Lake Baikal: Crossing The Worlds Largest Lake

Baikal's ice frequently breaks up and re-freezes to form strange, symmetrical shapes.
Beautiful and remote, Baikal’s frozen surface contorts into many shapes.

This year I decided to go the next step up from my long distance UK hikes and travel the length of Lake Baikal. And what a journey it was – this is one destination you have to add to your expedition bucket-list.

So, if you’re planning a trip to Baikal, here are some tips for hikers. All of them are were learned during my 400 mile winter run/hike/ski traverse of this vast expanse of frozen water.

Lake Baikal: The Facts

1 mile deep and over 400 miles long, Lake Baikal is the largest source of fresh water on planet Earth. The dark abyss is also probably home to more cars than the all the scrap yards of the world combined.

Okay, I made up that last ‘fact’. Truth is, the bottom of the lake is a burial ground for vehicles that that gone through the ice (during winter, many Russian locals use the frozen surface as highway. Their routes vary: from town to town; fishing site to fishing site; family outings to Olkhon island).

Located in southern Siberia, Baikal experiences the full force of Arctic winter, with temperatures dipping as low -30C (the coldest recorded temperature being -61C).

Wildlife is abundant. Bears and wolves roam the forests for three seasons of the year, the former hibernating at precisely the time peoplelike myself mount expeditions to traverse the lake. In the east, freshwater seals spend their time feeding on golomyanka (a local fish) and rearing their young, whilst avoiding being eaten by bears and wolves.

Note: Lake Baikal is the only known home to this species of seal.

In total, the lake’s basin supports a human population of around 100,000.

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Best Two Person Tent (2020): 8 Roomy Backpacking Tents Reviewed

I’m writing this as winter continues to skulk outside the front door of my house. Frost glistens on the roads and across the fields which means it’s time to get some cold weather hiking done. Most of my backpacking trips involve at least one night of camping. Even though I usually hike alone I tend to carry a tent that can accommodate me and all my gear. So today we’re going to look at the best two person tent options available in 2020. (I almost wrote about the best two man tent, but a wise woman reminded me that it’s not only men who like camping out).

The best two person tents for hiking sit at the crossroads of needs. They are:

  • Large enough to accommodate two people and all their gear.
  • Provide protection from the very worst the elements can throw at us.
  • Light enough to carry, possibly for long distances. Models reviewed need to fit into the ‘best backpacking tent’ category.

With these criteria in mind, I went in search of a selection of tents that matched the points above. Prices range from affordable to ‘ouch’!

For anyone looking to travel light and fast, take a look my review of the 5 best one-person tent models.

The 8 tents I’ve reviewed for this post are:

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Best Down Jacket For Men | Keeping You Toasty In 2020

Weaving your way through the web, searching for the best down jacket for men is no fun. I mean, where do you start? Are you really prepared to pay a premium price in order to save a few grammes in weight? Or does a high fill power tick the right boxes for you?

Down jackets have many uses. Heavier, higher fill power options are ideal for journeys into extreme cold environments. Lighter, easily packed variants are better suited as a thin insulating layer to fit over a t-shirt, or base layer.

Note: most down jackets are not waterproof. In fact, down and rain do not mix will. Just anyone who’s ever been caught in a downpour – at some point during the conversation you’re likely to hear the phrase, “Smells like wet duck”!

Protecting your mid-layer jacket is as easy as investing in a decent shell layer, like the Montane Alpine Endurance.

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Which Is The Best Hiking App? Here’s My Top 5.

You’re keen and diligent, you’re looking for the best hiking app that will keep you alive when the manure hits the whirling thing. But finding a decent app is, well, tedious. Can you really be bothered installing and comparing multiple apps on your smartphone? If not, then read on.

A word of warning before we move on: never, ever come to rely 100% on apps as navigation devices. First learn the essentials of hillwalking and hiking – like how to map read well. Use your smartphone as a backup, or confirmation, only. TrekSumo accepts no responsibility for you walking in a foul-smelling bog.

I’ve put together a list of what I and my fellow hikers consider to the best smartphone apps for hiking. Without further ado, let’s see what’s on the list for 2020.

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Ashridge to Ivinghoe Beacon Circular Walking Route

Bridgewater Monument on the Ashridge estate

Before we dive into this post, I’d like to say that the Ashridge to Ivinghoe Beacon circular route is not one I created. The original was posted on the Chilterns AONB site and is 5 mile walk along some pretty substantial trails and tracks. At 8 miles, the route you’re about to follow is a little longer thanks to my ‘navigation enhancements’. By that I mean map reading errors (something that’s hard to admit considering I consider myself to be a very good navigator).

Okay, let’s crack on…

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Rab Vertex Pants Review: Hiking and Beyond

Hiking pants should be comfortable, breathable and weather resistant. As an added bonus, they’ll make you look amazing when you’re hiking! Over the years I’ve tested and worn many brands. My most recent purchase was a pair of Rab Vertex pants. I’ve been using them for about six months and to be honest I’m actually pretty pleased with them. But rather than try and sell them to you from the off, I’ll let you make up your mind.

I won’t go into any detail about Rab. Most of you already know this UK based outdoor gear manufacturer has a great reputation.

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Dartmoor Hiking: North to South Route

Are you looking for a challenging hike that will test both your navigation skills and your hill walking fitness? If so, you need to try some of the Dartmoor hiking routes that criss-cross this beautiful and very wild place. A National Park, Dartmoor is nestled in the south-west of England and is an ideal destination for hikers. Covering about 300 mi.², the distance from north to south is about 26 miles.

The hills peppering the moorland are known as tors. Whilst not the highest heights in the United Kingdom they are numerous and a large number of pretty steep. As with any of Britain’s national parks, Dartmoor can be a dangerous place if you’re unprepared. If you’re a novice hiker consider reading my hillwalking essentials guides before you attempt this route.

Now that we’ve covered the preamble, let’s get this hike on the road.

As a regular visitor, you already know that I use Dartmoor as a training ground. The terrain is hard going, and the weather can be summed up in one simple phrase: ‘four seasons in one’. Temperatures can drop from balmy to biting cold in a matter of minutes.

Dartmoor hiking routes can test both your skills and endurance.

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The Huge Hilleberg Keron 3 GT Review

Keron 3 GT review: so tough it makes the North Pole look easy.
Keron 3 GT somewhere near the North Pole.

Are you looking for the best 2 – 3 person tent? One that can stand up to the fury of Mother Nature at her angriest? Then look no further – you have found the answer. Anyone who has heard the name Hilleberg will know that the tents they create are top-notch gear. The attention to detail and quality of build is phenomenal. This Hilleberg Keron 3 GT review will help you decide if this is the right decision for you.

I’ve owned various Hilleberg tents for the past four years. They’ve joined me them on many trips including a ski to the North Pole and quite a few long distance UK hikes. I’ve also used some other tents, but none of them match the GT for its performance in extreme environments.

Part of the Hilleberg Black label range, the Keron is, I am sad to say, now discontinued. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get hold of one.

Many outdoor stores still sell this model. They’re also available on eBay and from outdoor gear exchange groups on Facebook. Before I go into this review all I can say is I recommend you consider buying one of these tents.

Okay, let’s take a deep dive into the Keron 3 GT.

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Hot Weather Hiking Tips

hot weather hiking in the Sahara desert
The Sahara Desert – the ultimate hot weather destination for hikers.

You unzip the door of your tent and the heat rolls in – it’s a scorching day outside. Your lips crack at the more thought of hiking into what will become a midday inferno. Even the parched plants look back at you with pity. But suffering for no good reason is dull and painful, so here’s a big list of hot weather hiking tips taken from my many miles of exploration.

Let me caveat this post: I find hiking in cold climates far easier than warmer places.

Time to get down to it…

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How To Cross A River: The Hiker’s Guide

An open lead in the Arctic. Not a river, but not the kind of water you want to jump into!
A narrow water obstacle (open lead) at the North Pole. Not the kind of water crossing you want to attempt.

Picture the scene: your hike has taken you deep into the serene and beautiful hills. Ahead lie swathes of green grass, shimmering peaks and slashes of crystal blue water. But in no time at all the stunning view turns dim as the rains come and turns streams into wild torrents. Now you need to know how to cross a river.

On your travels there are times when your route is going to be blocked by a river, or significant body of water. Some organisations, think military, advocate only one way to cross these kinds of features: jump in with all your gear and swim across! Not one of the rules for hiking we recommend.

Crossing swollen rivers or large bodies of water can be hazardous. Following a storm or flood there is a real risk to life. Today we’re going to explore a number of methods you can use to move or reduce the risk that comes with crossing a water feature.

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