Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Review - Real Turmat Cod in Curry Sauce

Product Review

I was recently invited to be on the 'tasting panel' by Basecamp Foods. The deal is that they send me a free meal and I write an honest review. Seems fair enough. They sent me my first meal a few weeks ago and having no wild camps imminently planned, I took it on a recent campervan holiday in the Lakes.

Real Turmat is a brand that I've heard of via the @basecampfood twitter account, but I have never tried any of their meals. Its essentially a freeze dried meal similar to many others that I've used but this particular brand uses a vacuum pack to minimise packing size/weight and improve shelf life. This one was dated 2021 and weighed 101g on my scales (manufactures dry weight is quoted as 85g).

101 grams 

I like the vacuum pack. It feels as firm as a brick which gives confidence that it can be crammed into the corner of a rucksack with the assurance that its unlikely to tear. It definitely feels like a stronger format that the loose freeze dried packaging that I've used previously. The only disadvantage is that its not easy to read the instructions as the pack is so crinkly. Thankfully, its not rocket science though.

The pack has 2 tear lines. The top one is torn so as to open it for filling with your boiling water. Just under this tear line is a grip seal which is then closed to keep the heat in for the required 8 minutes while the meal rehydrates. There is a water level marker on the outside of the package. Personally I found this a bit awkward to line up. It is however preferable to the system I've used previously where you have to add a certain volume of water which can be difficult to measure accurately when out in the field. In my opinion, a marker line inside the pack would be the perfect system.

Vacuum Packaging

After 8 mins, you can then undo the grip seal and your meal is ready. You can use the lower tear line if you want a shallower package for eating out of. In this way you can use a normal size spork and still reach right to the bottom without dousing your knuckles. You would otherwise need a long handled spoon.

Looks good / Tastes good


I must admit to being a bit dubious about a dehydrated cod curry but it was actually very nice. It reconstituted really well despite me probably using slightly less water than would be ideal (see previous comment about getting the water level right). The consistency was good. There was a nice mix of cod and potato/veg/sauce. The cod tasted great. The pack was easy to handle and stood up by itself due to the flat base. My only complaint was that is was a bit bland for my taste. A hotter curry flavour would have been more tasty for me but that's a personal preference. Overall though, this was a really nice meal which I would be more than happy to have again. At £9.99 its certainly not cheap but the quality is markedly higher than similar meals I've had around the £7 to £8 price point. I have had some shockingly bad freeze dried meals over the years but this one is right up there with the very best. I would be interested to try some of the other meals from this brand - a chicken curry would be nice please dear Basecamp Foods :-)

Nutritional info is as follows :- Energy 1615kj / 386 kcal, Protein 19g, Carbohydrate 34g, Sugar 4.6g, Fat 19g, Saturated Fat 5g, Salt 3.6g.


This product was sent to me free of charge from There was no obligation to write a favourable review. My review is honest and independent.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Life of a Mountain: Blencanthra

I had the pleasure of watching Terry Abraham's new film last night as he released a digital copy to Indiegogo backers. I have to say that it was a delightful watch. Terry has specifically asked folk to avoid spoilers and so this short review is deliberately vague and non specific but I hope gives a general flavour of the film.

Firstly, this feels like a real evolution since 'Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike'. Terry has clearly developed his art and the step up in overall quality is clear to see. It looks and feels like a more polished presentation. The overall structure flows better with a more defined beginning, middle and end. It follows the same documentary style with set pieces interposed by the stunning scenery and sweeping vistas characteristic of Terry's work. The use of aerial videography is an obvious addition to the Scafell Pike film and adds some visually stunning scenes which offer a genuinely new perspective to this familiar landscape. Threaded seamlessley throughout the film is Freddie Hangoler's score which provides the perfect backdrop for the visuals. 

Overall, the material is rich and varied but Blencathra itself is always the focal point. The mountain is thoroughly explored from the perspectives of a wide variety of different people from historians to thrill seekers, tourists to locals. Their stories create a changing mood throughout the film as we hear tales of adventure, hope, struggle and tragedy but the overall narrative is weaved together perfectly by local guide David Powell-Thompson who describes the scenery with reassuring expertise.

I think this film most definitely achieves its goal in describing the 'life' of Blencathra and the local community. It's difficult to offer a more detailed or critical review without revealing spoilers but suffice to say that I would be surprised if anyone is disappointed with this impressive piece of work. Terry's films really are a unique addition to the genre and genuinely raise the bar in outdoor film making. The many hours spent alone on the mountain lugging heavy equipment or waiting patiently for the perfect shot has clearly paid dividends. This is patient, unrushed and meticulous film making which Terry has clearly invested considerable effort in bringing to fruition. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed it and I expect it will look breathtaking when it debuts on the big screen in May. I understand that Helvellyn will be the final mountain in the trilogy and I for one, am looking forward to it immensely.

Monday, August 3, 2015

First Night in the As Tucas Down Quilt

I wouldn't normally write any sort of gear review after just one nights use but as many people have been asking about the As Tucas quilt I thought I would write a brief 'early opinion' following the first look post a few weeks ago. I camped up on Scafell summit last Thursday night under a tarp and with the quilt in a very roomy MLD superlight bivvy. The temperature was about 6 degrees C and it rained. The trip is described here.

So was I warm enough?
Yes, absolutely. I wore some very thin base layer leggings, a 100 weight fleece top and a beanie hat. If anything I was a bit too warm and could have left the fleece off. I didn't need to wrap the quilt around me like a cocoon. My feet were toasty.

Was it draughty?
I was in a bivvy bag so I didn't feel any draughts. Without a bivvy may have been a different story. I would have tucked the edges under me in that case.

Was it roomy?
Yes indeed. This was the single biggest difference between the quilt and a mummy bag. I could stretch out a knee or an elbow and turn over with ease. I am a side sleeper and tend to turn over lots. This is not an easy manoeuvre in a mummy bag as the bag turns with me so the hood ends up on top and I end up lying on the zip. In the quilt though I was laid directly on the mat and so could turn over without taking the quilt with me. This made for a notably more comfortable night for me. I did experiment with the 2 press stud fasteners. With both fastened it felt just like a mummy bag but with a bit more room. With just the lower one fastened the quilt was snug around hips but allowed plenty of torso room. My preference was to have both unfastened though. The large MLD bivvy didn't impede movement at all.

Any other thoughts?
Well I can confirm that the Shoeller fabric is at least water resistant as rain splash crept in around the neck of the quilt. Also, at some point I fell asleep with my head under the bivvy which resulted in much condensation which also wet the outer quilt fabric. The down stayed dry though and continued to loft well. 

So far so good then. I want to use it under the trailstar or a tent next, without a bivvy. I can then see how it copes with draughts.


Friday, June 26, 2015

As Tucas Custom Down Quilt - First Look

I have new Gear !! First look at the As Tucas Down Quilt

The inherent design flaw with down sleeping bags is that all the insulation underneath you is compressed by your body weight to a degree where it loses all thermal efficiency. This squashed down is essentially dead weight. The idea behind a quilt is to eliminate this dead weight and instead use the insulating properties of the mat to protect you from the cold ground.

As Tucas Down Quilt bottom ....

... and top

This idea was popularised by legendary America backpacker Ray Jardine and has since become become very popular, particularly within the lightweight backpacking community in the States.

This short video from 'standing bear' explains the concept a little better than I can.

 Personally I've never really got on with mummy sleeping bags. Not so much for the reasons above but more because I'm a fidgety sleeper.  I tend to roll over a lot, throw arms and legs out all over the place and generally not stay in one position for long. As such, I'm forever twisting and turning; trying to move the zip, that was in the perfect position 10 minutes ago, out from underneath me. Or I'm straining the fabric trying to stretch out a knee or an elbow. I'm very envious of those lucky folk who can sleep on their backs without moving from dusk til dawn.

 Quilts are therefore an attractive proposition to me, and after doing a bit a reading around the subject, I bit the bullet and ordered a custom down quilt from Marco at As Tucas. It arrived a few days ago and I thought it would be worth posting a few pics, a few stats and a few thoughts.

  As Tucas offer an increasing number of ultralight outdoor products but they also offer a custom made service. I therefore emailed Marco with my quilt requirements; namely that I like a bit of wriggle room, that I'm 5' 10" and I would like it keep me warm down to about freezing point. He suggested a custom made sestrels quilt with 350g down in size medium length and regular width. The sestrels quilt in its usual form is synthetic and the details can be found here. I understand that Marco will be selling the 'Foratata' down quilt from July 15th, which is almost identical to this one.

  On initial inspection the quality of workmanship is superb. There really isn't a stitch out of place. The quilt is simplicity itself with a roomy enclosed foot box and a open back which can be closed up by fastening 2 press studs.

 This particular quilt uses 350g of pure white 900 cuin down sourced from Poland. It has an estimated comfort rating of 0 degrees C. The fabric is Schoeller 12 denier which is 28g/m2. It is windproof and breathable. It has an 'ecorepel' coating which provides resistance against water and dirt. Full details can be found here.

  Marco tells me that the internal baffles are made from cuben fibre and their height is 25mm.They are sized so that the down is slightly compressed within the chambers. This allows for better control of down movement without a loss of thermal efficiency.

The down lofts really well

  On my scales the quilt weighs 519 grams. It packs down to 30cm x 15cm x 15cm .

This 10 litre dry bag weighs 43 grams.

  As Tucas design their quilts to be a bit wider and longer than the typical equivalent from American makers. This is so the quilt can be pulled up over your neck and head when the temperature drops without necessarily having to use a hat or balaclava. Also, it is not adorned with complex fastenings to secure it to a mat. You simply use it like you would a normal quilt at home and tuck it under your sides as needed in order to keep out the droughts. It certainly seems very comfy on my lounge floor with plenty of room to cover my head.

Plenty of room

 There is also the option of putting the mat inside the quilt. This is not something I can imagine doing but a few people have asked if it is possible and the answer is 'yes'. With the thermarest and me inside its a bit of squeeze with the poppers fastened and is essentially a wide mummy bag in this configuration. There is adequate room with the poppers unfastened though, and the quilt just tucked under mat. However, I don't like this idea and I will be using it on top of the mat and tucking the quilt underneath me as it is designed to do.

With full length Thermarest inside

Room for a thermarest prolite plus regular if you want to tuck the quilt in underneath the mat.

 The one thing I'm not sure of is what to wear whilst in it? In a sleeping bag I usually use a liner bag to protect the down from my general sweat and grime but of course that would kind of defeat the object of using a quilt. I think perhaps a very lightweight base layer top and bottoms will do the job. Perhaps something like these from Rohan. Any other suggestions welcome :-) 

  I intend to use the quilt for 3 season use in the Cumbrian mountains, the first trip being described here - 
'first night in the as tucas down quilt'. I will post an update as to its performance in the field later in the year.

I should also make it clear that I have no affiliation with As Tucas or Marco personally and I paid for this quilt with my own hard earned dosh.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Tarptent Scarp 1 Tent - An Opinion

This is not really a review as such. It is just my opinion of the Tarptent Scarp 1 based on my wild camping experience in the Lake District over the past 2 years in a variety of typical weather conditions for the region. I can't compare it to any other tents yet, as this is my first one.

I bought the Scarp 1 about 2 years ago after researching backpacking tents on the Internet. My requirements were; lightweight (under 2kgs), able to withstand the high winds and adverse weather conditions found on UK mountain tops (ideally in all 4 seasons), plenty of room for 1, a good sized porch, quick and easy to pitch & preferably fly first, bathtub floor & I didn't want an all mesh inner which is popular with many US tents. I had narrowed the selection down to the following tents, all of which I'm sure would have made excellent choices but had the following niggly issues (according to reviews) when compared to the Scarp 1; Hilleburg Akto (expensive, low head height, heavyish for the size, condensation issues), the Terra Nova laser competition 1 (very light but pricey and a bit fiddly to pitch tight, smallish, 3 season), Wild Country Zephyros 1 (slightly small internally, heavyish, 3 season), Vaude power lizard (very spacious & light but apparent condensation issues & can be fiddly to pitch tight, 3 season). The Scarp 1 seemed to tick all the boxes including the additional benefits of having 2 porches and being a true 4 season shelter with the option of using additional cross over poles to make it self-supporting and capable of withstanding snow. The only concerns were that I would need to seam seal it myself and that I would need to have it imported from the US cottage manufacturer Tarptent, of which I new very little.

After some deliberation I placed my order and about 2 months later my new Scarp 1 arrived, complete with an import duty fee of around £35. Despite this, it was still cheaper than all the other candidates bar one. Having studied the pitching video on the tarptent website I set it up in the garden and sealed the seams using McNett silicone sealer thinned with a little white spirit as described in this Gossamer Gear article. I was now ready to take it out to the fells and perhaps a little ambitiously, chose the summit of Scafell as my inaugural wild camp. That trip is described here, and a selection of other wild camps since then are listed here.    

Two years later I can confidently say that I have no regrets at all in buying this tent. It has exceeded my expectations and provided a great introduction to wild camping. That does not necessarily mean it will be right for others. It's certainly not the lightest tent at 1.4kgs including 6 stakes (cross poles add a further 340 grams) but for me the extra weight is more than compensated for by the usable space and wind stability. The following points are worth mentioning though, particularly if you are considering ordering one for yourself.

  • The 2 porches are a godsend. I stash my rucksack and boots in one porch and all my food and cooking gear in the other, which also serves as the door. If the wind changes direction, I can easily swap sides.  
  • Pitch the tent 'end on' to the wind and situated so that the doors open onto the sheltered side.
  • The cross poles are really not needed unless heavy snowfall is expected. They don't seem to add any obvious additional wind resistance except that they can help keep the fly from blowing onto the inner, but so can the use of trekking poles - see next point. If not using the cross poles then tie the straps to each other to stop them flapping against the fly sheet. I know of some Scarp users who felt confident enough to remove the straps entirely so that they can no longer use the cross poles and yet have still used it in all 4 seasons with no problems.
  • If the wind is blowing strongly, you can use a trekking pole and some guy line to 'lift' the fly on the windward side (see picture below). This stops the fly from blowing onto the inner. I have also since added a small loop of shock cord to the tent attachment point so as to avoid a sudden gust tearing it off (which happened to me on High Stile). You can use this set up at either end or just the windward side depending how strong the gusts are.
  • When pitched with hoop guys and pole lifters this tent is rock solid in the wind. I have been in it in some wild weather without any drama.
  • The tent does not include guy lines for the hoop attachment points but thankfully the excellent sell a cord & cleat bundle which is great value and will do the job nicely. I find using the hoop guys adds considerably to tent stability, especially if the wind changes direction and comes from the side.
  • With this tent there is the option of an 'all mesh' inner. For UK hill top conditions I wouldn't advise this. It would be too draughty. Go for the 1/2 solid 1/2 mesh option unless you only plan on camping on balmy summer nights in midge inhabited areas.
  • The tent pitches inner and outer as one, which is great in poor weather. You can use it as a single skin shelter and leave the inner at home if you wish. 
  • I use a Tyvek groundsheet to protect the floor from abrasion. I bought this from Tarptent along with the Scarp. It weighs about 70 grams. You can also get Tyvek from who sell a single size just big enough to cover the floor footprint and double size which will extend out to cover the porches. I have also heard of other using Wickes secondary glazing film but cannot comment on its strength & durability. The Tyvek has been fine. 

Overall I have no hesitation in recommending this tent for UK wild camping. Do your research though. There may be more suitable alternatives for you. It also comes in a very spacious 2 man version (Scarp 2) which I have also read very favourable reviews. I have added a few links below which I found useful when researching the tent.

First pitch in the Garden - note the cross pole straps tied to each other

Without the inner it becomes a huge single skin shelter for 1, and perfectly usable for 2

Using the cross-poles on Scafell
Using the extra hoop guys on Sail
A winter dawn on Sail

Using a single trekking pole as a lifter during a windy camp on Hindscarth

A great spot on Grasmoor

Looking pretty under a full moon

A video showing the scarp being pitched in perfect conditions on Grasmoor summit in the English lake District.

... and a somewhat more 'tongue-in-cheek' video of it being pitched less than perfectly in windy conditions on Hindscarth, also in the English Lake District. Enjoy !!