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SmartHalo is definitely the coolest accessory you can buy for your bike.

When it comes to the ever-changing world of technology, new innovations and the growth of activity-based accessories, we rarely start thinking of bicycles. Of course, there are navigation systems available, but besides the use of an app, a wearable device, or possibly a combination of the two, there’s still very little out there, to (I guess) smarten up our bike rides.

That’s where something like the SmartHalo navigation system now comes in.

 SmartHalo

Being a cycling enthusiast and always on the lookout for something new and exciting, the SmartHalo is really a smart bit of kit. It is an all in one device that attaches to your handlebars and subsequently spruces up your bike ride by offering you a variety of essential items, like your very own personal Navigation system, Light, Alarm, Fitness Tracker and Assistant - for incoming calls and texts.

The SmartHalo is a new and innovative product that is backed by a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, which is not just about creating a new cycle accessory, but more so about smartening up bicycles and improving the overall riding experience, for the cyclist. Especially, within the city. The unit is competitively priced, it not only fits nicely alongside its competitors, but it stands out as something slick and unique. It also offers an overall eye ctaching design and new levels of thinking and skills in entrepreneurship.

This quality cycling accessory really does set itself apart from anything else on the market and certainly adds a wealth of features to your overall cycling experience and ideally makes for the perfect two-wheeled companion.

 An Introduction

As you will probably already know, from reading my website and blog posts. I not only love the outdoors, but also I ride my bike a lot. In fact, my cycling has developed from being a hobby to now becoming my preferred mode of transport, allowing me to travel pretty much everywhere and my chosen mode of transport for my commute to work.

I now live in the Netherlands and here cycling is simply a way of life. With many people, from the older generations to the youngsters, taking to their bikes on a daily basis, in all types of weather, just to get around. The Netherlands is the perfect environment for cyclists, as it is flat, safe, with a wonderful infrastructure and a great place to ride a bike, for anyone who is passionate about spending most of their life on two wheels.

So, in recent weeks I have been lucky enough to recently work with SmartHalo and now get the great opportunity to use this amazing product, within this, my most recent blog post. To not only give an insight into how it can be used in my daily life, but I would also like to give a fair and well-balanced representation of the product, through a review. Taking my viewpoint from my own personal first-hand experience.

 My first impressions

We all know the saying, ‘First impressions last!’ So, with any product, it is important to make this become a reality.

From the initial contact, the SmartHalo team have been pretty amazing. Not only are they a team who are creating an exceptional product, but they also team who have really listened and considered their audience. The customer services side of things have been excellent, with no question unanswered and once delivered - the product was simply fantastic.

It is clear, the design team have really thought things through. The product comes in a relatively small box, which is compact and well designed. It is colourful and has the right amount of information on it. Displaying all the appropriate information, that helps to further advertise and inform the user about the cycle accessory.  

 It clearly markets the SmartHalo into all of the following:Navigation systemAlarmLight - for safety  What's inside the box?

After initially receiving the product, the excitement mounts when you actually get the chance to open things up and see what's inside. Like a child a Christmas, these moments are always the best.

As previously mentioned, the box is bright, colourful and appealing on the eye and when you open up the box, the SmartHalo unit, takes up predominant position. My first impression is one of satisfaction, it is a sturdy unit and of good size. Thankfully, it is not too big and bulky.

It is visible and I would say of suitable size. At first, I did have the feeling that the unit might be a bit too prominent in size, but once out of the box. I was pleasantly surprised, by its overall look and feel.

On the bike it blended nicely into the grey colour of of my commuter bike and I was very happy with this new addition.

    

Once you remove the SmartHalo from the box, you see the important Halo Key, which is positioned underneath the unit. This is an essential item and it is used to remove the unit from your handlebars if of course, you need to. So it is important to keep it safe and follow the instructions on how to securely fix or unfix.

    The installation process

The installation process is easy. Inside the box, you will see all the necessary mounts which are essential for fitting the unit to the bike. Fitting and locking the SmartHalo into place is easy. I followed the instructions and it was pretty straightforward and not difficult.

You get a set of templates, which I followed throughout, in order to help out with the overall installation process and also a warranty card, that obviously gives warranty on the product.

Use the appropriate template to select and fit the size your handlebars. This will determine the correct adapters/inserts, this is easy to do. Once complete, choose the appropriate one, they are labelled either A or B depending on the size of your handlebars.

Then it is important to carefully select the screws and start installing the unit one side at a time. I found this easy to do but, don't fully tighten anything yet as fixing it firmly into place does not allow you to move or recorrect anything.

Next, you will need to use another one of the templates in order to centre the brackets on your handlebars and to also make sure that they are the correct distance apart. This takes a little moving around, but it is really simple. Once moved and you are happy with its position, you can then tighten the screws and firmly fit the unit in place. Finally, you can then use the HaloKey in order to attach the SmartHalo unit to the brackets. This whole process took me around 10 minutes and it was really, hassle-free. Once completed it was good to go and my attention could be turned to finalising the installation of the App.

Images

 SmartHalo App

The device is easy to use and in order to be fully functional it pairs with an app, that is downloaded to your phone or paired device. The app is downloaded via the Apple App store or the Android App store.

Once downloaded you are able to open the SmartHalo app, where you will have two options. You can either sign up as a new user or login if you are already registered with the system. Registering is simple and I was suitably impressed with how smooth the installation process was and what a fantastic job, the SmartHalo team have done with the app.

It is slick in its design, smooth in its use and the overall instructions are first class, easy to follow and informative. They have even included some great animations to show you exactly how it all goes together. A personally really like these simple touches, as it really shows good design skills and highlights good quality.

At this point, I could give a detailed explanation of the whole setup, but all of that is explained in the app itself and it is simple to follow. To explain somewhat, I have included one or two images, of the screenshots, in order to give a visual representation of how it looks and works.

 The following information might help

Step 1: Firstly, you will need to create a suitable profile. This will include your Name, Password, email address.

Step 2: Following this, you will need to then confirm your email address is correct.

Step 3: Then, you are required to fill out all relevant information about your current fitness.

Step 4: After this, you will be required to pair your device with your SmartHalo. For this step you will need to plug it into a USB Port and then switch on your Bluetooth.

Step 5: Finally, and to complete the installation process you will need to install the SmartHalo on to the bike.

 Now it is time to test

Once the installation is completed and the instructions followed. The really good bits could start.

   

I used the SmartHalo daily and it performed really well. There were no complications and it made for the ideal cycle companion out on my commute to work, cycles around the city and on longer excursions into the countryside, that surrounds me.

The unit focuses on four main areas and those are as follows:

    Navigation

SmartHalo essentially is a navigation system and it works superbly well. It is simple to use. Open the app on your device, I used my phone to drop a pin on my desired destination and the SmartHalo then gave me a detailed turn-by-turn navigated route.

This route is clearly visible on the phones GPS but is then replicated through the Halo, where a Halo of light, helps light your way. I started with a short route, from my home and into the city. I attempted a route with a few turns, in order to see how it would perform. I worked really well and got me to my desired location.

It works by omitting a coloured light onto the halo. The green light lights up and points you in the direction of the next turn (1/4 of the ring will be green) and as you start to get closer to your turn. The size of the lit up green area starts to get smaller and smaller as it begins letting you know you're almost ready at your next turning point.

It is really clever and if you happen to make a mistake and perhaps overshoot, the Halo will turn red, highlighting the fact you have gone too far and will need to make a U-turn. Thankfully on my route, I didn't need to make any u-turns, so it was really straightforward and it did perform well, as I made it purposefully have some turns both left and right. I would use the facility too much on my commute, as that route is cycled frequently and I guess it just becomes familiar. For me, when I'm unaware of where I'm going or need to be, that is when the SmartHalo comes into its own. Testing this option, it is clearly apparent that it really does work.

One further addition to the navigation setting is great if you are slightly forgetful. There is a ‘Find my Bike’ setting fitted for anyone who loses the bike or perhaps just in case you forgot where you left it. It is a great addition and again after, accidentally losing my bike, I made the unit find it again.

 

Light

At the moment, I am cycling 32 miles a day on my commute to work and back. It is a great ride to work, but during the winter months, visibility and lights are essentials, out on the bike. The SmartHalo is well equipped with many great gadgets and form me, a very important one is the fact it has a built-in light at the front that is clearly visible at a distance of over 750m.

The light is safely concealed in the unit and it is possible to set the light to come on automatically when it gets dark or to switch it on manually with two taps of the Halo. It is a great addition and easy to use. It has the function to be set to flashing or can be easily adjusted to maintain a solid beam and then adjust the brightness through the app.

It is a good light, but not as good as many lights found on the market today. I used it in addition to my normal light, the one on the Halo only really acts as a visible warning sign and there to make other road or cycle path users aware of your presence, it definitely should not be used to replace a stronger light for use on the very darkest of roads or routes.

Alarm & Security

An added extra to this great cycle unit is that the SmartHalo comes with added extras. One of those great features is that the bike accessory has a built-in alarm, with a set of important,  internal motion sensors.

This works by if motion is detected and your phone is not near the SmartHalo, then it will give out a warning signal and red lights begin to appear on the Halo. This signifies warning and deters thieves from tampering with the device. If it is that more movement/motion is detected then more lights will begin to appear and a few seconds later if tampering continues it will eventually result in a 100dB alarm being activated. Obviously, this forms a great security deterrent against the unwanted activity. It just needs a protective passcode to enable deactivation.

To establish a suitable password. It will need to be set up during the whole installation phase. This is undertaken and by tapping the centre of the Halo, through a code like format. Once the code has been recognised and you enter the correct code, the alarm sounds will stop.

Furthermore, an added bonus is that once fixed the Halo can only be removed by using the HaloKey. As a result, the bolts holding the brackets in place are found under the SmartHalo, making it impossible to remove the device without the Key. To remove, the Key will attach to the side of the unit and subsequently releases the locking mechanism inside. This then allows you to take the unit safely off the bike when needed.

In my opinion, it serves as a great security measure against anyone wanting to steal from you and in this day an age, a very important addition to any expensive accessory.

 

Fitness

Another great feature and one that was beneficial to me was the built-in fitness facility. As I cycle daily to work, I do like to keep track of how many miles I’m cycling. As a result, I do like to integrate my statistics with my Strava account.

Although not tracking directly through Strava, I can still keep a track of my recorded data, by downloading the file into my Strava dashboard. This is through a GPS file. Besides this, it does have the functionality to go directly into the Apple Health App, but some other devices will need to use an exportable file.

The fitness tracker, found within the app is accurate and it clearly allows you to see the amount of time you spend cycling, where you have been cycling, the distance covered, average speed and a few more focus points.  

Phone and Texts

Another great function is the phone and text alerts, whereby the facility can alert you if you receive a text of phone call on your mobile. This is a good function and can be switched on and off. The reason I say this, is for the simple reason if you phone beeps every minute or so then maybe it is better that is turn off. Otherwise it can be a handy addition.

Battery

The battery is housed in the unit and I found it lasted a long time. It can be used for up to 20 hours or can last for 6 months in the standby mode. The facility has a USB rechargeable battery, where you have the ability to charge the unit while it is housed on the bike or you can simply remove it with the HaloKey and then charge it away from the bike. I did this in the house, on my desk and attached to my laptop. The charging point is protected by a very handy rubber flap, which protects the essential charging components from water entering the SmartHalo.

 In Conclusion

I really enjoyed using the SmartHalo and think it is a great cycling accessory and a really great idea. There is no doubt it is a well built, robust item and will certainly last any potential user a long time.  

It works alongside a really well-made app. Which is graphically good, has simple to follow functions and also has some really good features. It is easy to install and I found it very straightforward to follow, from setup and then through regular use.

During the time I was using it, it worked perfectly well and I was suitably impressed with its overall accuracy. Without confusion and complication, it gave me the correct turn by turn navigation, through the city streets and on my country routes. I found the alarm is a valuable feature that works well. It is loud, works well and would definitely deter any would-be thief. It is a great addition to the bike, especially when parking on the city streets.

When in use I found the coloured LED unit easy to follow, accurate and not distracting. The colours and directions are easy to follow and it performed really well, getting me to my desired locations, each time I used it.

For any cycling enthusiast, it is a good little unit to have and does everything it says it will do. It is competitively priced and comparable with other items on the market. I have been suitably impressed, I enjoyed using it and I think it is well worth a look at.

 SmartHalo Media

You can take a closer look at the SmartHalo on the following social media channels. I would most certainly recommend it. I understand that SmartHalo have been working on a newer version of this great device and I understand it will be released at the end of May 2019.

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A Stone Age-inspired crafts An ideal activity for Key Stage 2 - Stone Age Topic

As part of my classes recent Prehistory topic I decided I wanted to move our learning onto a different level and begin to develop a more practical approach to the work produced in class.

It is always pretty cool to learn and discover new things from books, the Internet and also together with each other, but the practical and creative side of things - children always love. So, to support their learning and curiosity further, I am going to explain all about what I did, in order to make some amazing Stone Age Tools.

What materials you will need to make your Stone Age Tools?

There are obviously many variations on what you could use, but here is what we came up with.

You will need:

  • Cardboard

  • Newspaper

  • Masking tape/Sellotape

  • Papier-mâché paste or PVA Glue and water

  • Paints

  • Scissors

  • Household Twine/string/wool

How to make a Stone Age Axe KS2 School Project

1. We started off with a cardboard structure to give strength and shape to our design. Make sure that the cardboard is not too thick, as it can be tricky to cut or shape. A cereal box is ideal.

2. Once cut or shaped into what we wanted, we then decided to the seal all of the visible edges with tape. This ultimately made the structure safe, strong, secure and ready to be covered with the papier-mâché.

3. To achieve this and strengthen the structure further, we ripped newspaper into appropriated sized pieces. Some big, for the bigger sections and some smaller ones for the intricate bits.

4. Next, we mixed some PVA glue with water in order to provide the liquid part of the papier-mâché. Remember to mix the two liquids together carefully as they do have a tendency to separate.

5. Then, we carefully dipped the newspaper into the liquid mixture. By covering the paper evenly this helped form the basis for us to then use it and stick it even to the cardboard structure.

*NOTE don't use too much liquid as it can soften the structure underneath.

6. Make sure you cover the structure well and then leave to dry thoroughly. We used a drying rack and in no time at all they were dry.

7. Next, get your paints ready and mix in a little glue.  * The glue adds further strength and also gives a nice glossy finish to your work.

8. Paint thoroughly and then let it dry.

9. Finally, once it is fully dry you can add any extras to your work, in order to make it more authentic and eye-catching.

Once we had completed the activity our weapons formed part of a display that was supported with additional written work. This included a day in the life of a Stone Aged man, how to build the perfect Stone Age house and what you might eat at a Stone Aged banquet.  

In Conclusion

Working together, it was a lot of fun. It was an activity that was easy to resource and implement. All children enjoyed it, and as you would expect, it further ignited that creative spark.  

Thanks for reading!

Keeping the materials simple.

Rip or cut the paper into pieces.

Tap around the cardboard and begin to cover the whole cardboard.

Spread evenly to get the full effect.

Choose your paints and empty into a paint pot.

Begin painting and spread paint evenly.

Two coats are better than one.

Read More Education Blogs

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How To Make A Stone Age Dwelling

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As someone who has spent and continues to spend most of his days in the Great Outdoors, I feel it is only appropriate to share some of my thoughts on 5 quality outdoor brands, all of which I own and have used on a regular basis, in the Great Outdoors.

Spending time in the outdoor is an essential part of my life and during that time I have tried, tested and kept a huge range of outdoor clothing, from various brands.

Without frequently gaining my outdoor fix, I wouldn’t necessarily function as I do, I certainly wouldn’t be myself and I wouldn’t necessarily get out of the outdoor experience, as much as I continue to do so.

With that said, in no particular order, here are my 5 favourite outdoor brands.

The North Face

Ever since I lived in the USA, way back in 2001. I have always had a keen interest in North Face outdoor products. Back then I discovered my first North Face waterproof, purchased it from a local outdoor store and from that moment I generally loved its overall look, quality of material and their extensive range of other outdoor accessories.

Over the years, this jacket served me well and I have since added to my collection with a series of t-shirts, hiking shorts and lightweight running attire. I have found all of these particular products to be great value for money and well worth my vested interest.

Although, I still have a soft spot for The North Face and their excellent range of products. I feel these days, the brand has become somewhat too popular and digressed away from its outdoor roots. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel everyone now owns a North Face garment and there has been many fake alternatives circulating every now and then. With this increased popularity, I feel it has become more of a fashion accessory among many, more than a unique outdoor brand.

In summary: I like North Face products, but the brand doesn’t appeal to me as much as it did, especially, when I’m looking for garments to use in the outdoors. They are still very popular, but perhaps don’t appear high on my radar as much as they used to.

Rab Equipment

Rab - the mountain people, is probably one of my favourite outdoor brands. Not just because it derives from my homeland of the Peak District in England, but more so the Rab clothing collection is always stylish, well made and warm.

The company was founded by climbing innovator and adventurer Rab Carrington, who set up the equipment company that bears his name today. His goal was simple: to make honest, rugged climbing kit that could perform at the highest level.

As a result, every Rab piece of clothing was made by hand and rigorously tested by the man himself or friends and fellow climbers, who encountered the most extreme and hostile conditions.

Since purchasing a Rab Extreme fleece, many years ago. I have been captivated and intrigued to see what products come out next. At the moment I own a blue microlight jacket and it serves me well, keeping me warm out on the hike and it is pack able when on my travels.

Rab products are great and will seriously keep you warm. You just really need to be somewhere cold enough to maximise their full potential.

In summary: I feel their product range is exceptional and all their products are well made, they look stylish and my Nimbus Jacket is so comfy and warm.

Fjallraven

Again Fjallraven is a brand synonymous with the outdoors, but one that has slowly become a fashion accessory, especially the popularity of the Kanken bag.

Don’t get me wrong, Fjallraven are a brand I really admire and as I currently own several Greenland products and a Kanken bag. I have to say how superb the outdoor products are. From its roots in Sweden, the company has the outdoors and sustainability running through its veins and their ecological footprint is at the forefront of everything they do.

The materials are high quality, and the product composition, is truly first class. Their products are stylish, durable and thorough well made. The only downside to the garment is the overall price, and if you are to purchase one or two of their amazing products, you are likely to take a slight dent to the bank balance.

For me, Sweden is an incredible country and Fjallraven are definitely at the forefront of new initiatives and sustainable thinking, something that resonates highly within my own core values, as an outdoor enthusiast.

In summary: I really like all Fjallraven products, how they look, fit and what the company principles stand for. I also love Sweden and if I can feel like I am carrying a little bit of Sweden around with me each day, then I am very happy indeed.

Haglofs

Is another wonderful Swedish brand and a company I was delighted to collaborate with, only a few years ago. During that time, I was lucky enough to receive a variety of their great products, from low level hiking boots, Gore Tex jackets and one of the best 40 litre rucksacks I have ever owned. Haglofs products are very exceptional.

Like other Scandinavian brands they really focus on overall quality and again source some of the finest materials, to which they focus their range. Once again, their clothes come at a cost, but I really do feel you do get what you pay for.

My Gore Tex jacket is robust and dry, and it remains dry in the most challenging of conditions. No leaking and dampness on the inside, all of which remains focused on the outside. Testing their products is pretty easy for me as the waterproof gear has become an integral part of my cycle to work. Without the garments, I might be cold and wet, with them this enjoyable experience is made even more of a pleasure.

In summary: Of the last few years, I have been very lucky to receive various items of clothing and equipment from Haglofs and I have to say, they really are exceptional products. They have most certainly added greater pleasure to my outdoor experiences and have kept the elements at bay, while out walking or on my bike. Haglofs can be expensive, but you get what you pay for.

My Haglofs lightweight clothing keeps me warm and dry. I find it perfect for hiking during the summer, cycling and also for running.

The Haglofs Roc Rescue Backpack is simply superb. I love this!

Montane

Montane is a UK based company that has worked closely with many serious mountain professionals working in hostile conditions across the globe. They have provided clothing for the British Antarctic Survey and many British Mountain Rescue Teams, based in some of the UK’s most challenging environments.

I bought a Montane Prism jacket a few years ago and I have to say it is still one of the warmest and lightest jackets I have. It is versatile, robust and does everything and more it says it will do. I use it to go under my rain jacket and frequently use it when I’m cycling on the bike to and from work, especially on those cold winter days.

In addition to this, I have purchased a few accessories like hats and gloves, and they have left me feeling extremely impressed with the overall quality of materials used and construction of garments. The only down side is, some of the products don’t fit me too well. The Prism jacket is fine, but some other garments are either slightly too big or too small.

I guess if I was a super skinny fella, then they would fit perfectly fine.

In summary: I have been very impressed with the products and after a few years of outdoor use they are still going strong. I personally find that Montane products are very underrated, but in recent years Montane have definitely improved their already good products and their overall marketing tactics. As a result, of their positive advances, this is now making them a very worthwhile option to choose from and one that is extremely reliable and trustworthy among outdoor equipment.

Windy conditions!!

A cold and spontaneous visit to Malham Cove and surrounding areas.

In Conclusion

I cycle 52 km a day, to work and back, so I need warm, dry and reliable clothing to help make the experience that little bit more pleasurable.

Within this latest blog post I have attempted to highlight my own personal favourite outdoor clothing brands.

Of course, there are many others out there on the market and many I could also add to this list. Naturally, when reading this post many other outdoor enthusiasts might agree or disagree with my particular choices.

In my opinion, choice is a beautiful word and with the vast array of outdoor clothing brands, out there on the market today, we all have a significant decision to make, when contemplating buying new garments and accessories. In order to make our overall experience outside, that little bit more pleasurable.

First and foremost, the product of choice has to do what you want it to do. In my case, I want something to keep me warm, dry and last a long time.

In turn, it does need to look good and feel good too. Ultimately, the price definitely alters my final decision on what product to go for, as my limited clothing budget can only stretch so far.

Thanks for reading!

More Blog Posts

Thanks for reading and you can read more of my latest blog posts right here:

Guest Post - Ideas For An Airy and Outdoor Hen Do

Quad Lock Smartphone Tripod Adaptor Review

People Of The Outdoors - Mathias Wielinga

How To Start Cycling To Work Every day

Home Of Millican - Roaming The Dutch Landscape

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Ideas For An Airy And Outdoor Hen Do

A hen do is one of the most important pre-wedding events for any bride-to-be. It’s her last night of freedom and the night that she’s supposed to go wild and crazy with all her close friends. The films and books depict a hen night as a night of heavy drinking and passing out but just like everything else, the times of drunk hen nights are changing. Of course there’s still alcohol but there’s a lot more than just that at hen parties nowadays.

For the hen that likes nature and outdoor air around her, here are some outdoor hen night ideas that are going to beat a hen party in London or other popular hen night cities any day.

1. Camping or Glamping Hen Night

Plan a night of camping outdoors with the entire hen gang. What could be better than getting away from the hustle bustle of the city life and enjoying a great, exclusive time with your hen gang surrounded by nature, the starry night sky and fresh air? Take some bottles of wine, games and gossip to keep the conversations and laughter flowing. If your gang doesn’t mind roughing it out in the woods, a traditional camping trip would be great.

However, if you want to take it up a notch and glamourise it, then opt for a glamping hen night. There are plenty of companies that help organise a glamping trip for hen nights. You can get in touch with any of the hen do companies and tell them about your requirements and needs, according to which they will be able to organise a glamping trip for you.

2. Outdoor Hen Activities

There are plenty of outdoor hen do activities that can add a touch of nature and adventure to your hen party. The entire hen gang can take a cycling tour of the entire city on bikes which can be customised with decorations to suit the theme of the hen party. You can also wear customised, matching t-shirts with ‘Team Bride’ written on them.

There are other outdoor activities like archery, football, shooting, go-karting, horse riding and more which can be organised by hen night organisers or you can also book a slot directly at the places where these activities are available.

3. Road Trip and Picnic

How about taking a road trip on the countryside and having a picnic at some scenic point where you girls can pop open some champagne and eat some great food that can either be prepared by the hen gang or you can get it packed from the hen’s favourite restaurant. This is a great idea for those who need a quick hen night recipe that’s memorable and also possible to plan and execute quickly.

4. Farm Stay

Another great idea to celebrate the hen night in a unique yet fun way is to go for a farm stay in the countryside. Not only will your hen gang be guests at the farm but also get a chance to help around the farm. This will be a lot of fun for you all. This one is specifically for the hen who likes to try out new things and doesn’t want a cliched hen do where all you do is drink.

For the bride that wants to bid adieu to her single life by doing and experiencing something new, this would be a great choice. The rest of the hen gang can also organise a small party at the farm itself with alcohol, decorations, cake etc. so that the bride can get a taste of both, a hen party and a farm experience.

Conclusion

A hen night should be celebrated with much enthusiasm and laughter. Depending on what the bride likes, a hen night should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should be themed around what the bride likes. For the bride that likes to be outdoors these hen night options would be pretty incredible.

Thank you

Here is the author bio: John Tarr is the co-founder and CEO of Off-Limits Events Ltd. Starting from a small jet ski rental in Sheffield back in 1993, John has transformed his business into a dynamic multi-event and activity company. Apart from creating bespoke events for corporates, John also helps stag and hen groups organize parties through Stagweekends.co.uk and Henweekends.co.uk.

Linkedin Profile:: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johntarr

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The phone case and tripod mount fit snugly onto the mount unit, which is found on my bike handlebars.

I am not usually one for focusing on the photography side of things within my blog, mainly because I see myself as a recreational photographer, as opposed to many others, who see themselves, as the so-called experts.

Therefore,I don’t really have a lot to say, with regards to my overall repertoire of photography skills. For me, photography is something I tend to do on the way to work, on a day out hiking, running, cycling or during my holidays and a visit to somewhere new.

I feel, I do have a good eye and I generally know what I want to capture, but my technical ability is somewhat limited, as time to learn is never really on my side.

If time does allow, then hopefully, my technical prowess gradually starts to improve, mainly due to the fact I am always open minded and keen to improve on the skills I have and continually seek any opportunity to make things that little bit better.

You can see more images taken with the Quadlock Smartphone Tripod on my @garethmateblog Instagram account.

When the opportunities do arise and I have the chance to go outside, take photographs and work on my skill set, I relish the chance to improve on the overall quality of what I produce.

Due to a busy life of work and I guess, life. I tend to mainly shoot images on my Smartphone, as I find the Smartphone to be very reliable, hugely practical and it just happens to be right by my side.

I currently have a good phone, by phone standards and I am slowly beginning to understand how to use it in a more effective way. My phone generally sits on my Quad Lock Cycle Mount system, as I use it every day to record my cycle route from home to work and when I get the chance, I can easily then detach it from the main mounting system (provided by Quadlock) and use it to take interesting pictures of my local surroundings.

I particularly enjoy taking pictures of natural landscapes and the interesting changes in light and weather conditions that accompany them, so I tend to need a camera that can be used fairly spontaneously and additional equipment that is light and practical to use and can fit in my bag.

As a result, the Quad Lock tripod mount is a great addition.

Tripod Mount

The Tripod in use using a simple, small and lightweight tripod to stabilise the shot.

After being sent the photography tripod mount from the very kind people at Quad Lock, I was delighted to have the chance to test it out and for it now to become another part of the many essential accessories, I now carry on my bike.

The tripod adaptor is small and strong, so it does not take up any unnecessary room in your bag or coat pocket. It is a very strong, sturdy unit and it will easily screw onto any existing tripod, from larger ones to smaller compact units regularly available on the market.

I generally carry my small Smartphone tripod in my bag, as it is handy and convenient, but for the purpose of testing and challenging myself further. I did bring out my Joby Gorilla Pod, which is much bigger and flexible in its usage, and like I have previously mentioned if you wish to, you can even mount the unit onto a larger tripod, but this is something I don’t always carry out on my bike.

Once again, the Quad Lock case, which houses your Smartphone is compatible with the Tripod adaptor. You simply just twist and click the phone case onto the adaptor unit and it is ready to use.

At this point is pretty easy to use and allows you to establish a very stable base, from which you can then take all different varieties of photography, from landscape shots, close-ups (Macro shots) or even stable video footage.

Personally, I really enjoy capturing outdoor landscape shots, so the tripod adaptor allowed me to fully stabilise the camera and get the best out of my shots, resulting in ‘out of focus’ or ‘blurred images’ being kept to a minimum. It was also very practical and useful in low light conditions, and helped me to establish some good sunset shots.

To summariseA GREAT product for capturing steady images

The Tripod Adaptor is small and comes packaged in a small box. I transported the Tripod into my kit bag and it took up no room. I thought it was perfect for days out and longer travels.

The product is exceptional and this means no more shaky footage, it easily connects your Quad Lock to a tripod, so that you can then capture beautiful still photography, steady video footage, great low-light shots and use time-lapse with ease. It is perfect for use in the outdoors.

Quick mounting system that is safe and secure

It is simple to install the Quad Lock Tripod Adaptor to your camera tripod, and twist and lock your Quad Lock equipped Smartphone directly to the mount. It doesn’t matter the size of tripod, it works with many different sizes. I mainly used mine on a Joby Gorilla Pod and a small Smartphone tripod unit.

Protective and impact resistant

The case is extremely tough, and has a polycarbonate core and has impact absorbing TPU edge-to-edge outer shell. This makes it strong and protects your Smartphone from everyday activities.

Tripod Adaptor

Close up of the Smartphone securely attached to the tripod.

  • The adaptor is relatively small, 100mm in height.

  • Made from Polycarbonate construction.

  • ¼ “ - 20 tripod thread.

  • This unit is compatible with all Quad Lock cases.

Smartphone Case
  • It is a secure Quad Lock interface.

  • Composite construction (TPU / PC).

  • The case has a soft microfibre lining.

  • Impact absorbing shell.

  • Compatible with wireless charging.

In conclusion

I was very impressed with the Quadlock Smartphone adaptor and it now has become a great addition to my outdoor kit bag.

If like me, you are always active and enjoy spending most of your spare time in the outdoors then this is a great practical addition to any adventure outside, whether that is a holiday, multi day trip or just a day adventure in the wilds.

The adaptor is simple to use and takes up no space in your bag. It is well worth a look at, along with many other great Quadlock products.

You can read my previous Quad Lock review here: https://garethmate.com/blog/quad-lock-bike-kit-review

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People of the Outdoors is my latest series whereby I acknowledge those individuals who are inspired and motivated to spend their lives in the Great Outdoors. This series forms a selection of personal interviews and imagery taken from these dedicated individuals.

The second interview is by Outdoor Enthusiast Mathias, who fully enjoys utilising the wild outdoors, at any given opportunity. He is based in the Netherlands and enjoys exploring some beautiful natural outdoor spaces, right on his doorstep, and further afield.

What caught my attention was his visit to Northern Sweden and the spectacular Kungsleden trail, a destination I was lucky enough to visit last summer and was thoroughly captivated by.

Mathias produced this short film, that helps to capture the essences of one of Europe’s finest wilderness.

Hiking Kungsleden 2016 - YouTube

You can follow Mathias on his website https://www.starthiking.nl/ where he will document his all of his outdoor adventures. Also look up his Instagram Page where he shares some of his adventures @starthiking

Introduce Yourself

Hi, my name is Mathias. I was born in Chile but grew up in the eastern part of the Netherlands (Twente). I live and study in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, where I finished an MSc in Business Administration last year and am finishing my LLM in Corporate Law now, hopefully graduating soon. I love the outdoors and am starting up an outdoor endeavour called ‘Start Hiking’ aimed at helping people to get out there for their first hike through inspiration, knowledge and small scale gear rental.

I hope for my website will be online some time in March.

Where is your Outdoor Playground?

My favourite region is very hard to pick, partly because there are so many places left to visit. If I would have to choose, I would pick both the Scottish Highlands and Lapland.

I love the colours and roughness of the Scottish Highlands (including its unpredictable weather). Another plus is that it is so easy to reach from the Netherlands: just over an hour flight (while the clock goes back an hour as well) and you're in the Highlands. Even though you are (almost) always close to civilization you can really feel ‘out in nature’, which makes it a great playground for beginners.

What I like about Lapland (wouldn’t call myself an expert as I have only walked Kungsleden) is the wildness and the remoteness. Once you pass Kebnekaise on the Northern Kungsleden, you will only encounter some basic mountain huts until you reach your final destination Abisko. No cell phone connection, no notifications, and no way out. Just myself and nature. Another plus is the amount of daylight in summer or early autumn, no head torch needed.

A honourable mention must go to Torres del Paine in Chile, where I walked the W-hike, for its roughness and out of this world natural beauty!

Hiking West Highland Way 2018 - YouTube

Mathias video captures many great experiences from his visit to Scotland and the Highlands.

What inspires you and motivates you to spend time in the outdoors?

I really like the combination of physical exercise, making miles, and the mental tranquillity you'll get from being a week in nature. There is something peaceful about being in nature, being away from the  fast-paced life. After a week of hiking my muscles are sore and I am mentally recharged and calm. Another part of the fun for me is the ‘survival part’, relying on your gear to cook food and sleep under the stars whether there s a lot of sunshine or a fierce storm.

As I said, my current occupation is very theoretical and I (am afraid that I) will end up in an office job too, so these hiking trips  in the outdoors are my way of getting my desired portion of nature.

What activities do you like to do in the Great Outdoors? And why does this mean so much to you?

I love multi-day hiking trips, where I combine hiking and wild camping. Another hobby of mine is photography and videography, so I will always take my camera with me on my hikes (and sometimes even my little drone). The photo albums and videos always remind me of the beautiful hikes I made, so I'll find myself going through them often when I am longing for the outdoors.

I also love alpine skiing. The beauty of the alps is just staggering, especially in the snow.

Can you describe your perfect day out?

The perfect day out would be on a remote hike, in the middle of nature, with beautiful weather. On the perfect day, I would pitch my tent on the beach of a lake or close to a lovely river and enjoy the sunset while eating a delicious meal.

If you could go on any adventure, in the Great Outdoors, where would you go?

I have a couple of hiking trails on my bucket list including: The Skye trail on Skye in Scotland, Affic Kintail Way in Scotland, the John Muir Trail in the USA, The O-trek in Torres del Paine in Chile, Laugavegur Trail in Iceland, Höga Kusten trail in Sweden, and Kungsleden, Sweden in winter (on snowshoes or cross country skis). So any of those would certainly be a good choice for me! But if I have to choose, it would be the John Muir Trail!

Finally, can you give the readers a motivational quote for others to follow?

Just go! The main thing is to just go. I hiked my first trail when I was 20 and I didn't have any gear. I bought a good tent, mat and sleeping bag and walked the West Highland Way in my jeans. Even though those jeans were written off at the end of the weak and never dried after rain, I never had any regrets of just going. So just make your plans, book your ticket and get out there!

Thanks Mathias

Once again, I have managed to complete another informative blog post and the second in this particular outdoors series. On completion, I want to extend a big thank you to Mathias for his positive contribution towards all things outdoors and of course this particularly interview, on what the outdoors means to him.

Mathias has described some of his wonderful adventures and I’m sure that he will have many more to come, in the future. I also want to wish him all the best, with his new website, which seems a great concept and I’m sure it will be a great success.

Continue to enjoy exploring, adventuring and challenging yourself in everything you do.

#peopleoftheoutdoors

You can also find more People of the Outdoors here.

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People of the Outdoors is my latest series whereby I acknowledge those individuals who are inspired and motivated to spend their lives in the Great Outdoors. This series forms a selection of personal interviews and imagery taken from these dedicated individuals.

The first interview is by intrepid Outdoor Enthusiast Rory Southworth, who enjoys utilisng the wild outdoors, at any given opportunity. Rory, who is based in the North West of England has the some beautiful outdoor spaces, right on his doorstep, which provide him with the perfect base, to get outside and enjoy the natural world all around.

You can follow Rory on his website www.adventurecrew.co.uk Instagram and Twitter, where he regularly documents his all of his outdoor adventures.

Introduce Yourself

I'm Rory Southworth, based in the North West of England in Lancashire, but originally from  Bristol. I work a 9 to 5 as a Product Designer, working on a project within a University, meaning most of my training and adventures is limited to after work, on weekends and holidays.

Last summer I ended up getting an unprovoked Blood Clot in my shoulder forcing a few months of rest and 6 months of being on blood thinners and not outdoor climbing. This was the single toughest event I've ever had to deal with, especially mentally. Going from feeling the fittest I've ever been to being told there is permanent damage to my vascular system and spending a week in hospital and further months recovering was for me incredibly hard. I lost a lot of fitness, but have been building it all back up slowly again. Now I feel I have something to prove to myself that I'm still able to do everything I could do before, but even better.

Where is your Outdoor Playground?

My local trails in Lancashire are the Darwen Moors and the Forest of Bowland, however, I spend a lot of time in the Lake District, Cumbria. Until last year my focus was summitting all 214 of the Lake District Wainwrights, hence spending a lot of time in the Lake District!

I've also started spending more time in Yorkshire running, exploring local woods and trails after taking a step back from mountain running in my recovery and focusing on running on the road and trail. There was one time I would only run in the mountains, however now, I predominantly train on the road to be fit to run on the trails and in the mountains, I've found this helps my leg speed and fitness massively and makes me less prone to injuries.

What inspires you and motivates you to spend time in the outdoors?

I just love the focus outdoor adventure sport brings, whether that's running a technical ridge line, soloing a climb, or skiing a rocky mountainside.

Being fit enough for multi-day challenges motivates me to train. I want to be not just fit enough, but also robust enough to come out without an injury.

A goal or a reason for a challenge is something I really like too, that's why I like to travel from one side of the country to the other with Coast to Coast adventures. Travelling through different terrain and having a purpose is something that always motivates me to get to the end of the trip.

What activities do you like to do in the Great Outdoors? And why does this mean so much to you?

I predominantly run, climb and hike throughout the year, but Alpine Ski and Nordic ski in the winter seasons. I love how the different seasons open up opportunities for different sports, a lot of which can be enjoyed in the UK in the Lake District and Scotland.

Can you describe your perfect day out?

Day 4 of a multi-day run, traveling over mountainous terrain. Preferably feeling fit, no injuries and knowing that all I have to do is get to my next location and enjoy the terrain.

I'm not too worried about good food, so as long as it's light and compact it works for me. Same with hydration, I don't drink alcohol or hot drinks, so some water from a nearby source would be perfect.

Ideally, It would be a clear, sunny and windless day, not too hot either so I don't overheat. I'd also take either dry ground conditions or neve snow. Quite a practical perfect day out, but conditions can make or break a day.

If you could go on any adventure, in the Great Outdoors, where would you go?

Right now, I really would like to do a big Run/Ski trip across Norway and Sweden, covering a lot of frozen ground by foot and on skis. Some of the terrain looks incredible and after my trip to the Hardangervidda, in Norway last year for a long weekend of skiing I really want to head back again.

A lot of my trips recently have been UK based as I love exploring more of what we have here, but I'd like to also now start seeing more of Europe.

Finally, can you give the readers a motivational quote for others to follow?

You either succeed or you learn.

More from Rory

Rory has also been nominated by Ordnance Survey to be a Get Outside Champion 

Big Thanks Rory

On completion of this blog post and the first in the series. I want to extend a big thanks to Rory for his positive and humble approach to all things outdoors and of course this particularly interview.

I understand it is not easy to ask someone to do something, especially when it comes as an extra, on top of both life and work commitments.

There is no doubt in my mind that Rory has the outdoors running through his veins and it is clear his passion and commitment towards outdoor adventures, has a positive effect on others.

Continue to enjoy exploring, adventuring and challenging yourself in everything you do.

#peopleoftheoutdoors

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Image Source: HotePrivilege

 

Planning an overnight camping trip can be really fun and adventurous, but only if you’re well prepared. If you forget even one of the essentials that’s required on a camping trip, it can be a real challenge to overcome situations that may come your way.

Depending on where you’re going, with who and for how long, your camping checklist might differ. But there are certain things that you always need to be prepared with.

If you want to be well prepared for your first camping trip and have a fun and adventurous time, then here are some things you must remember.

 1. Know Your Camping Gear

Always remember to familiarise yourself with your camping gear before you head out into the woods. It’s always better to know what you will be dealing with before you actually deal with it. A lot of first timers do not even open their camping gear till they reach the site and then struggle to understand how to go about using them correctly. Don’t make that mistake and understand each and every equipment of your camping gear beforehand. This would include familiarising yourself with your tent, utensils, camping knives, clothing etc.

2. Make a Checklist

Image Source: www.rei.com

 The best way to prepare for a camping trip is to make a checklist according to your actions on each day. Starting from morning to night, make a list of all the things that you will need on all days of your camping trip. This would include your toiletries, clothes, any books and maps you need, compass and more such things. After this, make a checklist of things that you may require in case of an emergency.  This would include things like a torch, candles, extra food, water, extra clothing etc.

3. Extra of Everything

It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared or just on the edge. Always bring extra pair of clothing, food, water, torches and other such things that you might need. For adventurous trips like camping always pack and prepare for the worst so that just in case you are stuck in a challenging situation, you are well equipped to survive it.

4. Camp Close To Home

Since this will be your first camping trip, it’s advisable to camp closer to home or at least closer to the city borders. This is just a precautionary tip, so that in case of an emergency, you can rush back home quickly.

 5. Medical Supplies

Image Source: momgoescamping.com

 Always remember to carry lots of medical supplies with you on your first camping trip. Out,  in the wilderness you are exposed to a very different environment than the one at home. So there’s always a chance of you getting injured or having allergies or any other medical problem. To make sure that a minor or major medical problem doesn’t cause too much trouble, always be ready with a well stocked first aid kit. Add a bug spray and sunscreen as an essential to your first aid kit because these are going to come in very handy on your camping trip.

6. Know and Follow the Rules

Before you head to your camping site, always know the rules and regulations of that place (if any) and make sure you follow them. If there are warnings and restrictions for certain areas, then do not wander in those areas because that could be very dangerous.

7. Always Inform

Always keep someone informed of your whereabouts. Give a friend or a neighbour the exact address of where you’re going camping and if possible, keep them informed from time to time of your well being.

Conclusion

Camping trips are supposed to be a lot of fun and adventurous but not without awareness and preparedness. You cannot expect to have fun on a camping trip if you are not well equipped with your camping gear. Never think that you will not face any emergency situations because emergencies do not come planned. So, no matter what kind of a camping trip it is, always be fully prepared with your gear and take precautions everywhere. A well planned camping trip is definitely going to be a more fun and adventurous one.

Thank you

I would like to extend a big thanks to Billy at Perkins Knives for this guest Blog Post. Thank you so much for your contribution and if you would like to add a guest post to my website, then please contact hello@garethmate.com for more information.

You can read my latest Blog Post here.

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Naturally, from reading my website regularly, you will soon begin to realise just how much I love the outdoors, and when and wherever possible, I endeavour to follow my passion, the love of the natural world and to actively encourage others to get outside and participate in the many different activities that can be found all around. It can involve any form of activity and it need not cost the earth. In fact, if you think about it, some activities will not cost anything at all.

My goal is to encourage and motivate others to seek positive solutions to life's obstacles, in a meaningful and purposeful way. In a world of rapid change, busy people, living busy lives. Together with the influence of technology and the ongoing worries of obesity and sedentary lifestyles. I feel that it is incredibly important to seek a wholesome view on things and where possible find opportunities to provide an alternative form of entertainment and pleasure, to accompany our daily lives.

So, to achieve my desired goal. I've decided to highlight a list of 50 different ideas that anyone can do, largely in the Great Outdoors, and with a strong emphasis focusing on children and their families.

Together, with the children in my class of 8 & 9 year olds, we decided to put our knowledge and expertise to the test and dream up a definitive 'Bucket List' of ideas that naturally developed into a free fun list that actively motivates others to get outside, explore and enjoy.

Together, as a collective group we began to dream up activities and exciting ideas about what we love to do and if we had the chance, could we then inspire others to give our list of ideas a go?

In compiling the list, we had a great deal of fun and some of the ideas included on the outdoor bucket list eventually turned out to be fairly simple and self-explanatory, but others required a little more thought, planning time and effort to implement. In the end, we felt all of our suggestions should be achievable and a great deal of fun to participate in.

Our Top 50 ideas

After initial discussions and the sharing of ideas, we soon compiled a comprehensive list of 50 amazing ideas, that will allow all parents to keep their children entertained and inspired for a long time to come.

Our list comprises of: 

1. Climb a tree. 

2. Roll down a hill. 

3. Walk and run your hands through a field of long grass.

4. Paint a pattern on a stone and get someone to find it.

5. Camp out, under the stars. 

6. Play Hide and Seek. 

7. Cook around Campfire.

8. Produce some Nature Art, with natural materials. 

9. Paint a picture of a landscape. 

10. Photograph a perfect sunset or sunrise. 

11. Enjoy a long bike ride

12. Make music out of natural materials. 

13. Paddle in the sea and jump over the waves. 

14. Tell a story in the Great Outdoors, using materials as the characters. 

15. Collect/find some plastic and recycle it into art. 

16. Walk barefoot in the mud. 

17. Play Noughts and Crosses out of sticks and stones. 

18. River Dipping.

19. Make a Shelter. 

20. Create a leaf collage. 

You can find more practical information in my book.

Click here to buy it!

21. Make a MASSIVE daisy chain. 

22. Make something from some sticks. 

23. Create a weather station. 

24. Walk on stilts.

25. Camp out or in, if the weathers bad. 

26. Toast Marshmallows. 

27. Ride a SUP (Stand Up Paddle). 

28. Produce a Treasure Map. 

29. Collect some cool stuff and bury it in a Time Capsule. 

30. Learn to capture a great picture. 

31. Make a tree house. 

32. Lie on your back and watch the clouds. 

33. Sit, listen and produce a Sound Postcard

34. Make a Bug Hotel. 

35. Plant a tree. 

36. Climb a hill and admire the views. 

37. Stand in a Forest and simply look up. 

38. Build a raft.

39. Feed the birds. 

40. Make a swing.

41. Carve some wood. 

42. Play signs and symbols. 

You can buy my practical Education resources here.

43. Find animal tracks. 

44. Recognise flowers and fauna. 

45. Listen to Bird song. 

46. Pick some flowers for Mum. 

47. Colour mix with natural materials. 

48. Make a snow angel. 

49. Have a snowball fight.

50. Splash in the rain. 

Conclusion

In writing this little piece, I really hope it serves as inspiration and motivates others to get into the outdoors and do something a little bit different.

Of course, this kind of thing has been do a million times before, with the internet already being awash with 49 things to do in the woods or 34.5 things to do while out walking, but I just wanted to add my tuppence worth and explain my own ideas, from my point of view.

In turn, I cannot provide all the answers and my 50 ideas will definitely not be the last word, on this particular subject. I personally feel that it is important to make the most of what you have, stop trying to buy things or want things you can’t always have and where possible seek opportunities whereby you can do something enjoyable and do it largely for free.

I know that in my humble existence, I have always tried to utilise some of the above, by getting on with things, using my imagination and learning through play. I have always felt it creates a positive healthy mind, excitement and certainly helps shape an alternative view on the world. Something we should all be encouraging the youngsters in today’s world!

If you are looking for resources to use in the outdoors then I have many FREE educational resources for you to use. They are available here.

I am also a Qualified Outdoor Education Practitioner / Adviser. If you require help and any advice on how to approach this particular area or to find out how we can work together then please get in touch.

hello@garethmate.com or my ‘Work With Me’ page.

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