A quick test of gas use for lightweight backpacking

I have recently been considering what cooker I am going to use when I undertake the TGO Challenge next May. For my recent overnight lightweight backpacking trips I have taken to using solid fuel tablets with the Esbit titanium stove [pictured]. It is very light, weighing in at just 13g, and the solid fuel tablets that you require for an overnight trip are light too. However, for a longer trip the amount of solid fuel you require becomes rather heavy and you are better off with another fuel (I have not worked out at what point yet, i.e. how many days) and so you are looking at either an alcohol or gas stove.

I took the opportunity last weekend to record the amount of gas I used with my little gas cooker (a Coleman F1) so that I could roughly calculate how much gas I would require for the TGO Challenge next year, which is 13 or 14 days backpacking – should I decide to use a gas on the Challenge that is.

Over a 24 hour period I had a few cups of tea and a dehydrated dinner and breakfast. I weighed the gas cartridge before and after, and this represents the gas used for one day:

Two cups of tea: 300ml each = 600ml
One cup of tea: 200ml
Dinner: 400ml
Breakfast: 200ml

Gas cartridge weight, before and after: 174g – 152g = 22g of gas used.

Therefore, assuming the amount of water boiled above is representative of a typical day then a 250g gas cartridge would last me approximately 11 days, which means I would have to obtain more gas along the way.

I plan to do some more tests to verify (or disprove) my calculations, and I will work out how much solid fuel I would need as a comparison. I’ll post the results here at some point.

My first night under my MLD Trailstar

I had been looking forward to this weekend for a while because besides visiting family in North Wales I was intending to wild camp with my new Trailstar shelter. The primary purpose of this wild camp was to test my MLD Trailstar. However, I also had with me a new Exped SynMat 7 UL sleeping mattress and some instant backpacking food that I had just received from Outdoorsgrub to try out. I was also closely recording how much I had used my little gas stove to figure out how much gas (roughly) I will need for the TGO Challenge; more on that in a later post.

By late afternoon on Saturday the light was already beginning to fade when I left my car in Penmaenmawr and headed off to the top of the hill behind the small town. I was not out for the walk particularly as it was not going to take long, or much effort, to get to the 400m or so top (although it is good training none the less) but the purpose was to spend the night under my new Trailstar shelter. The location is pretty exposed and can be very windy catching the westerly and northerly winds whipping across the Irish Sea.

MLD Trailstar

It did not take me very long to be at my intended pitch, the middle of a stone circle known locally as the Druid Circle. For some reason there is no heather and the grass is short having been grazed by sheep and wild ponies.

This will be a good test for both me and the Trailstar; strong winds, hail and rain, cold temperatures and 14.5 hours of darkness. Continue reading

TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about my preparation for the TGO Challenge 2012. It will be my first Challenge and I will talk about my thoughts and feelings, gear, my route and anything else which I feel might be interesting to discuss with regards my planning for the Challenge, such as training. So, lets get started…

It has been 3 weeks since I found out I had a place on the Challenge and I think it is about time I wrote something about my experiences so far. My initial emotions upon finding out were actually quite mixed. I was really excited to have got a place. I immediately phoned, sent texts and emailed a few people, I even tweeted the news… and then all of a sudden I felt quite nervous. It really dawned on me that I had quite a task ahead; the preparation, the training, the route, the mental preparation.

It didn’t take long for things to settle down. I had already been lurking on the TGO Challenge Message Board and there was suddenly a flurry of activity as people found out they had, or had not, got a place. My thoughts turned to my route and my head was suddenly filled with questions that seemed impossible to answer; Where shall I start and finish? Where do I want to walk? What do I want to see? etc… and then this big one – How do I actually go about planning a route?

It soon became apparent that I was not alone. Not alone in the sense that I was not the only first time Challenger and also not alone because I discovered many people willing to help, friends that I did not yet know, such is the TGO Challenge community. Several experienced Challengers emailed me with offers of support, should I need it, and for that I am very grateful.

The main activity that has been occupying my spare time has been to get started on planning my route. As a new Challenger I have until the end of February 2012 to submit my route for vetting, so there is plenty of time, but I do not want to leave it until the last minute and there is so much to learn. I pulled my walking guide of Scotland off the shelf, consulted my book of Munros, dug out a 1:250K map of Scotland, ordered my Scottish Hill Tracks book, set about reading every TGO Challenge related blog post I could find (particularly those that are trip reports from past crossings) and now I feel I have a handle on things. I have a number of ideas about the route I would like to take and what I would like to see. This, amongst other things, has helped me to narrow the start down from the 12 possible sign-out points.

I am really enjoying the experience of planning my route and I am now using Tracklogs mapping software to help which is great. I will reveal something of my route choices in a later post.

Well, now here is a subject… lightweight backpacking gear. I don’t intend to lug a massive pack across Scotland, I am practitioner of lightweight backbacking. My previous backpacking trips (mostly overnight trips) have recently been under a tarp with a light pack, just under 6kg base weight, so it is going to be interesting to see how the weight creeps up for a two week trip with the additional items I am going to need to take. I can see that I am going to need to be very careful to keep the weight down – I might have to saw a little bit more off of my toothbrush handle! :)

My shelter of choice for next May is, barring any problems, going to be my newly acquired MLD Trailstar. A brilliant creation and something I am very excited about when it comes to camping in the wild. I shall hopefully be testing it out soon on a trip to North Wales. For the Challenge though I am going to need some midge protection and I am looking to get an inner of some description, the Oookstar from Oookworks looks really good although I would prefer something a little lighter if possible so I am open to suggestions.

I have been using solid fuel tablets for my overnight trips and I find it very enjoyable using them; easy to use, lightweight, slow burning (less burning on the bottom of the pan and no need to rush) and quiet. Silence is golden, no loud roar of a fierce little gas burner. However, the weight will probably be prohibitive for a two week jaunt so I am looking a meths burner.

That’s it for now, feel free to comment or email me directly from the Contact page.

Blog posts in this series:

  1. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Part 1
  2. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Only 120 days to go!
  3. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Dornie start it is then!

Taking a fresh look at your old photographs

Why would you want to look back over your old images with a view to processing, or re-processing, some of them? Surely one would have processed an image at the time if it was any good, and a processed image is finished and should not be touched again?

Earlier this year I gave a short presentation of some of my black and white images to the Monochrome Group of the Amersham Photogaphic Society. I wanted to show some of the work I had done before I joined the group, and to show something of my style and vision. In doing so I looked back over some of my older images that I had processed, and some I had not processed. I learnt something of the experience and now have the following guidelines:

  • Generally, once I have processed an image that is it in terms of the look and feel of the image and what I have tried to portray, particularly if it is an image I have exhibited… but, my digital processing skills have improved over the years so it is OK to undertake some additional processing in order to give an image something I could not before, such as a certain punch (local contrast) or sharpness.
  • It is OK look back through my image catalogue to see if there are images that I want to process or revisit. It is a bit random at the moment but sometime soon I think I will start tagging images I have looked at with a date, to keeps tabs on the process.

I have found that as my vision and style develops I can look at some images I took months ago, or even years ago, and see something different in them. Perhaps I had not felt the image was any good or perhaps I never felt an image worthy of the time it takes me to work it into an image that either represents what I saw at the time, or is hinting at something that I am getting a glimpse of now. Perhaps even the image is speaking to me now on an emotional level when it was not before.

Ogwen valley in the snow - December 2009

The above is one such image. A view along the Ogwen valley in North Wales taken in December 2009. It was bitterly cold but I was fortunate to find myself there after a period of heavy snow… and the mountains looked fantastic. I don’t know why I had not processed this image. It is a good view, I like the composition and the almost monochromatic scene. It is not a stunning image though by any means, and not a competition or exhibition winner, but it reminds me of the time I was there and transports me back. I like it, and have enjoyed processing it, I hope you enjoy it too, and perhaps you will look back over some of your images and find one that speaks to you.