Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Carneddau - Gear Debrief

I am not going to go into every single piece of kit that I took in detail for two reasons. Firstly, anyone who wants to can see my Wet Weather set-up in the Gear Lists page of my journal, above. Secondly, I intend to post on the kit for the TMB shortly and that will contain much of the analysis of my kit and why I am taking it.

However, there are some items that I am not taking to the Alps and they deserve some comment here. Firstly, the
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 again is my shelter of choice. It suits me perfectly, is light, ridiculously easy to pitch, stable and comfortable. I cannot fault it. My one concern, the durability of the groundsheet, has yet to become an issue and, even in wet weather, not a single thing has irked me. That it is small, I have admitted previously, but that does not matter to me at all. When wet, I also find it dries very quickly - more swiftly than the Power Lizard, for example. On harder ground, the Vargo titanium tent pegs do not always penetrate fully and I am going to take some V-pegs which will be stronger pegs for that sort of ground. Three will be enough, in my view, for the Fly Creek and the Vargo pegs can deal with the other pegging needed.




The Vaude Power Lizard UL has developed some further annoyances. The flap over the zip is so tight when the tent is pitched taut that opening and closing the fly is almost impossible to do without catching the flap and it has now been ripped slightly by this irritating design flaw. It is also incredibly fiddly to pitch the end poles in inclement weather and, frankly, Vaude need to address the small pockets that the poles go into - they're just way too difficult to get the poles into when the tent is not co-operating. It's still a great tent for the weight but these issues need resolution. I'll be sending my reviews and final comments to Vaude - perhaps they'll be assisted by them.


The Western Mountaineering Summerlite bag remains solid. It is well made and I have experienced no down leakage at all. Temperatures were not particularly low so, at 16C, I was a little too warm in the bag and needed to unzip. At 10C, I was fine with just merino leggings and the Montane Bionic T. The bag is a nice fit and lofts quickly when unpacked. The zip supposedly never catches - that's simply not right. All zips catch, because of the way we need to pull them when we're in a bag. That said, it does not catch much at all and is easily removed from the snag if one does occur. Great, versatile bag which, with the addition of an insulating layer, will serve many different temperatures. At just short of 600g, it's great.


As you can see, my wet weather gear remains brilliant - the Haglöfs LIM Ozone Jacket and the Montane Venture eVent pants. I'll deal with them in the TMB post but they were great. Not the absolute lightest, (although pretty damned light) but effective.




I like the Evernew DX but, whilst it served us hot water for re-hydrating food & brewing a hot drink, it was a ponderous dawdle due to effect if the wind on the MSR Titan itself and the only reason we had a bit of a wood fire was because I snagged some twigs before we started knowing we'd find none in the hills! I query whether it is the right piece of kit for high-level hillwalking. There are better meths stoves that protect better from the wind - Trail Designs Caldera Cones for example. Another note: the DX will destroy the ground you place it on so you do need to find a rock or carry aluminium foil instead. I am looking again at canister stoves, especially the Gosystem Fly (Ti). As has been pointed out, it's a rather lovely looking piece of kit, well manufactured, light and effective. The Evernew DX system weighs 85g, with about 200g for 250ml of meths. The Fly (Ti) is 50g with, again, about 200g for 100ml canister of fuel. I don't mind waiting for a little while (7-8mins is fine by me) to boil 500ml of water but 10-12mins and never actually achieving a rolling boil in medium wind and cool air, even with a windshield, got me thinking - one of the things I liked about the DX was its versatility but unless we're trekking low down, there's never going to be any wood to pick up which defeats one of the advantages of the DX. Suddenly, it is actually not that versatile at all and a canister system is likely, with a proper windbreak, to be more effective. If the weight is good, then I want to give it a crack. As I have an MSR Titan Kettle, that stove seems the best bet. I'll revert on my findings. Any advice on a windbreak? I was thinking of using a Neo Air, slightly inflated, a reasonable distance away...


The Neo Air is annoying me as I like the comfort of it on my hips and shoulders, but the way I sleep has my knee hanging off it, which gives me an oddly painful knee in the morning - not a good idea. I am not going to suffer the weight penalty of a full length fellow, so I am looking at other options. One might be to put the Gorilla under my feet - it's nothing to do with cold and I am not sure how effective that will be but it'll be worth considering. The other is to see what else there is on offer, including a Z-Lite cut short. Never slept on a CCF mat so might be worth thinking about. I have bought one anyway and will try it out.


The Integral Designs Silnylon pack cover was problematic. Where the Gorilla is not full, the extension collar is not used so there is little for the top of the pack cover to grab on to. In high wind, it came off twice as we ascended Llewelyn. The Sea to Summit cover has thicker bungee cording, is easier to adjust and benefits from a strap across the middle of the back. It's only 10g heavier so that'll be on my list unless I can do something with the ID cover. I remain convinced by pack covers however, rather than liners or a multitude if drybags as a wet sack is a heavy sack.

Three recent purchases from
Sea to Summit: 13litre drybag which replaces my heavier Exped bag and remains a serviceable pillow when filled with excess kit at night; a titanium long-handled spoon which makes eating food out of a bag far less challenging (a spork was a pointless gimmick for this endeavour); and an S2S pack towel which will not replace my lighter MSR pack towl for now - it is for the showers in refuges on the TMB. A word on the MSR Pack Towl - I used it to mop the flies of both tents after rain as there was no chance the sun, still slumbering behind clouds as it was, would do it. Wringing it out, repeatedly, worked well & I must've divested the two shelters of 500ml of rain water between us that way. It then dried quickly. It has a multitude of uses so is a very useful item.

19 comments:

  1. If the Fly Creek had a different door arrangement and less mesh on the inner I would be tempted.

    I'm now converted to the POE Ether Elite from the NeoAir!

    For me, gas stoves win 90% of the time for convenience and adjustability.

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  2. In fact, there is not much mesh on the inner - it is mostly a thin nylon with the mesh being about 40% of the upper part of the inner above the bathtub groundsheet. It looks like mesh, and the Seedhouse is almost all mesh above the bathtub groundsheet but the Fly Creek is different as mesh is heavier. Am looking at POE mats, but my Z-Lite arrived today so next trip will be with that. 8 sections takes it right down to my knee but because it is flat against the ground, there's no height disparity at the knee area. As far as stoves - I'll let you know how the Fly (Ti) goes...

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  3. The Fly Creek does look like a really nice and somewhat overlooked tent, possibly due to the amount of mesh (wouldn't bother me) and inner 1st pitching (again wouldn't bother me) It does look pretty spacious at the porch end and again the porch itself looks spacious.

    Your experience with the Evernew DX doesn't surprise me to be honest, it just looks wrong for so many reasons, both meths burner and so called woodstove. I'm convinced that if you're going to take advantage of meths then you want a stove that fills easily, operates with the minimum amount of fuel and is predictable so you can use it in a porch, a flaring meths stove is a no go for me. IMO to get the best performance and efficiency you really should use a cone type windshield, it does away with the need for a pot stand and helps to achive a boil on the least amount of fuel. If the stove is fuel hungry you quickly lose the weight advantage of meths.

    As for the Neoair well personally airmats in general don't suit me regardless of length, on soft ground/grass I'm more comfortable on a CCF and if I need a bit more cushioning then I'll accept the weight of a 3/4 self inflate. If you have a CCF anyway you might as well try it, if it suits you you're on a winner regards weight, cost and durability.

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  4. Mac, neither of those issues bother me either. It pitches so quickly that the fly is on before any real rain could get in and the MSR Pack Towl mops up anything that could invade the inner. I love it because the layout suits me. The porch is spacious at the floor but tapers sharply upwards. This is great for watching the stars, however!

    I think my reluctant love for the DX, despite is shortcomings, stems from the fact it is my first alcohol and/or wood burning stove and it introduced me to a different part of the backpacking world. You're right about the cone - the Caldera Cone is so well designed because it shields the stove AND the pot from the wind and the pot being cold, especially as titanium cools so damned quickly, is part of the problem.

    I really like the Z-Lite - having put it on my hardwood floor, its surprisingly comfortable. I lay on it tonight for a solid 10mins (before Mrs M shouted me up to bed) and it felt rather good. Of course, a night's sleep is a different matter, but trial and error is what this is all about. I'll only use 8 sections which is 222g. It also has an extra weight advantage as it replaces the GG SitLight pad which is my Gorilla's backsystem (50g).

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  5. How about a Cadera cone ? They're great and I used mine for melting snow in winter no problem. I have the msr kettle same as you. There are various views of it on my blog. Great gear reviews by the way.

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  6. My concern with mesh is when humidity is high, you are bound to get a lot of condensation on the inside of the fly. In calm conditions, it probably doesn't matter, but if it rains, the condensation is dislodged and sprays on to the inner. If the inner is solid this isn't a problem as is doesn't penetrate and should just roll off. With mesh, this won't happen and there is a risk of moisture penetrating the inner tent and wetting you. I'm not keen on the inner door which is all mesh, meaing in windy conditions the top of my head would get cold. I also think the design of the outer door could be improved.

    Most of the features of the Fly Creek I really like but the mesh is the real deal buster for me. However, my likes and preferences are different from others and I can see that in some conditions more mesh on the inner can be advantageous.

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  7. Greg: I've looked at the Caldera Cone with some consideration but not sure just yet it's what I'm looking for. It may be that I get one and test it out as the idea, as I've said, is a good one. The Fly (Ti) with a 100ml canister is going to be lighter but there's no windshield, unless I find other windbreaks to be effective. To be tested...

    Robin : it's personal preference as you say but your points are good ones as ever. I find little condensation in comparison to the Power Lizard because the mesh is effective and the vents either side by the way you stake out the fly do a good job. We'll see. Agree that the door is not the best because it slants so sharply but suits me right now and the option to stare at the stars is cool.

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  8. I had the same issue with half length inflatables at first. I've learnt not to over inflate them and it helps a great deal, much more comfortable and doesn't feel like you're sleeping with you legs hanging off a cliff. I'm still a big fan of the Neo air.

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  9. Yes, I've read a number of times about not fully inflating the Neo Air so that's also something to try. Thanks Dave. When's your next trip and where? Will be hard to top the last two!

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  10. Looks as though my wish is about to be granted. Seen the new Terra Nova Solar Photon 2? http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/orsm2010_day_2_new_interesting_gear.html

    Proper door and vent. Imagine the inner is solid. 2 man for 1kg

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  11. It's basically the same layout, it seems, as the Fly Creek UL2 so, if you get a solid inner, it's probably exactly what you;re looking for. Door still looks a little bit too much like the Fly Creek in that is a pretty sharply slanted design? Vented will certainly help, I agree - it's rather exciting.

    Tell you what though - Osprey are finally cottoning on to the UL backpack scene with what looks to be a pack - hold your breath here - without ridiculous pockets, zips, straps and ties that no one in the world understands except them! Love Osprey packs so interested to see what the Hornet 46 turns out like but 680g is much, much better.

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  12. Hi, Maz.

    When my DX arrived I was under-whelmed. It seemed poorly made (c.f. the hype) and badly designed - too may holes. After two weeks, mainly north of the Great Glen, using it as a windscreen for a Vargo Triad and as an occasional wood stove, I have been forced to reassess. The hole issue I solved by using it in the lee of my tarp or in the lee of rocks during my one fine weather brew stop. The thing which really impressed was the way it got the best out of the Triad, and also prevented the Triad from setting fire to the ground, unlike my home-made windscreen. It is also half the weight of my Bacofoil screen. I put the Triad on top of the Power Plate when using it and under the plate for travel, when the whole thing becomes nicely compact.

    Clearly, the DX is not a great wood stove. It takes nearly twice as many birch twigs to boil water for tea as a Bushcooker, leaves the pot a little dirtier and takes more time. However, it works, and even if you walk for ten hours, there is still plenty of time for brewing. You don't need to rush. The DX stove made my meths supply last longer and would have been used much more in its wood burning role if it hadn't rained every day of the fortnight. I was surprised by how few air-dried birch twigs I found. Is it the wind, or are the birch trees a different species up north? The ones I found had been freshly dampened by recent rain. I found that Hamaro paper could dry out and then set fire to a few of the very smallest twigs I came across. These twigs dried out and set fire to larger twigs and so on. It took patience, but it worked.

    My addiction to tea makes me a heavy fuel user. The DX stand looks like it could be the solution to that problem. On top of that, it gives much more scope for playing with fires than the more efficient Bushcooker.

    By the way, you are right about using a stone under the DX in its wood burning role. I found that the stone warmed up and could be used in place of the pot cozy I have yet to make for my new pot.

    Best wishes, John

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  13. John, thanks for the comment.

    Interesting that you used the DX stand only - it was not an issue for me as I bought the burner and the stand together. I could see that you could easily do that if a burner would fit ok. I was intrigued by its versatility and will still use it when trekking low in a place where I might actually stumble across enough wood that could be used. It's just not really a hillwalking item as it does not function to its full capacity in that role. If I were to use it in the porch of my Fly Creek in bad weather, it'd be on fire within minutes. Not sure I could use a Fly (Ti) on a 100ml canister either, but it's certainly more feasible than the DX! That said, I agree that time is normally not an issue unless you're cold and need a hot drink quickly which must always be a consideration in the back of your mind. I am also a tea addict and McDonald's provides me with plenty of tiny packets of milk ;-)

    Birch has always been good for fires - Ray Mears uses the bark and twigs for various methods of starting fires so I guess it must just be a peculiar facet to birch. Where were you? I don't see a whole lot of birch at 500m+ in Snowdonia and the Lakes...! However, I do like Hamario paper.

    Using it in the lee of a tent or, as I am thinking, your mat, seems like a potentially effective way to avoid carrying stuff you do not need to. Thanks for dropping by John - hope you like the blog.

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  14. Yes, Maz, I do enjoy reading your blog because of the high information content.

    Some time ago BPL.com had an article showing that gas was lighter for longer trips and my own very rough guesstimates based on the Scotland trip back that up. Sadly, I have to take a ferry operated by Steam Packet and they will not carry gas cannisters. The DX helps eke the meths out. I never needed to put the stove under the tarp, just near it.

    I suspect Ray Mears uses birch bark he has had for some time and dried. It is possible for ordinary mortals to rough up birch bark and light it with a spark, but it isn't easy when the birch bark is thin or when it is damp. I have read that birch contains oils. All I know is that it is a particularly useful tree.

    My trip started at Corrour, from where I walked to Ft Bill to buy the compass I had forgotten. After that I took a bus to Clunie, hiked over Mullach Fraoch Choire and A'Chralaig to Cannich, then on over Sgurr na Diollaid to Strathfarrar for the Farrar Four. I went to Bearnais bothy via three Munros and three tops then to Strathcarron. I used public transport to get to Glen Shiel, from where a circuit took me over Beinn Sgritheal and Sgurr na Sgine. Despite the weather and lack of views, the trip was very enjoyable.

    Cheers, John

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  15. John - I shall ensure the informative content continues. I had a quick look at your trip on Munro Magic and did a bit of research elsewhere and I have to say, that sounds very enjoyable indeed - some hefty fellows in there as well. Shame the visibility was poor as I imagine the views would have been breathtaking. What sort of state was Bearnais bothy in - seems it saw quite a lot of use in 2009! Is it well kept or is it a fairly basic shelter? I've seen a few photos of the outside but not inside...

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  16. Apologies. I did not photo the inside, but I liked the bothy very much. It is simple, with one room which has a bench/sleeping shelf for two at a push. The bothy is dedicated to Beardie, whom I had forgotten all about. He must have been some character.

    Bearnais is well worth a visit, but probably camp if others are already in residence. There is good camping nearby, particularly next to the river. Oh, and two good Munros handily placed for those of us concerned with such things.

    I also liked what I saw of Staoineag but did not stay the night. The stepping stones must be very interesting in some river states.

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  17. Thanks John - I've not had the pleasure of a bothy stay, notwithstanding some open wooden shelters in Swedish forests, so that would be a nice way to spend the night I think. Scotland is not so far for us Londoners now - I took a look at the Caledonian sleeper with a view to heading off to then Ben Lui range and it was certainly doable for a weekend if you left a suit at work and came back Monday morning and went straight to the office. One for next year, I think. Our next trip is to the Brecons as we've been promising ourselves a winter wild camp taking in Pen-y-Fan, Cribyn and Fan-y-Big...

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  18. Yes, Maz, I do enjoy reading your blog because of the high information content.

    Some time ago BPL.com had an article showing that gas was lighter for longer trips and my own very rough guesstimates based on the Scotland trip back that up. Sadly, I have to take a ferry operated by Steam Packet and they will not carry gas cannisters. The DX helps eke the meths out. I never needed to put the stove under the tarp, just near it.

    I suspect Ray Mears uses birch bark he has had for some time and dried. It is possible for ordinary mortals to rough up birch bark and light it with a spark, but it isn't easy when the birch bark is thin or when it is damp. I have read that birch contains oils. All I know is that it is a particularly useful tree.

    My trip started at Corrour, from where I walked to Ft Bill to buy the compass I had forgotten. After that I took a bus to Clunie, hiked over Mullach Fraoch Choire and A'Chralaig to Cannich, then on over Sgurr na Diollaid to Strathfarrar for the Farrar Four. I went to Bearnais bothy via three Munros and three tops then to Strathcarron. I used public transport to get to Glen Shiel, from where a circuit took me over Beinn Sgritheal and Sgurr na Sgine. Despite the weather and lack of views, the trip was very enjoyable.

    Cheers, John

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  19. The Fly Creek does look like a really nice and somewhat overlooked tent, possibly due to the amount of mesh (wouldn't bother me) and inner 1st pitching (again wouldn't bother me) It does look pretty spacious at the porch end and again the porch itself looks spacious.

    Your experience with the Evernew DX doesn't surprise me to be honest, it just looks wrong for so many reasons, both meths burner and so called woodstove. I'm convinced that if you're going to take advantage of meths then you want a stove that fills easily, operates with the minimum amount of fuel and is predictable so you can use it in a porch, a flaring meths stove is a no go for me. IMO to get the best performance and efficiency you really should use a cone type windshield, it does away with the need for a pot stand and helps to achive a boil on the least amount of fuel. If the stove is fuel hungry you quickly lose the weight advantage of meths.

    As for the Neoair well personally airmats in general don't suit me regardless of length, on soft ground/grass I'm more comfortable on a CCF and if I need a bit more cushioning then I'll accept the weight of a 3/4 self inflate. If you have a CCF anyway you might as well try it, if it suits you you're on a winner regards weight, cost and durability.

    ReplyDelete