Arc Blast broken

IMG_1154(2)A few days ago I was playing about with my ZPacks Arc Blast and I broke one of the buckles that tensions the mesh back panel. It was my own fault. I pulled too hard. I’ve sent it back to Joe to get fixed. He’s going to put the new linelok tensioners on, which should be stronger. The good news is that it happened at home, not on a trip.

Tramplite and Solplex

Ben from the Trek-Lite forum asked whether we could meet so he could have a look at my new Tramplite shelter. We both live on the edges of Epping Forest, so I selected a suitable spot half way between us.

Ben brought along his ZPacks Solplex so I could have a look. It’s a nice little shelter. It’s very light at just over 400g. For fast and light trips using relatively sheltered pitches, it looks good. There’s a decent amount of space inside too.

However, I don’t think I’d be getting one. I prefer the Tramplite, despite being 250g heavier. The Tramplite is roomier and I prefer having a seperate, solid inner. Even though it was only the second time I’d pitched it, it’s very easy to get a decent pitch. It’s also very solid, so I’m confident it will be a good shelter in foul weather. Ben was impressed by it too. Here’s some pictures.

Tramplite

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Tramplite and Solplex

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Solplex

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Tramplite Shelter – first look

On Thursday, a parcel arrived in the post. It was my eagerly anticipated Tramplite shelter from Colin Ibbotson. Tramplite shelter sounds too ordinary, so I’ve christened it the “IbboMid”. The IbboMid is a lightweight cuben fiber double skin tent that Colin has been refining over the past year or so after his treks in New Zealand and Scandinavia.

A handful of backpackers asked Colin if he would make some shelters and fortunately for us, he agreed. This is not a commercial venture for Colin as his main focus is doing long distance walks. This year he is doing the Continental Divide Trail in the US. He’s making these tents in the fallow period over the winter.

The first lucky recipient was Andy Howell. My IbboMid is the sixth and has a couple of improvements from the first iteration. Colin reckoned it would weigh about 670g. However, when I put it on the scales it was an amazing 652g!

IMG_1135(2)It came in a neatly rolled in a cuben fiber stuff sack.

IMG_1136(2)With great excitement, I took it into the back garden to pitch it.

IMG_1137(2)It’s very easy to pitch, easier than my Duomid. I set the trekking pole to 125cm, pegged the rear two corners, inserted the trekking pole and loosely pegged the front guy. Then I pegged the front two cormners. Lastly, I pulled out the rear pegging point, pulling it tight, then tensioned the front guy. All it took then was a bit of further tensioning all round and I acheived a pretty good pitch first time.

IMG_1138(2)I used a piece of Tyvek from my Scarp as a groundsheet protector to stop the groundsheet getting muddy. The fit was pretty good. Attaching the inner was very simple. The four corners have shock cords which attach to the corner pegs. Next, there are shock cords part way up the inner on the four corners that attach to the fly. There are a further two on the rear wall. Then the apex has an adjustable shock cord with a toggle that mates with a loop at the apex of the fly.

IMG_1142(2)It was incredibly simple to get a good pitch. The inner looked pretty good too. The inner is quite spacious, measuring 255cm x 75cm. By comparison, it’s marginally narrower than the Scarp, but longer. The inner also has a horizontal zip at the rear to access a decent amount of space in the V of the rear wall of the fly. It’s certainly big enough for either a rucksack or boots and cooking gear or wet clothing.

IMG_1140(2)This picture gives an idea of the rear storage area. It also shows how taut the pitch is.

IMG_1139(2)It’s quite an aerodynamic shape and should shed wind well. With the front and rear tensioned, it feels very solid with next to no pole movement.

IMG_1143(2)The quality of the workmanship is very high. As you might imagine, I’ve added some tweaks. I’ve sewn a grosgrain loop at the apex of the inner so I can hang a torch or lantern. I’ve added some zip pulls on the zippers. I’ve also added so mini cord grips on the inner door tie backs. I find cord grips and loops easier to use than simple ties. These tweaks have added a massive 3g to the weight.

Of course, it’s impossible to make a proper judgement after one pitch in the back garden, but the IbboMid looks very promising. If it lives up to my first impressions, I can see that it will become my first choice tent. It looks to have the stormworthiness of the Scarp, but is the lightest shelter that I own. That seems like a winning combination.

Disclosure: The IbboMid was purchased with my own money and I have no relationship, financial or otherwise with Colin Ibbotson.

Bushbuddy Ultra

The whole wood burning stove craze of a few years ago rather passed me by. However, watching a few videos on Sarek and the PCT made me think that for wilderness treks, a wood burning stove is a very useful bit of gear.

A few weeks ago, someone advertised a Bushbuddy Ultra for sale on OM. Now, the Bushbuddy Ultra is no longer made (although there is a clone available). So I felt this was an unmissable opportunity to buy what is probably the finest lightweight wood burning stove there is.

IMG_1129(2)Included in the price was a Tibetan 1100 titanium pot, into which the Bushbuddy Ultra fits perfectly.  Also included was a fire steel and some Hamaro tinder card (although I actually have a fire steel and some Hamaro anyway).

IMG_1130(2)Both the pot and the Bushbuddy were wrapped in a plastic bag to keep soot from soiling the pot bag or the inside of the pot.

IMG_1131(2)It’s a bit like one of those nesting Russian doll sets!

IMG_1132(2)The Ultra is in mint condition with no dents. Although the metal is quite thin, it feels robust. Having said that, it would be easy to damage if you are careless. The workmanship is first class.

IMG_1133(2)The weights are 138g for the Bushbuddy and 148g for the Tibetan pot. Reading around the reviews of the Bushbuddy, it needs to be shielded from the wind. I do have a folding Aluminium windshield, which looks ideal, weighing 186g. So the complete set up weighs 472g. For flexibility, I think I’d take an Evernew meths burner (35g). This would bring the total weight to 505g. The meths burner fits neatly into the pot support.

IMG_1134(2)At the same time I’ve added to a Wenger Evo 18 Swiss Army Penknife to my collection. This has a mini saw blade, which will be useful for sawing wood if needs be.

I’m looking forward to using the Bushbuddy in the summer. I don’t think it’s really a stove I’d want to use outside summer as it can’t be used in a tent porch in bad weather.

It’s also dependent on being able to find suitable fuel. Nevertheless, it appeals to the boy scout in me and I can see that I might use it in places like Dartmoor. In true wilderness areas, I can see that it would be very useful indeed.

There’s a lot of high quality second-hand gear appearing on various forums etc., so it’s worth keeping an eye open for bargains. Who knows, I might sell some of my surplus gear!

Duomid tweaking

IMG_1127(2)I copied these ideas from Colin Ibbotson’s new shelter (see here for some pictures from Andy Howell’s blog). Essentially I’ve mimicked the apex guys and the detatchable guys on the door.

IMG_1124(2)On the door panels, instead of the static lineloks, I’ve added some side release lineloks. I canabalised these from my Laufbursche hip belt pockets (they are also available from ExtremTextil). The advantage of these quick release guys is that it is that both door panels can be secured and that either one can be opened quickly, without having to unhook the guy from the peg.

IMG_1128(2)The apex guy is double ended (like Colin’s), secured at the top by a small karabiner and underneath the vent by another side release linelok.

IMG_1126(2)This means the guy is adjustable from inside the shelter and is easily removed without the hassle of unthreading the linelok.

IMG_1125(2)The reason for using an apex guy is that the structure relies on the door guys to ensure an even tension of the shelter material. Once one or both door panels are undone, the structure “relaxes” and loses its tautness. The apex guy prevents this by ensuring that the back panel remains under tension from the opposite pull of the guy.

IMG_1123(2)Even with the doors secured, the centre pole is more secure at the apex and has less freedom of movement. TBH, you don’t necessarily need to have the double guy arrangement or the side release linelok, you could just secure a single length of cord from the apex loop (either with a karabiner or by tieing it off).

I might experiment with a single length to the side release linelok and with another additional guy to the rear. You don’t need extra pegs either as the additional guys can double up with the exisiting peg out points.

Laufbursche hip belt pocket mod

I like to carry my camera in a hip belt pocket for easy access. However, unless the pocket is padded, the camera is vulnerable to damage when you put a pack down on a hard surface. On my Mariposa, I added a piece of bubble insulation as padding. My Laufbursche hip belt pockets are a bit larger, so I added a piece of closed cell foam cut from a sleeping mat.

IMG_1118(2)I found a piece of foam cut to exactly the right size from some long forgotten MYOG project.

IMG_1119(2)It is a perfect fit. Originally I was going to use a bit of double sided sellotape to secure it. However, it fits so well that I didn’t need to fix it. It also means that I can swap it between left and right pockets if I wish.

IMG_1120(2)My Sony RX100 fits perfectly inside the pocket.

IMG_1121(2)There’s enough room that I can fit the camera inside an XXS Exped drybag inside the pocket, if it’s raining.

IMG_1122(2)It closes easily and the camera is nicely protected against any bumps. Simple but effective.

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