Category Archives: gear

Mariposa rucksack – Frankenpack edition

WordPress managed to delete my original post on this, so I’ll try to recreate it. As followers of my blog will be aware, I’ve made some changes to my old Gossamer Gear Mariposa. The front pocket mesh ripped on my 2017 TGO Challenge. A friend kindly replaced it with a solid one and at the same time replaced the old shoulder straps with new ones.

I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Over The Top closure. I preferred the drawstring and Y strap closure of the original Mariposa. I persuaded another friend to remove the OTT closure and replace it. I’m very pleased with the result.

It makes the rucksack easier to pack and more flexible with different loads. It gives a little more volume too, which is helpful for longer trips.

The top closure has a Y strap but it is also possible to use a single strap which is useful for smaller loads. I also added a karabiner to further cinch down the load if required.

I’ve also changed the backpad from some tent underlay (from Needlesports) to an evazote mat from Ultralight Outdoors Gear. I’ve saved a bit of weight, 66g vs 120g.

I’m not sure if I’ve blogged this before but I put a bit of fleece (from a dog bed!) in the lumber area which makes it more comfortable in warmer conditions. If it’s raining I usually remove it to stop it getting wet.

Some time ago I also swapped the original hipbelt for the latest version, which is much better.

So there you have it, the Mariposa Frankenpack, my almost perfect rucksack. The only further improvement would be replacing the gridstop fabric with X-Pac. Now if I could persuade someone to do that…

Tarptent Notch Gear Loft

There’s not a lot of storage space in the inner tent in a TT Notch (plenty in the porches) so I used a bit of lateral thinking. I spotted a triangular gear loft from Big Agnes and thought I might be able to adapt it for the Notch ( https://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.c…-tent-accessories-c315/tent-gear-lofts-p13534 )

It fits rather well!

I had to sew a grosgrain loop at the end on the inner tent. I extended two cords to the pole apex glove hooks on the inner. Because the inner ends are secured to the pitchlok apex by elastic you wouldn’t want to put anything too heavy in the gear loft as it would drag the inner down a bit, but it will be handy for lighter items that you don’t want to store on the floor. It doesn’t impede the door either.

Tent pocket

Many lightweight tents either lack pockets or have unsuitable ones. There appear to be no easily available after market ones. I was looking for one for my Tramplite and came across the Montbell UL Paper Pouch, At 6g it’s very light. The grosgrain loops at either end of the zip means that it’s easily attached to an inner tent with safety pins. Using safety pins means minimal damage and flexibility in moving it around. Quite a neat solution, although not cheap!

Hood keeper

Hoods that flap around in the wind can be annoying. It’s surprising how many hooded jackets don’t have some kind of provision to roll them away securely. My Marmot Ether DriClime Hoodie is a case in point. I got fed up with rolling the hood up and tucking it away so I made a simple “keeper” from a piece of webbing and some kamsnaps.

Genius! One end secures around the hanging loop and the other to a kamsnap I put on the jacket. No more flapping hood! Hopefully the pictures below show how it’s done. It would be easy to do on other jackets, although you do need a kamsnaps tool.

Inner tent corner tensioners

If you use an inner tent in a mid style tent like the Tramplite (or Duomid) , it’s often difficult to get the corner seams tight, especially on uneven ground. You often end up with flappy material which can be irritating in windy weather.

On the latest versions of his tent, the Tramplite, the maker, Colin Ibbottson, has put tensioners on each corner to help prevent this issue. My Tramplite is an early version and doesn’t have them.

As yesterday was a rainy day and I was bored, I thought I’d retrofit some to mine. Although a bit fiddly, then are pretty easy to do. You just hand sew some thin grosgrain loops and connect them with shock cord and use a small cord lock as an adjuster.

I’ve not tested them as it’s so wet in the garden at the moment but they should help. It would be easy to retrofit them to any inner tent for a mid. I’m pleased with the result.

Notch Li Mods

No tent is perfect and no tent survives my roving eye for modifications. The Tarptent Notch Li is no exception. Right from the start I want to emphasise that the Notch Li is fine without any tweaks and the changes I have made are from personal preference. So here we go!

New cords: this is something that many people do. On my Scarp and now my Notch, I’ve replaced the cordage at the ends with thicker 2.8mm MLD cord to prevent any slippage. Now, Tarptent say that the cord they supply won’t slip and it is different to the cord that they used to supply with the original Scarp, where I encountered problems. While I have no reason to doubt them, I’d rather be safe than sorry. I’ve also lengthened the cord, although in the picture, I actually think it is too long and will shorten it. I also added a sail ring for the bottom cord to slip through (not obvious from the picture) and a larger pull out loop of cord in case I use a large peg like an MSR Blizzard stake. The Notch (like the Scarp) puts quite a lot of strain on the end pegs so it pays to have substantial pegs at the ends.

Corner loops and kamsnap closure: I’ve added a loop on each corner so the bottom of the PitchLoc struts can be pulled down to the ground on uneven ground. Most of the time this won’t be an issue, but it adds no extra weight and makes sure the PitchLoc ends are absolutely stable. The PitchLocs are the key on many Tarptent tents to their stable structure. As I’ve said before, they are genius! The observant in the congregation will note I’ve added a kamsnap closure at the bottom of the velcro on ventilation flap. While I’m not sure it’s absolutely necessary, it will prevent any chance of a strong gust of wind loosening the closure. I’m a bit of a kamsnap fiend!

Extra door linelok: I mentioned in a previous post that it might be wise to treat the door zip with some care as it is light gauge and could get strained. One way of helping to alleviate this is to add another linelok. If you don’t want to add another linelok, then it would be easy to add a fixed loop to the existing grosgrain loop. However, I added a side-release linlok which means that you can not only adjust the tension but can also release the door panel without removing the cord from the peg. The grosgrain loop is just long enough to loop through the linelok fixing without requiring sewing. Brilliant!

To avoid losing the cord when it’s detached I’ve looped it on to the other door cord, similar to the way Colin Ibbottson has done on the Tramplite. Great idea! In the picture below, you can see that it also means that you can have the door unzipped but still have protection from both panels. I might attach a hook or clip at the base of the door zip as well, but this arrangement takes a lot of the strain off anyway.

Apex cords: at he two apexes I’ve used 1.5mm dyneema cord with Clam Cleat linloks. This arrangement is actually lighter than using 2mm or 3mm cord with the apex linelok. I’ve also made the cord longer. The apex cords are key to a rigid structure and unless camping in a very sheltered place, I’d always use them.

Mid ground sheet pullouts: at the mid points of the inner, there are webbing and shockcord pullouts at the base of the groundsheet to tension the middle of the inner. I’ve added a second pullout point where the groundsheet material meets the body fabric, using a kamsnap to secure it. To make it adjustable, I’ve added a length of thin shockcord which can be looped around a trekking pole handle. This pulls out the inner more effectively than just having a ground level pullout.

Having a kamsnap means it’s really easy to attach and adjust. I should’ve taken a picture inside the inner, but, believe me, it tensions the inner nicely and gives a bit more percieved space in the centre of the inner.

DCF pockets: there are some small pockets by the door but I’ve added a couple of pockets, one at either end. These were originally for my Laser Comp, but I’ve repurposed them for the Notch. Rather than sewing them, I’ve used safety pins to attach them. It’s a shame there’s no larger mesh pockets on the end panels as that would be ideal, especially as there’s very little spare space in the inner for gear.

Roof cord: I’m sure virtually everyone does this, a cord for hanging socks and lights. Mine’s adjustable with a cord lock. I will shorten it a bit.

Pole apex cords: in the picture above, the yellow cord is for a lantern, clothes or a food bag. The orange cord is to secure a trekking pole in “handle up” mode.

Although I bought the trekking pole adapters from Tarptent, they don’t work very well with Leki poles. This arrangement is almost as good and is simpler and lighter. It also means I have the option of tips up or handles up. Both cords are simply looped through the grosgrain at the apex that has the grommet for pole tips in the apex. You can see from the picture that I’ve also added zip puller on the fly door to make it easier to open. I’ve not bothered on the inner.

None of these mods are essential and the Notch Li is a good tent in its delivered condtion. However, for me, I think the mods add a bit to the original design. I hope you find them interesting!

Burbage Gear

A brief overnighter is hardly a good test but I thought I’d pass on some brief thoughts on the new gear I used recently.

Tarptent Notch Li

At around 600g, the Notch Li is astonishingly light for a proper two skin tent. I’ve made some minor tweaks which I will share in another post. It’s extremely easy and quick to pitch. Although you only need four pegs in theory, in practice you need six as the apex guys are needed to give it a robust structure. There was a modest breeze so it was hardly testing conditions but with the apex guys and pitchloc ends it’s a pretty solid structure.

In common with most trekking pole tents, there’s a bit of a gap between the hem of the fly and ground, so it was a bit more draughty than say the Scarp. I guess it’s a bit swings and roundabouts as a bit more air flow helps to mitigate condensation. With a fresh breeze condensation wasn’t an issue anyway. There is a small vent above both doors and the end panels can be opened so there are plenty of venting options.

While I much prefer zipped doors, the zips do feel a little fragile, so I think it would be wise to take care. I have put a side release line lok on either door panel that has just a grosgrain loop so it is feasible in calm conditions to have the zip open (something that Colin Ibbottson recommends on the Tramplite shelter to help with longevity). I might sew a buckle clip at the base of the door too.

In terms of room, the inner is quite compact. There’s not a huge amount of room for gear but it is reasonably long so some stuff can be stowed at either end. A modest amount can be stored at the mid point, but I put most of my gear in one porch. The porches are a decent size, so there is space to store things. The only thing to be careful with is rain might get blown under the fly sheet.

The flysheet seems to be lighter weight DCF than say the Tramplite, but the groundsheet is heavier and feels robust, which seems to be a good compromise. The solid inner fabric is thinner than the stuff they use in the Scarp and has a slight green tinge to it. I like it and wonder how much weight they could save on the Scarp if they used it. As an aside, the solid inner is marginally lighter than the mesh alternative. The inner pockets by the door are ok, but I think they’ve missed a trick by not putting them at the ends.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with it. It feels like a decently robust mountain tent. It has a small footprint, making it ideal for summit camping. At 600g it’s astonishingly light for such a robust tent. The small inner will take a little getting used to, but not a major issue with a decent amount of porch space.

Nemo Tensor Alpine sleeping mat

At 475g the Tensor is 115g heavier than my Thermarest X-Lite, but is slightly larger and marginally warmer. It has a different structure and is less noisy to sleep on. I found it more comfortable to sleep on, partly because it doesn’t taper as much and partly because it feels more supportive. It didn’t deflate at all in the night and the valve makes it much quicker to deflate in the morning. I couldn’t tell any difference in insulation. It packs down small. Overall I like it for the extra comfort over the X-Lite, but it’s not a clear cut winner, just a bit different.

Atom Packs Mo 50

This was the first outing for the Mo. Until I walk a few days with it, I can’t give a definitive judgement, but it feels really comfortable. It just feels right. When packing, it is a little slim compared with my GG Mariposa, and is definitely smaller, so a little more care is needed in packing. It feels very robust. The side pockets are big enough for a tent or two water bottles. The stretch pocket is much more robust than on many packs. I like the rolltop closure and the Y strap.

All in all it’s a really well designed and made pack. I wish I’d bought the 60 for a little more space, but if I’m careful it should be big enough for multi-day trips. The Y strap means that I could put a stuff sack on top to increase volume. My pack weight was around 9kg with water and food and it carried that easily.

Mountain Equipment Kinesis trousers

I changed into these when I had camped and they were brilliant for the chilly weather. They are very light at 220g. The fleecy liner is lovely and soft but not too warm. The thigh vents are useful but I didn’t need them. I slept in them too and they kept me warm in the subzero overnight temperatures. They have a little bit of stretch which makes them great in the tent. They pack down quite small into one pocket.

It’s a shame ME have stopped making them but there are two new versions: one is like tracksuit bottoms and a bit lighter, the other is a heavier weight trouser with reinforcement patches. I prefer mine as they are are a good compromise between a usable and reasonably smart trouser but not overkill.

Dartmoor Sept 2020 gear

I know you like a bit of a gear review, so here’s some observations on the gear I used on my recent Dartmoor trip. Most of the gear was old favourites but some were either new or newish.

Dan Durston X-Mid 1P. This is the first time I’ve used the X-Mid on a multi night trip. I still like it a lot. Although not a high mountain tent it’s pretty stable in a stiff wind. It’s got loads of room in the porches to organise gear. The mesh inner does give a modicum of defence against draughts but I used the Valley and Peak draught screen which worked really well at keeping the draught from my head.

Montane Outflow gaiters. I really liked these. At 130g for the pair, they are very light. They are quite trim and are secured with a velcro strip up the front making them very easy to put on and take off. The fabric seems to breath well. Very pleased.

Patagonia Micro Puff hoody. Surprisingly warm for a light jacket, but apart from the first night the weather was quite mild. It packs down small too. Great for around camp. In colder months I think I’d go for a down jacket though.

Bioskin hinged knee skin https://bioskin.co.uk/hinged-knee-brace-wraparound.html I was worried as to how my knee would hold up. I wore this every day and it was brilliant. It’s surprisingly comfortable and supportive, yet flexible. On the odd occasion I could feel it stopping my knee from twisting. If you’ve got a dodgy knee, it’s one way of protecting it. Highly recommended.

Rab merino 120+ leggings. These are very light at 123g and comfortable to sleep in. They worked well but I’d want something warmer in cooler months. I did miss my As Tucas Sestrals trousers around camp.

Cascade Designs folding table. Luxury but very useful. It won’t suit everyone but I liked using it rather than putting stuff on the ground.

Valley and Peak insulated pouch. Another great bit of gear that can double as an insulation pouch for keeping freeze dried food pouches warm and for keeping electronics from getting too cold at night.

My other stuff was all familiar gear. My modified GG Mariposa was excellent as usual, so was my As Tucas Foratata quilt and Thermarest X-Lite . I took OMM Halo overtrousers but didn’t use them. My Paramo 3rd Element jacket was great as most of the time I used the gilet.

Valley and Peak Ultra Bivy first night

For my last garden camp, I used the Valley and Peak Ultra Bivy with my X-Mid. As many of you will know, the X-Mid inner is all mesh, which is not always ideal in Europe in cold, wet and windy weather. One solution is to use a bivy inner like the Ultra Bivy. You can find some more pictures of my bivy and a description here: https://blogpackinglight.wordpress.com/2020/02/13/valley-peak-double-j-zip-ultra-bivy/

Installing the Ultra Bivy under the X-Mid fly is very easy. I found pegging the individual corners of the bivy rather than using cords to clip to the fly sheet gave a better pitch. I’ve added linelok 3’s at either end which helps with getting the right tension for the apex shock cord. It’s almost as if the Ultra Bivy was made for the X-Mid.

I’ve never used a bivy inner before so I was interested in how it would feel. The bivy itself is only big enough for a sleeping mat and sleeping bag/quilt with a little bit of storage at either end. The large double J zip means the whole roof can be opened up. I was glad of my mod to clip the door back which tidied away the large panel neatly (I’ll do a separate post on the tweaks that I’ve made). N.B. the picture below is from my original post and I have dispensed with the yellow cord on the corners.

With the roof open, the Ultra Bivy is more like a groundsheet tub than an inner. This means that gear needs to be stored in the porches. It’s worth having a small piece of groundsheet or polythene to put your rucksack and gear on. The fact that the X-Mid has two large porches means that there’s plenty of room to store and organise gear.

I was a bit concerned that it might feel claustrophobic when the roof/door was zipped up, but this wasn’t the case. I didn’t feel shut in and it was surprisingly easy to unzip the roof panel to sit up. I used my As Tucas Foratata quilt and found that using a quilt was good as when opening the roof, then sitting up, I could slide the quilt down to the end of the bivy without any material dragging on the ground in the porch. This might be more difficult with a conventional sleeping bag. Because the bivy is relatively narrow and enclosed, it is ideal to use with a quilt as there’s no chance of draughts under the edges.

I used the V&P hood, but didn’t attach it at the apex. This provided enough draught protection but also gave a bit more ventilation and felt less closed in. I’ve added some kamsnaps to the hood for ease of attachment (again, I’ll do a separate post on this). The roof pocket was great for small items like a pack of tissues and phone.

There’s not much else I can say. Overall, I’m really pleased with the Ultra Bivy. Given that there’s no solid inner option for the X-Mid (I’d still like one!), the Ultra Bivy is a good alternative and should work well in cold, wet and windy conditions, where a mesh inner is less comfortable.

Valley and Peak Ultra Bivy: https://valleyandpeak.co.uk/collections/shelter/products/j-zip-ultra-bivy

Disclosure: I have no relationship with Valley and Peak and bought the Ultra Bivy with my own money.