Monday, June 11, 2012

Wet, Wet, Wet!!!

Headed out for a bush walk today, it had ben raining for 24 hours so I knew it was going to be muddy.

It turned out to be a bit of an adventure. The trail itself was like a creek.

Then mid way through the walk it bucketed down and I ended up being stuck between two raging creeks.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sea to Summit Tumbleweed gaiters

Often when I do a day walk I just wear a pair of low cut hiking shoes.  Only problem is that dirt, water mud etc often makes its way into the shoe and once that happens your on a fast track to discomfort.

Anyway, thought I'd look around for a small pair of gaiters and came across the Sea to Summit Tumbleweeds. They are inexpensive and work well.  I compared them to a few other brands in the shop and they appeared to be better quality.  They have a simple boot clip, using cord which can be easily replaced and also a sturdy lace hook.  The gaiters have a large wide strip of velcro to fasten the front and two press studs to make sure that they stay closed.  They also have a draw cord at the top to keep them tight on the calf.  

I just managed to get the back of the gaiter over the top ankle section of the upper and it stayed there over the duration of a descent walk.  

So if you after a light weight pair of gaiters check these out.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Frost River Cliff Jacobson Pack review

Unfortunately due to a hectic work life and young family the majority of my time spent in the wilderness is generally confined to a day and if I'm lucky a two day hike.  The exception to this was a recent trip to New Zealand to walk the Routeburn and Caples track: but that's a post for another day.  Anyway, with most of my trekking consisting of short walks I was after a suitable pack.  I like most people have a few synthetic 15-30 liter capacity day packs.  I have always been a little frustrated with these packs, they do an adequate job, but they generally come in garish colours have straps and zips galore, and have a compromised load capacity; i.e. tear drop shape and narrow opening.

I own a set of canvas motorcycle panniers manufactured in Australia, and they have proven to be incredibly durable and just look better with each adventure.  These canvas panniers replaced a set of synthetic soft pannier bags that fell apart all too quickly.  Anyway, one day whilst in the garage foraging for my kit for a bushwalk I gazed upon my canvas pannier bags sitting next to my synthetic day pack and I thought, wouldn't it be great if I could find a durable quality canvas backpack.  I jumped on the internet and quickly came to the conclusion that there didn't appear to be any locally produced back packs that fitted my requirements however; there were a number of manufacturers of traditional canvas hiking and canoe portage bags in the US.  A little more research and I decided that Frost River not only made great looking gear, but it was also hand made in their workshop in Duluth, Minnesota.  The US is probably similar to Australia, everyday local jobs are being lost to sweat shops in far flung countries where often the quality of the item also goes out the door in the process.  So whilst it wasn't an Australian product, I was more than happy to support a small operation that employed local US workers making quality back country gear in a rural community: and as I would discover still provided good old fashioned customer service.

The end result, well I am now the proud owner of a Frost River Cliff Jacobson pack. I have owned the pack for around 5 months and it has been a constant companion on numerous days in the bush.  As with my canvas motorcycle panniers it just gets better with use, developing a patina of sweat and dust and good memories.

The pack is beautifully crafted, with quality leather straps and solid brass buckles.  The rivets on the pack are sturdy and the canvas is a 10 weight waxed cotton canvas.  There are two large pockets on either side of the main box compartment which can fit large water bottles or a hydration pack.  The main compartment holds all the bushcraft gear you need for a day in the woods and if you are a light backpacker you could stow enough gear for a two day hike.  I have loaded this bag with 7 kg of gear and walked over 20 km in one day and the bag was supremely comfortable.  The comfort of the bag is reliant upon the way you pack your gear, sharp items up against your back will obviously annoy you as the trek progresses.   If you cannot be bothered taking the time to pack the bag carefully you can slip in an old section of a sleeping mat to provide structure to the bag (it has no frame) and comfort.  The straps which are made of a thick cotton webbing were comfortable from day one.  There is also a nice map pouch on the inside of the main compartment which comes in handy for stowing small loose kit items.  The pack is also great in rain, keeping the water out thanks to internal canvas flaps that covers the gear in the main compartment prior to the large flap being fastened.  I have walked through some pretty big downpours without anything getting wet thus far.
Frost River Cliff Jacobson Pack

Sturdy straps and  grab handle with hydration pack in side pocket

Loaded up: survival kit, first aid kit, camera MRS Dragonfly stove,
cooking gear, food, wet weather gear and water bladder

Hydration Pack

Quality Rivets

In conclusion, I highly recommend this pack to anyone who is after a sturdy day pack.  I have little doubt that long after I'm departed this earth my children will be getting great use out of their Dad's old pack.

In fact I am so impressed with this pack I intend to buy Frost Rivers big Isle Royal Bushcraft pack which I suspect will be the perfect companion for my multi-day treks.  A review of the Isle Royal Bushcraft pack will be posted once I save up some cash to buy one.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Snow Peak Titanium 1400 & 700

In Search of new cookware:

News Years day was a rather glorious affair, 24 degrees and blue skies.  The kids were off on an outing with their aunts, my partner headed in to town for a coffee, book in hand; and I ventured to our local patch of bush for some solitude.  In my pack I had two new cooking pots, which I thought I would try out.  The pots in question are the Snowpeak Trek 1400 and Trek 700 titanium range.  These were purchased for an upcoming trek in New Zealand.

With the idea of upgrading my cooking pots (have an old Sigg set, similar to Trangier) I headed to Kent Street in Sydney and checked out the camping stores, drifting from one shop to the next.  Mountain Equipment was the store that impressed me the most with regards to having the broadest range of brands on display.   The Snowpeak Trek 1400 and Trek 700 pots struck me as being an ideal solo cooking set.  I wavered between different sets made of varying material but kept returning to those two pots, it was a gut reaction however; the rational side of my brain was shouting out the cost.

Titanium gear is very expensive and perhaps attracts the gear junkie or Ultralight back packer mob.  It wasn't really my intention to buy titanium cooking pots and after I exited the shop I was contemplating the rationality of spending so much money on this gear when for a third of the price I could have left with high end stainless steel or aluminium equivalents.  If weight was a real concern, I have 5 kilo that I can shed before contemplating uber light equipment.  So why buy this gear, well I'm a fan of beautifully designed and durable equipment that will last a lifetime and that's what snared me in the end.  I also liked the fact that the pots were compact and stacked together with a minimal pack footprint.

When I walked out the store I was praying that my gut instinct had not led me to an expensive blunder.  The shop assistant had corroborated what I had read beforehand that titanium whilst light, strong and hard wearing was susceptible to hot spots when cooking, which could result in food sticking or burning to the bottom if you were not vigilant.  My main stove is an MSR Dragonfly which has an excellent simmer control so I was hoping that this issue would be reduced or eliminated altogether.

Now before I proceed any further it would be useful to touch upon the history of the manufacturer.   Snowpeak is a Japanese company and the two pots have made in Japan stamped on the bottom!  The website indicates that the company started in 1958 under the leadership of Yukio Yamai, an accomplished mountaineer.  A scan of outdoor forums indicates that Snowpeak products are held in high esteem.  I couldn't find a bad word against their equipment.

Trek 1400 and 700; impressions from the trail:

The Trek 700 stacks neatly inside the 1400.  Both pots have a mesh bag, time will tell if the bags are durable.

Trek 700 stacked into Trek 1400

Trek 1400 in mesh bag

The Trek 1400 weighs 133 grams (4.7 oz) and the Trek 700 136 grams (4.8 oz), combined weight is 269 grams 9.3 oz.

Nice features for both pots are fluid measurements printed on the inside of the pots.

Trek 1400 inside measurement guide

The Trek 1400 is sold with a small pan that also doubles as the lid.

Both pots and pan have simple folding handles. On the pan the handle locks in place, on the pots the handles fold flush with the pots.

Trek 1400 pan/lid

I have now used the pot set three times on treks and can report that whilst the handles on the pot do warm up after bringing water to boiling point, I can comfortably remove the pot from the stove without the use of a glove or cloth.

Trek 1400 on MSR Dragonfly stove

food sticking to the bottom of the pot has not been an issue.  I'm not sure if this is due to the superb simmer control on the MSR Dragonfly stove, my attention to cooking or that hot spots on titanium pots is not really a major issue.

Indian Dahl: it tasted a lot better than it looks!!!

The Trek 700, is similar in proportions to a military Crusader style pot.  It would be possible to use this to cook small dishes such as noodles or soup.  One issue which I was aware of before purchasing is that the diameter of the Trek 700 pot is too narrow to safely sit on the MSR Dragonfly pot stand, although suitable for most gas stoves.  This is not an issue for me as I intend to use if as a tea/coffee and soup/noodle cup.  A great feature of the Trek 700 is a strainer hole in the lid, useful for draining pasta noodle style dishes.

So in conclusion, I am really happy with this pot combo, without question this will become part of my everyday camp cooking kit.  It's incredibly light, beautifully made, durable and functional.

UPDATE:  Back from a trek in New Zealand where I had the opportunity to use the Snow Peak gear day in day out.   It has confirmed in my mind, that this is brilliant equipment that has the perfect balance of being lightweight and durable.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

A happy new year to all!  Had a great night, a friend who is an amazing chef, cooked up a wonderful Paella, combine that with margaritas and good company, it was the best way to say goodbye to 2011 and welcome 2012!

New years resolution, try and do a few more posts.  In January I'll be heading down to Victoria for a three week holiday staying at my parents farm in the central highlands.  The property is surrounded by the wombat state forest (my tramping ground growing up).  So plan to take down my new Frost River Cliff Jacobson signature pack, snow peak titanium cooking pots and Mammut hiking boots.  The intention is to give all the new kit a workout and then right up a review.

Anyway, hope you have great 2012, seeya on the trails and stay safe!