Alpinelite waist pack

This little beauty arrived just before I left for Scotland. I’ve been looking for a small belt pack for ages to supplement my Lightwave Ultrahike as it has no hip belt pockets and the split hip belt makes it impossible to fit any. While I can get by without hip belt pockets, it’s nice to have something to store some snacks, a compass or phone (not together, unless you want to wreck your compass!) and other odds and ends. I’ve tried some running waist packs but they are often too large and don’t feel comfortable. Many waist packs are not suitable because of the buckle position, which is best if it’s at the side, so it doesn’t dig into your back when it’s reversed.

Anyway, I spotted on the trek-lite forum that (at)slovhike (Velimir) was making some neat waist packs and asked him to make one for me. A week later it arrived. I specified VX21 material as it’s waterproof and stiff enough to provide some structure. Other options were available. It’s a very simple design with a water resistant zip on the top and a key clip inside. The webbing belt was longer than I wanted, so I trimmed it. I also added a zip pull. Dimensions are approximately 20cm x 10cm x 6cm and it weighs 34g.

The workmanship is first class, on a par with Paul of tread lite gear, which is praise indeed. It’s slightly larger than the average hip belt pocket, large enough to get a decent amount of stuff in, but small enough that you are not tempted to overload it. Sometimes simplicity is best. I found it perfect for what I wanted. Not only was it great when out on the trail, but it was really useful for travelling too.

Velemir is in the early stages of turning this into a business. He’s posted some of his designs on trek-lite and Instagram. While I wanted X-Pac in black, he’s made them in other materials and colours, many of which look really smart. He’s playing about with design variations too, experimenting with a mesh pocket on the front and looking at adding an internal organisation sleeve.

Velimir is working on getting a web page up and running. If you are interested he can be contacted at alpineliteworks(at)gmail(dot)com or through the trek-lite forum, (at)slovhike. You can see more of his work on Instagram (at)alpineliteworks.

Disclosure: I bought this waist pack with my own money. I have no business or financial relationship with Alpineliteworks.

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Oh well

I’ve been to the physio today and I have a grade 1 medial collateral ligament strain in my left knee. Painful but not too serious. I’m having a course of ultrasound treatment and some gentle exercises. Hopefully it will only take 4-6 weeks to recover. I really should have done some strengthening exercises for a couple of months beforehand. Also I should’ve used my Bioskin knee support when I felt a twinge. Hey ho! I’m pretty fed up, especially as the weather has been so good. Unfortunately our little dog, Patch, is not in great shape either, so it’s proving to be a pretty dismal year so far.

Not the TGO Challenge abort

I’m heading home today. After a great Saturday, on Sunday morning I woke with some slight discomfort in my left knee. Trying to walk it off just made it worse and by Sunday lunchtime, it was very sore and seems to be a ligament issue from when I used to play football. I thought I’d got rid of the issue over twenty years ago. I took a taxi to meet my Challenge friends at Gairlochy campsite. It was just too sore to contemplate carrying so the sensible thing was not to aggravate it further and to come home. Unfortunately it’s going to be a long day. I’m afraid this year is turning out to be a bit dismal.

Not the TGO Challenge 2019

I’m not able to participate in this year’s TGO Challenge because I can’t be away from home for more than a week. However, I’m going to have a week in Scotland and will meet with a few Challengers for three days, with two solo days either side. On Friday evening, I’ll get the sleeper up to Corrour for Saturday morning. I’ll take two days walking through Glen Nevis, Ft. William and the Great Glen to Gairlochy. Then over Creag Meagaidh and to Garva Bridge. Lastly, I’ll take the ridge on the northern side of the Spey to Aviemore. It is just under one hundred miles and will take seven days. The weather forecast looks good, so it should be fun.

Dan Durston X-Mid mods

No tent survives long in my collection without a few tweaks. The X-Mid is a great design but I’ve made some minor changes, which I think improves it.

Apex eyelet

Although I don’t think there’s an issue with the tip of a trekking pole rubbing against the apex, it pays to be careful so I’ve added a piece of webbing above the brass eyelet. It’s really easy to do. I only used two stitching point so it has a bit of flexibility.

The picture below shows that the pole tip is now cushioned from the apex material.

Subsequent to doing this there was a post on the Trek-Lite forum about using a rubber grommet http://www.trek-lite.com/index.php?threads/dan-durston-massdrop-x-mid.4960/page-21 so naturally I tried it.  I had to cut the surplus rubber tube off the grommet before using it. It was a bit of a faff to insert and I cut a bit of the collar off on the top side to help. After a bit of gentle persuasion with the end of a pen, I got it to sit correctly.

In the end it fitted perfectly and is a more elegant solution than the webbing, although I left the webbing in place as I couldn’t see the point in removing it. The grommet fits perfectly over the end of both my Leki and Black Diamond poles. It’s an excellent solution and removes any chance of damage from a trekking pole. If you want more discussion or to find out where to get the grommets from, visit Trek-Lite.

Corner shock cord

The corners of the inner tent have non-adjustable cords with a small loop of shock cord attached to the groundsheet. This is absolutely fine but does stretch quite tight and might be an issue on uneven ground.

To make the pitch of the inner tent more forgiving, I replaced the short tie out with a full loop of shock cord. This worked really well and makes the pitch of the inner more flexible and less likely to suffer damage if there is any strain on the groundsheet. One of the corners popped on my Scarp through excessive strain.

3mm corner tie outs

I used some old MLD cord for beefier corner tie outs. MLD cord is more secure than thinner gauge cord and definitely won’t slip in the line lok, unlike some 2mm cord. I’m not saying the cord supplied will slip, but better safe than sorry!

Intermediate pegging points

The X-Mid has intermediate pegging points at either end and the door panel, which are useful for windy weather. However, they are just small webbing loops. I’ve added a loop of shock cord to them and on the end ones, I’ve also added a loop of thin cord to give the option of a firm pegging point.

Additional apex guy line

Using the two external apex guys gives a pretty secure pitch. However, the X-Mid comes with two extra lengths of cord, so I decided to see whether an extra guy on each apex would add to the stability. Dan suggested taking the guys from the pole tips out through the vent opening.

This worked reasonably well, but I also tried using it just inside the door running to nearly the corner of the tent (it’s not long enough to go to the corner peg).

I thought this worked rather well. It adds quite a bit of stability to the trekking pole. It also provides the door panel with a bit of bracing against the wind deflecting if inwards (depending on where you put the peg). Lastly, it gives you an internal washing line.

Temporary door panel guy

Another potential way of cutting down door panel excursion in windy conditions is to use the door tie back loop as an attachment point for a guy. The loop seems pretty solid and it’s easy to attach a temporary guy. Obviously you need to be careful not to over-tighten the guy and distort the tent, otherwise it could cause damage. It’s only intended to stop the fabric from flapping too much. I might add a short shock cord loop as MLD do to the guys on the Duomid to avoid stressing the tent fabric. Most of the time the guy won’t be necessary, but it could be useful in very windy conditions.

I’m looking forward to using the X-Mid in the wild soon, possibly in Scotland in May.

Dan Durston X-Mid first look

My X-Mid arrived on Tuesday, just over a week from being dispatched from the US. I was able to track its progress and pay the customs duty quickly. Total cost including customs was £216.34 which is pretty good value.

Weights: inner tent 281g, flysheet 543g, total 824g. Stuff sack 14g, pegs (8) 68g, 2 extra guy lines 17g.

The quality of the workmanship is first class, possibly the best of any tent I’ve owned. A few people have pointed out some minor flaws on theirs, but as far as I can see mine is perfect.

The next day I pitched it in the garden. It was very easy to pitch, making sure that the fly formed a perfect rectangle as per the instructions on the original video. Inserting the trekking poles was simple. Pulling out the apex guy lines made a virtually perfect pitch first time.

Clipping the inner inside the flysheet was straightforward and that was that! I used the supplied titanium pins as the ground is very dry at the moment but I’d use beefier pegs in the wild like the Easton Golds as the corners need to be pinned down well. Grabbing the top of the trekking poles (I used my Black Diamond ones), the apexes were reasonably solid and overall I think it should be decently stormworthy, although it might flap a bit if the wind hits the door panel square on.

Inside, it’s surprisingly roomy and certainly long enough for me to lie out with no chance of either my head or my feet touching the mesh. The mesh wall at either end is quite steep which is a nice contrast to most mid type shelters. Because it uses two poles and has two apexes, the head room is much better than conventional mids. I love the storage pocket along the ridge line.

In the past I’ve been quite critical of J zip doors, but the J zips on the X-Mid are just right. There’s an opposing door on either side, which means there will always be a sheltered entrance no matter which direction the wind comes from.

I love having two easily accessible porches and they are a good size for storing gear or cooking in. The trapezoidal shape of the inner gives some good storage space at the ends which compensates for the slightly narrow width of the inner (c.70cm). I’m not a huge fan of mesh inners because they are draughty, but one advantage is that it makes the tent feel huge. I still think a solid inner will be better for Northern European backpacking and hopefully one will be available next year.

Above the doors are large vents with struts which can be closed if desired with Velcro. I imagine that condensation will be kept to a minimum under most circumstances. The flysheet material is polyester which has less stretch when wet than silnylon. It feels quite robust. All the seems are tape sealed.

One comment on backpacking forums is that some people were worried about abrasion from pole tips. While the poles tips do protrude a bit, they aren’t under much pressure so should be OK. I tried using rubber tips on the poles, which got rid of the issue. However, there are a couple of other solutions, which I’ll share in another post. Indeed, there are some easy little tweaks which I will pass on. The photos here don’t accurately reproduce the colour which is a light sage colour. Matt Holland has done a couple of good videos on the X-Mid which are worth checking out: https://www.youtube.com/user/OutdoorsMH

Overall, I’m really impressed with the design and quality of the X-Mid. It’s a bit of a shame that it’s only available in batches from Massdrop and that it will be some time before more are available. However, it’s well worth the wait.

Link to Durston Wilderness Equipment: http://durstongear.com/

Link to Massdrop: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-dan-durston-x-mid-1p-tent

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Liathach

I thought I’d share this wonderful video of Liathach by Charlie McCartney. If you’ve not come across Charlie’s videos, I highly recommend them. I love his understated commentary and lack of waffle. So refreshing compared with some of the stuff on YouTube.

another backpacking blog