Montbell ‘Sun Block Umbrella’

montbell-sun-block-umbrellaHello Adventurers!

Here is a quick video on the Montbell ‘Sun Block Umbrella’ which has been a really nice umbrella to use.

It is, for all intents and purposes, a baby chromedome. The weight is not all that different from the chromedome (47 grams / 1.66 oz lighter) but the overall pack volume, or stored length (for when you are not using it) that it offers is a massive savings!

If you are like me and pack volume is precious, it just makes sense going with this little umbrella over the chromedome.

Specs:

mine weighs: 178 g (6.29 oz)
folded length: 25cm (8.9 in)
full length: 53cm (20.9 in)
diameter: 98cm (38.6 in)

The video quality did not come out very well but I did not feel like reshooting it all, but the important stuff is covered in the video.

You can buy this little guy directly from the montbell website and it is priced at $45.00

Thanks for reading,
+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com

As of the time of this being published I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell. I purchased my sun block umbrella as I do with ~99% of my gear. This article was originally published on my patreon page, if you feel like having early access to my article and sharing a dollar a month to help the cause, please consider becoming a patron!

2 Favorite Items From My Sponsors!

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Greetings Adventurers!

It seems it is time for the hiking blogosphere to start posting their “Christmas Lists” – I have already seen three or four just in the last week.

I had an article about 95% of the way written, and decided to delete it and do something different. The idea pop’ed into my brain to write up ‘my favorite piece of gear from my sponsors‘, but the more I thought about that, the more I realized I just could not decide on a single piece of gear from a couple of my sponsors. For instance, I have over 2000 days of use with the Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants and my absolute love for the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket would make it impossible for me to pick between the two. (opps, guess I just gave away that companies two favorites, doh!). The same could be said of companies like Six Moon Designs and ZPacks. So I figured the only way I could make this happen is if I picked two pieces of gear from each company that sponsors me!

So, here we go, in alphabetical order!

Continue reading “2 Favorite Items From My Sponsors!”

Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket

Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket

Greetings Adventurers!

Hitting the scale at only 238 grams (8.4 ounces), the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket has been my go-to, primary wear, top thermal garment (jacket) for a few years – and I freaking love it!

This jacket has made it into my “Top Picks” pieces of gear!

Featuring 15-denier rip-stop nylon shell, 50g Exceloft synthetic insulation, and a full front zipper, the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket is a jacket that can be a year-round jacket for pretty much anybody anywhere.

It is perfect for the summer season on cold mornings, and a great thermal layer for the colder seasons.

In the world of sub 10 oz synthetic jackets, finding a jacket like the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket can present a challenge but thankfully it is not really necessary to look all that hard as this jacket ticks off pretty much all of the checkboxes that I feel needs to be checked to fit into this category.

Normally I try very hard to not write about how x-product compares to y-product, but in this situation, that is, the sub 10 ounce hoodless jacket market, I think it is fair to be able to compare the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket to both the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (197 grams / 6.95 oz) and the Montbell Plasma 1000 Down Jacket (135 grams / 4.8 oz). If you are into animal down thermals, the dominator on the market the last few years has been the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer – used by more big mile hikers I know and respect than any other animal down jacket in this weight/warmth category. Likewise, the Montbell Plasma 1000 has been embraced as one of the best weight/warmth animal down jackets you can buy.

While the Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket is obviously not an animal down jacket, it can easily go head-to-head with those two amazing animal down jackets! Plus it is under the magical 10 oz mark, it is half as expensive as the Plasma 1000, and $200 dollars less expensive than the Ghost Whisperer! To say MH has gotten greedy with their price of the Ghost Whisperer is putting it mildly. You can buy both a Montbell Plasma AND a Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket for just a few dollars more and have one hell of a sweet multi-layer thermal system!

Continue reading “Montbell U.L. Thermawrap Jacket”

Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants – Very Long Term Usage Review

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.

Continue reading “Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants – Very Long Term Usage Review”

Sun Precautions Ultra Athlete Shirt and Pants

Author (along with his father) wearing the Sun Precautions Ultra Athlete Shirt and Pants on the PCT near Big Bear California.
Author (along with his father) wearing the Sun Precautions Ultra Athlete Shirt and Pants on the PCT near Big Bear California.

Greetings Bloggers,

Earlier this year I set out to find an alternative way of hiking in the hot sunny weather of Southern California. Something that did not involve me getting sunburned or carrying the heavy 8.11 ounce GoLite Umbrella that I and many other long distance hikers have used for years. Granted I turn a rather nice shade of golden brown when I get a nice bit of sun on me, but living under the Redwood forest canopy of Northern California for the better part of two decades has not allowed me to keep that nice suntan that I always had while growing up in the Mojave desert. Recently I have been hiking different sections of the PCT in SoCal, and spending time in Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley, trying to find the best route for my Highest to Lowest trail/hike I am planning.

I was able to find a number of different companies claiming that they provided SPF clothing that was in the 15-30 range, but the real stand-out in the sun clothing world was a product line called “Solumbra” from a company called Sun Precaution. This is a company that designs and makes all of their clothing in Seattle Washington USA.

What really makes their clothing stand out from the rest is that their clothing is 100+ SPF.

As most of my longtime readers know, I rarely write reviews on pieces of gear (clothing, shelters, backpacks, whatever) that I have not tested a lot and for a long time. I will typically spend an entire hiking season (or sometimes three or four) before I contemplate writing a review for a piece of gear – this is what makes me stand apart from other authors and gear reviewers in the outdoor community, along with the fact that I traditionally only focus on SUL/XUL hiking. There have only been a few rare exceptions when I have broken that rule of mine, and I think with this clothing from Sun Precaution it is going to be one of those times — the reason being: sometimes a product just proves itself from the very get-go, and this clothing proved itself to me within the first two weeks of me using it. Truthfully, it proved itself within a matter of hours, but I gave it a good three or four days before I allowed myself to whisper to myself “wow, this stuff actually works!

Continue reading “Sun Precautions Ultra Athlete Shirt and Pants”

Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket, 2013 Edition

Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket, 2013 Edition
Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket, 2013 Edition. One of the best pieces of gear I carry!

Greetings Hikers,

Montbell has had a major hit on their hands with their Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket and the Montbell Tachyon Anorak since they were introduced to the ultralight hiking and running communities. For 2013 they decided to one-up themselves, and boy did they ever!

Three months ago when I was informed I had been selected as a Montbell America sponsored hiker I received one of the brand new 2013 editions of the Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket, to replace my aging Montbell Tachyon Anorak that I had a few years of hiking use with.

The 2013 edition of the Tachyon was revealed to us here in America at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 – and what really made a lot of us go “wow!” was the fact that Montbell was indicating a weight of 45.36 grams (1.6 ounces) for a size medium!

Continue reading “Montbell Tachyon Wind Jacket, 2013 Edition”

Montbell – A New Sponsor

Montbell - Light & Fast
Montbell – Light & Fast

Greetings Hikers,

I received word yesterday from the North American Operations of Montbell that I have been accepted as a sponsor of Montbell. This is a very exciting new sponsorship for me. Montbell is one of the leading companies in ultralight hiking gear and to be accepted by them is truly an honor and I want to extend a huge thank you to those involved in this decision at Montbell.

I have never made it any secrete that I have a special place in my hiking heart for Montbell. I have done extensive testing and publication on their gear over the last few years and their gear has continued to stand up to all that I have demanded of it.

One of the most popular articles I have written has been on the Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants – a truly amazing piece of gear that I have worn for over two thousands miles of hiking. Dozens and dozens of hikers have read my article on these pants and bought them and sent me an email saying thanks, and I have even come across a few hikers on youtube that have mentioned my article when talking about them buying these wind pants. I can honestly say that I have never encountered any other pair of pants I would prefer to be out hiking with… be it sunny and hot, raining like crazy, or even in the snow. These pants have been with me everywhere.

I have also written a Long Term Review: MontBell U.L. Super Spiral Hugger – a sleeping that I have over 250-nights of use with. I recently bought my second U.L. Super Spiral #1 sleeping bag and have been using it over the winter season with a huge smile on my face.

Just before the start of the 2012/2013 winter season I purchased the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka. It has been one of the best parkas I have ever purchased. I acquired mine just before their Mirage Parka came out, so I look forward to giving it a go over the 2013 hiking season. Those I trust the most have been telling me the Mirage is a dream come true jacket for them.

And of course my long time readers know all to well my long standing love with the Tachyon Wind Jacket. It was the wind jacket that introduced me and a lot of other hikers I know to the fact that wind jackets have a serious place in a UL/SUL/XUL hikers backpack. Their new 2013 version has hit the scales at an insane sub 50 gram mark.

When talking with other hikers I have often said that Montbell is one of those rare companies that exist that have given me the means to reach the weight levels that I have over the last few years. As a primarily SUL hiker I have used a lot of gear over the last few years and there are very few pieces of gear that have made it from one season to the next season — and not because I am hard on my gear, far from it, but rather because so much of the gear made today by companies claiming to make SUL gear, have simply not been able to design, develop, test, and bring to market gear that actually meets the needs of my style of hiking. I can truly count the companies that I consider to be top end companies for SUL hiking gear on one hand. Montbell is among them.

To be granted the opportunity to be a sponsor of Montbell is a huge honor for me. I am going to keep using their gear that I have already proven to be solid, test their new gear to see how it holds up, and I will continue to invest the time to write articles where I share my honest thoughts about the gear I use from Montbell. I have never bought a piece of gear from Montbell where after using it I went “Hmm, I wish I had not bought that“. That alone pretty much says it all.

Again, to those of you at Montbell, thank you very much and I look forward to developing a further relationship with Montbell over the years ahead. Continue to strive to make the gear that you make!

Thank you,

+John Abela
HikeLighter.Com

Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka

MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka
MontBell Alpine Light Down Parka

Just before the 2012/2013 winter season I placed an order for the Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka, one of the best ranked parka’s from gear reviewers that I have encountered in a very long time. It has been rated the #1 or #2 parka for a few years by just about everybody. For the last few years I have been using the Montbell U.L. Down Parka, and it is a great inner parka, but it started loosing its loft and I was looking for something a bit warmer, and the Alpine Light Down Parka really seemed to be the next best option out there.

A fellow hiker, gear reviewer, and friend, Stick, had one that he sent out to me with some other gear that I was wanting to trying (and at the same time, I had sent him a whole bunch of gear he wanted to test that I had) so I had a chance to put it on, give it a try, determine size and fit, and so forth. Here in the Redwoods of Northern California we only have one decent outdoor store and they are not able to do specialty gear such as what Montbell offers, so any chance I can get to try Montbell gear I take, and huge thanks to Stick for letting me try this/his jacket.

Specs:

I ordered my Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka from Moontrail.Com in size Large.

It is 470 grams (16.57 ounces / 1.036 pounds) total.

The parka itself is 453 grams (15.97 ounces / 0.998 pounds), and the stuff sack is 17 grams.

It uses 30-denier Ballistic nylon material on both the inside and the outside.

It has a wonderful micro-fleece lined collar – a feature I have read other hikers did not like, but I really found this to be nice.

It has the standard hem draw cords for adjustment, which are hidden in the pockets. You can really tighten up this jacket to keep 99.9% of the wind from getting in.

The medium size has 4.3 oz (121 g) of down fill, so I am going to guess that the large that I bought has around 4.5 ounces of down – I just do not know, as Monbell does not seem to include this information anywhere I have looked.

Continue reading “Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka”

Long Term Review: MontBell U.L. Super Spiral Hugger

Greetings hikers,

I have been waiting a while to write up this review, and over this past weekend I passed the 250-nights of use with a MontBell U.L. Super Spiral Down Hugger sleeping bag, and I told myself I would write up a review of this bag when I hit the 250-night mark.

The MontBell U.L. Super Spiral Down Hugger (herein I will simply annotate it as the ‘MBULSS’) is not exactly a sleeping bag that falls into the model of a SUL or XUL hiking setup. It is very much possible to carry this sleeping bag as a SUL hiker and it could be possible to do a XUL hike with the MBULSS #5 and maybe the #3 (but that would be really hard). So I realize that this sleeping bag might seem to be one of those sleeping bags that does not typically get reviewed by a SUL/XUL hiker, but if you are a SUL/XUL hiker you have probably come to learn the very valuable lesson that sleep comfort is almost as important as knowing your route and knowing how to maintain your core body temperature. So for me, having a sleeping setup that is above-par is a near-must. A little over 1000 grams of my 1800 gram BPW setup is devoted to my sleeping system (shelter & bag). Yes I could save 115 grams or so of weight (around 4 ounces) if I switched over to a ZPacks sleeping bag or an Enlightened Equipment Epiphany, but the simple fact is (for me) the comfort of the MBULSS is worth those three or four ounces. Hiking Lighter does not always mean hiking with the lightest possible gear in the world.

I have owned both the MBULSS #3 and a MBULSS #1 and have loved them both.

The #3 has an EN Rating of “40 comfort” and a “30(f) Lower Limit” and a “3(f) Extreme” rating. My thoughts on these ratings, as a cold sleeping, is that they are way off. I own the previous version when they were rated at 30(f) rather than 40(f) and I often found myself rather cold at anything under around 46. I made the mistake once of taking it out when it was going to be 30 and I pretty much froze all night, even with all of my clothing on. Whoever these “extreme” hikers are that can take this bag down to 3(f)… well, huge props to you guys!!

The #1 has an EN Rating of “26(f) comfort” and a “15(f) Lower Limit” and a “-19(f) Extreme” rating. I would say that these are a bit more accurate – again, I am a cold sleeper. The problem with the #1 is the bulk size of this bag. If you really stuff it, it can get down to around 7″ by 14″. As I almost never compress my sleeping bag, it can take up a rather large percentage of my ~1000 cubic inch backpack. The #1 also breaks the 2-pound limit, at 2.5 pounds, of which 1.5 pounds is 800 down fill and the other 1 pound is material. Compare this to the 17 ounces (482 grams) for the ZPacks 30(f) bag (remembering it is hoodless bag.)

I typically consider the 30(f) range the sweet spot in which sleeping bag to choose. Realistically anything under around 42(f) and I am cold. So a bag that can get me down to the 30(f) mark is a sleeping bag that I am going to shoot for, knowing that it should get me down to the freezing range, which is not all that common here in the Redwood Forest of Northern California, but it is very much possible to reach sub-freezing only an hour away from the Redwoods.

Perhaps the three biggest competitors to the MBULSS #1 is the Western Mountaineering AlpinLite, which is a 15(f) bag and is 31 ounces (1 lb 15 oz) (of which 19 ounces is down fill) and the Marmot Helium which is a 15(f) bag and is 38 ounces (2 lbs 6 oz) (of which 21.5 ounces is down fill) and the Nunatak Alpinist which is a 20(f) bag and is 22 ounces (1 lbs 3 oz) (of which 12 ounces is down fill).  [all bags based on 6′ length sizes]

The Nunatak is the only one of those three that I have not had the chance to try. Based on its specs I am not sure I would like using one – for the same reason that I do not like using the other two: they are not wide enough. I, like the vast majority of the people in the world, am a side sleeper. I am not only a side sleeper but when I get cold I very quickly go from being a side sleeper to being a fetal sleeper, and that requires a sleeping bug with a lot of width to accommodate the bent knees. And that is where the MontBell U.L. Super Spiral Down Hugger shines at.

It is no secrete that the problem with wide bags is that you end up sleeping colder, because of the larger amount of mass air inside the sleeping bag. The MBULSS solves this by being, well, a super spiral bag. When I am in a fetal position, it hugs my knees and bag. When I am in a standard side sleeping position, the bag hugs my knees and bag. If I happen to be sleeping on my back, the sleeping bag still hugs my sides. That is the awesomeness of the super spiral technology. There is very little dead-air space inside one of them. Perhaps the largest pocket of dead-air space of the entire sleeping bag is in the foot area, as it is not aggressively narrow in the foot region, which can be both good and bad. It is great when you want a bit of foot room, but I have also had my feet freezing a bit when I was pushing the limitations of the bag.

With over 250 nights of use on my #3 (and around 45 nights of use with the #1) I can definitively say that the sleeping bag has lost a fair amount of loft and thus warmth. I have washed it, treated it, and everything else I know of to try to bring back some warmth to the bag. If it falls below 50(f) I have found that the #3 is just not warm enough unless I put on a base layer of clothing or use a silk insert. It is rated at 40(f) so I would guess that it has lost around 8-10 degrees of warmth over the last 250 nights. I have never owned any other sleeping bag with this many nights of use so I am unaware of whether this is on-par with other bags or if this is rather poor performance. At this point the #3 is very little more than a summer time sleeping bag, or if I feel like carrying an additional 20-odd ounces of clothing to compensate for it. However as I previously mentioned the bulk of the #1 is significantly more than the #3 and in my backpack I have a hard time getting everything stuffed into it when I have to use the MBULSS#1. So I am more and more finding myself looking at one of the ZPacks sleeping bag and than a Nunatak Balaclava to compensate for the bag being hoodless. But, each time I do the numbers on the weight and the price, I just continue to think to myself that the pleasure of the pure comfort of the MBULSS sleeping bags are worth the bulk and the few extra ounces.

-Abela

In accordance of Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that the disseminated content within the review of this product(s) is free of endorsement(s) between myself and the manufacturer(s) of any product(s) disclosed herein and meets all FTC 16 CFR.255 compliance requirements.

Preparing For Shoulder/Winter Season, Clothing

Hello Hikers,

I figured with it being mid-June that I should probably start putting some thoughts into the 2012 shoulder and winter hiking season. If you have been following my articles for very long you know I am not a big fan of that white stuff that so many others seem to enjoy so much, and thankfully here in the Redwoods of Northern California we do not get a lot of it.

Earlier today I was catching up on some fellow hiker articles and one of my favorite hikers from New Zealand posted a article about his planned base-layer for the rest of the year, and that is what got me thinking that it is getting close to that time of the year where I need to start planning my own setup.

So below I will outline what I am planning at this point in time for my 2012 shoulder and winter hiking season clothing setup. I would love to have other hikers out there who are planning and writing up their own shoulder/winter gear lists drop me a comment with your own setup! Each year the hiking industry is getting larger and larger and I am sure there is gear out there that some of you are using that I have no idea even exists and could be better than what I am planning to use!! Continue reading “Preparing For Shoulder/Winter Season, Clothing”