Thursday, 26 May 2011

Defining your moments.

Think back over your life and I’m sure you’ll have lots of memories you can call on. Your first girlfriend (or boyfriend), The first time you bought beer in a pub, your children being born and the first time you.. umm.. Well, you get the idea.

How often do you know in that instant that you’ll remember it forever?

When you think about it, your defining moments were usually chaotic, emotional times and you were so busy doing whatever it was, you just didn’t realise it for what it was.


I know what you’re gonna say… But just think about it for a moment.

When my first was born, people said beforehand that I would never forget seeing him for the first time and that’s true… But I didn’t think “I’m gonna remember this forever” at the time.. I was too busy counting toes, checking the missus was ok and generally worrying, to have the realisation right then and there..

It’s a bit like realising you are dreaming, while you are dreaming.. Or knowing, just as the ball leaves your foot, that it’s going to be a goal.. It just doesn’t happen very often.


I’ve had a few of these moments though.

I was on the top of Bleaklow one one such occasion almost a year ago. I can still feel the wind rushing past my face, through my hair and whipping my clothes. At the time, the clean feeling I had bordered on the spiritual. I can’t describe what I felt inside, but right there, at that exact moment, I knew I’d never forget it.. I knew that I’d have that memory for the rest of my life.

Later, that same day, I was sat round a fire with two of my closest friends, drinking wine and swapping stories. Not the normal, down the pub, guess what happened today stuff, but genuinely interesting stories (and I’m aware I sound slightly vomit-worthy).

I hear the music coming from one of the phones, the crackle of the fire, the colour of the wine and the gentle smell of pine as strongly as if it were happening now. It wasn’t just me either. One of my friends commented later on this exact same thing.  (original post here)


So why am I telling you this?..

These are not all moments that just happen. Some were created and shaped with planning, foresight and a little luck. A favourite trick of mine is to work out roughly how long the walk will take and set off at a time that means you’ll hit one of the tops at sunset. It won’t happen every time, but when it does fall right, it’ll hit you like a freight train.

(TIP: A GPS is a help here, because it will show your ETA, you can see if you need to pick up the pace a bit, or stop and chill out for a while before carrying on. My Garmin also displays sunrise and set times for your geographical location as well).

So. Boldly go and stretch yourself. Being slightly out of your comfort zone makes normal memories slightly sweeter anyway. With a bit of luck, you’ll realise that you’ve just scored a goal, even while you’re still kicking the ball.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I Know that you’re disappointed..

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I tend to post my thoughts on a Tuesday.

I have this great post, half written.. But as I’m completely human, I’ve put down the laptop, Picked up the beer and watched a film my wife wanted to see. If you haven't seen ‘Burlesque’, It’s a fantastic film, where Christina Aguilera wanders around half naked for most of it.. Highly, highly recommended…

Sadly as a result of my excesses I’m a bit.. perpendicular (if you’re a boy from the ‘Dwarf’, you’ll get the reference).

I’ll get back onto the proper post as soon as I'm sober enough to re-write it.



SMAKIBBFB Winking smile.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Starbucks ‘VIA’ Ready Brew Coffee.



I got one of these to try. It’s a combination of finely ground coffee beans and instant. It looks and smells like proper fresh coffee, but isn’t.

You use the measuring spoon (in the bottom of the lid – see photo) and add water (with milk and sugar if you want it). That’s all you need to do.


Ok, so it’s not quite the same, but it’s as close as you’re gonna get to filter coffee without popping home. I like it and the Mrs also thinks it’s good. There’s a good hit of caffeine in there, so it’s no idle pretender either.

The can has 24 servings in it and costs around £7.

It’s pricey, but for the odd special cup, or for use when camping, I’ll be buying more.

A parable for the technologically dependant.



I fell asleep on the settee again the other night. Normally I am awoken from my downstairs slumber for a variety of reasons. In winter it is usually the room, having had the heating turned off hours before, is now fast approaching sub zero temperatures. On other nights, I’ll be woken slowly but painfully, as my body reminds me that I’m not 17 anymore and that sleeping upright will hurt.

But this Tuesday, at around three in the morning, I was awoken by the roar of a t-rex, an earthquake and the sound of screaming.. It was (and this is because I instinctively knew I was awake), quite Terrifying.

It turns out the local constabulary were chasing someone. I have no idea who. But they decided that at three in the morning they needed to use their sirens and that having the helicopter hovering  over slumbering houses is a splendid idea.. Now if criminals were caught, I wouldn’t mind being awoken so rudely. but in all the times I’ve been a victim of crime, they never got whoever did it.. Not once.



I remember, sometime shortly after the millennium I was working on a local retail park. The building I was working in began to rattle quite badly. When we ran outside, It was apparent why. There was a police helicopter over the top of it. Why it was there though, beggars' belief.

It turns out that a short while before, a gent was caught nicking lip salve from that most exotic of emporiums, Superdrug.. A member of staff caught him and called the security based on the retail park. While the security escorted ‘the accused’ through the back of the store, they passed a fire exit and he not surprisingly, legged it. Security radioed to the main office and asked the guy there to call the local police.

The guy in the security office, was new to the job and he botched this rather badly. Instead of calling and giving a code to the police saying the thieving git has legged it, he gave the code for Holy Sh*t! Send Everyone!…

So they did… Squad cars, Chase cars, Cars with Inspectors in, Vans with dogs In, A riot van and of course, a helicopter.


So what does our criminal mastermind do to evade capture?..

He jumped into the canal, swam across and walked away. No officer follows him into the canal. The cars are locked into the traffic outside the shops and the helicopter is too busy blowing sheet steel of the shop roofs to notice he’s gone. I like to think he flicked some V’s just before throwing the ‘evidence’ into the canal and disappearing into a nearby patch of scrubland.


He was caught though.. By the local beat cop, who knew who he was and where he lived.. In the end, all they had to do was knock on his door and escort him to the station – though they didn’t know that at the time…


It was a comedy of errors, compounded by inexperience and over-reliance on technology. This is why you should know how a map and compass work, rather than hoping your GPS and phone will bail you out..

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Worn to destruction: Alpkit Jeanius Jeans.


It is with sadness I have to mark the passing of one of my all time, most used bit’s of kit: Alpkit’s Jeanius Jeans.

This amazing piece of kit was misunderstood from the start. They were intended to be
water resistant jeans for climbers. Soon there were stories of ‘waterproof jeans’ but they never were meant to be fully waterproof.

When new, water would bead and run off and the jeans would stay dry – for a while. In heavy rain though, they’d eventually wet out. The waterproofing in the material also eventually washed out or wore off (what ever happened, they stopped being waterproof). They were also sweaty compared to normal jeans, that silicon coating on the fibres allowed the fabric to be breathable, but not as much as a normal pair of jeans. Although they kept out the wind well, I always thought it felt like the treatment had left the fabric more conductive to the cold.

People started to turn away, feeling let down by all the hype (that Alpkit had not created, but didn’t do much to dispel). My pair beaded for about 3 months, didn’t get too wet for about 9 months and then (and up till they died) they just dried much, much faster than ‘normal’ jeans. (Mine once got soaked while on the tops, by the time I was back down, they were dry again!).

Why did I love them so?

They dried very quickly.. That meant they were a feasible alternative for normal walking trousers. They were stretchy (remember – they were designed for climbers) and they wore incredibly well.

These are the only pair of jeans I’ve had, that haven’t worn through on the knee’s. I have worn these jeans on a pretty much daily basis for the last 2 1/2 years. They have been over top of kinder (thigh deep in peat), Scrambled up rocks in them, they’ve been in the sea, full of sand, in the snow, in the sun, lounged in, wet, dry, up, down, left and right. They have been with me like a favourite jacket, or a wallet.

I am, as you guessed, very attached to these.. They have lost a little colour along the way, there’s a small hole in that little pocket that never gets used. But they still fitted, did not lose their shape and most of the stitching is still binding everything tight.

So.. what went wrong? The button on the button fly has fallen off, meaning I now look like I’ve permanently forgotten to fasten them..


I note that the Alpkit website no longer lists these as an item. There was some talk a while ago of these being re-launched. For the moment though, there’s no news as to whether they will make a comeback (I presume Alpkit are busy trying to perfect their new tent range at the moment).

So here’s a glass raised to a misunderstood but excellent piece of kit, Alpkit’s Jeanius Jeans!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Review: Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Series Ultimate Knife


Phew! What a title.. Bringing us to a a new piece of kit  I've been given to review, A knife made by Gerber.. The knife Mr Grylls thinks we need.

I’m very wary of kit that has a star’s name stamped on it. More often than not, It’s an excuse to ramp up the price and drop the quality. But bear with me on this piece of kit – it caught me by surprise.


BGKsigBlogFirst let’s get, what is for me, the biggest shortcoming out of the way.. Yes. It is serrated… I’m not normally keen on serrations, because they either can’t be sharpened, or are really difficult to sharpen. There is a good reason for them on this blade though. It makes the knife easier to use on a wider range of materials (If you’ve ever tried to slice bread with a fine edged kitchen knife, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

The knife is made from ‘High Carbon’ Stainless Steel, is 12.19 cm long (that’s 4.8 inches for those of us who use such things) and weighs 318g (417g with the sheath).

It feels right, in the hand. Balanced, with a full tang. In photos it does look a bit full on – a bit of a GI Joe, Rambo knife. In your hand it becomes the right size. Larger than a Mora perhaps, but still well proportioned. The grip is rubberised and very positive. This isn’t a knife that will slip out of your hand under hard use. It’s also drilled so you can more securely lash it to a stick and make a spear.



BGKfiresteelBlogThe Fire steel included in the sheath body works well and  is capable of starting fire in tinder (tested). In fact, It felt slightly more effective than my ‘light my fire’ fire steel, although that could be down to inconsistencies in the tinder I used. It also has a little rubber seal to keep out any sideways rain.

The sheath is well made, and has several features of it’s own. It can be threaded onto a belt or on a strap that runs vertically. The knife itself is held in place with a Velcro strap and a clip on the knife guard, which strengthens what I’m calling the ‘tactical’ feel of the knife. Yet again though, this is a useful feature, reducing the chance of losing the knife and making a more positive ‘home’ feeling when drawn or sheathed. When another Velcro strap further down is undone the blade guard flips over, revealing a sharpening stone on the back.

BGKsharpstoneBlogThis brings me to a minor, but annoying niggle. The blade wasn’t that sharp when I got it, meaning I had to pull out the water stones to sort it out.. Happily for the purpose of the review this meant I could attack it with the stone on the sheath first to see if it is up to the job.

This is not a fine grit stone for getting a fine finish to the blade. It will however repair a damaged, blunted or nicked blade to a useable level out in the wild. It’s a steel plate with diamond finish, rather than a stone, meaning it’ll be pretty much impossible to break.. (After I’d used the stone in the sheath, I used my own water stones and the blade did sharpen enough to shave hairs off my arm, so another tick in another box).


BGKwhistleBlogI’m not keen on the whistle on the short lanyard on the handle. I know this is most likely to be the only piece of kit I may have to use here in the UK if things did go wrong, but it feels like an afterthought and always seemed to be in my way. The cord is also not long enough so that it could be slipped around the wrist to prevent the knife being dropped, which is one of the main reasons for a rear lanyard. Although this could easily be cut off (and reattached elsewhere), I’m not that comfortable bringing an unsheathed knife to my face when I’m in trouble.. If I’m dazed, hypothermic and shivering or panicking, this could cause an accident.


BGKhammerBlogFinally, that leaves the ‘hammer’ in the pommel or butt of the knife.. There are disturbing reports on the net that this can be smashed off.. Gerber states this problem was limited to early runs of the knife and has now rectified this, but it’s worth being aware to stay clear of older stock, or only use this part of the knife if needed – you wouldn’t use your normal knife as a hammer.. Right?



BGKpointBlogI started to realise that I’d been looking at this knife all wrong. The clue is in the title. Although it may make you laugh at first with it’s pomposity, It’s a knife designed to save your life, to be used in extreme situations, but for a price a normal person can afford. If I really was stranded a ’la Bear in the Patagonian mountains, this would excel. I can’t think of anything else that covers so many situations or eventualities, but still performs each function in a useable way.

I like this knife. It snuck up on me and surprised me at my most cynical. It ticks every box for a remote wild camp and even looks good to boot.

Is the £62 price tag justified though? Well.. Yes.

Considering you get the fire steel and sharpener, then it may not be a bargain – but it is value for money.