Within the confines of my blog, I do my best to find unique things in the world of lightweight and ultralight backpacking which aren't being heavily discussed elsewhere. One item that I can't say I ever hear much about is self-tensioning guylines like those offered by Jacks R Better (www.jacksrbetter.com) and Whoopie Slings (www.whoopieslings.com). Likely the reason is because this is something usually talked about in hammocking circles and not with ground dwellers which more or less dominate the outdoor scene.
A self-tensioning guyline is a fairly ingenious invention that helps keep your tarp or tent taught following sag which happens to most of us as the fabric of our shelters stretch over time, in different weather conditions, or simply because of tension. Most of us simply live with the droop, adjust our stakes, or otherwise use special knots that we can cinch tighter in a pinch. Course, many of us also gripe when our shelter sits on our heads and faces while we're trying to sleep. If you're one of those people, this product is for you.
Well, if you don't mind spending an extra $4-5 or the .4oz weight gain per guyline, you can use a self-tensioning guyline which will keep your shelter taught all night long with no fuss from you. It is nothing more than a piece of cordage with a rubber tube going around it. As your guyline becomes loose, the rubber tube draws up (stretches) thereby keeping everything nice and snug.
If you're someone who camps in difficult weather or if you use a shelter with fabric that stretches (silnylon), this might be a good option for you.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Although I'm a big fan of the Granite Gear Uberlight CTF3 DrySack (http://www.granitegearstore.com/uberlight-drysacks-P170C15.aspx) which I discussed in another blog, I wanted to mention a new product that serves the same purpose, is a little cheaper, and is a little bigger. Oh yeah, and it's black.
I purchased the Granite Gear DrySacks to keep my sleeping quilt and clothing dry. In the past, I had used a plastic pack liner, which sometimes I still do, but it is a little cumbersome. The Uberlight DrySacks work great and I like having the ability to segregate some things in one bag and other stuff in another bag. But, sometimes putting items together just doesn't make sense. For example, I've had my quilt get wet several times, but not my warm sleeping clothing. Putting them together wouldn't make sense in this case.
Well, Mountainfitter (http://www.mountainfitter.com) has come up with a similar product being marketed as a DrySack and another as a Pack Liner. I have the Pack Liner which is made of the same material as the Granite Gear DrySack. It is $29 for a 30 liter 18"x 24" 1.98 (56 gram) liner. Seams are taped and it has a roll top. If you're someone who wants to put all the things you need to stay dry in one bag, this is a good option. If not, try the DrySacks which come in several different sizes.
I think my only gripe with these kinds of products as they relate to backpacking (being stuffed into a backpack) is that I wish there was a one-way valve to fine tune how much air to deflate. I like keeping my pack as loose as possible so items like down don't suffer from too much compression. Unfortunately, how tight to compress a dry sack or similar product is a decision that needs to be made up front. By the time it's put in the pack and everything else is added, it may need to be taken out and re-rolled if there isn't enough room. This requires a lot of effort and time. If there was a simple one-way valve, it would give the opportunity to merely reach in the pack as a whole, deflate it more, and push everything else in as desired.
It looks like the manufacturer is offering a 10% discount through June 15th with the coupon code BPLsummer2010 which brings the cost to around $26 for the liner.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
A topic heavily debated by lightweight backpackers is the necessary or appropriate light source to carry while backpacking. What to carry depends on environment, use, and the comfort zone of the hiker. Some will claim a simple Photon Micro-light (http://www.photonlight.com/) is plenty. Chances are, those people merely need a simple lightweight option for camp use as it wouldn't be practical to use for nighttime hiking. Others prefer to use one of the more substantial headlamps on the market such as those offered by Petzl, Black Diamond, Princeton, and others.
My personal comfort zone and hiking experience has caused me to carry both a Photon Micro-light and a Petzl e+LITE headlamp (http://www.petzl.com/). Yes there is some redundancy which is likely unnecessary, but I wanted the option to hike in fairly mild night conditions which required a headlamp as my Photo Micro-light simply wasn't enough and I didn't want to burn out the batteries on the e+LITE for simple camp chores because they aren't replaceable. After some recent night hikes, I found everything worked as planned, but I felt it would have been nice to have something a little more substantial as the e+LITE isn't really meant to cast enough light for legitimate night hiking.
The problem with "substantial" headlamps is that they aren't as light as I'd like. I also find many have completely unnecessary skills and function buttons that do everything but function easily when needed most. Yes, some are better than others, in fact some are quite impressive, but I wanted the most bang for my buck in a lightweight package. With that, I wanted to keep my options open to both a traditional headlamp and other options - like a flashlight.
Backpacking legend Andrew Skurka (http://www.andrewskurka.com/) turned me on to the Fenix LD01 flashlight (http://www.fenixlight.com/) a couple years ago and is worth discussing.
The Fenix LD01 provides a maximum of 85 lumens at only 14 grams (excluding a single AAA battery). It offers three brightness settings: 9 lumens (11 hours burn time), 28 lumens (3.5 hours burn time), and 85 lumens (1 hour burn time). It is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and made well at that. The cree LED is expected to last for 50,000 offers which is quite an achievement for a very powerful light. It is waterproof, comes with a removable pocket clip, key ring, and spare o-ring. The LD01 also works with lithium batteries which means a longer and more consistant burn. It likely can also be swapped out with other items that use the same battery, like a camera.
Overall, I really love this light. It is powerful, durable, made very well, and is small and light. I highly recommend it. Now if Fenix would only come up with an ultralight hands-free way to carry it (other than my mouth), that would be ideal.