Category Archives: gear

Altra King MT 1.5 and rehab

It’s been about four months since I injured my knee and it’s close to being healed. I still get the occasional twinge and I haven’t quite got full flex, but it’s very close. I’ve been doing knee strengthening exercises for the last six weeks or so and they’ve been really beneficial. If you have an injury, I recommend seeing a sports physio to get advice on exercises. I’m planning an easy backpacking trip in September to see how things go. If that’s OK I’ll do a more ambitious one in October.

As part of my rehab programme, I’ve been walking in Epping Forest regularly, usually for about an hour. I’ve had some minor problems with some inflammation in the nerve between my 3rd and 4th metatarsals in my left foot. Nothing serious, just minor discomfort. Seeing some positive reviews of Altra trainers, I thought I’d try some out. The King MT’s appealed to me because of the wide toe box, the tread and the velcro strap across the top of the shoe for extra stability.

Unless it’s really hot and dry, I’m not a trail shoe user for backpacking. That said, I’m really impressed with these. The wide toe box is a revelation and more comfortable than the restrictive toe boxes of most other shoes (I haven’t got wide feet BTW). It certainly helps relieve the nerve inflammation issue as my toes can spread out, as well as improving my balance. The velcro strap looks a bit odd but is very effective in keeping my foot in place. The aggressive sole provides good grip.

Some comments suggest it’s difficult to get used to zero drop, but I’ve found no issues. There’s enough cushioning to protect your feet, but it’s still thin enough that you can feel the ground. However, even on stony ground, pebbles aren’t a problem. I experimented with different footbeds and found that the foam ones supplied with the shoes were the most comfortable.

Overall, I really like them. I shan’t be using them for backpacking unless it’s really dry and not too hilly. I can see why they would be great for trails like the PCT. Altra do a waterproof mid boot version of the Lone Peak, so I might try a pair of those some time, but they are virtually impossible to buy at the moment.

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Alpinelite waist pack number 2

Oh dear! Velimir posted some pictures of a new slightly larger waist pack he had made with a front mesh pocket and a bungee cord for stowing a light jacket or a map case. I cracked and asked him to made me one. The depth has been increased from 5cm on my other waist pack to 7cm. Otherwise the dimensions are virtually the same, approximately 19cm x 10cm. Weight is 50g vs 35g. There’s a key clip inside. The mesh front pocket is stretch mesh with a snap closure and can fit an iPhone 6. The bungee cord is adjustable and will take a light windproof (photo is an Arc’teryx Squamish Hoody M) or waterproof. The webbing belt is slightly wider, 25mm vs 15mm. The material is Dyneema ripstop which is softer and less structured than the XPac of my original pack. The workmanship is first class. Very pleased.

If you are interested Velimir 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.

Photos from Velimir:

Alpinelite waist packi

This little beauty arrived just before I left for Scotland. I’ve been looking for a small waist 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.

Velimir 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.

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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