A short film of our August trip to Dartmoor National Park
SIGG Switzerland Bottles sent us this product to test out and review.
A flask is a tricky thing to review. If you want all the technical specs then try the SIGG website , but at the heart of it a flask either keeps things hot, or it doesn’t, so I thought I’d talk about how a flask could help us out on the trail.
We have a bit of a routine on the trail. I’m always the first to leave the warm embrace of my sleeping bag and keenest to get packed up and start knocking off some miles.
Hazel and the kids are a little different and have to be “persuaded” to get up and about. For Hazel, the biggest factor is the presence of tea. She really will not get out of her bag if her cuppa isn’t made. So that’s the first job every morning. Get the stove out and brew up.
Once she’s has a lovely, warm beverage, I put the stove back on to boil water for our little SIGG flasks, which keep a brew lovely and hot all day. By the time we’ve packed up we’ve had our tea, AND got the next one sorted out already.
Here’s the first problem. Hazel is a tea monster with an asbestos tongue. So while my little flask can last all day, hers is usually empty by lunchtime. The other issue is the kids. Clearly we’re not sharing my coffee with 3 kiddos under 12 but we do carry some hot choc powder for them. So by the time lunch rolls around I’m brewing up again. So maybe a larger flask is a good idea.
We haven’t as yet taken the Gemstone out on a long trail, that’s in the planning stages, but we have taken it out a couple of times when we’ve headed up the woods or on a little day hike and the access to a litre of hot chocolate has really gone down well with the children. It’s also saved time as I haven’t had to carry and set up the stove and all the gubbins required to brew up mid hike.
The last time I reviewed SIGG products I gave a list of reasons why I liked them, so here’s something similar for the Gemstone.
- It looks really cool. Ours is silver and I could probably use it as a shaving mirror (If I also bought a razor), although I’m sure it’ll get battered over coming months. Which brings us to …..
- It feels really solid and robust. The lid is sturdy and feels like the leakproof claims will hold up and I feel confident that it’ll take a fall or get kicked about at the crag without taking anything but superficial damage.
- It’s light. Which should be number 1 really as it’s a massive factor when packing for a long trail. Now the kids are bigger I’m sure one of them will mange it for the promise of hot choc.
- Sustainability. This is a massive thing for us as we continue to aim for plastic free hiking and a product that helps us reduce our footprint is always a plus.
We’re heading off on the South West Coast Path in the coming months so we’ll give this a real thorough test on a long trail and let you know how it performs.
After going out on a few longer 2 day hikes we felt confident enough to have a proper backpacking trip. Packing for that first trip on the West Highland Way was difficult and we carried way too much stuff which kind of hampered the enjoyment of the first couple of days. By the 5th day on trail we had whittled down some of the excess and ate a lot of the food we had been carrying so things became easier. We went from what we might need to what we had actually used. We also had a better idea of how much food we needed to carry for each day so when we resupplied in Crianlarich we weren’t overburdened.
Since that first long hike we’ve refined what we take and how much food we carry and while our packs are much lighter these days, hiking 100 miles with 3 kids under 10 is never going to be “ultra-light”.
As in the previous posts in this series, this a list of things we take on a backpacking trip, not exhaustive but it works for us. The basis of it is the previous post on Wild Camping so you probably want to check that out first and once again if you have any ideas on how we can further reduce our load please give us a shout in the comments below.
Tent or Tarp, Sleep Mats, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Clothes, Extra Warm Layers
Stove, Bowls Mugs, Cutlery, Water Filter, Map and Compass, Trowel and Toilet Roll,Hand Sanitiser, First Aid Kit, Mobile/Smart Phone, Waterproofs, Suncream,GPS Device, Travel Towel, Camera, Walking Poles, Head Torch & Whistle, Extra Luxuries – Kindle, Notebook Teddy
The things above are on the wildcamping post but there’s a few extra things we take with us and a couple of things needing further comment.
Food and Water.
As we like to be as self sufficient on the trail as possible we need to carry more water than we would on an overnight hike. We use a 3 litre and a 2 litre water bladder as well as carrying a bottle each. We try and keep the 2 litre bladder for cooking with and the bigger one for drinking and we have our trusty water filter to top up from natural sources.
In the planning stages of the trip I try to note the resupply options for stocking up on food and try to carry as little as possible while maintaining a semblance of responsibility. We have found that 5 days food is the most we can carry (remember there’s 5 of us). We can hike up to 15 miles a day but we average 10 so a 30 mile stretch requires food for 3 days. Plus I also carry an emergency meal and a few snacks should things go awry and we don’t get to a shop when planned.
When we started our first backpacking trip I had these grand ideals of spurning cafes and tea shops (mainly due to budget restrictions) but as things have progressed we have realised that these are a welcome relief when they come and we try to factor in a bought meal so we don’t have to carry one.
Hygiene and Cleanliness
When we headed out on the West Highland Way our youngest was just 5 years old and as you know from having kids, sometimes accidents happen. The worst case scenario is an overnight “accident” resulting in a wet sleeping bag. On that first trip we carried some pull up pants but as the kids have got older we can’t take that easy option. We carry a small amount of liquid handwash which gets the worst out and we can usually dry the bag out or find a campsite with a washing machine.
We also have some liquid soap for washing ourselves when showers are available but when they’re not we still wash the kids with a soapy flannel and water every couple of days, just to get the worst off.
Another handy tool is the packet of moist toilet tissue, for obvious reasons and we have plenty of hand sanitiser. Both my wife and me carry a bottle, there’s a third one kept with the trowel/toilet paper and another smaller one in the first aid kit for that purpose only. It may sound like overkill but there’s nothing worse than gut rot on the trail.
Obviously a 10 day hike doesn’t need 10 different outfits but you may need more changes than on an overnight wildcamp. While I personally only carry a spare baselayer and some trousers (I hike in shorts) as extra clothing we usually take 2 full changes for the kids plus a fleece “Onesie” for each of them. Sometimes they sleep in them, usually its just an extra layer for at camp or when they get out of their sleeping bags. (I think I’ll do a longer post on clothing if you think that will be helpful)
While our backpacks have raincovers we double down and pack everything into dry bags. It’s a great way to organise the gear too so each child’s spare clothes are in a labelled bag, the sleeping bags are kept dry and even the trowel and toilet paper have their own drybag which gets stowed on the outside of a pack.
These bags keep everything together and when you need that one bit of kit from the bottom of the bag in a rainstorm, everything else stays dry.
So if you combine this post with the previous one you should have a good idea on what to pack for a backpacking trip. There’s a handy checklist you can download below and I’d love to hear your thoughts about packing for a long hike whether your a veteran long distance hiker or just venturing out with the kids for the first time.
After a while, hiking out and back in a day, we decided to dip our toes into wildcamping. The first image that comes into my head when thinking of wildcamping is of a solo hiker, setting up a tiny tent or bivvy, out of sight of everyone else, maybe up on a quiet hill or behind a hedge in a field. It seemed too tricky to do with 3 children in tow. Our first experience was in Scotland where wildcamping is widely permitted and we used our little blue tent. Since then we’ve gotten braver and now use the tarp and have wildcamped where its not as widely accepted. Some notable camps have included Brook and Tennyson Downs on the Isle of Wight, The New Forest and Dartmoor (although it is permitted across a large part of this particular national park). The usual rules apply; pitch late, pack up early and make sure you “Leave No Trace”.
Obviously, along with our usual hiking gear, we need some extra kit for wild camping so if you use the previous posts on lowland and mountain day hiking as a guide and then add the following. Once again we may not use something that you can’t do without or we may carry something completely frivolous, we can have a chat about that in the comments below. Again there’s a downloadable checklist for your own use if you like that sort of thing.
We started off using our 3 man tent, mainly because of the security it provided from the elements and the kids seemed more confident in the tent. We did find that the footprint was too large for lots of perfect wild spots so we would have to hike on and usually end up at a less than perfect spot.
Now we take the 3x3m tarp and there’s various ways we can set it up depending on location and conditions using a few pegs and two walking pole. For instance, we’ve had it as an open ended A Frame structure when its been dry and as a fully enclosed pyramid when its been raining. It’s easier to fit under a more open set up but we can squeeze all 5 of us into a protected rain shield set up.
Sleep mats to get us up off the ground a bit. We started off with the basic foam roll mats but us parents have graduated onto inflatable mats just for the sake of a better nights sleep. The kids seem perfectly happy on the foam mats and they are nice and light for them to carry during the day.
Sleeping bags are tricky, you can spend loads of money on ultralight, super warm bags but we don’t have loads of cash. The kids use fairly cheap 250gsm child size bags and have never complained of being cold at night (even in the snow on Glyndwrs Way). In the height of summer we parents use really lightweight bags which are small and easily packable but in early spring and into autumn we do have some slightly warmer bags but if we get chilly we put on extra clothes. It’s a real balancing act between overnight comfort and weight/packed size when you have to carry it.
Put your spare clothes in a dry bag and use that as a pillow. Or use a child!
We generally like to have a set of clothes to sleep in. Not only does it prevent damp or muddy clothes getting in the sleeping bag but it also helps the kids settle down for the night after the excitement of hiking and setting up camp.
We generally use a small compact gas stove. It’s easy to carry and use, and the fuel is readily available. We generally use it to boil water for a brew or to rehydrate noodles or porridge oats. By only boiling water in it we can usually get away with giving it a quick wipe out with a small cloth.
We eat out of those small collapsible bowls which pack flat but hold a suprising amount and we each have a small mug for drinking. We also use a small plastic cutlery set which we picked up from a local supermarket. The kids have their own bowls and cutlery which they are responsible for on the trip. If it’s dirty, they clean it.
We always carry a small water filter although I can count the number of times we’ve used it on one hand. While water is essential for drinking, cooking and washing (ourselves as well as the cook stuff) it weighs heavy, 1 litre of water weighs 1 kilo before you put it in something so try to carry “just enough”. We can usually find a tap if we need it but its nice to know we can provide safe water from a muddy puddle if all else fails.
If we’re just out for a night we usually carry something to heat for dinner like noodles or pasta snacks, some porridge (usually in sachets) for breakfast and some snacks for during the day. I usually carry a few cereal bars at the bottom of my pack for an emergency breakfast if we can’t make porridge for whatever reason (usually rain!). On top of the little ziplock of coffee which I can’t operate without, we take some hot chocolate for the kids too.
Sometimes we have to wait to pitch up, one of our local wildcamp spots is only about 1/2 a mile from a car park that’s fairly popular with dog walkers. Fortunately we can see the car park from our spot but we’re still fairly hidden but we won’t pitch up the tarp until the last car has gone. Occasionally we may have to wait for a couple of hours so we take a few things to keep everyone happy.
Kindle – Mrs Jones will sit and read stories to the kids while I’m making dinner or brewing up a warm drink. The kindle is lighter than most paperbacks but holds such a variety of books and stories that everyone is entertained.
Sketchbook, Notepad etc – I like to sit and make notes of the earlier hiking or specifics about the camp or just funny things the kids come out with. Lil has just started keeping a hiking journal, Isaac keeps a note of our climbing trips and Mrs Jones like to sketch and draw. I made her a hiking art kit for her birthday based on a video I found on youtube and she loves it.
Cards – usually top trumps.
Teddies. – There’s always room in a backpack for a special furry friend.
Anyway these little extras are what we use and I’m sure you’ll have your own ideas on what you might like to carry.
I hope you find this helpful, please let us know what you think in the comments, whether your just thinking about taking your kids wildcamping or have been doing so for years, it’d be great to hear your thoughts.
As often as possible we head for the mountains. Our location on the South Coast means that we generally head for Snowdonia or the Brecon Beacons. Usually the journey takes us 4 or 5 hours including a ferry crossing so heading further North is usually reserved for longer holidays.
The first post in this series detailed what we carry when in hike in lowland areas and to be honest that list is a good basis for hiking in mountainous areas with 3 kids. However there are a few extra bits we like to carry with us in the mountains. Some are for additional safety, some to make the trail a bit easier and I’m sure there’s some things we don’t carry that maybe we should and some that may seem excessive, let me know your thoughts on the comments below. There’s also a handy checklist you can download below if you find that sort thing useful.
Basic Gear – See previous post on lowland hiking for full details
Food and Water, Map and Compass, Trowel and Toilet Roll, Hand Sanitiser,
First Aid Kit, Smartphone, Extra Warm Layers, Waterproofs, Suncream,Whistle,
GPS Device, Geocaching Kit, Travel Towel, Camera
On top of this we also carry;
Climbing mountains is hard work, especially for kids so plan in more snack breaks than when hiking in lowland areas. More breaks means carrying more food. Also a hot drink is nice when it gets chilly. We started off carrying a thermos of hot water and some little sachets of coffee or hot chocolate but now we carry a little stove instead and just brew without having to ration hot water. If you go down the thermos route, just carry hot water and sachets because if it gets cold then you can still use it. Cold coffee is the worst!
Probably more essential than when hiking lower down. On average the temperature drops by 1 degree celsius for each 100 metres of elevation so T-shirt weather on the beach can still be quite chilly on the summit. The higher points of the mountains are generally more exposed so the wind can prove to be a factor.
Always carry waterproofs on the mountains. They can produce their own microclimates so rain can be expected anytime. We noticed this on Snowdon when a beautiful morning turned quickly into dampness as we climbed into the clouds. The weather forecast for Beddgelert, at the foot of the hill, was set fair but by 5pm on the mountain it was torrential rain. When we got back to the village, the roads were dry.
Great for powering up hill, brilliant for helping to keep your balance on the way down. To be honest, when we go with the kids I usually only use them coming down. I suffer a bit with knee pain after twisting it nastily on Cadar Idris, and I’ve noticed a significant improvement when using poles, especially on the descent.
Most emergency shelters are suited for two people and while we could squeeze in at a pinch, I’ve taken to carrying a 3x3m lightweight tarp. I can make a shelter with it using the walking poles and a few pegs. If the weather is truly awful I can make a fully enclosed shelter to protect all 5 of us from the elements.
On our first trip up Snowdon we started hiking at 8am and even though the route guide said 3 hours up and 2 back we were still hiking at 6pm. The clocks had changed the previous weekend so it was dark before we got back to the car. And while I didn’t “need” the head torch on that well marked and surfaced track (The Miners Track) I was certainly glad to have when searching for car keys in my backpack. As an additional note, you can also signal for help with a torch should you get caught out.
The next post in this “What’s in your pack” series is packing for overnight wildcamping trips with the kids. As usual there’s a checklist for you to download below and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this subject through the comments section.
Fast Packing. Apparently its a thing. Rather than simply hiking with a big pack its a combination of hiking and trail running. Using gear that increases in price as it decreases in weight, packs are light, kit is minimal and miles get covered.
I started training this year for an ultra marathon so I’ve been building up my mileage on the local trails. A week or so ago I decided to test myself and after packing enough kit to keep me alive overnight I headed out to see how far I’d come since I started running regularly in July.
Here’s a little video we made while hiking the downs and forest above Brighstone, here on the island. It’s one of our favourite spots and it’s a go to for slacklining, trail running and even wildcamping. (Always LNT).
This was a particularly windy day but we still managed to find a few blackberries and butterflies and generally had a blast.
Surely starting next to a named body of salt water and finishing next another named something different counts as a Coast to Coast Hike? Like the North Sea to the Irish Sea. Or in this case, the Solent to the English Channel.
Dad! Shift your butt over!!!
We made a little video of our recent hike down one riverbank and back up the other. It’s over on our new YouTube channel so head over and give us a subscribe,
Our first trip of the year was kind of a special one. We went to Portland. Now before you get all excited about artisan bakers/coffee houses/woodworkers/hipsters it wasn’t that Portland. We visited Portland, DORSET. The home of the famous lighthouse(s), cement and some of the best sport climbing and bouldering in the South of England.
It’s not always strenuous hikes and long trails. Sometimes we like to find other things to do while out and about. This was the case last year when, with time between a visit to the Peak District and a family occasion in Doncaster, we headed up for a day at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
We had camped the night before and were feeling a little dishevelled when we arrived at the park. We negotiated the toilets and as it had just started to rain a little we had look around the indoor galleries which were pretty impressive. Some of the stuff went straight over my head but Hazel was really enjoying herself and there was even an area for the kids to contribute some works of art of their own.
We headed outside, through what I would describe as a well kept sculpture garden, just with far cooler sculptures than I usually see in gardens through the course of a day at work, and out into the larger park, complete with a lake, parkland, woods and livestock. Now things got interesting. While we had a map we didn’t use it to navigate, we just wondered down paths and between hedges and in circles, all the while being surprised and excited by what came around the next corner. By the end of the day we had probably covered 4 or 5 miles and that counts as hiking to me.
The biggest highlight for me was simply how these massive installations just looked at home in the countryside. The army of sculpted figures in an open space felt like that was where they were meant to be, as did the giant head amongst the trees across the lake, even the massive rabbit headed lady didn’t look out of place and I suppose that’s the point of it right? Right? Just making sure!
I’ve just been on the website and they’ve got an exhibition of Norman Ackroyd images called The Furthest Lands until February 2019 so we might try and organise another trip in the new year.
Located in West Bretton, near Wakefield, and it’s basically a 500 acre art gallery with loads of contemporary sculptures spread throughout its park and woodland.
It is home to pieces by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
(My far more cultured wife tells me these are important creators).
Its extremely child friendly, accessible and cheap, you only pay for parking AND you get the added bonus of a half decent hike if you explore for a whole day.
I bought this product with whatever money I had left after the kids had been fed, clothed and sheltered.
The opinions expressed in the post are my own.
Here’s an idea. Plan a hiking trip with your family. The kids are small and can’t carry much but that’s ok because Mum and Dad can carry most of their stuff. We won’t go far, just around 100 miles on the West Highland Way. That will be a perfect first hike. Great. Until you grab your pack and realise its just far too heavy to carry for even 2 or 3 of the proposed 96 miles. So you start culling stuff. That extra fleece can go, how much underwear do I really need. Those 2 self inflating sleep pads that weigh nearly a kilogram each are probably overkill, and what difference do those thin foam ones make anyway.
It’s the first night in the tent, in Scotland, in very early April. We’re wishing we had carried the sleeping mats. The kids have got one of the foam ones each and are surprisingly cosy but Hazel and I are freezing. I emptied my pack and slept on the empty rucksack. Turns out those mats make a huge difference so we picked up 2 more foam pads before hitting the trail and we were much less cold.
This year I treated myself to a new sleep pad. I was tired of carrying the weight of the self inflating one and the foam ones were just a little bulky so I thought I’d try an inflatable one. After a while trying to decide which to go for, I went for the Numo from Alpkit. It was reasonably priced and so much smaller and lighter than the ones we had. It was cheaper than similar options from other manufacturers and I felt a nice warm feeling inside by supporting a smaller UK company besides, I’d previously bought a top and a crash pad from them and was very happy with the speedy service and the hand written thank you note that was in the package.
It came out of the box, even smaller than expected and weighed next to nothing in my hand. I immediately went to the Gear Store (or the cupboard under stairs as Hazel calls it), grabbed the old one for comparison and bounced into the living room to excitedly show off the size difference to anyone who was there. Evan said it was cool but no-one else seemed interested.
Time to blow it up. The info said you could inflate with 12 breaths and it wasn’t many more before I’m lying down on it in the kitchen. It was nice and comfy and surprisingly non-slidy and as soon Hazel had tried it out (again on the kitchen floor) I was back on the computer ordering one for her.
So we’ve used them for all this years camping trip since our snowy Glyndwrs Way hike where they would have been useful. They’ve performed really well in the tent and under a tarp both with and without a groundsheet. I would be extra careful if you don’t have a groundsheet because I’d imagine a gorse or bramble thorn would lead to a harder nights sleep but so far no punctures and we’ve been wild camping more this year than we have been to camp sites.
There are a couple of huge outcomes for us after buying these mats. The first is the weight and bulk savings, and while I’m sure you could get a lighter mat, I reckon you’ll struggle to get one at this price point and made from the same tough material. The second is that we actually sleep well on them so we’re better rested to wrangle 3 kids along the trail
The only drawback is that the kids want one each now I’m happy to get them one because they’ll last them for a couple of years at least, I’m not sure if I can fit 5 of them in our little blue tent.
*I bought this product with my own money.
The post contains an affiliate link so if you choose to purchase this product from that provider, we will see a small kickback if you use the link provided.
We have also included direct links to the manufacturer if you prefer to order direct.
It seems it’s really hard to review a water bottle. I’ve been sat here for ages, typing a bit, deleting, starting over. How do you review a bottle. It holds water. Done. What I think I’ll do is try to tell you why I like these particular bottles so much. And if that helps you in the decision making process, I’ve done alright.
- They feel solid. These are the metal ones and feel really durable. We’ve bought cheaper alternatives before and once they’ve been dropped a couple of times they split. These bad boys have already been dropped numerous times and wear their scars beautifully. Also the lids fit well while on cheaper ones there’s always a fear that the seal will go or the lid will get cross-threaded, not on these.
- The Hot and Cold bottle does exactly what its supposed to do. The heat retention is amazing. I take one with me for work everyday and because I work so, so hard, I can make 300ml of black coffee last all day. And it’s still hot, not warm but hot. In fact, after making my coffee at 7 am, it’s just about cooled down enough by lunchtime. The instructions say to warm the flask before filling but unless you like your coffee at the temperature of a thermo-nuclear war you may want to skip that step.
- They look good! For once I’m not the guy on the trail or at the climbing gym with a scrunchy plastic water bottle. People have even commented on the coolness of my SIGG bottles (the black & orange one especially) and believe me as I near 40, cool matters!
- And this is probably the biggest factor. I use them. Maybe it’s my subconscious justifying the extra money spent on these bottles but I’ve always got one nearby, so I drink more water, which I’m told is good.
- As we’re yet another blog taking on single-use plastics with our Zero Waste Hiking plans, I need to mention this. Any reusable water bottle, even the cheap ones are better than their single use alternatives but by spending a little more cash on a simple item, we look after it better. The chance of it getting left behind is reduced as is the risk of dropping off a ledge, and while these seem to last longer than others, if you do lose a lid, SIGG actually sell spare parts!
So thats 5 reasons we love our SIGG bottles and once our children’s plastic bottles for school get lost/broken/chewed we’ll be in the market for a few more.
View the range of SIGG products on Amazon UK*