Monthly Archives: July 2014

First Look: Zpacks Custom Flat Tarp (My Birthday Presents!)

My birthday was in April and I usually do a birthday post since I almost always get backpacking gear, but this year it’s a little late with a good reason.  On my birthday my wonderful husband came to me and said I could put in the order for my custom cuben fiber tarp that I’ve been planning and thinking about for over a year now.  So the order was placed with Joe of Zpacks and I waited, but our missions trip to Kenya happened a day before the post office could get the order to me.  I spend the entire month and a half knowing I had this big and wonderful Zpacks order just sitting at home, waiting for me.  It was killing me!  Finally several months after putting in the order, I had my brand new tarp in my hand and now (after weeks of playing with it) I’m sharing it with you!


My New Zpacks Tarp!

My new Zpacks tarp!

A look from the back

A look from the back

It is a single panel of cuben fiber fabric and it is 51″ x 96″ (4.25′ x 8′) and I had Joe put 8 tie outs on it so I could do fun pitches like this pyramid pitch.  The weight for the tarp came to 3.2 ounces, making this not just a great 3 season tarp, but also a really sweet SUL/XUL shelter!  I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am with how this tarp turned out.  I have been worrying over the size for over a year now because it was a real gamble.  For my 5′ 3″ size it works really well though and I’m happy I went with the 8′ instead of 9′.  I went with 8′ based on the fact that most people out there using 9′ or 10′ long tarps are typically 6′ or taller and since I’m barely 5′, I figured I could cut a foot off without too much change in function.  I was right.100_2394 This is not a great picture because I was trying to take it by myself with the camera’s timer (it’s hard to get the camera set up and get into a shelter in the 10 seconds that my camera’s timer allows), but you can see that if I had scooted up a bit more it would be a perfect fit.  As it is, my shoes are touching the side, not my feet at all.  This combined with my natural sleeping style which has me on my side and slightly curled up, it’s a rather roomy fit for me.  Unfortunately, while we were in Africa, our yard was taken over by a few plants that are releasing their seeds right now and the seed pods (as with most things in Arizona) are more like stickers that are very sharp and can punch through even the thickest materials.  So this is one of only two pitches I’ve gotten to try in an effort to preserve my beautiful new tarp.  I’m hoping to take it out on an overnight shakedown run somewhere north of here where the environment will be much more like what I’m going to experience on the JMT and the other areas I tend to hike in.

100_2408To this, I added 10 6.5″ Titanium stakes and a stake bag (I spent my birthday money from my mom for these).  I have MSR Groundhog stakes that I love, but they do not work in the hard, packed soil that we have here.  The long and skinny shaft of the Zpacks stakes work much better!  I am still debating as to whether I’m going to take all 10 or leave two at home for the JMT trip.  I’m thinking my standard trips will have me bringing just the base 8 but on a longer trip like the JMT, I don’t want my whole trip derailed because I lost one stake.  I am also pairing this with a Mountain Laurel Designs UL Ground Cloth that I cut down for my ground sheet.  I’m hoping to exchange this out for a Zpacks Groundsheet Poncho in the future for summer/SUL/XUL trips.

My weights for a typical trip:

  • Tarp – 3.2 oz
  • Zpacks Zline Guylines – .7 oz
  • 8 6.5″ Titanium Stakes – 2.16 oz
  • Stuff Sacks – .2 oz
  • Cut Down MLD Ground Sheet – 1.6 oz

Total Shelter Weight – 7.86 oz


My New Sleep System

For all my readers, I’m very sorry it has been so long since I’ve posted.  I was in Kenya for a month and didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to use WordPress while I was there.  So it’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy to say that I have finally started getting all my first looks posted for all the new gear I’ve gotten, starting with my sleep gear.  Thanks to the awesomeness that is the BPL Gear Swap, I have recently been able to change out my entire sleep system for my JMT hike!  I’ve had my reservations about paying the $5 for the forum membership, but in this case it was worth it.  I picked up two new things: A Enlightened Equipment Revelation X 20 Degree Quilt and a Thermarest Neo Air Original.


Enlightened Equipment Revelation X 20 Degree Quilt

I’ve been using my old Kelty Cosmic 35 Synthetic Bag for the better part of three years and it has served me well, but I felt like it was high time that I upgraded to something warmer and something with down.  If you’ve read this previous post, you know how much I love saving money on backpacking gear, so when the time came for me to look for a down quilt, I wanted to see what I could get used first.  I don’t do that for just any type of gear, but when it comes to down, it can last forever if you care for it properly.  So if I find something that is in good condition and the previous owner didn’t compress it for long periods or wash it improperly, it can be a really great buy with some great money savings.  I was choosy.  I had time to be, my trip isn’t until the end of August and I went looking in April.  I still ended up with a quilt that was a little different than what I would have gotten if I had bought new, but I’m thinking it’s going to be a good thing.

100_1182I snagged an older Enlightened Equipment Revelation X quilt with the karo baffles.  It’s a 1-2 year old 20 degree quilt with one once of extra down and since I sleep cold, I’m thinking that I’m going to really appreciate that extra ounce of down.  The thing I wasn’t really planning on having so much of, is length.  It’s a regular all around and that means it’s made for a 6′ tall person.  At 5′ 3″ it’s a bit of overkill for me, but it could be a real advantage too.  My quilt covers over my head and I still have some room to stuff extra clothes in the foot box.  While that means I’m carrying extra weight, I may find it’s worth the weight.  I could also choose to take a row off the top, but I’ve learned that before you alter any gear, you want to take it on a few trips to make sure you’re not going to miss something and sorry you started cutting.  The down in it is 850 fill and I’m amazed at how much it lofts and how much it compresses compared to my synthetic quilt.  After this, I really can’t see myself carrying anything but down unless the conditions warrant it.  I love the way the strap system works on this quilt as well as the foot box closure.  It does have a small gap in the foot box that may create some draft, but it is very small and is easily plugged up with a spare shirt.  100_1194The weight of the quilt with the pad straps and stuffed inside the Zpacks Medium Pillow Dry Bag weighs 25.2 oz (1lb 9.2 oz) or 23.6 oz (1 lb 7.6 oz) without the dry bag.  This is a major weight savings compared to my old synthetic bag which weighed 38 oz (2 lb 6 oz).  That’s a difference of 14.4 oz, not quite a full pound.  My old bag was a 35 degree bag and this is a 20 degree quilt with an extra ounce of down.  Not only am I cutting almost a full pound of weight off, but I’m adding an absurd amount of extra warmth!  I’ve only used it once or twice, but I think it’s really going to be one of my favorite things I’m taking with me on the JMT.


Thermarest Neo Air Sleeping Pad

This was actually a bit of an impulse buy.  I wasn’t looking for a new pad at the time, but the price was right and knowing how hard it can be to find the old Neo Air with the squared corners that I wasn’t willing to let this pad get snatched up by anyone else.  10154960_580298765402777_3839287149991887208_nI had been wanting to replace my small REI kids pad with something a bit more comfy and lighter weight, but I wasn’t planning on doing it this trip.  Now that I have it, I’m so glad I got it.  When I got my Neo Air on the scale, I found mine weighs 12.5oz which is a weight savings of 6.5 oz off my old REI Kids pad and 1.5 off my Thermarest Zlite pad.  One of the things I was concerned about was the crinkle factor.  So far, I haven’t had too much trouble with it, but I think I’ll have a better idea of it after my JMT trip.  I have to say I didn’t think I’d care about the extra space that a bigger pad would give me, but I really love having the space to stretch out.  It’s not much more, but it feels like a lot when I lay on it.  The size when it is all packed down is also a really big positive for me.  I’m not as attached to this pad as I am my new quilt, but I’m very excited to see how well it performs.


100_1195Putting the whole sleep system together, I’ve been really happy with not only the items that I’ve got, but the weight and space savings has been really nice.  On my whole kit that I was going to take with me I started out with a total weight of 53.6 oz (3 lbs 5.6 oz).  Not too bad, but not super ultralight and I was very concerned about taking a 35 degree bag since the Sierras have been known to get snow as early as late September/Early October.  With my new setup, my sleep gear weighs in at 37.7 oz (2 lbs 5.7 oz), almost a full pound off my original system and this will get me down much lower in night time temps than previously.  The weight and size savings are great, but I think the thing that makes me the truly happiest about my new setup is the boost in temperature ratings.  I’m going to be really excited to get back and have 20+ nights of use to review!!100_1185

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