A Terrible Thing Happened At Amazon…

6 May, 2010

Lumix TZ7

Ooops!

I mentioned having had a sudden desire for a new camera (John: this is *still* your fault), and I’ve been unable to shake it off. I’ve been looking at some Fujifilm Finepix bridge cameras (heh… see all the terminology I’m learning, eh? ‘Bridge’ camera, indeed!), but even though I’m no real photographer I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I didn’t want to buy a camera that www.dpreview.com has slated for image quality when I already have such a nice Canon compact (the Powershot A95).

Yesterday evening, though, I stumbled across some reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7, and a few hours later a sort of finger twitch moment occurred as I studied the Amazon page, and somehow I pressed the ‘One Click’ button for ‘Next Day Delivery’… Oops!

The TZ7 (TZ as in ‘travel zoom’, apparently) has an ultra-lovely Leica lens. It’s 25mm at the wide end, and goes to 300mm (in 35mm equivalent, as I now know they say). It doesn’t offer much manual control, so wouldn’t suit a lot of all y’all camera experts out there, and unfortunately it doesn’t have a viewfinder, but it has a range of pre-set ‘scene modes’ which are said to work extremely well, and I think they’ll be just great for me on backpacking trips. After reading hundreds of reviews of all sorts of small cameras I realised that they don’t tend to be very good in low light, due to their small sensors (I think), but this one seems to do better than most. It also does HD video.

Here‘s a gallery on http://www.flickr.com which shows what it’s possible to do with this little camera. If I ever get anything even half as lovely as some of those then I’ll be a very happy little piglet indeed.

The only problem that really stood out as I read about it concerns the battery. I prefer cameras that take ordinary batteries that I can buy in shops along the way, which is why I bought a Canon Powershot in the first place. I know that it’s possible to get by with a rechargable battery, though, if carrying a spare (or 2), and the charger. Unfortunately, reports seem to indicate that battery life on this camera is pretty dire. Panasonic claim that it’ll take 300 pictures, but many people seem to have had only a third to a half of that, particularly if recording any video. What made this more than just a major faff that could be circumvented by the carrying of several spare batteries was that Panasonic introduced some sort of chip into the battery, thus preventing the use of 3rd party copies (they simply wouldn’t work), and since the Panasonic batteries were originally about £60 each (!) that was a bit of a killer. However, it appears that it is now possible to get working OEM batteries for £10 each (or less), and so I’ve bought a 2-pack from Ebay.

It was the amazing image quality in such a small camera–Leica lens, see–that made me really, really, REALLY want to have one, but what tipped me over the edge was the great reduction currently running on Amazon. Apparently Panasonic are doing away with this camera any time soon, and replacing it with the TZ10. They’re currently selling the TZ7 for £199.99. They say that’s a reduction from £352.85, and whilst I know it’s possible to get it for less than that £350+ figure elsewhere the £199.99 does seem to be a genuine bargain.

Incidentally, the other one that really tempted me was the Lumix DMC-LX3. That’s even *wider* at 24mm, but it doesn’t have the super-zoom and only goes to 60mm. Having said that, the sensor is large, the picture quality is apparently fractionally better and the battery life is not a problem. It’s more expensive–currently £315.70 on Amazon–but by the time I was reading about it I really had the bug, and that might not have stood in the way of my desire to Have Lovely New Toys Right NOW had I felt that I could live without the zoom. Ultimately I didn’t feel I could, though, and so I went for the TZ7. Phew!

The wee monster is supposed to be arriving tomorrow morning, so I’ll tell you what I think when I’ve eased it out of the box and introduced it to Piglet and Puss-Puss. Meanwhile, I’m excited…

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GAS Attack – Update

5 May, 2010

Kahtoola MICROspikes

My GAS attack of a week or so ago has resolved into a number of exciting purchases. Whoohoo!

Yesterday I ordered the Micro Spikes and the Inov8 Debris Gaiters, and also a couple of pairs of Bridgedale Coolmax liner socks.

Today I’ve ordered 3 sheets of a product called Paraflexx, which I saw recommended by Andy Howell over on his blog in one of his enormously helpful and interesting posts about dehydrating. Paraflexx is a microporous sheet used for dehydrating “wet, moist or gooey” food which would otherwise drip through the holes in the dehydrator tray. I’ve used baking parchment and the cunning collapsible plates sold by Bob and Rose in the past to try to get round the drip problem, but TBH I’ve not found either of them to be an ideal solution. This Paraflexx is made for the job, and Andy says it works well, so I’m crossing my crubeens and planning some fruit and tomato leathers (thanks again, Andy!) to go with the scrummy meat and root vegetable stew currently simmering away on the stove downstairs.

Now all I *definitely* need is a pair of Terrocs, but it’s looking as though I’m going to have to drive up to Kendal in order to be able to try them on, as I don’t know what size I need. The women’s Terroc 308 version may actually turn out to be too narrow for me–I have fairly wide lower crubeens–in which case I’ll go with the classic Terroc 330s.

Hmmm… I’ve just remembered that I’ve not got the merino wool liner gloves yet, either. I can’t easily order them online because I often find that ‘small’ gloves are too large for me. Hopefully I can get some when I go up to the Lakes to buy the shoes.

Kudos to The Outdoor Warehouse in Windermere, btw. I ordered the Micro Spikes and Debris Gaiters from them early yesterday afternoon, and they arrived with the postman this morning. Impressive!


Aagh… Major pre-Challenge GAS attack…

30 April, 2010

Well with the Challenge almost upon us I’ve been laid low by an exceptionally virulent strain of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (or GAS).

A few days ago–and having read horrible, unrepeatable things about parasites in water–I decided that maybe I ought to update my existing water filtration plan. From non-existent, that is, to…well, something, at least. I did buy one of the original Travel Taps from Bob and Rose a couple of years ago, but because back then I was using a Platty with drinking tube I didn’t want to carry two systems and so didn’t actually use it. It’s still sitting in a cupboard somewhere.

I’m not using the Platty with drinking tube at the moment, though, mainly because since Piglet arrived I’ve rarely had space for a water-filled Platty in my pack, and so the idea of using the filter bottle seemed more feasible. I remembered reading that the original had been improved, and after a chat with Bob I decided to invest in a new one. At the same time there were a couple of other things I needed, and so therefore I’ve already invested in the following.

1. Travel Tap.
2. Primus Windshield.
3. Canister Feet.
4. Gehwol Refreshing Balm.
5. Gehwol Axle Grease. (In fact it goes by a different name, but I can’t find it on Bob’s site and so this one will have to do for now.)

The windshield was Phil’s fault. He showed me his Primus and promised that it would fit snuggly into my Kettley thing. It looked so lovely and neat–and so much smaller than my home-made windshield–that I couldn’t resist it, and so now it’s sitting on the kitchen table, awaiting deployment into the rucksack.

It does fit into the Kettley thing when wrapped around a 250 canister, but only just. The little rivets on the side scrape tramlines into the sides of the Kettley thing (thereby dislodging wee slivers of aluminium which will probably bring on my incipient dementia at a huge rate of knots…uh-oh…), and I’m going to have to tuck a piece of string or similar underneath the canister on packing up each morning, in order to be sure that I’ll be able to get it out in the evening. Still, it will work, I think, and so I’ve saved a bit of space (albeit added a little weight, on balance).

The Gehwol creams were Bob’s idea. I’ve used the Gehwol Axle Grease in the past and it’s pretty fantastic stuff, but I hadn’t got round to replacing the tube. Last Autumn I had a problem in the Dales, though, when I developed a case of trench foot after only a day of walking in consistently wet conditions in my Inov8s. Fortunately it was the last day, because the following day my foot was so sore that I could barely stand on it. That made me worry about whether I’m now so decrepit that I need less water-permeable footwear for the Challenge, but the Soloman mids I’ve been trying out have aggravated my chronic achilles tendonitis. Aaaagh! In the circumstances I propose to return to Inov8s and plaster my feeties with enough Gehwol to scare the trench foot away. Crubeens crossed, please, and watch this space.

That’s not the end of it, though. Over the course of the last few days I’ve compiled a little list of other things I’d like to get. Not so much because I actually need them, as that I’d simply like to have them.

6. Inov8 Terroc 308s. I’ve been using Roclite 315s for backpacking for several years now, but I feel like a change. My existing Roclites are looking very worn underneath, and I propose to reserve them for walking Piglet in the woods. I liked the Terrocs that I used to own (the originals: I think they’re now called Terroc 330s), but I must have left them somewhere because I’ve not seen them for at least 4 years. A phonecall to Inov8 yesterday, to take advice on the relative merits of Roclites and Terrocs in the ‘arch support’ department, suggested that the Terrocs are better equipped to pamper my ageing feet, and since that’s what I was hoping to hear I decided to buy a pair.

Sadly, it’s not possible for me find anywhere closer than Kendal where I can try on both the 6.5 and the 7. Okay: I could have gone to Sweatshop in Chorley, but they’ve only got them in the prissy light blue, and I don’t think I could live with myself in that colour of shoe. Give me the Stone/Sage over the pastel any day.

7. Inov8 Recolite 190s. In the course of looking up the Terrocs I spotted these very lightweight sandal-y things from Inov8. I love my Crocs but they’re too clunky and uncompressible to squeeze into my Exos, and I prefer, if possible, not to hang things off the back. These Recolites are about half the weight (i.e. 190g), though, and–as far as I can tell from much online drooling, and the cross-examination of various online retailers–they’re much more squishable than Crocs. When I drive up to Kendal to try the Terrocs tomorrow I’m going to try these as well. I’m sure they’re a really good investment. Definitely. Heh…

8. Inov8 Debris Gaiter. I’ve been meaning to get either these, or something like them, for a couple of years now, but haven’t yet got round to it. The plan is to keep all those nasty little bits of bracken, and pine needles, and similarly sharp bits of the landscape, out of my shoes and on the ground where they belong. If anyone knows of a much better system then please let me know–I realise there are several out there at the moment–but these seem to be considerably less expensive than some (about £10), and I’m assuming that since they’re made by Inov8 they’ll fit well onto my Terrocs.

9. Smartwool Liner Gloves. I generally use Buffalo mits, and carry a v. warm pair of padded gloves for foul conditions. Much as I love my Buffalos, though, there’s no getting round the fact that they’re a bit depressing when sodden wet. I’ve got waterproof over-mits, but I don’t always feel like fishing around for them in my pack if it begins to rain heavily. The padded gloves are blissfully comfy when I first put them on, but they’re not spacious enough for a liner and the fingers tend to try to turn inside out when I take them off, if my hands were wet in the first place. So, I’m thinking of using Smartwool liners as a basic glove (they’re quite thick, as liners go), and supplementing them with something else. I’m not yet sure what. Ideas welcome. Gloves are a bit of a pain for me, since (i) I tend to get very cold, painful hands quite quickly, and so need to be sure that I can keep them warm, and (ii) mes crubeens are quite small, and many ‘small’ gloves are too large for them. That may be the case with the Smartwools, but I’m hoping not.

10. Kahtoola Microspikes. I’d definitely like a pair of these, and reckon that they could turn out to be very useful in the Cairngorms if the snow persists into May. I must get round to ordering some this weekend.

11. Satmap Active 10 GPS. There’s no excuse for this: I simply love gadgets, and would absolutely love to have one. They’re so extremely expensive, though, that I almost certainly will be going without, for this year at least. I did try using my phone as a GPS in the Lakes last October but for me it didn’t seem to work very well. There’s the major battery issue, and I don’t like having to use a touch-screen device inside a plastic bag, and I was worried about dropping it etc etc. Basically it was such a faff that I don’t even intend to take that phone on the Challenge–I’m taking an old, straightforward light one instead, and if I need a GPS I’ll have my trust Garmin Geko to fall back upon. Still… the Satmap GPSs are truly lovely…

12. Fujifilm Finepix S1600. This one is John Jocys’s fault! He showed me his S1500, and I really liked the shape and feel of it. They seem to fall into the category of ‘bridge’ cameras, which are something in between the DSLRs and the compacts. There’s actually quite a range of them: S1500, S1600, S1800, S2000HD and S2500HD to name but a few, and they seem to to up in price from just under £100 to about £300 or so. I don’t need a new camera–I’ve got a Canon DSLR and 3 (!!!) compacts (though one is currently out on loan, and I keep trying to give one of the others to my sister). I’d like one, though, because (as mentioned above) I love gadgets, and each time I see a sexy new camera I imagine that by some sort of osmotic process the ability to take really good pictures will somehow instill itself in me by the simple act of purchasing it. Doh…

So! This is the kit I’ve been contemplating over the course of the last few days. I think I’ll definitely get the microspikes and the debris gaiters, and just see how I get on with the rest. Prolly the Terrocs too.

Any comments/suggestions/whatever from anyone re: any of these things, or re: anything else I’ve forgotten to consider buying, will be most welcome, as always 🙂


Yippeee!

4 February, 2010

Chally route finished and submitted!

It’s the Haunted Crossing v.2. I hope the weather in the Cairngorms doesn’t prevent Ryvoan bothy and Chalamain Gap and Ben Macdui…

I hope to sleep in/on/at:

1. Gorton bothy
2. Ben Alder Cottage
3. Chalamain Gap (no sleeping: just passing along to Ryvoan)
4. Ryvoan bothy
5. Ben Macdui
6. Charr bothy

ZOMG… I’m already terrified!

The weather may prevent 3, 4 and 5 (and getting to 6 in extremis), but there will be no excuse for not visiting 1 and 2… *gulp*

Eeek!


What a great idea! Hobnailed trail shoes…

13 January, 2010

Kate's blog

I love Kate’s running (and cake) blog, and when I browsed over there via Google Reader this morning I found this brilliant idea: Hobnail Crutches! Kate has screwed tiny um… screws! into the soles of her running shoes, to help with traction in this icy weather. They’re short enough not to poke through and hurt her crubeens, which is good news since she’s already recovering from a duff leg. Whizz over and take a scan, peeps.

Gibson and Lynne's blog

I also love Gibson and Lynne’s new blog, Afoot in the Hills. Not only is there lots of interesting stuff to read, but there’s also a fantastic selection of photographs. Truly exciting piccies that make my tummy turn over and my toes tingle with the desire to get out and do something. The whole page is a model of under-stated elegance. Methinks I need a re-design…


Colin’s TrailStar Review. Added a guy to my tent.

12 January, 2010

Colin has a great new review of the Mountain Laurel TrailStar, here.

After having read it, I decided to attach a new guy to my tent.

New guy on my tent

LOLOLOLOLOLOL…

*hic*

*creeps back to sty, embarrassed*

p.s. a prize for anyone who recognises this new guy. angus_honey — this is your moment to win a competition in a backpacking blog! Though Slowman should also be in with a chance. I bet he doesn’t get it, though. Doh… blokes!


Lessons the Dales trip taught me

10 January, 2010

Hmmmm….

1. Don’t try to go walking in very deep, powdery snow without snow shoes.

2. Piglet doesn’t really like sleeping out when it’s cold, and she gets cold very quickly when I stop, even to take pics. I think future winter trips will be confined to one night at a time, until such time as she enjoys them more (if ever).

3. The Ruffwear Web Master dog harness is absolutely brilliant, and worth every penny of the £40 I spent on it. So too is the Hurtta Pro Winter dog jacket: £50 well spent. Piglet’s Equafleece is great, but in very wet conditions (including snow) the Hurtta jacket is better because it doesn’t absorb water.

4. The Ruffwear doggy boots and socks are good, but Piglet refused to wear them after the first full day. I think she’d probably developed bruised claws, as I would if I were running in ill-fitting trainers. (Not that I have claws, but YKWIM…) The lessons for me, I think, are that I should trim P’s claws back a bit, over time, and get her used to wearing the boots when we walk in the woods, so that she’s used to them when she next needs them. Her wee feeties were fine in the snow, but I think the salt on the roads stung her paws a few times 😦 Protection against salt and grit may turn out to be the main benefit of the boots for Piglet.

5. My Paramo trail shirt thingy is absolutely excellent! I’ve had it for several years but I rarely use it. On this trip, though, I wore it daily with my Paramo salopettes and Icebreaker baselayer (and Paramo Viento jacket), and I didn’t need to wear my down smock at any stage when walking. I was so warm, in fact, that I rarely needed to wear gloves, and on all but one occasion the only gloves I needed, when I did actually wear them, were my skinny little under-glove things. That’s very unusual for me, as my hands are normally the first part of me to get cold, and once cold they’re very slow to warm up.