Bookcases

I have this thing.

I believe less stuff = greater happiness. Stuff weighs you down.

We live in a small house and enjoy the fact that it forces us to keep on top of stuff. If we get new stuff, we’re forced to get rid of old stuff. We’re trying to empty one room completely (not there yet, maybe 40% there) so it’s a place for exercising and the more we remove the more peaceful the room becomes.

I love digital. Digital’s great. It sits in a cloud somewhere not being cluttery.

But I can’t get a grip on bookcases.

Every so often I attack them, attempt to remove anything that isn’t a book, energetically wave a duster around. But immediately, magically, they revert to pigeon holes of chaos. Housing books, and comics, and leaflets, old glasses, hand-knitted mittens and hats, photographs, cassettes, candles, strange ornaments, empty packaging…

I think I need to accept the bookcases. I’m never going to be someone who has tidy bookcases.

Paramo Ladies’ Andina Jacket Review

I’ve had a Paramo Ladies’ Velez Adventure Light Smock waterproof jacket for many years and it’s terrific. Even in the worst of heavy downpours it’s never failed and, after many winters, it still looks like new. My main, rather major, problem is that I overheat in it. The smock doesn’t have a full length zip or sleeve vents. So unless there’s ice on the ground it stays on the coat hook.

So I’ve taken the plunge and bought a Paramo Ladies’ Andina Jacket to replace the smock. The Andina is designed for walkers and backpackers with “demanding levels of activity”. It isn’t Paramo’s lightest waterproof jacket (that’s currently the Mirada) but it does have a map pocket and mesh-lined shoulders and back (for when you’re wearing a rucksack) which the Mirada doesn’t have.

Here’s Paramo’s video about the Andina…

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Colour:

I have the lavendar/cobalt version which, in my opinion, is the only decent colour it comes in. The Andina also comes in pink/purple, bright red, or er… another red. Luckily “lavender/cobalt” is just light/dark blue. Due to the nature of Paramo fabrics and the bright colour the Andina in blue is a bit ‘shell suitey’, but only a bit.

Size:

The Velez in Large is generous on me but in the Andina it fits perfectly with room for a medium weight insulation layer underneath. (I usually wear a UK size 12 or 14.)

Weight:

The Andina in L weighs 675g on my scales. (My smock weighs 615g.) So this isn’t a light jacket. However it feels robust and if I don’t have to take my jacket off then I don’t mind it weighing a bit more which brings us to…

Breathability:

Recently I hiked up and down Offa’s Dyke with a 10kg backpack in typical autumn weather, hot sun one minute and cold wind/rain the next. Everyone I met had been playing jacket-off-jacket-on all day and yet I hadn’t felt so hot I had to take off my Andina. When it got too hot I unzipped the front and generous sleeve/torso zips. When I reached the windy top, in cloud and rain, I zipped everything up.

The breathability of fabrics is something clothing manufacturers like to go on about and I do believe in the technology, to a point. There’s nothing more breathable than an open zip which is where the Andina excels compared to the Velez.

Comfort:

One of the benefits of paramo jackets is that the waterproof fabric is soft and quiet. It’s also windproof and, obviously, waterproof. Plus, in the case of the Andina especially, the jacket and hood are well designed for comfort even during activity. The Andina doesn’t hinder movement at all, is nice and long at the back, and has a well fitted hood with extra room in case you have long hair. Additionally it has practical pockets. Although the ‘valuables’ pocket is too small for my smart phone that fits in the map pocket and the 2 hand warming pockets are perfect for hands (or dog biscuits and keys). I’m so comfortable wearing this jacket that I’ve worn it pretty much every day since I got it.

Waterproofness:

I got the chance to test the Andina’s waterproofness in the Chilterns last weekend when autumn threw everything she had at us and I stayed warm and dry. Now, the caveat is that this is a brand new jacket. The DWR coating is new and still working as it should. Paramo jackets need regular washing and reproofing (like any waterproof) so only time will tell if this jacket is as waterproof as my Velez. I’ll update this post with how it performs over time.

Feature list:

  • Uniquely shaped hood to accomodate hair comfortably, fully adjustable with wired peak to protect vision.
  • Large sleeve/torso vents for rapid on-the-move cooling with minimal rain ingress.
  • Fully articulated shoulders and elbows for maximum freedom of movement.
  • Pump Liner reinforcement on shoulders and back for extra protection when load carrying or in heavy rain.
  • Reflective strip (front and back) for improved visibility.
  • Internal secure zipped pocket.
  • Internal map pocket.
  • Two hand-warming pockets, easily accessible during activity.
  • Two-way zip with internal storm flap.
  • Long sleeves for protection with cuffs that are easily pushed or rolled up.
  • Generous length with scooped tail to protect lower back.
  • Hem drawcord for easy temperature control.

Suunto Core Classic Watch Review

I bought my first outdoor watch a few months ago and Deskbound Girevik asked me to write a review so here it is!

This is the Suunto Core Classic Watch in ‘all black’.

Suunto-Core-All-Black-504

Functions:

  •  Time
    • Day and Date
    • Alarm
    • Time in another time zone
    • Sunrise/Sunset times
    • Stopwatch
    • Timer
  • Barometer
  • Temperature
  • Storm Warning Alarm
  • Altimeter
  • Compass
  • Depth Meter for Snorkeling

I bought this watch for hiking. In particular I thought the altimeter, sunrise and sunset times, and storm warning alarm would be useful.

It turns out the compass is useful too. On a recent trip to the New Forest I used it, along with a map, to navigate to the pub off piste through the woods. Worked like a dream. Even got me back again after a pint of cider.

The temperature reading is fun. I tend to check it a lot and inform people how hot/cold it is, I’m sure they’re interested. On a cold morning in the tent it’s a good indication of madness.

Last weekend I used the alarm and it was discrete and yet woke me up. I don’t like too loud an alarm when I’m camping near other people as I like to get up early and don’t want to disturb others.

The controls and menu are intuitive and easy to navigate. One of the Suunto Core’s best features in my opinion.

The second best feature is that, despite its size, the watch is very comfortable to wear. It’s light and has a low profile. It’s something I wear often, even when I’m not hiking, so that’s a good indication of how wearable it is as I rarely wear jewellery.

It is possible to change the battery yourself on this new version. (I think this was a problem on previous models.)

All in all, a useful piece of kit and I’m very glad I got it.

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Summer on the Ridgeway

[This post was originally written for and published in The Backpackers Club magazine. It’s a write-up of the backpacking meet I arranged for the club this summer along the Ridgeway from the Court Hill Centre to Britchcombe Farm.]

Ten people turned up to the Court Hill Centre near Wantage, Oxfordshire on Friday night for our Ridgeway weekend. It’s a great site as it commands fine views across the countryside and feels like a wild pitch with facilities. Keith the manager made everyone very welcome and is a font of local knowledge. We watched a beautiful sunset and then headed to our tents with some trepidation considering the weather forecast for heavy rain and thunderstorms overnight. Clive and Nev saw lightning on the horizon but we couldn’t hear the thunder and despite the ominous forecast we had a peaceful night.

Watching the sunset at the Court Hill Centre.

We took the Nemo Meta 2P. A great warm weather 2-person tarp/tent.

In the morning David, Howard, and Glenn headed home by bicycle and car and the rest of us walked west to Uffington along the ancient road. Despite the humidity and occasional rain shower the views were long across the downs. There are some interesting features on the way and we explored the earthwork remains of Letcombe Castle and the naturally carved landscape feature, the Devil’s Punchbowl, now open access land. Frank and Sean turned North to investigate the local pubs, Clive headed off to visit Waylands Smithy (a neolithic long barrow), and the rest of us made a beeline for cream teas at Britchcombe Farm.

As we relaxed by our tents during the hottest part of the afternoon we watched one storm pass over Dragon Hill to our left and across the valley. Then a second storm came over Uffington Wood to our right. As the third black cloud came over the crest of Uffington Castle behind us we thought we’d better not push our luck and headed back to the tea room for ice creams.

We met Tony, Lynette, and Lisa there who’d just arrived and were checking in. Just after Lisa went off to pitch her tent we had an almightily hailstorm. The rest of us sat in the tea room watching hailstones bounce off the flooded cobblestones and ate ice creams, cream teas, and drank coffee. Some concerns were raised when we realised the farmhouse back-wall was leaking rain water but mostly though, of course, we were worried about Lisa, Chris, Frank, and Sean who were out in the storm!

One of a number of storm clouds that skirted us while we lazed at the campsite.

Hailstones

When it passed and the sun returned we left the tea room to find Lisa safely tucked up in her tent and Sean and Frank arriving in full wet-weather gear. They’d found two pubs, local ale, good chips, a ploughed footpath, the hailstorm, and a bull! Chris and his dogs arrived too after a long walk and we all settled in for the long summer’s evening, enjoying some real ales brought by Lisa (thanks Lisa!), the warm weather, and good company.

View of Britchcombe Farm from Dragon Hill.

Sunday morning we climbed Dragon Hill behind the farm, visited the earthwork remains of Uffington Castle, and saw the White Horse, a carved chalk figure in the hillside that dates from about the same age as the Iron Age hill fort. Then Frank and Lisa went west for a long walk back to Court Hill Centre, Chris did another long walk back, while the rest of us headed straight east. The humidity was high and the Ridgeway was covered in very hot, tired people coming the other way on the 100 Km “Race to the Stones” event. I’m not sure all of them appreciated our sense of humour.

With the hot sunshine, still air, and high humidity we were very grateful for the well-maintained water tap half-way between the two sites. The best refreshments though were the bacon sarnies, chips, and cold drinks waiting for us at the Court Hill Centre tea room when we arrived back.

Thanks very much to everyone who came along and made it such a fun, memorable weekend.

Waterproof document bags and phone screens don’t mix!

Super quick post.

I use a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone as a GPS as it has a nice big screen. To keep it dry I bought an Ortlieb A5 waterproof document bag to keep it in.

Recently the phone became difficult to remove from the bag. The screen stuck to the plastic and, after a few struggles, I gave up keeping it in the case. Afterwards I noticed that the screen was unusually dirty but thought nothing of it, just developed the habit of frequently cleaning the phone with a soft cloth. However, after a few weeks, I took a closer look and noticed something weird.

There are permanent marks on the screen which are only visible when the screen’s dirty. They look like regular greasy patches but after a clean they reappear, identically, as soon as I touch the screen. In sunlight they make the screen very difficult to see.

A google search revealed that smartphone screens (including Samsung’s) have an oleophobic coating that’s lipophobic and hydrophobic. i.e. It repels fingerprints. These coatings can become damaged and it sounds like this is what’s happened to my phone. This kind of damage isn’t covered under warrantee but I’ve managed to save my phone. Cleaning the screen removed the marks and adding a screen protector covered up the damaged areas so they can’t get greasy and reappear. Phew!

Although I can’t be 100% sure that the document case caused the damage it’s the most likely explanation. Ortlieb don’t advertise this case as a phone cover or protector so the product can’t be blamed for what happened. I just want to let people know, probably best not to use these document cases as waterproof phone cases, just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Wild Country Zephyros 1 Musings

Following on from my rave review, subsequent pole failure, and adventure with Terra Nova customer services, I took my Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent away to Leicestershire for the weekend with the Backpackers Club. With some trepidation that it might not be as reliable or comfortable as I need a tent to be after a long hike.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve fallen in love with this tent all over again. It was reliable, comfortable, and I found a new feature!

We had a big rumble of thunder Friday night and then an almighty downpour for about 10 minutes. After that I can happily confirm my Zephyros is still absolutely watertight after 10 months of use.


Then I was reminded how cosy it is despite the small dimensions.

The inner is rectangular, about the size of a mattress, but there’s an additional triangle of space in the middle at the back. This space is large enough to store a significant amount of gear, including my rucksack, without feeling cramped. The inner sags a bit but not a great deal. The vents at the head and foot help keep it airy. The zip goes right the way down the side and can be opened up and rolled away leaving the whole porch accessible from the inner, an advantage over similar tents that have just a half sized door.

The porch initially looks small but there’s bags of storage space. A gap between the inner and outer at each end can be used for storage and the line that attaches the inner to the fly can be used as a washing line. This can all be easily accessed because the inner zip opens right up to the ends.


All this storage leaves the main porch clear, accentuating the spacious feel of this tent. All in all, rather than feeling cramped inside when the door’s zipped shut, it feels very homely.

And finally I discovered a new thing!

The Terra Nova Laser Competition, which this tent is a cheaper version of, has a neat feature where the ends of the fly can be raised for ventilation.


Now I’m not convinced the Zephyros is designed to do this, but you can vent the ends in a similar way. First unpeg the outer at each end, tuck it up inside, and attach the peg loop to the line between the inner & the outer. Ta da!


I just thought I’d try it after checking out some Laser Comps on the meet and was amazed when it worked. From inside you can see out through the head/foot vents in the inner which is neat. I’ve never had any condensation issues with the Zephyros but on a hot, still night this would be a bonus. Plus it’s useful in the morning to help everything dry off. I was so excited when I discovered it I ran around telling everyone. Sad but true.

So there you go. The Zephyros is back in my good books.

Terra Nova Customer Service

Eek. I write a glowing review for a product and almost immediately it fails to live up to my review. Shortly after writing about the Zephyros 1 I discovered a significant failure.

Unable to get a taut pitch as the pole wasn’t curving into a smooth shape, I found a significant bend in one section.

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Here I need to stress that the tent hasn’t been pitched in high winds or under extreme duress. However it has always been very hard to get the pole into both outer eyelets on either side of the tent and needs brute strength. The instructions say it’s normal for the pole to take a curve over time so I wrote to Terra Nova customer services to ask if what had happened was normal and if it might potentially rectify itself over time by the rest of the pole taking a similar shape and, if not, what my options were.

Then I waited.

After a week I contacted Terra Nova via Twitter to see if they’d received my email. This bump got me a reply. No, this wasn’t normal and they would replace the pole as a ‘goodwill gesture’ if the tent was still in warranty. This seems odd to me. Surely if the product has failed under warranty it’s not a goodwill gesture to replace it? But whatever. I posted the bent pole off to Terra Nova on the 27th and it was received on the 29th. 4 working days later I received an email saying they’d received it and would get back to me as soon as possible.

A week later and I still haven’t heard anything or received a replacement pole. Now the returns paperwork declares that repairs can take up to 8 weeks but this is just a replacement pole. They’re not actually having to repair anything. If they’re out of stock then I’d expect at least an email to let me know what’s happening.

This isn’t a case of the worst customer service on record but it IS off-putting. Before this I wouldn’t have hesitated in buying or recommending their products but now I’m having doubts. Certainly the Zephyros 1 Lite is off my wish-list for now.

Saga to be continued and I’ll update this blog post as more happens. At least I have another solo backpacking tent I can use this month! Anyone else had any experience, better or worse, with Terra Nova Customer Services? I’d be interested to know if this is normal for them or for tent manufacturers in general or if it’s just a singular occurrence.

 

Update Monday 16th June.

The day I posted this blog post (11th June) I received an “@” reply from a friend via Twitter that cc’d in Terra Nova. Without being asked directly, the next day (12th) the person managing the company’s Twitter account contacted their Customer Services department to chase up the replacement order. Then they came back to me to ask if Customer Services had contacted me. So I have to say, excellent service from Terra Nova’s Twitter account! Timely, proactive, and professional.

The subsequent email I received from Customer Services said “As discussed in our earlier emails although the damage is not covered by our 2 year guarantee” and that a replacement pole would be sent out “asap”. I wasn’t happy with either of these statements so wrote back saying that the cause of the damage hadn’t been discussed, it hadn’t been caused by misuse/neglect/accident, and that “asap” is not a timescale. I also specified that I wasn’t happy with the service I was receiving.

I don’t know if either of the following 2 actions prompted a same day response but I’ll include them here just in case. Firstly I told the person managing Terra Nova’s Twitter account that I’d received a reply from Customer Services but that my issues hadn’t been resolved yet. Secondly I attempted to copy in the Managing Director of Terra Nova, Andy Utting, by guessing his email address.

So the same day I received a response from Terra Nova which I’ll include here…

Thank you for your e-mail. We are sorry you are disappointed with our gesture of goodwill offer.

Unfortunately the guarantee is not against any sort of failure or general degradation of materials.  We only make judgments as to whether the particular problem emanates from an original defect in materials or workmanship.

After inspecting your returned pole although we are unable to confirm how, we do conclude in our experience that at some point the pole has been bent at 2 sections due to some kind of external force/duress, this would have been quite strong to bend the sections.

However we have arranged to replace the pole at no cost as a gesture of goodwill.

and the replacement pole should be despatched today, at the latest tomorrow.

We will check this and confirm exactly for you.

If you are concerned about the tent, although we are not aware of a problem with this model you can return the tent to us for full inspection and we could pitch and check the tent in more detail for you.

Following this email I then received a follow up email confirming that the replacement pole had been posted that day! It arrived 2 days later on the Saturday (14th June).

I’ve tested the new pole today, very carefully. Honestly I think the problem is that the pole is too long for the tent, i.e. that the tent has a fault. Undue pressure has to be put on the pole to get it into the eyelets and when pitched it looks like a tauter pitch could be achieved if the pole was bent at a shallower angle.

So I’ve taken it all down and it’s sitting on the table.

I know I should post it back to Terra Nova for them to investigate. If I continue to use it, the replacement pole might be damaged the way the last one was. However, I’m loath to spend more money on this tent. I’ve already paid for postage and packaging back to Terra Nova once. Alternatively I could try and fix it myself by somehow, perhaps by lengthening the tape that runs between the eyelets underneath the tent.

Honestly at this point I just want shot of the thing. It’s really hit home how important confidence is with tents. I’m due to go backpacking soon and this is the tent I would usually take but now I’m concerned it may fail.

One last thing. I’ve had a few people tell me their Terra Nova Customer Services stories. One person said he’s had nothing but good service. However three people told me at length of their experiences and how they wouldn’t buy another tent from Terra Nova because of how poor the aftercare was. One friend saying that he’d had excellent service from Hilleburg which is why he’s now their loyal customer.

Thanks for following my Terra nova Customer Services saga. If you’d like to share your experiences with them or any other manufacturers or have any comments please share them below.

 

 

My Backpacking Gear May 2014

I’ve written this blog post because… everyone else is doing it!

Osprey Exos 46 backpack.

Backpack:

I’m currently using an Osprey Exos 46 to carry my gear. The Exos has been updated this year and I picked up this, older version, in a sale. I actually prefer it as there’s plenty of room for all my gear and the newer version has a capacity of 48 litres rather than 46 and hence is heavier. The large number of outside pockets makes grabbing things on the run nice and easy. I keep my waterproofs, the tent, a drinks bottle, snacks, cash, and first kit all on the outside of my bag so that the gear I don’t use during the day is safely tucked away in a waterproof liner in the main compartment and doesn’t get disturbed.

It’s not the lightest backpack on the market (I have the “S” back size and it weighs just over 1Kg) but it does have a solid frame and is of the build quality you’d expect from a company like Osprey. Besides 1Kg is a very reasonable weight. (You’ll notice this is a running theme with my gear: not the lightest but still, reasonably light.) Osprey don’t make a women’s specific version of the Exos but I’ve found this unisex version very comfortable. Some people criticise Osprey for adding too many features which raise the weight unnecessarily. In the Exos I quite like the gimmicks. You can get a drinks bottle out of the side pocket and stow your trekking poles without stopping.

One thing I’ve noticed to be a particularly British trait is to keep the tent on the outside of the bag. This enables pitching in the rain before opening up your rucksack and packing everything away inside the tent on a rainy morning, minimising gear getting wet and/or dropped in mud. It’s a mystery why Brits in particular would be mindful of this. I keep the tent pegs in an outside pocket, the poles in the side pocket, and the tent itself attached to the bottom of the rucksack.

There’s one waterproof liner in the main compartment, a Exped 40L Folding Ultralite Drybag, and some smaller waterproof bags in the outside pockets.

Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent.

Tent:

*** This tent had a failure! Please read blog post Terra Nova Customer Service ***

I wrote about it in my last blog post and here it is again, the Wild Country Zephyros 1. I’ve done some research and can’t find a better deal on a reasonably light solo 3-season tent. I’d like to replace mine with the updated, lighter version but for now it does the trick. My set-up weighs about 1.5Kg including pegs, poles, and bag. (The new version is approx. 300g lighter.)

I don’t bother with a groundsheet. The tent was so cheap and the floor so tough I don’t worry about putting a hole in it, I can always patch it if I do.

Top Row: Toakes Ultralite Solid Fuel Ti Cook System (stove, mug, windshield (not shown), Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Women’s Mattress. Middle Row: Sawyer Mini Water Filter, Headphones, Titanium Folding Spork, 2 x 12″ Nite Ize Gear Ties, Swiss Army Knife, Petzl e+lite Headtorch. Bottom Row: Decathlon Inflatable Pillow, Platypus 500ml Water bottle.

Stove:

Experts say that there are 3 big items you should focus on to reduce the weight you’re carrying. Firstly the backpack itself, secondly the tent, and thirdly the stove. In this third category I’m doing pretty well. My favourite stove is a titanium solid fuel stove, a titanium mug, and a titanium windshield weighing in total about 100g. (Pictured above top left.) It’s made by Toakes and sold as the “Ultralite Solid Fuel Ti Cook System” and it comes with a titanium folding spork and some little bags to keep everything in. It’s only good when I’m solo backpacking due to the size of the mug/pot but it’s a lovely little set-up.

Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag, occupied.

Sleeping System:

Currently I’m using a Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag which weighs 1.04Kg on my scales. I really could do with a lighter one for the summer. Currently it’s used as a quilt in the warmer weather or paired with an Alpkit bivi bag for sub-zero temperatures.

A Thermarest NeoAir Xlite inflatable mattress (355g) and an inflatable pillow from Decathlon which was stupidly cheap and works really well (81g) finish off my sleep system and altogether they’re extremely comfortable.

Viewranger app with OS map and route tracking running on Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Other Bits and Pieces:

Those are the key items but obviously there are lots of other things in my backpack. I mainly use Viewranger maps on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as a GPS. There’s an mp3 player and headphones to help me sleep if a campsite’s noisy. A spare water carrier (either a 1L or 2L Source collapsable water container), lighter, money, toiletries, etc.

In terms of clothes I take a lightweight Rab waterproof jacket and, if rain is forecast, waterproof trousers. In the summer months I wear a Tiley hat to keep the sun out of my eyes and the rain off my head. In the winter I’ll take a warm hat, gloves, buff, and merino thermal layers. Wet feet on a weekend in Norfolk taught me to always pack a dry pair of socks. Recently I’ve added a cheap pair of cotton shorts to the list to wear inside my tent when my walking trousers are particularly wet and muddy. I also have a Rab insulated down vest that packs down very small and is a real comfort on a chilly evening.

Well there you have it, my kit list. In total it weighs about 6Kg before I add water, food, and fuel for the stove. Definitely not ultra-lightweight but it is on the lighter end of the scale. I’m too fond of my comfort items (mp3 player, tent socks, pillow) to ever get down to ludicrously lightweight so I’m reasonably happy with my reasonably lightweight set-up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Country Zephyros 1 Tent Review

*** This tent had a failure! Please read blog post Terra Nova Customer Service ***

 

This is a review of the original Wild Country Zephyros 1. Terra Nova have released an updated version of this tent, the Zephyros 1 Lite, which is slightly lighter (and slightly brighter). I’m posting a review of this original version because…

  1. Terra Nova are still selling it
  2. At the time of writing it’s on sale at Cotswold Outdoor for £99 which is an absolute bargain for an excellent backpacking tent.

Wild Country Zephyros 1 pitched without the inner.

The Zephyros 1 is a solo 3-season backpacking tent.

It’s an almost direct copy of Terra Nova’s successful Laser Competition 1 and is made by the same company (Wild Country are a cheaper range made by Terra Nova). However there are a few major differences.

  • It’s made from cheaper, heavier materials. Terra Nova claim a packed weight of 0.93Kg for the Laser Comp and 1.57Kg for the Zephyros.
  • The Zephyros comes fully seam-sealed, the Laser Comp needs to be seam-sealed by the customer.
  • The pole sleeve is attached to the tent, unlike the Laser Comp where it’s separate, and this makes it easier to pitch.
  • The Laser Comp costs £330 and the Zephyros 1 costs £120.

I bought mine last year and it’s my go-to tent for the colder, wetter months when I’m solo backpacking. In terms of space I find it tall enough to sit up in (I’m 5’6″) and there’s plenty of room to sleep and cook.

I’ve not found condensation a problem. The inner door is half mesh and there are small mesh panels on the inner at either end. The porch has a 2-way zip so you can open a ‘window’ at the top if extra ventilation is needed (although obviously not when it’s raining).

The porch isn’t massive but there’s room to cook inside. Note: cooking in tents can be very dangerous, not just because of the potential for combining fire and highly flammable fabrics but also the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. I’d advise against using a stove inside a tent unless you have lots of ventilation, are very cautious, and are experienced with the stove you are using. Always have a plan.

The second time I pitched this tent I did it in the dark, in the rain and managed it without too much swearing. Compared to some backpacking tents, where getting the sides taut is an art-form, this is pretty easy. There’s one big pole that goes over the middle and 2 short end poles. The tent comes with the end poles left in when the tent is packed away but I remove them and store them with the main pole. That way the fly & inner can be squished down to a much smaller size without the end poles getting in the way.

I haven’t pitched this tent up a mountain in 50 mph winds but it’s been out in heavy rain and reasonable coastal winds and it’s held tight, no problems or leaks.

The colour is an advantage when wild camping as it’s not too lurid.

My Zephyros 1 on the Isle of Wight Backpacker’s Club trip.

 

Modifications:

A very easy mod is to swap the guy ropes for lightweight dyneema and mini line-loks. There are only 4 guy ropes on the tent so it doesn’t make a great different to the weight but at the same time it’s not a big job to do.

Carry lighter tent pegs. My set includes some light v-shaped pegs that came with a Nemo tent and some titanium ‘ti-pins’. The Zephyros uses 10 tent pegs when completely pitched.

Lose the stuff sacks if you don’t need them.

The door doesn’t stay open very easily with the in-built catches so a peg or clip is useful.

Door held open with clip.

 

Summary:

A great, cheap tent in a popular, well-tested design. Ideal for a solo hiker on a budget.

It’s hard to find fault with this tent. Although it’s a little heavy for a solo tent compared to some other tents on the market it’s a third of the cost. (The set-up I have weighs 1.4Kg not including the pegs.) It’s very sturdy and the Pu Polyester feels stronger than Si Nylon. Not having to seam-seal a tent is a real advantage. A little more room would be nice but there’s plenty of space for one. I only paid £99 for mine and I really feel like I got a bargain. This is a tent I have confidence that I’ll be comfortable in.

Extra option:

Today I pitched the Zephyros without the inner. This tent will pitch with just the fly but the end poles could sink into soft ground. Nick Miles, chairman of the Backpacker’s Club, has suggested using the tops of milk cartons to keep this from happening. In this config, counting just fly sheet and poles, the tent weighs 835g.

Without the inner the end poles could sink into soft ground.

 

Full Specs:

  • Sleeps: 1
  • Season Rating Spec: 3 season backpacking
  • Free standing?: No (tent requires guy lines to be pitched)
  • Minimum Weight: 1.41Kg (3lb 2oz)
  • Packed Weight: 1.57Kg (3lb 7oz)
  • Pitch Time (estimate): 5 mins
  • Number of Porches: 1
  • Number of Doors: 1
  • Pitch Type: Fly and Inner pitch together
  • Pack Size: 52cm x 14cm
  • Flysheet: Pu Polyester R/S 4000mm FR
  • Floor: Pu Polyester R/S 6000mm
  • Poles: 8.5mm Wild Country Superflex Alloy
  • Peg: 10 x Aluminium V-Angle
  • Guylines: 4 x black reflective 2.3mm
  • Inner Door: Half Mesh

Dimensions

Good tents attract small dogs and sunsets…

GOTY 2013

Seeing as everyone’s on the Game-Of-The-Year bandwagon I thought I’d hop on too.

After the PR disaster that was the Wii U release, I had real concerns for Nintendo’s future but getting a 3DS XL handheld has reignited my love and faith in what was my favourite video game company as a child. Also, I’ve only played one game on my Android phone (World of Goo) and absolutely no games on my iPad this year. So again my prediction was way off, I thought that mobile apps would be the death of handheld video game consoles. I’m very pleased to report I was wrong on both counts.

nintendo 3ds

A quick mention has to go to the big games of the year that I didn’t enjoy. Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite. I enjoyed the latter as a spectator and loved the story but watching the game being played didn’t inspire me to play it myself at all. I’m suffering from zombie fatigue so when Last of Us’s railroaded gameplay and dodgy controls made me rage-quit I never picked it up again.

 
One last thing before I get to my favourite games of this year. Two games I played that were released before 2013. Journey was worth the wait. An unforgettable 3 hour experience. Also a friend lent us Heavy Rain and that was terrific. Two fantastic and unique games, highly recommended if, like me, you missed them when they were released.

Honourable Mentions.

Attack of the Friday Monsters! (3DS)


This is a beautifully realised Japanese game about a boy named Sohta who lives in a town where monsters and superheroes from 1970s tokusatsu shows appear every Friday. If you love Studio Ghibli movies you’ll likely love this little game.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf. (3DS)

Animal Crossing kept me busy for at least a month, if not longer. It’s hard to remember as I was too busy tending orchards to take notice of the passing of time.

Second Place.

Borderlands 2 DLC: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep. (PS3)


“The gameplay revolves around Lilith, Mordecai, Brick, and Tiny Tina playing Bunkers and Badasses, a tabletop role-playing game parody to Dungeons and Dragons. The player is dropped into the Bunkers and Badasses world, and as the player progresses through the game, Tiny Tina, as the Game Master, narrates the story; sometimes deciding to modify the game world to add in a boss, new enemy or new NPC.”

Borderlands 2 is one of my favourite games of all time and this DLC was made for me. The rpg in-jokes, the story, the ending. Absolutely. Genius. So enjoyable. Moments where I laughed so hard I had to hold my sides. Moments where the story itself moved me to tears. If this was a full game it would have been my game of the year. As it is, it almost won despite just being downloadable content.

My Game of the Year.

Tomb Raider. (PS3)

Aside from the occasional annoying quick time event, I loved everything about this game. Beautiful vistas, spine-tingling climbs, bags of adventure. Plus a whole heap of character development. At the start of the game Lara’s vulnerable and desperate but by the end she’s a hero and you’ve lived that journey with her every step of the way. The balance between exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving was just perfect.

Notes:

Having just started Pokemon X and Beyond: Two Souls these games may still make my list. In addition there’s a long list of games I haven’t played yet including Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Gone Home, and Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. 2013 was a fantastic year for games.