WIN New for Old competition up to £200!

Facebook Competition

Your chance to WIN new gear for old up to the value of £200!

We’ve all been there. The sudden realisation that the boots / tent / jacket / backpack / teddy you’ve had since time began, is on it’s last legs. It’s a sinking feeling, so we’ve come up with an idea to cheer you up a bit, it’s our New for Old Facebook competition!

All you have to do is post up a picture of your oldest, and most abused piece of kit. Being the lovely folk that we are, one lucky winner will get it replaced like for like up to the value of £200 (sorry we can’t do Teddy’s).

The winner will be chosen on June 13th in three weeks time, from our distinguished panel of whoever we have in the office on that day. Simply head over to our facebook page and go to the competition tab to enter. As always there are some rules and regs, but we’ve kept them nice and easy as we don’t like complicated things.

What are you waiting for? Time to go digging in the cupboard, click on the icon below and best of luck!

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Unlock the power of your phone outdoors.

Somewhere in your pocket is something that may well revolutionise your time out on the hill. It’s your phone. We’re taking a look today at Viewranger, an application for a lot of smartphones that we just wanted to rave about, as it has seriously increased the amount of fun we have outdoors. And that’s not a bad thing in our book.

Viewranger is an application you can download for the iPhone, Symbian and Android smartphone operating systems, that turns your phone in to a pretty darn cool GPS. As a result, you don’t have to shell out a fortune on a dedicated GPS itself. It already has a load of web maps on it, and you can download more detailed maps such as Ordnance Survey ones directly down to your phone. You don’t need to have any signal for it to work, and you can also download some pretty cool routes direct from people such as our friends at Walkhighlands & Trail.

Now talking about GPS’s for some outdoor folk will have them coughing and spluttering that nothing replaces a map or compass, and that red socks are compulsory when out walking. For the record, we would agree with the map and compass bit if you are heading up in to the hills. The red socks is a matter of choice though – unless you belong to the Ramblers :-) We think Viewranger is great for working alongside your map and compass, or on it’s own in non-critical situations. Now Viewranger can do lots of pretty cool things, so today isn’t about giving you a full lowdown – you can visit their homepage for that. We are simply going to tell you what makes it rock for us.

Viewranger on the go.

First up spare maps. Not sure about you, but I rarely have an occasion where we have a back up map with us, so Viewranger is rather handy as a spare. It has also got to be useful in some hairy situations. Imagine this, you’re in a whiteout somewhere on a Scottish hill, lost your way and no idea which way to go. Not sure about you, but I would be turning my phone on, seeing exactly where I am and working out where my emergency route off the hill is (haven’t already though of an escape route when planning your day? Tsk tsk!).

One natty feature that a GPS won’t have is the buddy beacon. Get your friends buddy beacon details and give them yours, you’ll be able to see exactly where they are on the hill in real time, and ensure that meeting for lunch on top of Ben Macdui goes swimmingly. Along the same lines, do you have a dog with a Retrieva collar? Similar to the buddy beacon, you can now see where Fido is wandering if he’s dashed off chasing rabbits! As we also discover living in the middle of deepest darkest Dorsetshire, we can’t always get to a shop that sells maps, or the shops are closed. If we want to explore a local area on a whim, Viewranger has stepped in to the breach on quite a few occasions, letting us download the map and go. Obviously you shouldn’t just have Viewranger for high level mountain routes, but if you just want to get a map for a wander in the local countryside, we think it’s fab.

Add in the ability to plan routes, download tracks, locate points of interest and all the other things you can do with a GPS, and you have a seriously handy piece of kit. Now obviously there are some things you need to be aware of, battery life on a lot of phones is poor, they can get wet, and they can break, but used alongside more traditional navigation, we reckon it’s a bloomin’ useful addition to our outdoor kit. Just don’t forget the red socks.

So what do you reckon folks? Do you have a GPS or Viewranger, and does it help you enjoy your time outside more? Post up your experiences in the comments below!

 

Keep an eye out soon for our interview with Phil Sorrell. He’s the developer behind Social Hiking which links up to the buddy beacon to share routes live, including your tweets, photos and more.

 

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Wind Rain & Trains

I’m not meant to be in the office today. I should be in Scotland waiting for my final train to wick so I can start my end to end cycle trip. Sadly the weather has had different ideas and my sleeper train was canceled due to high winds.

If you have ever tried to travel on a train with a bike its not easy. There are only two spaces which you have to book in advance if you dont want to risk being chucked off the train to make space for someone who has booked. This means you need to plan and book your journey well in advance so just getting the next train was not a option.

So I have got a couple of weeks, my panniers are packed, and I am feeling ready for a adventure but not sure what to do.

Any ideas for a cool last minute adventure? Backpacking or cycle touring.

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A Bike of Many Parts

It’s a few weeks since I arrived back in the UK. The short cycle from the airport was the least smooth of the whole journey. Nothing to do with the roads this time though. When it came to re-assembling the bike, having been packed in a big box for the flight, the pieces just didn’t seem to fit together. The gear cables wouldn’t connect to the hub so I couldn’t change gear, the brakes barely worked (although that had been an increasing problem over the final weeks) and the forks didn’t fit in quite right into the frame so I had to leave a few of the spacers out. And then there was the wobbly back wheel which nine months after I first noticed it, was now, well, very wobbly. Never mind, I could still cycle. And it wasn’t far.

So for the last few weeks I’ve been without the use of the bike (although fortunately I have a moutain bike too, which is getting well-used instead). Time to get it fixed. First I took the back wheel over to SJS Cycles, where Dave had a quick look at it and said he could have the hubb all fixed up in half an hour. And sure enough, after half an hour, I walked out of the shop with a replacement hubb, and new sprocket fitted too. Very impressed. I also stocked up on three Schwalbe Marathon XR tyres.

Yes I know a bike only has two wheels! In any case the tyres that took me through Africa still have some life in them. But Schwalbe no longer manufacture these tyres and there’s just no other tyre that will stand the test of touring time. These should keep me on the road for a while longer. My legs are bound to give up before the tyres give out.

But the rest wasn’t going to be quite so simple. Simply because I’ve decided to fix the rest of the bike myself.

I thought I had the spare parts I needed. And so on Sunday morning, with multi-tool, pliers and a good supply of WD40, I set about taking off the old parts that needed replacing. On closer inspection, this turned out to be most of the bike bar the frame, wheels and new hubb.

My touring bike - mid-repair

Having removed several layers of bike oil and grease from my hands and body, the afternoon was mostly spent on the internet searching out the replacement parts I need… brake cable set, gear cables, headset bearings, chain, chainring, a new twistshifter assembly and the only part that sounded remotely interesting which was the ‘noodles and boots’ (and they’re nothing but small bent metal tubes that the brake cables fit through).

So until I get the new parts through, the rack is on my mountain bike so I can head off to the hills at the weekends. In the meantime, my trusty tourer is scattered about my room in several rusty or dirty pieces.

I think I forgot to mention – the next tour I’ll be cycling the Great Divide from Canada, through the USA, to Mexico. You can read more about it on my new website, Helen’s Take On…

And over the coming weeks I’ll be posting more on the Togblog about how the preparations for the trip are going.

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Webtogs to be new owners of the Ark Royal

In a surprise announcement this week webtogs have been nominated as prefered bidder on the Ark Royal. A MOD representative has commented that he cant think of better custodians of the great ships future and they solidly support the strategy of webtogs CEO Keith Lavelle  to create a bespoke luxury B&B experience for people who enjoy firing large amounts of ordnance into the sea while sipping G&T’s, so not so far away from its previous role. Keith Lavelle comments that he was surprised that their offer was accepted in the face of stiff competition from the Drunk Bloke in the pub and my neighbors cat.

Webtogs head of purchasing Hugh Jass is currently in negotiations with a number of former super powers to purchase additional ships as part of a international roll out.

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wild swimming

photo © Daniel Start at wildswimming.co.uk

It’s finally getting warm enough to contemplate beaches, barbecues and sandals without socks. Joy! This temperate weather means I can finally get back to one of my favourite outdoors activities: walking on squidgy river bottoms in weeds. No, really.

Wild swimming might be some people’s idea of a nightmare, but everyone I’ve met who has tried it has been immediately hooked. All you need is a handy lagoon, lake or sheltered cove, some reasonably warm weather and a little bravery. Luckily, the UK is peppered with stunning locations in which to dip your toes, from waterfalls in Wales to skinny-dipping beaches in Dorset. Check out Daniel Start’s fantastic website guide to where to do it (or buy the book for beautiful photographs) and take the plunge.

Need more inspiration? Check out Guardian writer Kate Rew’s wild swim videos.

The Girl Outdoors

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The curse of the dodgy ankle.

It’s probably going to happen at some point in your outdoor life. Hopping down a hill or getting your foot stuck in a crack, you’ll suddenly find your ankle swelling up to the size of a small balloon. You can help give it superhuman powers though by following some simple tips to strengthen it, and ensure it’s fit enough to cope with all the ups and downs you are going to throw at it.

 

Not a happy ankle

First up, ankle exercises. These are fab as they do not require you to get any equipment, and if you are feeling a bit shaky on your pins, are a great starting point. Starting simply, just practice balancing on one leg whilst making tea, waiting for a bus or any time when you are stationary. You can also hop about a bit as well, though practice hopping forward in a straight line first. When you feel a bit stronger, start varying your hopping diet by going from side to side, back to front etc.

Other standing footwork exercises give strength and improve your balance. Raise on your toes and then lower your heels 8 – 10 times, you can do this out and about as well. Variations include lifting your heels, straightening your knees whilst keeping on your toes, then lowering your heels 8-10 times. On no account click your heels and say “There’s no place like home” it doesn’t work, trust me, I’ve tried it. The reverse of this is to get up on your toes, bend your knees, whilst still on your toes then lower your heels and straighten your legs. Again you can do this 8-10 times increasing the amount of times the stronger you get.

If you fancy getting some toys to help, there are some that will really make a difference. Tension bands, turning the ankle both inwards and outwards against resistance boosts your ankles flexibility and robustness. You can get a variety of flavours when it comes to the strength of the band and there are plenty of places that sell them cheaply online. A little more expensive are your wobble boards. Not only will any kids you have in the house love them, but they are a great way of getting strength up. They are also very helpful for recovering from any ankle sprains as well. If you can close your eyes whilst doing exercises on this, your ankle is definitely getting there!

Lastly if you have had problems before, wear an ankle support out there. It will give your ankle the extra bit of support it needs and warm up the ligaments so the chances of injury are lessened. If anyone else has any top tips for preventing or recovering from ankle injuries, please post away in the comments!

Follow our tips to get happy feet....

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Free sleeping mat with your sleeping bag or tent!

We are big fans of Nemo, we love their approach to tent designs and fresh out of the box this morning, we have got a load of their new Astro sleeping mats. These are going to be a serious alternative to the Thermarest Neoair as the pack size is smaller although they weigh a touch more. The reason they weigh a bit more however is due to the whopping 2.5 inches of height they have and the fact they are a little more durable. Dare I say it they are also a little quieter as well when you toss and turn!

They cost £89.99 normally and you can find them on the Webtogs site here, BUT we also giving one away with every single Western Mountaineering sleeping bag and Nemo Tent that you buy for a limited time only.

So if you feel the need for a little more comfort in your tent life, or wanted any more reasons to invest in one of the best down sleeping bags or lightweight tents out there, head on over to Webtogs to check them out!

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