Making Activity Tracking pay with Bounts

I’ve always done a lot of walking, but recently bought a Garmin Fenix 3 and now I’m hooked on activity tracking. While Garmin Connect allows me to partake in challenges with people who do similar stepcounts to me, it’s Bounts that lets me earn money from Activity Tracking.

Bounts lets you trade points (known as “bounts”) for vouchers from loads of well known stores, like Sainsbury’s, Amazon, Argos, Pizza Express, Next, M&S, Curry’s, River Island, John Lewis Group, Morrisons etc. A £5 voucher costs 1,389 bounts.

So how do you earn bounts? Well different devices and different activities allow you to claims points. My only activity is walking, so in my case a free membership pays 5 bounts for 7,000 steps, 5 bounts for a 20 minute walk (you need an approved GPS enabled device for this reward). So that’s a maximum of 10 bounts per day. Not many you say, so here’s how to pump things up. Join up with my referral code subscribe54721 and you’ll get 100 bounts (don’t sign up via the Facebook link or it won’t work). Let Bounts tweet via a Twitter account you own and get 5 bounts per day. There’s also Reward Wheel which you get free spins on. Don’t expect to win much on this, though I did win 1,000 bounts just a week after I joined. This was follow soon afterwards with 50 bounts, but otherwise if I have won it’s usually just 5 bounts.

But if you’re into activity you can become a premium+ member (£14.99/year or £1.49/month) and earn 20 bounts for each 7,000 steps up to 60 bounts (3 x 7,000 steps) and 20 bounts per 20 min walk up to 60 bounts (3 x 20 min walk – must be at least 1 hour between walks and at least 4kmph average speed). So with the Twitter bounts that’s 125 bouts per day, which quickly adds up to 1,000 bounts in 8 days. You get loads more spins on the Reward Wheel too. All in all you could earn a £5 voucher every 11 days or around £160 a year. Of course it may be harder to keep up the regime in the winter, which is where monthly premium+ membership may be a good idea.

If you don’t have an activity tracker you get get started by using a smartphone. There’s also an app on Android and ios. Cycling, running and other activities can be tracked via apps like Strava, Runkeeper and Swimtag. You can check out the list here.

Just to get a reality check, 1000 steps is about 0.5 miles, so you need to be walking a little over 10 miles a day to get to this level, but if you’re like me and own a Border Collie, it’s really not that difficult. My plan is to make it pay for the Fenix 3, but in reality I will be doing well if I get a new pair of walking boots each year from it. That’s if they don’t go bust and I lose my £14.99 first. I’ll certainly be claiming back my first £15 asap.

Posted in Health, Walking | 1 Comment

10 years of Geocaching

I got my first GPS receiver (a Garmin eTrex) in 2003, but it wasn’t until early 2006 that a friend persuaded me to look at Geocaching and I found my first Geocache rather aptly on 1st April that year. My friend had found 100 caches since he started caching in 2001 and that seemed a huge amount. Now, as I write this in 2016 we have found 2,700. It may sound a lot to some, but there are many people who have only been caching for a relatively short period who have found vastly more.

It is well documented how Geocaching came about from the turning off of GPS satellite restrictions in 2000. There were very few people who could partake in the hobby then as they didn’t have the hardware. A few people (like myself) bought a receiver for walking/hiking purposes, stumbled upon Geocaching, and got in that way, but it wasn’t until several years later that smartphones became available (and much longer again until they became commonplace) that the hardware was available to the general public. This meant a big change in who was Geocaching and it switched from the outdoor types to pretty much anyone nerdy enough to partake. Here are the biggest changes as I see them.

The average cache size has become smaller and smaller.

Ten years ago you would have been chastised by the Geocaching community (the Groundspeak forums were very popular then) for placing a micro cache in the woods. Now it is the norm. The searching part of Geocaching was always just a means to an end for me as I much preferred the walking (and in the early days talking to my son). We’d happily walk for a couple of hours (or all day in some cases) to get to a cache, but the physical box was usually a reasonable size, so was pretty easy to find. This meant a proper container was used (ammo boxes were not that uncommon) and the contents were usually in good condition. The micro (35mm film pot) came along and it all went downhill from there. Now tiny nanos that can be easily hidden with little effort and no cost have taken over. Anyone can hide a tiny container and make it hard to find, but you’ve done a good job when you hide a large container and make it hard to find.

No one writes logs in the log books any more.

I used to enjoy sitting in the sunshine after a long, hard walk to find a cache and read a few of the recent logs. Then I’d write a few lines in the book, usually about something that had happened on the way to the cache, while my son looked through the trades and maybe did a puzzle that was in there or played with one of the toys. If you don’t walk to caches of course there’s very little to write about and this, along with the decline of caches large enough to hold a proper log book, has meant written logs have largely become just a distant memory. So many of these changes are interrelated.

Trades don’t often exist now

Personally I don’t miss the trades that were always found in every cache ten years ago as my son is grown up now. People occasionally used to put in the listing what the original trades were, so when you found the same contents several years later it became clear that people didn’t trade much. Personally I always found that my better trades (in my own caches) were almost always scrumped very quickly and rubbish left in their place. I remember the first cache I placed had an early log that said “made a few trades”. When I looked in on it shortly afterwards almost everything had been taken and a smashed up toy car was left in its place. I’ve seen a lot of odd trades. Money is common (usually a 2p piece), but I’ve also seen a peg, a stone, a leaf, a freebie voucher and food. Would you really eat anything left in a cache? I know I wouldn’t.

What happened to trackables?

Beautiful Geocoins and travel bugs used to be commonplace. We’d often come home after a day of geocaching with several trackables, finding one in almost 50% of the caches we visited and half of those were geocoins. Now I can’t remember the last geocoin I saw and even TBs are far from common these days. We released quite a few geocoins ourselves, but they (almost) all disappeared into the ether quite quickly. The other problem is that when you find one now it’s often not that easy to find a cache large enough to drop it off in.

Most caches are just dull and show no imagination

I started caching because I loved finding interesting or beautiful places. I never really cared how many caches I found in a day as long as we had a great day out walking in lovely countryside. We’ve always been a bit unusual in that we’ll go to an area, park the car and then walk for the rest of the day. Most cachers in our experience will drive as close to a cache as they can, find it and then drive to the next one. This may be why the vast majority of caches these days are placed by the side of a road.

This is the most important failure in Geocaching IMHO. Munzee started (similar to Geocaching, but using QR codes instead of a cache/log book) and I thought this would be the solution. It quickly proved to go down the lack of quality route much more quickly and spectacularly than Geocaching did.

The cache series

When we started Geocaching we did the CC series by Write and Mane in South Wales. 50 caches spread over the county of Caerphilly. Some tricky puzzles, some great history, some fascinating locations. One year and quite a bit of effort required. This kind of series was never common, but was highly enjoyable and educational. Sadly we’ve never seen anything like it since.

There are two types of series that are commonly found now. Firstly what used to be called a Power Trail (and was for years outlawed by Groundspeak). This is a route of usually 10 or more caches. Usually located pretty close to each other. They are very popular as they allow cachers to log a large number of caches with minimal effort. Hopefully the caches will be on a pleasant route, though as the caches are close together they are rarely placed at a location of any individual merit concentrating more on clever hides.

The second type of series are those based on a widespread (often national)  theme. This includes (roughly in order of appearance starting from 10 years ago) Motorway Mayhem, A-Road Anarchy (whoever named this really should look up the meaning of the word Anarchy). Church Micros, Sidetracked (railway), Supermarket Sweep (yes really, at supermarkets), Bus Stop Bewilderment, Little Bridges (footbridges), A Fine Pair (a red phone box and postbox close to each other) etc. One of the first claims for dull cache of the year was the cache in a phonebox. Fortunately these were outlawed when BT made a complaint to Groundspeak. In America the LPC, or Lamp Post Cache, curse hit in around 2007. Their lampposts have a skirt which lifts up and in some areas almost every lamppost had a film pot placed under it. All of these caches epitomize why I lost a lot of enthusiasm for Geocaching.

At the end of 2008 the Mega series arrived in the UK. 100 or more caches in a series, often a figure of 8, so it could be broken into two loops. A few were quick to copy the idea, but it seemed to die off quite quickly.

The ascendancy of the Traditional Cache

Several cache types were grandfathered just over 10 years ago, but multi-caches were quite popular then. Nowadays they get very few hits. I can understand this in some ways. When we are out walking we don’t want a cache that will take us off in a direction away from our route, though I think most people would rather use the time to find more caches. Interestingly, Earthcaches have survived (though they did struggle for a while) despite Virtual caches being deemed not suitable. I never understood this decision.

Wherigo caches appeared in early 2008. They were pushed heavily by Groundspeak, but then they very quickly seemed to lose interest in the idea. It’s a shame, as the medium showed great potential, but the platform was always very flaky. Devices are much more Wherigo capable these days, though I believe that Garmin no longer bake the app into their handheld devices.

Technology

In 2006 most Geocachers printed out listings before heading off outdoors. They physically punched the coordinates into a Garmin eTrex (they mainly had serial cable connectivity, not USB,  via an expensive proprietary cable). Decoding a hint was a manual process and you quickly got to recognise common encrypted words (gerr=tree and more amusingly green=terra). This was before Garmin upgraded the range to high sensitivity so these devices weren’t very accurate and were terrible under tree cover. You’ll still see old caches that give hints due to the poor reception under the trees!

I’ve always been a technology geek, so was ahead of the curve and had the very accurate Garmin GPSmap60 CSx, which was new out then. Very few people had expensive receivers then like they did in the 2010’s. I also acquired an old Palm PDA from a friend, onto which I loaded cache listings via an app called Cachemate. This app looked something like you are probably used to today on your phone, but without the map/navigation part. In about 2007 the Mio PDA with GPS receiver became available and was popular within a small community. As well as combining GPS, OS maps (Memory Map) and paperless caching it was very accurate with SiRFStar III reciever (same as the GPSmap60 CSx) In early 2008 I got my first Windows (PPC) phone (HTC Tytn II) which I bought mostly for Geocaching as it would run Memory Map (was very popular with Geocachers before the advent of free OS maps on the Internet) and do everything a current day smartphone can do, if not quite as proficiently. Nowadays I only ever use an Android phone for everything, and of course mapRoute for my planning and logging.

The next big change was when Groundspeak eventually announced the advent of their API which allowed developers (like myself) to write applications interfacing their Geocaching data.

Along the way we’ve had external apps that grab listing and log photos, notify users when new caches are available, plugins for adding favourites, Greasemonkey scripts for Firefox, Cachemate, GSAK and screen scraping Geocaching apps. Most of these are irrelevant now due to improvements that Groundspeak have made. Of course they also released their own mobile Geocaching app, which has only just become free.

In the past there were often periods when the Groundspeak servers would grind to a halt. Another strange thing was that Groundspeak were sometimes developing on the production server, so things would keep changing/breaking/being fixed as you were trying to log finds.

Summary

Over the years I’ve had countless great days out Geocaching. I tend to remember the sunny days with my young son and dog, Bob best. Discovering the Cotswolds, Brecon Beacons, South Wales and camping trips to Cornwall, Shropshire, Snowdonia and the Gower, but there were many days in pouring rain and even snow. We’ve been chased by rampaging cows (more than once), paddled down disused canal tunnels, walked miles of disused railway tunnels and seen hundreds of fascinating places we would never have otherwise seen. Of course we’ve visited hundreds of totally dull places too, but that’s Geocaching. You have to take the smooth with the crunchy.

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A tribute to Bob.

2015 was not marked for me by achieving my 2000 mile goal or by the arrival of puppy Ted, but by the loss of my great pal Bob. Bob was my ten year old Border Collie/Lurcher cross. He was responsible for my walking obsession as he loved to be out walking and I loved nothing better than to be walking with him. You may think I’m just looking through rose tinted glasses when I say he was a perfect dog, but he was. I trusted him 100 percent and he would do anything I asked without hesitation. I do believe he trusted me as much as I trusted him.

Snow

Will and Bob behind our house 8/2/2007

We walked may thousands of miles together, but a heart murmur led to his sudden demise via a horrible series of seizures. We had been out walking as usual only the evening before. The one thing that brought me any comfort was knowing that this wonderful dog could not have had a better life than he did. Just look at our list of walks and you’ll see many of the places we walked together from Ben Nevis to the Gower, from Snowdon to the Cotswolds. With hundreds of walks in the Wye Valley and Brecon Beacons I never had a single incident with him and he never let me down even once.

I remember teaching him how to jump stiles (a must for a walking enthusiast) and he mastered it in seconds. The same went to calling him off a chase. Before this he would go deaf when in a chase (like almost all dogs) and I worried for his safety if the chase crossed a road, but Bob would stop on a sixpence even if he was closing in within feet of a hare. He was exceptionally fast in his youth.

Dog Leap

Bob leaping Dog Leap, Cleeve Hill 17/7/2010

I’m lucky that I have so many memories of our time together. My GPS track logs and thousands of photographs make remembering the details a little easier too. We knew he was going to have to slow down so we had just got a new puppy (Ted a Border Collie from farming stock) who was to take over from Bob on the long walks leaving him to take it easier with the shorter walks and some home loving, which he enjoyed so much.

Bob and I walked nearly 2500 miles in his final 12 months. My 2015 New Year resolution was for us to cover at least 2000 miles. When Bob passed away early in September we had already done 1600 miles. With the new pup Ted my miles were cut drastically but I couldn’t let Bob down and I eventually reached our target just before Christmas.

I urge everyone with a pet to check out their vet. Any vet can administer a vaccination or remove a tick, but when you really need medical expertise you don’t want that to be the time you find out they are dangerously understaffed and are relying solely on inexperienced staff. Needless to say we have changed vet to one that cares about more than just money. Really we should have made a formal complaint, but you don’t always think straight in times of such sadness.

Bob and Ted

Sadly Bob and Ted only had a few days together 1/9/2015

Bob will never be forgotten and will be always loved, but I will be more than happy if one day Ted becomes half the dog he was.

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Get fit and beat asthma

Regular Asthma causes a constriction of the airways which leaves sufferers out of breath. It is often triggered by cold weather amongst other things and can be counteracted to a certain level with inhalers which widen the airways via drugs such as Salbutamol.

Allergic Asthma is triggered by unknown stimulants, the most common being the likes of dust mites, cat hair, grass, pollen etc. but can be almost anything. The allergy causes thick mucus to form which blocks the airways, again leaving the sufferer out of breath. After years of to-ing and fro-ing between ENT consultants and chest consultants I was eventually diagnosed with Allergic Asthma around 2007. After a couple of years or so my case was justified by my consultant for me to be put on a new drug called Xolair which is an antibody which helps decrease allergic responses in the body. In my case Xolair is administered via three injections every two weeks. Not great, but better than the alternative, which is nothing.

Before I was on Xolair I often needed a course of aural steroids to get things under control, but still things weren’t great. Four months ago I decided to get fit (see my Getting in Shape post). Very quickly I lost 2.5 stones through calorie counting, but more importantly by significant daily exercise. I’ve never been able to run due to the asthma, but I love hill walking. My standard daily walk is 5 miles and has me climbing about 1000′. At weekends and holidays I usually do significantly more. I was about 1 stone over the upper limit of my ideal weight, so now I’m well within the range. Weight just fell off and after only a few weeks I had to go and get all new trousers as all of my old trousers were way too big. My belly disappeared. But most importantly my asthma improved.

My standard route (6 days a week) has a steady incline for about 1.5 miles which goes up 800′. At first I struggled to get up it without stopping. I was gasping for breath. I couldn’t talk. I got to a significant corner 2/3 of the way up and caught my breath. Shortly afterwards I challenged myself to get all the way to the top without stopping. After a couple of weeks I realized that I was no longer gasping like I used to and now I can chat all the way up on the rare occasion I have human company. You should know that I’ve always done a lot of walking, though I’ve really had to push myself in the past due to the asthma, so this was great. Today I went walking in the Brecon Beacons with my son. On our 14 mile walk (with over 3000′ ascent) I couldn’t help but notice how I had to keep waiting for him. Climbing up Pen y Fan other seasoned walkers were stopping periodically for breath, but I had no such problem. When I spoke to my consultant and told him of my revelation he wasn’t surprised, but said that exercise is a great help for asthma. I only wish someone had told me that. Anyway, that’s why I am writing this. If you suffer from this debilitating condition I urge you to give it a serious go. Find a physical activity that you enjoy and really push yourself. For me it was hill walking, but if you don’t live in a hilly area or just don’t like this activity, then find another. You need something that you can do very regularly and something that’s aerobic. Riding a bike, running, going down the gym or an exercise bike at home are some obvious choices.

My peak flow has gone up significantly, I can climb hills like never before, the belly has gone, I comfortably fit skinny jeans (now that’s a first for me), my waist is 3″ less and I feel great. I probably would have lost more weight if it were not for Christmas and my new found hobby of baking bread. My wife has also majorly got into baking cakes, but even all of this high calorie food is not causing a problem. I still get mucus, but it is cleared pretty easily whilst exercising. My dog loves me more than he ever did before and the same goes for the wife!

Posted in Health, Walking | 1 Comment

Canmore GT-740FL Review

Anyone who read my previous Canmore GT-730FL-S review is probably wondering why I got this device. Simple. I lost the 730! (Hooray! I found it again on 27/12/2014)

I nearly bought another 730 as the replacement but thinking about the minor gripes I had with the device I thought that the 740 may resolve most of them.

  1. 730 silver cap and rear scratched very easily making it look shabby. The 740 doesn’t have the nice rubberized coating, but its black plastic doesn’t seem to scratch as easily and certainly doesn’t show the scratches as much. You can get a 730 in black, which I did consider.
  2. On/off slider switch could be accidentally knocked on the 730, but a really firm two second hold is required on the large rubberized 740 button.
  3. The waypoint logging button was always getting fired in my pocket on the 730, so I had to edit out the waypoints in notepad++. Again the 740 button needs a good firm press and hold, this time for just one second.
GT-740FL

Canmore GT-740FL Sport Log Book

I believe that when you strip away the case and buttons the two devices are identical except that the 740 has a G-sensor. This means that if the unit is stationary for 5 minutes it will stop logging your position thus saving power tracking satellites and writing to memory. It only takes the slightest movement for it to wake and start logging again and this process is almost instantaneous. If you left the 740 on a table overnight it would hardly drain the battery at all, hopefully leaving you plenty of juice for the next day, whereas the 730 would have been recording the same position all night and may now be drained just when you need it. The 740 claims to be able to run in standby mode for 1500 hours when fully charged.

I’ve just left the same drivers and Canway software on my PC as they are clearly the same files for the 730 and 740. On first power up after traveling thousands of miles to the UK from Taiwan via Germany there was a satellite fix (whilst indoors) within just a few seconds. The truth is that I switched it on, went to redirect my phone, turned round and it already had a fix. Each time I have subsequently turned the device on the fix has been made in less than 5 seconds.

The cap is very hard to remove, though this is probably a major contributor to it being  IPX-6 waterproof. I was concerned that the 370 cap would get lost one day as it comes off pretty easily. It seems very unlikely with the 740.

While the 740 comes with an armband there is no means of attaching a lanyard. The device is marketed as a Sport Log Book, which is a bit silly really. As I have said, it is really the same device as the 730, which is not marketed in this way.

As with the 730 I ordered from digital-paradies (they also sell via Amazon now for a fraction more) and was a bit disappointed that the postage was £7.05 when the same company charges £4.99 to deliver the 730. Units and boxes are the same size and weight.

Standby Test added 9/3/2015

In response to Stratos’ post on the GT-730 topic I decided to conduct a test to see how long the device would run when used for a period each day and left it to go into standby mode.

I put the receiver in my car on 28/1/2015 after fully recharging it. It was configured to record location once every second. The car was being used generally twice a day for short trips (4-8 miles) and 4 or 5 longer ones (25-35 miles). It recorded for around 10 hours over a period of 15 days before the battery finally ran out.

I thought this was pretty good, though you could always charge the device from a portable charger or from your car cigarette lighter. Many newer cars even carry USB ports these days which you can charge from.

Posted in GPS and Maps, Walking | 10 Comments

Getting in shape

I’ve finally realized that I need to lose some weight and get fitter. It’s not the end of the world, but I will need some self control and determination. The principles of losing weight are simple; consumer fewer calories than you burn and take exercise (to burn more calories).

My wife showed me the myfitnesspal calorie counter, an Android app which makes counting calories very easy. You are firstly given a target number of calories you can consume each day which is dependent on your height, age, gender, job type and goals. The app is basically a calender/spreadsheet for meals allowing quick look-up of pretty much any food item you can imagine. You can also scan package bar codes too. The app could be improved, but it’s a huge help.

I was shocked to find how calorific many of my regular foods were:

  • Bread. I lived on the stuff. It’s terrible but I have to have it. About 150kcal per slice. I eat homemade bread, so a sliced loaf is probably lower in calories purely because slices are smaller.
  • Pizza (the homemade variety again). My son’s favourite. With half the flour of a loaf it’s not surprising it’s bad, but 800kcal per person before you put on the toppings is serious stuff. I won’t miss it too much and I can easily make a smaller one for my son.
  • Rice and pasta. I love my carbs. Basmati rice isn’t quite as bad as long grain, so I’ll be making a huge batch of vegetable curry soon.
  • Cheese. This is another one that I ate far too much of, but not too hard to cut down on. Two slices of cheese on toast use half my daily calorie allowance!
  • Chinese and Indian takeaway (always accompanied by a lager or two). Don’t even think about it unless you’ve been highly active all day. It’s very difficult to know the true number of calories too.

On the other side of the coin potatoes and wine weren’t quite as bad as I thought they would be, though I have cut my wine intake considerably. I got into Green Smoothies earlier this year, so that’s a great breakfast and fulfills most of my 5-a-day (I know it needs to be at least 7-a-day) before I start work. Pineapple, strawberries, tuna are great. I tried Quorn for the first time in my life. The mince replacement was edible, but the chicken cube one was horrible. The texture is more like mushroom than chicken, which is not surprising given that it is an edible fungus.

EndomondoI also decided to increase my midweek walking dramatically. I live in a hilly area so it’s ideal. I mainly work from home, so I’m making time for a lunch break every day if possible. My main route is 3 miles and heads up about 650′. That’s 1.3 miles of good climb and really gets the heart pumping before a short flat section and then back down again. I have an elongated 5.25 mile version of the walk that I like to do in the early evening if work gets in the way of my lunchtime blast. I try to push up the hill as fast as I can.

Dieting alone will work I guess, but exercise should speed things up dramatically. You can also add your burned calories to your daily allowance, so if you’re getting low on points you will be strongly motivated to exercise. I only ever dip very lightly into my exercise calories as I want to lose the weight.

I can never get enough of gadgets, so I bought a heart rate monitor (HRM). These strap across your chest (you can’t see them under clothing) and talk to your Android (or other OS) phone. Apps such as Endomondo and mapmywalk will connect to the HRM via Bluetooth and your heart rate is monitored which in turn calculates your calories burned. My 3 mile route burns about 700kcal and my 5.5 mile route burns about 1150kcal, so on top of my 1360kcal allowance I could eat/drink very well if I wanted to. The calories burned will drop as I get fitter.

At weekends I always walk around 12-15 miles and usually on pretty tough terrain. Last weekend was my first weekend with the HRM and a 12 mile walk in the Brecon Beacons starting with a 2000′ climb over the first 2 miles (that’s about as tough as it gets for me) burned well over 4000kcal. I do have to ask myself how I ever managed to get overweight burning this amount of calories each weekend, but it just goes to show how much over-eating I was clearly doing.

I’m about 3.5 weeks into the regime now. A terrible cold shortly after I started didn’t help as a bad chest made the walking difficult. I’ve lost just over a stone and am now almost in the accepted weight band for my height/age. I plan to lose a couple more stone, hopefully by Christmas, but it may take longer. After such a short time I’m already feeling much better about myself. Today I started to jog on the downhill sections. I’ve never been able to run due to allergic asthma , but this is my long term goal. My dog Bob is loving it too. He’s 9 years old now, but when the wife isn’t at work he’s out most of the day with one or other of us and we all walk together once or twice a week. As Errol Brown once said, “Everyone’s a winner baby, that’s no lie!”

 

Posted in Health, Walking | 2 Comments

The North Face Point Five NG Jacket (Goretex Pro) Review

My Berghaus Axis hard shell was bought in October 2007 and it had lasted me well. I’d worn it for thousands of miles and it still looked like new. The problem was that it was wetting-out (material absorbing rain rather than repelling it) and I’d tried several times to re-proof it with Nikwax, but the expensive products made no difference, so it was time to stop wasting money and buy a new shell.

There are many waterproof materials on the market, the best known brand is Gore-tex and the other most favoured is eVent. While both are very waterproof eVent has the reputation of being more breathable, but the downside is that eVent requires a lot more maintenance. I use my jacket all the time and I really am not interested in washing it every couple of weeks. Also Gore-tex is arguably more rugged, but that depends on the Gore-tex product you buy. Gore-tex comes in

  • Paclite (very light like a kagool)
  • Active (the most breathable, but not so tough)
  • Pro Shell (very durable and very waterproof).
  • Pro (brand new product to replace Pro Shell)

Pro Shell has recently been replaced by Pro, which is just as durable, but also claims to be 28% more breathable. I was very keen to get a Gore-tex Pro jacket, so after failing to find a Haglofs Atlas Long I decided on TNF Point Five NG from their well reputed Summit Series. While the 2013/14 model used Gore-tex Pro the version from the previous year is made from Pro Shell.

The jacket retails for £270, but can be found for as little as £215, though finding it in a desirable colour for this price can be more difficult. I bought from here.

TNF Point Five NG

My comments

Firstly, the jacket looks great. I went for TNF black (matt black, a touch of grey rather than jet black). The TNF logo is OK on the front, but I really dislike having it on the back of the jacket too. A current trend that will hopefully disappear. My old Axis had a beautifully stitched logo and stitched “Goretex Pro Shell” on the cuffs and consequently looks like new after all these years. This jacket uses transfers, though the subtle “Goretex Pro” in gloss black on the cuffs is nice. There’s a “Summit Series” logo on each shoulder too, which is inoffensive.

There are no external wind flaps on the zips (there is an internal one on the main zip). I guess zip technology has improved in recent years as this is the standard now. There are just the two very large hand warming pockets which are designed to avoid rucksack straps. The waist drawstring pulls appear inside the pockets. This seems like a gimmick to me, as I’ve never had a problem with standard drawstrings and I don’t really want to feel them inside the pockets. Personally I really miss not having an internal secure pocket for keys as I don’t always carry a rucksack and not all of my trousers have this feature. There’s no map pocket, though I don’t miss this personally. Cuff adjustment is via familiar hook and fastener material, though externally a modern rubbery textured material is used. All zip fasteners and drawstrings are in an eye-catching bright red.

Pit zips are becoming more common on higher end walking jackets.These huge zips under the armpits allow cooling and reduce sweat and are a great idea. Even in light rain I have found you can leave them open and the rain doesn’t come in. You can obviously adjust the size of the apertures, though adjusting while you are wearing the jacket is not always  easy.

The hood has a stiff peak, though there is no wire like my old Berghaus, which could be moulded into the required shape. It is helmet compatible and has a really good drawstring adjustment. The end result is that it fits really well to just about anyone and the visibility is excellent. The downside is that it does not fold away, so it’s always flopping about. I loved the way my Axis hood easily folded into a padded collar. The main zip comes over the chin as you would expect. There’s some soft lining material to stop it rubbing the chin but it doesn’t do it’s job. This is because the material curls and the liner doesn’t make contact with the chin. Poor design, but no different from the Axis.

Overall the jacket is very light for a hard shell and water resistance has performed as I had hoped. The big plus is the breath-ability so far resulting in a cooler experience than with previous jackets. The DWR (water beading) is of course brilliant when new, but this quickly reduces. The jacket is comfortable and long enough for me (I have a very long body, so the Berghaus let me down in this respect) without being too long. One of the great things about Goretex Pro is that you don’t have to be too precious with it. Catching it on a branch or scuffing on a rock leave no lasting signs in my experience. The proof of the jacket is, of course, how well it performs over time. I’ve had the jacket for three months now, so only about 20 outings. I’m very pleased with it so far. Hopefully it will not be used for a few months now with summer arriving at last!

Posted in Walking | Leave a comment

Rich Hall live at Monmouth Savoy Theatre

My son loves QI and amongst his favourite panellist (and mine too) is Rich Hall, with his dry and quirky, yet hilarious sense of humour. This show tied in perfectly with his sixteenth birthday and I was “lucky” enough to score two front row tickets to this sell out gig.

Before we made the very short trip to Monmouth we were watching “London not Tennessee”, a live DVD of Otis Lee Crenshaw, Rich Hall’s red-neck musician’s alter ego. We ended up cutting things a bit fine time-wise and then couldn’t get a parking space. We arrived at the venue, out of breath and about 30 seconds after Rich had come on stage. A guy checked our tickets and commented, “Front row tickets. He’s on. Good luck”. Having watched half of London not Tennessee we already had an idea that front row tickets may be a slight problem.

We slipped in and sat next to the lighting/sound man in the back row. It’s a small Victorian theatre that holds about 400 people (including the balcony and tiny boxes), so we could see well even from our aft position. A slightly oddball woman called Cath from Lydney was first to get the RH treatment. Rich made a comment how she and himself had been stood up, a reference to our two unoccupied seats to Cath’s left. We recognised a few lines and a couple of songs from the DVD and off QI. Rich told of the Irish newspaper headline “Cork man drowns” and how his jokes about “Bob” went down badly in southern Ireland. He then went on to talk to a farmer from Hereford who he tried to convince to marry his girlfriend of four years, then talked to a chap from Cinderford. Each got their own song. I was appalled and embarrassed at the audience’s xenophobic reaction when every time the audience member was asked where they came from the answer was an English town.

After an hour there was an intermission and we moved to our front row seats. Will stopped for a chat with one of his friends he bumped into on the way. The woman with Cath appeared and glared at us. When I asked her what the problem was it turned out she was so drunk she though we were in her seat despite her and Cath’s seat being next to the isle and their Tupperware boxes of half eaten lunch sitting on the floor next to them. As soon as Rich returned he noticed our presence and commented that he “loved to sing to two men”. In his defence it is often hard to see detail in the audience due to lighting and my son is a good 6’3″, but he has only just turned 16 years old and (being his father) I am a good few years older. Rich decided that I was lonely and single (I’m happily married for 20 years but my wife didn’t fancy the show), but it was in the name of comedy, so I sat back and laughed along. “Have you met Cath yet?”, he asked wistfully. I laughed. Next he asked me my job. “I’m in I.T.”, was my reply. The audience booed. Why the f**k would you boo this? The farmer didn’t get booed. I wasn’t born with the privileges that most farmers are born with. I had to work hard and go to University. I see plenty of farmers that do a shocking job (I know there are good ones too). Only two weeks ago we found a sheep that had died after it had wedged itself between a tree and a fence. How could a good farmer not have prevented this only 200yds from his home? I pay tax, I do a real job with professionalism and integrity, I’m educated and I don’t rip people off. How many industries can honestly say this? I think the problem is that so many people on the fringes of I.T. (help desk “analysts” for instance) give themselves such over-inflated job titles and are the only “I.T.” people the general public come in contact with. These people are not IT professionals. It would be like saying “I work in health”, and then boo a doctor because you don’t like the hospital food. Rich’s reaction was much funnier. He turned away with his head in his hands saying, “I.T. My god, couldn’t you just have made something up?” My response (unheard) was, “I did make that up. I’m really a traffic warden”.
Sorry about the rant, but I had to get that off my chest.

Anyway, Rich sang me a great song called “The broadband don’t come past Pete’s house no more” with lines about “putting down spreadsheets and getting under the bed sheets” and “the last word in ‘shit’ is ‘IT'”. Later he tried to get Ed (the farmer) to propose to his girlfriend Mel, but that didn’t go too well. “It’s going to be a very awkward drive home for you two tonight”. I couldn’t work out if this was pre-arranged with Rich, especially as Rich produced a ring in a box for them.

I had always wondered why this American spent so much time in the UK. It’s a pretty unusual combination. Rich revealed that he is married to a Liverpudlian and they live in Montana a long way from his south east roots. Wikipedia reveals that he has a ranch there and a flat in London too.

A gardener from Ross on Wye got the song about rock musicians that died in agricultural accidents (from “London not Tennessee”) and the set was finished with a song about Border Collies and how they take their jobs so seriously.

I’ve got to say that Rich was brilliant. You need to be quick witted to adapt to different responses so quickly. You also need to be able to recall of a lot of songs, as the set is clearly tailored to the front row of the audience. Some of the lines I recognised from other songs. My IT song used a few lines from Bank-boy’s song for instance and I was even called IT-boy once. While Rich had a laugh with us (and at our expense) it was never nasty in any way. He must be doing OK as he was staying in the Celtic Manor. “There’s a mini-bar in the room. It’s like a portal into the future. I can see what the price of a Coke will be in 2035″. I learned just before I went out (thanks to Wikipedia) that Matt Groening based Moe the bar keeper on Rich and I do wonder why I had never noticed before how alike they are. I have to say for a 59 year old he looks in great shape too. Thanks for a great show and we look forward to seeing you again one day.

After the show the audience all pulled out their phones and start twatting around with Twitter and Facebook. A bit surprising considering they all hate I.T.

Posted in Comedy | 3 Comments

Canmore GT-730FL-S GPS data logger review

A GPS data logger is a device which purely logs where you’ve been and when. Most have no display other than a few LEDs and use very little power. The battery is usually fixed within the unit and often charged via a USB connector, so one connector is used for data transfer and charging. This way no separate charger is required either. The device is not designed for navigation purposes, but some can be used in this way if connected to a suitable device (phone, tablet etc) usually via USB or Bluetooth.

Why I chose the GT-730FL-S

I looked at several devices, most coming from the far east. The idea of returns and import duty was a concern and the lack of reviews available on the Internet didn’t convince me that the items wouldn’t need returning. Canmore is a Taiwan based company, but their  Canmore GT-730FL-Sproducts are sold in Canada and Europe. I did find a UK seller, but their older model used the Venus 6 chipset, whereas I wanted the SiRF star IV model. I don’t understand why they have the same model number. You may think the -S stands for SiRF, but it actually stands for silver (the device colour).  CanadaGPS have a useful chipset comparison here. The only real contender for me was the Canmore GT-740FL-s, which is very similar, but has a G-sensor to detect when the device is stationary so it can send the GPSr into standby mode. It is also IPX-6 waterproof, but this seemed pointless on an item that would sit in a dry pocket or rucksack. I wanted to keep my costs down, so the choice was made. It cost me £40 including £5 postage from Germany in January 2014.

The package arrived from Digital-paradies (lol) in 6 days. In the box there was also a Canmore lanyard and mini CD with drivers, software and very minimal instructions, though to be honest it’s pretty straight forward. The unit was charged in 30 mins and made it’s first fix on a window ledge in about 2 mins.

Here are the key features of the product:

  • 48 channels
  • SIRF-IV chipset has very low power consumption (claims 17/56 hours per charge)
  • 2.5m CEP accuracy
  • Supports SAGPS function giving very fast satellite fix
  • SBAS (WAAS, EGNOS) support
  • Configurable logging data interval by time or distance

There’s a small slider switch on the side to turn the device on and off. The switch is reasonably firm so should not be too easily moved in your pocket. There’s a large circular button to mark your current location with a waypoint.
The LEDs surround the button lighting blue when powered on, changing to a slowly flashing blue light when the device is talking to the satellites. A few fast flashes confirm a waypoint has been marked. There are smaller LEDs to indicate charging (yellow) and low battery (red), though I’ve not seen the latter on yet. The unit (including cap) is 70mm in length.

 Battery test

After a few uses I charged the battery fully then switched the device on and left it on a window ledge until it ran out of battery life.

Logging Interval (secs)
Duration (hrs)
Memory used
Re-charge (hrs)
1
17.0
24%
1.3
5
15.9
5%
1
30
54.9
3%
1.5

The 5 second interval test was the first one I did and the battery life improved noticeably after this, even when logging more frequently. Re-chargeable batteries often perform better after a couple of full discharges/re-charges.

Performance test

I took out the four devices I currently own for a performance review.

  1. Canmore GT-730FL-S SiRF star IV
  2. Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx Original had SiRF star III, but I’m not sure about this 2010 model
  3. HTC EVO 3D Android smartphone Qualcomm
  4. Magellan eXplorist 710 SiRF star III

I tested the units on a 3 mile walk on a very cloudy day. The terrain was hilly. The east side of the route is enclosed in a steep, thick part coniferous/part broadleaved forest in winter. Nearly all of the route is on small roads so I could see the roads on the map. All units were placed in my pockets. I started at the most easterly point.

Overview

The above overview shows all units performed well, though the HTC was understandably less accurate than the others. The Canmore was less accurate at the start of the anti-clockwise journey, but it had been switched on just before I started the route (the others had been on for a few minutes) so it may have fixed on fewer satellites than it later achieved. After this section it was very accurate.

Typically the Canmore performed very well

Typically the Canmore performed very well

 Here you can see the Canmore performed perfectly, as did the Magellan which is hidden underneath it. The Garmin was good too and the HTC was some way behind. I have since used the device on a number of outings and it has performed without issue. Time taken for first fix is generally 1 minute or under. It has been as little as 10 seconds.

Extracting data and Canway software

I imagine that data is stored in a raw format, which is economical on processing and storage, but means you can only extract your data via the supplied Canway software. Canway is supplied for PC and NOT for Mac as some sources suggest. Plug the device in, switch it on (it does not appear as a USB device) and click download trip in Canway. Tracks held on the device can be easily selected Canmore GT-730FL-S with USB cap removedvia tick boxes. The download is very quick. Even the 16 hour (5 second interval) log I created took just a second or two, but the log containing 24% of the device’s memory took about 30 seconds to download. This is a huge amount of data though to be fair. Once you have the data in Canway you can view it on a map (Google, Bing etc), view elevation/speed metrics, geotag photos and a host of other things. All I am really interested in is exporting the data, as then I can choose which software I want to analyse the track and waypoints. You can export in CSV, NMEA Text, KML, KMZ and the all important GPX. If you need other formats you should easily be able to create them from one of these formats with a tool like GpsBabel.

GPX is the format I will be using mostly, so I have tested this well and csv to a lesser extent and both worked as expected. I did have a problem importing the track with a marked waypoint into Garmin Mapsource. I edited the waypoint out of the file with notepad and it was fine. I will look into this further.

Elevation data is added to the exports, presumably from map data within Canway, as the specification doesn’t indicate there is a barometric altimeter of that the data is generated from GPS satellites.

CSV extract sample. Last two columns appear to be elevation(m) and speed.

CSV extract sample. Last two columns appear to be elevation(m) and speed.

You can download the four tracks used in this test from here if you wish to see them in more detail.

Using the data logger as a USB dongle

I plugged the GT-730FL-S into my Windows 8 PC and ran up Memory Map. I selected NMEA on COM4: with Baud rate 38400 (8 data bits, 1 stop bit and no parity) and it worked immediately. I’ve had less success on my Android tablet which has a powered OTG port, but I’ll update when I’ve had a chance to investigate this further.

Geo-tagging

Many recent compact digital cameras contain a GPS receiver and will geo-tag your photos, but there is a down-side to this approach. The GPS receivers that camera manufacturers use are often inaccurate, take a long time to get a fix when you just want to take a photo and run the camera battery down very quickly. I’ve seen loads of comments where people say they turn the GPSr off because it gobbles the battery. A data logger is the perfect solution to this problem. Just put it in your pocket (switched on) at the start of the day and when you download your photos to your PC use an application to extract the location from your track log that corresponds with the time on the photo. It’s really easy. Canway will do this, but I prefer to use GeoSetter, which is also free. Apart from all of the above advantages (accuracy, speed of readiness, battery preservation) you can also concentrate on buying the camera you really want, when you upgrade you’ve still got your data logged to use on the new camera and you’ll save fair a few quid too.

Conclusion

The Canmore GT-730FL-S is  a really handy device for those purely wanting to log where they’ve been or wanting to geo-tag photos. It’s small, accurate and records a lot of data, while the battery charges very quickly and lasts much longer than my other GPS receivers. Marking waypoints couldn’t be easier, though I usually prefer to take a photo to mark a point, so I can easily remember why I’ve marked that point.
I record every walk I do, but often don’t want to carry a fully fledged GPSr when I’m in familiar territory. The data logger is also much quicker at getting a satellite fix, so I can just pick it up and go. I also can’t resist toys.

Comments after six months of use (8/8/2014)

I trim up my exported GPX files in Garmin’s MapSource, but it won’t open the file if there are any waypoints in it. I’ve not got round to looking at what’s wrong with the format, but I just open the gpx file in notepad, go to the end of the file (waypoints are always at the end) and delete everything between <wpt> and </wpt> and save the file. Sorted. My own mapRoute web app reads the waypoints fine btw.

The waypoint button sometimes gets fired unintentionally whilst in my pocket.

The black rubberized surface is excellent, but the silver is rubbish and gets scuffed and scratched very easily.

I had some issues geotagging photos correctly once we moved to BST, but I’ve also changed my camera, so it may be the camera that’s the cause. I can easily get round it by time-shifting anyway.

On the odd occasion it takes the device a good 30 minutes to pick up a fix but usually it’s ready in a few minutes.

On a single occasion the track log went a bit crazy diverting a mile (over a river) to somewhere I had not gone.

Everything else is great and I’m very happy with the device.

Update March 2016.

After a period of using my GT-740FL I came back to the GT-730FL-S only to find it has died. The blue light illuminates (battery OK), but never flashes (doesn’t get a fix).

Continue reading

Posted in GPS and Maps | 53 Comments

Scarpa Delta Active GTX walking boots

I recently needed to buy a new pair of boots, so I thought I’d share my walking boot experiences from the last few years. I’ll start from 2006 with my first pair of proper boots.

Berghaus Explorer IV (2/10)

Winter 2006 – winter 2006

These fabric Goretex lined boots were very comfortable for about five minutes. At the time that I got them I was discovering my local disused railways and the brambles on the overgrown lines ripped the stitching almost immediately. The boots leaked like a sieve, but I had to live with them for a while, as I couldn’t justify a new pair after only a few weeks. My wife has had a few pairs of these boots (I can’t convince her to get leather boots) but the last pair lasted about two months. I found them to be a complete waste of money.

Merrell Chameleon GTX (8/10)

Spring 2007 -

I bought these shoes after getting soaked in cheap walking shoes from dew on an otherwise beautiful morning. I wore them regularly through spring and summer (and then some) for three years, but they are still going now. The Goretex didn’t seem to last for long and was probably a waste of money. You can get a non-Goretex version, which should be cooler as well as cheaper. I found the shoes to be very slippery on rocks and even tarmac sometimes. I stopped wearing them when I started getting bad ankle problems. I’d drive home after a long walk and found I was barely be able to stand when I got out of the car. I can’t say for sure that it was the shoes, but I changed back to boots and the problem went away very quickly. I still use them occasionally for less demanding summer walks.

Braisher Hillmaster GTX (8/10)

Autumn 2007 – Autumn 2010 and Autumn 2010 – Summer 2012

My first leather boots were a great success. My feet were now lovely and dry. I got blisters the first time I wore each of the two pairs I have owned, but they were fine after that. I could not call them a comfortable pair of boots, but dryness is a big plus. The first pair were worn less that 50% of the time in conjunction with the Merrell shoes, the second pair were probably worn 75% of the time, hence they only last 2 years. The first pair were still working when I replaced them, though the creases on the toes looked like they wouldn’t last much longer. The soles of my feet got quite sore in them and I did try an insole in them, but there wasn’t enough room and this caused the tops of my feet a lot of pain, so I had to remove them. I believe that hard skin was the cause of the sore feet. This was quickly rectified with an Express Pedi, but the boots were definitely a contributory factor. I was generally pleased with the Hillmasters, though they are not perfect. The second pair rotted through the uppers, rather annoyingly just as we arrived in Scotland for a week of walking.

Salomon mid GTX fabric boots

Summer 2010

I can’t remember what model these were, but they proved too small despite getting the same size as my other boots, so I barely ever wore them. These were intended to replace the Merrells for spring and summer use only, but providing more ankle support.

The North Face Jannu II GTX (4/10)

Autumn 2012 – Autumn 2013

I’d read a review where someone thought these were the best boots ever, and I did manage to find them at a very good price (£85 instead of the normal £135), but my experience was not great. The boots claim every technical advantage possible, but I found them quite inflexible, and the heel particularly so. The boots are quite a high cut, which has it’s use, but the main problem was that the leather uppers were far too thin. The toe rand started splitting very quickly and then grass and the like got caught in it and it just got worse. My feet were getting damp within six months. Stupidly I didn’t send them back and after a very long dry summer, by the time it was wet again they were a year old. I got home one very wet day with feet totally soaked only to find a huge hole in the side of one boot through the leather. Nothing of any significance had happened. I found this to be totally unacceptable in a boot. I contacted TNF, but their response was unhelpful and I wasn’t going to throw good money after bad by sending them back, so I binned them. I just won’t buy from The North Face again. I should also mention that these boots were quite harsh on the feet and had a very stiff sole.

Scarpa Delta Active GTX (10/10)

Autumn 2013 -

While researching I really struggled to find a new pair of boots, as every time I thought I’d found a good pair I then found several reviews telling of awful experiences that some people had with them. My last three pairs of boots had lasted 3, then 2, then 1 year, so I needed something that would last and that was going to cost a bit more. I managed to get these for £150 (normally close to £200), though the hassle to get Go Outdoors to honour their price promise was a painful exercise. The boots are really well built and super comfortable. They are pretty much made from a single piece of leather, so there is very little stitching to fail or let in water apart from at the heel. The HS12 leather a good thickness. Even the tongue is made from the same piece of leather. There’s a good rand with an unobtrusive toe bumper. The detail goes down to the D-rings which have little pulleys in them. This reduced friction means you can easily pull the laces tight along their full length. There’s the standard two pairs of hooks at the top.

Sadly my pair had a defect in the leather where they absorbed moisture leaving black patches in the leather and leaving my feet damp right from the first outing. The boots were sent back for inspection and a new pair arrived two days ago. Scarpa after sales was very good at sorting this issue. I gave the new pair an outing yesterday and again there were no issues on the first outing (Braisher always gave me blisters) and the leather is not showing the same problem. My feet feet much less battered than in previous leather boots too. I have great hopes for these boots, but so far, so good.

Scarpa Delta Active GTX update : 24/2/2014

I’ve had these boots for three months now and walked 260 miles in the wettest winter on record in the UK. The boots are extremely comfortable to wear and my feet have remained dry, as you would expect. I often used to come home with sore feet, but that has completely stopped. The sore heel I got after 10+ miles has also disappeared. The leather does seem to absorb more moisture than I am used to, but it’s not been a problem so far. I’ve been religiously cleaning the boots after every outing (it’s always muddy) and I’ve treated them 3 times with Contour Boot Cream, which is a silicone type wax to aid waterproofing and keep the leather supple. So far I am 100% happy with the Scarpa Delta Active GTX boots. Let’s hope it stays that way for a good while yet.

Berghaus Explorer Ridge GTX (6/10)

Summer 2012 – Summer 2013 and Summer 2013 -

These are my son’s boots. The first pair rotted through, but that was more to do with him not looking after them to be fair. I can’t comment too much on them, but his feet did stay dry and he has no complaints, but teenagers don’t always communicate too well. I got the first pair because John Lewis were selling off size 12 cheap, but the replacement price was only about £90 and there’s not much else available in that price range. These were his first pair of proper leather boots. He’d mostly had Karrimor fabric boots (some were eVent lined), but he was growing so fast he never wore a pair out before they stopped fitting him. His first pair of walking boots were at about 7 and he took adult sizes then. It’s so unfair that you pay VAT on adult shoes, even for a seven year old. I’ve made him look after his current boots better, so I’ll update this when there’s something to add.

Retailers

I’ve bought from Trek and Field (my nearest shop has now closed), Millets (mostly for my son), Go Outdoors, Blacks and the Internet.

T&F offered no advice, but service was prompt and I pretty much knew what I wanted. Go Outdoors has always been a terrible experience. Apart from my last visit it has always taken 15 minutes just to find an assistant so I could request the boots I wanted to try on. The shop assistant has then promptly disappeared behind a door offering no advice at all. I say this because we are always being told that the inflated retail prices are there because we are paying for the advice and expertise. Cotswold Outdoors has a very  good reputation in this area, but their boots are expensive and there’s no store near me despite being quite near the Cotswolds. My experiences in Millets uncovered no knowledge of the products at all. The store manager was clearly not an outdoors type even. When buying my son’s first pair of boots I asked if they were waterproof. The answer was something like, “Well there’s a label that says ‘waterproof’ on them, so they must be”. We went straight out on a walk and his feet were soaking within minutes. My first rule of buying cheap boots has since been, “If they have a label saying ‘waterproof’ on the boot you can safely bet they are anything but waterproof”. Blacks was the best experience. The salesperson clearly was a walker and knew a fair amount about the products. The Internet is usually the cheapest way to get your boots and you can send them back as long as you’ve not worn them outside, though you will probably have to pay for the postage. The John Lewis buy was good because I knew I could just drop them at our local Waitrose if they didn’t fit, as our nearest JL is a fair distance away.

I mentioned earlier about the Go Outdoors price promise. It took me 30 minutes to go through this in the store. The broadband they used was diabolical, timing out all the time. I showed them an email I had where the store I was getting the price promise against had confirmed they would hold my size in the Scarpas, but it still took forever and they were reluctant to accept the evidence until the store manager stepped in. I was in the store early, but a poor lady joined the queue behind me only to be ignored by staff for 15 minutes. I would have dumped my purchase and left if I was her. All this time another member of staff (sometimes two) were standing about doing nothing. It was embarrassing. The staff at one point asked me to ring the other store to confirm the deal. Unbelievable. Two staff members needed to get out a calculator to work out 10% of the price (you really should have paid attention in school). Finally there is the con that is the discount card. You don’t pay 10% less than the price match, because you are forced to buy their “discount” card. I use the term loosely. They were still £20 more expensive here than at a small independent shop, even with the discount card.

Posted in Walking | 4 Comments