The trend in modern mobile phones is towards media based devices centred on internet connectivity. As a result devices are larger, often heavier and tend to have much shorter battery lives. This isn’t as good for me as a lightweight backpacker, and so rather than carry my normal phone with me on the hill, instead I now carry a small basic model which I picked up for the princely sum of £10 (including a SIM card). It’s a basic, no frills mobile phone that only makes calls and texts – simple! To me, it has many benefits over my usual phone:
- Weight Saving: The device is extremely light, weighing only 66 grams(!), that’s less than half the weight of my current ‘everyday’ phone at 130 grams.
- Size: This phone is also much smaller, taking up much less bulk in my pack.
- Durability: The device feels sturdy and has robust rubberised buttons that can be used easily with gloves on, and has also survived a few drops.
- Peace of Mind: At £10, I’m really not too worried about whether the phone gets wet or damaged within my rucksack.
- Superior Battery Life: The battery life is vastly superior to my everyday phone, on standby I’ve found the phone has remained powered for over ten days without requiring charge, unlike my other phone which needs to be charged every other day.
Changing the phone I take out onto the hill has proven to be quite insightful to me, as it has once again proven to me that examining every piece of kit in a lightweight backpack is really beneficial, not just to save weight, but also in analysing and maximising the usefulness of every piece of kit in my pack.
Light Outdoor Gear Blogger
For this quick fix please check out the following link for a great tip by Brian Green. Simply Genius!
Light Outdoor Gear Blogger
Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack Review:
Here’s a review of Sea to Summit’s eVac Dry Sack, a waterproof dry bag that features eVENT fabric on the base to allow excess air to be purged from the sack.
First off be under no illusions. If you are desperately seeking to shave every single last potential gram off of your pack weight, this is not the dry sack for you. For that matter the concept of a dry sack itself may seem like a ridiculous concept. This blog, and my personal focus and interest, is with lightweight gear, not ultra or super-ultra light gear. I think in the near future I’ll write a more substantial piece on just this point, and explain my own position and reasoning. Back to the dry sack though, until now I’ve used a Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Sac (8 litre) to stow my down bag in. It keeps it dry and fairly compact and weighs a total of 30 grams. Although seeming like an ideal solution, it can be really difficult to compact down to a small size once my sleeping bag has been squeezed in, and so it seems to occupy an unnecessary amount of space in my pack.
I have been looking for a solution for a little while, specifically at Podsacs air stream range (the ‘lite‘ model in particular). Although seeming like a good option I wanted to have a look at one in person and hadn’t seen them in any outdoor shops near me. Online they have been selling for around £15 and for that price I just couldn’t justify buying one. Then, as luck would have it, my local outdoor shop got some of the Sea to Summit equivalents in on sale for only £6… SOLD!
I bought a couple, but specifically for my sleeping bag I bought the 8 Litre size. It doesn’t feature the strap on the base of the sack to help hold onto the bag as you pull out the contents (the podsac model does), but my old Ultra Sil model didn’t either, and it never seemed a problem. I did chop off the D-Loop at the top of the bag to save a couple of grams and to stop it catching on things as I pull it out of my rucksack and after that one modification it comes through at 58 grams on my scales. The build quality seems great and the main body fabric seems really hard wearing.
The eVent membrane at the base of the pack is a genius idea. My down bag can be messily stuffed into the dry sac, and after only a few rolls at the top of the sack, a moderate squeeze of the sides allows the trapped air to escape from the air permeable eVent membrane, allowing the size of the sleeping bag to be compressed mightily. The fabric still remains completely waterproof, but eVent’s unique construction allows air to escape. If you want the science, you can find it here. The fabric itself is still comparatively light and non-bulky, which is probably why (as far as I am aware) Polartec NeoShell hasn’t been used in this way.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, I like to use my sleeping bag’s dry sack in conjunction with a buff as a pillow. I stuff it with a fleece and then pull the buff over the dry sac to make it more comfortable. This dry sack is much better as a pillow, as it allows some air out meaning the pillow isn’t too rigid to rest on.
Although this non-essential item is almost twice the weight of the dry sac it has replaced, I really feel the time, stress and effort saved in the morning when trying to pack away my sleeping bag is well worth the few extra grams. I’m sure the Podsac equivalent is just as good, but I’m really glad I managed to pick this one up, especially when on sale!
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The Original Buff, A Review and Some Weight-Saving Uses:
Buffs feel as if they have been around for an eternity, but I’ve yet to find a dedicated blog post regarding their uses in lightweight and ultra-lightweight camping and trekking, so here’s my attempt at one. In case anyone is unsure as to what a Buff is, in a sentence, it’s a seamless microfibre polyester ‘tube’ of fabric that can be worn in a number of ways to provide warmth, wicking properties and some degree of wind protection. There are a few options available including models incorporating Windstopper and fleece materials. Here though I shall be focusing on the ‘Original Buff’
The first use is really quite obvious: headwear. The Buff website highlights all the ways it can be worn at the following link, so if you haven’t seen the many ways of wearing one, check them out here: http://www.buffwear.co.uk/pages/product-info/ways-to-wear.php. As a hat, the Buff offers it’s first instance of weight saving within my pack. The Original Buff that I own weighs 38 grams, which is lighter than most fleece hats available. Although the Original Buff isn’t as insulative as a bog standard fleece hat, I have found that the combination of the buff as a hat underneath the hoods of the clothing I am wearing, in turn provides ample warmth for my trips on the hill (including Scotland). I only really ever use it as a hat, scarf , balaclava and occasionally sweatband, but these uses alone justify me carrying. The following features are therefore additional to this primary use.
I use my Buff as a pre-filter for water when I fill up my Platypus from streams etc. The idea being that I place a small area of fabric over the mouth of the Platypus and as I submerge the mouth of the bladder under water, the fine weave of the Buff keeps bits of debris out of the bladder whilst letting water in easily. If I’m careful I only get around a 10cm² area of material wet, which once rung drys surprisingly quickly (to purify the water I use sterilisation tablets, as the Buff does nothing in this respect). I know many people don’t really mind tiny bits of floating debris in their water, and to be honest it isn’t my greatest concern when on the hill. However, I find it makes cleaning my platypus much easier and when drinking water direct from the platypus and when drinking a hot brew on the hill it does feel like a luxury not having suspicious flecks floating about! This ‘luxury’ comes at no weight penalty either as the Buff’s first use for me is always as a hat.
*Its worth mentioning that for hygiene reasons, when I use the Buff as a pre-filter, I make a big emphasis on thoroughly washing the area of material that I used, in case I go on to use the Buff as a pillow case / hat etc.
Pillowcase / Pillow:
A tip which I have more recently adopted is a culmination of ideas from a friend and from a blog post by the ever fascinating Robin over at blogpackinglight (http://blogpackinglight.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/buff-pillow-cover/). In the post a Buff is used as a ‘pillow case’ over an inflatable pillow. A great idea. I however have never been too concerned with taking a pillow onto the hill (a decision which is purely personal preference, as I can fully understand why others would). When carrying a Buff, I make a makeshift pillow one of two ways (depending on how tired / how much effort I have). If I’m really tired I quickly grab a fleece, roll it neatly (zips, toggles etc facing inwards) and pull the Buff over as a sleeve for softness and to hold the thing together if I move in my sleep. Should I have more time and effort I grab a dry sak (normally the one used to carry my down bag) capture a small amount of air in it, roll it down to seal the air in and pull the buff over that. In the night this can deflate a little so placing a fleece inside can also be a good option. By using the Buff in this way, for no weight penalty, and by carrying no dead weight during the day, a very serviceable, comfortable and soft pillow can be created.
This one really needs little explanation. However I tend not to use my Buff for this all that often, as I find there is just to much moisture absorbed over too great an area, meaning that when the Buff is used as a hat (its primary use) it’s less than comfortable to use. On those rare occasions when I’m staying on a ‘proper’ camp-site, rather than wild camping, I do seem to find myself using it as a small face towel more, so I thought it worth flagging up.
All in all, the Buff is a cracking bit of kit. It’s many uses beyond that of just headwear make it well really versatile. The longevity and hard-wearing nature also seem good, having had many washes both within a washing machine and on the hill. If I’ve got anything negative to say it would probably be the price. At around £10 (last time I bought one) for what is just 38 grams of polyester, it does seem a little steep, but it’s quality and versatility prevail.
Got any other uses for it?, then please leave a comment 🙂
Light Outdoor Gear Blogger