Some jottings from when me and Sue backpacked the Yorkshire Wolds Way (YWW) for six days in April 2013. We B&B’d for one night and camped the remaining nights. Apologies for the late posting – work and stuff get in the way sometimes!

This is not a step-by-step guide to walking the YWW – there are websites (such as the official National Trail – the latest version of the “YWW accommodation guide” from this site is very useful; and Walking Englishman – a great source of walks all over the country). We used the official trail guide “Yorkshire Wolds Way” by Roger Ratcliffe, published by Aurum) that give details of the route as well as things to see on the way. It would be nice for this to be spiral bound so it is easy to store in a pocket on the relevant page.

On the way to Welton, looking back to the Humber

On the way to Welton, looking back to the Humber

We travelled by train from South Devon (no problems on the forward or return journeys), but it was not obvious that we had to change at Brough (when travelling from Doncaster) to get a train that stopped at Hessle. It’s worth checking at Doncaster first!

The YWW is very well waymarked with finger posts and National Trail acorn symbols. There are mileage posts, topped with an acorn, at intervals too (no excuse for not carrying a map and compass, though!). From Hessle, the YWW runs between the Humber and a railway line for the first couple of km. Part of the path was closed (the board stated from January to August 2013) for emergency repairs. With no alternative route posted, we scrambled past the temporary fencing, eventually to find a section of the wall retaining the railway embankment that had been washed away by the recent rains. The fencing closing off the other end did carry an alternative route (I think it was along the road to Hessle).

We planned this walk for mid-April, hoping to see Spring flowers and the Hawthorn hedges in blossom, plus we wanted to see the areas where David Hockney painted some of his large canvases.

Swin Dale, near North Newbald

Swin Dale, near North Newbald

The cold winter and delayed Spring meant many flowers were absent. Although daffodils and snowdrops were out in places, the Hawthorn hedges were barely coming into bud. Crops in the fields had grown no more than a few centimetres and the trees remained skeletal, showing branches rather than masses of leaves. In general, the woodlands we passed through appeared very well managed. Our wild camp for the first night was close to a wooded area where we saw deer at dusk.

A little research showed there were few shops on the YWW and not every village has a pub. We relied on pub lunches every day (apart from the last day), which helps keep the pack weight down, but sets a pretty rigid timescale to the day. For evening meals while camping, we posted food parcels to each campsite. Each parcel contained a couple of  Look What We Found pouches (great tasting pre-cooked meat courses – we reckon chill con carne is the best) ideal with Smash, noodles or rice. Our parcels also contained fruit cake, snacks and breakfast for the following day and teabags. We would have been hungry if any parcel had not been delivered!

Horse Dale near Fridaythorpe

Horse Dale near Fridaythorpe

We had a few hours sun on the first day and as we walked into Filey, otherwise white cloud dominated the days. Visibility to the horizon was limited at times by mist – we missed the panorama over the Vale of York. Over the first few days, there was a very cold Easterly wind, no problem as long as we kept moving. To remind us of the weather a few weeks earlier, there were piles of snow in the hedgerows. The wind shifted to the South-West for the remainder of the walk – although it remained chilly in the very strong winds; the high gusts with driven dust from the dry land made walking interesting at times.
We had an hour or two of rain on one day, with some rain at night.
All-in-all, the weather could have been kinder. In the summer, though, the steeply sided dales would be sun traps.
Due to the well-drained land, natural water is very limited, with the older villages often located near springs.

Settrington Woods

Settrington Woods

In a few places (such as Sylvan Dale, near Millington, and Staxton Wold, South of the RAF base) the YWW has short, but very steep, ascents and descents. If the ground is wet or it is raining these slopes could be tricky, especially with a large or heavy pack. Our walking poles came in very useful in these places.

The YWW involves walking minor roads and farm tracks (maybe too many km on tarmac road and track?) as well as footpaths and bridleways. Kissing gates get you through most hedges and fences, there are very few stiles. However, at Wharram Percy medieval village, English Heritage have made their kissing gates on the YWW too small to pass through with a large pack!

Flixton Wold on the way to Filey

Flixton Wold on the way to Filey

With the predominant chalk (geologically the Yorkshire Wolds are part of the same structure as the North and South Downs), the tracks can be very bright with lots of glare, so take polarising sunglasses if glare bothers you. At times on our walk, the reduced growth of the crops meant the chalk-white stones in the large fields looked like snow and what looked like smoke hanging over distant fields was dust whipped up by the drying winds.

In our area of South Devon, small fields with high and wide Devon hedges abound. Not so in the Yorkshire Wolds, where (to us) the fields seemed prairie-like in size and the hedges are one or two layers of Hawthorn. We saw a large number of Hares throughout the walk. It was delightful to watch them playing and chasing each other across a field.

We hardly saw other walkers on the YWW. There was an LDWA 50 mile walk over the weekend, though, which more than made up for this.

Overall, the YWW is an easy to walk route that is very well way-marked; maybe there are too many km on roads and farm tracks. The YWW is tranquil – we met a handful of walkers and did not meet anyone else walking the YWW. Apart from the first few km from Hessle and walking into Filey, the country-side is gently rolling with large fields and “big skies”. There are a few steep ascents and descents, where we had to take care walking with packs. The Dales are unusual with their steep sides and flat bottoms and the villages are small and delightful.

Our route:
Day 1: Hessle to outside South Cave where we wild camped.

We stopped for lunch in the Green Dragon, Welton.
Distance: 24 km

Day 2: Just outside South Cave to Manor Farm campsite, Goodmanham.

We stopped for lunch at the Gnu Inn, North Newbald. We can recommend the Goodmanham Arms pub/microbrewery.
Distance: 13 km

Day 3: Goodmanham to the Wolds Inn, Huggate where we B&B’d.

We stopped for a late lunch at the Rambler’s Rest, Millington (Millington also has the Gait Inn)
Distance: 21 km.

Day 4 Huggate to Hill Top Farm Camp site, North Grimston.

We stopped for lunch at the Cross Keys Inn, Thixendale.
Distance: 23 km

Day 5 North Grimston to Windlebeck Farm Campsite, Ganton.

We stopped for lunch at the cafe at Wolds Way Lavender, Wintringham.
Distance: 26 km

Day 6 Ganton to Filey. Brief lunch stop at the The Camp so we could get to Filey Brig campsite around 4pm.

We had an evening meal at the Bella Italia restaurant in Filey.
Distance: 23 km

Essentials of our kit:

My pack – Granite Gear AC Blaze AC 60 (see this review)
Sue’s pack – Osprey Sirrus 36
Shelter – MLD Trailstar and 2-man Oooknest (both excellent)
Poles – Fizan Compact walking poles
Sleeping bags – PHD Minim 500 (we needed these bags for the first few days!)
Stove – Primus Eta
Clothes: Kathmandu synthetic baselayer top, Montane Litepseed windshirt, Rab microfleece
Lidl leggings under Montane Terra pants
Montane Prism Primaloft jacket
Finisterre merino baselayer top and leggings

I was looking for a lightweight headtorch and found the Adventure Lights Guardian X-TRA BRIGHT Headtorch:

Headtorch

Adventure Lights Guardian Headtorch

This headtorch is very small and weighs 50 g – ideal!

It is powered by two CR2032 coin cells and is bright enough for general use in a tent. I have not walked at night with it (apart from having to find a convenient hedge). The headtorch is supplied with an elasticated headband that has a moulded adaptor that the torch unit clips into. The adaptor provides some “up and down” movement.

You turn the torch on and off by screwing/unscrewing the lens in/out of the housing. There is on ‘O’ ring seal between the lens and body moulding to prevent water ingress. You cannot focus the beam and there is a single brightness setting adding to its simplicity and reliability. Adventure Lights claim 100 hours (just over four days) battery life in continuous mode.

Headtorch front view

Front view of housing, battery and lens

You can set the headtorch to an SOS flashing mode (repeating three short, three long, three short flashes with a claimed life of 250 hours (over ten days) by turning round the battery pack (the torch is supplied with two cells in a heat-shrink tube that form the battery). I’m not sure how easy this would be with two replacement cells (not in a heat-shrink tube) in the dark / wet.

The torch unit is supplied loose with a belt clip and the headband. The torch unit clips onto either; but the clip is very tight and I’ve not yet managed to separate the torch unit from the headband.

When breaking camp, I suggest you unscrew the lens assembly at least one turn to ensure it cannot rotate and turn itself on while in your rucksack – the old trick of turning the batteries round won’t work on this torch!

I recommend this product if you want a no-frills, cheap (I paid just over £12 each) and light headtorch. You can get them with clear or coloured lens assemblies, I bought two from Rescue Supply

A very lightweight pocket you can fit on just about any hip belt, or trouser belt, I guess. I measured my two pockets at 150 x 110 x 40 mm (6 x 4 3/8 x 1 5/8 inches), a bit under MLDs (Mountain Laurel Designs) published sizing. The pockets offer useful storage space that is roomy, waterproof (but see later) and easily accessible. I can get a SatMat Active 10 GPS (in an AquaPac case) in a pocket, with room left over. This photo shows the pocket mounted on my Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 (reviewed here) hipbelt:

Sat Map Active 10 GPS in Aquapac case in the MLD pouch pocket

The pockets should be long-lasting as they are made from nylon and incorporate a Dyneema ripstop grid. An overweave of nylon improves abrasion and tear resistance. The material is PU waterproof coated.

A waterproof YKK zip with two pulls seals the pocket – MLD have positioned the zip on the front of the pocket. If the zip were on the top of the pocket, pooled rainwater could easily fall through as you open the zip – good design. I have cut off the metal zip pulls and fitted cord pulls – to me, the metal pulls jingling together were irritating.

The rear of the pocket has a two pairs of elasticated bands (sized for narrow and wide belts) that you slide the belt belt through. MLD also provide loops at each side of the pocket to fit the pocket to their range of packs using a clever double-sided clip.

As supplied, the seams are not sealed and I have yet to seal them. Eventually, I will get round to sealing the seams and the stitching for the elasticated bands. I try to remember to pull the zips together and face them away from the rain to prevent water entry from any slight gap between the two zip pulls. That said, I use suitable proofed bags to protect my GPS and camera.

These pockets are not padded, which keeps the weight low, around 28 g (1 oz). If you use them to store “delicate” items, you could pad a pocket using some closed-cell foam from an old sleeping mat (normal foam will absorb water).

In summary, these pockets provide useful storage for my GPS, camera, trail snacks and other odd and sods for next to no weight. Maybe they provide too much room that it is tempting to fill!

I bought these pockets from MLD and delivery was within the time they stated.

Side of pack

Granite Gear Blaze AC 60 with optional lid

Initial thoughts
The Granite Gear build standard looks high and it appears ruggedly built. It is not the lightest pack on the market, weighing around 1.3 kilos. As the name suggests, has a capacity of 60 litres. The pack is made from nylon and Cordura and has an interchangeable hip belt.
At home, I loaded the pack with around 7 kilos and was pleasantly surprised with the carry. It seemed to sit a lot better on my hips than my old Osprey Talon. The shoulder straps and load straps worked well.

Roll-over top

Roll-over top with straps

The pack has a single compartment with a drawstring top that rolls over to form a weathertight closure with the help of  two straps. At the rear there is a large elasticated pocket running virtually the full length of the pack, ideal for storing a wet tent fly. There are three, fixed, compression cords running across this pocket – it would be good to be able to unclip them like you can the lower side cords. I like the idea of cord rather than webbing, you could change the cords, or remove them completely.
There is a large elasticated pocket either side of the pack.

I got the matching Lineloc lid (weight 255 g). It is easy to fit and gives, to my mind, more weather protection for the top of the pack, as well as a useful compartment with an internal zipped pocket. The lid can double as a bum bag, too. Fixed straps on the top of the lid for the bum bag would be useful to carry a sleeping mat (but any pack cover would have to cope with the extra width).

Clip on lid zips

Clip on lid zips

The lid compartment is secured with two zip pulls – I added a small clip (a ‘Clipper’ from Alpkit) to prevent the possibility of the zips opening en-route. The zip is not waterproof.

Rear of pack

Rear of pack

There is a zipped bladder pouch inside the main compartment. The bladder hangs from a short webbing strap that uses a cross-piece to retain the bladder – this did not work well with my Source bladder and I prefer a clip system. The shoulder straps could benefit from a strap or two to keep the drinking tube in place – it disappeared between the pack and my back. I also liked the little pocket on each of the Osprey shoulder straps, they were ideal for locating the bite valve and a compass. I could fix something up on the D-ring on each of the Granite Gear’s shoulder straps.

Adjusting the shoulder straps for correct back positioning is easy to do; moving the metal buckle on the end of each shoulder strap into one of a series of holes in a moulded plastic back panel until the fit is right. Between the back panel and the wearer, there is a mesh covered foam pad that contains a series of airflow channels that are meant to help with back ventilation – the wrong time of the year to comment on this feature!

Shoulder straps and hip belt

The very comfortable “business end”

The hip belt is wide and comfortable. As well as the adjustment either side of the main front buckle, there is a strap on either side, towards the rear of the belt, that gives a bit more adjustment. I mounted the two pouches you can see in the photos on these straps. The hip belt also has loops sewn into both sides for securing pouches.
The shoulder straps are nicely padded. The sternum strap fits onto a buckle that slides on webbing fitted over the shoulder strap. I found up-down adjustment of this buckle tricky, but it won’t move too easily!

In action
I decided to go for an overnight trip on Dartmoor over 13/14th October using the maximum recommended pack load of 16 kilos. The weather on Saturday was showery, very windy and sunny, with sun all day Sunday. The atypical weather this year meant the moors were saturated, with more squelchy peat and bogs than usual. These conditions meant the pack got a lot of stability testing and it performed admirably; it did not move laterally and I could adjust the suspension to get the weight onto my hips. It did not feel like I was carrying 16 kilos.
I did not use a pack cover and the DWR finish performed well; however, I will get a pack cover to make sure the contents stay dry!
The disappearing drinking tube was a pain – a small clip or velcro strap on the shoulder pad is top of my list to fit.
I stowed my sleeping mat over the vertical pocket using the three compression cords, it was slightly tricky to get the mat under the fixed cords – removable cords would help here. I probably wouldn’t be able to get a fatter mat in this position and wouldn’t have been able to fit the mat shown in the photo if the pocket had been used for a tent fly.
The side pockets are very capacious, the pictures show a 750 ml water bottle in each pocket and there was room for my waterproofs, too.

Conclusion
I like this pack and with a load capacity of 16 kilos, it is suitable for multi-day trips – my reason for getting it. It is very adjustable leading to a comfortable carry. The main compartment is cavernous and I will need a few more stuff sacks to organise my kit. There is minimal sideways movement when fully loaded. thanks to the compression cords The external side pockets are large enough to store waterproofs and food/water for use during the day. The large rear pocket can easily hold a tent fly (and probably more) so you don’t have to store wet items in the main compartment.
The compression cords on both sides and the back let you carry a partial load.
The optional Lineloc lid gives (subjectively) more weather resistance, but it is not cheap.

Small points that could make this pack even better are a strap with a buckle to hold the bladder and something on the shoulder straps to secure a drinking tube. Small points indeed, that do not prevent me thoroughly recommending this pack.

I bought this pack and lid from ultralight outdoor gear

Maybe you should seam-seal before re-proofing? Anyway, I re-proofed first (see the last post)…

Seam-sealer seems expensive for the amount you will use on a small tent and I read somewhere about making clear silicone brushable by diluting with white spirit, so I thought I would give it a go.

I guess there are no hard and fast rules on diluting silicone – I made it up as I went along and it worked fine. Sue gave me a most useful tip on mixing silicone and white spirit – add a little white spirit to the silicone, not the other way round. Doing this means you don’t get blobs of silicone sloshing around in the white spirit. A shame she told me this after I had chased blobs of silicone in white spirit with my mixing stick! I got it mixed in the end, but Sue’s way (as described below) is definitely easier.

I used a jam jar lid for mixing the sealer, a thin piece of wood (a lolly stick would be ideal) as a mixer and a cheap artist’s paintbrush to apply the sealer. It’s a messy job, so I wore disposable gloves.

Squirt, say, 2 cm long by 6 mm diameter of clear silicone into the jam jar lid and add a small amount (a teaspoon, maybe) of white spirit and mix. Add a little more white spirit and mix. Keep doing this until you get something that is the consistency of thick-ish yoghurt. You want the sealer to be easy to apply with a brush, not something that sticks to the brush in a lump – like the undiluted silicone would.

Seam after sealing

Seam a day after sealing

At this stage you can either use this mix and make more as you go; or add more silicone and white spirit to mix up a more sealer. Depends on how much you need. Now apply the sealer to the seam. Work it in well and apply to both sides of the seam if you can get to it – see the photo. I was sealing a seam on a tent groundsheet that runs the full length of the inner, so I wanted to get a good coverage. The photo shows the seam the day after sealing, it has dried well – not quite invisible, but hard to spot at first glance.

I have no idea how long the mix wil stay useable, depends on all sorts of things, the mix I made was OK for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

The seam was touch-dry after an hour, but I would try to not touch it for as long as possible to give the sealer a good chance to thoroughly dry.

White spirit seems to make the jam jar lid very slippery – I dropped the lid and , of course, it landed upside down on the grass.

Now I just need to mix up some more sealer to do the seams on the fly – using Sue’s method, of course.

Spring is almost here and I had a free day with a good weather forecast, so what better thing to do than re-proof a tent?

I’ve had my Saunders Backpacker II Extreme for a “long time” – well over 30 years. When I had a look at it a few weeks ago, the fly was in good shape and despite severe tugging along and across all the seams it shows no sign of UV degradation. I knew the fly needed re-proofing and the sewn-in groundsheet definitely needed re-proofing.

I’ve always used Fabsil for re-proofing, but the smell of white spirit seems to hang around for a long time; so I thought I would try NikWax  ‘Tent and Gear Solarproof’, which also contains a UV inhibitor. As it’s a small tent, I got a 300 mL hand spray bottle.

I washed the fly and inner using NikWax Tech Wash. As we live in a soft water area, I used 100 mL of Tech Wash in a bucket of warm water. This did the fly and inner, but produced a lot of foam, so I reckon I could use less TechWash next time round. The good  thing about using these NikWax products is you don’t have to wait for the items to dry before re-proofing, so it is a lot quicker to do.

I pitched the fly in the garden and started spraying – it is quite a coarse spray. I ended up “lightly” spraying one side of the fly and wiping with a damp J-cloth to uniformly spread the coating. I sprayed the other side, then both ends. By then, the first side was mostly dry with a few spots of proofer remaining, so I wiped this side again and then worked my way round the other sides.

Re-proofed tent

Reproofed fly showing beads of water - looking good!

I left the fly for half-an-hour or so; after which it was dry but looked ‘different’, a slight sheen is the best description. My hand was definitely waterproofed and I would recommend wearing gloves and old clothes when using this product!

I knew the seams and along the ridge would need some additional attention so I sprayed and wiped each seam.

I did the same thing with the ground sheet, spraying the long seam down the centre and the seams in each corner where the groundsheet forms the bathtub a second time.

All-in-all a good job done. I reckon I have around half the “Solarproof” left, too. This means, if you are careful, you could re-proof a two-man tent for free! Too late for me, I saw Nikwax have a quiz on their website (still there on 14th March), the prize being a 150 mL sachet of “Solarproof”.

Next post will be on seam-sealing for ‘free’.


Glogg water bottles

750 mL and 350 mL Glogg water bottles

I was looking around for some new water bottles – I don’t like plastic bottles and I don’t like the idea of some of the coatings inside aluminium bottles. All was not lost though – I got a couple of Glogg bottles (350 mL and 750 mL bottles with standard screw-on lids) and here are my thoughts on them.

Gloggs are made from stainless steel so there no need for an internal coating. They have quite a wide mouth (40 mm) that is good for pouring, but not so good for drinking straight from the bottle – it tends to spill over the sides of your mouth until you get used to the wide opening. I use the smaller bottle for milk and the wide mouth makes for easy cleaning. I’ve heard of people using these bottles to boil water directly on a stove – I haven’t tried this, but you’d need a good way of holding the bottle to pour out the contents

The bottles are robust and the seal on the lid works well – it uses a silicone (I guess) O-ring fitted to the lid . As you tighten the lid, the O-ring compresses onto the rolled-over top of the bottle – have a look at the photo. It looks to me like over-tightening the lid could force the O-ring off the rolled top, which may lead to leaks. In my experience, a gentle ‘nip-up’ is all it takes for a good seal and I have not had a Glogg bottle leak.

On winter walks, these bottles, like any other metal bottles carried on the outside of a pack, cool the contents and my fillings have been surprised a few times! I’ve yet to use them in hot weather, but I think I may have to get used to drinking tepid water, or keep the bottle cool by placing it inside my pack. Watch out, too, when you hand wash them, a hot water rinse might be painful!

The 750 mL bottle is 270 mm from base to top of lid, the 350 mL bottle is 175 mm. Both are 70 mm diameter. For the weight conscious, the 750 mL weighs in at 165 grams; with the 350 mL bottle weighing 105 grams.

Maybe not the lightest of containers, but if you want a robust and high-quality water bottle, check out Glogg bottles.

Just about every family holiday we took over the last twenty-odd years involved camping, often in Cornwall. BC (Before Children) Sue and me backpacked – now, with the kids doing their own thing, we can get back to enjoying the freedom that walking and wild camping gives.

An old bloke, like me, realises just how much equipment has improved over the last 20 or 30 years. Gore-Tex and eVent with proper layering means keeping warm and getting less of a soaking than wearing a hard-wearing, bombproof nylon waterproof, with nothing more technical than jeans and a tee shirt. The weight savings, too, are impressive.

Some old things though are hard to beat. Our Saunders Backpacker II tent must be over 30 years old now and (frequent re-proofing) has never leaked despite dire weather. The fly appears unaffected by UV, too. It is a good two-man tent at under 2 kilos. That said, I think it will be up for replacement as storage space is limited and we could do with a little bit more headroom. The old Meta 71 stoves, too, provide a quick, hot drink for next to no weight, though you don’t seem to be able to get hold of original Meta tablets. Speaking of cooking, our Trangia is still going – but then what is there to go wrong with a Trangia?

Now our packs for a couple of days winter backpacking on the moor weigh under 10 kg – great. While trying to keep the weight down, but not ultralight; volume is just as important and there are always compromises to make along the way. The Trangia, for instance, is not as fast as gas, maybe a bit heavy and it’s an awkward shape; but it is unaffected by the wind, you can get meths anywhere and it does not spoil the peace of the surroundings.

One serious point to consider, the pursuit of low weight and low volume can mean spending a lot of money!

Well, this first post has set the tone – I’ll be back.

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