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Books & Guides

Our Favourite Outdoor Magazines

I don’t think you can beat a magazine subscription, the excitement each month as you return home from work and find a fresh copy on the doormat.  Outdoor magazines are a great way to find out about camping gear, find ideas for adventure and be generally inspired to get off the sofa!

Here are a few of our must reads…

Trail

Trail_August_2015

Trail Magazine describes itself as the UK’s Bestselling hillwalking magazine, it specialises in the UK and Europe, following different routes and adventures.  A favourite for us is there regular Gear guide where the review the latest in walking and camping equipment, or all brands of one product to identify the best.

As an example of its content the August 2015 issue includes –

– Gateway to a Getaway  – a really wild adventure in Glen Affric.
– Shy Mountain – find a secret view in the Lake District.
– A Walk in the Woods – Lakeland ghyll scrambling with Alan Hinkes .
– Chain Reaction –  linking multiple scrambles in Snowdonia.
– No Pain No Dorain – a daftly steep ascent in the South Highlands.
– Mountain of Mountains –  the 150 year anniversary of the first ascent of The Matterhorn.
– Mountain Guide – Skills and knowledge for better hill days
– Gear – The latest kit, exciting products and in-depth reviews.
– Routes – Walks from the UK with guides, mapping and GPS data

Subscribe to Trail Magazine

Country Walking Magazine

Country Walking MagazineCountry Walking Magazine shows the beauty of Britain.  With everything from low level walks to challenging hikes, a key highlight of the magazine is the route cards.  Each month there are at least 26 routes printed on a stronger glossy card/paper that you can cut out from the magazine and save.  These routes use Ordnance Survey maps so you can be sure of where you are going.

As an example of its content the July 2015 issue includes –

– DIGITAL DETOX – go off the grid in the Lakeland wilderness of BACK O’ SKIDDA
– WILD CAMPING – get out and stay out on DARTMOOR
– Take the train to the wild Scottish yonder of LOCH OSSIAN
– AVEBURY TO STONEHENGE – make a weekend out of the epic Stones Way
– THE EDGE OF ESSEX – discover dark secrets and celebrity islands in the Blackwater Estuary
– WALKING IS REBELLION – why comedian MARK THOMAS wants you to loiter with intent
– GO LIGHT! The best lightweight kit for summer adventures
– The perfect walking weekend in PEEBLES
– Go car-free in Switzerland’s spectacular ALETSCH ARENA
– 27 POCKET-SIZED ROUTE CARDS: from teashop trail to mountain trek

Subscribe to Country Walking Magazine

The Great Outdoors

TheGreatOutdoors

The Great Outdoors Magazine was formerly known as just TGO.  It was first published in 1978 and has all the News, Gear, Routes and more that you would expect from an outdoors magazine.

In the August 2015 issue The Great Outdoors covers –

-The West Highland Way – Everything you need to know to take on this 100 mile route
-The Worlds Classic Trails – The Great Outdoors favourite long distance routes that can be life changing
– Britain’s Bothies – In celebration of the Mountain Bothies Associations 50th Birthday a tour of some of Britain’s finest Bothies.
– Wild Swimming with Ed Bryne – Hillwalking comedian Ed Bryne trys wild swimming
– Gear Reviews – This month Trail shoes, and Technical Sunglasses
– Hill Skills for Walking with Kids

Subscribe to The Great Outdoors

Summary

So there you have it, some of our favourite magazines which give us a taste of the outdoors and help us plan adventure when we’re stuck indoors, leave a comment with your own favourites, as we’re always keen of a read.

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Books & Guides

John Craven’s Countryfile Handbook

Countryfile Handbook

 

Part of our Sunday evening ritual is Countryfile, a last glance of the great outdoors and some ideas for new adventures before returning to the 9-5 grind on a Monday.  John Craven is part of that routine, a bit of a Countryfile legend having joined the program in 1989 and still regularly featuring in a “John Craven investigates” feature.

In those 24 years on the program he has covered the country and all aspects of it.  Now he wants to share it and he has distilled all his knowledge and wisdom into “The Countryfile Handbook“.  This book is described as an invaluable resource for those who live in the countryside or want to know more about it.

The Handbook is neatly broken up into the different types of land with sections on Villages, Markets Towns, Fields and Farming, Upland, Lowland, Woodland, Waterways and the coastline, it covers everything!

As well as the types of land it covers useful countryside must knows including

  • How to tell the difference between the swallow, martin and swift;
  • How to learn the various sheepdog calls;
  • The do’s and don’t’s of foraging;
  • How lichen can help tell us how clean the air is;

and essays on countryside priorities –

  • Why hedgerows are important;
  • Saving British meadows;
  • Reintroducing beavers;

Alongside the more serious parts to the countryside the handbook gives you a host of fun and entertaining facts which you can pull out at the perfect moment of a camping trip and impress your friends with.  Facts and stats such as: Did you know an acre is the space needed to park 200 cars; 10 things to do with a stinging nettle; and what to do if you see a sheep on its back.

Amazon reviewer rate John Craven’s Countryfile handbook at 4.2 out of 5 stars (it lost a star due to Amazons delivery service!  Not sure that’s fair!) with review snippets including –

It is a book to treasure, to leave lying around for others to read and to pick up and delve in at any page.

It does make an interesting read but could really do with being in a larger print format and colour pictures to make it a good coffee table book.

A good, interesting read for those of us interested in whats what out there.

So don’t make Countryfile just a Sunday treat enjoy the Handbook throughout the week!

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Books & Guides

Do I need a GPS if I have a smartphone?

Phones v GPS

Recently I wrote a post about the new Garmin Edge cycling GPS, and this got me thinking, whether I am a hiker, cyclist, runner or even just for navigating to the campsite in the car do I really need a GPS if I have a smartphone?  Whether you have an iPhone or an Android there are a whole host of mapping and fitness apps that you can use on them.  Some popular apps that I have experience of are Strava and Endomondo for cycling or running, and there are many hiking maps out there.

So do you need a dedicated GPS or can you make do with your Smartphone?

First the Pros of a dedicated GPS and cons of a Smartphone

Built for the outdoors – Generally speaking dedicated outdoor GPS’ are of a rugged design, you can get them wet and they don’t mind being dropped (a little!)

Mountable – A dedicated GPS unit is built for a specific purpose and is good at it, as it’s built for a purpose it is easily mountable, whether that means it mounts on a bikes handle bars, has a wrist strap it’s much easier to carry than a phone.  Sure a phone can be mounted but in my experience as the phone has no mounting point you need a large case which is bulky, perhaps heavy and possibly not so easy to use the buttons or see the screen.  Even if a phone isn’t in a case if you’re trying to swipe a touch screen while wearing your winter cycling gloves its unlikely to work.

Reliable – Not such a strong factor, but I’ve recorded rides before on my phone and realised that the GPS wasn’t turned on, or a call or email interrupted and overloaded the phone.  So having a dedicated device means although it only does one thing, it does it very well.

Battery efficiency, Dedicated GPS devices can be very efficient, a phone screen can drain the battery, particularly if you want to leave it on all the time to refer to while you’re riding or running, but a dedicated GPS often just has a black and green crystal screen and built with battery life in mind.

Accessories – Todays Smartphones can be paired with many external devices so this factor may be less relevant but if you want a heart rate monitor, Cadence or power output you will have less choice of devices and apps which will use these on a smartphone, while they often come as standard with many Smartphones.

Accuracy – Smartphones are getting a lot more accurate than in the past but generally speaking a dedicated GPS unit should be more accurate than a Smartphone, that said there is only likely to be a few meters difference – This may though be the difference that makes finding a Geocache or a turning on the trail.

Cons of a GPS and Pros of a Smartphone

Price – This is going to be the number one consideration factor for most people, you already have a smartphone with a pretty decent GPS so do you really want to spend between £100 and £400 on a dedicated GPS.  At the end of the day they record the same data.

Up to Date – If you want a GPS with mapping (perhaps for car journeys or cycle routing) a Smartphone will always be up to date.  Either google maps, which is free or most smartphone apps will be fairly cheap to update their mapping.  Dedicated GPS Units on the other hand broadly speaking are more expensive to update the map and potentially release updates less regularly.

Difficult to change your route / find out local information – If you’ve a dedicated GPS unit often its easiest to plan a route at home on the internet and import it to your device via a GPX file.  Once your out on the trail / road / ride it can be hard to change this, lower end sports GPS’ don’t have mapping.  If you have a smartphone though you can not only sweep and pan round a map looking for other routes, or even google a bike repair shop, local camping grounds or a cafe for a bite to eat.

So which wins?

I think I might be a bit of a fence sitter here, Dedicated GPS Units are Reliable, Rugged, Better Battery life and built for purpose.  While a Smartphone is versatile, you most likely already have one so low cost and have up to date maps.

For me a dedicated GPS wins, when I’m cycling it easily mounts on the handle bars and displays my ride data live.  The battery lasts much longer and it can cope with the rain.  But price is a big factor, I bought my GPS before I bought a smartphone.  If I had a smartphone first would I buy a GPS?  Probably not, the data they collect are broadly the same so if you’ve a smartphone and just want something for the occasional walk, run, ride or drive a dedicated GPS probably isn’t worth it.

Finally – and I can’t say this enough, don’t rely on either!  Both are electronic so can break or just run out of batteries, the last thing you want is to be in the middle of nowhere with no idea where you are!  Always carry an Ordnance Survey map or similar.

What’s your view? Do you have a dedicated GPS, or are you thinking of getting one, do you have a Smartphone you use, what apps do you love?  Leave a comment and let us know!

 

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Books & Guides Cooking

The Essential Camping Cookbook: or How to Cook an Egg in an Orange and Other Scout Recipes

Essential-Camping-Cover

Where better to go for camp cooking ideas than the Scouts!  Nick Allen is a professional chef and has been a lifelong Scout from the age of 6.  Now an Assistant Scout Leader he has cooked for many a Scout expedition and even several Jamborees.

His book – The Essential Camping Cookbook: or How to Cook an Egg in an Orange and Other Scout Recipes is put together from this experience with not just his own recipes but celebrity recipes including Peter Duncan, James May, Levi Roots, Richard Branson, Bear Grylls and more.  The book has 192 pages and contains clear to follow recipes, ingredients lists and beautiful images.

Book Synopsis

Drawing on the know-how and expertise of the Scout Association, this inspirational cookbook takes the art of eating outdoors to a whole new level…How to Cook an Egg in an Orange is perfect both for beginners in al fresco cooking as well as seasoned campers. There are step-by-step guides to explain all the essential techniques needed to make a glorious feast whether you’re at a festival, camping, ‘glamping’ or just on a day trip to the beach – including how to cook backwoods-style, without conventional equipment, on open fires, in pit ovens and using improvised utensils. Alongside traditional campfire favourites, you will find recipes for curries, spicy stews, couscous, exotic BBQs, risottos and delicious one-pot dishes. Now turn to the popular campfire songs at the back and your outdoors eating experience will be complete!

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Books & Guides

The A-Z of Backpacking Poster

Backpacker Alphabet

We loved this poster from WASA Industries.  Titled the Backpackers Alphabet it goes from A – Z with each letter representing a key part of backpacking.  The poster is 18 by 24 inches and $25 plus shipping.

From A – Z the poster features The Appalachian Trail, Boots, Compass, Duct Tape, Energy Bars, First Aid, Gaiters, Headlamps, Iodine, Jackets, Knifes, Lantern, Matches, North Star, Overhand Knot, Pack, Quinzhee, Rainfly, Stove, Tent, Underwear, View, Whistle, X Marks the spot, Yellowstone and finally Zipper.

So it includes some essential backpacking gear and perhaps just a few fillers.  The poster is available to purchase online here from WASA.

Whats at the top of your Backpacking list?  Leave a comment with your backpacking must have.

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Books & Guides

Tips for dealing with the British Snow

As I write this post Britain is gripped in “Snow Chaos”.  The news is replent with videos of weather reporters standing in snow and people falling over.  Granted in some areas of the UK the snowfall is pretty bad, but in others half a centimetre of snow seems enough to close schools and more!

So what can you do to make things easier on yourself and survive when England faces a little snow?  This isn’t a list for harden mountain trekkers, more a fun guide of common sense for those on the normal 9 – 5 or panic buying in the local supermarket!

Be Prepared – You can apply the scout motto to almost every situation!  Be Prepared for the unexpected.  If you’re planning a long car journey be prepared for problems, carry a phone, food, warm clothes and even blankets, a shovel could be useful too in an emergency.  If your on a train water (or even a hot thermos) and food could make your journey much more comfortable.

Dress Sensibly – Being fashionable might be important but you’ll be more grateful to be warm!  You can still be warm and fashionable – a fun hat and mittens, or Hunter Wellies, but you could be outdoors or stuck on a cold train for longer than you expect so dress for the cold!

A Warm Hat! – A good hat is the start to feeling warm!  This Canada Goose Aviator Trapper Hat from MR Porter is a little pricy for us but what a hat!  It guarantees warmth with its down filling and earmuffs.  But even if you can get this, make sure you have a hat, although scientists have debunked the myth that most heat loss is from your head, if you don’t have a hat you’ll certainly feel the cold!

Trapper Hat

 

Get some YakTrax – The snow is bad enough but worse is the ice it turns into when compacted.  Just walking to work can be a nightmare, so get some Yak Trax.  These clip over your day-to-day shoes and the steel coils give you extra grip on the snow and ice, plus their lightweight so you don’t have to spend the whole day in boots or have to carry two sets of shoes.

 

Yaktrax

 

Have Some Fun!  Our last tip is to have some fun, relive childhood memories with a snowball fight, or take the kids sledging.  The snow won’t last so rather than letting it get you down, get out and make the most of it.

 

Sledge

Leave a comment and tell us your tip for the snow, is it something you do just to make the day bearable, or fun activities for making the most of the snow!

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Books & Guides

LEJOG – The End to End Cycle Route

Lands End to John o Groats

Perhaps one of the cycling challenges Britain is most known for is LEJOG – Lands End to John O Groat’s.  This manual from Ciricone Guides is the perfect guide to plan and embark on such a trip.  The first thing to note is that this guide was published in March 2012, so it is pretty much as up to date a guide as you will currently find for the route.  However we always recommend you plan ahead and book accommodation or at least check everything is open.

Contents

The book is split up into the following chapters

  • Overview map
  • Introduction
  • Things to see
  • Getting there
  • Accommodation
  • Getting back
  • Which way and when to go
  • Health and safety
  • Training fitness
  • What to take
  • Food and drink
  • Using this guide
  • The Route
  • Stage 1    Land’s End to Fowey
  • Stage 2    Fowey to Moretonhampstead
  • Stage 3    Moretonhampstead to Street
  • Stage 4    Street to Monmouth
  • Stage 5    Monmouth to Clun
  • Stage 6    Clun to Runcorn
  • Stage 7    Runcorn to Slaidburn
  • Stage 8    Slaidburn to Keswick
  • Stage 9    Keswick to Moffat
  • Stage 10    Moffat to Loch Lomond
  • Stage 11    Loch Lomond to Glencoe
  • Stage 12    Glencoe to Inverness
  • Stage 13    Inverness to the Crask Inn
  • Stage 14    The Crask Inn to John o’ Groats
  • Appendix A    Route summary table
  • Appendix B    OS maps covering the route
  • Appendix C    Accommodation
  • Appendix D    Tourist information
  • Appendix E    Cycle repair shops en route
  • Appendix F    Other useful resources
  • Appendix G    OS grid references

The first section of the guide discusses everything you’ll need to think about for your ride – Things to see (it’s no point cycling head down if you don’t see the sites along the way) accommodation be it campsites, B&B’s or Hostels.  How to train, what to take and more.

The ride itself is separated into 14 stages, with each stage averaging around 70 miles.  The route is a tried and tested route designed to avoid the busier A roads as much as possible and follow minor roads and cycle paths taking in the sights and scenery of Britain.

Finally and most essentially the book contains an appendix of guides including cycle repair shops!

Amazon customers rate this book 4.9 out of 5 stars, their comments include

If you are looking for a clearly written, pedal by pedal guide to ‘LeJog’ I don’t think you could better than this book. With precise instructions on every turn in every road, gradient profiles and clear maps and photographs this has obviously been a labour of love for the author

If you’re even vaguely curious about attempting this ride, then this book is simply a must buy. There are some other great guides out there, but the author has clearly poured his heart and soul into this book

I was lucky enough to ride the end-to-end under the guidance of the author (Nick) in 2011. He was undertaking the ride for the eighth or ninth time and was constantly searching for ways to improve his guide notes. This book has contains the notes written by a man who can now cycle this great trip from memory!

Clearly the author has put his all into this book making it a must have reference book while planning and cycling LEJOG.  Have you done the Lands End to John o’Groats?  Leave a comment and tell us how you got on and your best memories.

 

Find Land’s End to John o’Groats at Amazon

 

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Books & Guides

The Glamorous Girl’s Guide to the Great Outdoors

Glamorous Girls Guide to the Great Outdoors

The Glamorous Girl’s Guide to the Great Outdoors is the book from the creator of TheGlamOutdoors.com website.  They describe the book as drawing from a range of journals and experiences to detail what seems to work and what doesn’t when trying to look and feel good when out and about in the great outdoors!  The fact “The Great Outdoors really is the most Glamorous place to be” is a fact we wholeheartedly endorse!

The book is organised as a series of essays of outdoor tips, need to knows and safety advice, all written in a lighthearted easily digestible manner!  Some of the subjects include

Your Rucksack – A catch-all list of products to carry with you in your rucksack whatever the weather and length of your stay.  This provides a great list which you can refer to and add or edit as necessary for whatever outdoor adventure you have in mind.

A Word About Safety – A common sense but essential guide to safety in the Great Outdoors, whether that’s how to deal with bulls and cows while out on a ramble, how to call help, or equipment to carry.

Being a Good Companion – A essay and list of how to make your trip to the Great Outdoors enjoyable for those around you, something we could all probably do with reading (men included!).  Simple tips such as being on time, sharing the tedious tasks and even how to deal with tantrums.

Those are just a few of the many subjects covered by The Glamorous Girl’s Guide to the Great Outdoors, the book is packed with tips and tricks including what beauty kit to carry in your rucksack, how to handle the ‘hair-do’ in gusty winds, matters of the heart – including falling in love with your ski instructor – and essential ‘what to pack’ checklists.

So where do all these great tips come from?  The creator of the Glamorous Girls guide is Cassandra Ferguson, a self-professed outdoor enthusiast who has written a range of articles for online and print outdoor publications about her experiences which have included – crewing a tall ship, scrambling, cycling, walking, skiing and horse riding to name just a few!

The Glamorous Girl’s Guide to the Great Outdoors is being launched today at The Great Outdoors Show London (17th – 20th Jan 2013) so if you are visiting be sure to pop by the GlamOutdoors stand,

The book is also available to buy at Amazon in Paperback or Kindle form.

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Books & Guides

Building a Campfire – Tinder, Kinderling and Fuel

How to build a campfire

We found this infographic on Pinterest, created by the amazing ScoutmasterCG it details the basics for creating a fire.

Step 1 – Gather

The first step of building a fire is to gather your fuel, theres on point in lighting the fire when you don’t have sufficent fuel close to hand to keep it going.  As the image shows you want to split your wood into Tinder, Kindling and Fuel.

Tinder – Tinder is really thin wood, about the width of a pencil led and the length of a pencil too.

Kindling – Kindling should be no thicker than your thumb and roughly the length of your elbow to your thumb.  As always you want to avoid wet wood, and look for dead wood on the ground, nothing on the tree!

Fuel – This is what’s going to keep the fire burning, it should be about as thick as your wrist and as long as your arm, as always it should be dry.

Step 2 – Build and Light

Scoutmaster CG says there’s nothing fancy about lighting a fire, start with the tinder, bend it into an arch shape and light it in the centre.  As the tinder burns start to add the kindling on to it, then once this is burning you can add the fuel.  Keep a supply of fuel to one side so that you can keep adding it to the fire as need be.

How to build a fire is just one of many great Scouting guides and outdoors tips from Scoutmaster CG, there is even a regular podcast discussing Scout Leader ideas and guides.

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Books & Guides

Cold Wars – Andy Kirkpatrick

Cold Wars

Cold Wars is the follow up to Andy Kirkpatrick’s first book Psychovertical.  Cold Wars is the winner of the 2012 Boardman Tasker Prize.

Synopsis

‘I was aware that I was cold – beyond cold. I was a lump of meat left for too long in a freezer, a body trapped beneath the ice, sinking down into the dark. ‘I was freezing to death.’ In this brilliant sequel to his award-winning debut “Psychovertical”, mountaineering stand-up Andy Kirkpatrick has achieved his life’s ambition to become one of the world’s leading climbers. Pushing himself to new extremes, he embarks on his toughest climbs yet – on big walls in the Alps and Patagonia – in the depths of winter. Kirkpatrick has more success, but the savagery and danger of these encounters comes at huge personal cost. Questioning his commitment to his chosen craft, Kirkpatrick is torn between family life and the dangerous path he has chosen. Written with his trademark wit and honesty, “Cold Wars” is a gripping account of modern adventure.