Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Sleeping Bag with Arms and Legs

I was just having a bit of a Google, as you do when you've got nothing better to do and I came across the MusucBag (also known as SelkBag in the USA).

Now Phil is always tossing and turning in his sleeping bag trying to get comfy and complaining he feels trapped and unable to move, a bit like he is in a coffin. When I saw the MusucBag, I loved it. A sleeping bag with arms and legs, that has all the functionality of a traditional sleeping bag but allows you to move your arms and legs freely. What's more they look really cool, coming in a choice of black, lemon chrome, pink or directoire blue. And not only does the MusucBag look great for sleeping in, but also for wearing in the tent, around the campfire or even at home while watching tv.

Okay, so how does it compare to other sleeping bags?

Well, it weighs between 1.4kg to 2.2kg depending on size so a bit heavier than your average sleeping bag (Hi Gear's Ridgeline 3 weighs 1.6kg).

It has been EN 13537 (industry standard) tested to have the following temperature ratings.

Comfort Temperature: 7°C
Limit Temperature: 2°C
Extreme Temperature: -13°C

Personally for me that means it may not keep me warm enough, as my bag has a limit of -0.2 and I often need my fleece liner to keep me comfortable but everyone sleeps differently.

So, as with most camping gear it really depends on what you are hoping to use it for. If you're a hardcore walker and weight and all year round temperatures are important, probably not one for you. But otherwise, if you're after something fun, comfy and multifunctional I like this a lot.

Oh, one last thing, they are priced a bit like the iPhone – expect to pay extra for its design and uniqueness.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Wetton and the Manifold Valley

Where to go for a weekend hiking? That's always the question. Finishing work at 5.00, 45 mins away from each other and its already dark. It's got to be the White Peak again. So out comes the OS map and we pour over it, looking for likely looking places with some interesting contour lines and perhaps some water, but perhaps not. Area picked we scour the internet for campsites (what would we do without it!) and make the necessary arrangements.

We realised that we'd not yet walked through the Manifold Valley so that's where we headed last weekend. We'd visited briefly on a previous trip to Alstonesfield and stopped a night at Heathy Roods Farm nr. Butterton but hadn't had much chance to walk along the river. I quickly realised if we could find somewhere to camp near Wetton it would be a brilliant excuse to visit my favourite pub, Ye Olde Royal Oak!

First off I rang Redhurst Farm, who I feel I should try to assist in this blog. The poor lady explained they'd not offered camping for a few years but unfortunately can't get themselves unlisted from the web. She kindly pointed me in the direction of Newhouse Farm which was our campsite for the weekend.

Friday morning the world was cloaked in fog which refused to lift all day. The thought of our views obscured should have put a dampener on things but the fog added a mysticism to the surroundings which only seemed to add to my excitement for the upcoming weekend. After a masterclass in how to put up a tent, instead of wanting to get in and tucked up, I couldn't wait to get out and explore. We went for an evening stroll round the village, taking in the 14th century church, village pub and spooky derelict barn.

Back in our sleeping bags I noticed the church bells ring for the first time to mark the hour. “Do they go all night”. “No, they can't, they must stop, maybe at 11.00 when the pub closes”. “Hmm... does that make sense...pub, church...?”. “Are they real? Is someone up there ringing them?” That's kind of how the conversation went.

We really liked this campsite, an empty field with few facilities and a bargain out of season. But if you're a light sleeper then the generator noise and the church bells might be an issue. That said I grew to love them, even the 3am chimes!

Saturday morning we set off on a circular route along the Manifold, first heading south out of Wetton. Its the perfect picture of the English countryside, heading past farms surrounded by rolling green hills, reminiscent of Postman Pat backdrops. Then as the road turned sharply we headed straight on down a sloping footpath through the fields and down towards the Manifold River. As we headed down the grassy slope, Beeston Tor appeared on our left, the limestone wall watching over all below.

Down towards the river, the plan was to cross at the Stepping Stones and follow the trail along the other side. But mother nature had a different idea. The river was flowing rapidly and a couple of the stones were submerged under the icy cold water. We considered our options. A huge part of us (the daft, adventurous part) was tempted to try the crossing, perhaps with our boots tied to our backpacks. But with the river moving fast and the temperature so cold, it wasn't worth ruining a day's walking with an injury or a dunking so after checking out alternatives we had to head back up the way we'd come and carry on down the road.

The walk along the Manifold Way, once we got there was relaxed and easy. The river ran alongside us, sometimes running fast with the water whipped up into white peaks, other times calm and gently flowing along through the trees. Thor's Cave was a highlight 360ft up above the river, with views out of the 60ft cave mouth over the surrounding area.

Further on along the trail is Wetton Mill tea rooms, but we turned off up through Wetton Hills where we followed the muddy path between the hills steadily climbing until we came back out over Wetton village.

This was our first camping and hiking weekend since the clocks went back and it was strange to arrive back to camp just as the evening was beginning to set in. We lit the barbecue to keep us warm, them decided to cook. By 6.30pm it was all over, the darkness had set in and then what is there to do for the night except settle down in your sleeping bag! Any tips anyone?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Kinder Scout to be fenced off...!

Due to erosion caused by sheep overgrazing, hikers and wildfires, parts of Kinder Scout are to be fenced off by the National Trust to allow the habitat to recover and new plants to grow. The temporary sheep-proof fence will however have gated access for walkers. The National Trust have invited anyone who loves hiking Kinder Scout to contribute to plans for the exact location of the fence and access points.

Kinder Scout was the site of a mass trespass in 1932 which was instrumental in bringing about better access to the UK countryside for walkers. Enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year it has unfortunately been described as “one of the most damaged areas of moorland” in the UK.

Don't miss the chance to have your say...

Consultation will take place during December and January and will include public meetings on 15 December (6pm – 9pm) at Edale Village Hall and on 6 January (6pm – 9pm) at the Royal Hotel, Hayfield.

Find out more about the restoration project on the National Trust Kinder Scout website

Read our blog: Kinder Scout - up Crowden Clough

Also join up to Kinder Scout Fence on facebook.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

These boots are made for walking - but which ones are made for me?

I went into GoOutdoors yesterday afternoon to try on some new walking boots.

When we first started walking I bought a cheap pair from Regatta as I wasn't sure whether it was something I would be doing regularly. Overall, so far they have been great. Really comfy straight out the box and I don't think I've ever had a single blister. The only factor that has let them down is that since our Snowdonia trip stepping in any kind of puddle has resulted in rather soggy feet. Now I didn't mind too much in the summer, I resigned myself to thinking it was a great way of keeping cool. However, now that its somewhat colder that's not really what I'm after. I've tried treating them with Nikwax but still the water gets in.

So I had a look at the shoe wall and picked out a few pairs to try on that were around my budget price of £100. I liked the look of the Brasher Antuco though I didn't know anything about them. Also there were the Brasher SupaLite GTX which I'd read a bit about. Thought I might as well try on the Hillmaster too and one of the Scarpa boots.

I really wasn't keen on the look of the SupaLites, but knew logically I should be looking for performance over style so gave them a go. Wow, I could seriously have forgotten that I actually had anything on my feet. They are so lightweight and really soft and cushioned around your ankle. I was most disappointed that they felt so good.

I kept trying on our boots, then putting the SupaLites back on, then mixing and matching. Nothing else felt the same. The Hillmasters logically looked very similar in terms of materials. But they seemed much wider and my foot felt a bit lost in them. Back I came to the SupaLites. But I don't want the SupaLites, they won't look exciting in my stocking at Christmas!

Then I came home and began trawling the internet for walking boot reviews and now I'm totally confused. No-one seems able to agree! Half the reviews say they've been worn daily for years and they're the best boots ever, the other half say they fell apart really quickly. Half say they've walked in streams to clean them, the other half say they leak. And there doesn't seem to be any authoritative lifetime test reviews, perhaps because gear moves on so quickly.

So what do you do? I guess you just have to buy the ones that seem right for you and hope that they pass the test of time.

That sounds almost like a decision. But then I have just spotted the Brasher Lithium GTX with 40% off...

So what did I choose? Click here to find out and read the out of the box review.

Monday, 8 November 2010

A gem of a walk surprisingly close to home

I've lived around Loughborough for close to 10 years now and heard people mention Beacon Hill many times but never given it a second thought. I've always imagined it as a fairly ordinary green hillock. So it was a nice surprise when I finally checked it out.

Its actually the 2nd highest point in Leicestershire (perhaps not the hilliest county) and the site of a 3000 year old Bronze Age settlement. We arrived in the car park and climbed the hill to the beacon just as the sun was setting, casting a orangey pink glow over everything. From the top you can look out over Loughborough and try to work out what's what. Loughborough University's Towers Halls stands out as Loughborough's tallest landmark.

Following the path round, we came across some black sheep and long horn cattle grazing. And then had a laugh running headlong down the hill, expecting at any moment to fall over but not really caring. Then along the path, past Jubilee Woods and back round to the car park.

A short, gentle evening escape which showed me its always worth looking for that little gem of a walk that can be found surprisingly close to home.