31 Oct 2011

MLD Burn Pack

I love my GG Gorilla but wanted something smaller for weekend (or 3 day trips). I had always had my eye on the MLD Burn and managed to pick a second-hand one off the Backpacking Light swap pages.

 I will be testing it out in 2 weeks on a w/e trip into the Kaimanawas. I have included a couple of photos, but the best info is on the MLD website.

This pack weighs 350 grams. The main pack is about 26 Lt - side pockets, 2.5 each and the front pocket, 8 Lt - about 40 all up. I have two hip pockets that I think are essential for "go to" items like camera, sunscreen, energy bars etc. I also like the long extension collar.

Fabric is Dyneema X - the best combination of toughness, water resistance and light weight. 

1 Oct 2011

Folding Bowl

When I was in Yosemite about to start the John Muir Trail we dropped into an outdoors store to purchase our gas canisters. Whilst in there I saw these flat plates/bowls/cups on "sale" - I couldn't resist, I bought one ($9.50). The bowl does not have a brand name on it and the branded packaging was in the bin on leaving the shop! It may be an Orikaso?

Anyhow, I took it on the JMT (threw out my bowl). I normally only carry my 600ml Evernew Pot and a small drinking mug (tea), but as we were sharing meals I needed a bowl. The bowl served me well for eating and drinking. I have used it about 50 plus times now with no problems.

Advantages are: Because it is flat (about 24cm in diameter - 9.5 inches) it fits nicely into the pack taking up zero space. Very easy to clean. Just unfold wash or wipe and finally, it is incredibly light at 39grams - about 1.4oz).

The only cons would be: If the dome comes away from the plastic or after many, many folds the creases split. Instructions and lifetime guarantee negates this? Here are some pictures...


29 Sep 2011

New JMT Photos

Hi Guys - As promised, I have uploaded the bulk of my JMT photos including the final couple of days on Mt Whitney. Just click on the photos to the right to go to my albums. Enjoy.
PS: I will get around to put some IDs on each ASAP

27 Sep 2011

Ideas on GG Gorilla Pack Changes

I took the Gossamer gear Pack on my John Muir Trail hike (not the first time used - about it's 5th outing). It performed superbly. However, nothing is perfect in the "lightweight world"!  But, Gossamer Gear have just about got it perfect.

I have recommended  to Grant at GG, along with others (see Brian's Outdoor Blog - link in right panel)  several "fixes":

1. Go back to a convention "s"  narrower, padded shoulder straps. The wide straps rub on neck sometimes, the internal padding slips and overall it feels "strange" on the outer shoulders.
2. The compression straps at the top of each side are useless - lower them or dismiss them.
3. The strop that the lid strap threads through is too narrow for the buckle and too low - it impedes entry to the top of the back mesh pocket.
4. The fabric , whilst bomb proof, does not perform well in rain - seems to "soak" through quickly.
5. The velcro secures for the internal back frame are too small

Having said this, the pack performed wonderfully and I got many comments on the trail as to the it's look/design. 

11 Sep 2011

Hexamid Bug Net

I'm soooooo excited. Just ordered Joe's new Hexamid Bug Net to go with my Hexamid Tarp - You can see all the details here:

Can't wait to field test it - I will post report when I have.

Solving the "Pillow" Problem

I love my Mont-Bell pillow. It's very light and offers a nice bit of luxury when tucked up in my biv.

One problem, the pillow always drifts away from my mat. Throughout the night I am constantly (in a half awake state) always adjusting the mat and pillow to stay in alignment.  I think I have solved the problem - an in-field trial will answer that question.

I purchased some tough binding and a couple of duffel coat buttons - about a $4 purchase. Using contact glue, I cemented a loop of binding with the duffel button attached, to my Kooka Bay mat. My Mont Bell pillow has two holes in each corner that the duffel buttons fit through (Mont Bell have a similar system, but their mats are too thin/heavy).

I have included some photos below. Pretty proud of my work!!


Simblissity Leva Gaiters


Start of the JMT in Yosemite - I posted this to show you my gaiters. These are Simblissity Leva Gaiter - $US26.95. I can highly recommend these. Lightweight AND you don't need a tie under the arch. They stay in place very efficiently. To order or get more info go to http://www.simblissity.net/levagaiter.htm

Hydration for Tramping

It never ceases to amaze me how myopic some trampers are when it come to water purification in the backcountry.

Whilst researching for my John Muir Trail hike I was constantly reminded of the need to filter drinking water. I think this stems from the litigious American culture of the "powers to be" protecting themselves from litigation in case one gets sick.

Anyhow, I set about searching the web for some more scientific info about the High Sierra water supply, and there were plenty of papers available. I was also a surprise when I picked up my permit and told the ranger I was not purifying and he informed me that he had been drinking the Sierra water for 8 years and got "slightly" ill once. I did not purify any water.

But, be sensible. Only drink water that is source above people, farm animals and the trail. Giardia is a bigger problem with personal hygiene. You would have to drink 100s of  liters of water to get sick. In fact one source informed me that water out of a tap in San Francisco was a greater risk that drinking from a High Sierra river.

Their is a great short article about hiking hydration and purifying water at www.lightandmatter.com/article/hiking_water.html

5 Sep 2011

JMT Photos

OK Guys - I have loaded up some photos of my recent JMT trip - Missing some in the middle of trip when my batteries exploded and also the end (Mt Whitney) because my memory was full. My hiking buddy, Lee has this covered and I will edit and post these when he supplies his pictures - I will also label each photo. But for the impatient pups, here are some shots!

Click on the trip photos on the right. This will take you to my Picasa Albums - then choose JMT. Enjoy

4 Sep 2011

Inov8 Rocklite295

I am just back from completing the John Muir Trail. One of my best pieces of performing gear was my shoes. Did a couple of long day trips and one w/e trip before hitting the JMT. 18 days, 320 Ks, these shoes never missed a beat. No blisters, hot spots etc. Great comfort all the way. Highly recommended!

1 Aug 2011

Trailstar Tarp

As you have seen on my blog (previous posting), I have the MLD Trailstar tarp. It's my "go to" 2 person shelter. There is another good review on the excellent lightweight European blog site called "Summit and Valley". Check it out

Bear Paw Tarps and Bug Nets

Just discovered another good lightweight gear manufacturer - Check out Bear Paw Wilderness Designs.
I like their bug nets

27 Jun 2011

Icebreaker GT 150 Gram Base Layer T

I love Merino wool  - My go-to base layer when tramping in NZ during spring and summer is a 150 gram short sleeve Merino T shirt. In autum and winter I wear a 200 gram long sleeve T.

In preparation for the John Muir Trail hike this August I have decided to go long sleeve for more sun protection and have selected the long sleeve 150 gram Icebreaker GT.  I got this at a great price at the Icebreaker Outlet store.

This T has "mesh" panels on the body sides and inside sleeves that give it added breathability. I wore it for the first time last w/e on a 4.45 hour training hike and loved it.

One of the other great advantages of Merino is it anti-microbacterial structure. I have worn these T's for 10 days with no stink. The same applied to my Merino Undies - no second pair needed! This eliminate the need for washing. Just as well as Merino is very slow to dry. But if if it does get wet, unlike polyester, you will still feel warm.

The 150 gram is also light in weight and because of its body fit, when a cold snap kicks in, you can easily increase layers. I usually throw on my Golite Wisp wind shirt when taking a hiking break or on a windy ridge, a rain jacket with heavy rain, or in camp my Backpacking Light Cacoon jacket.

9 Jun 2011

Lightweight Gear Guide

For the lightweight freaks and wantabs - get Andrew Skurka's new eBook on lightweight gear. You can order it off his website.

8 Jun 2011

Fenix Head Touch

I have been a great supporter of Petzl headlamps. But I have discovered Fenix a new headlamp supplier - Light in weight and very bright in power. Although battery power may be compromised at full power, the light still has great illumination at 50% power or lower. You can alter power over three levels. It takes one AAA battery. The website gives you good "burn" power.
Here's a photo of the LD01 - size comparison with a pen and on my peak hat.
It is designed to work with a baseball hat, or as I now use, a "golf visor",
In short, it is light, bright and cheap at around $US28

6 Jun 2011

Kaweka Queens Birthday Trip

Just back from 3 days in the Kaweka Forest Park - Lots of wind, clag and showers. We had intended to go up Makahu Spur, but one gaze at the tops on Saturday morning put paid to that.
We stayed low and headed for Middle Hill Hut. On Sunday we headed off to Makino hut and on Monday down to Te Puia Lodge and out by noon.
A nice soak in the hot pools and at 2pm we were off home, arriving in Auckland at around 7.45pm.
A great weekend with the usual excellent company of the Auckland Tramping Club.
Thanks Lee for another great trip,  thanks Sally for being a good "housewife" and Dennis for translating my Aussie into English (in joke!).
I took my ULA Conduit Pack - a little beauty for three to 4 day trips  (It's now called the CDT).
I also took my Macpac Adventure 300 bag as I was expecting to tarp under constant rain - didn't - My Western Mountaineering HighLite would have been better and 255 grams lighter!

Photos:  Rob and Dennis on fire wood duty at Middle Hill Hut and Rob,Sally and Dennis at Kaweka Flats Biv.

5 May 2011

Kooka Bay Matt Update

I used my Kooka Bay Matt (see earlier post) over Easter W/E tramp.

It worked well. I thought I might get a lot of slippage from the base of my MLD Superlight Biv, but suprisingly little.

This mat is very comfortable, but I struggled with the pillow options - If using gear in stuff sack or bladder wrapped in gear, it is not high enough if used off the end of the matt. If you put it on the matt it shortens the length too much.

I have opted for the Montbell pillow used at the top end of the matt. 

I think the matt could be a little wider as I toss around a lot. Bender does do custom makes for no, or little extra cost. Check his website.  

All in all I am please with the craftsmanship and sleeping comfort.

3 May 2011

Trailstar Tarp

I needed a two person biv for my upcoming 20 day John Muir Trail hike. I opted for the Trailstar. A bit heavier, but a ton of room and 300 grams per person is acceptable for such a bullet proof shelter! All up weight is about 600 gram with titanium pegs. I thought Ron's guidelines were a bit over-kill, but I will probably stay with them?

I don't use the stuff sack preferring to stuff the tarp in my pack loose to use all spare spaces. I do the same with my bivy bag with sleeping bag inside. Of course I use a plastic pack inner (check-out Gossamer Gear's pack liners).
I can write heaps about this fantastic tarp, but I think Colin Ibbotson's review says it all. Check it out at http://www.andyhowell.info/Colin-Ibbotson/Trailstar-review.html

Here are some photos - I was surprised at the tautness of the pitch. Silnylon usually sags when wet, but a night of heavy rain and it still was as tight as a drum in the morning. We also had very strong winds and with the "bum" pitched to the wind this shelter was incredibly stable - hardly a flap!

I am very please with this tarps performance and give it a 5 star. I will report more after my Kaweka trip over Queens Birthday W/E 

MLD Superlight Biv

This is the bivy used by Andrew Skurka on his incredible 4700mi Alaska -Yukon Expedition. Cost is $US159 but there are extras and freight. The price is still great value.

The top Fabric is Momentum DWR, 20dX20d nylon taffeta. The eVENT foot box end panel for added breath ability and waterproofness. Bottom Fabric is Silnylon or you can opt for Cuben Fiber that will cost an extra $US60 but oh so light!

I ordered large ($US25 more) as I have a two inch Kooka Bay mattress. This makes the biv a bit too big but the extra space is OK and adds only 22 grams to the weight.

This is my third bivy and I am thrilled with the quality and weight. I ordered the full screen hood. This works well if you have a hook to lift this off your face.

The only negative is with the Trailstar tarp the hooks sewn into the seams don't align above the bivy hood (more forward) see photo, and don't "pitch" enough of your face. I think this inconvenience is more than compensated by the other factors - weight and quality.

Check-out  more details and photos at http://www.mountainlaureldesigns.com/shop/product_info.php?cPath=22&products_id=30

16 Apr 2011

Trailstar Tarp & Superlight Biv

I have just received my Trailstar Tarp and Superlight Biv from Ron at MLD - the gear looks fabulous - well made.

I am seam sealing this weekend (if rain stops!) and taking both pieces of gear off on a 4 day hike with the Auckland Tramping Club next weekend (Easter).

I will report performance and post photos in two weeks.

22 Mar 2011

Food Planning Using Pounds Per Person Per Day

I'd like to share an article with you. I really enjoyed the information in here from Backpacking Light - How to go light with your food and eat well. I am averaging about 680 grams a day. This is a little higher. For the metric people (the rest of us in the world!) an ounce equals 28.35 grams - Enjoy!

Food Planning Using Pounds Per Person Per Day @ Backpacking Light

31 Jan 2011

Trekking Poles

I stumbled across these poles at Kathmandu (shop). My carbon Alpkit poles had "kinda" served me well. I say that because I always had problems losing the carbide tips until I got smart and cemented them in. However, on last trip, I slipped on tussock coming down a slope, fell on the pole I braced myself with and snapped it clean in two.

I actually thought the Alpkit (UK) poles were light at 385g for the pair, but these Fizan (Italy) are only 346g a pair and look stronger.

There are made from aluminum, compact down to 58cms. There are three sections and can extend to 132cms.  Here's the best part, I got 2 for the price of 1 - $119.  Checkout the photo below. You can order online at Kathmandu.

Kooka Bay Sleep Pad

Finally its arrived! I ordered this for my Xmas trip and it left the USA via international express mail on 16 Dec. It arrived  last week, Jan 24!

These pads are made by Kooka Bay and are starting to get a lot of good wraps from the lightweight community.

You can order in a number of configurations, rectangle, tapered etc, or have a custom size. The material looks and feels very strong.

Mine is a standard rectangle, 30d material. It's 3/4 size at 1200 x 570mm, incredibly light - 187gm.

The cost was $US99 plus about $US10 for postage. The full length pad is 238gm and $US109.

Bender also makes pillows for $US40. His website is a bit naff but it does the trick. 

My current GG sleep pad is 107gm, shorter and a dam sight thinner. I'm a side sleeper and was always getting a sore hip.  I'm prepared to go the extra 80gms for a better nights sleep!

Here are some pictures - The beer can is for size perspective - In field report coming soon

16 Jan 2011

ATC Christmas Trip

I have just added photos of the ATC South Island trip - Checkout the "Recent Trips" page for details