Review of 2016 ZPacks Duplex Tent


Made of Cuben fibre and weighing just under 700g (1.5lbs), excluding pegs for a true two person shelter, the Duplex has to been one of the lightest if not the lightest on the market.  Whilst not cheap, if you value quality design and manufacture, lightweight, strength and space, then this may be the shelter for you. For a chap in his fifties, who needs to carry less weight, this provides a significant decrease in weight over other shelters I own without sacrificing comfort. The shelter comes with Cuben fibre stuff sack but pegs are not included. I use a combination of blue and black Easton pegs with the Duplex.

I  have made a short video review, which show the attributes of this shelter.

Details of the Duplex tent can be found here

Will Wood’s Set up video here

You will see some un-used attachment tabs on the shelter in my video which are there to allow a free standing arrangment – seen here I don’t have this system.


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A short trip around Ingleborough


I have found more and more that work gets in the way of weekend trips. The time I finish often late on a Friday I’m often too knackered to go away for the weekend, particularly in the winter period when arriving at a destination long after dark is not ideal. This coupled with the seemingly endless bad weather that this winter has produced and I find myself having done very little for months.

Mary used to come walking with me a lot when we were younger but since a bad accident a number of years ago, she cannot easily climb mountains. She walks fine on the flat but finds steeper inclines a struggle.

Back in late January we took delivery of a campervan, which means that in the future those winter trips will be easier.  It also allows us to share time in the outdoors together.

I’m still going to do backpacking trips, but this gives me other choices as well.

Back in September, after a strenuous backpack trip in the Lakes I hurt my knees quite bad on scree slopes and it has taken awhile to get back into my stride so to speak. My plan was to go off on my own, taking the campervan for an overnight and then do some walking around the limestone pavement country near to Ingleborough. This was to make sure that everything was OK with me before getting back into backpacking once the really busy period at work is over.

Here are some photos of my walk, which I was pleased to say went well with no aches and pains and enjoyed in fine weather and great scenery!


My campervan at a small site near to Austwick


Nice views from the camper while having my early morning tea.


The early spring colour of Lesser Celadine


Fantastic little foot bridge out of Austwick


Looking to Norber


Entrance to Ingleborough Cave


Start of Limestone pavement around Sulber


A solidarity tree in the landscape


Close up of clinks and grikes


Looking towards Pen-y-ghent

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Extending the season for Treking sandals

My introduction to the use of Treking sandals for backpacking and walking in the mountains was after  watching Chris Townsend use them ploughing through the mud and bogs of the Central fells when I accompanied him and Terry Abraham on our  June trip in 2014 where Terry and Chris made their backpacking DVD. The weather was very warm and they were ideal footwear, no issues with Goretex lined shoes or boots being soaked and remaining wet.  They dried rapidly and Chris said they were very comfortable to wear.

I have been a convert to unlined trail shoes for awhile and really do not like the restrictions of boots, outside the dead of winter. I didn’t get any treking sandals until this year and decided on an open – toe  sandals so any debris would be easy to get out. I purchased a pair of Teva Fi 4’s  which had really good reviews. There is no problem with stubbing your toes as the ends of the sandals are up-turned.

They are very comfortable to wear, no problems about fording streams, having to take socks off or change shoes, or boots and they dry rapidly. With 3 straps, you can get the fit very precise, much more so than trail shoes or boots.

I had no problem with using them in steep rocky conditions, and wore them very successfully when hiking in Sierra Mountains in California this June.


Rather dusty and dirty feet after a day’s walking in Lassen Volcanic Park

Other trips back in the UK convinced me that these were the ideal footwear, particularly during  backpack  trips. Everything was great until the weather started to get colder and my toes started to get chilly. Back to trail shoes and boots or was there another way? I had read about using neoprene socks typically for kayaking and found that Joe Valesco  owner  of Z-packs had used neoprene and sandals on the 2014  TGO challenge.

I found some NSR Hydroskins which are 0.5 mm thick. The great thing about neoprene is whilst they won’t stop your feet getting wet  your feet should remain warm, or that is what I have read. I also wear a pair of  Treking Expedition socks from X socks.   I have used these mainly synthetic socks with some merino wool in unlined trial shoes and they dry more quickly than wool, which leads to less possibilities of blisters.

The fit of both the  X socks inside the NSR Hydroskins is good and comfortable.


NSR Hydroskins (top) and Treking Expedition socks from X socks ( bottom)

I have used combination over the last two weeks for local walks lasting up to two hours. This period has been very wet. The route is extremely muddy  goes through marshy areas with one stream crossing and many puddles.

The temperature yesterday was around 2C and the weather was sleet and rain. Whilst my feet were wet, they were not cold and walking the dry sections it soon felt that my feet were getting drier.

IMG_1515 (2)

Showing neoprene socks with Teva sandals in very wet and muddy conditions

So far so good, my next test is a short back pack in them, to test the suitability. This will include foot care procedure. I will take two pairs of X socks and one pair of warm merino wool socks to change into as soon as I am in the tent. Keeping your feet warm and dry overnight is essential to avoid foot problems. On an extended back pack, it will be important to wash out the socks and Hydroskins.  I will report back further my experiences as they occur.




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Back in my stride


Within 10 minutes walk from home. I can take this footpath from my door

My last trip to the Lake District, resulting in injury to both my left knee and right foot. I rather overdid it and it didn’t help going down near vertical scree slopes on Great Gable. The next day after wild camping on Kirk Fell I descended a path just as steep which was hopelessly in need of repair. It has taken quite a long while to get back into my stride. I have been doing some short walks from the house and trying to build up steps as much as possible, but whilst it is better than when I hobbled into Buttermere on the 4th day of that trip, I still have some discomfort.

I have resisted getting back in the mountains, trying to build up some strength in my knees and foot, the longest distance so far about 3 miles.

I live in the Lincolnshire Wolds, a range of low hills reaching the dizzy heights of 550 feet and I can walk straight from my door. So nothing too steep or difficult and being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a pleasant area to roam.

Today I walked around 9-10 miles mainly on the Viking Way, a long distance trail, taking the precaution to tape up my right foot with Rock Tape for some support.

Here are some photos of my walkgoulceby10



This is a lovely little chalk stream at Biscathorpe, the next valley over to my home. It is crystal clear.


Here is the stream a bit further on.


Here is a bit about what has been done to restore the chalk streams in the area.


Biscathorpe Church


Oxford Sandy & Black rare breed pigs near Donington -on- Bain


Course of the old railway that ran from Louth in the north to Bardney in the south. It closed in 1960, there was a station in my village on this line.


The old graveyard at the old All Saints Church at Goulceby. The remains of the church is somewhere in amongst this.


The new All Saints at Goulceby, journeys end

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Custom gear comparison table

I got a DM on my Twitter account  today from a fellow backpacker and wild camper asking if I had carried out a comparison of WM Summerlite, and the Panyam 600 and Teneqa 700 sleeping bags  from Cumulus.I hadn’t got to those bags yet, but it didn’t take too long  to compile the table and for ease of communicating the information I have posted it up on my blog. The WM Summerlite is a favorite 3 season bag and the other two are good value, well spec-ed bags for the winter.

Comparison here:sleeping bag comp. P D v1.1

Gear comparison tables update : I am currently working my way through UL shelters at the moment, but I have plans for winter sleeping bags and quilts and others after that. I will post up as soon as I can!

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Gear Comparison Tables

Lake District june 2104 074

Back in 2011, I started to put together a few  gear comparison tables  in a systematic way to help me select the right gear to lighten my base weight.  Work and at the time my wife’s illness meant that for a while I was unable to do many trips and therefore I didn’t utilise the results of my work. My comparison tables sat on my computer forgotten for 4 years, until earlier this year and then about a month ago I decided to complete the first one by updating the old table, adding new products and deleting old ones. The first table published is UL sleeping bags and quilts weighing 500g (lbs) or less I have create a separate page on my blog – Gear comparison tables (see main menu). I have gone for this route as I feel the seasons ratings don’t always take into the account the way bags and quilts are now used particularly adding of down jackets and trousers and other clothing to extend the temperature range and as people also say they are warm or cold sleepers, the easiest way to split up the categories was by weight.

I have included all the available sleeping bags and quilts that I have been able to research in this category and I hope the reader finds this useful. I have added links to websites, the cheapest price I can find where the manufacturer is not selling direct and have added links to up to 3 reviews including video reviews where I can find them. If readers see any missing models or reviews  or any glaring errors! then please let me know. There are other comparisons out there, notably Philip Werner’s excellent Gear Navigator at his site Section – Hiker.

The next table of sleeping bags and quilts will look at 500-750g (1-1.5 lbs).

I am working on other gear comparison tables to be published as soon as I can finished them!

The 1st chart link is below, please click on link to take you to it.

UL Sleeping bags & Quilts 500g (1 lb) or less table

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Review of Exped Hyperlite sleeping mat

Video review of this year’s new mat from Exped.

Hyperlite mat from Exped

Hyperlite mat from Exped

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