New-to-me – Big Agnes Insulated Air Core

I’m soooo happy!! I’ve been looking for an affordable sleeping mat which wasn’t the size or weight of a small family car for a while. After getting a bit too used to my lovely thick self-inflating one I take when family camping, I really didn’t think I would find a comfortable, lightweight and compact one that I could backpack with that was within my budget.

I sighed as all the ones I watched on Ebay suddenly went from 99p to astronomical prices in the blink of an eye and gave up on my dream of owning a Thermarest. It was then that Mr.Gnomead spotted someone selling a Big Agnes mat on one of the Facebook selling pages… not Thermarest so I wasn’t too impressed! However after looking at these online and for the price they were asking it was worth a shot.

It’s a 3 season pad, has Primaloft Insulation layer with a comfort level down to -10c, inflates to 2.5″ thick, has a water-repellent coating, thick 40 denier fabric and packs into a carry sack the size of a nalgene bottle and weighs approx 800g… what’s not to like? and only been used twice since new!

So… I am now the proud owner of a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core for not very much money (compared to second-hand Thermarests) and the best thing of all is that it is super easy to inflate, and really comfortable for a side-sleeper like me…Yay!

Just like this one!

The moral of this story is…if you are on a budget, be patient, don’t get your head stuck into what you ‘must’ have and be willing to try other makes, and buying second-hand means you get better quality for a fraction of the price of new.

One more thing knocked off my dream list…

Trangia Mini – Review

Being an extreme budget, wanna-be backpacker I’ll run through some of the gear I manage to pick up along the way.

Solid, compact and doesn’t rattle!

So, first up is my new-to-me camp stove. We’ve had an ancient trangia set for years which has had a lot of use and is still going strong but I wanted something a bit more compact and lightweight just for me. On the ‘Outdoor Kit Exchange UK’  Facebook page I found a guy selling a Trangia Mini which is exactly as it says… a mini trangia!! For your money you get a standard trangia burner and screw on top, a seperate simmer top, aluminium saucepan (holds approx 0.8 litres), non-stick frying pan (which also doubles as a pan lid) and a pan handle. The whole thing weighs 330grams, not for the ultralight community but fine for the rest of us (!) So after a trial run here are my pro’s and con’s so far:

PRO’S:

  • Small and compact – packs together with the burner and holder inside the pan and frying pan (also the pan lid). Lid snaps shut nice and snug.
  • Lightweight.
  • Easy to use.
  • More stable than a screw on gas stove.
  • Cools down in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, so can be packed away once you’ve finished.
  • Has a simmer ring lid so the flame can be a bit more controlled if needed.
  • Non- stick frying pan.
  • Great lightweight pan handle which actually works, although it looks really flimsy!
  • The pot and the lid / frying pan have handy little grooves on the bottom so they sit snug onto the stand or the top of the saucepan to make them safer and more stable.

CON’S

  • This uses a standard trangia burner and it maybe would have worked better with a slightly smaller version for this model to avoid flaring.
  • Generally a bit slower to cook with than gas but I’m not in a hurry!
  • It doesn’t like any wind!! This was an issue which has come up a lot on other reviews and I wasn’t quite sure what they meant until I tried it on a breezy fell! I had fortunately taken a folded piece of foil with me which helped fend of some of the wind, but without this the flame was blowing all over the place. This could be a huge issue if you had to use it in your tent doorway on a rainy, windy day!!
  • Only really big enough for one person which is absolutely fine for solo trips but not quite up to any more.
Slightly cockeyed and the aluminium foil kind of worked but a better windshield is needed!

Overall, you can’t go far wrong with Trangia’s and I like the compact size of this one but we need to find (or make) a decent windshield before I’d be really happy taking this away with me.

Arran Coastal Way – I want, I want, I want…

We’ve camped for years, got at least five tents in our loft (yes, a ridiculous amount!) ranging from a lovely heavy bell-tent to a brilliantly reliable two man Eurohike tent which we were given. We have rucksacks of all shapes and sizes, some vintage, some not quite so. Camping stoves, water carriers, electric hook-ups, sleeping mats, sleeping bags…BUT after a big rummage around the other day I realised I have NOTHING really suitable to go on a multi-day hike and wild camp!! Aaargh ….

Obviously being on a small budget some things will have to be a compromise…the two man tent is 3kg in weight, this could possibly be lightened by taking out the carry bag, getting lighter tent pegs? Maybe? With other things I need to get something more suitable. My lovely five inch deep, self inflating sleep mat is really not going to fit into my rucksack! So on that note I have made a dream list of everything I would really love to have. There’s always Valentine’s day and a birthday before I go so here’s hoping!

Dream Equipment List

  • Lightweight 2-man tent (preferably under 1.5 kg)
  • Lightweight, compact 2-3 season sleeping bag.
  • Newer, lighter rucksack with raincover.
  • Thermarest Neo-Air sleep mat. (REALLY want one of these or something just as good. A dodgy hip makes a comfy mat a priority!)
  • Compact stove, something like a Tomshoo, MSR Pocket Rocket type
  • Some stainless steel / titanium cookware and long handled spoon.

Then, of course there’s also things like new wool socks, merino base layers, compact down jacket, decent waterproof… the list goes on…

This could all get a bit depressing but I have to remember that people have been hiking and backpacking for years without all this modern, lightweight equipment and they coped!! So, a few compromises, a few hours scouring ebay for pre-loved items and some priority things to save up for, and all will be well in the end… I’ll let you know how I get on!