Box of Goodies…

Thanks to John Abela (from RedWood Outdoors & HikeLighter.Com) for giving me the opportunity to check out some exclusive gear first hand. Living in my neck of the woods makes it hard enough to be able to put my hands on pretty much any gear before actually purchasing it, let alone gear that comes from cottage shops such as ZPacks, Minibulldesigns and Black Rock Gear, among other more commercial outfitters such as Montbell and Outdoor Research. But, John has given me the opportunity to do just this…by sending me a box of goodies…

Here is a list of the items that John has graciously sent me:

  1. Minibulldesign Mini Atomic. He actually sent me 2 of these stoves, one with carbon felt and one without. Although, I have recently purchased one of these stoves for myself (w/ the carbon felt) about 2-3 months ago. However, I was happy to compare the weights and burn times between the 2 different versions. In the end, there is a 3 gm penalty in the carbon felt version when compared to the 15 gm non carbon felt version. But, the one with carbon felt will not spill out any fuel if tipped over, so this stove is much safer to use.
  2. Minibulldesign Elite. This is a small diameter side burner stove that weighs in at 0.4 oz/9 gm. This stove does not require the use of a separate pot stand as the cook pot can sit directly on top of this stove. These stoves are lightweight, but also very easy to use (just pour the fuel in and light). However, just this morning I watched one of Tinny’s videos in which he talked about not making these Elite stoves any longer…so they may be hard to come by, if at all…
  3. Soto OD-IR MicroRegulator stove. This stove weighs in at 2.5 oz/ 71 gm which may appear to be heavy, even for a canister stove now-a-days. But, just as the name suggests, this stove features a regulator, which is something most other canister stoves do not have. The regulator will allow the stove to function even in cold weather (not sure to what degree exactly though) as well as burn off ALL of the fuel in the canisters. Most canister stoves will not do this and you end up with multiple containers with small amounts of fuel left over. So, with this stove, you get all your moneys worth out of those fuel canisters, plus you carry lighter fuel canisters because they are actually empty…
  4. ZPacks Cuben Fiber Rain Jacket. I thought that I really wanted one of these, until I tried it on and realized that one-size-fits-all is not necessarily true. This jacket fit me pretty tight throughout the torso area, which was ok as long as I am wearing a super-thin base layer, but what got me is how it got tight around my forearms. This is a nice jacket, 3 oz/84 gm, packs down to nothing, completely waterproof (if seam sealed) and features pit zips. And even at $165 it is in the same range as many other rain jackets. But, the fit…just didn’t work out for me. So, I am glad that John sent this so I would not have to buy it too find out it wouldn’t work…
  5. Black Rock Gear Cuben Fiber Overmitts. Let me just say… WOW! I caught myself salivating when handling these things…0.5 oz/12 gm for the PAIR! Evan uses a super ultralight grade of cuben fiber to build the cuffs and back hand of these mitts, and then a lightweight waterproof, breathable cuben fiber in the palms (to let the moisture from those sweaty palms escape). Finally he installed a tiny titanium cord lock to cinch the cuff closed. So, whats the downfall? Well, the cost and the availability. These run $99/pair and are limited to when they are on stock…
  6. Outdoor Research Helium. A 7 oz/199 gm rain jacket would typically raise any ultralight backpackers eyes, and it did mine a few months ago. However, what got me was the absence of both pit zips as well as hand pockets, especially at the $150 introductory price. However, now after actually putting it one and handling it, I think that I could have lived with it. I really liked the fit, and after testing a rain jacket without hand pockets, I have grown a tad bit used to not having the hand pockets. not to mention that I can now find them on sale for around $80…
  7. Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy. Ron uses 1.35 oz/sqyd silnylon and 0.7 oz/sqyd nanoseeum bug netting to construct this 6.8 oz/194 gm fully enclosed bug bivy that will also keep your back side dry. (And this weight includes the stuff sack.) I was so impressed with this design that I actually constructed my own DIY version of this about a year and a half ago. Of course Ron’s looks better than mine, and comes in about 2 oz lighter, but it was fun to make, and it is functional. This would make a great addition to a lightweight tarp, as long as the tarp was long enough to provide rain coverage. As well, Ron offers this with a cuben fiber bottom for an extra $50 and weighs 1 oz less.
  8. Montbell Tachyon Anorak. Anyone looking for a wind shirt/jacket should seriously consider this piece. At 2.6 oz/74 gm in a size large, it will hardly be noticed, except for when you need it that is… Montbell uses the same 7D Ballistic Airlight nylon ripstop that is used on the famous ExLight jacket on the Tachyon Anorak. Even at this scant weight though, there are quite a few notable features on this pullover. There is a draw cord around the bottom hem, elasticized wrist cuffs, a wire-brimmed hood and even about a 1/4 zip that runs down the front. And all of this for only $89!
  9. ZPacks XS Zero Backpack. This is another one of those pieces that is nearly impossible to pout your hands on without ordering it and crossing your fingers. As well, this was one of those items I was curious about. With this pack (in a size small) my summer gear list should be around 6.3 pounds. But, with these tiny capacity’s it is a hit or miss as to whether the gear will fit, and especially with “Zero” features on the outside of the pack to hold any extra’s. So, thanks again to John, I realize that the size small is the size I need…that is unless my gear continues to shrink…

So, I just want to extend my thanks again to John for giving me this opportunity. Also, as I said in the video, I do not have any field experience with any of the above listed items and this post was not meant to be about that. Instead, I wanted to share with others the gear that John has so willingly shared with me. I hope that some of this information will be helpful to someone out there, and if anyone has any questions, just ask in the comments section below this post.

So, thanks for your time…and maybe I will see you sometime down the trail…


About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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