The Pinnacle...pimped

...in which we continue our mini series of ultra low/no rent solutions to: good problems to have.

The Go-Lite Pinnacle is a 70litre load carrier and my only multi day rucksack.  I'd like to try others in time but I've had other gear priorities this year.  It works for me because on longer trips I can pack food with impunity.  When I backpack I use trekking poles, so my hands are usually full.  I wanted to deal with map, camera and water - to make them easy to access whilst on the move and not have a muddle of straps criss-crossing my torso.  Enter, my good lady of the pins and needles.

First, water.  I don't use a platy straw/tube thing, for longer trips its not worth the maintenance, in my view.  The Delios Water Filter is really great for instant water on the go, as Alan points out.  You just fill up from a stream and pop the lid back on and squeeze - good for 1000ltrs, cleans to 2 microns, tastes lovely.  After an extensive 'design consultation process' T sewed velcro onto the strap of the pinnacle, and then onto the little blue bag which comes with the Delios.

She added a popper at the top to provide extra strength for when the bottle is 300ml's full.  Result, water handy at all times.

Next, camera.  Alot of people like to have it round their necks, but I don't, it gives me neck ache.  My LX3 used to sit on the side strap just lovely, but the GF1 is too big for that, so it goes in a new LowePro 110aw bag on the chest strap, which also contains filters, batteries and cards.  To make sure this doesn't pull my arms or stress the material in the wrong way, I added a carabiner to take the load, and a cable tie to hold the bag in place when I release the chest strap.  Note, the (red) carabiner is threaded through the plastic where the chest strap meets the vertical strap - I don't think the chest strap was designed to take vertical load but this way it can't work its way down.  The smaller 2nd silver carabiner in this picture is overkill and needs removing, but you get the idea - the camera bag pulls down instead of across, the cable tie stops the camera shooting off down the hill when I take my rucksack off. 

Last, and most important, mappage.  This is a permanent tiny headache - I need to be able to get at it easily, or else bad habits form and I find I don't check the map as often as I should.  Carrying is not an option with poles, and a case/strap round the neck is impractical in wind and with other gear just tangles up.  Solution, 3 small bands of elastic on t'other shoulder strap...

2 across to hold it vertical, 1 under to stop it falling out.  Easy field repair, costs almost nothing from local habberdashery (or in T's case, her spares toolbox).  Job done.  Map will not flap about in a breeze and take my eye out, but is always to hand (Ortlieb waterproof case optional).

I have no idea what these mods weigh but it can't be more than 10-15 grams at most. It makes the bag much more useful, and means I can keep compass, knife, snacks and harmonica in the hip belt pockets where I need them.

Et Voila, the Pinnacle, pimped.  Sort of.  Its more South London than South Central, but I can live with that.

MYOG solutions - whitebox pot stand

I really love the Whitebox stove - anything with no moving parts has to be designed really well.  It burns like the clappers, weighs next to nothing, is relatively cheap and is tough enough that I haven't managed to break it.  The main problem is stability
- in real 'field' conditions, with uneven ground and a bit of a breeze going, it can't be trusted to keep the pot on top.  Add to that driver error, like waking up knackered and setting up on a wobbly surface, and you can end up with with scalding water and burning meths all over the place.  After I burnt a hole in my trousers last year on an HRP section hike, I've been thinking about a possible solution.

This was my first effort, made out of a coat hanger.

It was rubbish.  The pan wobbled, the wire was too inflexible and a positive contact wasn't made between the top of the stove and the pan, which is needed to pressurise the fuel properly.  The tree that does not bend in the wind will break in the wind, so say camping ninja.  Bin it.

I tried garden stores and hardware stores, all too bendy.  I couldn't use the BPLUK Honey stove (review upcoming) as a stand because our 2 person 1.7ltr AGG pot is too large to fit inside the perimeter of the top, so again full fuel pressure on the whitebox wouldn't happen.  Finally I chanced upon a solution.

The second effort is made out of hat wire (one of the advantages of living with a tailor). 

This, crucially, is strong enough to 'catch' any wobbles with a big pot full of boiling water, but flexible enough to let the pot sit firmly on top of the stove, making full contact.  It bends to fit the ground it rests on and fits nicely inside the pot itself for packing.  It weighs just a few grams and so far has not gone brittle through heat exposure.  I know it looks like hell but I don't have the time, space or patience for making stuff that looks perdy, and if it does break it will not cost the earth to replace.

Strength, simplicity, flexibility.  Camping ninja happy.  Its a bit of wire and I like it alot.

DiY anti-balling plates

Today, kids, we're gonna be making our very own crampon anti-balling plates, mostly from rubbish.  These are the blobs of plastic that sit under your shoe spikes to stop wet snow coagulating on the sole of your boot, sending you sliding down the hill in a very not on purpose glissade.  Its the perfect bit of amateur Make Your Own Gear nonsense to do when you are still listless and reeling from that nasty flu which completely wiped out your christmas - which is just as well really.

First, collect your rubbish in a pile.  You'll also need cable ties, scissors, a hole punch, a permanent marker, and a moderately steady hand.  Have another slug at that medicinal tipple.

Hack away fairly briskly at the plastic stuff until it fits loosely in the gaps where your shoe sole would be.  You'll want to leave a bit of overlap so that the holes don't pull through, so don't be too precise, you aren't gonna see it after all.  Its best to use chunky thick ice cream tubs and not, as some suggest, milk bottles, as the latter will raise their hands in surrender at the first bit of mixed ground you may encounter NOW THAT ALL THE BLOODY SNOW HAS GONE.

Flip the crampon and mark where you want your holes to be.  I chose to make 4 holes for the front and 3 for the back, but you hill types are independent sorts, do as you will.

Now remove the plastic patch and use the hole punch to make a hole.  I assumed the plastic would resist the advances of a thing designed to make holes in paper, but it was not so, the plastic acquiesced without so much as a candlelit dinner. 

Now use the mini cable ties you stole from work to attach the patch to the crampon.  I love cable ties, they are great things to take on a longer trip too, good for repairs.

Trim those puppies, et voila!  You just avoided watching an hour of televisual misinformation, and saved yourself £15 odd.  For the weight conscious, there's a small saving of about 15-20gms.  Admittedly these aren't those fancy Grivel rubbery pop out ones, but you could experiment with using a bit of curved edge of a tub to see if you can replicate that in some way.  I tried, but the ties pulled out the curve.

There's something really lovely and ever so slightly perverse about attaching junk you would normally discard, to perfectly shiny new equipment, and hopefully these will send all the Arc'teryx wearing poseurs running to their champagne saunas in faux terror, leaving more hill for us.  Or else they might just break on the first day.  We'll see.

Ice Axe Modifications

Preparations for our week in Scotland - I really hope it hasn't ALL thawed. 

After hemorrhaging much cash in the last month, I decided I could live without plastic pick, adze and spike covers, priced at £8 a set (and bound to get lost on a hill somewhere).  I made these ones out of christmas wrapping paper cardboard inners, and gaffer tape.  They'll protect our kit when the axe is in the bag for the train journey.  When we're up there, the axe can sit on the side of the pack, or will be in use.  The bit of rubber band hold the two covers together, and is stuck down with white gaffer, which in turn can be used to cover the adze when we are doing our practice self arrests.

Here's a leash I 'made' out of some old sleeping bag sack webbing that had broken off.

Here's the spike, with some 'skateboard tape' stuck on for grip.  The BD raven pro doesn't come with a grip, which is better for using the axe as a walking stick, but I thought a little extra grippyness wouldn't hurt.  

I got about a foots worth, for the grand total of £1, from my local bike/skate co-op.  They were so nice about it, that they deserve a mention.  If you live in London, and cycle or skate, use Brixton Cycles.