Tag: ultralight gear

blogGear

MYOG – make your own gear

In leu of finding someone to work with here in my studio in Umeå (northern Sweden) – basically a partner to design and develop outdoor gear. I have taken it upon myself to at least learn the trade and what is needed. I am certainly no expert and my sewing skills are absolutely minimal. But I am enjoying the process and certainly learning a lot along the way. This is my philosophy in life to be honest: Do something new – try something you will suck at. That’s me, at this moment and I’m happy as a clam! 

So, like I always do, it’s just my own method of working, I buy minimal gear. Or rather what I think I might need, use it, and add more. Now my economy means I can’t buy the best, but I certainly don’t have to use garbage. I started by borrowing a simple Durkopp 211-5 straight seam sewing machine that I oiled up and repaired. Total cost about 30USD.

The Durkopp 211-5 single needle straight seam machine.

Then I bought a Pfaff 142 two needle sewing machine. Which I knew I would need for studier stitching, fell seams and so on. (Can be done on a single needle machine, but I love the look of the double needle stitch). Total cost 650usd. Borrowed a Bernina 1008 home sewing machine from my wife. Total cost 0usd. And built a proper cutting table that is about 250cm long by 160cm wide – supported by 3 Ikea Kallax bookcases – Total cost: 140USD. 

Then I started to use everything and realized real quick that cutting lightweight material is a bitch. I started with a high quality roller cutter. Works nice until it doesn’t – it’s easy to cut the material wrong. Or the roller to kind of do it’s own thing if not fully focused. Then I tried scissors and an electric knife. All of these sucked. I read a post online from a guy who suggested a hot knife. I don’t have a hot knife and was too eager to get started to wait a month to get one from China. So I bought a soldering gun instead – works amazing! I don’t have to use pressure on the material which means my cuts are nearly perfect every time! Cost of soldering iron: 15USD.

Of course I need other materials and so on, rulers, scissors, oil, etc.. all in all about 120usd for this. All in all my little sewing studio here minus sewing textiles and materials is around 955usd. Which considering that is three sewing machines, all cutting tools, a nice sized cutting table and all in all a very comfortable working environment: I can deal with the outlay. 

Up close of the cutting board. You can see I use it as a photo studio as well when I need to take product photos for Backpackinglight.se. My little office in the corner there by the window

I like having a working environment where I can go from one task to another without having to stop because I am missing something, or I have to rearrange one thing or another. I like getting into the flow of a process and this studio allows that for me. And within a few days I am starting to produce gear that I find useful and is fun to make. Along the way I am changing how the room is organized, I am moving furniture around and re-thinking certain areas. But that is the whole point: A rough draft studio that I can work in and change depending on efficiencies and knowledge. I won’t know everything I need from the very beginning without ever sewing so much as a ditty bag. So I keep things to a minimum and improve or upgrade as my skill and knowledge increases. 

My guess is that when I find someone that wants to come here and sew stuff, they will want to change the room around completely. Which is what I expect. Anyway, this was just a little intro into my MYOG studio here in Umeå, my next posts will be regarding the stuff I am actually sewing!

blogGearGear reviews

Gear review: Hyperlite mountain gear Windrider 4400 backpack

I bought this pack about a year or so ago with the intention of replacing my Zpacks arc-blast. I wanted a larger backpack capable of carrying heavier loads, yet still light enough to use on my shorter trips. There are a few backpacks that meet this criteria, but none quite fit the bill as well as the Windrider did. The arc-blast is a 55 liter backpack, and while this worked for me on a lot of my trips – I found the liter and carrying capabilities limiting for winter hikes, hikes longer than 5-7 days, family hikes and so on. I am an avid believer in Cuben textiles for backpacks because it’s waterproof, or atleast doesn’t absorb water, lighter than traditional materials and a heck of a lot stronger.

DSC06882The Hyperlite mountain gear Windrider 4400 is absolutely beautiful in it’s simplicity.

With that said, I bought my Windrider form the states, and even with the winter discount HMG was running, I ended up paying about 500usd to get the pack to Sweden after import fees and shipping. Though the initial price tag was appealing! Now of course I would just buy from one of the many European retailers such as backpackinglight.dk (my own webshop).

I have been using the Windrider for all my trips since I got it last year. This includes 10 days across the wilds of Sarek national park in northern Sweden, a winter trip through Jämtland mountains, a few smaller week trips along Sörmlandsleden and many weekend trips with the family. So it’s been put through it’s paces for it’s intended purpose (or the purpose I intended to use it in)

Who is Hyperlite Mountain Gear?

HYPERLITE MOUNTAIN GEAR IS NOT ABOUT BELLS AND WHISTLES. NONESSENTIAL FEATURES. OR THE LATEST TRENDING COLORS. WHAT WE’RE ABOUT IS STRIPPED DOWN, HIGH PERFORMANCE GEAR THAT’S BEEN DIALED IN TO MEET, IN AS MINIMALIST A MANNER AS POSSIBLE, THE EXACTING REQUIREMENTS OF THE PEOPLE WHO USE IT.

Hyperlite mountain gear produce all their own gear in Maine, USA.

What is the Windrider 4400

The 4400 is a 70 liter backpack made from Dyneema (fd cuben fibre) material. The material itself is 100% waterproof, while the backpacks are not 100% waterproof, they are certainly much closer to that watermark than anything else on the market. The Windrider much like Hyperlite mountain gears other backpacks is a stripped down, essentials only backpack. I love and prefer a roll top on my bags, no zippers or anything else that will undoubtedly breakdown over time. As it goes, I also like mesh pockets on the outside, though the Southwest 4400’s solid pockets, certainly keep things aesthetically cleaner. I prefer the mesh pockets though as I like to see what I have in those pockets.

The Windrider also uses aluminum backpack stays, which are removable, and foam padding to increase the overall comfort of the packs. On top of this the packs are seam sealed, have hydro ports, ice axe loops and so on.

Another key point here is that the hip belt is not removable, I actually prefer the simplicity of this. They have just four sizes to choose from and the hip belts are meant to fit all sizes: Small, Medium, Large and Tall. Sometimes when buying gear the choice can get fairly ridiculous. Small hip belt, with medium large backpack, nano size hip belt pockets, sternum or no sternum straps so on and so forth. So points for simplicity here.

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Weight:

My windrider 4400 white pack weighs 988 grams. Not the lightest on the market, but light enough for most uses and most applications.

Who’s it for?

As it’s a 70Liter pack, the Windrider 4400 is probably best for trekkers who carry either a lot of gear, winter gear, longer unsupported trips or family gear. For me it has become my all in one pack that I can use on everything from my two days hikes to several weeks. It’s my go to bag for just about any trip I make, anywhere I plan to go. It’s certainly large at 70Liters, but it can easily be compressed down with the roll top and side compression straps.

Here in Sweden the HMG windrider is actually starting to be used by most “professional” hikers, lightweight or otherwise. At least when they get to choose. The HMG packs have also made a big mark on the Packraft and kayakers gear lists, as they are lightweight, waterproof and can carry a lot of weight.

If most of your hikes are summer time hikes of under a week or so, then this bag is probably a bit much, and I would suggest looking at their smaller bags such as the 3400 and 2400 which are 55Liter and 45 Liter packs.

Will it hold?

Dyneema is the strongest, lightest material being produced right now, and the HMG series backpacks are built to last. You’re probably not going to find a more robust backpack on the market – anywhere by any producer. In all seriousness, this pack will probably last as long as you do.

Ventilation

I’m not going to do a side by side comparison to other backpacks here with regards to ventilation on my back. When the aluminum stays are in the HMG and I stand with proper posture, the backpack doesn’t press at all against my back – regardless of how much weight I have in it. This of course allows for good ventilation and except for my shoulder blades and lower back, no part of my body is being touched by the backpack. Just how I like it.

My own experience

On my trip through Sarek it rained constantly for about 2 days as well as waist high wading daily – I don’t use rain covers or anything like that so I have to trust my backpack that it will do it’s just in keeping things dry. Now of course you’re thinking “what an idiot”. You’d be right in thinking so. In actuality I pack everything in watertight stuff sacks, I prefer the Pack pods from HMG and the Stuff sack pillow, and I use a giant trash bag as a pack liner on the inside to keep as much water as possible out. I find this combination of watertight-ish backpack with only one entry point (the roll top), a giant trash bag liner, and everything packed in watertight stuff sacks, keeps everything perfectly dry no matter the rain or wading, and this proved the case even in Sarek on the wettest of terrain, my gear was kept perfectly dry.

I also find that for my longer trips the HMG windrider holds up without any problems, at most I have had around 17 kilos in my pack and while the pack can certainly handle the wait, my body can’t. So it’s hard for me to say anything about carrying capabilities in the 17+kilo range as I think it sucks no matter what backpack I have on.

DSC06368Me in northern Sweden with the windrider 4400. This was packed for a 9 day hike and around 13 kilos. 

Some people have reservations about mesh pockets on the outside of a pack – they can “tip the balance”, they can easily tear in forestry and so on. Personally I don’t really have this problem. The mesh pockets I use mainly for my tenkara fishing rod, a water bottle and trash. Balance is not an issue. As far as the mesh pockets tearing, this as it were, has not shown itself to be an issue either, and I have certainly trounced through a lot of unkept forestry.

Conclusion:

Lets face it, plunking out 500USD for a backpack is expensive. (In the USA the packs cost 375usd). Though, they are not the most expensive packs by a long shot. Many of the “big brands” have 4-500USD packs that come nowhere near the quality or robustness of the HMG backpacks. If you need one backpack for most everything, you can’t go wrong with a Hyperlite mountain gear Windrider 4400, or any of the 4400 packs. While it’s not the only bag I use, it’s certainly the one I prefer over anything else I have.

Plus:

  • Big 70L pack
  • Simple, effective design.
  • Lightweight
  • Great carrying capabilities
  • 95% watertight
  • Robust, durable fabric and mesh
  • Compressible
  • Removable stays
  • Excellent construction and quality
  • No zippers or do-dads. Just what is needed
  • Small, Medium, Large and Tall. That’s what you get to choose from. Perfect. I hate too many choices as I’m always afraid of getting it wrong.

Minus:

  • Small hip belt pockets
  • Hydropocket not easily removed – razor blade needed
  • Not the lightest 70 liter pack on the market

 

Where to buy:

In The usa: Hyperlite mountain gear

In Europe: Backpackinglight store

Direct link to the Windrider 4400

backpackingblog

A part of life

I thought I would send out a quick mail about what I’ve been up to lately! I have had my hands full to say the least! Anyway, here is a copy of my first newsletter from backpackinglight.dk plus some extras..

Hi Everyone!

It has been a journey to start backpackinglight.dk. This idea of starting a webshop for lightweight gear popped into my head sometime in the spring when me and my wife had just sent in our papers for starting an adoption process. I got the idea because I wanted to offer excellent, lightweight backpacking gear in Sweden and Europe. Why I got the idea to do it in conjunction with the adoption process is because we plan on adopting from a nation that requires us to be abroad for 6 months. So my idea was that my wife and I could potentially have atleast a small side income while living abroad, and at the sametime I could bring a lot of cool gear with me to try out in the wilds of Africa! win win win.

R0290482Too much gear to test, too little time! The Sierra designs Flex capacitor 60 after 3 days on the trail.

Anyway, I was hesitant on starting the shop because I saw the competition from Denmark (backpackinglight.dk) and from Germany (Trekking-light-store) as two great shops that are already established and I didn’t really want to compete is such a small nisch marketplace, on top of this the major outdoor companies such as Addnature and Outnorth could easily kill off anything I wanted to do if it so pleased them. I will never be able to compete on price with these monsters or any of the major european outdoor shops – which is also why I won’t carry many of the same products as they do.

However, being the gear nerd that I am and realising that Sweden really is behind the times in lightweight gear, I decided to give a go anyway, and at the same time I had a bit of luck as Niels from backpackinglight.dk wanted to move on and do other things. So, my little idea was closer to reality and I just said to “hell with it, let’s do it!” So I finalised the deal in late July as I was sitting in a bus far above the artic circle on my way to Sarek national park for 10 days out in the wilds. (I know a few of you tried to get a hold of me during this period, unfortunately I was away where internet doesn’t exist)

R0290457The excellent Hyperlite mountain gear Ultamid 2. A little bigger than the MLD Duomid and in my opinion a proper two man tent.

So now you have a bit of background about why and how I started backpackinglight.dk, I don’t need to waste your time anymore explaining all the details!

What I really wanted to say is how grateful I am to the instant success that the site has been! So many people already on the mailing list, a lot of orders from great people all around europe. I couldn’t have asked for a better start. With that said, the success has also emptied my inventory a bit, but some of the more popular products are back in stock such as the Tarptent Stratospire 1 (probably the best made tent on the market right now), the Six moon designs Lunar Duo and Lunar Solo as well as the Hyperlite mountain gear Porter pack and Windriders 4400. I have also finally moved everything over to a Logistics center that will help me with the packing and shipping. – They can do it cheaper, faster and better than I can. So packages within sweden should reach their destination within a day or two.

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Me chilling after a 7 day hike through Sarek national park, checking to make sure the deal to take over Backpackinglight.dk had gone through. This was the only place along the trail that internet actually worked.. 1200 meters above sea level looking out over Rapadalen.

If you haven’t read it yet, Jörgen Johansson from http://www.fjaderlatt.se wrote an excellent article for backpackinglight.se on how to choose a backpack that you can find here.

If there is anything that you would like me to stock, let me know and I will see what I can do!

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Happy Hiking!

Kenneth Shaw
Backpackinglight.se

Going Lighter

Going lighter – The first step

The first step:

I just got back from a week long hike in the Swedish mountains above the artic circle with a friend from Denmark. My friend Mike is nowhere near an ultralight hiker – or even a lightweight hiker for that matter; his bag alone weighs 3.6 kilos his tent closer to 2.5. Through no fault of his own of course, he just didn’t know any better. How could he? he was raised with the scouts and for him anything that was green and said fjällräven was of course the best way to go. Read More
Gear list

Gear list and packing video – Fjällräven classic 2015

Here is my complete gear list for the 2015 fjällräven classic in sarek national park – this is a 110 kilometer walk along the kings trail in northern Sweden. My group leaves the 7th of august and I am expected to be away for four to five days. I am packing warm and dry as the climate change has really been affecting the area more than usual this year as it’s been near freezing every night and constantly raining; Read More