Team building is an incredibly important part of any business which values the welfare of it’s employees. This is mainly due to the fact that it stops you all wanting to throttle each other but it also creates a bond between you and your fellow colleagues. The bond that was made for us, as employees of Webtogs, was made last weekend when we decided to all go to Afan, near Port Talbot in South Wales, to camp for the Friday evening and then do some pretty knarly mountain biking up and down Afan before returning home on Saturday afternoon.
We left on Friday afternoon after work and arrived in the evening around 8ish. Not a bad time considering the slow moving traffic over the Severn Bridge and beyond. We had driven in a car and a bongo van, the car driven by speedy Lavelle Gonzalez arrived early at Glyncorrwg Ponds Camp Site to set up the tents while the bongo van slowly meandered it’s way up the valley only to come to a halt at Afan Lodge where we were to dine for the evening and await the arrival of the rest of the troops from the camp site.
At around 8.30 we sat down to eat supper and chat about the adventure that was unfolding in front of us. The main topic of conversation was to do with the weather because when we left North Dorset it was pretty fair however as soon as we arrived in Wales the clouds rolled up the valley and the rain set in. It didn’t stop raining at all until we hopped back over to England so you can imagine what cycling up a Welsh mountain was going to be like.
In the morning we woke to a grey and wet Welsh welcome so we warmed up with a cup of tea and croissants before shooting off down the valley to pick up some hire bikes and helmets. The hire bikes were great and my goodness we put them through their paces. The bikes definitely took a bit of a battering with some of the guys making friends with trees, toppling off the board walks and landing upside down after rather a steep drop coupled with a sharp bend. We are still here to tell the tail but with less skin and more bruises.
The bad weather did nothing but accelerate our enthusiasm for getting on with the ascent and at first I think we were all, except Keith and Jon Stock our North Face rep, a little taken aback at how technical it was. We soon found our rhythm and with a few tips from the more experienced riders we all made our way up through the twists and turns of the densely forested Afan mountain. It took around 2.5 hours to arrive at the top and then the descent kicked in. An hour and a half of navigating narrow tracks, sharp U turns and board walks. Amazing fun but most amazing of all was that none of us got a puncture, one guy we passed on the trail was fixing his 5th in two days. All 9 of us made it to the bottom covered head to toe in scratches, bruises and mud but all with huge smiles plastered on our muddy faces.
Next stop was to the cafe at the foot of the mountain where Sue, Kuma and a welcome warm cup of tea and some good honest Welsh Rarebit were waiting for us. We all tucked in and shared our favourite and most scary sections with each other and had a laugh, all the while still looking like a team of rugby players after a tough match. Next it was to the showers which were, well, warmish to say the most but a shower non the less. After the showers packing up was the name of the game and all clubbing together to take 6 tents down doesn’t take long, even in the wet.
There are reports coming in from the passengers on board the bongo van that to keep Mike on his toes they were all singing along to the Paul Simon Greatest Hits album to pass the time, I’m not sure how many businesses there are on the planet where the employees are that comfortable with each other that they can perform a full rendition of ‘You can call me Al’ in front of each other? It’s a Webtogs thing I guess.
Another boost for moral on the journey home was the appearance of the sun, who decided to arrive just as we hopped back into England. It honestly felt like we hadn’t seen it for weeks so it was a welcome sight along with another cup of tea when we arrived back at home. A great weekend had by all and I can say that I now have the mountain biking bug along with a few others no doubt.
I thought we’d add a few quotes from the guys to sum up their weekend below so enjoy reading them.
Charlie – “Never had so much fun in the mud.”
Gareth – “Can’t stop the bruising, but I can’t stop grinning either!”
Lucy – “I cant think of anything better to do on a rainy Saturday than to play in the mud in Wales. Cant wait to go again!”
Jon – “Flying squirrels have nothing on the Webtogs crew!”
Ross – “Proud recipient of the Webtogs stabiliser award for falling off every 5 minutes”
Mike -”That’s my idea of a dirty weekend away”
Lee – ” What a roller-coaster of emotion, weather conditions and hardcore welsh terrain – loved it, epic adventure”
Sue – “smelly wet dog is nothing compared to 9 wet and muddy mountain bike riders”
Some people think I’m crazy… crazy to quit my job so I could cycle through Africa. The same thought, albeit fleeting, went through my mind before I actually set off.
But craziness, like many things, is relative.
So that when you’ve just cycled 25,000km through Africa, the idea of cycling 4,400km through the US, seems like a holiday.
But when I mention that I’m going to cycle the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, an off-road route that crosses the continental divide some 80 times, and I’ll have to pedal or push up so many hills that by the end I will have effectively scaled the height of everest 7 times…. people still say I’m crazy.
But even I have my limits, and the borderline for craziness to me is cycling that same 4,400km route as a non-stop race. Yes, that’s 4,400km with all those hills, cycled in about 3 weeks. Now why on earth would you want to do that?! Well, several people do want to do it. And they do….
Well, actually I do understand – it’s for the challenge, to physically push yourself to the limit, to see what your body can withstand and it’s to satisfy the mildly masochistic nature that lies within some of us and drives us to undertake such seemingly pointless trials and adventures.
The Tour Divide, the race, is currently underway. It started on the 10th June. Of the 66 riders who started, two have already finished and 14 have dropped out. The others are still racing. The winner made it in just 15 days! (I shall be taking much longer…)
The craziest of all, have to be the three men on single speed bikes. I have no idea how you cycle up the hills with only one gear. I’m just glad I don’t have to!
The 1980′s saw a fabric introduced that revolutionised outdoor clothing – the introduction of Goretex. As the worlds first waterproof yet breathable fabric, it was a sea change in the way that people enjoyed outdoor activities. Before, your choice was simple. Drown in your own sweat, or drown in the rain. I wasn’t the only one who dreaded being made to wear a “Cagoul”, and the feel of wet clammy rubber against my skin. The world outdoors definitely became more of a comfortable place as a result.
One of the first Goretex pieces, the Berghaus Lightning Jacket
So here we are nearly 30 years later, and Gore have come up with the latest version of their technology, called Active Shell. We are going to be getting in several Active shell pieces this winter, and before they come in, we wanted to explain just why we think these new pieces of clothing are so darn cool. Our job is so easy though. We can sum it up thus
1) It’s more breathable than previous versions of Goretex. High aerobic folks such as runners, cyclists, and climbers are going to be big fanboys and girls of this new fabric
2) It’s lighter than any of their other fabrics. It’s ideal for those who want to move fast and light, yet retain decent levels of weather protection.
3) This is just our own opinion having tried on a couple of different jackets, but we think that they are a step up in terms of comfort as well. Less like a crisp bag, they are a bit more flexible and comfortable next to skin. Please note that this is based on the samples we have tried on, so the real deal could be different. Oh apparently the value of your house can go up as well as down.
So how have they done it I hear you ask? Well you will be pleased to know that there was no magician with a rabbit, or a pentagram on the floor. They have managed to make the membrane itself lighter, and by getting the scrim, or backing fabric to integrate straight on to the membrane itself. Both of these manufacturing processes have made the garments lighter, and reduced resistance for water vapour and sweat to get through.
Now we have two of these new jackets coming in for Winter, first up, the Adidas Men’s Terrex Gore-Tex Active Shell Jacket. Adidas are a relative new player in the outdoor market but they have hit the ground running in our humble opinion. We actually got to have a bit of a sneak peak of their gear earlier in the year. The weight is a paltry 370 grammes, we love the laser cut and bonded detailing, and the built in vents. Check out our Video on the whole range here, the new jacket is first up;
Second up is a British classic, it’s Mountain Equipment’s Firefox Jacket. Now the firefox jacket was released a couple of years ago with a unique fit. The fit’s become much more of a standard ME fit, and they have now changed the fabric to Goretex Active Shell as well. The weight is slightly lower than the Adidas coming in at 320 grammes, it features their Mountain Hood adjustment system, and pit zips in case you are on fire.
So more breathable, lighter and more comfortable is the new order of the day with Goretex’s Active Shell. We’re getting them in this September and already the anticipation is building here. If you have any questions at all on the new fabric, or any comments, please post away below.
We’re pretty chuffed to have lined up a new brand for next summer which will need no introduction for our US fans, it’s Chaco sandals.
So whats the deal I here you ask? well, these are seriously bombproof sandals, and having seen them today, they aren’t wrong! They have Vibram sole units on most of the range, and their Luvseat platform gives amazing support for your arches, which controls pronation. The quality of the sole is the best we have ever seen. Premium grade PU that is guaranteed for life means that you have a sandal that is just going to last and last.
Roll on Summer 2012, we can’t wait to sport some funky tan lines with these bad boys!
Eleven of Marmot’s best European climbers recently came together to push their own personal limits on some of North Wales most challenging routes.
The whole week was documented on film by ‘Image Impossible’ who is owned and run by action camera man Ian Burton. Ian is well known for his previous work on the BBC’s Climbing great buildings series and one of the camera men behind The Asgard project.
This short film covers all the best climbing action and some behind the scene footage showing the less glamorous side of being behind a camera lens.
Lightweight. It’s not a new mantra, but it has become an increasingly loud one within the outdoor community over the last few years. Whether you class yourself as someone who is looking to reduce their packweight, a lightweight backpacker, ultralightweight backpacker or supreme ultralight lightfantastic godlike backpacker, more and more people are gradually realising that the lighter your pack is, the further and longer you can walk for.
I’m not sure about you, but whereas my pack was getting lighter when solo backpacking, I found that when I was heading off with the family, I was actually taking more and more stuff. Two burner stoves with a grill that could just about cook a marshmallow. A full set of table and chairs. The solid, niche, canvas frame tent that are legends to longevity and stability. A box of toys that would put a small nursery to shame. Whereas at work I would gaze in rapt admiration of the Nemo Obi tents, at home I was looking at the portable kitchen station with space for a washing up bowl.
The end result of this was that I simply could not be bothered to go camping en famille. It meant getting together a load of stuff, putting a load of stuff up, taking a load of stuff down and finally putting a load of stuff away again afterwards. So last August, me and the better half sat down and had the following plan which we called stealth camping.
Our aim was simple. Make camping as a family easier and lighter. Our new mantra was to just leave it all behind. Not to go and buy a load of lightweight gear, but instead just focus on the basics. So unless something was utterly critical, it got binned. We decided that we were not allowed to camp for a long time (weekends only) and could only decided to camp on a Thursday night, to leave Friday night. This, more than any other choice, has had the trick of really making us focus on the gear that was important.
In the end this is what we got down to, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it pretty much sums it up.
Lightweight family tent. – We’re currently having fun with the Limestone 6P, but we also have a Robbens Double Dreamer.
Trangia Stove – nothing big or fancy thanks very much
4 bowls and 4 spoons, a sharp knife and a spare plate
4 x sleeping bags, 3 sleeping mats and a cot.
1 outside toy for each boy.
Child Carrier for Ellis
Torches, duct tape, penknife, first aid kit
Maps, compass and map case
Erm thats it I think.
We tried it out for several weekends at the end of last summer, and just had some of the best outdoor weekends we have ever had. The boys ended up going nuts outside and playing with natural stuff they found, rather than the toys they brought. We no longer stressed about what we had forgotten or not having stuff, and instead just got out and about and enjoyed ourselves. We felt free. We felt liberated. We fell in love with camping again as a family.
This does have it’s limitations, we are limited to camping realistically within a 3 hour radius of home, but hey that means we don’t cream cracker the environment. Occasionally, you may suffer the pitying looks of people who gaze at you from their portable decking with the BBQ and camping chairs, but it’s a small price to pay.
It’s a Thursday today. Nobody has said anything yet. We’re not allowed to you see, but the diary tells me I haven’t got anything on this weekend. Game on?