Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Gear review: Baltic Flipper

First off  Packrafters sometimes choose not wear buoyancy aids, some even wrap their foam sleeping pads around themselves in an attempt to increase there safety in a risk benefit situation.

Now I have struggled with the concept of this for a while, having worked in the outdoors for 15 odd years and attending lots of white water rescue training course where it is drilled into you the you will wear your PPE (personal protective equipment) with in 15feet of the waters edge, let alone on it.

Enter the Baltic Flipper this snazzy garment out of the packet looks like your standard Gillet that you see outdoory types wearing around outdoory type places.

That's not two gillets but one it's reversible! Hows goods that? i can't find on the label what it's made out of but it feels similar to other buoyancy aid with like a hard wearing nylon/polyester/cordura type fabric?
It weigh in at around 630g for a size large, each block of buoyancy foam is swen into it's own pocket which should keep everything where it should be and allow the user to fold it in to on to what ever their chosen method of carrying gear is.
There are other options on the market that are a tad smaller and lighter, but they are not CE certified at 50N of buoyancy, so in my mind this is well worth the £121 price tag with free UK postage ( but I would say that wouldn't I?)
Overrall I reckon this is a great addition to your adventure tool set, the piece of mind of a certified buoyancy aid If you choose to wear it and the bonus of an extra piece of warm kit for you to look cool in on your adventures.
Andy  Amazing gear and adventures found here

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Alpacka Ghost spotted at Loch Avon. Cairngorms

When the Ghost first appeared, I instantly wrote it off for anything that I would want to do! More fool bloody me is what I say to that.

The Alpacka ghost tips the scales at 730grams and will fit in your back pocket, pair this with Alpackas trekking pole paddle combo and you have a boat and paddle that comes in well under a kilo!


The Ghost kicked around the shop for a few weeks with lots of people giving it the 'oooh!' and 'no way' treatment. To be honest I was still sceptical about it's use at this point.

Then I had the opportunity to go for a night out near the Shelter stone in the Heart of the Cairngorms, Now Loch Avon is truly a 'mountain loch', even though it sits at the bottom of a huge and well photographed Glacial U shaped valley it is at 725m above sea level,. But I shit you not when I say it has a stunning white(ish) sandy beach and the most beautiful turquoise blue water, It really feels like the costa del Cairngorm.

 So going and spending a night next to this place was too good a chance to pass up,and the ghost got added to my gear.

This was when the penny dropped. Anyone that has been to this wonderful place knows that there is a blinking big mountain in the way, getting into the Loch Avon basin takes you well over the 1000m above sea level mark on steep and tiring terrain. Carrying any unnecessary weight is just a pain.

I was hoping for good weather on the walk in for the chance to paddle Lochan Buidhe which I believe is the highest body of named water in the UK at 1124m. But the good weather wasn't available on that day, instead we had some refreshing 40mph gusts ! Now remember the ghost is only 730 grams so I reckon those gusts could have blown me and it away no bother.

To be honest I forgot the fact I was carrying boat most of the time, I did have a moment, when at well over a 1000m above sea level, I turned to my pals and said with a wild eyed stare 'I've got a boat in my bag!'

Descending down into the Loch Avon basin was great, looking towards the sandy beaches at the west end I started to imagine paddling the Alpacka Ghost and how much easier it would be on my tired old legs. Unfortunately it was still blowing a hoolie, with impressive mini typhoons whipping across the loch.
 We reckon it was blowing a good force 8 on the Beaufort Scale so paddling was off !

We spent the next while looking for a sheltered camp spot, then wrestled with the tents to make home for the night, at this point I feel I should mention that while the others struggled I just popped my Force ten carbon helium 100 up in a jiffy and then watched the others learn to fly their tents.

Night came and the expected lull didn't ! If anything it just got worse. I spent some of the night awake as you do in a GALE - listening, waiting, expecting my tent to fall down around me...... but it didn't, ace !

Morning came and so did a little less wind, so breakfast was chucked down my neck and I broke camp and set about ghost hunting.

When you first pick up and touch the ghost you think 'fragile' 'thin' 'I'm not paddling that!' especially if you are used to the amazing robustness of their classic range of boats

I shouted at myself to put this aside and trust Alpacka rafts skill, design and reputation and simply believe. I did, it worked, I didn't sink in fact it was amazing ! I pushed off from shore with all my kit in the front of the Ghost using Alpacka's trekking pole paddle,staying in the shallows at first, treating the paddle with care. I quickly realised that it felt just like a standard boat and the paddle is plenty strong enough to pull my 90kg plus 10kg of gear into the wind through the water.

I felt brave and paddled towards the shelf, where the crystal water turns black. I imagined some creature from the deep was about to swallow me whole.

 Now I think I should also mention that I decided that I would NOT wear a buoyancy aid, which I'm sure would get some peoples backs up, but it was a measured decision using my 20 years experience in the outdoors with the last 13 being in outdoor learning, guiding young folks through the idea of 'Risk benefits'. As far as I'm concerned the benefit of taking this risk was easily in my scope and paddling along the stunning Loch surrounded by the big old lumps of granite in a place where I reckon not many people have paddled was ACE. In my scope I thought -read on.

Remember Alpacka say do not paddle anything you can't swim.

My pals were about to set off along the horribly undulating boulder strewn bog fest of the path towards Coire Raibeirt as I started my float down the loch with a moderate breeze to my back.

 I was barely paddling as I was in awe of the size of the place compared to me in my 730g Alpacka Ghost floating along with a paddle made out of my trekking poles, but I kept an eye on what my pals were doing and to my glee I was leaving them behind as they struggled along the path. Now as part of my risk benefit thoughts, I had decided to hug the northern shore because if the wind got up again it would drive me out into the middle of the Loch. This I did not want. All was fine and dandy and the massive grin on my face was starting to hurt my jaw muscles, when I heard it!............... a massive gust had just dropped in from the huge crags behind me. I quickly spun the boat around to look it in the eye, the water was being picked up and thrown along with gust, I  thought 'bugger'.. before I knew it, it hit me! giving me a good soaking and spinning the ghost through 360 degrees, I was expecting a dumping in the Loch and the boat to blow away to the other side of the mountains, me loosing my kit and having a bit of an epic.
To my surprise the Ghost handled it without blinking, I got on the power and made an effort to head for shore, for a brief moment I was making no progress and I started to flap! I told myself to get a grip and focus on the task, I started to make progress and the shore came closer, I found a little shelter and weighed up my options. I was 100m short of my planned get out so decided that was close enough.

I quickly deflated the raft and broke down the paddles packing it all away in less than 10minutes (probably a little adrenaline fuelling the need for speed.) I was on my way moving quickly up the coire trying to catch a glimpse of my pals. I discovered that there had been a little maintenance to the track and I made good time to the top of the coire, miles ahead of the others,so I took the chance to lie down and reflect on the Ghost and my paddling experience on the mighty Loch Avon.
My thoughts:
The Ghost is a real boat and I can thoroughly say that it is stable in force 8 winds

It's tiny pack size means that it can come along for that 'just in case moment'

The trekking pole paddle is a strong and well thought out bit of dual purpose kit

Next time I would want to attach my gear into the boat as my gear floats and would stop the boat blowing away creating a bigger epic.

I would like to experiment with a wind paddle.

Finally this boat will now be in our hire fleet....AKA I'll be able to use it more. I'd better order another few for stock.

Oh Of course get in touch if you want hire a Ghost or any other Alpacka rafts

Happy paddling Andy

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Rob's top tips for a good bikepacking set up- part 1

So, finally I have got round to writing my top tips and handy hints for a good bikepacking set up.  This has come about, I guess, as a result of the questions asked by many of our customers.

Over the years we each have developed our own systems, refined them and have gradually found what works for us.  With so many folks now wanting to get in on the game we are finding that things we take for granted aren't always obvious to someone who has bought some Revelate Designs gear for their first bikepacking trip (lucky buggers!).

Right then, first things first - bike packing humps your gear! And super fast if you don't think about what you are doing, especially if it’s wet and muddy.   Gritty mud (I like some of our granite stuff) gets into the fabric and turns it into sandpaper that a chippy would be proud of (not the fish type).  Every bump sands a bit more of that super duper pooper paint job you had specially applied by a paint pigmy.   It also humps the fabric and the poor zips you force close when covered in the brown stuff.  If you have sold the kid’s dog and your granny’s kidney to buy the dream rig that you polish lovingly after every ride, then you are going to be pretty gutted at the state of it after your first bikepacking trip.  Think about getting an adventure bike as a bike that you don't mind giving a beating to.   If you want to keep your bike mint then get some Tubus racks, Ortlieb panniers and go road touring in the Alps.  And don't get me started on what I think of carbon.   If you are happy to use your bikes as an adventure tool and look at loss of paint as a memento of happy trails, then read on.


Okay, that should have got rid of the polishers.  It’s not all bad news however- with a bit of care you can protect your steed.  Work out where the bags will rub on the frame and put something between the two if you want to give your gear the best chance.  For normal straps and bag contact points 'helicopter' tape is good and lets your frame’s colour shine through, but duct tape or insulation tape can work and gives you a bit more to spend on beer.  Hmmm beer.  Think about any sharp edges on your bike which could come in contact with your bags.  Seat post clamps and those funky metal head badges that all the cool kids have will rip through your investment in a single ride if you don't insulate them from the bags in some way.  And (recovering polishers will like this one) brush/wash the mud off the bags when you get back and clean n lube those zips - silicone spray works well.

Another thing we keep getting asked is how big the bags are in litres.  What are you lot carrying in them?  Ice cream will melt (some of the time) and if you fill them with beer it will leak out of the stitching holes and go flat.   Though we can tell you how many bottles of beer you can get in the bags. Andy is doing extensive research on this.

There is plenty of room for your stuff in a Revelate Designs setup.  If it doesn't fit, repack it making sure you don't leave space between stuff. Pack your frilly knickers in the gaps between round objects.  Iona is doing extensive research on this.  If it still doesn't fit - take less stuff, or get rid of that huge DofE sleeping bag and get one of our dinky Criterion sleeping bags and one of our funky Vango Force 10 helium carbon tents - remember: ' tarps for show, tents for a pro!'

That should get you thinking for a bit: I’ll do more specific tips on individual bags when I can summon the will to sit in front of the pc again.

Happy trails!

Presta = the devils work

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Alpackas on the number 34

With temperatures in Aviemore soaring to the mid twenties this afternoon, we retreated once again to the river Spey.

Today's outing was a chilled float down to Boat of Garten. A swift gin and tonic later and we were on the number 34 bus back home, Alpackas in packs.

Alpackas on the bus! Genius! Try doing that with your canadian canoe or hardshell kayak!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

It doesn't have to be gnarrr


After all the excitement and exertions of the Highland Trail 550 we decided something gentler was in order this morning.

So, as the early morning commuters were heading out of Aviemore, we packed our rafts and headed down to the river Spey- a mere stone's throw from the Backcountry Biking unit, but a whole world away.

This is where Alpackas packrafts really come in to their own- no travel, no car shuttle, no fuss. Just a wee wander and we were off down the river Spey with only the sand martins and ducks for company.

An hour or so later, we were making our way back through the local golf course, refreshed and ready for a day's work. Fabulous. 'Urban' rafting at it's finest. It really doesn't have to be gnarrr....all the time.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A new year and a new adventure off the beaten path

So its been a while since I penned anything on this here blog, but with the new year and new enthusiasm here I go. A quick look back at last year reveals a odd one, We found courses tough to sell? Our theory being that Packrafting is still at the 'early adopters' stage meaning it's still a bit new and radical for the general person. We still whole heartedly believe in the brilliant adventure tool that is an Alpacka Packraft and the Adventures having one or lending/borrowing/hiring one can bring.
Talking of hire, we will be hiring Packrafts this year, keepem peeled for more info.

So courses in 2014 might take a bit of a back seat while we continue to grow our online store, selling lots of cool things that help you have amazing adventures. our continuing partnership with Revelate Designs Probably the best bikepacking gear on the planet. As well as Cumulus sleeping bags who sell brilliant valued and feature rich down sleeping bags designed for UK conditions. Also having just secured a partnership with Force ten tents and sleeping bags who have been making great gear for donkeys years. some of there new tents are making people sit up and look and listen with amazing weight and fully featured technical bits and bobs at a cracking price point to boot.

Having recently moved into new business premises, the future seems good and having got some good  no Great ........ Amazing news on monday this week concerning another partnership that will see us bringing some amazing gear to you adventure seekers, things are looking the best they have ever.
More on this very soon.

P.S super excited totes amazballs!!!