1/ Alright!


I’m PTC, Petesy and Peter Macfarlane. I’m various things: father; heating engineer: musician and occasional freelance outdoor writer and photographer.
Things have evolved on here over the years but I’m still here, still talking, writing and pointing machinery at the scenery.

Thanks for looking in, feel free to comment, criticise or contact me.



75 thoughts on “1/ Alright!”

  1. ptc,

    Just found your blog via the forum, and its superb! Awesome photography as usual, and your gear reviews are excellent, certainly changed my mind abut at least two things I as planning to buy!

    Keep up the good work mate!

  2. Been reading your column in Trail for quite a while now, so was elated to stumble across this page as the column is way too short. I can’t help thinking that the other contributors to the mag seem to have a bit of a downer on the lightweight movement, it’s a big thing currently and coverage seems minimal. Thanks for fighting the good fight. Also, what is the best Sabbath album? It’s obviously the first one.

  3. Funny, I started this blog as an insurance against my first Trail column being edited really badly. The idea being that I would post the original version and I wouldn’t get all embarasssed. Luckily it all went okay.

    There’s a lightweight supplement in this or the next issue, I’ve done a stack of mini reviews for it. Hopefully it’ll be pretty good.
    But it’s like you say, the Trail folks aren’t really lighweight minded. I think that’s okay though, better my 300 words a month of genuine enthusiasm than bigger articles that are just going through the motions from a disinterested and sceptical writer. Mind you, I could easy do 3,000 words of enthusiasm a month :o)

    The first side of the first Sabbath album with the rain, the bells and those three notes are their finest moment. My favourite song is probably War Pigs, and favourite album is probably a tie between Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage (just don’t look at the cover!!).

  4. I used my new Combi bag (Drishell version, no zip) on Saturday, but on its own, not with an inner bag. I slept very well at -3C that night (I’ve done -7 and -9 in the Minim 400 recently!). It lofted amazingly well, didn’t suffer at all from condensation, but wow, did it feel odd having all that room to roll around in after years of using the Minimus and Minim offerings!

    When it first arrived I did try it on the bedroom floor, nesting it with my (deep breathe…. ;) Pigolo, Ultra, Minimus, Minim 300, and Minim 400 (not all at once!) and all I can really say is “Phew!!!”

  5. The loft is on the Combi is very good isn’t it. I was sorting gear out yesterday and ended up with a few bags out on the bed and it was the fattest looking, but not the one with the most down supposedly.
    I’m telling you, PHD are in league with satan.

  6. How much room is there left in the Combi with the Minim 400 in place?

    I have a Minim 500 which I have pushed to -10C with a down jacket on (I sleep very cold) and am wondering if the Combi would fit over the 500 to really make winter comfortable.

  7. I know PHD talk about the Combi with ‘up to the Minim 400’ but then that’s the extent of the regular Minim range these days – the 500 was a sale special a couple of years back iirc.

    I’d say the 400 and the Combi were both fully lofted together and there wasn’t a lot of excess room. But wow, it was scorching!

    But what’s the worst that can happen if you use a 500? At worst it may only loft to the extent of a 400, but even that’s a combination that PHD would give a -24 rating to! So you’d be carrying the extra bit of weight of the 500 for no real gain, but saving the cost of *another* new bag too.

  8. Cheers Matt.

    You are quite right the 500 was a sale special. PHD do still offer 600, 800 and 1000 versions though hence my question. Having said that I’d come to pretty much the same conclusion myself, but wanted to check with a real world PHD sleeping bag user (and collector?).

    Looks like it may be time to sell my soul!

  9. I’d go with what Matt say on the bags. Worth a shot. As bobinson will confirm I was toast in the Minim Ultra and the Combi in just baselayers at -8 and I sleep cold.

    Exped Synmat7 sleepmat for winter. Thick Primaloft filled comfort and joy.

  10. Sorry Bobinson, I just missed your post.

    I use an old Thermarest in winter. It is full length and 3.8cm thick and apparently has a R value of 4.2 (sad what you remember isn’t it). It weighs about 1 kg but does fit in my Thermarest chair kit! I keep looking at lighter alternatives but none of them insulate as well as far as I can see. I could combine mats (I see a theme developing) but they would take up more space in my Mariposa.

    Summer is easy – an Alpkit Wee Airic as it’s small, comfy and very cheap.

  11. I’ve been using a Downmat 7 (And MoS uses the Downmat 7 3/4-length with a Thermarest sitmat under her feet). It’s been plenty warm enough when lying on it, but I do find that if I sit on it then my weight concentrated on my bum can compress it and reduce the insulation quite a lot…. so I pinch the Thermarest seat and stick it on top! ;)

  12. Another good one is the womans Thermarest Prolite 4. Warmer and bit shorter than the blokes.
    Nice shade of pink too.

    Bobinson, you’ll need to try tha Big Agnes 2-Track I’ve got on test, it’s Thermarest-thin, but impervious to ground temperature.

  13. ARRGH that big agnes name comes up again !
    Toying with getting a top bag to go with the pitch pine but just cant decide !
    Obviously once the bag is decided I can uprate the mat

  14. I just skimmed the new TGO…. Chris Townsend used one of the new Thermarest Neo-Air mats at -2C and says he was warm. Sounds promising!

  15. It does look good. They’ve had to react to the growing number of fat sleep mats.
    Big Agnes do a Primaloft fat mat but can’t bring it into the UK because of licensing/territory stuff.
    It’s a bugger.

  16. Agreed on the combi principle and also on the Synmat 7.

    I got a PHD Ultra for the summer (thanks for the review PTC) and it fits nicely into my old Macpac Topbag. I was very comfy in that at -5 and I sleep cold. I also finally tracked down a Synmat 7 after reading all the reviews of it here in the blog and it is a major improvement (comfort and insulation) on the Prolites I have.
    The weight is a bugger, but you can live with that in winter for a good night’s sleep.
    I am tempted to go for a Combi, but it’s a lot of bucks. Mind you I have a couple of tents that will soon be ebayed, so that might cover it.

  17. I’m sticking with the PHD/Exped kit for winter, I was warm again on Friday night.
    Just brilliant. And like you say, the extra weight is well worth it.

  18. Any body else noticed that the mesh pocket inside the OMM Jirishanca houses a Adventure Medical First Aid kit perfectly !
    Is the PTC influence starting to creep into OMM at last !

  19. Back to down bags for the moment. I know we’re all PHD freaks but have you spotted the new Terra Nova down bags on the (American) Backpackinglight.com site? Only announced over there in the last couple of days & nothing released here yet. Interesting scepticism over the claimed weight/temperature ratings!

  20. Aye, they never really push their bags, and they always get slated in reviews.
    They certainly didn’t have any new models to show off last year at trade shows, it was about the new tents and tarps. I wonder if they’re just plugging existing kit to a new market?

    I shall enquire during the week…

  21. You seem underwhelmed! The bags appear on the Backpackinglight gear forum & on their Outdoor Retailer Winter Market report. Nothing on TN’s own site & they’re new to me. The range includes Laser 300 Elite, Laser 600 & 900. The 300 is described as a mountain marathon bag for temperatures 3-8C & at 330g is (surprise, surprise) “lightest bag in the world”.

  22. It would be! It’ll be a Pertex bin liner with some down in it :o)
    Anything that pushes the envelope has got to be good. Their pack debut was impressive.

  23. Hi Pete, I’ve just ordered the Laser Competition 2009, (there’ll be also a pair of S.D. Hot Sox for my bloody 420g sleeping bag). As soon as I’ll get it will go out for a night here in north of Italy … pretty much snow this days! I’ll let you know how the pegs and all the shelter work. This site is great. Well done Pete!

  24. R.F.C have updated their web page but you get no mention mate !
    I would complain along the lines of ” do you know who I am , I am the guy from Trail ”

  25. Hey up PTC

    The poll Training is ….

    Should have ‘Fun’ as an option. Its not all about gym bunnies and fitness freaks.

    Or is it just me thats wierd?

  26. Nah, I should have had that option.
    I think I was reacting to my shock return to the trail on foot and in the saddle!

    It is fun though, absolutely.

  27. Hi Pete, always read your column in Trail then found you on lfto, hope you don’t think i’m a stalker but following you on twitter and sent a friend request on facebook…blimey scaring myself now, at least I don’t know where you live lol
    cheers anyway keep up the good work testing all that shiny new gear for us and when your finished with it just let me know. I’m an xl by the way.

  28. Hey, nae bother, good to see you.
    Connecting with folk is what it’s all about :o)

    By the way, there is useful outdoor stuff on here, you just have to search for it…

  29. Hi Pete, been following your site for a while now…thought i’d finally drop by and say ‘hi’ rather than just lurking in the background!

    Enjoy reading your reports and reviews – you seem to tell it as it is with no bull or hype, which i like! As such i now have my 3rd stove – a Brunton Flex (1/2 price – phew!) which matches my POE Ether Elite nicely!!

    Interested to know what camera you use (have tried searching for it but no success)?

    Anyway keep up the good work…

  30. Hi Neil, thanks for saying hello!

    Good gob on the Brunton Flex, that’s a win. I still haven’t heard what’s happening with Brunto after the sale of the company, it’ll be a shame to see their kit disapear.

    Camera? It’s up there somewhere (I will indedx this place properly one day…), it’s Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3. Now getting very worn I’ll tell you!


  31. Hey Pete, thought I’d log in and say hello after a couple of years of seeing what you’re up to now and again. I’m shifting away from Dartmoor wading towards cycle camping due to ankle ligament damage and a love of the easy life, but still always happy to check out your views on new gear. PS I’ve got the Lumix DMC-FS62, it’s idiotproof and miles better than the Canon Ixuses that everybody seems to use – I mislaid the Ixus as you can tell. Cheers!

    1. Hello!

      Funny you should mention cycle camping, I’ll be doing that at some point this year. There’s two remote peaks I’ll be riding into and climbing from camp, and as ever I’ll be taking my time and making it easy, I hope.
      I was riding with flat pedals last week for the first time in ages and it was fine (I always use clip-ins and cleated shoes), so no more thoughts of carrying two sets of shoes!
      Good call on the camera, my Lumix really has been my best pal for the past 18 months. It really is looking worse for wear though!

  32. Hi Petesy. We met first in WalkHighlands and thought I’d join you here too. I’ve been a day trekker up till now but am entering the world of “stay-overs” in the hills and kitting myself out from scratch, so thanks for all your kit reviews. Vango Tempest 200 to house me and the dog is on order! Just waiting for your verdict on the Karrimor v Haglofs-matrix! :)

  33. Hello there, thanks for calling round :o)

    Overnighters are the best way to see the hills, I’m sure you’ll love it. Ktting out from scratch will be a lot of fun, just don’t look at the bank balance afterwards.

    Posted some words on those packs, dodn’t mention one thing though, and that’s build quality. The X-Lite is a pre-production sample and has had a couple of minor failures, the Matrix is a production version and has been rock-solid. So I can’t compare like-for-like there.

  34. Wonderful blog PTC, came across it researching the OMM Ultra waist pouch, which I really really want AND I may even treat myself to the 10L Last Drop as well! Seem to be getting lighter-weighted the older I get so keep up the great reviews here and in the mag, thanks for your work/play.

    Just another kidult having fun and chillaxin’


  35. Thanks for checking in and for the kind words.
    Glad to see you’re hewding in a good direction there with the kit!

    Just back from being out to play, what a night. More later!

  36. Hello Pete

    Colleague at George Fisher pointed me in direction of your blog, although I was aware of you from my occasional look inside Trail … I have long been a believer in travelling light, in fact I am even almost getting used to the raised eyebrows and shaking of the heads as fellow walkers realise I am heading towards them in trail shoes and carrying only a hammerhead on my back as they head to Everest via Great Gable … I will enjoy browsing through your blog over the coming weeks!

  37. Hi Mark, thanks for checking in!

    It’s those very folk you’re talking about that need the info and the confidence to go lighter. I do find it frustrating at times that lightweight seems to to be stuck as a niche interest rather than just a common sense approach to the outdoors.

    If you find anything useful on here when you’re browsing let me know where it is :o)

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