Kooka Bay air pillow
I ordered a custom sized pillow from Kooka Bay. It's the first time I've used an air pillow - previously I used my clothes bag, but when carrying fewer clothes the bag started to get a little uncomfortable. I sleep on my side, and like a large, comfy pillow, so i hoped that the Kooka Bay would suit me.
I feel a little underwhelmed by it, to be honest. It is light - 63g - slightly les than the Exped pillow (85g), but the nylon material is quite slippery, and I never got entirely comfortable on it. Half inflated, my head lolled around, and even with silicone spots glued underneath it still slid around on the Ether Elite.
One of the other hikers had an Exped pillow, and the surface on that was quite soft in comparison - it has a coating which just feels nicer against the skin. The shape - a crescent - is more suited to side-sleepers also, and the internal supports are vertical rather than horizontal, which I believe would limit that lolling around feeling I got with the Kooka Bay.
I have to say I'm still on the fence about pillows; I'm wondering if they are really worth their weight.
Golite UltraLite 3 Season Quilt - Long
Golite's recent trend of going-slightly-heavier continued when they re-released the Golite Ultra 20 with a little more down and a more water-resistant material on the footbox and shoulder, and called it the Golite UltraLite 3 Season. Mine weighs in at 837g, which isn't bad, but there are much lighter quilts out there.
I've slept in it now about 10 nights, and really enjoyed the freedom of movement a quilt provides. It's plenty warm enough for spring and autumn, but a little too warm for summer (at least in Minnesota).
The waterproof breathable Pertex Shield foot and shoulder material sheds condensation from the tarp inner very well, and inside a bivy it's very cosy. I could prabably get away without the bivy under the DuoMid.
I have the long version, and there was plenty of length for me to pull over my head and snuggle down underneath. In theory it could be used in moderate winter conditions, but I prefer a full sleeping bag to keep out the chills.
POE Ether Elite 6
I found this pad to be comfortable and warm enough without an under pad - although the conditions were not cold enough to need that anyway. I definitely felt less likely to roll off the pad, compared to the NeoAir.
I added some silicon drops to the base of the pad to stop it sliding around in the bivy, but they didn't adhere properly to the pad material. I'll try pasting some on the bivy next time. I managed to improvise a solution tying the UltraLite's webbing around the pad and through the loops on the bivy floor. It worked well enough.
Out of NeoAir habit, I under-inflated the pad, and by morning found I had a numb arm. Next time I'll try a full inflation.
On the whole, I was satisfied, and at 396g for a long it's a good weight - but POE have already discontinued it, and released an improved version with a NeoAir-style reflective insulation. I look forward to reading more about that when some reviews come in.
Sawyer Water Filter
Once again, where other people's SteriPens failed, the trusty Sawyer continued to filter water at a rapid pace. It is infinitely better than my old MSR pump filter - one of my hiking companions was using the Hyperflow and faced the same efficiency meltdown that I did last year up in the Boundary Waters. But the Sawyer just keeps on flowing. No technology to go wrong. No batteries needed. It just works. 71g of worry-free water, at about 1 liter a minute.
But... I managed to break off the outlet nipple while trying to remove the tubing. Fortunately, duct tape solved the problem, at least for the duration of the trip.
It might take a little longer than firing up a gas stove, but the BushBuddy just gives me wood-fuelled joy every time I use it. It's fun to gather fuel from the trail and around camp, and relaxing to feed the flames and watch the pot boil.
These were great to walk in. I loved the grip, and the protection around the toes and sides kept sharp rocks and sticks away from my feet. The mesh ventilated well, and dried very quickly. I didn't have to make many river crossings, but I did give them a good soaking in a lake just to test how they (and I) coped with wet feet, and how long it took them to dry while walking. Walking was fine when wet, and they were dry in 1-2 hours.
The shoes are deliriously light compared to anything else I own - even sandals - and although I didn't spend a long time wearing them in, I had no discomfort during the hike.
About a week after the trip, a horrible pain flared up in my foot. I don't know what it was because as usual I couldn't be bothered to go to the doctor, but it felt and looked like tendonitis, and lasted about a week. Whether this was a result of the Inov-8s I do not know, but I suspect it might have been the result of not being used to non-supportive shoes and using them on a long distance hike.
But I'm wearing them still and feeling fine, so maybe it was something else.
The Burn was packed just about to it's limit. I don't know why, but I seemed to be carrying more weight than I should, even after paring the pack list down. But for most of the hike the Burn handled it comfortably and without any trouble.
The mesh pockets do require some care, and there were a couple of occasions when a branch snagged the pack and I was worried that it might have ripped the mesh - but no. It held up well to some pretty hard trail conditions.
The pack is very slim, but there's plenty of room for all the accoutrements of UL hiking, and the roominess of the mesh pockets is great. The front pocket fits a DuoMid with ease.
The top of the front mesh pocket was the only problem - the elastic tensioner at the top of the pocket kept disappearing into the Dyneema sleeve. It definitely needs a couple of plastic toggles to prevent this. A modification is in order!
The hip belt, under a full load, sits just a touch above my hips, but as it's not really supposed to be a load-bearing hip belt, that's not a huge deal. However, after three days, I did find my shoulders were aching, which leads me to believe that the Burn is really best suited to very minimal summer trips.
At 414g, it's super-light, too.
The Duomid was almost perfect. With all the talk about Trailstars recently I began to wonder whether I'd picked the right shelter. What I like about the Duomid is that I can leave the doors open if I choose, creating a kind of three-sided lean-to. It's extremely simple to pitch, and easy to tweak into storm-worthy mode.
Nitpicks? The need to clip-up the bottom when zipping or unzipping, maybe, to ease tension off the zipper - that's a bit fiddly. It also takes up a fair amount of space - which makes it a little tricky in forested spaces - and needs a relatively flat spot to pitch it well. To achieve a vertical pitch on a slope you end up with the head end low the the ground and the foot end pretty high. Last, it's a little heavy (614g, guys and stuffsack included). It seems ridiculous to say that, but the SpinnTwinn feels lighter than air at 305g.
My main preference over what I've seen of the Trailstar so far is that I don't have to crawl to get in it, although I'm told that it's entrance is about the same height as the SpinnTwinn.
I've had these for some years now, and they no longer have the product name visible anywhere, but they are my go-to hiking trousers for cooler temperatures. They are water-resistant, quick-drying, and very sturdy. They have reinforced, crampon-proof material on the bottom, breath well, and have a flexible material on the knees. They're not really UL (544g), but for clothing that I know I won't need to carry at any point, I don't really care. I have never been in a situation where I found myself saying "Damn, I wish my trousers were a bit lighter."