nail from Vargo has a large and appreciative following. Vargo also make a lighter weight of this peg. Both of those Vargo offerings are 152mm long, the standard peg is 5mm in diameter and weighs 14g, the ‘ultralight’ is 4mm diameter and weighs a paltry 8g. I think Clamcleats variant more useful having the longer 200mm length to be driven further into the ground, a 5mm diameter and still only weighs just under 18g each.

Vargo and Hilleberg nails

Clamcleats and Hilleberg nails

It is always advisable to carry one or two thinner titanium pins, if only when there is the need to make a pilot hole or test the ground before putting in a wider peg. 

You will find any number of YouTube films showing these and similar nails being hammered into wood pallets etc. How much a length of 2″ x 4″ is actually mimicking true ground conditions I shall leave you to decide. However few lightweight hikers are going to be carrying any form of hammer/mallet. Instead, you will need to find a handy piece of rock or something else to pound them in. The narrow head is too slim for pushing in with the sole of a trail shoe. I have even poked a hole through the bottom of an earlier incarnation of the Cascadia running shoes in the past. Something to bear in mind.

 

Easton Mountain Products Full Metal Jacket stakes

The Easton company was founded by Doug Easton in 1922 when he began producing wooden bows and arrows. When they decided to start producing tent pegs they probably thought it was a simple sideways step to make. After all, what is a tent peg if it is not an arrow head with a cap? Um, no… it is an entirely different product that undergoes very different circumstances and stresses. It took a few years for Easton to refine their product with a few, frankly sub-standard, pegs along the way. But they retained their reputation and instead of dropping out of the market, credit to them, have now largely exceeded what other manufacturers are producing.

If you are paying a lot of money for your shelter, possibly a product made of cuben or from a cottage industry supplier, then you may feel that extra expense can be justified for what is going to hold it to the ground effectively. If so, then a serious look at the Easton products is in order.

Easton FMJ

Easton Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

An earlier version of tent peg from Easton were blue with a cap that many found a little loose with a tendency to come off. Not something you want to happen when it is stuck in frozen ground and you are attempting to extricate it. If you find these on offer, probably best to avoid unless you want to cart epoxy glue around with you too. They replaced these with a 7075-T9 aluminium 6” nano stake, or you could have one of the two longer lengths- (6”/yellow cap, 8.5”/blue cap, 12”/red cap). The newer stakes had a better anchored cap. Or if you really wanted to be sneaky beaky stealthy, you could search out the 8” black shafted military variant. Though why anyone in the military required a stake that had an inconspicuous black part that was buried below the ground and a lovely shiny silver cap above ground, is anyone’s guess. Again, all of these had a hole drilled through which a loop could be passed to enable them to be pulled out, if not with ease, certainly more easily than without.

Easton FMJ

Design extends to cut outs on the cap to lessen any fraying of the attached loop

Excellent as these were, their updated version, in just the one length to date- 6”, is truly amazing. The Easton Full Metal Jacket (FMJs) are probably at the pinnacle of tent peg design. A 7075 aluminium shaft (jacket) filled with carbon fibre. Cap and point are aluminium alloy. Caps are held on well and I have not heard of any issues with them coming adrift, certainly mine have yet to exhibit any problems.

 

Easton FMJ

Rounded tip

Not only this, but the pegs look the business too. If something of such utilitarian purpose can ever be described as an object of beauty, this is it!

Each peg weighs an incredible 5.5g. They are very strong. I have not had mine long enough to experience any problem of cracking, shaft bending or points splitting or bending. I do wonder if the core could shatter or crack with time. Certainly I would be very wary of any sideways tapping of the peg to loosen in frozen ground. As usual, driving in a bit further to break the grip and loosen before pulling out is always the better solution anyway.

With regard to the, frankly extreme, cost of these pegs, there is simply no way that this can be considered unless it can be justified. This is for the individual to decide upon. The only way to justify that cost is by their effectiveness and if you can afford to lose any. They are light, stupid light. But more important than that is if they do their job. They are only six inches long and do not offer much in the way of thickness to resist pulling through softer ground. But that is not what they are for. If you want to carry a couple, or even a half dozen pins for when you need to pound into hard ground and you want something that is going to take such punishment. Then the FMJ is a serious contender. Certainly they are an excellent compromise between length, strength, thickness, reliability and weight, if not cost. You pays your money…

Personally, I decided that despite the cost and excess weight penalty, four or more of these can find their way into my peg bag on a regular basis. I do hope that Easton eventually produces a longer version of the FMJ, possibly eight or nine inches would be pretty much the ideal.

 

Ti shepherds hooks, long and short

Heads of shepherds crooks come in a variety of forms. Some are more suited to a downward force for putting pegs in, others are more resistant to the guy slipping off while some are easiier to hok a finger under to remove them from the ground

Heads of shepherds crooks come in a variety of forms. Some are more suited to a downward force for putting pegs in, others are more resistant to the guy slipping off while some are easier to hook a finger under to remove them from the ground

Shepherds Hooks, or Crooks, so called because of the shape of their head, are a stalwart of the peg bag. They come in any variety of head shapes, lengths and ’roundwire pegs’ are often provided as a cheap alloy peg from mainstream tent manufacturers with their products.

Invariably the best thing to do with these supplied pegs is to put them in the nearest bin as they are too soft, will bend with ease and are close to useless. It is not at all difficult to source well-made shepherds hooks, preferably made of titanium. Thickness varies too, anything from a minuscule 2mm, through the popular 3mm to the less frequently encountered 4mm. There will no doubt be a correlation between how the strength, or more importantly, resistance to bending, increases between thickness. I would be interested to see how much of an increase it is.

Shepherds crooks

Shepherds crooks

Heat shrink sleeving on head of shepherds crook

Heat shrink sleeving on head of shepherds crook

These pegs are so thin that they are incredibly easy to lose in the undergrowth. Their muted colour means that if they go flying off the end of a guy in the wind in the middle of the night, you are going to be unlikely to find them again.

If the head twists and the guy slips off, then there is even less left visible to relocate. Some like to dip the heads in a bright paint but this can chip with the peg flexing unless paint of some ‘rubberised’ variety is used. I have found a bit of heat shrinkable sleeving a better option.

It is questionable which type of shaped head is most effective for driving a peg into the ground, though anything is preferable to a simply 'snipped off' profile

It is questionable which type of shaped head is most effective for driving a peg into the ground, though anything is preferable to a simply ‘snipped off straight’ profile

Shepherds hook wires are an ideal way of ‘helping out’ a large peg. Some stakes, such as the Alpkit example above have holes in their length through which you can pass a shepherds crook at an angle of some 60-90 degrees to the other peg, providing a much firmer anchor.

The shortest variants of these pegs are probably not worth including in a peg bag unless just for use when holding back a door or for holding up a drying line of similar, there simply isn’t usually enough below ground resistance and holding power supplied from a 4″ (101mm) long peg of only 1/8″ (3mm) thickness.

 

Titanium Sidewinder Stove peg

Cascade Designs titanium peg

Cascade Designs titanium peg for use with Sidewinder Stove

Side winder stove In wood burning configuration

Sidewinder stove with two titanium stakes used to support pan when in wood burning configuration

Titanium Shepherds hook inserted into Sidwinder stove, two of these pegs are required

Titanium Shepherds hook inserted into Sidewinder stove, two of these pegs are required

It is worth noting that if I am out for multi-days and am using my favoured alcohol stove then I will frequently be carrying an additional two pegs as part of this kit. These are the 160mm titanium pegs used with the Cascade Designs Sidewinder stove to support the pot. Of course they need not be confined to this use and can just as easily be used either to hold a guy, or be pushed in as additional secondary help to a primary peg in times of high winds etc. The two pegs, and two have to be used with the stove,  weigh 12.5g together. For planning purposes, I include the weight of these in with my overall cook kit rather than shelter weight.

 

Plastic and wooden pegs

Plastic pegs will shatter in very cold conditions or if given much in the way of sideways force when in the ground. Kick one of these to free it off in frozen ground, or even trip over it in the middle of the night, and you will live to regret it. Wooden pegs are far too heavy and bulky to consider carting around with you but are surprisingly efficient. Their use for decades by various circuses and with marquees is testament to that fact. However you are much more likely to see heavy steel pins or angle iron being driven into the ground these days. If you have a decent knife with you and the materials are there to be used, there is always the option of whittling a tent peg from a piece of wood if you find yourself short due to one or more being lost in the heather having gone flying off into the undergrowth never to be seen again. On that note, one tip is put a mini karabiner through the hole on a peg and attach to the guy. If it gets pulled out in the night in high winds and the peg is sent flying, it remains attached to the guy.

As alluded to above, another word of warning if buying online. Beware of cheap ‘knock-offs’ purporting to be a well known brand. Most of these will look very much like the real thing but will not perform when put to stress. Just because a manufacturers name appears on the side, does not mean that it hasn’t been counterfeited, caveat emptor!

If push comes to shove, in an emergency another option may be to dismantle a walking pole into separate sections and use these, pushed into the ground, as tent anchors. However, being hollow, the lengths will fill up with earth. Also, don’t forget your toilet trowel if you have one, this is a ready made stake for soft ground.

Peg Profile Length Width Weight Material Pull: Y/N
MSR Blizzard stake  ( 246mm 29mm 32.4g  Aluminium N
MSR Groundhog  Vaned Y 191mm 13mm 14.3g  Aluminium Y
MSR Mini Groundhog  Vaned Y 150mm 9.5mm 10.2g  Aluminium Y
Clamcleats  Y 190mm 13mm 13.6g  Aluminium Y
Alpkit  V 160mm 14.5mm 12.8g Titanium Y
Clamcleats Tornado  V 163mm 19mm 17.5mm Titanium Y
Hilleberg Viper  V 154mm 13mm 10.4g Aluminium Y
Hilleberg Pro peg  O 200mm 9mm 17.3g  Aluminium Y
Hilleberg square pin  ̻̻̻̻□ 160mm 4mm 10g  Aluminium Y
Clamcleats Spear  O 200mm 5mm 17.7g Titanium Y
Easton nail  O 153mm 7mm 5.5g Titanium/ carbon N- later added by myself
Shepherds crook  O 163mm 3.5mm 6.7g Titanium shrink covering to head
Shepherds crook  O 151mm 3mm 6g Titanium shrink covering to head
Shepherds crook  O 101mm 3mm 3.9g Titanium shrink covering to head
Cascade Designs  O 160mm 3mm 5.5g Titanium N

 

Peg bags

Peg bags

Most peg bags are a classic case of weighty overkill

 

Why carry a peg bag…

As an ideal example of where fairly simple savings in weight can be made, the peg, or stake, is perfect. It is by looking, occasionally, at those items that sneak into the pack on a regular basis, ‘because they always have’ , and looking for weight saving advantage while still retaining functionality, that a few grams here, a few grams there can be knocked off.

Peg bags should be considered as a necessity not only to keep all the pegs together, but also to stop them spreading mud, dirt and grit around the tent or pack and its contents when packed. Care should also be taken when packing a tent to ensure that pegs do not poke a hole through expensive side walls. A peg bag need not be heavy, condura for example is an incredibly strong material resistant to puncturing but is far too heavy to consider. Even a plastic zip lock bag can be perfectly up to the job if necessary.

The peg bag shown below came from Lightwave. Made of cuben fibre with a toughened ripstop dyneema bottom and lightweight pull cord closure, it weighs just 1g, yet will easily hold an assortment of any of those pegs above with the exception of the Blizzard peg which is too long.

Lightning peg bag

Cuben fibre Lightning peg bag. Weighing 1g, it measures 223mm x 70mm

A final note on peg bags- you may like to consider shoving in a pair of surgical or nitrile gloves. Weighing very little, these are useful when extracting pegs in the morning, keeping mud and cold from the fingers that can take some time to warm up once chilled.

In conclusion-

So, what is the perfect peg? As I said at the beginning, there is no such thing. What is needed is a selection of the best quality pegs you can afford, or afford to lose. Remembering that the handful of grams saved here could either be foolish loss, providing ineffective anchors when you need them most, or, just as easily saved by reducing weight elsewhere in the pack. Obviously the number of pegs required will depend on the tie out points and guys that your shelter is provisioned with. On occasion, if taking one of my old Hilleberg tunnel tents out, which have a multitude of peg down points. I need to carry six rather than four of my now default Easton FMJs and an additional handful of Y pegs, either MSR or Clamcleats.

As I have stated before. The idea is to replace backpacking gear with more efficient and lighter options as and when you can. Pegs are simply one place where progress can be made. My refined peg bag weighs 110g, which may be high for many other hikers but suits my needs.

10 pegs

Peg provision for a basic shelter. The number of Easton FMJs are increased as required

For most hikes, Three Points of the Compass now has a peg bag that contains a variety of pegs. It is quite likely that this may be refined further in the future, or altered according to tent, trip, terrain or season.

However the contents as they are allow for a variety of conditions on any hike but particularly for longer hikes over a variation of terrain. The default stakes are the terrific Easton Nails to which I added bright red pull cords. The four in this set up are simply added to as required if a different shelter is carried.

However there are occasions where something slightly longer is required or there is a need to really pound into hard and rocky ground, that is where the two titanium spears really come into play. Accepting that none of these are fantastically efficient in softer, more yielding ground, I have included a couple of wider anchors. Also, for the occasion where it is difficult to work one of the pins through rocky ground, one of the two titanium shepherds crooks can often be wiggled through between the grit and the stones and can prove useful. Alternatively these can be used for additional guys or tie points. This selection can be supplemented with the two titanium pegs included with the cook kit or even the toilet trowel.