Olicamp Ion Micro Titanium Stove

Olicamp Ion Micro Titanium Stove

Nearly a decade ago, I started nesting a canister stove stove in a titanium mug (along with gas canister, lighter,…) as a compact cook system. There was just enough space to fit everything in the mug with a lid.

I remembered wishing the stove was just a little bit smaller, but realized I was already quite fortunate to have a stove that was compact enough to fit in my 600mL mug with a small gas canister.

Backpacking Stove Comparison

A few months ago, I started using the Olicamp Ion Micro Titanium Stove. It’s significantly more compact and lighter than other canister stoves I’ve been using. [Note: The Ion Micro doesn’t have a piezo (press – ignition), but I prefer to carry a more versatile tiny lighter and firesteel).]

While I’m a proponent of lightweight backpacking, I’m also keenly aware that weight is only on factor to consider. My personal preference and the item’s efficiency are a couple other worthy desires.

Ion Micro Stove Size

After several uses, I’m convinced that the tiny Ion Micro gets the job done just as good as my other stoves.

I, initially, test stoves in a controlled environment. If the stove doesn’t perform well there, it’s unlikely to in wilderness conditions.

Controlled testing (room temperature, tepid water,…) brought two cups of water to a rolling boil in about 3 minutes. Outside, 3-season, testing produced similar results with colder water at under 5 minutes. These results coupled with the lightweight, compact design make it an attractive and practical option for a backpacking cook system.

Ion Micro Titanium Stove in Use

During my preliminary testing I used the Olicamp Spacesaver Mug (weight: 3.8 oz; capacity: 20 oz) that can be bought separately or as a stove/mug combo (Olicamp Ion + Spacesaver Stove Combo).

The mug is made of hard anodized aluminum. The handle is larger than what I’m used to with other mugs, which could serve to keep a hand back from the flames when handling on and off the fire. It does not come with a lid.

The Spacesaver easily holds 2 1/2 cups of water, and a 100g gas canister nests inside, upright on the bottom of the mug when stored.

If you’re looking for a 1.5 ounce canister stove (1.25″ x 2″) that brings 2 cups of water to a hard boil in a competitive time, check out the Olicamp Ion Micro Titanium.

So far, it’s been working great for me in the wild and on some country excursions. I’ll keep you posted with any pertinent updates.

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    Sawyer Mini Filter

    Sawyer Mini & Aquamira Frontier Pro Water Filter Mod / Combination

    The Sawyer Mini Water Filter is good option for water treatment in the backcountry. It’s a 0.1 micron (absolute) hollow fiber membrane water filter that weighs a mere 1.3 oz (sans non-required accessories).

    I’m considerably attracted to and intrigued by this filter. However, I tend to be the same person in the wilderness as I am elsewhere. Therefore, wherever I go, I normally avoid drinking brown, green, or yellow water.

    Sawyer’s central focus is obviously on equipping outdoor enthusiasts with a means of making backcountry water safe to drink, and not necessarily on some of the other needs or desires of the human senses.

    I’m convinced that most hikers are unlikely to drink discolored, stinky water, unless it’s an emergency and the circumstances demand it.

    What’s missing in the Mini for those who want their water to also look, taste, and smell better is carbon. Carbon can absorb or restrict substances in the water that cause bad taste, discoloration, and odors. It can even reduce some chemical adulterants.

    I’m impressed with the Mini’s absolute pore size of 0.1 microns, but I’d like this filter even more if it would help with the aforementioned undesirables. So, to resolve this dilemma, I made a lightweight combination filter by using a carbon-containing Aquamira Frontier Pro filter in conjunction (inline) with the Mini.

    [Note: This configuration is likely to be more appealing to those who are not following paint blazes from spring to spring on well-maintained trails.]

    Frontier Pro Dismantled
    Aquamira Frontier Pro (Dismantled)

    First, I dismantled the Frontier to remove extraneous materials (weight). This reduced the total weight by over half an ounce – from 2.0 oz to 1.4 oz.

    Next, I cut a small portion of the Frontier’s tubing and used it to connect the Frontier’s output to the Mini’s input.

    Sawyer Mini with Aquamira Frontier Pro
    Sawyer Mini & Aquamira Frontier Pro Connected In-Line

    By the way, the Sawyer Mini comes with a collapsible water bag (not shown) that can be used to squeeze (force by roll down) untreated water through the Mini for filtration. I replaced the bag with a lighter, perhaps more durable Platypus 0.5L Soft Bottle (sans cap).

    [Note: The above photo shows the prefilter attached to the Frontier (far right). This may be removed for further weight savings - beyond the calculations in this report.]

    There are a number of inline carbon options available including but not limited to the Katadyn Carbon Cartridge, Platypus GravityWorks Carbon Element, Platypus Gravityworks Filter Cartridge, Aquamira Replacement Capsule Filter, and the Seychelle Inline Eliminator. I chose to use the Frontier Pro for this system for its lightweight, compact, and effective properties.

    Sawyer Mini & Frontier Pro Filters
    Sawyer Mini & Aquamira Frontier Pro Filter Configuration in Use

    The total dry weight of this configuration, including the Platypus bottle (0.6 oz), is 3.30 ounces.

    The flow without squeezing is adequate and increases significantly when water is squeezed through the system.

    It you’re familiar with the size of a half-liter, soft Platypus bottle, you have a basic idea of the compact size of this configuration. It also pulls apart at the tubing connection for easy storage.

    Sidebar: I’ve been using a Frontier Pro with Micropur Chlorine Dioxide Tablets – an effective system that substantially saves on weight and bulk.

    This mod is an option for those who want to increase or improve the functionality of their Sawyer Mini.

    In a survival situation, I’ll drink from a mud puddle if circumstances warrant. However, I’m more likely to hydrate in everyday life (which, for me, includes hiking) if the water is not only safe but pleasing to the eye, nose, and taste buds. YMMV.

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      Adventure Medical Kits SOL Escape Bivvy Testing

      AMK Escape Bivvy

      It’s my intention to test each piece of kit before significantly relying on it in the wilderness.

      I carry a scaled down (survival, if you will) version of overnight gear in my day pack. I’ve been testing the Adventure Medical Kits SOL Escape Bivvy as part of my cold weather sleep/shelter system – to be used in emergencies.

      The Escape is made with an AMK proprietary olefin fabric with an interior metalized coating. It’s breathable, windproof, and water resistant. It features a side zipper, a drawstring hood, and waterproof seams.

      It’s intended to keep the user warm and dry in a survival situation.

      I have both the orange and “OD Green” (shown above) versions of the Escape.

      It weighs (sans stuff sack) 8.2 ounces. It measures relatively 84″ x 31″.

      My recent testing consisted of overnight use in snowy conditions at 24 degrees (F) with minimal wind.

      Because my ultimate objective is to determine the useful parameters of the Escape as a part of an emergency sleep/shelter system, I conduct my testing using only the items that I would be wearing or carrying on a typical day trip.

      Items Worn/Used

      Baselayer (top, bottom)
      Nylon Hiking Pants
      Primaloft One Pants
      Fleece Pullover
      Lightweight Primaloft One Insulated Jacket (no hood)
      Merino Wool Blend Socks (one pair)
      Cold Weather Hiking Shoes
      Wool-blend Liner Gloves
      Polar Reversible Buff (see Winter Buff thread)
      Thin Merino Wool Blend Beanie
      Poncho Tarp (pitched overhead)
      UL DownMat
      Section of UL Groundsheet
      Snowclaw (UL shovel)

      Some other clothing items that were carried but not used include a Paclite shell jacket with hood and outer/warmer gloves. [Note: I have an on-body survival kit system which also includes an emergency blanket. But none of this was used during this testing.]

      These items (among others) are carried with me on winter day (snowshoeing) hikes with temperatures ranging in the upper teens to 30s.

      In the event of an unexpected emergency in which I must stay the night on what would have otherwise been a winter day hike, I’m likely to use all the clothing that I have on hand, pitch a (poncho) tarp, and sleep in an emergency blanket or bivouac. During this testing, I did just that. I wore nearly everything and used my poncho and bivvy as shelter.

      Another important piece of gear that I carry on cold weather hikes is an insulated mat. They are so much lighter these days, and it keeps me from having to rely on cutting tree boughs and gathering debris. In my area, I’m also likely to be sleeping on snow in the winter, so the mat is always carried in my day pack. It’s light and compact. I don’t notice it in my pack, but would certainly miss it in an emergency if I didn’t have it available. The cold ground will quickly take the core body temperature into the danger zone without adequate ground insulation.

      Conclusion

      So, how did it go? I’m writing about it, so I’m glad to report that I didn’t freeze to death. In fact, far from it.

      During the first hour of my testing, I had to ventilate around my upper chest and neck area, because I was overheating. This had a lot do with being a little worked up from setting up camp and getting nestled in. I was careful to avoid getting too sweaty, though I was still quite warm for a while.

      After a few hours, I did feel some “cold spots” on my knees (when they’d push against the bivvy) and the middle of my back. These were minimal and managed by changing positions. Overall, I stayed warm and dry. [Keep in mind, the highest outside temperature reached was 24 deg F.]

      By the way, I wore my shoes in the Escape. In a survival scenario, I wouldn’t take them off during the night unless it was necessary or reasonable. In this case, they helped keep my feet warm.

      Other than a little moisture near the neck area from my breathing, there wasn’t any condensation inside the Escape.

      I still have more testing to do, but so far it’s working as expected. It’s worth mentioning that Adventure Medical Kits does not advertize that the Escape will perform in these specific conditions. I’m merely determining how this will function for my intended use.

      As always, I highly recommend and advise that everyone test their gear in a safe environment – to determine whether or not it will perform to their own expectations and requirements.

      I’ll keep you posted on any significant developments regarding my testing of the SOL Escape Bivvy.

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        Quik Pod

        Quik Pod DSLR POV & Explorer II

        Quik Pod DSLR POV and Explorer II

        When I was a teenager, I wanted a way to include myself in scenic photos that I’d take while hiking in the desert. I accomplished this by fashioning a clamp system to the end of my hiking stick (eventually a saguaro cactus rib) to function as an attachment point for my camera. When others saw me holding the stick with the camera attached to it, extended out from my body, they’d ask “what are you doing?” and “what is that?”

        I explained that I was including myself in the picture and proudly declared it’s my “StikPod” (Stik Pod, Stick Pod). I came up with the name based on the fact that I was using a stick of sorts and attaching my camera to a “pod” (acquired from pod in tripod). [Note: I referred to this several years ago in another posted article.]

        Today, there are more practical products for photographers to include themselves and others in their photos and videos. There are a few devices that can be connected to the end of a trekking or ski pole. These might be acceptable to those who don’t mind switching the function back and forth from camera use to hiking or skiing use. These pole attachment devices are not as versatile as other options.

        A practical, multifunctional camera extension pole system is the Quik Pod. It offers a wide-range of uses to photographers and videographers – especially those who do more than snap selfies (newbie term for self-portraits) or film their talking heads (aka video trail journaling). [Bonus tip: film what you’re seeing/doing too).

        The Quik Pod comes in several different models that are all suitable for self-portraits/video. But that’s not all they can do. The following is an overview of two Quik Pod models: Quik Pod DSLR/POV and Quik Pod Explorer II. In this article, I’ll share the specs along with my comments, tips, and experiences for these Quik Pod products.

        Quik Pod DSLR/POV Specs & Comments

        • Made from hard anodized aluminum. I’m satisfied with the materials. It’s as light as it can be to safely hold a camera and stronger than some low-end tripods.
        • Waterproof. This is a great feature for use in the rain and underwater. I also appreciate the stainless steel screws. And it meets ASTM/ISO standards for salt water usage.
        • Color: black. I really like the non-reflective surface on this model.
        • Mirror. The tiny mirror is sufficient for positioning subjects in the shot. This feature is missing on other options on the market.
        • Rubberized grip handle. This makes a difference when holding a pole for a significant amount of time.
        • Retracted size is 18″. This allows it to be attached to a shoulder strap or tucked into a front or side backpack pocket.
        • Extended size is 53″. Every extended inch has come in handy to capture shots and clips that are out of my reach for a variety of reasons (discussed later).
        • Quik Release Camera Mount. I can easily switch cameras with the included standard and GoPro mounts.
        • Tripod Mount. Now that’s versatility. “Look mom, no hands”
        • Accommodates camera or other device up to 4.4 pounds when handheld and up to 7.7 pounds when used in monopod mode.
        • Weighs: Reported: 9 ounces; Verified by my calibrated scale: 10.45 ounces (for the extension pole and the quick release adapter).

        The Quik Pod DSLR/POV includes the following: “GOPRO compatible quick release adapter, 1/4″ x 20 quick release adapter, tree bumper, pocket clip, rubber monopod adapter, built-in self image mirror, wrist strap, hiking clip, belly pad and carry bag.”

        Quik Pod Explorer II
        Quik Pod Explorer II & Accessories

        Quik Pod Explorer II Specs & Comments

        • Made from stainless steel. It feels very secure with my compact camera or GoPro attached.
        • Waterproof. This is a great feature for use in the rain and underwater. I appreciate the stainless steel screws too. And it meets ASTM/ISO standards for salt water usage.
        • Color: Chrome-like. I prefer the non-reflective black of the DSLR/POV model, but I haven’t encountered any troubles associated with the stainless steel.
        • Mirror. The tiny mirror is sufficient for positioning subjects in the shot. This is a feature that is missing on other options on the market.
        • Rubberizes grip handle. Soft and doesn’t slip.
        • Retracted size is 8.5″. This allows it to to be easily attached to a shoulder strap or belt. It can also be tucked into a pants (cargo), jacket, or pack pocket.
        • Extended size is 39″. I’ve found this to be acceptable for standard use.
        • Quik Release Camera Mount. I can easily switch cameras with the included standard, GoPro, and smartphone mounts.
        • Tripod Mount. This increases the versatility.
        • Accommodates camera or other device up to 16 ounces.
        • Weighs: Reported: 5 ounces; Verified by my calibrated scale: 5.05 ounces (for the extension pole and the quick release adapter).

        The Quik Pod Explorer II includes the following: “GOPRO compatible adapter, 1/4″ x 20 quick release adapter, padded carry bag, waterproof wrist strap, hiking clip, camera tightening tool and mini-smartphone adapter.”

        Quik Pod & GoPro
        Quik Pod DSLR/POV & GoPro Hero 3

        Some of the typical uses for a Quik Pod include:

        • Self-portraits/videos. No need to place (or attach) the camera on an out-of-reach object, or to run to get into the shot, or to ask someone else to take the photo (and perhaps even miss out on being in it).
        • Above a crowd. This can come in handy if you want a shot that is otherwise blocked by people or objects in front of you.
        • Underwater. This use is typically suggested for those shooting stills or video while swimming underwater.
        • Monopod/Tripod. A Quik Pod can be used as a monopod. This is particularly handy to help steady the camera in low lighting. They’re also capable of being used in a standalone tripod mode.

        Quik Pod Wildlife
        Quik Pod DSLR/POV in Use at Tide Pool

        Here are some of the other ways in which I’ve used a Quik Pod:

        • Low and aerial shots. I’ll extend the Quik Pod at a steep angle (not quite straight up) to give a different perspective/angle for a clip or shot. I may also position it low to capture a clip of my legs and feet while hiking.
        • Rear shots. I can take a photo or video behind my back (showing front of backpack) while I’m hiking.
        • Underwater shots without getting wet. I enjoy filming the aquatic life in rivers, streams, and the oceans (see example clips in attached video). I can easily do this from the shore.
        • Otherwise out-of-reach shots. This may be a shot down an embankment or into a hole in a tree or the ground.
        • Safe distance shots. I’ve been able to get shots of snakes and other potentially troublesome subjects or conditions.
        • Less invasive shooting. I can get shots of flora and fauna without stepping on sensitive living things. For example, on several occasions I’ve recorded video in tide pools, and the Quik Pod allowed me be to be back far enough to avoid stepping on smaller, hard to avoid anemones and other living things.
        • Stabilization. The Quik Pod can also help to take out some of the bounce and shake when recording. Extending it out with one hand while using the other hand to offer additional support can help produce more stable shots.

        My Video Clips of Quik Pod in Use

        Personal Tips

        If you use multiplle cameras, a spare quick release can help to quickly switch between cameras.

        After use in water, wipe the Quik Pod dry, when its fully extended. Be sure to remove the quick release to get to any hidden water.

        Tether your camera to the Quik Pod to protect it from loss if the adapter (…) is somehow compromised. [Note: I haven't heard of this happening and suspect it's very rare.]

        Be mindful that your hand movement on the Quik Pod handle can be picked up and heard on your video’s audio recording. Some practice and attention to detail will help. Of course, if you’re adding audio when editing, then this will not be much of an issue. But it’s still a good idea to steady your hand movements to help faciliate video stabilization.

        I’ve found the Quik Pod’s ability to adjust in a variety of positions significantly more useful than the mostly fixed position of a trekking pole add-on camera mount.

        Beware of copycat or inferior camera extension pole (monopod) products. I’ve used other models and they’re not as feature-rich and fall short in craftsmanship. Do a careful comparison to find a trustworthy option that meets your own criteria.

        Quik Pod Uses
        Quik Pod DSLR/POV

        For most of my general outdoor excursions, I most often use the Quik Pod DSLR/POV. I like its features and tripod-like lever locks for section adjustments. It would be nice to see a model just like this (black, hard anodized aluminum with level locks) in a smaller version, exclusively for compact cameras.

        I feel the DSLR/POV is worth every ounce of its 10 ounce weight, for the benefits it provides. It’s sturdy enough for a common DSLR setup and it helps to get shots that would be very difficult to obtain without it.

        For lightweight backpacking, the Explorer II may be more appealing at 5 ounces. That’s approximately equivelant to a good swig of water or a couple candy bars. There’s no problem stowing or quickly deploying it. It retracts to about the length of a water bottle.

        A creative person may be able to think of some multiuses for a Quik Pod, to leverage its appeal for lightweight backpacking. I’ve tested it for spreading some mosquito netting and it got the job done. However, some things are simply worth their weight when used as intended. Over the years, I’ve spoke with several backpackers that lost their backpacking joy by leaving useful gear behind. Many hikers that enjoy photography will understand the benefits of using a Quik Pod – especially those that realize that weight is only a part of an individual’s considerations when making gear choices.

        The Quik Pod has become a useful part of my excursion and hiking gear, when capturing unique stills and clips is my objective. There may be times when I leave it home to reduce the amount of gear that I carry, but I hope not. Since I’ve been using it, it’s missed when it’s not on hand. It allows me to get some shots that would be impossible or difficult without it.

        I hope to have more to share about the Quik Pod and my experiences with it in the future.

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          Sea to Summit Micro McIII Sleeping Bag

          Do you remember that jingle “Come see the softer side of Sears”? Well, I’d like to invite you to see the lighter side of Sea to Summit.

          Sea to Summit has produced an impressive catalog of lightweight gear in the past few years. It wasn’t long ago when their shelter offerings were limited to a tarp-poncho (nice and still available) and a rather small, heavy tarp (passed away). And while they offered several travel and sleeping bag liners, sleeping bags were not yet in their lineup.

          Today they offer a wide range of outdoor gear including fully-enclosed shelters, packs, and sleeping bags. They have much more available than the scope of this article will allow – so check them out yourself to see their extensive product line.

          Sea to Summit has definitely caught the lightweight bug. Their soon-to-be-released 12.3 ounce Spark SpI sleeping bag will vouch for that. The down fill in this bag weighs more than all its other materials combined.

          Another impressive sleeping bag and subject of this article is the Sea to Summit Micro McIII.

          The McIII is a 3-season mummy-style, box-quilted, sleeping bag with a differential cut shell and (convertible) drawstring footbox. It sports a draft tube with an anti-snag YKK #3 zipper system, a hood with dual adjustments, and a generously sized internal pocket.

          Micro McIII Sleeping Bag
          Sea to Summit Micro McIII Package

          Manufacturer Specifications

          Down: Ultra-Dry Down™, 850+ Loft, 90% Down cluster, premium European Goose Down
          Fill weight: Regular 350 g/12 oz | Long 380 g | 13 oz
          Bag weight: Regular 710 g/1 lb 9 oz | Long 780 g/1 lb 12 oz
          Length / zip options: Regular – right zip | Long – left zip
          Season Ratings: Spring/Autumn/Winter, EN Rating (Lower limit) 28F/-2C
          The McIII is distributed with an Ultra-Sil compression bag, mesh storage cell, and a laundry bag (with printed care instructions on it).

          Personal Weight Verification

          My calibrated scale indicates that a regular McIII weighs 25.4 oz. It’s advertised on the tag as 25 ounces, so that’s close enough for me. As I’ll demonstrate further in this article, the features and versatility of this sleeping bag are worthy of its weight.

          The included Ultra-Sil compression sack weighs 2.05 oz. This may come in handy for those with minimal pack space available and that could benefit from substantial compression.

          Some backpackers (including myself) do not use “compression” sacks but instead opt for a lighter, waterproof sack. A couple alternatives include an Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (8L) at 1.15 oz or a Turkey-Size Oven Bag (19” x 23.5”) at 0.50 oz. The dry sack allows for moderate to significant compression, and the turkey bag offers minimal compression while providing enhanced distribution in the pack.

          Micro McIII
          Sea to Summit Micro McIII Footbox Open (Temperature Regulation Mode)

          General Observations

          I’m impressed with the detail that Sea to Summit has put into this sleeping bag and the included accessories.

          They’ve included a zippered, net stow bag that is great for handling and storage. A cotton laundry sack that has comprehensive care instructions printed on it. And there’s even an informative letter by Sea to Summit founder Tim Macartney-Snape (mountaineer and author) and a copy of the “Down Batch Test Report” from the International Down Feather Laboratory (IDFL) which are nice touches to further complement the product. [More on this later.]

          Sea to Summit Micro McIII
          Sea to Summit Micro McIII Security Pocket

          Goose Down / Box Quilted

          The McIII has 850+ fill power Ultra-Dry Down™. The Ultra-Dry Down™ has a “nano-thin” anti-bacterial/microbial treatment that is said to absorb 30% less moisture and retain over 60% more loft than does untreated down – without effecting weight or loft.

          While I’ve seen more geese in the cold water than I have in the dry desert, I do appreciate the extra effort to enhance the insulating quality of down when wet. I’ll continue to protect my bag from sweat, condensation, and precipitation as best as I can. But the added (potential) protection is certainly a welcome bonus.

          There are few companies that I trust regarding the goose down in their products. Each of them observe strict standards and subject their down products to independent laboratory (e.g. IDFL) testing and certification. More than a few bags that I’ve scrutinized do not have the quality of down that they are said to have. I can actually feel the lack of loft and empty space in the baffles. When held to the light, downless voids, that translate into cold spots, are readily visible.

          One thing that I want you to take from this article, above all else, is that it’s imperative that you don’t blindly accept the numbers (e.g. 800 fill,…) on a bag, tag, or in an outdoor rag (magazine). Demand proof in the form of reputable third party testing and certification.

          Did you know that some down products (sleeping bags) may contain immature down? That is, it’s from early moultings which produce fragile down that will not hold up (loft, endure) as will mature down. Mature down is lighter and has the attributes to provide more warmth. As geese mature their down forms tiny hooks that enable the down to cling together which further enhances its insulative property when used in sleeping bags.

          Micro McIII Duvet
          Sea to Summit Micro McIII Duvet Mode

          Bag Architecture

          The McIII is box-quilted with 3 dimensional baffles (not sewn through). This construction ensures that the down stays where it belongs and minimizes heat loss through seams.

          The shell fabric is cut larger than the lining. This differential cut allows the down insulation to achieve optimal loft.

          Rating

          Sea to Summit uses the EN13537 European standard for sleeping bag temperature ratings. The “standard” is an effort to standardize ratings and offer consumers essentially three temperature ratings – namely Comfort, Lower Limit, and Extreme.

          These ratings are applied to what is referred to as a standard man and a standard woman. As a guide, a standard man is defined as a 25 year old, about 5’ 8” tall, and weighing about 160 pounds. A standard woman is a 25 year old, about 5’ 3” tall, and weighing about 132 pounds.

          In short, Comfort is the temperature that a “standard” woman can sleep comfortably; Lower Limit is the temperature that a “standard” man can continuously sleep for eight hours in a curled position; and, Extreme is the minimum temperature rating that a “standard” woman can essentially live for six hours without freezing to death.

          Keep in mind, these standards are merely baselines that serve to compare ratings and specs. For example, they make it somewhat easier to compare the rating of one company’s sleeping bag with that of another.

          There are several variables to consider regarding these standards and ratings including but not limited to age (older people might sleep colder), individual metabolism, medical condition, and level of physical fitness. It’s important for the individual to test and know her/his own personal requirements for warmth.

          The McIII has a Comfort rating of 39°F, a Lower Limit rating of 28°F, and an Extreme rating of 0°F. If I were to classify the rating of this bag by the old (non-standard) method, I’d roughly list it as a 30°F bag – which doesn’t mean much and is subject to individual testing. I suppose the “standards” at least allow one to basically compare from product to product.

          Micro McIII Quilt
          Sea to Summit Micro McIII Hammock Top Quilt Mode

          Shell

          The 2D NanoShell grey fabric is currently the lightest that Sea to Summit uses in their sleeping bags. The McIII shell utilizes this lightweight, breathable, water-resistant fabric.

          A special DWR application features nano-sized particles that demonstrate an ability to better adhere to the fabric and thereby enhance the longevity of the water-repellency (1000mm) while maintaining significant breathability (>7,500 g/m2/24hr).

          In practical terms, this shell does a good job at both keeping external moisture (snow, rain) out and allowing internal moisture (perspiration) to escape via micropores in the fabric’s water-repellent, breathable coating.

          Lining

          The down-proof lining is soft, black 20D polyester with a cire finish.

          Hood

          The hood differs from those on most other sleeping bag, in that it’s essentially a down-filled flap that takes on the shape of traditional hood when the dual-adjustment drawcord is used to form and fit it as desired.

          Micro McIII Footbox
          Sea to Summit Micro McIII Footbox

          Foot

          Sea to Summit lists the primary use of the drawcord foot closure as means to regulate temperature. Useful indeed. I’ll offer a couple more uses that I’ve found to be practical. I call them camp mode and hammock (top quilt) mode.

          Camp mode involves wearing the McIII like a jumper with both feet (shoes) freely outside of the open foot. Wearing a typical sleeping bag around camp would be like being in a sack race. Stumbling is likely. The drawcord allows the foot to be open for sitting, standing, and walking without damaging the bottom of the bag.

          Hammock mode is using the McIII as a top quilt with a footbox. Simply cinch the drawcord and zip the bag up from the bottom just enough to form a secure footbox. Put your feet in the footbox, drape the quilt over you, and tuck the sides between you and the hammock walls as necessary.

          There is a potential issue with hammock mode and the distribution of down. Because the McIII has more down fill on the top than the bottom (when in sleeping bag mode), hammock mode will result in a slight asymmetrical down distribution. Those interested should experiment to see if hammock mode meets their needs.

          McIII in Camp
          Sea to Summit Micro McIII Camp Mode

          Usage

          Though I have more in store for testing and using the McIII, the trips and experiences that I’ve had with it thus far have been positive.

          I really appreciate the premium down and how it lofts. It’s warmer than other sleeping options that I’ve used with the same amount of down fill. I attribute this, primarily, to a couple factors: quality of down and baffle/quilting construction.

          I’ve yet to push this bag to the limits, to observe its failure point (at least for me). But no matter how much experience I share, my shoes may not fit your feet. That is, there are a number of personal variables that need to be factored in to determine if this bag will meet your individual needs and applications.

          For me, being 6’ tall with broad shoulders and weighing just over 200 (muscular) pounds, the McIII is somewhat snug. It’s not overly tight, but I better not gain any more weight. Sea to Summit offers a larger version of this bag and other models.

          If I were to make any personal changes to the McIII, I would nix the hood and the 55/45 fill ratio. I’d use any weight/material savings from the hood removal to apply to enlarging the bag and for adding a top closure option.

          Since the McIII also functions as a duvet (quilt), an even (50/50) down distribution is complementary to the design. A multi-use item such as a beanie or balaclava could be used instead of a hood. I realize and appreciate that some prefer the coverage of a hood, but a growing number of backpackers are sleeping without one for 3-season camping.

          Conclusion

          I trust Sea to Summit though not blindly. Like all of us, a company learns as it goes. We’re all subject to mistakes or misdirection.

          It appears to me that Sea to Summit realizes this and has experts such as the IDFL verify their sleeping bags. I like that.

          I can say with confidence that Sea to Summit has a great deal of integrity and quality built into the McIII. And this isn’t merely touted by zealous store clerks, it’s independently tested and certified by the world’s leading experts.

          Surely I have the final say in how the McIII or any other product works for me and the same “say” rests with you.

          If you’re looking for a lightweight 3-season, high-quality down sleeping bag, see if the McIII meets your criteria.

           

           

           

           

           

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            Insulated Hydration Tube Cover in Warm Weather

            Hydration Tube Cover

            There are some hikes that I find it advantageous to use a hydration bladder system, rather than water bottles.

            In the summer, it’s difficult to keep the water in the hydration tube from heating up – resulting in a tube’s worth of significantly warm water being released into my mouth.

            There are insulated tube covers available, typically black in color. In the summer, the black color could cause more heat to be absorbed and transferred to the water in the tube. Therefore, it makes sense for me to use a lighter colored cover for the summer (warm/hot) season.

            I was able to locate a gray, neoprene hydration tube cover.

            The tube measures 37 3/4″ (95.9 cm) in length and weighs 0.70 oz (19.8g). Not much weight to spend on something as important as hydration.

            By the way, I’ve tried several other options to keep the drinking tube cooler – including shading it from the sun and wrapping it in reflective foil.

            Years ago, when pondering the benefits of reflective materials/coatings (…) for heat reduction, I logged some notes on making a reflective hydration tube cover. I haven’t go to that yet, so I’ll give this lighter colored cover a go to see if anything significantly good comes of it – compared to using a black cover for summer use.

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              Gossamer Gear Murmur Hyperlight Backpack

              Have you ever wished you had a single pack that would efficiently accommodate both your day hiking and lightweight, weekend backpacking trips?

              Most (nearly all) of the lightweight packs that I’ve encountered in recent years haven’t adequately met my criteria to serve as both a day pack and a weekender*. They were either too big for a day pack or not big enough for use on extended trips. Those I’d find among mainstream offerings, in the 2000-2500 cubic inch range, were overbuilt (heavy) and/or a loud color (read pastel, bright…). Much of the cottage industry was understandably focused on building packs with volumes in excess of 2500 cubic inches – though considerable light. [Many hikers would compress or ‘fluff load’ those larger packs for day hikes.]

              I’ve always wanted a lightweight weekend pack that didn’t look or feel like a huge under-filled sack when I used it for a day trip. [Incidentally, I carry overnight gear on my day hiking trips.]

              Gosssamer Gear Murmur
              Hiking with the Murmur

              Gossamer Gear has offered their Murmur pack for a few years now. The Murmur was previously constructed with spinnaker and was later released in a silnylon model. These versions of the Murmur were doing the job, but the pack was destined to evolve with the help of user feedback and the persistent ingenuity of the Gossamer Gear team.

              Murmur Backpack
              Gossamer Gear Murmur Hyperlight Backpack 2012

              The Gossamer Gear Murmur Hyperlight Backpack 2012 is the newly-updated release. It’s made with 30 denier, 1.3 ounce per square yard silicone-coated ripstop nylon and reinforced with 140 denier Dyneema gridstop nylon and 210 denier urethane-coated double-wall ripstop nylon.

              The new Murmur weighs 8.5 ounces (sans included 1.7 oz. SitLight pad) and has a total capacity of 2,200 cubic inches. It’s “sweet spot” is said to be a 15 pound carry weight – but it’s designed to handle loads up to 20 pounds. The dimensions are 22” H x 11” W x 4.5” D.

              It’s a one-size-fits-most: 16”-22” torso and up to a 42” waist.

              Gossamer Murmur Width
              Inside width measurement

              Gossamer Murmur Length
              Non-stretched length measurement

              Gossamer Murmur Depth
              Inside depth measurement

              Will a pack this light hold up to the task? Well, it’s not intended for bushwhacking, glissading, or scree surfing. However, it is reinforced with Dyneema fibers that are reported to be stronger than steel. So, while it’s not an indestructible pack, it does have strategically-placed, stronger than steel reinforcement to ensure durability for intended (reasonable) use.

              Besides fabric, there are a few other notable changes to the Murmur: a new “over-the-top” closure system, a new sternum strap design, and narrower, curved shoulder straps with sewn-in padding.

              Murmur Lid
              Outside views of lid

              The “lid” is actually part of the extension collar instead of being a separate flap on top. It is secured with what appears to be a first in the industry: a corded rather than webbing buckle-closure.

              Murmur Inside Lid
              Inside view of lid comprising part of extension collar

              Now that the padding is sewn in to the shoulder straps (unlikely the previously self-configurable padding compartment), the straps are now about ½ inch narrower – primarily due to the removal of the hook and loop fastener. They also sport a moderate curve.

              Murmur Strap Width
              Shoulder strap width

              Murmur Front/Back
              Front and back views

              The sternum strap is both significantly adjustable (up, down, tighten, loosen) and completely removable.

              Similarly, the hipbelt can be adjusted or removed. The pack is shipped with an alternate length hipbelt.

              Murmur Hipbelt
              Hipbelt connection (removal) point

              The Murmur comes with a SitLight closed-cell foam pad that can be inserted in the mesh pockets on the back of the pack and removed to be used as a sit pad while at rest.

              Murmur Back Views
              Back pad (SitLight) and hydration routing

              It’s hydration-ready – with a loop to hang a bladder and a hose port with a tube-keeper strap.

              Murmur Side
              Side view with 1L Aquafina water bottle

              There’s a mesh (bottle) pocket on each side of the pack. They are slightly angled at the top which may help some hikers to access their water bottles without removing the pack.

              There is some shock cord and a few cord locks shipped with the pack that can be used for compression and item retention – utilizing the pack’s sewn-in loops.

              Murmur Extension Collar
              Extension collar in use

              The pack lid does a good job of securing contents even when the extension collar is stuffed.

              Gossamer Murmur Pack
              Gossamer Gear Murmur

              There aren’t any significant changes that I’d make to this pack, but I do plan to replace the orange, reflective, closure cord with something a little more muted (and camera-flash-friendly). I may also cut a section of 1/8” Thinlight pad to replace the thicker SitLight pad.

              The few miles that I’ve hiked thus far with the Murmur 2012, with an overnight load, have been delightful. The pack carries very well. Quite comfortable – there were no troubles to report. I’m excited about my upcoming trips with this pack.

              The Murmur offers a great reduction in weight without significantly compromising comfort and durability. Can you believe it? Just 8.5 ounces and carries a 20 pound, 2,200 cube load!

              I’m expecting this to be a great improvement to my backpacking kit. I’ll keep you posted on future developments as they relate to my experience with the Murmur.

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                Tree Protector for Corded Ridgeline

                The following is a tree protector* that I made for use with a corded full-length tarp ridgeline. They also keep tree sap from messing up the cord. [*I've been calling them "tree tubes" or "tree sleeves"]

                The tree protector in the photo is very lightweight, flexible tubing. I’ve also made these out of a variety of other materials – including the outer sheath of 550 paracord and an old hydration bladder hose.

                By the way, a note to hammock users: this is the method I used with a corded hammock suspension (with another type of tubing) before there were “tree huggers/straps.” [ It worked without slipping!]

                Tree Protectors
                Reality’s Tree Protector for Static Full-Length Ridgeline.
                [Notes: Bottom photo shows partial tree tube for demonstration purposes, and orange cord is used for visual effect.]

                Note: The tubing can easily double as a straw to collect emergency drinking water.

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                  Warbonnet Outdoors Superfly Camo Tarp

                  Superfly Tarp Camo

                  Superfly Tarp Photos

                  Introducing the Warbonnet Outdoors Superfly CAMO tarp.

                  Theses photos (above) show a few particular views. The lighting (therefore the color) varies depending upon the angle/location/mode – but you can get the general idea.

                  The dimensions of the Superfly are listed as 132″x120″ (11′x10′). It sports a couple ridgeline rings (tiny split rings), four corner pulls, and 4 panel (body) pulls.

                  The fabric is 30d silnylon.

                  Mine weighs in at 18.25 ounces, and the stuff sack weighs 0.40 oz.

                  It pitches very easily and significantly taut.

                  The ridgeline is constructed with black, polyester fabric (which is lighter than grosgrain of similar size). It doesn’t require any seam-sealing. Because the seam is so tight, it’s not supposed to leak. [I'll be using this in substantial, sustained rain/snow this season, so I'm likely to find out.]

                  The sewing is right and tight. It’s up to standard with other Warbonnet Outdoors’ gear.

                  I have much to say regarding “camouflage” that I’ll reserve for future commenting. But, in short, I’ll say that I understand camo to be relative to its surroundings (of course).

                  This tarp is quite difficult to see in areas of like color, and nearly invisible in the shadows and at night. At least, it fits the decor of many wilderness areas — not bright or standing out (YMMV).

                  The Superfly should prove to be a great hammock shelter from blowing, cold wind and precipitation.

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                    Scripto Tiny Lite

                    Scripto Tiny Lite

                    Many carry the Mini Bic lighter in various kits – including nesting them in a cooking mug with a stove and canister fuel.

                    The Mini Bic weighs in about 0.4 ounces (full) and stands about 2 3/8 inches tall.

                    There’s another option available: Scripto Tiny Lite.

                    The Tiny Lite is marketed as the World’s Smallest Lighter [of its kind].

                    It weighs exactly the same as the Mini Bic (0.4 oz), and it’s about 3/8 of an inch shorter. It may be slightly thicker near the top, but you’ll likely need a precision measuring device to notice.

                    They come in packs of (5) assorted colors. I opted for a pack that contained an additional black (sans white logo) lighter – rather than a light green.

                    For those who cannot fit the Mini Bic (or others) in their limited-space kit, the Tiny Lite may be worth a try (at no weight increase).

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