Sunday, 27 February 2011

Adidas walking wait hear me out!

I've been looking for a decent pair of walking boots for some time. At present I have B2 and B3 boots, but no B1 walking boots for scrambling etc. I have looked and tried on a number of boots, but non I have tried looked good enough or fitted well enough to justify splashing the cash. I liked the look of the Salomon Quest, and they fitted well too, but they didn't have that something extra I like to have with anything I buy. Anyway long story short I was mooching around Manchester today  (where it turns out there is 100 outdoor shops....). I went into the Blacks there, where there was (for once) a helpful lad working in the boot department. I clocked a pair of cool looking boots. These turneed out to be Adidas Terrex GTX hi FM. I instantly liked the look of these boots, and whats more

I'm sure I recognised the shape as being the same as the Salomon Quest I had tried on before. A quick chat with the guy in the shop revealed they were in fact the same boot (albeit with some reworking by Adidas), as Adidas and Salomon were owned by the same parent company. So now I was very interested, a boot that had already fitted well, but a cooler looking version, and at half price (£59.99) I invested. They look awesome, they fit brilliantly, and more importantly they shatter the stereotype that many of us have that Adidas can't make outdoor kit. Indeed the emergence of sports companies making gear, is

part of an ongoing trend started by Nike with their ACG (All Condition Gear). Looks like Adidas has hopped on the band wagon, and I am very impressed! These boots remind me of being young and when the "must have" football boots were Adidas predators. Therefore from now on these boots will be known as my Adidas Predators :) The next few months will reveal whether thesee are everything I hope for from my boots!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Helmet cams, Metoffice and Twitter

So for Christmas my girlfriend got me a small camera designed for recording outdoor pursuits. Naturally (and lets face it this is true), everyone has thought about using a helmet camera to record them doing something cool, so for me this was the ultimate piece of coolness for my kit collection. The camera included a 4gb microSD card, a mount for bike handlebars, and a mount for webcam use. Sadly the mount supplied didn't fit my bikes handle bars, and the transfer cable seems to be a bit dodgy. So eBay provides! £4.98 got me a new mount (helmet compatible and an SD card adapater). The new mount arrived the other day and is 1000x better than the one that was included. This one had flexible rubber straps to attach the camera, and to attach to whatever you want to. This means you can attach to a helmet by passing the straps through the holes in the helmet (see picture). Sadly this doesnt work on my grivel salamander due to the lack of vents in the helmet. However it was fine on Petzl Meteor and a Giro Indicator.So I fitted the camera up last night,
and with a planned trip to Harborough rocks tommorow, I figured it would be the ideal chance to get some good BETA footage. Sadly the Metoffice had other ideas. When i went to bed (11pm) the Metoffice was forecasting overnight rain, but dry from 4am, then sunny from early throughout the day. Sadly (in truest form with the Metoffice), when I got up it was slinging it down. The 'forecast' had then been updated to say rain throughout the day. Now honestly, what use is that? The past 3 times I have relied on the Metoffice they have let me down, as a geography graduate, and dabbler in meteorology, I appreciate the finer subtle details of weather forecasting, but HOW do they keep getting it wrong, there is a huge difference between "Sunny all day" and "wet all day", as Reynolds said "it is the only job in the world where the can get it wrong everyday and not get fired". So instead of being at the crag today I am sat updating my blog. The last thing I wanted to mention was
Twitter. I have heard "tweeting" talked about a lot recently, and it wasn't something I had ever done. However I decided to give it a go, and actually it seems very cool. All the major gear companies, mountain centres, and organisations seem to be on there. So having "followed" all of them, I can now access their tweets about latest releases, competitions etc. Seems very worthwhile. I can also update my tweets by texting a number (at no charge), which updates my profile. I have also added a gadget to my blog which allows a display of my current Tweet, so anyone who is interested can see what I am up to/working on. (I don't expect many people will be, but I think it's cool!). Thats all for now anyway, I will get some helmet cam footage up soon, and also update on whether Sonim's 14 day replacement quote is accurate!

Landrover S1 - Not as invincible as advertised?

I have had the Landrover S1 for some time now, and this is the second time it has broken. The first time was not a hardware issue - the phones software stopped working causing the phone to freeze up. In fairness to Sonim the phone was replaced with no questions asked, however I did miss having the phone when I was in Morocco.

This time however I dropped the phone to the ground by accident (baring in mind the company claim the phone can withstand 2m drops onto concrete), the resulting damage can be seen in the picture (left). The screen has a giant crack in it, whilst I should point out the  phone has continued to function fine despite the screen being mangled, I decided to (for the second time) take advantage of Sonim's "3 year unconditional guarantee". A short phone call to Sonim later and I had an address to send my phone to in order to recieve a replacement, no questions asked; except "what is wrong with it". Can't say fairer than that I suppose.
My issue is that the phone broke in the first place, surely a phone that claims to be literally bomb proof should be able to withstand damage from impacts on the screen? However credit where credit is due, Sonim really do follow through on their guarantee to replace the phone, no questions asked, if it breaks, so in this regard, I can't fault them as a company, great customer service. Overall I still like the Landrover S1, I had been having a few problems with the Microphone when calling people, as my voice came accross very quiet. So hopefully this will be fixed with the new one. The waterproofness of the phone however is still outstanding and is yet to let me down, even when I dropped it in the lake the other day! 14 days until the Landrover S1 Mk 3 arrives.....

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A week of orienteering.....soggy sarnies and too much running

So this week at work was a GCSE orienteering group. I like to get involved with this each year, as the group are usually good fun to work with, plus I get the constant reassurance that my navigation is better than a 15 year old novices! We used a number of venues away from the centre to increasingly test the students over the course of the week. I lead a number of evening training sessions throughout the week aimed at helping the students develop skills, copy of the powerpoint I put together for a quick contours introduction can be downloaded here. From my point of view the courses involved me running around as quickly as my legs would carry me in order to avoid the inevitable "Sir, you suck I beat you", chants from the group. We used 2 parks in Leek, Knypersly reservoir, and Buxton Country Park. The week got off to a bad start for me when I forgot my water bottle, not a huge issue I took one from the staffroom. Upon reaching lunchtime at the first site, I reached for my "gourmet" sarnies I had been gloating about (BBQ chicken and cheddar in cheesey rolls), I discovered the water bottle had leaked everywhere ruining my delicious food! Needless to say the water bottle received an apt reward for its betrayal...
And while we are at it Thermos Hydro Active Sports Bottle, best price: £4.99 from Amazon, is the worst designed water bottle I have ever seen, I mean the thing has a flimsy cap with a weak rubber seal which, if knocked will come undone instantly, do not ever buy one of these water bottles!
The week progressed very well, with my evening lectures seeming to make a difference to the group, the teachers seemed impressed, and the group were doing better than any previous year, so I was feeling pretty chuffed! I managed to get hold of a copy of the map for Thursday, and calibrated it using a product called OziExplorer (useful piece of software for calibrating .jpg files into geo referenced maps). This was very effective during the thursday, especially for getting the control points in exactly the right place! All in all I was very happy with the orienteering, once again (as usual) my Osprey Talon 33, proved the most comfortable bag I have ever owned,  even running up and down hills all day it didn't chafe or hurt at all. Once again highly recommended!

My ME Fitzroy also kept me toasty warm whilst waiting around in the wind and cold for the group to come and collect various orienteering points around the place! Enclosed is a small JPG of the orienteering map of Buxton Country park, well worth a visit! Excellent park with decent toilets etc, worth a walk over to solomons temple as well, with a good view across the quarries.

Summer rock climbing rack

I recieved a message today (via my contact me on my blog for the first time woop!), asking what is in my summer climbing rack. So this a brief response for Dave Harrison (thanks for you mail) and anyone else who is interested, as to what I carry on my summer trad rack:

10 x wild country oxygen quickdraws (various lengths)
3 x sling draws (60cm slings)
4 x D shaped screw gates (Zero G neutrons)
2 x DMM/Mammut Boa
1 x Metolius nutkey (saved me £24 to date!)
1 x Petzl Reverso3 belay plate + DMM Fatboy
1 x Petzl Reverso + HMS
7 x DMM 4CU cam's sizes 0.5-4
Black Diamond wired hexes
DMM Wallnuts 1-11
Zero G Spectrum wires 5-13
Zero G Spectrum wires 1-4
DMM Offset wires

1 x 60cm sling + karabiner
4 x 120cm slings + karabiner each
2 x 240cm slings + karabiner each
1 x 400cm sling +karabiner

2 x prussik loops

+ Harness, helmet, rockboots and chalkbag

All the above won't come on every route, but this is what I have, however I customise what I actually carry depending on the venue and route.

Why old style pierce top stoves are bad!

As the title suggests really, I witnessed an incident a Peak District campsite a few months back that highlighted to me the reason these stoves should not continue to be used for expeditions with young people. Whilst waiting for my DofE group to arrive I was sat in my tent observing another group cooking (no idea where they were from). As I watched, one of the young people busted out an old style pierce top stove. These were replaced a number of years ago with the safer, more reliable, resealable stoves. Curiously I watched the events that unfolded next, where the young person mounted the gas canister, and lit the stove. Before I had chance to shout to them, the whole stove had gone up in flames, I ran in and grabbed the stove hurling it away from the tents into the empty camping field, I quickly extinguished the stove, and turned the gas off.
I promptly headed over and gave the leader of the group an earful. It should be noted that in these cases I do not blame the young people, I blame the leader who allowed them to use the stove in the first place. Pierce top stoves are too dangerous, and too easy to use wrongly. So this is a plea to any scout groups, cadets, dofe groups, schools or anyone else who still Show Allhas these stoves squirreled away somewhere......Bin them now! Afterwards I collected the stove and took some pictures for instructional purposes, so that others can see the results of using these stoves incorrectly. The main issue is if they ignite, it is very difficult to deal with as the stove becomes a fireball, something that for a young person on an expedition will be very scared of.

The issue occurs when the arms securing the canister are not placed correctly, when the canister is is punctured a leak occurs, and when the stove valve is turned on and lit, the pressurised gas sprays out of the canister and lights instantly, and continues to flow. The best case scenario is that the canister remains attached to the stove, the worst case scenario (something that I have seen before), is if the canister becomes detached from the stove, the pressurised canister then blasts off like a rocket with a trail of fire behind it. Obviously this represents a huge hazard, not least of which hitting another young person, or a tent, or vehicle. The question we have to ask ourselves is "is it worth the risk", when resealable stoves are available from £9.99?....Food for thought.