Outdoor Excursions

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out-of-doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Outdoor Gear

Recent changes in mapping technology

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

There have been a few things that I have been meaning to write about in recent times but I never got around to doing that because of other distractions. Anyone who has been here before should know that I have a fascination with maps and the advance of technology has done nothing to change that. If anything, it has meant that two interests of mine come together: computing and hillwalking.

As part of going lighter weight, using the OS Maps app on my phone has become a common occurrence and I still bring paper maps with me on longer hikes even if I use phones with long battery life. The old skills remain invaluable when technology fails because of a lack of signal or electrical power.

The OS Maps subscription also means that you gain access to extra content on the associated web portal and that got a recent refresh. One advance is that it can be made full screen but a hardware driver issue meant that it would not work on one of my PC’s until I sorted the software problem.

Aside from the OS Maps app, I also have made much use of the ViewRanger app, especially on overseas trips. Ones to Ireland and Canada come to mind but the mix of content from existing providers with freely available mapping data proved to be a very useful one. That I managed to acquire enduring licences for some of these instead of subscriptions was an added attraction. It certainly made the option better in my eyes than what Geolives was offering through SityTrail even if subscriptions are how things are moving nowadays.

However, ViewRanger became part of Outdooractive so things changed. Because the pandemic kept me in the UK, I have not looked into the new operation so much but it could be something that I need to check for overseas escapades now that restrictions are easing again after the arrival of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 near the end of last year. Others have commented that the changeover has not been smooth but the free maps look comprehensive and I appear to have been able to carry over access to mapping data that I already had.

Speaking of travelling overseas, I am now a subscriber to Backpacker magazine and so have access to content from the Outside network. One part of that is GAIA GPS and the things are with hiking maps in the U.S.A. means that this is an interesting offering, especially if I get access through my existing subscription. When I tried before, I was able to see maps through its online portal but it would take an actual visit to really check out what is on offer. Though I am cautious, that might be more realisable than it has been for a long time.

Refurbish or replace?

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Around two years ago, windows in a house that I own were overdue some attention. Many of the double glazing panels had failed and I was minded to replace them all and leave the frames in place. However, everything was more than twenty years old and the option of replacing whole windows presented itself even if that scared me a little. In the end, windows were replaced with the logic being that whole new windows were a better bet for longevity than repairing the exiting items. Doing this brought other benefits like the ability to lock them as well as being able to have some ventilation while still having the partly open window locked in a way that still retained added security.

Meindl Bhutan

What reminded me of this episode is the state of my old pair Meindl Burma boots. Their soles are beginning to part from their well worn uppers and I have had them more than eleven years. It is possible to get the boots resoled as I discovered on the websites of Bramwell International and Lancashire Sports Repairs. Of course, the boots would need better cleaning if I chose this route and the repairs could be costly too. Just like with those windows, the end result is that I still would have had an old pair of boots even they gain a much needed refurbishment. That decided me and I instead chose to repurpose boots previously used on international excursions and replace those with a pair of Meindl Bhutans instead. There is such a thing as false economy at times so I hope that my decision is the right one.

A baptism

Sunday, August 23rd, 2020

It may seem an odd thing to do in the middle of a pandemic but, once I regained trust in home delivery, I have been replenishing or reinforcing my collection of hiking gear. Some items have lasted until now and need replacing while new needs also get identified along the way.

One of those new needs was having a smaller daypack than my somewhat worn 35 litre Lowe Alpine Walkabout 35. The reasoning was my not wanting to be so conspicuous on public transport during the times in which we are living. Usually, my Osprey Atmos 50 might have been out and about on many day trips too but I fancied something much smaller than that again.

In fact, I have stripped back what I carried to the bare minimum and none of my hiking trips have gone any further than Kinder Scout this year in any case. That may explain why I have navigated using the OS smartphone app in so many places when I knew so much of where I was going anyway. Even with staying close to home, the messaging about public transport usage remained with me so I even resorted to using a shopping bag in case any questions got asked. That worked until it amused a fellow hiker so it was time to get something more auspicious and it also helped that everything was opening up more and more by that point.

Lowe Alpine AirZone Trail 25 daypack

The result was the acquisition of a Lowe Alpine AirZone Trail 25 daypack. It had not come to my notice at the time that the item’s maker had gained an association with fellow outdoor gear purveyor Rab and that was less obvious that the number in the pack’s name because it was the 25 litre capacity that better suited my needs.

The pack’s profile is long and narrow but it accommodates necessary items like waterproof clothing, camera equipment, folded walking poles, water bottles and maps. The last of these fits into an exterior pocket while anything else that I need goes into trouser, shirt and jacket pockets anyway. In short, it swallows so much that I wonder how I managed to need bigger packs anyway but I suppose that anyone can fill whatever they have to hand.

While the exterior of the pack does share its feel with waterproof clothing, it was not something that I intended to test quite as soon as I did. That happened on a walk from Whaley Bridge back to my house while a long hefty shower soaked me near Windgather Rocks. Nothing inside got wet so I was left to dry out as I sauntered over Cat’s Tor and Shining Tor. The sun even came out to heat up the day as I passed Lamaload Reservoir and stayed that way as I went around by Rainow.

Rain performance has not been tested since then but the pack continues to see use and there was a reprise of the route a few days later in better weather so any irritation caused by not passing the way is well absolved by now. Now that I understand how people manage with smaller pack sizes, the AirZone Trail 25 could see ever more use yet.


Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Over the last few years, I have been pursuing the low cost route when it comes to everyday footwear. Working from home means that there is no need for the smart casual approach that I took for workday clothing when I used to work in offices. A far more casual one predominates now.

The trouble with cheap footwear is that it can wear out faster. Some of the offers you see promoted by retailers appear to be seconds, items that did not meet quality standards for a full price item. This might have explained how I acquired a pair of Regatta boots from Matalan at a price far below the recommended retail one. Within months, they began to wear heavily. Even then, I retained them for a few years before giving them away.

A pair of Karrimor trail shoes acquired from Go Outdoors also began to discolour within weeks of delivery and eventually their soles began to wear until a hole appeared in one. Even then, it took me until Easter of this year to dispose of them and that meant throwing them into the bin while the local shoe bank was closed as part of the pandemic lockdown.

These has been supplanted by a pair of Hi Gear trail shoes bought from Go Outdoors for around £10. However, that involved a trip to Stockport to replace what was delivered with the correct item. Quite how I was sent a pair of ladies’ boots remains unknown but I overlooked it given that it was the first time that there had been a misdelivery.

These how are wearing but it is the insoles that have succumbed and a pair of Superfeet items formerly occupying the aforementioned Karrimor shoes have been pressed into service to address this because the Hi Gear ones otherwise remain in reasonable external condition.

Even so, my mind did turn to complementing them with something more durable. Cheap items that wear out more quickly are not so good for the environment when the disposal rate consequently increases. What I also was wanting were a pair of trail shores without waterproof lining. Sweaty feet need more breathability, especially indoors, and that is my reasoning. Some may go with sandals and I have done so for a while, but I prefer a fully enclosing shoe. For outdoor use, having added waterproofing remains my preference since it always helps in a damp climate. That has meant a doubling up of footwear types.

Merrell Moab Adventure Lace

Notwithstanding their earlier misdelivery, I tried Go Outdoors for a pair of Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator shoes. What actually arrived though were Merrell Moab Adventure Lace WP ones. These include waterproofing but I kept them anyway since I fancied having an extra pair of shoes that I could use when the weather came wet and I wanted to keep my travelling curtailed given the wya of the world at the moment.. Sending wrong items like this cannot do wonders for stocktaking and it must have a similar effect on getting repeat business since I now am less likely to buy from Go Outdoors.

Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator

Still, the sizing was right and the shape suits my feet so I am not complaining. The Vibram sole unit feels stiff and supportive and there is a shaped footbed as well. All in all, I will get on OK with these. The same comments apply to the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator shoes that I latterly ordered from Amazon so I am now acclimatising two pairs of shoes when I had planned only to get one.

Wear and tear

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

During my schooldays, I was accustomed to footwear wearing out after only a year. Even so, shoes often gained a second life for the purposes of knocking around at home. For some reason, it not matter if uppers were parting from sole units. Of course, better shoes were used for any purpose with added formality.

What has reminded me of this is that a pair of Karrimor trail shoes that I bought around this time last year is looking the worse for wear. Uppers are parting from sole units and there even is a hole in one of the soles. The presence of Superfeet insoles and my still thinking that the shoes have some use still keeps the things in use around the house. Then, any extra ventilation hardly hurts and I am resigned to the fact anyway; others may not be so accepting.

That is not to say that I did not set about getting replacements. One of the requirements is that these have no waterproof layering for sake of added breathability. It is a need that cuts down choices since Gore Tex is more often than not added to trail shoes these days. Nevertheless, I did pick up a pair of Hi-Gear Sierra walking shoes from Go Outdoors. The fact that they are being sold at a stock clearance price of £10 was a bonus and I now get to see their durability.

However, the delivery when it arrived was of the wrong shoes so a trip to Stockport to replace them was in order. Then, it was a matter of finding a box with the right shoes in it getting a cashier to do the exchange. That produced the right outcome and probably suggests that a store visit would have been in order in the first place.

The Macclesfield branch of Millets is being replaces with a Go Outdoors outlet anyway so that may be quicker and easier in times to come. As it happens, the Stockport store is due to close for refurbishment so some might need to go to Manchester or Sheffield instead if they want the benefits of wider stocking at a larger store.

So far, the new shoes are working out well for the purpose for which I got them. Heavier duty activity than walking paved areas or easy trails is all that I have in mind. The fact that I work from home these days means that I am more likely to use them given that my leather shoes only see occasional wear these days.