The times are changing

The times are changing

It’s alarming at the way costs are rising. We can blame fuel prices as well as sugar and sunflower oil on the war in Ukraine, the knock-on effect has seen the production, transport and material costs causing havoc at the till.

From an outdoor perspective, the more “fashionable” brands are starting to look unaffordable. Lower cost chains provide a degree of relief but sometimes quality is sacrificed. So what can you do to improve your next outdoor experience without breaking the bank?

With years of use down jackets and sleeping bags accumulate body oils which limit the ability to puff out ( known as lofting ), this limits their ability to keep you warm. So rather than taking them in for dry cleaning wash them. You will need a front-loading washing machine, a mild detergent and a gentle cold cycle. As well as two tennis balls. After the rinse cycle put the jacket or bag in the dryer with the two tennis balls. Run it at medium heat for about 20 minutes and then repeat. The tennis balls will break any down clusters apart, the warming capability will be restored. As good as new. Voila!

The same technique can be used for synthetic-filled puffer jackets.

Then look at your kit and discard superfluous stuff. Pack stuff that is small and multi-purpose. A super tool that has a corkscrew saves an item. A torch that doubles as a lantern will save another. I always take a knife set that can cut, carve, pare and slice bread. Be economical it pays off. You could even drop the chairs and picnic on the ground. Hikers are good at being frugal. For the evening sundowners, a whisky takes up less space than a six-pack of your favourite brew.

Then do some research, although I am an advocate of the “unplanned “ road trip, research helps a good deal. You will save on fuel by planning where to go and what to do. It also makes for a better experience as you may need to take water, food and a daypack if you are going to explore. Then cook a bit more the night before, there is nothing better than rolls, cold steak or boerewors at the top of a mountain or a picnic site on a trail. Google becomes your best friend. However in the words of our old friend Ernie Hattingh “don’t believe everything you read on Google “. We had driven 900 Km to Kenhardt to photograph a quiver tree forest that had closed two years previously. Any old guides or books that you can get from the pre-internet days are extremely useful.

A level of fitness is also important, I have walked battlefields with groups where some people were just so out of breath that valuable time was wasted.

Then prepare to detour, on the way back from Newcastle I detoured to visit the Majuba battlefield. It was a hectic climb but once on the top, we saw a vulture “restaurant” a rare treat. When one visits some of these old battlefields you are amazed at the physical effort soldiers had to put in to climb these mountains. Being in shape makes things easier. If you are supple you don’t need to sleep on a bed or mattress as a simple sleeping pad will suffice. If your ankles are strong you can even get by with lighter footwear which makes hiking easier. You can do it more often.

Then learn to cook, it’s not rocket science. But acquire bush cooking skills, learn to make a fire, monitor the temperature and put together a good salad. You can still eat out if there is a good restaurant nearby if you get to camp late, but nothing beats the home-cooked version.

Understand that breakfast is also important, learn how to at least do toast and eggs- and yes you can warm something up from the previous evening. As long as you have enough for lunch.

Don’t be risk-averse, get out and have fun without endangering your group or vehicle, explore, do that mountain pass or swim in a rock pool – you will be a better person. Don’t regret a missed opportunity.

Lastly, be familiar with your kit, test it, use it at home, and sleep in the garden. Cook breakfast and supper, make sandwiches

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