Gear Diary/ Kit that broke, kit that didnae, and other stuff before I forget, XI

There was a whole bunch of kit that got pulled from the wrapper and put in my pack. Always a gamble, but that’s just an added slice of fun on my mountain toast.

First thing, and in my mind often the most important bit of kit I carry as it supplies my cuppa, was my stove. On this trip it was the Jetboil Flash.
I got my usual flat rock (which went back next day) for cooking on, and the Jetboil sat on it quite happily on its little plastic legs which were attached to an Optimus gas canister.
Its height which seems to be a talking point didn’t become an issue, even in the cramped porch of the tent, so I didn’t knock it over which was my fear when I first saw these things. In fact, when I nudged it a few times (as I had to, just to see if it would fall over…), it just rotated the canister in the wee legs, losing the energy of the nudge and leaving the operations and contents unbothered. That gave me a little more confidence and soon I just ignored it and let it do its thing.
Its thing happened to be very efficient and trouble-free. The piezo worked every time (yes I’m packing matches too, just-in-case), boil times were good until the gas got very low at the end of day two. The bowl thing was great for scooping up snow and covering it if you overfilled the pot to melt it, the lid’s spout is a drip-free pourer (which is left or right handed, fit it how you like), the handle on the insulation is secure and the wee “flash” stripes? Yeah, they go orange when it gets warm. Pointless it maybe be, but as I’m lying there in the cold the orange creeping up said “Cuppa… soon…”.
In short, it’s easy to use, works really well and packs-up neat and simple. I like it, but the real test will be longevity, especially of the stove section. I’ll be  updating this regularly.

I spent the night in a Force Ten Superlite 100 (top photie). It packed down small which made me happy, but I ditched the cheapo pegs that came with it and took some Y-pegs instead. I pulled it out into the semi-darkness and snow to pitch it for the first time, and to my delight it was a piece of piss. It went up easy, first time, with only a little adjustment to the wide end to get it tight.
I started throwing some gear inside and put my pack in the porch, on its edge, the porch is a little narrow.
Now the length of the inner is good, but once I was in my sleeping bag I soon realised that length isn’t everything, the inner tapers alarmingly at both ends, and only one end has the mini-pole to make room for a 3D object, the other end is a flat taper (like the end of a chisel). Now, I was on a fat sleepmat, but if I lay flat and stretched out I could touch the inner with my nose and my toes.
So, this tiny inner, full of down bag and breathing heating engineer, meant that the whole place soon became soaked with condensation, which ended up on the sleeping bags, my clothes and then froze in the early hours when the temperature dropped.
I haven’t mentioned internal height yet, so I will. There wasn’t any, add to that the condensation and ice coating of the morning and all my clothing offs and ons were done outside.
I spend the whole night crunched up, trying to keep the bag away from the wet walls and all I really wanted to do was stretch my legs out. This just meant that I couldn’t sleep and I had a miserable night.
I’ll take it out again with a different mat and see what happens, there’s an awful lot to like in this tent. I’ll be back with more.

The fat mat in question is an Exped Synmat 7.5 Basic, which is just in for test along with the pump-pillow, and thankfully it was great. It’s warm, comfy and small packing thanks to the lack of an integral pump (hence the pillow, which is also comfy).
I’ll have proper look at soon.

I wore some of the Arc’teryx kit, and it mostly performed very well.
The Delta LT Zip was completely anonymous, and you know I mean that as a compliment. Light, good warmth and comfort, and when in my pack it crunched into a corner. It dries very fast as well. Great basic midlayer.
The Rho LT Zip got soaked with sweat, slept in, had a nose wiped on its sleeves and seemed quite happy with it all. I like it, it’s comfy and it didn’t stink when I took it off when I got home. There’s still moments where I can feel I’m not wearing merino, but it’s a very wearable bit of kit.
The Alpha SL Pullover got rained and snowed on, and my first thought was “Ooh, look how good that DWR is”, really, it’s a bead-a-rama and because of that the Paclite did its job and I stayed condensation-minimal.
The cut is good, the pitzips handy, it didn’t ride up, but I’m on the fence about the hood. I don’t have an issue with laminated peaks, but this one is maybe a little soft. I’ll know more when I’ve used it in crap weather on a bere head.

Getting its first use was the Haglöfs Matrix 60 pack. On the outside a very trad-looking affair, but with Haglöfs’ take on a hybrid internal/external frame design it’s way more comfy than it looks, the harness being separate from the load and giving a surprising amount of freedom and flexibility to the wearer. The hipbelt has sensible medium-softness padding and a nice curve, this means comfort and wearability, and with the reverse-pull webbing, easy adjustment too.
The Matrix hides its 60L in its height, typical Haglöfs, tall and slim. I was worried that this might mean that my head would be interfered with from behind on steeper ground, but the floating lid and frame shape means that this doesn’t happen. That lid also has a monstrously big external pocket which I like a lot, and will now miss on other packs when I use them.
The zipped lower section turned out to be a great idea. When I was making camp, I opened up the compartment, took the tent out, pitched it while the rest of the kit stayed wrapped up. Talking of which, the fabric does seem to be very waterproof indeed.
There’s good detailing, one favourite is the compression straps which have velcro ends, handy for a tidy pack and also good for attaching to water bottles, which will now not be lost, merely dangle at your knees.
The harness wore in to my shape a little, and I dare say that’ll continue, so the good comfort should improve further. Aye, on paper it’s heavy, when you lift it, it’s heavy when full, but on my back I just didn’t feel it. Always a good sign.

Other stuff included a Haglöfs Viper II, and their mighty Grym boots too, which along with Montane’s Flux will be getting proper reviews this week.
Black Diamond Raven Ultra ice axe and Grivel AirTech aluminium crampons were reliable performers, and there was plenty of regular gear which just works away.
The Fizan poles deserve a mention, because they delivered a surprise. They lay outside fully extended all night, and when I left them there they were soaking wet. Now, all the webbing on my pack was frozen stiff, my jacket too, my axe leash, even my cap, but the poles stayed free-moving. I wonder if the lack of those plastic section-ends to trap water and swell-up and jam when frozen are a good idea from more than just a weight saving angle?

One last first was my first use of a GPS ,a Garmin Oregon 450, which has just come in for test. There was a wee map on the screen with a wee arrow saying “You are here”. Magic, more of that soon.

Just in: Haglöfs summer test kit, good cross-section of stuff, coming up soon.

52 thoughts on “Gear Diary/ Kit that broke, kit that didnae, and other stuff before I forget, XI”

  1. BTW love the previous entry, well written as ever :-)

    Interesting to see that you liked the Jetboil flash. I have an original and must admit it is my prefernce of kitchen kit even though it weighs loads more than the rest of my cooking combos. I do need to get the stabiliser kit though

  2. I’ll need to weigh the Jetboil against my complete usual set-up and see what the difference is.
    The one downside is that it’s not a loud as a regular stove…

  3. I must admit, I find my self drawn to the Matrix in a way that I wasn’t to the LIM45.

    I’m lucky enough to be heading to the USA for work in a couple of weeks time (BA permitting). AND there is an REI store handily placed on the way to airport, AND I will have an hour or so to spare…

    While I was originally intending to return through custums with with winner of a Gregory, Golite, Granite Gear and REI (Flash) death match, the Matrix 50 is emerging as something of a dark horse.

    I might need to buy a Synmat 7.5 to fill it too.

  4. Interesting review on the Helium. I’ve got a vango banshee 200 and i know that on a still, humid night that can geta bit condensationy (made up a new word there :) so when I saw the photos of the helium when it first came out I was convinced that it was going to be a sweat box, it doesn’t even have any vents on it.
    So in the banshee I can sit up, get all my kit inside, use a fat mat and not be touching both ends (POE Ether thermo 6 and I’m 6ft) and i picked up mine for £60.
    On the other hand it weighs 1.9kg and is twice the pack size….. Swings and roundabouts.

  5. I’m still in two minds about the Jetboil – it was my stove of choice, until I got a Snowpeak Ti Gigapower (no piezzo), and I was disappointed with the boil time on the group pot I got in preparation for the Cairngorms Snowholing trip and didn’t take on the hill in the end. I shall have to try that pot again. I probably have a spare stabiliser kit and pot stand if you want it, TBW.
    I do like the look of that Haglofs pack, I want the 40 in red :-) But on checking the website it looks as if they only come in one back size. Any possibility of adjustments, and is it ‘male’ in its fit? I’m still using that Lightwave Fastpack 40, btw, it’s way way the most comfortable pack I have apart from my Talon 22, which is only a wee daypack anyway.

  6. I rather like my original Jetboil. I also have a wee lightweight stove and titanium pot that someone bought me for birthday, but it has yet to be used in anger. I’d prefer the jetboil to be lighter and more squat. I’m almost tempted to take a drill to the vast lumps of plastic on the burner unit just to try to trim the weight a bit. But it’s probably being a bit ‘excessive’ and umm I suppose it might be there for a reason which I really only find the significance of once it’s too late.

  7. Enjoy the trip David!

    The Matrix is a bit of a sleeper, you don’t see it much or hear folk talking about it, but I think it’s a great trad-ish pack. I was talking to Bobinson about it today and I realised I was enthusing about it, so it has made an impression.
    Aye, it’s heavier than the alternatives, when when I saw what corners had been cut on some of the other kit at the weekend I was quite glad that the Matrix was built to a performance point rather than a weight or price.
    The size will have to be right for the user to feel at home in it as it’s non-adjustable, I seem to be lucky with most folk’s notional “regular” back.
    Worth trying on if you can find one.

    Aye, the Synmat pack-sze was a shock after taking the Neoair for so long, it was warm though :o)

    Camalbitboy, condensationy has just gone into common usage :o)
    The Helium could easy be bigger and lighter with different fabrics, more expensive as well. It’s just so “nearly…”.

    Kate, I think cooking kit is as personal as clothing, you have to feel comfortable with it, and I think forum arguments about stoves are pointless as folk aren’t realising this.
    I had a look at a standard Jetboil today and the Flash is better, it is lighter, less clunky stove section I think too.
    I reckon the back system on the Matrix is too much for a 40 litre pack unless it was full, but it’ll be dead comfy that’s for sure. The back is “take it and like it” size, and longer than the Fastpack you’ve got. But maybe not hugely? Ach, try it out next time.

    One thing about the tall shape Beth was it was easy to pack, I could slip it down between my tent and sleeping bag stuff sacks, I was quite pleased as I thought it was going to be like trying get a can of Irn Bru in my trouser pocket.
    nah, don’t drill it. These things seems like a grerat ideda at the time (trust me I know…) but in the morning you’ll regret it!

  8. Well I feel pretty glad that I got the Helium 200 on a hunch that the 100 would be too pokey. The 200 is supposed to fit two men… yeah, right! Maybe two amorous dwarfs. Lucky too that I’m of modest stature, at 5’7 I have about a foot of space at the end for gear, which is handy because that last tapered foot is of no good use for anything else. The larger width of the 200 gives you a bit of leeway for pulling back the inner if you need more space for cooking, which you might because the porch is pretty slimline. Anyway, I’m going to hastily disassociate myself from the helium 100, considering the bashing it’s gotten on here the past couple of days… trust me, the 200 is just so different… ;o) I had a lot more trouble with condensation the first couple of times I pitched it, before I figured out how to pitch it so that there’s a decent amount of clearance between the outer and the ground. Since then it’s stayed very dry. Anyway that’s my two cents in defense of Vango…

    The Jetboil looks very snazzy. Looks brilliant for a hassle-free cuppa. I assume you cannae cook a proper meal in that mug thing on the top though? Is it decently compatible with other kinds of receptacle?

  9. The girs are away on a tangent there…

    I think you’re right about the Helium being ideal in regards to your height Sid, I actually feel cheated in some ways as I really wanted to like it, it’s got a great set-up and a great UK weather resistant spec. But I will give it another go with different gear.
    Now here’s the thing, I also have a Helium 200 to test, if I can sleep diagonally in it things are looking good.

    The inside line is that you can cook in the Jetboil pot, but because the heat comes through so efficiently it will burn anything that’s quite dry if you’re not being careful, so rather than have to deal with bitching customers who have no patience with learning how to use it, they just advise everone to boil water.
    I don’t see why you can’t use other pots though if the burner-to-pot base distance is right, after all it’s just a Primus mini-stove in the middle (shhhh….).

  10. The Matrix has a variation on the LIM 45 velcro adjustment, doesn’t it (the 50L I tried on in Aviemore did)?

    The harness is more sophisticated though, so (unlike the LIM) the velcro bit is enclosed there is a limited amount of ‘travel’ – enough for me (6′ 2″ ) at the top end.

    It is heavier but 500g is sod all in the great scheme of things if you can’t feel the weight on your back.

  11. You know, I’m doubting my sanity now, I’ll have another look tomorrow (it’s still in the garage where I left it drying). After I took the photies for the first-look I never saw the pack again until I filled it on Saturday night, so I’ve missed it altogether as it just fitted me first time.
    It’s neat back adjustment system then, makes it an even better bet.
    I’ll report back!

  12. I cant see the point of using other pots with the JB, but using other burners has occured to me many a time. One day I shall find the spare pot cheap enough for it to mysteriously have a date with my hacksaw, or friends lathe parting tool/etc, to remove the frame that fits onto the burner unit. Then I could use any stove with it, and I happen to have a wee example just waiting to try. Mk1 eyeball suggests it would work out rather well.

  13. No it does look nice, a bit more exciting than a Ti Kettle. I have had experience of two jetboils, the first was lousy, if I’m kind, at altitude, the second well lets just say UkMase was a bit shocked when the whole thing flared up into a fireball, I think his second one was faulty too! So I feel making them pretty is a step in the right direction ;o)

  14. Thedre’s not enough hacksawing in the outdoors Beth, keep me posted!

    DNF, are you saying Jetboil are making stove along the same lines as 1970’s Italian cars? Looks great, but the wing mirrors are stuck on with blutac.

    That flaring thing is possible to engineer by the way. I did it when I wasn’t concentrating and pressing the piezo enough, and got a little boomff of gas coming out at me. I wonder if it’s because the enclosed design gets you a nice explosive pre-mix of gas and air hanging around the ignition point?
    It’s one of the things I’ll be monitoring.

  15. Some interesting stuff in there. Making me think twice about my hesitation about using the JB for cooking in but the big question on my mind, how’s the Helium for tent flap?

  16. The wind wasn’t consistent enough to really tell, there was a few strong gusts early in the night and it felt secure enough.
    I’ll be in a more exposed pitch next time and I’ll be bound to get more wind!

  17. I used a Jetboil a few years ago, but went back to a Ti Kettle/Markhill Peak combo. I’ve just bought a Jetboil Flash however, as it has addressed all the problems I had with the original:
    exposed Piezo (the first thing to hit the lid when rattling around in a pack = broken on first outing) which is now safely cocooned by a redesigned lid;
    plastic flame adjuster (which was difficult to use with cold, gloved or sweaty hands) now a big wire thing;
    the base/measuring-cup which now glides on and off with a simple twist instead of being a two-handed, grit your teeth and hope for the best job;
    a better burner and a decent stand, which is good to see as standard in a stove set-up.

    The colours, flash stripes and translucent lid + base may be a bit gimicky, but I like them!

    My previous set-up, including wind-shield and cozey, comes in at just under 320g; Jetboil Flash is just under 400g, but I’m hoping that extra 80g will pay for itself in greater fuel efficiency. That said, I would hope to make a 100g cart last at least 5 days – was your’s part-used, used a lot in those 2 days, or just struggling in the low temperature?

  18. That’s brilliant info there, thanks.

    My can’s still got plenty in it, I think the cold was just slowing it down later on, plus I was using it a lot, including melting snow into about two litres of water. I was definitely pleased with the gas usage.

  19. Bloody. Hell. The compatible pot costs as much as the Jetboil itself. Think I might know another reason why they don’t want people to cook with the mug…
    Looks like I’m sticking with a campingaz and a piece of tinfoil for the time being…

  20. I’m just sceptical why they prettied it up, it’s a outdoor stove! So until then, I will just say “You put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig” :o)

  21. Sid, in the 70’s, sausages rolled in tinfoil were my regular camp meals!

    DNF, I hope they’re just bored of black like me! The real reason I suspect is that the Flash is pretty different from the regular version, the stove section is completely different, and they’re just trying to differentiate it as much as pull in new users.
    Don’t worry, if it goes tits-up it’ll be all over these pages.

  22. Have you had yer mitts on one of those new Primus Express Spiders?

    I weakened when they became available last week and must say, at 198g for a winter gas stove is pretty good. The quality is up there too. Just need some winter now to check it out :-)

  23. Had a look at getting one in a while back Bob, I’ll maybe need to chase that up as a lot of folk have said good things about it.
    Which reminds me, must put that MSR Windpro on ebay…

  24. My names Bob and I’m a stoveaholic…

    Dunno what it is about them, I just can’t help meself…

    The Pocket rocket for 3 season backpacking
    The Express Spider for winter backpacking
    The Whisperlight for bikepacking
    The camping gaz piercable thing for car camping dans le continent
    The omnifuel cos I couldn’t resist a bargain :-)

  25. I enjoyed your trip report and the gear write up as always, but was wondering what sleeping bag(s) you used for this trip. It would be good to know what set up you use this time of the year. I noticed you opted for the Flux over the Minimus jacket for this trip. Did you leave you PHD bags at home as well? Sorry if you have already mentioned it.

  26. Bob, you’re among friends here…

    Maybe it starts out as the quest for the perfect do-it-all-model, but ends up as having something perfect for every occasion.
    That’s a win whatever way you look at it :o)

    Dan, I still used the PHD Combi/Minim Ultra pairing, it’s so reliable when I don’t know what the condition will be like other than “cold”. I’ll tell you though, I’m going to think about getting them washed soon!
    I took the Flux because I knew it was going to be wet to some degree, and considering how wet everything got it was quite a good move.
    I was fine and warm in the Flux though, and I’ll have a proper review up over the next couple of days.

  27. Just been playing with the unnoticed back adjustment on the Matrix.
    The adjustment seem to take it from a “regular” to a “tall”, but that’s a bit subjective of course.
    It’s better done than on the LIM packs and taller folk should find the frame height even less of an issue once it’s adjusted.

  28. What’s wrong with windpro? I really like mine, can cook with style at base camp with it, although I have heard people saying they have a crap flame and use too much gas? I only ever really use the Crux or the MSR XGK though nowadays, both in sensible black and metal colours!

  29. That is a good question, it has been well regarded for a long time, I got one late last year and it was really disappointing. Very thirsty for fuel, the flex is too short to allow you to turn the can over easily and has a piss-poor flame. Someone flagged up the Chris Townsend had got one at the same time to reviews and said all the same things, so I wonder if it’s been an update gone wrong?

    The Crux? Best burner ever, Optimus, then Brunton and now Vango and GoSystems are using it on their models.

  30. I’m glad I wen for the Spider now. Hadn’t read the reviews of the Windpro but the way the Primus was eagerly awaited sealed it for me.

    So the perfect backpacking gas stove is a remote canister stove with a preheat tube and a Crux burner using the same amount of gas as a Crux/Rocket whilst weighing ~80g and fitting into an MSR Ti Kettle. Who makes that then and whu did I get the bloomin Express Spider :-)

  31. I’m glad I went for the Spider now. Hadn’t read the reviews of the Windpro but the way the Primus was eagerly awaited sealed it for me and I really rate Primus build quality.

    So the perfect backpacking gas stove is a remote canister stove with a preheat tube and a Crux burner using the same amount of gas as a Crux/Rocket whilst weighing ~80g and fitting into an MSR Ti Kettle. Who makes that then and whu did I get the bloomin Express Spider :-)

  32. That sound like the ideal stove right enough Bob. Of course I’ll be having coloured anodising on mine!

    The GoSystems Thermotech (remote canister/reheat) is a good peformer, but it’s about the same size as a box of corflakes when it’s folded up.
    There really is a lack of choice in this area, and I can’t see why as folk want these types of stoves.

  33. That is a charge that has been levied at the Windpro for the last couple of years, mine is about 4 years old, and is fine. Sounds like somebody ballsed up somewhere along the line. Of course you are using the approved MSR gas, without which they cannot guarantee the perfect condition lab results touted on the box ;o)

  34. I have one MSR gas left! I dust it regularly and keep it on the shelf.
    That Optimus stuff seems okay, it’s the same as the Primus mix I think.

    Here, the wee Coleman gas was £4 in Tiso yesterday. I nearly choked on my donut.

  35. My wee Markill stove is off up the WHW with one of my pals.He couldnae belive how wee it was or how fast it could boil half a litre of water. Apart from my Leki’s, that’s all he borrowed. He’s doing it in Cotton Trader boots, an Argos ruckie and the waterproofs he uses for fishing. Bless ‘im :o)

  36. Hey, I’ll bet he has a ball!

    Markill has new distribution apparently, so we should see them back in the limelight :o)

  37. Bob – I have that stove!

    Remote canister, pre-heat tube, Gosystem Fly (Gnat) Ti burner, folding legs, 105g. Made by…

    For anyone choking on the cost of Coleman gas, if you have a remote canister stove you can use the slim 170g canisters (think blowtorch, hardware store) @ £3

  38. Cool!

    Interesting that with the valve on the live side of the preheat, I wonder if the flow restriction through there reduces flaring?

    I chucked my Brunton remote legs away somewhere, this kind of thing would have been a better idea for them!

  39. Yeah, the valve controls the gas/flame in the same way you would expect from a canister-top stove.
    It’s a shame very few commercial stoves have this kind of arrangement.

  40. That’s because like most good ideas it breaks the rules :o)

    There’s a possibility of pressurising the canister from stove you see. Take a brand new canister, open the stove valve full, light the stove, get a full flame and immediately shut the valve, the expanding vapour in the preheat will go straight back into the canister. It’ll never cause it to fail or blow up though.
    Preheats after the valve allow the flame to draw the last gas through when the valve is shut before the flame goes out.
    There’s ways round it, before electronic controls on combustion there were all sorts of clever mechanical devices to control gas flow. Getting these things small enough to keep your stove light is the trick, I think that’s whay I’ve been so impressed by the Soto.

    Get that valve on the end of the flexi, get a patent and get it into production!

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