Friday, 11 June 2010

New Gear

Yesterday, the post arrived. I’d received, the day before, my Gossamer Gear Gorilla. Sadly, the SitLight Pad had been missed but a quick call to Diane at Winwood resolved that. The Pad somehow fit into my post box and my partner retrieved it before I got home. That wasn’t the only thing, however. Mark at Ultralight Outdoor Gear had sent me my other order. I’d been waiting for this one for some time as Mark was awaiting a delivery from San Jose, California from a rather special company called Western Mountaineering. I’ve been emailing Mark for a while about various bits of kit so I felt it was only right, as he’s been extremely obliging, that I buy the Summerlite I wanted from him. We’re lucky in the UL outdoor community because the people who supply us with our kit are extremely good at customer service. Mark has been exceptional - I have bugged him senseless asking questions about various bits of kit and he’s been patient and knowledgeable. I like his website and have bought a fair bit from him in the past. The same goes for Bob and Rose at and Paul at HikeLite. I have listed only four outdoor suppliers in my links on this journal - that’s because I have dealt with all of them and they have been excellent. Customer service these days is sadly lacking pretty much everywhere I go so it’s nice that, in our small community, the people making a living out of supplying us our kit buck that trend. Good luck and I wish your businesses well.

Onto my new acquisitions. I still get a frisson of excitement from new kit and where I can, as with the Vaude Power Lizard UL where I was one of the initial reviewers, I like to try stuff that is cutting edge but, equally, could well be terrible!

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla - I have posted on rucksacks generally so will not repeat those general observations here. At 693g with the SitLight Pad inserted, it is extremely lightweight. Others are lighter (see Martin Rye’s review of the Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet at a paltry 425g, albeit if you add a SitLight pad or Z-Lite it’s probably c.470g) but the Gorilla is the almost optimum fusion of durability (210 denier ripstop nylon), volume (46 litres in total, including the mesh pockets), simplicity, stability (the curved aluminum stay seems to really contour your back) and comfort. The wide shoulder pads and perfectly sized hip-belt suggest something approaching the comfort I have experienced at the hands of the Osprey Aether which is my ‘comfort benchmark’. It is also flexible as, if you remove the stay for lighter loads, you end up with a 600g pack. There is an internal hydration bladder pouch and 210 denier ripstop nylon on the bottom of the mesh pockets to improve durability when the pack is dumped on the ground. I will review in greater detail once I have used it in the Lake District shortly but, my preliminary observations are singularly positive. It already comes “Highly Recommended” by BPL and I can, on this initial evidence, understand why.

Western Mountaineering Summerlite - I am enthused by this. At 575g (very much over the advertised weight and not in its stuffsack, but that does mean more down used which is good), it tips the scales at 125g less than my Mountain Hardwear Phantom 32, it comes from a company with a formidable reputation but little presence in the UK. It was pretty much the top-rated bag in a recent BPL State-of-the-Market test of 3-season bags, particularly excelling in terms of loft to weight ratio, and it was in some pretty sterling company. Rated to 0C and with 255g of 850+ loft down it seems, by all accounts, to be a truly great bag for 3-season, ultralight use. It is a more snug fit than the Phantom, but not by much and that’s what I was looking for. I am 6’ (182cm) and 12.25 stone (78kg, 172lb US) with a 34” waist and 39-40” chest and this bag is a perfect fit. It could even be a bit smaller but I had very little clothing on when I got in so, with a down, insulating layer, there would be just enough room. The manufacturing seems excellent but, again, I’ll let you know.

The Montane Lite Speed - I am stunned at just how almost incorporeal this jacket feels. Reviews have been uniformly good in terms of its wind-resistance and breathability - my primary purpose for it - so I am looking forward to using it. It’ll be interesting to see, if it does rain, how it copes. A deluge is likely to swamp it but a bit of drizzle may well be shrugged off and, depending in the weather forecast, in the summer, that’s all I want. I doubt I’ll use the stuff sack and simply stuff it down the front mesh pocket of the Gorilla. I may also end up cutting the hood off as I don’t really see me using it, but when rolled away it provides some bulk to the collar so we’ll see.

MSR Titan Kettle - I have been using a Tibetan Titanium 1100 which is 175g in its stuffsack. I also have a small steel mug which is 70g. Re-evaluating, I do not need both and the 1100 is just too big for my purposes. I’ve replaced both with a 115g MSR Titan Kettle which is small enough to drink from, has a pouring lip and is big enough to boil 500ml of water which is all I need. My Evernew DX system will fit into it and the lid and handles are much better. It’s an all-round improved choice for me. The quality of the titanium is superior too. Ebay for the 1100...

I also continued my love affair with Montane and bought some Terra shorts for the Tour du Mont Blanc in August. As I wear Terra pants and love them, this was a no-brainer.


  1. My Summerlite (long size) has been a superb buy. Weight is more than claimed. Still superb and the baffles allow you to shift the down about a bit as well. Enjoy it.

  2. It rather annoys me that a company with such a great product base and reputation has to understate the weights of their products especially when they are aiming them at the UL and SUL markets. It's just unnecessary. That said, I suspect that the size difference probably means mine has a bit more down in it which will consequently make it slightly warmer. So be it. 600g is still very light indeed for a genuine 0C 3-season bag.

  3. I find the MSR Titan kettle great too, though I also added rubber tubing to the handles to save burnt fingers as they otherwise get rather hot! My Optimus Crux lite and a 100g canister, foldable spork and fire-tool fit perfectly. But I also now take a small titanium cup as well, allowing me to enjoy a cuppa while boiling water for dinner.

    Might need to checkout the Gorilla -makes my Villain look rather portly!

  4. Have a look at Martin Rye's MLD Prophet. There is also a slightly larger Exodus in that range too. On balance, I prefer the Gorilla but I was very, very nearly tempted by the MLD packs and, if you like dyneema already (and any owner of an OMM Villain knows just how good Dyneema is) it may be spot on for you. Sadly, they had a 8-11 week lead-time including delivery as they make them bespoke and I could not wait. If you do order stuff - please let me know as there are a couple of bits I'd like from them.

  5. Some nice new acquisitions, Maz. WM bags are top of the line, though I prefer quilts after starting to use them last year.

    I still need to get my hands on a windshirt. Montane, Norrona, Rab are all on that list, but I can't decide. Might wait for some reviews on the Rab one, though I really would want a Norrona one, though it is prohibitively expensive...

  6. Have not ever heard of Norrøna so I'll have a look at their stuff - Norwegian? I like Scandinavian stuff but there is not a market for it in the UK. I imagine it is the Bitihorn Aero 100 you're talking about? 80g?!? No hood though but I am not convinced you need one in a windshirt. Will let you know what I think of the breathability and wind resistance in the Lite Speed.