Wednesday, 26 May 2010


I'm in the market for a new tent. I have a 2-man fair weather one I acquired while backpacking around New Zealand in 2003. I was collecting a hire car, and the couple dropping one off at the same time had a tent they didn't want cart home with them. They refused payment and were glad to be rid of it, whereas I was glad of a tent. Several years of experience with this tent have taught me several things.

My tent is a square, no porch, with telescoping poles which are clipped to the inner and tied to the outer. It has a door, and one guy rope on each panel to the side of the one with the door. It goes up inner first.

Firstly, the British weather requires more than 2 guy ropes. I'm quietly amazed it took until last summer to prove this, but that might be due to my fair-weather camping preferences! Anyway, pitched up on an Atlantic headland last August, my tent bowed so far in the wind and rain that I had less than half the floorspace usable. With one person and a week's worth of beach holiday kit, this was clearly Not Working. Additionally, another member of the party had a fiberglass pole snap in his tent that night while acting as a windbreak for the rest of the party's tents. So, tents for the UK need guy ropes on each corner and at regular points along panels.

Going up inner first. I've always known this was a bad plan but my last trip proved it. After a weekend of sunshine and a night of torrential rain, I'd hoped to get most of my tent down dry: I knew the groundsheet was a lost cause from the rain. As I got to the tent to strike camp, it started to hail. I dived inside, waited out the shower then cleared up other things for an hour while the tent dried. Literally as I got back to try again, it started to rain. With an outer-first tent, you can pitch or strike and keep the inner dry, whereas with mine, if it's raining.and you're pitching or striking, everything gets wet. And it did this time! Next tent must be outer-first!

Not having a porch. Porches are good for putting wet and muddy kit in and allowing you to keep the inside sleeping bit for dry kit and sleeping. Not having a porch means wet and muddy kit shares your sleeping space and everything else getting cold and muddy.

Clipping and tying tent to poles. On the one hand, I like this because there's no faffing around with telescoping poles and fabric sleeves with poles coming part inside them. That said, there is a knack to the sleeve-pole combination and it doesn't require the manual dexterity, which can be a lacking in cold and wet conditions!

Finally, weight. I wasn't too bothered about weight with the old tent (and don't look a gift horse in the mouth!) but for the Two Moors Way hike, packed weight is crucial. Modern 1-2 man tents can weigh in at under 1kg, and mine is considerably heavier than that.

So, in summary, my new tent must:
1) be robust enough to handle the worst of the British weather;
2) go up outer first. This also means the outer can double-up as an emergency shelter if needed;
3) have a porch;
4) have a sleeve system for the poles, although this is fairly standard for outer-first designs;
5) be as light as possible.

These pretty much sum up the Force10 Helium, which builds on the success of Vango's original Force10 design. So subject to an in person inspection, I guess thus is what I'll be buying in the next few weeks.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Why exercise is bad for my health*

Since my last post I had my gym fitness test  & programme written, and I've finally managed to do all three workouts on the programme.  The fitness test on the Friday of the bank holiday proved that my core and upper body strength is non-existence, and my hamstrings are tighter than a violin string, but my BMI, body fat and blood pressure are all excellent. None of this was news, but it does highlight some areas to work on in addition to the cardiovascular endurance I'll need.

Over the bank holiday weekend, though, I went camping and spend 3 nights under canvas, running around a muddy field during the day (in addition to hiking, I LARP with Curious Pastimes).  Courtesy of this and the torrential rain on Saturday night, I picked up a throat infection swiftly followed by a kidney infection.  Thus, long cardivascular workouts didn't seem a terribly good idea since I couldn't afford to get dehydrated.  Two courses of antibiotics and 10 very frustrating days later, I finally started to feel right again on Saturday.

I picked up the fitness regime again last Friday, yes, before I felt 100%.  That one centred around upper body strength, doing 2 sets of each of 2 exercises followed by 5 mins hell-for-leather on a cardiovascular machine to raise my heartrate, repeated three times.  To top if off, the following evening I went to play laserquest, for 3 x 15 min games with a handheld , dual-trigger laser gun.  Two days later and my arms have just about forgiven me!

Today I went to do what I knew would be the hardest of the three workouts, and I was right.  15 mins of biking on a level 10 random programme is the light relief part of this one!  It features cross trainer (5 mins, warm-up, easy), summit climber (10 mins, 1:4 gradient, 5.5kph average speed, HARD), bike (easy) and rowing machine (in which I aim for 2000m in 10 mins and managed 1900. I would have managed the 2000 but forgot to breathe properly part way through and gave myself  a stitch. By the time I'd eased off and recovered, I couldn't make up the distance.)  Then, to complete the feeling of being a wrung out dishcloth, it rounds off with 2 sets of straight abs crunches, 2 sets of upper back extensions and 2 sets of oblique crunches.  This evening, I appear to have succumbed to another throat infection, so it's another early night tonight before getting back into revising for university Finals tomorrow. 

*Would I have got the throat infection if I hadn't gone to the gym?  Probably.  But it made for an ironic post title, so I used it.