Wednesday, 16 January 2008

A cold and wet weekend in the Peak District

Had a really great weekend in the Peak District with the Backpackers Club. Started at Wetton on a farm site. Was dark when I arrived and snow had started falling a couple of hours earlier and was still coming down; quite cold as well. For my first night I’d brought my Khyam Epic tent, having made a footprint for it as the sewn in groundsheet had become porous. It went up within five minutes. It actually sleeps two I think so is quite spacious for one. Unfortunately, it must weigh 4-5 kg so is useless for lightweight backpacking. However, for car camping it’s great and my car was on site.

After getting back from the pub, listened to an episode of Hancock’s Half Hour, downloaded on to my mp3 from www.archive.org – a really great resource.

In the night, the temperature plummeted and by morning the tent was frozen. I had cold feet so really must work out what do to about it as I only have a ¾ length Thermarest. It’s amazing how much difference it makes having a decent mattress. Once or twice in the night, it slipped down a bit, leaving my shoulder touching the tent floor and really feeling the cold.

Walked with two others via Hartington to Reaps Moor, just outside Longnor. The pitch was a field at the back of a pub where we ate that evening. I was using my tarp, a Golite Cave 1. It was a wet and blustery night but it took it in its stride. To make sure I didn’t get wet from the head end, I put up my Golite umbrella from the inside, wedging it in and that was very successful. As I didn’t have a bivy bag, I thought I’d try sleeping in my down bag inside a plastic survival bag, just as an experiment. Definitely not a good idea. It’s amazing how much moisture the human body gives off! After a couple of hours, I woke and, realising it was wet inside the bag, I scrambled out and bundled the survival bag next to me. Next morning it had gone! Blown away! I panned the surrounding countryside for it but no sign. It’s bright orange. In the end, one of my companions located it the other side of a nearby stone wall. I hope that Alpkit get their Hunkas back in stock soon.

My stove is a Mini Trangia, using meths. On more than one occasion over the weekend, I had the devil of a job getting it to light, using a fire strike and matches. I think maybe meths and cold do not mix. I wonder if anyone else has had this experience.

Having tried this winter camping lark recently, I’m starting to think that a tent might be sensible for winter use. It can be a bit chancy leaving a tarp unattended and exposed to the elements. One that was mentioned on a www.backpackinglight.co.uk podzine was the Wild Country Sololite, weighing in at 1.9kg and costing only £120. I can’t find any reviews on it, unfortunately, not can I find anywhere that stocks it to go and have a look. Given that I’d mainly use it in the winter, I’m not inclined to spend up to £300 or so for something like an Akto as most of the year I’ll continue to use the tarp. However, the jury’s out on what I’ll use on my LEJOG next year. A tent may not be as weighty as I'd thought, given that I would do without walking poles and a separate groundsheet (and a bivy bag). There would certainly be some weight offset.

An idea I had to save weight with the tarp would be not to carry a separate lightweight groundsheet but to use a survival bag opened out and pegged down. Can't think why I didn't think of it before because I always carry one.

Heading back to Wetton on Sunday was a wet and windy affair. Still, the company was good, up to twenty of us in the pub on Saturday and, for me, the Backpackers Club has been a great discovery.

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