Trail Stuff

I’ve got a few bits and pieces in the current Trail mag. There’s the one-person tent review (featuring the Kilpatrick Hills where I took all the photies of them in gale force winds over two days…) which I’ll talk about later, a whole bunch of interesting stuff came out of that. My hike-a-bike to route Gulvain route is in there, seems like a lifetime ago that one, and finally it’s nice to see the feature I did around the trip to Assynt last year.

Regular listeners might remember that one, I went to Assynt to backpack a route based on the freeform thinking that route planners apply when they’re making a mountain marathon, in this case the 2006 LAMM. The team were all legends, except me, familiar face Phil (who took the only pictures I have that prove I was actually there) and Mike & Marian Parsons.

The full story of the trip is back in October on here, but the Trail piece is different, it actually explains properly what the hell we were doing, and that was using the mountain marathon ethic as a tool. Walkers and backpackers often follow a route, be it from a book, a magazine or a website, and that’s fine, if I was going to the Lakes or Wales, that’s what I’d be doing. But at home I look at the map, the weather, where I might get the motor parked and head out. That’s not saying I avoid tracks and trails, that would just be stupid, but I like to have a bit of a wander too. Those who race will know that mountain marathon routes pretty much go “wherever”, I love that and wanted to pass that on that sense of freedom and exploration.
This is the great thing about Trail, every feature in there has a little something different, an angle, a premise or a task. And while forum folk often mock that, it shows that they’re always thinking and looking for different ways to be fresh, inspire folk and pull them in. If it was just trip report after trip report every issue it would be rubbish.

I wanted to get some race and race-derived gear in there too. Lightweight backpacking kit often seems half-arsed to me, designed purely for low weight rather than performance, so I’d rather go for race or alpine gear, sure it might be from less sexy bigger brands, but it’s usually better made and doesn’t weigh much if any more than the cult brand niche kit. If folk who want to shed weight and faff can find stuff in regular shops from familiar brands rather than seeking out specialist kit geek emporiums that has to be a good thing if it gets them in the lighter door. Lightweight should be for everyone, not just enthsiasts.
Evernew titanium kit is my specialsit exception from the line-up in the mag, only Bob Backpackinglight has that, it’s really expensive and it’s also the best cook kit I’ve ever used. Along with the Jetboil Flash now I think about, I love them both, but differently: like chocolate coated nougat and the cool side of the pillow.

I learned a lot doing that feature, and indeed I wrestled with it at times. It’s one thing writing up your solo adventure, it’s a different thing being in a group as an observer, taking photies and notes and then trying to pull it all together. Interviewing friends is entirely bizarre.
Still, the trip was brilliant, even the two sleepless nights of gales couldn’t dull the magic of the place and total inspiration I got from the land, the hills and my companions. I always hope a bit of the joy comes through in the writing, because you can’t put smilies in a magazine to underline the point.

32 thoughts on “Trail Stuff”

  1. I have to agree. Lightweight should never be at the expense of usability but all too often has been. I’d rather wake refreshed and carry a little more than get no sleep and carry next to nothing.

  2. Bought a pair of Hagloffs boots a month or two back Peter. Excuse my ignorance but didn’t even know they made boots!!! Apparently that’s how they started!! Anyway would recommend them, a great buy.Don’t know if you’ve ever reviewed them?

  3. That new Facebook linkup puts my avatar on other peoples commenst. That’ll be confusing as hell.

    Orange, that’ll be the Power Lizard? I fine spacious room for the night.

    BBF, a word of warning Phil’s is very well represented on those pages :o)

  4. It’s always a balance Dave, I’ve found my personal comfort limits a couple of times by shaving the weight right down, but never crossed the line into suffering.
    Thye biggest joy of my life is that my winter overnight pack is smaller and lighter than my winter daypack of ten years ago!

  5. Haglofs footwear’s great Willie, a lot of the models are a little stiff, but I get on well with them. Their monster Grym boots are my favourite winter boot right now, first proper boot I’ve been comfy in for years.
    They do mental colours as well which is always good :o)

  6. Yeh they’ve taken a wee while to settle down but have a great insole which balances that. They’re more of a 2-3 season boot which is enough for me at the moment. My ambition still outstrips my skill on the mountain!!!

  7. Facebook, now that’s a slippery slope you’ve started on ;)

    I actually went out amd bought Trail which I haven’t done in a long time. I get that used to reading trips and stuff on-line but it was great to read the magazine again and found it very interesting and enjoyable to read about the Ayssnt trip again.

    I don’t think you need to worry about the smiles as your enthusiasm shines through in the writing.

    Now for some shameful linkery on the tent front, ah the cheek of an Ayrshire boy knows no bounds. :D

    Looking forward to reading about your next trip.

  8. Good article on the OMM route and an intersting point about the ‘social’ aspect of the team trip verus the solo backpacker.

    I’ve wittered on before about preferring ‘team’ trips for just that reason, and also previously wondered why two man tents are so out of fashion at the moment (a reasonably light two manner confers so much more space, head height, stability and ease of pitching than two one person tents).

    Surely Bobinson’s snoring can’t be that bad?

  9. That’s the thing about trail shoes, no breaking-in!

    I wear the Sole insoles in my steelies at work every day. They make cheapo workboots wearable, so that makes them a winner.

  10. Tookie Bunten, links to quality destinations are always good on here!

    Glad it reads okay, I was nice to see it again for me as I was such a great trip. Going back to Assynt soon too :o)

    Desperate to get some trips in. So I could concentrate on getting as much familiartiy with all the tenst and tarps as possible for the reviews I’ve just been playing locally. I miss going north.

    The social thing does make a difference David. I think last year I was on three trips that weren’t solo or a pair, and you get used to doing things a certain way, which goes out of the window with a team. It was great every time though.

    I don’t know why oa ne-person tent has become the norm. I kinda slipped into it, and I must admit I’m so used to it now and find it so easy and comfy that I can’t see me changing back any time soon.
    It’s the 3am cuppa without annoying your mate, the late night pee indoors or out with causing a nuisance, reading a book by headtorch until late and do find I have more space as well.
    I think one more practical rather than personal thing has been on high or summit camps, most of the time getting a good pitch for a small tent has been hit or miss and a bigger one would be more so.
    When I’m heading out with Joycee we’ll be in a two-man, we’re very used to each others weirdness now :o)

  11. Thank you kind sir. :)

    Oh nice going back to Assynt. Maybe on of these days you’ll head south to some other wild but not so high places ;) but it’s just great to be out and about.

    I agree with what your saying about the 1 man tent. Except maybe if your firing up a MSR Pocket Rocket at 3am for a cuppa. Sometimes I don’t think it’s called a rocket for speed! :D

  12. I haven’t bought Trail in quite some time, but popped out at lunch to pick up a copy after reading this post. What a great issue! Enjoyed the write up on the solo tents and was interested to read about your Gulvain route. I’m due to pass that direction on the TGO Challenge, but perhaps I should be going over Gulvain rather than around :)

  13. tookiebunten, I’ve got a better idea, you head up this way for a high camp woth me while there’s still snow :o)

    Seriously though, there’s so many of us stay within shouting distance of each other, we really should have a meet at some point.

    Hi Jon. There is a lot of good stuff in that issue, a lot of variety in the content these days too.
    Gulvain woild be a grerat hill to walk end to end, the way the ridge curves away to Loch Arkaig is fantastic. Does leave you half way down the loch of course if you’re heading east!

  14. Gulvain end-to-end might work well for me as I’m headed for Inver Mallie. Might help me skip out some of the boggy ground alongside the Fionn Lighe. Good chance to visit a summit in an area that’s a bit more out of the way also!

  15. I’m think I’m going have to manage the Facebook commenst better Martin or this will all become a random series of unrelated statements :o) Or should I just say more-so that usual?

    Nice to get into the unfrequented corners Jon. I’ve had a hankering for a bit Tom Weir did in there when he was covering B.P. Charlie’s flight through the area.
    I love it around there, and I quite fancy going back for a camp on Gulvain, on the way up there’s horizontal depressions from subsidensce that look perfect for bivying or slinging a trap over. If it’s dry…

  16. Interesting, the comments regarding solo vs. 2-person tents. I spent years looking for a good solo option, lugging a TN Voyager and trying a mesh-inner TNF Mountain Marathon, before finding various degrees of satisfaction with a Superlite Voyager, Laser Comp and even a bargain Akto….

    … and no sooner did I acquire these than they spend most of their time languishing in the cupboard! Backpacking for the last 3 years or so has almost all been shared with MoS and the Superlite Quasar has done us proud – it’s a great combination of space, light-weight and strength, and the two porch design is a real boon when the weather turns nasty.

    We’ve had very little trouble finding wild / summit pitches for it really. That said, Friday just gone we left late from Buttermere to head up Scarth Gap and onto Haystacks. We reached Inominate Tarn as the last light went, the ground was really sodden, and in the near-dark we saw what seemed like the only dry spot big enough to take the inner’s footprint, but with a big slope in one corner and two moss-covered rocky lumps in the middle. We pitched anyway, pretty solid considering, but with the porches somewhat ‘mangled’ up and down the hillside. Surprisingly, with Exped Downmats inside, shored up on the slope by surplus gear, we were actually very comfortable all night :)

    And of course, as we packed up and moved on next morning… barely 50 yards away among some rocky knolls we found that elusive perfect little sward of close-cropped, bowling-green-flat turf just crying out to be pitched on – ho hum, so it goes ;O)

  17. just reading that copy of Trail last night, in a damp little cottage, after having walked up Molweyn Mawr in a hailstorm and caught a cold!

    Trail is getting better, last months Messner article was excellent, and this month, with all that PTC stuff, is equally good ;p The Assynt read from another perspective was great – I remembered from yr blog, but as you say its a different angle.

    and so to footwear, i have questions…
    You caught me and the missus both badly needing replacement winter and summer shoes. The Hagloffs gryms – do they come up wide or narrow, big or small? But more urgently, and for summer, the montrails you show in the mag – wide or narrow, big or small? I have wide feet, and nearly a half size different between. I find my size 9 inov8 295’s good, but pinch a little on the right, and I want trail-mids for a biggun in the summer, as I’m nervous about ankle support over long distances….
    cheers for all the good reads, and please advise!

  18. Matt, enough guylines and you can pitch on a dry-stane wall :o)
    You’ll need to come up and try some of the one-persons I’ve got at some point!

    Glad you enjoyed it Dave, and you’re right Trail is better these days. All the folk that say “Trail’s rubbish I haven’t bought it in years” really should update their point of reference :o)

    Now, the Gryms. Had them on yesterday, I take my regular size, but Bobinson tales a size up (he just got a pair). I feel like they’re just-right, but it looks like foot shape might be an issue as well as size?

    Montrail might be an issue, the new distributor isn’t distributing, so there are no current Montrails in the UK.
    But, the update of the models in the feature feel alittle tighter to me, maybe a half-size smaller. But Montrails on me have always been US10 and Euro44, and now they’re US10 Euore43, so they’ve tweaked the sizing or maybe just rebadges them, but they do feel a tiny bit smaller.
    Trail mids are great, best of both worlds, and Montrails have been spot on until now.

  19. Bought trail myself this month and it isn’t bad at all, better than the LFTO website. lol. I think Trail stagnated a few years back by going over the same Traditionalist stuff year on year. Now lightweight is the norm its a hell of a lot better. You’ve done a great job Pete there converting and educating them+us. The gear guide needs updating though, its been the same categories for the last few years. Why no insulation, softshell pants etc. The mag has already reviewed em so why not stick em in. I hope montrail get their act together here as i love em and can’t believe after only using them for 2 years they may dissappear, best trainers ever for me. Digressing slightly Pete is the Haglofs Barrier hood a lot warmer than the standard jacket which i already have. Ta

  20. I’m sure the Hood is warmer, thicker insulation in the torso I think?

    Montrails? Get them on ebay from the US. I’ve got my eye on some Streaks right now.

    LFTO? Aye…

  21. It’s hit and miss, sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t. I get a few outdoor, guitar and bike bits from the US and elsewhere and I’ve only got collared a couple of times.
    It does bring it right up tp UK prices if they do pick you though.

  22. cheers fella, well beyond the call o duty answering my daft questions

    looking fwd to watching yr new viddy once my internet comes back from 1992



  23. Yes what *are* the apparent clowns distributing Montrail up to?!

    Hitch and Hike (Bamford) have seemingly managed to get some Masochists, Rockridges and Badrocks from somewhere, and Outside seem to have the Masochist/Masochist mids.
    (iirc neither had that much recent last year or two.).

    Wonder if this is a sign of hope or just random success against the odds?!

    Badrock fit didn’t seem quite the same as Rockridges. Slightly better on me maybe, but I’ve got too many shoes (for now!) so I didn’t.

    Oh Rockridges seem good for now but not used them all that much yet.

  24. The Masochist Mids look nice, I get on well with the shoe.
    I’ll need to chase this up as some point, when I was putting together the Assynt gear stuff for Trail no one was admitting to doing Montrail.
    It’s like someone in charge wants the brand to fail.

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