A few weeks ago I took delivery of an Alpkit Morphosis jacket. Do I really need another jacket? Probably not! However, the Morphosis looked an attractive hybrid between a windproof and a light soft-shell jacket. While the main body has a grid fleece backing, the sides are unlined. I thought this looked an interesting way of regulating body heat. I’m a great fan of grid fleece, which I find more comfortable than conventional fleeces. I’ll have to wait until warmer weather to see how this works.
The jacket fit is just right to layer over either a base layer or a base layer and another top/fleece, yet trim enough to layer under a waterproof. The arms are reasonably long and terminated in a part elasticated cuff. There are two hand pockets and a chest pocket. The hood is quite generous and is part elasticated but has a drawstring at the rear. It is too big for me, so I’ve made a couple of tucks, which you can see in the lower picture, to make it fit round my face more effectively. The weight for a medium is spot on at 325g. More details on the Alpkit website.
My cupboard clearing exercise a few weeks ago unearthed another gem: the Montane Superfly jacket. Back in the good old days, front zips were protected by storm flaps. Nowadays, it’s increasingly rare to find jackets with proper storm flaps. The vast majority have water “resistant” zips, most of which are prone to leakage. The Superfly takes no chances with a double flap secured by Velcro.
It’s not SUL, but not too heavy at 429g (L). I’m a bit disillusioned with very lightweight waterproofs. I had a look at my OMM Cypher eVent smock the other day and noted that it is delaminating in a couple of places. The Superfly seems to be in perfect condition and the material is noticeably more robust. Outside of summer, I think I’ll be using it again.
Out of interest, I thought I’d look for other jackets with front zips protected by storm flaps. There are the ME Kongur and Rab Bergen jackets, but both are a bit on the heavy side and more mountaineering jackets than walking jackets. The Marmot Precip jacket has one and is decently light, but I’m not a huge fan of Marmot hoods.
The other jacket that looks interesting is the Berghaus Lite Trek Hydroshell. At around 430g, it’s a similar weight to the Superfly. It has four pockets (a bit overkill) and unusually for a European jacket, it has body venting zips. It also has reinforced shoulders and hips, so should wear well. The breathability specs for Hydroshell are similar to eVent. It looks like Berghaus are discontinuing it, so it is being discounted and looks good value. I’m tempted to get one as pretty soon it will be impossible to get a jacket with proper waterproof zip protection.
I was clearing out one of our wardrobes yesterday and I came across some treasure: a Paramo Viento jacket, Cascada trousers and some Rohan Superstrider trousers. I knew I had them somewhere!
I had forgotten what an excellent jacket the Viento is, especially for colder weather. With arm vents, waist vents and huge chest pockets, it has great venting. The roll away hood is excellent. A deep collar means you can tuck your chin out of a cold wind. It’s long enough to cover your backside and go well below your waist. The sleeves are long and the overall cut is a touch baggy, great for layering. I’ll give it a good wash and proof and it will be like new in no time.
Looking at the current range of Paramo jackets, personally, I think I prefer their older jackets. The Viento is an excellent design. My favourite is the Vasco, which has a slimmer and shorter cut with a floating yoke on the back for venting. I like the old style Velez too, with a detachable hood. We mustn’t forget the weird and wonderful 3rd Element jacket either.
That’s not to say the new jackets are bad. The Quito is pretty good (although there are some tweaks I’d make if I was being critical). One area where the old jackets win hands down is colours. The old cobalt blue is my favourite (Vasco and Velez). The Viento is a rather attractive Smoke Blue, while I’ve got the 3rd Element in a nice Red and Grey. The modern jackets have a very strange mix of colours and I wouldn’t be seen dead in most of them.
I had completely forgotten about the Rohan Superstriders. These are serious winter trousers, if a bit over stuffed with pockets. Nonetheless, I’ll probably take them on my next trip. I was hoping to go to the Lakes this week but weather and a leak in the roof meant I’ve postponed until January.
After a lot of thought, I’ve bought a Personal Locator Beacon. PLB’s are simple devices which alert the rescue services if you need rescue and evacuation. There are no bells and whistles. It simply sends a signal to the relevant SAR centre and they alert rescue teams. There’s a short explanation here.
The rescueME PLB1 is probably the smallest and lightest PLB on the market, weighing 113g on my scales. Battery life is seven years. It has self test functions to make sure it’s working without alerting SAR. To call help, it simply requires extending the aerial and pressing one button. It sends a signal for about 24hrs and SAR can home in on it. There’s a sturdy flap to prevent you pressing the help button accidentally. More details can be found here.
The beauty of a PLB is that it has no subscription, although it is a one shot use and you have to send it back to the manufacturer for a new battery after use. I looked at SPOT and Delorme, but decided that they were too sophisticated for my purposes. I’m not bothered about tracking and communication when I’m out in the wilds, but like the idea of a safety net if I break a leg and there’s no mobile signal. A PLB is ideal for Scotland, for instance.
The PLB1 comes with a soft case, a lanyard and a clip housing. I’ll probably just put it in a rucksack pocket and hope I never have to use it. If you’re a kayaker, the PLB1 doesn’t float so you’d probably want to consider some alternatives. For backpackers it looks an ideal unit, compact and lightweight.
In the UK, you are obliged to register your beacon with the Epirb Registry, which you can do either on the paper form provided or, as I did, online. It’s a simple and painless process that took a couple of minutes. If you backpack on your own in remote areas with no phone coverage, it’s a no brainer. Mine cost £179.
I twisted Paul’s arm to make me a shoulder strap roll top camera pocket in cuben fibre hybrid fabric. I’ve been using a bulky Berghaus camera pocket on my Lightwave Ultrahike for a while (the Lightwave won’t accept hip belt pockets). It worked ok but was a bit awkward. This is much more slimline and elegant.
My Sony RX100 fits perfectly into it. It is secured by two elastic straps and a slik clip. I’ve had to sew a grosgrain loop onto the Lightwave shoulder strap as there’s no daisy chain. I’m really pleased with it. It doesn’t swing around like the old Berghaus one and access is easier as it has no padding and liner. It is fully taped so should be pretty waterproof although not immersion proof.
Paul has made eight for sale on his eBay shop. They are a bit fiddly to make, so they are unlikely to be a regular item. If you’re looking for a rucksack strap camera bag, it’s well worth considering.
Disclaimer: I have no financial relationship with TLG and bought this item with my own money.
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.
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.