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Just a reminder that you can find me on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/HikeLighter   I tend to be fairly active on my facebook page, often posting two or three times a week. Sometimes I talk about gear that I am working on developing, if I see a cottage company make updates to their gear I try to post about that, sometimes it is simply sharing an awesome articles or videos I have come across, sometimes it is updates on my hiking adventures, and sometimes just about what is going on in my life. I encourage everybody to follow my facebook page if you want to keep up with what is going on. Once you have clicked the “Like” button, please be sure to move your mouse over the updated “Liked” button and a menu will drop-down, and be sure to click on the “Get Notifications” option! Thanks everybody!

Written by John B. Abela

February 24, 2014 at 9:47 am

Posted in News & Updates

Tagged with

ZPacks “Arc Zip” Backpack

with 17 comments

ZPacks "Arc Zip" Backpack

ZPacks “Arc Zip” Backpack

Greetings Hikers,

Very happy to share the news that ZPacks has released the “Arc Zip” backpack, which has been a collaborated design involving myself and Joe Valesko, since I initially approached him with the idea of working with me to build a front panel cuben fiber backpack, back in September of 2012.

The “Arc Zip” is a fully featured backpack that utilizes an old fashion front panel loading design. Simply put, it was time to bring an old school design into the world of new school fabric and modern day lightweight backpack weights.

The “Arc Zip” is being offered in three different volume sizes:

A 47L (2,850 cubic inches) weighing only 19.0 ounces (539 grams).

A 54L (3,300 cubic inches) weighing only 19.5 ounces (553 grams).

A 62L (3,800 cubic inches) weighing only 20 ounces (567 grams).

The Arc Zip features a traditional full-U shaped zipper making up the front panel loading pocket. Sitting on top of the front panel is a high volume ‘front pocket’ that is solid fabric giving it a very clean look. Designed without a roll top closure, it uses a top compression system that allows you to compress down the top of your pack as you eat through your food or if you just do not need the extra volume. It features two internal compression straps to help keep your gear in place and give the pack extra durability for those times when you have to carry a lot of gear.

The Arc Zip, like all of the Arc backpacks designed by ZPacks, includes the Patent Pending Flexed Arc carbon fiber frame, solid fabric side pockets (5 Liters / 300 cubic inches), side compression straps, top and bottom straps, hydration ports.

 

Front Panel:

The heart of the “Arc Zip” is of course the front panel. A traditional fold over design that has stood the test of time, though sadly has faded into history over the last decade, but being brought back into the spotlight by yours truly. A front panel loading backpack allows a hiker to very quickly and easily access any piece of gear in their pack. Simply unzip the main zipper and you have access to all of your gear – that is what a front panel loading backpack is all about. Through the use of hybrid (cuben fiber and nylon) [2.92 oz/sqyd] it allows for the “Arc Zip” to have a large #5 YKK waterproof zipper, for a higher level of durability over smaller and weaker zippers. The same #5 zipper is also used on the front pocket.

 

Front Pocket:

The front pocket was one of the last features that we focused on building. It is rather massive at 10 liters (600 cubic inches) – think almost three of the ZPacks Multipacks! By going with solid fabric for the front pocket we allowed the “Arc Zip” to stay in traditional fashion, while also allowing this pocket to be used for gear that you might traditional keep inside the pack in order to protect them from the elements. The solid fabric front pocket also makes the “Arc Zip” look amazing. The most important reason for going with solid fabric for the front pocket, is, of course, because it is a front loading backpack – which means every time you open up the main front panel, if the front pocket was mesh all of your gear would fall out when you open the front panel, as mesh front pockets have no solid closure system.

 

Internal Compression Straps:

Internal compression straps are key to the long term durability of front panel loading backpacks. The high stress that can be placed on the main zipper of the front panel often leads to the zippers pulling apart or snagging and eventually failing. While most of this is just a matter of not over stuffing the backpack, there are times when it is just unavoidable, such as on very long sections of trails without resupply. Through the use of two internal zippers, called internal compression straps because they help compress the two sides of the front panel together, it helps relieve pressures placed on the zipper. This has long been one of the high failure points of front panel backpacks, yet it is so easy to solve by just adding internal compression straps, which we have done with the “Arc Zip”.

 

Top Compression:

Hopefully you are able to find yourself in a situation where your backpack is not stuffed to the brim. That is the goal of lightweight backpack after all. During the final development of the “Arc Zip” we discovered that as we consumed food the top of the backpack was just flapping around because there was nothing at the top to hold it in place. To solve this, Joe designed a unique approach to pulling down, to compress, the top of the bag as was needed depending upon how much gear and food you have inside of it. The advantages of this over a roll-top closure are rather significant – plus, a front panel loader with a roll-top is just wrong in so many ways ;)

 

Standard Features:

All of the standard features of the other ZPacks Arc series backpacks are included with the “Arc Zip”. This includes side pockets, top straps, base straps, side compression straps, sternum straps, and a hydration port.

I personally recommend adding load lifter straps and a lumbar pad (or two) and of course belt pouches.

 

Frameless Backpack:

Originally I set out to build a front panel loading backpack that was frameless. However after using the “Arc Blast” for a few seasons (read my review of the Arc Blast) I came to realize there was something about the Flexed Arc carbon fiber frame that really made the decision to turn the “Arc Zip” into a full framed backpack. By making the backpack part of the “Arc” series we were able to gain not only the frame system, but the heavier duty nylon/cuben fiber fabric, which allowed us to use a #5 zipper rather than a #3 zipper for much better durability. One of the really nice aspects of the Flexed Arc frame is the ability to remove it. Many times over the last year I have taken the prototype packs off the frame and used the pack in a frameless mode.  By removing the flat carbon fiber supports you are able to save 63 grams (2.22 ounces) and allow the pack to fit snug against your body like most traditional frameless packs.

 

Pricing / Availability:

The pricing of the three different sizes of the “Arc Zip” are:

47 liter – $300

54 liter – $310

62 liter – $320

The slightly higher cost of these over a standard “Arc Blast” are a result of the extra fabric, the use of #5 waterproof zippers, internal compression straps and the extra time it takes to build the “Arc Zip” over a traditional non front panel loading backpack. For those who love and desire front panel loading backpacks, I am sure that the extra few dollars will mean very little to have one of these amazing backpacks!

For those wondering if I will receive any compensation for being the primary designer of this backpack, the answer to that is no. I have almost a dozen products on the market right now that I have either completely designed, or in the case of the “Arc Zip” have co-designed, and I do not take a penny from any of these products being sold. Should I? Perhaps. But I have chosen not too.

The pack is available right now, right here!

 

Insights as a co-designer:

First off let me just say a huge “thank you” to Joe Valesko of ZPacks for allowing me the opportunity to work with him to bring another piece of gear to market. My first email to him about building a front panel loader was on September 10, 2012 and over the course of the last two years we have had over 50 emails back and forth on the development of this backpack. We have built two prototypes along the way and the have been mailed back and forth over the last two years a number of times.

The very first design I approached him with started off with the pack being made in some light weight fabric so we could nail down the design without spending a lot of money. I used the first prototype for a few months and mailed it back to Joe with a list of suggested changes. Over the next year the prototype pack went through a number of modifications. Issues such as how many internal compression straps was a huge issue – and probably the most important aspect of the entire design – for without them, the ability to have long term durability and not have zipper failures was going to make it so it could never be brought to market. We went from one internal strap to three and eventually settled on two of them strategically placed.

My original design of the pack included an ‘internal pocket’ rather than an external pocket (aka: front pocket). This caused a fair amount of discussion back and forth and two or three design changes. Initially the internal pocket was zipperless and just had some elastic at the top. That proved to not be a good idea as anytime the front panel was opened small heavy items (such as headlamps) in the internal pocket would go flying out. So we had to go back to the drawing board. Switching out the elastic to a zipper was an option, but it would present manufacturing difficulties, and my job as the pack designer was to make a pack that was usable for hikers *and* a pack that ZPacks could make without complications and still make money – a business has to make money after all, to pay for all those awesome people making our gear – that is just part of being a responsible gear designer. A lot of this issue with the internal/external front pocket was solved when we made the switch to using the Arc design. The more durable fabric allowed us to move the pocket to the outside, make the pocket bigger and thus more overall volume (an internal pocket, after all, consumes volume from the inside of the pack) and make it a lot easier to access the gear that is stored inside of it, by not having to open the front panel to access.

We also spent time talking about outside pockets. Should they even be on the pack? Do they go against all that is sacred about a front panel loader? How will overloading them add stress to the front panel zippers? Should they be faced upwards when wearing the pack or when the pack is on the ground? (that was a headscratcher, but eventually we went with the standard design as that is what hikers are use too).

This is the very first backpack that I have been involved in building and I have to say it has been fun. When Joe hand delivered to me the final prototype at the 2014 PCT Kickoff, I think all of us were pretty amazed at just how awesome it looks. We went with the “All Green with black accents” and with the design of the zipper arch, and the front pocket, its just one amazing looking backpack. Over the last six months since I received the final prototype I put some miles on it just to make sure all was good-to-go. I recently sent it back to Joe and the photo at the top of this article is the final pack design. What a hot looking backpack!!

For all of you out there, whether an old timer who understands what front panel loaders are all about, or a younger hiker such as myself who even at 40 years of age I’m still a bit too young to really remember the hay-days of front panel packs, or whether you are a fast moving 20-something looking for something unique and something that gives you access to all of your gear with utter simplicity, I really do hope that you will find this new “Arc Zip” something of value and something that gets to see some amazing places and a whole lot of trail-time!

Thank you,
+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com


In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell AmericaBlack Rock Gear, Suluk46.

Written by John Abela

July 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Klymit Motion 35

with 13 comments

The Klymit Motion 35 Backpack.

The Klymit Motion 35 Backpack.
(stock photo)

Greetings,

In late 2013 I started hearing rumors that Klymit, a company I have bought a fair amount of gear from and wrote some great reviews about (ref 1, ref 2, ref 3), were in the process of bringing a backpack to the market. I did not put a lot of trust in these rumors because it did not seem like Klymit would be the kind of company to bring a backpack to the market. They have partnered with a number of companies that make backpacks to supply their airframe support technology for makers of backpacks. This rumor changed when I was handed a Klymit Motion 35 in January of 2014 at the PCT Kickoff in Southern California.

I was briefly told about its features and to give it a go “if it looked like something that would work for me“, no strings attached. Having been involved in building a backpack for the last two years I did not really expect to get much, and to be honest, probably not any, use out of it. All of that changed when I found myself without a backpack for a three day hike I was invited to. My primary backpack was off getting some repair work, my prototype was off getting another few modifications done to it, another backpack I own was being used by a friend hiking the pct, and the last backpack I had sitting around was just too small. This left me wondering “hmm” but I recalled that Klymit backpack sitting in my gear room and went and grabbed it to see if I could get my gear into it, and more importantly, if it was even going to be a viable backpack for me.

So I pulled off the tag and opened it up and thought “hmm, not sure its big enough”, even though it is stated to be a 38-liter backpack. Looks were mighty deceiving with this backpack. I should start off by saying that the Klymit Motion 35 is a front panel loading backpack. I looove front panel loaders and it was the only reason I agreed to take it, because my love from front panel loaders just makes it so I cannot turn them down. After laying out all my gear I started loading it up in the traditional front panel loader method (which is similar, but still different enough, from a top loading backpack) and after dumping it all out a couple of times I finally figured out how to make it happy – my fellow front panel loading hikers will know each front panel loading backpack has its own unique characteristics of how to make them happy.

After surprising myself that I not only got it all into the pack, but had a crazy amount of room left over, I only needed about 22 liters of volume for the hike, I jumped up off the floor and put it on.

First thought were: wow.

I had both a good wow and a not so good wow coursing through my brain at the same time.

The not so good wow was it was pretty dang stiff vertically.

The good wow was just  how comfortable it felt, with the exception of being too stiff.

I took the backpack off, deflated the Airbeam pack frame that was inside of it, and put it back on, and it was a “ahhh, that’s better!

Then it was like “OMG that feels awesome!

As my long time readers know, I have tried and used a whole lot of different backpacks that are on the market. The list of backpacks in the sub-40 liter range is not all that big and most of them have been on my back at some point. Almost every American cottage made backpack I have put on. A number of non-cottage backpacks in the 20-40 range I have not only put on but given a serious workout.

So when something makes me go “OMG” in a good way, it really just makes me go, well, “wow“.

Now let us just be clear here… as a hiker that typically hits the trail with a sub-5 pound bpw backpack, there is one really big reason why I am not usually going “wow” when I put on a UL/SUL/XUL backpack… and that is: super light weight, and extreme light weight, backpacks usually have little to zero cushioning, in order to reduce weight.

The S/J style straps are very nice! Not the normal "s" style nor the "j" style, somewhere in between and something I *really* like!

The S/J style straps are very nice! They are not the normal “s” style nor the “j” style, somewhere in between and something I *really* like!

The one thing that I cannot do here is call the Klymit Motion 35 a “lightweight” backpack. It specs out at 1.29 lbs / 583 grams. That is almost 500 grams heavier than my normal summer backpack – of which I have a few thousand miles on. My largest backpack that I own, the ZPacks Arc Blast is 52 liters / 3,200 ci  and is 16.5 ounces (468 grams) which is almost double the volume and still lighter than the Klymit Motion 35. That makes the Motion 35 a pretty heavy backpack in my book.

But, does that weight payoff, is there justification in those extra ounces? The answer to that is yes.

Allow me to talk backpack theory for a moment. For many years the goal of backpacks has been to get lighter and lighter and eventually reach a point where they are nothing but a ‘bag with straps1 and as somebody with one of the worlds lightest backpacks, I can say that I have done my part to help push that movement forward, for better or worse. A lot of this changed a few years ago when the master backpack designer Brian Frankle was approached by Ron Moak, the owner of Six Moons Design, and together2 they set out to blow away all the trends and present-theories on designing backpacks – and instead to work on building backpacks that were first and foremost, properly designed. The issue of weight… become inconsequential. The issue of having all the latest trends and features of a backpack… thrown out the door. Instead, lets build a backpack that focuses on proper load distribution, proper harnesses, proper center of gravity (CoG), and so forth. Now, the importance of all of this really has started to drive home the point for a lot of hikers, myself included, that a properly designed backpack that makes a 10 pound load feel like 5 or 6 pounds, or a 20 pound load feel like an 8 or 10 pound load, is, perhaps, just perhaps, something worth giving serious consideration too.

Now this is not an article/review on SMD or their backpacks, but I am hoping that all of you reading this are seeing the point I am trying to make. That being, if a backpack is twice as heavy as what I am using now, yet is designed in such a manner that the load feels lighter by wearing it, it is something I recommend you stop and consider, and try for yourself. I have spent all year putting this theory to a test. I have to say, I am becoming a convert.

(sidenote: for those not use to reading my articles and reviews, I don’t just talk specs… I talk theory, I talk philosophy of use… I try to educate… I try to get folks to think about new things and new ideas. If all you are after is just some review that is throwing numbers and facts at you, you should just stop reading at this point – but a lot of my other articles will likely interest you)

Alrighty, back to the weight of the Klymit Motion 35. I will be the first to stand up and say “yeah, its a heavy backpack, especially for only being 35 liters“.

Allow me to share this statement that was shared with me, regarding this issue, by somebody that was involved in the design of the Motion 35:

This pack {the klymit motion 35} is a return to the roots of a backpacking pack… there is nothing pretentious here… it is a pack to be a forgettable part of your outdoor experience because it is so comfy and intuitive to use.

You know, I really do like that.

I have shared my thoughts with Klymit regarding the weight, and I do not want it to  sound like the weight is a negative… I just spent the last five or six paragraphs trying to make that point… the thing is, though, that a lot of the weight is rather unnecessary. To term myself in the whitepaper I wrote about this pack, “the hardware is overkill, all of the straps could be narrower and thus lighter, the haul loop and axe loop are comically huge, and the hip belt adjustment system is taking things too far for a 35 liter backpack”.

The Klymit Motion 35. A really nice looking backpack and crazy comfortable. Here it is without side pockets, compression straps and bungee cords.

The Klymit Motion 35. A really nice looking backpack and crazy comfortable. Here it is without side pockets, compression straps and bungee cords.

This past weekend I was at a friends house, showing him the pack, and as somebody who makes a lot of his own gear, he was kind enough to break out some of his ‘modification tools’ and for a good hour we slowly started whacking off parts of the backpack that I felt were just overkill. A lot of strapping went bye-bye. All of the compression straps went bye-bye (I have yet to understand why backpack makers put compression straps on backpacks this size… if you got so much crap in there that you need compression straps, you should probably just stop carrying so much crap, or use a bigger backpack, but preferably, dump some of your gear out and learn that you actually can hike without so much crap). Opps, mini-rant there, sorry ;)  We also cut off the silly bungie cords and the loops they go through.

All said we cut off, I am guessing, around 5-6 ounces of straps and hardware. It did not stop there though. As a front panel loader lover, and a purist one at that, the idea of side pockets just annoyed me, so off they went too. I never used them, so, why not. I carry my water in specially designed hip pockets and when needed a bladder, which btw fits really well inside of the pocket where the Airframe normally fits, which I took out after my first hike and it has never gone back in – I found it to be totally unnecessary at loads under 10 pounds.

What we ended up with was one very sweet and clean looking front panel loading backpack!

Let me just say it and get it out of the way…

The Klymit Motion 35 is the most comfortable sub-40 liter backpack I have ever used!

You have no idea how much I just needed to say that. It just brings a smile to my face every time I put on this backpack.

Granted, I do not think I have ever hiked with more than 10 pounds of weight inside of it – and it is rated at 35 pounds by Klymit, though I have no idea how you could shove 35 pounds of gear inside of it. If I had much over 15 pounds of gear inside of it, I am guessing that I would want to put the Airbeam frame back inside of it. Like any backpack, once you get much over that 12 or 15 pound limit you just want a bit of a structural support. I did load it up once with 11 pounds of gear, just to see, and it felt like it needed the frame. Thankfully all of my gear plus food for a half-week does not tip the scale over 10 pounds, so, good enough for me.

I will also share this: a lot of you who follow me know I am a stickler when it comes to CoG (center of gravity) and if a backpack, properly loaded, causes me to have CoG problems, it either goes up for sale or goes in the trash. CoG on SUL backpacks is key because most SUL backpacks are not able to handle load strain on the neck, shoulders, lower back muscles, and eventually on your hips. Probably 8 out of 10 times that I hear SUL hikers saying they are hurting it is because of CoG issues. The other ~2% are typically because the backpack does not have enough padding/support/comfort built into them and its just straight-up painful to be wearing – yes, it is possible to have a SUL backpack that hurts. When it comes to a front panel loader, as previously stated, it takes a bit of a different approach to loading. What I have found is that the Klymit Motion 35 has a rather good CoG, without the airbeam support, up until about 8 pounds of gear/food/water. Much beyond that and no matter what I try I start getting collapse/compression issues which results in the load pulling backwards, and thus there are CoG issues. I am positive this would be resolved by using the airframe, even if it is only 20 or 30% inflated. My pack loading setup does not involve any heavy items in the outer pocket, only a 3 ounces wind jacket, a 5 ounce rain jacket, a 0.53 ounce trowel + TP, and a couple of PROBARs. So, all of that to say that if you are thinking of having 10+ pounds of gear you should probably leave the airframe in there and inflate it just enough to give it some rigidity, but not so much that it causes the pack to be stiff as a 2×4, because that will make it so that the backpack does not conform/shape to your body, which it does really well without the airframe, and a SUL backpack that hugs your body is a backpack that just feels better.

My hat goes off to Matthew Lagas-Rivera2 who Klymit worked with to build these backpacks. He did an amazing job of making a front panel loader that can potentially appeal to the masses, be it for a weekend hike, use around town, something to throw into the truck or car loaded up with gear, or for the SUL/XUL hiker looking for an absolutely amazingly comfortable backpack!

 

Where To Buy:

Klymit, Direct
Amazon.Com
BackcountryEdge

Videos:

 

Thank you,
+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46. The Klymit Motion 35 I have used and herein reviewed was given to me by a private individual.

 

Footnotes:
1) ‘bag with straps’ is a term Henry Shires, the owner of TarpTent, has made infamous when asked why he does not make backpacks.
2) Brian Frankle joins SMD
3) Matthew Lagas-Rivera is the owner of Elemental Horizons.

Written by John Abela

July 15, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Gear Reviews

Tagged with , ,

Long Term Review: Icebreaker base layers – The Icebreaker Tech T Lite Short Sleeve Tee and the Icebreaker 260 Tech Top

with 6 comments

Greetings All,

Stock Photo.

Stock Photo of the Icebreaker 260 Tech Top.

I have another long term review – and one that I know a lot of you have been waiting a long time for me to do – and this time it is on the Icebreaker baselayer clothing.

I just recently passed 800 days of wearing the Icebreaker Tech T Lite Short Sleeve Tee and over 500 days of wearing the Icebreaker 260 Tech Top (I technically had the bodyfit 260, but that name brand was discontinued and is now just called the ‘tech top’) and for about a month I had a Icebreaker Long Sleeve Chase Zip Top that I somehow lost at some trail town and quickly replaced with the Tech Top, which I am glad happened as I just did not like the design of the Chase Zip Top.

For those of you that have to trust and enjoy my long term reviews – and by “long term’ I mean ‘long term’ – longer than any other active outdoor gear writer – I wanted to get this article published for those of you preparing for your next winter hiking season. Both of these garments have proven themselves to me to be the absolute best base layer top garments I have ever owned. It took me a number of years of wearing other top base layers and just not being happy with them to finally spend the above-average costs for these two garments, but now, three years later, I am still wearing them (and I am at this very moment) and plan to keep wearing them until they give out.

I hope you enjoy this review – it has been a long time coming. Sorry for the delay for those that have been waiting, but at the same time, I do enjoy my long term useage of gear before writing a review on gear!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John Abela

May 31, 2014 at 9:55 am

Jiva Coffee Cubes – Hiker Worthy Coffee?

with 6 comments

Jiva Coffee!

Jiva Coffee

Jiva Coffee Cubes:

There has been a fair amount of chatter within the hiking community over the last week or two regarding a coffee called “Jiva Cubes” which makes little coffee cubes that you put into hot water and in a few seconds you have yourself a hot cup of coffee.

Jiva Cubes Inc. is a small business that is based out of Miami, Florida USA that got started a few years on kickstarter. Their first attempt did not work out ($3,671 pledged of $15,000 goal) but their second time around did work out for them ($21,173 pledged of $1,000 goal). Their third kickstarter product was a huge success for them ($82,012 pledged of $15,000 goal) and really got their name out there.

Their most recent kickstarter project is setup to develop a new coffee flavor simply called “Black Coffee Cubs” and has already reached it goal of $15,000 USD and I am personally really looking forward to the black cubes, as they offer two or three times the amount of caffeine over their existing cubes. I gladly supported this project.

 

How Does It Work?

Jiva cubes are compressed soluble coffee and panela that come in neat little packages.

You simply heat up some water, throw the cubes into your cup, give it 30 seconds, stir, and you are good to go (add sugar if you find the panela not sweet enough).

Below are photos of how this process works. I have used a glass bowl so that you can see distribution of the cube as it softens up. I have used 8oz of 210°(f) water.

Ready For Some Water

Ready For Some Water

10 seconds

10 seconds

15 seconds

15 seconds

20 seconds

20 seconds

30 seconds

30 seconds

 

After 30 seconds I grabbed a spoon and stirred and it is ready to consume.

After 30 seconds you grab a spoon and stir it and it is ready to consume.

 

Ingredients:

Jiva Cubes keeps it simple:

Ingredients: Panela, Granulated 100% Columbian Coffee

Ingredients: Panela, Granulated 100% Colombian Coffee

Panela is the juice extracted from sugar cane, dehydrated and then crystallized through an evaporation process, which makes it so that it is neither refined, nor a chemically processed, sugar product. It tastes somewhat like molasses only not as strong. I found this neat little video that shows panela being made.

Granulated coffee is another term for ‘instant coffee’ which is another term for ‘soluble coffee’. This is the same thing that other ‘instant coffee’ used by hikers is made from, be it Starbucks Via or Nescafe or such. There are two main ways of producing soluble coffee, freeze drying and spray drying. I do not know which of these processes is being used, but my guess is that they are using the spray drying process. (update June 28, 2014) According to Jiva the soluble coffee is produced via the freeze drying method (ref).

Both the panela and the soluble coffee are being manufactured by a company in Bucaramanga Colombia. They are, for all intents and purposes, these with rebranding.

 

 

6 Jiva Cubes next to some Probar bars to give an idea of their packaged size.

6 Jiva Cubes next to some Probar bars to give an idea of their packaged size.

Flavor/Strength:

Each cube of the ‘classic flavor’ provides 32 mg of caffeine.

Each cube of the ‘strong classic flavor’ provides 52 mg of caffeine.

Each cube of the ‘black flavor’ (not yet available, at time of writing) provides 100 mg of caffeine.

As for flavor, I have found the ‘classic flavor’ to be a rather weak flavored coffee (8oz of water) and akin to coffee that you might find in the Caribbean nation – flavorful but not strong.

The cost of a box of 24 cubes shipped to my door results in each cube costing ~$0.80 (eighty cents, USD).

I find I have to use two cubes in my standard cup of trail coffee. This places the cost per cup at $1.60 per cup, which is two to three times more expensive than a cup of coffee made with Via or Nescafe, and at least $1.50 more expensive than using ground coffee and a GSI coffee maker – which is my preferred method of making coffee on the trail at this point – per cup.

When the ‘strong classic flavor’ is available that will help reduce costs and the amount of cubes I have to carry – and I am very much looking forward to the black flavor, in hopes that a single cube will be enough.

I happen to enjoy both mild flavor coffee (the best I’ve had was on the Island of Trinidad) and really strong flavor coffee. When I am at home I typically consume Dark Piñon from New Mexico Coffee Company for dark/strong coffee, and Jamaica Blue Mountain ‘Peaberry‘ for mild/high-flavor coffee). I do like Starbucks Via, but only the Christmas Blend, which I usually order a case of each year.

Overall the ‘classic flavor’ falls somewhere in between the Peaberry and the Dark Piñon that I use at home. Compared to the semi-strong and spicy Christmas Blend Via, the Jiva ‘classic flavor’ loses big time – and is almost twice as expensive per cube/package.

 

Nutritional Facts

Nutritional Facts:

Ok, if you care about any of this… you should be ashamed to call yourself a coffee drinker :-p

Each cube will give you an extra 30 calories for your overall daily intake of the ever precious calorie count we hikers face.

The 6 grams of sugars comes from the panela, which is used to bond together the soluble coffee.

The 25 mg of sodium is somewhat surprising. Suppose that is also a result of the panela.

 

What Other Hikers Have Said:

Roger Caffin, BPL Review.

 

In Closing:

Most hikers I know like their coffee and like it strong.

When compared to taking ground coffee and the GSI coffee filter, the Jiva Cubes (classic flavor, again, that is all that has been available) there is just no comparison – the ground coffee wins by a mile.

When compared to other soluble coffee on the market, I find Starbucks Via (I have tried every flavor released) to be stronger, but also more acidic – so a win for both (via for better flavor/strength, jiva for having a milder acidity). I do not like the soluble coffee from Nescafe at all, so not even worth comparing in my book.

From a cost perspective Jiva needs to work on bringing their pricing down by about a third in order to be competitive. For a weekend hiking trip the extra cost might not be noticeable, but for a 30 to 100 day hike, the extra costs for the Jiva would add up very quickly.

From a convenience perspective I think the Jiva falls in between Via and ground coffee. Via is crazy fast, just open pour, stir and drink – waiting 30 seconds for it to dissolve is just not necessary. Compared to my favorite method of using ground coffee and the gsi filter, well, that takes a fair amount longer than 30 seconds.

Should you buy some? If you are somebody that does not mine drinking soluble coffee and are willing to try something new, sure, go for it and order up their sample pack when it is available. Personally, I will not be placing any more orders until their much stronger ‘black flavor’ is available, for as I said above, the cost of using two cubes to make it semi-strong is just not economical in my mind – the exception would be if you like fairly weak coffee.

What I do plan on ordering is their Hot Chocolate cubes. I really do loving having hot chocolate while out hiking (at night, so it warms me up, but doesn’t keep me up like coffee would) and normally the package of hot chocolate is perfectly fine to take with me, but I am thinking that the size of these little cubes, along with the less amount of trash to carry out, and the less mess (if you have ever dropped your open package of hot chocolate inside your tent while trying to make it, you know what a mess a package of hot chocolate can make) means the Jiva Hot Chocolate cubes could win out big-time. It would still be significantly more expensive than normal packaged hot chocolate (~$0.25 cents for marshmallow hot cocoa) when the Jiva hot cocoa cubes end up costing $0.79 cents per cube shipped to my door – ouch!

So, all said and done, do I like these Jiva Cubes?

Yes, I do. They have a nice flavor and are very convenient. If their pricing can be brought down to a more market-competitive price and they get a stronger flavor cube available, I would very likely switch over to these Jiva cubes.

 

Thank you,
+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com


In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell AmericaBlack Rock Gear, Suluk46.

Written by John Abela

May 27, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Hiking Food

Tagged with , , ,

Making Dehydrated Puréed Banana For The Trail

with 8 comments

I LOVE BANANA’S!!!

Ok I just had to get that out of the way… I really do love bananas… I eat two or three a day, usually green ones… I only eat green bananas… bright yellow bananas are just nasty!!

I just got my Excalibur [3926TB] 9-Tray dehydrator back from my father who has had it for awhile and the first thing it is doing is making up some banana purée for me.

Banana purée is, simply put, bananas that have been peeled and puréed – think very thick applesauce, except bananas.

This is a great way to have bananas while out hiking, or even around the house, and I prefer it over dehydrated banana slices because it is more versatile and easier to use – because dehydrated banana slices are usually really really hard to rehydrated and are nasty nasty nasty if you do. With banana purée it is very easy to rehydrate it – it can very easily be rehydrated for use in smoothies (even trail smoothies), and because the bananas are in purée form you can do a lot more too it, such as add vanilla or other fruit purée to give it some different flavors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John Abela

May 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants – Very Long Term Usage Review

with 2 comments

Hike and author, John Abela, wearing the Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants and Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket.

Hiker and author, John Abela, wearing the Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants and Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket.

Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants:

A little over two years ago I wrote an article entitled “Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants – Long Term Usage Review” in which I initially reviewed the Montbell Dynamo wind pants after having used them for over a year.

Earlier today I realized that I had passed the 1,200 days mark of using these pants and figured I would do a follow-up review of these pants.

Yes, I wrote that correctly… 1,200+ days of wearing the same pair of pants… 3 years, 4 months and a few days.

I started wearing them on December 28, 2010 after receiving them from ProLite Gear, who now have them priced at $68.95 – they were priced at $56.98 when I bought them.

Over the last three years I have had countless people ask me questions about them and a whole lot of people have bought them based on my previous article and after my responding back to their questions about these wind pants.

I thought I would take a moment and share some of the Q&A’s I have gotten and replied to over the last few years, regarding these wind pants, as well as post an update on how well they are holding up.

 

Durability:

From a durability perspective I have been crazy impressed with these pants. I have had to have the crotch sewn in a couple of places and have a couple of small holes on the butt that need to be sewn or patched – and considering these pants are made from 12-denier rip-stop ballistic airlight nylon that is just truly amazing.

I have also had the ankle strap of one of the legs pull out about 40-50% but still enough to keep it from being at a point where I just pull it all the out. The stitching has come undone, probably a result of pulling on it while sliding the strap under my feet. The other leg ankle strap does not have any damage at this point.

The leg zippers have never failed. Mud, snow, dirt, rain, crossing countless rivers, crawling through bushes, nothing has been able to keep these zippers from not working.

In my original article I stated about the waist grommets that, “the little metal rings for the draw cords on the waist ripped out of the fabric. I ended up just putting knots on the end of the drawstring and it, mostly, keeps the cordage from pulling in, but it does happen every few months, big whoopie-doo, easy to pull it back out.

All in all, given these wind pants have 5,000+ miles and 1,200+ days of use, to say I am impressed on the durability of them is putting it lightly.

 

Treatment:

Twice a year I have used Sawyer Permethrin on them, applying beyond liberally. I let them sit overnight and go about another 100 days of use until I have reapplied another treatment.

I have not, at any point, applied any DWR treatment to them, as I have reached a point where I do not care if my legs are wet – they are completely ineffective at this point as a water repellent pair of pants, but even brand new they did not seem to be according to the notes I took the first year.

 

Q&A:

To address the most common questions I have received about these pants:

Hanging out under a fallen Redwood Tree and wearing the Montbell Dynamo wind pants during a lunch break to wait out a heavy rain storm.

Hanging out under a fallen Redwood Tree and wearing the Montbell Dynamo wind pants during a lunch break to wait out a heavy rain storm.

How well do they actually do at keeping the wind out?” — Gotten this question dozens of times. Actually very good for the first year or so. The second season they started to loose a bit of wind protection and now at the third year I can start to feel most wind come through them. I am not a fabric specialist so I have no idea the technical terms and such, but I would describe it as the fabric is get thinner and thinner each hiking season. Its very soft to the feel, whereas a brand new pair that I have had sitting in its original package for two years (I bought an extra pair a year after wearing my first pair, just incase montbell decided to discontinue them) is much like the feel of the Montbell Tachyon Jacket, if you happen to know what they feel like.

How durable are the pants? Can I go bushwhacking in them?” — The second most popular question I have gotten. Well I am not a bushwhacker, unless I happen to be trying to get through an overgrown trail, or if I happen to be out building a trail and have no other choice than to go head-first into a bunch of bushes. That said, they have survived a few years of trail and life-at-home usage. They have survived countless encounters with blackberry bushes and 6 foot tall ferns (throughout Northern California), greasewood bushes and nasty cactus of Southern California (Death Valley, Joshua Tree, PCT, etc), and miles and miles of postholing through deep snow. Given all this and the only real damage to the fabric is some pulling of the threads in the crotch and one half-inch hole on the butt, I tend to think they are doing rather well. YMMV of course.

What is the advantage of the Dynamo pants over the Nike wind pants?” — I have gotten this question three times and each time I have had to say “I have no idea”… never had to buy another pair of wind pants :-D

Pulling on the ankle straps tighten the pants around my legs but there is no way to keep them tight. Do you think they forgot to include toggles?” — Gotten this question twice. The ankle straps go under your feet and inside your shoe, to help keep the pants tightened around your legs, as well as keep them pulled down to prevent wind gusts from pulling them up. ;)

How do you layer under your dynamo wind pants at different temperatures?” — Also a very popular question, and one I really like. Unless it is really cold outside I just wear the pants over a pair of exofficio briefs… be it sunny or raining or in snow or whatever. If there is some crazy cold wind that has the potential to screw with my thermoregulation than I will put on a pair of thermals underneath the wind pants. Simple as that.

Do they feel more breathable during windy conditions versus the ZPacks Rain Pants?” — Looks like I have gotten this question three times. Each time I responded that I felt the Montbell Dynamo performed better. It has been sooo long since I wore the ZPacks Rain Pants that I just have very little performance results between the two. There has to be some really cold wind/rain for me to put on a pair of rain pants – I only remember putting on the ZPacks rain pants once (maybe twice?) in the last three years. Sorry, this is a question I just do not have enough usage to be able to properly answer – pretty much the same as with the Nike wind pants.

Thoughts on the difference between the Dynamo and the Versalite pants?” Looks like I have gotten this question three times. My response each time has been “one is a rain pant the other is a wind pant – enough said.

What are your thoughts on wearing these over shorts for when a cold breeze comes up?” — Very likely the most popular question I have gotten. My typical response has been “go for it!” At 79 grams you are likely not going to find a better option if you are a hiker that likes to wear shorts yet needs something for when the cold wind picks up. The compactness of them allows them to be stuffed into some really tight spots in your pack. They are also nice to have for trail towns when you are washing your clothes.

Do they get really hot in the sun? Do they stick to you if you start sweating?” — Another really popular set of questions. They can get hot in the sun, they are black after all. Do they stick to your legs? I cannot ever remembering a time when I was hiking and had them stick to my legs, even when hiking through Death Valley – before I smartened up and started wearing sun pants.

Hey John, I bought a pair of the dynamo wind pants based on your recommendation – just thought you’d like to know!” — dozens and dozens of such emails – I appreciate you taking the time to let me know, it means a lot!!

 

Closing Thoughts:

Of all the pieces of hiking gear I have bought, the Montbell Dynamo wind pants have got more miles and more days of use than any other piece of gear.

On a hike with Scott "Shroomer" Williams and Joshua "Bobcat" Stacy, wearing the Dynamo pants while hiking up a frozen river.

On a hike with Scott “Shroomer” Williams and Joshua “Bobcat” Stacy, wearing the Dynamo pants while hiking up a frozen river.

Recently have been using them on-and-off while I have been testing the Sun Precaution Ultra Athlete Sun Pants, as well as the Salomon EXO S-Lab Twinskin Shorts as I have been doing some running, but when I am not wearing either of those the Dynamo pants are what I am wearing – my original pair that I bough over three years ago.

Whether you plan to use them as full time pants, as I have, or just as a pair of super light wind pants, the Montbell Dynamo wind pants should be at the very top of your list.

So long as I have some needle and thread, I see myself getting a lot of more miles from my original pair of these pants. Another thousand days? Hmmm….

 

Thank you,
+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com


In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell AmericaBlack Rock Gear, Suluk46 – and that I bought these pants with my own money.

Written by John Abela

May 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Gear Reviews

Tagged with , , , ,

Favorite Winter Gear, 2013/2014

with 6 comments

 

Greetings All,

Seven months ago I published my Favorite Summer Gear, 2013 article and in it I indicated that I was going to two two articles on gear used in 2013, the summer gear I was talking about within that article, and I promised that I would publish a winter gear after the winter hiking season came to an end.

This winter ended up being the driest winter within the Redwoods of Northern California in the 19 years that I have lived here, so I got very little use out of my rain gear.

We did get a lot of colder nights than in the last few years, so that allowed me to break out the winter gear and use it for 25-30 nights on the trail.

The lowest I recorded was 16°(f) / -8.88°(c) so by no means really cold, and had a few nights it was probably a bit colder and I just did not record them.

I just do not think this is really going to be a “favorite winter gear” list… all of the winter gear I used worked and performed as expected, none of it failed and I was not out enough to play around with different sleeping bags or such. So, just going to list the few things that I ended up using and/or taking to help me keep warm on this winters hiking trips.

Montbell U.L. Super Spiral #1 – This was renamed the “Down Hugger 800 #1″ for the 2014 season. Awesome sleeping bag. Crazy comfortable. Overall volume and weight are a bit higher than other comparable bags, but the comfort makes up for it.

Montbell Mirage Parka – One of the best weight-to-down performance jackets on the market. Total weight of 12.8 ounces, with a whopping 5.3 ounces of that being 900fp goose down.

Nunatak Down Balaclava – Unquestionably the best down balaclava on the market when you want your head to stay warm! Not the lightest on the market but it has  2+ ounces of 800fp goose down!

Black Rock Gear, Expedition Grade Liner Mitts – Not these exact mitts, but the prototypes that lead to these being brought to market. Crazy comfortable and uber warm liner mitts!

Feathered Friends Down Booties – I carried the inner down booties a few times (but not the outer shells) but never needed them.

Icebreaker Bodyfit 260 Tech Top – I have come to very much love this shirt! Can be used as a second-layer for the mild weather or as a third or fourth layer when the nights start getting cold. Used this shirt more than any other shirt over the last few months, both out on the trail and at home.

Jetboil Sol Ti – If you haven’t noticed it yet, I have become a fan-boy of the Jetboil. I have gone through over 20 canisters of fuel this winter. It has not failed me a single time.

Mountain Laurel Designs eVENT Rain Gloves – I did not use them very often, but when I really needed them, they were there for me and did their job! That is exactly what I expect of my gear.

ZPacks Arc Blast – All the extra winter gear meant breaking out the larger backpack and the Arc Blast was my go-to backpack this winter!

SteriPen Freedom – The much beloved Sawyer has to stay at home in the winter, so out comes the Freedom! Performed without any problems.

 

Well I think I will leave it at that. Sorry for a brief article, but as I have mentioned in the past, trying to not publish much anymore these days. I got reminded from a good friend that I promised to write up my winter gear list, and wanted to keep that promise to everybody.

The first of my big hikes this year has been completed and a lot of effort into making #4 happen is going well. Trip #2 and #3 will be happening here pretty soon. I hope to be able to share about some of my adventures later this year. I am still trying to be active on my facebook page so I invite you to follow me on there if you are on facebook. Also, I have decided to stop uploading videos to youtube… youtube is just getting more and more horrific, so I will be posted videos on my vimeo page and invite you to follow me there.
Thank you,
+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com


In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Gossamer Gear, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46.

Written by John Abela

April 6, 2014 at 5:51 am