27 Jun 2012

MYOG Raincover

Hello everyone, today I'd like to share a little MYOG project with you.

It is a raincover that is ultralight, cheap and offers imho more protection from rain.
The idea came when my girlfriend asked whether she needed a raincover for Finland, I told her it would be a wise choice. But instead of buying a bulky cover, weighing you down, I got the idea of using a trash bag (or cheaper PMD bag if you're Belgian).

After the jump, I'll share some photos with you...

25 Jun 2012

Good reads: Andrew Skurka's Gear Guide and Don Ladigins Lighten Up!

Today I would like to do just a short look on two books that I have had in my possession for a while now: Andrew Skurka's The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide and Don Ladigins and Mike Clellands Lighten Up!.

Both books were much longed after and when the postman finally brought them, I was excited like a kid in a candy store. Already feeling sorry for the moment they were going to be out read, what was I going to do then? Cry in a corner? Jump off a bridge? Nope, write about it and wait for Skurka's Yukon-Alaska book is published (can't wait for that one!).

So I will be writing here, in short, my thoughts about both books and what I liked or disliked about them.
Firstly, Don Ladigins Lighten Up!.
Saving you the trouble
I really enjoyed this book, it was my first printed guide into the UL business and having read lots of good reviews, I definitely did not hesitate to give it a try. It is a short book but each page contains a lot of information and tips. Combined with very fine illustrations of Mike Clelland to make the words even clearer, this was an informative guide with the right amount of fun, which is symptomatic for hikers, taking things lightly (pun by accident).

It covers most of the subjects a backpacker would encounter, from sleeping systems to cooking and the different weights of a pack. Extra handy are the example gear list, the index and an interesting bonus is the foreword by Jim Blachard and the small afterword by Glen Van Peski.
I do recommend it, it is a clear and comprehensive intro into lighter backpacking and states all the gear options you have with tips, pros and cons.
The only 'drawback' is that it is read out so quickly.

Second we have Skurka's The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide. 
This book had a lot of attention on different blogs, received lots of positive tweets and was generally considered a well written guide. So you can imagine the agony of waiting for it :)

The Gear Guide is an absolute eye opener and it will prove very helpful if you're willing to follow the tips Andrew proposes. If you rather stay in GTX boots and feel more secure packing that extra 'just in case'-item, you might not enjoy the enlightenment of this book to the full.
It contains everything a hiker and ultralighter can encounter and he tries and succeeds to be as complete as possible on each item. He explains the different options you have, he tried them all over hundreds of miles and so I feel safe to say that you can rely on his pros and cons. Of course, you should still listen to your own needs. He also tells you what to use where and in what conditions, so don't burn your GTX boots right away, as you'll see on page 73.
I absolutely learned a lot from this book, from planning a trip, assessing my true needs and learning about the different drawbacks of gear. It is definitely a book I will look in again when buying something new. I like the style of writing, it is all very personal and open, like he's talking to you over a beer. It's approachable and he doesn't expect you to follow him blindly, but rather explains why he does it like this and how you might benefit from this approach. It's so helpful to have the insights and techniques that are proven through miles of hiking. You sometimes encounter some insights that are not mainstream or gear that you thought was never going to relive again.

What I like about it: It is very complete, has a nice writing style and offers bang for the buck. I learned a lot by reading this book and I will reread it anytime I buy something or plan a trip. Skurka's Picks and the Tried and True sections are my favorites. Furthermore, the book features nice photos, uses clear explanations and the tables where different gear is compared are awesome. How many times did you not make a table comparing products?
It also has an index and five example gear lists, for each environment one.

Cheating table
Some minor drawbacks of the book are that units are not in the metric system, I would've like to see metric units next to the imperial measures. It is confusing when he talks about 20° Fahrenheit, I think, oh that's doable, not so bad... then I convert it and see it is -7°C, which makes me look entirely different at his clothing system. Now I've written most of the weights in gram or kg next to the text and I've made a tiny cheating table for the temperatures (wow, daytime highs in the -20's eh, let me see now.... ).
And something Andrew can't help: the USA still is leader in cottages, so some brands he talks about do not ship to the EU, and when they do it'll cost you not only shipping but the import costs are often so high, it's twice the price of the product.

This is however no reason not to buy the book, I recommend it and it's available on Amazon for a steal.

There you have it, both books were a joy to read and offered tried and true knowledge. I can't wait for new books about trips or tips to be published.

Disclaimer: The Gear Guide was bought by me, using hard earned cash. Ladigins Lighten Up! was a gift from my girlfriend.

24 Jun 2012


Hello and welcome to my new blog!

Before I start off telling you how I started to blog, I shall explain the mission and main subject of this blog (sounds serious, no?).
I will try to write good, objective and critical reviews about light gear used for outdoor activities, also I will post trip reports and hikes here that are worth mentioning. Furthermore I will use this blog just to inform everyone what we are doing or what's new.
I say 'we' because this is a shared blog, but don't expect lots of writings of my significant other ;), the blog was mainly my idea.

So how did I start to write?
Well, I have been following the UL-community for about a year now and I love how everyone is sharing their thoughts and opinions about gear, trips and sharing tips. A blog is almost the perfect tool to do this. But I'm more of a reader/listener than a writer/talker.
However, when I came across Hendrik's blog, I started to become interested in going to Finland during the summer vacation, it was going to be the first backpacking trip with my girlfriend and with a low cost aviation company having an airport nearby, it seemed a perfect destination.

Who better to ask for tips than Hendrik? I sent him some mails and he answered them all, taking time to check things, look stuff up and answering me. I appreciate that he did this, considering he is quite the busy man. If only I could thank him... and the came this:
No pressure there whatsoever eh?
So that was the primary reason for this blog, to write about the trip to the Pirkan Taival trail in Finland. Ofcourse, being inspired by so many different blogs on the subject (check the Blog List out if you need some fine examples), I started pondering what I could use it for.

So in came the idea of sharing my vision on the UL philosophy with the community, talking about gear and reviewing it, writing about trips and also asking for tips.

That's about it, that's all I wanted to say in this first message.
I hope I can keep this blog updated but that is easier said than done and I do not expect to achieve the quality like Hendrik or Basti do. I will, however, do my very best and when I start working (=get paid), one of the first things that's on my to-buy list is a proper DSLR, so I can at least deliver some nice pictures to you, dear reader.
(Photography has always been a great passion, at the age of 14 I bought a nice Nikon F 55 and enjoyed it so much, I plan on refinding that joy once again.)