I am constantly looking for different ways to use helmet cams, and this usually means having multiple options for mounting them. I purchased a few items from Pacific Northwest local Rhino Camera Gear (rhinocameragear.com) and tested them on a recent biking trip (view here), notably the "Moose Neck" and the "Pro Pole 20." I received my items within 3 days and the quality is excellent. I especially like the promise of using the flexible Moose Neck to position cameras in odd ways. Another thumbs up for a local US manufacturer.
I've been looking for a specialized fastpacking sleep solution for a couple of years. I've talked to Ben (Goosefeet) and Joe (ZPacks) about custom work, but solutions always bordered on the weights of the lightest bags, and I have a 1 pound bag already. I just didn't need yet another sleeping bag or quilt that simply saved me a few ounces over what I already have. Another problem I introduced was the fact that I wanted something that could be worn while at camp or doing chores. Part of my ultimate solution was giving up the idea of wearing a sleeping quilt/bag and incorporating my clothing as part of the system, something I do already....I recently camped in temps below 20F with a 35 degree bag by wearing clothing in conjunction and was plenty toasty. I bought the Enlightened Equipment Enigma 50 degree quilt with this in mind. In order to completely understand how the quilt fits in I should explain the clothing that goes with it, two pieces that are made for active wear. Besides a next to skin shirt I have a Montbell Ultra Light Shell Jacket that weighs in at slightly over 5 ozs (size L). Instead of going with a delicate and light down jacket made for camp, I decided to add the Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody; it incorporates a proven synthetic insulation plus a design that is made for activity. I've already tested this jacket in cold uphill climbs and moderate terrain, and am quite satisfied.
I've spent a number of nights out with no bag of any kind, or with substitutes like a DIY M50 envelope and a Blizzard long jacket and tube. I am very tuned in to my insulation needs as a result of some chilly nights along with hot ones where my system was total overkill. I think it's very important for people to understand their needs thru experience before paring down their kit to something as minimal as this quilt and clothing. I wanted something very light, minimalist, versatile, and hopefully manufactured in the US. The Enlightened Equipment Enigma 50 degree quilt perfectly fit the bill. The quilt (the workmanship is impeccable) weighs in at less than 10 ozs. Knowing that this is part of a system intended for typical summer weather in the Pacific Northwest, let's take a close look at the quilt.....
I received the quilt almost exactly 3 weeks after ordering it, right in line with what the website says. In terms of custom cottage gear service, this is a relatively short time. The total package includes a silnylon stuff sack, some straps to secure it to a sleeping pad if needed, and a nice stow bag.
The next series shows the square footbox and baffle height. The listed loft of the 50 degree Enigma is 1 inch, but I found it to be slightly more. I ordered this in the DownTek 850 version. I am confident how this will perform in my regular usage based on past experience, but I have not had experience with the new hydrophobic down. The performance of this down versus regular weights of 800 to 900 will have to be ascertained after a season in the field.
This is important! I opted for the size Regular which is listed for people up to 5'10". I am exactly 6 feet tall (165 lbs). When I lay flat on my back with my feet centered in the footbox (so as not to compress any of the down) you can see exactly where the quilt comes in relation to my head. This is what I expected and it is fine for my expected coupling with the Atom LT Hoody in colder temps (with the addition of a hat if needed). Users who want the quilt to come up over the ears obviously need to order the appropriate size in accordance with the Enlightened Equipment website.
My method of sleeping outdoors is about 80 percent on my sides. With slightly bent legs the bag can come up my head higher if needed. Very seldom have I ever used the hood on any of my sleeping bags, even in chillier shoulder season temps (below freezing).
In sum, this sub 10 oz bag was purchased as part of a total sleep system using clothing, along with a NeoAir XLite full length pad and a ZPacks Pertex Quantum bivy. It fits into a fastpacking kit that is designed for long days on the trail where I stop only to catch some sleep. The clothing plays an important part in this kit as far as temperature regulation. Two pieces I have to specifically go along are the Montbell Ultra Light Shell Jacket (5 ozs) and the Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody (13.5 ozs). The toasty square footbox (tested at home) negates the need for extra sleep footwear, like down booties. Although I won't be using this on any trips this winter, I plan on this system being my solo kit for the entire Spring/Summer/Fall season. My familiarity with my body's insulation needs in varying weather and conditions, along with various sufferfests I have experienced over the past few decades, means that I can, with a high degree of confidence, predict the performance limitations of this piece of gear. Be aware that the Enigma series offers other down options besides the hydrophobic and is available from 0 to 50 degrees in 10 degree increments. This information is straight off the Enlightened Equipment Website:
SHIFTLESS Baffle System – Our unique baffles eliminate down shift keeping the down positioned where you need it. SHIFTLESS baffles do not require overstuffing to perform as desired but we still add 5% to account for loss of loft between washings. The baffles over the torso are closed off keeping that down positioned over the sleeper all night despite any movement underneath. The side baffles connect to the footbox allowing down to be moved out of the very edge of the quilt which is tucked under you into the foot to increase foot warmth if desired.
Adjustable Neck closure – A snap secures the quilt around you and the center draw cord is easily adjusted by pulling it inside the quilt. This closures can be opened when the sleeper gets warm and closed tight when needed to seal drafts.
Flat Foot Box – A knee length flat footbox replaces our typical zipper/drawcord setup. The flat footbox allows the quilt to be made shorter saving weight while still being roomy and very warm.
Removable Under-strap System – Elastic webbing and flat buckles secure the quilt around you, your pad or easily un-clip to leave at home. One below the shoulder and a second mid back.
Additional Pad attachment straps– Comes with removable webbing straps that secure the quilt on top of any sleeping pad. (used in place of the elastic straps)
Made in Winona MN– We are proud to build quality products locally in our small neighborhood shop
I encourage you to visit the Enlightened Equipment website if you are in the market for sleep gear and support another quality cottage gear company that manufactures here in the US.
(Disclaimer: I paid full price for this item)
This is an update to my original post on packing cameras. I had such good luck with my smaller custom front pack from ZPacks and the insert that I made that I decided to do a second one. I had Joe make me a totally custom front pack out of cuben hybrid with the addition of two side pockets (for water bottles) and a mesh front pocket. The size of this front pack is ideal, I have just enough forward visibility that the pack does not interfere with foot placement (at least for any trails I have been on) and the attachment system is the same as my other front pack so I can mix and match.
One of the great things about the cottage gear industry is I just keep finding great companies. This usually comes about through reading blogs like this or through other online sites. I especially like it when I find a company that is locally based (Seattle area) and today we have a winner: Black Rock Gear. This company's reputation is based on meticulous sewing, great customer service and winning products. I have to wholeheartedly agree on all counts.
I didn't have any big projects planned for this year so spent more time on photography than in the past. However, I did always have a helmet cam or two along so I did video when the mood struck. Notably, the light was perfect when skiing Whistler's Blackcomb glacier this year and there were moments when I was glad I took the shot. Ski, bike, hike; enjoy the Willis Wall Snippets for 2013, and get out there!
The following is from an email from reader Leif:
I've been following your posts on several Forums and here at your blog. I've been especially intrigued by the B4 combination and the underlying concept of using multi-use gear as a part of an UL solution. I have not seen any updates for this last 2013 season, so I thought I'd drop you a line. If you don't mind taking a few minutes, would you respond to these questions?
1. Now that you have some testing done, do you still like the B4 solution? If not, what is taking it's place?
2. Here's my understanding of your B4 system... B4 + 3/4 Cuben bivey + Zpacks Cuben Poncho. At one point I think I saw you using a Feathered Friends Wren Nano with some kind of partial down bag for lower body insulation. Do I remember that correctly? I'm not sure if that matters... more what I'd like to know here is what are you using now for an insulating layer while sleeping? A bag?
Long story short, I'd like to know what you're using now and (if possible) how I can buy / make the same solution for myself.
The Willis Wall Spin on outdoor gear is a series of short videos about gear I use, or gear I don't use because it didn't measure up in the field. This short is on the Sawyer MINI Squeeze Filter. This year I have been using a drink mix so have abandoned my usual filter water bottle. In practical use I like the MINI for a variety of reasons, including its small size, light weight and versatility. DISCLAIMER: Sawyer provided me with a free MINI on the condition that I blog about it, but made no demands on the content. I would have purchased one anyway.
After more than two years of training with barefoot style techniques, I finally hit upon a combo that works even for the trail.
I have become a cuben fiber convert when it comes to outdoor gear. The light weight and durability sold me, and I started purchasing certain cuben products over 3 years ago. Although there are many fine cottage gear companies that make cuben products, I have become a ZPacks regular customer for a couple of reasons. One, Joe Valesko offers incredible customer service, which fortunately is not atypical of the cottage gear industry. And two, he offers the customer the most variety in products at perhaps the most reasonable prices. I'll raise my couple of reasons a few more by adding that I've had custom items made beyond tweaking an existing product, like a 3/4 breathable cuben bivy and a custom front pack that I use for packing cameras. And up front I'll tell you that I've paid for everything listed in this blog article. Lastly, I have ordered a new completely custom front pack and a slightly customized hybrid Arc Slim pack, yet to arrive. I've purchased lots of gear over the decades, with some working out and some that didn't, but everything I have bought from ZPacks I've used to great advantage. Let's begin the ZPacks tour.
Suluk 46 is a cottage gear company based out of Canada that displays the innovation, customer experience and quality that typifies so many of these innovative shops. I was looking for an update to the simple alcohol stove I've been using for some years and discovered the Suluk 46 website.