Category Archives: gear

New Tramplite Shelters

Photo courtesy of Colin Ibbotson

Colin has updated his website with two new versions of his DCF shelter http://www.tramplite.com/2018/11/original-tramplite-tarp-discontinued-uk.html. I’ve been very happy with my Tramplite and if you’re in the market for this kind of shelter it’s well worth the wait and the cost for a very high quality product.

Disclaimer: my Tramplite shelter was purchased with my own money and I have no contractual or financial relationship.

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Mariposa Rescue

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa has seen a lot of action over the years. This has taken its toll. On last year’s TGO Challenge I ripped the mesh on the front pocket badly. I tried to repair it with a patch of material but wasn’t very happy with the repair. The foam in the shoulder straps was also starting to collapse. I wasn’t sure what to do so I sent out an SOS on the Trek-Lite backpacking forum to see whether anyone could repair it for me. Step forward Craig who offered to replace the front pocket and the shoulder straps. Yesterday I got it back and what a brilliant job he’s done!

After a bit of discussion, I opted to replace the mesh front pocket with a solid one, which should be a lot more robust. Although it’s not stretchy like the original mesh one, it has a similar volume and some shock cord keeps it from billowing. There’s also some shock cord at the opening. Clearly the downside is that gear can’t dry out in the pocket, but on the flip side, it will allow much less water ingress if it’s raining and I’m not using a pack cover. It should also be practically indestructible.

Craig also replaced the shoulder straps. I actually prefer these to the originals. They are a little thicker and a slightly different shape. Joy of joys, they have a proper daisy chain too. While I’ve not tried the pack with a full weight, just stuffed with sleeping bags, it feels very comfortable.

Overall, I reckon the repairs have made the Mariposa into an even better rucksack than when it was new. I’m really happy with it and glad to have it back in service. Hopefully it should last for a good few more years yet. Thanks Craig.

GramXpert eLite Apex 133 quilt

I bought this primarily to use in my camper van. However, I thought it would also be useful as a summer quilt as it opens up to make a flat blanket. I took it on my Carneddau trip to give it a bit of a test and I was very pleased with it.

I sized up and bought a Wide/Long. I’m glad I did as I think a Regular/ Medium might be a bit constricting. The W/L has plenty of wiggle room, which is important for me as a restless side sleeper. It’s important to be able to rotate within the quilt to keep the fasteners underneath you to prevent losing heat. I’m 1.75m in height and I found it just about long enough to wrap over my head. If you are taller than that, I suggest getting the XL.

Weight came in at 505g without the stuff sack, which was lighter than the advertised 536g. I had the longer foot box zipper (70cm), which I think was a good choice. Indeed, if it had been totally customisable, I might have had a slightly longer zip. The foot box has a simple draw cord with a unique pull closure (see website for details) and worked well. The closure was tight to prevent draughts.

The closure snaps are easy to locate and engage. I might add an extra one between the bottom two. The worry with quilts is always that they might gape when you turn over, but having extra width meant I didn’t find this a problem. There is a neck draw cord with a cord lock. I found this a bit annoying as it tended to dangle in my face, so I’ve cut it off.

The materials are very nice. The outer fabric is smooth and silky to the touch. It’s not quite as nice as the Schoeller fabric used in the As Tucas quilts, but it is lighter. The Apex 133 insulation is soft but resilient and has a decent loft for a synthetic. It feels quite robust too. Pack size is reasonable, although not as compressible as down, obviously.

The Apex filling has very even coverage, unlike down quilts/bags with low down volumes, so there were no cold spots. I think this is an advantage of synthetic fillings over down in very lightweight quilts. Having said that, in my As Tucas Foratata quilt, which has 250g of down, I’ve never had a problem.

The quality of the workmanship is very high. I can’t see any faults in it at all. It was dispatched to me within seven days of ordering and arrived within four days, which included a weekend. I was kept in touch with emails to confirm the order and dispatch.

How did it perform? Overall, it was very good. It’s not as warm as down, obviously. I’m a bit of a cold sleeper and I reckon, for me it’s about a 10c quilt. I found it very comfortable to sleep in and it was nice to open it up to lie under in the evening as a bit of extra warmth. The design is very good, simple but functional. I really like the zipped foot box. If you’re in the market for a synthetic quilt, it’s definitely worth a look. There’s a good range of colours and sizes too.

Photos courtesy of GramXpert website

Disclaimer: I bought this quilt with my own money and have no relationship with GramXpert other than as a customer.

Dartmoor July 2018 gear

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the gear I used on my trip on Dartmoor:

Trailstar/Oookstar nest. I’ve not used the Trailstar for a while. It was nice to have the space that the Trailstar provides. The only real drawback is the constant bending down is a bit of a strain on my back.

Tramplite pack. Superb. Very comfortable. Quite simply one of the best packs out there.

MSR Guardian water filter. I was glad I took the Guardian as the cattle were out on the moor and the water sources at the beehive hut and Taw Marsh both had cattle dung at the water’s edge. I dare say a Sawyer would’ve been adequate but it was nice to have the peace of mind with the Guardian. I also had to filter water for my friend, so it was a lot quicker than a Sawyer.

Railriders Ecomesh trousers. Really nice trousers for summer. The long vents make them a lot cooler than conventional trousers in the heat. Thin but tough material and very comfortable to wear. They look quite smart too. I love them. I bought a second pair. It’s a shame you have to order them from the US, which puts up the cost considerably.

Rab Interval T and Long sleeve shirt. I love these. Thin and silky, they wick sweat quickly and don’t smell. I use the long sleeve around camp and to sleep in at night. The only drawback is being very thin, they are a bit delicate and I caught a thread on the T.

The rest of my gear was all stuff I’ve used regularly for some time.

Olight H2R torch: a warning

Photo: Geoff Crowther

This is not about the Olight H1 torch that I reviewed but about its big brother, the H2R torch. Geoff Crowther was given one to review. While he was positive about the torch overall, he made an unpleasant, potentially dangerous discovery. He briefly placed the torch face down on the floor of the tent and such was the heat and intensity of the light that it burned a hole in the groundsheet of his tent (pictured above). Read about it here.

There are no warnings in the instructions about this, so I feel it’s important to draw the attention of readers to this issue. Now, the highest setting on the H2R torch is an incredible 2,300 lumens. By way of comparison, the maximum on my Zebralight H600W Mk3 is 1,126 lumens and only 500 lumens on the Olight H1.

I’ve run both my torches for a few minutes on a high setting to see how hot they get. The Olight H1 doesn’t appear to get anywhere near hot enough to cause a problem. You can put your finger on the bulb without discomfort. The Zebralight is a fair bit hotter, but still touchable but quite hot. I wouldn’t have any qualms about the H1, but I think I’d exercise a bit of caution on the Zebralight.

I’m guessing that other high output torches are going to start appearing on the market, so the Olight H2R may not be the only one to be careful with. In my view, the Olight H1 Nova is plenty bright enough for backpacking at 500 lumens for the maximum setting. The lower settings are more than adequate. Indeed, second lowest mode is fine for around camp. So, I’m very happy to still recommend the H1 Nova as a backpacking torch/headtorch.

Olight H1 Nova torch

I hardly ever get offered free samples these days. I’m not that bothered as most stuff on offer doesn’t interest me. However, I was contacted by Olight via a friend to see if I was interested in reviewing one of their extensive range of torches.

My interest was piqued by the Olight H1 Nova, which looks like a mini version of a Zebralight. A few emails later and I received an H1 Nova to review just in time to take to Scotland. While you don’t really need such a powerful headtorch for Scotland in May, it gave me a chance to test it.

The H1 Nova comes in a neat little case with a battery, head band and a clip for attaching to a strap. There’s an instruction manual and a leaflet on other products. It looks and feels very well made. Weight is 39g for the torch and 29g for the headband. It uses widely available CR123A batteries and has a maximum light intensity of 500 lumens. There are five lighting modes plus an SOS feature, which flashes a distress signal (details below).

It’s easy to locate the torch into the headband. It’s held firmly in place by some bands and the angle of tilt can be adjusted. The on/off switch is at the bulb end . The various modes are relatively easy to select and explained in the manual. I found it easier to play about and select the modes on the Olight than my Zebralight. Although not as intense as the Zebralight, the highest setting was almost like a searchlight. I found Mode 4 (15 lumens) and Mode 3 (60 lumens) to be the most useful.It was very comfortable to wear as a headtorch and to use as a stand alone torch.

The body is metal and it has a Cree XM-L2 LED bulb. It’s worth mentioning that it is also waterproof to IPX8, (1-3m sustained immersion), so should be plenty good enough for backpacking. The base is magnetic so you can attach it to a suitable metal surface. One caveat for backpackers is that the magnet is quite strong, so you want to keep it well away from your compass!   I am impressed by the build quality.

I did a quick comparison with my Zebralight H600W Mk3 and Petzl Tikka XP at home. On its highest setting, the Zebralight is over twice as bright at 1,126 Lm, but overkill for most purposes. On its second brightest setting, it’s about the same as the Nova. As you can see from the picture, it’s about twice the size.

It weighs 86g for the torch and the headband is 40g. Used as a headtorch, the Nova feels less bulky and cumbersome (not that the Zebralight is at all bad!). The Zebralight uses 18650 batteries (I’ve got rechargeable ones), which are less widely available than the ones used in the Nova. Selecting the various modes on the Nova is easier than the Zebralight too. I still think the Zebralight is a great torch BTW.

My Petzl Tikka XP is the old version. It weighs slightly more than the Nova at 75g (all weights include batteries). It has a maximum brightness of 60 Lm. It’s a great headtorch but it’s definitely been left behind by the Nova, which is lighter, brighter and has more modes.

I really like the Olight H1 Nova and it worked well in Scotland. It combines much of the functionality and brightness of a Zebralight and is lighter than a Petzl Tikka XP. The build quality is high and there’s nothing to fault. My only caveat is the magnetic base. Don’t put it near a compass! To make it perfect, Olight could include a non-magnetic base cap to prevent any accidents.

If you’re interested in buying one, they are available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M7UWGVK . This is not an affiliate link and I receive no money for this link.

Disclosure: I was given the H1 Nova free of charge on the understanding that I have full editorial control over the review and was under no obligation to Olight. I have no commercial or financial relationship with Olight. I never accept payment for reviews and always retain full editorial discretion.