First impressions – KS Ultralight gear Imo Pack

KS-Ultralight-Gear-IMO-Pack_2015-04-17_17-03-43_DSC00365 The Japanese post service sure knows how to haul stuff! Received my Imo Pack today, Friday after a five day transport from Japan to Sweden.

I’ll try to sum up my first impressions of the KS Ultralight gear Imo Pack here. Later on I will have to follow up with some reflections after taking the pack to the trail.

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Trail snacks – What do you eat?

Trail snacks are an important part of your adventure to work as an energy booster between meals. Some prefer to only use snacks during the day and just have a full, preferably, hot meal at the start and end of the day. Personally I like to have three hot meals a day to keep the morale up on though, rainy or cold days.

As my previous post pointed out my summer trip is getting closer and closer by the minute and I’m right now on the food section of my list. I’ve experimented with different snacks over the years, everything from the standard nut and raisin mixes to Snickers.

Some taste better than others and some are more “vulnerable” to heat/cold. Snickers for e.g. get frozen quite fast in cold weather and is kind of like chewing on a rock and in the summer heat it melts and you get chocolate all over when you remove the wrapping…

One of my latest favorites are M&M’s with peanuts. 🙂

Energi_2014-06-30_19-38-44_P1020881

A few different snack options.

Recently I’ve bought different chocolate based products to compare how they work in cold/warm environments and also to compare how much energy they pack compared to weight. All the bars above weigh in at about 50g.

I haven’t tried them all out in the field but the Starbar works quite well in cold and warm condition and so does the Sport Lunch bars.

As you can see the Double Nougat wins but it’s a fairly even list.

snack comparisonIt would be nice to get some feedback on what the rest of you are using on the trail!

 

A huge step towards ultralight backpacking

Here we go…! I’ve made a huge step towards ultralight backpacking when I ordered a new backpack. For the past weeks I’ve been thinking about getting a new backpack. Not that I’m in anyway unhappy with my Mystery Ranch NICE Wolf Alpha but it’s heavy at 3.9kg. It’s built like a tank and sometimes I need that but for those lighter hiking/trekking trips I need something lighter.

I looked at a bunch of different packs – everything from Arc’Teryx to Fjällräven. I went to two different stores that holds quite different sets of brands and tried a couple of them out and finally made the choice to bring home a Fjällräven Abisko 65, 2.2kg. That pack is not a ultralight backpack but it’s still lighter than my Mystery Ranch. I packed it with everything I normally bring and had it on my back for a few hours at home walking around the house. It was quite good but not really what I wanted.

This last Saturdays hike with Jon didn’t help either… When you’re out in the backcountry you have loads of time to think, chat and trade ideas. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s bad in a good way 🙂 It usually gets you in a state of mind that you really need this and that thing and it ends up hurting your wallet…

packs

From left to right: Blaze, Circuit, Crown.

Well after we got home we started chatting and looking at different packs and everything still pointed towards a ultralight alternative. The packs that kept popping up in our searches was the Granite Gear Crown A.C 60, 1kg(!), Granite Gear Blaze A.C 60, 1.3kg and the ULA Circuit, 1.1kg. After ruling the ULA Circuit out after some YouTube reviews and stuff I was quite hooked on the Crown but the thing that bothered me was the fact that it had a “soft” frame so to speak. I’ve known about Granite Gear before, since I’ve seen their tactical-series especially the CHEIF Patrol pack. ULA was something new to me. The Granite Gear Blaze has more of a traditional type of plastic frame which I like. I’ve had quite a few smaller frameless backpacks or with a softer frame and I’m to lazy to pack everything super tidy to not have anything poke you in the back. Or that makes the pack “round” towards your back and it starts to roll. So I slept on it, watched a few more reviews and finally decided what to get…

Here are a few good reviews on the different packs that I considered.

linelid3The pack that I finally choose after some great contemplating and with some help from Jon was the Granite Gear Blaze A.C 60. I also bought the Lineloc Lid which adds another 255 grams to the pack finishing it of at a total of 1.55kg which is not bad. That’s almost a third of what my Mystery Ranch pack weighs!! I don’t think I’ll be using the lid all the time but the way I see it it’s a nice to have feature and as it’s not that much money – hey I’ll buy that too!

The total money spent on the pack and the lid was 2 270 SEK, which is roughly about 350 USD with shipping included and free returns. Compared to the Fjällräven Abisko 65 that I brought home for testing this one is only 70 SEK more expensive which is about what I paid for gas to go to the store in the first place…

Granite Gear Blaze A.C 60

Torso Sizes: short | regular
Weight: 1.3kg | 2lbs 14oz
Capacity: 60 liters | 3660 cubic inches
Suspension: Air Current (A.C.) Internal Frame
Load Capacity: 35lbs | 16kg

100D Ripstop
210D Nylon Cordura
Stretch Mesh Fabric

Here are some good pictures from Outdoor Gear lab and I think that’s quite similar to what my pack will look like besides the fact that I didn’t order the Cactus/Jave color but the Tiger/Java. The main difference between the two is the color on the reinforced Cordura running on the front Click the link above to see the rest of the pictures and a short review.

It’s gonna be real interesting to see how it is, first hand, when it arrives. It was on backorder so I’ll get it in April as far as the initial reports are. I’ll get back with some more info as soon as it arrives!

Suunto Ambit HR

The Suunto Ambit HR will soon arrive in my mailbox!

All this because my Casio G-Shock doesn’t have a HR-strap and that I broke the light button… The plastic went into two pieces and is sometimes hard to operate. There are also a few things I don’t like with the G-Shock that I hope that’ll be resolved with the Ambit. I might just have to do a short review of the G-Shock…

Review from ITS Tactical

Photo, DC Rainmaker

Here’s also an great in-depth review from DC Rainmaker on the Ambit HR. If you’re interested in the Ambit2 and Ambit 2S he was also made similar reviews of them too.

Waterproof iPhone Cases

Here are a few reviews on waterproof iPhone cases that I stumbled upon. I’ve been looking for one myself and I’ve only bought a cheap one, the classic “drop in bag” that is universal with any phone/unit that has got a touch screen or not.

The one from LifeProof looks great tbh.

Read more here!

Fujifilm X100 review

This is my small “review” of the Fujifilm X100 camera. I’m not gonna go over the general stuff like the leaf shutter the excellent picture quality on high ISO and so on.

12.3Mpix with a APS-C sensor

Shoots RAW/Jpeg

f=23mm, equivalent to 35mm on a 35mm camera

Aperture F2

Can shoot video

Full list of specifications can be found here!

First of, the reason I bought this and replaced, yes replaced, my Nikon D300 was because of the nice design and specifications of the Fujifilm X100. I’ve used this camera to shoot both street photos, high speed subjects and in a studio environment and it has preformed well. Lately I’ve even been using it for video stuff.

The camera itself is very sturdy and well built, not like those compacts that are out on the market. I would say that it feels as sturdy as my old Nikon D300 but it’s not waterproof and I don’t think it would like to be smashed in to a wall, something that the D300 probably would survive.

The downside with this camera seen from a DSLR perspective is that it takes some time for it to start from off -> on and even from sleep mode… Aaand you can’t change the lens. There is however a wide angel adapter for the camera if you want a fisheye feel of your shots. Compared to a compact camera the X100 is everything that they are not. Period 🙂

There have been some videos on YouTube where people have had issues with autofocus on the camera but I haven’t had those issues with mine or it could be because I’m using the features of the camera more than just a POS. I never use the screen to shoot with, always the Hybrid Viewfinder (which is awesome!) and I know when to use the macro mode and not. But the autofocus isn’t the fastest in the world but you can tweak that if you need faster autofocus, just watch this video how to do it.

Accessories, just with like “every other” camera on the market there are tons of stuff that you can buy for it. Starting of with simple and yet very good things like a soft release to the standard stuff like UV-filters and lens hoods. One downside is that you have to buy a lens adapter before you can attach filters and lens hoods. There are of course Fujifilms somewhat expensive lens adapter/lens hood or you can buy a third party item, just use eBay and search for X100 lens hood. Lens hoods for the X100 often comes bundled with the lens adapter. Be careful when you buy a filter for this camera not to pick a slim filter because that will not work when the camera is in macro mode. The lens will hit the filter and make the camera stall and shut down.

Studio environment, is this a substitute for a DSLR? Well to be honest, no. You can still use it with studio gear and all you need is a remote flash controller, you can buy basically anyone that doesn’t need a cable to connect with the camera. One nice thing though is that you can sync the flashes a lot higher than you can with a DSLR because of the leaf shutter. Standard DSLR will get to about 1/250 but with the X100 you can go to about 1/1000 which is really fast! You can read more about this here!

Video capabilities, well, it shoots video – in high quality, if it’s held still, preferably mounted on a tripod or similar. The sound quality is good but with many of the medium size cameras   the problem comes when it autofocuses. You can clearly hear the autofocus working if it’s a quiet in the background. With the X100 it sounds similar to when a arm watches hand moves every second. It gets annoying even if it isn’t loud in any way. But it’s not like with the Nikon Coolpix L110 when it sound like the whole lens is gonna fall apart at any moment when it focuses.

Here’s a video shot at noon a really sunny day. No after effects or changes to the video is made. It’s filmed on free hand. At the end of the video you can see when it gets cloudy how it copes with that. Make sure you watch it in HD, 720p.

Conclusion. All in all this is a great camera and I don’t regret buying it and replacing my D300 with it. I do sometimes miss my D300 when I’m shooting in a studio and the possibility in that moment so switch lenses and hold a bigger camera for more control and comfort. In a street photo environment this camera is awesome. And when you’re traveling it won’t take up that much space as a DSLR and you still have a lot better camera than your standard POS. And most of all it looks retro and cool!

This is my X100 with a SAH-X100F1 lens hood, Hoya UV HMC 49mm filter and a Holga camera strap.

Garmin GPSMAP 62st Review

I bought a new GPS the other day a Garmin GPSMAP 62st that I thought I’d do a quick review and highlighting some stuff that will be useful to me. I’m not going to do a deep down review on the GPS, you can find those already on the web and YouTube.

The newly designed GPSMAP 62st handheld navigatorfeatures a 3-axis tilt-compensated compass, a barometric altimeter, preloaded TOPO 100K maps and supports custom maps, BirdsEye™ Satellite imagery (subscription required) and photo navigation. Rugged and waterproof, GPSMAP 62st employs a quad helix antenna for unparalleled reception, has a high-speed USB connection, a sleek new design and connects wirelessly to compatible Garmin handhelds.

This little device is quite nice actually. I’ve only handled road GPS’ before and a Foretrex or two and this is a whole nother level!

One thing that I think I’ll use a lot is the possibility to add your own custom maps as an overlay on top of the basemap. This gives me the possibility to put a map from an area in to the GPS so I can see where the pre.defined grids are and use those as reference points. The topo map in the 62st (T for Topographical) is still in use so you can see trails and other stuff that might not be marked on your custom map. The custom maps are easily sent to the GPS via a .kmz file that you generate in the free Google Earth application (Guide here!)

                           

If you’re lazy or just want the Google Earth look on your maps you can subscribe to BirdsEye so you can download high res photos of your area of interest. I’ve tried the demo version and it is good! I think I’ll get that too because it’s only about 20USD for a year and every “photo” you download you “own” as long as you don’t delete it. Pretty smart!

Some other nice features in the GPS is that almost every page/view is customizable so that you can change what info you want to show. You can also have different views depending on what Profile you’re using at the moment e.g. Geocaching, Recreational etc.

On thing that I would like to have the ability to change is how fast it jumps to the next page when pressing the “Page” button. Now you have to wait for some time before it changes page or you have to press “Enter” to go there instantly. But requiring satellites is super fast and the accuracy is great that’s what counts in the end.

Also the new carabiner for securing the device is nice and sturdy but it’s a tad too big. I like the older ones, 60-series, where you had a small hole next to the antenna so you could secure the GPS via a carabiner or the way I like it via paracord so it’s easier to attach to molle, backpacks or whatever and you can set what ever length you want on the string. Now you have to unclip from the carabiner or pul down on the GPS and it’ll come off but then with big gloves on (or clumsy hands) it’s pretty easy to drop in the snow, off a vehicle, bike etc. Though it’s still possible to remove the carabiner and put some paracord there instead it still is bulky because of the clip itself. But, I guess it’s a smart solution so you can attach the GPS to different kinds of mounts. (It does have a hole at the bottom of the GPS for inserting a lanyard of some sort but I still liked it better on the older version)

You also get Geocaching capabilities via Garmins own knock off site http://www.opencaching.com/ but also via the original Geocaching.com. The Geocaching mode in the GPS is nice and clean and if you have a Premium account at geocaching.com you get all the info you’d get from your phone with their application such as hints, logs etc. I do have some problems with the function “Send to GPS” so I have to download the .gpx file and drop it into Basecamp (Garmin app) or directly into the built-in memory of the GPS itself. I fixed the problem with “Send to GPS” and it was just to download a new Beta version of the Garmin Connect software.

                                        

After I used the GPS for the whole weekend in -5 degrees with snow, rain and some more snow it preformed really good even though it was wet and icey most of the time. Even with gloves on it was easy to use. I used some really cheap batteries this time and it told me a few times something like “battery voltage is low, you should switch to lithium batteries to keep running”, it never died though, just giving you a heads up that you’re using shitty batteries 🙂

This is a really nice GPS if you can afford it because it’s a little pricey but it’s most definitely worth every penny!