Category Archives: Modding

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…

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!

Atom Packs Mo 50L and Roo

There’s a bit of a story to this pack. In December, I mailed my Mariposa to a friend to convert the top to a drawstring closure with a Y strap. Parcel Force lost it in the Christmas rush so I made a claim in January (it was insured) and ordered the Mo as a replacement. Late February, my Mariposa was returned to me claiming that it hadn’t been collected from the depot, which was a joke as my friend had phoned them to find out what had happened to it and gone through the Parcel Force complaints procedure. What a farce!

Anyway, by the time I got my Mariposa back, my Mo was being made. The 50L has a capacity of 45L in the main body and 5L in the side pockets. I chose VX21 fabric in grey, with two shoulder strap pockets and two hip belt pockets. At the same time I ordered a Roo waist pack. Details on the Atom Packs website.

The quality of the workmanship is superb. Faultless. The VX21 material feels very robust and is waterproof, so there will be no need for a pack cover. The back panel is tough 500D nylon. I’m impressed with the robust feel of the mesh, which feels much more sturdy than most, so hopefully it will be more resistant to snagging. The side pockets are a good size and tents and bottles fit easily.

I like a Y strap at the top as it’s more secure when stowing things on top of the pack. The hip belt has two adjusters on either side, which gives a great fit. Load lifters on the shoulder straps mean the fit can be dialled in and the pack hug your back better. The hip belt pockets are a good size. I’ve added zip pulls as the metal ones are quite small. I love the stretch shoulder pockets.

The frame sheet has a single strut firmly secured on an HDPE sheet with a separate foam spacer. I bent it a little more to give it more curvature. It works very well and the overall carry of the pack seems good (I won’t know for sure until I use it).

As you can imagine, I’ve already made a mod! I’ve sewn a couple of grosgrain loops on the inside and added a glove hook. Together with some thin shock cord, it I can secure a piece of folded thin foam mat inside the pack. I always take some to boost a sleeping mat and as insurance in case of puncturing an air mat.

I packed the Mo and the Mariposa with sleeping bags to make a quick comparison. The Mo is definitely a bit smaller. It’s about 3-4cm narrower and maybe 1-2cm less in depth. Additionally, the Mariposa has more volume in the pockets.

I also bought a Roo waist pack. Again, it’s superbly well made. It’s a little larger than the two Alpinelite belt packs I own. It has a handy organisation sleeve inside. It should be great for a camera and a few bits and pieces. The outer mesh pocket should be handy for a snack bar or two. I added a zip puller as, again, the metal one is a bit small.

Weights are c.950g (inc. pockets) for the Mo and 70g for the Roo. Overall, these are both very good products. The Mo should be great for most trips where bulkiness of gear and food is not an issue. For me, I suspect the Mariposa would still be my choice for something like the TGO Challenge as it has a bit more volume for food and gear. Having said that, the Mo would certainly work with some careful planning. It’s good to see small British companies like Atom Packs and Valley & Peak producing such high quality specialist products.

Disclaimer: I bought these products with my own money and have no relationship with Atom Packs

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.

Lightwave Ultrahike pocket protectors

The Lightwave Ultrahike is a pretty robust pack. However, the side pockets are made are made from a stretchy mesh which is vulnerable to snagging. To protect the mesh I asked Craig, who helped mend my Mariposa pack, to make a couple of pocket protectors that I could sew on. Yesterday I plucked up courage to sew them on. They were a little tricky to attach, especially the bottom corners. With a little patience, I think they’ve come out well. It’s a shame that Lightwave don’t use more robust mesh or solid material, but at least my pack should last a good deal longer now.

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.

Exped Flash Pack Pocket mod

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.

GG Mariposa new shoulder strap webbing


I visited my mum today. She is an ace seamstress and I persuaded her to replace the webbing on the shoulder straps of my Gossamer Gear Mariposa. Sometimes the webbing has slipped under tension, so I replaced it with a coarser weave webbing, which shouldn’t slip. Very pleased with mum’s sewing. Took about five minutes. 

Fleece zip guard

  
My Western Mountaineering Ultralite is a great sleeping bag but it has one design flaw. When the zip is fully closed, the draught baffle doesn’t fully cover the zip puller. Consequently, if you’re lying on your side, sometimes you get a cold zip puller dangling on your cheek. To prevent this, I’ve added a short fleece zip guard. Not the neatest bit of sewing, but hopefully it will work. 

This is an issue on most of the sleeping bags I’ve owned. On the WM Highlite, I’ve added a zip baffle. On my Alpkit Pipedream and Cumulus Quantum, I added a snap closure. Yet again, you wonder whether gear is tested properly for these little irritations.