moleskin – no bloody good

Fedak linked to an interesting post on the Fixing Your Feet (FYF) blog:

… I talk about moleskin because it has been around for so long. For years it was the standard hot spot and blister patching tool. In the next edition of FYF, I will make reference to moleskin as a product, which has seen better days.

Here are three reasons why:

Moleskin doesn’t stick
Moleskin doesn’t conform to the curves of the foot
Moleskin is too thick


read more – Moleskin Galore

No mention of my preferred foot repair product, Duct Tape.

That blogger likes (expensive) Drymax socks, by the way.

NeoAir FAIL – Therm-a-Rest bulge

The best air mattress on the market right now is the NeoAir made by Cascade Designs Therm-a-Rest.


I was lying on mine one night in the tent during an 8-day hike of the Haute Route in the Alps. A strange sizzling sound began.

At first I thought I was being attacked by insects under the tent.

Then my NeoAir began to swell in one small spot.


Each night after being inflated the swelling increased in size. It seemed to stop when internal pressure reached a specific point. (under-inflated)

weird bulge on an air mattress
weird bulge on an air mattress


I slept on the thing anyway though, being a savvy hiker, I was actually carrying a second small air mattress, using it as a pack frame and pillow.

I’m BRILLIANT to have a back-up. Right?

Sadly, my “pillow” had developed a slow leak. It was worse than the NeoAir.

The NeoAir is not widely available in Europe as yet. By luck I happened to find a demo model in Chamonix, France reduced to 109 Euro (US$156).

I’ll be returning the damaged NeoAir on warranty when I get home.

But I’m wondering if this was a fluke. Or a design flaw in a new product. Leave a comment if you’ve heard of this happening to any other NeoAir mattresses.

I’ll post it to Twitter tagged #NeoAirFail, as well.

Cascade Designs Therm-a-Rest – official NeoAir webpage


UPDATE: I’ve only heard of one other incidence of this happening. My NeoAir was replaced under warranty.

not recommended – West Highland Way, Scotland

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

I flew into Scotland on a Thursday.

Friday I hopped the train directly to what most consider the best multi-day hike in Scotland, the West Highland Way.

… The West Highland Way, from Milngavie to Fort William, a distance of 95 miles … Hills, dense woodland and wildlife make it one of the favourites with hikers from all over the world. …

Scotland Welcomes You

This kind of hyperbole is typical of the WHW.

I was quickly disgruntled.


Unless you are a Glasweigan bent on bragging rights for walking out the pub door all the way to the top of Ben Nevis, I can’t see any reason to spend a week of your life doing this hike.


  • midges (Spring and Summer)
  • • bad weather
  • • many sections walking on roadways
  • • litter
  • • inconsistent signage
  • • inconsistent trail maintenance
  • • too few highlights / km
  • You won’t get lost. The trail is blazed.

    But why spend a week on this route when there are so many better hikes in Scotland? And the world.

    As many guidebooks recommend, I skipped the first two days and started at Balmaha. On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.


    That section alongside the lake was OK, especially between Rowardennan and Beinglass Farm. Not one of the great walks of the world, but OK.

    From there to King’s House Hotel was disappointing in many ways.

    But I must admit, the torrential rain from King’s House over Devil’s Staircase was the quintessential Scottish Hill Walking Experience. Even the Scots called it a “heavy rain”. High praise. My most lasting memory.


    Next day the forecast was for clear skies. I hopped a bus at Kinlochleven, giving up on the WHW for good. I wanted good weather to climb Ben Nevis.

    Over the 3 days on the West Highland Way I have only 22 photos worthy of posting. That’s sad.

    I love Scotland. But why is the hiking so unimproved there?

    Why was the first National Park not established until 2002?

    That famed son of Scotland, John Muir, must be rolling in his grave. Authorities are trying to promote a John Muir Way, a 73km coastal walk.

    As Lonely Planet Walking in Scotland says:

    … you can’t help but wonder what Muir would think of a path through two power stations, one of them nuclear …

    He would not be amused.

    Walk the John Muir Trail in California. Not the one in Scotland.

    And don’t make a special trip to hike the West Highland Way. Instead, go to … Spain.

    hiking the Stone Sea in Germany

    Jeni and just about everyone else told me to travel to the most beautiful lake in the country. It looks like a fjord.


    map-GermanyYou get there from Berchtesgaden, 30km south of Salzburg. Hitler’s mountain residence, the Berghof, was located near here though Der Fuehrer rarely visited due to security worries. Today the Nazi Eagle’s Nest is a restaurant.

    Nationalpark Berchtesgaden was established in 1978 and has gradually become one of the region’s largest tourist draws. While technically in Germany, this spot is surrounded on 3 sides by Austria.

    The day I was at the lake a boatload of tourists disgorged every 10min to visit a famed pilgrimage church.

    St. Bartholomä
    St. Bartholomä

    From the church I climbed up an interesting gorge to Kärlingerhaus, a popular mountain lodge.


    Nice. But my real goal for the day was to reach the Steinernes Meer. The stone sea. A bleak and rocky plateau.


    Weird. Geologically ineresting. And beautiful.

    At Riemann-Haus I could have escaped back down to the valley.


    Instead I had a beer on their deck. And listened to some Army mountain climbers sing group songs before setting out for the cliffs.


    Immediately after … I got badly lost. (A gorgeous sidetrip, as it turned out.)

    What direction would you go if your guidebook told you to take route 411?


    A highlight of this hike for me personally was seeing many Chamois up close. For the first time.



    Even better was crossing a high mountain pass alone to meet Mt. Watzmann.


    What a great evening I had up there!

    This is the best hike in the Bavarian Alps. A hiking region surrounded and overshadowed by more famous neighbours: Dolomites, Austrian Alps and the Swiss Alps.

    But I’ll be adding the Stone Sea to our list of the best hikes in Europe.

    It’s fantastic.

    I posted 80 photos from this 3 day hike on flickr.

    There’s only one guidebook in English: Walking in the Bavarian Alps. It’s one of the weakest Cicerone guidebooks I’ve used.

    Greg’s iPod graveyard

    Long distance adventure racer Greg Kolodziejzyk posted a photo of all the disfunctional iPods he’s used for training over the years.

    larger version

    … I seem to blast through iPods as fast as I blow through sneakers. Last summer during training for the 24 hour human powered boat record I purchased a totally water proof enclosure for my iPod from OtterBox because my previous iPod got wet and eventually died. I was sick of buying new iPods so I decided to invest my money into a water proof and shock proof case.

    Good idea in theory, but because this OtterBox case fits the iPod so tightly, inserting and removing the iPod for updating and charging wore out the headphones plug and now the sound is shorting out. So, Time for a new pair of shoes, and yet another new iPod. …

    Adventures of Greg – Blew through another iPod

    I’m only on my 3rd MP3 player. Though I use one almost every day.

    The best accessory EVER for outdoor sport is Apple’s $29 Apple Earphones with Remote & Mic.

    I can’t believe I used an MP3 player without them.

    Backpacker bungles Best Hike in Each State

    Backpacker Magazine, as part of their Readers’ Choice Awards 2009, named “the best hike in every state” in the USA.


    No need to click through to the list, however.

    Not unless you want to add your comment to these:

    The “best trail in Nevada” points at a link titled Great Basin National Park? Nope, but instead takes you to a description of a little known side trail outside of Las Vegas at Cathedral Rock. Read a map sometime. What hooey.

    Lord help us all if this is the kind of dis-information my favorite magazine prints!
    Posted: Jan 30, 2009 Iowa Hike

    Delaware’s best hike is in Virginia? That’s ridiculous! …

    I don’t know where Backpacker comes up with this best of crap. The best hike in Florida is a three day paddle in the everglades? It wasn’t long ago they highlighted the bridge to bridge trail in White springs Florida, that’s a bicycle trail on the opposite side of the river from the FNST. As a volunteer trail coordinator for the Florida trail I’m offended by their lack of knowledge when it comes to hiking in Florida.
    Posted: Jan 29, 2009 Alton Snellgrove

    I especially like the fact that Big Creek is in NC not TN
    Posted: Jan 29, 2009 Ricky

    You guys need to chill out. Please. How are you going to diss Backpacker? I mean, how many other magazines are there that tend to the desires and needs of a hiker/climbing/packer? The writers are human, they will make mistakes.
    Posted: Jan 30, 2009 AJ

    I love Backpacker magazine too. But this is a good example of the mistake many websites make banking on “reader contributed content”.

    The Wisdom of Crowds only works if you have a large enough crowd. Clearly Backpacker did not get enough feedback on the best hikes to put together a reasonably good list.

    (via The Adventure Blog)

    guided hiking tours in China

    China Volkssport Associon (that’s the correct spelling) contacted us regarding their guided walking tours.


    Their website is translated into 6 languages, imperfectly. Many of the links do not work.

    The tours all seem to be about 2 weeks long. Offered throughout China year round.

    I would only sign on if I had personal recommendations from people I trusted who were happy with the service. In general, the tourist industry in China is not well managed. It may be decades before the quality of service matches standards elsewhere in the world.


    China Volkssport Associon

    GORE-TEX® – the fabric of deceit

    Who was it that coined the truism? Author Tim Cahill, I believe.

    I’ve never had any faith in the so-called waterproof material or any of it’s competitors.

    Frank and Sue in Australia are similarly suspicious:

    We are a skeptical pair here at “Our Hiking Blog” and the concept of waterproof hiking boots has been high on our list of “urban myths”. We have always accepted that our feet will get wet and have usually blamed it on water running down our legs into the boots or that the boots were, well, just not waterproof.

    After one particularly soggy outing, Sue was given a refund by Snowgum for her faulty GORE-TEX boots. Nice customer service!

    Now Frank is checking his boots for … “leaks”.

    Men\'s Merrell Moab Gore-Tex XCR

    Men’s Merrell Moab Gore-Tex XCR

    Lonely Planet walking guidebooks in decline?

    Through besthike recommendations, people have bought hundreds of Lonely Planet guidebooks. They reinvented the genre, in my opinion. Never buy any other company without first comparing against LP.

    Sadly, for the past 6-7 years I’ve started to notice problems.

    LP author Thomas Kohnstamm has a new book coming out this week:

    A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism

    A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism

    THE Lonely Planet guidebook empire is reeling from claims by one of its authors that he plagiarised and made up large sections of his books and dealt drugs to make up for poor pay.

    Thomas Kohnstamm also claims in a book that he accepted free travel, in contravention of the Melbourne-based company’s policy.

    His revelations have rocked the travel publisher, which sells more than six million guides a year – guides that generations of tourists have come to rely on.

    Mr Kohnstamm, whose book is titled Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? said yesterday that he had worked on more than a dozen books for Lonely Planet, including their titles on Brazil, Colombia, the Caribbean, South America, Venezuela and Chile.

    In one case, he said he had not even visited the country he wrote about.

    “They didn’t pay me enough to go Colombia,” he said.

    “I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating – an intern in the Colombian consulate. …

    More alarming for hikers is that LP does not seem to be updating any their excellent walking guides as frequently as in the past.

    BBC recently purchased controlling interest in Lonely Planet. BBC has their own problems, however. I’m not sure LP can recover.

    Mountain Hardware Scrambler day pack

    I’m giving a mixed review to my new $55 day pack:

    Weighing only 10 ounces, the ultra-lightweight Mountain Hardwear Scrambler is the perfect approach bag to stash in your pack. Ergonomic S-curve shoulder straps and a removable EVA back panel make the Scrambler comfortable for peak ascents and long day hikes.


    * Removable EVA pack panel adds structure to the pack …
    * Self-healing, silicon-coated 100D Cordura …
    * Front bungee web for external storage and load compression …
    * Top access with draw cord closure
    * Doubles as sleeping bag stuff sack


    larger image and details on WinterFix

    Pros: Weight, size, appearance. I really like the look. (Mine is black.)

    For day hiking, actually, it is perfect for me. But for trail running or scrambling, it is too unstable without a hip belt. While running, anything near the top of the pack shifts left and right too much. The straps loosen too easily under vibration. And the position of adjustment buckles rub against my biceps at times.

    Other reviews: Trailspace

    Durability is a real question mark. It may not last long if I use if I continue to use it for trail running.

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