Updated Gear reviews

24 Jan

Blackwolf Mantis and North Face Vario

The Kosciuszko trip gave me the chance to evaluate my current kit in an environment that is tough and different from my normal kayaking work. Hiking the backcountry puts a different emphasis on your gear. With my kayaks, I can afford to take some luxuries. Weight is less a problem that simply fitting it in. My Eco Bezhig, for example can take 170kg load. My back can’t. So here’s some findings from the trip: Sea to Summit (Wilderness Equipment) Echo Lightweight backpack.

This 1.7kg, 75litre trekking pack delivers on all the claims. It is very tough and very adjustable. The removable satchel that fits on the back is a great feature. Its hip belt is very comfortable and after two days I finally had it adjusted right. My problem was the huge weight I crammed inside making carrying it a nightmare. This is no reflection on the pack. My only slight criticisms are with the dry-bag style opening which is OK provided you’re not packed to the brim, in which case rolling it closed is hard. Secondly, there is no decent external pockets for water bottles. The ones provided are useless and when the pack is loaded won’t take a Sigg or Camelback bottle. That is a real problem and one that would put me off buying this pack again. Otherwise, the pack is great and quality is awesome. There are even handy little zips in the side to get stuff out or put away.

I reviewed this earlier and found it to be excellent. Now that I have backpacked with it, I can still say I love it. It is light and comfortable with outstanding thermal properties. One small problem. It can be slippery. I pitched my tent on a slight slope, feet down. When I went to sleep, my bag slid down the Thermarest and kept me sliding into the bottom of the tent resulting in a poor night’s sleep. Mental note: pitch tent on the flat.

My latest tent and this was my first outing in it. The Mantis is a 2 person 3 seasons hiking tent with a packed weight of 2.5kg. It pitches in about 10 minutes in two pieces with two poles. Like all Blackwolf tents, it has numerous features such as pockets for your small bits and loops to hang stuff although the tent is only a metre high at its maximum so you wouldn’t want to hang too much in there. The winds in the Snowy Mountains blows hard and cold and almost constantly but the Mantis took it all in its stride. The vestibules were a bit flappy and not so easy to secure but I soon corrected that with some additional loops and pegs.

I will eventually replace this tent with a super lightweight number under a kilo but as these cost stupid amounts of money, the Mantis represents outstanding value and reliability.

Unsurpassed excellence. It’s worth the additional weight to pack this. Kieren and Adrian were in love with its ease and flexibility. The gas converter makes it convenient but the original metho burner is still the best for economy and longevity. I guess you have to weigh up the weight of the metho versus a good sized gas canister. I think for our trip, Metho would have been more economical. I know it’s much slower but we had plenty of time.  My Trangia packs down including teapot and cleaning gear and weighs about a kilo. I have a kitchen in one parcel. I can’t live without it.

I live in these. I have shorts and zip-off trousers. They are light, dry and comfortable with plenty of secure pockets. Be careful when you iron them, though, as you can burn them on high heat. I totally recommend Columbia gear as it is well-priced and very well made from outstanding fabrics. I guess most of the technical wear from the well known outdoor companies is of this standard but I looked at Kathmandu and just didn’t want to get ripped off by their outrageous prices. I also like Mountain Design stuff a lot and have a great MD shirt that I wore on the trip. I bought the Columbia from Mountain Designs whose staff are quality.

These were a last minute replacement for my Lafuma Tech Treks which didn’t fit properly. I bought the Merrells on the recommendation of Adrian and Kieren. They are certainly comfortable with Vibram soles which are great for grip. However, they have poor lateral stability and the dura-leather uppers are not up to the rigours of tough terrain. The boots kept twisting under my feet and this resulted in several blisters and considerable pain. They would be OK for trail walking but not alpine trekking. On the last day on the range the right boot blew a hole in the side. I really need a pair of boots like the Lafuma, Merrells even, but a higher grade than the Moab.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 24, 2010 in Adventure


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One response to “Updated Gear reviews

  1. River Kayaks

    February 13, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I found your reviews quite helpful. Please keep up the great work.


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