GOTY 2014

Here’s my video game of the year post for 2014 except this year I thought I’d mix it up a bit and record a YouTube video. Sorry about the sound quality, had some issues with my recording setup. Although amazingly this 1080pHD video was recorded on my phone.

My favourite video games of 2014.

Sorry about the sound quality! Recorded on a Samsung Galaxy S5 balanced on a pile of board games. When I knocked the table the phone rocked and the microphone picked up the noise.

Although I only refer to the platform I played each game on some are multi-platform, e.g. Olli Olli, Hatsune Miku, Child of Light, etc.

Summary:

Didn’t like – Watch Dogs (PS4)

Pre 2014 releases – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PS3), Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS), Persona 4 Golden (Vita).

Honourable Mentions – Destiny (PS4), Olli Olli (Vita), Rogue Legacy (Vita & PS4), Infamous: Second Son (PS4), Hatsune Miku Project Diva f (Vita).

Second Place – Driveclub (PS4).

First Place – Child of Light (Vita).

Haven’t Played Yet – Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS4), Dragon Age Inquisition (PS4).

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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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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.

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.

Quechua Forclaz 300 Women’s Hiking Jacket Review

What Decathlon say:

Protection from the rain and wind, and keeping your body dry while MOUNTAIN HIKING. Waterproof, breathable, and ventilated, the Forclaz 300 L has all the essential properties of an authentic trekking jacket at an absolutely unbeatable price.

  • Waterproofing: 5000mm waterproof NOVADRY membrane. 100% taped seams.
  • Breathability: NOVADRY hydrophilic membrane (RET=12) limits condensation inside the garment.
  • Ventilation: Underarm ventilation zips: aid perspiration wicking.
  • Flexibility: Hood folds into the collar.
  • 2 year guarantee.

It also has the following features.

  • Two reasonably sized hand pockets with zips.
  • Inside pocket with zip.
  • Storm flap over main front zip.
  • Adjustable cuffs via velcro tabs.
  • Adjustable bottom via pull-cord.
  • Adjustable, peaked hood with draw-cord
  • Soft collar and chin protecting fabric over top of zip.
  • L size = 461g

At the time of writing, for sale for £44.99. I bought the jacket on offer for £39.99.

I bought this waterproof jacket for the warmer months to replace my Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock which is just far too hot and heavy to carry in the Summer. After hunting around and doing some research I’d actually decided I wanted the Rab Kinetic or the Marmot Crystalline.

The Kinetic weighs 220g and the Crystalline 176g! Obviously both much lighter that the Forclaz 300 (461g). However the Kinetic (at the time of hunting) cost £128 and the Crystalline £120 and neither jacket was available to buy in the colour and size that I wanted. So, on the spur of the moment whilst passing time in Decathlon, I bought the Forclaz 300. It was on sale and looked like a bargain.

The Good Stuff:

  • Features of a modern high-end waterproof (see list above) in a cheap jacket.
  • A very flattering and comfortable jacket. Long at the back, fitted at the waist (but not too tight). Long sleeves to keep hands dry.
  • Loose sleeves that can be pushed up or cinched tight. (I can’t stand elasticated wristbands.)
  • Excellent hand pockets for hands or bits and bobs. Also a good-sized inside pocket with a zip that takes a smart phone.
  • The pit zips, sorry “underarm ventilation zips”, are excellent and easy to use one-handed.
  • The colour. My Mum thinks it’s a bit bright but I love the turquoise blue. Reminds me of the seaside.
  • The price. Quite honestly, if I lost or ripped this jacket tomorrow I wouldn’t shed a tear.
  • It’s waterproof!  Like the Quechua tents this jacket is, so far, bombproof.

The Bad Stuff:

  • The hood isn’t perfect. On my Paramo I can move my head around and the hood moves with me and the peak is excellent. On the Forclaz there’s a bit of movement and the peak isn’t ideal.
  • The weight. At 461g it’s not particularly light but then it’s still about 200g lighter than my Paramo and it packs down to about 2/3rd the size.
  • I imagine this isn’t as breathable as a more expensive jacket? I ask this as a question as it’s never something that’s been a particular problem for me since the cagoule I had back in the 80s.

In Summary: I’m really pleased with it. If I could have sourced and afforded a Rab or a Marmot jacket I would have bought one but all my extra money would be getting would be less weight and a smaller pack-size. In terms of features the Forclaz 300 is an excellent waterproof for a remarkably low price.

Aside: It took a month and a half for me to test the waterproofness of this jacket because from the moment I bought it all rain clouds were repelled from me. Including during a weeks walking on Dartmoor! For me that’s worth £40 alone 😉

Using The Pocket Stove as a Wood-Burner

Today I did a brief test of The Pocket Stove from backpackinglight.co.uk as a wood-burning stove.

The Pocket Stove laid flat, storage tin, and a 10p for size comparison.

This is the first time I’ve used a wood-burning stove. We usually use a Primus ETA express gas stove. The Pocket Stove was obtained to provide an alternative multi-fuel stove.

The blurb:

A flat pack, clip together multi fuel cooking stove. The adjustable platform offers two burn heights, the top slot for esbit/hexamine tablets and the other for organic matter and pop can stoves.

Weight: 141g (195g in tin)

This is my second attempt to test the Pocket Stove. The first attempt, in the depths of winter on a cold and windy day, failed completely. My lasting impressions from this original test were…

A) When it’s very cold and windy using a wood-burning stove is a very silly idea.

B) Knocking the pan of water off the top of the stove just as it’s boiling is also a very silly idea.

It’s worth noting here that a heat-exchanger pot (with a crinkly bottom) doesn’t sit easily on top of the Pocket Stove. My original test was with the pot from the ETA Express. This second test was done with a much more stable, smooth-bottomed titanium MSR kettle.

I managed to boil a cup’s worth of water using little twigs (of about pencil thickness) that I’d gathered and dried for the task.

Safety – The stove gets extremely hot. It’s impossible to touch it when the fire’s burning and for a fair while afterwards. Small hot embers fall through the bottom on the stove onto the ground. Without a durable heat-proof surface the ground (or whatever your cooking on) will be burnt.

Convenience – Wind blows ash out of the stove onto and around everything nearby. When finished there are a little pile of burnt out sticks (and whatever else you used to start the fire) to deal with. The pot and stove are covered in sticky soot that’s tricky to wash off even with washing up liquid, hot water, and a scrubbing pad.

Time – I didn’t time how long it took but at a guess it took about 20 minutes to boil the water. I’m sure that I can get quicker with practice but obviously, slower than gas.

Skill – I had pretty much ideal conditions for the test. The wood I had was bone dry. I had a large number of long matches and newspaper to hand (and a bucket of water in case I set fire to myself). The temperature was mild and the wind slight, just enough of a breeze to fan the flames but not put them out. Even so, it’s not a walk in the park to get a good little fire going and to keep it going long enough.

Stealth – This is not a stealthy way to cook food. It makes a lot of smoke and it smells. There’s ash floating around too. Not ninja.

Fun – This is a lot of fun! There’s something about gathering your own fuel, for free, from the natural world, which is satisfying. Our natural love of cooking fires, the warmth and light, sound and smells, kicks in even with this tiny stove. Then the concentration and skill to light and keep the fire burning adds another dimension of enjoyment to cooking.

I made this!

The Aftermath.

In summary, I think this is a really fun piece of kit but cooking with wood is probably more of a novelty than a practical cooking solution. Next up, a test with a hex tablet.

From backpackinglight.co.uk:

Specifications:

  • Max Height: 10cm
  • Max base width: 7.5cm
  • Sq plate: 7cm x 7cm

Weights:

  • Side Panel: 31g x 2
  • Back Panel: 31g
  • Door: 26g
  • Square Base: 22g
  • Total: 141g
  • Storage Tin: 54g
  • Packed Total: 195g

Will it fit your pop can stove?

  • Height 100mm
  • Base Plate 68mm sq
  • Upper Aperture 61mm sq
  • Lower Aperture 72mm sq

The Pocket Stove was designed and manufactured entirely in the UK by backpackinglight.co.uk

Rab Women’s Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine Jacket Review

Originally published in the Summer 2012 issue of Backpack, the journal of the Backpackers Club.

 

New for March 2012, a lightweight version of Rab’s popular Vapour-Rise jacket. Breathable, wind/water resistant, quick-drying “soft-shell”. Made from Rab’s Pertex Equilibrium fabric with a tricot fleece lining.


Sizes: 8 – 16

Weight: 290g / 10oz (size 12)

Colours: Beluga (black), Anemone (pink), Aegean (blue)


First impressions are that the Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine is light, soft, and very comfortable. The hood can be rolled up and clipped out of the way. Stuffed into its own pocket it has a pack size of approx. 22cm x 17cm x 12cm.


Loose cuffs at the end of extra long sleeves keep hands warm and dry, or can be tightened with velcro tabs, or pushed up to the elbows in warm weather. The jacket is cut on the small side, particularly around the waist. The length in the torso is good, low at the front and back, which makes the two-way zip indispensable when sitting down.


Having a hood on a soft-shell makes a lot of sense if you want it to be truly useful in the rain. The fully adjustable hood and wired peak maintain excellent peripheral vision. The two outer rucksack-friendly pockets are fairly useless except for the lightest and slimmest of objects but the inside pocket is a unusual bonus on a women’s jacket.


This is a great jacket for middle-of-the-road weather. It stayed dry in a light shower but wetted out on the shoulders and sleeves when tested in a heavy rainstorm (with hail). In a brisk wind it’s a fine protective shell but not warm enough for a very cold day. It’s cooler than a full waterproof and is half the weight (compared to a Paramo Velez Adventure Light).


For an all round lightweight Summer walking jacket this is a winner plus it can also be used as a mid-layer on a colder/wetter day.


Rab