An expensive learning curve

It feels as though I have made a full recovery after my jaunt into the wilds of Yorkshire. I have however discovered that a lot of my equipment is hopelessly inadequate and so within a day or two of arriving home it was time to hit the credit card where it hurt.

The first issue to address was my sleeping arrangements. My sleeping bags were too light and my sleeping mat was too thin and not fit for the purpose of sleeping on cold ground. I ordered the VSS or Vango variable sleeping system consisting of two purpose built sleeping bags of different weights and designed to fit inside of each other if the temperature really drops. To compliment this system both sleeping bags can be fitted inside a waterproof and breathable bivi bag to stay dry. I have not purchased the bivi bag yet but an ex army one should do the job nicely. I also ordered the Exped down air mattress. This was not cheap but the blurb said it should keep you warm down to -12c. It is certainly comfortable.

The next issue was heating and cooking. A tap has been fitted to the fuel line on my bike and this should allow me to draw off fuel to my petrol stove which was used properly for the first time shortly after arriving home. The only addition to this bit of kit was to order a purpose built kettle as an uncovered pan of water takes far longer to boil in cold weather. I also ordered a very small lantern that runs off cheap T lights. This should provide a small amount of heat as well as a limited amount of light that will be supplemented by torches anyway. Being in an enclosed and spill proof casing the T light can be left on even when I am not in the tent.

My mattress cost around £100 and the two sleeping bags were approximately £45 for the pair; the bivi when it becomes available should be around £50. It sounds a lot but I have justified the expense in this way. A night in bed and breakfast would cost me a minimum of £20 a night if I am lucky so after a mere ten nights under canvas, in any conditions, I should have made my money back on them. The cost of the fuel line alterations plus the kettle and lantern was around £45 pounds. Again the cost of this outlay should be recouped in a small amount of time by cooking my own food and drinks instead of relying on cafes and bars.

This new kit has produced its own problems. The sleeping system while not heavy is bulky and I have to think long and hard about my luggage. I am keeping my existing soft panniers but I am hoping to replace my plastic top box with an aluminium one. I have also ordered an Ortlieb rack pack to fit all of this new stuff into and it will sit on the rear seat of the bike secured in place with a Pac safe.

Apart from the steep learning curve the main thing to come out of the trip was the discovery that my new satnav, a Garmin Zumo 660, is fantastic. I bought this at the beginning of the year and also purchased at the same time a headphone kit that enables me to hear the instructions from the lady who lives in the satnav. It took me door to door and I was even able to listen some tunes on the built in MP3 player to relieve the monotony of the motorways. How I ever lived this long without one of these babies is a complete mystery. I still maintain that the Garmin Quest is the single most useless piece of kit I have ever bought but the Zumo more than makes up for it. Sadly the quality is reflected in the price and at over 400 quid for the GPS and a further £150 for the coms system, it is not cheap but I will never leave home without it again!


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