And the winner is…

… #111!

T.J. Hart you are the lucky winner and I will send the Cuben sacks to Canada!

Thanks a lot to all who participated! And remember even if you had no luck: If you are able to join the UL group meeting in Cologne on May 1 you will surely win as we have another raffle there with as many prices as participants!

BUT in case you participated simultaneously in the raffle on hrXXLight’s blog you might be a winner there!

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“This or That?” Dual Raffle sponsored by Laufbursche Gear


<img class="alignright" title="Laufbur

Spring is coming and everyone is getting ready planning their hikes for the warmer times of the year. In order to help you a bit to lighten your load for those adventures Laufbursche kindly donated a few new Cuben items for a raffle!

No worries this will be an easy one… just leave your comment and I will randomly choose the winner on April 17th.

But why dual raffle? Simply because in mine you can only win the Cuben Fiber stuff bag set showed above!
If you want to win the Cuben Fiber hip belt pocket you need to visit hrXXLight’s blog. Same rules and timeline. Two great raffles at two separate blogs in parallel…how does that sound?

Just some details for the set of Cuben sacks (their color is anthracite similar to a pencil lead) :

Sack S: 1,2L (40.6 fl.oz.) / 5g (0.17 oz)
Sack M: 2,7L (91.3 fl.oz.) / 7g (0.25 oz)
Sack L: 7,0L (236.7 fl.oz.) / 11g (0.39 oz)

Happy commenting and yes, I know it sounds to good to be true but I can assure you it is no April fools joke!
And before I forget: In case you want to meet Laufbursche in person and get a chance to see his cottage factory you can meet him and other crazy UL freaks in lovely Cologne at May, 1st. Details can be found here.

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Via Alpina: Stage information updated

I just wanted to let everyone know that I updated my Via Alpina stage information to reflect the hiking stages along this route during the past three years (2007-2010). It covers updated route and accomodation information (in German!) for the Via Alpina stages B1-B26 (yellow trail) and R69-R91 (red trail) plus some information how to link the yellow with the red trail in South Tyrol where both come close together. Please use either my Boxnet widget further down on the right side of the blog or download the PDF directly here. Enjoy and use this 47 pages condensed pure information piece for your own planning in the Alps.

The document will be further enhanced after this years hike with info from the blue trail.


Seasonal greetings…

Looking at my deserted blog I saw that may last contribution dated from end of October… shame on me! I can tell you that I’m still following closely what is going on in our little world and have many ideas in mind for future articles but from a prioritization point of view there are things in life which deserve more attention than this little hobby of mine. So no promises being made ramping up my publishing frequency but I will at least try doing better in 2011.
Having that this I wish everyone who celebrates christmas a peaceful and quiet celebration and a good start into 2011. For the others just a good start into the new year and for the rest my best wishes anyhow!
I was thinking about the most appropriate way to deliver my wishes and decided a choir of seven women from the Trail Dames singing the Outdoor version of Twelve Days of Christmas would suit my requirements best. Enjoy!

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Something to play with: LB TP 2.0 shelter

Disclaimer: The following product is a prototype and not available for sale!

The mission: Design a lightweight, stable tarp(shelter) which can be used for 2 persons plus baggage and works in a wide range of conditions (read: not Californian summer only).

I do really like my Tarptent Double Rainbow. It is a rock solid and very variable shelter but after several years I was looking for a roomier, more lightweight alternative. The usual suspects came to my mind the Duomid from MLD but I wanted more setup options and a sturdier zipper. Maybe the Echo II from HMG but I did not want to mess around with detachable beaks and I was missing a proper ventilation option, too. So I reached out to another usual suspect of mine: Laufbursche (LB). He already designed a good, classical two person tarp called Tanzpalast (TP) so why not adding some more fool weather protection to it?  Various phone and mail conversations later I can now hold it in my hands: The LB TP 2.0. It may never be commercially available as the pure material costs for the Cuben Fiber alone are already high but who knows there maybe will be a demand once his shop goes live….

So for now this is a one-off prototype only but it provides some ideas how such a product could look like…

Small pack size but big, no humongous size unpacked – 4.30m (14ft) long, 2.25m (7.4ft) wide:

Can be pitched in bad weather shelter mode with still plenty of usable size left – 3,90m (12.8ft) long, 1,80m (5.9ft) wide. Also notice the closable vents (one each side on the beaks):

Or in classical tarp mode:

Or something in between…:

The TP 2.0 incorporates one door with a protected heavy duty zipper:

I just started to play with it… Build quality is as usual top notch from LB, all lines are catenary cut  and the TP 2.0 in Cuben Fiber weighs together with 25m (82ft) of guylines 465g (16.4oz).

A real roomy palace for two plus gear and of course with the option adding a nest for bug protection if needed.
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Unfulfilled promises: Light Talk

Once upon a time… I had the idea for a series of podcasts with the main contributors of the cottage industries. An ambitious project with a focus not so much on the gear itself but more about what is going on “behind the scenes” in those companies, the reasons for their success, the motivation of the persons who run them and  how they imagine the future. The plan was putting a transcript of the talks on the blog and making the interviews available for download. I wanted to establish my “Light Talk” series.

And then reality hit… After the first recordings I realized what a lot of work it would mean making a transcript of an interview which lasted 1.5 hours. And who would be really interested reading those long posts afterwards?
My workload in the office increased dramatically and I could not devote so much time to my blog anymore and it doesn’t looks that this will change, soon.
Time passed by and our fellow blogger Hendrik had a similar idea and started his own series of interviews. Was there any good reason kind of duplicating his efforts now? Time passed by…what should I do?

Well, I came to the conclusion making a clean-cut and putting this project to an official end. Nevertheless I thought it would still be of interest to some hearing what the persons behind Golite and Tarptent had to tell me. But be aware: Those are lengthy talks and I’m by no means any media professional, not entertaining at all and I did not “polish” the recordings in any way! Having said that over to:

Dimitri Coupounas from Golite and

Henri Shires from Tarptent

Thanks once again to Coup and Henri for their willingness to provide some background stories to me. Enjoy!

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Little shelter updates: Lightheart Gear Solo Cuben and Gossamer Gear Lodge

About 1.5 years ago I wrote the first time about a cottage company called Lightheart Gear who just released their first 1 person shelter called the Solo back then. Since that time they created the 2 person version (quite naturally called Duo) of it and now they released a new Cuben Fiber version at their site. The Solo in Cuben is supposed to weigh around 397g (14oz) which is more than e.g. the ZPacks Hexamid but is also a more “classical” construction (which reminds me of the old “Wanderlust” tent which never saw the light in the commercial world) with a few additional options for modifications.  Price point is steep even for a Cuben product and what concerns me is that it is non refundable. Cuben is a delicate material to work with and they are not many ways doing it right and not weakening the seams, tieouts etc. so I would wait for the first longer tests in the “real world” unless you are an early adopter of things…

Not a big surprise is the immanent release of the first pyramid shelter from Gossamer Gear called “Lodge”. No, not a Cuben one at least from the photos I saw but with a square bottom, mesh skirt and an approx weight of 567g  (20oz). Pole height should be 140cm (55″). Looks like the release will be soon and in conjunction with a re-designed website from Gossamer Gear. When will they jump on the Cuben bandwagon?

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Cottage producer: Bear Paw Tents

If you see a paw logo on a website and you are living in Germany you instantly think about a company you normally don’t like but this is a different story.

Bear Paw Tents is a kind of unique mixture. First of all their sell their own line of tents, tarps and inner nettings. Additionally they sell raw materials for the MYOG aficionados and on top they do offer custom made products like e.g. a more spray resistant inner netting for the Zpacks Hexamid range addressing their shortcomings which have been recently described by Philip Werner.

From their product offerings I found their Pyranet series interesting as they are lightweight, highly customisable and offer a good price to feature relationship. They do manufacture like many US cottage producers in the US only and sell their stuff on eBay, too. I found some positive remarks about them in the BPL forum section but so far they do not seem to be widely known and I do personally not have any experiences with them.

As usual give them a closer look if you are interested…

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Watching movies…Edward Abbey, David Horton and Shane O’Donnell

It has been a while ago that I posted something on Outdoor/Hiking related movies but given the fact that my wife is currently out with the kid and the weather was miserable I had the chance to watch a few. Let’s walk from old to new…

Edward Abbey: A Voice in the Wilderness is a re-edited DVD version of the original movie which has been released in 1993. Edward Abbey who died in 1989 at the age of 62 was a writer who consistently voiced the belief that the American West was in danger of being developed to death, and that the only solution lay in the preservation of wilderness. His most popular book is Desert Solitaire but his most personal one probably The Fool’s Progress which he completed close before his death and which describes his and his family’s life. One of his books called The Monkey Wrench Gang is perceived as the nucleus which led to the foundation of the Earth First! organization in the US. Currently there is another documentary called Lines across the Sand planned about that specific book and it’s influence and you can find out more about on their website and please consider a small donation making the movie happen!
This documentary looks back at his life through 16 interviews with relatives and friends combined with gorgeous pictures of Arches National Parks, Canyonlands National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Great Basin National Park and the Sonoran desert. I would consider it a must watch if you want to know about him as a person and his believes.

The Runner is a completely different movie. It describes David Horton’s succesful attempt to run the complete Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2005 in just 66 days. The movie describes the run itself but also provides a good understanding of Horton’s obsession with ultra running and what’s motivates him personally. It is fascinating to watch his dedication and the mental ups and downs he encountered during this adventure. He did this run in a supported fashion with a crew preparing the overnights and providing him with food and drinks.
To some extent this is history because last year Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley did the same thing in 65 days 9 hours 58 minutes and 47 seconds, beating Horton’s record by 21 hours. What makes it even more remarkable is that they did it in unsupported backpacking or better fastpacking style meaning in Brad’s words “no slackpacking (giving your pack to someone else so you may hike without one), no trail magic that I have arranged, and most importantly every resupply must be walked to. No hitching. That way my feet never leave the earth.” Amazing what both did and a shame that it almost was unnoticed in the public media… You can find some good articles here and here.

Last but not least a just released movie also about hiking the PCT called Wizards of the PCT filmed by Shane O’Donnell, trailname Jester. He completed the walk in 2008 and if you like the style of the PCT movies from Scott Herriott you will surely like this movie, too. It describes his adventures and the one’s of a few hikers he walked with along the trail. You can observe how he changed during the walk (starting with a nicely trimmed beard and a white shirt at the start and looking a bit different at the end…) and discover the usual food obsessions, fire detours and gorgeous scenery along this trail. If you don’t want to hike the PCT yourself after watching the movie I can’t help you…
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Via Alpina 2010: Gear wrap-up

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Well, my two weeks hike along the Via Alpina is the longest timeframe in a row I get “approved” by my boss and the family once a year and also my little kind of testing laboratory for gear. What works for a weekend outing does not necessarily perform as good over a longer period and in changing weather conditions. As usual I changed some of the items I took with me compared to last year and the following are my lessons learned:

1. Clothing (all weights are my own measurements for a size “L”): Elite Trousers (without belt: 159g – 5.6oz), Ultra Silver T-Shirt (65g – 2.3oz) and Ultra Silver Trunks (36g – 1.3oz) from Rohan in the UK. Rohan might be unknown to most but they once where cutting edge in terms of lightweight during the early 70’s but shifted their focus afterwards towards more Outdoor fashion type of clothing. Nonetheless for this year they released a new ultralite clothing series and I was very pleased with their performance. In specific:
– The trousers are really durable for their weight and abrasion resistant. More durable than e.g. last years Thorofare (not sold anymore) pants from BPL and not translucent… They do not repel water but dry very quickly even in damp conditions. Cut is generous which leads me to improvement suggestions: Ditch the belt and use an elasticized waistband instead plus get rid of the zippers in one of the front and the back pockets. A. they are not essential, B. they add weight and C. they sometime interfere with the hip belt resulting in discomfort.
– The T-shirt is so feathery in weight that you are once again surprised by its durability and it is very comfortable to wear, too. In comparison to my trusty Silkbody T-shirt it showed no signs of wear after two weeks daily usage and daily rinsing. Wicking works great and the anti-bacteria treatment keeps (my) smell at bay so much that I passed the “nose test” from my wife after return. :-) Plus it weighs about half as much as the Silkbody shirt did.
– Their trunks are out of the same material as their T-shirt so the same applies. Both the T-shirt and the trunk where dry after about two hours in damp conditions and around 30 minutes in the sun after washing.

Rain jacket: Ozo from Haglöfs (214g – 7.5oz). Basic feature set but a good adjustable hood. Gore-Tex Paclite probably does not “breath” as well as Event but I did never overheat in the pullover style and it kept my upper body dry. Front and back cut are long enough even after closing the hip belt. Not much more to say about a good rain protection item.

Wind jacket: Montbell Tachyon (68g – 2.4oz). 68g for a windproof jacket with a hood is not bad and even so the hood adjustment is basic it worked fine. Waterproofness is naturally limited but sufficient for small showers. Wind resistance is good and you do not overheat when you open the zipper. Cut tends to be slim but you can wear a baselayer and a fleece underneath. I used the jacket very often and it had a permanent place in one of my outside pockets on the pack. If you look for the lightest windbreaker with a hood this might be the one for you.

Fleece pullover:  Jack Wolfskin Atmosphere Half-Zip (148g – 5.20z). I know I will probably receive comments while I do recommend an item (and even bought one) from Jack Wolfskin as the company tends to have a bad reputation amongst serious hikers at least in Germany but for whatever reason they produce good fleece products. Their “Gecko” series is legendary and this year they released the even lighter Atmosphere models. Well, the pullover does what a good fleece one does keeping me warm at the tops and the evenings. No pockets or other fancy gadgets. Dries quickly, shows no pilling and is very comfortable as a pillow in conjunction with my down vest. I will keep this one in my pack.

2. Pack: Laufbursche huckePACK. My first impressions got fully confirmed. Even so we will see some changes for his final production model my “early adaptor” version fully satisfied me. Very comfortable to wear, excellent set of useful features. One thing you need keeping in mind for my Silnylon version (and other packs using the same material): The material reaches it limits on waterproofness in heavy rain. At the end of the day the water does not leak through the seams only but also passes the material itself. I had a water pool at the bottom of my pack (made from a heavier, waterproof material with a higher hydrostatic value) after about 6 hours in intense downpour which was no problem as the complete inner was protected with a cuben fiber drysack and bone dry.

3. Sleeping bag: As you know I moved to a quilt from Katabaticgear. Also this item performed excellent but I need to say I did not truly test its limits as the coldest night was possibly around 8°C (46°F) and I was cosy warm in it with my silk liner and most of the time it was more of a blanket for me.

4. Shoes: Salomon XT Wings 2 (725g – 25.6oz). Not the lightest trail runners on the market but one with no Gore-Tex lining and some good cushioning making them usable for various terrains including tarmac. I know the current trend in shoes is going “barefoot”, i.e. almost no cushioning in shoes but it will take some time to get me convinced that this is the best way forward. My feet felt well protected in these shoes and their grip was excellent on all varieties of ground they covered regardless wet or dry. And compared to my Terrocs from Inov-8 they showed only little sole wear after the two weeks. I got my usual blisters at my feet but the reason was not the shoe but the form of my feet and I need to tell the truth: Even so they have no lining and if you cycle with them you can feel the wind going through the material you will discover two things: a. your feet will be exceptionally dirty after a days hike especially around your toes as the dust passes through the shoe and your socks plus b. it is a myth that shoes with no liner dry out completely over night. Once fully soaked they will be drier (and of course drier than a Gore-Tex or full leather shoe) but still damp when you use them next morning. Not a problem if you be aware of it but something still worth mentioning as I read quite often that those type of shoes tend to dry completely over night.

5. Various items:
POE Pneumo Zip (Quart size: 22g – 0.8oz). This is actually the first waterproof bag with a closure which is lightweight and works after you open/close it many times. Something I expected from aLoksak but they always failed to withstand steady usage undamaged. I use one for my hygiene articles.
Apple iPhone 4 (141g – 5oz): This is a gadget of course, but a nice one and you can also use it for making phone calls if you hold it in your right hand… :-) But seriously I used it to record my GPS data during the day. A fully charged iPhone last about 9 hours continuous recording before the battery reaches about 4% charging level. The crux is that you can’t switch off GSM and Wifi and let GPS run on it’s own (Flight mode sets all three to off) so the phone is constantly connected to a GSM tower or in search of one if there is no connectivity (if you know an app, even a jailbroken one which can do that please let me know) resulting in battery drain. But as a rule of thumb you are good for one day of  GPS recording before you need to recharge. A pair of AA Lithium batteries (29g – 10z) combined with this charger (40g – 1.4oz) is good for a full charge and the original power plug from Apple weighs as little as 28g (1oz). Originally I attached the phone in a Ziplock bag on top of the pack but quickly found out that in direct sunlight the phone overheated beyond its recommended operation temperature of 35° C (95° F). Putting it in between the two material layers of the huckePACK top closure and therefore outside of direct sunlight/out of the plastic bag solved this problem.
For my own interest and for safety reasons (loss of data) I used two apps simultaneously on the phone to record the GPS data. One was MotionX and the other one Gaia GPS. Funny enough both came out with different results each day (sometime marginally different sometimes bigger) even so they used the same GPS chip. Wondering what the reason could be?
Another fascinating app is called Peaks. With this app you hold your camera towards the mountains in front of you and the app tells you the name of each mountain and it’s distance. You can even create a photo out of it and post it to Facebook, Twitter and the like if you wish. I understand the background technology but still find it amazing as did everyone else I showed it to. The other one was Swiss Map Mobile where you could buy 1:25.000 topographic maps for the areas we hiked through and with the GPS chip the phone shows your location. Nothing new but useful as a backup for your maps and the new iPhone display is really fantastic and enables you to see tiny details.
Sony Nex-5 (with 16mm pancake lens: 374g – 13.2oz): An impressive little camera. One of the new “lightweight” cameras with DSLR capabilities, i.e. exchangeable lenses but with a different construction of the bodies compared to classical DSLR cameras. Excellent photo quality and full HD video recording. If you read through the various tests of this camera the biggest critique was around the way the camera is operating through its display but for me coming “up” from a normal digital compact camera that was not such a nuisance compared to most of the testers coming “down” from a true DSLR and their operating menus/buttons. Or simply said: It worked for me! One fully charged battery is good for approx. 8 days of usage.
– Cuben Fiber bags with a roll-top closure: Early this year Granite Gear released their Überlight series, followed by Mountainfitter and now MLD comes with their own versions. I used the 7L (425ci) version from Granite Gear for my sleeping quilt and silk liner and was satisfied with it. So far it holds up against the frequent usage only the plastic roll-top could be made of stiffer material imho but this does not affect the performance.

That’s about it. I’ve come back with a list of (little) things I want to change for next year to save more weight but overall I’m very happy with my current setup and unless there is nothing striking new and tempting almost all items will stay the same. Almost… ;-)
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nPower PEG or end user frustrations plus a thanks for the ODS capture

Sorry about my rambling in advance but the following is so typical when you are interested in new gear… I wrote about the nPower PEG already as the concept using kinetic energy sounds a bit exotic but if it fulfills the promises it has the potential replacing a charger, solar panels, batteries and the like. So I was very thrilled when the website opened for pre-purchase to be completed by the end of June ready for my hike. Time passed by. No information but a little Facebook comment that they are waiting for a key component missing from one of their manufacturers. Answered for a clear delivery date on Facebook. Only a vague answer time wise. Gave them a phone call. They promised sending over an engineering sample which would fully work. Waiting..time passing by. Got back to them once again. They missed sending it out so it was too late for an incorporation into this years long hike. Now I’m back from the hike and got the following mail:

“Dear X,

We would like to thank you for your patience and understanding regarding the delivery of your nPower® PEG order. We wrote to you in June to let you know that shipments were delayed by supply issues with certain key components. As one of the first people to order the nPower® PEG, you deserve to know what is happening behind the scenes.

Innovative Technology:

Your nPower® PEG employs several unique components to capture and store your energy.  We are very proud to be the first company to solve the difficult problem of truly passive kinetic energy harvesting. This required us to develop and use a number of cutting edge technologies, including custom ultra-low power circuitry, advanced control software, and a unique storage system. While the engineering challenges have been overcome, some components require specialized manufacturing techniques that have taken longer to implement than we expected.  Our suppliers are working hard to produce these components as quickly as possible without compromising quality.

Partially Assembled

Each PEG is carefully assembled and thoroughly tested by our skilled technicians in our Cleveland, OH shop. We have taken the assembly process as far as we can until the final components arrive. While we wait, we are using the extra time to perform additional tests and inspections so that, when you receive your PEG, it will be the best quality product that we can make.

Almost Ready to Ship

Your “first mover edition” PEG is currently sitting, partially assembled, ready for the last components to be added, so that we can test, charge, box, and ship it to you. I do not want to set a new ship date and risk disappointing you yet again. However I can say that, based on the best information we have, we should be able to begin shipping within the next few weeks.

We take these delays very seriously, and we are doing everything we can to get your order to you as quickly as possible.
Thanks again for your support and patience as we work to deliver the nPower® PEG –The world’s first kinetic energy charger for your hand-held electronics.

Charles Ames
Tremont Electric | President

Finally at least some official comments from them but what does it say? Wait again a bit longer and we can’t exactly tell you how long that will be…

Yep, I know manufacturing processes are complicated and everything that can go wrong will go wrong but although they had years figuring it out through the development process and why should I as an end user find excuses for them? If they announce a bl..dy delivery date they should stick to it or they risk to dissatisfy their customers right from the start regardless how good their product might be.

O.k. rant over but I needed this to “ventilate” my unhappiness. New articles will hopefully be more full of content when I find the time to recap lessons learned and experiences enjoyed from this years hike.

Thanks to hrXXLight for his excellent coverage articles of the OutDoor show. He filled the niche with myself only being able to Twitter from there perfectly as did some other (German) bloggers. Really good to see that the bloggers group grew significantly since last year and I bet that this trend will continue. Really looking forward if the US UL guys will be able to match this level during this weeks OR show in Salt Lake. Now I need to read all what has been written in the blogs etc. during the past two weeks…


Just found: Hyperlite Mountain Gear and Laufbursche blog

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Just before I’m heading off to the gear nirvana at the OutDoor show I came across this new (at least to me) manufacturer for UL equipment. Hyperlite Mountain Gear is located in Kennebunk, Maine and opened its shop on June 24th. They focus their offerings around their modular Echo tarps (1 or 2 person version) which you can combine with a separate beak and an inner mesh netting to adopt to various conditions plus their Windriver pack. All items are made of cuben fiber (tarps) and a rip-stop nylon/cuben fiber hybrid (pack):

Haven’t found any reviews yet and even BPL does not mention them but from what they tell about themselves it seems they know their stuff. So just one more option to choose from and our little niche in the Outdoors world is getting bigger and bigger…

Not so new (at least within the German UL community) is that Laufbursche (the Cologne based UL cottage producer in the making) just opened up his blog to the public as his next step before going live with his shop. Also his first set of offerings will be consisting of tarps and packs. Stay tuned!

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OutDoor show: The lightweight preview

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In almost a week from now the OutDoor show is starting again. As mentioned before I will not be able to write a detailed report like in the past years but instead Twitter my way through the halls so please either subscribe to my Twitter channel or check the left side of my blog periodically so see what I discovered. To raise your appetite a bit more in terms what is in the pipeline here are some of the things of interest for the light minded hiker:

The new Cierzo packs from Arc’teryx are labeled as “perfect for light and fast ascents from an alpine base camp”. They offer two smaller packs (18L and 25 L) and one bigger 35L pack. The 25L or 35L versions are compressible and featured with ice axe keepers, daisy chains and hydration bladder sleeves and the 35L one has a removable foam back pad. And from the photo it looks like a mixture of Silnylon plus Dyneema.

Black Diamond releases their new Ultra Distance Z-Pole series.  Described as optimized for “thru-hikers, endurance runners or fast-packers” the poles weigh 270g/pair (9.50z) and consist of  3-section, 100% carbon fiber shaft’s tubes hold together by a kevlar center cord.

Cascade Designs introduces the new member of the NeoAir family called NeoAir Trekker. Same inner design than the original one but more emphasis on a new durable yet supple and silent outer fabric. Guess that responds to some of the initial concerns and feedback they received from customers of the original design but I guess a new outer material could also mean increased weight…

Craft asks us: “What’s cooler than cool and lighter than light? Craft’s Mesh Superlight definitely is!” Not sure what I should think of a mesh constructed boxer short and for sure it is not something you should wear in colder temperatures not speaking about potential durability problems but 17g (0.6oz) for a boxer short is at least pretty light…

The new Montane Spektr is surely worth a second look. First of all it is an waterproof eVent smock supposed to weigh only 210g (7.4oz) which should be the lightest eVent one on the market… plus it is zip-free introducing  their “Tornado” roll closure system which replaces the front water resistant zip. Mmmh…

R’adys introduces their new R13 and R14 Outdoorshirts (longsleeve/shortsleeve) which means they adopted the ultrasonic (“glueing”)  technology for a T-Shirt and got rid of seams and stitches. In theory those shirts with a mixture of 94% polyamide and 6% elastane should be more lightweight than similar “traditional” ones from the competition.

Smartwool gets lighter, too. They release two new sock models called “Hiking Ultra Light”and “PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Micro”. So if you want that your feet become more intellectual make sure to purchase a PhD sock before your next hike… :-)

And last but not least…yeah it is Terra Nova with once again one of the “lightest tents in its category” achievement. This time it is their new “Laser Ultra 1” designed to be the lightest one person, double wall tent available in the world. They obviously created a Cuben Fiber – Nylon – Mesh hybrid with a minimum weight (main pole, fly and inner) of less than 500g (17.6oz). Hopefully they also redesigned some of the construction shortcomings of the original Laser design which makes it for a lot of people different to set up and ventilate. At least it is interesting to notice that the first “established” producer introduces a tent partially made out of Cuben Fiber into the mass market.
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First look: Katabaticgear – Palisade Quilt

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It was a long fight because I really like my Summerlite sleeping bag from Western Mountaineering. He served me well over the past years and despite being a classical sleeping bag he is still on the top end in terms of weight for his temperature range. But of course they are also some downsides. The cut of the bag is snug especially at the shoulders and the fact that you carry some useless down with you which don’t isolate when you lay on and compress them kept me thinking.
The obvious alternative for lightweight enthusiasts is a quilt.  More usage options, freedom of movement, lower weight but once again a major downside which are drafts. The classical sleeping bag fully encloses you whereas the quilt with the open bottom can let cold air into your bag. Unless recently there was no real solution for this problem but Katabaticgear claimed having solved that problem. They invented an attachment system which secures the quilt on top of your pad. Other quilt style sleeping bags attach under your sleeping pad or attach around the body. The following photos show how it works. It is pretty easy and straightforward once you read their manual.

Step 1: Attach the two lines around your sleeping pad and pull them tight. The lines (normal 2mm guylines) included in the package fit every existing pad model. I used for the demonstration my Thermarest NeoAir:

Step 2: Attach the four clips (two on each side) of the quilt to the lines. As you can see this attaches the quilt to the pad and slides the edges inwards. The clips can move freely along the lines in this position allowing a maximum of freedom in balmy nights:

Step 3: Pulling the lines further inward inside the attachment points results in a tight fix for a snugger fit at any position. This can be done when you lay inside your quilt. If it is still too cold you can clip the additional four hooks onto the line on the outside which pull additional quilt material further down the sites preventing any drafts:

In order not to let air get into the quilt from the head end the quilt features an overstuffed down collar around the neck opening which can be closed with a buttom and pulled tight using the additional drawstring:

Further quilt design features are the usage of continous baffles, a differential cut and a trapezoidal foot box.

Katabaticgear uses Pertex Quantum Ripstop .850z/yd for the outer and their Qantum Taffeta for the inner. Down is rated 850 fillpower at US standards with a down fill weight of 261g (9.2oz). I bought their Palisade, 183cm (6ft) long quilt which weighs 490g (1.08lbs) including the two atttachment lines. The quilt is rated down to -1 °C (30 °F).

The quilt gets delivered in a big box not compressing the down (US$ 35 postage to Germany) and includes beside the quilt and attachment lines a storage and a lightweight stuffsack made from Silnylon:

I spend two nights out in the garden at around 9 °C (48 °F) and felt no need securing the quilt tight around me (but I tend to be a “warm” sleeper). Seam quality and overall workmanship is top-notch so I’m happy to give it a try in my upcoming two weeks hike next month. The most obvious potential points of failure are the four plastic attachments of the quilt. Will the plastic tend to break when it is getting really cold? Will they tear out when you toss and turn underneath your quilt? Time will tell but so far I’m confident about design and construction quality. One thing I would add is a little hang loop at the end of the foot box because I find those convenient.
If you live in Germany and are interested in this quilt, too be aware that our beloved custom charges you an extra 19% VAT plus 12% custom when the quilt arrives so keep that in mind before you order.

And finally two side by side pictures with the Summerlite and the Palisade:

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Hiking with Leatherman and Style

If there would be one word existing which would describe a hiker carrying useless heavy gear this could well be Leatherman. Well known for their heavy multi-functional tools they represent the antipode to hiking lightweight. But your perception might change with the arrival of the new Leatherman Style knife. Cut down to the essentials and beautifully designed this little knife weighs only 1g (0.03oz) more than the usual suspects in your pack coming from Victorinox. Below you can find a comparison between the two knifes (click to enlarge):

The downside of this knife? Except for the knife blade itself I found the other tools tough to pull out in comparison to the Victorinox. You either have long and sturdy fingernails or you use the integrated tweezers for it. Building quality is top-notch, full metal and no plastics plus it is a nice differentiator to the ubiquitous knives from the competition. For 1g more it goes into my pack and adds some style to the overall setup.

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Monatauk Gnat vs. Fire-Maple FMS-116T

Slightly confused about the two pictures above? Me to and they are the result of the fact that only a handful (if not even less) companies do exist in China that actually produce stoves and the rest of the story is that companies put their logo on and sell them as “their” products. It is not something new but especially visible in the cooking space. Same titanium cutlery, stoves and pots everywhere. Well at least it increases your chances buying the same item for a lower price under a different brand name somewhere else.
Looking at the stoves above the Monatauk Gnat makes its way slowly over to Europe but the FMS-116T from Fire-Maple is already available in the UK so you can get him for a lower price with no additional custom charges being paid.


OutDoor Show: Less than two months to go

Almost another year flew by and it is time again to set your mindset and get ready for the next OutDoor show in Friedrichshafen. The major Outdoor gear event in Europe and a must visit. I hope seeing some other lightweight gear fanatics there and announcement of new gear to come are already rolling in and for sure more will follow:

The Finnish company Kupilka will present a cutlery set (spoon, tea spoon, fork, knife) weighing 56 g (2 oz)  and being constructed out of a wood/plastic composite material:

The German university of Rostock will show a hiking/nordic walking pole constructed out of a mixture of carbon and bamboo:

Many more things will be prelaunched before the show and it will most likely be a very hectic two days for me. Even more hectic because the day after my return late night I need to leave to my two weeks hiking trip along the Alps so as a result we gonna see some changes in my personal coverage of the show. I looks that I can join forces with hrXXL another enthusiastic hiker and blogger who has the luxury spending the whole four days at the show so my current thinking is that I do the quick pieces on my Twitter account and my usual podcast recordings for Bob and he does the more in detail write-up on his blog after I hand all materials over to him but we first need to discuss this in more detail. Anyhow it seems that I will not be the only one who covers the lightweight stuff at this show so you should be able to get much more coverage from various people. A real good development!


Laufbursche huckePACK – First impressions

After my close inspection of my new huckePACK pack from Laufbursche I had some weekends to test him in the Outdoors. My initial thoughts got fully verified. It is one of the most comfortable (if not the most comfortable) lightweight backpack I ever carried. He fits me like a glove and transfers the load very effectively. I used him with several setups, e.g. with a foam pad at the back only, adding the u-shaped aluminum frame from GG, hip belt open and closed etc. For the typical spring to autumn period the usual setup with a foam pad on the back and another one within the pack to give some structure (check the setup in this video) is more than adequate and the huckePACK carried 26.5 lbs (12 kg) flawlessly. If you need to carry gear beyond that weight you can add the frame from GG and it should still be comfortable! As shown in the video the pack combines a “form follows function” design with excellent materials and attention to detail. The only thing left to decide is if I carry the NeoAir in short length inside the pack to give some structure which is a bit fiddly and also reduces the available inner space or put a Multimat Adventure into it which works great but provides less comfort for sleeping. Decisions, decisions.. :-)


Laufbursche huckePACK or Sewing as an art

Mateusz drove me crazy. He is the inventor, designer and sewing worker behind a (hopefully soon to be formally established) German cottage company called Laufbursche. His huckePACK backpack pretty quickly became the object of desire for lightweight gear aficionados in Europe. Despite the fact that his company is not public yet they bombarded him with requests getting one of his masterpieces. Being a total gearnut myself and despite the fact that I already have plenty of packs I decided to order one, too after reading the great reviews from other people (English: 1; German: 1, 2, 3) who already owned one.

But why was Mateusz driving me crazy? Well, at the TULFT (Trekking UltraLeicht ForumsTreffen – a meeting of German lightweight enthusiasts) I managed to pick up my back. On my long way back home in the train I started to inspect his pack more closely and the people beside me saw that I got more and nervous because I could not find a single thread dangling around! This is one of the quality checks I always do. Turn the thing inside out and inspect the seams and threads on the inside. Usually it looks like a real mess but not in this case. Not a single one needed to be cut. All seams straight and the attention to detail in this construction was second to none at least compared to other packs I bought in the past. Being objective I must say that his pack is still officially a pre-production model but after having talked to Mateusz I have no doubt that he will spend the same level of attention to every pack he is making. This guy is a role model of someone striving for perfection. Being an architect by profession he also tries to find unique and at the same time stylish looking solutions. You can find pictures of the complete pack in the others reviews mentioned but the following gives a good insight of his attention to detail:

The bottom of the pack is made out of waterproof X-Pac and formed like a box but he used only two little seams there which he also sew in waterproof fashion. The photo at the left shows the bottom downside up with the seam on the right side and the other one the same seam from the inside:

He uses quick release fasteners for the lid which adopt the tightening mechanism that can be found at the guyout lines of lightweight shelters:

Use two loops instead of one for securing items:

Haven’t seen so beautifully designed waterproof hipbelt pockets before:

I did also challenge him by requesting some Extras like incorporating the sleeping pad attachments for the back of the pack so it could double as a frame and adopting the curved aluminum stay attachments from Gossamer Gear into the huckePACK. All sewn faultlessly.
The pack itself has a very unique lid construction which allows for quick and almost waterproof protection of your gear and the 3D curved shoulder straps do carry very comfortable. I have no doubt that it will carry the recommended 26 pounds (12kg) with ease and even more should be doable using some of my extras. With all my extra goodies ordered the pack weighs 14.8oz (420g) which is 7oz (200g) more than my ZPacks Blast but the manufacturing quality is 300% better and he will surely be more comfortable to carry. Compared to my trusty GG Mariposa (not sold anymore) pack he is 2.3oz (65g) lighter.

As mentioned his company is not live yet (cottage company demands and German company legal frameworks do not go together very well) so there is no website to order yet but he plans finalizing everything during the rest of 2010. Another product which will then be at his shop are Cuben fiber tarps for solo and two person usage. Catenary curved, bonded, special futures and more lightweight than the competition. Please see the photo below and in the meantime I’ll try to resist another purchase… :-). It is called Tanzpalast (Dance Palace) and 11 people can fit inside….


Gary Mittelholtz is dead

I am not sure if you know Gary Mittelholtz. I had the privilege talking to him on a few occasions. He was the producer of the Doing Stuff Outdoors podcast which was the result of his passion on all topics related to the Outdoors and he called himself: “Gary – The Outdoors Guy”.

He suddenly died on a heart attack while skiing with a friend (full story) way to young at age 55. My thoughts are with his family and I know he will be missed by any Outdoor loving person out there who enjoyed his regular podcasts like I did.



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