I finally got my act together today and sent my damaged Laser Comp to Terra Nova to see if it can be repaired under guarantee. Glad that I brought it on the internet as a quick search of my emails turned up an e receipt. Hard to believe that I have owned it for 3 years already. Anyway this should be a good test of their customer service and what is covered under a ‘lifetime guarantee’. It should just involve some simple stitching and seam taping, so fingers crossed it will soon be back with me good as new.
My camping experience last weekend shed some major doubts in my mind on the Laser Comps capabilities in bad weather. You can read my post on the trip here. Whilst camping the first night the weather was much worse than anticipated. Although the comp did not actually collapse the noise that it made whilst flapping in the wind was so loud that I barely slept the entire night, this then impacted on my enjoyment of the rest of the weekend as I was totally knackered from lack of sleep. On the second night I discovered that the pole that supports the end of the tent had ripped away from the ground sheet of the inner leaving a hole. Now this is something that perhaps happened whilst tensioning the pole guy rather than storm damage. If this is the case then the fault was down to poor construction as stitching should not fail whilst tensioning a tent to get a taut pitch, especially in a tent such as the Comp where correct tensioning is essential in getting a perfect pitch.
As my sewing skills are not up to much I will get in contact with Terra Nova to see if they will repair it for me under guarantee. I have had the tent since August 2006 so fingers crossed they will not refuse.
Now I do have a confession to make – I never really fully bonded with my Laser Competition tent.
The only reason why I have continued using it over the years is because it is so light, it really has made a difference to my pack weight. So in that respect it has been great. However I have never really enjoyed actually sleeping in it. Firstly it can be a real bugger to pitch and if you don’t get it right it will be a mass of baggy material. I have spent many a breezy night with its material slapping me a across the face with each gust of wind. Secondly I find the inner to be just on the bareable side of claustrophobic. Being fairly tall I find that the inner tent is just a little bit close to my face for comfort. I have also had great problems with condensation when using the comp as there is no real practical way of venting it without leaving the fly door open, which I often do if it is not raining. When totally sealed I find that condensation forms on the inner tent above my head and torso, this then dampens my down bag when I sit up. This got so bad that I brought a lightweight bivvy bag to use inside, this helps but them negates the benefits of using a lightweight tent in the first place! Finally after a wet condensation filled night I want to disconect the inner from the outer to stop the inner tent from getting wet whilst packing. This is really fiddly to do with the end poles being conected to both fly and inner tent (well not on mine now!). I therefore end up stuffing the whole lot into my sack meaning I have a wet inner tent when packing the next night.
On the positive side the headroom in the Comp is great in the centre of the tent, I can fully sit up without slouching. The porch is also huge for a tent of its size, much bigger than the Akto
For years and years (since 1999) I have used a Hilleberg Akto tent that has always performed superbly and has never let me down. The only negative has been with the weight, I have an old model that weights in at 1.8kg. It has stood up to winds that were so strong that I could barely stand and monsoon strength rain storms. Hundreds of nights on the hills and it is still going strong (ok the pole is now a bit of a weird shape due to a rather lively gust of wind). It is about time that I got reaquanted with it, a bit more weight in the sack but at least I can go back to camping on mountain summits without a worry.
But saying that I have had my eye on a Scarp1……………………………………………
I had managed to build up a bit of lieu time at work so I downed tools (well a pen) at lunch time and was in Richards car being driven to the lakes by 2.00pm. This meant that we were able to miss most of the usual Friday rush hour madness and were entering the lakes in a downpoar by 6.00pm. A weekend seems that much longer if you can be on the hills an extra night.
We parked in a small layby just past Cockley Beck on the Hardknott pass road and took straight to the hill. There was no time to get the legs and muscles working properly as we headed up the steep slopes of Dod pike. The rain had passed leaving the view down into the Duddon valley sparkling green. The plan had been to pitch just behind the summit of Dod Pike but it was too boggy, so after collecting water it was heads down climbing towards Border End.
After a bit of searching we found two sheltered grassy shelves between Border end and Hard Knott fell and pitched the tents. The weather now was stunning as the sun started to slowly sink towards the horizon. We headed to the summit of Border End to phone respective partners and take in the grand view. The Scafell peaks had clouds streaming down them like a waterfall and the sun lit up the sea on the horizon. The wind however had a real bite to it, sitting there it felt more like 4.00pm on a February afternoon than a late June evening. We soon went back to the tents to cook dinner and get comfy for the night.
Spot the tents……..
As I was getting comfortable in my tent the strong breeze started to transform itself into a strong wind, I was glad that I had found a pitch mostly sheltered from it. As I lay there the wind got stronger and stronger seeming to come from all directions at once, the Laser Comp tent flapping away noisily. I just could not get myself to sleep as the noise was too loud to relax. It did not get properly dark and at 2.00am I stuck my head outside to see a clear starry night with a bright moon. The wind died down a bit later and I drifted into a disturbed sleep.
A couple of hours later I was awoken by a storm raging outside the tent, wind and rain hammering on the flysheet. I stuck my head out of the door and could see through a parting of the clouds that Scafell had a good dusting of snow on its summit. I lay there cold for hours unable to sleep in my summer sleeping bag until it was time to get up. A dash to Richards tent revealed that he was getting more of a battering than I was, the wind had managed to turn the pole cover on his tent inside out! He had spent the whole night with damp tent pressed on his face.
I slunk back to my tent to cook breakfast before packing up, I was thinking about asking Richard if he fancied heading back to the car and driving home! The conditions were that of mid winter not June and I felt ill prepared for them. After we packed Richard vocalised the same feelings and I was secretly a bit relieved. We decided to head for the summit of Hard Knott to see if our moods would lift a bit, so off we staggered like drunks into the wind with freezing cold rain stinging our faces. Further north the clouds parted a bit to reveal a very moody Scafell Pike with a tiny bit of snow still remaining from the night before.
Needing to get out of the wind we dropped down to Lingcove beck and found shelter by a big boulder where we got a stove on for a cup of tea. Richard was keen to go home now, which strangely made me determined to want to stay. Was there a strange type of psychology at play? Someone having a worse time than me seemed to perk me up a bit! I suggested that we head onto the Great Moss to pitch the tents and see what the weather fancied doing, if it remained bad we could head home later, if it behaved itself we could walk onto the tops with lighter sacks. A long descent to Lingcove Bridge put us off so instead we headed up Lingcove Beck to the head of the valley and found a great grassy patch next to the river.
When Richard started erecting his tent he realised that one of the poles at the end was missing. It was not in his bag and we believe that it must have fallen out whilst packing a flapping mess of tent into its bag earlier on. His tent took on a new shape that day! I managed to get the tightest pitch I have ever managed which was nice until I looked inside and noticed the inner looked a bit odd. No amount of rearranging pegs made any difference. This is when I noticed that the pole at the end had ripped away from the inner tent, now that probably not meant to happen? Things got worse whilst I was putting the pole cover on, I managed to pull the cord too much at one end and the cord disappeared from the other end. Not sure if that is meant to happen either! It then started raining really heavily whilst I sat on a rock with a tent peg trying to fish the cord back out. If I was four years old I may have had a tantrum at that point!
To cut a long story short a text from my partner came through promising better weather, almost at the same time it stopped raining and it brightened up. Enjoyment and mood levels lifted after lunch and we decided to leave the tents and head up Esk Pike via Pike de Beild Moss. This was a great approach to the hill with no trace of a path. Rocky outcrops providing scrambling opportunities whenever we fancied it.
There were many false summits until we came to the top of Esk Pike which strangely for a Lake District fell was empty. In the distance we could see Helvellyn which still had patches of snow from the night before. We were soon descending then climbing to the summit of Bowfell which has stunning views down the whole length of Lingcove Beck and Upper Eskdale.
The path down to Three Tarns was in a bit of a state and was obviously about to be repaired as there were huge bags of stone alongside it. We picked up a faint path that descended to the head of Lingcove beck where we could see our tents in the fork of two streams. Thankfully they had dried out and we set about unpacking the rest of our gear.
In contrast to the night before we had a calm, relaxing and peaceful night. I felt really happy that we had not called it a day and gone home whilst I lay in my tent looking at the surrounding fells.
A bit of a late start in the morning soon led to a punishing climb straight up the steep slopes of the Crinkle Crags. After a while we came to Rest Gill to fill our water bottles and decided to make the climb more interesting by scrambling directly up it. There was an element of excitement as we did not really know what to expect, there was always the possibility of it getting too difficult and needing to make a hasty retreat. Although entertaining it never got too difficult, the main danger was with loose mossy rocks.
We were soon on the summit of Long Top where we passed the first walkers of the whole weekend, maybe the weather forecast had put people off travelling to the Lakes? I wanted to visit Little Stand so we descended south and crossed grassy trackless ground to reach its rocky summit with its collection of small tarns. It would be a great place to wild camp with lots of little rocky knolls to pitch the tent behind.
We had not counted just how rough the descent down to Cockley Beck would be from the summit. Although there is a bridleway marked on the map it most definitely does not exist on the ground. We needed to constantly backtrack around cliffs and crags on steep bouldery ground. Certainly the sort of terrain that makes twisting an ankle easy. The plan had been that when we got to the car we would dump the sacks and then head back up to Border End to look for Richards missing pole. However tiredness and the first spots of rain soon put an end to those thoughts…………………………………..
Last weekend saw my second backpacking trip of the year. A bit of a solo leg stretcher to try and get fit for my coast to coast and test out a couple of bits of gear. As usual I did not fancy too long a drive so I decided to head for the eastern part of the North Pennines, setting off after work on Friday. I had picked a spot on the map to park the campervan for the night but was a little disappointed to discover another van had beaten me to it. A quick scan of my OS map led me to the car park next to Balderhead Reservoir. The air was alive with birdsong and gunshots as I settled down for the night.
I was undisturbed in the night and no other vehicle visited the car park. There was even a loo so I did not have to use my trowel in the morning. A last minute sort out of my backpacking kit and I was ready for the short drive to Middleton in Teesdale where I would start my walk.
The Bongo by Balderhead Reservoir
I parked up, did a final idiot check and set off along a lane heading for the River Tees. For a mile or so I walked along a beautiful stretch of the river, following the Teesdale way as it wound its way along the river bank.
Looking west up the river Tees
This quickly came to an end and I had a quick stomp along a minor road before taking the track heading across the moors above Eggleston. Here I passed several groups of teenage girls backpacking with huge rucksacks, possibly doing their Duke of Edinburgh. The first group was happy and chatty whilst the groups bringing up the rear did not seem quite as happy! The size of their rucksacks amazed me, what on earth were they carrying? A good way of putting them off backpacking for life……..
I found this stretch of moorland rather dull and was having my usual battle with the wind trying to blow me off track. I soon reached the edge of Hamsterley forest and managed to find a bit of shelter for some lunch. I passed a large group of walkers who appeared to belong to a club for the terminally slow and had a mindless slog along a forestry track along the Euden Beck. Uninspiring stuff!!
My mood soon lifted when I took a footpath across Hamsterley common towards Meeting of the Grains, which was to be my campsite for the night. Walking above Ayhope Beck was a delight with the sun finally putting in an appearance.
Meeting of the Grains was an absolutely stunning spot. A large green wooded glade surrounded by the austerity of the Pennine moors. I dumped my rucksack to explore and find the perfect place to pitch the tent. I found a lovely flat green area by the river but found bunny carnage with the corpses of about 20 rabbits strewn about. A few discarded shotgun cartridges telled the whole sorry tale. I soon found a good spot higher up the hillside and spent 15 minutes pegging out a flapping tent in the strong wind. Finally satisfied that it would not blow away I set about unpacking. Half an hour later I was fed up with the tent drumming in the wind so found myself reversing the whole procedure, this time sitting on it whilst unpegging to stop it blowing away!
The unsuccessful campspot!
A few minutes later I had found a great pitch in a sheepfold by the river in an area hidden by trees. It was flat and sheltered by the wind so I was a happy chap who spend a couple of hours pottering about, cooking, sitting and generally being happy with the world.
The successful campspot
That evening I kept on hearing this strange noise in the sky and could not work out what it was. I have heard this sound in the Northern highlands before and thought it must be a bird. A bit of googling and it turns out it was a snipe. Quite an eerie sound at dusk alone on the moors.
A cold still night was followed by a warm sunny morning and I was slow packing and cooking breakfast, enjoying the spot that I has chosen. I finally shouldered my pack and crossed the pastures to find the footpath that climbed Black Hill. I was climbing along the sandy path when something out of the corner of my eye went for me. I jumped back and realised that I had very nearly trodden on an adder. It did another half strike towards me and I’m sure that I heard it hiss. It then quickly disappeared into the heather. I was both nervous and excited after that encounter and was careful where I placed my feet for the rest of the day.
I left the footpath at the summit of Black Hill and followed the wall that borders Hamsterley forest northwards. The ground to the left soon gave way to the beautiful valley of Sharnberry Gill.
Black Hill looking north
I clambered down the steep sides of the valley and followed its course for a couple of miles to the B6278 road. Another track up Little Eggleshope Beck led to a climb over the moors to drop down into the valley of Great Eggleshope Beck with its disused mine workings and buildings. There was a real air of remoteness here so I had lunch and soaked in the atmosphere.
Great Eggleshope valley
This left just one more climb of the day over the shoulder of Monks moor before descending to Hudeshope beck. Another beautiful valley with the reminants of the lead mining industry. The mines soon gave way to trees and the final mile into Middleton in Teesdale was a delight in the afternoon sun.
I brought my Laser Competition tent pretty much as soon as it came out but could never really fall in love with it. I always ended up taking my tried and tested Hilleberg Akto on backpacking trips. When backpacking through wild and remote places you really do need to feel confident about the gear that you are using. However recently I have read loads of blogs where the authors really rate the usability and stability of the laser comp. This and the fact that it weighs considerably less than the Akto persuaded me to give it a second chance.
I will be doing a 6 day east to west coast crossing of the Northern Highlands in 3 weeks which means carrying 6 days of food. Weight is therefore a major consideration so I decided to dust off the Laser Comp for my backpack last weekend. I ordered some Vargo titanium pegs and added some north face ‘v’ pegs to replace the carbon fibre ones with the annoying tips that come off. When packing the night before I noticed how much smaller and easier it was to pack than the Akto.
We found a great high moorland camp in the Yorkshire dales on a level grassy area. I was surprised when I managed to get a perfect pitch first time. I think using ‘v’ pegs to secure the end guys really helped, pulling them as taught as possible. I used separate pegs on the inner end poles this time pulling them out as far a possible. This all helped to get the perfect pitch.
The night was still and cold and I awoke to find the inner wet through with condensation. I cursed when I sat up and brushed the hood of my sleeping bag against the inner wetting it. The foot of my bag was also damp as it had also been touching the inner tent. I fell back to sleep and was woken at dawn by a strong wind and a fine drizzle of condensation was being shaken onto me. However the tent shrugged off the wind and I dozed for a couple more hours.
When I got up I wanted to find a solution to the condensation problem and dry out the tent before packing. I had the idea of unpegging the end facing the wind and clipping it to the inner pole tensioner. This looked pretty neat and the tent soon dried out. Next time I use the comp and it is not raining I will do this on both ends to see if it will prevent condensation from forming.
My planned backpack next weekend should give me an opportunity to try this out. Yesterday I also received a Rab ultra bivi which is sold as a sleeping bag cover. It weighs in at only 225g. This should hopefully stop any damp patches on my down bag and will replace the plastic survival bag that I carry – so no weight gained!