Easy outdoor cooking with Biolite Stoves

Biolite StoveWe all know that preparing food and heating drinks in the outdoors isn’t always the easiest thing either by having to carry around heavy cooking equipment like gas canisters or searching for the right biomass materials to start a fire with, plus after a long day hiking you just want to relax and eat.  Here at Webtogs we have the innovative Biolite Stoves which are designed to not only make cooking meals and drinks really easy but lighter to carry and have a few other handy features too.

The Biolite Camp Stove cooking system is comparatively lightweight and only requires a small amount of renewable biomass such as sticks and twigs to be effective as each unit is built with an internal thermoelectric generator which powers a heat regulating fan for greater efficiency.  There are optional attachments for the Biolite such as the Grille Cook Attachment system which provides a greater surface area to cook food on and there is also a Biolite Kettle Pot that perfectly fits the unit so you can make hot drinks, boil water or heat up soup with very little hassle.  On average it takes four and a half minutes to boil a litre of water using 46 grams of wood.

 

Unlike standard camping cooking equipment the Biolite Stoves also create electricity from their thermoelectric generators which is connectedBiolite-Kettle-Pot-for-Cooking-System to a USB port so is able to charge most electronic devices that are compatible.  It will approximately take twenty minutes to charge an iPhone 4S for 60 minutes of talking time for example so in an emergency you will have enough power for your devices if required.  So if you want an easy way to prepare food and drink on your latest adventure these Biolite Stoves and Biolite accessories available online now at Webtogs are perfect.

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New Merrell Autumn/Winter 2014 Season Footwear

Just in time for the colder seasons Merrell have launched their latest seasonal shoes and boots collection which sees some favourites mixed in with new models but all feature a slightly darker overall colouring due to the slick and rugged oiled leather uppers the majority of them feature.  Many of the new and enhanced designs both include exclusive Merrell technical fabrics and components like their M-Select series, Air Cushion system and the versatile Remember Me Foam footbeds which have been updated for greater comfort and support or alternatively well-known brand components like GORE-TEX and Vibram soles; either way these new Merrell Autumn/Winter 2014 Season footwear collection is one here at Webtogs we’re pretty excited about.

Merrell Moab Rover Footwear

Merrell MoabLet’s start with a design that’s practically a classic: the Merrell Moab.  The versatility of this design is what makes it so successful as not only do you often have multi-purpose footwear in each one but there is a variation for every season or occasion so as well.  The models include the bestselling Moc for casual everyday wear; the low-profile shoe for summer walks and treks and the mid-height boot for tougher hikes and trails in colder weather meaning everyone can enjoy the Moab style throughout the year and now with stylish oily leather uppers.

Merrell Annex Mens Walking Shoes

Merrell Annex 63992-500-1The Merrell Annex shoes are a new design which has a modern styling with the intention of them being worn both on and off the trail yet are packed with features and technologies that make each pair quite formidable walking footwear.  Besides the standard Annex shoe there is a GORE-TEX version which gives greater waterproof protection but both models have the same supportive and comfortable midsole and footbed constructions, anti-odour treatment and the oiled leather upper construction that most of this range uses for water and abrasion resistance.

 

Merrell All Out Blaze Shoes

Merrell All OUt 63999-large1If you prefer an active outdoor sporting shoe then the Merrell All Out Blaze Shoes are perfect with a very light construction and plenty of flexibility for a more natural feel while the UniFly cushioning system makes the shoes responsive, supportive and helps to activate your muscles with every footstrike.  These will provide lasting comfort enabling you to go further for longer and even have technologies seen in the rest of the collection like M-Select FRESH, waterproof oily leather uppers and a Vibram soles too all in an athletic sport shoe design.

 

Merrell Azura Womens Walking Shoes

Merrell Azura 64010-large1The Merrell Azura shoes are a bestseller for a reason; stylish with a number of features making them ideal for all kinds of treks and trails in a lightweight construction and this season not only are they available in two different versions; a standard waterproof nubuck leather version with M-Select GRIP or one with a GORE-TEX liner for greater moisture protection and the addition of Winter Compound for snow and ice conditions but also feature the oiled leather look that makes all of these new footwear so distinctive yet obviously Merrell in design.

You may be looking for a higher and more fashionable ladies boot style but with all of the reliable technical features you would expect to find in a high-performance outdoor hiking shoe so no matter where you walk in the colder weather; around town or on a woodland trail the Merrell Dewbrook and Merrell Captiva Boots are perfect.

Also if you want something a bit more casual looking if you prefer a laid back style or just want a decent pair of shoes for everyday life that have lasting comfort and support try the Merrell Traveler Shoes, Traveler WTPF Boots or the Merrell Helixer Trainers instead.  All of these from the new Merrell Autumn/Winter 2014 Season footwear collection are available with us at Webtogs.

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Jack Wolfskin, Salomon and more New Brands at Webtogs


We always aim to bring you the best outdoor gear from all the best manufacturers and brands and at the best prices which is why recently here at Webtogs a number of well-known and diverse names have been added to our roster.  It’s always exciting to have the privilege of being approved for stocking products of brands new to us; even more so when we have a number of different types in one go.

 

Jack Wolfskin

Jack Wolfskin are a name well known amongst experienced outdoor enthusiasts having over three decades worth of experience in making high quality outdoor clothing such as jackets, tops, pants, headwear and shorts; plus footwear, rucksacks and handy accessories like water bottles, walking socks and more.  The extensive range of Jack Wolfskin outdoor gear covers every kind of activity from a simple short walk to braving a mountain trail as their aim has always been to get everyone out and exploring the wilderness whatever their ability or favoured type trail by being as comfortable as possible and you can find their premium products with us at Webtogs.

Also now at Webtogs are the bestselling footwear brand Salomon who since 1947 have specialised in durable technical hiking boots, shoes and sandals for hikers, climbers, trail runners and everyone who likes to take a walk outside.  The Salomon designs are stylish fairly distinct as shown in their popular 4D GTX boots collection and the entire range features the pinnacle of footwear technology such as Vibram outsoles, OrthoLite footbeds and GORE-TEX lining and constructions so that they can take on the terrain and climate conditions so you stay comfortable and supported.

We’ve also acquired brands that produce accessories and equipment that make adventures in the wilderness much easier such as Pure Hydration and Water To Go who produce canteens and water bottles designed to allow you to drink more safely plus BioLite who make compact and highly effective stoves that merely require small amounts of biomass to ignite a contained fire that will cook and charge electronic devices.  Other brands include Extremities with their range of gloves, socks and headwear that work to keep your appendages and head warm and dry without losing any flexibility at all and Buff who have quite simply created the most versatile range of garments around that can be used as everything from a balaclava, to a neck scarf and even a wrist band.

So please take a look at the great new brands and products we have for even more options for making any journey into the outdoors much more comfortable and enjoyable so you can focus on the trail ahead.

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Webtogs Road-Trip to the Brit-Brand Trio & Marmot!

Aptly-named snack of the week. Great value too.
Aptly-named snack of the week

I should probably start out by explaining that when I say ‘Brit brand trio’, I’m referring to Rab, Mountain Equipment and Montane. These three brands are the standard-bearers for the UK outdoor industry, and between them they account for over half of the products ranged on Webtogs.co.uk at any given time. It was these brands, along with another of our suppliers; US brand Marmot, that Webtogs MD Keith and I set out to visit last Sunday on a 5-day buying road-trip. I can report that it was epic thanks to the exciting new products on show… and the added bonus of getting to take the bike out on some awesome trails in the Lakes (Altura Trail, Whinlatter & The North Face Trail, Grizedale) and Peak District!

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A Wild Night to Remember…

Wild camping

So what do you do when you are seen wild camping in a not-so-stealthy spot? Where three teenagers, a cocky lad and two girls, walk past with a bottle of rum to be drunk down by the river, just 30km outside San Salvador near the main road?

Well, we said hello as they went by and stayed where we were.
But half an hour later the three return, inebriated.

The lad was staggering and slurring his words. Barely understandable. But he is asking for a phone. We don’t have one (so we say), but soon he gets aggressive and starts demanding our phone. And the girls are peering through the tents looking to see what they can take. Time to get serious. Take a stand. Make clear there’ll be no messing with us. How exactly they thought they could steal from us in their intoxicated state I don’t know. I suppose they weren’t really thinking at all!

But as they leave, we immediately start packing up. Time to find another place. We don’t know if they will come back, or bring others, or if someone else will see us.

And that’s how, at 8pm, in darkness, we push our bikes back to the main road and hesitantly cycle on. But being on the road after dark in these areas is not safe either. So we ask if we can camp in the yard of the first home we see.

Although it is difficult to understand all that the father is saying, he eventually tells us go follow him across the road to another house.

The gate is locked, but it’s only wood and barbed wire, so it is bent and we carry our bikes over. And up to the front door of this simple single room, corrugated roof house. The door is locked, the curtains drawn. The father and son knock on the door. No reply.

The son raises up one of the glass slats on the window, pulls back the curtain and calls inside. No reply.

I peer through too. The TV is on and a man is sat in an armchair with his back to us, watching it. The son calls again. No reply.

Maybe he is sleeping.

I feel guilty for not only disturbing one family, but now waking up another stranger having broken through his gate and pulled apart his window.

I say that perhaps it is better if we carry on and look for somewhere else to camp. But the father will have none of it.

I think the man must be drunkenly unconscious not to hear our racket outside. But his left hand is up in the air.

Now the father has a 3metre long stick from the garden and is starting to poke it through the window. I hope the man inside isn’t startled and have a shotgun close to hand. Seriously, how can he not have heard us? We have been here a good fifteen minutes trying to raise the dead…

Actually, it turns out we’ve been trying to raise the deaf.

So there we are, calling to a deaf man in the darkness and waving a long pole through the window to get his attention.

Finally he sees us.

He opens the door, wide lop-sided grin on his face, pleased to see his neighbour, even if it is nighttime and there are two strange gringos with bikes there too.

Now we know we are in a safe place. He wants us to stay in his home, but we insist on camping in the garden. We have intruded enough already.

The father and son leave us to put up our tents. The happy deaf man offers us fruit and gives us a bottle of ice cold water. With a few hand gestures he shows us the toilet and explains what time he must go to work in the morning. Not only is he deaf, but he doesn’t speak either. Surprisingly though, it is easier to communicate with him than with some locals who speak Spanish very fast and no English at all.

What a night and we haven’t even cooked dinner yet! But at least we are safe it. And so I sleep well… until the roosters start calling at 5.30am, which apparently is enough to raise even the deaf, because our man is already sweeping the yard when I emerge from the tent.

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The Advantages of Commuting to Work

Living only six miles from work, I have swapped my car for the bike to get me to the office. It’s over a month now of cycle-commuting and the benefits are numerous. I can’t think of any bad points in fact.

With the cost of fuel ever-increasing, the financial benefits are one obvious advantage. Although with such a short journey, it’s a modest fuel saving, it would add up to an annual saving of over £500 and that doesn’t factor in the reduced cost of maintaining a bike. It is of course the environmentally friendly way to travel too.

Commuting to Work

Surprisingly it doesn’t take any longer to get from home to office when you take into account, when driving, the time it takes to find a parking space and walk from the car. Thankfully there are facilities so I can shower at work, as I wouldn’t particularly wish upon my colleagues a faint odour of my sweat permeating through the air-conditioned office!

There are then, of course, the health benefits of regular exercise. So if you’re looking to lose weight, the 45minutes a day of exercise it takes for the round-trip is a great help. And if you’re not, you can indulge in that chocolate bar without feeling guilty – that’s what I usually do! Either way, it keeps you fit.

Because I am now regularly cycling to work, I don’t need to spend my evenings exercising. No runs and no gym. And that, in my opinion, is the greatest reason of all. I hate the gym and now I have more time to plan the next big trip – biking the Great Divide.

My touring bike is all fixed now ready for the US tour, so I’ve been using this bike to commute. It has the racks on already, so I just stuff a pannier with a change of work clothes and my lunch and I’m off (shower kit stays at work).

 

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Six Month’s On the Road to Freetown

I’ve now been on the road for six months – I can barely believe it! And after six months and 9,000km I’m in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

My last note was about the Sahara and unquantifiable amounts of sand. I have since then travelled through five countries over hugely varying terrain and differing geographical regions: through the flat, arid sahel and mangrove swamps of Senegal, along the river of the Gambia, through primary forest divided by many rivers in Guinea-Bissau, the green highlands of Guinea and down into the tropical forests of Sierra Leone.

The roads have been equally varied: from smooth, freshly laid asphalt, to gravel, to bumpy dirt tracks and sandy lanes and on occasion across country on barely recognizable footpaths.

Needless to say, a lot has happened: encounters with countless animals, insects mostly; termites, spiders, ants, mosquitos; but also monitor lizards, snakes, monkeys, chimpanzees, mice. Encounters with friendly locals, corrupt officials, screaming kids; fortunately I’ve not bumped into any rebels or mercenaries as feared.

At times I’ve been so happy, feeling so lucky, to be undertaking this journey. At other times, I’ve be tired, ill, overwhelmed. There have been tears and anger and despair.

But all of this adds up into one amazing adventure. I have never once wished to be back home, never wished to be elsewhere, never thought about giving up. Without the tough times, the good times wouldn’t be so great.

Looking forward to what the next six months will bring… I’m headed for Mali and will no doubt soon be cursing the heat and sand again!

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Scarp Charmoz GTX Review

Charmoz GTX – Scarpa
I was fortunate enough to spend my alpine summer with a pair of Scarpa Charmoz GTX Mountaineering Boots to try out and pass my humble opinion on, and I have to say it was an experience I’d be only too happy to repeat. Aimed squarely at the mixed ground climber the boots take a B2 rated crampon, working particularly well with the Grivel Air Tech for mixed routes up to Grade 5. The midsole provides good support whilst the ¾ shank gives just enough flex to keep the approach comfortable. The Charmoz uses the recently introduced FT last, giving a good, precise, feel both when scrambling and climbing and the Vibram Mulaz sole with its plastic inserts for better traction on snow.

charmoz_Small

Where the Charmoz really excels is on true mixed ground, with constant switches between snow, rock and ice proving no problem. When you’ve got a snow slope followed by a rocky scramble then an ice pitch or two you need something that gives support, grip and traction reliably throughout, and inspires confidence. The waterproof breathable Gore-Tex membrane somehow managed to keep my feet dry even when post holing to knee deep on the ascent of Mont Blanc. Long hard walking on rocky paths felt comfortable which I attributed to the ¾-length shanks, and when it came to steeper icy routes it was simple to fit a pair of Newmatic crampons. The rigid soles and flexible uppers gave excellent support and the shape and fit gave all the precision needed for grade 5 ice and hard mixed climbing. I believe if you want one boot that does it all – or at least Alpine summer or Scottish winter, then look no further. When the mountain terrain changes every few hundred feet, take it all on with the versatile Charmoz GTX Mountaineering Boots.

Nick Parks – Mountain Guide

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Science, Religion and the Outdoors

It’s long been recognised that the wilderness, especially mountain wilderness, has a spiritual quality that humans need. John Muir expressed it perfectly when he said “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.” and it’s interesting to see the use of the term “pray” in this famous quote.

john muir_Small

CREDIT: “John Muir, full-length portrait, facing right, seated on rock with lake and trees in background.” c1902. The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920, Library of Congress.

When I first heard the line I just dismissed the term “pray” as coming from the steotypical religious mix of Scottish heritage and American tradition and substituted it with “think” in my mind, but experience slowly changed this view. It’s no coincidence that we bestow religious terminology to the finest mountain wilderness, and how early descriptions were full of the sense of awe and wonder usually reserved for religious sights. For millenia people have held nature in awe, from early beginings when deity was bestowed on nature itself to the use of natural amphitheatres in the Peak District used for banned religious meetings.

There is something spiritual in nature, and like religion an introduction to wilderness can change lives in the same way as a religious epiphany – read Andy Cave’s book Learning to Breathe to see just what a difference it can make. Like a religion experiencing the outdoors is a personal experience, but one that can benefit at times from being shared with others, and there’s no-one more enthusiastic than a new convert. The great outdoors draws us at weekends, replacing for many the traditional Sunday church attendance as our feel good factor and inspiration, and when we find the perfect mountain view we even refer to it as a cathedral.

Alpenglo on Longs Peak, Colorado_Small

Almost un-noticed, science has entered the spiritual world of the outdoors, but rather than destroying the religious analogies it merely reinforced them. The key to religion, no matter which religion, is surely faith – and that’s precisely what science tries to grow in us. Take a look in at any piece of outdoor kit nowadays and examine the label – you’ll be confronted with more science and technical terminology than the average A level student, but what does it really mean? Take some of the most popular fabrics used for outdoor clothing: There’s Pertex Endurance, Pertex Quantum, Pertex Shield, Pertex MicroLight and Pertex Classic for a start………..now Classic is obviously an original form but how much should you read into the others? Pertex Shield you’d expect to be some sort of shield so probably good for abrasion resistance, and Pertex MicroLight seems pretty self explanatory. Pertex Endurance doesn’t seem too difficult to work out where its strength lies but Pertex Quantum??? Is it some weird option based on advanced physics? The only way, of course, of finding out is to check out the labels and tags that adorn every product, and that’s where faith comes in.

Goretex_schema-en_Small

Read a garment tag, skipping the washing instructions, and you’ll find wonderful descriptions of how oilophobic membranes with XYZ ions and silicone dioxide beads combine with silver fabrics and microfilament yarns to produce ……what, really? something you can wear and not something you expect to find in a government laboratory? Seriously now, how many peopple really follow all the scientific or pseudo-scientific geekspeak? You’re expected to put your faith in it just because it’s got a paragraph or three of jargon behind it that makes it look like it’s come straight from NASA. Personally I’m not bothered if it says it an intelligent, semi-permeable micropore membrane with hydrophyllic and hydrophobic lares laminated together – I want to know if it’s going to keep me dry when it rains, and shift perspiration when I get warm…end of! Faith may be defined by a belief in something you can’t see, but surely that doesn’t mean in something you can’t understand either? That’s why I’ve been happy this week to go through all the outdoor clothing on the site, noting their core technology and coming up with a real world description of what they are and what they do. Don’t let the science baffle you or demand a faith it may or may not deserve, save that for the wilderness itself and the faith that it will always be there when we need its spiritual qualities.

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