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  • Leduc – Beaumont – Joseph Lake – Miquelon Lake Bike Loop

    Posted on September 21st, 2017 admin 1 comment

    Recently,  I did a little 118 km weekend loop to a couple of local lakes.  This was not as far as my earlier four-day loop.  This run had the following purposes

    1. Ride the new bike (first taken on the Thunder Lake supported tour) with all the mods
    2. Use the new 12L World Tour panniers from MEC as front panniers (with the ones I got with the bike on the back)
    3. Practice planning and writing out a route
    4. Provide a test run for a possible group ride next summer

    Bike Mods

    Nothing significant, really.  I took the Rocky Mountain hybrid  that a previous owner had converted for touring.  First, I transferred the pedals and toe clips from my urban bike — really made a difference.  I hadn’t realized that the pedals on the RM were a bit stiff (I’ll fix them), but I had noticed my feet jumping off the pedals on bumps.   Second, I raised the seat by 1 cm.  Not a lot, but it made a difference.  Third, I tilted  the adjustable stem up as far as it would go; this also reduced the reach.  I think I’ll want to raise the headset with a couple of spacers.  Fourth, I tilted the bars back a bit.   Where drop bars let you move up and down as you shift grip, these bars have me moving forward and back.  Not sure I like that, but on this trip the reduced reach was more comfortable than on the Thunder Lake trip.  Finally, I moved my wired bike computer over to this bike so I could track distances, speed, cadence etc.

    New Panniers

    I had got a set of panniers with the bike; they’re an older MEC model, about 20L, waterproof and in good condition.  The previous owner had apparently used these as front panniers on a trip in Argentina.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    I shifted them to the back, where they fit just fine; the chainstays are long enough and the bags narrow enough that I don’t kick them.  They’re roomier than the bags I took on a four-day, three-night trip, and would probably be all I’d need.

    World Tour 12L 5038400-IND39

    MEC 12L World Tour pannier

    But the bike did come with front racks, so…  Mountain Equipment Coop had their World Tour 12L panniers on sale for $10 off, so I bought a couple as front panniers.  They are about the same color as the other ones, so look like a matched set.   The World Tour bags aren’t waterproof, but they come with a rain cover that tucks into a handy inside pocket.

    They’re not quite as easy to access as the others.  There’s only one zip-up front pocket, suitable for something flat such as a guidebook or maybe a small flat first aid kit.  Otherwise, it’s just one deep pocket with a couple of little ones inside.   That’s okay — with the others, all the pockets and dividers just mean I can’t remember where I put anything!   It will take a few tours to decide what goes best where.

    Four panniers provides far more room than I needed for an overnight, so I set out with them mostly empty.

    Planning the Bike Tour

    I used Google Maps in the beta bike mode to plot the route, measure distances between points, check elevation, and select rest stops.  I knew the area, and had traveled to the various stops by car, though I hadn’t followed the particular route that I worked out.   I laid the route out in legs, choosing distances based on my admittedly limited experience that I thought would work, and stopping at places that I knew would be good (availability of water, toilets, and picnic tables for example).

    Solid line - proposed route.  Dotted line - actual route

    Solid line – proposed route. Dotted line – actual route

    I sent my work to a few other riders in the Millet Cycling Meetup for comment.

     

    On the Road East to Miquelon Lake

    My friend and fellow rider Susan liked the plan and wanted to come.  She had a long drive to reach the starting point, and we set out about an hour late.   We didn’t follow my planned route, electing to stay on pavement (I hadn’t been able to tell from Google Maps even in satellite view whether a particular road was paved or gravel). The legs worked out okay, though we were a bit late to lunch at Joseph Lake. I had built in enough flexibility that we reached Miquelon Lake in good time at around 4:00 pm, in plenty of time to set up and have supper before a threatened rainstorm.

    We both agreed that that part of the ride had been a good one.  With an earlier start, we would have had time to explore Beaumont and Joseph Lake a bit as planned, and maybe take a side loop into New Sarepta in passing, but neither of us felt deprived by missing them.

     Camping and Riding the Miquelon Lake Trails

    Campsite in the rain, Sunday morning

    Campsite after the rain, Sunday morning

    After we set up, we rode around the camp a bit,  and I had a shower.  We had a huge RV site, as Alberta provincial parks are not bicycle friendly.   We did look into the group site, and talked with the park attendant about how many cyclists and tents we would be allowed to have in one site; we’ll have to talk to the parks people for more than two.  She said she’d had many cyclotourists come in this summer and all had been disappointed to have to pay for and occupy a huge RV site.

    It rained that evening, sending us under my little tarp to eat supper.  The rain in the night gave us a good sleep.  The next morning, Susan showered while I made breakfast.  Using freeze-dried food was a bit of a novelty for both of us; last night’s supper was good but I don’t think I put enough water into the hash browns!   I was also using a newly-acquired windscreen for my Trangia spirit stove.  Worked well, cut down boiling time and conserved fuel.

    Trangia spirit stove boiling water for hashbrowns.

    Trangia spirit stove boiling water for hashbrowns.

    After breakfast, the rain cleared up. We packed what gear we could and spread out the rest to dry, then headed off to enjoy the 20 km of backwoods trails in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park.  Some were a bit muddy after the rain but we had no trouble.  Susan hadn’t ridden since our trip to Banff (I didn’t write that one up) so walked up a few of the steeper hills.  Only got lost once when I followed a trail that wasn’t on the map (but then, I’d lost the map, and Susan said I’d turned the wrong way at the first turn, so that’s no surprise).

    Susan, holding a treasure she found in the woods along the trail.

    Susan, holding a treasure she found in the woods along the trail.

    Heading Back to Leduc

    We found our way back to camp, had a quick cold lunch, and finished packing our mostly-dry gear.    Despite the rain and taking a bit more time on the trails than planned, the quick lunch meant we were only about an half hour later than I’d estimated.

    All this time, a stiff and gusty wind had been blowing.  Hadn’t bothered us in the woods.  But as soon as we left the park, we were in it.  Dead into it.   Turns out that four panniers creates quite a bit of drag!   A lot of sail area for a cross-wind, too, threatening to blow me into traffic or off the road.

    Also, the nice downhills we followed yesterday were now uphills going back.   They weren’t much as hills go, gentle slopes that normally we’d have cruised up, gear and all.  But the combination of hills and headwinds was pretty wearing.  Susan, tough farm-woman that she is, just gritted her teeth and kept on pedalling,  while I found myself tiring and needing frequent breaks.   I was sure glad to see the end of the 28 km first leg and pull into Rollyview.  Thanks to the wind, we arrived two hours later than scheduled.

    I was pretty worn out. If there had been no other choice, I could have rested at Rollyview then finished the last 14 km to Leduc.  But I had nothing to prove, not even to myself, so I called my wife to come and pick us up.  Although Susan said she was good to carry on, I think she was glad enough of the lift.   We all went out for supper at McDonalds then went our separate ways.

    Evaluating the Tour Route

    If not for the wind and our late starts, the route would have been fine.  But clearly, tour planning has to take such things into consideration.  Start times need to be made clear, and adhered to insofar as possible, but perhaps alternate rest stops need to be in place for adverse conditions, and end times need to be flexible rather than tight deadlines.

     

     

  • At the Side of the Road

    Posted on July 25th, 2017 admin No comments

    As I was biking along over the weekend, I was surprised at what I noticed along the side of the road.  Many interesting and unexpected things.

    1. Tools – I found a complete flex head ratchet set, retail $129; a 10″ adustable wrench, maybe $10; and a combination ratchet, MSRP $32.  Yes, over $170 in tools and except for the 10″ wrench, things I didn’t have.  I though the value was worth the weight, and carried them home.  Hey, it was only a kilogram and a half of steel in the bottom of a pannier.

      http://s7d5.scene7.com/is/image/CanadianTire/0588586_1?defaultImage=image_na_EN&wid=160&hei=160&op_sharpen=1

      A flex-head ratchet combo set, sort of like what I found.

    2. Energy drink cans – Do energy drink drinkers drink more cans than beer drinkers?  Or do they just throw out their cans more?  Is the number of cans a sign of the success of the energy drink industry?
    3. Bic lighters – If your Bic won’t flick, toss it.  Image result for bic lighter
    4. Coyote scat – I guess it’s more pleasant to poop if there isn’t gra$$ up your a$$.
    5. Little black beetles – Saw a couple of these every kilometer. About 1 cm long, all seemed the same species, all seemed to be suicidal, crawling from the ditch into the traffic lanes.  Squish.
    6. An intact and undamaged plastic flip-lid kitchen trash can.  Too big to take home.   Don’t need it anyway.

      Image result for junk in ditch

      Generic junk tossed on the side of the road. I didn’t see this much on my trip.  I’m glad.

    7. Gloves.  More gloves.  Do people throw them away?  Do they fly out of pickup boxes?
    8. Clothing – Jackets, pants, t-shirts, underwear, socks, shoes.  Not a single bra. I’ll add here towels, facecloths, j-cloths, chamois, and a set of curtains.  How do you lose a set of curtains along the highway?

    Since I was mostly watching the scenery and greenery, I probably missed some stuff.

  • Shopping for a Solar Cell Phone Charger

    Posted on July 4th, 2017 admin 1 comment

    When we went on a recent bike trip (I’m not sure if I should call it bikepacking or touring), my cell phone went dead.  The trip host had a little solar charger mounted on his gear that kept his phone going for the whole trip.  I decided that looked useful and went online to find one.

    I buy a lot of this kind of stuff at banggood.com, one of the many Chinese online stores.  The have an amazing number of such chargers.   A spreadsheet is a good way to handle product research.

    Item # Description Length Width Thick mAh Mass (g) Flashlight Notes Price Shipping
    1124246 Solar Waterproof Portable Charger Dual USB Battery Power Bank 16 6,5 1,5 8000 6 @ 1 mm square Charging Lights, Carabiner $21.64 Free
    1106656 Dual USB Solar External Power Bank Battery Charger Pack For iPhone 7 Plus Xiaomi Smartphone 12 7.5 2 8000 single LED charge indicator; no mounting method $18.94 Free
    1014154 Universal 8000mAh Battery Solar Outdoor Travel Charger Level Indicator DC 5V 2A Power Bank 14.4 7.4 1.8 8000 12 LED – 2.4W Charge lights. Handle at top to secure. Anti-water, anti-shock, dustproof . Many bad reviews (82% positive) $17.58 Free
    1116234 Solar Climbing Clasp External DuaL USB Charger Power Bank For iPhone 7 Xiaomi Samsung 16 7.5 1.5 8000 Single LED with diffuser Includes carabiner. Image shows it wet, implies waterproof $21.64 Free
    999107 Solar Charger 8000mAh Dual USB Port Power Indicator Light Power Bank for Cellphone 19.5 11.4 3.3 8000 260 Single LED Funny “handle” on top. HUGE unit. Anti-shock/drop/water/dust $23.27 Free
    1111247 8000mAh Solar Power Bank Dual USB Battery Charger Set For Mobile Phone 13.5 6.8 1.8 8000 Single LED with diffuser Compass caribiner and belt clip. $20.29 Free

    I had also checked these out at Atmosphere, where they cost $90 CAD and more.   This made the prices online look very attractive.

    http://www.noahscave.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Tollcuudda-Waterproof-10000Mah-Solar-Power-Bank-Solar-Charger-Dual-USB-Power-Bank-with-LED-Light-for.jpg-2.jpg

    A typical portable solar charger, $66 USD at Noahs Cave.com

    In the end, I decided to order from amazon.ca at $28, thinking that at least some of my money would stay in Canada.  The price was a little higher than at banggood for what appears to be an identical unit, but Amazon promised a 1-week delivery compared to the typical three weeks from bangood.com.

    Guess what:  the unit I ordered just shipped from China.  It will arrive in about three weeks.

  • Gearing Up for a Weekend Bike Tour

    Posted on June 15th, 2017 admin 3 comments

    My friend Brian at Circuit Cycle & Sports in Millet has organized a Meetup for a short overnight bike tour training ride.   We’ll be traveling about 27 km then staying overnight at his acreage.  It’s kind of “bike touring for absolute beginners” and it sounds like fun.  Although I’ve done backpacking, winter camping, and canoe camping (as well as car camping), I’ve never done this kind of cycling before.  I’m looking forward to it.

    Here’s a list of my gear and where/how it’s stowed.  Darren Alff, “The Bicycle Touring Pro“, says that a common beginner mistake is to pack too much.  I’m a beginner.  Am I carrying too much along?

    I’ve done a couple of “test runs” and have used all the equipment, so there shouldn’t be too many surprises.  Some items, such as the sleeping bag liner and clothing choices, may be omitted or changed at the last minute, depending on the weather, and I’ll probably be reorganizing during/after the ride.

    On the Rack

    Besides the rear panniers, my sleeping bag and tent are bungied to the rear rack.  Sleeping bag compression sack also contains the sleeping pad.

    20170615_124425

    Marmot Nanowave bag and compression bag, 1138 g; Therm-A-Rest Trail Scout and stuff sack, 636 g; both at Atmosphere. Naturehike tent from Banggood.com, 1586 g.  Footprint for tent, stowed elsewhere, 238 g.

    Rear Panniers

    These are Axiom 20L panniers from United Cycle.  They are joined so that with one handle you can grab them both.  I wasn’t sure they were big enough, but they turned out to be quite roomy and can hold all of what you see here with room for a little more.

    Right Rear Pannier:  Cooking & Stuff

    In the right rear “side pocket” are a steel mirror, some songbooks, a pannier cover, and that’s about it.  Maybe I’ll think of something to add later.

    The main right rear pouch contains cooking gear and some other stuff, organized in stuff sacks:

    Right pannier

    Right pannier

    Cooking gear and ... tent footprint

    Cooking gear and … tent footprint

    Stove and pot set

    Stove and pot set.  Trangia Mini, $45 from MEC: pot, frypan, methanol burner, pot handle

    Mess kit

    Lunch Kit by Light My Fire, in Sweden.  Lightweight, $25 at Atmosphere, but I have my doubts about its usefulness.

    Cooking stuff -- spatula, salt & pepper, instant coffee, spices, TP for cleanup, soap, etc.

    Cooking stuff — spatula, salt & pepper, instant coffee, spices, TP for cleanup, soap, etc.  Stuff I’ve had and used for years.

    Mug, utensils, & fuel bottle

    Mug & utensils I’ve used for years; Trangia fuel bottle, $22 Canadian Outdoor Equipment

    Rope & parachute cord. Not for cooking, but it happened to fit in that side nicely.

    Rope & parachute cord. Not for cooking, but it happened to fit in that side nicely.

    Some food.  It and some more will be stowed here and there.

    Some food. It and more will be stowed here and there.

    Left Pannier:  Clothes & Personal Stuff

    On the other side I’ve stowed clothes, toiletries, hat, games, and whatever.  Probably some food.  I’ve used stuff bags wherever possible for organizing my stuff <hehe>

    Left pannier

    Left pannier

     

    Hmm.  Hat, sleeping bag liner, frisby, toiletries kit, wrench, spare tube, CO2 inflator, clothing bag

    Hmm. Crushable hat, sleeping bag liner, folding frisbee, toiletries kit, wrench, spare tube, CO2 inflator, clothing bag.  First aid kit from outside pocket is bottom right.  Playing cards… where are the cards?

     

    First aid kit, courtesy of my wife the nurse. It's in the side pocket for quick access.

    First aid kit, courtesy of my wife the nurse, that we’ve used for years (updated annually)  It’s in the pannier side pocket for quick access.

     

    Spare clothing including dry pants, zip on bottoms for the shorts I'll be riding in, spare T, long-sleeved wool undershirt

    Spare clothing including dry pants, zip on bottoms for the shorts I’ll be riding in, spare T, long-sleeved wool undershirt

     

    Toiletries including camp towel

    Toiletries including camp towel, soap, etc.  Yes, I’m carrying that heavy electric toothbrush!

     

    Handlebar Bag

    Bought this bag from Circuit Cycle last week.  It opens from the front.  Why do they make them like that?  It would make much more sense to me to have it open from the bike side, where I’m sitting.

    Handlebar bag

    Handlebar bag.  Jacket not shown.

     

    Inside the handlebar bag: binoculars, reflective vest, sunglasses, riding/camp gloves, TP & Kleenex, headlamp, carry strap. Missing: jacket

    Inside the handlebar bag: binoculars, reflective vest, sunglasses, riding/camp gloves, TP & Kleenex, headlamp, carry strap.

    Oops, forgot these were in the side pocket: lip balm, bug repellent

    Oops, forgot these were in the side pockets:   lip balm, bug repellent

     

    What’s it Weigh?

    I’m still moving things and have the food to stow, but for now, here’s how things measure up:

    • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, compression sacks: 1.8 kg (3.1 lb)
    • Tent & Bungies: 1.7 kg (3.5 lb)
    • Panniers: 6.1 kg (about 13.5 lb)
    • Front Bag: 1.8 kg (about 3.7 lb)

    I also plan to carry my hydration pack with 2L of water and maybe some other bits of gear, plus two 750 ml water bottles for another 1.5L of water.  The mass of 3.5 L of water can be taken as 3.5 kg (love the metric system!) or about 7.7 lb; call it 4 kg or about 8.8 lb.

    So I’ll be toting roughly 11 kg (24 lb) without including water, 15 kg or about 33 lbs including water.

    I haven’t bothered to list the clothes I’m wearing.  Nor did I think to include things in my pockets,  etc. that will go into a bag somewhere.  Those items include a light wallet with credit card, drivers’ licence, Alberta Health card, and a little money; a small Swiss Army knife, a comb,  Sugoi cycling jacket, light raincoat.  They’ll add some mass too.

    Did I get it all?

    Please comment below if you notice something missing!  Or if you see something in the list that I could do without.

     

  • Naturehike Silent Wing One-Person Tent

    Posted on June 14th, 2017 admin No comments

    I wanted a tent for short-distance bike touring and maybe some overnight backpacking. I didn’t need expensive top-end gear for occasional and casual use.  I researched NatureHike and found their products well-reviewed, and in the end wound up with two of their tents for under $200 combined.

    Specs and First Impressions

    This tent, the Naturehike Silent Wing 1,  is promoted on GearBest.com for $69.73 CAD plus $8.74 S/H.   Unfortunately, it’s out of stock at that price.  When I got it, it cost me C$105.12 with shipping.  There was no extra duty or tax.  I thought that even this was a reasonable price for the tent.

    It’s a bit more technical than the Naturehike Cycling tent I previously reviewed (a comparison is elsewhere).  Here are the specs, according to GearBest and Naturehike:

    • GearBest product number 487874
    • Tent inside material: 150D oxford cloth; waterproof index: more than 3000mm
    • Tent outside material: 210T plaid; waterproof index: more than 3000mm
    • Tent pole material: 7001 high strength aluminum pole
    • Footprint material (Wind Wing 1): 150D polyester oxford cloth
    • Rainproof, waterproof and windproof, three seasons design
    • 1 person tent size : 225 x 95 x 110cm / 88.58 x 37.4 x 43.31 inches
    • Product weight: 1.705 kg
    • Package weight: 1.730 kg
    • Package Size(L x W x H): 45.00 x 15.00 x 15.00 cm / 17.72 x 5.91 x 5.91 inches

    Silent Wing Close

    Package Contents

    The tent came from GearBest with the following:

    • 1 x Tent
    • 1 x Fly Sheet
    • 1 x Cinch strap
    • 8 x Aluminum Y-profile Pegs with storage sack
    • 4 x Guy lines
    • 1 x Set of Aluminum poles with storage sack
    • 1 x Storage Bag for all of the above
    • 1 x Wind Wing 1 footprint (fits the Silent Wing) with storage bag

    The tent itself, with bag, poles, pegs, guys, and fly, weighed 1554 grams; the footprint and bag were 162 g; total mass 1716 grams or 1.716 kg, very close to the stated mass (this is not always the case).

    Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    Wind-Wing 1 / Silent Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

     

    Silent Wing vs Wind Wing

    Wind Wing Mat

    Silent Wing 1 tent with Wind Wing 1 mat (footprint)

    The Silent Wing is not even listed on the Naturehike web site.  The current model is the Wind Wing, which based on the specs at Naturehike is more waterproof (4000 mm vs 3000 mm), with reduced weight (1360 g).  In terms of layout and design, the two tents appear to be highly similar, to the point where a Wind Wing mat was included with the Silent Wing tent.

    Impressions:  The Good

    There are some technical features I like that remind me of higher-level tents such as those by MSR; I find these atrractive in a product at this price point.

    •  The crossed-pole design gives lots of headroom and a feeling of spaciousness inside.
    • It has a tapered floor, wide at the head end and narrowing to the foot.  This cuts down on mass, but also reduces floor space.  Don’t plan to take much gear inside, especially if you’re tall or broad.
    • There is a well-fitted, full-cover fly without a storm skirt.  Some people fear that this design can allow wind and rain to blow into the tent, although with other tents of similar design I have not found this to be an issue.
    • All guys and tethers are 1 mm cord, with lightweight plastic locks on the guys.
    • There are reflective strips on the fly clips — they show up quite brightly in a flashlight beam so you don’t trip on them in the dark
    • The stuff sack is roomy and I have never had trouble packing up the tent, even wet.
    • The aluminum pegs are y-beam, similar to MSR (Mountain Safety Research) Mini-Groundhog stakes.
    • The tent ground attachments are  strap-and-cord, a few grams lighter than plain straps, but still with grommets for the poles.  Compare the MSR method which puts the pole into a small tab attached to the cord and shaves off a few more grams per attachment.
    Red poles to the gold grommet (top), grey poles to the silver grommet (bottom)

    Strap-and-string.  Red poles to the gold grommet (top), grey poles to the silver grommet (bottom), peg thru the string

    Impressions:  The Bad

    I do have some reservations about the design.

    • Better quality tents generally have a ridge-pole across the top that extends the fly over the door.  This little roof peak provides additional headroom and helps keep rain out of the tent when the vestibule is open.
    • The vestibule is quite small.  There’s not a lot of room for gear storage there.

    The Silent Wing appears to be an earlier version of the Wind Wing, and I expect the latter to have some changes/improvements to reduce the mass even further.  Perhaps the grommets are red, for better color matching with the poles.

    Tapered footprint cuts down weight, but reduces floor space

    Tapered footprint cuts down weight, but reduces floor space

    Impressions:  The Ugly

    It’s not something I’d considered before, because my previous tent had a front entry.   The Silent Wing is a left-handed tent.  When you are inside, looking out the door, you are laying on your right side.  Your left hand is free, so that is the easiest one to use to unzip the door.  I’m right-handed, so this is just a bit awkward.    I can push myself up with my left hand and open the door with my right.  Not impossible, just awkward.

    My sleeping bag has a left-hand zipper.  When I am lying on my back, the zipper is on my left side.  It’s never bothered me before. I turn that way and undo the zipper with my right hand.  But in this tent, the zipper is on the side away from the door; unzipping the bag puts me with my back to the door so I have to undo the bag further and roll over to access the door.  Not impossible, just awkward.  A sleeping bag with a right-hand zipper would make this easier…but am I prepared to buy another sleeping bag just to make the tent easier?

    Conclusion

    My first impression is favorable.  This light-weight Naturehike Silent Wing tent appears to be well-made and quite suitable for bicycle touring and backpacking or to toss under the back seat of the pickup for emergency use.  I expect that it would wear well and last several seasons of occasional, casual use. The greatest drawbacks are the small vestibule and a fly designed to let rain in when you enter or exit the tent. And the awkwardness of the left/right thing.   We’ll see if actual use confirms the first impression.

    Read More

  • Naturehike Ultralight Cycling Tent: Life Inside

    Posted on June 14th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Naturehike Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent

    I’ve had this entry-level backpacking/cycling tent for a month and have used it several times.  When first I received it, I reviewed the specifications and gave my first impressions.  Then, I reviewed the ease (or not) of setup and takedown.    Now it’s time for a quick review of life under the flysheet, actually using the tent.  I have spent five nights in this tent so far, enough time go know the pros and cons.

    Two Versions:  Plain and Storm Skirt

    There are two versions of the fly sheet.  The first one is a normal “full-cover” fly, as shown below. This version allows air to flow from the bottom of the fly up and out through the vent.

    Naturehike NH18A095-D without storm skirt

    Naturehike NH18A095-D without storm skirt

    The second version of the fly has a storm skirt, also known as storm flaps or snow flaps.  This is the version I received from Bangood.com.

    Set up in my back yard for first impressions

    Set up in my back yard for first impressions, showing the storm skirt

    Con:  Ventilation Limited; Tiny Vestibule

     Ventilation is minimal in this tent, limited to a little triangular aperture above the head end.

    One one occasion, I set up during a warm evening as a thunderstorm was coming in. The air temperature dropped while I was putting up the tent on wet grass, and immediately there was condensation under the fly. The storm hit and I ducked inside and closed the vestibule. With me inside, water was running down the fly (but fortunately, not dripping into the tent). A couple of hours after I went to sleep, I woke up hot and sweaty — the tent was like a sauna, warm and damp.

    I hauled my gear inside the tent, undid the vestibule, stretched the left panel as far to the right across the tent door as I could, to try to minimize the rain coming into the tent,  and went back to sleep in my damp bag.   Aside from what came in through the door, there was no water inside the tent.

    Fortunately, the next day was sunny and I was able to dry everything out.

     

    Pro:  Relatively Roomy

    I’ve already discussed ease of setup, ability to put up the fly first then add the tent underneath (I did this in a dry run, but fortunately, I haven’t had to do this yet in a storm), and some other features.  During use, I found another advantage to this tent.

    During the storm, I took my gear (two 20L panniers and my shoes) out from under the vestibule into the tent with me — fortunately there’s enough room.  I’m a short guy (5’7″, 170 cm), not too big (155 lb, 70 kg) and I find this tent roomy.  On my last trip, I had two 20L panniers and a front bag, plus my shoes, in the tent with me.  I can put them at the head or foot of the tent, or range them in a row beside me in any combination, and still not press too badly on the sides of the tent.  A taller, bulkier traveler will have enough floor space for comfort, but might not have room for gear.

    Of course, I’d much rather those things didn’t share my tent, and there’s just barely enough from for them in the vestibule.  There’d probably be enough room there for a small backpack.   But it’s marketed as a cycling tent.

    In the meantime, I picked up a lightweight nylon tarp to use as to extend the vestibule, to give more room for gear and so I can enter and exit the tent in a storm without letting in too much rain.  We’ll see how that works out.

    Conclusion: Decent Tent

    I’m quite satisfied with this tent, given its $75 CAD pricelist (shipping included).   The tent is lightweight, compact, reasonably well-made, and serves its purpose as an entry-level one-person tent for occasional use. Its major flaw is that there is no “roof peak” over the entry, so rain can come right into the tent if the vestibule is open or as you enter/exit the tent.  Naturehike has other lightweight 1-man and 2-man tents that do not have these restrictions.

    The tent is available at Banggood as I write this.

    Disclaimer:  I am not connected with either Banggood or Naturehike and I have received no compensation or incentive for this review.

    Further Reading on Naturehike Lightweight Cycling Tent

     

  • NatureHike Ultralight Tent: Set-up and Take-Down

    Posted on May 16th, 2017 admin No comments

     

    Set-up and Take-down of the Naturehike Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent

     

    • BanggoodProduct ID: 1020476
    • Color: Orange
    • Brand: Naturehike
    • https://www.naturehike.com/cycling-ultralight-silicone-one-man-tent/
    • Model: NH18A095-D Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent

    Good First Impression

     

    I bought this tent for occasional casual use in backpacking and bike touring.  It made a good first impression: compact, light, well-made, and well-presented. All the parts were there, including a footprint; pegs, poles, and footprint came in their own storage bags; everything fit nicely into the tent storage bag. Fit and finish were decent. Time to set it up.

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    Steps to Set Up the NatureHike

     

    Setup was quick and easy.   A waterproof Ikea-style picture instruction sheet is sewn into the tent bag so it can’t be lost. It’s typical pole-in-grommet setup, with clips for the fly, similar to most tents I’ve used over the past two decades.

    If you jam the poles into the ground and throw on the fly, you can in fact then add the footprint and tent afterwards, out of the rain. Might cover that in a future post. However, the normal setup is:

    1. Remove items from the storage bag and lay them out in a convenient order. In windy weather, place pegs and poles on top of tent and fly so nothing blows away (you hope)

      Everything set out and ready to go.

      Everything set out and ready to go.

    2. If using the footprint — advised for rocky or rough terrain — lay it out and peg it down square, with one corner facing the prevailing wind. Is there a right way up for the footprint? Yes: the little buckles should point up. Put the rest of the pegs and their storage bag into the main bag so they don’t get lost or blow away.

      Footprint staked down

      Footprint staked down

    3. Spread the tent out. Note the orientation of the door; your head will be to the right as you look at the door from the outside. You want the door at a 45 degree angle to the prevailing wind. Peg the tent down square.

      Tent spread out and pegged down

      Tent spread out and pegged down

    4. If you have the footprint down, slip out the pegs one at a time and add the tent strap, then reinsert the peg.

      Tent and footprint pegged together

      Tent and footprint pegged together

    5. Remove the poles and put the pole bag into the main bag so it doesn’t blow away (by habit, I stow everything in the tent from this point on). Open the poles. The longer part, with four sections, will go to the right as you face the door. Insert the poles into the grommets in the straps. If you have the footprint down, put the pole through both grommets.

    6. Clip the tent to the poles, using the attached hooks.Tent hooked to pole

    7. Open the fly sheet, orient it so that the vestibule is over the door and put it over the poles and tent.. Move around to the back of the tent, flip up the fly, and tie the three straps to the central pole. Use slip knots (like tying a shoe lace) so you can undo them easily later. Why do this from the back? Because if you’re oriented to the prevailing wind, you can hang on to the fly sheet more easily (the voice of experience!).  These ties make the fly and frame a more integrated unit, so that the wind guys are attached to the frame (poles) not just to the fly.

      The the fly to the poles

      Tie the fly to the poles

    8. Clip each corner of the fly sheet into the buckle. Don’t tighten the fly straps just yet.

    9. Stretch out the vestibule and peg it down.

      Stretch out the vestibule and stake it down

      Staking the vestibule

    10. Go around to the back side, stretch out the fly sheet using the attached strap, and peg it down.

      Stake the fly at the back

      Stake the fly at the back

    11. Now go to each corner and stretch the fly straps so that the fly is properly centered over the poles. You may need to readjust this in rain as the nylon fly will stretch a bit. Don’t forget to relax the straps as the fly dries out.

    12. Add the guy lines if heavy weather is expected. Or just to be safe.

      Guy line added at head end

      Guy line added at head end

    I am able to set up this tent by myself in just over five minutes in calm conditions. It takes a little longer with a strong wind (I didn’t time it, because I needed to concentrate on getting it up and getting my gear stowed).

     

    Taking Down and Packing Up the Silicone Ultralight

     

    Take-down in dry, calm conditions was simple and took only a few minutes. In windy conditions, folding the tent and fly was a bit of a fight. Fortunately, there’s lots of room in the tent bag so I didn’t have to be terribly precise about folding; everything went in fine. I was able to fold the tent fairly dry under the fly in the rain, so that only the footprint and fly went in wet. I was able to dry everything out and repack it with no harm.

     

    Notes and Observations

     

    • This is a free-standing tent, which means that if you need to you can unpeg it, and move it to a new location or better orient it to the weather. It also means you can tip it onto its side to dry the bottom off before packing up.

    • The fly on my particular model has what NatureHike calls a skirt, little flaps that spread on the ground on each side. I know them as storm flaps or snow flaps, and the tent is steeply pitched enough that it might withstand snow. In the winter, shovel snow onto the skirt; in summer, pile rocks or sand or sticks on the flaps to keep the wind out in heavy weather. Not sure there’s enough ventilation, though — we’ll see. There is a little triangular vent at the head end.

      Vent propped open

      Vent propped open

    • The vestibule is tiny, barely enough room for shoes in the corner and a small pannier on either side. The rectangular floor inside is fairly large, room enough for me and gear.

      Vestibule with a couple of Axiom panniers.  Crawl over them to enter tent.

      Vestibule with a couple of Axiom panniers. Crawl over them to enter tent.

    • The pointy top means tight head room when you’re kneeling or sitting cross-legged. Other designs give a greater feeling of space even with smaller floor plans. I didn’t find this too bothersome since I’m mostly sprawled out when I’m in a tent, or propped up by my pack.

    • The tent has a hook at top for a light, and a small gear pocket at the head end by the door.

    • Some of the stitching is off-center, and might eventually have to be redone, but all look reasonably secure. I expect at least a summer of use without problems.

    • The Velcro fasteners on the vestibule do not look firmly sewn. We’ll see how they hold up

     

    Further Reading

  • Naturehike Ultralight Cycling Tent: Specifications and Impressions

    Posted on May 15th, 2017 admin No comments

    Naturehike Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent

    Purpose of Purchase

    I bought this tent for entry-level bike touring and maybe a little weekend backpacking. I figured that I didn’t need expensive top-end gear for occasional and casual use. It’s hard to tell from photos, and ordering online can be a bit of a risk.  However, I researched NatureHike and found their products well-reviewed.   I’ve also had good results generally from the place where I bought it, Banggood.com.

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    The tent and footprint before first opening

    Specifications of the NH Silicone Ultralight

    • Banggood Product ID: 1020476
      Color: Orange
      Brand: Naturehike https://www.naturehike.com/cycling-ultralight-silicone-one-man-tent/
      Model: NH18A095-D Cycling Silicone Ultralight One Man Tent with skirt
      Capacity: Single person
      Color: orange
      Package size: 400x150x150mm
      Size: 2050x1550x1100mm (exclusive of storm flaps)
      Weight: 1300g (excluding pegs and guy lines)
      Flysheet Material: 20D 380T rip-stop nylon, waterproof to PU1000, UPF30+
      Inner tent material: 210T ripstop polyester fabric* + B3 high density breathable mesh
      Floor material: 150D ripstop plaid oxford*
      Poles: 7001 aviation aluminum

    Package Contents

    This Banggood product came with the following:

    • 1 x Tent
    • 1 x Fly Sheet with optional storm skirt
    • 1 x Cinch strap
    • 8 x Pegs with storage sack
    • 2 x Guy lines
    • 1 x Set of Aluminum poles with storage sack
    • 1 x Storage Bag
    • 1 x Footprint with storage bag

    Good First Impression

    The tent arrived surprisingly quickly from a Canadian warehouse (ordered April 21, 2017; arrived May 10, 2017; only 19 days!).

    The whole package struck me as being compact, light, well-made, and well-presented. It also came with the footprint in a separate bag. On opening, I found all parts present and in good packaging. By this I mean that the tent bag has handles and snap-straps to cinch it up; the aluminum pegs and guy lines were in a plastic ziplock bag inside a cloth sack; likewise the aluminum poles. The tent itself was bound with a little cinch strap. Eventually, I’ll probably be getting rid of some of this to cut down the weight by a few grams. But it does make a good first impression.

    Set up in my back yard for first impressions

    Set up in my back yard for first impressions

    Initial Conclusions

    This looks like a well-made light-weight tent for backpacking and bicycle touring.  I expect that it would wear well and last at least one season for occasional, casual use.  However, this is only a first impression.  The tent has yet to be tested in actual use.

    *Note:  Physical examination and measurement with calipers suggests that the fly and inner tent are made from the same material.  They look and feel the same, and a double fold of each measures 0.004 millimeters.  The floor material is heavier (thicker): a double fold measures 0.006 mm.

    Read More

     

  • MEC and COBS: Camping and Bread

    Posted on May 8th, 2017 admin No comments

    A meeting of the Edmonton & District Callers & Instructors Association (EDCIA) and the Community Dance Capital Dance Association (CDCDA) on Sunday ended around 4:00.  The venue, Queen Mary Park Community League, happened to be a few blocks north of Oliver Square in Edmonton.   Oliver Square happens to be the home of

    1. The new Mountain Equipment Coop store, which happened to be having its grand opening that day
    2. COBS Bread, a well-known bakery chain from BC
    https://meccms.imgix.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/17_CM_0006_StoreEdmondton_Store_OPEN_Post_Phase_Hybris_5x2_FA.jpg?v=1493682555&w=1000&h=400&auto=format&q=40&bg=0FFF

    Concept design of the new MEC store in Edmonton. It actually looks pretty much like this! Image from MEC.

    First, we toured MEC.  It’s huge.   I’m not sure, though, that there are more different items than in the old store.  There are certainly racks and racks of each item.   Great fun to walk around and look, as MEC specializes in good-quality gear.  So much has changed since I was backpacking  and camping with my sons in Scouts twenty or so years back .  Equipment is lighter, more compact, more technical.   There seem to be a lot more choices.

    I wound up buying three little gel-snacks (Clif  Shot Energy Gels, @ $1.50) a Swedish Trangia mini-stove with cookset (4000-918, $48; a bargain compared to $116 plus shipping at Amazon.ca!), and a nifty little MSR folding spatula ($6.95).  The gels are for my MS Bike this June, and the other items are for future planned bike touring.  But they’ll be handy just to throw in the truck with a pack of freeze-dried food to have for emergencies.  Maybe we’ll carry it in the RV to be tossed into the daypack for hot soup or tea on a cool hike.

    The Trangia alcohol stove has been around for at least 40 years, I think.  We built tin-can alcohol burners with the Scouts, so certainly this is old and low-tech.  What is new (to me, at least) is the little cookset, which is light and compact.  The 15 cm aluminum frypan is non-stick coated.  The burner and pot handle fit inside the 0.8 L bowl and the frypan clips on top to hold everything together.  The stove is said to boil 750 mL of water in about 6 to 10 minutes.   Didn’t get fuel, but looking forward to testing this out; it will bring back memories.

    Trangia mini-cookset and alcohol stove.

    Trangia mini-cookset and alcohol stove. Image from amazon.ca

    There are offshore versions of the Trangia for about half the cost — such as this one from TVCMall for $15 CAD plus $5 S/H — and they would probably serve.  I could have purchased one of those, plus an inexpensive cook set such as the NewStyle 8-piece, which might even have room for the stove, for about $20 from amazon.ca or even less from a place like Banggood or GearBest.  This is cheaper than the Trangia Mini from MEC, and would include more items, two bowls, a spoon, and cup, a pot-scrubber and a rice ladle.   Every camper needs a rice ladle!  Benefit of buying from MEC was that the item was on the shelf and I could examine it before purchase, and at least some of my money stays in Canada.

    The Newstyle 8-piece cookset from Amazon.ca

    The Newstyle 8-piece cookset from Amazon.ca

    Our second stop was COBS Bread, just across the parking lot from MEC.   Delightful place.   We bought fresh-baked filled croissants: one ham and cheese for me, one spinach cheese.  They were warm, flaky, and tasty and a wonderful ending to our visit to Oliver Square.

  • First Spring Ride

    Posted on April 28th, 2017 admin No comments

    Edmonton Oilers vs Annaheim Ducks in the second playoff game at Honda Center in Annaheim tonight, so my friend Brian at Circuit Cycle and Sports kindly moved tonight’s scheduled ride to Tuesday.

    Getting the Road Bike Ready

    In other exciting news, today’s weather was decent, sunny with no wetness from the sky, so I dusted off my road bike.   Literally.  It had sat in the garden shed all winter and was dusty.  Tires a little soft but not bad, and the battery was low in the trip computer.

    I had bought new panniers from United Cycle at their MS Bike open house, and put them on just for fun.  They don’t fit well, so I’ll have to juggle some racks around and modify the attachment.

    Axiom Appalachian 2L panniers from United Cycle, Edmonton

    Axiom Appalachian 2L panniers from United Cycle, Edmonton

    Anyway, with no more maintenance than a dusting, a check of the brakes, and a poke at the tires,  off I went for the first distance ride of the year.

    I put in a few kilometers around town doing errands — stopped to pick up a check from a MS Bike sponsor; dropped some stuff off at the second-hand store; got a new battery for the computer; pumped up the tires a bit; bought some camping gear and did other shopping — then took off for a ride around the Leduc multiways, west and south into the new developments.

    Bike computers have dropped so much in price -- this one is only $14 USD

    Bike computers have dropped so much in price — this one is only $14 USD

    Cycling Further, Harder, Faster

    But was that ride ever a shock!  Discovered that all my cycling over the past three weeks (in the rain and snow) had been at a doddle.  When I started out today I was averaging 10 to 12 kph at a cadence of 50-60.  Two years ago I was averaging 18 to 20 kph when cruising and could do 30 km/h on the flat, with a cadence  between 70 and 80.

    So I pushed up the pace, aiming for an average speed of 20 km/h and average cadence of 75.   Even though I’ve been walking 30 minutes a day since April 1, and cycling at least 30 minutes a day, I found that this left me a bit breathless.

    Dressing in Layers

    The weather was really changeable.  In the sun, the bike computer read 20C.  When the clouds came out, it read 10C.   Riding in the sunshine, I was too warm.  Riding under the clouds, I cooled down quickly.  I was happy to take advantage of the need to stop to zip up or unzip to maintain temperature, to give me a chance to catch my breath.

    Courtesy www.experienceketchikan.co

    Courtesy www.experienceketchikan.co

    At least I have collected enough apparel over the years to meet those conditions.  For today’s ride I wore warm moose socks from Finland (not made from moose hair, they just have moose silhouettes on them), leggings, and bike shorts.  Up top, a base layer of a light a long-sleeved sweatshirt, then a biking jersey; for insulation, my light Sugoi cycling jacket; and over top a RaceFace wind-jacket with pit zips, which I left closed.  Riding hard in the sun, I had to unzip the top three layers; under the clouds, all got zipped right to my neck.   I was comfortable in all conditions and wasn’t damp inside when I got home.

    Overdid It, Maybe?

    Wound up logging 14.5 km on the computer, and probably did 5 km before replacing the battery.  But oh! are my legs ever tired!

    And on checking the bike computer, I see that when I put the new battery in, it reset the wheel size, so I’m not sure just how fast I went, or how far….

    For Further Reading

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