Here's me

My name is Matt I'm a freelance music teacher. I teach whole classes, voice, and guitar both privately and in local schools.

I've been running since February 2010. I originally set this up to promote fund raising for Edale Mountain Rescue Team when I did the Nottingham Ultra in 2011. I raised over £500 but the race was so uneventful (in a good way) that I couldn't be bothered to do a write up.

Now I'm intending to use it to document the running stuff that I want to be able to remember.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Maxpedition Jumbo versipack review

There comes a time in the tide of every man's blog when he must contemplate his first product review.  If this point on the space time continuum coincides, as here, with the revelation of secret preper/survivalist tendencies then a review of the Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack shall be the inevitable outcome.
Reviews of this product are two a penny but I think we can stand another because; most are video reviews, this will be written; most are by fanboys who can't seem to find a single thing that's less than perfect, I hope I can bring some balance.
The handbag in question
General thoughts.
I've carried a hand bag for a while now. I first got into every day carry when I came across a post on ITSTactical about things one might like to carry on one's keys. I started carrying a few bits and bobs all the time and soon needed a bag for my stuff. I have quite a few trousers with no pockets and, when I was wearing pockets, the stuff in the pockets irritated me.
At first I carried a very small and cheap thing I'd bought from trespass as a pouch for a rucksack waist strap but quickly replaced it with a snugpak half - messenger style bag. I would highly recommend that bag.  It was well priced, had great storage and organisation options, and was reasonably well made.
Eventually I needed something which I could fit my lunch in which was just the excuse I needed to splash out on the versipack which I'd been eyeing for a while.


Here's a great time to talk cost. It's ridiculously expensive. Around £90. Is it worth it? No.  Having said that I knew when I bought it that it wasn't worth it and I still went ahead. The thing is that I knew when I bought it that I would be using it everyday. It was always the bag I'd thought of when I decided to carry a handbag but I went with the (much) cheaper option whilst seeing if a handbag was going to work for me.
Another note on price. I did shop around and found them on Amazon for around £20 off rrp. When going through the checkout process there was some confusion about colour options, though, and so I ended up paying full price to go through heinnie haynes in order to get the peace of mind that ordering through them brings.

Weight Comfort and Running

This is quite a heavy bag even with nothing in it, around a kilo (I think). However, even with a much heavier load than I used to have in the snugpak, it is much more forgiving to carry. The shoulder strap is wide, padded, and comfortable. The non - slip padded section is articulated from the main strap so when the pack moves you don't get any rubbing or chaffing from the strap.
There is a waist strap which does spread the weight of the pack very nicely. I use this as my every day carry pack and my load is fairly small but by using the waist strap you could easily carry enough weight to make this a viable hiking day sack. I've also done a couple of small runs with this, just as a proof of concept but also when I go for a parkour session and I want to have my regular carry with me. You couldn't run very fast or very far with this but easy run pace is very achievable for a few miles.


Let's tackle the things I don't like.

Before we start this I want to mention that the bag comes in right and left hand versions so when I talk about the front or rear of the back when carried then that is always correct assuming you've bought the bag meant to be carried on the side on which you are carrying it. [That has to be the worst sentence I've ever written]

1. The pocket on top of the lid. I have no real use for this and tend to use it as a trash pocket. I've seen it recommended as a sunglasses pocket but I don't live in a climate to necessitate carrying sunglasses. That's my problem though, not an issue with the pocket itself. My issues with it are first I think it looks a bit ugly. Second, and this winds me up, the zip runs the wrong way. Every zip on here goes front to back (whilst wearing) and that makes sense. You glance down, see the zip, off you go. This pocket has the zip running back to front. That makes it harder to find when you need to use it but also why make it different from all the rest?
2. The pocket under the lid flap feels like it should have a dual zipper. I really think that dual zippers would make sense and make the pocket more usable. When you use this pocket you have to undo the side release buckle on the lid flap. That means that you would tend to bring the bag round to your front which means that the natural place to reach for the zipper is the top of the pocket. That would be achievable with dual zippers (you'd just leave them how you like it). This is a niggling point but its an expensive bag - you want it right.
The offending pocket - the lid is lifted so you can see the pocket
2a. There's a key clip on a short strap inside the same pocket. It's on the wrong side. As you look at the bag the zip pull (when closed) sits on the right and the key clip is on the left. It was on the right you could have the zip slightly undone and whatever's on the clip could just stick out a little or if you kept the zip closed you would only need to open it a little to access the clip. If it was on the right it would also be nearer the front of the bag as you wear it making for easier access.
3. There's a karabiner type clip on the rear strap [rear side when carried left side on the photo] where the strap meets the pack. The reason its there is because there's a small pocket behind the molle loops under the karabiner. It does make sense because you could clip, say, your keys to the karabiner and then tuck them into the sleeve pocket to stop them rattling but you have to bring the pack unnaturally far round your body to get to whatever you've hung there. I do see why it is where it is but I think it would be better on the other side of the strap so when wearing the bag it would sit on your side.
4. There is a lot of unused space below the front strap. There's a small molle field there but I'd prefer the phone pocket they put on the same place on some of their other packs.
Which leads to
5. Its clearly built with one eye on selling extras. That unused space can be used to easily attach a maxpedition phone pouch (for a princely sum) with the maxpedition tacties (not included). The front pocket under the lid suffers from this too. It would really benefit from some elasticated loops for organisation. It's left blank which has the huge advantage that it's the perfect size to fit the maxpedition pocket organiser (separate purchase).
These are all small niggles and they wouldn't stop me buying or recommending this bag but it is expensive and you want it to be right. 

The Way I Carry It

There's a couple of things I want to mention about what I've done with the bag and contents which help me get the most out of what I carry.
I've got the handle wrapped in my favourite paracord for easy identification of the bag and also so I've got plenty of paracord should I need it.
My torch is attached to the molle at the front (whilst wearing) of the pack. It's very easy to get off but it's also possible to use it whilst still attached.
I very pleased that I live in a country that doesn't allow the owning of guns. Obviously the concealed carry weapons pocket doesn't get used for its intended purpose but it is a great place to keep my tablet and notepad. The tablet is a 7 inch but I believe tablets of up to ipad size will fit. Incidentally my tablet also fits in the zip pocket under the lid although it is quite tight.
Here's my favourite. I have a small velcro-hook tab on my car key so that I can stick it to the loop field on top of the bag. This is so useful. Switch off car, stick key to bag, get boy and stuff from car, key still handy for use. I'm so pleased with this that I've stuck a velcro-loop field onto my dashboard and put some velcro-hook on the gate remote. I'd love to find some other stuff to add this system to.  One thing which I carry which I highly recommend everyone to carry is a plastic bag folded up. You can, from Maxpedition and other tactical type manufacturers, dump bags that roll up so that when you need some extra storage you can unroll a bag.  But they are all very much more bulky and heavy than a plastic carrier bag.

Well I think that's it for now. I hope someone finds this useful


Friday, 3 January 2014

Here comes 2014

I've been thinking a lot about what I'll be doing in 2014 so here it is.

Dry January is extended till march 23rd. Here's the rules. A small slip £5, a big slip £20, total failure £100 to mountain rescue. The reward for completion will be the best and lightest waterproof I can find waiting for me at the start line of...

Edale skyline 23rd March. I want a pb.

Training for this will be mixed up a bit. So kettle bell strength, a tabata followed by balancing, perfect pair (kettle bell swings and press ups), a run per week. Interspersed with one or two weeks of big milage.

Ultra tour peaks in June. Woot. I was hesitant about entering this because I really don't have time to do ultra training and I am still suffering with my foot. But I've been wanting to do it for a while and in a moment of madness I signed up. I will be doing this as a sponsored event raising money for mountain rescue.

Wish me luck.