Posts tagged ‘Kifaru’

April 3, 2014

Hot tenting on the moor of death

by backpackingbongos

I think that it is about two years since I have been backpacking with my mate Rae, who has been out of action due to a foot injury. She is keen to get back into the hills with a pack on her back.  Therefore I planned a short and sweet trip to the North Pennines. One of those trips where it is more about the camping than the walking.  My kind of trip as the walking sometimes gets in the way of a good slackpack.

With short walking days planned I thought that it would be a good opportunity to take the Kifaru Megatarp and wood burning stove. Nothing beats relaxing in a heated tent.

I escaped work after lunch on the Friday, picked Rae up and headed to the North Pennines, getting stuck in the usual weekend afternoon rush.

The plan for the first night was to park the car and walk a short distance up a remote valley to pitch for the night.  It was getting dark as we arrived at the small car park.  What had looked like snow on the other side of the reservoir ended up being a huge flock of gulls.  An impressive sight.

My pack was heavy with around 5kg of wood along with the stove itself.  We set off into the gloaming, eventually using our head torches once we left the security of the track.

Distances and obstacles can be exaggerated when you can’t see where you are going.  We sloshed through marshy ground and contoured along steep banks as we followed the river.  Finally we found a flat spot which we felt was far enough not to be discovered the following morning.

It was windy as we pitched, stony ground making it especially difficult to get a secure pitch with the large mass of material that makes up the Megatarp.  The wind soon brought rain with it so we retired to our respective shelters for the night.  With a badly pitched, flapping tarp with insecure peg placement I erred on the side of caution and decided not to set up the stove.  I felt that it was an accident waiting to happen.

With copious amounts of condensation (even with a large and very well ventilated shelter you still get it in certain conditions) during the wet and windy night I suffered the curse of not having an inner.  The wind would shake the walls leading to a very fine spray falling on me every now and then.  Luckily I had brought a lightweight bivy, meaning my bag stayed dry.

I woke at dawn, getting up to answer a call of nature.  I was totally surprised at the scene outside.


It turned out that what I had thought was rain had in fact been snow.  I wandered around for a while taking photos, before the cold sent me back into my sleeping bag for another couple of hours.

Bright warm sunshine woke me up and it was nice to lay in my bag for a while, enjoying the feeling of warmth whilst outside there was snow. Rae was awake and cooking when I got up.  It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.


Unfortunately the sunshine was quickly replaced by a wall of thick cloud bringing along a stinging blizzard and strong winds.  The world became a swirling chaos of white, big flat snow flakes quickly covering ground that had melted in the sun.  That set the tone for the rest of the day.  Sunshine and big beefy wintry showers.

Packed up and on the way back to the car we were passed by a farmer on a quad bike towing a trailer full of collies.  He stopped at a gate and waited until we had passed through it.  He asked if it was our car parked and if we had spent the night on the moor.  We confirmed that it was and we had.  I expected a telling off but instead he told me about a shooting hut nearby that would have provided good shelter.  I had a feeling that he thought that it was a bit daft camping out in the snow.

Back at the car we sorted out our packs with food for that evening and drove off down the valley, heading into the hills above Teesdale.  A high level car park providing a springboard onto the moors without too much climbing.  It was a simple walk of less than five miles to our chosen spot.  My pack was still heavy with the wood I had failed to burn the night before.



Traversing rugged pathless ground Rae spotted an adder curled up sunning itself.  It took my eyes a while to pick it out as it was so well camouflaged.  I had not brought Reuben along for the weekend as dogs are banned from much of the CROW land in the North Pennines.  I was doubly glad he was not with us as he would have spotted it long before us.

A rough path along the boundary of the moor led to seven very unpleasant surprises.  A series of snares had been set up, the first almost tripping me over.  I’m not sure what they are designed for but a small dog could easily get trapped  These along with several pole traps over water courses made it very clear that any creature other than grouse were not welcome on this moor.  I’m not sure on the legality of the snares as they were free running (I have used the word were).  Legal or not the ethics of such things are another matter.  Not exactly a humane way of eradicating predators.

Just to make a point; the only living and breathing things we saw that day or the next whilst on the moors were grouse.  Hundreds of the stupid bloody things.  No raptors in the sky and none of the usual sounds of spring on the moors that you get at this time of year.  A sterile dead monoculture.


Further along the moor of death the views opened out to the east, the North York Moors visible on the horizon.



We descended to one of my favourite wild camping spots in the area.  An oasis of green and nature amongst the sterile moors.  We forged a difficult route to a very secluded spot hidden deep up a valley.  With no wind, a burbling brook and birds singing in the trees it was paradise.

This time I had time to play around and get a perfect pitch.


As darkness fell I set up the wood burning stove and piece by piece set fire to the bag of pre-sawn wood that I had lugged in.  The stove heated the tent nicely and we sat in front of it chatting for a while.


Once the stove had gone out the temperature quickly dropped, a cold night following.  Thankfully there was little condensation and I did not wake to a morning shower.  We had a relaxed morning, enjoying the location and the sunshine.  Secure in the knowledge that it would be unlikely that anyone would pass by.

Pitched correctly the Megatarp is a well designed bombproof shelter.  Not one to pitch single-handed on a wet and windy moor though.




Our route back to the car led up through pastures full of bird life before we once more entered the sterile monoculture of the moor.



Patches of heather were being burned, smoke rising from all directions as far as the eye could see.  A cairn gave us the chance to relax for a while in the sun, before the first in a series of wintry showers barrelled in.


Dramatic skies accompanied us on the final couple of miles back to the car.


December 8, 2013

Kifaru – Peak District wild camping with a hot tent

by backpackingbongos

The cafe at Outside in Hathersage saw to my need for fried food.  The only difficulty was trying not to succumb to the array of technical products in the shop below.  Sadly I failed on this occasion.

The road alongside the reservoirs twists and turns amongst scenery that reminds me of parts of Wales.  It’s a fantastic area that can get busy, a breathing space amongst the surrounding cities.  However on a rather gloomy Friday afternoon in December I pretty much had the entire Upper Derwent to myself.

My pack was heavy and filled to the brim.  I had packed the Kifaru small stove and about three kilo’s of dried and chopped wood. The plan was to walk to the head of a remote valley and try out my Tarp / Stove combo for the first time.  Sadly I had made the decision to leave Reuben at home.  Flammable material, flames and a dog would not be a good combination on my first play.  His company was missed.

The car was left at the head of one of the long looping arms of the reservoir.  Through a gate and a good track took me deeper and deeper into a plantation.  A busy week at work was left behind, a night amongst the moors is a good tonic for the soul.  Leaving the plantation behind the track snakes its way onto the vast moorland plateau.  I left it and followed a faint trod through bog, tussocks and heather.  Climbing alongside the peat stained waters as they cut a deep course through the hills.

Minute by minute there was a subtle change in the weather since leaving the car.  Cold weather was gradually being pushed out by a warm front.  Warm air hitting cold ground meant that mist was beginning to envelope the snow speckled slopes above.  Damp air changed to drizzle, then curtains of fine wind-driven rain.

Darkness was approaching as I spotted a large open grassy area.  Although flat it was a little lumpy, but I did not have the luxury of time to choose a better spot.  Darkness comes very early at this time of year.

The Kifaru MegaTarp is a large and unwieldy beast when released from its tiny stuffsack.  There is a strict procedure that needs to be followed to get a taut pitch.  Pegging points have to be measured and poles set to an exact height.  One of my Pacerpoles decided to stick and no amount of twisting would unstick it.  It was a couple of inches short so I resorted to rummaging around in the river for a stone to place underneath.

It was good to finally get inside and change out of wet kit.  Humidity levels were high and even such a large unenclosed shelter was soon wet with condensation.  Inside was steamy and misty, my breath hanging in the cold damp air.

With coffee warming my hands and belly I set about putting together the stove.  I have practised several times so got it together in a few minutes, careful to keep track of the various bolts and wingnuts.  The stove-pipe had been pre heated in a previous burn so easily rolled into shape.  Pushed through the stove boot it felt fairly secure with no wobbling.  However ‘fairly secure’ is not good enough for a hot chimney so I tied it to a guy rope, pulling it away from the main body of the tarp.


The stove itself lit really easily with the bone dry wood that I had carried in with me.  It was soon roaring, the alarming sound of the stove body creaking as it quickly heated.  Bigger bits of wood were added, quickly kicking out some nice heat.  My wet socks were soon steaming away, drying on my feet.  Outside I could hear the hiss as rain hit the hot stove-pipe.

It quickly became evident that a Jetboil pan is next to useless for boiling water on a wood burning stove.  Next time I will ensure that I have a flat bottomed pan.  Thankfully I had plenty of gas for food and brews.



Sadly I had only brought enough wood for a couple of hours so retreated to my sleeping bag as the stove cooled down.  Before going to bed I detached the chimney and brought it inside, just in case it got really windy in the night.

I woke several times with the sensation of fine sprays of water on my face.  Outside heavy rain and wind meant that condensation was falling on me.  Thankfully I had a synthetic quilt over my down bag, so remained warm and dry.

The weather was not very appealing when I got up.  The rain finally stopped and I had the opportunity to get a photo of the MegaTarp without moisture covering the lens.  I was about as remote as it is possible to get in the Peak District.  A wonderful spot.


The downside to having a wood burning stove when wild camping is taking it apart again.  This is a bit of a dirty job and once again you have to be careful you don’t lose anything.  In the photos below you can see how ingenious the chimney is, quickly rolling down into a 12 inch long tube.



Gloves are necessary when handling the chimney as the edges are razor sharp.  The stove body packs down flat, everything fitting neatly into the heavy-duty stove bag.  This is well thought out and essential to keep sharp edges away from the contents of your pack.  It also stops everything getting filthy.  A trip to the stream was needed to wash my mucky hands.


I had thought about a brief wander up onto the moors.  However low cloud and morning lassitude meant that after packing I headed back the way I had come.  This time I did not have wind and rain in my face.  Time to enjoy this wild hidden valley close to the Peak District honey pots.




I did not see a soul until back on the road and at my car.  A short drive to the visitor centre for coffee and a veggie sausage cob. Home early afternoon for a steaming hot bath.

Tags: ,
October 18, 2013

Howling in the Howgills – backpacking south to north

by backpackingbongos

I have to admit that I was hard pushed to locate Great Asby on the map.  Chrissie has been cherry picking the best bits from the Dales Highway and invited Reuben the mountain staffy and myself to join her for a weekend.  The plan was to do a linear walk from Sedbergh across the Howgills and into little frequented limestone country to the north.

With modern technology there was no need to locate Great Asby on a road map.  I punched its name into the sat nav and headed the car in the direction I was told.  It turns out that it is a charming village and I parked up next to the church.  Moments later Chrissie’s husband Geoff pulled up in their campervan and drove me south to Sedbergh to meet Chrissie and Dixie.  The campervan turned into the cheapest tea van in Cumbria before I set off with Chrissie, Dixie and Reuben.  Geoff would meet us in Great Asby the following afternoon.


Day 1 – 10.5 kilometres with 680 metres ascent

Howgill Lane took us out of the town and we were soon climbing the steep bridleway past Lockbank farm.  The initial ascent was an absolute killer for me.  Lack of fitness plus a recent worsening of my asthma meant that I was soon gasping for breath.  Luckily the increasing views gave plenty of excuses to stop, the rooftops of Sedbergh glinting under shafts of sunlight.

As we contoured around the southern slopes of Winder the wind hit us.  It was strong enough to make the taking of photos difficult without everything becoming a blur.  The path soon levelled out a bit and we could see the route ahead to Arant Haw, occasionally being brushed by clouds.


A second lunch was grabbed just below the summit, the leeward slopes being surprisingly sheltered.  A guy we had passed earlier had warned us about just how windy it was on the tops.  It was good to have a rest before the promised battering.

The summit was quickly gained but we did not stop except to dig out gloves.  The ridge narrows slightly at Rowantree Grains, giving great views down into Bram Rigg Beck.  The clouds swirling above were highly atmospheric but unfortunately the higher hills ahead were stubbornly covered.




Climbing up towards Calders the wind increased dramatically as it was funnelled between a narrow col.  I got out my wind measuring thingymajig which measured an average wind speed of 44 mph, the strongest gust being 49.7 mph.  The climb was tiring and at one point the wind made me lose my balance and I found myself on the deck.  Another effect of the wind was to have a horizontal trail of nose juice blowing across the fell side.

The trig point of the Calf was hidden in thick dank cloud, damp enough to warrant waterproof trousers.  Once again we did not hang around and quickly set off along the bridleway that would take us down into Bowderdale.

There was a surreal moment when we saw a strange shape loom out of the mist, to me it looked like a misshapen cross.  It turned out to be two backpackers huddled together consulting their map.  They both jumped when Reuben appeared out of the murk at speed to say hello.

Thankfully the wind dropped a little as we descended into Bowderdale, however the cloud was sitting lower on the hills, the air full of drizzle.  A wild and lonely looking valley in the conditions.


We followed the path down the valley for a while, eventually picking a flattish spot to camp next to the river.  The wind was gusting again, being funnelled directly up the valley.  I was pitching my new Kifaru Megatarp for the first time out in the wild and the wind did not make things easy.  I eventually wrestled what felt like a hundred metres of fabric into position, pinned firmly down with a grand total of 21 pegs.  It was not going anywhere.


Along with the Megatarp I had purchased the Tarp Annex which transforms the shelter from a tarp to a four season shelter.  This has a stove boot sewn into it to take the small Kifaru woodburning stove.

It was not yet cold enough to bring along the woodburning stove.  I also did not want to risk using it in strong winds, a lightweight chimney being blown about would just be asking for trouble.


The weather meant that we were soon in our individual shelters.  It was dark by 6.30pm which felt really early after a summer of wild camping.  Although stable the Megatarp was a bit noisy, there is a lot of fabric to catch the wind.  The plus point was that I had plenty of room to spread out inside, the evening passed quickly with a good book.

Day 2 – 17 kilometres with 280 metres ascent

One of the main problems of sleeping in a floorless shelter is that my pillow seems to go walkabout in the night.  At least in the confines of an inner tent there is nowhere for it to go.  I kept waking to find that it had pinged off somewhere, the downside of a lightweight inflatable pillow.

The rain stopped soon after midnight but the wind continued to increase towards dawn, howling up the narrow valley.  Chrissie came along to wake me around 8am and we had a leisurely couple of hours around camp before packing and setting off at 10am.


The last time I had walked down Bowderdale was with Martin Rye during a stormy January weekend a few years ago.  Then Bowderdale beck was an absolute raging torrent, even the small side streams proving difficult to cross.  We urgently headed down the valley half expecting to find our cars washed downstream.

Although windy the conditions this time were much more benign and it was good to get an actual view of this long and remote valley.




A dry stone wall provided shelter for a snack break before we headed through the hamlet of Bowderdale and crossed the busy A685 via an underpass.

Access land is marked on the map next to the building at Rigg End, however it proved very difficult to actually access.  A gate in its final years of life was tied to an equally ancient fence post by numerous ancient pieces of twine.  It took a fair bit of patience to pick it all apart whilst Dixie decided she wanted a quick fight with Reuben.

Once through it was a pleasant plod through moorland following a track on the map which no longer exists on the ground.  Perhaps everyone has been put off by that gate.


As we were descending towards a bridge we saw Geoff and Tilly in the distance.  Tilly spotted us and came bounding over at great speed, the usual happy labrador.  It turned out that Geoff had spent a while trying to find us on our route.  However he had managed to become geographically challenged on the way, muttering something about how the map was wrong.  When unsure of your location it is always best to blame the Ordnance Survey.

Lunch was taken before climbing onto a lovely area of limestone pavement.  The views back were of the northern Howgills, their summits covered by a uniform blanket of cloud.  Fingers crossed that the rain would hold off until we got back to our vehicles.


Tilly and Reuben behaved splendidly through an area of four-legged woollies, taking not a blind bit of notice of them.  They were too busy larking around, Reuben’s terrier instincts meaning he won tug of war with a stick and stole Tillies ball.

This wedge of limestone country between the Howgills and the Eden valley is worthy of exploration if you are looking for a bit of peace and quiet.  It would be lovely on a warm summers day with sky larks singing overhead.


The final section of the route took us down through cattle infested territory.  Most were fine until the final field where one started to take offence at the dogs, the field being full of surprisingly young calves.  We all got over the stile in time and no harm was done.

The skies opened a few minutes before reaching the village where the best tea van in Cumbria was waiting for us.  Coffee and homemade apple pudding set me up for the long drive home.

You can read Chrissie’s version of the trip here.

June 15, 2013

A backpacking shelter with woodburner purchased

by backpackingbongos

For the last few years I have been lusting over getting a backpacking shelter that would support a woodburner.  For me there is something decidedly attractive about sitting in front of a fire inside a tent miles from civilisation.  It’s in the last year that I have been doing some serious research, weighing up the pros and cons of the different makes and models.

There are two brands that I became interested in, these being Titanium Goat and Kifaru.  Both of these companies are based in the States, making some really nice Tipis and stoves designed for backpacking.  Unfortunately it turned out that the Tipis were far too heavy to be able to lug around on my own, especially when carrying a woodburner.

This then ruled out Titanium Goat as their lightest Tipi designed for a stove (the Vertex 6.5) weighs around 1900 grammes.  They also did not bother answering an email full of questions.  Why would I want to spend money with a company that can’t be bothered to communicate?  This left me with Kifaru shelters, which are primarily designed for hunters in places like Alaska.  I have to say that I have spent far too long reading forums written by men with an interest in firearms and camouflage.  That aside they have been really useful as they go out hunting for days on end in the frozen backcountry, a real test of gear.

I settled on the Kifaru MegaTarp a cavernous shelter that pitches with two trekking poles.  What sold it to me was its internal space in comparison to its weight.  The poles are set to 132cm and that height runs the whole length of the shelter.  The length is 345cm with a width of 172cm, with most space useable due to the vertical lower walls.

The front of the shelter is open with a beaked canopy, whilst there is a rear sewn in door.  The total weight is a totally reasonable 595 grammes.  I take trekking poles with me anyway so that would keep the weight down further.  Add say 200 grammes for a pile of heavy duty pegs (there are numerous pegging points) and you still have a huge shelter at under 800 grammes.



So far you have a large and lightweight shelter which when it is windy will be a little bit draughty.  The clever thing is that you can turn it into a four season floorless tent by adding an annex.  This weighs an additional 170 grammes.  This will take the total enclosed length to 410cm.  The great thing about the annex is that it comes with a stove boot sewn in.  This is a fire resistant patch (covered by a waterproof flap when not in use) through which a stove chimney fits.  This is why I went with this shelter after all!

Now to the stove itself.  This is a Kifaru Small Stove made from stainless steel.  It packs flat to about the size of a small laptop and weighs in at 1400 grammes including the chimney (which also rolls away to 30 cm long).  This video shows how they work (although he is putting together their large stove).

Fitted inside the MegaTarp and with the annexe attached it will look like this from inside.


Stove 1

I have to say that I am really looking forward to getting this package through the post.  As is usual with small cottage manufacturers I am going to have to wait a while whilst it is made.  A very long 12 weeks.

If the weights on the website are accurate, the shelter with annex and stove should come in at 2165 grammes.  Add pegs and a groundsheet and the weight should still be under 2.5 kilos, not bad for a heated shelter.  As my wife sometimes reads my blog please don’t ask how much the setup costs, lets call it £50…………….

Photos above were taken from a couple of forums, clicking the photos will take you directly to the page they came from.  They are not your usual backpacking forums!