Just thought some of you might enjoy this:
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Last summer the world's lightest 4-season tent was released to the fan fare of - well, very few. Whether people didn't know it existed or balked at the price tag, either way, I've heard very little chatter about a tent that I think is pretty fascinating.
The "Rocket" by Brooks Range (http://www.brooks-range.com/) is a 1 pound 6 ounce "mountaineering" tent which boasts roughly 25 feet of floor space, a peak height of 38", and a 7 sq/ft vestibule. It is 129" long and has a tapering width of 48" to 38". By sheer numbers alone, this is a pretty respectable size for a tent so spacious that weighs so little.
The Rocket comes with supporting poles, although it can also be set up with trekking poles and an avalanche probe. Why the avalanche probe? Well, it is a 4-season mountaineering tent and it is assumed this is something the user would already be carrying with them anyway. Perhaps overzealous marketing or wishful thinking, but either way it is nice to have options.
So what makes this tent so light? You guessed it - Cuben Fiber, or more specifically "CT3" fabric which is waterproof, extremely light, and very tough.
Despite this being a tent that I'd like to have in my gear closest, I'm like many who are apparently unwilling to dish out the healthy $600 price tag that comes with it. So, it will remain something that I hope will end up on my doorset one day. Donations accepted.
So if you don't have the money to spare and you don't need a full 4-season tent, what other options do you have for a full coverage tent? Well, you could get solid lightweight three-season shelters from many manufacturers. This includes Gossamer Gear (http://www.gossamergear.com/) who offers a solo tent in "The One" ($295/16 oz or the duo "Squall Classic" ($325/21.4 oz). You could try out several great options from Tarp Tent (http://www.tarptent.com/) such as the solo "Sublite" ($179, 19.75 oz), "Contrail" ($199/24.5 oz) or duo "Double Rainbow" ($260/40 oz), "Squall 2" ($230/34 oz), "Rainshadow 2" ($265/40 oz), etc. You could try several offerings from Six Moon Designs (http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/) such as the "Lunar Solo" ($235/23 oz), "Lunar Duo" ($310/39 oz), "Vamp" ($323/28 oz) or "Haven" ($355/36 oz). A smaller manufacturer recently getting some air time as they revamp their design and production process is Lightheart Tents (http://www.lightheartgear.com/) whom I saw at Trail Days two years ago. At $235 for the solo (27 oz) or $295 for the Duo (32 oz), they will no doubt have an impact on the future of lightweight backpacking. Course if you really want to go lightweight and don't mind walls and floors made out of only mosquito netting, you could go to Zpacks (http://www.zpacks.com/) and pick up the Hexamid ($275/8.2 oz) or Hexamid Duo ($345/10.5 oz). The "Fly Creek" series by Big Agnes is also a nice option from a mainstream manufacturer. The solo is $299/30 oz and the Duo is $350/34 oz.
For four-season tents, you'll need to focus on other options such at the Moment ($215/28.5 oz) from Tarp Tent, although I'd put it and the Brooks Range Rocket in the 3+ season category personally. My advice for a genuine 4-season tent is the Stephenson's Warmlite (http://www.warmlite.com/) which are expensive, but are made well, have excellent space-to-weight, and have been around long enough for the best design to rise to the top.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Last fall, for the first time in my backpacking career, I faced a very unfun experience while backpacking - chaffing. As I explained to my hiking partners who found the situation entirely more comical than I did, I felt like I had been bit in the crotch by a Rottweiler.
At the time, I was wearing Merino Wool underwear by Minus 33 which in the past helped control odor and stood up better to long-term use. I can't say I know what caused the difference as my cleaning habits and temperature control remained the same, but nonetheless I elected to search for a better solution as wearing wool on an area of my body that is fairly vital didn't seem to make a ton of sense. Chaffing is caused by abrasion and made worse through hot and moist environments. So good hygiene and ventilating gear choices both play a significant role to offer the best chance of success.
After a lot of research, I decided to use a combination of synthetic shorts, and synthetic briefs, coupled with periods where I wore only the shorts by themselves while on the move.
For the shorts, I elected to go with the Mountain Hardware Refueler $44 (http://www.backcounty.com/outdoorgear/mountain-hardwear-refueler-short-mens/MHW1165M.html). They are extremely light, pack small, dry quick, are long enough to not look terribly dorky, have a very nice feel to them, and get the job done. They also come with an interior support system (net liner) which helps on those days when I elect to avoid wearing anything else to get the best ventilation possible. I had tried other options and several different offerings from Patagonia almost made the cut, but I dubbed the Refueler as the best for my needs. It comes with only one little "key" pocket in the back, which is helpful, but I do wish it had other pockets. I'm not quite sure why as I have a pack on my back full of stuff, but I guess I just like compartmentalizing things. And no, please don't recommend a pair of Umbro's or running shorts as they offend the trees just as much as they offend the general public.
Researching underwear was a lot tougher because it was a next-to-skin layer that needed to be more performance-based. I've known about nano technologies and silver treatments for awhile which are being used in Europe and tested with the U.S. military. These high-tech attributes help with stink control and longevity. Unfortunately, they are hard to find and are very costly. In the end, I decided to go with the ExOfficio Boxer Briefs $25 (http://www.rei.com/product/694431). This shouldn't be confused with many other similar named products from ExOfficio and is worth noting that I think ExOfficio may very well be discontinuing this product. I found the tighter these briefs the better. There are other simlar products from Under Armour and others, but I found the ExOfficio to offer the best all round performance.
If necessary, other anti-chaffing tools include treatments with Hydropel (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/hydropel.html), BodyGlide (http://www.amazon.com/bodyglide-anti-chafing-stick/dp/B001FSL8MA), or my new favorite because it comes in such a small and useful package, BandAid Friction Block Stick (http://www.bandaid.com/productList.do?typeID=4).