All posts by Kenneth Shaw

Blogger, photographer and backpacker. If you like my writing or my site don't be afraid to follow me, like or share my posts here on the site. Thanks and enjoy!

backpackingblogPhotographyTravel Photography

Hiking with camera gear

Bringing a camera

Fall and winter is the best time of year for photography on the trail. From all the autumn colors to the northern lights shining bright in the cloudless sky. I love Autumn for photography, and I would guess that the majority of my best pictures come from this time of year. My biggest problem with hiking ultralight, is bringing a camera – do I bring a full-frame? Perhaps a little compact camera? or more recently, maybe just my Iphone. However, in the autumn I am less concerned about ultralight, and more concerned with getting the best colors in my photos. I can’t stand sitting in front of a computer and spend hours editing photos, so I bring my full-frame in the autumn and focus on quality. 

The opening back panel on the F-stop gear backpacks is a great way to carry camera gear on the trail

Of course bringing a full-frame camera also has its own issues: How do I keep it dry? how do I carry it comfortably and so on. On my recent hiking trip to Borgafjäll here in northern Sweden, my Canon eos-r took a bath and got forever ruined. An expensive mistake. The lesson? Protect your camera, even if it has weather sealing. 

5 tips: 

If your more of a hard-core photographer, take a look at F-stop gear. These bags are proper hiking backpacks with solid frame and hip-belts, but also built specifically for bringing tons of camera gear. Hooks, pockets for filters, ICU (internal camera unit) and back panel entry, make these backpacks sublime for photography orientated hikers.

I personally use the F-stop ICU unit inside my HMG backpack. Works like a charm.

If your like me and think the F-stop bags might be a bit heavy for most use, use an ICU (internal case unit) inside your ultralight backpack. When I hiked Padjelanta trail last year with my Mamiya 7ii and a couple of lenses, I had an F-stop ICU inside my HMG windrider 4400. Worked great, not as easily accessible as using a F-stop backpacks, but certainly a good solution none-theless

An important factor in photography is to have your camera close. On the Sarek Ilforsen I designed this with photography in mind. I put two big d-rings in the shoulder straps – this was specifically to be able to hang a front pouch with a camera in, or to hang a camera directly. But strapping my camera on the front of my shoulder straps, I have the camera close to my eyes, and it has the added effect of balancing my entire pack for a better overall feel. 

Another tip here, not necessarily coupled with carrying your camera, but with being able to keep your lens clean. Bring a proper lens cloth! This happens to me from time to time that I forget to bring a small micro-cloth that can clean my lens. After a day of rain I have spots and smudge marks all over my lenses.

 

Having two big d-rings on the soulder straps is a great way to keep your camera close to your eyes.

Get out there! When I hiked Borgafjäll in September, I had no idea what the weather would be like. I didn’t care. I figured if I had clothes to keep me warm and dry, than I’d be good to go. As luck would have it the sun was shining and the clouds were clear – to my amazement, I woke up in the middle of the night, crawled out of my tent and was shocked by the incredible northern lights display that engulfed my entire field of view at the top of the mountain. I felt alone in the universe, in awe of the sights all around me. My point: Get out there if you want to get inspired. Sitting on your sofa dreaming of the perfect shot is not the way to get “the perfect shot”. 

What are your best tips for bringing proper Full-frame camera gear with you on a hike? let me know!

Kindly,

Kenneth Shaw

Check out more F-stop gear at https://backpackinglight.dk/brands/f-stop

blogGearGear reviewsGoing Lighter

Osprey Levity: A review

My thoughts: 

The Osprey Levity is one of the lightest 60 liter backpacks on the market. At just 900 grams, it really does push some boundaries on lightness. There are of course lighter packs, but I would argue as far as overall comfort is concerned, the Osprey Levity is top class. Atleast up to about 10 kilos. I also wouldn’t consider it the most robust or highest quality pack, but certainly, weight to comfort it’s a great pack. It has a nice aluminum frame that, much like many of the Osprey packs, creates a nice distance between one’s back and the pack itself. Which means a less sweaty back. It also sits really nice when walking and the balance of the pack is fantastic. It sits really, really nicely. 

Weight: 

On our scales the Osprey Levity 60 Liter pack Large weighs just under 900 grams. Which, is certainly light for a 60 liter, aluminum frame pack. Osprey was able to achieve such a lightweight by using a lighter pack material, a much lighter aluminum frame and removed hipbelt pockets and so on. 

Construction:

While the Osprey Levity feels like it will fall apart after a few miles, the truth is that it’s a rather robust backpack. I have been using mine for many hikes over the last couple of years, as I like to abuse my equipment as a right of passage. I can say that the Osprey levity has so far held up just fine to all kinds of natural and unnatural abuse.

Fit:

Unlike many of the Osprey packs, the back panel can’t be adjusted, so it’s important to buy a proper size pack from the start. These packs come in small/medium/Large and hipbelt should fit just about anybody. I won’t give a size guide here, as you can find that further down on this page, but it’s just something to think about. While the back panel can’t be adjusted it does have load lifters that allows for a bit more adjustability of the pack.

Dislikes:

There is not a whole lot that I don’t like with this pack, but I can name two. 1. I don’t really like the hipbelt – with heavier weight, anything above 10kg the belt starts to dig deep into my hips. Causing bruising and overall discomfort. This is a rather normal problem for me with a lot of packs that I use, but that doesn’t mean I like it. I would like to see a thicker, fatter hipbelt with removable hipbelt pockets. 2. Osprey doesn’t seem to like packs that can stand on their own. So you will always have to find something to balance the Levity on when it’s not on your back.

Plus: 

  • Very light 60 Liter pack (70 with external pockets)
  • Comfortable pack
  • Great overall design
  • Robust for what it is
  • Nice aluminum frame
  • Well placed load lifters

Minus:

  • Not a huge fan of hipbelt
  • Would like hipbelt pockets
  • Option of removable top lock would be nic

Review by Kenneth Shaw

blogGearGear reviews

Sierra designs Cloud 800: A review

Our thoughts:

Over the last couple of years I have steadily switched from a quilt, normally my old Enlightened equipment Revelation quilt. Which I do thoroughly enjoy using, to the Sierra designs cloud 800. For anyone who has read my book, will know that I love using quilts for many reasons – more warmth to weight, no worries about getting tangled in during the night and so on. With that said, quilts do have some disadvantages, which is why I have moved on from them in anything other than summer hikes and hammock camping. For one, I usually find them to be a hassle to fasten onto my sleeping pads.. Usually straps, or buckles or some other headache inducing nightmare at 3 in the morning when I have to get up and pee.

The Sierra designs Cloud 800 has all the advantages of a quilt and sleeping bag without any of the disadvantages. Of course, with some of it’s own disadvantages, but I will tackle that later.

What is the Cloud 800:

Imagine a quilt and a sleeping bag in one. The comfort of a quilt, the warmth and ease of use of a sleeping bag. You fasten your sleeping bag into the sleeve of the Cloud 800 and viola, your done. Your bag won’t tangle you up during the night, and as there are no zippers it’s easy to get in and out. The cut of the sleeping bag is nice and wide, so comfort really is the focus of the Cloud 800 series.

Build:

The Sierra designs cloud 800 is well built using 15d ripstop nylon on outer and inner shell and filled with ethically sourced hydrophobic down 800 on the inside. It’s not the lightest materials on the market, but certainly offers an excellent weight and quality to cost ratio.

Weight:

On the Cloud 800 35 degree bag, the regular weighs in at 660 grams while the large/wide comes in at 710 grams. On the Cloud 800 20 degree bag the weight for the regular is 880 grams and large at 940 grams. Certainly on the lighter end of the spectrum for the two temperature ranges.

Warmth and comfort:

I can’t stand the standard way companies market their sleeping bags. Almost every company markets the limit temp instead of the comfort temp and the cloud is no exception. The Cloud 800 3/ +2celcius degree bag I would say is warm (with proper sleeping mat) down to about +2 degrees. Which is unusual, I find the bags to be warmer than the stated comfort temps. This is also something I have heard from a lot of customers that have purchased the bags from us. When we do have complaints about how cold the bags are, they are almost always coupled with a cold sleeping pad.

As for comfort, nothing really compares to the Cloud 800 in this temp range and weight. Sierra design do have the Backcountry bed which is even more comfortable, but also heavier. Sleeping in the Cloud 800 is very much like sleeping at home in a blanket, it’s that comfortable.

Things to know

The cloud 800 is not built for hammocks, and is very difficult to use in a hammock because of the sleeping pad sleeve. The Cloud 800 does not have down where the sleeping pad meets the Sleeping bag. Like a quilt, SD didn’t see the point in putting down where it won’t work. While this is great when sleeping on a pad, in a hammock it just doesn’t work as you won’t have warmth where you need it.

Also, the design of the Cloud 800 is so that the opening comes up to waist height only, so getting in and out means opening the Cloud 800 and climbing in. Similar to a quilt.

Plus

  • Excellent comfort. Perhaps most comfortable sleeping bag available
  • Good price to weight
  • Great build quality and materials
  • Hydrophic down is always nice
  • Great design

Minus

  • Not great for hammocks – or rather, won’t work at all with hammocks
  • Some thicker, wider sleeping pads won’t work with it

Review by Kenneth Shaw

The Sierra designs Cloud 800 can be bought at backpackinglight.se in sweden or backpackinglght.dk in the EU. For 20% rebate use code: SLEEP20 on checkout

Nordisk Passion three
blogGear reviews

Review: Nordisk Passion Three Sleeping bag. Finally one that fits me perfect!

Marcus Falck, Backpacking Light

Too hot, too cold, too small, too narrow, too short or too heavy. When you are closer to 2 meters long, a pair of size 47s to feet, it is no wonder that many sleeping bags feel too cramped at the bottom. The feet usually have to fold to fit and the legs are joined together like a mermaid. If you are going to turn in your sleeping bag, you feel like a worm slithering around. If itches on the nose, it is easier to rub it against the sleeping mat than to force the arm wedged into the bag. I’m sure more people will recognize themselves in this and who later started looking towards using a Quilt instead of a sleeping bag. But despite nightmare nights in sleeping bags, I still like the feeling of being surrounded by a warm sleeping bag, the feeling of being more protected and having a soft material that protects against the slightly more aspirations of the sleeping mat. So far, not many sleeping bags have made it through this. I like Sierra Designs Cloud just for the open top, even the Spark models from Sea to Summit I sleep comfortable in.

During my trip to Hattfjelldal and Kittelfjäll, I chose a sleeping bag that perhaps some recognize under its previous brand “Yeti”, fewer under its new name “Y by Nordisk”. Already have a love for the Nordic tents in the lightweight segment. Telemark, Lofoten, Oppland and Halland are of high class and have many satisfied owners here in Sweden, but what are their sleeping bags like? Nordisk has in recent years developed a number of different series of sleeping bags. All down sacks are produced here in Europe, in Germany more precisely and their lighter Y series, which characterizes their heritage “Yeti” guarantees down is of the utmost class and durability. Crystal down is European goose down from traceable birds. As long as it feels much better! But besides sustainability, why should I choose a Y by Nordisk over any other supplier? It’s a little more expensive than its competitors, but does it really keep its promises?

The answer is obvious: Nordic passion Three is one of the most comfortable sleeping bags in relation to its weight that I have slept in. My 47s can be stretched upwards, legs can be kept apart, it is flexible but also keeps warm as promised.  I don’t get sweaty when the temperature goes up in the morning and I feel like it releases my body condence in a very good way.  During the week I was out, the night temperature changed between 4-10 degrees and I never felt like I was getting cold, or sweaty. What I also like is the full length of the zipper that makes entry and exit easier. On the warmer evenings, I can have the zipper more open. Nordic passion three has a comfort that according to the manufacturer is at 7 degrees but would say that you can easily sleep with this bag at 4-5 degrees, if you do not very cold off. So I would easily attribute this sack as a three-season sleeping bag.  Just make sure you don’t have sleeping mats with an R value below 3.  I myself slept on a Sea to Summet Etherlight Xt with an R value of 3.2. A very good combination to my Passion Three where my total weight for “sleep” landed at about 1 kg.

Weight and volume

On backpackinglight.se  there is Nordisk Passion three in three sizes. Medium: 470 grams, large 530 grams and xl of 560 grams.  Packed, the sleeping bag does not take up much space in the backpack, 27 times 14 cm makes it extremely ultra compact. Just make sure you have it packed up during the tour and take it out as soon as you pitch the tent.  You also get a larger storage bag that the down rests better in that you can use when storing the bag at home.

Other sleeping bags from Nordisk: If you are going to sleep in colder temperatures, there is also Nordisk Passion five with a comfort of -2 and a weight of fine 700-800 grams depending on size. The Nordic Balance 400, 600  and  Phantom 440  are two lighter 3-season options for your wallet. These weigh a little more but are at least as comfortable as the Passion series. If you have hyper-light requirements, you should take a look at one of the world’s lightest sleeping bags from Nordisk:  Nordisk Fever Ultra at incredibly low 240 grams and 900+cuin Nothing for cold mountain nights but popular by the participants in the world’s toughest ultra race.

Overall impression Nordisk Passion:

Plus:

Extremely light,

Comfortable and spacious sleeping bag.

Warm, sleep effortlessly down to the limit temperature.

Sustainable: Produced in Europe by fine goose down from traceable birds.

Breathe well and have a full length zipper so you can easily get in and out.

minus:

Nothing I can think of. As usual when it comes to sleeping bags in this class. Be careful with the zipper so that you do not damage the fabric. It’s easy to happen!

The price is a little higher than many other sleeping bags in the same comfort class. But on the other hand, it costs less on the environment when produced in Europe and is made of traceable goose down. We want many more to test this sleeping bag, so use the code: Nordisk20  at the checkout and you will get 20% on all down sleeping bags from Nordisk. And please let us know what you think! You can use the on checkout at  Backpackinglight.se.  .

Spec: Nordisk Passion Three XL

  • Full-length YKK zipper
  • H-Box construction
  • breathable and water repellent fabric
  • ultracompact
  • the market’s finest down quality

Facts

  • Sleeping bag type: 3 seasons
  • temperature
  • Comfort: 7 °C
  • Limit: 3 °C
  • Extreme: -10 °C
  • Tested according to European standard EN 13537

Measurements

  • size
  • Length: 235 cm
  • Body Size: 205 cm
  • Axelbredd: 83 cm
  • Fotbredd: 54 cm
  • weight
  • Weight: 560 g
  • Diameter: 14 cm
  • Length: 27 cm

Material

  • shall
  • Name: Light nylon
  • Composition: 100% nylon
  • Color: Navy blue
  • lining
  • Name: Light nylon
  • Composition: 100% nylon
  • Color: Dark Blue/Black
  • stuffing
  • Namn: Crystal down
  • Type: 95/5 800+ European white goose down
  • Blandningsförhållande: 95/5
  • Fyllkraft (EU): 800+ cuin
  • Fyllkraft (USA): 870+ cuin

Nordic Passion Three is purchased from Backpackinglight.dk

blogGear reviews

Test: Granit Gear Crown2 60l

Marcus Falck, Backpackinglight.se, Juli 2021

At the height of the summer, the long-planned fishing and hiking trip to Hattfjälldal in Norway, on to Kittelfjäll I had with both haspel and fly fishing stuff, wading boots and a lot of different fishing gear.  When I’m going fishing in new waters, I want different rods and baits to test my way through. “What if the fish swims on the surface and only takes night dragonflies and dry, or stands deep and chops on spoon strokes”. I want to be ready for any scenario. Normally I like to wear light but have no problem wearing a little heavier if I must. I was first in the choice between a Sierra design Flex capacitor or Osprey Aether Pro, both with frame, and which I know can handle heavier loads and have comfortable and proven carrying systems.  But since I have already walked with these, the choice fell on a newcomer in the range; Granit Gear Crown2 60 litres.  The total weight of Crown2 in size Long with head, back plate and hip belt is: 1116 grams. Here are my thoughts on it:

Overall impression

The narrower hip belt and shoulder straps are reminiscent of HMG’s backpacks and the different back section with a plastic plate supported by a reddish foam on my back made me curious. Can this seemingly slightly less robust backpack even work for my needs!? Now in retrospect, I don’t regret the choice. Granit Gear Crown2 60  sits very nicely on the back, around the hip and shoulders.  You do not need a wider hip-belt or a more developed aluminum frame to carry up to 15 kg-16kg. This backpack proves it. The roller top opening under the head allows you to compress the gasket and provides a good water repellent function. But the thinner material with 100 D nylon on top and 210 D nylon at the bottom still makes me choose the safe for the unsafe and use a waterproof pack liner in the backpack.

The compression straps on the lid and sides make the backpack versatile and usable for different pack volumes. For shorter day trips from base camp, I was able to scale down my backpack by removing the head (73 grams), lap belt (186 grams), and getting down a bit under the kilo in weight. If you wanted to scale it down even more, you can also remove the back plate, (172 grams) but I chose to keep it. It was warm outside and the hollow back plate with its patterns provided some ventilation.  The larger mesh pocket in the middle I used to store coffee, rubbish and later also to have some lighter fishing gear in. my two rods and their rollers. The deep side pockets combined with the compression straps on the sides worked well to attach the fishing rods to. Note that I only use split rods, not telescopes . Having said that, there must be compression straps in the middle or on the upper part of the backpack because my rods stand out a bit.

The volume then, 60 liters plus 5 liters in the cylinder heads was perfectly ok for a week’s tour. Between the roller top opening and the head, I was also able to store my wading pants and further stretch the pack volume at the height. Instead of classic 2 kg wading shoes, I use a pair of worn foppa slippers of about 250 grams that give a completely ok attachment to stones and sand. They dry quickly and I can even use them as camp slippers. These can easily be attached to the outside of the backpack. On the lap belt there are also 2 pockets of about 0.5 liters each, good for putting small picks in, such as my snuff box.  Finally, there is also the possibility to put a fluid system along the back of the inside, but I did not test this.

On the lap belt, the Granit Gear Crown 60 has a smart adjustable function where you can customize its range. The middle part of the lap belt can be adjusted with Velcro and then easily threaded back behind the tail cushion. I see this as a big plus that you can adapt your lap belt to sit comfortably regardless of hip size. This means that the backpack is suitable for both men and women with different hip ranges. Still, there is a Granit Gear Crown2, custom made for women with more S shaped shoulder straps. You can read more about it  here. The  chest buckle can also be adjusted upside down. I see these adjustable features of The Crown2 as a big plus and something that I wish more backpack manufacturers would follow.

Another feature is that the head can be used as a chest/waist belt. Perfect for those who want access to more equipment, such as a camera or binoculars at your fingertips. You only need two carabiner hooks to attach it to the front of the backpack.

What about the lifting capacity? I tried using the backpack with different volumes and weights in it. Up to 15-16 kg, the backpack does very well, but when you go up to 18-20 kg, the lap belt begins to feel against the hip and the backpack loses its comfortable posture and balance. So would recommend not to carry more than 15 kg in this, i.e. in line with what the manufacturer writes.

Plus: Lightweight, comfortable comfort and balanced backpack up to 15 kg. Granit Gear Crown 2 is a smart backpack that you can adjust the hip belt range, chest buckle position and packing bag volume through smart compression straps and roll top opening. It works well as a hiking/fishing backpack where you can use the top as a Waist/Chest bag, or as many will prefer: slimmed down, completely without a head. The overall rating in general is very good.

Minus: The thin mesh fabric on the back plate feels completely unnecessary. You walk with the feeling that it’s going to break at any moment. Many of Ospreys lighter backpacks have a similar mesh fabric but there is a clearer distance between the bag and the mesh mesh, there is not here. So I just don’t understand the feature of this!?

Buy your Granit Gear Crown2 on Backpackinglight.dk

Other gear in my backpack I would like to put a spotlight on

Sleepling bag: Nordisk Passion Three 560 gram, fantastic warm, light and comfortable sleeping bag! I will use it more!

Sleeping mat: Sea to Summit ether light XT 630 gram, There are lighter sleeping mats, but they’re not as comfortable as this.

Pillow: Klymit Pillow X-large 91 gram, Likes big pillows, this one was really nice but a little too cold! Solved it by threading the sleeping bag over the pillow.

Warm pants: Omm Mountain Raid: 300 gram. Incredibly comfortable, warm and light trousers to wear in the evenings.

Rainjacket: OMM Halo Smock: 95 gram. Used it both against wind, rain and mosquitoes and weighs almost nothing. Great clothes!

Rainskirt Ritsem Regnkjol: 40 gram. Left the rain pants at home and didn’t have to put on and off. Extremely functional!

Kitchen: MSR Pocketrocket with gas: 190 gram. reliable and good kitchen!

Foodpood: Sarek 12 liter. Why haven’t I had a foodpod before? I’m going to use this again!

Mosquitoannorack I don’t know where I bought this but, some gas station I guess. I couldn’t have made this trip without you! thanks!

backpackingblogcampingenlightened equipmentGear

My packing list for a week in mountains

I recently went on a week long hiking and fishing trip in Northern Norway and Sweden. Total walking distance about 100 kilometers, and because I would be fly fishing I needed some extra gear with me like Wading pants and wading shoes (Crocs). I also had my dog with me and she slept nicely next to me in my tent on the Sarek 3mm EVA pad and my RAB synthetic jacket as her blanket to keep her warm. I will write more about my trip and the gear I used as well as publish a few videos on Youtube, but for now here is my full list with links to gear as well as quick info about the items I liked the most or surprised me the most.

Total weight:

The Big three:

I opted for comfort here and let me tell you, I never slept so good as I did on this trip, so the extra grams was worth it in the end. The Q-core is great. Very warm and plush, robust for my dog as well. Most comfortable sleeping pad I ever slept on. Highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for better sleep in the mountains. The EE Revelation has been my goto quilt for nearly a decade now, as always it performs as expected. Light, warm and comfortable.

The Osprey Aether Pro 70L – normally I opt for a HMG pack, but I wanted to give this one a try, I stripped off a few grams by getting rid of the toplock and one of the pockets. With the HMG pack I normally get bruised hips as the belt is very thin and I sweat like a pig as the HMG fits a little too tight against my back. I certainly didn’t have any of those problems with the Aether pro 70. Incredibly well fitting backpack and will be my goto pack for heavier loads. I am retiring my beloved HMG windrider 70. The aether is simply in a different class as far as comfort and carrying is concerned.

Sarek gear The Mid. and Inner. We had several different tents with us on this trip, I choose the mid as I love the space and weight of it, and after having used it in some seriously heavy storms, I trust the performance of it in the mountains. On one night in Norway the wind came in heavy gusts at around 17 mp/s – which is very very heavy for summertime winds. One of the tents we had with us snapped and Marcus came and camped out with me and Anna in the Mid. The Mid held it’s own, and other than the noise, I slept fairly well and certainly confident in the tent.

RAB Xenon synthetic jacket – Excellent lightweight synthetic jacket. I have been using this jacket for all my 3 season hikes this year as well as in town. I have nothing bad to say about the Xenon jacket. Simply a great, and great looking jacket at an excellent price. Sarek rain skirt – does exactly what it’s supposed to do at very little weight. Really nice not having to take off my pack everytime I want to put my skirt on.

Full list and links here:

backpackingcamping

Why you freeze in your sleeping bag

I have a little secret to share: I know a thing or two about sleeping bags and keeping warm. Might come as a shock I know, and it’s not to toot my own horn, but simply a statement of fact. Here is the secret to finding the perfect sleeping bag that will keep you as warm as the promised comfort temp rating: it’s the sleeping mat. (This article is mainly for 3 season hiking, same rules apply for winter camping, but there it’s also a question of certain techniques)

In my own experience and in my years of being in the outdoor industry with my own gear shop, 9 times out of 10 (I would say 10 of 10, but I always leave a little margin of error) when you are cold despite your bag being warmer (comfort temp) than the outside temp, it’s your sleeping pad. Yes I know you don’t feel cold from underneath, no doubt your sleeping mat has a high R-value, yes I understand you have all kinds of clothing and extra layers on. It’s still more than likely your sleeping mat, or it could be you bought a bag advertising it’s Limit temp (the temp you will freeze your ass off at) as it’s bag name. Example is the Haglöfs down LIM +1. A +10 bag marketed at a +1 temp. Just an example, though most companies market their bags this way. Limit temp, is simply put, where you will be so cold your teeth will clatter. Buy your bag at the comfort temp, not the limit. 

With that said, if you buy your bag at the stated comfort temp, and you freeze despite the outside weather being warmer than the comfort rating of the bag, it’s your sleeping mat. There are many reasons for this, but the simple truth is that rating a sleeping mat is considerably more difficult than the more standardized rating of sleeping bags. Most comfort temps on most sleeping bags are fairly well measured, while sleeping mats can and do vary wildly. In my experience most thicker sleeping mats (air filled not cell plast) all get cold around +3 celsius. Once the temperature starts to drop, these pads start to get cold: regardless of r-rating. I think this might have something to do with how different companies measure their r-value. I’m not sure how it’s done, but it rarely matches up to reality. The exception being the Thermarest mats that all hold up quite well in colder temperatures. (Thermarest xTherm and xLite hold up to stated r-values).

I’m sure someone out there is going to tell me I have no idea what I’m talking about, and that sleeping mats are 100% accurate in their ratings. But alas, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to everyone else that is freezing in their sleeping bags despite buying the thickest, most expensive bag on the planet. I know, because I’ve been there. Daily I have customers who call or write describing the exact same issue. Most of them have barely a thought on what they have for sleeping mats. My first response and question is always “what sleeping mat do you have?”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy to sell great, ultralight sleeping bags, but I don’t care for returns because of freezing customers. 

So what is my standard advice? Try putting a cheap cell foam pad on top of your current sleeping mat first – on top not underneath your sleeping pad. If you are still freezing, try a different sleeping mat, perhaps an xtherm. If you have tried different sleeping mats, then start looking at the bag. Check the comfort temp of your bag, actual temperature where you are at (temps on apps are often taken in cities or towns where temps are higher). There can of course be other issues with your bag such as down clumping – make sure your sleeping bag is properly “fluffed” and that the down hasn’t shifted into clumps. Another issue is a sleeping bag that is too small, which means you squeeze too hard against the sides, not leaving any room for the insulation to leave insulate. 

But at the end of the day, 9 out of 10 instances of people freezing outdoors in their “warm” sleeping bag, is due to a cold sleeping mat. 

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Big Agnes Copper Spur vs Nordisk Halland

First, if there’s one thing I love, it is testing equipment, especially tents. Over the past year, the company has grown and taken up more space and more time. Both Backpacking Light and our own brand Sarek Gear are on strong growth. We now have 6 employees and I think there will be twice as many in a year, which is incredibly fun but at the same time it takes a lot of time. I will continue to do Reviews but to get more credible reviews I will invite more guest bloggers to UL comfort, know that there are many Gearnerds out there. Also let my partner Marcus and employees test gear. Thinking that it might be interesting even for you to get more inspiration from several who love hiking and ultra-light hiking in particular to get maybe more perspectives on the subject. Below is Rasmus review and comparison between the Nordisk Halland 2 LW and Big agnes Copper spur.

First som start with some thoughts about the Nordisk Halland 2 LW. Some details as the small bungy bands that you can coil up the guy lines with when you do not use them is great features. The tent we used had the Burnt Red-color, blended in nicely in the pine forest and had a warm light inside. Easy to set up but quite small for two persons, one of them 187 cm, the feet touched the inner tent with a warmer sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping pad. The width of the tent is 135 cm wide which is perfectly ok for a two-man tent in this class. But if it’s two big people, it can feel a little too tight. But, with a weight of 1500 grams, this is a very smooth and lightweight two-man tent. The many guylines make the tent also robust, even for strong mountain winds.

If you want a safe, light and pleasant tent that you can trust, Nordiska Halland is the tent for you. But don’t invite your biggest friend to sleep with you, unless you’re going to spoon.

I would probably feel safer in the Halland than in the Big Agnes Copper Spur on a windy mountain, it has more guy lines and is not as high as the Copper Spur. The Copper Spur has steep walls and is very spacious on the other hand. In the mountains you maybe want the outer tent to go further down to the ground as on the Nordisk Halland. Maybe it felt a little bit humid inside the tent in the morning, likely because there was no wind. With some wind the ventilation would have been great! I Also liked the big door and roof pockets on the Copper Spur.

But I know, both from my own experiences and from others, that Copper Sour works very well when the wind blows. But the feeling is less robust. Another feeling is that copper spur feels more spacious than its competitor Nordisk Halland. But the fact is that both have about 100 cm in height and copper spurs maximum width is actually 3 cm smaller, i.e. 132 cm against Halland’s 135 cm. The fact that the tent is perceived as spacious is largely thanks to the tent arches that run over the long sides of the tent. Weight-wise, these two tents are very close. If you were to take tables Nordisk Halland’s upper ropes and cable brackets, they would end up at the same weight. Copper Spurs’ total weight is 1.42 kg. You can buy and read more about both tents at Backpackinglight.dk

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Kammok Mantis UL: An ultralight hammock kit

My first impression of the Kommok Mantis Ul when I got it in the mail was “Did they forget something? What is this wizardry” My Hammock of choice over the years has either been the Warbonnet ridgerunner or Henney hammock. Both are fantastic hammock systems that don’t weigh too much, but do take up some volume in my backpack. The Kammok Mantis is considerably smaller than either of the previous mentioned hammocks. The entire Kammok Mantis UL system is about the same size as just ridgerunner or just the Hennessy hammock minus tarp and pegs. Not much larger than a 1 liter Nalgene bottle. Keep in mind the Kammok Mantis UL is a complete system – you don’t have to buy anything else (well underquilt or sleeping mat). Tree huggers, Hammock, tent pegs, mosquito net and all guylines and stuff sacks needed. 

Setup: 

The Kommok mantis has a rather unique solution for it’s tree huggers, I can’t really explain in words, but kind of a ladder system that you feed into itself, rather intuitive and fast to use. Once the tree huggers are wrapped around a tree, you simply hook the hammock into the ladder system using a supplied carabiner, stake out the two hammock spreading guylines and your done with the hammock. The Tarp you simply pull tight the guylines, hook it into itself and use the supplied linelocks to tighten the tarp. Easy peasy. While not as easy to setup as the Hennessy Hammock, it’s not far off and on top of that weighs less that 500 grams that of the Hennesy explorer.

Weight:

On our scales the Kammok Mantis UL weighs just 1029 grams – with everything included in the weight. On top of this, it takes very little space in a backpack. One of hte lightest if not the lightest complete hammock system on the market. Atleast one meant for full sized humans. 

Size:

I am 190cm and 94 kilos. I find the Mantis UL to be a great size, I think I am on the limit though, and perhaps someone a little taller might want to look elsewhere. But certainly for anyone 190cm or under, the Mantis is a great size. I also find the Tarp to be a great size as well. On the Hennessy Hammocks, they often have a asym tarp that barely covers the hammock and just barely useable for anything other than light rain. The Mantis UL tarp is more of a flat tarp that covers the entire hammock and even leaves room over if you want to have a little camp in the rain. 

Overall impression:

It’s hard not to like the Kammok mantis UL. By pure chance I took it into the shop, but found that it’s such a high quality product that it’s going to stay in the shop for years to come. The mantis UL is the lightest complete hammock system in our shop and one of the lightest on the market. There are of course lighter hammocks, but usually a bit small, and weight starts to add up once you add a tarp, bug net, tree huggers, stuff sacks so on and so forth. I am also a huge fan of how easy the hammock is to setup, I’m not much a of knot guy, so I will gladly take linelocks and carabiners any day as it makes the Mantis idiot proof.. .. more or less. 

Plus: 

  • Very light system
  • Intuitive design and functions
  • Very small pack volume
  • Easy to setup
  • Nice size hammock and tarp
  • Full zip bugnet 

Minus: 

Review by Kenneth Shaw

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Soto Windmaster: A long-term review

My thoughts
I have been using the Soto Windmaster almost exclusively for over 2 years. Through Sarek, Padjelantaleden, Kungsleden, Island, Scotland and more. I have never needed a windshield and the Windmaster has never failed me. I have used it with dozens of different pots and pans without fail. Simply put, in my opinion the Soto windmaster is the single best stove on the market for pretty much any boil water and simple cooking needs. It is fast, efficient, lightweight and dependable. Even in high winds it is effecient and fast, rarely losing any of it’s performance. If there is one thing I think is a negative it’s that when I bought my Windmaster the tri-flex was included as well as the 4-flex. However, they have opted to sell those seperately now, which means that if you want the lightest most compact solution – the 3-flex. That must be purchased seperately. With that said, the 4-flex is an excellent, robust pot holder. I just prefer the tri-flex. 

Sizing
I am not too interested in physical diameter and height and so on. Instead I am interested if it fits in a single pot with gas tube. The soto windmaster fits nicely in pretty much all pots 600ml and more (with gas tube). This was always what was so convenient with the Jetboil kits – everything fit nicely in one pot. The difference between this and a jetboil are considerable – the Jetboil is not great in high winds, locked to one pot and in general considerably heavier than the Windmaster.

Weight
With the included 4-flex pot holder, the Windmaster weighs about 80 grams in total. Keep in mind, this is with a pezo lighter and no need for a windshield. So by any standards: Light.

Performance
This is where the Soto windmaster really stands out. For a long-time the Windmaster stood alone on it’s peak as the best performing stove on the market. Now it can be argued that the MSR Pocket rocket DLX shares the title. In anycase, whether it’s cold, windy or sunny: The Windmaster performaces with excellence. To show off to my friends on hiking trips it’s not usual for me to setup and cook my food in hard blowing winds while they all stand hovered around rocks and backpacks trying to cook their own food – only for the windmaster to be faster and more efficient. It really is remarkable. This of course also means that a can of Butane is going to last much longer with the Windmaster than pretty much anything else. 

Conclusion
The Windmaster is my favorite stove. Nothing really compares. There are lighter and smaller stoves – but once you add in the fact that you have to have both a windscreen and lighter, the Windmaster usually wins the weight war as well. The Windmaster is the “Ron Swanson” of stoves. Simple, effective and very high quality. 

Pros

  • Fast and efficient
  • Very good performance in high winds
  • Light
  • Small
  • Reliable

Cons

  • Tri-flex pot holder sold seperately

Review by Kenneth Shaw 17 February 2021

To buy the windmaster in europe check out https://backpackinglight.se/varumarken/soto/soto-windmaster-micro-regulator-stove

Video comparison