I recently posted about a few items that David Gardner from GOLD Gear Lite sent me to use on my most recent hike. Those items were a solo tarp made from polycro, a pair of fixed-length carbon fiber trekking poles and a Fanatic Solo Cook Kit. And as promised, I carried each of these items with me on the hike, although it was a short hike. I used the trekking poles all 20 miles of the hike, as well as to set up the tarp with for 1 night. I also used the cook kit to prepare my dinner the first night, and then breakfast the second night. Despite that this is a very short period of time/use for these items, I did learn a little about each item that I wasn’t aware of before hand, and have decided to do my usual post hike gear talk on these items in specific.
The trekking poles saw the most use/time. These were used for the entire hike, as well as for setting up my shelter the first night.
First and foremost, these poles left me with the impression of being quite strong. They are carbon fiber, and they do get quite narrow in diameter towards the bottom of the poles, but despite this, I felt just as secure about using these pole as I have any other poles. I can only assume that since these are one solid piece, that this is where the strength derives from. They simply felt solid during the hike, and I had no problems with trusting them to hold up my entire body weight (~200 lbs) as I hopped across some of the streams along the Kimsey Creek Trail.
The simple, smooth, rounded, EVA foam grip handles were also a bit more comfortable than I had anticipated. I will admit, I have become spoiled with the contoured grips on my LT4’s, however, after using the GOLD Gear lite poles for this short, 20 mile section, I didn’t find the foam grips to be uncomfortable at all. Although, on a lesser note, I did find that my hands were black from using the grips. I imagine that this is from the dye in the handles, and hope that it will go away with more use. The top of the handles have a small, hard plastic cap that covers the end of the pole which is flush against the handle. When palming the ends of the poles, I found these caps to be comfortable enough.
The tips on the poles seem to be pretty solid and I experienced no issues with them. As well, the baskets stayed in place as expected, however, I wish I would have removed them before going. I generally keep a loose grip on the handles of my poles so that I can let go of them if need be. When hiking, the baskets kept getting caught in rocks, roots or random things, so I was constantly stopping, turning around and picking up my pole. (Craig said he was going to start calling me “Drop” because of this…)
As far as the tarp, this trip was originally planned to be a 2 night trip, however, due to the amount of people we saw on the trail, as well as the slopes at the camp site we were due to stay at the second night, we hiked out at the end of the second day. So, I only used the tarp one night.
For me, I found that what I absolutely like the best about this tarp is the fact that it is completely see-through. Some have commented that this will not allow any privacy, and I agree, that is completely true. However, I don’t rely on my tarp as a privacy screen, but rather as a shield from the elements. I don’t usually find myself hanging out inside the tarp during the day, but instead when I am ready to lay down. At this point, it is dark, and that is enough privacy for me.
But, being able to lay there that night, on my back with my hands propped up behind my head and gazing up into the sky and being able to see all the stars glittering and twinkling in the night was just awesome. Especially when I consider that I was indeed inside a shelter, which happened to be blocking most of the breezes that blew through trying to steal away my warmth, and that if a sudden late night shower did come on, I was safe from it. The bottom line, this tarp allows me all the benefits of cowboy camping along with the benefits of having a full size tarp over me.
As far as room is concerned, I also found plenty of that, even with the tarp pitched all the way to the ground, although, the vertical room was just enough. When sitting on my pad, my head was all up in the top of the tarp. But, ground-wise, there was plenty of room at the head, foot, and both sides of the tarp, even with my MLD Bug Bivy pitched underneath. (There is also a ridge line inside the tarp which not only made it easy for me to pitch the bug bivy underneath it, but it also takes some of the stress from pitching the tarp tight off of the tarp itself.) Between the room under the tarp, along with the fact that it is see-through, this tarp really felt opened up and spacious.
I did guy out the beaks on both ends of the tarp that night. I was wanting to see if I would get much condensation when using the tarp with both ends closed off. The next morning when I woke up, the inside was as dry as it was when I set it up the night before. However, we were set up on the top of a mountain, and around 11 pm that night we did get a pretty constant wind. And despite that both beaks were closed, and that both long edges were pitched to the ground, there was still a fair amount of air circulating through the tarp, which is likely why I did not wake up with any condensation under the tarp.
As far as the beaks, I found that I had a little bit of an issue trying to get them tight. When I laid down that night for bed, the wind was not really blowing, however, when it started up later that night, I knew it. I woke up because of the beaks flapping in the wind, particularly the one at the head end. At first I laid there for a bit thinking I would get over it, but it was too annoying, so I decided to get up, relieve myself and then tinker around with the beaks. I tried moving it to get it tighter and almost pulled the grommet out of the end tie-out for the beak. In the end, I just wedged my shoe and my Gatorade bottles against it to tension it up and reduce the noise. It worked fine until around 3 am when I had to get up to readjust it all. So, it looks like it will take some more tinkering with for me to get the beaks tightened up so they don’t flap in the wind.
Also, when setting up camp, I decided I would store my pack at the foot end of my bug bivy (under the tarp). So, instead of opening one side of the beak, I just lifted the bottom edge of the beak up a little and slid my pack under. In the process of doing this, I ended up pulling a bit of tape that secured one of the beaks to the tarp loose. It was not much, and it did not affect things, but this makes me wonder how the tarp will hold up in day in and day out use. As far as the tarp itself, I feel pretty good about it in most conditions, however, it is the constant setting up, tearing down, and just overall use that makes me wonder…
Overall though, I am pretty happy with the tarp. Like I said, there is something to be said about being able to see everything while being protected from everything at the same time. This in itself makes this tarp a really sweet option.
Then we have the cook kit.
I really enjoy messing with different cook kits, and the Fanatic Solo Cook Kit was no exception. David has put together a compact, lightweight, multifuel cook system that is really interesting.
For this trip, I decided to go with the alcohol set-up rather than wood or Esbit (which this cook kit is capable of). The biggest reason for this is because of the way the cook kit packs up. When packed up, the bottom of the cook pot is exposed, which means that if the bottom of the cook pot is covered in soot or residue, it will get all over anything it comes into contact with. Of course, I could put the entire cook system inside a Ziploc bag, or just make another, smaller reflectix cover to fit over the bottom, but at the time, I was not interested in doing this.
Packing was something that I did change-up just a little with this kit. Originally, the ground sheet and the windscreen was stored loose inside the cook pot. I found that it was a little difficult to remove the windscreen from the inside of the cook pot, so I simply put a rubber band around the windscreen. I made sure that it was wide enough to fit over the stove, but loose enough to not get stuck in the cook pot. Also, considering the ground sheet can get a bit dirty when using, I decided to store the ground sheet outside the cook pot when stored up. (All of this can be seen in the video at the beginning of this post.)
Before I left out on the hike, I made sure to use the cook kit at least once, just to figure out how much fuel I would need to carry. After using it at home, and now on the trail, I will plan to carry 1 oz of fuel per 2 cups of water that I plan to boil, which is pretty average considering I like to have just a little extra fuel, just in case.
When on the trail, I used the cook kit to boil water for my dinner and some hot tea the first night, and then again to boil water for my oatmeal and some coffee the next morning. For dinner, the cook kit did just fine at bringing 2 cups of water to a full, rolling boil, with only 1 oz of fuel (measured out with the supplied measuring cup), and this was with a pretty light, but constant wind blowing. (Of course, I did use my body as a wind block too.) However, the next morning I had to add a bit more fuel to the stove when the stove went out before bringing 2 cups of water to a boil. Maybe the water was colder? I set the kit up behind the famous Bly Gap tree to use as a wind block, and still used the windscreen, but it just didn’t work. I am not really sure what happened here…
Also, David paints the bottom of the cans with some sort of black paint, which is supposed to slightly increase the boil times and/or efficiency. After the first time I used the set-up, I noticed that the paint started to come off in a circle, right where the pot set on top of the stove. After a few more uses, it is still continuing to come off. This is not a problem to me, but, twice now, when picking up the cook pot with boiling water, the stove has stuck to the bottom of the cook pot. This was a bit of a shocker when I realized I not only picked up a pot of boiling water, but also the burning stove at the same time! I am hoping that with a little more use though, that this will not happen anymore.
So, all-in-all, I like these items that David has sent me. Like I said, I only have limited use with them so far, but I do plan to use them more over time. They are not all perfect by any means… the tarp is a true “UL” item in that one does need to be quite careful when using it; also, the cook pot is the same way in that it is simply a beer can with no reinforced side walls, so it is also quite fragile. However, this is the nature of these materials, and in my opinion, is not necessarily a fault. After using the items, I can tell that David has put a lot of time and thought into creating his items, and feel like the craftsmanship is very good. So, will they work for everyone? Nope. But I do feel like there are crowds out there that this stuff will fit right in with. But, it’s all up to the user… My only advice for those interested in some of David’s items is to be a bit experienced with lightweight gear in the first place.
So, I would like to thank David for sending these items to me to be able to use. I enjoyed using them on my last hike, and do plan to use them more in the future…
Thanks for reading everyone!
Disclaimer: David Gardner from GOLD Gear Lite provided me with the items mentioned above, however, the comments and statements within this post are of my own opinion, formed after using the items myself.