Friday, 30 May 2014

Reflections of The Great Outdoors Challenge 2014


Here we are, a week after my return home from the Challenge and I’ve posted my write up, washed all my kit, cleaned and waxed my beautiful boots and aired my tent and sleeping bag. What’s left to do?

Well, there has to be a few thoughts on how it all went and a bit of planning for next time of course!

So, how did it go?

I really enjoyed the route. It was, essentially, quite simple and I was familiar with quite a bit of it, but it was testing enough at times and certainly beautiful. I loved it. We loved it!

How did my gear perform?

Splendidly as expected, on the whole.

As food has become a bit of a Challenge issue for me, I tried different food this time, from Mountain Trails. I chose two of each of Minced Beef Dinner, Chicken in Cream and Mushroom Sauce, Four Cheese Pasta and Mushrooms, Creamy Mushroom and Tomato Pasta and Vegetarian Rainbow Couscous, Hot Chocolate Pudding and Hot Apple and Custard Dessert. I inadvertently found out that the apple pudding is still actually quite nice when cold, but then, I am known to eat cold apple pie or crumble with cold custard for breakfast, so this is no surprise.

I wasn’t keen on the couscous, too spicy for me whilst backpacking, but the rest was very good. I also thought it was very good value for money, there are two portion sizes available and the small size was perfect for me. They all rehydrated well. I’ve previously had problems with meat, mushrooms and pasta with rehydration, but these were good. I only accidentally made one pasta soup, but it was still very tasty! I do like my food, but I don’t like paying over £10 for a dried meal that I may not finish or that there aren’t enough that appeal to me to give a bit of variety. These meals ranged between £2.99-£5.99 in the size I chose. Over all, I intend to use them again, but as always, I would note that each to their own.

I also discovered that if I buy four crusty rolls for a £1 and two small camembert from Co-op they will last me four days and do lunch admirably or dinner if I have a tomato soup too. Sorted.

My new Paramo Quito trousers. I initially found them very comfortable and it was great to just wear the trousers with no need to stop and pull on over trousers. They were very quiet too, which is a pleasant change. I would say I found them a little warm towards the end of the Challenge and opted not to wear them for the long, warm stroll to North Water Bridge, (wearing my Ronhills instead) although I did not walk with them vented as I could have done. At that point, I just wanted them OFF! I also found them to be a little too delicate…


This is a little rip in my bottom, about 1.5” across

I didn’t rip my trousers during the gracefully controlled slide down the waterfall. This was probably done just sitting on a rock as we did the Lairig and Laoigh. Just sitting. No slipping, sliding or wriggling, just sat right down. On a rock. I also grazed the knee slightly as I threw myself gently at the ground on the way to Glenmuick and there may be one or two other nicks around the ankles caused by the heather we trudged through.

I do like them, but I don’t think they are rugged enough to cope with the Challenge. I shall save up and get them repaired, they will be useful for day walks or D of E.

My new camera, an Olympus Tough, is excellent. Easy to use, produced photographs good enough for me and was certainly waterproof as it got a good drenching in the two downpours we had.

My little Laser is my darling. I love it! I do need to do a bit of repair work though as some of the stitching is coming loose on the pegging point at the tail end. Nothing major, I just need to get my needle and thread out.


Just a stitch or two

I also love my Osprey Exos 58. Everything fits, there’s rummage room and it’s comfy to carry. This also needs a bit of repair however. On its first Challenge, I carried a tube of sun cream in the hip pocket. Now, these tubes have a sharp bottom and this one managed to wear a hole in the side of the mesh hip pocket and then also in the mesh on the frame. I don’t think I want to repair this myself, so I shall save up and send this away too. I know carry a handy pocket size bottle with no sharp edges. And I used it this year!


Not a brilliant illustration of the problem

My Meindl Burma boots are the dogs doodahs! My feet were dry the whole way across, although that had something to do with the almost complete lack of rain and the fact that the paths and tracks we used were not doing a good impression of a river bed! My feet were comfortable. Apart from the days when we had substantial or unexpected road walking at the end of the day. Then the soles of my feet felt a bit sore and bruised and a little pounded but nothing that wasn’t recovered by the next day after changing into my sandals and giving them a rest.

The only other issue I had were the joints of my left foot which felt sore and inflamed at the end of a long day. I’m not sure if it was due to the change in my footbeds, my right foot which usually has the problems was fine. We’ll see what happens.

My new fleece, whilst a bit chunkier and heavier than I would have liked, was comfy and cosy and really useful.

I found it easy enough to use my filter bottle to drink during the day and then treated my water as usual for my night meal and breakfast. Yes, yes, I know, it’s Scotland, I don’t need to do that, blah blah, but it’s what I’m drinking and cooking with and what I choose to do.

I think everything else did what I wanted it to do, so I’m happy.

As to next time? I have a route. And I’m very excited!


Mike Knipe said...

Eeeee (North East England term) fancy walking about with a hole in the arse of yer pants! I mean who would do such a thing...?
I'm using the same food by the way - good idea about the cheese and rolls..

Louise said...

It did occur to me that I'd previously been a bit harsh about a hole in somebody's trousers... I was pleased with the food. The rolls and cheese were just brilliant, although I did wonder if the camembert might have been a stinky mistake, it wasn't.

Anonymous said...

I've recently discovered those Mountain Trails meals and have been very impressed with them!

FellBound said...

Camembert? What we need is a spreadsheet showing weight of cheese to calorific value :-)

Louise said...

Hi Chrissie! Thanks for popping by!
I was really pleased with these meals, I've been recommending them to the two of our children currently doing their DofE and their friends. They were pleased too. Nice to be able to support a small british company producing a good product that does exactly what I want it to.

Louise said...

David, I have that information, on a spreadsheet. But to tell you, I'd have to fire up my netbook.