Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Who are you?

This is something that has gone through my mind many times, You are out on a trail, A long way from anywhere and you have an accident, You have left your wallet with details in your car and you are found unconscious, Who are you, How does that person get in touch with your family, What if you have allergies to meds etc, Last night i was looking through backpacker magazine when i found Road ID, Simple but very effective, basically a bracelet with all your info on it, I ordered one straight away, What i liked about the site was that you could design your bracelet and it showed it then and there, Lots of colors available and not expensive, It could be a life saver


People have been dressing in layers since time began, Vest/shirt/sweater/jacket and yet when it comes to hiking i still see people either cold or sweating, Its not rocket science, Take off when hot and put on when cold, I spend a lot of my time outdoors as a nature photographer so comfort is very important to me, If i am cold i will not be enjoying what i am doing and then the concentration goes and you may as well pack it in, I have shot in every kind of weather from the tropical jungles to the arctic circle, every environment needs a different type of clothing to stay comfortable, Winter is here and now is the time to really get it right if you are out on the trails especially if you are in wilderness areas, I only walk the local trails but still if i want to stay healthy i need to dress appropriately, Here is what i am currently using for walks up to 16 miles a day

Base layer
I am using a tee shirt from REI, They are very comfortable and wick tany sweat away that may form and keep you dry, They are polartec so although very light are also warm, Long sleeves or short works just as well, If i knew i would be walking very slow or taking longer breaks or the temperatures were bitter then i would choose a long sleeve over the short,
Mid Layer
The next layer could either be a light fleece, A good walking shirt or a soft shell, This is a lightweight fleece from Eddie Bauer, Very light and warm, I find that once i have walked 20 minutes and my core temperature is up i can take off the upper layers and walk in this and the base layer and stay comfortable until i stop and then put a top layer on
Loft LayerWhen starting out on a cold morning i wear a 'loft' layer, This comprises of a very lightweight puffer type jacket, These are not cheap but if you look in the sales you can pick them up around $100, When i say light they are featherweight and pack extremely small which is essential on a long hike, Every ounce counts at the end of the day, The lighter your pack the easier it is on your knees and feet, Again this is from Eddie Bauer, I have had it a year and it gets used a lot, even out shopping on those days where the wind bites,

Top layer/shell
Rain will bring its own problems, Firstly you will need a good jacket, I have tried the cheaper ones and they just dont cut it, Great for doing the shopping but i ended up with bad condensation which will make your other layers wet and then you get cold, You need a jacket that 'breathes' , A lot of jackets say they do but some breathe better than others, I have been using a Northface Guides jacket which has been pretty good, Not as light as i would have liked but has done the job, You will get condensation form inside but far better then some of the cheaper models i have tried, Today i hope to have taken that up a notch, Eddie Bauer have kindly donated a jacket for my Camino walk in April, Not just any jacket but a top of the range light shell, The model is a Rainier, Very light but tried and tested by some of the top mountaineers, I will be giving it a good workout over the winter, It gets the highest rating for waterproof and breathability, Sounds just the job,
 Thank you Eddie Bauer, I have purchased there clothing for the past 5 years and have always been impressed, I would not use anything that i was not happy with just because it was free, I try to buy Eddie Bauers First Ascent range which is their top of the line gear and have never failed to have been impressed, You can see that i like to purchase Eddie Bauer gear but you can get excellent clothing from The Northface and REI to name but 2

So that's my day to day hiking clothing, I have not yet needed to wear long johns even though i have walked in minus temperatures, As long as you keep moving and the blood keeps flowing i have been warm, I have used long johns in previous years when out in sub zero temperatures doing photography, I have some Cableas expedition under garments and they are great ,but far to warm for general hiking, If it does get cold on my legs i can always add my waterproof trousers. One thing to remember when shopping for layers is not to get them too small and tight, You need to have some air between each layer , Your body heat will warm the air between the layers and will keep you warm, if the layers are too tight there will be no air and you will get cold, If you are unsure if certain clothing is suitable make sure you see the words wicking and breathable, Some companies use the expression 'Technical Clothing'
The main thing is to know when you are getting (too) hot and to remove a layer before you really start sweating and when you stop add a layer to stay warm-easy
Obviously if you are out in the cold you need to keep your hands and head warm, Most of your body heat will be lost through your head, I use Under Armour cold gear liner gloves which are a perfect combination of warmth and thickness when using trekking poles, Cold weather head gear goes to Spyder for a wooly hat with a small peak, If its raining then an under armour peaked cap with the jacket hood up does the trick if keeping my face dry


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


With the trip getting closer its time to think about fund raising, After all the main reason for me to do walk the Camino is to raise funds for Cancer research and to remember my brothers who have lost the battle against this wicked disease,
To help find a cure please go to my page on the Cancer research institutes website here , It does not matter how small the amount, Every little helps and will be much appreciated
If you have a business or know of a business who would like to sponsor me and will donate over $500 to CRI i will add a link to my blog page and get the company logo on the cover of my backpack which will be seen right across Spain, I have been told (today) that i have my first corporate sponsor and when the goods arrive (clothing) i will reveal who the company is.
I do not think that there are many people who have not been affected by Cancer or who know somebody who has been affected, This is VERY important for me and the thousands who are diagnosed each and every year, PLEASE be generous and add your support


Friday, November 8, 2013

Count down

Time is moving one and its now less than 6 months until i board the plane to the UK, My first flight has been booked and i just have the forwarding flight from London to Biarritz to book, I have sat down with a friend who is coming along with me to sort the itinerary so that i can now book the final flight and the first 2 nights accommodation, Once that's done and i hope it will in the next week i can relax and concentrate on my fitness,
I have increased my walking and i am lucky to live a very scenic area with lots of trails, I walk on the MST which is the mountains to sea trail, Which not yet finished will stretch from the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina to the NC coastline, Around 900 miles, The trails are through thick woodland and at this time of year very colorful, the leaves are now starting to drop and the trails are getting somewhat tricky, Only last week i took a tumble and quite a heavy one, I now use my hiking poles all the time, Which help if you go over on a rock/root or just wet leaves, The poles also help getting up and down the slopes and are said to take up to 20% off of your weight,
I have started using an APP on my Phone called Runkeeper which i have to say is awesome and free which is even better, Runkeeper tells you your distance,average speed and time which you can set, I have mine at the default of 5 mins and yes it tells you by voice, This is a good as well as bad thing as it makes you somewhat competitive and if your speed drops slightly i feel myself increase my pace, Purely physiological i guess, I train with 2 friends as well as on my own so have different speeds for each, I am currently walking 3-4 times a week up to 12 miles and a minimum of 7, My best week so far is around 50 miles and a max of 15 miles, I am at a stage of being very comfortable at 12 miles and with 5+ months still to go am very confident for the trip, I am not having any problems with blisters or hotspots which is a god send, Last year i was getting hotspots and managed 1 blister but after months of trial and error have come up with a combination that suits my feet and i stress MY feet and will not suit everybody, Some people swear on liner socks, Vaseline/sportslick, talc etc etc, I have tried all the above but just simply use my Salomon x ultra mid GTX boots with smartwool ultra light hiking socks and thats it, Since increasing my milage i am having 2 small problems, I have inner arch ache on my right foot and a pain in my left ankle that i have a pin and screw in from an accident many years ago, I dont think theer is much i can do re the left foot buy i am keeping an eye on the right foot to make sure that i do not get Plantar fasciitis, On my walk which was a very fast 11 miler i used some drop in Plantar fasciitis insoles that i purchased from walmart and they seemed to help, I may see a foot doctor just to make sure, better to get theses things sorted now, one thing that has happened is an increase in foot size, I think this may be a lowering of the arch caused by walking which is stretching the foot, I am now nearly a full size bigger than a year ago!! You will need to take this into account when selecting shoes/boots and i would always advise getting a full half size bigger than normal to allow for feet swelling and to stop black toe which is caused by your toes hitting the ends of the shoe when going down hill-you will loose toe nails if this happens, REI have a great returns policy and if you are a member and have shoe/boot problems you can return them within a year,
Since i increased my distance and effort the pounds seem to be falling off and i have dropped 17+LB in the last few months which is a big benefit, My last doctors visit showed big improvements to my health with decreased cholesterol, I wonder what my weight will be after walking 500+ miles,
I have hit the stores especially during the sales and now have some REI waterproof trousers which fit very nicely, The feel is of quality and they were very reasonable, I have yet to walk in heavy rain so will report back on that one, My outfitter of choice is Eddie Bauer, I have been a fan ever since living in the States, Everything washes nicely and feels as good as the day i purchased it, I have all kinds of layers, My problem at the moment is that i am shrinking weight wise and things are getting too big for me, Which is better than the other way around, I think i will need to replace a few things before i go and the boots will be one of them, Not that the soles are wearing badly but i have put 600+miles on them already, The insoles i feel may have compressed so a month or 2 before the off i will get another pair and give them a few walks to break them in,
I have purchased a camera for the trip, Being a photographer i though it would be easy but the selection of smaller cameras is huge, Image quality is very important so that means a larger sensor than most compacts, My mind was set on a Sony RX 100 but after looking around i settled on a Fujifilm XM1, My budget was around $800 so the Fujifilm XE2 was out of the question, The XM1 uses the same sensor which is 16mp, More than enough, The camera is lightweight and you can buy some very nice lenses if you want to make it into a proper system, I have a thinktank camera bag that fits onto the backpack strap so its always at hand without getting in the way, Obviously i would love to take my Nikon Dslr but the weight would be a PITA so it will stay at home,

Walking the MST at Falls lake

Surprising what you see at the edge of the trail, The articulated screen on the XM1 allows easy low level shooting

Its always nice to walk with friends
And resting when on my own
Keep putting one foot in-front of the other