Saturday, 4 September 2010

Old Gear Out, New Gear In

When it comes to gear sometimes you have to try a few different options before you settle on something that suits your needs and that can result in too much kit laying about. I'd reached that point some time ago but now I'm pretty happy with what I'm currently using and there were only a few items that I wanted to get.

I've been very pleased with my Montane Flux but it's become a victim of it's own success as it's worn constantly and is definitely past it's best. I wanted to replace it but as it's a bit heavy compared to my down jackets and is still functional I decided that rather than buy a new one I'd go for the lighter Montane Prism 2.0. Maz had good things to say about it and as it's less insulated than the Flux I figured it might make a nice extra layer if I wasn't carrying a fleece and wouldn't be too warm to wear on the move. I've ordered one and hopefully I'll get it next week sometime.

The 2nd thing I wanted to get was an MSR Reactor, it's heavier than I'd ideally like but to be honest I've tried a variety of gas stoves and bought too many pots looking for the ideal set-up and the Reactor does seem the best option for me if I'm not using meths. I had a look on ebay and watched a few used ones but they seem to sell for between £60 and £70 plus postage. I happened to see that Field & Trek were selling the Reactor for £100, reduced from £139.99 including postage and when they were offering a further 10% discount over the Bank Holiday weekend I decided to buy one. It arrived a few days ago and although I haven't used it yet it weighs the same (within a few grams) of the one I tested. I still want to keep some of my smaller titanium pots/mugs as I can use them with my meths set-up but I may as well sell off the rest so there's some sorting out to do.

Another item that was on the shopping list was a Polar Buff, I always carry a standard Buff and sometimes use a peaked Buff but wanted a Polar Buff for colder weather. I think they're a bit overpriced at over £20 and as a result hadn't got around to buying one but while on the Field & Trek website I notice that they had them reduced from £22.99 to £12.00 so I added one to the order for the MSR. There isn't much to say about the Polar Buff, it's does everything a basic Buff does with the added benefit of having the Polarfleece added.

As far as rucksacks are concerned I didn't do too badly with them, the 1st was a Gregory Z55, 1.4kg approx, then a Haglofs LIM 45 and finally a ULA Conduit (now known as the CDT)

ULA Conduit

Gregory Z55

The Gregory is spacious and carries up to about 14kg very well. I like the back system as it provides plenty of airflow around my back but the same back system means the main body of the pack is fairly curved and packing long straight items can be difficult, don't even think about trying to carry a CCF mat inside. The up-side is that it would make a good winter pack thanks to the volume, the back airflow and the ability to carry heavier loads.

Haglofs LIM 45

The other rucksack I bought and which I really like is the Haglofs LIM 45. At 1.1kg it's lighter tha the Gregory, it's very roomy for a 45l pack and there are lots of featurs I like such as the frame and roll-top. The only downside is that the hipbelt is a bit too soft to allow me to carry much over 10kg so it can't really do much more than my ULA Conduit. I need to sell one of them but as yet I haven't decided, from a performance point of view the Gregory wins but it's a fussy design and I'm not keen on some of the features, the Haglofs I like from a design point of view but it just doesn't have the performance of the Gregory with heavier loads. I'll need to have a play around with winter loads and see which one I decide to sell.

Finally I still want a lighter tent, don't get me wrong I love the Phreeranger but I can't get away from the fact that with the inner tent and the footprint (needed as the groundsheet isn't waterproof anymore) it's around 1750g. I 've tried a few different tents but couldn't find one that I was happy with. I'd already tried a TN Voyager (returned) a TN Laser (Sold) and a few others that I still had so I decided to sell them off to clear a bit of garage space and gather the funds for another shot at finding a suitable tent.

There's nothing currently available that I particularily like, I suppose the closest would be the MSR Hubba HP but I'd only be saving about 400g and the Hubba HP pitches inner 1st. I don't consider inner 1st to be a deal breaker but combined with the weight it put me off.

In the end I decided on something that might prove to be a suitable replacement, significantly lighter than the Phreeranger although it isn't a style that I'm particularily keen on. I should get it next week but will it be a keeper or yet another return?


  1. I think the Prism 2 is a bit heavy. Have a look at the North Face Zephyr, i am pleased with it and at 280gr is ideal.

  2. That looks good, unfortunately I ordered the Prism but I could always send it back.

  3. I am about to review the Prism for the 11 days I used it on the TMB. It's a great jacket - heavy at 414g but it's warmer than the Nano Puff which is 260g. That makes me wonder if the North Face Zephyr might also be more like the Nano Puff. The Prism is really well made too.

  4. I know the feeling when it comes to a kit review and then selling of stuff. It is a good thing to do. Be ready to own up to bad buys and move on and adapt your kit. The reason for me is still to have the perfect three season set up that does not intrude in any way with kit failing or discomfort while on a multi day walk. Q. is the reactor that good?

  5. @ Maz, yeah perhaps the Prism is closer to what I'm looking for in the end, I like the Flux but it's just a bit warmer than I need.

    @ Martin, You know without actually trying stuff the best we can do is look at each other's reviews/opinions and you can tell to a degree if someone has a similar outlook which is why blogs are so good. In the end though we each have preferences and areas for compromise and it may well be a small detail that becomes the deal breaker.

    Is the Reactor that good? if you want a fast, fuel efficient water boiler with consistant performance and fast set-up then yes, I say it is. The downsides are you can't use normal pots and it's slightly bulky/heavy depending on what you're comparing it to.

  6. Sorry, it should have read TNF Zephyrus.

  7. Am also looking at ice-axe & crampon courses so if you think the Gregory would take ice-axes & is durable enough, I might take it off your hands...

  8. Mac E - love your blog. I believe this may be my first post. What about water treatment? What is in your kit these days? Do I remember correctly that you used to use an inline, gravity-fed sort of thing? What was your verdict on that piece of gear?

  9. Just found it: Aquaguard Eliminator. Would love to hear your thoughts on this since the last time you wrote about it.

  10. Hi, yes I still use the Aquaguard Eliminator inline filter but also use the Aquagear filter bottle depending on where I'm going. I still rate the inline filter very highly as it's extremely versatile and probably the reason I haven't mentioned it recently is down to the fact that it simply gets on with the job efficiently. I've also considered the 'Super Delios' filter system as reviewed by Alan (The Odyssee, see above) as it's lighter although I think that it doesn't deal with chemical contamination.

  11. Hi Mac E! You have a nice blog, I've found a lot of good information on your pages. Thanks for the tip on the Aquaguard filter - I'm looking for a water treatment system and that might be a good option.

  12. Thanks for your thoughts on the Aquaguard products. You've encouraged me to give them a try, despite a bad experience with a Safewater Anywhere bottle filter 10 years ago during my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in the US. Initially, the device worked well, but it became increasingly difficult to squeeze the water through. After a phone call with the manufacturer, we determined that after many consecutive days of use (over 5 weeks), the filter would suffer from a growth (bacterial or algae...), thus clogging it. Since I did not have the time to dismantle and dry the whole bottle in the field during a long distance hike, I resorted to cleaning it with bleach once a week. Which, of course, is just one more thing to carry!

  13. I don't believe Safewater is in business anymore, but here is a link to a description and photo of the bottle I had:

  14. Mac E
    Great blog as usual, i'm considering getting a Montane Fireball smock as an extra insulation layer @ 240g it may be up your street.
    El Manana

  15. Thanks El M, I'll have a look at the Fireball as I haven't bought anything yet.