Saturday, 27 June 2009

Pro Action Hike-Lite, Review Pt. 2

I planned to take the Hike-Lite out for a test run as soon as possible before I started on the few minor mods that I wanted to try. I took the tent as supplied in it's own Stuff sack and with the supplied pegs for an all in weight of around 1.8kg. My intention was to go back to the area where I'd overnighted last week and when I mentioned to a mate at work he said he'd come along with his son and they'd try using ex Belgian Army Bivvy bags with the rain fly off their Hennessey Hammocks as tarps.

We agreed to meet on Thursday evening and while we'd intended to get up on one of the tops we decided against it due to a stiff breeze and the fact that the Hennessey rain flys hadn't been tried as tarps. It's always difficult to find a decent pitch among the heather, rushes and long grass but we decided on a pretty level spot close to the burn and set up camp.

The Hike-Lite went up without trouble but the tussocky grass made it a bit more difficult to get everything tensioned properly and the fly was a bit loose on one side, in addition once pitched I discovered that I'd picked a downward sloping spot so decided to move. I simply unpegged the tent and dragged it back a few meters with my sleeping mat and bag still inside and then set it up again.

I'd decided to use a Closed Cell 2 season Eurohike mat rather than the Alpkit Wee Airic I used previously as it's about 300g lighter which kind of equates to using a 1.5kg tent and the Wee Airic, the long grass and soft ground is comfortable enough anyway. I had to tie the mat vertically to the outside of the pack in DoE style but it's so light that goes un-noticed. I used the same cooking set up as before but decided to use the wire mesh pot stand. I'd just bought a Tibetan ti 550ml mug to use rather than my Alpkit 700ml Mitymug as I find that I need less than 500ml of water at a time anyway, this was matched by a shorter 375ml version of the mug I had been using, a Tibetan ti 450ml, which fit's into the 550ml pot. I've decided against using the 330ml Heinie can mug after all as I discovered once it was wrapped with wick for insulation the weight saving was minimal, the same goes for the 24oz Heinie pot that I'd bought from Tinny at MBD. There's 40g difference between the 2 wrapped Heinie cans and the 2 Tibetan ti pots so I'd prefer to trade the weight for durability.

The Hike-Lite was fully pegged and guyed and really there isn't a lot to say. It worked and provides a comfortable amount of space. I'd wondered whether the porch would provide enough space for storing my rucksack but as it turned out I was able to store the rucksack, cooking gear and shoes in the porch and still cook even managing with the fly door closed. I did have to set my shoes against the bottom hem of the door to stop it bowing into the porch space (I mentioned the loose bottom edge in part 1) It didn't rain during the night and with the breeze there was no condensation inside the tent. How it would fare in worse weather conditions I couldn't say but there's nothing to suggest that it wouldn't work well enough although I'd be wary of using it at higher level if the forecast was for strong winds and persistent rain. I've since changed the guylines and the next thing is to add 2 webbing loops/shockcord to the fly and I might attempt to tighten up the door by re-positioning the zip but apart from that there's nothing that needs to be done except use it.

Would I recommend it? absolutely, at the full price of £50 it's difficult to get anything that matches it for space/weight, at £24.99 in the sale it's a bargain if you want a late spring early autumn solo tent for low level that doesn't cost a bomb or weigh a ton yet provides ample space including headroom.

So what about the Belgian Army Bivvy Bags and Hennessey Tarps? I'll let Ralph answer that one.

First night in a bivi bag

I had been talking to Richard in work and was telling him about a couple of old bivi bags that I’d bought. He told me he was going back to Mid Hill that week so I decided to join him and try one out on his next trip. When I told the folks at home my son Christopher wanted to come too, and since he was finishing school the next day and not doing much that was OK.

I saw the bivi bags in the classified ads on the Army Rumour Service website, they were Belgian and turned out to be dated 1979 but unissued, so they were in good enough condition despite being 30 years old. They were waterproof on the back and cotton/canvas on the top with laces. He also had newer ones in a different seyntex fabric dated 1990 without laces, so I bought two of these as well. At a tenner each they weren’t dear. I took one of each type with us on our night out.

The three of us set off about half six and headed up past the reservoirs and on towards the hills. There was lots of wildlife about, especially rabbits. It was a lovely evening but turning a bit breezy and the higher we went the thicker the heather became so we veered off back towards the same wee burn Richard had camped at before for a bit of shelter and flatter ground.

It didn’t take long for Richard to put up his new tent and we threw down our bivi bags but spent a bit longer working out which way round our tarps went. I had taken with me the two tarpaulins belonging to our Hennessy Hammocks. They are a funny asymmetrical shape so we had to try them one way then the other ‘till we got them the right way round.

The evening went in fairly quick. We made a wee cup of tea and had something to eat as the sun went down. I think we both wished we had brought our good cameras with us to capture the colours in the sky.

As we lay in our sleeping bags looking out of the open end of the tarp Christopher started to complain about his bivi, he was in the old lace up design. I gave him this one because it was a bit heavier and I didn’t want him to be cold, but he couldn’t put up with the laces round his face, plus he was on a very lumpy bit of ground. So we both wriggled out and swapped places and after that we got to sleep waking again around seven.

I checked inside the two bags and as expected there was a bit of condensation down both sides and at our feet but not a lot. Christopher’s was maybe a bit worse but then every time I looked at him through the night he had his face buried in his sleeping bag.

After breakfast we packed up quickly and headed back for our lift. On the way down we met some young folk out on their Duke of Edinburgh.

So what did we think of our first night in a bivi bag? Well Christopher says it was no good, he didn’t like it and prefers forests and the hammock best of all. Certainly it’s the most comfortable way to wildcamp.

I thought it was ok, I was warm enough and got to sleep, but I think I would only use one again if I was going to go out alone. That way I could take advantage of the smallest, most sheltered spot without the compromise of an area big enough for everyone.

All in all it was another very enjoyable night out, looking forward for the next one.

Ralph and Christopher.

Cheers Ralph, good write up :-)


  1. If you are looking to get a tent for over night trips that tent would be great to start. Then build the skills and experience up and buy a lighter one. But would it be better in performance? Who knows as we all have different needs and views on kit. Low cost kit can be good kit,

  2. I think it illustrates that low budget isn't an excuse to be overloaded with kit. If you're forced to carry an extra 800g because the tent is heavy you start to look at the rest of your gear, take less, sacrifice a little and when the time comes that the cash is available for a high end lightweight tent you can chop almost a kilo in one go. Thats a saving you'll notice instantly rather than a few grams saved cutting the handle off your toothbrush in desperation. (before you ask, of course I have) ;-)