As Tucas Foratata down booties

bootiesLast but not least in the parcel of goodies from As Tucas was some Foratata down booties. At €60, they compare favourably with similar offerings from the likes of PHD. They weigh 61g for a medium size.

As you can see from the picture, they have good loft. For my size 42 feet, the fit is good. As ever, the workmanship is first rate. I can see that these will be a permanent fixture in my gear list for cooler months.

Disclosure: I bought these booties at full price from As Tucas with my own money.

Equinox Ultralight Bivy bag mod

I bought an Equinox Bivy Bag a long time ago and have never used it. Unfortunately it had a right hand zip whereas all my sleeping bags bar one have a left hand zip.

I asked Marco at As Tucas to retro fit a left hand zip. For €30, he obliged. This only added 9g to the bivy, bringing the weight up to 195g (without the mesh sack).

IMG_1035The bivy bag itself is very simple with a silnylon base and lightweight cordura upper with a good DWR finish, making it decently water resistant.

IMG_1037.JPG (2)The bag is pretty roomy . I’ve put some silicone stripes inside and out on the base to stop slippage.

IMG_1036.JPG (2)I think it’s useful to have zips both sides not just for flexibility, but for ventilation. There’s no bug net, but I think I’d prefer to take an inner tent to protect against insects.

I’ll give it a whirl as a bivy bag, but I think it will also be very useful as a sleeping bag cover to add some extra warmth and damp protection in cooler months.

Marco is always willing to look at modifying existing gear, so if something is not quite right, it’s well worth asking him. He is also considering whether to offer similar bivy bag at some stage.

Disclosure: I paid As Tucas for this modification. I have no formal or financial relationship with As Tucas.

As Tucas Trailstar door prototype

Most of the time, the MLD Trailstar doesn’t need a door. The porch is very deep and provides a lot of protection. However, there are times when a door is useful. Most obviously, a door provides some privacy on a camp site.

A door is also useful to protect from wind driven rain when the wind direction changes. On Dartmoor in April, this happened to me twice. The second time, the wind swung round 180 degrees overnight and blew light rain a surprising distance into the porch.

I do have an OookWorks door, which is very clever but it is a bit fiddly to get right. So I decided to design my own, based on a triangle. I made a mock up out of some old nylon. This enabled me to get the dimensions right as the rough copy was too small.

The next step was to ask Marco at As Tucas whether he would be willing to make one. Very generously, he offered to make one for free as he was interested in adding it to his product line. Yesterday, the postman delivered it.

IMG_1024.JPG (2)It’s a very simple design. It’s a triangle of cuben fibre with a grosgrain loop at the apex and line lok tensioners and cord at the two base corners.

IMG_1028.JPG (2)Using it couldn’t be simpler. Attach to the Trailstar door apex using a mini karabiner, the tension the base using the lineloks and cord.

IMG_1025.JPG (2)It’s angled back into the porch, which should protect the gap between the door and the body of the Trailstar. On the production model, the base will be about 5cms longer.

IMG_1031.JPG (2)On the cords I’ve added a loop of shock cord, which helps to maintain tension. These will be standard on the production model as well.

IMG_1033.JPG (2)Originally I was going to add some Velcro so that the door could be furled to one side. However, this can be achieved by folding the door in half, then furling it, securing it by looping the the shock cord over the line lok.

IMG_1034.JPG (2)This is a surprisingly neat solution.

IMG_1030.JPG (2)Obviously, I’ve not field tested this yet, but I’m very pleased with the results. I’m confident that it would keep out most of the rain even if the wind were blowing directly into the door. some more photos:

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The weight of the door is 25g with the added shock cord loops (2g) but without the karabiner (2g). Additionally, you need two pegs. My intention is to use the lightweight “toothpick” pegs that came with my Nitro Lite (1g each). Total weight is 29g. Marco is indicating a price of €55. As with all Marco’s stuff, the workmanship is first class.

For this trial pitch, the centre pole is 120cm. I didn’t measure the entrance height but the pole is also 120cm. With this door, you can adjust the height of the door by varying the angle inside the shelter. For a low pitch, just peg the base further back inside the porch.

I’m very pleased with the results. As you can see, it pitches pretty tightly. I don’t think it will rattle in the wind. If it did, I would add a grosgrain loop at the centre of the base line and tension with some shock cord. I think that is probably overkill, though.

Disclosure: As Tucas made this door to my design, free of charge. I have no formal or financial relationship with As Tucas. However, I do liaise with Marco regularly with ideas and suggestions. Even though I’ve not met him, I count him as a friend.

It’s Foskett’s Fault!

P9200069My favourite camp

The Liebster Award? Nope. I hadn’t come across it either. It’s a bit like a chain letter of questions. Blame it on Keith Foskett. Anyway, here’s the questions he’s asked me and some other ne’er-do-well bloggers.

1) Is it the freedom, the scenery, the solitude, the inspiration, the adventure? What is it about being in the outdoors that you are passionate about?

I’ve always loved walking and camping. I enjoy walking whether it’s in the hills or in the countryside. Wild camping is something that I’ve done since a teenager. I love being in the middle of nowhere. If I don’t have a schedule, sometimes I’ll stay in one place for a couple of nights just to soak up the atmosphere.

2) What part of the world do you live in and where is the local place that you always go back to?

I live just outside London and I often walk in Epping Forest.

3) Where and what would be your dream hiking trip and why?

I’d love to go to New Zealand for the scenery and remoteness. Unfortunately it’s very unlikely to happen because of family considerations.

4) Assuming you expect good weather on a mid-summer trip, would you prefer boots or trail shoes?

I’m a boots man, mainly. I like lightweight boots. However, if the weather forecast is good and I’m not doing anything too rocky, I’d use trail shoes again. I might do for my next trip. The rest of the year, it’s lightweight boots for me.

5) Name the one night you camped that sticks out in your mind as being the best.

It’s difficult to name one night, but I’ll name a place that I’ve camped at several times, which is near Sampson’s Stones underneath Scafell. It’s a magical place to be.

6) . . . and the worst?

The worst night was on Dartmoor in 2012 at Teignhead Farm in heavy rain and strong winds when in the middle of the night I discovered my cuben Duomid had a small leak. I had to rig up a screen over the mesh section of the inner using a wind proof jacket to avoid getting wet. I didn’t get much sleep!

7) This question may seem a little strange but it relates to a blog post I have coming up. Would you be capable of finding your way, without a map, on a circular route around the town where you live? If you live somewhere huge, like London, I’ll let you off this one.

Generally, I have a good sense of direction and spatial awareness. Some days, if I know an area, I’ll navigate without a map or compass all day. Sometimes it can lead to overconfidence, though. Out in Epping Forest, I rarely use a map.

8) What is the best bit of advice you have ever been given in relation to hiking, and who gave it to you?

Alan Sloman recommends airing your feet regularly throughout the day to avoid blisters. Good advice.

9) You’re on a remote stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail in the High Sierra and you get lost. You manage to get reception to make a call to search and rescue but it could be up to 6 days before they find you. What would be your first plan of action?

The first action would be to stay close to the location where the call was made if possible. Second, find water. You can survive without food, but not water. Third priority would be shelter. Fourth would be to make the location easily discoverable, perhaps with a small signal fire.

10) When are you next due to go hiking and where will it be?

I’m hoping to go to Dartmoor in August when there is no firing on the ranges. The plan is a four day circular walk around the moor.

11) What would be your perfect evening meal on trail?

Fuizion Food Beef and Ale stew, dried dates for desert, rounded off with some green tea.

Right, back to my holiday!

New kid on the block: Trekkertent

It’s good to see that there is a new UK niche tent maker, Trekkertent.  It’s early days, but Trekkertent have three tents on offer, all utilising trekking poles. I’m told that there are others in the pipeline.edgeTrekkertent Edge 1 (courtesy of Trekkertent)

I’m quite interested in the Edge, which looks an interesting alternative to the Tarptent Scarp 1. It looks to be very solid and weighs less than the Scarp at 1.1kg, although the design is being remodelled and the production model might be heavier. Below is a video taken from the top of Suilven.

I’ve been in touch with Marc, who owns Trekkertent and there will be some interesting further developments, but we will have to be patient! Wishing Marc every success in his venture.

Marmot Essence Jacket and Overtrousers

Since the demise of my Montane Atomic overtrousers, I’ve been on the lookout for a replacement. I’m very happy with my Rab Drilliums, but for summer, I wanted something lighter. There’s been a little bit on the web about Marmot’s new NanoPro membrain fabric and the Essence jacket won the Editor’s Choice award in Backpacker magazine.

At a discounted £80, the overtrousers seemed reasonable value, so I bought a pair. My initial impressions of the material are good (although I’ve yet to test them in rain), so I thought I’d take a punt on the jacket as well, which, again, I found discounted at £120. Until now, for a summer waterproof, I’ve used a TNF DIAD jacket, which has been OK, but not brilliantly breathable (offset a bit by pit zips).

These are some first impressions without any usage or testing. I’ll report back again after I’ve tested them. Unfortunately, due to family considerations, it’s unlikely I’ll be doing a trip before August.

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The Essence jacket for a medium weighs in at 169g. I thought my DIAD jacket was light at 200g! The material feels surprisingly robust with a ripstop pattern and has a very modest amount of stretch. It’s a 2.5 coating, so the inside is slightly slick, but not unpleasant to the touch.

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In terms of features, it’s quite stripped down. There’s a small chest pocket. The main zip is water resistant with a gutter inside. The hood has a simple Velcro volume adjuster at the rear. Sensibly the main hood draw cords have captive ends. The stiffened peak is a little on the floppy side for my liking but OK. There’s a hem drawcord and a hanging loop as well.

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An unusual feature is the mesh underarm vents. This seems like a good idea to me and an alternative to pit zips. I’d be tempted to put a stitch in the middle to stop them gaping, but they should be OK. The cuffs are part elasticated and the outer side is longer than the inner. It’s a shame they don’t have thumb loops. The sleeve length is adequate, but I’d prefer slightly longer.

The overall fit is trim without being constricting. I can layer it over my Rab Generator jacket and lift my arms above my head without the hem riding up. The hood is a reasonable fit rather than outstanding, compared with my OMM Cypher smock. My first impression is this is decent jacket.

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The overtrousers are also a medium and weigh a measly 166g. I’m a 34″ waist and they fit nicely. The waist is elasticated with a draw string (no cord grip). The inside leg is 32″, which is perfect for me. There is a zippered pocket at the rear, which I think is superfluous.

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The legs have half zips with a covering flap secured with a snap fastener at the hem. It’s a shame they don’t have a fastener half way and I might sew one on. The zip is a normal one rather than water resistant. This may or may not be a problem, but I’d prefer if the zip was water resistant or better protected.

I’ll be interested to see how breathable the NanoPro membrain is. If it turns out to be as breathable as the claims, then I might use them outside summer, particularly the overtrousers. At 166g and 169g for the jacket, they are incredibly light and first impressions are favourable.

Disclosure: both these items were purchased with my own money and I have no relationship with either Marmot or the retailer that I purchased them from.

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