Is It Goodbye GoLite?

GoLite Website
The US company which pioneered ultra-light hiking equipment, and with which I did some work a decade ago, has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy according to this Outdoor Industry news source.

It is moving to terminate the business unless a competing bid surfaces.  Is it goodbye GoLite?  I sincerely hope not.

However, the Denver Business Journal says GoLite is preparing for liquidation.

Reading these articles shows how hard the owners have tried to keep the business going.

They sold the trademark 'GoLite' to Timberland in 2006 and licenced back its use.  Timberland has now withdrawn that licence from 31 March 2015.  All this makes me disappointed because I was among the first to use GoLite in the UK and I sort-of know the people behind it.

Way back in 2001 I was planning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and became aware of GoLite which had just started up and was expanding into Europe.

PCT in Oregon
It had bought the rights to manufacture Ray Jardine's for hiking equipment, specifically packs, shelters and sleeping 'systems'.

Jardine had earlier published the patterns in the The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook
expecting people would make their own.  GoLite did it for them.

I used the original GoLite / Jardine designs in a big test for TGO Magazine, which saw the editor Cameron McNeish, the deputy editor John Manning, the equipment editor Chris Townsend and me all tramping around Ben Alder area for a weekend.

People had used, bivi bags, minimal gear and had cut the handles off toothbrushes for years but this was the first time American west coast ultra-light kit had received such a pubic test in Scotland.

My girlfriend (now wife) and I subsequently went on to test a variation of the equipment in winter, crossing the Fisherfield Forest one New Year.

On Corsica GR20
In 2001 we took it down the Costa Blanca Mountain Way, the Corsica GR20 and parts of the desert around Santa Fe, New Mexico.

All that was training for 'the big one', our 2568ml five month hike from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Everything we had we carried in GoLite packs (the Gust) which we still use when kayaking.

We had GoLite waterproof trousers (again, still in use), and shirts and wind/waterproof jackets which are long gone.

Before embarking on the trail we collected all these goodies at the Boulder headquarters of GoLite.  Demitri ("Coup") and Kim Coupounas took us out to dinner and there are two things I remember from that meal.

Testing winter ulralight in Fisherfield forest
One was the astronomic price of wine.  Second was a humorous remark by Coup which I've used myself, adapting it to different situations.

"You want to know how to make a small fortune in the outdoor gear business", he confided?  "Start with a large fortune".

I did a telephone interview with Coup a few years ago for a profile in TGO magazine and he was as upbeat as ever.

He was into raw food and had just completed his mission to climb the highest point in every US state.  We haven't kept in touch and we're not in any way close, but this news is still very disappointing.

I can only hope something good will come from it, eventually.

Kim recently gave a TEDx talk in Boulder which I've posted below - it's well worth watching.  The title - The Joy Of Less.

Promo Video - Sunart Hydro Project

Last week I wrote about the hydro electric project that's taking shape up behind our house in the west highlands of Scotland.  It's a community project and my contribution is this promotional video.

The aim of the wee video is to make you want to find out more about this rather interesting investment opportunity which offers a return that's equivalent to 10%pa over five years.  If you are interested then SunartCommunityRenewables.org.uk is the place to find out more.  The video is made to be embedded on that website.

Incidentally, I used a mixture of Canon XF305, GoPro and my new Canon 5D to shoot the video.



Develop a Career in TV News

Crikey - Auntie Beeb was not like this when I started!  The BBC Academy is a useful resource for anyone wanting to develop television related skills.  Since leaving the corporation I've used their online courses to update my self-shooting technique.  This video seems aimed more at international journalists but the advice, particularly about the SWOT analysis, is applicable to everyone hoping to work for BBC News.  The advice about talking to people already doing the job is spot on.  The full page is here.

Learning to Shoot DSLR Video

Five weeks ago yesterday I underwent open surgery to repair two hernias.  Recovery, I was told, would take at least six weeks.

During that time I could not carry heavy rucksacks of video kit and tripods.

I've always considered working in television to be be a binary condition: you were either fit enough to work fourteen hour days and cope with whatever the shoot threw at you, or you were not.

If you couldn't handle any and everything, stay home.

In the freelance game there's no such thing as an easy booking.  So I've kept the bookings diary on my website clear until well into November.

To use my time productively I decided to learn how to shoot video on a DSLR camera, specifically a new Canon 5d mark 3.

Until now I've always shot on cameras with small sensors.  Good cameras, you understand, like my much loved Canon XF305 on which we shot Volume 3 - Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown and which I use regularly on shoots for the BBC.

For a long time now I have wanted to learn how to use a full frame sensor camera to get that much valued shallow depth of field.

My ideal video camera in this category is the Canon C300.  Once fully tricked out, it's out of my price range for now and I'm not good enough to make the most of it.

I know, I've tried.

The Canon 5D mk3 is a much cheaper compromise, especially if you buy a grey import here as I did.

The EF lenses it uses will fit the C300 and frankly, it's much harder to use for video.  After all, it's a stills camera.  If I can make this thing work for video then the C300 ought to be easier.

I could have bought a cheaper, more modern 'starter' DSLR video camera, but I'm thinking long term.  And an unexpected by-product is that I'm rekindling my love of stills photography.

I'll write more about the kit I've bought, the tutorials I've used, how it's working and hopefully post some video.  Once I've produced something which you might want to see.

One Year With Maggie


When a tiny border terrier came to live with us twelve months ago today I promised this would not become a dog-blog.

This anniversary is an exception.

We don't have kids so we laughingly refer to Maggie as our "fur-baby.  Actually, that's not far from the truth!

I've made a few videos of her in the past year which you can find on her YouTube channel.


I am self-aware enough to know how sad this sounds.  My younger self would scoff and sneer mercilessly.  But she is endlessly entertaining, as you can see below.

Sunart Community Hydro Electric Project

Photo: Iain Ferguson for Scottish Water
Our community is raising money to build a 100kw run of river hydro electric scheme.  

We're ahead of many communities trying to do the same because we already have a dam.

Earlier this week Scottish Water formally handed over their old dam which was previously the water supply for our village of Strontian.  

Archie Macgregor handed it to Sunart Community Company Chairman John Tyldsley, one of our near neighbours.  I took along my video camera and you can see the results below

I'll write more about the Sunart Community Renewables scheme in coming weeks.

I've made a promotional video for the project and I'm helping the team with their publicity.

What's more, I shall invest in the project.  As well as being an ethical, environmentally sound project which will deliver returns to our local community, it also offers a good financial return - equivalent to 10% over five years.  More on that in coming weeks.



Do You Want That In A Bag?


From Monday (20th Oct 2014) stores in Scotland must charge 5p for plastic and paper single-use bags.


The official guidance is here.  This is the result of a law passed by the Scottish Government to protect the environment by reducing the use of all bags which then reduces the resources used.  

A jolly good thing it is too.

The leaflet I picked up while buying a coffee in McDonald's makes it clear this applies to their take-away food.  

Want a burger and fries?  Expect to pay 5p extra for the tiny paper sack.  But here's where it's slightly odd.

Want just fries?  Then you don't pay 5p.  There's an exemption  for part-packaged food provided it is the only item in the bag.

What if the server hands you the fries in the bag and the burger in your hand - then once you have them you put in the burger in the bag bag yourself?  

Er, I don't know.  It's already in force in Wales, so perhaps someone can advise me.  Or I could just read the official guidance.  Nah - I don't eat burgers.