Video / Podcast Build a Traditional Kayak

Sorry it has been quiet recently. There's a new Podcast with Bill Samson on about building your own traditional kayaks. Below is a short video of a unique boat he has made. Alaskans actually slept in these boats!

All Quiet...

After a month of two of daily posts things have been quiet on the blog. I'm deep in a four week training course, learning how to use lightweight video cameras and it's pretty intense. We hope to be paddling at the weekend, but also plan to get out on my new road bike if it arrives in time.

Video / Podcast - Make a Folding Kayak

The latest podcast is about two men, Dave Robertson and Tom Love, who decided folding kayaks were too expensive so they built their own from scratch following designs by Tom Yost

Listen or subscribe free, or download directly from the Podcast Library.  Here's a video preview.

Scottish Kayak Trail - Statistics

We started our journey on 2nd June and did not finish until 7th July, thirty six days later. Yet we only kayaked on seventeen of those days and shuttled on five. Which means we were kicking our heels due to bad weather for fourteen days. We spent more days off the water, shuttling and sitting around, than we spent kayaking.

Superlite Quasar Tent Review

The tent we’ve used throughout this trip is the Super Quasar by Terra Nova Equipment. It’s on loan to us for the duration of this project, has to be returned in top condition, and if we want to buy it we’ll have to pay full price, £450. So, will we buy it?

These are the factors we’ll weigh up in making that decision.

The geodesic design is strong and doesn’t flap in the wind. Whereas most ‘tunnel’ tents need two pegs either end to give them their rigidity, the dome of this tent is self-supporting. Obviously, that’s most important when you’re expecting a metre-deep dump of snow, but it means the tent feels tougher. The geodesic shape gives greater height and steeper sides, so there’s a feeling of more room inside.

I knew the geodesic design would be useful if we had to camp on a soft surface where pegs wouldn’t hold, like a beach, or a rocky surface where they’d be equally tricky to use, like a… err, beach. The flysheet porch still needs those two pegs either-end to hold it tight, but in a pinch rocks or paddles could be used, and anyway these just stretch out the porch, they don’t hold the structure upright.

Many tents are now designed with outer and inner attached. They can be separated, but they're designed to be left together. It speeds pitching, but if the outer is wet when packed, you end up with a wet inner after a few days. Geodesic tend to pitch inner first, so if done in rain, the inner can get wet. But boy does this thing pitch quickly. See video of my first attempt to pitch this tent straight out of the bag. And because the outer is totally separate, if wet it can be stored in a separate dry bag. This worked superbly for us, and inside our tent was never once damp.

The problem with geodesic designs has always been weight and bulk. We used a North Face VE25 for three weeks in Alaska nine years ago, which is a superb 3-person base camp tent but occupied most of one of the pulks we dragged. The original Quasars were always good, strong tents but I’ve always considered them too heavy for backpacking. I had to carry one for my ML at Plas y Brenin (a thousand years ago) and my overnight sack weighed 32lb, which was quite normal in those days. Now it’s well under 20lb for a multi-day backpack.

I borrowed a Quasar ten years ago for a TGO article in which I took a friend backpacking for the first time. The weight of the tent had dropped, but it still felt a compromise for UK use – closer to the weight of a base camp tent but not quite big enough for the task.

In the last few years I’m delighted to say the good folk at Terra Nova have been well and truly bitten by the Ultra-light bug. They’ve poured design resources at cutting the weight of their backpacking tents, producing some really astonishingly light designs that have been used in extreme environments. The Superlite Quasar is probably the pinnacle of this exercise.

Poles, pegs, bags etc it tips my kitchen scales at 2.4kg and occupy an alarmingly small space. There may be lighter two person tents around, but they’re unlikely to have as much room inside or be geodesic. For backpacking in conditions where you need the advantages of a geodesic tent, this is the baby.

But for sea kayaking, I’m not so sure. The pegs are too flimsy for the type of foreshore we encountered in Scotland. And to save weight, the groundsheet, fabric and zippers seem just a little more delicate than other, less superlite models. I’m not saying they’re fragile. I am saying they need to be treated with a little more care when choosing a site, pitching and striking.

So will we buy one? I’m still pondering this. If I didn’t have an ultra-light two-person tent for backpacking this would be a no brain decision. The Superlite Quasar is perfect for backpacking and pretty damn good for sea kayaking.

But if the tent is only going to be used for sea kayaking, there’s no need to cut the grams. The weight is on the boat, not your shoulders. And perhaps consider something a little bigger, because by the third day storm-bound in Gairloch what had initially seemed roomy and spacious was feeling as cramped as a dog kennel.

So I’m tempted to buy a heavier, cheaper, more robust old-fashioned Quasar or larger, Super Quasar. But as I say, this is something we’re still pondering.

Heading Home

After another long shuttle, which added to my knowledge of highland public transport, we considered heading north to Handa island. But it's a grotty day so we're headed home.

Liz is in Fort William Morrisons buying food so we'll be in our own bed tonight. Photos from this last section, possibly the best, should be here tomorrow and an overall gallery later this week.

Trail's End - Ullapool

We're installed on the campsite in Ullapool.

We made it over to the Summer Isles on Friday, spent the afternoon exploring, and camped on Tanera Mor that night. Saturday the wind was much greater than forecast, so rather than an easy paddle to catch the bus back to Gairloch, we battled against the wind all day and camped on a lovely beach outside the town. This being Sunday there are no busses, but I can catch on at 07.10 tomorrow morning.

So now, fish n chips on the front.

Overlooking the Summer Isles

That's Priest Island with the others behind, tomorrow's destination.

It was our longest but arguably best day today. The rock scenery around Rubha Reidh is even more stunning from the water, with arches, stacks, caves and waterfalls. It's a magaical spot.

A very god sea-kayaker friend has recently gone into temporary exile, through work, a long way from the Scottish west coast. He's in the middle of Texas! Liz decided, when we're all together again and go kayaking, this is the place to come. It's glorious.

Having big problems with my phone, so if this gets through it might be the last post for a while.

Start Again Tomorrow - (Hopefully)

If the Lake District has an A-level in raining, Scotland has a PHd. And the West Highlands taught the course.

While not paddling we've been pedalling.
To keep ourselves ticking over we've done an hour a day on the road bikes in some truly awful July weather. How sorry we feel for all those cycle tourists we've seen, panniers laden, hauling their machines up hills and along busy roads in the most un-seasonal conditions. They must never get completely dry. A bit like kayaking.

The low pressure systems have not stopped marching across the Atlantic, but the synoptic charts suggest the next few will pass to the south, giving us a few days light winds.
We've been fooled like this before, but with just one week of our six week break left, we have to try to finish this trail. We've heading north this afternoon with the plan of getting on the water in Gairloch tomorrow morning. I'll let you know what happens.