Thursday, 24 November 2011

Camping and Sleeping - sleeping bags

If you're hiking and camping, then you will need to give some close consideration to the equipment you're going to have to carry around.

One of the most essential pieces of kit will be your sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags arrive in a complete array of styles, for warmth, weight, durability and functions.

The Basics
It's worth thinking about shape and size. Unless you're hoping to share the same sleeping bag (double size sleeping are available) then ideally you want something which does not restrict movement too much but is also compact and lightweight.

Generally, for hiking, a mummy style sleeping bag will see you through both summer and winter months depending on quality. They are often easily packed away hence good for traveling.

Warmth by Season
You will find that most sleeping bags are graded by season and in degrees Celsius. This will enable you to purchase a sleeping bag which is more tailored to the conditions you plan to use it in.
Suppliers should be able to help but as an indication, 1 is for summer (5 degrees Celsius), 2 is for spring/summer (0 degrees Celsius), 3 is for spring to autumn (-5 degrees Celsius),
4 is for winter (up to -10 degrees Celsius) and 5 is for much colder weather (-15 degrees Celsius).

In addition to this, accessories can help, adding more warmth such as: sleeping bag heaters (if you find yourself stuck in an emergency), mats to help insulate against heat loss from the cold ground below, and sleeping bag liners.

Sleeping Bag Linings
For the outer lining, 'down' sleeping bags are usually higher priced than synthetic sleeping bags, they also should last longer. The problem with down sleeping bags is that they tend to be less effective in damp or wet conditions.

If you want something a bit more water repellent then look for a sleeping bag with a synthetic shell, ultralight shell fabrics often have a durable water-repellent coating which will help to keep you dry, and from experience, trying to get a nights sleep in a damp sleeping bag can be quite unpleasant.

For the inner lining and further insulation we have two basic categories. Down, and synthetic insulation. Down will work to keep you warm in a dry environment which is cold, with a high weight to warmth ratio (down insulation is usually measured by once ounce per cubic inch). If warmth is not such an issue, and you're concerned about damp then you should consider the machine washable damp-repellent with synthetic insulation.

Seek Advice
Other factors to consider are hoods (great for really cold weather), draft collars or draft tubes which are stitched behind the zip.

Ideally, once you have a general idea of what type of sleeping bag you're going to require, you will need to seek some professional advice.

From past experience, if you don't find a sales person who knows their down from synthetic then there's a possibility you'll end up walking away with the wrong type of sleeping bag for you, and if you're stuck on the top of a mountain or fell with the wind howling and driving rain, it may just be too late to think about where you placed that receipt.

For some good advice on camping equipment in general, Camping Online based in Derbyshire, can offer some good tips and they stock a wide range of sleeping bags too.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The rugged beauty of Iceland

As we were coming into land I could see heavy white horse bristling across the ocean. I remember commenting that there must be a huge current there to make the sea look so angry and messy, it cant be a wind that is so strong otherwise the plane would be really bumping around. But it wasn't, it was very smooth and calm.

As I looked through the window I could see the wild, baron and grey landscape in the distance. Closer to the plane the ground rushed up to meet us as the wheels touched so smoothly and gently on the runway.

As we were getting the hand luggage down from the overhead lockers the captain spoke over the intercom firstly in Icelandic and then in English. “It is a little windy outside so we will be using the disembarking steps down onto the runway”. “There will be someone there to help you down the steps”.

Wow,standing on top of the steps we could feel the power of the wind, incredible. How did he land in this I remember thinking to myself. We slowly and careful made our way down the step and then felt the full force of the wind as we made our way across the tarmac a very short distance to the terminal. The wind was so strong that is was almost impossible to walk against it and forcing us to walk in a deep semi-circle to reach the door and safety. That was our first experience and impression of Iceland’s weather. It filled is both with foreboding for the days to come.

Travelling by car to Reykjavic from the airport is across the old lava flows that a covered in a sparse, low and coarse greenery. A little like English moors but with attitude and lots of it.

Straight after unpacking and freshening up in the hotel we set out for our first explore down to the harbour. Of course being an island, fish and seafood is a main source of diet and wow is the fish good.

Across the harbour there is a very impressive mountain with cloud a covered top and a very tempting profile.

To cut a very long story very very short. We had wisely decided to use our long weekend in Iceland to learn more about the landscape, the must sees and dangers. As looking across the baron and volcanic scene we could easily see that this is not the sort of place just to go trekking and wild camping without some serious planning and training.

We spent a lot of time taking in the marvellous culture and the stunning fresh food. Eating such this as Minke Whale, Puffin, Lobster, Reindeer , amazing fresh fish and of course the famous fermented shark.

Our plan is to go back next year well equipped, trained and learned in the hiking in the unique Icelandic landscape.

If you get a chance to go we highly recommend it, but before wild camping or hiking there ask the authorities and make sure you know exactly what to expect. But just to experience the culture, the friendliness and of course the superb food jump on a plane now!