Monday, 29 March 2010

Goosefeet Down Socks

I had considered getting a pair of PHD down socks as I tend to suffer from cold feet but happened upon Goosefeet down socks thanks to a mention on Minimal Gear (see my Blog List)

Goosefeet are a cottage industry product from the USA but they ship abroad and accept Paypal. The socks use 800+ Fill Power down and while they recommend adding an extra 1/2 ounce to the XL size
they will also add it to any size of sock. In addition they also sell a water resistant outer over-boot made from Silnylon with a Dyneema X sole and incorporating a closed cell insole.

All the prices were in Dollars and the weights in ounces but after converting to Sterling/Grams they looked promising. Initially I was going to buy the Over-Socks as well but in the end decided to just get the Down Socks with an extra 1/2 oz of down as I needed a pair size Large (I wear size 43/44 so reasoned that I needed large as US sizes are smaller than UK sizes).

I eventually placed my order on 18th March and had a reply on the 19th informing me that they had been shipped and received the socks today. They cost £42.70 including shipping and weigh in at 75g including a stuff sack which weighs about 3g. That compares well with the PHD socks at 90g/£63.75 including postage.

The socks came loosely packed in a pre-pay stiff card box together with the stuff sack which to be honest looked like it would never be big enough. As it turned out the socks are easily stuffed into the stuff sack. The fit is perfect, not too loose and not too tight so the sizes given on the chart seem spot on. I tried them on briefly and they certainly feel warm and like anything made using good quality down seem to virtually inflate once removed from the stuff sack.

Obviously I can't make a direct comparison with other down socks but in the end it came down to simple economics. The service from Ben and Susan was first class as is the standard of workmanship, definitely well worth considering if you need a bit of extra insulation and want to support the cottage industry..

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Golite Adrenaline 0°

Only recently I mentioned that everyone seemed to be getting ready to pack away the heavy winter gear in anticipation of spring and yet I find myself writing about the Golite Adrenaline 0° sleeping bag. It's a full winter bag with 880g of 800 Fill Power down so what has prompted me to write about it.

Well I looked at this bag on different occasions but for a variety of reason, not least the price I didn't buy it. It was originally selling at £325 but the last time I added it to a shortlist it was around £250 (currently £229) from Ultralight Outdoor Gear. Again I decided against it even though I felt it would be ideal for my needs. I'd read that it was a fairly narrow sleeping bag and while most considered that a disadvantage I felt that for me it would be a benefit, I also liked the idea of the center zip and the Pertex Endurance on the hood and foot would be a benefit if using a single skin tent.

I just happened to be checking out the Outdoors Magic forums and clicked on the Bargain Alert thread where someone had posted that The Outdoors Warehouse were having a sale with up to 50% off Golite gear including sleeping bags. I went to the website immediately and to my surprise the Golite Adrenaline was listed at £150. I thought about it for approximately 10 seconds and decided to order one knowing that I'd be unlikely to ever get a better opportunity.

The bag arrived within 2 days and I have to say it's very impressive, it's amazingly soft, lofts well and feels very thick and comfy. I tried it for size and yes it is quite narrow compared to my PHD Minim 500 but it wasn't at all uncomfortable even allowing for the fact that I was fully clothed.

The center zip works as well as expected (I had an army issue sleeping bag with a center zip so knew what to expect) and when fully zipped the hood is almost like that on a jacket and although there are draw-cords to tighten it further I doubt they'll be necessary.

The bag has a Trapezoidal box foot to allow plenty of room for your feet and the Pertex Endurance extends up to about mid calf height, from there up to just below chest level the down baffles run horizontally but change to vertical baffles over the chest. The hood, like the foot uses Pertex Endurance for water-resistance and breathability. The center zip has a baffles both inside and outside the zip and there's also a neck baffle.

It is as you'd expect quite bulky compared to my other bags, the heaviest of which is the PHD Minim 500 at 850g but then the Adrenaline has significantly more down. The stated weight was 1250g but mine weighs 1320g which isn't too far off the mark. It'll fit into a Sea to Summit 13L dry bag with room to spare although it does take some effort/time to expel all the air.

The only problem I can see is that I won't be able to try it properly for another 10 months or so as it's much too warm for temperatures above -5. I very much doubt if I'll get another bargain like that again but you never can tell, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time as they only had 2 in stock when I placed my order.

The technical specification of the bag is as follows;

6" baffles, differentially cut with 7" loft

Waterproof and Breathable Pertex Endurance at head and foot

Trapezoidal box foot

Baffled hood with drawcord

Insulated draft-tube in hood & zipper

50/50 distribution of insulation

Durable zippers with snag-proof draft tube stiffeners

Internal, insulated neck collar with elastic drawcord

880g of 800 fill power down

Rating, -18° (EN 13537 -12°)

The Adrenaline range has been updated for 2010 and are now named as Adrenaline 3 Season, Adrenaline 4 season etc rather than named/classed by temperature rating in °F. The equivalent bag is now known as the Adrenaline 4 Season with the same quantity/Fill Power of down (880g/800 FP) with a stated weight of 1350g now using Pertex Shield rather than Endurance and retails at around £300.

Monday, 22 March 2010

New Lightweight Sleeping Bag from Mountain Equipment

I was having a quick look on the Mountain Equipment website and noticed that the Xero 150 sleeping bag isn't listed anymore. I had looked at the Xero 150 as I already use a Xero 250 which I'm very happy with as the elasticated section reduces the size of the bag without feeling restrictive. There is mention of a new bag, the Xero MM (I assume that implies Mountain Marathon) although as yet there are no images of the bag. The interesting thing is that they mention a product known as the 'Balloon Bed' saying that it helped inspire the new Xero MM.

To be honest although I'd read about people making air mattresses using balloons I wasn't aware that anyone was actually selling them. It appears that there is, and while it isn't something that really interests me I'm curious to see what the Xero MM has to offer.

With a stated weight of 400g with 175g of 750 FP down it's closest competition would probably be the PHD Minim Ultra Down with as far as I know 150g of 900 FP down. Reading between the lines it appears that the Xero MM may incorporate channels on the base to allow some kind of air chamber to be inserted, whether those chambers are re-useable and supplied with the bag or whether like the 'Balloon Bed' you simply use modeling balloons remains to be seen but it's certainly something different.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

MYOG, Cooking System Update

I've made a few changes to the 'Sub 200g Cooking System' which then became an almost 'Sub 150g Cooking System'

The main change was that I decided against a short cone and tent peg pot stand and switched to a longer 'split cone' and silicone band on the pot See Here. This improved the efficiency of the stove but I wanted to try titanium foil as I wanted a bit more durability/rigidity.

I ordered some ti foil from Titanium Goat and made a 2 piece windshield to the same pattern as the split alufoil one. I found that there are advantages and disadvantages to using ti foil, the disadvantage is that it's heavier and my card making paper punches aren't strong/sharp enough so I had to use a standard paper punch. This meant that I couldn't bias larger (10mm dia) vents towards the front of the cone which is my preferred method but had to punch smaller vents all the way around. I think I really need some more intake vents at the bottom but the jaw of the punch is too small to allow me to punch another set of holes.

The advantage of ti foil is that it keeps it shape, it holds the folds much better than alufoil and it won't tear like alufoil. I must admit that I was using very thin alufoil (0.10mm)The joints are simply folded over and once the cone is assembled it's impossible for it to come apart and there's no need for tabs/dovetails/clips etc which makes it nice and simple to use.

Unfortunately the total weight of the system has now risen to 172g without a stuff sack but I'll accept that as a trade off for the increased durability.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

ULA Conduit

I've been using a Haglofs LIM 45 (1050g) for most of my recent overnight camps and while it's a reasonably good load carrier with a good capacity, more than it's 45L tag would suggest I wanted something lighter and smaller for overnight/summer backpacking. I had found ULA last year and they appealed to me at the time although back then I was looking for a 45-50L rucksack. When I started to look for something smaller /lighter I found myself drawn to the ULA Ohm and ULA Conduit. Hendrik over at Hiking in Finland had been using the Ohm and that was the one I had almost settled on. I liked the idea of the carbon/Delrin hoop to help transfer the weight to the hip belt and I also liked the top tension/load lifters. The more I though about it though I began to wonder if I really need the load Lifter/Carbon hoop given the weight I expected to carry (Around about 5kg Base Weight) also taking into account that one of the main reasons for getting a new rucksack was to reduce weight I eventually decided on the Conduit.

When I looked at the Ohm/Conduit last year they came as basic packs with the option to purchase a variety of add-ons such as Hip belt pockets, Hydration pocket etc, See Here , I would have gone for the hip belt pockets but by the time I ordered my pack all the accessories were included although the cost of the pack had gone up by about $10. I think it works out better this way as sometimes it's difficult to know what optional accessories you will use until you try them.

The rucksack arrived today, to be exact I picked it up today as there were fees to pay and on initial inspection everything looked good. The quality of workmanship is good as far as I can tell and the pack had all the extra accessories fitted. The shoulder straps have a sewn in D ring which is good as I prefer to carry my camera in a chest pouch, there is also a webbing daisy chain loop. The hip belt has short padded wings and the Q/D buckle is tightened by pulling the webbing forward through a ladeer-lock buckle attached to the hip-belt wings on at each side.

The 1st thing was to remove the extras which were 2 x Hand loops, 4 x Shock-cord/Cord-lock Bottle Holders, 1 x Internal Foam back pad, 1 x small mesh zipped pouch, 1 x Hydration Pouch and 1 x Hip belt pocket (I kept the one on the R/H side and in the end decided to use the mesh zipped pouch)

The next thing to check was if my CCF Full Length Mat would fit inside rolled into a wide cylinder, again no problems, the mat fitted in easily and was lower than the top of the main body of the pack while still leaving plenty of space inside. There are 2 wide elastic straps sew diagonally at the top of the back panel to hold a folded mat in place but I didn't try them.

I was impatient to see if my proposed summer kit would pack in easily so I gathered up my kit and and set about packing. In the 13L orange Sea 2 Summit drybag is my Mountain Equipment Xero 250 sleeping bag, a pair of Mont-Bell UL Down Inner Pants and a PHD Ultra Down Vest. I wouldn't expect to be using the Mont-Bell pants in summer but would normally have my spare baselayer and socks in the drybag instead. With the down gear packed and compressed I was able to place the drybag horizontally at the bottom.

The remainder of the gear shown was packed thus,

1 x Ration Pack placed flat on the sleeping bag
1 x Single Skin Tent placed upright on top of the dry sack against the back panel
1 x Ration Pack placed upright in front of the tent
1 x Pole Set stored vertically between the layers of the CCF mat
1 x Toilet Trowel etc placed between layers of CCF mat
1 x Cooking Gear placed Horizontally on top of Ration Pack/Tent
Wet Gear packed loosely in front of/around cook set
Windshirt/Gloves etc placed on top of wet gear
Wash kit, and other soft items placed between ration pack and front of pack
1st Aid/Spares, Tent Light, Head Torch, Penknife stored on Mesh pocket attached to inside of pack.

Side Pockets held 1 x 750ml Pet Bottle on one side and Bladder on the other side and I hadn't used the hip belt pocket or large mesh back pocket but in addition to the gear listed above I'd have a few other items such as GPS, Compass, maps etc.

With everything packed the top was easily rolled down and compressed using the top compression strap. It looked as if the pack could easily hold more so I placed my Montane Flux belay jacket at the top of the pack, the result can be seen in the photo below.

The pack seems comfortable enough but until I actually try it on a hike I won't really be able to comment. There are 2 areas that I'm a bit concerned about, the hip-belt attachment point is one. As the hip-belt is sewn in at the extreme edge of the back panel it's difficult to pull it in snug all the way around the waist, theres a gap between the hip-belt and my back (kidney area) that I can't close down but it may turn out to be a non issue.

The other thing is the hip belt pocket attachment method, it's very clever but IMO overly complicated. The front lower corner of the pocket attaches to the yellow tape loop using an open-able oblong D ring, at the rear lower corner the pocket attaches by a captive cord-lock on the pocket to a short length of Yellow shock cord with a knotted end attached to the pack, to attach the pocket you need to untie the knot and thread the shock-cord through the cord-lock before re-tying the knot. The final attachment point is a standard oblong D ring, the shoulder strap webbing needs to be un-threaded from the buckle on the shoulder pad and threaded through the ring/loop on the pocket before being re-threaded through the shoulder pad buckle.

It's all a bit contrived to be honest but of course once you have it fitted you can let it stay on. The biggest problem however is that the pocket tends to flop around as it's really only held securely at the front and rear bottom corners, the top rear corner simply slides up and down the shoulder strap webbing and has a tendency to pull up when you try to open the zip. I have to say that I didn't have anything in the pocket when I tried it so it may be less of a problem that I imagine. That said I feel there's room for improvement on this, if it turns out to be a problem I may simply sew the pocket to the hip-belt, sew a short length of 50mm (2") velcro to the hip-belt/pocket to keep it in place or remove it completely.

I ordered my pack Small/Medium with a Medium Hip belt and it seems fine although there isn't much adjustment left on the waist belt. I'm about 180cm (5' 10") approx and 30" waist. To be honest I haven't weighed it yet as I was more interested in seeing how my gear fitted.

It took a long time making up my mind which pack to get but subject to using it for real I'm very pleased with it.

The total cost including shipping was $162.45 (£110.00 approx) in addition I had to pay £24.25 in fees (£16.25 VAT, £8.00 Clearance Fee)

Edit to Add

I finally managed to weigh the Conduit and the accessories, the weights are as follows;

Pack - 488g (Stripped)
Hipbelt Pockets - 30g each
Handloops - 11g each
Bottle Holder Elastics - 11g each side (2 x Elastics per side)
Mesh Zipped Pouch - 28g
Hydration Bladder Pocket - 36g
Supplied Foam Back Pad - 25g

I intend to use it with one hipbelt pocket and the zipped mesh pouch which brings the total weight to 546g.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


It must be the thought of winter passing but there seems to be a bit of a buzz at present regarding base weight, Hendrik put an interesting piece together discussing the various classifications and others myself included have been replacing or upgrading a few items with a view to reducing our base weight. There certainly seems to be a greater awareness of 'Lightweight Backpacking' in general with almost everyone regardless of what gear they use looking at lighter alternatives and some of the more traditional/conservative manufacturers are now getting involved. It could be argued that some are merely jumping on the bandwagon so to speak but it was inevitable and can surely only be a good thing.

Of course there's a certain amount of fanatical evangelizing and in some, thankfully rare cases a certain tone of derision where mainstream or heavier gear is concerned. It's important to offer advice to anyone wanting to reduce their base weight but gear choice is a very personal matter and personal comfort has to be considered so if someone for example simply can't use a lightweight sleeping bag as they tend to sleep cold, simply can't get a decent nights sleep on a CCF mat, prefer boots over shoes or prefer to use a rucksack with a more substantial back system than a piece of CCF then they thats what they should use, after all backpacking or camping is supposed to be enjoyable.

I was looking at the PHD site earlier and found an interesting article which is really what prompted this post, I think it's well worth reading.

PHD Ultralight Gear Briefing

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Tents, Tarps and Tarp Tents

I can't seem to get away from the fact that my tent is heavy compared to some of the tents currently available, even fairly conservative brands now have Lightweight models, manufacturers generally considered as tent manufacturers have tarps in the range and it seems that there's a whole raft of new models competing for our hard earned cash. The question is do they really offer anything that wasn't available last year or the year before.

My personal weight limit for a replacement would be 1.3kg but to be honest at that weight it would need to be perfect in every other respect, I'd prefer to be closer to 1.0kg than 1.5kg. With that in mind and having been following the the reviews of the latest tents I decided to put a little comparison chart together to help me compare the various models, it's not really helpful to have to jump from one website to another trying to compare weights and sizes.

As I've been considering a tarp or tarp tent I've included a few that interested me but I haven't included basic tarps. It's difficult to define when a tarp becomes a tarp tent or a tarp tent becomes a single skin tent but for the purposes of the chart I consider anything that has an inner and fly as a tent, a shaped tarp without integrated mesh as a tarp tent and a shaped tarp with no integrated mesh as simply a tarp. I appreciate that this isn't strictly speaking accurate, after all an MLD Duomid with a mesh bug nest isn't so different from a Big Agnes Seedhouse with a mesh inner but I couldn't come up with anything more suitable.

When it comes to tents Terra Nova are the masters when weight is the primary criteria but what surprised me was where Vango fit in, the Helium Superlite models are surprisingly competitive given that Vango are fairly conservative. The Laser standard however is looking something of a poor relation now given the specification of the Scarp 1 which appears to better it in every way, the Laser Comp is almost certainly under threat from the Vaude Power Lizard UL which offers much more space at an additional 200g. Of course all the Laser variations are tried and tested and proven to handle weather that would destroy many other tents.

There's always Big Agnes, the Fly Creek UL1 and Seedhouse SL1 are both light and fairly spacious for one and seem well liked by those who use them although they tend to be overlooked when it comes to a forum discussion. The Copperspur is on the limit as far as I'd be concerned but apart from a few strange design issues (IMO) it looks like a nice spacious tent.

You may be asking what tent/tarp tent or tarp I've decided on now that I've studied the chart (you're probably not but humour me) the truth is that I'm still no closer to deciding than I was prior to compiling the information but theres always a chance that someone will find it useful (then again maybe not)

Note, where it says porch Max Width/Length I'm referring to the distance from the inner tent door to the flysheet door so on a tunnel type it's max length and on a transverse design it's max width.

There are some dimensions I couldn't find and some were in inches so I converted them and rounded them up so they may be 10mm out here and there.

One other thing to bear in mind when looking at the weights is the wide variety of pegs that are supplied, you may be able to use some lighter pegs than those supplied or you may end up having to use some heavier pegs. The pegs issue could add or reduce the weight by up to 100g

Click Image to View Full Size

Monday, 1 March 2010

Summer Kit List

It'll soon be time to start packing the heavy winter gear away and time to again concentrate on lighter summer gear. There are a few months to go yet but we don't generally have the extremes of temperature in Northern Ireland that others in the UK and further afield have. I was experimenting last week by using my summer sleeping bag, a Mountain Equipment Xero 250, and wearing additional insulation. I used my Phreeranger as a single skin, protected the sleeping bag with my Titanium Goat Ptarmigan bivvy bag and for additional insulation wore my recently purchased MontBell UL Down pants and PHD Ultra Down Vest. The temperature dropped to as low as -7 deg C (average about -4) and apart from my arms I was fine. I was wearing only a Trekmates Bamboo baselayer but used a Multimat Adventure Superlight 25 full length self inflate mat with a 3mm full length closed cell pad.

My kit list presently is as follows, weight is in grams.

Accessories - Emergency - Nokia 2630 - 66
Accessories - Emergency - 1st Aid Kit (Summer) - 48
Accessories - Emergency - Spares & Repair (Summer) - 46
Accessories - Eye Wear Case - Bloc Pouch - 7
Accessories - Eye Wear Glasses - Bloc 502 Sunglasses - 23
Accessories - Eye Wear Misc - Croakie Glasses Retainer - 10
Accessories - Navigation - Garmin Geko 301 c/w Lithium - 86
Accessories - Navigation - Map, Memory Map Print Off x 10 Sheets - 50
Accessories - Navigation - Silva Field 7 - 29
Accessories - Tools - Wenger Classic inc Lanyard - 24

Total Accessories 389

Spare Clothing - Base Layer L/J - Sub Zero Factor 1 L/J - 118
Spare Clothing - Base Layer Top - Sub Zero Factor 1 Top, L/S Crew - 127
Spare Clothing - Socks - Wool Short - 50

Total Spare Clothing 295

Clothing - Fleece Gloves - Mountain Warehouse Windproof Fleece - 61
Clothing - Head Wear - Technicals Bush Hat - 100
Clothing - Head Wear - Buff - 38
Clothing - Insulation - PHD Ultra Down Vest - 150
Clothing - Windshirt - Montane Featherlite Jetstream - 84
Clothing - W'proof Gloves - Marmot Shell - 95
Clothing - W'proof Jkt - Marmot Essence Precip - 183
Clothing - W'proof Trs - Trespass Trestex Packaway - 150

Total Clothing 861

Cooking - Cookset - EK Spirit, Heinie Set, CCF Case, Complete - 157
Cooking - Stove Wood - EK 750 SUL - 79

Total Cooking 236

Hydration - Filtration - Source Convertube - 109
Hydration - Filtration - Aquaguard Eliminator - 90
Hydration - Water Bags - Source 2.0L Waterbag, Plain Cap - 35
Hydration - Water Bottle - PET 750ml River Rock - 30

Total Hydration 264

Hygiene - Hygiene - Trowel Snow Stake, Wet Wipes, Hand Gel - 170
Hygiene - Hygiene - Wash Kit, Tesco Microfibre Towel - 135
Hygiene - Hygiene - Insect Repellant, Jungle Formula 100ml - 75
Hygiene - Hygiene - Insect Repellant, Head Net - 29
Total Hygiene 409

Lighting - Headtorch - Petzl E-Lite c/w Whistle - 28
Lighting - Tent Lighting - Silverpoint Mini Lantern Modified - 21

Total Lighting 49

Load Carrying - Rucksack - ULA Conduit - 528
Storage - Dry Bag - Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil 8L - 33
Storage - Dry Bag - Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil 2L - 22

Total Load Carrying/Storage 583

Shelter - Bivvy Bag - Titanium Goat Ptarmigan Bivvy - 193
Shelter - S/Skin Tent - Phreeranger Fly c/w Pegs, S/Sack & Footprint - 1210

Total Shelter 1403

Sleeping - Sleeping Bag - Mountain Equipment Xero 250 - 640
Sleeping - Sleeping Mat - Millets Foam, 2-3S Full Length - 195

Total Sleeping System 835

Total 5324

There are some obvious and desirable areas where I could reduce weight and I have a few ideas with regard to my sleeping system/Spare Insulating layer. The biggest weight saving would come through changing my shelter but as yet I haven't seen anything that really stands out although I've once again been looking at some of the different options from basic tarps to tarp tents and of course full double skin tents. In the meantime I'll have to stick with what I have although I'm running out of ideas to save weight.