Thursday, May 26, 2011

My tents and shelters

My first tent was a cheap ridge tent bought from a super market sometimes in latter half of the eighties. It was light, small and mostly kept the rain on the outside. Due to the singlewall construction and lack of proper ventilation it was very prone to condensation.

Halti Tunturihaukka 3

In the middle of the nineties I bought a three person Halti dome tent from Partiovaruste in Turku. It belonged to the Tunturihaukka series of gear specifically made for the scout shops in Finland. It was very much tent for the money. The weight was not entirely horrible, 2.8 kg, and it offered plenty of space for two persons, though it was slightly short for my 192 cm. The vestibule was small. The tent had fiber glass poles and was certainly not made to endure severe storms. Still, it served me well for a couple of years.

Hilleberg Nallo

The next tent, a Hilleberg Nallo 3, was also bought locally from Partiovaruste. It was the old model with two equal length poles. Again it had plenty of space for two persons and weighed 2.5 kg. It proved its worth in Lofoten when it rained continuously for five days and it was completely dry inside all the time. Like all tents of this type, it needed a little wind in order to avoid condensation. The details and usability of this tent showed the Hilleberg quality. I sold the tent when the family no longer consisted of only two persons.

Hilleberg Akto

For solo use I bought a Hilleberg Akto in 2002. It was the first model with the lighter material and highly placed vent. This tent also showed the Hilleberg attention to details and good solutions. It was big enough for me and at the time 1.5 kg for a fully storm proof four season solo tent was a good weight. I sold it last year when I wanted a lighter, roomier and more open shelter.

Tarptent Double Rainbow

After having sold the Akto tent I started looking for a replacement. I did take a look at different tarp solutions, but always thought the bug netting was a little clumsy, even though the idea of a tarp otherwise appealed to me. My requirements included space for me and one child, light weight and the possibility to open up the side panels completely to enjoy the views. Nothing meeting the requirements could be found locally, but I soon came upon two alternatives that seemed to combine the good part of tarps and tents, the Tarptent Double Rainbow and the Six Moon Design Lunar Duo. Both weighed around 1.2 kg and offered multiple configurations between fully closed down and fully open side panels. The Lunar Duo offered more space, but needed extra poles (and a little extra weight) to be erected. Since I don't have any walking poles when bikepacking, I decided to get the Double Rainbow. Some googling also showed the Double Rainbow to be suprisingly good in high winds (a lot more so than the Lunar Duo), which suited me fine. I ordered the tent directly from the manufacturer and got it within a few weeks.

An interesting detail in American tents is that they often need to be seam sealed. I seam sealed it thoroughly and later tested it on my backyard. After a day and night of rain a single drop had leaked in through the seam at one of the guy line attachment points along the ridge. I applied some more seam sealer at that particular place and now it should be completely waterproof.

This far I've been very satisfied with the tent, but I have not encountered any harsh weather with it yet. Condensation has not been a big problem, but I'm sure that it will suffer from condensation in certain circumstances (e.g rain and no wind). There is also a roof liner that can be attached to hooks in the roof, which in some situations could add a little warmth and reduce condensation. I have only tested the roof liner in the winter, though, which is not a valid test for a tent that is not a winter tent. The weight is 1150 g and 105 g for the liner.

Halti Alfa XPD 3

A couple of years ago I found a Partiovaruste special version of the Halti Alfa XPD 3 for a very good price (at Partiovaruste). The tent has the high quality outer tent of the ordinary Alfa XPD 3 and a cheaper inner tent from the ordinary Alfa tent. This is a three person tunnel tent with an extended vestibule and it should very storm proof due to the aerodynamic shape, top notch outer tent material and lots of guy lines. It has proved to be completely waterproof without any extra seam sealing. This tent weighs 3260 g, including 23 tent pegs and a heavy (110 g) stuffsack.

Golite Shangri-La 5

Despite having the Alfa XPD 3 tent I still wanted something that could fit the entire family of two adults and two boys currently aged six and seven. Locally the Hilleberg Nallo 4 GT was available, and a weight of 3.4 kg for a very capable and roomy four season tent is not too bad. It is expensive, though. I also checked out other lightweight alternatives: The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL4 would be under 3 kg, but the inner first pitch is not really compatible with Nordic conditions. Tarptent Hogback sleeps four at the smallest possible footprint and 1.9 kg (!), but does not seem that roomy inside. I finally chose the the Golite Shangri-La 5 with a bug inner tent, since it offered both modularity and a good amount of space for a fairly good weight while being very different from the Alfa XPD 3 tunnel tent.

The Shangri-La 5 is a pyramid tent with a separate bug inner tent. The inner tent can be pitched afterwards inside the outer tent, a necessary feature since in rainy weather you want to keep them separated in the backpack to avoid getting the inner tent wet (been there, done that). It fits the entire family and feels very roomy inside due to the height. With the inner tent, there are two very long sleeping positions (lots of space left even for my 192 cm), one slightly shorter and one very short. Three long persons could also fit, but it is too small for four adults. The space does come at a cost: The footprint is big and will limit the available tent spots.

The first night with the Shangri-La was very promising: There was not a single drop of condensation anywhere, despite no wind and a temperature a few degrees above freezing. It remains to be seen how it performs in rain and heavy wind. Some reports show it to be very capable in high wind, though I think it needs to be staked down very good for that purpose.

The Shangri-La 5 has taped seems, but I applied some extra sealant on a few places with more stitching. The weight was close to the specs: Outer tent with extra guylines 880 g, tent pole 350 g, inner tent 1325 g and the 8 standard pegs in a bag 94 g. With 4 extra large ground pegs it weighs 2.7 kg, which I think is ok for the space. Two light two person tents would be a lighter solution, but I think the social aspect of the bigger tent is more important for family use.

Bivi bag

Finally, I'm quite fond of sleeping in a bivy bag outside the bug season and when there is low probability for precipitation. It really gets you closer to the surroundings. I use a cheap bivi bag from, which I've been quite satisfied with.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Backpacking overnighter with the kids

Finally the night temperatures seemed to stay clearly above freezing. It was time to go out with my kids, two boys aged six and seven. Bikepacking on trails is still a few years away for them, but backpacking is no problem. We got into the car and drove to Mathildedal in the Teijo area, a one hour drive. There would be other possibilities closer, but the Mathildedal trails go around two nice lakes and is quite scenic.

Starting 19:15 at Matildanjärvi.

Lots of interesting things to look at.

Not only walking...

... and not always the easiest way.

Bog-rosemary (fi suokukka, swe rosling).

Continuing towards Puolakanjärvi.

Our goal, the forest island to the right.

Almost there.

The first task was to put up the tent. There was actually another small group at the shelter (usually I see nobody on my outings), but we found a nice tent spot a bit away.

After that the kids went exploring the surroundings.

We grilled a few sandwhiches over the fire started by the other group. Delicious!

The evening was quite beautiful. Sunset at 22:15. Not bad.

Time to sleep. There were already a few mosquitoes around, enough to warrant the bug inner tent.

The kids did complain a little about the light, but soon fell asleep anyway.

The night was full of bird sounds, and in the beginning some noise from the other group. The temperature went a bit lower than expected, down to 3ºC (37ºF), but the kids said they were warm the entire time. Their sleeping bags should be good to around a little below freezing, but they seemed to glide off their half-length sleeping pads all the time, making it colder for them.

We slept long in the morning, and when we started to wake up the sun was already warming the tent to a comfortable temperature. We all ate porridge and drank hot chocolate / coffee.

Morning view.

The first night in the new tent, a Golite Shangri-La 5 with a bug inner tent, was promising. Light weight, lots of space and not a single drop of condensation despite no wind and a fairly chilly night. I'll make a post about tents later...

Morning exploring while I took down the tent.

The kids carried their own sleeping bags and pads, while I took the rest. My 80 liter backpack weighing 1.8 kg wins me no credibility amongst the lightpacking crowd, but otherwise the gear was lightweight. I would probably get a new light backpack if I would do more backpacking. A modern 60 liter backpack should weigh clearly under 1 kg.

On the move again.

Always something to take a closer look at.

Blueberry blossoms.

Small, but important, details.

We arrived at the car after a one hour walk. The children were satisfied with the outing and immediately asked when we will do it again.

A slideshow with more pictures.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bikepacking video

I finished the video from last week's bikepacking trip.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Yet another bikepacking outing

I have a special affection for the first part of the summer, and especially the time when spring turns to summer. After midsummer the summer is not the same anymore. Using one of my leftover winter vacation days, I went for a two night bikepacking trip to enjoy the transition between spring and summer.

On Thursday evening I packed my Salsa Fargo and rode it to the train station and got on the train to Karis/Karjaa. It was a tight fit, but I managed to get the bike onto the bike holder system.

The train arrived after one hour and I started riding. The first part was a disappointment. The trail along the Svedjaträsket lake had fallen victim to logging devastation and it took a while and some bushwacking to circumvent it and find a good route to the ridge running between Karis/Karjaa and Ekenäs/Tammisaari. The ridge provides trails and small forest roads all the way to Ekenäs/Tammisaari.

It was already getting colder and the wood anemones went to sleep.

Training grounds for the local army garrison (as can be seen from the marking on the pine). I spent a lot of time here when I did my army time.

After a while I arrived at the Västerby area. This place is just one kilometer from where I grew up.


Sunset at Västerby Storträsket. One of the nicest things about the summer is the light: The sun sets at 21:40.

I continued for a while to the lake Vitsjön, just in time before it got too dark to ride. Todays numbers were 4 h and 42 km.

I went to sleep around 23:00. The night was full of bird sounds. Especially the loon (Gavia arctica) sounds like wilderness to me. The night temperature was forecasted to go slightly below freezing, but I don't think it was that cold. I had some trouble with the sleeping pad gliding towards one corner of the tent, since the tent spot was not entirely flat. Maybe I should paint some silicon stripes on the tent floor as recommended by Henry Shires to make it less skiddy.

After sleeping fairly well I got up a little over seven in the morning. The tent spot was chosen for the morning sun and I took my time enjoying the morning. It was still fairly cold in the air and a piece of gear that would come in handy in these situations is a light summer down jacket. Something on my list of gear to get.

Airing out the down sleeping bag, a North Face Beeline 900. A good piece of equipment. It weighs just under 600 g i XL size and keeps me warm until just below freezing.

Vitsjön in the morning.

Filtering drinking water. This particular lake is crystal clear and oligotroph, so the risk of getting sick drinking this water is very low, but since I had the water purifier with me I used it anyway.

On the move again, riding the trails of the Västerby area.

Grabbskog Storträsk, another beautiful lake.

Bypassing a trail section destroyed by logging work.


Elvish script?

I spent three hours on the Västerby trails. Most of them were familiar to me, but I also found some new ones that were not there twenty years ago. After this I had a section on roads ahead of me to get to the Teijo area. About 45 km of mostly smaller forest roads, but also some asphalt.It took me almost 2.5 h, including a short break.

Arriving at Matildedal in the Teijo area.

In the middle of the day the wood anemones are awake.

A late lunch at Puolakkajärvi.

Creme de Paris. And the Kupilka kuksa is nice, too.

After lunch, coffee and a little nap I continued through the Teijo area towards Salo.

There are still shaded places were the spring has just begun. Coldsfoot and snow.

I even came upon an official bike route.


Trail along Lehmijärvi.

Leaving the Teijo area to get to the Marttila area to meet Toni Lund. Ahead of me was a few hours of mostly different kinds of roads.

The ride turned out to be a race against darkness. I was getting a little tired and also took a wrong turn that cost me half an hour.

I arrived at the Karhumäki shelter around 22:00 and started a fire. A short while later Toni arrived as well. The shelter itself was more a firewood storage, but had enough place for Toni. I put up my tent.

Today I rode 138 km and spent 10-11 h actually riding or pushing the bike. At this point I was very tired and low on energy. I was having a hard time getting any food down. The following Twitter message, complete with errors, show the state I was in: Met with @Toni.Lind om Marttila. Very tired, going to sleep now. I went to sleep at midnight. If not for meeting with Toni, I would probably have stayed in the Teijo area for the night, since this way the day was a bit too long.

A good nights sleep made me feel a lot better and I started to wake up at 7:20. This time the night temperature went below freezing.

My Tarptent Double Rainbow, a really nice shelter. Lots of space for one person and bought to be big enough for me and one child. It weighs 1.2 kg, which I find acceptable, though a pure ultralight solo shelter would weigh less than half of it.

Frozen bottle.

The Karhumäki shelter.

Toni's new fatbike is extremely nice.

Pennywort (Anemone hepatica).

On the move again.

We only had time to ride some short trails sections before turning back home. Ahead of me was around 60 km of road riding.

I got home just in time for lunch with the family, after around 60 km and 3.5 h of riding.

More pictures are here.

Toni's report is here.

And finally, a video.

A nice little trip again, and thanks to Toni for joining me.