Thursday, 30 June 2016

Trip Report - Bogong High Plains Southern Circuit Ski Tour July 2013 Day 1

Early July.  At last, a good dump quickly followed by clear skies. In 24 hours I had made all preparations and left a bitterly cold (-2 degrees) morning in the city.  The temperature stayed below zero until 10:30am as my car's heater struggled to work.  A claimed 57cm of natural snow was awaiting me on the High Plains. In reality it was a bit less, but coverage was near enough to total. The weather forecast was for 3 good days with some cloud in the afternoons followed by sleet arriving on the fourth day. I planned to use all of them.

I had put together a trip plan of 4 short easy days skiing along pole lines or groomed trails and camping at 3 huts, with a choice of Cope or Wallace Hut on the last night depending on whether I wanted to start the final day a bit closer to my destination.  In the middle was a section that I hadn't visited before with pole lines. The final day would be a gentle ski along the generally level and groomed Bogong High Plains Road back to Falls Creek.  For that reason I would suggest this is the best direction to undertake this circuit.  A few fit day skiers do the entire journey in a single day.

The short skiing days would allow me to enjoy the camping part of my journey, give me a chance of exploring around the camp sites (I wasn't sure of the usual water sources at all the huts) and avoid the problems such as wet socks and heel blisters, forgetting items at camp and falling over with the pack. 

I had about 4 days of food and the weight was about 23kg, including 2 litres of water and a snow shovel but excluding the skis. After the trip, my gear shakedown found about 800g of items I didn't use and might not take next time.  A similar amount of food remained. But next time I would take extra socks and blister treatments.
Mt Buffalo - doesn't get as much snow these days
With a quick photo of Mt Buffalo and a half hour tea stop at Tawonga South the road trip, including parking time, to the snow took 5 1/2 hours.

West peak Mt Bogong from Tawonga South
The parking people insisted I park down the mountain.  At least the shuttle was free and quick, even as I was recovering from the overnight parking costs. May be worth parking lower down and hitching up after a gear drop off.

It was about 12:40pm before I started skiing up moderately graded Pretty Valley Road from Windy Corner.  The grade is fairly even and at this time of day the snow was taking traction. I paced myself in to a nice rhythm. The sky was clear.
The road ahead. Mt McKay on right.

The weather along this top section can be bad enough to force parties back and wait for the weather to clear.
Sun Valley - another way up
When I went down Sun valley a couple of years ago with a pack, visibility was limited and spindrift was making it hard to see the surface. I had to fix my eyes on a landmark some 20m away in order to stay upright.  With some difficulty I located the groomed trail down this valley and snow-ploughed my way more or less straight down.  I seem to recall a few plastic orange PVC pipes used as snow poles assisted with the route.  Others had greater difficulty traversing down in the poor conditions and never found the grooming. Pack loads were redistributed to the more able and overmitts were getting blown away to oblivion. 

At the top there is a short flat exposed top section on the road before it then goes down the more protected road cutting.

I might have spent 50 minutes climbing up to the top. The only downside being you will need to run the usual gauntlet of bogans on the chair lift.  Then another 40 minutes skiing along the top exposed section of the road.  This was the first time I had been along this exposed top section.

There were good views all around and only a slight breeze.  I saw no-one out on the trail, but plenty of evidence of recent visitors.
Mt Feathertop

View South West From Gate
I was expecting the trip to the campsite to take about 3 hours but I was also aware that the afternoon was well under way and darkness would fall quickly at 5:00pm.  One of my thoughts was to avoid the 4pm icing up of the snow on the snowmobile-trashed final section of cutting downhill.  The road was groomed as far out as the start of the cutting.
Long shadows about 2:40pm.

 Pretty Valley Dam Wall turnoff.
Snowmobile tracks weren't any problem and there appeared to be some groomed tracks at the sides.  The snow was soft, grading gently down to the hut. I needn't have worried about negotiating ankle breaking icy ruts. Take your time along here as the views are great and it is over soon.

The dam wall area makes for an interesting side trip of a couple of hours.  You can explore over the pondage causeway after camping and return via this trail.  Ski west from Pretty Valley Hut, cross the causeway and circle around to the North.  There is a small hill with a tubular bell on its summit near a quarry.  From here ski across or just below the dam wall. From here you can ski North down the East side of the narrow valley to a pumping station.
PV Hut early July

I got to the hut about 3:00pm.  A long climb and 2 1/2 hour ski up.  It would  be good to get here by about 1pm, which would allow time exploring.

One of the joys of bushwalking/ski-touring is camping and spending the night immersed in the natural world. I setup camp immediately and spent some time preparing the snow surface under the tent into a shallow hammock profile with the head end slightly higher than the feet.

As it was I didn't have a lot of time to explore.  After pitching the tent in some delightful late afternoon sunlight it got gloomy. I knew the snow would get icy and the temperature would drop quickly as the sun dipped below the mountains.

I found shallow slow-flowing water nearby,  but had to dig through 2 feet of snow to a point where I knew it could be found.  That took 20 minutes.

The toilet for this hut is located a couple of hundred metres away (about a 5 minute ski on groomed trail and then through some trees near the horseyards and camping area) 

A snow groomer appeared about 4pm and went up to the horseyards and back
Cold evening approaches

I retreated to the hut  to ready the fire and set a brew.  It didn't take long for the sun to set. 

A Cold Night on the High Plains

Inside a couple of skanky cement-encrusted shovels graced the wall. How hard would it be to clean them before donating them to the hut?  An ancient decrepit pair of 3-pin XC skis also leaned next to the doorway looking like a binding would give out on the first use. Why is this old junk here?
Inside the filhty, cramped but warm hut. Not sure how those logs will fit in the stove though.

I emptied the huge pile of ashes out of the small pot belly stove and set and lit it. The chimney draws well. The hut is cosy/cramped and only a small fire is needed. I heated water for dinner on the stove – it has great air control. The hut is small and the stove hardly uses any wood to heat it.

There was plenty of evidence of rat occupation left on the food preparation bench. On the plus side, this vision of filth reduces your appetite significantly. 

I used a Snowpeak  Multi-Compact Titanium cookset. This 300g kit has nice wide 1L (100+ 65g) and 780ml (82+51g) pots with lids.  Perfect for a remote canister or shellite stove.  You can fit a 230g gas canister in the small pot if you remove the plastic canister cap. You may squeeze in a small fire steel as well.

I had brought a Primus Omnifuel stove and shellite fuel as the forecast was for -5 degrees lows.  Shellite stoves can turn into a fireball. You need to practice using the Omnifuel stove to learn the proper set up and pull down sequence to minimise fuel spillage.  Make sure both valves are shut before pressurising. 

I decided to save on fuel and mostly used the hut stove for this meal once the fire got going.  Be careful about eating out of the main pot lid even as the handle looks like it is designed to be used as a vessel.  The wire handle on the lid opened up under the weight of the food and it slipped its catch.  The lid flopped down and dumped the food unceremoniously on to the hut floor.  Things were looking good for the hut rat. Back home I used needle nose pliers to bend the flanges around to catch the wire handle better.  Doing this makes the connection better, even after a period of time has elapsed in which the spring in the wire handle has had some time to relax.  A clip to hold the handle together would be useful here.

I quickly made another meal by taking some food from each of the meals for the next 2 nights.  Plenty spare was left so no problems down the track.

Retiring to the tent, I put on Primaloft trousers and an uberlight down vest over day thermals, as well as a merino neck warmer and beanie.  I had a full length 3mm PE foam mat fitted under the XTherm air mattress and a short 6mm mat on top covering shoulders to hips. This also attenuates elbow or point forces on the mat that eventually break the internal baffles.  This makes for a warm and comfortable night, the key being to sculpt the snow underneath into a nice hammock shape. 

A big day. I had driven 400km and now I was ensconced in a snow camp on the High Plains. I drifted off, warm and cosy.

Copyright (C) 2017 Bushwalking Light

One Planet Gear Talk from 2013

Back in late 2013 Pinnacle Outdoors in Little Bourke St arranged for a talk from Australian outdoors gear designer and manufacturer Andrew King of One Planet 

The small audience drew a number of interesting characters:  a budding canvas pack maker, an inveterate Nepal trekker, a couple interested in sleeping bags and a few others.

Andrew gave a brief history of AIKING and One Planet. We learnt about his gear making philosophy, which is very much evident in his made-to-last product,  materials traditional and new, and we were given a preview of exciting new developments.

The design and manufacture of tents, packs and sleeping bags can only be described as an applied science. However that is only a part of what is required.  Sourcing materials and equipment, design, costing, efficient manufacture, product testing and certification, distribution and marketing, warranty service are all critical activities.

One Planet serviced 4 different markets: industrial (outdoor education, schools and trekking hire organisations), specialist Antarctic and government sectors, a budget younger adventure market and a well-heeled baby-boomer sector. The product range needs to be viewed with these audiences in mind. A range of products (packs, gaiters, jackets) are actually made in the Sunshine factory and some (tents, bag shells) are sourced offshore. Bag filling, equipment repairs and bag cleaning are done in Sunshine.

Andrew mentioned the many production machines that were required, some dedicated to very specific tasks like the logo applicator and others locally manufactured bespoke to his needs.

Andrew alluded to his own tent design journey through the development from the Gunyah to the Goondie. Goondie 1, 2 and 3 person tents with 2 choices of fly fabric and 2 choices of inner (mesh or solid) are available. Andrew mentioned the UV threat to 15D sil/nylon fabrics was extreme at altitude and Tasmania with lower ozone levels. 30 days exposure might see the end of life of this fabric.  The heavier 30D polyester/PU fabric offers more resistance to UV and also the application of UV Proof products to the fabrics is recommended. Even tougher 75D fabric is used in the Wurley 1 and 3 and fly series.

Goondie 1 30D in fresh snow

Andrew mentioned some of the pack stitching challenges and where his product differentiated from European designs in harness technology. Apparently one corner/multi-seam junction has 8 layers of canvas fabric to stitch through. This process choice enhances the water-proofness of the finished item. Sourcing of materials requires casting a wide net. Much of One Planet's canvas is manufactured in Australia.  The fibre technology is key to the final water resistance. Canvas improves its water-proofness after several wetting and drying cycles.  Two rinse and dry cycles will help to train new canvas.  Andrew recommends just soaking and rinsing dirty canvas to clean it. No scrubbing or soaps.

Samples of laminated harness foam were examined by the audience as we learnt a little bit about how it was stabilised for hot Australian conditions which may be absent in European products. Unstabilised foam found in Euro kit that is kinked and left in a hot car will form a permanent crease. Stabilised foam resists this creasing. It is this "old school" level of attention to detail, and problem solving that I find impressive.

We also saw some samples of canvas and nylon with seam stitching. So some new pack materials may be in play soon.  Plastic frame terminators are also locally produced, but much other hardware is sourced overseas. A new range of travel packs is available - wheelies, hybrids and duffles.


The fine detail required for sleeping bag design was also impressive, with each baffle allocated various amounts of down depending on which part of the body it covered.  Torso and feet more than legs.  There are vertical box baffles, V baffles, zip draft tubes, neck muffs, 3D hoods, pillow slips, security pockets stitched in as well. Construction of the shell must be an art form.

The price of the higher lofts rose on a curve. Andrew was of the view that 800 Loft down was of optimum utility for price. 850+ loft down is extravagant and does not perform in proportion to its price premium but is available for Custom bags. Duck down had a price advantage and was of no lesser quality than Goose down of the same loft rating, however ducks just made less 800+ loft down.  So for 750+ down and below you can save money by choosing Duck down.  The price of down had been fluctuating at a high level for the past 18 months and some manufacturers stocks of down purchased at lower levels may be dipping. The future price of down was uncertain.  Another interesting finding was that some testing had shown Semi Rectangular shape bags were just as efficient as Mummy shapes in warmth/weight and given their extra size, offered a superior sleeping experience.
Zephyr bag

There were some exciting developments in sleeping bags.  Water resistant down is on its way in to bags. Damp down is something you won't notice on weekend trips, but when camping over longer periods may become important if you neglect or can't dry your bag each day.

Perhaps the biggest announcement was the development of a baffle-less synthetic sleeping bag.  Japanese technology had managed to fuse lofted synthetic fill in to a slab which could be attached into bag liners. Thermolink fibre has a 15% improvement in warmth allowing bag weights to be reduced by 200 grams or more. The new range of synthetic bags are lighter and you will notice less stitching. This development has required substantial international research to realise a new cost effective product.

The new Cat and Dog and Torrent rain jackets were wheeled out. Andrew recommended reproofing with TechWash and TX Direct.

Thanks to Andrew for his informative talk, and to Rod and Ian for arranging the session.

Here is an extra rant about bags and having a warm sleep:

Vale One Planet Stowaway and Booster +5 Bags
I hope the much under-rated hoodless Stowaway bag is revived some time in the future. One issue may have been that the EN 13537 testing regime is predicated on hooded bags, so it was difficult to endorse the temperature ratings.  The version I have packs down small (3L) and very light at 700g, and is rated to 0 deg.  I felt cold when using it in what was at least a -2 degrees Strathbogie frost but it can be boosted by employing the Boost +5 bag or by wearing synthetic lofted trousers and an uberlight down vest and/or hooded down jacket, not to mention a set of thermals and wool hat which are pretty much standard bag nightwear in cooler temperatures anyway.  In above zero temperatures I have felt warm enough in this bag.  I now feel pretty lucky to have purchased both these bags before production stopped.  The Boost +5 was probably one of the last available. Synthetic or down insulated clothing works well when worn in bags.  A merino hat and neck buff seal off drafts.  This is the whole point for bags under 1000g,  but it requires education of the market in that philosophy. Years ago I would sleep in the buff in snow in a 1.8kg Polar rated bag. At least it shows I could sleep warm even if my clothing had gotten wet.  If I'd known what I know now I could have saved schlepping 800g or so by wearing more in the bag. A bag can only be used when the user is resting or sleeping, while the clothing is not so restricted and has multi-functionality for the weight carried - as long it doesn't get wet when used outside the tent!

The 500g Booster Add 5 bags have a similar design to the Stowaway.  Combined with a 700g Stowaway it makes a luxurious 1200g sub-zero combo; these 2 bags combined with some down garments make for a system with much more flexibility than a conventional single bag rated to -7 degrees which worked out at about the same price (excluding clothing cost here).  Also, it may be worth noting that hooded bags can be awkward to get into and fully seal up.  A bit of humidity venting is usually needed anyway and a full seal should only be employed on the coldest occasions, such as snow camping or if camped in a frost hollow!

While I'm on this topic, fleece garments such as vests and jackets can be laid out underneath for extra ground insulation, something that similar down garments can't do.  They can also be rolled or stuffed to make quiet and warm pillows.  Shell jackets can also rolled up and placed under sleeping pads to act as pillows.  The coldest spots occur at hips and shoulders and these usually become noticeable after a few hours, so some additional 3mm or 6mm closed cell foam on or under the mattress can help keep these zones warm.

Copyright (C) 2016 Bushwalking Light

Tarptent StratoSpire 1 - First Look and Long Term Review

Tarptent StratoSpire 1, StratoSpire 2 and Notch tents became available in January 2012.  A bit of shakedown time had elapsed, a few improvements to the early models implemented such as panel lifters, vestibule/pole guy attachments along with the availability of a solid fabric inner option and the Aussie $ was high and so it was time to look at them. 

After the windstorm. Clockwise from top left: Tarptent StratoSpire 1, StratoSpire 2 and Notch

Technical Information
Tarptent StratoSpire 1 with solid fabric inner 1100g ($A305 at time of purchase) Postage was about $A70 for 2 tents.
6 Easton 9" stakes and 2 longer guys supplied.
Owner's manual/Pitching instruction sheet supplied.
Pitchloc guys fitted. Stuff Sack supplied. No repair swatches supplied.

Sil/Nylon "high tenacity, 30d, 1.1-ounce/yd2 rip-stop nylon, impregnated with silicone", fabrics on fly and inner floor. 

There are 3 pitch sequences: Integral pitch, fly first, and inner first.
StratoSpire 1 suits 1 person or 2 in a pinch.
Non self-supporting - uses trekking poles or dedicated poles available from Tarptent.

Also available are the optional 70g 122cm (48") Easton Substitute Poles for the StratoSpire 1, or the 127cm poles for the StratoSpire 2. These could be used for the panel tie-outs in strong winds, or for tent support in lighter winds.

Tarptent also have the stronger 120g Easton 12.4mm Vertical Support poles in sizes for both StratoSpires: 122cm for the StratoSpire 1 and 127cm for the StratoSpire 2. These are worth considering for base camp use or for using as panel lifters. The Vertical Support poles are shock cord folding, not telescopic.  The thinner Substitute poles are not recommended for snow loading or severe winds.  I suggest getting all these options along with a few extra 8" Easton stakes since they are competitive (check A$ exchange rates) with local availability and prices for similar items.

Pole Handle Adaptors are available that permit placing the pole tip in ground, rather than in the fly grommet.

I also used a  MYOG Tyvek groundsheet 250g shown in some photos.
First pitch. Groundsheet helps to keep condensation down.

The mix of solid and mesh on the inner is right for cooler conditions.  The solid ceiling stops condensation falling from the fly.  All tents can have condensation problems and a solid inner ceiling will prevent drops and misting from the fly reaching you.  Good ventilation helps but it is not always successful in managing condensation, especially in still conditions.

Fly can be set low on a flat site. I immediately replaced the short vestibule guys.

One quibble I have is the lightweight floors, not that I've had any problems with them on what have been fairly dry thick grassy sites, but on wet sites there may be seepage.  I turned the burden of an accompanying Tyvek groundsheet into an advantage by extending it in to the vestibules and modifying it for tarp shade. On the plus side it should be noted that the floor has no major cross seam. This is the first tent I have seen to have gone to the trouble of using a one-piece floor.  

Both StratoSpires have big vestibules.  There is a small extension of the fly beyond the inner to act as a small annexe in gentle rain.  You can also partially zip up the vestibule door to extend this.

Note: The extended groundsheet restricts the ground source of condensation under the fly, but my working hypothesis is that exhalation is the major cause of condensation.

The Pitch
You must get the trekking pole height right and pegs do need to be firmly in place, especially those that draw out tension in the ridge line.

Set pole height about 122cm for the StratoSpire 1 and about 2" more or 127cm for the StratoSpire 2. Remember those numbers.
First pitch: on a flat site with no wind.

The MYOG Tyvek groundsheet proved a bit slippery on the pole handles.

This is not a tent for rock shelf camps as all fly perimeter pegs are critical and they have limited siting potential. You could still tie on to loose rocks with spare cord which you always carry, right?  Platform setup may also be a bit tricky but not impossible, and for loose sandy sites you will need either sand or snow pegs, buried bags or sticks.

The other question with tent designs supported by trekking poles is how suitable they are for base camping where you want to take your trekking poles with you for a day trip. Again think about extra poles and the weight penalty. There are 6 perimeter pegs, which are all required to be present to secure the tent in wind.  In addition I do not regard the 2 vestibule guys as optional.  The pole guys should be used at all times.  So this tent needs a minimum of 8 pegs outside your lounge room or sheltered backyard and 10 if you guy out the panel lifters. Again think of the weight penalty you invoke.  I chose 23cm Y type.  Loss of 1 peg in strong wind places this tent at immediate risk.

When you factor in groundsheet, extra pegs and extra poles weight might you be better off with another tent choice?

There are a few ways to setup. The recommended way is to layout the tent, place the 4 corner pegs in a rectangle, then insert poles to erect the fly and fully insert the vestibule pegs at this time since there is considerable tension across the ridge line in a taut pitch. Adjust all pegs and guys. Guy out the poles last as this really puts tension in the top.

I have set it up in strong winds starting with the 2 Pitchloc corners at opposite ends.  This also gives a rough longitudinal about 30 deg to the direction of sleeping.  Then insert 1 pole, preset to the correct height and set the door peg.  Do the same with the other pole and then do pole guys and the other corner pegs.  Then make adjustments so all edges are taut. If the fabric curves in near the hem then that means you need to increase the pole height - but loosen off pegs first or you put stitching at risk.

Two doors allows breezes through and is a great feature, allowing for wind changes and gear access. This is a 3 season tent, but for cooler conditions the solid inner will be warmer and may keep out sand and dust.  The mesh inner will be cooler in hot conditions as it will allow breezes to flow through.  I have tried setting up a Tyvek tarp over the top (using the panel poles) and this gives a lot more shade and UV protection.  The inner can be removed (march flies allowing) and doors opened for a larger volume under shade.

Since the fly is sil/nylon, in bright sunlight you might want to rig the groundsheet on top as UV protection and shade. I fitted grommets to a Tyvek sheet to accommodate this. It turns out that Tyvek is brilliant as a sun shade. It reflects most light and heat and feels cool to touch.  You'll need a larger than groundsheet size and 2 extra poles if you intend to shade the entire fly.
First pitch looks good.

There were a lot of seams to seal. It helps to have a taut pitch when doing this as many long seams form unsupported ridges.  Allow about an hour for the StratoSpire 1 and 90 minutes for the StratoSpire 2.  That may be 2 batches of silicone/turps mix which gives you a break in the middle. I didn't bother to do the hem stitching except where it was near to tie outs.  I also seam sealed some small seams in the corners of the floor.  This was a tedious job.


Fitting the poles with handles upright was tricky as they tended to slip out of the shallow pocket.  You may need the optional handle adaptors for this, although you may be able to get away with a fudge using a bit of cord.  I ended up using the "tip upright" mode.
PitchLoc corner. Put peg through the loop in guy line and set at 45 degrees. Stingy cord lengths become a real problem when servicing in strong wind. End knots jam in the Linelocs.
Pole tip fits in to fly grommet. The tip pokes through to touch the black support patch. Care needs to be taken when setting up that this doesn't slip out. Check before tightening down on the guys!
The peg tie out points all have shock cord loops except for the PitchLoc corners. This will keep tension on the fly when the Sil/Nylon gets wet and stretches. I fitted pull cords to all 6 Easton pegs.
I fitted light shock cord loops to the 4 panel tie-outs. This should be a standard fitting. Later I added a connecting cord linking the 2 tie-outs on each panel.

Additional guys and pegs, and poles are required for the 2 pairs of panel tie outs. They are found on the central seam just above each Pitchloc corner.  There are 2 of these tie-out points close together on each top panel. 1 long guy, 1 peg and 1 pole to act as a lifter is needed for each panel. So where does the extra pole come from? For the StratoSpire 2, perhaps the second occupant has a set.  If you are solo in a StratoSpire 1 you may find a suitable stick or else you will need poles. Use these tie-outs in windy conditions - they keep the inner off the fly and shutdown excessive flapping. 

Note the super strong shock cord loop provided for lowering the inner in order to fit 2 sleeping pads. Looks over-requirement and 2.5mm might have been enough. It's easy to replace though.

Velcro fly tieback. Works well but I prefer toggle and loop.
Elastic tieback requires 2 hands and comes undone unless a knot is tied. Many tents use a toggle and loop.
The supplied pole/vestibule guy lines seemed a little short at about 1.6m. I immediately replaced these with 2.4m X 2mm Liros dyneema on examination at the first pitch. These also slip in the Linelocs in high winds, so I upgraded to even longer 3mm Lawson cord for all the guys.  This extra thick and high friction cord plus using a toggle near the knotted loose end adds enough friction to stop slipping in strong wind. 

I attached one of the original shorter guy lines in to the inner roof between the poles as a short clothes drying line. Attachment points are provided.

I added short 2mm cord zip pulls to all 12 zip pulls. These were made from the other short guy line.  Melt the ends to avoid fraying and use figure 8 knots. This makes operating the zips a lot easier and reduces snagging. The line has a reflective thread too. If this is going to increase the cost if done by the manufacturer, perhaps a bit of cord could be supplied for the end user?
Longer dyneema guys were the first mods. A Trailstar with Pitchlocs might look a bit like this from the side.

Allow at least 3 hours in 2 sessions to do all the mods: seam sealing, UV Proofing (a quick spray and wipe with Tent and Gear SolarProof. This should be replaced after rain events),  replacing all guys with 3mm cord and toggles, adding zip pulls, cut and insert hanging lines, shock cord loops on panel lifters plus prepare cord (add extra pegs) and peg pulls. A Tyvek groundsheet/tarp with hems and grommets is another 2 hours.

The Design

Both StratoSpires have a similar design, varying in just dimensions.  I discovered one way to derive the flysheet panel geometry is to start off with making a 2 pole version of the MLD Trailstar.  I drew 2 overlapping hexagons showing the 10 equilateral triangle sections (2 sections are shared in the overlapping portion). The poles are at the centres of the hexagons.  Now remove one triangular panel from each diagonally opposite end and draw the remaining panels together and join the gaps with zips. By gathering the panels together in this way you add the third dimension to the structure. You end up with an 8 triangle panel structure with an elongated hexagonal footprint. Logical and elegant.  From that point the design gets scaled, various dimensions get adjusted and so on to give any number of shelter variations. Pitchloc corners are then added to the 2 main roof triangle panels to lift the ground contacting vertices for more useable volume.

Completing the design circle, we may ask could we take the 5 panel Trailstar and include 4 or 5 Pitchloc corners? This would address the issues of its large footprint and unusable space near the edge. I would really like to see one built.
Fly is close to ground

The fly appears symmetrical in 2 planes.  The tent inner base is located asymmetrically within the fly to avoid having passive space in the Pitchloc corners.  Each Pitchloc corner in the fly is the location of a diagonally opposing corner of the inner. The fly ridgeline straddles base of the inner at an angle when seen from above. The inner roof is also suspended at the same angle to the base.

In terms of interior space the StratoSpire 1 compares favourably with the One Planet Goondie 1.  There is plenty of elbow space for getting dressed.  Don't forget the inner is removable if you are using it as a shelter from sun or rain.

If with another, the StratoSpire 2 is an obvious choice as it doesn't weigh much more. It has room for 2 or 3 and a much bigger footprint.

Pitches nicely on the flat. Elegant style.
Overhead view shows substantial coverage of the fly.

Nice wide doors make entry and exit easy.  A nice feature of the asymmetrical design is the poles are not in the centre of the side but about 2/3 of the way down, making larger doors both sides.

For packing, remove poles, pegs and sort out guys, grab the Pitchloc struts together, fold in half and roll up.   The stuff sack was large enough.
Main Range camp after field repair after pitching on an uneven site. Testing some upgraded panel guys here.

There are many peg sequences for pitching but having the poles at the right height is criticalNote: Adjusting the pole height higher requires easing adjustments in guys and peg placements first.

The more hemisphere-like in the case of a tent, the more usable volume you will have for a given surface area of fabric.  I think the Pitchloc corner is an important innovation.  It reduces footprint, fabric area and maybe weight in the drive to increase usable internal volume. 

Main Range camp with 3mm longer guys. A toggle also assists in providing line friction with the 3mm orange Lawson cordage.

I have now used it twice in very windy and strong gusty conditions (50+ kmh) on the Main Range, almost losing it twice after pegs popped, one taking some time to locate when it flew off 10 metres.  Never again. I found the challenge is to keep it anchored with a taut pitch.  Points to watch for in wind: the Pitchloc guys and vestibule guys can slip, but first check if wind pressure has collapsed the telescopic trekking poles.  Bringing the pole back to correct length in windy conditions under sustained pressure can be difficult.  Using longer 3mm high friction cord with toggles really helps with cord slipping.  This tent has large under-supported areas of fabric that can act as bulging spinnakers.  The fabric and construction took a walloping and survived undamaged. Don't skimp on substantial long pegs and always seek sheltered sites with this tent.  Always use the panel lifters with shock cord loops in high winds. Get the extra poles for this. It flaps noisily in wind even under taut pitching. The diagonally opposed low ceiling panels (one is seen in picture above on the left) will be a problem in wind and tend to push down on your face.  Always use the vestibule guys and replace the originals with 3mm cord at least twice the length provided by the manufacturer.  I also employ toggles to give extra friction from slippage through the Line-locs.

Last year I also managed to pop about an inch of stitching at the top of the vestibule when pitching with an over-extended pole on some undulating ground.  My fault.  Don't over-tension the fly.  When I repaired this with some hand stitching (use polyester thread and a very fine needle) I noticed some of the original stitching had wandered off-seam a bit, so I checked the other vestibule and put in some re-inforcing there as well.  You might be advised to check same and pre-emptively reinforce. A parallel single row of stitches down the middle of the seam should do. The repair has lasted some serious buffeting. Eventually I unpicked the stitching at leisure and redid a much better looking job, using many of the same holes. Since sil/nylon stretches quite a bit, don't sew the stitching tightly, and don't stretch the fabric when sewing, let the fabric take the pitch or wind strain as it is much stronger than 2 rows of polyester stitches.  The stitches are there to hold the panels together laterally more than anything. If you want to apply a patch over the work, you need to use a sil/nylon repair kit with silicone adhesive. Neither Tenacious tape nor Stormsure patches will take to silicone. I'm not going to bother here as it is not a tear, but I will put some silicone seam sealer on it eventually.  I just don't want to open a tube for such a small job. (I have found open silicone tubes keep in the freezer.)

Lightweight gear may have compromised robustness for your intended use. I probably won't take this tent up on the Main Range again.  Given the high probability of experiencing strong wind (2 out of 3 trips with this tent) and a lack of sheltered sites, probably a tent with a crossover pole design is more suitable in this region.

Field stitching repair. Use a very fine needle and polyester thread.
So where is the right habitat for this tent?  All tents prefer good weather, especially mild winds, and a nice flat, soft, dry, well-drained, sheltered, grassy, low UV site with lots of space. Most tents can handle moderate rainfall but sustained deluges can compromise fly and bathtub floor integrity. This tent does need a bit of room to guy out, it likes flat, or at least even, sites with good pegging opportunities around the fly rim and it prefers  sheltered locations on well-drained dry ground.  High UV is also not advised and it does not offer much shade or radiant heat protection. It's not really a snow tent either since there are large unsupported regions of fly. This list of attributes may indeed describe many traditional tried and tested camp sites in the bush as written up in guides.  However, rock slabs, platforms, sand dunes, windy or high UV, cramped or damp sites may be more of a challenge. Good luck with that. Having said that, it has copped a beating, albeit protesting loudly, and survived.

The Wash Up

This roomy single user tent packs small and is light, has good ventilation and in good weather conditions is a palace which can take 2 users at a pinch.

It occupies more site space than many single user arched pole designs and it requires practice and skill to pitch correctly. Orienting the floor to slope takes a little practice. Check your poles are the correct height (122cm or 127cm) and lock down tight.  Take care when tensioning and make sure the pole tips are in the grommets before cinching down on the guys.

The inner drapes a bit, and more thought on its suspension is needed in order to achieve the potential internal volume of the design.  A few more attachments are needed.  Winds can force panels onto your face when lying down and you will need to sit up and brace the panels and poles in gusty conditions. The tent inner does not have any storage pockets which may be because of the low support the inner has from the fly.

Wind is its enemy. The fly has 8 large panels which mostly are supported by tension, not by bracing as in arched cross pole designs. A couple more panel lifter attachments are required at each end of the inner.  By the time you add the weight of panel lifter support hardware for moderating the effects of winds, you might have grounds to reconsider your choice of tent.  For windy (i.e. above 35kmh) and exposed sites it's probably best to choose another tent. However this is not always evident in trip planning.

All guys have stingy lengths which make adjustment in wind or cold hands fiddly if not difficult or impossible. The line-locs slip under wind load and cannot be adjusted in those conditions. Just tying off is not really a good option either since the tension will make the knots very hard to undo and adjust, usually when the situation is critical.  Replace all of the guys with heavier and longer cord with high friction co-efficient and use toggles to secure the line ends unless you just intend to camp in your lounge room or sheltered back yard. The original guys can be cut up and made into much needed zip pulls. Carry extra cord. 

A 100 denier, 5000 millimetre, PU-coated HT nylon floor may be better and ultimately lighter for the user since a 250g footprint would not be required. On the other hand if your footprint can double as a shade or rain shelter this can be turned to an advantage.

The Stratospire is a brilliant design that could benefit from some more robust execution.  I hope it continues to evolve long into the future. I look forward to a version 2 upgrade.

I bought the Stratospire with my own funds and I have no relationship with Tarptent.

Copyright (C) 2018 Bushwalking Light

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

One Planet Goondie 1 30D Tent - Long Term Review

Winter 2011, seven years ago now, saw the release of this shelter by One Planet. I had one last snow camp with the 3.5kg old Olympus and another with a new but condensation-prone one-person 3-season model before the Goondie was released for sale. So this review is about the first release model. I would have purchased one of the first out the shop, and the cost then was about A$350.  Exchange rates (made in China) have since worsened, upgrades have been made and the current version is about A$560. However, with its available fly and inner options, it may be the only 1-person tent you need. It is easy to set up and tough, with good local support from the maker. 

At the end of September 2011, I deployed it on the remaining High Plains snow in a solo snowshoe trip to Roper hut. I have now used it twice on 5-night summer sojourns around the Main Range in perfect weather, a wet 2-night trip to Mt Feathertop including a leech-infested site at Dibbins Hut, an overcast and cold 3-night ski tour of a southern circuit of the High Plains in early July 2013 getting down to -7 degrees overnight, a dry trip to the Crinoline, a misty trip to Macalister Springs and Crosscut Saw, a 1-night snow camp on Mt Stirling, four 3-night winter trips to Mt Stirling (the first having a 40cm dump of snow) and a torrential night of biblical proportions on Mt Buffalo.  This shelter has performed well in clear sky, cold, snow and heavy rain.
Evening at a camp with a view, Victorian Alps.
Snow bench site poised for a summit bid.
The Goondie comes in Goondie 1, 2 and 3 versions. There is a choice of mesh or solid nylon inners, and 15D (green sil/nylon, 3 season) or 30D (orange PU nylon, 4 season) flys are available. There is also a 2,750g Goondie 2 Snow version now.  A similar design with heavier and more UV resistant 75D fabric has been released as the Wurley 1,2 and 3 and Wurley 3 Snow. A cheaper variant is the Vagabond 2, weighing 2,500g.

This variant has an orange 30D polyester/PU fly (510g), 15D nylon inner (655g) with a 210T 100 denier nylon PU bathtub floor, 3 X  9.1mm DAC Featherlite NSL alloy poles (494g), 2 "Mega" pegs for the vestibules, 4 Aluminium alloy hook pegs (130g) and 6 supplied guys with toggles. The floor is tough and usually I don't use a groundsheet. There are 4 guy pockets on the fly corners.  2 guys can attach to the vestibules to allow the vestibules to be partially rolled up.  Weight came to 1789g after I seam sealed the fly and floor. Seam sealing protects stitching from UV and water and protects the adhesive on the seam sealing tapes from water penetration. The floor is transected by a taped seam. 

Light snowfall in the Victorian Alps, 2017. About to decamp for the summit.

I also added 2 alloy hook pegs and a small Aluminium pole repair sleeve.  The alloy pegs are a bit soft but they work-harden with a bit of hammering when straightening.  You can save a few grams weight with more expensive and tougher Titanium pegs. The 2013 catalogue mentions "unbendable tri-cornered alloy pegs" have replaced the 4 alloy hook pegs.  You can use 10 pegs for maximum stability - the 4 guys, the 2 vestibules and the 4 corners.  A minimum of 2 pegs is required by the vestibules.  For snow camping I use 6 snow pegs (about 330g after drilling out).
Goondie 1 30D Mt Feathertop
The main poles can be attached to the fly via velcro tabs but I haven't used these.

There is a vent over the vestibule door.  A guy can be attached to a partly rolled-up vestibule giving better ventilation.  I attached 2 supplied spare guys to the inner ceiling as overnight sock drying lines.

The green 15D Sil/Nylon fly comes in 110g lighter at 400g. This brings the weight down to 1680g, but this has less UV resistance.
An overcast Pretty Valley snow camp
The quality of shade offered by small tent and tarp fabrics is poor. It might stop you getting a sunburn but won't keep you cool unless a breeze can pass through.  A poly or Tyvek tarp can protect a tent from UV and give cool shade underneath. Small poly tarps 172 X 110cm are 208g   Tyvek Homewrap makes a very effective cool shade with great reflectivity. Check my post here how to make one.

Considering the Goondie as part of a strategic transformative  upgrade, I have reduced the weight of tent, pack, sleeping bag, pad and stove carry by over 4kg from what I was carrying in the 1990's and gained improved function in that transition.
Camped at Roper Hut
After-snow-season camp at Roper Hut, 2011
Inside it is 2300mm long, 1000mm high and 700-800mm wide. I am 183cm and find it long enough with room at the ends to store clothing and gear bags. I can also sit up to get dressed, but elbow room is limited.
  • Self supporting (technically, the vestibules need pegging out). The guys are not needed to setup the tent and, depending on the site and wind, I usually don't use them.
  • It has a tough floor, so it saves the weight of a groundsheet.
  • Guy cord pockets on fly keep things tidy.
  • Condensation is a non-issue. Vent over the door vestibule.
  • Good headroom lying down (at either end). I find it hard to tell which is the wider end.
  • Occupies a small footprint. 
  • Semi-geodesic design and crossed poles = stability in poor conditions.
  • 2 vestibules. More than enough storage space for pack and gear.
  • Inner access port to opposite vestibule. Useful in wet.
  • Can sit up and dress in inner tent.
  • Sheds rain and wind well.
  • Solid interior is warmer than a mesh inner.
  • Inner-only setup for hot, dry, camps (recommend purchase of mesh inner) 
  • You can add a small fly tarp verandah/annex using 2 trekking poles.
  • Fly with bathtub groundsheet (Fast and light" mode) setup is now available.
  • Highly visible safety colour orange (or sil/nylon green).
  • Robust construction

  • Weighs a bit more than trekking pole shelters.
  • Some may find it cramped in width, although I have seen a trip report of 2 sharing this tent(!) 
Weston Hut
The fly doesn't extend close to the ground, as you can see in many of the photos. I could probably improve the pitch and tighten down an inch or two and also some of the sites fell away a bit (like at Weston hut). This design feature is good for ventilation and does much to explain the low condensation levels. I understand the vestibules of the updated fly extend further and 10cm has been added to the vestibule panels but not the ends.

The inner-first setup is a deal-breaker for many.  I have set it up in driving rain and found very little water got in the solid inner during the set up, and any that did was easily mopped up. The inner-first setup concern is often overrated, but may have greater relevance for those users in really wet areas.  Setup takes about 5 minutes.
Victorian Alps camp after 10cm snowfall. Goondie snow shedding capability is shown.
The Goondie 1 30D has performed well in many snow trips now.  It sheds snow well and from inside it is difficult to determine if it is snowing at all.  The solid inner helps boost air temperature a few degrees and that usually means something above 0C in our snow conditions. A pack can be stowed in either vestibule and there is enough room in the inner to store large ski boots in a sturdy plastic bag to prevent them freezing in snow camps.  I use the second vestibule infrequently. The extra internal space in a larger tent like the Goondie 2 may be used to store a pack and spread out gear.  

I usually take a small snow shovel for these trips as it helps to sculpt the bed shape and a foot trench near the door to stop kicking snow in, which helps with putting boots on and getting out and also it collects cold air away from the inner. 

You can also build wind breaks with snow walls or an igloo (it took me 4 sweaty hours on Mt St Phillack). When expecting heavy snowfalls I dig a small trench around to collect the fall-off and delay its build-up on the walls.  This also keeps ventilation working. The tent has coped easily with a 30cm overnight dump.

Goondie 1 with the lighter 15D Sil/Nylon fly.
A mesh inner is available for warmer conditions. These are about 50g lighter than the comparable solid inners, however condensation off the fly may then become more of an issue.  Having said that you may not need to use the fly, weather permitting.  For summer daytime chilling-out on the Main Range I just put up the mesh inner and then rig a Tyvek tarp over to screen the high UV and heat.  At night I usually put the fly on but leave the door open in temps around 4 or 5C and enjoy the starry sky. It would be worth the manufacturer to consider using a solid ceiling to catch condensation.  I have had condensation on the inside of the fly (e.g. 7C camped at altitude and in fog or cloud) but this did not penetrate the DWR solid inner. Mesh inners allow the inevitable condensation inside the fly to subsequently rain on any occupants.

A solid inner will increase the air temp several degrees but it may be a bit more humid too. Hoar frost from breath will collect on the inside of the inner in cold conditions, but this is easily wiped off with a paper dish cloth.
The Goondie pitched in a cramped site near The Crinoline.
There is a single vent above the main vestibule. It has a very stiff wire inserted in to the hem.  I wonder if a softer wire would work just as well.  I use this wire as the axle when rolling up the fly.  This single vent, along with the high ground clearance of the fly has contributed to a condensation-free interior when nearby ventless tents have failed.

This tent copped a biblical deluge on Mt Buffalo without a drop leaking in.

The Goondie 2 30D comes in at 2120g (1000-1200mm wide, 2 doors, so will just fit two mats) and should be considered for base camping, solo snow trips or when becoming tent-bound by bad weather is likely.  The 15D fly brings weight down to 1960g.  Big enough for two but not cavernous. Note: It's 15cm narrower but 10cm longer than the early 1990's version of the Macpac Olympus, which also has massive vestibules at each end ideal for snow use. The Olympus is also integral pitch.

The poles, pegs and guys for the Goondie 1 and Goondie 2 are the same.
KNP. Sil/nylon tarps are ineffective for cool shade. It turns out Tyvek HomeWrap is better. 

Problems Experienced:
I did have a failure of the inner door zip top attachment to the solid inner. The zip end was only lightly stitched to the inner seam. One Planet repaired it with re-inforcement and stitching, and supplied a couple of extra guys as a sweetener, all without charge.  One Planet has since added  re-inforcement on the upper zip end on subsequent manufacture.

If you have an early model Goondie, then I recommend you check this top zip attachment point.  It is easy to hand sew on a few stitches between the zip tape and the inner seam and add a small safety pin across the zip tape to stop the slider from forcing itself off the end of the zip.  One Planet say to make sure the zip is fully open when entering or exiting the tent.
Zip attachment problem
Some small safety pins held the zip together.

One Planet seem to make ongoing alterations to the design without notification.

A cold camp 4pm July, Pretty Valley. A much gloomier view the next morning.
With tents you are always comparing apples with oranges.  For those travelling fast and light there are lighter tents with more internal room that will serve well in low wind, low snowfall conditions. Some arched single pole tent designs are roomier and marginally lighter, but not self supporting. These weigh around 1400g without a groundsheet.  The Goondie 1 with Sil/Nylon fly weighs a little more than these but it has a stable self-supporting semi-geodesic structure for its weight. It handles wind and snow well compared to many trekking pole shelters with their annoying large-span flapping panels.
A cold Ryder yards morning. This site is surrounded by frost hollow.

4am, -7 degrees. I put on nearly all spare clothing, the inner was coated in hoar-frost.
I have been just able to cook with a gas stove in a half open vestibule during an extended downpour.  The rain was extended so I collected water off the fly.  

The floor is tough - reassuring when rivulets run underneath.  The fly does not protest and flap loudly in wind like pyramid or double pole designs do.  You can pick it up and move it quickly if the wind shifts or you find you have camped in a run-off zone.

Exposed site near North Rams Head.  The Goondie can hold its own with many tents when it comes to wind.
In calmer weather you can deploy a light tarp that rests on the tent as an annex with 2 sticks, trekking poles or skis as support at the front. I found this arrangement surprisingly easy to configure and adjust, even in mild winds ( <20kph). Useful for cooking in sustained drizzle or light snowfall, provide shade or shelter from mild winds.
I am giving it 4 stars rating ****  Highly Recommended.

Exposed Mt Twynam saddle camp after a noisy buffeting wind overnight.
Possible improvements including recent feedback from the designer:
  • Mesh addition on the small vestibule port. (Update: Done ?)
  • It might benefit with extra guy attachment points at the top of the vestibules for those windy pitches.
New Fitzgerald Hut. I am pitched at the entrance to the front door of the original hut.
The Fitzgerald hut appears to be made out of recycled red gum sleepers.  Huts will usually offer you a seat out of the wind, a table and a wood stove to warm you and dry gear. Some wood stoves will also provide a hob for a brew up or a hot meal. A strong fire is required to boil water on them. A fire in the pot belly stove makes them a lot more appealing for social activity especially at night.

An update of the Goondie now supports fly-first pitching using a special groundsheet and a plastic crossover point pole connector. 
Effects of heavy "sugar snow" snowfall, Victorian Alps

Sunrise after a quiet night at Wallace Hut, BHP.

High camp on the treeline in the Victorian Alps.

A rare winter sunset displays between leaden sky and earth below in the Victorian Alps.

I bought the Goondie with my own funds and I have no relationship with One Planet.

Copyright (C) 2018 Bushwalking Light