Getting ready for a 3,000 mile Mexico ride

Riding a 250-cc Honda NX to Queretaro, Mexico (just north of Mexico City) will really challenge my packing and organizing skills – but I think I’m finally getting there. With an iM2400 Pelican Storm Case bolted to the rear rack, I have room for my Macbook Pro, a Canon G10, and power bricks and charging gear in a waterproof, tough and lockable carrier. The Wolfman medium Expedition Dry Duffle holds all my clothes in a cool Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder and a small Pack-It Cube (these are amazing – I wrote about them in 2008 on a safari in Kenya), plus a toilet kit, extra shoes, very light sleeping bag, and a sweater (it’s not packed full in this picture). I’ll use a dry bag on top of the Storm Case for lashing down soft items like liners or extra gloves. The Wolfman Enduro Tank Bag is perfect for my small travel purse from Overland (of course), my iPhone, and a map (in a clear holder on top). I’m also trying out the new First Gear Monarch jacket for women and their TPG Escape pants – they are fantastic so far, and I plan to really give them a workout. It’s really nice to have gear cut especially for women but tough and serious, too – and not pink! I won’t be leaving for Mexico until after Overland Expo.2010, so I’ll get to really hone the setup in the meantime. – Roseann Hanson

Four Wheel Campers visits Overland Journal

Over the last several days I’ve spent some time camping in the desert and driving the backroads with K.C. O’Connor, marketing director for Four Wheel Campers. We ended this portion of his trip with a visit to Overland Journal headquarters where K.C. had a chance to show off the latest iteration of the new Overland version of their camper product line to some of our staff.

K.C. O’Connor discusses the new Overland camper with Overland Journal’s Design Director, Stephanie Brady.

The Overland edition has a full compliment of features and upgrades that are tailored to the traveler who will be away from towns and developed campgrounds for extended periods, traveling self-contained with a desire to live comfortably in remote locales. Some of the features include a low-mounted water storage tank, dual Odyssey deep-cycle batteries, solar power, power management, hot water heater and shower system, and a 12VDC refrigerator (as opposed to the traditional 3-way design).

Publisher Scott Brady talks to K.C. about the new features.

L to R: Chris Marzonie, K.C. O’Connor, Scott Brady

Four Wheel Campers offers a full range of pop-up and hard-sided campers for many different trucks. For more information: (800) 242-1442

A stove for those who take too much stuff

Primus TiLite Stove ($165)

Lately I’ve been posting some reviews on gear that I’ve tested over the summer. This latest report covers the new TiLite offered by Primus, a stove maker that has seen the dawn of this and the last century and will probably be around for the next. Quite different from the classic, original Primus stove, the TiLite is an ultra light, compact model that comes with a titanium pot. It presents the user with a featherweight tool able to transform fuel into fire with impressive control.

 The 3.5 ounce TiLite fits in the palm of your hand

How hot, how fast? Capable of 13,500 BTU/h, this stove is fast, yet can simmer as soft as a whisper in the dead of night. I tested it with a liter of 65°F water at an altitude of 5,300 feet with an ambient air temperature of 70°F and barely detectable wind. (I had to use a different pot, because the included titanium version is just shy of a full liter.) It actually beat the manufacturer’s claim of a three-minute boil by 30 seconds. Just for kicks, check those figures against the winning stoves in the Winter 2007 issue of Overland Journal.

Primus TiLite burning hot

So, what else can it do? I’ve been using the stove all summer for backpacking and overland trips and it adapts well to both scenarios. If you’re the type of person who likes to travel light on foot, in a small 4WD, or on a motorcycle, this is a stove worth considering. If you’re a person who takes too much stuff on a trip, then it’s definitely worth considering. The folding support arms have serrations effective at keeping not only the included pot, but larger cookware stable on uneven surfaces. Folded out they provide a 5 ¾” diameter surface and when folded up tight they reduce the size of this 3.5 ounce stove to a svelte 3.6” x 2.9”x 1.2”. As such, I’m not restricted to using the titanium pot, but free to use a large pot, whistling kettle, or even a twelve-inch pan.

The TiLite has a 5.5\

There’s no need to fuss with matches or a lighter thanks to the piezoelectric ignition, and the sensitive fuel knob makes it a snap to adjust the flame from rocket-boost to a sultry simmer, even with gloves on. Aside from the weight and space savings, the versatility provided by the flame adjustment is one of the main benefits I‘ve experienced. The option to go from a mild simmer for delicate foods (with steady fuel delivery; no sputtering) to a 13,500 BTU/h blast torch for boiling or heating quickly is a great benefit. The TiLite pot and stove each come with their own drawstring pouch and the whole kit can be stowed in the larger of the two; an eight-ounce fuel canister fits in the pot and the stove in its smaller pouch sits on the lid. Either of the pouches double as a pot holder if needed. According to Primus, the TiLite should only burn their proprietary Power Gas propane/isobutane fuel blend, but I’ve used the MSR and Coleman versions with no ill effects. Primus lists a 45-minute burn time for a standard eight-ounce fuel can, though I haven’t verified the claim.

So what are the disadvantages?  The only one I could come up with is the limitation of fuel type when considering global travel and extended trips. In that case, a multi-fuel stove would be a better choice.

A close-up of the Primus TiLite TiLite carry bag

Once you fire this thing up, you can’t resist rolling the knob and will no doubt need to be honest with yourself about pyromaniacal tendencies. Though you may be tempted to impress your friends with the flame throwing capabilities, be mindful of fuel consumption so you’ll have some left for coffee in the morning.

Some spec’s:

Heat output: 13,500 BTU/h
Burn time (not verified): 45 mins.
Boil time (as tested): 2:30 mins/secs for 1L water
Stove dimensions (folded): 3.6” x 2.9”x 1.2”
Stove weight: 3.5 oz.
Stove burner platform: 5.75” dia.
Pot dimensions: 3.7” h x 4.75” dia.
Pot weight: 4.3 oz. 307-332-0901

Now, even the wicked can rest

Sierra Designs Wicked Light 45 sleeping bag ($230)

When out on a summer adventure such as can be had here in the southwestern U.S., sixteen hours of light per day is more than enough opportunity to wear a guy down. There’s nothing quite like crawling into a comfortable sleeping bag at the end of such a long day, but if the air isn’t cool enough, it can be frustrating—too hot in the bag, too cool lying on top. Even though nights can be balmy or downright warm when first turning in, they usually get cool enough in the wee hours to warrant a blanket or even a zipped bag at higher elevations.

Wicked Light 45 sleeping bag at Glen Canyon National Rec. Area
Wicked Light 45 sleeping bag at Glen Canyon Nat’l Rec. Area

Over the summer I slept away more than a month’s worth of nights in the Wicked Light 45 from Sierra Designs and I can easily say this is a perfect mild-season bag for me. I’ve been using it for backpacking as well as overlanding in my Toyota 4WD and the versatility is impressive. I can adapt the bag to the situation and sleep comfortably.

Tuck stitching hides and protects threads

The semi-rectangular design employs snag-proof zippers (yes, plural, there‘s two of them) allowing the foot box to be opened separately for adjustable pass-through ventilation. Both zips ride on the same continuous track, so there’s no limit to how far you can open the bag from either end. Additionally, the bag can be fully unzipped at the lower corner, turning it into a lay-flat blanket; perfect for car-camping and sleeping on a larger mattress like an in-vehicle bed or a rooftop tent. While backpacking, I’ve really come to appreciate the lightweight materials and small pack-size. Weighing only twenty four ounces and packed down to six inches by sixteen inches, it’s a cinch to tote around and can shrink even smaller if you use a compression sack. Sierra Designs smartly did away with the bulky draft tube and full-size hood traditionally found on a mummy bag; things I certainly don’t miss on a 45-degree model, especially considering the snag-proof zipper design is effective keeping minor drafts at bay. If it does get chilly there is a draw cord to snug the collar closer, and along with a beanie or bandana, I sleep just fine. Another clever feature is two removable “Pad Locks“—lightweight, adjustable straps that securely center the bag on my sleeping pad. The shell is made of silky 22-denier polyester with tuck-stitching that helps to protect threads from abrasion and oils. Continuous baffles are insulated with cloud-like 800-fill goose down and allow for further adaptability to the temperature by allowing me to manipulate the insulation if needed. As always, the rating is subject to personal preference, but I find the bag to be true to its 45-degree claim on chilly nights. At the upper end of the spectrum, if the air temperature is over 70 degrees, it’s too warm to use as a bag and I‘ll just leave it unzipped or use like a blanket if needed.

Small pack-size
Small pack-size is easy to manage

For those in damp or humid environments, check out the Wicked Hot 45 which is basically the same bag, but with PrimaLoft Eco synthetic fill, made from 50% recycled plastic and just slightly bulkier (not heavier) than this down version, and about fifty bucks less. 800-635-0461

Don’t kill the messengers; invite them on a trip

Kelty Saunter bag ($80)

Sometimes a messenger bag can be just the ticket when you want to travel with something quick and simple. Unlike a backpack, there is only one strap to contend with and usually one or two simple fasteners to open and close the bag. Taller and thinner than a duffle and easily swung from side to back, a messenger lends grace to a walk down an overcrowded bus or airline aisle, or a quick hop onto two-wheeled transport.

 Kelty Saunter at an ancient ring fort in Ireland
Kelty Saunter at an ancient ring fort in Ireland

Kelty has a line of such bags, and earlier this summer I took one along on a two-week hosteling trip through western Ireland. Called the Saunter, the bag blended into the trip marvelously, and along with a sheep’s-wool sweater, I didn’t feel like such an obvious tourist. Well, at least not until I opened my mouth to order a pint. 

While the Saunter wasn’t my only bag for the trip, it served well as a carry-on for the flights and an overnight bag for the hostels. One thousand cubic inches of capacity and two main pockets carried a change of clothes and a sweater, toiletries, and a few other miscellaneous items. Two smaller front pockets (covered with the the flap closed) easily held business cards, pens, and small electronics.

Kelty Saunter bag in Ireland
An old cemetery along the Ring of Kerry

The bag material is made of sixty percent recycled polyester fabric with a TPE coating and looks and feels remarkably like cotton canvas. The sewn-on flap straps, small pocket edges, and wear-patches on the bottom corners are all made of vegetable-tanned leather. The retro-metal hardware is solid aluminum and the shoulder strap webbing is recycled polyester. There is also a nifty little tote bag (also recycled polyester) that stuffs into itself and hangs from a small clip inside the Saunter. Easily carried in the palm of my hand when compressed, I unclipped and deployed it often on sorties to local markets for picnic supplies.

Bumming around Dublin
Bummin’ around Dublin 

The bag held up well to rough handling on the trip, and all summer for that matter. The appearance of the bag is no worse for the wear after hanging from fenceposts and being tossed about, from Irish pastures to all manner of floors, sidewalks, seats, car trunks, bar stools, and the like. One detail I’m not so crazy about is the use of Velcro for the buckle straps and main flap. No fault of the bag really, I’m just not fond of Velcro. I might reconsider if it could do its job silently, be impervious to grime and water, and not stick to non-Velcro fibers. Despite the TPE coating and tidy, strong stitching, the bag isn’t waterproof. It held up fine to minor splashes and spits of rain, but some seepage occurred when I purposely tested it by pooling water on the threads. After using and abusing it all summer I can report it’s a very sturdy bag and considering the classic appearance, you’d never guess it’s made with recycled plastics; a nice bonus. 800-423-2320