Showing posts with label Tramping Equipment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tramping Equipment. Show all posts

Monday, 5 March 2018

Tramping Equipment: Osprey Volt 75l pack

A lighter multi-day pack for thru-hiking...


I've been looking for a new pack for long trail trips such as the Te Araroa.  I needed carry capacity combined with a reasonable weigh and cost, while still being rugged enough for New Zealand conditions.

After much searching and weighing of options I decided on the Osprey Volt 75 pack. I like this bag as it is a fairly basic design and foregoes many of the redundant features and unnecessary weight of other packs of this size and capacity.

Osprey Volt75: front view...note the gear loops and tie down points on the front

Osprey once again

I went with Osprey once again, I really like their packs I think they may be my go to pack brand from now on. They have nice harnesses and their weigh tends to the light side. I have two now and both are super comfortable to wear even when loaded to the gills with gear.

Jon wearing the Atmos 50 AG on the way back from Carrington Hut, Feb 2018

My other Osprey pack is the Atmos 50 AG I posted about a couple of weeks ago. The Volt and the Atmos are good gear...both were brought in the Bivouac end of summer sale!

The Osprey Atmos 50 AG

The Osprey Volt 75

Osprey packs are size specific, abet with a small range of adjustment possible to fit them to the individual tramper. My Volt is a large size, these also come in small and medium.

Osprey Volt 75 in use, image from YouTube

The back panel is adjustable to allow the harness to fit correctly to someone with a long torso between 43 and 51cm long.  I know this because there is a label on the bag saying so....

One cool feature is the integrate safety whistle built into the sternum strap.

Osprey Volt75: details of the harness set up, note the integrated whistle

The Volt has a removable floating lid which you could jerry rig as a small day pack if needed. I have a light weight sil-nylon bag from Sea to Summit for this purpose so it is not a feature I will use.

The Sea to Summit ultra sil-nylon pack

Osprey Volt75: more detail of the harness and back panel

There are two mesh pockets on the side of the pack for your water bottles and one 'kangaroo' pouch on the front in this same mesh. I would really prefer a hardier material but you takes what you can get.....

Additionally there are two generously sized pouches on the hip belt, they are big enough for a small camera, phone, GPS or a couple of snacks.The hip belt is fully adjustable and the belt padding can be sized to any waist between 30 and 50"

Osprey Volt75: side view showing mesh side pockets, harness setup

This is a single compartment pack, it has a removable divider between the bottom and top of the pack for a sleeping bag/bear cannister but I will use this as a single entry pack. I carry my gear in a plastic pack liner so I have no need for a separate lower compartment. 

There are side compression straps top and bottom to allow you to secure your load.

 Here is a great review of the Volt 75 on the US based Sectionhiker website.

Osprey Volt75: side profile, note pockets and compression straps

There is also a red colour available in New Zealand if that takes your fancy, I would have brought one in this colour but unfortunately they didn't have any...

Osprey Volt 75: alternate New Zealand colour- Carmine red

I think that red and grey colour scheme is pretty cool myself...

Here are some specifications;

Weight: 1.72 kgs
Capacity: 75 litres
Material:210D Nylon, poly coating inside
Harness: Size specific (S/M/L)
Price: $254 NZ dollars on sale
Colour choices: Graphite and Carmine Red/Graphite

The Volt 75l in action...

I used my new Volt pack this last weekend on my second trip to Packhorse Hut to act as the volunteer hut warden. I didn't get a lot of photos of the pack in action but it performed very well.

The pack was comfortable to carry even loaded down with my stuff and 3 kgs of extra gear DOC needed transported to the hut. The harness was easy to adjust and overall I was really impressed with the bag.

Georgia sitting next to the Volt 75 on the way to Packhorse Hut

Georgia said it looked cool, so that is all the praise you need really.....!!!!

If Hughie the weather god plays the game I hope to use the Volt on a trip up to Angelus Hut and around the Travers-Sabine Circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park soon.

The Volt 75 on the way to Speargrass Hut, March 2018

The Volt 75 and Pole, trekking, expedient, wood, Series II in the Travers Valley 2018

The pack performed well on my Travers-Sabine Circuit Tramp. It is easy to use and adjust, fits well and was super comfortable to carry. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Tramping Equipment: Osprey Atmos 50 AG pack

More new tramping gear for 2018...

....more weight lightening going on here. I brought a new multi-day pack for my short trips of 1-3 nights. I needed something lighter than my current 75l Vaude Ascent pack but with more capacity than my 50l Vaude Brenta pack. 

My Vaude Brenta 50 on the Nina Hut Track in 2017

 I would love to buy an ultra-lite pack from one of the US based manufacturers (like Z-Packs) but those run to $600-800 NZD and I just cant afford that. After much consideration I went with the Osprey brand who have a solid niche following in the thru hiking community.

Z-Packs Arc Haul: 62L, 700gms but $299 USD ($420 NZD + postage)

Osprey Atmos 50 AG pack

Osprey have built a good reputation with hikers over the years. While their gear is not ultra-lite they have taken notice of that movement and have begun to gradually lighten all of their packs.

I went with the Osprey Atmos 50 AG, specifications for the pack are:

Weight:1.4-1.6? kg (I have seen three different weights quoted)
Capacity: 53+ litres (I think it is closer to 55-58 myself) 
Harness: Size specific (S/M/L)
Material:210D Nylon, poly coating inside
Cost: $297 NZ dollars in the Bivouac summer sale

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: left hand front view

I heard good things about the harness system on Osprey packs and they were right.  The harness is light, breathable but sturdy. The hip belt is excellent, it is firm around the waist and holds the pack very steady.  The mesh back section dissipates heat more effectively than the more solid/rigid type. 

The backpack looks unusual but the bottom section is actually the generously sized pockets (one on each side). It is shaped almost like a climbers pack (curved), this is a feature of most Osprey packs.

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: view from the side

Osprey packs tend to use size specific harnesses, this bag has a degree of adjustment range but is tailored for people with a long to over long frame like myself. There are also small and medium sized packs in the range. 

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: detail of the harness system
The pack has a pack cover, I will probably discard this as I use a pack liner and the pack has a polyurethane coating on the inside.  Your average pack cover can weigh up to 300 gms so this is not an insignificant amount of weight to lose.
Osprey Atmos 50 AG: the integrated pack cover
The Atmos is only available in two colours the absinthe green and a dark grey colour (graphite).  I went with the green as I think it will stand out a bit better than the grey in your typical beech forest. 

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: the alternate color- graphite

If required you can remove the top lid compartment and close the bag using a handy integrated fold away flap. This allows you to use the lid as a day pack or to lighten the main bag even further. There is a pouch and a strap for hanging a hydration bladder, the port for the hydration tube is centrally located.

Osprey Atmos 50 AG: view inside the pack

The Atmos 50 AG in use:

I took the pack up to Carrington Hut at the head of the Waimakiriri river over the weekend and it performed very well. The weight, fit and comfort of the pack are awesome, and I managed to get all my gear into the bag with room to spare.

The Atmos 50 inside Anti Crow Hut, February 2018

The new Osprey on the Carrington Hut veranda, February 2018

If I use it for a multi-day tramp my tent will need to ride on the outside but I see no reason why this bag couldn't easily carry 3-7 days worth of gear.

Me wearing the Atmos while crossing Turkey Flat, Waimakiriri River Valley
My Vaude Breta 50 is now being used by my daughter Georgia as we have started going on some tramping trips together. While not perfect for her, it will suffice until I can afford to buy her a pack specially tailored to her size and frame.

Georgia checking out a side stream while wearing my Vaude Brenta pack

I will add some more photos as I use the Atmos over the next couple of years.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Tramping Equipment: Exped Lite 500 down sleeping Bag

My new lightweight pit for thru hiking

As part of my quest to lower my tramping weight I have invested in a new lighter weight sleeping bag. This is the Exped Lite 500, a sub 1kg down sleeping bag rated to -2 degrees. This bag will be good for spring/summer/autumn use and is a long size. 

The Exped Lite 500 down sleeping bag

I would have liked to go ultra lite unfortunately bags of this type are prohibitively expensive (more than $800 NZD) or unavailable in New Zealand. We really need a local quality cottage manufacturer of light weight gear...someone like Western Mountaineering, Golite, Gossamer Gear or ZPacks.

Western Mountaineering Ultralite: rated to -7 degrees at only 880gms total weight...!

Exped Lite 500 down sleeping bag

The Exped Lite 500 is a down bag, in this case it uses 800+ lofting goose down with a anti moisture coating. The material on the bag is lightweight nylon again with an anti moisture coating. The dimensions of the bag are:

Length: good to 195cm tall (long size)...I am 193cm!
Shoulder width: 79cm
Foot Width:53cm
Weight:1 kg 
Performance: down to -2

The Exped Lite 500 down sleeping bag

Exped are a well regarded Swiss company who manufacture a wide range of outdoor gear including packs, sleeping bags and sleeping mats. I brought this bag from Bivouac as part of a clearance sale, it cost me $340 NZD rather than the usual $450.

 There is a nicely thought out baffle along the side zipper to stop heat escaping through the zipper area.

Detail of the Exped Lite 500 zipper and draft blocker

The bag has a nice neck baffle system to hold in heat, something that is missing from my current winter weight bag and synthetic summer bag. Even though I use my bags as quilts this will still come in handy. 

Neck draft baffle on the Exped Lite 500
I could have saved another 100gms if I went with the ultralite version of this bag but I tried one on for size and it was far too constricting for my oversized frame. The lighter bag is cut super tight mummy style, not my thing at all.  This bag is a good compromise between price, weight, size and durability.
Exped Lite 500: the hood arrangement

The bag has a continuous baffle system through the bag to stop down from migrating between the chambers leaving cold spots in the insulation. Here is a review of this bag on the Wilderness magazine site.

Exped Lite 500: the down fill baffle system

Exped Lite 500: detail of the internal baffle system

You also get an airing/storage bag and a sil-nylon stuff sack with this sleeping bag. 

Exped Lite 500: An airing bag and sil nylon stuff sack are included

Once I have used the bag on a tramping trip I will post some photos on this blog.

Note: I went up the Waimakiriri River to Carrington Hut in February 2018 where the new pit was put to the test and performed very well. Light, easy to pack and warm, it is going to be a winner!!!

The Exped Lite 500 at Carrington Hut, February 2018

Monday, 8 January 2018

Tramping Equipment: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 1 tent

2018...a New Year, new dramas but also new opportunities...

There is a possibility I will be made redundant from my current job in the next couple of months. If that eventuates I plan to start an immediate Te Araroa thru-hike.

I have money available and although not the greatest time of the year to start this endeavour it is the best opportunity I will ever have to walk the length of the country in one go. So I will...

The Te Araroa Trail: South Island Section
To that end I am starting to swap out some of my normal tramping gear for ultra light (UL) versions more suited to a thru-hiker. 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.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Tramping Equipment: Lowa Tibet GTX Boots

New tramping boots for a new year...

I recently brought a new pair of boots to eventually replace my current footwear as my La Sportiva's are starting to wear. I would gladly have brought a new pair of La Sportiva Valojets (my currently boots) but unfortunately they are no longer available in New Zealand. It is great pity because they are exactly the right boot for my foot size, foot type and style of tramping.

My trusty La Sportiva boots on the Harpers Pass Track in 2017...

I wanted to buy a really good pair of boots with the potential to last me a long time so I went with the Lowa brand. I have previously owned a pair of Lowa Rangers and they were excellent so I decided to buy some new ones....

Unfortunately they did not have any Rangers in my size (I wear a size 13 UK, 14 US or 48-49 Euro..big feet!) so I brought some Lowa Tibets instead.

My new Lowa Tibet boots...

Lowa Tibet GTX boots

Lowa is a German company that make a wide range of both women and men's boots and trail shoes. They have been making boots since the end of the 19th century so are well versed in designing and manufacturing top quality gear.

My new boots may be top quality but they cost a top price as well...$700 NZD a pair....ouch!

They are now the most expensive piece of tramping gear I have ever purchased. I've been wearing my $400 La Sportiva's for four years now so I figure I need to get at least six-eight years of use out of these boots for them to make financial sense. 

Lowa Tibets....full rand, high length, crampon compatible..
Lowa Tibets are high ankle tramping/hunting boots with a full rubber rand around them and thick and aggressive soles. They can be used for tramping, hunting and easy climbing and will accept most crampon sets.

They are really more boot than I need for most of my trips but they are well known for their comfort and durability once fully worn in.

As you can see in the photo below, even Max the cat approves of my purchase...

Max says...YES Jon...Vibram soles good....dogs bad!!!!!

These were purchased from the Hunting and Fishing store in Tower Junction and came with an extra set of laces, spare inner soles and a jar of leather conditioner. Nice!

Better view of the lacing system on the Lowa Tibet...

Lowa Tibet GTX: German precision!

All good quality tramping boots will have Vibram rubber soles on them. Vibram is the leading sole making company in the world and their products are widely used because of their quality and durability. I will only buy boots with Vibram soles on them.

...deep lugs on those Vibram soles...

I am currently wearing these to work a couple of times a week to wear them in. I will let you know how they work out when I take them for their first tramp.

PS: I wore them up to Packhorse Hut, they were super comfortable and had awesome traction.

Wearing the Lowa's outside the Packhorse Hut wardens biv, January 2018

I recently went up the Waimakiriri River to Carrington hut and the Tibets performed well. This is the kind of terrain these boots were made for... step, muddy and rough travel with plenty of boulder bashing involved.

One of my feet in a Lowa Tibet near Carrington Hut, February 2018

On a side note; I'm 50 in August, so these could quite easily be the last pair of boots I ever buy.