"sub 2268 hiking" ~ John Abela

Archive for the ‘Thoughts on Gear’ Category

Enlightened Equipment ‘Enigma APEX’ Quilt

with 5 comments

Enlightened Equipment 'Enigma APEX' Quilt

The Enlightened Equipment ‘Enigma APEX‘ quilt is a sewn-closed footbox + Climashield APEX synthetic insulated quilt being made by one of the biggest cottage quilt manufacture in America, Enlightened Equipment.

The ‘Enigma APEX‘ is a quilt that I have been using on and off for the last eight months. As a 100% synthetic hiker (no animal down products) getting the chance to acquire and use this quilt has been really great and it has impressed me in many ways!

After I did an interview with Enlightened Equipment, which you can read here, I was contacted by their ‘Research and Development Team‘, which is made up of a few EE employees that work on doing R&D (probably my favorite thing in the hiking industry), to see if I would be interested in testing a few products they have been developing and that needed some T&E (testing & evaluation). Given that R&D/T&E is a good part of what I do throughout the year I was more than happy to help them out. Now, many months later, some of the products they were developing have been brought to market, such as the Enigma APEX quilt. A few others are still in the R&D phase, and one or two items I think got the axe.

A lot of the gear that they asked if I would be up for testing I turned down, as I can only test so much gear over the course of a year, or where things that I just had no desire to test it – such as animal down products. In the end I said yes to three items, one of which was the Enigma APEX quilt. I was under a NDA on it until it was publically released, and still am not able to talk about the other two items I am testing, obviously. With the quilt being a R&D product it, was obviously, duh, provided to me for testing, without payment, and “no expectations of you from a publicity perspective” — in other words, they did not expect in any way for me to write anything publicly about the quilt, but they did not object to me doing so when I asked them if I could write up something about it. Okie, disclaimer/history explained, let us move on to what matters.

How I Configured Mine:

Enlightened Equipment 'Enigma APEX' Quilt FabricThose of you familiar with the Enlightened Equipment (EE) quilts know that you get a whole bunch of options for how to configure your quilt.

The options I went with were:

  • F40° Climashield APEX Synthetic Insulation
  • Length: regular
  • Width: slim
  • Inner: Red 10d
  • Outer: Black 10d

It worked out to be a pretty good configuration for me. Happy with the choices that I went with.

Configuration Insights:

I went with the F40° insulation because the vast majority of the nights I spend out on trail are well above the F40° temp range, and as I have learned over the last few years of using the MLD FKT Quilt, and the MLD Spirit 28, (and other synthetic quilts from other companies I cannot talk about) the ideal way to approach these type of synth quilts is to expect to be a bit cold (even more true if you plan on not wearing any thermals at night), this is not a result of bad ratings or insufficient insulation, or poor quality insulation, but just that the temp rating of synthetic insulated quilts seems to be a bit lower than what they are rated at/for, in my experience.

I do want to say that for the first time in my experiences with synthetic insulated quilts, I think EE has figured out a solid temp rating, because my F40° rated quilt tends to cook me out of it a lot more than what I would have ever expected. In fact, in one of my initial feedback responses to the EE R&D Team, I specifically asked them if they sent me the incorrect temp rated quilt, thinking I might have gotten a F30° or maybe even a F20° rated quilt. Turns out that was not the case, and for reasons unknown, my F40° feels more like a F30° most nights, and at times I feel like comparing it to the MLD Spirit 28 quilt that I have. I do not know if this means that an EE F20° rated quilt would be more along the lines of a F10° or not, but suffice to say, the temp rating on the quilt I have received is impressive.

I went with the “regular” length quilt as I am 5 feet 11 & 3/4 inches (~181 cm) in height. It was a good choice. I usually like a slightly too long of quilt, but it has worked out rather well. If I were to order another one I probably would not order the ‘long’ version and would stick with the ‘regular’ length.

I went with a “slim” width because I just do not need a super wide quilt. At ~145 pounds (~65kg) I have not had any issues with not being able to wrap the quilt around me. Note that I do not tuck my quilts under my sleeping pad, I have just never been a fan of doing that.

As for the colour, I went with a black outer, to help with heating up the bag when out on the trail (to help it dry faster in the sun) and a red inner, just because I was feeling adventurous on the day that I order the quilt.


Usage Thoughts:

The Enlightened Equipment Enigma APEX quilt has impressed me, it really has. I am not going to compare it to other synth quilts out there (I almost never compare ‘product a’ vs ‘product b’, that is just not what I do) but I would put it into the top/highest quality of synth quilts that I have tested over the last two years (five of them so far) and as such am happy to write this article about the quilt.  If it sucked, I simply would not write about it, as I have not the other ones I have tested. Hell, if it was even so-so/half-ass I would probably not write about. Something has to impress me to get me to write about it these days.

The highlights: To keep this article from being a bazillion words long, let me just highlight what I feel are the top quality aspects, the key points, of the Enigma APEX quilt.

  • From a performance perspective: I have found the quilt to be at the excellent level of things. The temp rating on the quilt seems to be better than what I expected.
  • From a fabric perspective: I have found the quilt to be good but not the best quilt fabric I have used. It is a tiny bit slippery/slick.
  • From a durability perspective: I have found the quilt fabric to be up there with the other top end synth quilts that I have used. The quality of build is exceptional, as one would expect from Enlightened Equipment.
  • From a features perspective: The quilt features all of the things I would expect it to have in what we have come to expect ultralight quilts to have.
  • From a drying out perspective: The quilt has gotten a bit wet a few times. A couple times from condensation, but mostly from me just sweating out at night. Each time it has dried out very quickly once I set it out in the sun. At night when I sweat it out, when I wake up and realize it, I just flip the quilt inside out and go back to sleep (an awesome thing about using a synthetic quilt) and by the time I wake up in the morning it is all dried out and ready to get stuffed into my pack.

So do I have any negative things to say about the quilt? Meh, there is one thing, but it is a 100% personal issue and has nothing to do with the quality/performance of the quilt itself. I personally find the depth of the footbox on Enlightened Equipment quilts to be significantly too deep. I have to bend my knee almost 3/4 of the way up to my chest in order to get my foot out of an EE quilt. At night, when I wake up just enough to roll over to my other side, or to kick my feet out of the footbox to vent, having to lift my feet that far up, bending my knees that far, it is just enough to pull me out of that subconscious ‘i’m sleeping but rolling over‘ into a state of moving my body enough to almost waking me up. Again, absolutely one of those personal, a how it affects me, kind of thing. I solved this by having a friend cut down the footbox by 6 & 1/2 inches (16.51 cm). As I do not really care for quilts with foot boxes, if this had not been something that I was pre-product-release testing, the simple solution for me would be to not get this particular quilt, and instead buy something along the lines of the Enlightened Equipment Itasca quilt, and see if I could talk them into making it with synthetic insulation instead of animal down. Again please, do not equate my personal issue with foot boxes with there being a reason to not buy one of these quilts.

Enlightened Equipment 'Enigma APEX' Quilt Branding

Two other quick things that I thought I would share, just as a type of side-note for my fellow long time quilt users:

  • There is a slightly larger than normal piece of hardware (a ‘drum lock’ I think it is called??) at the center of the top side of the head end of the quilt, you know, the one used to secure/tighten the shoulder/neck draw cord. While I do like the position of it (better top-center than having them on the sides of the quilt, which results in you sleeping on them all night long, man do I hate quilts with side/end hardware) just note that this little drum lock is a tiny bit larger than the traditional mini cord lock that most of us are use to. I do like this drum lock, it is way easier to use with gloves on, and thus why I have highlighted it, I like things that make things easier.
  • The under-pad hardware is not removable without cutting it off. That said, I do not know of any other quilt out there that has a way to totally remove the under-pad hardware (anybody know of one?) without cutting it off. It seems like giving users the ability to detach vs cutting would be a no-brainer, but given, it seems, nobody does, I guess nobody has come up with a way to do it.

That about wraps up everything that I wanted to share about the Enlightened Equipment ‘Enigma APEX‘ quilt. I am super happy to have been able to help and give feedback to Enlightened Equipment on this quilt before it was released, and have enjoyed continuing to use it after it has been released. The number of high end, top quality, synthetic quilts available to us within the hiking industry is not very large, so it has been really awesome seeing Enlightened Equipment introduce a really great synthetic quilt into their quilt line-up.

Enlightened Equipment Online:

You can find Enlightened Equipment online at:

Enlightened Equipment ‘Enigma‘ website page:


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EnlightenedEquipment/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC17Rzur2rLoKtx8ZtCbV0yA

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/enlightenedequipment/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/enlightenedeq

Written by John B. Abela - HikeLighter.Com

August 29, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Thoughts on Gear

Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD) ‘Core’ Backpack

with 3 comments

Getting ready to unpack my MLD Core 22l backpack.

Greetings Adventurers!

Back in February of 2016 I ordered a Mountain Laurel Designs ‘Core 22L’ backpack for use as my primary summer backpack – it was my first backpack from MLD and it will not be my last – quickly fell in love with this backpack!

The MLD Core is offered in two different volumes, a 22L (1300ci) and a 28L (1700ci) volume – I went with the 22L knowing that I could get all of my gear into it and about three days worth of food. YMMV.

One really has to ask themselves what the targeted market is for a backpack as simple as the MLD Core. Let me try to share my thoughts on that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John B. Abela - HikeLighter.Com

May 28, 2017 at 7:59 am

Zpacks ‘Wallet Zip Pouch’, 1300+ Day Usage

with 3 comments


Greetings Adventurers!

The Zpacks ‘Wallet Zip Pouch‘ is now officially receiving my “Top Pick” gear award!

I recently passed the 1300 day mark of using the Zpacks ‘Wallet Zip Pouch‘, and while I tend to think that any piece of gear that can survive 1200+ days of use should pretty much instantly qualify for a top pick piece of gear, I still reserve this award of mine for those items that make it this far and I expect to keep going strong and lasting a lot longer.

I initially posted an article on the wallet zip pouch after using it for 800+ days, back in June of 2015. Now, after another 500+ days of using it, I felt it was time to both post an update and give my ‘Top Pick‘ award to the Zpacks ‘Wallet Zip Pouch‘.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John B. Abela - HikeLighter.Com

April 3, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Thoughts on Gear

Tagged with , , ,

ZIPPOD 45 Inch Tripod

with 3 comments

A few weeks ago, over on my facebook account, I posted a message asking folks to share any insight they had into the lightest weight tripods out on the market.

I had some pretty amazing feedback from the post, including comments from folks that rarely comment on facebook – it turned out to be a product search that more than a few folks seemed to be interested in.

A few comments lead to me search down a few tripods that seemed to meet the requirements I had, but they ended up being discontinued or way to expensive.

While researching one of the ones suggested, I came across a tripod called the ZIPPOD 45 and decided to take the risk of buying one to see how it would work out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John B. Abela - HikeLighter.Com

March 23, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Thoughts on Gear

Tagged with , , ,

Solumbra ‘Active Pants’ [400+ Days of Use]

leave a comment »


A friend took this picture of me while out on a hike in late 2016. The indigo color of the Solumbra ‘Active Pants‘ has not faded after one full year of wearing them, and the pants have had zero durability issues, even from scrambling over fallen trees, through nasty blackberry bushes, and cactus, rocks and boulders down in the deserts in and around Death Valley.

Greetings Adventurers!

The Solumbra ‘Active Pants‘ are a pair of lightweight, durable, and high sun level protective pants designed for just about anybody for use in just about any outdoor type of activity.

I received mine from Solumbra, a company that has been a sponsor of mine for a few years, when I ordered/bought some other Solumbra garments. The pants got added into the box and I have been really happy that Solumbra tossed them in, as I have now worn the pants for over 400+ days – while out on working on building new hiking trail routes, while hiking throughout California (from the Redwoods to Death Valley), and around town and at home. Solumbra wanted me to give them a go and let them know how they would hold up to the type of long term outdoor testing that I tend to put gear through, much like what I did with the 600+ consecutive days of wear/testing of the Solumbra, Ultra Athlete Shirt and Pants that I bought a number of years ago and wore from 2013 onward until I started wearing these Solumbra ‘Active Pants‘.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John B. Abela - HikeLighter.Com

February 24, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Vargo ‘ExoTi 50’ Backpack

with 4 comments


The 2017 Vargo Outdoors ExoTi 50 backpack. Slightly overstuffed, and strap tangled, but initial thoughts are very good on this new backpack from Vargo!

Greetings Adventurers!

Earlier this week (first week of February 2017) I got in the mail the brand new, 2017, backpack from Vargo Outdoors, the “ExoTi 50

I have done an initial video walk around, much as I did with the SMD Fusion 65, and other backpacks when the first show up. This article is intended to show the features of this new Vargo ExoTi50 and some of the differences between it and the Vargo Ti-Arc backpack.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John B. Abela - HikeLighter.Com

February 12, 2017 at 9:39 am

Posted in Thoughts on Gear

Tagged with , , ,

MSR PocketRocket 2 + GSI 3 Cup Percolator – Total Boils

leave a comment »

Hey all,

I recently bought a GSI 3 cup percolator for making coffee, mostly around my house and when truck camping.

Kept track of how many boils I got per 110g canister of MSR fuel, when using the new MSR PocketRocket 2 stove, so here is a 2 minute video showing everything.

This post first appeared at: https://www.patreon.com/posts/7935418

Thanks for reading,
+John Abela

As of the time of this article being published I am a sponsored hiker of  MSR. They sent this stove to me (had no idea it was coming, it just showed up one day) six months before release date so that I could perform pre-release testing & feedback to them (something I do throughout the year for many companies with alpha/beta/prototype products) and with zero expectation of publicly writing about it.

Written by John B. Abela - HikeLighter.Com

February 5, 2017 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Thoughts on Gear