AlpKit Cloud Cover Quilt

I have added a new piece of equipment to my kit in an attempt to make my backpack lighter and to provide flexible sleeping options. The AlpKit Cloud Cover Quilt is a very reasonably priced lightweight down quilt, it has a 650+ white goose down fill and weighs just 460 grams.

I took the Alpkit Cloud Cover on a recent woodland hammock camp where the temperature dropped to 20160221_150609[2]0c/32f and while the quilt is not warm enough just to use on it’s own I inserted the quilt inside my lightweight three season sleeping bag and was very warm all night.

My plan is to use the quilt as a liner for my three season bag in the winter and colder nights and then use either the three season bag or quilt on its own on warmer nights. The quilts is suitable for hammock and ground camping and can be clipped together with attached plastic poppers to turn it into a sleeping bag. In the bag configuration I found that I had to leave the top poppers open as it was quite tight when they were all closed. The dimensions of the Cloud Cover are:

  • Length: 185 cm
  • Width top: 133 cm
  • Width bottom: 94 cm

The Cloud Cover also has chord at the top and bottom so either can be synced up to ladadream_456_456autoprovide additional warmth. The quilt material is very soft and comfortable against the skin, in fact the material is very fine.  The quilt has enough width to tuck the sides under to prevent drafts. I would say that if you are over six feet tall that the quilt would probably not be long enough, but it is just right for me at 5’11.

cloud-cover-stuff-sack_1200_801autoI was able to pack the quilt and my sleeping bag in the sleeping bags bag which meant that I didn’t have any additional space taken up by the quilt. I would only do this while traveling as they are both down and need to be left to loft while not in the backpack.

The AlpKit Cloud Cover Quilt does not come with a lofting bag so you will either need to make one or store it with another down sleeping bag.

I really enjoyed using the AlpKit Cloud Cover Quilt and look forward to trying it again soon.

 

Northern Wilderness Bushcraft Monthly Moot

If only I had known earlier – known that I had a bushcraft school right on my own doorstep. The Northern Wilderness Bushcraft School is only four miles from my home, and they have some of the best woodland that I have ever seen. The school is located at Finchale Abbey and has over two and a half miles of untouched woodland which runs along the river Wear.

Arriving At Base Camp

I saw on Facebook that they were having their monthly meeting (moot), so I just had to go along to see for myself. On arrival at Finchale Priory I paid for a parking token, this was to ensure that I could pass through the exit barrier on leaving. I had a rough idea where the school was located as I had earlier checked on Google Maps.

Setting up Camp

On entering the school base camp I was greeted by a large parachute hanging above an open fire, and the friendly smiles of Dan and Gilan one of the bushcraft instructors. I offloaded my backpack and started looking around for somewhere to hang my hammock. After a minute or two I met Ian and Ryan, two other lads that were there for the moot. The lads had been there the previous night and already had their camp setup, they kindly invited me to join them. After hanging my hammock and tarp beside Ian and Ryan I headed off back down the the base camp to see what was planned for the day.

A Tour of the Woodland

Gillan said he would take us all for a walk around the woodland so we could see the scale and the natural resources. We set off after lunch and headed up to the top of the wood (the furthest away from the river). The woodland is on a slope down to the river, but at this point it was relatively easy walking. Once we got to the top we walked along the edge of the tree line and came to a huge area of open land, there were clear deer tracks and the tree line was full of wild edibles including, Blackberries, Blueberries and Rosehip. The ground was covered in Beech Nut and also empty Acorn shells, there was clear sign that squirrels had been eating the acorns. When we got to the end of the open area we headed into the woodland. We saw a huge variety of trees, Beech, Birch, Hazel, Oak and many more. It was obvious that this part of the woodland had not been managed for many years as there were lots of dead standing trees.

Ivory Wax Cap

Ivory Wax Cap

We headed down steep inclines until we came to the river, this really was magical. There were ducks and swans bobbing around on the river and every so often the surface of the river would ripple as a fish leaped out to grab an unsuspecting fly. An old tree had fallen near the side of the river, it was covered in green moss, and had mushrooms and fungus growing on it.

We headed back up through the woods, it was a much steeper climb at this point, I was out of breath by the time I go the the top. We headed back into the open space which lay between two areas of woodland then walked back to base camp. It must have take two and a half to three hours to walk the woodland which gives you some idea of the scale.

Chilling Out by the Fire

When we got back to base camp, Steve Taylor, the person that runs the Bushcraft School was there to greet us. He had been collecting fire wood and bringing up the cooking equipment to prepare for the evening meal. Ian got the fire going and Stevie started preparing his specialty ‘bean stew’. I spent the rest of the evening siting around the fire listening to Stevie and Ian exchanging stories.

Wild Camping

As well as the Bushcraft school, which offers a wide variety of courses, they also offer several membership options that allow a small number of people to use the woodland for wild camping, or to camp overnight to practice survival skills, shelter building etc.

I had a fantastic time at the Northern Wilderness Bushcraft Moot and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is considering going. I have signed up to become a member and will certainly be attending future moots.

 

Bergans Lavvo

P1120030Winter is approaching fast, so I thought it was the ideal time to check my Bergans Lavvo for holes or rips before the bad weather comes along. The Bergans Lavvo is a Tipi Tent and the model I have sleeps up to 6 people. That is, six people sleeping on the floor, personally I prefer a little luxury in the colder nights. More often than not I use a camp bed, well, it’s actually a Carp Fishing Bed with a memory foam mattress, it’s very comfortable. The thing I really like about the Bergans Lavvo is that it can accommodate a wood burning stove, a vital piece of equipment, in my opinion, for winter camping.

So, I packed the car with all the equipment and set off for some local woodland where I had permission to camp for the night. I found a beautiful spot and started to set up the Tipi…

Bergans Lavvo

The Lavvo looked in perfect condition and had not suffered any ill effects from spending the past seven months in it bag. It didn’t take very long to collect some firewood and tinder and get the stove lit. Once inside the Lavvo, it was extremely cozy, and the camp bed provided even more luxury.

One thing I had wanted to do for some time was to have a go at making bread on the stove and now was the ideal opportunity. I had brought all the ingredients with me and mixed them together in a big pan. Once the dough had been made I split it into two foil trays, to enable the bread to cook quicker. I only had space to cook one portion of dough at a time, but within twenty five minutes the first roll of bread was made, it turned out to be very tasty.

After my meal I settled in for the night and enjoyed the sound of the birds roosting and the distance sound of cows mooing. It was very enjoyable and I had a very comfortable and warm nights sleep. If you get the opportunity to sleep in a Hot Tent, you should definitely give it a go, it is a wonderful experience.

Thrunite TN12

When you are off the beaten track, either camping of backpacking is is important to have a good flashlight. What I mean by a good flashlight is, one that is robust, waterproof and has several different settings. I have had a number of good flashlight over the years but I decided to invest in some newer technology.

Flashlights have come a long way in the last few years, they have moved away from the traditional bulb and now use L E D (light emitting diode) technology. What this means is that they a much more reliable and a LOT brighter.

THRUNITE TN12

The flashlight I decided to purchase was the ThruNite TN12, it has all the features I had been looking for and was a very reasonable price compared to competitive flashlights. The Thrunite TN12 uses one 18650 battery which provides the flashlight with a lot of power, the flashlight can produce 1050 lumens on the highest setting, which is very impressive for such a small flashlight

The Thrunite TN12 is also ideal for Survival and Search and Rescue as it can throw it’s beam for quite a long distance while also providing a good amount wide spill. The flashlight also has a strobe mode which could come in very handy in emergency situations.

Thrunite TN12 Specifications:

  • Uses one 18650 rechargeable battery or two CR123A batteries (not included)
  • Max output: 1050 lumens
  • Reverse polarity protection design to protect from improper battery installation
  • Five versatile modes available: 1050 lm (90min) 800 lm (1.5hour) 280 lm (5hours) 20 lm (74 hours) 0.3 lm (1585 hours)
  • Aircraft-grade aluminium body
  • Premium Type III hard-anodized anti-abrasive finish
  • Toughened ultra-clear glass lens with anti-reflective coating
  • Smooth reflector gives perfect beam and throw
  • Dimension: 143mm (Length) x 25.4mm (Diameter)
  • Weight: 82g (without battery)

Woodland Hammock Camp and Tai Chi

We live in a very stressful society where the pace of life is head spinning, sometimes we just need to get away from it all and recharge our batteries. I have always found woodland to be a sanctuary of peace and I like to go there when I feel the world getting the better of me.

it was time for another woodland hammock camp, my rucksack was packed and I set off for my secret location in the woods. It was a beautiful day in early summer and the birds were singing vigorously. I set up my hammock and tarp and then unpacked my sleep system. I had recently invested in a new down sleeping bag a Kathmandu Columbus v7, which was a lightweight but spacious bag. I also had my Sea to Summit Sleeping Comfort Light sleeping mat and my British Army Bivvi Bag.

I got the fire going and had a nice cup of tea, the first cup of tea is always the nicest after a hike. After a short while I began to feel at home and decided I would take so time and practice my Tai Chi Form. I had been a student of Tai Chi for many years and always prefer to practice outside wherever practical, the woodland provided the perfect location.

It turned out to be a very enjoyable trip and I have fond memories of this particular location. It gives me a chance to think clearly and to clear the dross from my mind and to get back to the things that really matter.

Hammock Camping

There is something very special about camping in woodland. The trees are alive and have presence and seem to offer protection from the elements and the snooping gaze of others. In this bustling world of an ever growing population it is quite rare to find solitude withing walking distance. Having said that, I am lucky! I live in an area where there is lots of woodland and it is possible to find a spot where no human goes, off the beaten track I guess you would say.

In this special place I can feel close to nature, something that I feel would benefit many people. I love being in the woodland where the wind rustles and whistles through the tree tops, and where the birds sing freely without being drowned out by the noise of road traffic.

P1100181

Hammock Camping (Image Protected by Copyright 2015)

When I go to the woods and stay overnight I prefer to sleep in a hammock, this has several advantages and it is just a nice experience to feel the hammock gently sway as the wind catches the trees. Another benefit of a hammock is that the ground doesn’t need to flat, there is nothing worse than trying to sleep on a slope. I always wake up in the middle of the night and find myself a crumpled mess at the bottom  of the slope. Not the case in a hammock, a hammock can quickly be slung anywhere where there are trees and provides a very comfortable bed for the night.

In Britain we always need to be mindful of the changing weather ans so it is wise to always prepare for the worst so a simple tarp hung above the hammock will provide additional protection from the elements. I also offers a level of privacy as it can be raised and lowered at the sides when required.

This kind of camping is a wonderful experience and I would recommend everyone who is interested in the outdoors and camping to give it a try, put it on your list of things to do. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Solo Wild Hammock Camp

Decided to head out to the woods for a wild camp on Easter Monday. The weather was set to be cold but bright so it had to be a hammock camp. I packed up my DD Frontline Hammock and DD 3 X 3 meter tarp and set out to me secret location.

When I got there, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful spring day and the birds were singing. Apart from the birds the woodland was very quiet and there was absolutely no one around.

I got the hammock and tarp setup and went looking for some tinder to start my fire, The woodland was full of birch trees so I peeled some of the loose bark from a couple of trees. I then started looking for some dead birch branches, luckily there were a few around so I collected them and headed back to my camp. There was plenty of dead wood lieing around so I had no problem getting the fire going. I only made a small fire as it was just for me and I didn’t want to spend all my time looking for wood just to keep the fire going. One of my friends has challenged me to try and get the fire lit with just one hand, he said it was good to practice just in case I ever injured one of my arms…

I eventually got the fire going and I must say it was very rewarding to know that I could start a fire with just one hand. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the woodland and relaxing around the fire.

Zebralight H600FW Outdoor Charging System

When you are out camping it’s always a good idea to take a torch or headlamp, my preferred headlamp is the Zebralight H600FW. This particular headlamp has many impressive features including it’s strong alloy construction, it’s water resistance and most importantly it’s performance. The Zeebralight H600FW produces nearly 1000 lumens on full power and can last for months on the lower power setting on one battery. Having said that I believe it is necessary and economical to have a way of charging the expensive 18650 batteries while away from home. For this purpose I chose a power pack and a USB charger…

This charging system works very well and has been used several times in the field. It also proved a very flexible solution as the power pack can also be used to charge a mobile phone or any other electrical device that has a USB connector. I bought the power pack from AliExpress and it cost around £11 including shipping.

Next year I am planning to extend this system by adding a portable solar charger. This will greatly enhance the flexibility of the charging system especially for longer trips. Solar energy technology is advancing very quickly so hopefully a nice powerful compact unit will be available. I will research this further over the winter.

BRS 3000T Titanium Camping Stove

Like a lot of people these days, I was getting tired of carrying around a big heavy backpack when I go out for a hike or on a camping trip. I decided it was time to try some Ultralight Backpacking, but little did I know that it was going to cost me a small fortune to replace all of my camping equipment with lightweight options. I upgraded my cooking pot to an ultralight titanium  MiTi mug from Alpkit and then I started looking for a lightweight stove. I was delighted to find a small stove that weighed just 26 grams, it was the BRS 3000T

After giving the BRs3000T a boil test, I was very surprised how powerful this little stove was. I also discovered that I could get a small canister of gas plus the stove itself into the MiTi mug, there was even some room for some coffee sachets. The stove folds down into a very small package and it comes in a little bag. The most impressive aspect of this little stove it the price, it cost me £12 from ebay. My cook system is now a very compact and lightweight package and I always have it in the side pocket of my backpack when I head out for an adventure.

 

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

solar mini water filter

Solar mini Water Filter

I went out and found the smelliest stretch of water I could find to try out the Sawyer Mini water filter. The water really did smell quite bad and I would not recommend that anyone go out and do this. I found the squeeze bottle to be quite difficult to fill due ti it’s narrow neck, especially in stagnant water. I eventually used my mug to scoop up the foul smelling water. Once the water was in the flexible Sawyer squeeze bottle it was very easy to attach to the filter and squeeze it through in to my clean bottle. I tentatively raised my clean bottle to my lips and had a sip…

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

and spat it out, I wanted to see if there was any nasty taste in the filtered water but there wasn’t. The filter had done it’s job and done it well. I took a mouthful and this time swallowed the water, it was clean water. The Sawyer Mini is a great addition to your pack if you are planning to go out for long hikes or camping where there is running water, it is very light weight at only 2oz and is easy to pack. Another great feature of the Sawyer mini water filter is that the screw filling is the same as a standard two liter drinks bottle, so if the provided bottle splits you can still use the filter.  All taken into consideration it is a fantastic little filter at a very reasonable price.

Sawyer Mini Water Filter Specifications

Filter Material: Hollow Fiber
Removes: Bacteria, Protozoa, E. Coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerea, Salmonella Typhi
Cartridge Life: up to 100,000 gallons
Weight: 2 oz
Product #: Blue [SP128],   Black [SP105], Green [SP101] Pink [SP 102], Orange [SP103], 4-Pack [SP124]
MADE IN THE U.S.A.