Tarptent Notch

Some time ago I ordered the Tarptent Notch (with the partial solid liner) at sackundpack.de. Yet I haven’t had the chance to pitch it… Well mainly because of the lack of trekking poles (borrowed some from a friend now till I buy my own) and because of the humid weather… But today the sun came out and temperatures were actually above zero (wuhuuu), so today was the day… for pitching and seamsealing…

What I learned while pitching it two times:

  • Search for an even spot (yeah you don’t want a mole trying to come out exactly where you are trying to sleep, or you don’t wanna put your trekking pole into a mole hole either… yeah that is sort of what I did whoops)
  • Make sure your trekking poles are long enough (first time I probably adjusted them too short and the fabric on the “roof” -between to two poles- somehow wasn’t tight)
  • adjust the guylines after pitching 

Anyway I guess I still have to give it some more goes before it’ll be pitched perfectly… Somehow the inner fabric still touches the outer fabric… gonna have to look into that…

Seamsealing was kind of… a lot of work…. I had bought silnet silicone in a tube “ready to use”. So I took a brush and started on the inside (rather uncomfy), followed by “painting” all the seams on the outside… It took me quite some time… Luckely the sun was shining and I had a hearty sandwich afterwards, laying next too (no didn’t want to go inside as the sun was shining, which hasn’t happened in the last two months) my new tarptent notch… happy and content… Even Phoebe (my cat) and Maya (the dog) came to have a closer look…

After about 5 hours I thought the silicone should be dry by now… but no no… still a bit sticky and it was getting dark and cold and damp… and I wanted to take my tent inside… But being all sticky that didn’t seem to be such a good idea… Anyway along with the silnet silicone there was an explanation that said sticky is normal and that I should put talkum powder on it before folding my tent (otherwise it could stick together… I don’t want that!!!)… So that’s what I did… afterwards it looked like as if someone’s used tooooo much talkum powder… but it ain’t sticky no longer… :c)
And now my new (well not anymore-certainly doensn’t look like that with the talkum all over it) tarptent notch is hanging all over my tiny bedroom and I hope the silicone dries out over night (didn’t want to fold it yet, even with the talkum powder)…

So tomorrow….. I’m gonna spend my first night in the Notch…. wuhuu looking forward to that!!!

Geartesting II

Last sunday me and a friend of mine decided to walk a small part of the “Rheinsteig”, a mid-distance trail along the Rhein. As I live just a few meters off the trail, we started at my place and walked to Burg Scharfenstein in Kiedrich. On our way back we just went straight through the woods, following the sun and our body radar :c) I love hiking without following a certain trail or road, no maps, no compass, just me and nature… The amazing part was that -as we nearly got back home- the first place I recognized was a place where the day before I’ve seen a fox (and the day before I was saying to myself: I have to come back here tomorrow, to keep track of that fox). Somehow my body radar brought me back to that place, remembering I wanted to go there… Pretty amazing I’d say!!!

As for geartesting:
I was wearing
* Quetchua winter hiking boots
* Two pairs of Quetchua socks
* Capilene 4 long bottoms
* Montura pants
* Quetchua long sleeved T shirt
* Montane fireball Smock
* Patagonia Houdini
* Meru hat
* Patagonia liner gloves

In my backpack (Go Lite Pinnacle) I had packed (just in order to add some weight, I actually didn’t really have to take stuff… except for some food and water)
* TaR Neoair XTherm
* Trail Design Caldera Cone Stove
* Tarptent Notch
* Some small stuff and some clothes to add a little weight
* 1,5 liters of water
* Bisquits, Apple, M&Ms

Temperatures were below zero and there was a really cold wind blowing. As long as I kept moving, I felt warm and comfortable. Standing still for to0 long in a windy spot, made me feel cold quite fast…
I’m in some concern my fireball smock won’t keep me warm enough whilst not moving. For instance in the evening or in the morning around camp at the JMT… Should I add another insulation piece??? (Of course I can’t compare German winter to Californian Summer…. yet at higher altitudes the temperature can drop below zero at night.)

The Capilene 4 long bottoms underneath my Montura pants kept me warm… yet I noticed them getting a bit wider. Better  not to loose any weight cuz otherwise they’d get too big :c(

The piece I felt most pleased about was my Go Lite Pinnacle. That backpack is really comfortable!!! Maybe it was because of the fact that I haven’t really packed heavy stuff. I actually carried all weight on my shoulders (I felt the pack wasn’t heavy enough to carry some weight on my hips) and didn’t experience any problems at all. Next time I go for a walk I’ll carry some heavier stuff. Curious how it’s gonna perform then.

OR Helium II jacket

This morning I’ve been testing my new Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket… with the Montane Fireball Smock underneath. Quite an expensive combi… :cP
Weather: Snowing
Temps: about 0°C
Some wind
Equiped with a Canon Eos I wanted to take pictures of some deer. And although I spotted them I could’nt get a decent pic. Instead a nuthatch came along to pose…

Back to the clothes: As expected the OR Helium II Jacket kept me completely dry and as long as I kept moving the Fireball Smock did it’s job. Yet waiting for some deer to cross my lens (and thus keeping still for about 30 minutes) I did start to feel a bit cold… I guess the Fireballs intention is to keep someone warm whilst moving, even when the smock is getting wet… And of course even Size S is way too big for me, but there isn’t a women’s version of the fireball smock!!! HEY! We womads do not like that! I guess I’m gonna keep it anyway, it’ll have to do! It’s one of the lightest primaloft jackets you can get, and as I don’t wanna take a down jacket (if it gets wet, my insulation layer would be kinda gone!)… Anyway, I can imagine it keeping me warmer while wearing some sort of merino base layer or a Patagonia cap 4 hoody under it. (today, I wore a longsleeve cotton tshirt from Quetchua).

I know, I look kinda tired in this pic… The thing is… I am… :cP
Still happy with my Montura pants I bought about 1,5 years ago. Yet those Quetchua boots are no good for my cold cold feet!

Western Mountaineering Antelope Super MF

Allrightyyy… So I decided to swap my WM Apache Super MF for an WM Antelope. I used the Apache just on its own (no bivy, no extra bag, just a silk liner inside) at about 5°C and I was cold! Not really freezing, just cold… I guess I’m a really really cold sleeper… As the temperatures on the JMT might drop below freezing in September nights I decided the Apache wouldn’t be enough to keep me warm.
So I got in contact with sackundpack.de and I must say they responded really friendly! I really can recommend www.sackundpack.de!!! Great service, great stuff!!!
The WM Antelope Super MF do is a bit heavier (logically as being filled with 735g of down instead of 535g compared to the Apache). It comes at 1275g. Thus 300g heavier than the Apache but hopefully keeping me warm.
Following description can be found on the Western Mountaineering homepage: “When the Sierras or the Rockies are your usual destinations and you need the maximum protection from your 3-season bag, leave nothing to chance with our Antelope. Its roomy 62″ shoulder girth allows for comfort and the 7″ loft from 26 ounces of high lofting down provides warmth to 5°. The security of this bag is sealed with a full 3-Dimensional down filled collar and a robust draft tube. While extremely weather resistant the MicroLite XP™ shell retains maximum breathability and its down filled collar is sewn with MicroLite XP™ fabric. These Antelopes take over in early spring and last through late fall. At a total weight of 2 lbs. 7 oz., they are the most substantial 3-season bag available. They are also available in 5’6″ length.”

I’m now thinking of buying my tent (I might get a Tarptent Notch) and a lightweight cooking system (TrailDesigns Caldera Keg-F Stove System – even though in the future I want to experiment in making my own alcohol stove) at sackundpack.de

Western Mountaineering Apache MF

The first piece of gear I bought for my JMT adventure (yet not only for the JMT of course… that bag will be used well in European spring-, summer- and autum-nights) was the down sleeping bag “Western Mountaineering Apache MF Regular”. I ordered it at sackundpack.de

It arrived in a big box, well and loosely packed in a lightweight stuffsack, accompanied with a small packbag.

My first impression was: “Wow that’s light!” In fact it is for a bag promising to keep me warm at -4°C! It comes at about 950g in total, being stuffed with 535g 805cuin down.
Though I must say it also flashed through my mind how on mother earth this lightweight bag should keep me warm below zero.

A first testing night was spend on the couch in an unheated livingroom of a friend. It really was cold in the room, I defenitely had to put on several sweaters and two pairs of socks to keep me warm during the day. So I thought: “If that bag won’t keep me warm here, well… that would suck!”
Anyway, as the night came, I packed out the bag (could have done that earlier, though my friend has a cat and a dog and I didn’t want to risc any animals running over my new bag), put a silk liner inside… and went to sleep…

After 10 Minutes I thought: “Hm, strange, by now it should be warm.” Somehow the upper parts from my legs were cold.
Normaly I always sleep with long pyjamas. Maybe that was what I’d done wrong. I didn’t bring my pyjamas and didn’t put any trousers on as I got into my sleeping bag. Or maybe I should have waited a little longer allowing my body to warm up.
Anyway, I fell asleep anyway and I woke up in the morning sweating, wanting to tear open the sleeping bag at once (argh let me ouuut!)… Luckely the zipper worked smoothly, definitely being one of the great features of the WM spleeping bags: due to an extra piece of stabilizing fabric next to the zipper, the fabric doesn’t get stuck in the zipper!
Another plus of my Apache is the fact that the down can be shaked from the bottom to the top and the other way ’round, meaning you can put the down where you need it the most…. I’m sure that can become handy, depending on where and in what temperatures the bag is used.

My second testing night was spend in the woods at -5°C. As I really didn’t want to freeze, I put an extra thin summer sleeping bag from quetchua inside as well as a bivacksack from quetchua around it to protect it from humidity/wind. The sleeping pad I used -as mentioned it my previous post-  was the TaR NeoAir XTherm… I must say that worked well, really well… Warm feet, warm legs, warm torso, warm head.
I do have a bit of a problem sleeping in a bag with the hood around my head. I somehow feel trapped… So at 3am I put my head out, keeping the collar closed about my shoulders… I had an alpaca/merino-hat on, and it kept me warm. Realising that, I could have gone with a quilt too… But now I have this wonderful WM sleeping bag and it’ll do!

Next time I sleep outside at freezing temperatures, I’ll leave the extra summer sleeping bag at home and I’m gonna try the Apache on its own… Hoping it’ll keep me warm when I shake the down to the top combined with the TaR NeoAir XTherm underneath.

Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm

Two weeks ago I ordered the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm Medium at Bergfreunde.de.
Up till now I’ve been using an old (well it must be about 10 years old now) Therm-a-rest self-inflatable 3/4lenght mat. But in the last few years it started to lose air during the night, leaving me to wake up on a cold tent floor. Maybe it’s a womans thing but I kind of didn’t want to bother searching for a hole, so instead of fixing it, I started using a foam sleeping pad under it. As I wasn’t doing any distance-walks (just camping) I didn’t think of it as a problem. 
Though now the John Muir Trail is coming up and things are different! 
I’ve been going through and forth comparing different sleeping mats but I always ended up looking at the TaR NeoAir. So I went to Globetrotter in Frankfurt and tried them out. First I tried the yellow Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. It appeared to me being brittle yet comfortable. Then I tried the XTherm and I actually didn’t want to get up anymore… If not all those people would have been walking around, I could have taken a nap there! Compared to the XLite the XTherm appears to be more durable… Whether that is really the case or not, I cannot say… Yet the bottom of the mat has a different material, which also has some sort of anti-slip feature, that feels stronger. Writing this post I found out the bottom fabric is 70d Nylon Soft Grip. As for the XLite the bottom fabric is the same as the top fabric: 30 d High Tenacity Nylon.
After all the XTherm is some grams heavier than the NeoAir XLite:
NeoAir XLite Woman: Weight: 310 g, Size: 51x168cm, Packed: 23x10cm
Neo Air XTherm Medium: Weight: 430g, Size: 51x168cm, Packed: 23x10cm
Both mats (inflated) about 6,3 cm thick!
Now why did I pick the XTherm and not the NeoAir XLiteWoman? 
It didn’t pick the XTherm because of the more durable appearance (ok, now I would lie if I’d say it didn’t influence my choice at all, yet that wasn’t the biggest factor). I picked it because of the R-Value, being 5,7… meaning it should keep my bottom warm even at -23°C!

Being a slim and “quickly freezing” woman I thought this to be the safer choice!
The XLite Woman might have kept me warm till -10°C… which actually might have done it too… Hm, seems like the durable appearance influenced my choice more than I wanted to admit. Well and there was something else in my mind.
Earlier I bought the sleeping bag Western Mountaineering Apache MF, having its comfort zone at about -4°C. I thought that’d definitely be warm enough for the JMT! Till a friend told me: No way a bag with 500g down filling will keep you warm at -4°C. (I’ll write a review on that one -not on the friend – on the sleeping bag of course- later)… So I started doubting, as we woman tend to do quite offen…
This is what was going through my mind, which might have convinced me buying the NeoAir XTherm: “I don’t have the money to buy a warmer lightweight sleeping bag, so I’m gonna have to do it with the Apache. The cool thing is that I can shake the down in the apache from the back/bottom to the front/top. So if I do that, shaking all the down to the top, I might have a sleeping back that keeps me warm on top… not on the bottom… Now if I buy the NeoAir XTherm it will keep my bottom warm for sure sure sure! Tadaaa…my warm sleep system!”

So… I bought the XTherm and tested it during my “sleep alone in the woods adventure” yesterday.
Temperatures were at about -5°C, no rain/snow.

  • Inflating: The XTherm comes with a pumpsack. The system does work, but I can’t image inflating a whole mat with that sack… It’d take me ages (or am I doing something wrong?). I inflated the mat the old fashioned way and it took me quite some time too. Somewhere (can’t remember where) I read it only takes 20 big breaths… well not for me… Anyway, it didn’t really bother me. I do have a question some more experienced users might be able to answer: Is it better to use the pumpsack when using the mat in cold temperatures? I read (and again, I can’t remember where, I’ll have to start making notes) that the warm air coming out of your lungs, when cooling down, might damage the mat… Or is that total nonsense? I know the mat might -because of the air cooling down- appear thinner by the time it’s morning, but hat doen’t really bother me… As long as I don’t lay on the cold floor…
  • Durability: As I have used the XTherm only once and I have put a woolen blanket under it, it still is “as new”
  • Most important: Did the XTherm keep me warm? It did it did it did! I felt as if I was lying on a bed with a stove under it! Great at -5°C!!! Though I must say I do am curious how it’ll feel sleeping on the mat during summer nights… 
  • Comfort: Waw! Even while lying on the side or leaning on my ellbow, I didn’t touch the ground!!! The mat is quite narrow, but being a slim person, that luckely doesn’t bother me. I can image, bigger persons who like to turn around at night might not feel as happy.
  • Wrapping up: Even after a sleepless night (definitely not caused by this wonderful sleeping mat!) it is easy to roll up and pack away the XTherm. I just open the ventile, lay down on the mat (which pushes out quite a bit of the air inside), then I fold it in 3 (lenghtwise) and I start rolling it up at the bottom end. It’s a 2minute thing! 
  • Last but not least: Noisiness. Some people are bothered by the noise the XLite and XTherm produce while using it. It you punctually squeeze the mat it sounds as if using a rescue blanket. Laying on it with your entire body changes that. I wasn’t bothered by the noise at all, I could hardly hear it through my sleeping bag (and I do am a woman quite sensitive concerning noise whilst sleeping!). It might bother people sleeping next to you… But I didn’t have to chance to ask anyone yet… As soon as someone complains, I’ll make an update here :cP
  • All in all: I slept like hell yesterdaynight (actually I haven’t slept at all), but the TaR NeoAirXTherm ist the warmest and most comfortable lightweight sleeping mat I ever had!!!

Bottom line: The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm appears to be a perfect womad lightweight sleeping pad (at least in winter and so far)!!!