Custom Trailstar inner / bug net: Under the Trailstar

In my previous post I showed my new inner net pitched on it’s own in garden. It was my intention to have a night out in the hills of Snowdonia last weekend, to try it out in anger, but for one reason or another that was not possible but I did spend a bit of time trying the inner in various positions under my Trailstar.

Snowdon from Moel Siabod
Snowdon at dawn from Moel Siabod

In my Trailstar I have tended to sleep with either my feet or my head by the door. If you look into the Trailstar from outside then my bed is on the left hand side if I am sleeping with my feet by the door and on the right hand side if I am sleeping with my head by the door. I tried the inner in these two positions and also across the back, opposite the door, which is another possibility.

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Custom Trailstar inner / bug net: Video and photos

Sean at OookWorks has made me a custom inner for my Trailstar. I felt that the OookStar inner was a bit too much ‘inner’ than I required at this time and so I chatted with Sean about an alternative.

I wanted something small and light that I will use only when there are midges about and at other times I will just use it as a groundsheet. I wanted to be able to place it in different positions inside my Trailstar depending on the terrain (how many times have you pitched your tent only to find you didn’t realise how uneven the ground was right where your inner tent has to go), the weather and my mood! Its an inner that I can use under a tarp too or just on it’s own if I was bothered by midges and confident of no rain!

So this is what we came up with. Sean made a great decision to have the zip go all the way down to the ground sheet which, as you can see in the images below, allows ease of getting in and out but I can also easily make a cuppa first thing in the morning. The tensioner at the head end is adjustable from the inside and the sloping ends allow it to fit under the Trailstar more easily (something I have not tried yet!)

It weighs in at 240g at the moment, with the stuff sack and generous amounts of shock cord.

Much appreciation to Sean for pulling the stops out to get this to me this week. I am looking forward to trying it out this weekend ahead of the Rab TGO Challenge.

Here are some photos and a quick ‘walk around’ video:

TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – My route is in!

Finally, my route is in! I submitted it last week actually and now it is with my vetter who has indicated that it will be back with me shortly, with comments. I hope the comments are to advise where I can get a nice cream tea from rather than to re-write half of my route! ;)

Route – a few details

  • I will start in Dornie on Friday the 11th May … and finish in St Cyrus on Thursday 24th May.
  • I will walk a total distance of 184 miles (at least ;) … with a total ascent of 9,096m.
  • The greatest ascent in one day is Day 2 at 1549m and the least ascent in one day is the last day from North Water Bridge to the coast at 164m
  • There will 13 nights under canvas (well, silnylon!) with no bothies or B&Bs.
  • The remotest, and highest, camp is Camp 5 on Carn Gearresith (GR NH 628115) at a height of 720m.

Thanks to everyone who has helped with my route, either directly through emails, phone calls and even twitter, or indirectly through me having read one of your TGO Challenge trip reports, it is very much appreciated.


I have bought a few more bits and pieces since my last post. The most interesting is perhaps The Pocket Stove Ti from I quite like using solid fuel tablets and I’m currently playing with meths stoves so this little stove could work out to be rather useful. Plus I can light a few twigs and have a camp fire too whilst trying not to set fire to the landscape! … but thankfully I don’t have a self destructing Jetboil Sol Ti !

My fitness is improving, slowly, although I keep having problems with my knees. This is not a new issue but a lifelong problem. Aside from that I think I will be ready for the Challenge and in any case I am going to do it regardless :) so if I am seriously struggling I will just have to adjust my route a little to deal with it. The goal is to get to St Cyrus, to compete the Challenge, and have a thoroughly enjoyable time, and as determined as I am to follow the route I have planned (more or less), it will sensible to shorten the route slightly and make it to the finish if necessary.

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!
  4. TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – My route is in!

TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Dornie start it is then!

In the last week I have made a decision on my start location for my 2012 Challenge – I will be starting from Dornie!

Over the course of the last couple of months, since finding out that I have a place on the Challenge for 2012, I have been reading and absorbing loads of information about where I would like to walk and what I would like to see. I ended up sketching out a number of routes that I liked the look of and suppose ultimately are similar to those that other Challengers have walked in the past. I knew that I would be happy on any route really and actually choosing one would be a compromise.

I really fancied Torridon but it’s a long way up and I did not want to do a long route for my first Challenge (hopefully I will be allowed to do it again!). I’ll save Torridon for another time. Acharacle and Lochailort both appealed because I quite fancied going across the Grampians. I could have made a route, that I would be happy walking, from any start point!

In the end though I decided that I would head a bit further north and start at Dornie. After a short walk up the road I’ll be straight into the mountains on the track beside the River Glennan. I plan on doing the An Riabhachan ridge on day two followed by a couple of gentler days until I cross Loch Ness and then its up and over to get to Aviemore and across the Cairngorms [big grins]

So there we are. Dornie it is, the B&B is booked and I’m busy filling in the details of my proposed route. My excitement-ometer is off the scale and I can’t wait to get started :)  106 days to go!

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!

TGO Challenge 2012 Preparation – Only 120 days to go!

I can’t believe it has been a month since my first post about my TGOC preparation! It is about time for an update. I titled this post ‘Only 120 days to go’ because there were 120s to go when I started writing it. Now, as I write this, it is down to 118 days but I’ll leave the title – it is a nice round number.

My partner asked me the other day if I found the thought of doing the Challenge daunting. I realised then that I didn’t. I did initially, a few months ago, but that has given way entirely to excitement. It is certainly going to be a challenge, both physically and mentally, and that is something I am looking forward to, but daunting it is not.

TGOC preparation has now become part of my life (and my family’s, oops! :). It slots in at any moment without me realising it. I have continued to read many blogs and trip reports of previous Challenges and of backpacking and walking in general. I have bought some new gear. I have chatted a lot on twitter which is not directly related to TGOC preparation but having recently made a whole new bunch of twitter friends I am entering into discussion and more easily following and learning about what is going on in the backpacking (and particularly lightweight backpacking) world.

I have not made a lot of progress in actually having something to show for my route planning efforts. This is partly due to Christmas, where I have not had so much time, and to other things that I am involved with that have been taking some of my small amount of spare time. However, I have been constantly researching where I would like to walk and I have now got even more roughed out routes with even more possible permutations! One of the hardest things to do is to just pick one of the start points (I read this in someones blog too and apologies but I cannot find the url), something that needs to be done soon for me now and then the rest of the route will more easily fall into place. Some decisions will be made soon

I am kind of using the Challenge as an excuse to buy new gear but really I have had an interest in lightweight backpacking for sometime and it is nice to be back into looking at gear and what is available. I have just purchased a 900ml Evernew and 400ml Mug from BPL (very good service and super fast delivery). I have yet to get my hands on them as I had them delivered to my folks house and I have not been round to collect them but I should get them later today. I am excited about that, something my partner cannot understand :) I also purchased some of that super light windshield and some pot cosy material.

My current gear list gives me a base weight of just over 7Kg at the moment. I have a few more things to add to it I but I am quite happy with the weight at the moment. I have just read a review of a lightweight titanium gas stove at Going Lighter and it looks very interesting. Do I want to spen £30 to save 20g though? .. probably not, but you never know, and besides, I have not settled on my cook system yet but gas is looking favourable.

I have been doing quite a bit of walking and leg strengthening. One of biggest challenges is going to be looking after my knees because I have always had problems, but I’m trying to do a variety of exercises that will help and I am also doing a lot of stretching. I need to get started on some yoga too which I think is really going to help. I’m some way off being able to walk of one day on the Challenge with a full pack at the moment but I’m confident that I will be fit enough for the Challenge. I was planning on walking in North Wales, with a wild camp, but I have yanked my knee a bit and will settle for a longer flat walk nearer home

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!

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.

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!