Tag Archives: As Tucas

Deepdale and back: gear chat

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I guess the item that most of you will want to know about is the Tramplite shelter. As I mentioned before, I had some of the worst weather I’ve camped in. The Tramplite performed superbly. It was very solid with no leaks. Cuben is a bit noisier than silnylon, but it doesn’t stretch so the pitch stayed taut throughout the ten hours of rain and wind I endured on Saturday morning.

I think the MYOG A frame is excellent. It makes the Tramplite really solid and access is so much easier than a central pole. The valances were also good. The wind was swirling and the valances prevented the rain from driving under the beak. I’m sure it would have been ok without them, but they were definitely useful.

In terms of pitching, it’s possibly the easiest shelter I’ve had. Peg the rear corners, insert the pole then pull out the front guy. Peg the front corners then the rear. Tighten the front and back, then the corners and the fly is done. It’s really easy to get a nice taut pitch. The inner is simple to attach and easy to get reasonably taut.

It takes a little bit of time to get used to the more restricted headroom compared with the Scarp or Duomid, but it’s not cramped. Lying down, there’s enough length not to have the material in your face and a decent amount of room for gear. The rear storage space was useful for my rucksack and other bits and pieces. This meant I didn’t put as much in the front porch as I might with other shelters.

The workmanship is first class. There are no wrinkles. It’s better than the cuben Duomid. There’s obviously been a lot of thought gone into the design as well. Considering it cost the same as a Hillberg Enan, I think it’s a bit of a bargain.

My rucksack was the Lightwave Ultrahike. This was the first time in three years that I’ve not used my GG Mariposa. Arguably, it was overkill for a two-day trip. However, it reminded me of what a great pack it is. The hip belt makes it incredibly comfortable to carry. It’s a great pack for higher volume and heavier loads.

I’ve bought a number of bit and pieces from Paul at Tread Lite Gear recently. The cuben LED camping lantern was brilliant for providing some light in the evening. The first aid kit pouch forced me to downsize my first aid kit and was just the right size. I also used the polypaq 45L rucksack liner. It didn’t get tested by rain, but is a great alternative to a cuben or silnylon rucksack liner. It’s much cheaper and very light. It’s quite tough as well. In future I think I’ll use these instead of an Exped liner.

In terms of clothing, I took my Arcteryx Squamish windproof and Arcteryx Delta zip fleece. The Squamish is my favourite windproof. It’s very comfortable with good breathability, yet windproof and decently shower resistant. The Delta fleece has a grid pattern, which I think works better than flat fleeces. It’s a nice fit and just the right thickness.

I also used a Berghaus VapourLight zip T base layer. I’m really impressed with its wicking and smell resistance. Of my synthetic base layers, I think the VapourLight ones are the best.

Lastly, I must mention the As Tucas Sestrals insulated trousers. These are so good to put on at the end of the day. Nice and warm when you’re lying around in camp but not too hot. They also give some flexibility for your sleep system if it gets cold. I didn’t need them inside my sleeping bag (my modded Rab Neutrino SL 200 ) as it was quite mild, but great insurance in case it’s cold.

Nothing failed, although my Salomon X Ultra Mids are going to be relegated to dog walking boots as they are getting quite battered and the foam under the forefoot is loosing its resilience. I bought another pair in a sale recently to replace them. They’re great boots.

As Tucas Sestrals 2 Pants

For the past few years, for warm legwear in my shelter or to supplement my sleeping bag, I’ve used a pair of lightweight running tights (Lowe Alpine or Arctery’x) coupled with a pair of wind trousers (Montane Fetherlight or latterly, As Tucas Millaris). These combos have worked well, weighing in total somewhere between 210g to 240g.

Whenever I’ve looked at insulated trousers they’ve looked a bit too warm and heavy. I’m not so keen on down trousers as down compresses when you are sitting or lying down. Also damp could potentially be an issue if the weather is inclement and you need to nip outside.

When Marco revamped the Sestrals Pants using some high tech Schoeller fabric, I thought I’d give them a go. The picture above doesn’t really do them justice. They are superbly made. The fit is trim without being tight. I bought a Medium and I’m a 34″ waist and 30″ inside leg. For me, the fit is perfect.

They are very light at 186g. Wearing them inside, they feel pretty warm, certainly warmer than the running tights/windproof combo. The material has a soft feel with a slight sheen. The hems have some poppers so you can cinch them in to keep out draughts.

I’m looking forward to taking these on the Challenge. They’ll add a bit of warm and luxury at the end of the day when I’m in my tent. They’ll also be good to extend the temperature range of my sleeping bag. I was thinking of taking my WM Ultralite, but now I’ll stick with my Rab Neutrino SL 200. I’ll give some further feedback after the Challenge.

As Tucas Arazas Curtain

IMG_1028.JPG (2)Exciting news. Marco at As Tucas has made my Trailstar door a catalogue product. He’s named it the Arazas Curtain. It can be used with other tarps as well. It’s quite humbling to see one of your ideas make it to production. It’s a shame cuben is so expensive in Europe, but I think it’s a worthwhile addition to the Trailstar for very little weight penalty. Good luck with it, Marco.

Disclosure: I have no formal or financial relationship with As Tucas and do not benefit from the sales of any products.

As Tucas Foratata down booties

bootiesLast but not least in the parcel of goodies from As Tucas was some Foratata down booties. At €60, they compare favourably with similar offerings from the likes of PHD. They weigh 61g for a medium size.

As you can see from the picture, they have good loft. For my size 42 feet, the fit is good. As ever, the workmanship is first rate. I can see that these will be a permanent fixture in my gear list for cooler months.

Disclosure: I bought these booties at full price from As Tucas with my own money.

Equinox Ultralight Bivy bag mod

I bought an Equinox Bivy Bag a long time ago and have never used it. Unfortunately it had a right hand zip whereas all my sleeping bags bar one have a left hand zip.

I asked Marco at As Tucas to retro fit a left hand zip. For €30, he obliged. This only added 9g to the bivy, bringing the weight up to 195g (without the mesh sack).

IMG_1035The bivy bag itself is very simple with a silnylon base and lightweight cordura upper with a good DWR finish, making it decently water resistant.

IMG_1037.JPG (2)The bag is pretty roomy . I’ve put some silicone stripes inside and out on the base to stop slippage.

IMG_1036.JPG (2)I think it’s useful to have zips both sides not just for flexibility, but for ventilation. There’s no bug net, but I think I’d prefer to take an inner tent to protect against insects.

I’ll give it a whirl as a bivy bag, but I think it will also be very useful as a sleeping bag cover to add some extra warmth and damp protection in cooler months.

Marco is always willing to look at modifying existing gear, so if something is not quite right, it’s well worth asking him. He is also considering whether to offer similar bivy bag at some stage.

Disclosure: I paid As Tucas for this modification. I have no formal or financial relationship with As Tucas.

As Tucas Trailstar door prototype

Most of the time, the MLD Trailstar doesn’t need a door. The porch is very deep and provides a lot of protection. However, there are times when a door is useful. Most obviously, a door provides some privacy on a camp site.

A door is also useful to protect from wind driven rain when the wind direction changes. On Dartmoor in April, this happened to me twice. The second time, the wind swung round 180 degrees overnight and blew light rain a surprising distance into the porch.

I do have an OookWorks door, which is very clever but it is a bit fiddly to get right. So I decided to design my own, based on a triangle. I made a mock up out of some old nylon. This enabled me to get the dimensions right as the rough copy was too small.

The next step was to ask Marco at As Tucas whether he would be willing to make one. Very generously, he offered to make one for free as he was interested in adding it to his product line. Yesterday, the postman delivered it.

IMG_1024.JPG (2)It’s a very simple design. It’s a triangle of cuben fibre with a grosgrain loop at the apex and line lok tensioners and cord at the two base corners.

IMG_1028.JPG (2)Using it couldn’t be simpler. Attach to the Trailstar door apex using a mini karabiner, the tension the base using the lineloks and cord.

IMG_1025.JPG (2)It’s angled back into the porch, which should protect the gap between the door and the body of the Trailstar. On the production model, the base will be about 5cms longer.

IMG_1031.JPG (2)On the cords I’ve added a loop of shock cord, which helps to maintain tension. These will be standard on the production model as well.

IMG_1033.JPG (2)Originally I was going to add some Velcro so that the door could be furled to one side. However, this can be achieved by folding the door in half, then furling it, securing it by looping the the shock cord over the line lok.

IMG_1034.JPG (2)This is a surprisingly neat solution.

IMG_1030.JPG (2)Obviously, I’ve not field tested this yet, but I’m very pleased with the results. I’m confident that it would keep out most of the rain even if the wind were blowing directly into the door. some more photos:

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The weight of the door is 25g with the added shock cord loops (2g) but without the karabiner (2g). Additionally, you need two pegs. My intention is to use the lightweight “toothpick” pegs that came with my Nitro Lite (1g each). Total weight is 29g. Marco is indicating a price of €55. As with all Marco’s stuff, the workmanship is first class.

For this trial pitch, the centre pole is 120cm. I didn’t measure the entrance height but the pole is also 120cm. With this door, you can adjust the height of the door by varying the angle inside the shelter. For a low pitch, just peg the base further back inside the porch.

I’m very pleased with the results. As you can see, it pitches pretty tightly. I don’t think it will rattle in the wind. If it did, I would add a grosgrain loop at the centre of the base line and tension with some shock cord. I think that is probably overkill, though.

Disclosure: As Tucas made this door to my design, free of charge. I have no formal or financial relationship with As Tucas. However, I do liaise with Marco regularly with ideas and suggestions. Even though I’ve not met him, I count him as a friend.

As Tucas windproofs

I’ve always liked taking a pair of lightweight windproof trousers whenever I go backpacking. They are great for changinging into at camp, for putting over a pair of thin leggings for warmth or using as pyjama trousers.

Most of the time I’ve used a pair of Montane Featherlite trousers. They are very light at 114g, but the ankle zips are superfluous and can dig into your flesh sometimes.

Until now, it’s been impossible to find a simple pair of windproof trousers with no zips. I contacted Marco at As Tucas to see whether he was interested in making a pair. To my delight, he agreed and here is the result.

IMG_0771He’s used Momentum 90 fabric, which is very smooth and silky but seems quite robust. The tight weave makes them very wind resistant. The weight is a meagre 72g. The lightest comparable wind trousers I can find are MontBell, which are 84g (with zips). The material on the MontBell trousers is not as pleasant to the touch as Momentum.

These are a very simple slip-on design, with an elasticated waist and ankles. The standard of workmanship is high and I can’t see any flaws. I’m not going to give you a price as Marco is likely to make these a catalogue item. If you are in the market for some windproof trousers, these will merit a close look.

IMG_0772At the same time I asked Marco to make me some simple over booties. Again these are made from Momentum 90 and are not lined. They weigh a ridiculous 17g.

These will probably not appeal to many people. However, I’ve found my feet get cold when lazing around in my tent when it’s breezy. I wanted something simple to put over my socks to mitigate this. For next to no weight, I now have the solution.

Disclosure: I have no formal or financial relationship with As Tucas and paid for these items with my own money.

As Tucas: balaclava and sleeping bag foot sleeve

Marco has been making things for me 🙂

photo 2I like the idea of using a balaclava rather than using a sleeping bag hood. Until now I’ve not been able to find a suitable one. the As Tucas Sestrals balaclava looked ideal, except I didn’t want it in red. Marco said he could do it in Momentum 90 in black with Apex 67 insulation.

Although it is in heavier gauge material than the standard balaclava, it still only weighs 48g. I’ll probably remove the bungees. It feels very nice and fits well. I reckon it should be great instead of a sleeping bag hood and it can be used instead of a hood with a jacket if required. The workmanship is excellent, so if you want a really warm balaclava, have a look at this one. Marco now does it in a range of colours.

photo 1No matter how careful you are, sometimes the foot of your sleeping bag can get damp from touching the wall of your tent or shelter. In the past I’ve put my waterproof jacket or smock over the end of my bag. This works well, but is not an option if the jacket or smock is wet from rain. A bivy bag is overkill if you are in a tent, so enter the sleeping bag foot sleeve.

It weighs a puny 36g and covers the bottom 70cms of a sleeping bag. I’ve pictured it with my Alpkit Pipedream 600, which is my largest bag. It has an elasticated draw cord with cord lock at the top to stop it slipping down. It’s made of very light weight, breathable Momentum 50 fabric, which is moderately water resistant (I might use some NikWax TX10 on it as well).  Again, the workmanship is excellent.

I’ve got another couple of items that Marco is tweaking and will share with you when they return. Marco is making some excellent stuff and is open to bespoke work as well.

Disclosure: I have no formal or financial relationship with As Tucas

Rab Neutrino SL 200 mod

My Rab Neutrino SL 200 arrived back from As Tucas today. I’m really pleased with the work Marco has done. Just to recap, I asked him to insert some Climashield APEX 167 insulation into the underside panel where there is no insulation, converting the bag into a proper sleeping bag from being a top bag.

IMG_0658The picture above shows the panel with insulation. Marco has added a small strip of Pertex at either end to seal the sleeve. I’m impressed with the loft of the Climashield, which feels a lot more puffy than the Primaloft 100, which Rab use for the underside of the leg section of the bag.

IMG_0659Marco has done a very neat job. Apart from the different colour of the material, you would be hard pushed to know it wasn’t part of the original design. I also asked Marco to retro-fit a down collar to the neck. In my experience, down collars make a significant contribution to sealing in the warmth of a sleeping bag.

IMG_0657Again, it’s a very neat job. The photo is slightly misleading as the colour match is rather better than it looks. The bag now weighs 665g, which is pretty good for a 3-season bag. Before the mods, it weighed 573g, so the additional weight is 92g.

It will be interesting to see how it stacks up relative to my Alpkit Pipedream 400 bag (740g). I reckon they will be pretty similar for warmth. However, the Climashield on the underside of the Neutrino should allow me to dispense with the sleeping mat cover that I use as it should provide better insulation when compressed than down. This will save me an extra 100g, meaning that the total weight saved relative to the Pipedream could be 175g.

IMG_0654I was also pleased to find that I could still use the excellent dry bag that was supplied with the Neutrino. Even with the dry bag, it weighs less than the Pipedream on its own. The cost was €40 for the Climashield panel and €25 for the down collar. I think that’s good value for converting the bag into a very lightweight proper sleeping bag.  I will make another report when I’ve field tested it.

Marco at As Tucas has done a great job and it’s well worth contacting him if you have a project like this. It’s been a pleasure doing business with him. I’ve got another couple of small projects for him up my sleeve.

Disclosure: I have no formal or financial relationship with As Tucas.

Sleeping bag project

Mid 2012 I bought a Rab Neutrino SL 200 sleeping bag. To recap, this is a top bag with virtually all of the insulation on the top of the bag. The underside has some insulation underneath your legs, Primaloft 100, but none under your torso. The idea is that any down underneath your body provides next to no insulation and therefore is superfluous.

P1030645Unfortunately, I’ve never quite got on with this sleeping bag. Even with a good sleeping mat, I found it a bit cold on the underside. I was thinking of selling it. However, I had a brainwave. Why not add a slab of synthetic insulation in the sleeve where there’s no insulation?

P1030646Initially, I thought of a DIY solution of adding some fleece. Then I thought of adding something like Primaloft. As this would be beyond my abilities, I contacted Marco at As Tucas. He uses Climashield APEX insulation for his quilt, which is similar to Primaloft. After an exchange of emails, I’m getting him to use APEX 167 which is heavier grade than the Primaloft 100.

Synthetic insulation should be a bit warmer than down when compressed and turn the bag into a decent 3 season sleeping bag. Marco reckons it will add less than 100g to the weight (80-90g?), which would take the total weight to less than 673g. For comparison, my Pipedream 400 is 740g.

It’s possible that the Neutrino might be even warmer than the Pipedream as the down quality is higher and it has as much down on the top side of the bag. Hopefully the synthetic insulation will be warmer below my body and I will be able to dispense with a sleeping mat cover. If so, the total weight saving could be around 200g. How much will it cost? £33 plus postage costs.

I think it’s worth a punt, so I’ve posted my bag to Marco today. It will be an interesting experiment. I’m surprised that there aren’t hybrid sleeping bags with synthetic insulation on the underside, or at least, I’ve not seen any.