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LDN kit & caboodle

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We saw plenty of posters and displays for London Fashion Week when we hit London last Thursday, but practicality and warmth factors were in our minds when we were choosing clothes, footwear, bags and tech for the trip.

As it turned out, it wasn’t that cold and we did see a few city types wandering around in shirts rather than suited and booted.

There was a fair amount of Rohan and Peter Storm stuff worn last Thursday as both of us wore merino wool base layers under fleece jumpers and windproof (Caroline) or furry finish (me) fleece jackets and either travel jeans (C) or soft shell trouser (me).

Caroline’s Reiker shoes did the business over the fourteen or so miles walked in the course of the day. Although I’d chosen to wear a newish pair of specialist shoes from a respected brand, the cushioning wasn’t what was required for a day of pavement pounding – replacements are already being eyed up in running rather than outdoor shops…

Our day bags came courtesy of Healthy Back Bag (C) and the man bag I’d bought at Imperial College about eighteen months ago.

Travel toothbrushes and toothpaste kept the breath fresh whilst Tea Tree wipes and small size body sprays kept things smelling sweet (as did the decision to wear merino wool based tops under our fleece jumpers).

M & S socks with silver content also came in useful too as a means of combatting any trainer induced smelly feet…

Anything else? Well, the iPad Mini came in useful as I still hadn’t got a paper copy of the latest Pocket Rough Guide London before we set off, as did a mini map of the touristy bits of the city.

The iPad wasn’t used that much, largely because local knowledge gleaned from thirty years of visiting London came in useful. It did however get used for deciding what our next moves should be as we respectively quaffed a pint of bitter shandy and a half of Aspalls cider in a pub just off Piccadilly.

Did the choice of clothing, footwear, bags and tech cut it? Yes, providing you discount the battering my feet got because of those shoes!

The tech worked fine (the above pic from Harrods is from the iPad – my Nikon digital compact was also used on the day) and that’s just about convinced me to take the iPad out and about on a more regular basis…

And yes, this is the second iPad only posting on wisepacking!

A-A packing – Part Two

May to August 2016

Now, where were we?

Ah yes, we’d been to Blackpool and the Yorkshire Dales (hence the pics of Caroline at Tan Hill Inn and her study of the cake menu at Dales Cycle Centre’s cafe) and we’d dived back home for one night only.

First up on the Saturday morning was a weather check to get a ten day forecast for the Fishguard area. Yes, that was our base for five nights as we’d bagged the double ensuite at Hamilton Backpackers Lodge.

With a favourable forecast, our bags contained virtually the same items we’d had in Swaledale. Caroline’s bike kit and a few other items had been washed and had dried overnight, as had my two pairs of Rohan Goas, my Rohan polo shirts and travel towels. The bags? Yes, a brace of Ospreys

As this was meant to be a relaxed break, Caroline hadn’t taken a lot of bike kit as she was hiring a bike rather than taking her road bike to Fishguard.

The relaxed nature of the few days down there were only matched by the relaxed nature of the plans we had for our time in the area – loose ones!

We had planned to have a Sunday lunch out and for Caroline to have a day on a bike, but that was it. With rain keeping at bay for all of the time out of Hamilton Backpackers Lodge, the clothing selection was ideal – casual for the day time and smarter casual for any nights wandering around town or heading into a pub for a bar meal.

Smarter casual attire also came into play in St. David’s, especially as Caroline was planning on wandering around the Cathedral and I headed for the cathedral’s cafe to do a spot of reading.

Our five days of bumbling around worked a treat as we took a look around museums dedicated to the Sunderland Flying Boat, wandered on quiet beaches, watched a rowing regatta and pondered a £10 each day trip to Ireland from the Fishguard ferry terminal.

Caroline got her ride in and whilst we donned smart casual kit for a last night pub meal, we have to say that our dress sense was much better than the items on the couple of plates placed in front of us when we found a pub that wasn’t having a giraffe with their pricing policy.

Did we hit the pub with the worst bar meals in the area? You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment, but I will say that it was the wurst sausage and mash I’ve ever had.

If we hadn’t been so hungry by the time the plates arrived, we’d have sent them back. We had a meal out with Caroline’s youngest son a couple of nights ago in a pub near Leeds United‘s football ground and we all agreed that the food on offer was pretty decent, even though it was fairly standard pub fodder. My choice – sausage and mash of course!!

With June and July being turned over to a bit of refurbishment and decorating of Wisepacking Towers, Our next break wasn’t until August – a three night hit and run to one of our regular get away from it all spots – North Norfolk.

Whilst it was overcast at times, North Norfolk was rather warm. As the temperatures were high, I ended up taking double the usual amount of t-shirts and polo shirts with me so one could be worn during the day and another following the pre-evening meal shower taken as part of the freshening up process.

Yes, we were back at Deepdale Backpackers once more, but as this was a last minute and almost spur of the moment thing, it was a casual affair as we weren’t eating out on an evening and the poshest place we were going to hit was the cafe at Holkham Hall where Caroline had gone to for bike hire.

Caroline did the wash and wear thing with some of her stuff – Rohan Ultra Silver Camisoles & Briefs, I did something that was quite radical given the usual nature of our travelling.

My worn stuff went into a nylon clothes bag picked up at Waterstone’s book shop in Leeds earlier in the year and was washed when we got home. No smelly socks in the bag though as the North Norfolk trip was done in sports sandals – Clark’s ATL leather for me and Merrell’s for Caroline.

It may have been a more sensible move to use ventilated approach shoes over these few days, but as temperatures were high, it was simple a matter of donning the sandals and slathering an appropriate amount of Nivea Factor 50 as sun protection.

The other factor to consider is that I rarely wear socks or footwear at home as I pad around in bare feet most of the time and have been spotted in sandals sans socks in the local chippy or Co-Op in December and January up here in deepest Yorkshire!

So, what else went along for the ride on these trips? The ever present Kindle, Nikon digital compact camera, Lifeventure and Eurohike travel towels plus Lush shampoo bars and shower gel, my Via Sonic electric toothbrush and my dumbass phone on the trips where driving was required.

Although I took the iPad Mini 2 along on the Swaledale and North Norfolk trips, it wasn’t used that much. Cinema Paradiso was viewed in Swaledale and a couple of pre-prepared wisepacking posts went live thanks to the iPad when we were in North Norfolk.

The artillery also went along to North Norfolk – my Sony A100 DSLR. This was used alongside the usual Nikon S3100 digital compact camera and it gave me the chance to remember and use some old shooting skills over those few days…

The next trips? All in the mix at the moment…

The first part – https://wisepacking.me/2016/09/07/a-a-packing-part-one/

A-A packing… Part One

April to August 2016, the places, the packing

April 2016 saw us hit Blackpool in a big way. Yes, it was just before the May Day Bank Holiday, but even so, one would have expected warmth and sunshine rather than the biting winds and rain we encountered.

We did find some warmth, but that happened as Status Quo kicked off what’s been touted as their last electric tour.

So, what did we take with us for the two days/one night?

In my case it was a ten litre bag that I picked up at Imperial College, London last year whilst Caroline had a fifteen litre Healthy Back Bag.

I had my TNF hooded soft shell and was wearing a TNF microfleece zip neck over a Rohan tech tee plus Peter Storm Soft Shell trousers and Salomon Gore-Tex lined approach shoes.

Inside the bag was a travel towel, basic wash kit, my meds, socks, underwear, Rohan merino wool mix t-shirt, Rohan Microgrid Stowaway zip neck fleece, Kindle and travel tickets plus the all important concert tickets…

Inside the soft shell pockets were a merino wool Edz beanie and the trusty Nikon Coolpix S3100 digital compact camera.

Caroline was similarly attired, only she’d chosen her TNF Windwall fleece jacket, her Berghaus PacLite jacket and Rohan jeans. She did however hit Primani for some leggings as she was feeling the cold and Millets didn’t have any base layer leggings left in stock.

Her bag also contained a Rohan Microgrid Stowaway zip neck – it’s not often that we wear almost matching tops, but as we both wore them for the pre-show meal and whilst waiting around in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, we didn’t much care about matching!

The mix proved to be ideal for the mooching around we did before heading to the B&B. The choice of t-shirts and fleeces for the walk back into town, our meal, the show and the walk back to the B&B was a similar success.

Friday saw more rain and we were pleased that we’d had good conversation with the B&B owners before grabbing our bags and checking out. It was cold, windy and miserable!

We sheltered for a while in the RNLI shop before braving the beach, but it didn’t take long for us to hit The Albert & Lion on the seafront for a coffee in this Wetherspoons pub.

The coffee prepared us for the walk along the prom and then back around town before we headed to Harry Ramsden’s for a fish & chip lunch. It’s not often that I have a beer with lunch, but I was pleased we were inside as some of those looked as if they’d arrived for the bank holiday weekend appeared to be underdressed and blooming freezing as they walked on by.

As we headed back to Blackpool North Station for our train, a strange apparition appeared in the sky. Yes, the sun had come out – too late for us, but right on time for the couple of hundred people we saw leaving the station in search of a Bank Holiday break.

Ten days later and we were in the car heading for a holiday of two halves.

There had been a tentative plan to try and get a week to ten days in somewhere like Rhodes or Zante for a relaxing break, but it didn’t happen, so we thought laterally and came up with a plan.

Yes, we have Internet access via desktop, tablet and Caroline’s smartphone, but the idea for the first part of our break came from a paperback book – The Independent Hostel Guide.

I’d spotted Dales Bike Centre at Fremlington near Reeth, made the call and booked ourselves in for four nights in a room at their hostel accommodation (there’s also a bike shop, bike hire and cafe on site – along with 24 hour cake supply via honesty box for those  staying at the centre).

Swaledale was part of my old stamping ground as an instructor and whilst living in Darlington. Caroline knew it of old, but hadn’t been there for years.

As Caroline was taking her road bike with her to do some cycling, I was the Skoda driving equivalent of Thunderbird 2 – ready to offer assistance and with the hatchback available to be Pod 5… providing of course that both of us had a signal on our respective mobile phones.

Clothing choices for this trip were easy to sort out. The ten day forecast was set fair for both this and the next section, so in my case it was a mix of Rohan Core Silver t-shirts, Element t-shirts and the same company’s polo shirts to cover casual and smart casual situations. Trousers? Two pairs of 2015 Rohan Goas covered all eventualities.

The bag? The trusty Osprey Farpoint 40 that took all of the above plus jacket, camera, books, iPad, chargers and a bag of food too.

As Caroline was cycling, her clothing included Endura cycle pants, a Tenn cycle shirt plus a couple of Peter Storm pocketed tech t-shirts.

Tenn Ladies Sprint Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey  

Rohan Essence t-shirts and vest tops plus her Rohan jeans were worn off the bike and a Rohan fleece cardigan came in useful on the nights we hit local pubs for a meal and a drop of Guinness for me and cider for Caroline.

Now I said that this trip was a break of two halves as we had a cunning plan.

It did get changed though as we had to head for home sooner than expected to sort out two tyres for the Skoda – one was punctured and replaced, but once we got to Kwik Fit, it became apparent that we needed two new tyres.

Our overnight at home had been planned as we’d already packed stuff for the next part of the trip. But it did give us a chance to have a curry and do some washing, safe in the knowledge that it would be dry in readiness for the next morning…

More on Friday!

http://www.rohan.co.uk

http://www.tenn-outdoors.co.uk

Just spotted…

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Meet the man at the top of Rohan…

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/08/28/rohan-boss-roger-cann-on-how-the-outdoor-clothes-retailer-is-pre/

Not usually a Telegraph reader, but they do have some interesting stuff on their website from time to time.

One year – September 2015 II

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Yes, this was the calm after the storm in Porto

We’d got a good deal on our rail tickets from Lisbon to Porto by booking in advance on http://www.cp.pt, but that wasn’t the only deal we’d taken up.

The price quoted in Lonely Planet Portugal for standard class tickets between Lisbon and Porto was €24, but we travelled in First Class for €22. Yes, we were tied to one train and one train only, but given the quieter nature of the carriage, the comfy reclining chairs and the close proximity of the bar, we weren’t complaining.

The air-con was also appreciated as we headed out of Lisbon. Airfields, towns and farms were all visible through the carriage windows too as the seats hadn’t been crammed in, so we sat back, relaxed, dozed off, ate or read over the course of the three hour trip to Porto.

Once in Porto, the route from Sao Bento station to Rivoli Cinema Hostel was an easy one, so much so that I didn’t bother keeping the guidebook to hand as we wandered up there.

Caroline and I had been allocated the Blade Runner themed room. The framed film poster on the wall was familiar as I’d had the same poster on the wall in my student digs back in the 1990’s.

The Blade Runner room was minimalist, a feature that we also saw as we passed other theme rooms which were being cleaned or vacated over the few days we were in Porto.

We had the use of the kitchen/dining/breakfast room, a roomy lounge complete with one of the biggest TV screens I’ve ever seen, a very comprehensive choice of DVDs to watch plus a row of Internet connected computers for you could check your email on, watch football matches or find out what the latest weather forecast was.

This was something that we were quite interested in as we’d spotted that the weather had the potential to be somewhat inclement for the first few days of our stay in Portugal. So much so that we’d both brought very good waterproofs with us, just in case.

When I’d checked out what the latest BBC forecast was for Porto, I turned to Caroline and let her know what the prognosis was – a red weather warning for rain and plenty of it.

At this point, one of the cinema buffs who owned Rivoli Cinema Hostel chipped in with a comment about the fact that he’d never heard or seen a red weather warning before, so it sounded like things were going to be bad…

Once this was done, we headed out to stock up on food, beer, wine and fruit juice. There may have been plenty of salted cod in the shop’s freezers, but we didn’t see any wabbits (or putty tats…).

Bread, salad, cheese, cooked chicken, fruit, local fizzy pop and a couple of bottles of mineral water hit the basket and we found out the hard way that we should have packed a couple of shopping bags as yes, we were charged for plastic carrier bags…

We did have an early night after our evening meal, but sleep wasn’t an option for the whole of the night as a nearby dance club cranked up the volume after midnight and stopped around 4am.

Was I like a bear with a sore head the following morning? Oh yes!

Fortunately I had some sachets of the old student hangover cure in my meds bag and one sachet plus a few cups of coffee helped to resolve the situation. As did the yoghurt, bread, cheese, hazelnut spread and orange juice that was served up for the hostel breakfast.

Did I mention that it had started to rain? It had and boy, did we know about it!

After a couple of hours of mooching around in the hostel lounge, Caroline and I decided to make a break for it rather than being indoors all day.

Wallets and loose change was stuffed into pockets as our cameras and day bags were left behind, jackets were zipped up and hoods pulled in tight as we went in search of Centro Portugues de Fotographia.

Given that maps were useless, it took longer than we thought to find the Centro Portugues de Fotographia, a former prison that’s now dedicated to exhibitions of photographs and camera equipment.

As we were now soaked from the waist down, it was a good thing that there was a cloakroom for our jackets and that we’d both decided to wear quick drying travel trousers.

Once we’d made our way around, had hot chocolate and retrieved our coats, these trousers and the rest of our clothing were much drier, but we were squelching as neither of us were wearing shoes with a Gore-Tex or other waterproof lining given the weather we’d experienced before in Portugal.

The rain had eased off a bit, but only like a racing car does as it goes into a corner before a flat-out straight. It was well past lunchtime and we were hungry, so we hit the first cafe we saw and became their only customers for the next hour or so.

Caroline had a chicken salad, but I tried one of Porto’s specialities.

Middlesbrough has the parmo, Scotland the deep fried chocolate bar, France has the joy of frogs legs, but Porto has the Francesinha, a hefty sandwich containing steak, sausage and ham which is covered in melted cheese and given a slurp of peppery tomato and beer sauce over the top…

Tasty? Yes. Filling? Definitely! Did I have another? Yes, but two days later as a means of keeping any cholesterol at a sensible  level!

Once lunch was over, we pledged back to Rivoli Cinema Hostel for showers, dry clothes, reading, a light tea and another early night.

Or so we thought as that bloody club started up at midnight again!!!

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More about this on Friday!

One year packing goodies

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Yes, it’s that Rohan Cool Silver t-shirt again!

As we’ve made several trips over the last year, there are a few items which have earned their stripes.

Such as 100ml bottles of Lifeventure Fabric Wash, 50ml packs of Nivea UVA/UVB Sun Lotion (SPF 30 or SPF 50 depending on the advance forecast for the places we’re visiting), 100ml bottles of Lush Shower Gel (original choice was Flying Fox, but I’ve now swapped to using Rain On My Parade), Lush solid shampoo bars and battery toothbrushes…

I bought a Slim Sonic AAA powered toothbrush, liked it, am still using it and haven’t as yet replaced the battery that came with it. I’ve got spare brush heads, so on the current performance, I should be using it for a while yet.

Caroline picked up a similar device from Clas Ohlson’s store in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last year. While the sign said it was £4.99, the item came up as being £2.99 when it was rung through the till. It’s worked, but Caroline has switched to a Colgate 360 battery powered toothbrush and has found that to be a better buy.

Clothing with a silver content has worked well. I’ve gone on about the Rohan range of t-shirts and underwear for years, but I’ve found that trainer and dress socks from Marks & Spencer have also been worth investing in. Nasty riffs from sweaty feet are a thing of the past!

Caroline tried Rohan’s Ultra Silver camisoles and briefs last year and has gone on to buy another couple of sets as they’ve proved to be quite useful. The fine fabric is comfortable to wear, even in hot climates and each item has been washed at the end of the day and either packed or worn the following day depending on what we’ve been up to.

Rohan’s Travel Linen clothing has also been a useful addition to her wardrobe, as have the three pairs of Goa trousers that I bought last year. Whilst I spent a great deal of time in t-shirts when we were in Lisbon, there were times when I felt slightly underdressed whilst having evening meals.

So I invested in some short and long sleeved shirts in last summer’s Rohan sale and added a couple of polo shirts to my travel collection. The latter can also be washed on a night and worn the following morning and I have gone out and bought another three because I’ve started wearing them at home.

Merino wool t-shirts have also been added to the wardrobe and these are also home and away items. I’ve used them as base layers when heading to the airport at 3am in below freezing conditions and on their own at rock concerts, wandering around town and whilst walking on coastal boardwalks on sunny days.

Anything else? Giant size Lifeventure travel towels have been useful in hostels or guest houses when towels or bathrobes haven’t been available and as part of the wash and wear processes.

Wash the item, squeeze the water out and then roll it up in the towel to get rid of any excess water before hanging the clothing and the towel up to dry.

The last items help to keep my pack organised and at a hand-luggage gauge friendly size.

A collection of Rohan lightweight storage cubes have been bought and used. One large one contains a mix of t-shirts, polo shirts and long sleeves, another is used for spare trousers, a micro fleece pullover and a fleece gilet and then two smaller cubes respectively contain underwear and socks.

Any chargers and adaptors are in a small wash bag pouch from IKEA, any paperwork is in a plastic wallet from WHS Smith and the guidebook goes in a small plastic carrier bag. Meds are in a clear plastic bag along with any necessary paperwork whilst the wash kit goes into one of the clear zipped pouches used to contain the Gillette travel kits I mentioned yesterday.

The Kindle, Nikon, passport, wallet and loose change go in my jacket or trouser pockets along with my reading specs and my spare pair of specs that double up as sunglasses thanks to Transitions lenses.

And tomorrow? What didn’t keep on keeping on!

One year – buying power

If you were reading yesterday’s piece about the stuff we packed on our travels between May and July 2015, you may be surprise to learn that despite the age of the Internet and the opportunities it presents to make purchases from the comfort of the sofa, your office chair or whilst supping an overpriced milky coffee in a chain cafe, most of our purchases are still made in shops rather than transactions made via Firefox or Safari browsers (other browsers are available folks, but I still remember Netscape!).

The reasons are simple. We like to support local businesses or retail chains that do give a monkey’s about what they sell and how it’s sold. Some items are also no-brainers as packs, footwear and cycle helmets are the categories that I’d always try to buy from physical stores rather than online as all should be tried and fitted before you buy.

It’s not usually in a salesperson’s best interests to advise and recommend items that have the ‘in’ brand label on them or the highest price tag. It’s also worth taking note of a salesperson’s recommendations are as they may have knowledge that could swing your thoughts in a more useful direction.

I’ve had a couple of people go into huff mode when I’ve mentioned that they don’t need an 80 litre pack for a visit to Thailand (40 litres is the usual recommendation from those who have headed off in that direction).

One aspect of world travel is that yes, you can usually get what you need in most countries so you don’t need to take large bottles of shampoo, conditioner or shower gel with you.

Think light and it’s a case of having travel sizes for your first few days, by which time you have probably passed a few stores that stock just about everything you need for your stay in the country/countries you’re visiting.

There’s also the school of though that thinks it’s best to travel as light as possible to avoid baggage charges either from the airline you’re travelling with or the bag in the boot charges levied by taxi companies.

One of the best exchanges Caroline and I have had was with a taxi driver in Arendal, Norway about five years ago. We needed to get to Arendal railway station in order to get a train to Stavanger and as it was a few kilometres away and uphill, we got a cab.

Once in, we started talking to the driver who was dumbfounded when we answered his question ‘Have you left your main bags at a hotel?’.

‘No’ was my reply. “They are our main bags….” He couldn’t believe that we were in Norway for almost two weeks and were only using a holdall each.

By going for a smaller bag, there’s another point to consider – you will probably be able to pick it up and run in the event of any last minute dash for a bus, cab or train.

One person I was advising was insisting on a 90 litre bag to hold everything for their travels until I out that if that bag was filled to the brim with what was perceived to be needed for the trip, then the potential owner of said bag probably wouldn’t be able to lift it, let alone sling it over their shoulders and run with it…

Footwear is another area that shop purchases rather than online buys pay dividends. Visit a decent shoe shop or outdoor store mid-afternoon and try the boot, sandals or shoes on and wander around in them to your heart’s content until you’re happy with them and always, but always, insist on taking the pair that you’ve tried on rather than another pair from the stockroom that you haven’t tried on.

Why wait until mid-afternoon to try on? Unless you’re just off a night shift, then mid-afternoon is the time to try on as your feet can expand between half and a full size as the day progresses.

And cycle helmets? It’s a case of getting the best advice and listening to it. Be honest with the type of biking you’re doing and listen to what’s being said regarding the care, aftercare and way to wear a helmet (I’m still amazed at the number of cycle helmets that are being worn in such a way that severe damage will be inflicted to the wearer’s skull as it’s not being worn properly).

Caroline and I do buy clothing from trusted online retailers from time to time, but that’s usually because we know the company’s size blocking and can be pretty sure that the items we order fit and fit well.

For the most part though, we still buy from shops. Some are local to us whilst others are part of the same chain in another area of the country.

The main chains we deal with are Rohan and Cotswold Outdoor, largely because we’ve had good service from their staff and we’ve been happy with the purchases we’ve made from both companies over the last few years.

With Caroline needing some new shoes for her cycling and potentially some new sandals too, it could well be that we’re heading to their Leeds outlets soon to take advantage of Cycling UK or sale discounts at Cotswold Outdoor and sale discounts at Rohan as their sale starts tomorrow.