15 Dec 2012

Wild Country Headlamp

Bugger - I can't find my fabulous Fennix L20 headlamp.

I had it on my last trip and as I start packing for the Xmas tramp into Fiordland it is nowhere to be seen. I am pissed off as this lamp was perfect. Too late to get one shipped in. But as one door closes another one opens.

I was driving past the local FCO store and popped in on the off chance they may have a lightweight headlamp, I wasn't that confident. Bingo, found one.

Called Wild Country, probably a house brand, it takes one AAA battery and weighs in at 36gms (Fennix was 30gms). Here's a couple of pictures.


8 Dec 2012

Rain Shorts

I have never been one for rain paints.

I hate hiking with fabric over my knees and around my legs. I can never understand why Americans hike in long trousers. We do a lot more bush bashing in NZ and I hardly ever see a Kiwi in longs. Besides, longs in rain are a real hassle. I wear an older version of Macpac Cross Terrain shorts - thicker fabric and find they don't "sag" when wet, they also dry fast.

However, as I only have one pair of undies (wearing) I don't like to get them too wet whilst hiking (chafe and uncomfort around the family jewels). My underwear are Icebreaker Merinos and work well in that department - no stink, but they take longer to dry.

So if I am starting out the day in rain, I revert to my cuben rain shorts over my undies. Or if it turn nasty during the day I can slip them over my shorts - usually only if driving rain on the tops.

I asked Joe Valesko at Zpacks to customise their cuben longs for me into shorts. Here are a couple of pictures. I also took a shot to show the drawstring close and the use of cuben tape to waterproof seam.


Re Packing Your Food

I am preparing for our annual ATC Xmas trip. This year we are heading for Fiordland on the SW corner of the South Island of NZ. This area is infamous for rain and sand flies. I can't wait :-)

Anyhow, I am a big fan of Backcountry Cuisine freeze dried food. It's tasty and light. You use less gas as all you are doing is boiling water. However, this food is designed to be used as "cook in the bag" - rip open the pack and pour in a cup of boiling water, re-seal and sit for 10 mins.

These bags are foil and as such add unnecessary weight. Some may argue you don't have to carry a bowl. But you still have to have a hot drinking receptacle, in my case, one serves both purposes. I use a Ti Jetboil so don't carry a bowl, billy or cup.

Whilst I was re-packing my food today I decided to check out the weight gains.

Here's the scoop...

We are out for 8 days. I use Backcountry breakfasts, Dinners and desserts, that's 3 packages each day, 24 in total.

I weighed the 24 empty Backcountry Cuisine packs in at 445 grams

Before packing, I weighed the 24 18x17 zip lock plastic bags at 86 grams.

As you can see a 359 gram weight reduction, pretty substantial in my book.

Plus, what you pack in you must pack out so this make the weight gain even more beneficial as you have to carry that packaged weight for the entire trip.  

Another feature of re-packing is space saving. My supply of BC food filled a large cardboard box. After re-packing my food fits into a nice mouse and waterproof Zpacks cuben fiber stuff sack.

I might add I do the same for my soup and daytime food (I eat every 2 hours). I tip all my cup-a-soup packets into one zip bag. I also unpack all my Em Cookies, jerky and dried fruit and split these into two zip lock bag - one bag the first part of trip, the other for the balance.            

6 Dec 2012

Joe and Sheryl have "left the building".

It was a joy to host these two American hikers, owners of Zpacks - ultralight gear manufactures who are walking NZ's longest trail - Te Araroa. They left Cape Reinga three weeks ago and arrived here in Auckland
two nights ago.

The trail goes right past our house so they once again dropped in for a welcomed hot shower, bed and "real" food.

They expect to arrive at the Bluff around the 2nd week of March 2013.

Here are a couple of photos taken outside our house on Milford Beach as they hit the trail heading South.

13 Nov 2012

Joe Valesko (ZPacks) Arrives to Start Te Araroa Trail

Exciting week!

I picked up Joe and Sheryl Valesko (Zpacks) yesterday. They flew into Auckland non-stop from their home in Palm Bay Florida. I became their first "Trail Angel" as they prepared to start their through hike of the Te Araroa trail (The length of NZ). Checkout www.teararoa.org.nz  We spent the day getting DOC annual Hut Passes, food, bank and bus connections North to CapeReinga.

It was an early Christmas for me as Joe delivered my new Hexamid Tarp. I sold my original and have opted for a full screen with the heavier (Jez, did I use "H" word :-)  .75oz cuben, teamed with the cuben bath tub floor. All use include tie outs - 470gms

Other goodies included:

Cuben fiber shorts to go with my cuben fiber rain jacket. I decided to get Joe to cut the legs off his pants design to make them into shorts that I can slip over my normal ones, or use them over my underwear only if it looks like a rain soaked day.  I am looking forward to testing this option in Fiordland at Chrismas.

The Blast cuben fiber food bag - mouse and waterproof!

A new full length NeoAir Xlight - OK it's almost double the weight of my current short Kooka Bay pad, but after 40 plus years of "roughing" it I am going the extra 150gms for great R factor, full length (no more cold feet) and being able to attach my Mont Bell pillow on top of mat. To this end Joe gave me a great idea. He bought down some velcro strips sewn onto cuben fiber tape. I stuck the female side on the mat and male on the pillow - it works great. I have attached a couple of pictures below.

I dropped Joe and Sheryl off at the bus depot 7am this morning and they took off for Kaitaia intending to hitch to the cape to start NZ's long trail later today. The trail passes my house in Milford, so I will have a BBQ, Beer, bed and hot shower waiting for them in a couple of weeks as they pass through. 

Deflated mat and pillow showing velcro positions
Deflated mat and pillow showing velcro positions
Finished position

Finished position


30 Sep 2012

Shoes and Sunglassess

Another alert. High Beam the NZ importer for Inov8 trail shoe (The best!) have got some good specials on Roclites. The Roclite 319 is my "go to" shoe and you can pick this up for $99 - sensational buy. Go to their "specials" page. Also check out their bullet proof Numa sunglasses, also on special ($99). These glasses are great for tramping, light and tough.

Walking Poles

Just a quick heads up to my NZ subscribers. Kathmandu has the Fizan Compact lightweight walking poles on sale right now. Great poles and cheap! About $50 each. See a previous blog. Also I got their Tropic lightweight sleeping bag to use when travelling overnight in our club bus, $48, bargain plus!

13 Sep 2012

Camp Shoes

Have I stumbled on a winner here?

Many lightweight hikers dispense with camp shoes. I find after a hard day in my Innov8s, and a bath in the river, I don't want to climb back into my often damp and certainly sweaty hiking shoes, prefering the protection of my toe socks (warmth and mozzie protection) coupled with Teva thongs (177g).

But check out zemgear.com these "barefoot" running shoes could be all the go and at 124g!

I am ordering the Zen 360 split toe style, going one size up so if it's a cold evening (common in NZ backcountry) even in summer, I can still wear my toe socks.

Check out their site. I am interested in your thoughts.

17 Aug 2012

Rain Jackets

Most followers of this blog will know about my latest rain wear - Joe Valesko's cuben fire rain jacket from Zpacks.
For those wanting to widen their research the Haglofs (Sweden) LIM Jacket is getting a lot of buzz from the light weight community.  Weighing in at 300g, it gets the big nod for waterproofness and breathabilty as well as the hood shape.
There is a great review at http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/reviews/display_reviews?forum_thread_id=25074&cat=Clothing%20-%20Raingear&cid=46

27 Jul 2012

Sleep Pad

Following on from my previous post re air mattress research, I have really "zoned in" on Thermarest Neo XLite.

I currently use Kooka Bay (186g) but this guy has disappeared off the planet. Pity, he was on to a good thing! If I was (or had to) replace I would go for the small Neo Xlite - $US129.

It's 119cm long, 51cm wide and 6,5cm deep. It weighs in at 230g.

I like the internal reflective lining giving it a good r factor for an air mat at 3.2.

Check it out at http://cascadedesigns.com/therm-a-rest/mattresses/fast-and-light/neoair-xlite/product

Or see later post at http://lightweighttramping.blogspot.co.nz/2012/11/exciting-week-i-picked-up-joe-and.html

22 Jul 2012

Zpacks Tarp

Several people have asked my advice on shelters. I love the Zpack tarps. However, there are personal decisions to be made here. Do you want the tarp to pair with a bivy bag (suggest MLD Superlight with full bug net head, or Sixmoons Metro). Or if in a bug infested environment and you want some more internal room, will you go for the full internal bug net?

Maybe the tarp with the full sewn in screen floor in combo with the Zpacks cuben ground sheet will do? Go to www.zpacks.com to check out options.

Here are some quick prices and weights that may help - my head was buzzing putting this together, so open to errors & omissions!

Solo Tarp                          weight            cost

With full mesh screen         304g               $US360                        
Requires Ground Sheet         77g               $US95
Total                                 381g              $US455
Just solo tarp                     119g               $US195
Teamed with bivy bag         190g               $US169
Total                                 309g              $US364 

Sub Bivy 4 internal bug
net includes ground floor      215g              $US175 (See photo in the header of this blog)

Solo Plus

With full mesh screen        349g               $US395
Requires Ground Sheet        94g               $US105
Total                               443g               $US500
Just solo plus tarp             184g               $US285
Teamed with bivy bag       190g               $US169
Total                               374g               $US454 

Sub bivy 4 internal bug
net includes ground floor    250g              $US199 (See photo in header of blog - this is a solo)

So as you can see, it's all about personal preference, season, bugs and terrain.

5 Jul 2012

Waterproof-Breathable Jackets

 My tramping friend, Pieter Holl has asked my advice on some light weight rain gear. I am experimenting here trying to link him and all my subscribers to my Backpackinglight blog article on lightweight rain gear - fingers crossed it works! Check out link below- Looks like the Haglofs Ozo wins the day, but they no longer produce it and my favourite, the Zpacks Cuben was not tested.

Ultralight Waterproof-Breathable Jackets: 2012 State of the Market Report @ Backpacking Light

1 Jul 2012

Camp Shoes

Most lightweight American hikers do not carry "camp" shoes. In NZ we have a very good hut system and if I am not going to be staying in huts, I will probably not bother about camp shoes. This cuts 177grams off my weight (Teva Jandles as pictured). I would still take a second pair of socks.

However, it's bliss to roll into a hut late in the afternoon and shed the hiking shoes and wet socks and slip into something dry and warm. Over the years I have used Injinji toe socks coupled with Teva Jandles (thongs). The big draw back has been the 5 toes. After a big day, particularly if we have been doing a lot of river bashing, it's hard to get 5 damp toes into the sock. Enter Hideo, my Japanese tramping friend. He uses toe socks that isolate only the big toe but not the rest. Bingo, problem solved.

Note: This set up is not good if you have to go outside in wet grass or boulder hop near a river when bathing. - socks become soaked, but an ideal and comfortable solution around the hut.  

The socks are about 70% merino and weigh 79grams - checkout Defeet.com

17 Jun 2012

Gear Alert - Kathmandu Sale - NZ & Aussie Subscribers

Just been to my local Kathmandu Store - the regular sale (every three month) is on. I am always suspicious of these as the sale price is really the "true" retail price - i.e. the cheapest they can sell it to you and still make a profitable margin. If you monitor these price there are some bargins to be had.

Today they were selling the Adult Pullover V2 Half Zip top for $39.99 (normally $139. 99)

This may seem like a great bargin,if it works!

It is constructed of Altica100 - lightweight warmth, breathable and quick drying.

I am a great fan of merino and my equivalent in this layer is a 150 Icebreaker or Smartwool top. 

Let's look at weight - The merino top is 265 grams and the Kathmandu is 270 - a bit heavier, but, after wearing the Kathmandu for a day I think it is warmer and if it gets wet will dry quicker.

Food for thought, and for $40 bucks I am going to give it a shot - This will be my second layer. So I have my 150 merino tea-shirt (163gms) as first layer, then the Kathmandu top (270gm) - over this would be my insulated (Cocoon Bozeman Mountain Works) jacket (270gms) and then my Zpacks Cuben fiber rain coat (185gms).

I think this would be an acceptable, safe layered system for 3 seasons - still nervous about letting go of merino!!

Obvious the Zpacks cuber fiber rain coat would "fit" anywhere between these layers depending on temperature as it can also serve as a wind jacket. 

9 Jun 2012

2012 Gorrilla Pack First Outing

It was a three day w/e so I headed for the hills (Whirinaki Forest Park) with the Auckland Tramping Club to test the 2012 version of the Gorilla. I already had confidence in the pack as I had the 2010 version and used it on many hikes of the last two years including the JMT (with a bear barrel).

The first thing I noticed on unpacking was Gossamer Gear have dropped the magnet closure - well done! They now have a bungy draw string - see photos. However, the bungy does gets in the road when packing. I would suggest (and will do) sewing and extra two loops on either side of the centre one. This would help to keep at least one strand of the bungy out of the way when packing.  

What I like:
  • The shoulder straps are a huge improvement. So comfortable. No internal foam slippage.
  • I love the Dyneema fabric.  It seems a newie version - shinny and lighter compared to that on my MLD Burn and my previous ULA Circuit?
  • The pockets are much better sewn into the hip belt and easier to open on the fly. I like the way you can tuck the hip belt ends behind the pockets and there is an elastic loop to hold them from flapping around.
  • The side pockets seem more assessable with the pack on - I found it easy to tuck my gloves and beanie away whilst hiking along.
  • The wider hip belt works really well.
  • The chest strap positioning options added comfort and make sure the selected position stays. 
  • I don't use a cell foam sleep pad anymore, so only have a single sheet in the back. But I did find it much simpler to pop it in and out at rest stops to sit on.

What I don't like:
  • The bungy closure gets in the road when packing, unpacking - see solution above.
  • Why not a waterproof zip on lid? Are Gossamer Gear thinking the water will get in anyway so why bother - pack stuff in lid in zip lock bags?

This pack is an absolute "killer" - I love it. It was way too much volume for my three day trip, But had to try out the new "toy". I can really recommend this pack - light, tough and so comfortable!   

Brian Green has a very extensive review at http://www.briangreen.net/2012/04/2012-gorilla-ul-backpack-updating.html

Lid drawstring closed and ready to fold lid over
Lid ready to fold closed
View of bungy cord set up inside top of pack

28 May 2012

2012 Gossamer Gear Gorilla Pack

The Baby has arrived! I am off this long weekend into the Whirinaki to baptise it. Report and photos coming.

9 May 2012

2012 Gorilla Pack

Up-date - I have now sold my 2010 Gorilla - It was a sad parting, but I am excited about the pending 2012 delivery! See previous post for a great photo comparison between the two packs.

22 Apr 2012

2012 Gorilla Pack

I'm excited - been waiting for this upgrade for months and at last it's here, the new 2012 Gorilla Pack. Followers of this blog will know I have the original version. Brian's Blog at www.briangreen.net has a great review and old/new comparison. Here's a photo.

Now if I can sell my original, I will be placing an order for this one immediately. See http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=468870509 if you (or any hiking friends) are interested in a bargain!

20 Mar 2012

Rain Mitts

Hi Guys - I have a pair of MLD Event Rain Mitts - Despite seam sealing I still find my possum gloves get wet pretty quick. Any of you got some suggestions. I note Andrew Skurka recommends REI inner taped Mitts - Can't seem to find these on REI's website. I will be in USA next month and want to buy some (or anything that is remotely waterproof). Thanks

18 Mar 2012

Inov8 Roclite 315

As you all know, I am a fan of Inov8 shoes. For those of you who hike in trail runners, especially in NZ, they wear out quick. I get about 650 plus Ks out of mine. I will say I beat them up a lot on scree slopes.

A feature of my shoe break-downs are the inside heels. I seem to wear the inner lining around the mid heel area that exposes the plastic heel support. This then rubs to cause blisters. My wonderful Indian boot maker fixes this with sewing in a suede sleeve around the inner heal.

Before my Mt Taranaki climb a couple of weeks ago I need to invest in new shoes as my boot-maker was away for a month and a second pair would not go a miss. I have had great success with the Roclite 295s, but this time went for the more robust 315s. The team at Inov8 we great at advising me. They also give you a 20% discount if you are a returning purchaser.

This is my third pair of Inov8s. The 315s are stiffer and come with an added covering of hard wearing mesh on the uppers (see photos). The Inov8 guys told me they won't drain as fast as the 295s but this is a small compromise given added toughness.

I love the soles on the Roclites - for NZ conditions they offer great grip. The 295s are better on smooth rocks as the rubber compound is more "sticky". The high wrap-around "mudguards" on the 315s offer better protection to the outer foot than the 295s and also stop the breakdown of the upper where the shoe flexes off the base of the little toe margin. All and all a great shoe! 

Note high mudguards
Note additional mesh cover
Great grip power

12 Mar 2012

New Trip and Trip List

Hi all

Just back from scaling Mt Egmont. I have posted trip report on "trip" page and photos on Picasa. I have also updated my gear list (see "gear" page). Just got new Inov8 shoes for the Egmont w/e - review coming. The Rocklite 295 are starting to wear after about 600Ks so I have gone with the more robust and stiffer 310s.  

3 Mar 2012

Some Good Cottage Gear Manufactures

After reading Andrews book, I have been doing some more gear research.

Here are some good site to checkout:

Zpacks - We know they are good for tarps, but I have just purchase their large cuben dry bag, cuben fiber rain Jacket (review coming) and Vargo tent pegs.

Suluk46 - Checkout their 85gram bug bivy. Cuben fiber bottom - With a full body mesh screen top.

Oookworks - A British cottage manufacturer who makes bug bivys for Trailstar (and other) tarps. Sean will also customise for you. Looks like a great option for those who new to customise a little - don't we all :-)

Mountain Laural Designs - They now have the Solo Trailstar. I have the two man, but I like the solo in cuben - dam I already have a Hexamid. 

Six Moons -Meteor Biv. I like the concept of having it 50/50 on top - mesh and fabric.You can also download a pattern for MYOG. My daughter has just finished a commercial sewing course - hope for cut price gear yet! 

CAMP - Their G Comp gloves look very tempting. I love the idea of the wind stopper "flip-over".

2 Mar 2012

Andrew's Book Has Arrived

Andrew Skurka's book has arrived. It is published by National Geographic - some good cred there! I have scanned the total book and read a number of chapters of specific gear interest. It is 215 pages of great info. This book is a valuable source of information for any experienced ultra-lighter and a must for those venturing into the lightweight world.

Apart from tools and techniques on gear, clothing and navigation, there is a comprehensive section on sample gear kits (gear lists for various climate conditions and locations (US based). Andrew completes each section with his "How 2" and also "Skurka's Picks" - wonderful nuggets of information.

It's a full colour book and Andrew has done a fabulous design job - the layout is very user friendly. For $US19.95 it is an essential book for your hiking library. Go to www.andrewskurka.com to order. 

29 Feb 2012

Andrew's New Book

For all you gear freaks Andrew Skurka's gear book has been finally released.


I had an advanced ebook version and it was very good. I have ordered the book and should take delivery any day. I will post my review.

In the meantime, for all you impatient little pups that can't wait, go to  http://andrewskurka.com/ to order

28 Feb 2012

Just thought I would load up some pictures of my Hexamid Solo with new bug net (from my Christmas trip in the South Island of NZ).  It's quite cozy. If buying, suggest you go for the new Hexamid Plus with built in netting (if you are in bug infested area). Then, also buy Joe's bath tub cuben ground sheet  Or, if just tarp, use a bivy bag with face net (as I use to) with polypro ground sheet. May go back to this for more elbow room.

20 Jan 2012

Nelson Lakes Christmas Trip Photos

I've finally loaded a selection of pictures of the ATC Christmas trip I lead - Click on one of the gallery pictures to the right to see the "Nelson Lakes" album in Picasa. Enjoy and comment

15 Jan 2012

Jetboil Sol Ti

My new Jetboil SOL Ti has just completed a 12 day hiking shake-down in the Nelson Lakes area. Gosh, these stoves are marvelous! Prior to this I was using a 900ml Evernew pot and MSR Rocket stove. Backpackinglight has a good weight comparison report on the Jetboil (but you must subscribe - well worth it), 
I discarded the cup and all up weight was 265grams - It boils 800mls in 2 minutes! Almost half the time of my MSR Rocket. The gas savings are incredible. Plus the bonus of efficient operation in the wind.
I took a 385g MSR gas canister for the 12 day trip and had about a third of the canister left over.
The Jetboil website states a 110g canister will boil 17 liters of water. I am basically boiling 300mls at breakfast (instant Backcountry porridge) and in the evening 500 for soup, 300 for freeze dried meal and 500 for tea/coffee. So let's round up to 2 liters a day - so for an 8 day trip I can easily get away with a 110 can of gas. This is confirmed from my 12 day trip with larger canister.
The 110 canister can also packs inside the cup, making the overall package very small - good for small liter light weight pack.
I also like the self ignition switch - no fiddling with matches/lighter. However, if I was solo, I would take waterproof matches.
One complaint - the handle is useless - however, because of insulation cover, you can hold the pot with your hands. I am going to cut my handle off.
If you are using the bigger 385g canister in huts, you could leave the canister support triangle at home. However, the canister support is a must if using the 110g canister, or larger one in un-level outdoor settings.

Hexamid Bug Net

Just back from 12 day trip in the Nelson Lakes area - In at Hamilton River and out at Lake Rotoiti via 6 passes/saddles.
The Hexamid performed well. here's are some photos

East Sabine River
In the rain at Lake Thompson

Camped near Moss Pass footbridge
Moss Pass Footbridge camp