Category Archives: gear

New Mariposa hipbelt

I didn’t realise until recently that the new style hipbelt for the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is backward compatible with my old style dyneema Mariposa. The new hipbelt has two significant advantages over the old style.

Firstly, the ends of the aluminium stays locate directly into pockets in the hipbelt. This means that the load transfer of the pack to the hipbelt is directly coupled. Additionally, the hipbelt is stiffer and has more padding, both of which should improve both the dynamics and the comfort of the hipbelt.

Secondly, the pockets are larger. In the old hipbelt, the pockets were only big enough for a small compact camera like the Sony WX100. A larger compact like the Sony RX100 was a bit of a squeeze. With larger pockets, it fits with ease. It also means a bit more space for snacks in the other pocket.

The only modification needed in the old Mariposa is to cut a couple of small holes in the channels containing the frame so they can exit the pack body and locate into the hipbelt. It was really easy. One tip is to insert (and then remove!) a pencil into the hipbelt stay pockets as they are quite tight and need to be opened up a bit. I bought my hipbelt from backpackinglight.co.uk . Bob has a useful video on how to fit the hipbelt.

I’ve not given it a full test yet, but my initial impression is that it is a signicant improvement over the old hipbelt.  Here’s some pictures.

Great customer service from Vango

As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t used my F10 Nitro Lite 200 for a while before my recent trip to the Lakes. When I unpacked it to use in Langstrath, the flysheet had stuck to itself and I had to peel it apart. It proved to be still waterproof, but I thought I’d ask Vango customer services whether anyone else had experienced this and whether it was a manufacturing fault.

Within a couple of hours they replied. While the flysheet should be ok, they offered to replace it anyway. It seemed to me sensible to take them up on the offer and my new flysheet arrived on Monday.

This is not the first time Vango have demonstrated excellent customer service. In the past they’ve sent me a repair kit, a new pole and some guy lines. It gives great confidence to buy Vango products, knowing that any issues are dealt with quickly and courteously.

More Camper Van Paraphernalia 

I’ve now had three trips in my camper van. I’m extremely pleased with the van itself. The only downside is that it’s a bit thirsty on fuel. I guess that’s no surprise being four wheel drive with a three litre V6 engine. It’s very nice to drive though, with decent acceleration for a heavy vehicle. 

I’ve been looking for a couple of compact deck chairs. I looked at some Helinox ones but balked at the price. However, I found some almost identical ones on Amazon for a third of the price, so I took a punt. I don’t really like buying cheap copies, but I have to say, these are decent quality. They are decently comfortable to sit in and fold down really small. For a camper van the size of mine, you have to be careful not to have bulky gear otherwise it eats up the storage space. If you’re interested, look up Moon Lence on Amazon and you’ll find them. There are actually even cheaper chairs, but none on Amazon Prime. 


I was so impressed with the chairs, that I bought a folding table as well. Again, I am impressed with the quality. It will certainly be civilised to be able to sit outside quaffing a (non alcholic) cocktail and munching a few select morsels. This table no longer appears to be available, but the are similar ones around. 

Next up is a hose. I’ve not bothered to use the on board water tank as it’s a bit of a fiddle to fill and I’d rather use a 6L Platypus container for drinking water. However, it might be useful to have some running water for washing etc. If you’re on a campsite, you’re going to need a hose to fill up the tank. I’ve been looking at normal hoses, but they are quite bulky. You can get flat hoses, but they are a bit of a fiddle to rewind. Enter the XHose, which I spotted in Robert Dyas. The XHose stretches to three times its original length. It seemed a good solution, so I’ve bought one. I’ve not tried it out, but it looks ideal for occasionally using on campsites. I bought the 50ft one. It’s quite compact for storage. 


Lastly, before my last trip I bought a cheapo windscreen frost protector from Amazon marketplace. It’s a bit like radiator insulation. It lasted one trip before the wind trashed it. Amazingly I found a dedicated screen protector on eBay for an Alphard . It’s much better quality, so hopefully this one will work. It’s not padded, so it won’t insulate, but it should protect from frost, which is primarily what I wanted it for. 

Camper Van Paraphernalia

cushion

As a camper van neophyte, it was obvious after my first trip that I needed some bits and pieces to fully kit out my camper. So here’s what I’ve bought so far (with some hyperlinks to products where appropriate).

Bedding etc.

My camper has leather seats, which are rather sumptuous, but quite cold to sleep on. To give a bit of insulation, I bought some thin CCF tent underlay from Needle Sports and cut to size. To make it even more comfortable I’ve added a fleece throw from John Lewis and some cushions for when I’m lazing around. I pondered whether to have a normal pillow, but decided that a blow up pillow would be more practical, so I got a Sea to Summit Aeros Premium pillow. It also gives me some flexibility to use it if I want some extra comfort when backpacking.

Kitchen stuff

I don’t need pans as I’ve got some Kovea titanium ones that I used to use for backpacking. For when I’ve got electrical hookup, I’ve got a compact 3-cup electric kettle. For when I’m not on hookup, I’ve bought an Optimus camping kettle. I decided that it was better to get disposable picnic  plates, bowls, cutlery and plastic glasses from my local supermarket rather than a melamine picnic set. However, for mugs, I decided some decent Thermos insulated ones were worth getting. Finally, I wanted a washing up bowl, but thought a rigid plastic one was overkill, so I bought a collapsible Sea to Summit one. To complete the kitchen stuff, I’ve got a collection of dish cloths and scourers.

 Storage, cleaning, heating and safety

For storage, Whambox 9L crates are about the right size to fit under the seats. They are large enough to get a decent amount of stuff in, but small enough to be flexible. For cleaning, besides a dustpan and brush, I bought a compact cordless vacuum cleaner. This is brilliant, not just in the van, but around the house. For rubbish, I got a compact 10L fliptop bin, which fits nicely between the front seats and is small to store away. For the main seating area, I wanted a rug, but couldn’t find any the right size. Then I came across a site selling hallway runners, which was perfect for my purposes. While the van has a heater which runs off the fuel tank, I thought it would be a good idea to have an electric fan heater for when I’m hooked up to electric. It can also be used as a fan without heating. Lastly, for safety, I purchased a small carbon monoxide detector for when I’m using the gas hob.

 Van accessories

I found the steering wheel on the Alphard a bit sticky as it’s plastic, so I bought a cheap leather steering wheel cover. It’s a bit of a pig to get on, but feels much nicer. For my phone, I got a CD slot phone holder. I’ve used one on my other car, and it’s great to have the phone to hand and to be able to patch it into the stereo via a USB lead. Although I’ve got internal insulated screens for the windscreen and side front windows, you get a lot of condensation in cold weather, so I’ve ordered a windscreen insulated snow cover. This should help both with insulation and with not having to de-ice the windscreen. Lastly, I bought some foot well mats to save the carpet getting dirty. I bought some cheapo carpet ones from Halford’s, but they slide about too much, so I may replace them with heavier rubber ones.

I’m sure there’s some other bits and pieces I’m going to need. I’m looking forward to my next trip in mid-December where I’m combining a couple of days in the Lake District with picking up our daughter from university.

Disclaimer: I bought all of the above items with my own money and have no relationship with the companies other than as a customer.

MYOG raincover security strap


I copied this idea from my Osprey rucksack raincover for my smaller Exped raincover. It only took a few minutes to do with some grosgrain, a glove hook, a side release line lok and some shock cord. It works really well to make the raincover fit better and makes it secure against flying off in a strong wind. Simples.

MYOG ULA Ohm removable shock cord top straps

IMG_2045

Yet another tweak on the ULA Ohm. Two removable shock cord top straps. Very easy to do, I used two side release cord locks and two glove hooks with some shock cord. The trouble with a single webbing strap is that anything attached is a bit unstable. The shock cord stabilises a tent or stuff sack. They are removable if they are not needed. I’m looking forward to using my modified Ohm. Unfortunately, there won’t be an opportunity until the end of June.

IMG_2044

MYOG rucksack shoulder strap pads

I’ve been making again!

image3
Many moons ago, I made some shoulder strap pads for my Golite Quest pack mid trip because the straps were bruising my collar-bone. While I didn’t have any real problems on Dartmoor with soreness from the Exped Thunder, the straps are a bit thin for my liking. They also wick water badly when it’s raining. If you’re wearing Paramo, this wicks through under pressure. An impervious shoulder pad should get rid of this issue. Thus, the shoulder pad has a dual use.

image2

It was very easy to make. I used a cutoff of a closed cell mat, some Velcro and some Duck tape. Originally I was going to just stick the Velcro on, but I thought sewing it would be more secure. I used wide stitches to avoid pulling through the foam. If I were to do it again, I think I’d sew it onto a strip of grosgrain.

image1

On the flip side, I used a length of Duck tape to secure the Velcro strips.

image4

Despite not being shaped, they fit neatly underneath the shoulder straps. Using Velcro means they can be attached without unthreading the harness, unlike the ZPacks version. It also means it’s very easy to reposition the pad. I’m pleased with the outcome.