Sunday, 3 November 2013

Scarpa Spark Shoes

Walking shoes are going though a phase at the present time to become lighter, many makers are developing the thin soled fabric lightweight shoes, Inov8, Merrel, Teva amongst some. I have been somewhat sceptical about these shoes. Are they really going to make a difference? Will they last? Some people take this lightweight issue to strap on sandals, but you can go too far!

I looked into the Scarpa Spark which comes as 600g pair of walking shoes, or should I say running shoes because that’s what they really are. I got these from Go Outdoors, using both the card and their November discount they cost £72.

They come in a Waterproof version which is (slightly heavier and more expensive) or not and this takes us into another area. Waterproof fabric shoes are often fail after some use, some do last but most do not as reviews would suggest. The Goretex lined shoe may become hot and sweaty too. I opted for the non waterproof version with waterproof socks  to get the best of both worlds.

The shoes are loud, not your typical olive drab colour more like lime green with a grey strapping which do look very eighties. They have a detailed though shallow tread so they are a 3 season shoe, perhaps?

Wearing them is nice, I say this because they fit well are light and easy to wear. But that’s not all.Taking them through a regular walk, then are just so light you think you have nothing on your feet. You can feel the ground underneath, the cushioning in the heel adding a comfortable landing. A completely different experience to my other shoes which are twice the weight and more.

The grip in good, as good as any other shoe I have had, and this has been reported by others too, which was one reason why this shoe stood out. On the question of seasons, with a waterproof sock then they should work all year, light shoes dry quick and are easy to clean too. So 4 season Shoes then. Not sure they have the life of olive drab shoes.

They need more use but a present I am amazed at their fit and grip.

They make you walk faster because they are really running shoes.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Cooking Kit

I have completed the procurement of my cooking kit. I have balanced weight against cost and come to the conclusion that titanium is not required as life time use is not required at my age.

Therefore this is my Kit

Optimus Terra  Solo cookset, 200g. £19
Hi tec Titanium stove, 49g. £24 
Light my fire Plastic Spork , 20g. £1.70
Light my fire steel , 50g . £10.
Bit of cloth, scrub, Foil wind shade - homemade.
In total this is 500g including the gas tin, all for £55 

The Terra Solo set is small being 600ml Pot with a lid/Pan for 300ml. However all the items bar the spork fit into the tins.

The gas tin is at the bottom of the pan.

The pans are anodized aluminum, a hard wearing finish. We had a set of pans in this finish and they lasted 20 years with tough use, so I am expecting a good life span from they. The handle spring out and are very solid in use. The pan when used for the lid is loose and does not lock into the pan, this is good so that is does not dislodge the pot when being removed. The pans are easy to use and clean. The plastic spork will not scratch the surface when cooking. There measures in the outside and inside of the pot which is very useful and a pouring spout.

The benefit of 2 pans is one can be used for water and one to cook. I am keen on the beans and sausage combo from Heinz and this fit in the small pan well. The large pan will make a good size up of tea and leave hot water for cleaning.

The pans are stable in use and do not slide on the stove. I am planning to get some feet for the gas tin to improve stability in the field. 

As a note the bigger (900ml) set has fins on the pot to improve heating. I intend to make a cosy for it to keep contents warm and a better windshield.

Overall this is an ideal set for solo use and I am very pleased with the weight and use.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Sleeping mats what's Best?

The product has been overtaken by lightweight developments over recent years, with such products as the Neoair and inflatable mats, see Exped. While these offer great comfort for about £60 -80, there is the question over longevity. I have read blogs about all these type of mats getting punctures and seems opening. 

I am keen to get a mat which I can trust, is still light and good value. At present the winner is the Multimat Superlite 25 self-inflating, this is full length and not compact. This comes in at 475g and can be got the price of £40. But is 25mm enough? Or is firmness more important. At home we sleep on a Memory Foam Mattress and have done so for many years. I now suffer if I sleep on a traditional sprung mattress, which is soft and bouncy. 

So the self-inflating mat can be blown fuller and firmer, has better puncture resistance and can be light and packs small. Does this still have a place in this new lightweight world?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Offa's Dyke

Which way to walk this famous trail? North to South or South to North? This raises the question is there any one way a trail should be walked. Do we always walk clockwise? LEJOG is spelt that way for a reason?

Offa's Dyke Path book by Keith Carter suggests the North to South route as the trail improves as you go south. However, South to North gets the sun on your back. I think I agree with Keith's Book and will be looking to walk this route this way.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Sawyer Water filter

I was lucky to win a Sawyer Water Filter a few weeks ago as part of Kieth Fosketts' Blog. The filter is good for One Million Gallons, is easy to use and clean. It is also very small.

I was disappointed this was not compared in the recent TRAIL magazine, all the others noted went to maximum about 500 Litres. For the money the Sawyer wins hands down. Pumping Filters may have a benefit over actually getting the water from a stream or pit. However, Sawyer has a bag to bag gravity system, the dirty bag can be filled very quickly dragging this through the water.This can be done with any bay system with a large opening, say Camelback.

I have used this a little so far but will give some further reports which I hope will back up my initial findings.

Friday, 10 May 2013


Having been a cyclist most of my life, injury to knees has set me in another direction - Walking. This comes with the added support of our dog Bouzy, a small and lively Jack Russel, the walks  benefit us both.

Where we live there are many walks albeit not hilly but all the same good distances which with correct planning can be completed in a day. The Sandstone Trail is one such and runs the length of Cheshire for 33 miles. Beyond Cheshire we have Snowdon, the Lakes and the Peaks in reasonable driving distances.

One thing that I have noticed with walking is, while you can see many things driving, more things cycling, you can see the most walking as it take take you further and higher.

The amount of paths in the UK is incredible, see the National Trails, and this is replicated in mainland Europe and North America. So we should never be short of a new walk.