How To Choose The Right Sleeping Bag

I’ve been looking at buying a new sleeping bag recently and found how difficult it is to find one that suits every need! I thought I’d write a quick guide to show others the best way to choose their own!

IT really comes down to what you’ll be using it for – are you just looking for something to sleep in on your mate’s sofa after a night out? Or are you defying death in the most extreme places on earth? (Let us know if you are, we’d love to hear about it!)

It’s likely that you’ll need to prioritise some qualities – and I’ve drawn up a little graphic here to illustrate it!

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Now the problem is, you probably can’t get to the snowy summit of this chart and have all three, you usually have to choose just two!

Light and cheap

Now this one’s pretty easy. You can get yourself a light and cheap sleeping bag, something you would use for festivals or summer camping trips – but be aware that these won’t keep you warm during the colder months, and many don’t go below temperatures below freezing.

This means you’ll have something nice and light you can pack down small into a pack, but it’s too dangerous to use in winter, and possibly even fall or spring! Always consider safety above everything: if you can’t afford or carry a warm enough sleeping bag for your trip, don’t go camping!

Warm and cheap

Unfortunately the warmer the bag, the more it usually costs, but you can trade off some of the cost in extra weight! Modern sleeping bags are filled with a synthetic microfibre that emulates down. It’s much cheaper than a down sleeping bag, but weighs much more and often doesn’t compact as much! As I’m on a strict budget, for our Ben Nevis trip, I recently purchased the Mountain Warehouse Microlite 1400 which certainly falls into this bracket. It’s comfortable down to -4°c and only cost me £44.99! The only downside is it’s pretty heavy for hiking at 1.9kg and it packs down pretty large! It’s certainly going to go outside of my bag, as it won’t fit in.

Light and warm

This is the bracket you’re lucky to be in! If you can afford it you can go to the best sleeping bag manufacturers and have a wealth of incredible materials and technology at your disposal. For example, at the same weight as the sleeping bag I just bought, you could buy the incredible Alpkit ArticDream that would keep you comfortable at an unbelievable -48°c!! (probably not suitable for summer though!)

 

 

So where do you fit into the graphic? What’s the most important quality in a sleeping bag in your eyes? Leave a comment below!

Our Trip to Snowdon – the Climb

This post follows on from the previous Travelogue entry, Our Trip To Snowdon- Starting Out

We awoke bright and early, and after a good croissant breakfast and a warm shower, we were ready to conquer snowdon. I couldn’t wait to get back out into snowdonia and explore it’s beauty, let alone it’s highest peak!

As we made our way along the 45 minute drive from penmachno village, we watched as the landscape turned more and more epic, opening out to the peaks surrounding snowdon!

Approaching Snowdon

Excited to start, we pushed on as I snapped out the car window!

We arrived at the car park, even the view from here was stunning, with valleys down below, and road winding around the edges. I found it incredible that people created all this in such a difficult environment!

As we got to the parking machine, we realised we had no change! It takes notes, so make sure you have some with you. Luckily we were able to get change from the nearby restaurant and continue on our journey.

This is where it really started!

We decided to take the Pyg track up to the summit, and come back on the miner’s trail. I’d spoken to friends who had been before and they all advised that as a first timer, this would be the easiest and most enjoyable way to go. After actually doing the trails I think I agree with them and we’d decided on the best route for the day.

When we arrived at the very start of the trail (go right at the car park for pyg) we came across this sign:

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“Snow showers above 400m, wind upto 45mph, Snow above 500m, Recommended to carry ice axe and crampons. “

Oh no! We don’t have ice axes or crampons!

We decided we’ll keep heading up, and stop if we feel it’s getting too difficult, or we can’t find safe footing. I think we made the right choice, but please do consider this before you head off. There were some people we met on the way up, who had decided it was too dangerous and they were heading back. The climb would have been much easier had we packed proper snow equipment, but it never reached a point we considered dangerous to ourselves.

We also saw many signs around the start warning NOT to climb the closest peak you see in front of you. It isn’t snowdon! It’s a very difficult climb named crib goch, and should not be attempted unless you’re very experienced. It looks extremely difficult even from the bottom, and we didn’t even attempt it! It certainly wouldn’t have been safe in these conditions.

As we walk up the stone steps, the sheer size already sets in. You’re really climbing a mountain! With crib goch out ahead, and giant valleys spanning to the right and behind you, it’s difficult not to stop and marvel at the landscape!

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That last pic is crib goch looming overhead.

 

So as we continued on, I realised I was getting tired much too quickly. I had packed on the layers and was wearing a giant pea coat over everything. I realise now this was stupid – but I just didn’t have the gear I needed. The coat went into the bag and I continued on – my body heat was more than enough and kept me warm without that huge thing. I wish I’d left it in the car, but it became extra weight on my back!

As you continue up the stone step, you eventually reach a bend, and get to peer down at the beautiful reservoirs below. It serves as a good indication of how high you’ve climbed already!

Snowdon Reservoir Panorama

It’s absolutely stunning, and S wanted to visit just this incredible view alone!

We pushed further onward and up, slowly getting higher and higher, into the snow and wind! It was a bit worrying without ice axes and crampons, but luckily I have the karrimor snowfur boots I bought for our norway trip – they kept my feet nice and toasty!

We met a few people travelling in both directions, we stropped for a chat to everyone on the way down to ask how they managed. Most said it was possible without snow equipment, and seemed confident we could continue! Great news!

Because of the snow, it got a little difficult to find the trail sometimes! We even ended up climbing a treacherous face that we didn’t need to, because we went off track!

Snow at Snowdon

As we got to the top stone steps, things got much more slippery, and we had to hang on to the fencing to keep our balance. This was the only part of the trip I felt was risky without Crampons – but we continued on slowly, being very careful of our footing and making sure we kept holding ourselves up! Although, as the point in the picture above, we stopped for a bite to eat, and S’s glove flew down to the bottom! Unbelievably we found it on the way back down!

The very top of the pyg track, where it meets the railway, was the hardest part of the climb – It became extremely slippery and steep, and we had to crawl upwards, being careful not to slide at all. It’s difficult to show in pictures just how steep this section was. As we reached the top of this short section, we were pleased to see flat ground and the top marker! It was incredible to see how the extreme winds and cold had made icicles that stuck sideways to everything around us!

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I wish I could say that the view from the summit was the best I’d ever seen – but the cloud cover was too great! We were left with this!

Snowdon summit in the snow

We had no shelter up here – S’s hair was literally freezing, with bits of ice in it, and the wind was very fast, so we decided to keep moving and head back down before we warmed up!

It was an absolutely incredible journey, and it’s got us hooked – next stop Ben Nevis! It’s already booked for mid June!

Our Trip To Snowdon – Starting Out

Sometimes when you’re stuck in a rut, going to work everyday and sitting at home indoors every evening you feel like you need an adventure. That’s why S and I planned a trip for her birthday: to climb one of the highest Peaks in the UK, Mount Snowdon. Other than brown willy in sunny Cornwall we haven’t really Had experience with climbing and especially not in the winter So it was going to be interesting whether it went well or not!!

We set off early in the morning with a car packed full of bags (and camera gear!) ready for our stay in an amazing cottage that we found on airbnb last minute.

The seven hour drive went reasonably fast, even though we had to take a detour from the motorway. Although this just meant we got to see even more of the beautiful welsh countryside. As we drove on, and the mountains came into sight I was stunned by just how beautiful North wales and the National Park of Snowdonia was, and had a hard job keeping my eyes on the road with such incredible vistas around me! I even had to get out of the car to take some snaps!

Welsh Lake with trees

On the way we stopped off at supermarket can get some food and provisions for the climb and the couple of nights stay,  including some birthday treats for S! Steak for dinner tomorrow! By the time we reached the Cottage we were under the cover of night and had to rush through the rain to get all of our bags indoors – The weather didn’t look great for the climb! Once in, we were pleased to see a giant log burner aga fireplace, and didn’t take long to get it set up and make ourselves a tea. We didn’t stay up long as we had a mountain to climb tomorrow!

Warm aga fireplace

 

Why I’m Looking Forward to Ben Nevis This Summer

So it’s confirmed! My girlfriend and I have booked our trip to Ben Nevis in June! We’ve managed to get the cheapest possible trip from Cornwall to Scotland via 2 megabuses and renting a car in Glasgow for a week!

We’re planning on camping on the highest UK peak and try to spend a week out in the wild, walking and camping and generally enjoying the amazing Scottish highlands! It’s not only climbing the highest peak in Scotland (which is obviously an exciting thought!) but the surrounding area looks incredible!

Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe by Joachim Lindenmann on 500px.com

 

Sunrise over Ben Nevis by camerondj1970 on 500px.com

 

Even something simple like a boat grounded on Caol Beach looks surreal against the rugged landscape.

Just like when we visited Snowdon – I think the Landscape will be a massive change from the relatively flat cornish hills, and leave us stunned at every turn!

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to be visiting in the snow and ice, but I think that’s wise for our first camp at Ben Nevis – I doubt it’s the kind of thing we can just jump into unprepared and we certainly don’t have the equipment to deal with ice climbing… So don’t expect anything this extreme just yet!

ice in the gloom by ian mcintosh on 500px.com

 

I really can’t wait to fall asleep under the stars and wake up to the sun peeking over the horizon! I’m certainly looking forward to running a timelapse or two! I can imagine the stars will look incredible spinning over the peaks of the mountains that surround us!

I’m excited for every part of the journey. I’ve never been on a sleeper bus before so that’ll be interesting, and then I’ve never seen Glasgow, where we’ll be renting a small car and spending the first and final days of our journey. A beautiful city in its own right, and one I’ve always wanted to visit. I hope to get some interesting cityscape shots here.

Scott street - Glasgow, Scotland - Black and white street photography by Giuseppe Milo on 500px.com

 

And then we travel north to get to Ben Nevis – which means going up through Loch Lomond. A place I visited for a single night whilst working over 10 years ago! I don’t remember much, but do remember the area was outstandingly beautiful!

Dukes sunrise... by David Mould on 500px.com

 

And then we go even further north, through Glencoe! I’ve never been here – but again, It’s an area of the world that looks amazing, with green rolling hills everywhere you look. It looks as if it may be very similar to Snowdonia, and I can’t wait to see it in real life. I wonder if we can set up camp here one night.

Glen Coe, by Dave Hudspeth on 500px.com

 

As you can see, everything looks incredible, and I’m extremely excited to get going! We set off on June 18th!

Should You Use A Tripod For Your Travel Photos?

Today I’ll discuss the matter of tripods, and how they fit with travel photography. Tripod come in a variety of shapes and sizes, made with various materials and with heads for various needs – but do we need them when travelling?

As with many things in photography – it depends!

What and where will you be shooting?

If you’re shooting street photography in Barcelona for example – you’re going to want to travel light and not draw attention to all your gear. You’ll likely want a small perhaps mirrorless camera, and a single small lens with it. And that’s all!

Barcalona Gotico ArchBarcelona Montserrat Landscape

Personally when I’m going into cities and travelling light, I rely on just a small compact and shoot handheld (resulting in the shots above).

However you’re at the mercy of light! If it starts getting darker, your shutter time will increase, leading to blurry images! make sure you’re shooting at a high shutter speed if you want to go hand held! it really depends on your lens, and whether you have image stabilisation, but if you stick to 100th of a second you shouldn’t go wrong! As you get lower, your shot time will get higher, so think about trading it off for a higher ISO. grainy pictures are better than unusable blurry pictures any day.

Another bonus to shooting handheld is not having to worry about taking your tripod on the plane! Although these days, with newer carbon fiber technology you could buy a very small lightweight tripod for perfectly still images if you’d rather plan your shots out in advance.

If however you’re planning on taking long exposure shots or beautiful planned-out spanning landscapes at sunset – you’ll need a tripod, no matter what.You’ll need to have a higher aperture to keep everything in the image sharp, and you’ll want minimal camera shake. None at all if possible. The less light you’re dealing with – the higher likelihood you’ll want a tripod. Especially if you’re planning night shoots. But you always have to think about how possible it is! If you’re hiking for a long way you’ll need a smaller lighter tripod – but if you’re near transport and you don’t have to carry it far, a more sturdy tripod is preferred.

It’s always a trade off between stability and maneuverability. You need to pick what’s most important to you in each situation!

 

 

 

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