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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Gear Roundup – recent Lake District trip

Notable gear on my recent Lakes trip.

Tarptent Stratospire 1


Stratospire on High Raise

I  purchased the Stratospire just over a year now and have slept in it around 14 nights so I have reasonably good knowledge of it capabilities and as with all tents the little bits that you would like to change.  Firstly this is a large tent for the weight (around 1 kg) with 2 large porches which can really swallow up a lot of gear. Although an unusual design, it is very clever the way the inner runs across the tent rather along the ridge giving plenty of room.

With the pitch-lock system seen on the Scarp and the use of two trekking poles you can get a really taut pitch.  Add the front and back main guys and you can nail the tent down.  Henry Shires describes the Stratospire as one of his strongest tent with a four season rating. To be honest I have not been able to test this claim as most of the nights I have spent in the tent have be in calm conditions even when camped above 2000 feet. It certainly performs well in heavy rain conditions and is a tent that you can live in wet weather with so much space for cooking and moving around.  The inner tent has plenty of head room at the centre and it comfortable to sleep in. Like a number of Tarptents it lacks pockets but I have solved this by buying some inexpensive hanging pockets weighing 11g each.

The inner is part solid which is I think is a good compromise for the UK.  The zip arrangement is in a J format, and ideally it would be an inverted T zip, but it is a minor issue.  Pitching with two trekking poles means that you can adjust the height of the pitch to take into account of uneven or sloping ground.

The inner tent can be unclipped – with the clips being a little stiff so it takes a bit longer than it should.  Doing  so means that there is plenty of space to completely pack up in the dry when it is wet outside and drop the flysheet at the last moment.

On High Raise

On High Raise

Exped Hyperlite Mat

Hyperlite mat from Exped

Hyperlite mat from Exped

I have owned the Exped Synmat UL 7 mat for 4 and bit years At the beginning of the year I started noticing a a small bulge in the bottom of the mat when inflated and later on another bulge appeared, so I thought it was time to purchase a new mat.  The Hyperlite mat weighs 345g in medium size compared to 460g for Synmat UL 7, so a reasonable good saving on weight and pack size. I also think that it is one of the lightest full length mats with insulation on the market, achieved by making it into a mummy shaped mat. The mat has  a very similar R value to the Synmat and is just as comfortable –  Exped mats being the most comfortable mats I have slept on. The Hyperlite  is wide enough for  my shoulders and even though is slimmer than the Synmat I have not rolled off. The weather on  this trip went down to 2C and it was perfectly OK at this temperature. The fabric is soft  and warm to the touch.

A video review is on it’s way.

exped hyperlite 2

The mat is wide enough for your shoulders

Montane Grand Tour 55 backpack

I have owned this backpack for 18 months and purchased in a sale at nearly half price. Weighing 1345g there are lighter packs but it is the most comfortable backpack I have owned. The balance is spot on and the weight is transferred beautifully onto the hips. I am very happy with the backpack.  The fabric used is tough  with the mesh and fabric pockets  very stretchy. Probably slightly too large for anything less than a four day trip but having less gear in it doesn’t cause an issue.

Also see my video review of last year on the Grand Tour 55 here

Columbia micro- fleece – Klamath Range 2

columbia 2

202g in Med one of the lightest fleeces I have found

202g in medium one of the lightest fleeces I have found

I purchased this in the USA recently at a Columbia outlet store, with the good exchange rate, it was tenner. Being an outlet it was heavily discounted in dollars to start. Weighing just 202 grams in medium, it is one of the lightest fleeces I have found. Very soft and moderately warm, it is ideal to put over my base layer or as it the case of this trip over my Columbia hiking shirt ( a purchase from a previous US trip) during the summer months. Add the Montane Litespeed windshirt over both and you would extend later or earlier in the year.

The micro-fleece is available in the UK priced £25.00. Link is here

REI – Schwag pockets

Purchased at REI in San Franciso, I was on the look out for lightweight pockets for several of my tents that do not have pockets in the inner tent. Weighing 11 grams each and costing £6 for the pair, they do the job and are very cheap. Hangs up from a mitten hook attached at the top. Not sure they are available outside of the USA.

Link here

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Version 2 of my video series on the Wickiup 3 tent

I wasn’t happy with the first version of the third video in my series. Here is the new version.

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Nigor Wickiup 3 SUL tent options

Wickiup 3 SUL in Eastern Sierras, California.

Wickiup 3 SUL in Eastern Sierras, California.

Three videos showing the various options you have using this pyramid tent. To ensure I have communicated the right weights for the various options, I have detailed these below.

Option 1

Wickiup flysheet – 675g + Chinese Silnylon inner – 392g + pole – 322g= total of 1389g

the above using trekking poles linker (45g)  instead of pole =  total of 1112g

Option 2 

Wickiup flysheet – 675g + Borah Gear Bivvy – 218g + pole – 322g= total of 1215g

the above using trekking poles linker (45g)  instead of pole =  total of 938g

Option 3

Wickiup flysheet – 675g + Wickiup inner – 880g + pole – 322g= total of 1877g

the above using trekking poles linker (45g)  instead of pole =  total of 1555g

First video shows the Wickiup 3 using silnylon inner from China. The inner cost £34 delivered to the UK. Inner can also be used with Trailstar

Second video shows option with Borah Gear Bivvy

Third video shows the full option with the Wickiup inner.

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Video post – 3 days backpacking in the Lakes

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Mountains, Deserts & Cities – a trip to California – Part 1



A trip abroad was long overdue. The last few years have been spent doing up our old house, moving and doing up our new one – well at least starting on it!  We always enjoyed the fantastic scenery of  the Western United States, and so we decided on a touring trip of California with a small incursion into Nevada. Half of the holiday would be spent in National and State parks camping and half the time in San Francisco with a side trip to Las Vegas. Vegas  is an experience, whether you like that thing or not. I have been several times on business conventions, but the rest of the family had not.

We invited our boys along who are 22 and 19. I guess ordinarily, they probably wouldn’t have come with us if I’d said fancy coming to France or the Lake District but it’s different if Dad says fancy a trip to California and Dad is paying!

We were taking 3 backpacking tents, sleeping bags, mats, stoves etc on the plane packed into two Mountain Equipment 100 litres Duffel bags.  A gear list will posted up in a later post.

All camping equipment for 4  in 2 duffels

All camping equipment for 4 in 2 duffels

A Saturday in late June saw us travelling down to Heathrow to stay overnight for a morning flight the next day to San Francisco.

Crossing Southern Greenland

Crossing Southern Greenland

Arriving after an 11 hour flight , we got a taxi to our accommodation in San Francisco. I was surprised how expensive even reasonable quality hotels are, so we found that renting a house for 3 days in the Castro district was a much better bet. We could come and go as we pleased and we had far more space.

The house was a fine Victorian example on 18th Street close to some good restaurants and one of the best whole food stores we have ever visited.

Our  house was the one on the left.

Our house was the one on the left with the tree in front of it

The blue house next door turned out to be rather famous.  We saw a constant stream of people who turned out to be all French photographing the house. A small plaque on the front of the house told me why.


Maxime Le Forestier, the French singer made the house famous in his song – San Francisco in 1972. The area at the time was a hippie commune. Some details here if you are interested.

A nice garden out the back

A nice garden out the back


sun trap


A well equipped kitchen!


Two nice bedrooms – far better than a hotel.

A very well stocked local whole food store  a couple of blocks up the hill meant we ate in most of the time.

An impressive display of  vegetables!

An impressive display of vegetables!

Tram stop in Castro

Tram stop in Castro

Near the Rainbow Crossing

Near the Rainbow Crossing

Downtown San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco



Bay Bridge

Bay Bridge

San Francisco skyline from the docks

San Francisco skyline from the docks

At the ball game - Giants versus San Diego Padres

At the ball game – Giants versus San Diego Padres


Padres were thrashed

Ready for the next leg of the journey - to Lassen Volcanic Park

Ready for the next leg of the journey – to Lassen Volcanic Park

After a relaxing stay in San Francisco, it was time to head north to Lassen Volcanic Park, a four hour drive. San Francisco had actually been quite cool, particularly in the morning with cloud and fog. In the afternoons it cleared up, but it did live up to its reputation and I was reminded of the quotation supposedly by Mark Twain – ‘The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco”. We left San Francisco with temperatures in the mid 60’s F and by the time we crossed the Bay Bridge to Oakland, a few miles away, the temperature was in the 90’s. The Pacific together with the proximity of the mountains has a very significant effect on the temperature of San Francisco.

We drove up the Central Valley, a wide flat valley put aside  exclusively  to agriculture and the many crops that sun and irrigation can provide. California is in a severe drought with little rainfall over the past four years.  Passing rice crops, it didn’t seem to be the best use of scarce water resources.  The temperature climbed in the afternoon heat to 105F by the time we reached a supermarket to stock up on provisions for our trip into the mountains. Getting out of our mini-van we were hit by the heat, the cool of England and San Francisco already a distant memory.  Most importantly we purchased a Coleman ice chest and plenty of ice to go with it.

The TV news the night before reported that the whole of the west was in the grip of a  heat wave from Death Valley in the south to Seattle in the north, having unusually high temperatures. Seattle had recorded its highest ever temperature for this time of year.

I was banking on the fact that camping high in mountains around 8000 feet would bring us some cooler conditions, but maybe it would not.

Leaving the heat of the valley floor near to the town of Redding, we climbed and climbed and gradually the temperature started to drop. By the time we reached our campsite, the temperature was a cooler 78F.

At campground, with Wikiup 3, Power Lizard & Soulo

At campground, with Wikiup 3, Power Lizard & Soulo tents and bear proof container

All campgrounds have fire rings

All campgrounds have fire rings

Over the next few days, we took several hikes in the area, with the highest altitude being around 9,000 feet.  I will let the pictures do the talking for this is a beautiful area and surprisingly the least visited National Park in the USA, according to my guide-book.

Mt Lassen

Mt Lassen

Close up Mt Lassen

Close up Mt Lassen

Wild lupins were in abundance

Wild lupins were in abundance


This is a volcanic area. Sulphur and rotten eggs smell in some area

This is a volcanic area. Sulphur and rotten eggs smell in some areas


Mt Lassen view from one of the many Lakes

Mt Lassen view from one of the many Lakes

Well that’s the end of part 1. I will post up more including Sequoia National Forest,  Ancient Bristlecone Forest, Death Valley and much more!

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A short walk in the Galloway Hills

Just a picture post on my blog. We intended to be out longer than we were, but gale force winds forecast with late snow was enough to shorten our route, but it was great to get out and have a backpack with my youngest son William.

Before setting off we camped at Glentrool

Before setting off we camped at Glen Trool

Looking  out from Robert the Bruce stone

Looking out from Robert the Bruce stone

Gairland Burn

Gairland Burn

Gairland Burn

Upper reaches of Gairland Burn

 Beautiful Loch Valley

Beautiful Loch Valley

Loch Arron

Loch Arron

After a warm day’s walking, we set up camp near to Loch Enoch, a wild and remote place on a very small patch of flat ground amongst a sea of tussock grass. If I had known we could have carried on to pitch near the beaches of the Loch on the far side.  The forecast for the next two days was bad and we made a decision to strike camp early the next day and  head over the Merrick, the highest point in the Galloway hills.

The wind and rain lashed at us and it was difficult to even stand up at times let alone take any photos. In the low cloud it was pointless anyway. Eventually as we neared the forest which cloaks the lower slopes of the Merrick, the weather started to clear.



An  almost apocalyptic scene with mist and the chaos of a clear felled forest.

An almost apocalyptic scene with mist and the chaos of a clear felled forest.


Weather clears at the end of our journey, the road back to Glen Trool

Weather clears at the end of our journey, the road back to Glen Trool

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Five days in Lakes, photo storyboard

A five-day trip back in June 2014. Two days were solo and I then joined Terry Abraham and Chris Townsend while making their DVD – Backpacking in the Lake District. At the time I didn’t want to take too many photos of Chris and Terry and post up on my trip report as I didn’t want to give anything away. This is a picture story board of the trip and shows mainly the beautiful scenery and excellent weather we were lucky to have.  Just like to say that I had no commercial involvement in the film and the music used in this short clip is ‘Elephants’ from Free music archive –  cannot find the artist from my download file!

Backpacking in the Lake District is available from Striding Edge and other outlets and is priced at £14.99

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MYO Ultralightweight tripod

I couldn’t find a tripod weighing less than 500g so I decided to make my own. 32 cm selfie stick, 3 pieces of Dyneema and 3 Ti pegs. Total weight 220g and is ideal for my new GoPro Hero 4 Silver.




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Snow shoes on Buckden Pike

If I can get out tomorrow and get up to the Peaks I will have an outing with my snow shoes, although the weather forecast suggests a windchill of minus 17C  – will I go or will I stay under the duvet in the morning ? Here is a short video of me using them a couple of year’s ago on Buckden Pike just  in case I don’t get any footage tomorrow!

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