Sunday, 18 August 2013

Gelert Solo 1 man tent finally tested out, In the Azores! Review

I have had my Gelert solo one man tent for well over a year, and it had never been used. However I recently visited the Azores for work and spent a few days trekking and camping and the Gelert Solo seemed the perfect tent to take.

Its small size and < 2kg weight meant it was ideal, as I was walking with all my gear which including all my freediving equipment. My rucksack weighed over 22 kg in the end which meant it was hard work walking in the very humid and hilly Sao Jorge island of the Azores. The tent is very easy to put up and take down, and not too tricky to get back into its bag providing you roll it up neatly and tightly. It is very small inside, especially with all my gear in it, but I knew that would be the case. I was still able to sleep though, and keep all my gear secure and dry. There were some very heavy down pours but there was never any water or dampness getting into the inner tent. It was also very windy at times but the tent was fine with its low profile helping it survive the winds. The tent only holds its form if on very level ground, which meant when I pitched in the forest the roof of the tent was much lower than it should have been. One negative that had been mentioned by other owners was that the poles are fragile. Near the end of my trip the metal corner pieces in the smaller of the two poles bent, but its was not a major issue. I also replaced most of the poles with candy cane aluminium poles form which was a good move as they were lighter and more sturdy. The Azores has very rocky ground without much top soil due to its volcanic orgins, making good strong tent pegs a big help when pitching the tent.

For £15 pounds this tent was great and did me well.

Gelert solo with Pico mountain in the background 
Gelert solo in wood at Faja Caldeira dos santo Cristo

Gelert Solo tent at Urzelina camp site, Sao Jorge Azores

Inside the Gelert Solo with all my gear. Its a nylon coffin but that is OK. 

Gelert Solo tent at Urzelina camp site, Sao Jorge Azores

Saturday, 2 March 2013

New on-one chainset and MKS touring pedals for the Peugeot touring bicycle

I bought a pair of MKS sylvan touring pedals for the retro Peugeot touring bike as the old original Lyotard ones were too narrow and damaged. However I could only get one of the old pedals off and to cut a long story short the one that was stuck destroyed the thread in the non-drive side crank arm. So I decided to replace the chainset and bottom bracket and then I can put my new pedals on. Replacing my pedals became more expensive than I planned.
I found a good chainset form planet x / on-one which keeps a bit of a retro look. I also replaced the old cup and cone bottom bracket with a new sealed unit. I'm glad I did replace it as some of the bearings has become loose in the bottom bracket shell. The new touring pedals are great as they are nice and wide so are comfortable no matter what shoes you are wearing. The bearings were not very smooth out the box but not tight enough to be worth taking the dust caps off (not an easy task) to adjust the bearings. 

Old Stronglight bottom bracket and chainset

New planet x / on-one touring chainset

New sealed bottom bracket

New on-one chainset on the Peugeot touring bicycle

New MKS sylvan touring pedals

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Freediving at the Menai suspension bridge

I had been to try and dive by the suspension bridge in the Menai Strait before with little success. I went at low water but the current was extremely strong and the area I was in composed of thousands of tennis ball sized rocks covered in barnacles with little else. This video shows that dive (

However during Friday lunch break I went there again with Ryan Mowat with much more success. Part of that success was working out when slack water was, which is not the same as time of high or low water in the Menai Strait. To over simplify it the time of lowest current velocity is roughly 2 – 1 ½ hours before the time of High or Low water. This video shows some clips from that trip.

Going at slack water is important for a safe dive where you’re not drifting away, visability is likely to be better and it means less fining against the current potentially giving longer dive times. Ryan suggested diving down a subtidal cliff on the South side of the bridge and it was a great spot. The vis was about 3 m but we had lots of amazing sessile epifaunal to look including incrusting and branching sponges, large and abundant Dahlia anemones and deadman’s finger colonies. Motile organisms included lots of common starfish, edible crabs, velvet swimming crabs and small spider crabs amongst the sponges. There were no doubt many other species which I did not observe. I always regret not staying in one post and looking for smaller organisms, I so often pass over areas looking more generally at what is there.  It was 5 – 6 degrees C probably and I reached a max depth of 7 metres during my dives but depth was not the objective of the dives. 

Dahlia anemones in the Menai Strait

Common starfish foraging among breadcrumb sponge in the Menai Strait

Common starfish, sponges and an edible crab in the Menai Strait

Dahlia anemones in the Menai Strait

Common starfish feeding amongst breadcrumb sponge with a velvet swimming crab at the bottom. Menai Strait

The finger like structure is either the sponge Haliclona oculata or the bryozoan Alcyonidium diaphanum.   

Saturday, 5 January 2013

How to rinse, dry and store an open cell spearfishing / freediving wetsuit

When I got my nice new open cell wetsuit I was really paranoid about damaging it, so here is what I do to keep it in good condition after using it.

Rinsing your open cell wetsuit after use

If you have been using the suit in the sea, freshwater or pool it is always a good idea to wash it in freshwater  afterwards. After a dive a put all my neoprene into a bin bag for the journey home. This keeps everything else form getting wet and helps protect the suit from damage.  I fill my empty equipment box with freshwater in the bath and wash my wetsuit in it. I don't use soap or anything, just cold freshwater. make sure you fully soak the inside and outside so no salt water is left in the neoprene. Pouring water down the sleeves / legs helps reach all the suit.

Drying your open cell wetsuit after rinsing

I use a clothes horse placed in the bath to dry my wetsuit and equipment. I dry my open cell wetsuit and socks inside out, this is the best way to do it in my opinion. I never got the inside dry properly when just keeping it the right way round. The open cell inside will not take long to dry when inside out (e.g. overnight) and then you just turn the jacket and trousers the right way round to dry the outside which won't take long and won't be dripping water by then either. Water can pool in the hood so it is a good idea to tip the hood up a few times just after rinsing. Easy.

Drying an open cell spearfishing / freediving wetsuit

Storing your open cell wetsuit

Creasing, compressing and stretching your wetsuit all want to be avoided when drying and storing an open cell wetsuit. Hanging it up is not easy to do without avoiding these problems I have found and just laying it out takes up lots of room. Folding the wetsuit is best avoided because it will make permanent creases and compress the neoprene along these creases compromising its effectiveness and keeping you warm. What  I find does the job is rolling up the trousers in the jacket and tucking the arms in. By rolling it you avoid making creases and it ends up not taking up much space for storing and transporting.

Spearfishing / freediving open wetsuit  rolled up for storage

Let me know if you have any other methods which work for you.

Happy diving