Thursday, October 8, 2015

MLD cuben Trailstar and Supermid updated

It's been about three years since I last wrote about the cuben Trailstar and a lot has changed.
Back then I was falling in love with its light weight and proportions. But of course I was struggling to pitch it somewhat and that blog post may be off putting to some.
I'd now suggest that for its size and weight it's the best shelter on the market...(caveat - I've not seen much else) but...
What is lighter? Bigger? As flexible? Four season?
I've used this year round, adding a bug net for summer and without one once the bugs go and in sub zero temps although you'd obviously not take it to the Arctic! Note later about spindrift.

This post focuses on MLD cuben fiber, the Supermid and Trailstar. I've added the Supermid, if I don't you'll be waiting twenty thousand years for a blog on that!

I think a comment on cuben fibre is the first thing to mention. It differs from silnylon in various ways, has pros and cons and I love the stuff!
The best way to make shelters with it is bonding, not stitching it. I've noticed on one of my well used stuff sacks the cuben and stitching is fraying. The beauty of cuben fibre is that it's easy to repair! Any good tape will work. I like tenacious tape. So this stuff sack will get a new lease of life. I've taken this opportunity to grab a dab of seam grip glue to seal all the stitching on my other stuff sacks. This doesn't include the dry bags as they are fully taped and seam sealed.

The other wonderful advantage of cuben when bonded to make shelters is there are no seams to seal. So this saves time and the weight of additional sealant on silnylon.

A few comparisons we can talk about is cuben doesn't stretch at all, this has advantages and disadvantages. You won't find your shelter sagging in on you after a night of rain and cuben is lighter. A disadvantage is that it probably won't last as long as silnylon which will probably last longer, is cheaper but has a tendency to sag when wet (pitch tight at night, often it's sagging after heavy rain or dew by morning) and is heavier. In these types of shelter, I'll take the financial cost along with the slight durability loss in time frame.
Store cuben loose at home. Repeated folding / stuffing all reduce its lifespan.

Cuben is arguably better in a fixed shelter, like the Supermid or a regular tarp. I did have huge problems pitching the Trailstar in cuben. The lack of stretch and working against the material caused many a headache early on in my usage! But I always knew it was my inability not the cuben!
I never gave up and it was always my go to shelter.
I look back and think potentially one thing I was doing "wrong" was the guy lines may have been too short.
I've recently put new lines on at about 3.5 to 4 feet. Now this is overkill, but it makes things more adaptable and I'd recommend 3.5 feet lines and its then up to you if you go longer or shorter.

For the Supermid I'd go two feet on corners and three to four feet minimum on mid hem / mid panel tie out lines. The cuben Supermid pitches lower than the silnylon version. I'd estimate 5'8" vs 6' plus. Considering its already a huge size, this is an advantage and is surely bound to be better in strong winds for having seemingly less exposed.
I've not tried the cuben Supermid in strong winds, obviously due to its larger panels it isn't in the same ball park as the Trailstar for shedding wind. The silnylon version did well with quite strong wind on Dartmoor last year. But I doubt the wind topped 30mph.
What I particularly love with the cuben Supermid is the huge space for zero weight! Ok 660g but that's nothing. Add a light groundsheet and solid pegs and you have a cathedral plus grounds for yourself and storage area for cooking and dog walking under one roof for sub 1kg! This thing is huge.
You'll get three people in with room (tight) for kit. In reality, this is a perfect two person shelter with a dog or bike.
I love it solo with Lassie. Maybe best rephrase that...
The cuben Supermid is my second favourite shelter.

Ok let's concentrate some more on the cuben Trailstar as that's really the focus here and my favourite!
In 2012 I said if I only kept one it would be the silnylon Trailstar. Now, three years on, it would be the Trailstar still, but in cuben please!
With practice I can now get a high pitch, using longer lines and a wide door when pitched low! Neither of which I could do three years ago. The longer lines help with the angles.
I have also got a reasonable pitch with the door as a corner. The MLD inner fits well under the high pitch. Not so good under a low pitch, but a low pitch means cold or wind and in my opinion an inner isn't needed once bugs are not flying about, maybe unless it's snowing and spindrift is about. But I've not experienced that so can't comment.
I'd pitch the Trailstar between 1m and 1.3m, this gives huge flexibility.
These shelters do have a gap around the base, but that's fine for ventilation and I reply on my sleep system to keep me warm. The shelter keeps most wind off and all rain out!

I've used both silnylon and cuben Trailstar in very strong winds, once each on Dartmoor, the first with silnylon I had to abandon due to rising waters and I was struggling to keep my pole up and hence the Trailstar kept collapsing. This wasn't a fault of the Trailstar but my pole.
The cuben Trailstar behaved superbly in strong wind, the forecast was 50mph! I didn't sleep much that night for fear we'd all blow away, but that was my nerves and the noise of wind! I know cuben is noisy in wind, but frankly, anything like a tent / tarp / shelter will make a bit of a racket.
Either one of these shelters will serve me very well over the coming years and I'll look forward to reporting more in 2057 ;-)

I'll round of by thanking you all for the terrific support.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Avatar

Decided it was time to update my avatar to my favourite shelter, MLD cuben Trailstar with moi et Lassie inside.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Boots, I still loath them...

At the beginning of the year I bought a pair of boots for a (possible - didn't happen) winter camp in the Brecons. I wanted "proper" boots (this isn't a review of boots, so the make is immaterial - Salomon) in case the snow was deep and ice was about, where I'd need gaiters and warm boots able to handle lightweight crampons.
Due to weather, timing and an hernia operation the trip didn't happen. But I've the kit ready for another time this year or any other.
As you may know I'm a massive fan of walking in non waterproof lightweight trail shoes that allow water in as easily as they drain. Don't like wet feet? Time to give it a go and get over it. It matters not a jot.  Make sure you have good socks, merino, and shoes that drain. This vital!
I digress, so I thought, I've these boots, I've not worn boots in over eleven years. The sheer thought of them filled me with dread...
It was only a short walk around Cheddar, about three hours, the going was a mix of slick mud, tracks and steps / slopes and fields with sheep.
I found the boots, clod hoppers, heavy cumbersome, uncomfortable, digging into shins, exasperating a corn on foot, I had no feeling of my beloved contact with mother Earth, the typical comments about them gripping better was also a myth, as they slipped in mud far more often than my Inov8 x talons which virtually never slipped and made me feel sure footed.
I didn't require the mythical ankle support either... I'd rather have my heel secured and allow my foot to operate naturally.
So my love affair with shoes goes on, and the heavy boots will be put in reserve as and when and if needed...
If I can get away with the inov8 286 gore tex mid shoe I'd take that before a heavy boot any day.
Other than that, mesh lined and breathable footwear is still my choice, with sealskinz if necessary.   I wear two liner socks under them. Coolmax next to skin and a merino liner sock, then sealskinz.  This combination works perfectly for me in most cold to just sub zero conditions.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Inov8 282 early thoughts...

I'm now convinced that the inov8 282 caused my ankle to turn and I'll not be using them with a pack of any sort, unless tiny! They've redesigned the heel and forefoot.  The heel cup is just too big for my tiny heels and the heel is swimming around in there! That's a lethal combination!
Maybe the non gore Tex comfort fit version will be ok for winter and Sealskinz...
When my current crop of inov8 wear out I'll have to hope the precision fit is better on their other models.
Thankfully I've a good stock of old models!! That's shoes, not the short skirted kind, unfortunately...  ;-)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Lassie chasing the mist...

Some days I'd barely know I had a hernia, other days it's uncomfortable enough to make me almost nauseous!  I think today is post Christmas and new year blues day, and the hernia was a little uncomfortable but I bit the bullet and headed to Cheddar my favourite local far away haunt for a small hike.

I wore my inov8 150 shoes, with two liner socks, synthetic first then merino and Sealskinz over the top.  This system works well for me in temps below 8c. Much above that it's far too warm!

I passed two young couples holding hands, I always love seeing people being romantic outside, though often feel a little melancholy.  Thinking how nice that would be.  I am looking, as per my last post.

The walk was my usual easy walk, I kept it short as I turned my ankle two weeks ago but it's mending quickly.

I wanted to get out of the house and more importantly give Lassie a longer walk. She's still learning not to chase things!! Today wasn't such a great day in that regard! She has now decided to pursue people.  I'll need to work on this pronto. Worse though is now we not meeting friends with their dogs Lassie has lost the being around other dog atmosphere or whatever it is. I've noticed she's getting jealous when I approach or other dogs approach me. This to needs rectifying pronto!  I started today by stopping at couple and asking one to hold Lassie on the lead whilst I played with their dog for a minute.  This needs working on.

I'll be back to Cheddar on Tuesday hopefully to pick up a Petzl Snowalker ice axe as I'm hoping to head to the Brecons soon before my hernia op in Feb. 
I may have inadvertently invited myself along with Dave who owns The Gorge Outdoors in cheddar to the Alps, maybe next winter for a bit of tea drinking... I didn't suggest ice climbing.  So has to be tea drinking!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Probable kit list for TGO Challenge in May 2014.

As some of you are aware I'll be crossing Scotland with Chris Townsend in May 2014 as part of the TGO Challenge.
Below is a first draft of the kit I'll probably take.
The maps were 900g, I had to add a map, as the list was missing one. So that made about a kilo. I have removed the covers, and cut them down to 360g! This weight doesn't include a plastic case. So will need to be added to total weight. I could send some maps ahead to save a few grams... but that's a gamble...
Also I have only listed one pair of underpants, maybe I need two!
Ron Bell at MLD is making me a cuben groundsheet for the Trailstar, so I'll swap that for the current sheet. I'll also probably add an extra peg or two. Maybe swap the Type three compass for the larger type 4. Maybe add a spare battery for camera and GoPro, though the power packs should easily be plenty! My first aid will probably be increased a bit too. I'll probably take Paramo trousers. So all or any combination of these things may take me just over 10kg. My aim is 10kg all in. But I'll not skimp for comfort or safety just for figures.
NB - I reiterate this is an early draft, as the above indicates. Weather and a discussion with Chris nearer the time may change this.

Camp List Chris Townsend TGO Challenge 2014

MLD pack Prophet all options Frameless 2900ci / 47L 626
MLD cuben X Large dry bag / liner. 45

Sub Total 671

MLD Cuben Trailstar in Cuben stuff bag 380
MLD Rain Kilt prototype 59
OookWorks OookStar Cuben Groundsheet 120
Pegs 3 Easton 9", Three 6" Ti V, Five MLD 6". 134
MSR Blizzard stake (Trowel) 1 23

Sub Total 716

PHD Sleeping Bag 350/900 781
MLD Quilt / bag Liner 82
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite Regular (R3.2) 364
3mm Foam matting 2' 6" (75cm) long 55cm wide. 62
Exped Airpillow UL M 45

Sub Total 1334

MLD 450ml ti pot 37

Evernew Ultra-Light Ti 900ml pot 110
Trail Designs Sidewinder 900 cone 38
Zelph Starlyte stove (meths) 15
J Cloth tiny piece! 1
Light My Fire / Fire steel 28
Optimus Ti folding spoon 2 (17g each) 34
Lighter 16
Measure pots (2) 1
Z Packs Cuben stuff sack 4

Bottle (1) for meths 150ml 17
Bottle (1) for meths 250ml 25

Sub Total 326

20 fl oz / 590ml bottle (1) 45
2L / 1L / 500ml Platypus containers 36g / 25g / 19g 80
Compass Silva Ranger 3 32
Maps 360
Silva ADC Pro 65
Oakley Half Jacket Glasses / bullet case 119
Petzl XP Core head light 83
Aqua Mira (empty 8g) 35 drops. 10
Hand gel 23
Suncream pot 7g 20

Dyneema cord 2mm spare 5.2m one piece 16

First Aid kit in light bag. 100
Wenger Swiss Army Knife (scissors, knife, tweezers, LED) 24
Lighter 17
Z Packs Cuben MLD 850 pot stuff sack (for above!) 3

Repair kit, matches and ear plugs 68
Toothbrush 5
Dr Bonner's soap (for teeth too!) Pot 4g 8
Lifeventure towel 1' by 2' 50
Towel Vaude 16
MLD Cuben Ditty bag 2

Anker 13,000 302
Anker Battery Charger 10,000 mAh 245
Charger lead 13
Charger lead 19
Plug TWO!!!!! 42g each 84
SD card for camera Four (4g each) Sony NEX 16
Micro SD cards 2 GoPro 1
MLD Cuben Ditty bag 2

Toilet paper (inc 5 Alco Wipe) 59
Small MLD Dry bags for waste 13

Sub Total 1900

Rab Myriad Neoshell 368
Arcteryx Nuclei Hoody small 277
Arcteryx Sqamish Hoody wind 135
Patagonia Polartec Blue Pullover S Pocket Regulator R1 284
Rab MeCo LS Zip 160 shirt 242
ChocFish T Shirt 187

Mountain Hardwear light zipped trousers 356
Montane Pertex waterproof pants / trousers 140
Rohan Pants 49
Smartwool Hiker Socks 86
Smartwool Liner Socks 39
Sealskinz Short Thermal rating 2 69

TNF Leggings 91
Lowe Alpine Polartec Thermal Pro Beanie 56
Buff scarf 38
Extremities Polartec Balaclava 46

MLD Mitts eVent 42
Outdoor Designs Bora Grip WindPro 87
Outdoor designs Taku small Windpro 57
Smartwool Liner gloves (Touch screen) 24

Inov8 TrailRoc 245 pair no insoles 509
Superfeet Carbon 85
The North Face cap 66
Watch Sunto Advizor 54

Credit card / Driving License in MLD cuben Ditty 17
Decongestant / Lip salve 17

Sub Total 3421
BASE 1 (Hiking / Camping kit) 8368

Photo Kit in or on pack.
No Tripod, borrow Chris'

Sub Total 0
BASE 2 (inc. Photo kit in pack) 8368

Separate Photo Kit. (Around neck!).
Sony NEX 6 w/ E Lens 16-50mm 476
Sony Microphone ECM-XYST1M 100
Cloth 6
Aquapac Small waterproof camera bag 100

GoPro Hero 3+ Black 151
GoPro Pacer Pole attachment 31

Sub Total 864
BASE 3 (inc. Camera Kit in pouch) 9232

Carrying / Holding / Pockets
Phone 147

Pacer Poles Carbon 524

Sub Total 671
BASE 4 (Total Carrying on Person - not consumable) 9903

Total carried (food + pack + camera) NOT worn 9903

BASE 5 (Total of everything not consumable!) 9903

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vetters comments and distances for TGO Challenge.

Route and vetters comments in a nutshell, without giving away the route entirely.

"We are faced with "vetting" the route of someone recently seen on television as a winter camping enthusiast (I'd say expert).

However, Chris, you have Tony with you.... (poor sod;)"

"Auchertyre Hill is a bit roughty toughty"  where have I heard that before...

From the route sheet that Chris sent me...
Fri 21km 887m asc.
Sat 25/1823
Sun 25/1142
Mon 31/779
Tue 25/909
Wed 25/737
Thur 25/936
Fri 20/1352
Sat 22/1195
Sun 203/553
Mon 24/1470
Tue 23/733
Wed 18/115.

We have Thursday and technically Friday to use as well and I'd expect to use Thursday.  These are the high routes.  The Fair Weather Route is less ascent.

Vetters comments "Tony - Shirt nan Ceathramham, Carn Eighe and Mam Social are three of the highest Munroes and often still have significant amounts of snow on them in May."  It's pointed out the south side for descent usually has less snow :)

"One Challenger got swept off his feet trying to cross (Allt Phocaichain) so one to avoid after heavy rain."

I've just read that some time before Chris vetted the vetters.  Presumably a Challenge from a bygone year.

"Chris we can only hope for some reasonable conditions for Tony to be able to appreciate what would be an excellent Cairngorm experience! "

"A bit of a rough stuff (oooh matron;) today, East of Mount Keen...".

"We liked our virtual ramble along your route..."