Gear Testing in Glen Sannox: A look at some new camping equipment

Having treated myself to a new tent and 4 season sleeping bag for any cold/harsh weather exploits, I ventured to Arran once again with my dad for an overnight in the spectacular Glen Sannox to test both my new camping equipment and the camera on my new iPhone. We managed to coordinate our trip with a break in the typically Scottish weather so far this month in the west of Scotland.

[December 2016]

Due to being particularly excited about the upcoming trip, I was packed and ready to leave for the ferry a good few days before we departed for Brodick once again. With the addition of a much heavier than usual winter sleeping bag and a larger tent as well as more clothes and food than an average overnight trip in the summer, my Osprey Kestrel and its contents (including 1.5l of water) weighed 12.5kg. From what I remember, my pack weighed a good 5 or 6kg more than this when completing the Speyside way last June, so I was quite happy to discover that even my overnight winter kit is relatively light compared to what I’ve carried in the past.

We made the extremely familiar journey by ferry to Brodick, then jumped on the service bus for the 25 minute journey to the beginning of the glen. For the time being the rain was off and the temperature was particularly mild for this time of year. We started up the glen at a leisurely pace as today’s objectives were very simple: do a bit of exploring, take some pictures and find a decent pitch for the night.

Path up Glen Sannox from the A841

This was a fairly relaxed and easy-going trip compared to the last overnight trip in the Cairngorms, but nonetheless it was good to be back in familiar territory with an easy day ahead of us. We stopped frequently to admire the views and to take pictures, making sure my new iPhone 7 was given a pretty substantial test (I was expecting good things having forked out a considerable lump of cash!).

Less than a mile from the entrance to the glen there are a number of wild camping spots, so we stopped to examine each one in order to pick the best pitch for the night. We settled on a spot next to an abandoned building, which sat a short distance from Sannox Burn. As we were happy with the spot, we continued up the glen to take some more photos and admire the breathtaking views towards Arran’s Corbetts.

Cioch na h-Oighe, the start of the “Bastion Ridge”, from the Allt a’Chapuill
Spot the explorer

We walked another mile or so into the glen, stopping regularly to fully appreciate our surroundings, and decided to begin our retreat back to our camp spot for the night. On the way back, we ventured off the path slightly to take a look at the old mine buildings and remnants of industry that once made for a bustling community in this part of the island.

Looking out over the glen

On our walk back, I again stopped several times to test the camera on my new phone. So far, I’m very pleased with the results. As per the images above, the quality is very good and the shutter is fast so taking a quick photo while on the go is particularly easy. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to take high quality photos on many adventures to come!

Close up of a Gorse bush

We reached the pitch for the night and pitched our tents, this being my second (first pitch in anger) chance at pitching my new Force Ten Nitro Lite 200.

My new tent: Force Ten Nitro Lite 200

Despite being the first proper pitch of this tent, it went up no problem at all. The poles were easy to feed through each colour coded sleeve and the inner was already attached so the whole thing was ready to go in less than 10 minutes. My only concern when purchasing the Nitro Lite was the set of very thin pegs that accompanied the tent, so these were immediately swapped out for some Terra Nova V-Pegs that I’ve used for a while with my Laser Comp 1. However, even with the new pegs (14 in total) the whole tent only weighs around 1.5kg in total, so for a sturdy tent capable of withstanding fairly high winds and difficult weather conditions, I’m over the moon with the pack size and weight.

Pitched pretty well for its first outing

I’m also very happy with the amount of space inside the tent. It’s definitely wide enough for 2 people without being cramped or uncomfortable. I’m roughly 6’0″ and with my head a few centimetres from the door I still wasn’t touching the end of the inner with my sleeping bag, so for anyone except the absolute tallest of people, this tent should be long enough inside.

Plenty of room for 2

After pitching the tents and sorting out our kit, we took a quick trip to the burn for some water. We then enjoyed the views and took some more photos around our chosen campsite for the night and once the light began to fade we cracked out the stoves and Mountain House meals (freeze dried food is definitely my number 1 choice for wild camping meals) and devoured our dinner.

Our spot for the night

The only issue with camping in winter is around 14 hours of darkness, so unless you don’t mind lots of sleep or spending excessively long amounts of time in a tent (I don’t find either of these things particularly challenging thankfully), then perhaps sticking to camping in the summer would be best. It was almost completely dark by 1800, so it was time to try out the night time capabilities of my new phone’s camera.

Unfortunately, the iPhone’s camera app has fairly limited functionality, but the “Slow Shutter” app seems to do the trick for long exposure or night time photography. It’s obviously not as capable or detailed as a DSLR camera, but I was still pretty happy with some of the results. They’re absolutely fine for messing around and trying to get some photos of the night sky.

My tent and the night sky

After a fair amount of time fiddling with my camera and taking some photos, it was then time for bed. According to the weather app on my phone, the current temperature in Sannox was 4 degrees, so that’s as good a reference I have for the actual temperature at around 2100. That being said, it definitely felt colder than 4 degrees, so it was going to be a good test for my new winter sleeping bag.

I decided to purchase a Snugpak Chrysalis 4 based on recommendations from my dad, who currently has a Chrysalis 3. It’s pretty heavy at 1.9kg but with a lightweight tent and new-found dislike for down sleeping bags on a previous Arran trip, I was willing to compromise on some weight for something reliable and robust, especially for use during the coldest and most dangerous weather of the year, where something that works is more important than something that doesn’t weigh much.

I woke up around 0800 on day 2, meaning roughly 11 hours of sleep. The bag has a comfort of -10 degrees celsius according to Snugpak and as mentioned above, I’ve no idea of the actual temperature that night, but I didn’t wake up too warm or too cold at any point during the night so the sleeping bag was definitely doing something right. Perhaps trying it in snowy conditions and taking a small thermometer would be the best way to truly test my new sleeping bag, but for now I’m happy with the results of its first outing.

Due to the imminent high winds and heavy rain approaching, we decided to pack up as soon as we had eaten our breakfast. The winds did pick up slightly while I was sorting my kit inside the tent and the inner and flysheet barely moved, so I’m optimistic that this was a good choice of tent for bad weather outings and winter trips.

We were packed and ready to go by around 0930 and made our way back towards the road for the bus back to Brodick.

Packed and ready to go. Still happy with my Osprey Kestrel 68.
As usual, leave no trace!

We caught the bus at 1015 and made our way back to Brodick for the ferry home, feeling very pleased at the results of our gear test. I’m very happy with how all of my new equipment has performed and especially happy with the quality of my new phone’s camera, so here’s hoping there are plenty of opportunities for adventure in the coming weeks!

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