Exped Flash Pack Pocket mod

Great pack though it is, the Lightwave Ultrahike 60 lacks a mesh stash pocket on the front. A while ago I bought an Exped Flash Pack Pocket. I haven’t used it because I wasn’t that happy with the attachment system. Unadjustable elastic with open hooks is a bit Heath Robinson for my liking. Initially I used some glove hooks instead of the open hooks. However, I’ve come up with a better solution using side release linelocs.

Here’s the pocket in position. As you can see, it fits the Ultrahike nicely.

At the top, in the centre, I’ve used a small carabiner which is hooked on to a grosgrain loop (one that I sewed earlier for a shock cord attachment that goes over the top of the snowlock). This stops the pocket slipping down and makes it easier to put gear into.

At the top, on the sides, I’ve used a combination of a glove hook, which attaches to a loop on the pack, and a side release lineloc for quick release and adjustment.

At the base there’s no convenient loop, so I sewed a grosgrain loop on the hip belt stabiliser with a side release lineloc. This system has two advantages over the original elastic and hook system.

Firstly, the linelocs are adjustable, so the pocket is more secure and can be fine tuned for different loads. Secondly the side release linelocs can also be more quickly and easily released and re-engaged.

One of the nice things about the Flash Pack Pocket is that it can be reversed. On one side it is mesh, better for drying. On the other side, it is solid, better for rainy weather. With this system it is very quick to flip around much easier to re-engage securely.

I’m very happy with the way this has worked out. Anyone with a modicum of sewing skill could copy this if they wanted to.

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Mending Mariposa mesh

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa rucksack is starting to get a bit battered. On the Challenge I ripped the rear mesh pocket on the first day, ducking under some fallen trees. I effected a temporary repair with some Tenacious Tape. However, I wanted something more permanent.

I asked Paul of Tread Lite Gear to make me a patch from an offcut of dyneema grid stop fabric to sew over the top of the tear.

The first thing to do was to sew up the tear. Not the neatest of jobs, but it should hold.

Next I folded the patch over both sides of the tear and secured temporarily with some small clips. I stretched the top of the pocket with a ruler. Then I tacked the four corners with a few stitches. Lastly, I sewed the four sides. This was a pretty fiddly job. Stretch mesh is not the easiest base to sew on. With a bit of patience, I did a reasonable job.

I think the result is pretty good and has rescued my favourite pack. While I like mesh pockets, they are definitely a weak spot on many packs and not easy to repair. I think pack manufacturers should give a bit more thought to having more robust mesh.

TGO Challenge 2018

Unfortunately I won’t be applying for the 2018 TGO Challenge. My wife’s health is too fragile for me to be away for such a long time. Hopefully I’ll be able to do a shorter trip to Scotland to overlap with the Challenge and meet a few reprobates.

Recent freeze dried meals

I confess I really ought to freeze dry my own meals, but I’m a useless cook and lazy. So I fall back on ready prepared meals. It’s a huge shame that Fuizion Food is no longer trading as they made the best freeze dried meals I’ve tasted by a country mile. Over the past few trips, I’ve been trying other brands, so here’s a quick summary of meals I’ve eaten.

Blå Band Skinnarmo’s Pasta Carbonara: my favourite Blå Band meal. Very tasty with a slight spicy/savoury edge to it. The meat pieces are a bit small and don’t really add to it. Might taste a little salty for some people but I really like it. The pasta hydrates well and the Blå Band sachets are the best designed with clear fill markings, instructions and the pack is easy to access with a spoon (unlike taller ones).

Blå Band Pasta Bolognese: not quite as good as the Pasta Carbonara, but still tasty. Has a good tomato flavour and a slightly spicy edge. Another good one.

Blå Band Creamy Pasta with Chicken: not bad although slightly bland. I would buy again but might add a bit of mature cheddar to add some more flavour.

Blå Band Goulash: I wasn’t that keen on this one. Because it’s potato based it was quite sloppy and doesn’t feel as filling as a pasta dish. It was quite spicy but I didn’t really enjoy it. One that I won’t order again.

LYO Expedition Beef Stroganoff: liked this one. The “noodles” are more like pasta pieces. The meat is identifiable as meat. It has quite a subtle taste. I recommend the large size portion. The sachet is not as well designed as the Blå Band ones, but is wider than some makes.

LYO Expedition Penne Bolognese: again, very pleasant with a fairly subtle flavour. Good meat pieces and satisfying. I had the large portion.

Summit to Eat Salmon and Broccoli Pasta: I’ve not tried Summit to Eat before, but was pleasantly surprised. The salmon pieces were a bit small but I liked having some broccoli to bulk it out. The taste was slightly bland and could do with being a bit saltier, but was pretty good.

Mountain Trails “Food on the Move” Minced Beef Dinner: I had low expectations for this one as the other two meals I’d had from Mountain Trails were a bit bland (beef risotto and spaghetti bolognese). However, I really liked this one. There are two pouches to rehydrate, one with minced beef and one with mashed potato. The mash was creamy and buttery and the mince was tasty and savoury. To start with I kept the pouches separate to eat, but half way through I put the mince in with the mash. I really liked this meal as a change from pasta. It’s a shame they don’t do other mash based meals. I might investigate some more widely available mash potato and add some meat and sauce.

Mountain Trails “Food on the Move” Porridge and desserts: normally when backpacking, for breakfast, I have granola, nut and fruit bars. However, at home, I’m a porridge man. As an experiment, I tried these porridge sachets. While they are very good, they are quite expensive. I’m tempted to make my own but I’m not sure I want to be making porridge in the mornings. I’m happy with bars and a cup of tea. Perhaps in winter, I might have a hot breakfast. The desserts are good too, if a bit sugary. Again, I’m not sure I need a hot dessert and I’m happy with dried fruit (dates or mango are my favourites). Hot breakfasts and desserts all use up extra fuel too. I think I’ll reserve them as occasional treats.

The Blå Band, LYO and Summit to Eat meals were purchased from Base Camp Food. Food on the Move was purchased from Mountain Trails. I have no affiliation with either company.

MSR Guardian Water Purifier

Back in June when I was in the Lakes and in September on Dartmoor, I used the MSR Guardian water purifier. You can find all the technical details on the MSR website. Hitherto, I’ve been using the Sawyer mini filter, which is very light and easy to use. The main draw back is the slow filter rate and its susceptibility to clogging. Admittedly, backwashing with the provided syringe is quick and easy to cure clogging.

A couple of people I know have started using the MSR Guardian water purifier. On the Challenge I was given an impressive demonstration of the ease of use and impressive flow rate. The other attraction is that it’s a much more stringent purifier than the Sawyer, filtering out pretty much everything except chemicals. The downside is it is quite heavy (c.500g dry and 600g wet) and bulky.

However, I reckon it’s a good choice if you’re concerned about water quality. I’ve always been wary about small pools of static water and areas where there might have been contamination by animals or humans.

For instance, when I was on Dartmoor in September, camping at Taw Marsh, there were a lot of cattle and sheep roaming free. Even with freely running water, it’s not possible to know whether it is contaminated with faeces or not. Personally, I’d rather not take a chance. With the Guardian the chances of getting anything nasty are basically zero because it will filter out even viruses.

Some tarns in the Lake District are contaminated with human waste. At least with the Guardian you can be sure that you won’t catch anything. You can even filter water from puddles and be confident. To a degree, this can offset the extra weight of the Guardian as you can utilise any small source of water, obviating the need to carry extra water. This might be particularly useful for high camps, where you can use small pools/puddles which would be difficult with many other systems.

Two other features make the Guardian an attractive purifier. It is self cleaning, so there’s no mucking about with backwashing. It is also freeze proof, unlike the Sawyer filter, so you don’t have to worry about it in colder months.

I found it really straightforward to use. The long hose means it’s simple to put in any water source. Pumping was easy and the flow rate was impressive. The bottom of the pump mates with Nalgene bottles and “cantenes”. I use a 1L HDPE bottle and an 3L collapsible cantene/bladder. While there’s next no no leakage after use, I stow the Guardian in an Exped dry bag as the hose and pre filter remain wet.

All in all, I think this is a great bit of kit if you want absolute certainly that the water you’re using is potable (as long as you avoid chemical contamination). Obviously there is a weight penalty, although if there’s more than one of you, it soon becomes very weight efficient. For a group of people, it’s a no-brainer with the security and rapid flow rate. I will still use my Sawyer filter where water quality is better and weight is a consideration. For the rest of the time, the Guardian is my choice, especially if water sources are dubious. It is very expensive relative to other filters, but should last a lifetime.

Disclaimer: I bought this with my own money and have no affiliation with MSR

dhb Windslam Stretch Cycling Gloves Review

I’m lucky as most of the time I don’t need to wear gloves as when I’m walking I seem to generate enough body heat to keep my hands warm. However, there are times, especially when it’s windy when I need a pair of gloves. The trouble with most gloves is they are either too hot to wear for any length of time or they aren’t windproof enough. I find that gloves with a full windproof membrane often become too warm and sweaty. Most of the time simple thin fleece liner gloves work well, but when it’s windy they don’t provide much protection.

Enter the dhb Windslam Stretch Cycling Gloves. These are simple thin, stretchy  fleece cycling gloves with a silicone pattern on the palms and fingers for grip. However, the back of the glove, including the fingers but excluding the wrist is made from windproof fabric. This is ideal as the back of your hand is most exposed to wind when using trekking poles (and cycling). The lack of a membrane on the inside means that heat can dissipate and there’s less likelihood of over heating and sweating.

I used a pair for the first time in seriously windy conditions in the Brecon Beacons and found they worked really well. Unlike other gloves I have used, my hands stayed at a comfortable temperature and I didn’t have to keep taking them on and off to be comfortable. The silicone stripes gave a good grip on my trekking poles too. There’s not much else I can say other than they worked perfectly.

Disclosure: I purchased these gloves with my own money and have no affiliation with the manaufacturer or retailer.

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