Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pick a direction.

Forgive me if I wander on this post in this post, but I can’t make it fit into a specific order or direction. Nor is it making lots of sense. I’m not sure if that bothers me or not.

A while ago there was an American song that struck a chord with me. The verse was (and I’m quoting here):

“Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.”

After doing a little digging, it’s from a song by Baz Luhrman, called ‘Wear Sunscreen’. The lyrics are from a Chicago Tribune column by Mary Schmich Here. It’s worth a read if you don’t know It.. It’s a bit lengthy to post the whole thing.

I like the post, but the sentiment, when sung, was as if secret but strangely melancholy information was being passed to a secret few.

I’m trying to say that with the exception of knowing that I would be an astronaut (when I was five), I have never had much direction. I’ve always drifted from one vocation to the next. Although I keep jobs for much longer than I did in my late teens, I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. This is handy when life throws me a curveball.

But when things are just coasting along, it tends to drive those close to me crazy.

I mentioned this song to my wife (who is driven, organised and goal oriented) and she confirmed that she hates it. Maybe because like me it wanders along?


One of the few things I keep going back to is walking. I can’t walk the furthest, or fastest. I’ll certainly never be the fittest. But it’s in the blood:… Waking in the morning. The air crisp on my face with a midsummer AM chill. My legs still slightly stiff from the night before… Sharing stories and jokes round a fire with a few friends with a few drinks… Remembering what I did, instead of hearing what someone else thought about doing, at work on Monday.

These things bring a smile to my face and I know that no matter where my path ends, I will enjoy getting there more than most.

Maybe, just maybe, my perfect job is out there waiting for me.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Tips for taking better night photo’s.


Here’s a few pointers you can use when out camping at night to take better photo’s, especially with less starblogexpensive camera’s.

Check your camera and see if it'll do a long exposure. If it does, this makes things much easier.

I took this image when I bought my new camera. It is was a quick shot at ISO800, an 8 second exposure.


If you don’t have the option to do long exposures, try the following:

  • See if you can change the 'ev'. Increase this to make image brighter.
  • Check if you can change the ISO setting.. play with this in the daytime to find an acceptable ISO (too high and it will probably introduce noise)..
  • Try switching off the flash. Sometimes the auto setting will then try to compensate for the darker shot.
  • Use a head torch laid in the grass to highlight a tent, bothy door or person (put the torch inside the tent if you want it to look cosy). Do not get people to point their torch at the camera.
  • If you are using a stand (NB – take a stand if you can) and take as many photos as possible from the same place (the more the better).
  • If you have a few lights or stars for a program to use as reference points, try using a stacking program like Deep Sky Stacker (free) or AstroStack (demo) to create a long exposure from lots of separate shots..
  • Use software to edit the shot. boost contrast and brightness. I use Gimp. It’s free, is more than powerful enough for my needs and is simple enough to use.
  • Set your focus to ‘infinite’ to prevent focus problems in the low light.

I’ve quickly popped out into the garden. With no moonlight, using Gimp to boost , adjusting my phoneBlogStarPhoneCam to max EV, using ‘twilight’ setting and with the flash off - I got this (rather shaky) shot (it may still be difficult to see in a brightly lit room, but have a look later at home with lights dimmed and expand the picture – there are stars (and a planet) there in the image)..


Remember that any movement will be magnified and blurring will be really bad if you don’t sit still or if the camera moves.

You should get much better night shots by doing this, You may even get acceptable shots from a phone camera in the early evening this way.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

News: New ‘pole-less’ tent range by Vango.


Vango are releasing a new range of tents for 2011. This new range replaces fibreglass or metal poles with inflatable ‘airbeams’ (as Vango put it). By inflating the support structure Vango state you should be able to pitch faster. I also considered that as these are not fibre glass, the poles should have no issues snapping when cold. This obviously is a good thing.


A few things do worry me though.

  • The new range is not only more expensive than more traditional designs which to be fair I would expect. Strangely it is more than 3 times the price (comparing the strikingly similar Velocity 400 to the Beta 450)
  • The Inflatable supports could be punctured. Not a plus point in a tent designed to have children in it.
  • If you pitch at the hottest time of day (which you probably will), the supports will not be as rigid in the middle of the night when they get cold and the air pressure inside them reduces.. Not the best time to allow the wind to flatten the tent against your face.
  • Somehow these tents are heavier?! I am not sure how they have managed this, but by removing the poles (one of the heaviest bits) they have increased the weight from 7.70 kg to a whopping 9.55 Kilo’s (Again comparing above two tents).. How?.. I know you have more fabric and reinforcing to hold the air in, but how can a tent with no poles weigh about 30% more than the weight of a similar tent with the poles included in the weight?


I haven’t had first hand experience of these tents, so I can’t say if they are identical. However they are both made by Vango, they have similar dimensions when erected and are the same shape..


I’d love to say I like this new range, but what they say leaves me with too many doubts. I will definitely keep an eye out for these on the street but it’s gonna have to be really special to win me over after looking at their initial specifications.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Video review: My cook system.


I’ve put together what I tend to carry when I’m out for shorter stays.

N.B. I have not included a firesteel in this. I’ll often add one in, but I’m more likely to use a lighter, with the firesteel as a backup..


Thursday, 10 March 2011

changes to layout.

Please excuse any weird fonts or colours over the next few days.. I'm trying to make it less fussy, but also want to update the text etc.
I'm planning to have it sorted over the weekend, I just need to get the opinions of someone more colour co-ordinated than me..

Review: Fiskars Retractable Hand Saw.

I have been lucky enough to be given my first pieces of kit by Fiskars UK.SawLogoBlog

The first piece I’m going to look at is a retractable hand saw. Often cited as a vital piece of kit for bushcraft, it allows you to work with medium size pieces of wood for a minimum pack size and weight. The main thing I’ll use this for will be cutting small logs down to size for fires and for getting the raw length of branch when I make spoons.

If you’ve not heard of Fiskars before, Here’s an excerpt of what they have to say about themselves:

 “Established in 1649, Fiskars is the oldest company in Finland. We have worked with tools, cutting and steel forging ever since we first started operating 360 years ago. Our roots are in the Fiskars village, an idyllic center of art & design, where modern aesthetics meet old crafting traditions. Fiskars launched the world’s first plastic-handled scissors in 1967. Since then, these orange scissors have sold more than 1 billion pieces worldwide and their iconic status has resulted in the Fiskars orange being synonymous with scissors across the world. Fiskars is the world’s number one scissor brand.”


The saw itself is well made and feels solid. The blade has an orange knob that twists to unlock the blade, which is then pushed out and locked in place by retightening the knob in a small depression at the other end, holding it securely in place.


The blade is 6 inches long (there is also a 10”version and a more traditional folding type as well). When retracted the blade is completely within the housing. The main body is made of plastic (I’m not sure what type, the range is listed as: ‘fibrecomp’. It looks and feels like high impact ABS).

The saw is a steel blade, designed to cut on the pull. With large wide teeth for cutting green, resinous or dead wood, it is (and I mean this) wickedly sharp.


On my kitchen scales it weighs in around 90 grams, so it’s light and is about the same size as the long grip found on some walking poles.


Would I buy one of these?.. Yes. I’ve considered getting a retractable or folding saw for some time, and would have been handy on last years wild camps, so I’m glad I got it. It is a welcome addition to my kit list, small and light enough to go on the ‘might need’ part of my kit lists.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

When out shopping, be careful or you might get more than you bargained for.

You’ve been here right? You’re stood in your local mall or town centre.. Shopping with your better half, You’re just wandering around, vaguely watching to make sure you nod at the right time to prevent huffs, or worse, yet another shop. Then you remember a shop nearby. You tell them you need to pee, get a burger or buy some sundry like fags or a paper. You’re partner turns, bored as well – they just can’t find what they are looking for and the come with you. Your route just happens to go past the shop.

When you are a teen, this might have been HMV, or Game. As you get older It might turn to something else. In my case (and I suspect yours) it will be your local high street kit shop.

As you get closer, your partner realises where you are headed. The eye’s roll, the sigh is expelled and you can almost hear the frustration – you are out shopping, so there’s no reason why you cant shop too..

As you walk in, nothing in mind, you start to look at pansets that are heavier than the one(s) you already own. You look at sleeping bags you have no intention of buying (usually because you can get a better price elsewhere). Then something catches your eye. A multitool or pocket knife? A new compass might be good, you’re old one is getting a bit, well.. old.

Maps – you can never have all the maps you need. There are literally hundreds of them. But they’re expensive – especially if you are just thinking of going there some time.

You’ve reverted to being seven. You don’t need anything, you just want something. So you’re looking at ‘pocket money’ items.


Then the partner that has been so patiently tapping their feet, humming, texting and asking stupid questions (you did so well not to murder them where they stand when they ask why you need lots of maps, when an a road atlas would do.. surely?!) They have something in their hands.

Whatever it is, you do not want it. It is overpriced, overweight,  not something you’d use and certainly not something you ever be seen using either. You’re not a noob – right?


Then It hits you. You’ve changed places.

In the fear that you’re partner will be the one who complains that they want to go for a burger, You grab everything… The maps. The compass (though you’ve now picked up the wrong one). 2 pairs of socks and what ever your partner is waving. Quickly pay.. Even quicker exit (though you now notice something that you might have actually wanted).

Then you’re out. The roles revert, The world becomes normal. You go through another tedious hour of trawling the shelves before realising you turned left outside the last emporium..

You’re close to that cracking little pub.. and they do amazing steak sandwiches.