Tag Archives: kit

Hanging around – 12 nights in the DD Jungle Hammock 

It’s the morning after the night before (and the one before that and the one before that etc) I’ve just jumped out of my hammock and I feel… nothing. No aches, no pains, no discomfort in my crumbling dysplastic hips and none of the searing back spasms that so often follow a nights sleep in my bed at home. 


I’ve just spent a fortnight holidaying at my folks place in Italy and rather than sleep indoors, I decided to take advantage of the good weather and sling my DD Superlight Jungle hammock up in the garden for a total of 13 nights (12 in a row with one night indoors feeling rough post travel). 

The superlight is a light(er) weight version of DD’s modular jungle hammock – double layered hammock, removable mosquito net and lightweight waterproof fly sheet/tarp. The whole thing including suspension (whoopie slings) weighs 1500 grams, not ultra light compared to some shelters but not bad for a one stop shop. 

full set up earlier in the year


Due to flying with only hand luggage, I was unable to bring the poles which are used to shape the mosquito net and also provide structure to set up the tarp, so was just hanging in the hammock with the mossie net tied up to keep it off my face. Fortunately Italy, unlike the UK, actually has a proper summer so didn’t need the tarp. 

Having only previously used the hammock with it’s full compliment of poles, I was intrigued to see how it would hang without them in place. 

The general consensus to getting a comfortable nights sleep in a hammock is to aim for a 30 degree hang (plenty of sag) and to sleep on the diagonal, avoiding such issues as leg hyperextension and pressure points around the ankles. 

When using the DD with it’s poles and net/tarp in place, I’ve found that too much sag affects the structure of the hammock resulting in a tarp that is baggy, thus creating folds of material for rainwater to pool in. I therefore tend to set the hammock up with anchor points a little below head height and set the whoopie sling suspension relatively taught, creating a flatter hammock and smoother tarp. As well as provide structure for the net and tarp, the poles help to spread the hammock out creating enough width to be able to sleep on a shallow diagonal.


On this occasion without the poles, I decided to hang in accordance with conventional wisdom and set my tree huggers up at head height and the suspension relatively relaxed. 

Initially I struggled to get comfortable, without the poles acting to spread the hammock it felt somewhat coffin like. The sides of the hammock would pull up taught making the whole hammock very narrow and difficult to get much of a diagonal lay. 

I spent much of the next week tweaking the suspension until I’d ended up with a “hang” that was reasonably comfortable. The DD is not a particularly wide hammock and so achieving a full diagonal lay wasn’t really going to be possible but despite this I was still able to get a mild diagonal which allowed me enough space at the head end without feeling enclosed and enough support for knees, legs and ankles that I didn’t wake up aching. 

Certainly compared to ground sleeping whether in a tent or bivvying, the jungle hammock is far superior in terms of comfort and even against my bed at home provides a degree of support and comfort that just seems to lend itself to a good nights sleep. 


Without the poles though, I found myself yearning for a little more space to achieve the ultimate diagonal lay and have bitten the bullet and ordered a Warbonnet Blackbird xlc which is a wider hammock and by all accounts one of the comfiest and best equipped hammocks around. 

One minor gripe was the placement of the integrated kit pockets. The hammock has four pockets which easily take a phone, head torch or other smallish bits of camping kit. The only problem being that (for me at least) the placement of the pockets was inconvenient. Having achieved a comfortable lay I found the pockets at the head end were exactly that, located right where I wanted to lay my head. At the foot end they were just too far away to be able to reach easily. This meant I was only able to effectively use on pocket at the head end opposite to where my head was resting. 

The Hammock does come with a ridge line and a kit organiser attached to this which for this trip I didn’t use but in the past I’ve found useless for all but the lightest of items, otherwise the ridge line and organiser would sag too low. Minor gripes and I’m sure I could make better use of the foot end pockets but for me they just don’t work. 

That’s not to say I’ll be getting rid of the DD though. It’s modular “all in one” approach lends itself well to my bikepacking wildcamps, being simple to set up and take down for quick stealth camps. It’s also adaptable and can be used as a ground shelter/bivvy should you not be able to find suitable trees, it really is an extremely versatile sleep system.

It’s built well, looks the business and I was impressed with how it handled a very windy last night in Italy. A thunderstorm blew up with high winds (thankfully no rain) which ended up giving the suspension a real test as the hammock bucked not only sideways but also up and down! Despite this I was snug as a bug and the hammock kept me hanging until the first drops of rain in the early morning. 

Despite having ordered the Blackbird I would still recommend buying the DD jungle, particularly the superlight version. It might not be the absolute best or comfiest hang on the market (it’ll be interesting to compare when the Blackbird arrives) but for the money, convenience and weight it’s certainly a serious bit of kit that’s not only very comfortable but very adaptable, suitable for beginners looking for a no fuss solution to hammocking as well as serious hangers looking for a multi function solution to all their camping needs. 

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Pinnacle Ramin 3+

I’ve been angling after a new bike for a while now. In just four short years since buying my Boardman hardtail, 29ers have become mainstream, 27.5 (or 650b) diameter wheels have entered the foray and just to confuse matters, you can now get both wheel sizes in “plus” flavour. 

Compared to the old standard 26 inch wheels, the new sizes promise more grip, more speed, more control over rough terrain, more everything really, I had to try it out! 

plus size – that’s a lot of rubber!


Looking at the pros and cons of the various options, I’d landed at the decision that a 27.5 “plus” bike was the way to go for the type of riding I do. I’m not an out and out XC speed machine/racer, nor am I an all mountain or trail centre gnarly type. Sure I like single track and sure I’ll hit my local trail centre occasionally but most of my riding is either bikepacking or riding out the door for fitness/fun and maybe trying to blag the odd offroad KOM. 
I didn’t want to spend a fortune, nor did I want a cheap and cheerful rig. I needed something that would stand up to the rigours of bikepacking and let’s face it, the general neglect it’s likely to experience over the years. 

Step forward then the Pinnacle Ramin 3+, a bright orange, plus sized, rigid mountain bike costing £750 from Evans Cycles. Ordered online over the weekend and took a half days leave to collect today (Wednesday). 

box fresh


In the shop I couldn’t escape the fact the the tyres were HUGE! This would certainly be something very different to my old Boardman! It also looked gorgeous, the rigid forks and single chain wheel giving the bike a clean, sleek and purposeful look. It’s painted orange (my favourite colour) and did I mention the huge tyres? 

big tyres need decent rims


The ride 
Rushed home from the shop, frantically scarfed down some lunch and hit the trail. 

On paper this bike is not built for speed. Weight is a good couple of kilos heavier than the Boardman (11.5 vs 13.5) and those huge tyres were certainly going to need some leg power to get them rolling. 

Out in the real world though, this thing flys! Hitting the road before the trail the bike barrels along like a Land Rover, the big tyres humming and buzzing over the tarmac. It’s not going to win the Tour de France but that’s not the point. 

not gonna be Froome’s choice of ride


Hitting the rough stuff the benefits of the big, grippy, bouncy rubber immediately became apparent. The tyres literally eat up mud, gravel, stones, rocks, ruts, fallen branches, hikers, anything! The grip and traction is phenomenal. 

Up the first hill, Strava showed I was a little slower than PR speed but not far off the pace. Halfway up I noticed the seat post slipping down which probably accounted for a loss of power. Quick adjustment and tightening of the QR clamp at the top and I was off again. 

slaying offroad climbs


Over a 9 mile loop I set PRs on a number of sections both flat/twisty and also uphill, including a particularly gnarly uphill Bridleway. I rode this hill on Sunday, setting a PR and beating my previous best by nearly a minute. On the plus bike? Faster by another minute and a half! 

respectable average speed


One other unexpected benefit was on the road. Whilst slow on flat and uphill sections, on the downhills the extra grip and stability meant I could really let loose and fly down without worrying about the front end washing out.  

check out that top speed!


The finishing kit is solid. Nothing flashy but it does the job. The shifting is responsive and I found having a single chain ring/ten speed set up to be a lot less hassle than the twin ring/twenty speed arrangement on my Boardman. One shifter and a full range of gears with no wasted overlaps – simples. 

keep it simple stupid


So, it’s only been one ride and I’ll no doubt add more thoughts once I’ve ridden it in more varied conditions but so far I’m ecstatic. The bike feels comfortable in a way my Boardman never did (just couldn’t get comfy on it) and I came back grinning from ear to ear. 

I think it’s love


I had been considering an Alpkit/Sonder Broken Road but at £1600 I just couldn’t justify the expense. I’m sure it’s a great bike but not so sure it would make me smile more than twice as much as my £750 Ramin! 
Second ride update – short blast tonight, certainly not giving it the full beans and just enjoying being out on my new rig. Even so, across my local Strava segments I was still pulling a good few “podium” times so seems as though the “roll over anything” benefits of the big tyres really do make for a rapid off road machine. 


Only slight dampener was that I noticed a bit of clicking/clacking from the bottom bracket, hoping nothing serious and will flag with Evans when I take it back for its post shop service. 

Kit list – top three

Thought I’d share some of my favourite, “go to” bits of kit used when bikepacking… 

1) Boardman HT Pro

Not gonna get far without one of these. 2012 model, nice and light (11.5kg) and keeps plugging away despite some serious abuse over the years. 

me and my bike


2) Alpkit Kraku

Tiny, lightweight and super powerful. Perhaps doesn’t give the most even burn (narrow hot spot) but for the weight and price you can’t go wrong for a one or two night trip. 

Kraku pulling coffee duty


3) DD Superlight Jungle Hammock

If you’re going ultra light then a bivvy bag is the way to go but if you like a bit of comfort after a long day on the bike then it’s a hammock every time. 

The Jungle Hammock is a modular system combining the hammock itself, a mozzi net and rain fly, total protection from the elements for a combined weight of 1.5kg. Compared to my lightest bivvy set up  (alpkit hunka bivvy bag, 400g, and lumo mat, 450g,) you’re only paying a small weight penalty in exchange for a huge amount more comfort. You could even leave the mozzi net poles behind and hang the net loose to shave some more weight off. Of course you will need to find two sturdy trees! 

just add trees!


I’m always on the look out for shiny new kit to try out, shout if you’ve got any tips for great “go to” gear worth taking a look at. 

New shoes

There’s no better feeling than charging along a silky smooth bit of tarmac, legs firing like pistons as you jam the cranks round & round, feet locked tight into your clipless pedals, body & bike married together in harmony. 

For road riding, having your feet attached securely to your pedals makes a lot of sense (unless you happen to live near lots of traffic lights) – better transfer of power, more efficient pedal stroke etc. 

But for those venturing off road, where you’re likely to be hopping on & off over gates, styles, streams and the like, being attached to your bike suddenly becomes much less appealing. Enter then the Shimano SH-MT33L mtb shoes. 

  

These shoes can take cleats should you wish but work equally well on flat pedals, giving you the flexibility of one “do it all” pair of shoes. 

The soles are stiff, much more so than my old trainers so this should help when putting the hammer down & ensure all of my efforts go into turning the pedals & moving the bike forward. 

  

Grip on the soles looks good too which hopefully means less instances of sliced shins when feet invariably slip off wet pedals! 

Lastly they’re a smart black & wouldn’t look out of place when having a post ride pint. 

Only three hours until the weekend kicks off & I’ll be able to give them a proper thrash around my local woods 🙂 

Gear 

Ok so after my first bikepacking trip, I thought I’d do a quick round up of the kit I used, what crossed over well from general camping and hiking – what worked & what didn’t! 

The set up for this trip was basic and I guess not ultimately geared up for biking. A few months back I got a factory seconds airlok drybag (20l) from www.alpkit.com, ideal with its two buckled straps for attaching to the handlebars. Unfortunately the stitching on one of the straps broke just as I was getting my gear together, a little disappointing as had only used the bag once before but it was a factory second, it was cheap and it wasn’t anything a bit of sewing couldn’t fix. I did though decide to keep just light (ish) gear in here – sleeping bag, liner & bivvy bag. My sewing held up and the bag worked a treat, kept everything dry and it had room for a bit more kit if needed. Could probably do with a bit more length in the webbing straps as they were right at the limit to close the buckles but overall for the price (even full price they are good value) this bit of gear was a winner. 

 Edit 

airlok drybag in action

  

The rest of my kit went into my berghaus extrem arête 45 rucksack. Now, this rucksack is rather minimal, is very light and has limited padding. It’s not especially comfy when fully loaded & hiking, even less so when riding off-road. In fairness it’s designed more for climbing, with just one main compartment, a bladder sleeve & a decent lid pocket. I’m very disorganised so the lack of compartments is a downside for me but it does swallow a lot of gear. However with 4 litres of water plus food, cook gear, sleep mat etc the thin straps were just too uncomfortable on my shoulders and dug in to my arms when I tightened the chest strap to prevent wobble whilst riding. Having said all that the bag is – despite its minimal build – very tough & has seen lots of use over the years with no signs of any serious wear. This was a compromise arrangement and it’s certainly not a bad pack, just not good for bikepacking! 

Inside the pack I had my cooking gear and my newly acquired mountain equipment helium 2.5 self inflating mattress. The mattress was a new bit of kit, bought from Cotswold outdoor the day before to replace my old foam mat that I’d been using since cub scouts (I’m 31 now!). At £40 and weighing just under 700g this thing was a revelation, I’m sure it kept me alive on the cold wind swept hilltop and certainly gave me the comfiest nights bivvying I can remember! Ok so it might not be the lightest inflating mat out there but it is full length, packs down reasonably small & at £40 you can’t really go wrong. 

My stove on the other hand whilst perfectly functional is simply too clunky. It’s a campingaz twister & like the berghaus it’s served me well but it’s just too big, too heavy and too restrictive being suitable only for campingaz canisters. Time to retire this bit of kit. 

nice view, shame about the stove

Moving back to the sleeping gear stored on the front of the bike, my army surplus bivvy did the job as always, again not the lightest bit of kit but plenty of room to move around inside and not feel too claustrophobic whilst at the same time has a useful flap that you can pull up over your head to keep wind & rain at bay. I’m always tempted by the alpkit hunkas but until this one needs replacing I’ll stick with it.

cant go wrong with army surplus

My sleeping bag must go! It’s an old synthetic karrimor global 900 and although it’s served me well, the allure of a nice warm & light down bag is getting stronger. Paired with a liner and my buffalo teclite smock (amazing outdoor clothing) I was just warm enough but it’s definitely time for something a little more snug.

Hardwear wise my bike is a 2012 boardman ht pro, nice and light, good forks and generally a pleasure to ride. The only changes I’ve made to it have been to swap out the saddle for a bontrager saddle from my old trek & I’ve fitted schwalbe marathon plus mtb tyres. These things are Kevlar lined, weigh a ton but, touch wood, are seriously puncture resistant. I’ve had them on for over a year now and so far no punctures riding country roads, tow paths, byways, singletrack, you name it, I’ve ridden over it. I’ll take the weight penalty if it means not having to stop to fix punctures. 

in her natural environment

So what’s next? Based on this trip and with further bikepacking trips in mind I’ve decided to replace my stove with an alpkit kraku (£25) a tiny stove weighing just 45g. This will suit both bikepacking and general hiking use.

Bikepacking specific, I’ve again turned to alpkit & ordered a Koala seat post bag (£65) and a Stem Cell accessory bag (£18). The Koala attaches to the saddle post and provides 13 litres of storage whilst the Stem Cell attaches (as the name suggests) to the stem of your handlebars, providing handy storage for things like snacks on the move. 

I’m hoping that this set up coupled with the airlok bag up front will reduce the need for such a big pack on my back and that with the majority of my kit stashed “on board” the bike, I can make use of my smaller camelbak HAWG hydration pack which has a bike specific fit and will be used primarily for food & general kit like first aid. 

Trespass Manaslu – first impressions

Living in the UK requires a certain degree of weather protection at any time of year but non more so than winter time.  I’d previously relied on fully waterproof hard shells to keep me dry when biking or running but having grown tired of quickly becoming a sweaty mess, I thought I’d give the soft shell concept a try.

Enter the Trespass Manaslu http://www.trespass.co.uk/mens-manaslu-01931 soft shell which I picked up for £40 in the Trespass winter sale. The jacket features a 8000mm hydro static head waterproof rating, is breathable, windproof and comes with a fixed hood.

First impressions in the shop were that the fit was excellent, fitting snuggly but with enough room to move and also fit on over a microfleece (hardly likely to be needed for running or biking but ideal for winter bivvying!).

image

On its first proper outdoor test, a 30+ mile mountain bike ride, I was extremly impressed with both the breathability (never really overheating and sweating despite some difficult hill climbs) and the windproof properties, the jacket keeping me toasty on a number of long and fast downhills during the ride.

On the bike the jacket was comfortable and although the cut is quite short and not bike specific, this didn’t seem to matter, the jacket moving well with my body through the twists and turns of the trail.

image

I like the fact it has four pockets (two waist, one chest & one internal) meaning you have plenty of storage space to store snacks or other small items that you might need to access whilst on the move. My only criticism would be that the chest pocket is quite small but its not unusable.

For what seemed like the first time this year it didn’t actually rain during my ride so I’m not yet able to comment on the waterproof properties but I’m sure it won’t be long before an opportunity arises!

From this first test I’d say that for fast and light travel (mtb, running etc) where breathability is more important than keeping dry, a good case could be made for swapping the hard shell for this great bit of kit although a lot will depend on its ability to shed rain. For longer hikes you’d probably still want the security of a dedicated waterproof but for now this jacket looks like a winner.