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Jetboil Sol

Much as I like the Trangia stove, it can take a while to get going.  I wanted something quicker, and had heard good things about the Jetboil Sol, so I went and got one!  Unfortunately, Anaconda had run out of fuel canisters, so I can’t actually try it out yet.  For now, here’s a picture.

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Another successful night out

I’m lying in the tent after a sleep-out. I’m warm and comfortable. I’m posting from my iPad and don’t have my reading glasses, so I’ll leave it at that until I get to my computer later 🙂

Hello world

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  A couple things have happened since my last post.  First, and probably most importantly, mum took Violetta for a few nice long rides over the Easter break.  She’s very happy with the bike overall, though I suspect she’s not entirely happy with the trekking bars.  Depending on which side of the bars she uses, they’re either a bit close or a bit far away.  Of course, if the bike were adjusted so that the near side was at an ideal distance, the far side would be unreachable.  So I don’t know what the answer is to that.  I do know that I do not want the trekking bars, and I also don’t want the drop bars.  So, assuming I get a VWR, I’ll be having it modded to regular flat-bar or slightly curved straight bars.

On one of her longer rides, I loaded mum’s bike up with my panniers.  Now, when I say “loaded up”, what I really mean is “panniers with not much in them”.  When I commute, I carry two rear panniers.  The left hand one is light, containing rain gear, spare tubes, a bike lock and not much else.  It’s pretty light in the great scheme of things.  I split this pannier’s load into halves, putting each half in a pannier, and put that on mum’s bike.  And she complained about the weight!  My normal commuting load consists of that, plus the right hand pannier containing a backpack, a laptop, and miscellaneous stuff.  So mum’s got a bit of work ahead of her to get used to riding loaded.

We also decided to have a crack at cooking some pancakes on the Trangia.  Pancakes from a bottle, that is.  Gluten-free pancakes, at that.  Now, I know what you’re all thinking.  Cooking something like that, on a small pan, on a metho burner which doesn’t have the greatest in flame control?  It should turn out a burned, charred, lumpy mess, right?  Well, you’re right.  It did.  But we did learn something from the experience.  We learned that a) gluten-free pancakes don’t taste as crap as you’d imagine; and b) the burner control on the Trangia really isn’t much chop.  To change from a low heat to a high heat, or vice versa, means removing the pan from the flame, and somehow getting to the burner ring without burning one’s fingers, adjusting the hot burner ring, and putting it back.  We ended up using long BBQ tongs.  It was very impractical, and it’s made me think more seriously about a gas conversion kit.  Also, the cleanup of the burned, charred mess was very difficult.  I tried to scrub it off with a scourer.  It wouldn’t budge.  Mum tried.  It wouldn’t budge.  We soaked it for a day.  It wouldn’t budge.  I attacked it with bicarb soda (a suggestion from the internets).  It wouldn’t budge.  In the end, MaxBabe took care of it.  I still don’t know how she did it.  My theory is that she used a sandblaster.

My next attempt with the Trangia will be poached/fried eggs.  I hope it doesn’t involve a big, charred mess.

Now we’re cooking with… metho!

You’ll recall that I put a great deal of thought, research and diligence into researching a tent to take on our cycle touring expeditions.  I’m not ashamed to say that I didn’t put anywhere near the same amount of effort into buying a camp stove.  Why’s that?  Well, simple really.  Every time I searched for a camp stove that was simple, reliable, easy to use and, well, just works.. one stove kept coming up over and over again.  That stove is the Trangia.  Also, mum was adamant that she didn’t want a gas stove.  That meant the decision-making was limited purely to capacity (how many people we want to cook for) and accessories.  Much simpler.

I wanted to get a Trangia 27-3 or 27-5.  This is because they come with non-stick pan and/or non-stick bowls.  The Trangia 27-1, 27-3 and 27-5 are also able to take the optional gas burner.  So if we ever decide that we don’t want to cook with Methylated Spirits (or perhaps we go someplace where it’s not readily available), we’ll be able to use gas instead.  In the end, I got a 27-1, because it was all Anaconda had on the shelves in the 27 series (unless I wanted to go the 27-6 or 27-8, for another $100 or $140 respectively.. no thanks).  It wasn’t my first choice, but I’m not unhappy.  If we decide we really do want non-stick pan/pots, they’re readily available as individual parts.

I haven’t used the stove yet, so until I do, here are some photos:

Trangia 27-1 in its box

Trangia 27-1 box, reverse side

The reverse of the box shows all the possible model options.  It also shows what your particular cookset is made from (ultralight aluminium – I’m so glad they didn’t spell it “aluminum”), and its weight.  For the weight weenies out there, the whole thing, packed with all its wrappers, packaging, instruction manual etc, weighed in at 800 grams.  Removed from the box, minus the instructions, but with all the plastic wrapping etc, it weighed 700g.  So it’s actually a touch lighter than the stated weight.  But if you’re the sort of person to whom 20g makes a difference, this is probably not the stove for you anyway.

The unveiling

The contents

A pan...

Ooooo.. what's this yellow bag?

It's a burner!

And a pot holder too!

Everything that came in the box

OK, so to take a quick breather from all the pictures, here’s what came in the box (back row, from left to right): pan (sitting on top of the box), wind shield (inverted), top of stove, bowl; and front row, left to right:  burner, pot holder and another bowl.  The long belt-like thing hanging off the bottom of the wind shield is a strap that holds it all together when packed.

Graduations marked on the side of one of the bowls. That's 300mL and 500mL.

These markings are visible from inside the bowl too.  The other bowl doesn’t have any markings on it.  The bowls fit together only one way (ie one is a touch narrower than the other).  This is by design.  Apparently you can stack the pots on top of each other to cook things in some sort of double-decker arrangement.  I’m not convinced that this would be effective, practical or safe.  But I haven’t tried it, so until I have, I will stay open-minded.

Trangia stove set up with a pot inside

Pot supports

When flipped downards, these doodads support a pot within the stove.  When flipped upwards, they support the pan on top of the stove.  Note that the burner is installed with the simmer ring fully closed.

The burner

The burner itself consists of three parts.  The bottom part (left) acts as a vessel for the fuel.  Above that in the photo is the screw-on cap.  This cap is not used when actually cooking.  It is used to seal the burner whilst packed.  The O-ring seal means you can leave fuel in the burner rather than have to dispose of surplus fuel.  To the right is the simmer ring, in the closed position.

Warning! Don't be stupid! A Darwin Award could be in your future!

The burner installed in the stove, with simmer ring open

The instructions

I should probably read these.  Relying on knowledge gained from YouTube, I was able to assemble the stove without the instructions.  However, I will have a read of it before putting myself anywhere near a flame or combustible liquid.  It’s probably best I don’t do a Niki Lauda.  😆

The video

I know some of you have been breathlessly awaiting the videos taken of our Venus-erecting (hee hee) escapades last weekend.  It turns out that the video is a) mostly boring and b) a giant pain in the arse to edit.  So, I present to you the one and only part of the entire footage that is worth sharing:

 

Snowfall in Tassie today!

According to locals that haunt the Bushwalkers forum, there’s been some snowfall in SW Tasmania today.  WeatherZone has the goss.  Wow, a high of 19 degrees in some of these places.  Compared to today’s low in Brisbane, 21 degrees.  What are we getting ourselves into???

Proof…

… that there is a website for everything: Adventures in Stoving. Yes, folks. A website dedicated to one guy’s opinion of camp stoves, fuel, canisters and everything that goes with them.

Success!

Mum and I just had another crack at setting up the tent. It was a much more successful outcome this time. I think we got it all done in around 20 minutes… but the video will tell. Yes, we took videos of it. I’ll edit it and put together a YouTube of our experience. 🙂

First impressions of the Venus III

I know I promised to write a bit more about the Venus III tent.  So now that I have time, here’s a bit more.  If you want to see all the photos we took, have a look at this post.

Doesn't look like much.. this should be easy to set up, right?

Just what is inside this bag of sardines?

 

The tent came rolled up in a black carry bag, sort of like a stuff sack.  We took a couple photos of the contents.  Basically, there’s the tent, a bag containing pegs, poles and an accessories kit (which I haven’t yet opened but appears to contain a repair kit).  Rolled up, it’s about the size of a small duffel bag.  With a bit of rearranging, I think it will fit OK on the back of a bike rack.

The poles are colour coded so that dummies like me can figure out where to stick them.  The tent has little coloured tabs at the point of insertion.  Red poles go into the red-tabbed sleeve.  There’s a single grey pole, and unsurprisingly, it goes into the grey-tabbed sleeve. This grey pole serves as the ridge for the top of the tent.

I also got a footprint for the tent.  Exped claim their tent floors are super-tough, but to be honest the floor feels a little flimsy to me.  I’m glad I got the footprint too.

We pegged it down by improvising. Yes, those are dog toys.

The footprint didn’t come with any sort of anchoring mechanism (ie pegs), so we improvised by using rocks and dog toys.  If we hadn’t, it would’ve blown away and that would’ve been the end of it.  I’d also like to point out that it didn’t come with any instructions.  Now, I know that a seasoned camper would know everything there is to know about using a footprint, but I am neither seasoned, nor a camper.  I found this video after the fact, which helped a little, but I would’ve preferred to have seen its installation from the get-go, rather than just focusing on affixing it after it’s already been deployed.  I know it might seem self-explanatory (put groundsheet on ground, put tent on groundsheet), but there was a bit more to it.  There are tensioning elastics on each corner, but no instruction on how to use them, what to attach them to, or how tight to make them.

The footprint conveniently has a small label at each pointy bit that says “door here”.  We saw this, marvelled at its handiness, then promptly plonked the tent down so its doors were not aligned with the door ends of the footprint.  I did say we’re not seasoned campers, didn’t I? 😳

The tent itself came with these useful instructions:

Setup

1.  Unpack:  Unroll the tent fly side up and secure with two pegs at the footend.  In strong winds open both door and rear vent to prevent ballooning and the tent from flying off.

2.  Poles:  First feed the parallel poles and then the ridge pole gently into their corresponding colour coded pole sleeves until seated in the opposite sealed end.  Then insert the pole ends into the tension pocket and pull tight.

3.  Tension:  Secure with pegs in the corners and vestibule.  Tension the premounted guy lines forming a star pattern that radiates from the tent’s centre.  In high winds use additional pegs and guylines found in the accessory bag.

Setup variations

1. Rainfly only setup:  unhook the canopy and feed the poles into the sleeves, insert pole ends into the tension pockets and pull tight.  Secure corners and vestibules with pegs.

2.  Canopy only setup:  Unhook the rainfly and feed the tent poles through the elastic loops of the canopy.  Insert the pole ends into the webbing loops found in the canopy corners.  Tension the canopy by attaching a guyline each to the centre of both poles and anchor with two pegs.

Teardown

1.  Stakes:  Remove all stakes and release the tension of the pole pockets

2.  Poles:  Push the poles out of their sleeves (never pull).  Fold the poles from the centre out.  Clean and dry the poles before stowing them in the accessory bag.

3.  Pack:  Canopy and rainfly may remain hooked together.  Spread out the tent, fold the vesitbules inward, then fold the long sides of the tent in thirds so the width corresponds with the packsack size.  Place the full accessory bag at one end of the folded tent as a rolling aid and roll tightly into the packsack.

 

And that is the extent of the setup and teardown instructions.  Did I mention we’re camping n00bs?  Important questions go unanswered.  Things like:  What’s this doohickey?  And what’s this doodad do?  Important information such as “colour-coded .. yellow coloured loops placed on the leeward side for easy orientation during setup”, would’ve been better included in the setup information than as an aside in the “features” section.  As it turns out, I’ve found out much of the information by trawling Exped’s site for videos.  In fairness, the videos are great, and they do a great job of explaining things, but explanations should be in the user manual!  The user manual should consist of more than a half-A4 printed sheet!

Things like how to tighten or release tension of the damn poles!  It’s assumed that we already know this stuff, but… WE’RE N00BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!


And how to use the guy line stuff sack and tensioner doodads:

An explanation of the difference between the red tent pegs and the yellow ones!

I know a picture says a thousand words, and a video probably says ten thousand, but this sort of information should’ve been included with the tent.  Even experienced campers didn’t come out of the womb knowing all this stuff.  Exped, do you understand what I’m saying here???

OK.  Now that I’ve got that out of the way… setup of the tent was mostly painless.  We couldn’t figure out how to increase or release tension on the pole boots (again, the video… sigh…), so we struggled a bit with getting the poles into their receptacles.  No wonder mum was delighted with her achievement:

First pole in. Mum is delighted at this accomplishment.

It was at this point we realised the tent was out of whack with the footprint.

It's up... kind of. Please ignore the misaligned footprint.

Must... align... tent..

Once it was up, we realised that the floor wasn’t particularly tight and it was somewhat misshapen as a result.  A bit of faffing about rearranging the base and knocking some pegs in and bumbling around, and we got it looking a bit better.  Next step: inflation of the sleeping mats!  I think these did come with useful instructions (I can’t find them just now), but I had already seen the mat-inflation video, so we had a pretty good idea of how to set it up.

Maybe if I put my hands over the picture of the hands..

Without much in the way of directions, mum figured out how to inflate the mat, then had a well-deserved rest on it.

After we sat in the tent for a bit, gloating about how wonderful our tent-erecting skills were, we set about pulling it all down again.  This part was actually pretty straight-forward.

She claims she was just holding it down, but I think the thought of trying to fit it back into its bag was just too much, and she collapsed under the weight of her own expectations

Despite the weight of expectations, and the sneaking suspicion that the tent would never again fit back into its stuff sack, we were pleasantly surprised.  Not only did it fit back into its stuff sack, it did so without much effort.

It is done!

This is the part that impressed me most.  Pretty much every tent I’ve ever used has never fit back into the factory packing.  So Exped can definitely chalk this up as a feature worth bragging about.

I did take some photos of the inside of the tent, but they turned out pretty crap.  We’ll be putting the tent up again this weekend and actually sleeping overnight in it, so I’ll be sure to take some more photos and to better document the process (videos coming at ya!).  I’ll also make a point of bookmarking the videos on my iPad so that we can refer to the videos whilst actually performing the setup.

All in all, I think we spent about 30-45 minutes figuring things out and putting the tent up and getting it just right.  With practice, I’m sure this will be reduced to under 10 minutes.  I’m not convinced we’ll be able to do it in under five minutes like the Exped guys, but I can live with ten minutes.

First impressions of the tent itself are very good.  Despite my n00bness, I can see that the tent is well-designed, robust and looks like it will be perfect for our needs.  I’m glad we decided to go with a freestanding tent instead of one that needs guylines set up all over the place to put tension into the fabric.  There’s plenty of room inside for two sleeping mats and lots of stuff.  There’s room at both the foot and head end of the mats, so there’s no bumping into the fabric of the tent in our sleep.  And the vestibules on each side ensure we can get out for a midnight pee without tripping over the other person.  So far, so good!  😀

The Exped Venus III – some photos

Mum and I decided to set the tent up in my back yard yesterday.  We need to learn the process of setup and teardown long before ever using the tent in anger.  I secretly wanted to test Exped’s claim that it could be set up by one person and that it could be done in under five minutes.  Their YouTube videos show one of their guys setting it up super-quickly, so surely it must be super-quick for camping n00bs like us, right?

I have quite a bit to say about our experience, but I have to go get ready for work.  For now, here are some pictures to keep you interested.  Mum has very graciously modelled in these photos.

Doesn't look like much.. this should be easy to set up, right?

Look! Multi-coloured tent pegs! Pretty!

Sardines! Yum!

I'm trying to come up with something witty to say about this, but I've got nothing.

Just what is inside this bag of sardines?

We pegged it down by improvising. Yes, those are dog toys.

The tent, fly-side up

First pole in. Mum is delighted at this accomplishment.

It's up... kind of. Please ignore the misaligned footprint.

Must... align... tent..

Mat inflation or CPR practice? You decide.

Maybe if I put my hands over the picture of the hands..

ZZZZZzzzzzzzZZZzzzzZzzzzzzZZZzzzzz

She claims she was just holding it down, but I think the thought of trying to fit it back into its bag was just too much, and she collapsed under the weight of her own expectations

It has been defeated!!!!! YAAARRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

It is done!

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