FEAR, DOUBT & CURIOSITY – The Reasons Behind #RunE1Trail – #GetOutside @TheUltraMag @GetOffTheRopes

It is a simple fact that the unknown and unfamiliar will scare us at some level.

I am filled with fear of this unknown and yet refuse to stop heading for it.

I am filled with doubt of my ability to survive.

Two are voices that is daring me to stop.

The other is daring to go on.

Curiosity…

Never satisfied, it pushes you beyond what you know you can achieve, daring you to just take one more step into the unknown.

 

 

 

It plays a cruel game with fear and doubt…

Curiosity is a bastard!

Managing Equipment On Multi-Day Trips – Brief Thoughts After #BareFootLeJog Part 3

Kit laid out ready to pack the morning before the day after.

Kit laid out ready to pack the morning before the day after.

Solving the problem of gear to carry is pretty simple.  First your decide on your tipping point between comfort and weight, then you work out what you can afford.  The more you go towards weight, the more uncomfortable you’re going to be at the start of your journey, and the more comfortable you are the harder it will be to carry all your equipment.

I saw a young lad, I think his name was Duncan, on his way to Helmsdale from JOG.  it was his 3rd day and he looked distraught.  The first thing he said when he found out I was on my way to JOG was “Where the hell is all your equipment?”, since my neatly packed Fastpack 20 was less than a 3rd the size of his gear.  I had the advantage of having planned for the lightest weight pack with comfort, although after my finely tuned foam mat blew away, I had to add 200g to my pack weight with my backup blow up bed.

That small pack held everything I needed to survive on a day to day basis.  There was even enough room to add a few things!!

That small pack held everything I needed to survive on a day to day basis. There was even enough room to add a few things!!

My kit ended up coming from 3 sources,  self funded purchases like my MSR titanium kettle, LifeStraw water filter, Ricoh GR digital and the Ultimate Direction FastPack 20, borrowed like my sleeping bag and blow up bed, or kindly donated by BackPackingLight (which included the Vaude Lizard GUL tent, a thermatex blanket, a Syphon alcohol stove and a Ti Pocket Stove).  I’m all for minimal amounts of writing, so I’ll stick be as to the point as I can with each review.  I did test the equipment before I set off on numerous occasions, and it paid off since I didn’t have any equipment problems.  The only thing I did end up having to do was buy a new water proof.  The Inov-8 Ultra shell began to fall apart after 29 days and was no loner waterproof, so to get me through the rest of bonnie (wet) old Scotland I purchased a Montane shell.

The weather was poor at the start and poor at the end.  It didn't matter though.  I'd said that I'd finish on the 2nd and that's what I was going to do.

The weather was poor at the start and poor at the end. It didn’t matter though. I’d said that I’d finish on the 2nd and that’s what I was going to do.

Packing of the kit became an art!  Sleeping bag, blow up bed, waterproofs and warm layer  would all end up being layers along the back end of the pack and then the extra bits and bobs (spare batteries for camera, cables and chargers etc) would end up in front of these. It gave a pack a nice supported back and kept the profile as slim as possible.  The mesh section of the pack got a hammering, with anything from food to my hat would just get shoved in there.  The tent was small enough to sit happily in the side mesh pocket, with the poles along side it.  The bungee cord that seemed to be pointless when I got the bag did a good job of keeping the tent poles in place while I bounced along day after day.  The opposite side to the tent held a 500-750ml bottle of water, with another 500 ml bottle in the bottle pouch on the left strap.  The UD fastpack 20 was the perfect pack, although it would be awesome if it was fully waterproof.

Right!  Time to review…

Vaude Lizard GUL Tent

I love this tent so much that I am going to do a full on review of it.  It kept me warm and dry for so many days that I feel I need to do it justice, but in the mean time, here’s a fairly concise review.

This thing is incredible.  The total weight of the pole, pegs and both layers is 706g and I could pack it small enough to fit it in the side stretch pouches of the UD Fastback 20.

Now, it’s not the cheapest of tents, but it’s versatilely, ability to pitch it in the most ridiculously small spaces and sheltering from the strongest winds and from serious rain make it well worth it.   And did I mention it’s a 3 season tent that only weighs 700g?

The night before reaching Cheddar.  Great little hidden spot and a glorious sunset.

The night before reaching Cheddar. Great little hidden spot and a glorious sunset.

Finding Sleeping spots became easier, and on some nights you'd bump into kind people who'd recommend a glorious spot like this one (thanks Keith)

Finding Sleeping spots became easier, and on some nights you’d bump into kind people who’d recommend a glorious spot like this one (thanks Keith)

Thermatex blanket

Three out of the 38 nights were cold enough for me to really have to use this miracle of clever thinking.  It does exactly what its supposed to and keeps you warm when you need it.  It’s a fairly low tech piece of kit since its a blanket with one green and one silver side.  The science is as follows:

Silver is a poor emitter of heat, so you have the silver side facing out and are amazed at the warm that is absorbed by the green internals and then emitted back at you.  Kind of like a Polar bears skin and fur combo.

The only thing I would say as a negative, is that the silver coating rubbed off fairly easily, which is combatted by folding the blanket with the silver side inwards.  Now this small problem is supposed to have been sorted on the new versions, so you needn’t worry about the silver completely rubbing off.  The other thing I liked about the blanket was that I could trim it down to size and then sew it into a neat little sleeping bag.  The other nice thing is that it performed better than a silk sleeping bag liner (I did a quick comparison whilst out on LeJog)

The blanket is huge enough to wrap round the average person one and a half times and weighs 210g.  If you need to have a warmth backup then this is going to be the thing to get.

Syphon Alcohol Stove and Pocket Stove Combo

I have no idea why I ever used a gas burner!  This 1.5″ high and 2″ wide cylinder weighs in at less than 20g and is efficient enough to boil around 500ml of water in less than 5 minutes!!  Admittedly, you need to couple it with the Pocket Stove, but that means you have a full cooking solution that is under 200g including 100g of alcohol.  I didn’t use it every night or every morning, but it was great to have.  My whole cooking setup was no bigger than my MSR titanium Kettle (everything fit neatly inside the kettle).  If you fancy being lazy, you can use the stove with a trivet.  Things take longer to heat up, but when your wild camping and travelling on the road, I’m to sure that having super fast cooking times is that essential.

 

Compact and perfect for cooking

 
The perfect cooking kit combo.  Everything takes up no more space than the MSR titanium kettle and is less than 400g in weight!

The perfect cooking kit combo. Everything takes up no more space than the MSR titanium kettle and is less than 400g in weight!


The LifeStraw water filter

Not much to say about this thing.  It’s around 30g, it filters the nastiest looking water and stops you getting those nasty stomach bugs and its blue.  This thing saved me the hassle of carrying litres of water and meant that I could drink water anywhere I saw water.  I even tested it out before LeJog in a pool of standing water that was teaming with aquatic life.  It was so teaming that I was expecting to have to cut a run short after drinking the water through the straw.  Needless to say, I was fine.  The other great thing is that the company uses profits to supply the LifeStraws to places that need them.  So, not only do you reduce your pack weight and have pretty much limitless drinkable water, you also get that hazy warmth knowing that you are buying an ethically minded product.

Yeti sleeping bag

I had never heard of Yeti before I was loaned the sleeping bag.  Now, I think I might have to buy me one!  The sleeping bag kept me warm on almost all the nights, until the temperature dropped to around 5 degrees.  Then I had the Thermatex as a back up.

It’s a down filled sleeping bag that packs down to about the size of a can of beer.  I shouldn’t believe how small it packed and it weighs in at 400g with the stuff sac (which is actually more than big enough for the sleeping bag).  The only thing was the lack of a hood, but it is an older model.  The newer version has a hood built in and is around 50g lighter.

I slept each night on a small, inflatable bed.  It was around 350g in weight, inflated quickly and did what it was supposed to as a bed, holding the air for a whole night without the usual deflated feeling in the morning.  The only thing I would say about blow up beds is this…   Get enough air into it so that it stays level.  The majority of our mass is near our hips, so I found in the mornings I would have slightly aching hip flexors, or an aching lower back if I didn’t get enough air into the bed the night before.  The reason was the folding effect your body will have as you lie flat.  It was easy enough to fix, but it took me a few days to work out I needed to really get some air into the bed, before going to sleep on it.

Really, I think the equipment I ended up with is likely to be my standard fastpacking kit, since it is all light and functional.  The only thing I will have to invest in, is a sleeping bag and a replacement foam mat.  I’m more than comfortable on a foam mat, since the comfort part comes from the choice of pitch site, as apposed to the material you sleep on.  There seem to be some super light and super cheap sleeping bags available on-line, so will wait till payday and treat myself.  It would be great to be able to get out in the winter months and get some multi-day mini adventures done.

 

Day 28 – The Nature Of Endurance

I’m no expert, and the words below are likely the result of dehydration, malnutrition and a distinct lack of sleep.

I rambled about this in an earlier post but yesterday, feeling oddly ill and making my way (at a slower than slow pace) to Bellingham I seemed to have had a moment.

The nature of endurance and the drive to move forwards is somehqta schizophrenic.  I’m not making light of the condition in anyway however.

When those difficult moments hit, there is a part of a persons mind that says “Stop! You don’t have to go any further”

This is true of my situation as I have everything needed to stop at any moment and be comfortable for a day or so.  But here’s the paradoxical bit.  I don’t seem to stop.  There’s another part that seems to reply “I know.  Still gonna keep going till I reach….”

The two different personalities jostle for dominance and really, it seems that at the core of it, endurance is an unwillingness to listen to the part of the mind that says “stop”.

Today, many people will endure lots of hardships and they will do it because it is in our nature as humans, but only if we allow it and encourage its flurishing in the young people we interact with.

Day 22 & 23 – Thoughts Whilst Crossing The Moor

We all have that dark part of us that we hide and in doing so we hide from it.  We teeter on its edges, occasionally moving just beyond its horizons, but we avoid it at all costs.  We stare into the abyss and nothing but dread stares back.

Yet, at some point I made the conscious decision to go in.  It is easier to be in a dark place and stare up at the light than it is to stand out of reach of the dark and wander what demons lurk within.

Gradually, this dark place began to fill with light.  Where once there were undefined shapes of forbidding, there now stands figures of encouraging challenge.  The way out is easy to find, no longer a distant star, but more a beaming beacon.  The euphoria of reaching a stop point was simply the realisation that it is possible to sink lower than you imagined and then rise out.  I am no longer ashamed or fearful of this dark place. 

It is easier to crawl out of the pit of despair than it is to avoid falling in.  

Pasta meal curtosy of Bob from The Outdoor Station.

Day 6 & 7 – Regroup, Replan, Repair, Realise

Yesterday was a tough day…

I realised why a journal and a blog are so important when doing things like this.  So, I took my own advice (see earlier post) and I embraced the negativity, made it mine and waited for those moments that make the difference between do and do not.

My schedule and route has had to change slightly, and I will be completely lower mileage days will I’m certain the calf issue is solved.

The most important thing is this….

There is definitely a certain beauty to this form of living.  It is not easy, it is not some romantic view of nature, but moving along the coast path on the 5th day I noticed something different.  I felt different in my movement.  More certain.  Better able to judge my effort and almost unconsciously flow trough the landscape around me.

Today I feel  like it is time to move on again, and it is only my sensible brain that is holding me here.

It’s been 7 days and it feels like I have been in this moment for ever.     

    
    
    
    
    
   
    
Here’s to the rest of the journey…..

Introducing The Equipment – Part 2 – The Vaude Lizard GUL

I have to start by saying that this tent was provided free of charge by Backpackinglight, as part of a support package for the LeJog on the 26th of July, this year.  The other important point is that I would consider the tent if having researched it briefly it didn’t seem suitable.  I don’t see the point of accepting something that I wish I wasn’t using or accepting an offer of support if it wasn’t suitable either.  Luckily for me, Bob at Backpackinglight really knows his stuff.  I was offered the tent first, researched it and then took them up on the offer, and Im glad I did.  The tent is the Vaude Lizard GUL 1 person, 3 season tent and at first glance it seemed to be a beauty, but I was dubious of the 2/3 length pole!

I’ve gave it a few tests, one night in torrential rain, gales and a thunderstorm and a week on the Isle of Arran, with several hours of heavy rain and windy conditions and I have to say the following…

Despite the unique 2/3 tent pole (the single tent support pole only spans 2/3 of the total tent width) it’s an amazing little tent!  Why?

Well, here are the reasons:

  • Easy to put up – I had no instructions for it, watched a youtube clip and then had a go at setting the tent up and it was straight forward.  Peg out the tent (you can leave the internal compartment permanently attached to the outer) insert the main pole and the smaller end poles, peg and adjust the guy lines and the tent is ready.  I managed to get it up and ready to use in about 5-7 minutes.
  • Extremely stable – It got the baptism of fire when I tested it with 40 mile gusts on top of an exposed hill, but it stayed stable, didn’t flap around and was quite enough for me to get a good nights sleep (that was until the thunder and torrential rain kicked in)
  • Extremely waterproof – I’ve had tents that claim to be really waterproof, but eventually they give up and begin to leak.  This tent gave me a waterproof sleeping area after a days worth of solid rain.
  • Lightweight – The tent comes with carbon fibre poles, super light internal and external materials and some lightweight pegs.  The entire tent can be packed down to a cylinder that is around 3-4′ in diameter and 7-8′ long.  In fact, I’m carrying it in the side elasticated pocket of my Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 when I take it out.  The only thing I have done is replaced the pegs with some Terra Nova titanium pegs which have saved me around 30g.
  • Great ventilation – There is ventilation windows at either end of the tent, which are protected enough so that rain does splash in and there is also also one on the door flap.  I didn’t have any problems with condensation on the inside and never felt that the internals of the tent had become stuffy.  The ventilation window on the for flap can be closed if you want to close it.  One amusing thing is that the internal compartment develops a nice wave motion if wind is blowing along the length of the tent.
  • Just about enough space – if your traveling light, there’s enough space in there to get your gear out of the wet and the porch area could be used to cook, but only if you’re careful.  You can use an extra pole, or stick along with a guy line to keep the door flap open as a shelter which could provide a safe place to cook in poor weather.  

There’s one point that I think would be good to improve on the tent and that is providing the ability to tighten the internal walls so they aren’t so flappy.  This is me being picky really, since it doesn’t really effect the tent working, but would make the internals neater.  You can set it up with just the outer, which makes the whole tent even lighter, something I would consider, but only if the areas I’m travelling to are likely to be midge, horsefly or mosquito free.

So, if you are after a light tent that would cope with almost all weather conditions then this is a corker of a tent.  It’s opened up a whole load of new adventure options for me, which would mean I can carry the minimal equipment, with the minimal weight, but not start having to deal with the usual problems of using a bivvy bag.

For the slightly geekier individuals among you (like myself) the technical specs can be found here –> Vaude Lizard GUL

Links to related videos on youtube below:

Demo

Setup

Introducing The Equipment – Part 1 – The Main Bits

The selection of the kit for this adventure has been interesting, and what I’ve ended up with may be useful for others who are thinking of taking part in similar challenges, so here’s most of my kit.  There’s this odd contention between lightweight, functional and useful when selecting kit, but luckily advice has appeared when I needed it and I’ve had the time to trial the various pieces of kit and learn first hand what works, what doesn’t and what you can live without.  The last point, what you can live  without, is probably the part that will cause alarm bells to ring in other people’s heads regardless of how I justify the decision, but I guess that will happen regardless.  There are some items that may have the time to be changed, so I’m not including them on the list below.  The whole idea is to take only what I need, not the equipment that will cover all the various what ifs that may arise, and to deal with them the bets I can until reaching one of the many little towns and villages along the route.

So here’s the confirmed parts of my kit:

If you have any advice on the kit list or useful little tips then I’m all ears 🙂

A Question Of Mentality

A set of recent conversation have caused a review of my mentality when considering the summer challenge.  

I have no milestones by which to judge or acknowledge progress and have no intention to move quickly as I make my way through the UK.  A while ago, without meaning to I switched from a goal orientated mindset to one that focuses on being present in the journey.  This is my way of explaining why I stop in a race to admire the view, or slow down so I can talk to people and fully embrace the experience.  Sometimes I catch myself being pulled in to the goal mentality in races, and I know it’s happening because the enjoyment has gone, only to be replaced by an overwhelming desire to move past the person in front and to beat that ever ticking clock.  At that point, I slow down, regain control of my breath and cadence, moving at my own comfortable pace, and admire as the colour seems to return to my surroundings as though some remotely increases natures colour saturation.  I’m not interested in a setting records or beating anyone else, just finding the limits of the fleshy vessel I seem to be part of. 

I guess with things of this nature, it’s more about knowing yourself, your limitations and strengths, being prepared to compromise and improvise when setting goes wrong.  No matter how much training I do, it’s likely resilience is going to be the most important tool in box.

3 weeks today, I’ll be walking to the sea, placing my hands in the cool water before heading north so I can repeat the ritual at the opposite end of this island I live on.  

Hope the adventure live up to the build up….

Support Package Curtosy Of Backpackinglight – Big Thanks To @bpl_uk For The Support

Package arrived at work today and inside was some donated camping gear from backpackinglight.

First surprise is how light the box is!  Surely they forgot to post the tent?

Inside was a nice hand written note, a packet of Skittles and then some camping goodies.

Here’s what Bob from backpackinglight sent:

  • Vaude Lizard GUL – ultra light 3 season tent weighing in at 690g!!
  • Titanium spirit burner – super light way of getting a warm mean cooked.
  • The Pocket Stove – titanium multi-fuel stove that’s going to really come into its own along the moors and the highlands.
  • Thermatrex blanket – these light blankets will reflect 75% of your body heat back at you.  Effectively I can up the warmth of a super light and thin sleeping bag without adding lots of weight to it.
  • Skittles – essential fuel, except this hasn’t made it past the first 5 minutes!

I can’t thank them enough for this equipment, but I also have to say a big thanks to Peter Ambrose for initiating the communication with them.  If it wasn’t for his initial email, the following conversations and then offer of support just wouldn’t have happened.  

Approaching the 3 week mark 😊