Monday, 30 May 2011

Berghaus Freeflow 25+5 Backpack

Despite not being a very active blogger over the last few months I have been out and about a bit and quite active with the sewing machine.  All of the trips I have been doing are day walks or outings with kids to various events.  Handily just before this mini period of activity Webtogs sent me a new day pack to test Berghaus Freeflow 25+5 Backpack

I used to use Berghaus stuff quite a bit in my past as they are a name that’s associated with well designed kit and toughness.  This doesn’t always mean that it’s the lightest kit around and therefore I don’t really use much of their kit anymore.  

If you’re going to be doing any distance/time with a pack you’ve got to get one that fits.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  The lightweight way is to try on all the packs that you like the look of with your kit inside and find out which one fits the best.  Most lightweight packs aren’t adjustable and some do come in different sizes to accommodate various back lengths.  I order packs online, making sure first that I can return it if it doesn’t fit and then getting them delivered to my house, trying them on with my kit in (in the house).  A long and potentially expensive way of trying out new gear if the retailer doesn’t cover the return postage.

You don't need to bother with all that business with this backpack as it seems to be infinitely adjustable.  To test this I put about 5kg of kit and water in the pack and set it up with the adjustable back length, load lifters, sternum strap and hip belt.  It took less than five minutes and once adjusted, apart from minor tweaks doesn’t need adjusting again.  Then my partner had a go.  I’m 5’11 she’s 5’ 5’ and weighs substantially less than me.  Again within five minutes the same pack fitted her as well as it did me.

The Freeflow system takes a bit of getting used to if you’re not familiar with it as carries the weight in the pack  away from your back.  10 minutes of using pack you forget about the different feel to packs the carry the load nearer to your back.  Due to the size of the pack you’re not going to be carrying a great deal of weight anyway so this is not an issue.  It certainly works in reducing sweaty backs. 

Packing the bag takes a bit of thought.  The main compartment is quite small compared to the overall size of the bag.  The side pockets (not the mesh ones) which I was dubious of their usability when the main compartment was full work very well.  Each one being able to take a 500ml bottle and have room for hats/gloves etc.  Again the lid pocket holds more that on first glance it would.  I think the size rating is accurate but seems small as there are so many different compartments to put things in.  If you’re an organised sort this will appeal to you.

I did use the pack for a two day and night backpacking trip with Steven Horner.  I wanted to see if I could get all my kit in and still have room for a couple of days food.  The kit I used is below.

All the kit went in comfortably.  Most of my kit is pretty light weigh and therefore low bulk and with that kit I could get two days food and one and a half litres of water.  The pack also has a zipped pocket right on the base which contains an integrated rain cover which is a nice touch and also means it won't get blown away.

The pack carries very comfortably, this is due to the way in which it's able to be adjusted and I expect Berghaus' experience in putting kit together.  My only slight issue I have with it is that the hip belt strap kept slipping. I would like to qualify this, in that I do like hip belts to be really tight.  When I tightened the strap to my liking it would slip over about 10 minutes or so to be relatively tight, but not tight enough for me.  I expect that I have hip belts tighter than most so it may not be an issue for many users but I don't have this problem with other packs that I use.

Overall it's a very versatile pack that works equally well as a day pack or an overnight pack with low bulk kit.  The pack harness itself is very well made and can cope with weights that you'd never be able to put into the back due to it's small volume.  The construction is very good and I expect that if you bought this pack you wouldn't get rid of it because it fell to bits.  It's designed as a 25l day pack and as day packs go it's jammed full of features and is comfortable, it weighs more than some but the comfort of carrying means this really isn't an issue.  If you're looking for a comfortable pack that's going to come on a lot of adventures for a lot of years then you should consider this one.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

I have a plan.

Sometimes I need a grand plan, something big to consider, ponder over and a reason to make kit.  No doubt this year will see a lot of this mainly in the form of renovating an old house that I’m hoping to buy.  I know from past experience that when taking on such a big project as a whole house renovation I need to be able to daydream about something that’s going to be there when it’s done.  Daydreaming about stuff when I’m stuck, hacking off plaster for the tenth evening in a row and getting thoroughly sick of having no spare time.

Watching @philoutdoors and others crossing Scotland via the magic that is also gets me itching to plan a big trip.  I had to pull out of this years TGO for a number of reasons, mainly for the sale and subsequent purchase of houses.  So I started looking into doing the Pennine Way.  An iconic trail in the UK and one that’s not talked about as much anymore.

If need be I could pack for the entire trip with stuff from my gear cupboard, although I’ve sold a lot of stuff recently I’ve still got a full range for three season camping from lightweight gear to air beds and gas stoves for car camping.  But no really lightweight stuff.  This led me to thinking that I wouldn’t mind making some really lightweight summer kit and using this kit for the trip along the Pennine Way.

Followers of the blog may have realised that I start a lot of projects, get partly through them, find a problem and stop.  Some projects get used, the cat cut tarp gets regular use as does the bivi bag.  That process of going wrong, or as I like to think, discovering something you didn’t know, is important.  Unless you have someone to learn from you have to just jump in and learn from your mistakes.  I think I’m at the stage now that projects seem to be going right and I’ve set myself the task of walking the Pennine Way in the summer of 2012 using a Super Ultra Light (SUL) base weight of 5lbs or 2.268kg. 

On the face of it, it seems practically impossible to walk safely in the hills in the UK with such a small amount of gear.  But… with modern materials and making kit that specifically for your own size and needs you can cut down on weight.  I’ve already started designing and making some kit and I’ll post about these separately as it’s the kit you want to hear about!  Below is a list of big stuff that I want to carry and target weights for each piece and you can see that it does seem possible.

Backpack                     300g
Sleeping bag/quilt          450g
Sleeping mat                 100g   
Bivi                              200g
Shelter/guylines 300g   
Pegs                               75g
Pot and Stove               130g
Waterproofs                 100g (yes that’s 100g, I have a plan, I'm sure I mentioned that?)

Total                            1,655g

Obviously there’s still quite a bit to add to list and I’ve only 613g to play with, insulation included and I’m up to my base weight.  But I’ve given myself a bit of wiggle room in the target weights.  There has to be some minimum specifications for the kit, I don’t want to suffer and I want to be safe.  The shelter will be designed for three seasons, you don’t get one season weather in the UK unless you’re lucky.  The sleeping bag/quilt will have to be good to 5c without the need for further insulation and I need to be able to cook and brew tea.

I’ve got a 100 ideas buzzing about in my head about the kit, how it’s going to be made, multiple uses for it.  Some of it’s been made or part made some of it is still just ideas.  I hope that by having a plan that a lot if not all of this gets made, it gives me something to daydream about and you something to comment on and chuckle about.

I welcome any comments, suggestions, or any well meaning criticism of the plans or my intentions and I promise to post more about kit and do shiny pictures and videos soon.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Further apologies and an explanation.

I’m still alive and still doing stuff that I’ll be blogging about, but at the moment there’s a lot going on in real life that restricts my online time and activity, mainly – not having internet access at home, selling a house and the inevitable purchase and probable renovation of a complete wreck of a cottage (again).

Having read some very good posts about the art of blogging recently I do recognise that consistency and communication are the key to keeping readers.  I have been lacking with both recently and have replied to all comments that you good readers have left.

At the moment I’m making a couple of bits of kit for my friends Seth and Tom whom I was doing the TGO challenge with, now having to pull out due to the above reasons.  I’ll pop a post up about these when they are done.  One’s a bonkers idea that I was requested to make!

I’m testing a Berghaus day pack for Webtogs which I’ll write about when I’ve used it a bit more.

Finally I made my own barefoot Luna Sandals over a month ago and have been wearing consistently ever since so I’ll write about them when I have the time too.

Meanwhile please accept my apologies for neglecting you again and my thanks for sticking with me.