Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Review: Primus ETA Express Stove

This review item has been supplied by Go Outdoors

The whole kit

Technical Information

• Very fast boil time
• Low fuel consumption
• Environmentally friendly
• Extremely low total weight
• 2600W•8900 BTU/h

The EtaExpress Stove System comprises of 4 main elements; a 1L pot, a lid/frying pan, an express stove burner and a dedicated windshield.

All elements fit inside the 1L pot and this can also take a 100/250 gas cannister which then all go inside the supplied stuff sac.

One at a time

Burner - The burner is a typical 3 legged, screw on top gas burner, in fact it is the same one that I bought a couple of years ago, with the only difference being that this one has a Piezoelectric starter.

As expected from Primus the build quality is second to none, with strong sturdy pot legs and the gas control knob being made of a strong plastic, the electronic starter switch also has a robust feel to it. One thing to note is that the gas control and the starter are at 180° to each other and to fire the starter you pull the switch down.

1 Litre Pot and Lid/Frying Pan - Both the pot and lid are covered with a triple layer 'Titanium non-stick' surface. Both have grab handles attached; although the one on the lid can be removed. I much prefer the handles to be attached as it means I'm not constantly looking for a grab handle.

The 1l pot also has a heat exchanger attached to the bottom to help speed up cook times. Although the pot is 1l in size it's not much taller than my 750ml Vargo ti-pot and this helps to keep it pretty stable on the stove.

Most of my cooking is of the re-hydrate kind and usually only needs 300-400ml of water for this; so a 1l pot does seem to be quite big. Although saying that if there were two of us, it would probably be ideal.

Is it a lid? Is it a frying pan?

Eh; it's a lid. I do think that it is pushing it to call it a frying pan, yes you could fry an egg in it but you would struggle to get a couple of rashers in there.

Heat exchanger

Windshield - One of the biggest problems with top mounted gas stoves is that protecting the flame can be difficult as to place a windshield around the flame without also covering the gas stove.

Primus have come up with the idea of a windshield that clips to the gas cannister and help to protect the flame. This one is made of two pieces of metal held by another piece of spring loaded metal (this can be seen in the top photograph).

When all these elements come together they help to make the EtaExpress Stove a pretty fast stove, on the couple of times used I have had boil times around the 2-3 minute mark with a 100 cannister.

All together

Remember my comment about the positions of the starter switch and the control knob?

When the windshield is fitted to the gas cannister it is almost impossible to get to the starter switch.

As you can see from the picture above the switch is on the inside of the windshield and to get to it, you have to put your finger around the back to flick it. This is while you have the gas turned on, and it is igniting near your hand.

I have tried this a couple of times and on one occasion I nearly pulled the lit stove on to me. After this I had a look around the internet to see if I was doing something wrong; although the picture on the box showed I did have the windshield fitted correctly.

Once on the net I found that there seems to be two different windshields and I'm guessing that one was the original design and the one I have is the newer design.

New and Old designs

The old design has extra holes in it so that it sits on the potstand legs, and this leaves both the control knob and starter switch free and easy to get too.

Apart from this one problem the EtaExpress looks to be a very quick stove and the low weight (450g) makes it a good all round solo cooking system.

Friday, 24 June 2011

How Much?

What's the point of having a blog, if you can't have a rant now and again.

I'm looking to plan an quick overnighter, and as such I want some food for the evening. As its only one night I can't be bother to get the dehydrator out and do one meal.

So I looked on the web for freeze-dried/dehydrated meals; now these can be expensive if you go for something like Real Tummat but one's like Mountain House/Be-Well are fairly cheap at around £4-5 mark.

But the problem I have buying those online is with the companies supplying them; as they seem to want to rip you off when ordering.

So far I have tried two sites and both have the meal I want at £3.95 but one wants to charge £5.95 delivery charge and the other £3.96.

The 5.95 one; only seem to offer a courier service and have no other options for delivery, I did try to contact them through their contacts page but this needed the following:- Username, Address, Telephone number, and department, these were the items that were required. So I have to register to contact them; No Thanks!

The Second site's charge of £3.96 (where do you get .96 from?) is for orders less than £100; so in theory ordering £99 worth of meals, which is roughly 20-25 packages is the same as ordering one.

I can't see how this is so; the bulk and weight is more than a single item and the cost surely must be more.

I guess I have the option to phone them and ask if they could send a single meal out by 1st class post but I have always been of the opinion that if you can't see it on show; then they don't do it. If they do 1st class postage surely it should be on the the website, without have to be asked.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not one of these people who think all postage on items should be free but I do feel that these postal charges are a rip off; last year I ordered a rucsac online and the postage for that was £3.00 and that's a lot more bulky than a dried meal.

Now I'm of to Waitrose and firing up the dehydrator.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Guest Post

This is a first for this blog; today I have a guest post from Jess Spate.

Jess' bio can be seen at the end of the post.

Walks by train from London

Having a car in London can be more of a hassle than a help, but when it comes time to get out of the city and go for walk, cars come in very handy. They make it far easier to go where you want to go, when you want to go there, but there are a number of excellent walks that can be done from train stations rather than car parks. Here are a just a handful of the possibilities:

-Stour Valley Take the train to Chartham, Kent, and it's just a short walk to the bank of the River Stour. This area is famous for its orchards, so go in late spring and you'll see a wealth of fruit trees in full blossom. The Stour Valley Walk is well marked and very close to the train station in Chartham, or you can use the station as an entry point for a section walk on the North Downs Way. If you've got more than a single day on your hands, it's possible to follow this footpath all the way to Dover and get the train back to London from there.

-The Chilterns Great Missenden Station in Buckinghamshire is the starting point for excellent walks in the Chilterns, or you can stop at Saunderton. It's on the London to Birmingham line so fairly easy to get to. Head towards High Wycombe Hill there is a good chance of seeing some of England's only Red Kites. You'll know them when you see them- the red kite has a distinctive forked tail and they're anything up to 5'6" in wingspan.

-Thames Path The walk from Kingston Upon Thames (easily accessible by rail) to Westminster isn't exactly wilderness, but the 20 mile length is challenging. This section of the Thames Path passes Teddington Lock, Putney Bridge, Kew Gardens, and many more well-known landmarks along the way.

-Offa's Dyke Path Both ends of the 180 mile footpath are accessible by train. It's less than 3 hours from Paddington to Chepstow, changing at Gloucester, and from there you can either launch yourself onto the Offa's Dyke Path and head for Prestatyn in North Wales, or explore the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean. Chepstow is also the starting point for the less well-known but very interesting Wye Valley Walk, which follows the river 136 miles up into Mid Wales. However, finding public transport from the end point isn't so easy. It's another 8 miles walking to Llanidloes, where a bus will take you to Newtown Station.

If you're willing to take a walk with a more distant starting point, the UK has a number of train stations that allow walkers to get into National Parks and more mountainous areas. Snowdonia and the Arans can be accessed from Barmouth, Blaenau Festiniog, and Betwys-y-Coed, and the stations along the Hope Valley line (Sheffield to Manchester) and the Derwent Valley line from Derby can be the starting points for walks in the Peak District. Kendal Station is just one of the options in the Lake District, or you can go even further and take the train all the way up to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.

Jess Spate used to live in London but is now based in Cardiff, close to the Brecon Beacons and the Forest of Dean. She works for Appalachian Outdoors when not out on the hills.

Image credit 1: Richard Barrett-Small via flickr, under a Creative Commons licence

Image credit 2: Paul Albertella via flickr, under a Creative Commons licence

Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls

This is a bit of a strange book to review; in the sense of I feel than Bear Grylls doesn't seem as though he wanted to give too much away.

The book opens with introductions to Bear's lineage; from his great-grandfather through his grand-parents to his parents; the social circles they moved in and the apparent influence they had on his life.

His early life and school is covered in the first 34 chapters; yes, that right 34 chapters! But this is only roughly the first 120 pages; as the chapters only average 2 or 3 pages.

The time-line moves along at a fair pace from boarding school to Eton, to University then on to his decision to join the SAS.

Up to this point in the book we only get short anecdotes and glimpses of his life.

The next 28 chapters (108 pages) are taken up by the telling of his selection for the SAS(R), the start of this section is prefaced with a note about how he sign the Official Secrets Act and how he is restricted on revealing details of the SAS.

This is only one of two parts within the book that his passion seems to come through; and you start to get a feel for the person, but again we only get small anecdotal stories, mostly centred around the training and the long route marches. Again there are plenty of bones but not a lot of meat on them.

Both Chris Ryan and Andy McNab have covered the SAS and selection in their books with much more insight.

The next 35 pages cover almost a period of two years, in which Bear breaks his back, recovers and meets his future wife and prepares to climb Everest. Quite some big events to squeeze into 35 pages!

The second part to play a big part in the book and show his passion is the climbing of Everest (115 pages). Again we get to see the commitment and passion that drives him on, and making him (at the time) the youngest Brit to summit Everest.

The remainder of the book (40 pages or so) concentrates on his marriage, his motivational talks and the start of Born Survivor.

I have to admit that I had never heard of Bear Grylls before his T.V. Series; Born Survivor, and was hoping that this part of his life would be covered but again this becomes a footnote.

Bear has been criticised about 'faking' within the shows and although mentioned he doesn't really have much to say on the subject.

And then on to the Epilogue; which goes on to mention, first team to cross the frozen North Atlantic Arctic Ocean, flying powered paragliders above Everest, and an expedition through the Northwest Passage in a rigid inflatable boat but these only get one or two line within this chapter, I would of like to hear more of these stories as this is the Bear Grylls I know from the T.V. Maybe they are being saved for Volume two.

I was looking forward to reading this book but have come away slightly disappointed. If you already know about his time in the SAS and the climbing of Everest (which was covered in his book Facing Up) then personally I think you won't find much more about the life of Bear Grylls.

On a sidenote, I was approached by Transworld Publishers about reviewing this book; the reasons for accepting this offer was 1. I get the chance to read the autobiography of Bear Grylls and 2. I was also offered a second copy to run a competition on the blog for one of my reader's to win.

Although the review copy turned up; the second copy never did, even after I had been back in touch with Transworld Publishers.