Afton Quickie

I did a quick overnighter at Afton State Park again last night to test out some new gear before heading up next week to Snowbank Lake for a few days. Over the last few weeks I've been selling old gear and buying replacements, so I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to encounter anything unexpected.

Here are some notes:

MLD Burn

The Burn impressed me. Although it's slim, you can pack a lot in. I didn't bother compressing my down sweater or other clothes, but I think I'll do that for the longer trip. My load was about 5kg including food for the night, and the pack was pretty full. With a little more compacting and careful packing, I have no doubt that I can get 3 to 5 days out of it.

In my first impressions entry, Mac E asked about the mesh pockets. Having now briefly used them, I can say that they are strong - however, the widely-spaced mesh did catch on my platypus bottle. The collapsible bottle had quite sharp 90 degree corners at the base, which help it to stand upright. These snagged the mesh, making it difficult to get in the side pockets when filled with water. I initially thought I'd have to use a plastic spring water bottle instead, but then I realised I could just cut the sharp corners into a curve with the scissors on my Leatherman Micra. Hey presto - no snagging. Simple.

The hair clips I used to keep the hip pockets in place didn't work so well. The pockets kept detaching themselves. I had another idea when walking out: I'm going to try a paper clip. It'll be more secure, and even lighter!

The paradox of lightweight backpacking hit me as I strolled up the hill to the campsite. The lighter backpack you have, and the slighter the hip belt, the more the weight is transferred to your shoulders, thus negating the effects of the light backpack. I did notice that, although the pack felt light, my shoulders were bearing the weight. This didn't affect me much on this short hike, but I have a feeling that after hiking 14 miles per day next week, I'll be feeling it more.

I didn't find the hip belt uncomfortable, but it doesn't really serve much purpose apart from steadying the pack. The webbing of the belt was right over my hips, so the fit is quite perfect.

I'm happy with it so far, but next week's trip will test it more.

Sunrise over DuoMid

MLD DuoMid

This was the first time I slept in the DuoMid. As in my garden test, it was a cinch to pitch, and, as others have noted, I did appreciate its sunny disposition in the morning.

Naturally, for a single-walled shelter, it got covered in condensation, both in and out, but the design ensures that the water beads and runs down to the ground.

I fixed the iffy clasp on the zipper (it wasn't latching together properly, and was liable to work itself loose) by submerging it in boiling water and bending the tooth out with a screwdriver. Seemed to work.

The Easton 9" stakes I used are great - very sturdy and light.

The DuoMid is often described as palatial for one - it is exactly that. The space is luxurious. And it really is the ideal shelter for one man (or woman) and his (or her) dog.

I'm still not sure which shelter to take up north with me - the DuoMid or the SpinnTwinn. Both require staking out, and often the campsites up there are quite rocky. There should be enough trees to tie guys to, but for that I suspect the SpinnTwinn might offer me more flexibility. It'll certainly test my knot tying abilities (which are slowly but surely coming along).

Now for a triumvirate of new sleeping gear.

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy


are pretty new on the scene, and not so well known yet, but I think that is going to change fast. The Bristlecone is very well made, with lots of thoughtful touches. Side entry. A half-mesh hood with the tie out loop in the right place and the loop made of elastic. Corner stake out points - which I didn't use, and places inside to tie their down quilt to.

I have a feeling those tie out points inside the bivy might also be in about the right place for the GoLite Ultralight quilt, and could also be used to secure a sleeping pad.

I had a few problems tying the hood up, but this was entirely my fault - I was trying to use shock cord, and couldn't tie an appropriate knot in it. Also, as I didn't stake down the bivy, the hood was pulled out of shape by the tie out.

In the end I left the hood open - there were hardly any bugs, apart from a couple of inquisitive spiders, and one mosquito that died for its sins. I almost didn't need the bivy at all, but it came in handy protecting the quilt from condensation.

I got the 6'6" version, which in theory should just fit my long Ether Elite. In fact, there was still plenty of room, and I experienced the same thing

Martin Rye at Summit and Valley

did - that the sleeping pad slides around quite a lot. I'll try painting a couple of SilNet "X's" on the inner floor of the bivy to reduce that.

I still need to get the hang of this bivy business, so I'm going to experiment in the garden a bit over the next week.

POE Ether Elite 6

I was worried that, as a side sleeper, I might not get on with this sleeping pad, but in fact it was fine. I slept pretty well. As I mentioned above, it does slide around a bit, and this is accentuated by even the gentlest slope. Nevertheless, it's very comfortable, and noticeably warmer then the NeoAir, especially in the torso area.

In the end, I'm glad I got the long, as I like to stretch out my feet and lie full length on my front sometimes. The long version allowed me to do this without dangling my feet off the bottom.

I did notice my arms getting colder when they slipped off the edge, so I'll need to bear that in mind when it gets colder.

I noticed my breath had condensed into moisture inside the pad in the morning. The material is light and thin, so you can see inside a bit. I'm not sure if that is going to be a mould problem over time. I've inflated it again and left it open to see if it dries out. This probably happened with the NeoAir also, but you can't see inside that.

Kooka Bay Pillow (Jolly Green Giant large size)

As I'm taking less clothes with me now, my stuffsack pillow was getting a little thin. I thought I'd try an air pillow, and hunted around for one of the Exped ones, but they are all sold out. On Backpacking Light I saw one of the MYOG guys had set up

Kooka Bay

to make UL pads and pillows, and ordered one of his super-light nylon inflatables. I asked him to make a larger one than his standard offering, because I have such a big head.

Again, it served its purpose well. I under inflated it, and it was comfortable, if slightly odd feeling (to me). It also slipped around on the sleeping pad, so more SilNet is needed I think.

My "gear of the trip" award goes to my new Kuksa. Hardly used, it still imbues everything with a salty tang, but it just feels right.

That's just about it for my Afton Quickie. Now I just need to make a few refinements and I should be all set for Snowbank.