What did you learn from your last tour?

Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby WarrenH » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:25 pm

What did I learn?
I learnt that my wet weather cycling gear, Ronstan sailing gear, remains spot-on in extreme weather ... but I knew that already.
I learnt that, Telstra's Next-G Rural coverage, is getting better and better, yearly. Only once did I need to climb a range to find coverage, and that was in the Southern Blue Mountains.
I learnt that, the general store in Taralga, will have laundry facilities, by the end of this month, September 2013.
I learnt that the solar panels that I have, were only good for re-charging my gear to about 7 minutes of use, when the panels were left out all day (and repeatedly tweaked to face where the sun should have been), in heavy overcast and in the rain.
... but what I did learn was, that no matter how much effort that I put into preparing for the tour (which was substantial) and no matter how focussed and dedicated I was to building my fitness, to take on the BNT heading north from Canberra ... it all came to nought when Mother Nature flooded every low level crossing and wild creek and river crossing. I guess that is what makes it rewarding and enjoyable. If riding off-road along the Great Divide was predictable and easy ... I don't think that I'd value doing it.

Warren.
"But on steep descending...Larson TT have bad effect on the mind of a rider" - MadRider from Suji, Korea 2001.

"Paved roads ... another fine example of wasteful government spending." - a bumper sticker.
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by BNA » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:25 pm

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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby WarrenH » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:25 pm

Post once ... and get three identical posts. Wow. Cool.
Last edited by WarrenH on Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:49 pm, edited 3 times in total.
"But on steep descending...Larson TT have bad effect on the mind of a rider" - MadRider from Suji, Korea 2001.

"Paved roads ... another fine example of wasteful government spending." - a bumper sticker.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby WarrenH » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:25 pm

...
Last edited by WarrenH on Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"But on steep descending...Larson TT have bad effect on the mind of a rider" - MadRider from Suji, Korea 2001.

"Paved roads ... another fine example of wasteful government spending." - a bumper sticker.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby snafuspyramid » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:32 pm

Warren, what sort of solar panel are you using?

Regarding the laundry facilities, have you considered using this: http://thescrubba.com.au/ ? I have only used it a few times but it works well. I thought it might suit the type of highly self-sufficient touring you do.

What sort of tent do you use?
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby WarrenH » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:50 pm

SUP, G'day.

I've the $40 Jaycar solar panels. I've had them for a couple of years. They've been excellent, requiring little time to fully charge-up ... but during the last tour in June, when it rained almost all-day every-day, they struggled to cope.

I chose the Jaycar unit because I only want to run two things, a Next-G Rural phone (the photo shows the 5db high gain antenna) and an Ipod.

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Something else that I've learnt, is that the Taralga General Store now has a free Wifi connection ... so that I could check the river heights ... http://waterinfo.nsw.gov.au/water.shtml ... 3&rskm_url On the BNT there are many rivers and creeks to cross ... or swim.


Warren.
"But on steep descending...Larson TT have bad effect on the mind of a rider" - MadRider from Suji, Korea 2001.

"Paved roads ... another fine example of wasteful government spending." - a bumper sticker.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby FXST01 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:14 pm

snafuspyramid wrote:Regarding the laundry facilities, have you considered using this: http://thescrubba.com.au/ ? I have only used it a few times but it works well. I thought it might suit the type of highly self-sufficient touring you do.


So is it worth the $65 they are asking for one? Seems a bit pricey to me for what it is.

Maybe I'll wait until their FB page offers a discount again.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby snafuspyramid » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:01 am

I agree it's not cheap, but that's the cost of RD not materials - I imagine it would be mighty cheap to manufacture. I don't know of anything else like it. It appeals to me because it means I can wash my gear most days - which is good, since I have mostly synthetic clothing and thermals. If I had SF merino stuff I probably wouldn't bother, but my synthetics start to smell really awful very quickly. I've not yet been on a tour of more than a few days, so my advice probably isn't worth much here.

However, I can vouch for the fact that it does what it is supposed to do, and does it very well.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby snafuspyramid » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:49 am

Ah, another thing I learned - my sleeping bag is not nearly warm enough. It's the Macpac Escape 700, apparently comfort rated to two degrees. I had thought that being cold in early small trips was a result of condensation on the bag, but there was no such problem this time and I was still pretty cold at around 6 degrees (probably a bit more). I purchased it last month on the staff's recommendation for touring Tassie and NZ, but I now realise that it's unsuitable for that. I'll see if they'll allow me to exchange it for a more suitable model (maybe the Latitude range) with decent hood and so on, but if not, they'll be up for sale here soon enough. Can anyone else recommend a three-season bag? What are you guys using right now?
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby }SkOrPn--7 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 12:38 pm

snafuspyramid wrote:Can anyone else recommend a three-season bag? What are you guys using right now?


I use these and this guy will custom make them to your requirements. I have the ProdigyX doesn't matter if they get wet they still work plus price is just a knock out compared to sleeping bags.

http://www.enlightenedequipment.com/

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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby RonK » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:05 pm

I use a Marmot Hydrogen, which is rated to -2C.

It is filled with 850+ loft goose down compared to the 600 loft duck down used in the Macpac Escapade 700.

It's not surprising you feel cold in it. Using a silk liner will add a few degrees more comfort.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby snafuspyramid » Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:53 pm

I'll likely be restricted to the Macpac range - on the assumption that they'll let me return the existing bags. I purchased them at the start of my cycle-touring-equipment-spree on the recommendation of the staff there (on a one-day sale). I told them I wanted to go cycle touring in Tassie and NZ and those are the bags they recommended. Not knowing any better at the time, I took their word for it. I guess I might be a "cold sleeper" - my GF does alright in hers - but after 3 nights at different temperatures I can't imagine coming close to 2 degrees without being real, real cold. I've since learned that going to Tassie or NZ in any season (let alone winter) without a bag rated to at least -2 is a real bad idea, so that's what I'd be aiming for next time.

I did email Macpac to find out whether they'll allow me to swap the bags for a more suitable model, so we'll see how that goes. You pay top dollar for Macpac because of the service, so I'd be fairly surprised if they tell me to jump.

The features I'm looking for this time around are similar fill weight, but with a more mummy-shaped construction and crucially, a decent hood (the Escapade doesn't really have a hood at all). I think a water-resistant footbox would be nice, too.

Regarding the choice of mattress, I much prefer the Thermarest-style Macpac one I currently have to an inflatable mattress. Inflating two large mattresses every single night would be a pain, but more importantly, the extra inch off the ground would stop me fitting in the tent! That's quite apart from the expense.

As for the sleeping bags, if Macpac are a no-go then other options near to me include The North Face (still make some good gear), Mountain Designs, Kathmandu (egh) and the Wilderness Shop in Box Hill, although the latter is a fair drive. I wouldn't buy a bag (or tent) online; to my mind, spending all the extra money to buy something from a retail bricks-and-mortar store is worth it if the service is there, especially with something as individual as a sleeping bag. That's why I bought the Exped Venus; because I was able to inspect it in person, play with the alternative, and because the staff all personally recommended (and owned) one.
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What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby RonK » Mon Sep 09, 2013 5:53 pm

I would be very surprised if Macpac will exchange sleeping bags that you have used. Could be wrong, but good luck!
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby il padrone » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:01 pm

In about 1998 I bought a Mountain Designs bag, something like this one, the Cornice, a 4-season bag with IIRC 700g of superdown. It has been used in all sorts of conditions and certainly keeps me warm. Now 15 years on it is still in regular use. At the proice quoted on this page of $499 it's a good bit cheaper than what I paid in 1998.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby snafuspyramid » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:59 pm

RonK wrote:I would be very surprised if Macpac will exchange sleeping bags that you have used. Could be wrong, but good luck!


You might be right, but I'll be pissed if they don't. If I go into a "high-end" store like Macpac and spend that much money on the faith of a staff member's recommendation, I expect the gear to be fit for its intended purpose. I was very specific about what I wanted the bag for (touring Tassie and NZ South Island in spring), and you'll agree that doing so with these bags would be very unwise.

Of course, I'd feel differently if I'd purchased the item half-price from an online store overseas...

Il padrone, I'll certainly look into Mountain Designs stuff. They've just opened a store very close to where I live (in Chadstone shopping centre) - that's where I picked up the Mammut head torch the other day. I don't really know much about the brand...
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby il padrone » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:28 pm

Top quality outdoor gear. They've been in the industry in Australia since about 1977 and know their stuff.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby }SkOrPn--7 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:49 pm

Snaf I understand your concerns but don't let the online world stop you from making purchases because in many cases it's the only way to get what you truly want for your personal needs. Bricks and mortar stores have very limited brands on offer and you have already experienced a negative in your opinion for what ever reason to a B&M purchase. I also bet that if you spent more time in that same bag you would soon find out more little annoyances that you hate and wish could be changed so don't think this is the end of it the next bag might open up a new offering of hates this is across all brands on all items. Sales folks are not going to direct you to a brand or bit of kit they don't stock so your ability to pick there mind will be limited then you have to sort out the chaff from the wheat. You can ask as many questions on the net as you like but most info will be of no use from all of us because we are not you and cannot know your true needs the only way to find out is real world testing for yourself and your own research collating that info and making an informed decision. Doing this is a costly exercise and your going to blow some coin to find that perfect match to your own needs.

Look at the info your presented and take from it what you consider is a must to your needs then start looking for that very product that will best suit that need. (To give a very simple example) I hate sleeping bags that don't have a foot box that one little feature makes a huge difference to my comfort level now at my age it's something I now seek and due to the online choice there out there and I'm going to purchase what I want not a close second and say she'll be right mate. So think about all the hates you have with the current sleeping bag and eliminate them with the replacement or second purchase because you want to be comfortable and have equipment that suits your personal needs so start by doing it right and don't discount online stores they can be your true friend just like B&M stores can.

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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby RonK » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:57 pm

Well, it's acknowledged that women do feel the cold more than men, so if your girl is not discomforted, the shops advice was probably reasonable, and you are probably a cold sleeper. That is pretty subjective and difficult for a shop to account for.
You really need to do your homework with expensive and critical gear such as sleeping bags. The loft value and type of down used to fill that bag indicates that it is really just an average bag.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby snafuspyramid » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:28 pm

Hi RonK, I agree that temperature rating is a really tricky thing to do, since it varies so much between sleepers and conditions. You're probably right that I'm a cold sleeper, especially compared to my partner, so it's something I'll keep in mind with a new bag. My complaint is that, irrespective of differences in sleeping temperature, a bag without a functional hood and with a comfort rating above zero is simply not a suitable bag for touring in NZ SI and Tas conditions (including for my girlfriend).

Ricky, I do not have a problem with online shopping where I am knowledgeable about what I'm buying. For instance, my touring rig is constructed almost entirely from bits and pieces sourced online over a period of months, and I really couldn't be happier with it in every detail. However, there's an enormous cost in time and energy involved in doing the research required to select something like that yourself. For my touring bike, I enjoyed that - it was also practically important to learn how the bike goes together piece by piece for the sake of repairs.

However, I never viewed sleeping bags as the most thrilling topic, and assumed there wasn't much to them (I can just hear Ron chuckling). So I simply walked into a very expensive store, explained what I wanted to do with the equipment, and following that advice. Would I have done this with, for instance, Kathmandu? Certainly not. But Macpac is or was premium quality stuff, where you undoubtedly pay for their expertise as well as the product itself - I'm sure that for the product alone, you'd find a cheaper alternative elsewhere.

I do agree that staff can only recommend items from their own limited stock - but Macpac do stock something obviously more suitable (a number of items, actually).

Incidentally, the problem with online shopping is that the plurality of options makes it difficult to be satisfied with what one has. Much as I love them, forums tend to be especially bad, since discussions of gear naturally turn to an attempt to identify the objectively "best" choice. The best choice is usually the thing you already have - if you never knew that another, mightier, beast existed you'd be equally subjectively satisfied and somewhat wealthier to boot. There is always something better, faster, lighter (especially with bicycles!).
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby RonK » Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:30 pm

snafuspyramid wrote:a bag without a functional hood and with a comfort rating above zero is simply not a suitable bag for touring in NZ SI and Tas conditions (including for my girlfriend).

Well, I would certainly agree with that. Unfortunately going to a premium shop and paying a premium price is no guarantee that you'll get good advice.

If you want a bag that is warm and light and packs small then you need at minimum 800 loft goose down fill, with a Pertex or similar water resistant outer, probably a mummy style with a box foot and baffled hood. And a full length zip. It won't be cheap.

My own experience with sleeping bags has been hard-earned and expensive. I'm a warm sleeper so my problem is the opposite to yours - to find a bag that was warm enough but not too warm. 10 years ago when I started trekking the Himalaya I bought a One Planet bag which was adequately warm, but heavy and bulky. When I decided to rationalise my pack weight I bought a Marmot Helium, rated to -9C. It was too warm - I only got right inside for the last few nights before Everest Base Camp. Mostly I just used it as a duvet. On the Overland Track I woke during the night in a lather of sweat. So I got the Marmot Hydrogen, which seems to be just about right for me even a little below 0C. I'm probably talking about close to $2000 worth of bags here.

My wife meanwhile uses a Marmot Lithium, rated to -18C and still feels cold sometimes at high altitude.

One thing I will say - I have learned trust the Marmot rating system. It works for me, and that's why I'm sticking with Marmot. Not to mention that they are first class sleeping bags in every respect.

BTW - I always use a silk liner inside my bag - it increases the warmth by a couple of degrees and keeps the bag clean.

I hope that Macpac do come to the party and help you out with a better bag, but I'm not optimistic about it. However if they do, I'd be looking at this one.
Last edited by RonK on Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby Daggo » Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:45 pm

snafuspyramid wrote:I I'd also like a larger billy for the Trangia (for stews and baking) but have had real trouble locating one.


Found these on Ebay for the 25 or for the 27. Your Trangia can be packed away inside it. I've got an aluminium billy but it's just to big. Dunno know how you would go baking in the Trangia billy.

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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby snafuspyramid » Tue Sep 10, 2013 10:47 am

Well, Macpac's customer service has been fantastic - I contacted them about the issues. They replied almost immediately. Despite explaining fairly completely why they think the bags are fit for their intended purpose (touring Tassie/NZ other than in winter), why they were recommended for that purpose, and the various factors relevant to comfortable sleeping temperature, they agreed to allow me to swap the (used) bags for more suitable options, paying the difference.

In my opinion, that is very impressive service that warrants the relatively high price of their gear.

Anyway, this leaves me with a choice between the Latitude 700 and the Express 600, rated to -4 and -2 respectively. The Latitude seems like a better choice to me, since the only real disadvantage relative to the Express 600 is the significantly increased weight. However, accepting that trade-off leaves a reduced price, more spacious bag, and a waterproof head and foot - all of which are important features for me, being a very tall and fairly mobile sleeper. I don't care about the extra weight, whereas I know that Ron would have a different preference - is weight the main basis of your recommendation?
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby RonK » Tue Sep 10, 2013 11:35 am

snafuspyramid wrote:Well, Macpac's customer service has been fantastic - I contacted them about the issues. They replied almost immediately. Despite explaining fairly completely why they think the bags are fit for their intended purpose (touring Tassie/NZ other than in winter), why they were recommended for that purpose, and the various factors relevant to comfortable sleeping temperature, they agreed to allow me to swap the (used) bags for more suitable options, paying the difference.

In my opinion, that is very impressive service that warrants the relatively high price of their gear.

Anyway, this leaves me with a choice between the Latitude 700 and the Express 600, rated to -4 and -2 respectively. The Latitude seems like a better choice to me, since the only real disadvantage relative to the Express 600 is the significantly increased weight. However, accepting that trade-off leaves a reduced price, more spacious bag, and a waterproof head and foot - all of which are important features for me, being a very tall and fairly mobile sleeper. I don't care about the extra weight, whereas I know that Ron would have a different preference - is weight the main basis of your recommendation?

Excellent outcome - good for Macpac.

Weight is an important consideration to me - the Latitude is approaching half a kilo heavier than the Express, and all those extra half kilos soon add up to a lot of extra whole kilos. You know the old expression - look after your pennies and your pounds will look after themselves.

But with sleeping bags I'm more interested in the quality of the down, and the packability of the bag. The Express uses 800+ loft goose down compared to 700 loft unspecified (most likely duck) down in the Latitude. The Express will pack much smaller as well as being lighter.

BTW - the Marmot Hydrogen I'm using weighs 700g and packs down to the size of half a loaf of sliced bread. It fits into an XS Sea to Summit Compression Dry Bag, which makes it easier to stuff as well as keeping it dry. Highly recommended.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby WarrenH » Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:04 pm

snafuspyramid wrote:Regarding the laundry facilities, have you considered using this: http://thescrubba.com.au/ ? I have only used it a few times but it works well. I thought it might suit the type of highly self-sufficient touring you do.


Snafus', G'day. I didn't know that the Scrubba system existed, until you posted the link. I do my washing in a Sea to Summit 10lt Kitchen Sink. The Scrubba looks most water efficient, unlike how I wash my clothes.

snafuspyramid wrote:What sort of tent do you use?


I've a few old tents, a tunnel, a dome, an out-fitter style and a Hiker Fly. All three tents have light-weight tapered square pegs now and weigh about 3kg. The Hiker fly, with stuff sack and pegs, weighs a bit less than 1kg. I don't have a shot of the dome to post here, but can erect it, if you want to see it.

The Hiker Fly is large enough to cover each tent, to protect the bike and trailer and to be a useful awning to cook under. Beside some yards on the Mount Rae Road, in the Upper Lachlan Shire.

Image


A 2 person tunnel tent. The equivalent now is the Macpac Olympus ... below Mount De Salis in the Traditional Bimberi Wilderness.

Image


The Caribee 3-4 person dome appears to be no longer available, it was almost as expensive as the Olympus, far too expensive and a bad buy and a Eureka 2-3 person outfitter style tent, now called the Timber Line SQ4. They now come in forest green rather than in red blue and grey, and it is still the best tent that I've owned.

The Timber Line beside Cavan Road, near the Murrumbidgee River at Carkella.

Image


In the rain at Broken Bridge Travelling Stock Reserve in the Upper Lachlan. The Timberline has two entrances and a vestibule and nowadays it is considerably cheaper than what I paid for it ... 30 years ago. Every 3 years or so I reseal the seams in the tent tub's corners and the seams on the flies.

Image


Concerning being cold in sleeping bags. During June past, when it wasn't raining or stopped raining overnight on the Divide, the temps got down to as-low-as -10°C. I added to my Winter down bag , two Sea to Summit silk inner sheets (both rated at +3°C) and a Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor (rated at +8°C). The Thermolte Reactor, was very good to have on the winter tour. I'm not sure but I think that the Thermolite Reactor has a fine metallic thread woven into it, keeping a bit of extra body warmth locked in. The Thermolite Reactor is very light. At no stage did it cause condensation to be in or on the bag.

On my last trip, I upped the number of cages on the fork, from two to four. This worked well.

Image


Warren.
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby Aushiker » Tue Sep 10, 2013 2:54 pm

I learnt a couple of things last tour:

(1) Check the brake pads and not assume that 1,000 km will result in little wear ... :oops:
(2) If I ever go with hydraulic brakes again to pack mineral brake fluid, Whilst olive oil sort of works it is not quite up there as brake fluid :);
(3) Shimano recalled their M485 hydraulic disc brakes in the US for good reason ... they leak fluid :?
(4) In the south-west of WA it can rain hard all day, day after day .... forget that when I spend to much time touring further north.

Still there is next year :)

Andrew
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Re: What did you learn from your last tour?

Postby FXST01 » Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:29 pm

Aushiker wrote:I learnt a couple of things last tour:

(4) In the south-west of WA it can rain hard all day, day after day .... forget that when I spend to much time touring further north.

Still there is next year :)

Andrew


Good to know, I'll be over there next year.
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