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Gear Reviews

Here are a few thoughts on how the gear we took performed, CLICK PRODUCT NAME for each products details:


MSR Nook Tent
|At 1300grams the Nook is pretty lightweight for a two person tent and yet it manages to provide quite spacious accommodation for two people. Its never going to be as practical as heavier models with two doors and two porches but compared to other single entry two person tents it provides excellent head height over a reasonable area, at the front - and the sides are pulled out quite well giving elbow room further into it.

My pal was using it as a single person shelter and for this it´s quite luxurious, providing more than enough space to take all his gear into the tent.

It takes a few goes to get the pitching just right, but once you have the method then it goes up quickly. There are key points where the ridge pole is fastened into the flysheet with velcro loops and its useful to do this if you are expecting wind. We had some really wet and windy weather which the tent coped with easily.

There´s a good mix of fabric and mesh on the inner tent so ventilation is good whilst you don´t get blown away inside if the wind gets up.

There are two mesh pockets inside the tent which help with organisation and the front porch is large for one person but may be restrictive when two people are using the tent.

Additional guying points can be found in a number of places on the outside of the tent so it can be rigged for windy conditions - though MSR don´t supply enough guys and pegs to do this with the tent - you need to purchase these separately.

All in all an excellent single or very light two person tent that provides enough space and will deal with some really poor weather.



RAB Infinity 300 Sleeping Bag
|I've used the Infinity 300 sleeping bag on a few trips now and I like it a lot, although its always difficult reviewing a sleeping bag because different people can feel different degrees of warmth in the same bag under the same conditions.

In Chile the temperature got down to 2C on the coldest nights and the bag kept me warm, albeit I slept in leggings and down jacket on the coldest night and just underwear at other times.

The comfort rating is 3C and comfort limit is -2C and this feels about right - I used to think I slept warm but I think this has changed now that I am of 'advanced years', and on recent trips (with different bags) I've concluded that I now sleep a bit on the cold side - so the rating seems accurate to me.

Other than that I'm a big-ish bloke and the bag feels roomy enough, I experienced no down leakage and the zip length is a bout right, not quite full length but long enough.



Thermarest Neoair Xlite Sleeping Mat - Regular

|Lots has been written about the NeoAir - so I'll keep it short - it has everything - comfort, good insulation, very low weight and miniscule packsize - for the ultralight backpacker its superb!

My pal on this trip is new to backpacking and he was amazed at how comfortable it was, as for insulation, on one particularly cold night he couldn´t believe how cold the ground was when he placed a hand on it - whereas on the mat he was quite warm and insulated.

I've had some feedback from customers that it's too noisy - so be warned if this might keep you awake (personally I've never felt it a problem, my pals snoring on the other hand - don´t get me started!)

Also I would probably consider something else for winter camping, something warmer like the Exped Downmat UL or the NeoAir Xtherm - but these are not criticisms - just observations.



 Klymit Cush
|One of the great things about the Cush is that it takes so little effort to blow it up -this may seem like a trivial point but by the time you've blown up your mat its a welcome fact that just a single puff gets your pillow into action.

The desgn means you can drape it over other stuff to create a comfortable pillow of any size you wish - this is its raison d'etre and it does this very well.

It kind-of promises flexibility of use beyond this, and you can sit on it of course - though you need to be sure you won't puncture it. Other than that I tried to use it on the plane but couldn't get it to stay in shape when I folded it into itself.



 Helinox Passport Compact Trekking Poles |I have been using these poles for some months now but never really got them tested on rough terrain where they jam into rocks and get serious strain on them. I was keen to take them with me to Patagonia because they pack very small and are so light and easy to use.

I have begun to love them! They put up with a lot of grief and didn´t fail, bend or worry me in any way.

At this weight and pack size their competitors are the Black Diamond Ultra Distance and the Fizan Compacts. Both great poles, the Fizan Compacts are a good all-rounder at a great price, whereas the Black Diamond are very short pack size and best used as running poles rather than out and out trekkers where you will be putting some weight on them.

But I´ve managed to break a pair of both these poles on various trips under severe conditions! Thats where the Helinox Passport stand out - they are a true trekking pole that manages to be very light, short pack size that have not let me down despite taking a beating. The trip included sections every bit as damaging to poles as my other trips and the Helinox Passports can through completely unscathed.

Aside from this obvious accolade the Passport poles have a nice `slim´ grip that works well. The hand loops adjust easily, which is not the same as some other poles where you sometimes struggle to slacken them off - in fact the adjustment may be a bít too easy as the straps loosen on a regular basis - however I find this fine because they can be adjusted back easily.

A great trekking pole that packs up really neatly.



Exped Lightning 60 Rucksack|I really like the pack, the weight has been used up on the harness system which is very comfortable for the loads I took, which were upto 30lbs, and the design allows the pack to sit off your back a bit if you need some ventilation, it also transfers the load to the hips very well. The roll-top works well, however there are three buckles to fasten to get in and out of it so it takes slightly longer then other packs. All the pockets on the pack are fine, without a lid (and the usual range of pockets on it) its not as easy keeping organised, but I generally use pouches to do that inside my rucksack (Granite Gear Zip Dittys are particularly good for this).

I removed the external strapping because I didn't need it and it looks a bit of a mess on the outside of the pack. My gear always gets a bit of abuse and the pack has a very small hole in the front and a bit of abrasion damage on the mesh pockets, neither of which I would worry about but its not going to be as robust as a 2kg pack, so takes a bit of care in use.