Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blizzard Bag ... an introduction.

This is a Blizzard Bag. It's waterproof, windproof, reusable and it's also insulating ... in fact independent tests reveal it to have greater insulating properties weight for weight than down!


Turkey optional!

Obviously the bag would be ideal for emergency situations, just the thing to have stashed in your pack for those 'what if' moments but I think it may well have a greater role. It weighs 385g and is waterproof (can you see what I'm getting at?) that's 385g for a combined sleeping bag / bivvy bag. I'm sure you're thinking, okay but is it really warm enough? The answer at the moment is, I don't know but I certainly intend to find out ... I'll report back with a full review after it's had a thorough testing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

WRT ... coming along nicely!

Well, preparations for the 2012 WRT are coming along quite well. The biggest surprise for me was the rate that entries arrived within the first couple of days of opening ... something like 50 entrants in the first 48 hours. Granted it's hardly Mountain Mayhem but I like to believe that bikepacking is much more selective than that ;o). At present total entries stand around 110, so it's easy to imagine maybe 150, come the start of June.


Paul e and another singlespeed climb ... WRT 2011

This years grid references are also taking shape nicely ... obviously, I'm not going to give anything away here but some of them are great. This year you'll have more riding options than ever before ... if you want to get some big miles in, you can. If you want to stay off road as much as possible, it'll be ideal and if you'd actually like to ride on a mountain then you'll get your chance. I'm not saying anymore though, you'll have to wait for the start of May for that.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pocket Stove ... Review

The new Pocket Stove from Backpackinglight.co.uk is designed to allow you to take advantage of whatever fuel source you have to hand. It's also designed to be small (hence pocket stove), light and pretty bombproof. It's constructed entirely from stainless steel, manufactured in the UK and comes packed in a rather handy tin ... so you can keep a lighter, matches, tinder, etc alongside your stove. You could almost consider it 'flat-pack'. There are 2 sides, 1 back, 1 front and a base which all slot together in a few seconds ... no hinges, no clips, nothing fiddly.

Wood

I think using wood as a fuel source is often dismissed as being dirty, slow and maybe even a little bit 'backwards' ... it doesn't have to be. If you're one of those people who's always used a gas stove and shudders at the thought of not having automatic ignition, then wood probably isn't for you. On the other hand, if you already cook with meths or solid fuel and are willing to take a little time and trouble to practice, then you may well find the potential advantages wood can offer ... You don't need to carry any fuel, your fuel is free and it's very 'green'.

So, how did I get on? I purposefully didn't use anything 'special' to light my fire. Having to carry some kind of 'magic' tinder to get your fire going feels a little wrong. Firstly, it feels like I'm carrying fuel, secondly it costs money and lets not forget what happens if I unexpectedly run out of my 'magic' fire lighting ingredient!


You could also use it to dry your socks.

The more time you spend practicing lighting the stove, the faster you'll become. Using a couple of Haribo wrappers, a shop receipt and a few SMALL twigs I was able to get the fire lit and stable in around 3 - 4 minutes. Once going it just requires a few twigs adding every few minutes to maintain a good fire. Once the fire's established, stick your pot on top and away you go. The amount of heat you can generate is pretty impressive. Without any external windshield I was able to get 450ml of cold water to a rolling boil in 6m 25s ... that was also without a pot lid, add a windshield and lid and I'm sure that time would drop considerably. Something else I was pleasantly surprised by was the lack of soot/residue left on the bottom of my pot.

Meths

I said earlier that you can also use the Pocket Stove with meths. Used this way the stove forms a pot / stove stand and to some degree a windshield. My inner geek lead me to try various types of meths stove just to see if there was a difference in performance between different types.

The base of the Pocket Stove can be fitted at 2 different heights or removed altogether. The type of burner you use will determine what works best. A Trangia burner will fit into the slots in the sides so no base is required. A short pop can stove will work with the base set in its highest position and a taller stove will be better with the base in it's lowest position or removed completely.


This gave the best results using meths.

Again I used a pot containing 450ml of cold water, no external windshield and no lid. Each stove had 25ml of fuel and was allowed to 'bloom' before I started timing.

• Short pop can stove. 29mm gap between jets and pot base - 8m 38s
• Tall pop can stove. 13mm gap between jets and pot base - 10m 48s
• Trangia fitted to slots - 17m

I was a little surprised by the results to be honest. I wasn't expecting great things from the Trangia, so I was happy enough to ignore it. I had thought the stove with the smaller air gap would be quicker than the other one. After testing the short stove I'd (wrongly) decided that the flames weren't near enough to the pot, so I'd expected the taller stove to show an improvement ... which it obviously didn't. Next I started to consider where the jets were. Both stoves have jets on the outer edge, so while the flames are still going up towards the pot, they are very close to the wall of the Pocket Stove. Thinking that the Pocket Stove may be absorbing a little bit of the heat, I knocked up a stove with jets that would be directed inwards and upwards, towards the pot but away from the walls of the Pocket Stove ... I also purposely made it short, so there was a big air gap. The result was 7m 12s

Short pop can stove - note jets on outside edge.

If you've managed to get this far congratulations. So, the pocket stove will work with any meths burner that will fit inside. However if you take the time to 'match' your burner to it, then you'll get the best results. 2 burners I haven't tried are the Evernew Ti burner (which will fit into the slots in the walls) and a pop can centre burner ... I think one of those 2 may well prove to be the ideal burner for use with the Pocket Stove.


Ready for brewing.

The Pocket Stove makes a great addition to cooking set ups. Even if you don't plan on burning wood, having the option is always handy. You can obviously burn solid fuel blocks too, so with 3 fuel options you should never be stuck for a brew. It's certainly very well made with great attention to detail. On my scales the stove itself weighs 138g and the storage tin 55g, anyone wanting something lighter maybe interested in the Ti version which tips the scales at 56g and costs £34.99.

Stainless Pocket Stove £21.99 www.backpackinglight.co.uk