Showing posts with label My Tramping Gear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My Tramping Gear. Show all posts

Monday, 8 January 2018

Tramping Equipment: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 tent

2018...a New Year and a new light weight tent

I am starting to swap out some of my normal tramping gear for ultra light (UL) versions more suited to a thru-hiker.

My tent set up in the Totaranui camp grounds, April 2018
My first purchase is a new tent, in this case the well regarded Big Agnes Copper Spur range.

Big Agnes Copper Spur tents

Big Agnes is a well known and respected American outdoor equipment firm specialising in tents, sleeping bags, mats and ancillary equipment. Many of the Te Araroa trail walkers over the past 2 years have been using these tents very successfully. 

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1: 3+ season free standing tent

The Copper Spur UL 1 person is a true 3+ season free standing tent, i.e. they do not need to be pegged to the ground to be erected. This is an advantage in areas where it is rocky or hard to find peg  friendly spots. These tents are also supposed to be stable which is useful in windy old New Zealand. This particular tent design has won multiple international awards over the last 3-4 years. 
Big Agnes Copper Spur: Inner tent and pole system
I brought the one person version of this tent (they range from 1-4 people) so it weighs around 1 kg, that is light for a free standing tent. With my normal plastic groundsheet I'm looking at 1.1 kg total!

It is also very roomy with the same dimensions as my current two person tent but with more headroom. I'm 6'3" tall and I still have ample space at head and foot when prone in this tent.

Dimensions of the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1
The vestibule on these tents is very generous...I have room under it for my pack, boots, walking pole and cooking gear with space to spare. The one person version has one entrance/vestibule but all the other sizes have two entrances/vestibules.

This tent was purchased online from Gear Shop, who I believe are the sole distributors for Big Agnes gear in New Zealand. They had a 2017 summer sale so I managed to buy mine for only $450 NZD when the usual retail price is over $700 NZD. That is a stunning price given these tents cost $375 USD in the United States.

A real bargain!

Big Agnes Copper Spur:with the fly sheet closed down

 I have yet to use this 'operationally' but will be sure to post some shots once I do. Next to buy is a new lighter pack, trail shoes and UL down sleeping bag/quilt and I'm ready to go...

That should get my base weight down to around 8-9 kgs total.

Some photos of the Copper Spur in use

The Copper Spur UL 1 set up in the Totaranui camp grounds, April 2018

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

My Tramping Gear: A look at my tramping clothing system

I thought I would chuck together a quick post about the clothing I wear when I am tramping, so to that end I give you...

 The "Jon Moake Outdoor Clothing System" or JMOCS

Summer tramping at its best, t-shirt and shorts weather

I wont go deeply into comparisons of natural vs synthetic material, discuss layering theory or spend a lot of time comparing brands etc. There are multiple websites which explain all of this. What I am discussing here is the particular gear I use when tramping, commonly called a "clothing system". 

What is a clothing system? 

It is a system because all of the items worn or carried can be interchanged to suit the particular climatic conditions you find yourself in. You add or remove layers to maintain your body temperature at a comfortable level. What is required is a compromise between:
  •  material choice
  • fit
  • weight
  • ruggedness 
  • cost. 

We are looking for the maximum coverage of all the potential conditions we might face while carrying the least amount of weight. This set of gear does that for me. 

All my tramping clothing laid out

To be frank I find the term "system" slightly irritating as well as pretentious. Calling your tramping clothes a system denotes some sort of forethought, and most people (me included...) just settle on gear that works through trial and error. Still, it is the easiest way to categorise what this is, so here in all its splendour is the "Jon Moake Outdoor Clothing System" or JMOCS... (TM), patent pending, don't tell the dog, rada-rada, etc, etc...

Base Layers 

Base-layers draw perspiration away from your body in a wicking action, it then transpires into the atmosphere (or at least that is the theory...). Therefore, the material your layers are made from needs to have these wicking abilities. There are many materials both synthetic and natural which do this, you should do a bit of research before selecting yours.

Tramping gear for  warm weather tops/shorts
All synthetic materials base layers
My base layers are all synthetic, it is much easier to clean and dries a lot faster than wool or one of the other natural materials.  I wear nylon shorts and boxers and my top is made of a technical material called Powder Dry these all have wicking abilities.The top and shorts are cheap Warehouse (like Walmart to those in the US...) items, the boxers are from Russell Athletic.

I needed that sun hat, 30 Celcius... Kowai River Valley in December!!!

I carry two sets of clothes: one for tramping in and the other for wearing at night, that way I don't have to sleep in wet clothes.

 Thermal base layers

If it is cold then you need to wear warmer base-layers to insulate you from heat loss. These can be either synthetic or a natural fibre depending on your preference. Knit is better than woven material when it comes to heat retention.

Merino/synthetic thermal gear
In my case I use a knit merino wool top (Thermerino/Stony Creek) and merino leggings/long-johns (ColdPruf), with a generic fleece hat and polypropylene gloves. Wool had all but disappeared from tramping apparel but the advent of merino clothing has lead to a resurgence of this ancient fibre. It is soft, light, warm, doesn't stink when wet and is now made in many colours and styles.

My thermal gear for tramping laid out: hat, gloves, wool top and leggings

Wearing a merino top up a snowy Hawdon Valley in 2016

Middle or insulation layer 
You need something to keep you warm- most people will start to feel the cold within 10 minutes once stationary. There are different schools of thought about what these warm layer should be: fleece or down, thick/thin weight, single/multiple layers.

What works best for me is a fleece top, in the 200 weight range. I have been using Hunting and Fishing fleece for over 10 years now and have never had a problem with them. They are light weight, rugged, cheap and come in several colours, my current one is blue.

Wearing my fleece on top of a windy spur Banks Peninsula

If it is very cold I will pair these with my long-johns, wet weather pants or wrap my sleeping bag around me in camp/hut.

 The outer shell layer

New Zealand is a temperate country which means it can get windy, cold and really WET at any time of the day/year. For that reason I usually carry a head to foot shell set so that I can continue to tramp in foul weather. Your shell is your first line of defence against wind, cold and rain.

If I am on a day tramp and it is hot and sunny I will often leave the over-trousers behind, otherwise I carry all three items on all my tramping trips. 

Tramping shell gear: jacket, over trousers and over mitts
  My jacket is a Macpac Copland, the over trousers are from Stony Creek and the gortex over mitts are Outdoor Research. My jacket is due to be replaced with something lighter but as always quality gear means big dollars required....

Wet weather gear aka "the Outer Shell"
Windy conditions on the Lewis Pass Tops, 2015

Wearing a 'baller cap' will stop the hood of your jacket falling over your eyes...

In the rain but still walking, Summit Walkway 2016

 I wear boots: at the moment mine are La Sportiva Valojets, but I also wear mountain running shoes on day walks. Personally I like boots but there is a growing movement towards lighter footwear, which decreases the overall amount of weight you are carrying.

I imagine as I grow older this shift will become more appealing to me.

Tramping boots and socks
Medium weight and lightweight socks for tramping

Boots and gaiters on the Lewis Pass tops

I use both light and medium weight socks. I am currently using Lorpen socks, the T3 Lite Hiker is a light hot weather sock while the Merino Lite Hiker is a warmer medium weight sock.  Both work well with my current boots and are made from a blend of synthetic materials and merino wool.
Some good quality socks your feet will thank you!

Here is a link to an article by Andrew Skurka (a well known American outdoor personality) about this kind of layering which he calls the Core 13. This is aimed at the US but the basic tenents are applicable right around the world. 

 Some examples of how the system would be used

  By mixing and matching these few garments we can keep our bodies running in tip top shape. 

The entire Jon Moake outdoor clothing system laid out
Warm and Dry: In warm, dry conditions all you need is a top (long or short sleeved) and a pair of shorts, make sure your underwear will wick sweat away from the body. Short thin socks make more sense than heavier ones in these kind of conditions. Don't roast your toes in merino wool when it is 30 degrees outside...that is madness.

Warm, dry weather layers
The quintessential Kiwi tramper: A short sleeve t-shirt and shorts over a pair of long-johns, an awesome look since the 1940's. The long-johns protect your legs from the cold but more importantly from the sand flies and bush lawyer.

Nothing quite like the slap of a thorny bush lawyer vine across bare skin....invigorating!

Thermal leggings added for total body coverage
Cool but Dry: If it is cool-cold but not raining a a merino top paired with your long-johns will normally see you right. If you have your longs on then the boxers are optional, long-johns are basically thermal underwear anyway.

Cold, dry weather layering system

 Cold but dry:  In very cold but dry conditions maintaining warmth is your number one priority so I add my fleece top to my tramping attire. This is put on and taken off as required, you want to stay as dry as possible without getting hot and sweaty.
Wet, cold body draws away heat and can lead to hypothermia so minimising perspiration is important.

Very cold, dry weather layering system..part of the JMOC's system
Cold and wet: For cold, wet conditions I wear warm merino base layers for warmth and a shell jacket plus over- trousers to keep me dry. A warm fleece hat for the head polypropylene gloves and over mitts would complete the look.

Clothing layering for cold wet conditions

Wearing a merino top and my jacket on a cold day, Milford Track 2018

 The actual Jon Moake outdoor clothing system or A-JMOCS

 Disregarding all that I have stated before, the photo below shows the actual clothing I most often wear when I am tramping. 

Clothing worn 90% of the time: shorts, tee shirt and boots...
My summer tramping attire atop Mt Richardson...

...and on top of Mt Herbert, summer of 2014
On the Queen Charlotte Track in 2016...

I mostly tramp in fine, dry weather so you will usually find me wearing a tee shirt, shorts and boots. In reality this is what I wear  90% of the time so it is my real system. All the other stuff is just there in case it rains (common) or it gets cold (not infrequent).

Still wearing my shorts even on a cold, windy day on MacKinnon Pass, Milford Track

Otherwise it is simply ballast in my pack.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

My Tramping Gear: A look at my cooking gear

Tramping cooking gear...what I use

I thought I would do a post about the cooking gear I'm currently using. I could be an total outdoor tech head and call this a "cooking system" except "system" implies some planning while this gear simply coalesced over time.

Having a brew at Davies Shelter on the Queen Charlotte Track 2016

How your tramping style impacts on your gear

It is a waste of time talking about cook gear without a brief discussion of tramping styles.

Not lite weight....a more traditional set of gear for tramping

 Obviously, the style of tramping you follow is going to dictate the type of cooking equipment you are carrying. We can break these down into two main styles: traditionalist and lightweight

If you are a traditionalist you may carry some real food, a white spirit stove, larger pot(s) and possibly even a skillet. If you are an ultra lighter you will have a meths stove, one spoon/spork and a small titanium pot (if that, many have started to cold cook i.e. NO hot meals or hot drinks when on trail!)

East Hawdon Hut, old cook pot and aluminium cup in use

Obviously, you should only carry what is absolutely essential to get the job done, nothing more. 

My style is constantly evolving, at present I am half way towards ultralight, gradually changing kit as I go. I'm also pragmatic about this, sometimes adding a small amount of extra weight makes cooking easier or more pleasant. I'm not one of  the "cut off the handles just to save weight" types.

I don't carry a plate or bowl, instead I eat from my cook pot or straight from the bag. 

Me tucking into a BCC Tomato Chicken Alfredo straight from the bag!

I still occasionally cook in my pot but the majority of my cooking is heating water to add to dehydrated and freeze dried meals. That and copious amounts of tea of course....

A look at my cooking gear

Because of my tramping style I need very little cooking gear. Here is a list of my cook equipment including everything needed to prepare my typical menu items:

Cook pot, hard anodised aluminium      1     120gms
Cook pot cup/lid                                     1       80gms
or: Toaks Ti 1300ml pot with lid            1       90gms
Kovea Hiker stove, steel + bag               1     140gms
or: Firemaple FMS-116 Ti                      1     48gms/76gms with case
MSR 300gm gas canister                        1     227gms
Titanium Fork                                         1      18gms
Titanium spoon                                       1       21gms
Victoronix knife (including the 'biner)   1       89gms
Bic lighter                                               1       30gms
Chux cloth                                              1       12gms
Nylon stuff sack                                     1       75gms
Total weight                                                  822gms or 620gms

If you take away the fuel canister that is around 600/420gms which is pretty good weight wise.

I have all my cooking kit together in a nylon stow bag, if I stop and want to brew up I have everything readily available in the one place. This includes my tea bags and sugar substitute (more on that later), it is so much easier looking for the one blue bag than searching for gear in 2-3 different places. 

My tramping cook gear packed for my next tramp...a nice neat package!

Tramping cook equipment laid out for viewing

I use the Chux cloth as a tea towel to dry my pot etc., I have one with the cook kit and add another to every second days worth of food. This system works well and allows me to leave cleaning cloths at huts if they need them.

I usually have a 2x2cm square of scrubbing pad in a small plastic bag inside the kit for cleaning my cook gear. My bio degradable soap is carried separately in an outside pocket of my pack.

Cook gear: A Chux cloth and lighter but no pot scrubber!

Some nylon non scratch pot scrubbers...
Sea to Summit super wash: biodegradable camp soap

I carry a spoon, knife and fork; many people make due with just a spoon or a spork (spoon and fork combined) but over time I have found it is more practical to carry light titanium versions of all three. My pen knife (classic Victorinox camper) is the only knife I carry because the only thing I ever need to cut is salami, cheese and vegetables.

There is a small carabiner to keep them clipped together. 

If I need a huge knife for carving a club, hut or rescue vessel then something has gone seriously wrong and its too late already!

Cook gear: knife, fork and spoon (KFS)

One of my cook stoves is a Kovea Backpacker model which I mainly hold onto out of sentimental attachment. It is heavy at 140gms (including the bag) but I brought it in 1993 and have been using it ever since with no problems. Rest assured, I'm not that much of a sentimentalist: if it didn't perform I would replace it, as I have done with a lot of my tramping kit.

My Kovea backpacker model camp stove and carry case

I also like the wide burner head (a lot of the newer lightweight stoves have very small burners) and long pot support arms it has. It seems a lot more stable than some of the super lightweight stoves I have seen in use.

This is "olde school styles" i.e. no piezo starter, you have to use a match or lighter to fire it up, this is no disadvantage in my opinion. This stove has seen some real use, still works like new!

Kovea is solid gear, at least the old stuff is.

A Kovea Backpacker stove in operation...

In early 2018 I brought myself a new lighter titanium stove, it is a Chinese brand called Fire Maple, the code for it is the FMS-116T. It has survived a couple of outings now and I am works really well. It only weighs 48gms (76 gms in the supplied carry case). It is super efficient and has a wide burner head and cost me $50 from the online retailer Gearshop.

This is my main stove now.

My new Firemaple FMS-116Ti stove

In the photo below, my cook pot has the MSR gas canister inside, as well as my brew kit of tea bags, lighter and Splenda sugar replacement. Not shown are the supply of water purification tablets I carry in the kit so I can make potable water without needing to hunt through my pack.

My cooking pot and ancillary gear packed ready for the carry bag
The pot above is a Element brand1 liter hard anodized aluminium one with folding handles, the lid/cup is made of the same material. I have recently brought a Toaks Titanium cook pot as I continue to lighten my gear. This is a 1.3 liter pot and weighs a mere 90gms including the lid. The Toaks pot is much lighter and given I mostly just boil water it fills its role well.

My newer Toaks Ti 1.3 liter cook pot and carry bag
I tend not to carry the supplied bag as it just adds to the weight, instead I wrap the pot in an old bread bag as these are light, waterproof, disposable (as a trash bag) and easily replaced.

Close up view of the Toaks 1300ml Ti pot

My Toaks Ti cook pot in use on the Abel Tasman Inland Track, March 2018

Both of these pots have a measuring scale up the side in cups and 200ml graduations.

The bread bag is what I use for rubbish collection, I usually hang it from one of my rear facing pack straps while I am walking. One bag will usually last me for a 3 day tramp.

I also carry 3-4 small freezer bags for storage purposes; like keeping my KFS off the grotty hut benches etc.

Cook pot and the gear held inside it
The cup/lid/frypan/plate of this kit will hold about 450ml of liquid, it fills all four stated roles as required.

Ancillary Gear

Flame-less Ration Heaters

The other heating method I sometimes use is one of the Back Country flame-less ration heaters, these produce heat through thermo-chemical action to warm your food.

Originally these heaters were developed for the US military in the late 1980's to heat their MRE meals. An MRE is a single meal with an entrée in a therm-stabilised retort pouch, a Flameless Ration Heater (FRH), various snacks and an accessory pack.

A US military grade Meals Ready to Eat (MRE)

Contents of a US MRE pack: Chicken, vegetables and noodles MRE

The FRH's are excellent for the defence services as they do away with the need for fires, cookers or other obvious cooking methods.

The salts in a FRH are activated by water, you chuck your retort pouch in with them and viola... one heated meal. No mess, no fuss but horribly disastrous to the environment.

These are good with anything in a metallised or thick plastic retort pouch, such as the Back Country range, Kaweka meals and the MTR Indian curries.

Some of the MTR Indian mains I sometimes carry...Panner Butter Masala and Jeeri Rice

Just handle the pouch carefully when heated as they are goddamn hot!

Esbit cubes

Esbit produce solid fuel tablets made from hexamide, I usually carry a couple as an emergency heating options or as a fire lighter. These burn long and at a medium heat so they are best used for heating water for dehydrated meals.  Two tabs weigh a minuscule 30 gms!

Esbit brand solid fuel tablets

You can also buy special stoves to use these tablets on but I usually just find two flat rocks, light the tab and perch my cook pot over the flame. Works a real treat!

An Esbit solid fuel cooker...this is the famous Tommy Cooker

Water Bottles

I have long ago given up on using heavy metal or rigid plastic bottles for carrying water in. Instead I use empty juice or water bottles which I refill, and then discard after a couple of months or when they start to degrade.

I no longer carry heavy Nalgene style water bottles

It is well worth considering this alternate:  recycled bottles are cheaper, lighter, easier to replace and the recycling is good for the environment.

My criteria for potential bottle sources are:

Must be less than 100gms empty
Easy to replace
Wide mouth on bottle, 1+ litre capacity
Made of a food grade or non BPA plastic
Easy to remove any labels for ease of cleaning

What I have been using for the last three years are Fresh Up juice bottles, these tick all my boxes and I even like the juice they contain when new. These weigh 70gms empty compared to 175 for a medium sized Nalgene bottle.

Fresh-Up Juice bottle = instant water bottle

Set up for use is easy, strip off the label, wash them and fill them with water. Simple!

Juice bottle re-purposed and ready for the field

My Brew Kit

When I am out tramping I drink tea for a hot drink. I prefer Dilmah Earl Grey but anything is acceptable if I am running short of supplies. I usually have a brew with breakfast, occasionally one at lunch and 1-2 at the end of the day.

Delicious Dilmah Tea: and its ethically grown as well...

Teabags of course...too much hassle to use leaf tea, lots of mess, cleaning problems etc. With a teabag you chuck it in your cup, add sugar and water and Bob's your Uncle...

Tucking into a brew at East Hawdon Hut, 2014

I used to carry sugar for tea but it is very heavy, so I switched to a sugar substitute. Splenda is the tastiest sugar substitute I have found, it doesn't have that bitter after-taste others have.There are 200 tablets per pack, the total weight is a minuscule 12 gms! 

One tablet = 1 teaspoon of sugar

I am aware of the controversy about these sugar substitutes but given that I only use it for 20-30 days a year or less I figure I'm probably o.k.

Splenda sugar tastes o.k.

I have also used sweetened condensed milk as a tea makes for a really sweet, milky but moorish brew. Buy it in the shelf stable plastic tube as they are lighter and can be securely closed after use.

Delicious Nestles condensed milk....yum!

I will also occasionally take Latte coffee sachets from Jarrah/Nescafe and also hot chocolate sachets when the weather is cooler.

Isobutane Canisters

I regularly both the small and medium sized isobutane gas canisters, a small one (110gms) will last for 1-2 nights depending on use while the medium version (227gms) will see me for 3-5 days. I only carry the larger canisters (450gms) on extended week long trips.

I usually boil water 3-4 times per day for tea, drinks and meals.

Three sizes of MSR gas canister

My favourite gas brand is Kovea, but the MSR version is also good and far more widespread. All of my gas stoves will accept screw on type gas canisters. 

227ml MSR Isobutane gas bottle
Most of the loose cook kit fits inside the cook pot; this is good as it is a smaller packed space as well as protecting it from knocks. The stove in its pouch goes into the bottom of the bag with the chux cloth, KFS and scrub pad, then the pot ensemble goes on top. A nice neat package.

The cook pot with gear stored inside: gas canister, lighter and brew kit

Stove Wind-shields

One thing which I occasionally carry is a wind-shield to protect my cooker flame from wind gusts.  A wind gust can extinguish your cooker or at a minimum make it much less efficient.

I have two different wind-shields, the first is a commercially produced version made by Macpac. This is a fold out screen with connectors so that it can be shaped into a circle. The main problem with this is the weight (110gms) so has been relegated to base camp cooking duty.
Macpac brand cooker wind-shield

My other wind shield is home made from an heavy foil roasting tray. This version weighs hardly anything (37gms) and if damaged can be easily and cheaply replaced. There are a set of instructions on Lotsafreshair's website about how to make one of these at home. 

A foil wind shield from
 If I'm in a hut or camping in thick bush I don't usually bother with a wind shield or I will make an expedient one from rocks or chunks of wood. I would carry a wind shield if camping out on tops or a ridge as wind is more of a problem there. 

Miscellaneous Gear

 The other thing I carry is a support for my stove gas canister. These cooker over gas canister stoves are notoriously unstable, mainly due to the small diameter of the gas bottle at its base. What a pot support does is increase the diameter on the ground, making it much more stable. 

Gas bottle support, Macpac brand

My version is from Macpac, it will accept all three sizes of canister & weighs 20gms, again it is carried if I expect to be camping out.

Other cook gear I use...

My previous cook set in use Lake Christabel Hut 2014
I used to carry a lightweight stainless steel pot and a separate metal cup but exchanged these for my current set up last year. Stainless is great for clean up but it is a lot heavier.The stainless pot weighs in at 227gms (no lid), the cup weighs 90gms so that is 317gms as opposed to my current 210 gms.

I also have a fry pan made from the same material (they were a set) which weighs only 97gms. 

I still use both if part of a larger tramping group or for base camping as you need your own cup etc. and the pot (at 1.2 litres in volume) is much better for cooking real food in.

Brewing up on the bed of the Blue Grey River 2014
Just one other item I'd like to mention, if you use isobutane gas canisters then like me you will end up with a lot of hard to dispose of empties. Normally these cannot be recycled due to the chance of residual gas causing an explosion so you need to get one of these:

The Jetboil Crunchit

This is a Jetboil Crunchit!

A Crunchit is basically a big can opener, use it to pierce empty gas canisters. The canister can then be placed in your usual metal recycling bin. They cost $16 NZD and will be one of the most useful pieces of gear you will ever buy. Mine stays at home so that after a trip I can recycle the metal responsibly. 

Find them online, at any Macpac/Kathmandu/Bivouac Outdoor/Hunting and Fishing store in New Zealand and at most other good outdoor retailers.

 The cook gear in use...

Here are some assorted photos of the current cook kit in action....

Brewing up at Rod Donald Hut, March 2016

Cooker and cook pot in use, Packhorse Hut 2016
Cook gear boiling water at Mid Robinson Hut, 2015

So there you have it, a short introduction to my cooking gear!