Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Imagine that: more down means a warmer sleeping bag

No surprise: having 20 percent more down than other comparable sleeping bags means a warmer sleeping bag. Review of Sierra Designs Nitro 30 sleeping bag from BPL (membership required).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Update: other new products from BPL

Just a link on this one: upcoming 2010 BPL products. I'm most excited about the Cocoon parka.

Would you pay $1,250 for this backpack?

Enter the CiloGear NWD 75L. It's billed as a Seven Summits pack, and the cost is likely representative of the fabric, among other things. Dan McHale does packs in full Dyneema at an enormous cost, so I can't say that the price is out of line.

Cilo Gear is a small company and on my list of Cottage Gear Manufacturers. From everything I've heard, they build absolutely bombproof packs, too. That said, $1,250 is a bunch of change for a backpack. But if you need it, you need it.

New two-person cuben fiber tarp from BPL

Introducing the Stealth NANO (see also, threaded discussion). The specs and features look fantastic, and may top out any other competitor out there:
  • Trapezoidal dimensions that (may) fit two people: 8.5 x 5.66 x 9 (head/foot/ridge)
  • Low weight and sold as a complete package : 4.95 oz, which includes tarp, spectra guylines, and titanium stakes
  • Stronger fabric: 0.8 oz/yd^2 cuben fiber
  • Catenary ridgeline
  • Bonded seams: no stitches at all
The Stealth NANO is a direct competitor to the likes of MLD Grace Solo/Duo tarps (cuben fiber), Gossamer Gear SpinnTwin (spinnaker), the Oware CatTarps in cuben, and cuben tarps from Zpacks.com.

Now what should take some pause: the cost factor. Its MRSP is $329.99/317.99 (public/member), but is out on an initial pre-purchase sale and down to $269.99/259.99. Thus, even with the pre-purchase sale, the Stealth NANO is at the higher end of the spectrum. Only the Oware CatTarp 1.5 in cuben $319 costs in the same realm. Next are the MLD tarps, and then the SpinnTwin and Zpacks tarp.

I imagine BPL is not worried so much about this. Ryan Jordan has publicly stated that he builds gear for the BPL members (discussion about upcoming BPL Absaroka pack) and not the general public. BPL's audience is the folks this kind of tarp is specifically made for. Also, the production run sounds small, so get it quick (which could boost the production cost that BPL then must pass on to its customers).

BPL's does not review their own gear, so we're just going to have to wait until someone ponies up the change for one of these, and then puts it through the test of a thru-hike for some real-world results. Knowing how Ryan Jordan likes to test gear (the initial concepts of the BPL Beartooth Hoody were in the 2006 Arctic1000, and it was released some two years later), this one has likely already been put through the paces.

Quick hitters from my last winter weekend with scoutsin 2010

1. The BD Betalight is a massive shelter, easily capable of sleeping two people (maybe three with poles angled). I could sit up, move around, and use the area between the doorway and first upright pole as an effective vestibule. As expected, there is no ventilation other than the door and any gaps you leave at the edges and condensation condenses into ice on the interior walls.
2. Sleeping with your boots (mukluks in my case) inside your sleeping bag, stashed in my sleeping bag's compression sack, is an excellent way to keep them from freezing overnight. Unfortunately, it also melts any snow and ice on the boots, which the boots them absorb. Pick your poison: have frozen boots or warm supple boots in the morning (which may eventually freeze-up). I chose the latter in my continual winter education.
3. Patagonia's R1 fabric makes great base-layer bottoms (link to updated R1 bottoms). Just like the venerable R1 Hoody, it is tight to the body, warm when sitting and breathable during high-exertion. Only PowerStretch fleece could possibly be better for the function.
4. Tyvek is great for protecting a tent or bivy bottom from abrasion. But it is not waterproof, and should not be used as a ground cloth when one's sleeping pads may not be wide or long enough to completely protect one's sleeping bag.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Simple statement on the goal of clothing

Every once in a while, I read through the Arctic 1000 expedition website for inspiration. Today, I realized once again the pure simplicity of the goal of gear.

"Clothing must be light and keep you warm. Beyond that, any features, such as 'keeps you dry', or 'pockets', or 'makes you look good whether in the backcountry or a bistro' are a luxury." - Arctic1000

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Skurka's gear for four seasons of Alaska

To make it short, Andrew Skurka is embarking on the Alaska-Yukon Expedition, a seven month, 4,500+ mile expedition around Alaska and the Yukon. And he's leaving in four weeks.

Please join the conversation about his gear: BPL Gear Discussion. As of this post, the forum is seriously considering Skurka's initial shelter choice, a MLD 2010 Alpine bivy. My comments are posted.

Also, given Roman Dial's response to use a 'mid throughout the whole thing, I'd like to posit this question for later discussion here and eventually on BPL: is a pyramid-style shelter, in some form or another, the be-all and end-all of shelters?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Problems with Montbell website, explained

Montbell locked down their US website on Jan. 29, 2010 because of, as they call it, fraudulent access to their Japanese site. (There has also been criticism of Montbell's response: the company posted an explanation in Japanese on their US site (discussion at BPL).) However, Montbell recently updated their US website with an explanation in English. Montbell is sending the same posted explanation to inquiring customers.

I'll let the explanation speak for itself.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New toy: Black Diamond BetaLight pyramid shelter

My BD Beta Light came in the mail today. It is, as my seller described it, a circus tent. The blue and gray alternating panels don't help that effect. The 30d silnylon is a lighter hand then the 70d SilLite GoLite uses in its pre-2010 Shangri-La shelters Poncho/Tarp, too). The total weight is 20.11 oz, with a stuff sack that is 0.46 oz (I removed some elastic straps and swapped out the cord for some Kelty Triptease). [edit: GoLite is now using 15d silnylon in their 2010 Shangri-La shelters and Poncho/Tarp]

I'm going to MYOG the corner anchors a little bit. At current, there is a short webbing loop on the corners and a longer cord wrapped around that. Although this creates a long anchor, it cannot be tightened once the deadman anchors are in the ground (or snow).

I plan to remove the longer cord and cut one half of the webbing loop. I'll then attach a ladder-lock buckle, and re-sew the webbing loop back on. Finally, I'll create a webbing loop that goes through the ladder lock. The purpose is to be able tighten the strap to tension the anchor, giving the tent better stability. This set-up is what GoLite uses on their Shangri-La shelters, and it is effective for a tight pitch.

The BetaLight has an elongated hexagonal floor plan that is interrupted only by its central pole supports. I have used a similar floor plan in winter camp in some mid-90's Marmot Haven mountaineering tents. The tents had a similar floor plan (wider, al beit), but because it's elongated hexagonal floor plan, it was a real three-person tent - and a palace for two. Contrast that with, say, a pure hexagonal shape, and you have a three-person shelter that only sleeps two. In practice, it is really a long rectangle with short and wide triangles on the sides.

The first run with the shelter is going to be in two weeks at scout camp. After that, it's going with me north to where ever my backpack takes me.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I. Will. Go. Snowshoeing. this. Winter.

I haven't been able to get out on a non-scouting trip since October (gasp!). So I've carefully planned a trip to northern Minnesota the last weekend in February.

On my sidebar at right is my current winter gear list. Critique away. Most of the stuff has been used in some capacity or another for the past two or three seasons.

The major new addition is the BD Beta Light, which will be coming in the mail from a BPL guest. I have been drooling over pyramid shelters ever since Ron Bell came out with his Duomid, which when made of silnylon and combined with the mated net tent just might be the lightest, most versatile shelter out there.

I also was pretty convinced after Sam and I stayed in a GoLite Shangri-La 2 in Montana. It had plenty of room for two, cook space if necessary, and set up reasonable quickly. The only issue (this is not confined to mids, by the way) is set-up time for the stakes in the snow. Because the shelter is not free-standing, the stakes are necessary for the shelter to be supported. In Montana, we set the stakes in and the poles out and went and cooked dinner. By the time we got back, the stakes/deadmans were set up and the shelter was solid.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Stats from running everday

Today is February 1, and I ran every day last month. Here's the statistical breakdown:

Distance: 129.91 (miles)
Time: 17:55:54 (hr:min:sec)
Average pace ~ 8:17 (min:sec)
Average daily distance: 4.19 (miles)

The distance, average pace and average daily distances are up for debate. One of my routes Mapquest calculates at 3.45 miles whereas Google has the same route at about 2.9 miles. I need to check it on my car to get another figure (assuming that's accurate, too). Since the Mapquest stat was the distance I entered in to LogYourRun.com, I'm going to keep it that way.

These stats do include a fair bit of days where I minimally ran just to say that I ran that day. These runs were rarely longer than 20 minutes, but they were refreshing nonetheless.

Looking forward, I have begun my last semester in academia and am just now adjusting to the schedule. This initially complicates running until I get into a routine. Tonight, I have a long run planned, for example. Normally, I hit those up on weekends were I can do back-to-back longer runs. But alas.

I do not (and will not) put in place a formal training goal for mileage, distance or other statistical number. I have thought about kicking around big round numbers like 1,000, 1,200, 1,500, 2,010, etc., or a percentage increase from my last year's running (Running 954.1 miles in 5:14:19:33 at an average pace of 8:30 min/mile). Whatever that percentage is, I haven't come across that number yet. All I will do is run every day. And that includes my wedding day.

That said, extrapolated out I will run 1,558 miles this year if I stay at my January mileage. However, as the winter months come to a close I will run more and longer and race more (ultramarathons are really good at boosting yearly mileage). Hence, I don't think 2,000 miles is entirely out of the question. Or more.