It’s a trap!

I’ll be quoting Admiral Ackbar again later. The Peak is awfy far away for a day trip, so as I was travelling down from Ambleside with GT from Trail I thought I would just swan down to the Lakes the day before and get an easy start on Friday.
It was nice to have a wee wander, the hills looked rather fine with a fresh dusting of snow, and I had a great start with a roll on bacon and cuppa in the wee cafe at the car park in Keswick. It’s pretty much always my first stop in town.
The shops were okay, and later on at five-to-six Blacks saved the day by having guylines with adjusters when I realised all my dyneema and lineloks were at home. I had a rake in Needlesports and saw that the new season Macpac Amps have embroidered logos, good call since the recent heat transfer ones last about half an hour on the hill. Ultimate Outdoors is now a Planet Fear, the only change being name and the presence of bikes and George Fishers is a lovely looking multi-floored tower of not much stuff at all.
Ambleside was the same, I wandered round a few favourites, avoided a few places for various reasons and caught up with the folks at the Climbers Shop, where we decided on March for the Hilleberg competition, so if you want an Akto that’s when you can stake a claim for it.
I headed back to my diggs for the night and hauled in four rucksacks of gear to sort for the next day, oddly enough except the five tarps which I left loose in a box which would cause no end of confusion the next day.
The Lakes are a dark place after hours, I was glad to have dinner and then sit happily in front of a magic arctic documentary on BBC2 where that mad bastards crawled about under the sea ice gathering mussels when the tide went out.

I was up and showered nice and early, packed and away under a light fall of snow and I was still nearly half an hour late at GT’s as I had to follow a Travis Perkins logo at 20mph all the way there. But, gear swapped over between motors and we were off south.
The journey went well, some good banter , trail shoes and boots were mentioned, and the only traffic hassle was in Glossop. The road into the Peak is a cracker, Snake Pass, some of it feels like a road through Sutherland heather, you’d don’t feel like you’re on an island jammed between cities, it does often feel like a wilderness.
With a quick stop in Hathersage to see freelancer Ben Winston for some kit, we were soon at Stanage Edge to meet snapper Tom Bailey and get to work.

I’m reviewing tarps for a grouptest in Trail, these are the more detailed reviews you see and always have some lovely shots to match, hence the hike south to meet at a middle gound of sorts for Tom to take the shots.
I’ve been playing with the tarps so I felt okay about getting them all set up quite quickly, and even in different forms, but after getting the Terra Nova Bivi Tarp successfully pegged on the crest of Stanage Edge, to quote Admiral Ackbar as promised: We can’t repel wind of that magnitude. No way was a regular tarp going up in that wind so we had to retreat underneath the crags where we got the Integral Designs model up easy, and in a quiet a cool way as well. We all warmed to tarping as the day went on actually, working with them and seeing the possibilities.
We descended to some easy ground and did the MSR and Exped models, and although this sounds like we flew round it we didn’t, Tom had to set up flash guns, and as it was icy and windy the batteries were getting killed so there were big gaps between shots, and there were many shots of each model. I was wrapped in Primaloft or down for a lot of it and Tom was jumping around, GT was was getting hypothermic.

We drove to some woodland for the final tarp from Alpkit. The guys there are on the ball, they’d heard through the grapevine/ twitter/ blog about the tarp test and offered one just as Gossamer Gear said they couldn’t supply a model for four weeks. Timing is everything.
So that was us done, no stopping, no lunch, no time anyway, daylight is short and it sped by.
I think it went well, I saw some of the shots and they look stunning, and I think I did okay with the tarps, especially in the conditions. But it’s always at times like this when I’m surrounded by professionals I feel the most like I’m about to get found out: “Why are we photographing a heating engineer lying under a tarp?”

The journey back had the most amazing sunset, a giant deep orange ball slipping through a band of purple, the fringes of Manchester never looked so lovely. It’s a killer as well, I should still have been under one of those tarps watching it instead of crawling through motorway traffic.
We stopped for cuppas on the way back, the two of us were burst, and I think it took until Preston for GT to thaw out. But the journey was trouble free and Ambleside was greeted with mixed emotions, one of us was home and the other was hitting the road. That road meant soup and more cuppas at the half way point, add an iPod on shuffle mode which gave me Rammstein, Hannah Montana, Triptykon, The Fraggles, Lady Gaga and Motörhead one after the other (can you tell the girls have insisted on been included in my playlists?) and the stretch home shrunk away to nothing.

The Peak then, not what I expected. I like it, it feels wild and it’s big too, the rock’s so damned grippy you can run up it in trail shoes and I think it would bear some exploring. So damned far away though, I now know how folk down south feel about coming up here. I hear wild campers aren’t the most popular breed in those parts too? I dare say the locals and the frequent vistors have the knowledge to get the job done though.
Tarps? I’m learning, and I’ve even been on the point of enthusing since they came in. The review’s a good while away yet, I’ll have plenty to say I think.

25 thoughts on “It’s a trap!

  1. So what your saying is Graham is poor in his kit selection then,lol. The thing with tarps is the military have been using them for years in the form of the poncho or basha, so the concept is by no means new, although topical of late. Personally even though i don’t tend to camp anymore unless on hols or treks etc with super lightweight tents that are available and give a lot more protection against the elements then is a tarp not a bit pointless?

  2. That’s one of the talking points, and after playing with them I don’t see tarping as a lightweight option at all, it’s just a different way of spending a night outside.
    The lightest tarp was the Integral Designs one, add a groundsheet, bivi bag or waterproof sleeping bag and it’s bigger packing and/or heavier than at least five tents I’ve got.
    I’ll be tarping from now on though, but just for a night in the clear air. Less that perfect conditions and I’ll be in a tent.

  3. Add the bivy and Trekking Poles if you don’t use them and they are often more in weight than a light tent. Petesy there is a difference between testing and playing around with. How and when have you had them out in the rain and wind. I know rain blows in the end of tarps if they are a standard A frame type pitch. Alpkit one has a lot guy lines and configuration options to keep rain out. I am using what some would call a tarp but I call it a shelter. Mountain Laurel Design Trailstar. it is incredible. Space, low weight and stands up to the wind as good as my Scarp 1 tent with crossover poles attached. The Scarp is way better than an Akto for comparison. You should get a Trailstar and try it out.

  4. Had them all in the wind more than once, and just three in the rain I think? The ones that don’t work well in the rain are the standard squares, I can see you having to re-pitch in the middle of the night if it gets bad.
    The MSR has a clever twist, pointed ends that stop the raining getting to the sleeping area unless is being really wind-blown at more that 45deg and the Exped has adjustable skirts to so can cinch the thing in. But, I’m not giving the game away yet!
    Forgot about the poles, that terrifies me, I wander about the tarps with my hands out in case I trip and fall on one.

    The line between tarps/ shelters/ tents is getting increasingly blurred. I’ve seen a few hybrids of late, the Gram Counter Gear one being an great example, it only qualifies as a tent because the ground sheet is attached by a mesh skirt, it’s really a tarp with fancy trousers on. I kinda like it though. It’s 100g heavier than advertised right enough.

    MLD always say they want to send test kit, but like most of the US wee guys never actually get round to it. So I’m kinda stuck, If I buy it I won’t use it because I’m always usaing test kit. It’s a bugger.

  5. Glad you like the Peaks! as it happens ‘MoonlightShadow’ and me were out wildcamping there last night. Plenty of places off the beaten track where there is little chance of meeting a ranger. They concentrate on the more obvious spots rounding up urban chavs out for a bevvie and a fire.

  6. Good job, it looks big enough to get lost in or hide yourself.
    I couldn’t believe when GT said that rangers come up and shift wild campers. Different game up here, but I suppose we’ll still got the trouble element that the Peak has, but most of our hills are too far way from their houses I’m glad to say!

  7. Good read that – even though I live next door to the Peaks, I’ve not really explored the place until recent months.

    It’s been and continues to be a real eye-opener – besides, got no choice on that front nowadays.

    I’ll be interested in how you get on with the tarps. I use an army poncho one with a bivvy. Only in good weather and in summer, mind.

    Like Martin said – for the weight and bulk, you’re often better with a tent nowadays.

    But it’s the experience of tarping that makes it.

    The sense of being ‘outdoors’ is much more earthy, so to speak.

  8. Oh and I wild camp ALL the time in the Peaks – even met the odd ranger and never had a problem. But that’s me and not some chav crowd chucking beer cans about, making fires and within 200 metres of a road.

    Which happens a lot in some specific places not too far from Stanage

  9. Bellie, aye, bothies get abused, even the more remote ones get crap left in them. At least in a tent you’re in your own mess :o)

    Terrybnd, local stuff is easy to overlook, in recent years I’ve rediscovered the Kilpatricks and a day (or even an hour) up there is never a substitution for further north, it’s just a fine time in the hills.

    The tarping thing isn’t so foreign maybe, my howff trip last year (sleeping under a rock in the rain) makes a tarp seem luxurious and lying at 1000m staring straight up at the sky all night with my bivy bag open a couple of years back on the South Glen Shiel Ridge is what I’m looking forward to getting when I tarp away from the light polution zone around here.

    Jeez, I’m getting all excited for getting out now :o)

  10. LOL

    Aye, that be good. 2 years since I last set foot in Scotland!

    Seriously, there is plenty of empty land in the Peaks – even in the ‘white peak’. Folk as always in the main stick to the well-known areas/honeypots.

    No bad thing, of course ;)

  11. Perhaps – that’s why I always keep my pitches ambiguous. I’ll say an area but nothing specific unless it’s common knowledge.

    Besides, it’s different round your neck of the woods. Bigger and better with less people in that respect.

  12. Glad you enjoyed it. When I first started to go the Peak District, in the mid-90’s when I arrived in the UK, I was surprised how something so surrounded by urbanisation can retain such a feel of a desolate moorland and you can really attain solitude without too many efforts.

    It’s also about as alien as it gets to someone like me for whom pretty mountains, lakes and villages is, well, the usual… (I’m Swiss)

    We were not far from you shoot, off Derwent Edge, in a quiet and discreet little spot (aside from a bloody owl…)

  13. I think weather in the Peak must be a huge player, I had cold, windy and sunny, foggy or snow must make it a real challenge.

    We’ve got some great stuff on this wee island.

    Nice shots sbrt!

  14. I’ve got the Rig-7 from Alpkit and it’s cracker of trap plenty of ways to configure that I reckon you could pitch that in the wind. It wouldn’t go anywhere. However I ended up in a Gram Counter LightHouse solo over the weekend :)

  15. It has been a bit parky recently, right enough. Sunny doesn’t figure that often though, least not in the vale of Glossop (there are rat runs avoiding the hell of the A57, by the way, though there’s a healthy population of rats these days). Grit’s lovely, but try hand jamming for 5 mins and see if you still like it ;-)

  16. tookiebunten, got a Lighthouse Solo here, I like it and it pitches way easier than the instruction made it look the first time!

    Richard, Glossop was solid both ways, a side road would have been lovely.
    I can imagine a day on grit removing any trace of fingerprints :o)

  17. Aye it’s a comprehensive set of instructions but I found very easy to pitch. Specific pegs for specific jobs. I was impressed with it so much so I think I’ll write up my thoughts properly.

    How you the nice bright yellow one too? ;)

  18. I thocht the sun was shinning in Ayrshire when I woke on the Sunday morning. Imagine my disappointment when I unzipped the door. At least the walk made up for it :)

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