Category Archives: Kit

Any gear or kit that I have used or been asked to review or test

Review – Montane Terra Mountain Pants

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I’ll start with a disclaimer; that these Montane Terra Mountain Pants were sent to me by GO Outdoors to review. I have no vested interest in GO Outdoors, Montane or the trousers themselves other than to share my views and opinions; good, bad or otherwise.

GO Outdoors have a large range of waterproof trousers and I selected the Montane Mountain Terra Pants from their range, waist size medium and regular length leg in the black and graphite colour combination.

This is my first experience of Montane gear and I have to say my first impressions on removing them from the parcel were good. Light in weight and soft to touch. They are made from Cotton-feel Tactel and Cordura Mini-Rip, rip stop fabric for the reinforced areas. These panels are on the seat(bum), knees and inner ankles. The classic high friction points. The fabrics also rated 40+ ultraviolet protection factor. They also claimed to be less than 320g for the size medium. I stuck them on my scales and they weighed in at 337 grams but I hadn’t cut off all the paper tags. Once snipping them off the trousers came in at 329g including the belt. After removing the belt they were well under, at 302 grams.

When I tried them on I was very surprised by the fit. I’m not the tallest, 5’ 7” on a good day and usually find that especially with trousers I have to get the short leg option. However these were not to long for me, as in touching the floor but not to the usual degree of standing on them with my toes poking out the end. They would be nearly a perfect length with my trail shoes on. This may be something to bear in mind if you are a ‘regular’ leg guy, these might well be short. The waist is elasticated with a button and a zip fly which makes for a nice snug custom fit for a range of sizes within that medium band. There is also a fairly standard webbing belt.

The trouser legs have mesh thigh vents which are opened or closed with a zip to help aid cooling should you find yourself too warm. The ankles also have zips and press studs that allow you to adjust the volume to suit and vent the bottom of your legs if need be. You can even remove the trousers completely while leaving your boots on, if you felt the need!

zip pull(2)

There is a distinct lack of pockets as the trousers only have two front mesh lined pockets, one with a zipped security pocket for your keys or such like. No back pockets or cargo pockets. Having said that, the two front pockets are ample in size and hold all the usually junk you keep in your jeans pockets with ease. The zip pulls on the pockets have a nice rubberised/silicon spot on them which grabs your skin, stopping the material tab slipping from between your fingers.

zip pull(1)

Having given them a thorough indoor testing; rolling about the floor playing with my 20 month old daughter, lounging on the couch, drinking beer and watching the football. After passing those hard tests with ease I felt it was time to take them outdoors and give them a proper test. Surprisingly though for the west of Scotland there hasn’t been much rain. Typical! Maybe it was just my luck in picking good days. Undeterred I got myself out on a couple of occasions and into the wild.

Stud fastners

Out and about in the wild on various walks including rolling about grass and stones trying to set up some self portraits in the hills I found the trousers to be very comfortable; no rubbing, chaffing or pulling. I can’t say much for the waterproofness of the fabrics as I was only ever in light showers. However the water did bead on the surface but I couldn’t say how long or how much water before that would stop and they wet out. What I can vouch for is there windproofness, even in strong winds I never felt drafty or any chill when I stopped walking. I know they claim to be a 4 season active trouser but until the weather really turns cold I couldn’t verfiy this. I would guess though that you would have to wear a thermal base layer under them for the true cold weather. All in all I found these trousers to be excellent and I look forward to wearing them out with confidence on future walks.

Alpkit Rig 7 Tarp and me

pitched in the woods(1)

Simple 2 pole pitch in the woods

I was going to do a first look review type of post on the Alpkit Rig 7 but @petesy in the Spring issue of Trail Magazine beat me to it. It took both the Best in Test and the Best Value award. Scoring 4.2 out of five, you don’t need me to tell you how good it is. I thought I would be better writing a bit about how I use it. Especially as a few people were asking. Better that than going over old ground as it were.

Packed in stuff sack

Packed in stuff sack

It’s not the lightest tarp by a long shot but it is very versatile. The one that I recieved weighed in at 497 grams on my scales, naked. The Rig 7 does pack down nice and small, the stuff sack is a little tight and weighs 34 grams. The material is 30D siliconised nylon measuring 280 x 240 centimetres and 18 x 14 centimetres when in it’s in the stuff bag. It has 16 reinforced rigging points that run along the outer edge. It also has 8 reinforced lifter rigging points arranged across the body of the trap. These are what makes this trap versatile. It allows for near endless adjustments to pitching and the configurations are only really limited by your imagination. They also help to make the tarp very secure in the wind as you can tie it down further.

corner rig point

Corner rigging point

rig point on the outer edge

Outer rigging point with 3mm cord

After a couple of uses, I made what I thought was a useful change. I tied loops of  4mm cord to all the lifter points. This made it much easier to attach pegs or guylines. No more fiddly threading through the lifter’s eyelets in strong winds or the rain. On the downside it did make the stuff bag even more tighter than it was and the tarp a little bit heavier. It now weighs in with all the loops added at 554 grams. My current set up will probably have the Lightweights out there breaking into a cold sweat.

lifter rig point

Lifter rigging point with 3mm cord

What I carry with the Rig 7, is a lot, I suppose and weighs a bit but I’m willing to do that to keep my pitching options open. I have a 4mm cord of about 15 metres this is what I call the ridge line. I then have 6 guylines with lineloks of 3mm cord, 2 of which are 2 metres in length and 4 which are shorter, measuring in at 120 centimetres long. These lines weigh 10 grams including the lineloks. With that I was carrying 8 aluminium pegs. I also have 6 stakes but I only carry them if there is a chance the ground is going to be soft. We all know that a tarp has the potential to catch the wind become a sail.

lifter rig point with clip

Lifter rigging point with 3mm cord and a 3mm clip

I also found that carrying some 3mm clips; I carry 5 in total, each being 3 grams was also very useful. It allowed me to run a ridge line between two points and then quickly clip the Rig 7 to the line and then either peg out or use the guylines to strap it down. A more efficient way of doing things.

Walking with poles has also increased the versatility of tarping, my options have now increased again to a point where I’m not sure I would use a tent. It now seems so limiting. However I will have to get my sleeping set up sorted if I want to use the Rig 7 in the winter.

A lot of this has evolved from a my own experience and what I’ve seen around the internet; on different blogs, youtube, talking to others on twitter and good old out there and learning from your mistakes. As I can point out from the last outing on the River Ayr Way with Phil, @MrPhilTurner. I discovered that I wasn’t carrying enough pegs. I had enough for the configuration I was using when on my own but this time, with the two of us under the trap I was a peg short. It wasn’t a major issue I could have removed one from along the back but Phil saved the day with his super poo peg. It is always evolving and changing so I dare say that if you ask me in a few months time, it will have changed. Again.

There are some things that will change soon. I could make and can make things lighter for myself (when I have the spare cash). I’m looking at getting a set of titanium pegs. I could also change to dyneema for my guylines as I could reduce the thickness down to 1.5mm without comprising the strength. Not sure I would want to go too thin on the ridge line for fear of slicing through the fabric if I was to lay the tarp over it. Overall it would lighten the load by a good a few grams. Ounces like pennies, save pounds. I also think a slightly bigger stuff bag would be a good idea possibly even a dry sack so that I can a put a wet tarp straight into the rucksack and not worry about anything else getting soaked. Another step to take in the journey to lightening the load.

All in all it is a great bit of kit and I thoroughly enjoy using it. It has made sleeping in the great outdoors fun again. No longer closing myself away at night, I am now apart of what is going around me. No more wondering what the noises are out side of the tent, usually it’s still light enough for you to see. You’ll be amazed how bright the world is at night under the sky. Try it.

pitched in the woods(2)

Another angle of the 2 pole basic pitch

GSI Outdoors Halulite Minimalist

GSI Outdoors Halulite Minimalist

Next on my list was a cook set in my continued search to lighten my back backing load and not spending a fortune. I have this two pot set where the lid was a frying pan. It was heavy but I could fit the gas canister and MSR Pocket Rocket inside with ease. However it was an unwieldy size and weight. I was looking at the titanium sets that were available and weighing up my options *groan*. There were the usual suspects; MSR Titan Kettle, Tibetan Titanium series, Vargo Tri-lite. In the end it came down to some economics and price. I had narrowed it down to a choice of three; Alpkit’s MytiMug, GSi Outdoor’s Halulite Minimalist and the Tibetan Titanium 450 mug. All were priced around the £25 mark. After a bit of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch the baby by the toe. If it screams let her go, eeny, meeny, miny, moe, you are it. I went for the Halulite Minimalist.

Why? I just felt I was getting more for my money. The Tibetan is just the mug, the MytiMug comes with a lid but the Halulite Minimalist comes with a lid, an insulating pot sleeve, a foon (their version of a foldable spork) and a silicon pot gripper.

GSI Halulite Minimalist

It’s made from Halulite a proprietary alloy that is hard anodised. The blurb on the website claims; it’s as light as titanium, resistant to scratches, abrasions and burn circles. The alloy is uncoated therefore eliminating the need to use special utensils to protect the pot. All this to help keep the weight down and the thermal efficiency up. I can’t say it boils any quicker or slower than any other pot. I haven’t set up any tests to time the boil. It doesn’t leave me hanging about for a brew and there are no; as of now, scratches from my titanium spork. It’s build quality is very good.

On my scales it weighs 99 grams naked. That’s without the sleeve, lid and pot gripper. With them it’s 173 grams. It’s a neat little package with diameter of 100mm and a height of 105mm by my ruler and holding over 600 millilitres. Big enough to hold a Coleman 100 or similar sized self sealing gas canister and even a small canister top stove like the Optimus Crux for carrying in one convenient package. Unfortunately not my Pocket Rocket.

I’m glad that I fired up the stove and tried the pot out before going on an actual trip with it. I found a couple of issues. One being the silicon gripper. I found that if I filled the pot full of water and then tried to lift the pot off the stove with the gripper, my two fingers were in the boiling water. Although they were inside the silicon you could still feel the scolding heat from the water. Also I felt that it wasn’t secure having to lift 600ml, 600g of water plus the weight of the pot between your thumb, index and middle finger. I don’t have the finger strength of a climber and I don’t want to have to go and do some Kung Fu 5 finger death punch exercises in order to lift it. I resorted to using my buff as I have done frequently in the past with other vessels but I could have used the pliers on my Leatherman or a set of pot grips.

Pot gripper

The 0.6cl is plenty of water for a good big cuppa tea and this is the crux if you’re like me and aren’t that keen on dehydrated meals. This is your one pot for cooking and drinking from. Do yo take the weight penalty and carry a cup for drinking your beverage out of? I’m tying to shave the weight off not add more. As of the last few times I’ve used it, I’ve just cleaned it out. Not very efficient. I reckon that if I could get a taste for dehydrated meals I would have more than enough water for a meal and a drink in one boiling. No need for repeated cleaning then.

My other issue was with the folding foon. I broke it, at it’s folding joint but this could just be me. I can be a bit heavy handed when it comes to utensils. I have managed to break or melt three of the ‘indestructable’ plastic sporks made by Light my Fire. I now have a titanium one and it seems to handle the abuse that I dish out, at the moment. It was light and would do the job shovelling your grub but I didn’t get that far with it.

GSI Halulite Minimalist

The lid and neoprene sleeve are great. The insulating sleeve does what it says, allowing you to hold the pot with out the fear of burning yourself or get dirty and it’s great for keeping your brew warmer longer. Especially on the cold mornings around camp. The lid is a very smart design as well; flip it one way and it is a standard lid helping to get the water boiling quicker, flip it the other way and it becomes one of those Starbucks like sip it lids.

I know in the one hand this won’t be the pot for everyone. I on the other hand really like it. It works for me with how I’m walking and camping. I’m happy with it.

Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre Rucksack

Alpkit Gourdon 30 Litre Rucksack

I was looking for a rucksack that was lighter than I had and also big enough to go on an over night trip but nothing too expensive. I’m also trying to lighten the load. I have 2 backpacks; a small 12 litre pack which is fine for a short day walk, the other was a large 65+ litre rucksack with a carbon frame that I used for weekends in the wilds. With that I was carrying ridiculous amounts of stuff. Kit that I didn’t need or use. Crazy. After much googling, perusing of websites and reading forums I found the Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre bag so I had one ordered.

Why did I go for the Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre. You only have to read the specification list; roll top waterproof closure, taped waterproof seams, hydration pouch and removable padded back. It’s made from hard wearing Taslan with a TPU coating to make it waterproof. It has a clear see through panel that lets you see exactly what’s inside and where. It holds 30 litres. It even comes with iron on repair patches should you manage to put a hole in it. As well as coming in a range of colours. Best of all, all these features for only £25. Some of those you don’t get on packs that are double the price Yep. A Bargain.

Trig point and Gourdon

I’ve had this rucksack/dry bag hybrid for a couple of months now. There is nothing fancy about it but I do love it’s simplicity. It does the job and more. On my scales it weights just over 620g with the foam back pad in, it’s a shade over 30cm wide and the 60cm in height stated on the website. The water bladder is 45cm long and 20cm wide according to Alpkit. I never measured it but it comfortably takes my 2 litre water pouch. I find it easy to carry and the shoulder straps don’t dig. I can’t say that I’ve given it a good soaking but it’s stood up to the rain without any issue. It has been and still is being flung about like a rag doll and has had no adverse reaction to this sort of treatment. Great to be using something so simple in design but well constructed.

Waiting for the Bus

I have only one concession to make; I would love some bungee cord on this, like it’s littlest brither so I had something to strap my walking poles to when I wasn’t using them. Other than that I can’t find a fault. Adding the cord would be the only change I’d make. The Gourdon is a very capable and functional piece of kit. Fast becoming my go to bag for everything. Going to work, out with the buggy, camera bag, walking and hiking or an over night trip. Like it says on the Alpkit website, “Gourdon is a strange little beast, ideal for all those strange little things we do.” Almost perfect for me.

Therm-a-Rest Haven Top Bag – 1st Look

Therm-a-Rest Haven

I’ll start with the disclaimer this is another bit of kit courtesy of a very kind Phil and I have no vested interest in the sleeping bag other than to share my views on it. These are my intital thoughts having carried and used the Therm-a-Rest Haven top bag once on an overnighter at the end of January.

Phil had let me know in advance that he would have this bag, the Therm-a-Rest Haven would available if I wanted to have a go. He had indicated on twitter a few days before that the bag was a bit small for him. With me not being shy and an official small person, I jumped at the chance to test some gear out. Knowing this I had a quick google at the sleeping bag. I was intrigued by the concept. The bag has no zips and an elasticated hole in the back as well as a couple of straps to attach it onto a mat. It comes in a Pewter grey color and is filled will 700 goose down. The shell fabric is Nylon Ripstop with a DWR finish and it’s lined with Nylon Taffeta. Looking then; that night, at the photographs it would seem that you can insert a sleeping mat into the Haven or strap it down to mat (a Neo-Air) on the website. All very interesting.

When Phil first handed it to me in the car park at Ballantrae it was in the big storage sack that it comes with and I really didn’t have a proper look at. Phil and I talked about the no zips and the straps. That it was rated down to -6C which would be plenty for that particular Saturday night in January. I run warm anyway and the old adage is true for me, you heat the sleeping bag the sleeping bag doesn’t heat you. Nothing to worry about there. I also said that I reckoned there was a couple of ways to insert yourself into the bag having seen the website but maybe not if you’re a 6′ 2″ Phil.

It went from the storage sack in to the stuff sack. I remember thinking it felt nice and soft as I stuffed it. At the time I wasn’t sure of the size but having measured it once I got home, it measured in at 27cm x 18.5cm and weighed about 638g 668 grams in the stuff sack on my scales. With the stuff sack weighing 20 grams on it’s on. Less than half the weight of the synthetic bag I usually carry, nevermind the difference in stuff sack size. In the Alpkit rucksack it went and that was the last I thought about it until we were pitching the tents.

Once the tents were pitched and I had inflated my sleeping mat, a POE Ether 6. I got out the Haven to let it breathe and loft after being squashed for most of the day. I gave it a good shake out and it lofted well and there is left it until after dinner. This was where the fun began, trying to figure out the best way to use the Haven. I started off with inserting the Ether 6 and sliding in up to my oxsters this was fine while I was lying about talking to Phil over in his tent but when it came to bed down for the night. I found even for me; it was tight, me in the fully inflated Ether 6 inside the Haven but I was willing to give it a go, for a while at least. That lasted until I tried to turn on to my side. Too tight with POE pad.

I decided that this was probably the best time to take a leak and then come back and sort it out. By that time I think Phil was already in the land of nod so I tried to be as quiet as I could. Once back in the LiteHouse Solo, I removed the POE and straped the Haven down and got myself back into the bag through the elasticated hole in the back. Much easier way in than through the hood, rat up a drainpipe experience of earlier. However i think that had a lot to do with the sleeping pad being inside that bag.

Now much more comfortable in the Haven, with plenty of from I settled down for some sleep. Ten minutes later I found myself having to strip off, down to my underwear and my baselayer. I found the bag to be warm and cosy. A lot warmer than the synthetic bag I was used to. At that time of year I would usually be sleeping in my clothes. Comfortable again, I drifted off to sleep but a few hours in I found myself waking because of a cold spot. My bum was straight onto the sleeping mat because of the elasticated hole. That hadn’t happened when the mat was inside with me. After much fiddling and rumbling, I tucked one edge of the hole under me and that removed the gap enabling to get a good sleep the rest of the night.

It’s a curious design in that it has no zips an well elasticated hole in the back and a couple of straps with clips to attach it to the mat of your choice. I’m not sure how much weight you save by not having a full length zip. I suppose the grams are a bit like pennies in that if you look after them the pennies will take care of themselves. I have no real complaints about the Haven sleeping, the pocket was too small to be of much use to me. Not sure what you would use it for. I judge these things on can I store my glasses safely. Which I couldn’t. The cold spot, maybe but it could have just been the wrong mat. Having check up on a few things when I got home. Therm-a-Rest recommend using a tappered matteress like their TrailPro when the weather is cold. This still of mat would allow more room when inserted in and more than likely eliminate the cold spot but I managed to sort that for myself. Maybe that’s my next move get hold of a tappered mat and try it with that. All in all I had a very good sleep in a very decent sleeping bag and I’m looking forward to testing it again.

 

Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo

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Photograph from the Gram-Counter Gear website

This is new country for me; doing a first look, well my first look at a bit of kit. The disclaimer part. The tent, a Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo I have is from Phil Turner, you can follow or find him here @MrPhilTurner on twitter or his website Lightweight Outdoors. Phil is also a good friend of mine. He’s had a play with this tent before me. You can see and read that here. I had read Phil’s post and had commented that it would be interesting to see how it tested. It has now come my way and these are my initial thoughts and impressions.

I’ll start at the beginning. I met Phil in the car park at Ballantrae. Where he handed me the tent, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. Lucky guy, yes I am. Phil gave me the low down. It weighs roughly 850g; in my hand it didn’t feel like 850g of tent, lighter if anything. The Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo feels very light for a tent. It is a classic ridge design with a single skin and fully stitched-in mesh interior with a sewn in groundsheet. The groundsheet is not the bath tub type you are used to with a traditional tent, some care is need when pitching. Also I had the nice happy yellow version. The website says orange but it looks yellow to me, there is however a green version available should you wish to blend more into your surroundings.

The pack size is great it fitted into my Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre rucksack width wise very comfortably leaving plenty of room for the rest of my overnight gear. I can’t find any details of the stuff sack size but having measured it once I got home, it came out at 33cm by 12cm.
Once we arrived at our camp I was handed a set of pitching instructions, immediately I’m thinking uh oh. Nothing to worry about, it’s just like every other tent you’ve ever done. It’s a comprehensive pitching guide as the version I had came with 3 different styles/sizes of pegs. Two large aluminium pegs, 6 titanium micro pegs, 4″ long and 5 titanium pegs, 6″ long. I think that’s just so you are aware which pegs have to be used where. It was definitely a good thing to read especially being new to lightweight tents.

The pitching is quite simple and admittedly I did have an expert on hand but his input wasn’t really needed. More just a check to see if I had it down correctly. Having pitched it once it will be really easy next time.

The four corners get pegged first with 6″ pegs then in goes your first walking pole, stabbed in to the ground. That gets held in place with the tension on the first guy line and a large aluminium peg. Then its round the back with second pole but doesn’t have to be a walking pole, a branch would suffice. This is what gives the height at the rear by using the guy line to create the ridge line. Again this guy line is pegged using the other aluminium peg. After that it’s just a case of securing the other points with the remaining pegs and tightening everything up.

My description makes it sound a bit of a long process but it’s not. I reckon ten minutes max and that would be pushing it. Nothing complicated even although using walking poles was completely new to me.

Once pitched the gear porch gave ample room for my boots and Alpkit sack. I had plenty of room inside for the Pacific Outdoor Equipement Ether Elite 6 and the Therm-A-Rest Haven top bag. I actually had masses of room inside meaning I could bring in my rucksack. I should point out that I’m not the tallest person on the planet, being only 5′ 7″ on a good day. It was a good day. I can also sit up comfortably in the doors of the tent for cooking, putting on boots or just watching the sun go down and the stars come up.

It was my first time in a single skin tent and I had read and heard that they can have problems with condensation but don’t all tents? I had none or nothing noticeable inside the tent and it was a very cold night. Not quiet double minus figures but somewhere around -5. There was however plenty of ventilation in the tent which certainly helps. There’s venting all round where the groundsheet meets the the sides. Nice big mesh panels which also keeps out the creepy crawlies in the night.

The only things I could find fault with and fault is not the right word. They are just niggles, trifles or personal preferences. I found the pockets inside not to be of much use to me. They were too far down for me to reach easily. I would have much preferred them closer to the door of the tent. Then when I’m lying in my bag they are within easy reach but I had plenty of room to place my specs safely out the of the way. The other would be better guy locks on the strings, don’t get me wrong there is plenty of tension there but it could be tighter in my opinion. However it’s nothing that hampers the use or enjoyment of the tent.

All in all the Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo is a great wee tent. So much so I can’t wait to pitch it again and give it another thorough testing.