Thursday, January 26, 2012

WRT ... Entries Open Jan 31st!

Just a quick heads up to let everyone know that on-line entries to this years WRT will be live sometime on Jan 31st ... that's next Tuesday for those who can't be bothered to look.

You'll find the the link to the entry at and you'll also find some more general WRT info ... just follow the link that says 'WRT'.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Platypus Gravityworks Water Filter Review

There's numerous types of water filter available. Mechanical pumps, electrical infa-red devices, water bottles with filters built in and gravity systems like this one from Platypus. The principle is a very simple one … fill a reservoir with dirty water, suspend it from a tree, your handlebars or whatever and allow the marvellous force of gravity to take effect … your dirty water simply drains into a 'clean' reservoir, on its way passing through a filter suspended between the two. No pumping, no batteries, no messing about … dead simple!

Both reservoirs hold a claimed 4 litres and Platypus rate the filter as good for 1.75 litres per minute, so you should be able to transform 4 litres of forestry, drainage sludge into 4 litres of lovely clean water in 2.3 minutes. The filter element has a life of 1500 litres, it's not serviceable so once it stops doing what it's meant to, you'll need to buy a replacement. The whole kit, two reservoirs, filter element and hose come in a little mesh bag so you can keep everything safely together in one place … total weight for the lot on my scales is 419 g (platypus claim 272g for the same kit but with a newer type filter element). Not staggeringly light then but as I'm sure someone, somewhere once said 'what price clean water?'.

Full filter kit

I think the system really proves its worth in group situations, especially those when your camping spot doesn't have a decent supply of water right next to it. In use I've found that once full, there's enough water to supply 3 people overnight, that includes cooking, brewing and even a little pot washing for those who go in for that sort of thing. Both reservoirs have a zip lock type affair across the top so are very easy to fill, clean and dry after use. The zip lock itself isn't the easiest thing to use though, there seems to be an art to closing the seal. With cold, wet hands it's often easier not to bother attempting to close the dirty reservoir once full, as you've only got a 50/50 chance of success anyway. Platypus please can we have some other kind of closure, a roll top maybe or even a screw on lid would be better and would cause much less swearing in the woods and mountains!

I said earlier that the weight for the entire system was 419 g but in reality there's no need to carry the full kit. Imagine you want some water for a brew or maybe fill your water bottle, it's unlikely you'll bother decanting water from the clean reservoir into your pot or bottle … you might as well just filter it straight into your container of choice, so lose the clean reservoir and stuff sack and you'll be down to a weight of 256 g, a smaller pack size and no loss of performance.

Just make sure whatever you hang it from is strong enough!

In practice the thing works very well. If your water source is very dirty then you may have to back-flush the filter from time to time to clear some of the accumulated crap out, otherwise it maintenance free. The reservoirs themselves feel robust enough, although I'm sure they'd puncture if you dropped one onto something sharp. The flow rate is more than adequate and the cost is bearable.
The rrp for the full kit is £89.99 but if you shop around they can be found a bit cheaper ... I've seen them reduced to less than £50 on occasion.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mach' n Back ... they're off.

40 riders signed up for the inaugural Mach' n Back and 35 turned up to take part. The weather also decided to come along and join the party ... the rain, high winds and outright miserable weather of the past few weeks gave way to cold, frosty and sunny, that's right sunny!

May I introduce the winner of the 2012 gurning championships?

With no fixed start time there was plenty of time to drink tea, eat toast and generally faff about ... everyone (alright, nearly everyone) had a pretty good idea what lay in front of them with regard to mileage and terrain. By around 12.30 everyone had departed and was heading for the bright lights of Machynlleth, in just about every direction possible.

Don't ask me, I've no idea either!

Just as the forecast predicted it'll be another cold night tonight, minus figures will certainly be making their presence felt ... anyone taking the gamble of a summer sleeping bag may only just survive to regret it. We'll see what tomorrow brings!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mach' n Back ... 2 places spare.

We've 2 spare places for Mach' n Back this weekend, if you missed the entry cut-off then now's your chance ... email if you fancy taking part.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Water bottle stove ... Part 2

Right then, here we go. The first step is to scribe/scratch cutting lines at both ends of your bottle. The lines want to be the same distance from each end of the bottle ... the actual dimensions don't really matter but try to cut at least 20mm above the the point where the curved neck of the bottle becomes straight.

Now take your hack saw and carefully cut along your scribed lines. If you're careful you should end up with two bottle ends which are the same height.

Now file two slots into what was the top of the bottle. It doesn't matter how big or what shape they are, as long as meths can pass through these slots they'll be fine.

While you've got your file out de-burr both ends of your bottle. Also with your file and some wet and dry, remove the anodising from the outside of your bottle top. At this point it's worth measuring the height of your bottle top ... you want to know the height where the curved edge of the bottle becomes straight - in the pic below it's about 27mm, 25mm would be near enough.

If you've got a vice it'll come in very handy about now ... if you haven't then improvise with a hammer and block of wood. You're going to press the two halves together, the bottle top turned upside down . A little bit of oil between the two halves will make things easier. Don't rush this bit, take your time and get the halves square.

Keep checking as you're pressing the halves together, all being well you should feel the halves 'bottom out' as they touch ... STOP PRESSING NOW. You should be left with something a little like this. If the two halves aren't flush you can give them a quick file ... the top wants to be flat though!

Hopefully you've remembered the measurement you made earlier (27mm) ... you did, good because you now need to scribe another line around the outside of your stove at that height (in this case 27mm from the bottom). This line is where you're going to drill your jet holes. Remember the more jets you drill and the bigger the holes are, the fiercer the stove will burn. I've built this to heat lots of water quickly using a large diameter pan ... it would be useless if used with a small pot. If you are building a stove to use with a more normal sized pot then I'd go for 8-10, 1mm jets.

Stick some fuel in, light it, wait a minute and off you go. You don't need a separate pot stand, just stand your pot straight on top. As you can see, this one is knocking out some big old flames, most of which will go straight up the side of your pot unless it's a big 'un ... match your water bottle and jet size to your pot size!

If you fancy you can paint it, polish it or just leave it as it is ... it won't make any difference to how it works.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

MYOG Water bottle stove ... Part 1

Last year on the WRT blog I put a couple of posts up about making your own 'pop can' meths stove. Some had better results than others, partly due to the fiddly nature of making the things and partly down to a lack of patience and an abundance of cack handedness. This year I'm going to make things easier ... ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce the 'water bottle' stove.

It's far easier to make than a can stove, it's also far more robust, so you shouldn't damage it (much) even if you stand on it. It can only be built as a side burner, so you'll need to match the size of your water bottle to the size of your intended mug/pot. As a guide, a 1L bottle will produce a stove best suited to larger diameter pots ... something like 125mm upwards. A 0.5L bottle will work well with something around 90mm diameter, a Myti mug, etc. Any size of water bottle will work as long as it's a similar shape to the one in the picture.

Turn this into this.

You'll need the following bits to build one ... I'll be back after the weekend with the instructions, so get collecting.

Aluminium water Bottle ... in your chosen capacity.
Hack saw.
Wet and dry paper.
A drill ... you can manage without if need be.
A vice will prove handy but you'll be able to manage without.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

POE Peak Elite Mat Review

Pretty small and compact

This full review has been a long time coming but you can be sure that the thing's had a very thorough test. I've been using this 3/4 (POE call it 2/3) length mat for the best part of eight months, it's seen service in tents, stuffed in bivvy bags and even a couple of bothies.

The first thing you notice and the first thing most people ask is, how small the pack size is. You can see in the photograph that compared to a 'standard' size POE Ether mat it really is tiny. Obviously it's nice if the small size relates to a low weight … in this case it does. The all in weight of the mat, repair kit, strap and stuff sack is 305g , the mat alone comes in at 285g. The next consideration and one which strangely often gets overlooked is comfort, if it's not comfy then you may as well not bother taking it, no matter how light or compact it is. I've lost count of the number of nights I've slept on the thing and I can't recall a night when I'd wished for something else. The air channels run length ways rather than width ways like a NeoAir. Thermarest say that the width ways air channels make their mat more stable, this could well be true but I've not noticed any tendency to 'roll off' the POE mat, so I don't think stability is much of an issue in the real world.

POE Peak Elite 2/3 v POE Full Length Ether

Being an air mat rather an a self inflating foam cored mat, the thing obviously needs blowing up before you can use it. There's all kinds of gadgets available to make inflating your air mat easier, bags that act as pumps, pillows that act as pumps, you can even buy a pump that doesn't act as anything other than a pump! … now lets be honest about this, unless you're a 92 year old asthmatic with one lung, you don't need outside assistance, just use your mouth, it's really not that hard! There are a couple of points worth considering when you inflate the mat (and the vast majority of air mats) they tend to be comfier when they're slightly soft but they do tend to 'lose' a little of their initial firmness through the course of the night. This means you've two choices, start off with it nice and hard and allow it to 'settle' during the night which may result in a slightly less comfy start to your evening … or do the opposite and potentially end up with the thing a touch too soft by morning. I must say, this isn't something peculiar to POE mats, it's pretty common regardless of manufacturer. Experimentation is the way forward here, play about with pressure and see what suits.

Most 3/4 length mats share pretty similar dimension regardless of their construction and the Peak Elite's no different … but it's the mats size that's my only criticism. The 3/4 length is fine, it's the width that's the concern or it will be if you sleep on your back. Lie on your side and all is fine, turn onto your back and the mat's wide enough to support everything but your arms. I believe air mats tend to exaggerate this due to their thickness compared to a foam mat and your raised position. Whilst it doesn't actually cause any problems I do find I have a tendency to 'hold' myself in position, it's something I've never noticed on foam mats of the same width and once again I think it's an inherent trait of any mat that shares the dimensions not just this one.

So how well's it stood up ? As I said at the start, I can't recall just how many nights I've used the mat and the repair kit's still untouched and the mat still looks like it did on day one. It's been used on bare ground that wasn't cleared too carefully and didn't suffer a puncture, so I can only assume the outer material is strong enough to take some abuse. I suppose the last question is, how good a job does it do insulating you from the ground ? There's only been one occasion when I could 'feel' the ground, I wasn't cold but there was certainly a 'feeling' that what lay beneath me was frozen solid, so yes, as an insulator it works. POE class it as a 3 season mat and give it a temp rating down to -10 but my own opinion would be at -10 I'd possibly want to double it up with something else but someone else might not.

Besides the 2/3 length you can also buy a full length version. If you only ever sleep in a bivvy bag without a groundsheet of any description, then I'd consider the extra 90g of the full length version worthwhile … not so much for the issue of cold feet but to help combat condensation forming in your bag.

I could continue and tell you about the aluminium particles bonded into the material that help to reflect heat, the bio mapped insulation or the 33DRS outer shell fabric but I'm not going to … you're not really interested and I can't be bothered. What I will say is, the Peak Elite AC is a really good mat, it shares certain traits common to nearly all air mats but scores extra points when you consider, weight, R value and importantly price. Would I have another ? Yes. Is it better than a NeoAir ? Someone send me one and I'll tell you.