I did start outside but it started raining so now it is breakfast in my tent.
Craigellachie National Nature Reserve
The weather this morning was bright and clear – excellent for walking in the snow, as long as you take gloves, hat, warm jacket, decent boots, thick socks, etc, etc.
The snow in most places was a couple of inches deep although from time to time it was much deeper.
Craigellachie National Nature Reserve is a short walk from Scandinavian Village and is very close to Aviemore – it is a great place to explore and take photos.
The lake was frozen and had this mysterious “Superman” logo on the ice.
I cleared the snow from the end of a bench and had a brew up, using my MSR Titanium mug and Alpkit Kraku stove, a great lightweight and efficient combination in the cold weather. Hot tea and cake, sitting in the winter sun shine.
I forgot to pack my sit mat so I had to sit on my gloves and hat as the icy bench was far to cold to sit on without insulation.
I recently got an REI Sierra cup with a folding handle from the USA. It is a great, compact cup to take camping, but I was interested in getting a lid for it to add to the functionality and to keep the flies out of my tea.
I may get a custom lid made later, but for now I was looking for a purchased option.
The Sierra cup lid, because of the folding handle, needed to be an internal lid with no lip, or have a notch cut out of the lip for the handle. So what I needed was really just a metal disk with a hole for a handle drilled in it. On searching online I realised that the base from a cake tin with a removable base would be ideal, although I could not find one small enough in a UK shop. With that as a plan, I decided to visit some of the local kitchenware shops and in the second one, I went to, I found exactly what I needed.
This is the removable base from a 12cm cake tin, from The Range, with a hole for a wing nut and bolt.
REI Sierra Cup with a homemade lid
The lid sits neatly inside the cup rim as though it was made for it. Having a lid will make it more fuel efficient if I use the Sierra cup to boil water in. I am forward to testing it this weekend on a day walk on Sunday – I will boil the water for my tea break in it.
One small point: I had to use a file to smooth out a few sharp edges on the handle ends where the metal had been flattened to stop it pulling out.
This is not ultra lightweight backpacking kit but it is something I will be taking camping.
How do I make camp coffee?
Camp coffee – I was asked last night, had I got a recommendation for a “camping gadget” for making fresh camp coffee when hiking or camping? I do have one, but my answer was unexpected. My friend was expecting me to recommend something from GSI or some other ultralight gear manufacturer. Instead I suggested a plastic tea strainer.
Here is a photo from a trip to Wales – fresh camp coffee whilst camping on the Welsh coast. I am dripping the coffee into some milk that I have already heated in my steel British Army Crusader mug.
The coffee filter
I use the tea strainer as a coffee filter. It is not as fine as commercial filters but it does a good job – but there will be a few grounds in the final brew.
It is very lightweight, simple to use and pack. It is also far cheaper than the commercial camp/backpacking coffee makers.
I chose a strainer with a plastic mesh because it is easier to pack, as it can be crushed, and it has a finer mesh than the metal models.
How I make camp coffee
I make my camp coffee in two ways:
Make in the pot method
I measure the grounds into cold water and then bring the mixture to almost the boil, stirring occasionally. I leave the coffee to stand for three or four minutes before gently pouring it into a mug through the strainer. I am careful not to stir up the grounds once they have settled. With this method I can make more than one serving of coffee and can make a stronger brew if I want.
I pack the coffee into the strainer to cover the mesh and press it down firmly with the back of a spoon. I drip/slowly pour through, nearly boiling water. The strainer holds enough grounds to make one mug of coffee.
This method makes less washing up so is my favourite when wild camping.
Early morning coffee on the summit of The Old Man of Coniston – read the full story here.
My “coffee maker” is an essential part of my backpacking and camping cooking gear and I use it on most trips. I bought mine a few years ago and it cost 20p at the time. Asda and The Range sell suitable tea strainers, today, at about 50p. I’d recommend anyone to try one out before spending more money on a coffee gadget.
There are other coffee makers on the market!
Jeremy and I saw this portable coffee maker when we were in Truro last year. Click this link to read the blog post.
Fresh Coffee Update
To make packing easier I have cut the handle down on the tea strainer – see the story here.
Breakfast in bed – Scotland August 2016
First use of the Alpkit Kraku Backpacking Gas Stove
It was my first opportunity today to use the new Alpkit Kraku gas stove. It is very small and I carried a small gas canister to make it a very portable unit. The small size of the burner unit does mean that some care must be taken when fixing it to the gas canister, it can cross thread very easily and if over tightened the shoulder of the valve can jamb on the lip of the gas canister. Once together and the pot supports are set up it does make a very stable stove. I used my MSR titanium mug with lid on it and it sat very well. Once lit, it only took a couple of minutes for the water to come to a rolling boil – I had the stove set up in a very sheltered spot and I was using a wind shield. In the photos you can see the pot support glowing cherry red.
The actual flame head is also quite small, especially compared with my previous MSR Pocket Rocket, it worked well under my mug and I am sure it will work under my Alpkit MiTiMug but I expect it will struggle with a larger pot. It probably will not deliver enough heat for group cooking. When I go camping later in the year I will try it out with the small frying pan I use when static camping. However I bought this as a personal backpacking stove where weight is everything and it is considerably lighter than the MSR stove and when camping on my own it should still be sufficient.
Overall (so far) I am very pleased with the Alpkit Kraku stove – it is very small and light. Well made and efficient – boiling a mug of water significantly quicker then if I had used my meths stove. Because it is so light I may be changing my backpacking habits and using a gas stove more than the ultralight Vargo titanium meth stove I currently use.
Here are some more detailed photos of the stove – More is less.
Here is the post about the walk where I used this stove.
With the weather forecast for the day being reasonably good, I decided not to waste any time driving but set off to Craigellachie National Nature Reserve – with a plan to go up onto the ridge and walk along the top.
The weather was great and relatively warm (for January in the Cairngorms), I did not need my gloves, hat or jumper nor did I need to zip my coat up until I got out into the wind on the exposed ridge and summits. One thing I did have on though was the new Helly Hansen Lifa Dry base layer Diana bought me – and it was excellent, it kept me warm, was comfortable to wear and did not absorb any sweat when I was warm so when I did need the insulation on the top, it worked.
Have you ever wondered who puts the rock steps in the footpaths? Well I met two of them today.
Rather than get my stove out to make a coffee, I took hot water in a thermal mug, for the first stop. I had a number Octagon Technology emails and texts to deal with – if there is one problem with the titanium mug I normally use is that on a longer break, like this one, the drink would get cold too quickly. But not when using a thermal mug. I had packed it for this trip having recently read a blog of a backpacker who used one to keep water hot for his late night hot chocolate. He boiled the water when he made his evening meal so it meant he could pack his stove and pots away for the night and still have a hot drink later. I bought my thermal mug a number of years ago but it has had little use but I am going to try it out on this trip and if it works out I may pack it for subsequent trips.
Lunch was soup and crackers. I really like the “Squeeze and Stir” tomato soup but I have found it difficult to stir in and dissolve all the paste when I have been making it for lunch when walking and backpacking. I tend to use cup-a-soups which are really easy to make on the trail. But today I had a thermal mug. I put the paste in the mug and half filled it with boiling water. Then making sure the lid was on firmly I vigorously shook it. After about a minute I topped the mug up with more boiling water and I had perfect tomato soup – and once I was finished no messy mug to clean up, I just put the lid back on and packed it away.
I didn’t take a backpack on my walk this morning, I wore my winter walking coat and carried just enough equipment for a coffee break on the walk back – well actually it was hot chocolate.
I used a stile as a convenient seat and got my meths stove out of the wind behind the fence post.
I use a strip of heavy duty aluminium foil, cut from a tray an oven joint was cooked in. The foil is shaped into a “coil” so it fits snuggly around the titanium mug with lid, making an effective wind shield.
The plastic mug fits over the Sigg bottle and the folded up stove is stored under the bottle, the titanium mug slides onto the bottom of the bottle.
The other sundries fit into the front pocket: spork, fire steel, mug lid, meths bottle, some paper towel in a small ziplock bag for cleaning up and the rubbish.
I carried my sitmat in a jacket pocket.