Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cooking setup part 1 (Fire Maple 300t Hornet)

For my solo trip to the Ardennes I wanted to go with lightweight cooking: bags of freeze dried food as diner and a light stove and pot from which I could also drink my morning coffee. So I bought a sixpack and I started a MYOG project to build a alcohol stove. This project is still ongoing… Do not let my failure fool you: I’m just a very impatient guy. This often results in teared up cans when trying to make them fit together and an angry me deciding to try again in a week or so. I will follow up on that soon.

The first failure made me rethink the alcohol cooking for this trip and by the second time I messed up I decided that for this trip I would go with a safe and clean gas stove.
Now I own a nice Primus Gravity 2 which burns a whole range of fuels, including gas, but it weighs 365g or 12,9oz and due to its large diameter burner it is not suitable for a small pot.

I went for some research and put my mind on a Fire Maple 300t gas stove in combination with an Evernew Titanium Mug Pot 500: 45g for the stove and 74g for the pot (1,6 + 2,6oz). A total weight of 119g, excluding any fuel of course, sounds great! Also, the small stove seems it would fit in the pot together with a small canister of gas, so the used space would be kept to a minimum. Just another plus.


I ordered the stove in China and it was soon in my possession. It comes in a little bag, which is nice but fairly useless, and it does what is promised: it’s small and light and it burns gas. The pot stands are titanium and about 1,5mm thick but seem solid enough to hold a pot with 500mL of water on it.

The pot I ordered in the UK and this took a little longer to be delivered than expected. It actually took that long, that I had to start my trip without it. Very unfortunate but these things happen. So I had to take a pot I had laying around. The lucky one was a 500mL pot which is used by the Dutch military. A heavy steel pot weighing in at 234g (8,3oz). Quite the difference compared to the titanium one! The size of this sturdy pot is great and you can put it right in a camp fire if you like. But since I was going to rely on a gas stove, this pot is too much.

The stove and the pot served me well during my trip. The stove folds in and out like a charm although I noticed the pivot points ran a little less smooth after about 10 uses. This is probably due to the way the pot stands are connected to the body of the stove which is a rivet like joint. By heating up and cooling down this will expand and shrink every use so there is some wear, but nothing too serious. I used it another 10 times during the trip and again a couple of times while back at home and it still works perfect. No worries there. A very cool plus of course, is that you’ll soon see the nice color changes that come with combining titanium with heat. The stove makes quite a bit of noise but not more than any other gas stove will do. The flame is steady and centered and spreads out nicely under the pot.

Cooking times for approx. 400mL were around 5 minutes, but I never took measures. Also, I did not always heat up the water to an actual boil since I had tap water available most of the time and for my coffee and tea it doesn’t need to boil, so I could preserve some gas for the trip.

I didn’t need saving since I took two gas canisters with me which I had laying around (they also wouldn’t fit inside the Evernew I was planning to take with me). One canister had only 89g (3,1oz) of gas in it and I figured I would use about 15g per day so this canister would run for almost 6 days. Because I did not always bring the water to a full boil I eventually had 7 days where I boiled a coffee, a tea and diner (approx. 1 liter/day). The other canister I used for another 2 days alone and then another 2 days for cooking for two and there is still lots of gas left in it.

Cooking for two we did with the Primus Gravity combined with an 1,2L Eta-pot which already proved itself already during previous trips. Cooking times are somewhere between 2 or 3 minutes for nearly 1 Liter of water. The Gravity is a powerful stove and it works well when cooking for a small group of people like a family.

For future trips I will look into making an alcohol stove and a small stove for Esbit tablets for which Brian Green deserves credit. Also, in the meantime I had my Evernew pot delivered and I will post a review on this sometime soon.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: Gelert Solo tent

Once I had decided to walk a few days on my own, I needed a shelter that is lightweight, has a small pack size and would be easy to pitch. Sure, there is the option to take a tarp and bivi but somehow this idea doesn’t really appeal to me and when taking the weight and price of a tarp and bivi into consideration, I chose to stay with the “safety” of a tent since it is known to me for years.

I once took a The North Face VE25 on a 4-day trip with my girlfriend, ending up not even sleeping in it since there were wooden shelters everywhere (welcome to Sweden).
Now this tent is roomy for two to say the least, not to mention it is a 4-season tent so well over dimensioned for a summer outing in the forest without snow or gales. With a weight of about 4.850g (approx. 171,1oz) it also was too heavy and bulky in the pack. Not to mention the price; I was a student back then and in need of a tent I could also use for winter outings without being too expensive and I got a great deal on the TNF, multipurpose was keyword when I bought this. But for this trip I felt like a big spender.

So I was looking for cheap, meaning under €100 (approx. $130). Preferably way under that; €50 would be nice. Everyone who has some knowledge of outdoor gear, knows that cheap does not mix with lightweight. Therefore the weight limit was set at a maximum of 1.500g (approx. 52,9oz). Like the price: half would be nice.

So, there I went on a search on the web to find me a suitable shelter. Terra Nova’s Laser, Tarptent, MLD, ZPacks; it all looks nice but the prices were holding me back. Affordable as they may be for some, affordable is something everyone (luckily) can determine for their own, depending on their disposable income and what not.

And then, during one of the endless nights behind my laptop, a packable and lightweight tent caught my attention because of its price. Who would have thought! I let the numbers sink in:

Weight: 1.500g (52,9oz)
Size: 1 person
Packed size: 39 x 12 x 11cm (approx. 15,4 x 4,7 x 4,3 inch)
Prices online: about €50

BINGO! At least my demands so far were met. I did look kind of small…maybe too small? Sitting upright would be impossible for sure but how about sleeping? 250cm in length and 90cm in width (98,4 x 35,4 inch); my Exped mat is a size M so 183cm in length and 52cm in width so this should fit with room to spare for stuff. I myself am 190cm tall (approx. 6’5”) and as I sleep on my side, this should be no problem. So I ordered my Gelert Solo tent.

It didn’t take long before I received my order. Everything looks as you would expect; just fine. The tents floor is made of sturdy PU so there will be no problems with small rocks or thorns. The inner tent is mostly mesh so you'll have to pitch it properly to protect yourself from any wind blowing through.

Let’s put it on the scale:
Inner tent: 579g
Outer tent: 452g
Storage bag (after I cut out the huge manual): 36g
Poles (set of 2): 280g
Poles storage bag: 13g
Stake set (16 pcs): 293g
Stakes storage bag: 10g
Repair set: 34g
Total: 1.697g or 59,9oz

Meaning someone lied or at least did not specify clearly what the 1.500g is actually made out of. When taking only the inner and outer tent, poles and stakes it still weighs over 1.500g with 1.604g or 56,8oz. Still not disappointed for the €50 however.

I won’t take the pole bag with me and I will be taking the TNF stakes which are 12g a piece. This tent needs 16 stakes in total: 192g or 6,7oz. Since I want to store the tent in a 25L dry bag I won’t need the storage bag. The used dry bag weighs in at 65g (2,3oz) so it is heavier than the original bag but waterproof and easier to compress. So for me this setup will weigh 1.638g (57,8oz) which still is over my original 1.500g limit but did I mention the €50?

A first pitch in my parents garden makes me doubt the size however: as expected the mat fits and so do I, although laying stretched out on my back is not an option. Further, entering and exiting the tent is going to be difficult to say the least especially since my pack has to be in front of the door if I want to keep it dry at night. But instead of worrying I decided to just put it to test during my trip. The fact that I only had about 2 weeks left before departure had nothing to do with that choice. A few things bothered me still: the fact that the outer tent is staked out with very elastic cords and the guy lines are made of some elastic material as well.

But my first night in Belgium in my new Gelert Solo tent took away my worries: it rained for almost the entire night and my tent gave a drum solo for almost the entire night, meaning it stayed taut. Who would have guessed?

Staking and packing the tent is easy and doesn’t take more than 10 minutes or so each, which is acceptable to me. Although with heavy rain it can be a pain since you pitch the inner tent first. Luckily I was spared of this event my entire trip.

It rained almost every night of the 9 nights I slept in this tent and it kept me dry every night. I did notice the outer tent slacks a bit when I had a resting day and did not have to take the tent down. This is probably due to the elastic cords used to stake it out. Once I’m back home I will replace these cords and the guy lines to see if that helps. It will probably result in tearing of the seams where the guy lines are attached to the outer tent but one can take a gamble with a €50 tent.

You now know it keeps you dry, it’s easy to stake out and it’s weight is somewhat "UL". But how about life inside the tent? Well it’s not easy to inflate your mat due to the inner space, it’s not easy to change clothes due to the inner space and it’s not easy to make plans for your next day due to the inner space. Cooking inside is impossible and your sleeping bag will get wet due to condensation and the fact that you have almost no inner space. If you’re the type of person who likes to chill out inside your tent and roam about while doing gear repairs or trip planning, this tent will disappoint. But if you can set aside your preference for the luxury of (head) room, this tent will suit you brilliant.


I accepted the lack of space and the tent seemed bigger every next night. It kind of grows on you and I can only say that I am impressed by this tent. I think 16 stakes is too much, it is too low at your feet, the poles are too thin and their shape is a risk, the condensation is annoying and entering and exiting is a circus act, but I am glad I bought this tent and took it with me on this trip.
Once I changed the elastic cords and guy lines I will give it another try to see how it stays taut. In the meantime, I would be happy to answer any questions someone might have.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sharing thoughts and mileage

While trekking solo on the GR57 in the Belgian Ardennes I decided to start sharing my thoughts. Thoughts on gear and trips.
Gear and trips when it comes to walking, hiking, trekking and just (my) dream holidays.
 This way I can reflect for my own benefit while others can get inspired/learn/comment or what so ever.

The name 'Walkaway Outdoor' is chosen for the love for walking, through city or nature, and for the love for the outdoors. Combined they can lead to adventure, beautiful sights, animal encounters, blisters, sweat, achievements and so on.

I will try to post a gear review once in a while and also place updates on my trips. Have fun reading and let me know your thoughts on the reviews.

First review will be of the Gelert Solo tent, a piece of gear which you cannot do without when on a camping trip and this specific tent is drawing attention with its price and weight. So how did it perform during a 9-day trip? Come back soon to find out.