Thursday 4 April 2013

New TGO - 35th Anniversary Edition - Solo Tents, Sleeping Mats, Backpacking Food, Two Perfect Wild Camps

The best solo tent? The Scarp 1 in use on the TGO Challenge
The latest issue of The Great Outdoors, just out, is, amazingly, the 35th anniversary edition. There are contributions from all the past and present editors of the magazine - unusually there have only been four (plus the current Acting Editor) and two of those, Roger Smith and Cameron McNeish, still write in every issue. There are also some previous covers, including that from the first issue, which I remember well - a Robin Adshead photo of a rural camp featuring a Camp Trails Ponderosa external frame pack (I had one of those) with a Backpacker's Club badge on it and a Karrimor Marathon single-skin tent (a good design someone should revive as it had a square front with two poles - trekking poles could be used now) plus a balaclava and insulated jacket clad backpacker pouring water out of one of those highly impractical shallow rectangular mess pans. I remember too the excitement in the backpacking community when that first issue came out - there had never been a monthly magazine devoted to walking and backpacking before.

The Karrimor Marathon tent is long gone but I reckon it would stand up quite well against the current crop of solo backpacking tents, ten of which I review in this issue. I also consider nine inflatable mats, a category that didn't exist 35 years ago. Elsewhere in the gear pages John Manning reviews six two-person tents costing under £200 and Daniel Neilson rounds up an eclectic set of camping accessories, tests a luxurious sounding but ludicrously expensive cashmere top and describes OutDry, a new and more effective way of attaching waterproof membranes to various products.

My backpacking column describes the two perfect camps I made in the Cairngorms with Terry Abraham back in February which I described in my blog post for February 28 (more words in The Great Outdoors, more pictures in the blog). In the Hill Skills section I write about food for long backpacking trips with a list of what I mostly eat.

The magazine opens with some wonderful double-page pictures from Glyn Davies, Damian Shields and David Lintern. There's a look at six bottled beers, two of which I've tried and like. But Black Isle Red Kite really should be in there as well! Other short pieces include an interview with Alan Hinkes and the first of a series on Walking Class Heroes by Roly Smith, in this case Benny Rothman of Kinder Trespass fame.

Two of the big features are by Acting Editor Daniel Neilson and recently departed Assistant Editor Carey Davies (he's gone off to be Hillwalking Development Officer for the BMC). Daniel has an exciting first taste of alpine mountaineering on Austria's highest peak while Carey climbs Ben Nevis by the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, the finest ascent route. The sixtieth anniversary of the ascent of Everest is also celebrated this year and Cameron McNeish has a look at the history of British mountaineering from the ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 to this year's ascent of Ulvetanna. On a different theme, that of conservation, Mark Gilligan looks at the Rewilding Ennerdale scheme with photos from past and present to show the changes that are already visible. Also on conservation Roger Smith considers whether there are too many deer. He says not many of us would want wolves reintroduced. Well, I would! Jim Perrin writes about Seton Gordon in The Hillwalkers' Library (and gets in what now seems his obligatory dig at 'new nature writing'). I've read and enjoyed many of Seton Gordon's writings but not the book Jim praises here - The Charm of the Hills.


  1. I'd welcome the reintroduction of wolves also and those who say they wouldn't should, at the very least, read Jim Crumley's 'The Last Wolf' and 'Decade of the Wolf' by Douglas Smith and Gary Ferguson.

  2. I loved my Karrimor Marathon, very light, and could be zipped on to a friend's tent. Possibly a MYOG project coming up.

    I'm surprised no one has come up with a lightweight framed pack (carbon fibre?) nothing better for heavy loads.

    I must make a trek through the attic to revisit my old TGOs.



  3. Got very excited for a moment when you described the cover of issue 1.

    I too had a Karrimor Marathon (but the orange/red one) and my plain green Ponderosa also sported a Backpackers Club badge.

    The great thing about club weekend meets were all the new goodies that Robin would bring along for us to ooh and aah over.

    Fondly remembered days.

    I still have the club tie!

    Keep trekking