Lifesystems – First Aid Kit and Hand Warmers.

If I cut my knee open and It’s a freezing cold day I am well sorted. I got sent these two lovely items from the great people at Lifesystems. I needed a decent first aid kit and seeing as I spend a lot of my time outdoors in the UK sometimes in a kayak then a waterproof one would be ideal. This is the waterproof first aid kit. All the stuff inside is sealed in a resealable bag. The contents is adequate for say a hike or a quick 1 days paddle. I would take something more substantial on anything more than 1 or 2 days but the point of this sort of kit is it’s light and something you can just have in your pocket or in your day-sack.

The hand warmers are 2 packs of gel that are started by pressing a disk within the packs and give off a good 90 minutes of heat. The good thing about these are they can be reused. You simply boil them for 10 minutes until the liquid becomes opaque and you have a couple of hand warmers on your hands…………….so to speak.

 

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Early Bird

I got up at 06:00 and through the dark morning and heavy rain made it to my local swimming pool for a swim before work. I haven't done this in years. It's a newly refurbished leisure centre and it's just opened. I was expecting to have the have the whole pool to myself but was shocked and bitterly disappointed surprised to find quite a lot of like minded people.

I did about 12 lengths following the one way system with a big grin on my face. It's a great way to start the day. This is going to be a regular part of my weeks fitness I just hope they keep it on the timetable.

 

 

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7 Miles Around The Great Orme

We do this run 3 or 4 times a year. The kids are at school and we book the time off to spend the morning running around this massive Limestone rock on the North Wales coast and then rewarding ourselves with something hugely calorific but delicious. It’s 3 miles up and 3 miles down with the last mile running down the prom. In February the Nick Beer 10km race is held here which we have done a few times over the years.

This Sunday in a howling gale we plodded around but despite a cloudy start were rewarded with some great views of Snowdonia. We couldn’t hang around to long at the top as it was getting a bit nippy. Great run and a lot of fun.

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Bothy Life

Last weekend I went to the Dumfries and Galloway Forest In the south west of Scotland to do some mountain biking, running and to explore and stay a couple of nights in a bothy. We had warnings of a storm called Abigail so it was going to be an interesting couple of days to spend outdoors.

A bothy is a basic building usually quite remote. They are places to escape the elements. You always find pots and pans sometimes food, wood and fuel to get a fire going if it has a fire place etc. The ethos of the whole thing is summed up nicely in this statement “To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use and benefit of all who love wild and lonely places” These places are maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association follow that link for more information on this great organisation.

Tunskeen Bothy

On the first day we had planned a long mountain bike trail route. After driving many miles and arriving at the start point, getting all the kit ready we set off. About 200 meters into the ride my bloody chain broke. I couldn’t believe it. After all the perpetration it was stopped by a small link. My good friend Gaz laughed and picked my drooping lip up with some dark humor and his usual positive attitude. We went to a mountain bike trail center where we found a great shop called The BrakePad Bike Shop not far from Newton Stewart. This was a 14 mile drive. After the bike got fixed we headed north to Glentrool. We set of in an easterly direction from the visitors center. The weather was great and I was feeling a lot better. It was a stunning place to ride. We stopped at the Bruce’s Stone where the battle of Trool took place. A few miles on we found the first bothy, White Laggan. It was set in a stunning landscape and we found it in good order. We were running out of time so we set off to find the next bothy where we were going to spend that night.

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We parked up in woodland and set off in the dark to find Tunskeen Bothy. The wind had picked up and we were starting to get a bit of the storm Abigail. This bothy was only 3 miles away from our start point but due to the landscape and elevation it seemed more like 5. We had to negotiate some fallen trees and some rough terrain on the final mile or so. In the pitch black with head torches on we found Tunskeen Bothy. When we opened the door the place looked like heaven. It was clean, cosy and very welcoming. The previous occupants had kindly left some kindling in the fire place so it was easy to get the fire started which we did as soon as we had picked our beds in the form of large wooden planks. Fire on the go beer in hand (we brought our own) and a huge pot of food to shove down our necks I couldn’t have been happier. In the morning the wind was howling. After a coffee and some breakfast we packed up and set off back to the van. Got changed and went for a great 6 mile run from one Loch Riecawr to Loch Doon. We spent the rest of the day exploring Ayr and Alloway the birth place of Robert Burns.

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Another pitch black approach to the bothy but this time in a downpour accompanied by a strong gusting wind. About 300 meters from the bothy we had to negotiate a couple of streams. When we crossed them we jokingly said to each other lets hope they don’t flood or words to that effect. We had a fantastic evening back in the bothy out of the elements. It really is a pleasure to be inside on of those places when the weather is as bad as it can be. I had a great nights sleep. We did the usual routine in the morning and set off in storm Abigail. When we got to the stream it was no longer a stream but now a torrent of gushing water. We couldn’t cross here so we had to go up stream and find a point to get over. We chucked our rucksacks over and jumped from a large rock to get across. It seems nothing is easy here in this stunning place. Which makes it great.

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We have only scratched the surface and there is so much more to explore in this fantastic part of Scotland. Will be back very soon. We have another weekend planned in early December of this year, Cant wait!!

 

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First Ride

First proper ride on the mountain bike since the rib break. It was great to get back out in the hills on the bike and in the wet. The first mile or so was a bit twitchy but I soon settled into a rhythm and started to relax. Wet, muddy and very windy. Perfect conditions. When I got my bike out of the back of the van and the familiar wind coming off the Clwydian range hit my face I then had a big grin on my face. I have missed riding my bike so much. I didn’t realise how much until this moment.

It’s going to take a lot of riding to get back in shape. I’m off to Llandegla for some black route rides in a week or so. The crash has done me good in that I am more cautious with what I attempt. I’m not in my 20’s anymore where I once thought I was indestructible. I am very destructible, fragile and bitter. I mean happy.

 

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Llangollen Wild Camp

The whole point of doing this wild camp was to test out how effective the under quilt for the hammocks would be in the cold prior to a weekend coming up in Scotland. So of course it was the warmest ever temperatures recorded for this time of year.  I have used the under quilt on numerous occasions but this was just a slightly different set up.

The woods we set up in are high in the hills above Llangollen. A great little spot where it’s rare to see anybody else. The last time we were here wild ponies came into our camp in the middle of the night. Needless to say I didn’t sleep well that night.

Despite everything being damp we managed to get a good fire on the go. I ate about 5 million German sausages. My hammock set up with a tarp using a ridge line is a pleasure to hang and easy to pack away. It has taken me many years to get this comfortable with it all. I will make a video next time I am out of the whole set up and the adjustments I have made.

We got up to a warm morning and slowly packed our kit away. On our way out we walked across the hills and were treated to a magnificent view of the valleys below covered in a carpet of cloud. All enhanced by the early morning sun and the stark contrast with the blue sky. Unfortunately both of our phones had no battery power so we couldn’t get a photo.

Another great nigh out.

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That Jacket

Now days the choice of an outdoor jacket has become just as important as the boot. The price range of mens jackets for example can range from a few quid for a paclite jacket (that will make you sweat more than keep rain off) to in the thousands of pounds which are cut and designed to very high specifications usually for serious mountain climbers.
I own a few jackets for the outdoors but the truth is I have 2 that I use all year round and I have had these jackets for many years. Not so long ago your main jacket did everything. Kept you warm, dry and comfortable in all weathers. These jackets you now see less of because most people use the layering system.
I have what most normal would call a “bit of a problem” with my fetish sorry fascination and interest in Gore Tex. I think it comes from the times when I first had a Gore Tex jacket when I was in the Army and it actually kept me dry.
Before that we were issued with the cheapest and nastiest bits of kit imaginable. They literally spared every expense back in those days and I spent many a miserable night in the hills of the Brecon Beacons soaked wet through. So when we were issued with the new jackets I never looked back.

I now have a lightweight North Face waterproof jacket that has to be one of my favorite bits of kit. I have had this beauty for about 12 years now and it has never let me down and is still going strong to this very day. In fact it is packed away in my rucksack ready for a weekend in the hills.
I’m starting to get back into the ultra light weight mode of kit and as such I am now looking out for a new jacket. I might even try out a different material from Gore Tex…………………………………………….No I wont.

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What’s In My Rucksack?

 I was contacted and asked what do I always carry in my rucksack? What are my essentials?

It all depends on the environment, duration and weather but there are few things I do always take and these are mostly based around safety. So just for the purposes of this I have worked it out as a 2 day hike where there are plenty of trees in the midst of a typical autumn in the UK.

As you can see from the pictures I do use a lot of dry bags. They keep my stuff dry and it helps a lot with organizing my kit. The rucksack is an 80 liter Canyon from Mountain Warehouse which is more than enough for this of thing. I have a philosophy of not packing my gear to its maximum compression which is a common mistake.

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The idea is to pack it as if I was outdoors which is different from doing it in a nice warm room out of the wind and rain. I still take the time to do it in a logical manner but I don’t take ages trying to make everything small. This helps tremendously when I am packing up and moving on when outdoors. Another common mistake is to try and fill the rucksack out. I always try to leave as much room as possible spare. You don’t need all that spare gear.

Essentials – These are always with me when I go to remote places.

First Aid Kit
Knife
Head Torch
Para cord
Map and Compass
Mobile Phone
Food
Water
Sleeping Bag
Bivi Bag
Waterproofs – Gortex jacket and trousers

 

Extras – While this stuff is not under essentials it doesn’t make them less important it’s just that this stuff changes a lot depending on what I am doing.

Warm/ Windproof Top
Gloves
Hat
Hammock
Tarp
Roll Mat.
Jungle Net
Socks
T- Shirt
Fleece.

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