Tag Archives: Exped

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.

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Exped Thunder 70

 
I’ve been searching for a high volume but light rucksack for possible treks in Northern Scandinavia and/or Greenland. There’s a chance that I might be able to do these in a couple of years time if I’m lucky. These sort of treks require 7-10 days of food, which takes up a fair bit of space, hence the need for a 70 litre rucksack.

I came across the Exped Thunder 70 recently and it looked just the job. Chuck in a discounted deal and I pulled the trigger. It’s very well specified and put together, but weighs a very reasonable 1.6kg (verified on my scales). I paid €220 (£166), which is good value for a quality rucksack.

The adjustable back system means that the fit can be adjusted precisely. I loaded it with a couple of sleeping bags and it seems to carry well. There’s a substantial hip belt which fits nicely. The actual sack itself is a single compartment with a top opening. However, the main sack can be accessed by twin vertical zips to make it into a panel loader. While not strictly necessary, it’s a nice feature.

There are stretch hip belt pockets as well as stretch side and back pockets. The material for these seems to be a bit more robust than average. The double lid pocket is a good size with external access as well us under the lid. Inside, there’s a hydration sleeve with port exits.

It’s a very well thought out pack with some good details. Most of the straps have neat Velcro keepers and metal Rapide hooks rather than plastic side release buckles. The side compression straps should help to control the volume of the sack for smaller loads. All in all, it looks a pretty good pack. Hopefully, I’ll be able to try it out soon.

Exped Flash Pack Pocket

IMG_1603(2)I’ve got so used to having a stash pocket on the front of my GG Mariposa that I’ve not used my Lightwave Ultrahike for a while. That’s a shame because it’s a good pack. Recently, I came across the Exped Flash Pack Pocket which is a detachable stash pocket for their Lightning packs. Fortunately, It’s usable for other packs as well.

IMG_1606(2)It’s big enough to stash some waterproofs or fleece and jacket. A clever design feature is that it’s mesh on one side and solid on the other.

IMG_1607(2)There are elastic straps on each corner with hooks to attach the pocket.

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It would be better if they were adjustable. I’ve rigged some cord  loops at the top of the sack.

IMG_1609(2)At the base, I’ve sewn a linelok with some cord, so can adjust the tension of the lower attachment and avoid compromising the mesh pockets.

IMG_1608(2)The top of the pocket is closable with a cord lock and shock cord.

Overall, I think this is agreat accessory if your pack hasn’t got a stash pocket. All the UK stockists appear to be out of stock, so I had to order mine from Germany, increasing the cost. Weight: 73g

Disclaimer: I have no formal or financial relationship with Exped and bought this item with my own money.

Weight vs Cost

photoOn my previous post about my As Tucas cuben dry sack, Alan made the understandable point that €40 (£34) seemed a lot of money to save 87g. I thought it would be interesting to look at some trade-offs of weight saved versus cost.

Firstly, taking rucksack liners, an Exped silnylon 50L liner costs £17 and weighs 72g. This is actually slightly larger than mine, so not a totally fair comparison. However, in terms of cost per gram saved it works out at 38p per gram. Of course, we must take into account that I rejected silnylon liners because of concerns over robustness.

If we take the normal gauge Exped liner (actually their XXL dry bag as it is a comparable size), then it weighs 110g (according to Amazon) and costs £15.50. The cost per gram saved of the As Tucas dry bag over this Exped liner is 23p per gram, which is better value.

P1000069If we take a quick look at tents, then we can compare the Terra Nova Laser Competition 1 and the Wild Country Zephyros Lite 1 as close substitutes. The Laser Competition is 194g lighter but costs an extra £135. Every gram saved in this trade-off is costing 70p.

DSC00889If we take the Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid and compare the silnylon version with the more expensive cuben version, we find the cost per gram saved is 59p. I also looked at the comparison of the Gossamer Gear Mariposa and the cheaper Osprey Exos 46. in this case the lighter Mariposa will cost you an extra 27p per gram saved.

DSC00997In the context of these comparisons, it no longer seems quite as extravagant to have bought a cuben pack liner. I guess the other thing to take into account is the cumulative weight savings. By chipping off a few grams here and there (albeit at extra cost), the extra weight savings soon become quite significant. In the end, it’s all a matter of personal choice. Everyone will have their own cost/benefit curve (to use a technical economics term!).

Buttermere Bimble gear roundup

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There were only a couple of totally new bits of gear I used. One was the Salomon X Ultra Mid GTX boots. I was very impressed. I’ve been a long time user of the Salomon Fastpacker boots, which have now been discontinued. I reckon these boots are even better. I found the lacing system more positive. Generally the grip was better with a more aggressive sole pattern. They were slightly slippery on wet, slick rock, but the rest of the time they were very secure. I used Superfeet green insoles and they were incredibly comfortable. The toe box has slightly more wiggle room than the Fastpackers. The outers got damp but my feet stayed dry. I would expect that when they are saturated that breathability will suffer. I did spray them with Duxcoat but it didn’t protect them for long before the toes got saturated (which is no different to every pair of fabric boots I’ve owned). I shall definitely be using these again.

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The other new item was the Exped Air Pillow UL. At 45g, it’s nearly half the weight of the standard Air Pillow. It uses a lighter weight material which feels slicker than the standard version. Whereas the standard version can be used on its own, for comfort, I used a buff as a pillow case. The other difference is that it only has one valve for inflation and deflation. It was as comfortable as the standard pillow, especially with the buff pillow case. I find the Exped pillows give me the best level of support and are the most comfortable I’ve used. I will definitely be using this one again as well.

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I ought to comment on the Vango F10 Nitro Lite 200. This is the third time this year I’ve used it. Now I’ve ironed out most of the quirks, I’m starting to really like it. The extra rear pegging point, using double guys on the side and the rear vent closure system have all made a difference.

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The efficacy of the vent closure is a bit difficult to judge but I think it should be effective against all but the strongest winds. The double side guys make a huge difference to the stability of the hoops and I can’t see any reason not to use them all the time. I’m amazed at how few tents use double side guys on hoops (Hilleberg seem to be the exception). Lastly, the extra rear pegging point has cured the problem of the fly touching the inner.

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On the last night, I added a further tweak by introducing a short loop of cord between the fly and the rear corner pegging points on the inner (shown above). I noticed that these were under a lot of tension. This extension eases the tension and further widens the gap between the fly and the inner.

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I had very heavy rain on the last night. The Nitro proved completely watertight. The Nitro is a typical tunnel tent in wind: very stable end on, but flaps a bit side-on to the wind. Even side-on, it’s pretty stable. I’m tempted to do a mod and fit a third pole in the middle. It shouldn’t be too difficult to do and would only add just over 100g. It would help to support the fabric in the middle of the tent and stabilise it. Just to put this in context, any flapping is reasonably well controlled and not in the same league as a Laser Comp.

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I really love the amount of space in the Nitro. It’s like a palace. There’s plenty of space for all my gear and loads of mesh pockets. The porch is very roomy for cooking and storage. It’s also well sheltered for cooking. Venting is good and condensation is kept down to a tolerable amount. The inner is easy to unhook to wipe off any excess damp before packing. It is slightly annoying that a couple of the bungee connectors keep coming undone on the rear hoop.

I had some qualms about how thin the groundsheet material is, but it’s proved robust so far and I didn’t bother with a groundsheet protector. I’d still be careful of rough ground though. The fly material seems robust, despite how thin it is. The inner is also holding up well.

I thought about taking the Trailstar/OookStar, but was glad I took the Nitro instead. On a couple of the pitches the more compact footprint of the Nitro made selecting a pitch easier. Overall, the Nitro is a really good tent and I’m increasingly confident about it. However, I still think the Scarp edges it on stability and ability to shed wind in any direction.

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This is the third time I’ve used the Nemo Zor self inflating sleeping mat this year and it’s excellent (sorry I don’t have a picture of it from this trip, above is in my Duomid). I find it really comfortable to sleep on. I wonder whether the dual cores (horizontal and vertical) make it adapt to body shape better. As with my Dartmoor trip, I used my silk cover. This makes it feel really nice and adds a significant amount of insulation. This may sound odd, but it feels more comfortable and supportive than an air bed. I like not bouncing around when I turn over or when I’m sitting on it. This is going to be my sleeping mat of choice from now on.

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Lastly, I used a Lifeproof Fre waterproof case for my iPhone 5. I bought one in a rather striking lime green colour as I thought lime would be more visible than the black case I already have.

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I can’t say I’ve tested it by dropping it in water, but it seems pretty water resistant and shockproof. It adds very little bulk and weight. It actually seems to improve the responsiveness of the touch screen. I think it’s a great case for an iPhone, albeit quite expensive.

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Reassessing air mats

The humble sleeping mat has undergone a revolution over the past five or so years. Not so long ago, the choice was between a closed cell mat or a Thermarest self-inflating mat. Now we have a plethora of air mats to choose from.

Sunny morning at the shelter

Thermarest Light 3/4

At the luxury end, Exped introduced their Downmat. An air bed filled with down, it was simultaneously more comfortable and warmer than anything else on the market, but it was quite heavy.

Thermarest responded with the NeoAir, which was much lighter and used an innovative air chamber and reflective material to achieve a decent level of insulation. While not as comfortable or warm as the Downmat, it was considerably more compact and lighter.

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Thermarest NeoAir 3/4 (with MYOG fleece cover)

POE (now Hyalite) pitched in with a number of different mats like the Ether Elite and Peak Elite AC. Meanwhile, Exped was introducing lighter air beds with synthetic insulation and latterly a lighter weight down mat.

Thermarest responded with updated versions of the NeoAir. Nemo, Alpkit and Trango have also produced their own versions. Now we have a significant choice in manufacturers, weight and insulation in the airbed market.

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POE Ether Elite

However, another trend has been emerging: tales of failures. When we were restricted to self–inflating mattresses, reports of punctures were quite rare. Now it seems there’s a regular flow of reports of failures (punctures and seam welds) from bloggers and twitterers.

The question that many backpackers are asking is whether air mats are worth the risk of catastrophic failure. Until Dartmoor last year I’d happily used various air mats and hadn’t really considered it much.

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POE Peak Elite AC

For some time I’ve been using a thin roll of foam under mats anyway to boost insulation and as a pad for my backpack. So at least I had a backup when my Exped Synmat UL sprung a leak. It wasn’t very comfortable but at least I had some insulation.

It’s made me think that I wouldn’t risk an air mat on longer trips in future. Air mats are significantly more comfortable than self–inflating ones, especially on lumpy ground. However, a self–inflating mat is much more comfortable than an air mat with a puncture.

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Exped Synmat UL

Maybe for weekends, I’d take the risk. Indeed, my next trip will be over a weekend, so I’m inclined to take my Downmat UL. I expect that I’ll be returning to self–inflating mats for much of the rest of the year.

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Nemo Zor (l) and Multimat Superlite (r)

Of course. It will be interesting to see whether a lightweight mat like the Nemo Zor really is more durable than an air bed. Perhaps self–inflating mats are the happy medium between comfort and robustness. Anyone got any thoughts?

Exped shrink bag and schnozzel

Recently I bought a 20L Exped shrink bag and schnozzel. As they are unavailable in the UK, I had to order from Unterwegs in Germany. German prices are little different from UK prices for comparable products, but shipping was quite expensive at €13.80. The picture above shows the uncompressed size.The picture below shows the compressed size with an Alpkit Pipedream 600 sleeping bag. The “valve” is actually just a hole with a flap to seal, but it works fine. It is certainly effective in compressing a bulky sleeping bag, if you kneel on the shrink bag.

I’ve also bought a Synmat UL (which I’ll post on at a later date). I was intrigued by the schnozzel attachment to convert the shrink bag into a pump. The concept is similar to the pump bag Exped provided with their original down mats. Because the shrink bag is 20L, it is much more effective as a pump than the original smaller pump bags. It takes around five goes to fully inflate the Synmat. It’s a lot easier than blowing up by mouth. As with all Exped products, the quality is unimpeachable. Both products are well worth considering if you have an Exped mat. Weights are 182g for the shrink bag and 26g for the schnozzel.