Archive for January, 2015

January 9, 2015

Backpackingbongos gear of 2014

by backpackingbongos

I have to say that I am rather proud of the fact that I nearly got through the whole of 2014 without doing a gear post. I made a minor slip up just before going to Sarek when I posted a gear spreadsheet. All I have to say about that was it was one of the most boring soul-destroying things that I have ever done. For a start spreadsheets should only be used for work and even then they should be passed to an admin type person. I actually spent part of my life carefully weighing each and every item and putting them on a spreadsheet to find out how much my pack weighed. I could have simply stood on my bathroom scales and subtracted my body weight. After this experience I have come to the conclusion that people who regularly do gear spreadsheets should be viewed with suspicion and possibly are not having enough sex.

I did however realise that I slipped up a bit on my recent blog post 2014 – a year in the hills. It was pointed out to me that I had used six different shelters throughout the year. Yes I admit that I have a shelter fetish but happily I am mostly able to keep this to myself. They are the supporting cast on this blog, not the main characters, which remain the mountains and wild places.

So what about Backpackingbongos gear of the year I hear you ask? Be patient I will get there. There was a tense moment over the past month when I got nominated for Trespass Blogger of the year. I have to admit that this got me a little bit worried. My approach was to pretend it wasn’t happening and hope that no one noticed. Thankfully this paid off and I did not win. Trespass from what I can gather is a second-rate Blacks or Millets. Although I don’t write about gear I’m still a bona fide gear snob. Winning this would be like a craft beer blog being nominated by Fosters. In my opinion Trespass have just jumped on the TGO blog awards bandwagon, mining for data from people’s Facebook pages. But then maybe I’m a cynic.

Anyway, drum roll. The winner of my gear of 2014 is……………….


I first discovered Manfur back in 2011 when I wrote a review of it. A few years have now passed and I thought that I should do a living review. One thing that I have noticed is that since my original blog, Manfur has taken off in a big way. You can barely walk down the high street without bumping into someone who looks like a Victorian preacher. That’s the problem when certain kit gains popularity, everyone wants to own it. Even people who open cereal cafes in posh bits of London. Manfur has turned into the North Face or Berghaus of the outdoor world. It’s just as likely to be worn down the pub as on a mountain.

Anyway kit is always updating and re-inventing itself, trying to tempt us with bigger and better versions. Sadly in this instance I have bought into this one-upmanship and ordered a newer model.


As with a lot of gear it pretty much looks like the earlier version. However there are some subtle differences. The fibres are slightly thicker and a little softer. There has been a minor colour change, it has developed a bit of a ginger tint. This I’m hoping is a manufacturing fault. The thing I’m most impressed with though is the lofting capability.


It is possible to move the insulation to where it is most needed. In the photo above my cheeks were a bit cold so I fluffed up my face a bit. Result? Warm cheeks and it makes you look cool and I reckon that all the ladies really love it.

Who said that gear can’t be sexy?

I am already thinking ahead to 2015 and what my gear of the year will be. Shoulders and thighs are neck and neck at the moment.

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January 8, 2015

My route has been sent off

by backpackingbongos

After a few weeks slaving over maps my TGO Challenge route has been sent off to be vetted.

It looks something like this on a map of Scotland. Click to enlarge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 20.36.24

More details when (or if) it gets approved.

January 5, 2015

2014 – A year in the hills

by backpackingbongos

2014 has been another exceedingly enjoyable year on the hills and mountains in this small corner of the internet called Backpackingbongos. I continue to manage to spend many days and nights in the wild places, getting out as much as possible. It would be a bit pointless having an outdoor blog if I did not get myself out of the door.  Going through my increasingly full big book of trips I have spent a grand total of 78 days in the hills, valleys, mountains, coast and moors. 50 of these were backpacking, still the best way to explore an area in my opinion.

Thanks everyone who has stuck around and continued to read and comment over the past year.  If it was not for you I would not be approaching my virtual sixth birthday.

Anyway I thought that I would start 2015 with a brief diary of last years trips.  I have basically taken one photo from each trip and put them in date order.  A brief flavour of that outing.



The first sunrise of the year was seen from a remote spot on the Ardmeanach peninsular on the Isle of Mull. The Bongo was home to Reuben and myself for a week around New Year.


Mid January saw Reuben and I heading to the hills of Mid Wales for a four day backpack around the Elan Valley. With the nights being long and cold we spent three nights in three different bothies.




Snow put in an appearance during a three day backpack around Grasmere in the Lake District. It’s always a shock just how cold and damp it can be camping in snow.




The Bongo provided a suitable home for exploring the hills of Shropshire for a long weekend. A rather overlooked part of the country.


There is nothing better than wild camping with a wood burning stove in your shelter. My Kifaru Megatarp provided a warm and cosy shelter for a night wild camping in the North Pennines.


The third trip of March was a backpack in the Peak District with Chrissie, Rich and Yuri. Reuben and Dixie provided the canine company. A great pitch on Kinder Scout.




Another backpack and wild camp in the Peak District, this time in the vicinity of Black Hill.


Easter, my birthday and some excellent weather all fell on the same weekend in 2014. I therefore headed to the wonderful Monadhliath mountains on my own for a glorious five day backpack.




Another Peak District backpack saw Rich, Chrissie, Reuben and myself head for a wild spot above the upper Derwent valley.


I have long wanted to visit Harris and Lewis and I finally got to spend a week there in May. The Bongo provided superb accommodation for a week. The scenery was out of this world, somewhere to return and backpack next time.




The Peak District called yet again so I headed onto Bleaklow with Reuben and my Trailstar for a wild camp. Great weather and an even better pitch.


The trusty Akto got dusted down for a three day backpack around the Black Mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park. There is a sense of space and wildness there and it’s hard to believe that the populated valleys are only a stones throw away.


My third backpack in June took me to the wilds of the North Pennines for a three day circuit round the head of Teesdale. It was midsummer and barely a soul was seen.




At the beginning of the month I camped once again on Bleaklow. The weather was awful, a good test for my new Wickiup 3 tent. It was so bad that I did not get my camera out for both days. Reuben was less than impressed by the whole thing. The Wickiup did prove itself though and I decided that it would accompany me to Sarek the following month.

A week later I was back wild camping yet again on Bleaklow with Geoff. A superb spot right on the plateau only spoilt for both of us with an almost lethal dose of hay fever.




A short and sharp two day backpack in the Black Mountains girded my loins for the main event later on in the month.


The big event this year was an eleven day solo trek through the Arctic wilderness of Sarek in Sweden. It has been an ambition to visit for several years now and the place did not disappoint. It was so good that I have already booked my flights to return later this year.




An exceptionally warm September weekend saw Reuben and I backpacking in the eastern Lake District for three days. The place was strangely deserted.




A couple of nights were spent in the Bongo alongside Chrissie and Geoff in their palace on wheels at a deserted campsite in the Peak District. Chrome hill never disappoints.


Once again the Bongo was home for a week, this time in the far north of Scotland. The weather was awful and a couple of bothies with roaring fires provided drier interludes.




Wild camping in the Peak District has been a bit of a theme this year. Being within an hour or two of home it provides a quick and easy hill fix. A night was spent camped on the Kinder plateau with Chrissie and Reuben.


Another theme this year has been an increasing amount of time spent in the Bongo. The end of November saw myself and Reuben meeting up with Geoff and Chrissie in the Cheviots for three nights. Their palace on wheels provided a warm sanctuary from the long nights whilst Geoff filled my belly with a hot meal each night.




The New Year week involved booking a cottage with my lovely wife in the tiny village of Greenhaugh in Northumberland. A perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the holiday period.



Happy New Year!