Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First weekend out - something had to give

We headed out this weekend for our first trip of the year together and with a bunch of new gear in tow. Lake Maria State Park near Monticello, MN was our venue.

Our sleep system was entirely new, and something failed in it. We slept in a Dixon Double bivy sack, I on a blue foamer torso pad, she on a short Prolite 3. She had a Marmot Hydrogen, as purchased from a BPL forumite. The big push for me was using a new half-bag with a torso pad and a Mont-bell UL Down Inner Parka. Temps hit the low 30s, but were above freezing. There was no wind and little humidity.

I was chilly for a good portion of the night, something along the lines of mild hypothermia. I was watching myself for signs of more extreme issues, but they never came. My toes did get cold, but I put on extra socks on up to my arches. I think that I bottomed out the jacket and was mildly dehydrated. The torso pad, which is 21" x 31", is long enough to cover my butt and wide enough so that I can lay my hands on it at my sides. I never felt cold seep up from underneath me, which I found odd considering my body temp. In hindsight, I should have brought my R1 Hoody instead of the Cap. 1 top.

She was uncomfortably cold. The bottom of the bivy, made of incredibly slippery silnylon, had no purchase on her pad. It slipped and slid all night long, and her sleeping bag, which is Pertex shelled, slipped on the top of her pad. The combination of the two put her off her pad and onto the ground often. She eventually put the pad inside her bag and slept better, but not great. She was very tired the next morning and cold throughout the night. She is a side sleeper, but could not sleep on her side because of the location of the pad and the hood. To sleep on her side, she would have needed to breath into the bag. We all know what happens then.

Something items tested very well. I went with a near sub-5 lb. base weight, similar to the one that is posted in my sidebar. (I say near because I made no calculations.) In that, I carried my Z1 to near-perfect comfort. It has a sternum strap and a waist belt. I tested the pack when both, one or none of the straps were engaged. The pack is definitely less stable when either of the straps were undone, especially the waist belt. It sways back and forth slightly when the belt is undone, but it is noticeable.

Also, my windshirt, a GoLite Ether, worked great. I have been using for running since February of this year, and have (as expected) sweated it out with frequency. But walking around in 50 degree temps with a pack on, it breathed quite nicely and it will stay in my pack. Its versatility is well worth the 3.19 ounces it weighs. In cooking, we did a Lipton packet cooked over my MSR PocketRocket. We boiled 16 oz of water, and then simmered for 5-8 minutes. And we used only 15 grams of fuel. I'll take that anyday. I have also started a spreadsheet documenting fuel consumption.

Others were not effectively tested. We slept under an Oware CatTarp2 that was pitched decently, but we had no wind, rain, or other inclement weather to test the tarp out in. More on this later.

On other notes, I recently picked up a MLD Superlight bivy from a BPL forumite. It is a stock model, and weighs 5.99 ounces with a minibiner. This is 0.21 ounces under manufacturer specification. In looking for bivies for use with my poncho/tarp, I focused on the MLD superlight and the TiGoat Ptarmigian bivy. The MLD cost more from Ron, but it has a partial side zip and increased its appeal because of usability. When I saw it go up for sale, I jumped on it. This is the bivy Andrew Skurka used on his most recent hike, although he had a custom model made with 2.0 oz/yd^2 SilNylon. In chatting with him, he said he got it because of increased durability and because his Vapr bivy was no longer waterproof.

I also recently purchased Minibiners and tiny cordlocks from Joe Valesko at ZPacks. The 'biners are for my poncho/tarp and the cordlocks are for anything I find them for; I bought 20 of them.

Finally, SUL List (sub 5 lb. baseweight) is now live. It is created through Google Docs and will automatically update whenever I make a change. I will also be putting other lists up there, too. They will appear in my sidebar.


Chris Wallace said...

Thanks for the gear reviews Matt.

samh said...

A very thorough recap of your gear, Matt.