Getting out the house is hard

Ben Alder

The house is cold, it’s an old Scottish house, and despite all the insulation we have had installed it is still chilly. Maybe do do with running the heating low too! I’ve been working at home, sat at my desk, writing dull code. And I’m chilly now, chilly through. I look out the window. The rain is pouring down. The forecast is pouring down all weekend. My parents email to say they have just driven north, wipers on all the way. I swap my thin baselayer that I like sleeping in to a thicker one. Add in another thin fleece. Decide I’m going to take the 30mm lens after all. Remove a few things and refuse to pack the winter sleeping bag, that needs snow on the ground before it gets packed. I dread being cold, wet, shivering all weekend. The tickets are bought, my bike booked on to Rannoch. I could take the tickets back and get a refund. I could stay home, light the wood burner and sit down to read. Of course I would go in to Edinburgh, wander round making photographs. Finish in a warm cafe with espresso and artisanal cake. I could be warm, dry, secure. I’m cold now, going to be cold all weekend and come back to a cold house.

I pick up bike luggage and step out the door. The hardest decision made, all I need to do now is pedal, and I can do that, down to the train station for the train to Rannoch. The train is warm. I strip all the warm layers off, put on the new Matt Spicer EP and the journey has begun.

I went back to do the route from the previous weekend that I had failed to do having spent too long in the tearoom. The tearoom is closed for the season now, so even if I hadn’t learned my lesson, then the temptation was removed. Apart from a couple of hike a bike sections this route worked out well and I did most of it.

https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/osmaps/route/4058488/rannoch

Lessons learned:

  • The winter mat (Thermarest xtherm) made a huge difference, it was like sleeping on a warm cloud.
  • Having warm dry clothes to change into also kept me happy and cosy in the tent, extra weight on the bike is worth it.
  • Anything in the saddle pack that is to be kept dry also needs to go in a dry bag.
  • Summer sleeping bag was still ok, and I didn’t need to sleep in my down jacket, although the weather was around 5-10ºC so a little warmer than last weekend.
  • There is practically no way to avoid getting wet during the day, if it’s not rain, it’s sweat.
  • I’m happy pushing the bike, it can be better than a large pack.
  • But, I need to route plan better, and chose the most appropriate travel for the trip. Maybe the bike is sometimes only good for the land rover track in and out, then need to switch to a rucksack and snow shoes If it is snowy for example. Fit the plans to the adventure, rather than just saying “I’m going bikepacking”.
  • The gas stove is starting to bother me. The hydrocarbon burn. There is always a bit left in the canister or you need to carry a spare canister anyway. It doesn’t work so well in the cold without keeping the canister warm and/or a hanging kit. Tempted to try the wood burning stove, although it is probably bulkier for fuel and not sure where it would go in my current setup for bikepacking.
  • Getting rid of some stuff from the camelback gave extra headroom E.g. do I really need the tyre pressure gauge or the high volume pump.
  • Reducing food also saved some bulk and I wasn’t hungry with what I had. Muesli and 4 slices soreen for brekkie, 3 go ahead bars and Haribo for snacking, nuts and cheese for lunch, cake for campsite arrival, and a dried meal for dinner was fine. Might need to figure out some higher energy emergency rations than cup a soup.
  • The Hasselbad X1D 50C II is awesome, particularly after I figured out to swipe down for settings menu, and that there is a display mode that includes a spirit level.
  • Bracketed shots and HDR are just not necessary. Exposure blending, and no sharpening, are fine for the X1D.

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