Equipment performance + And tips.
Tent: Macpac Celeste
The Velcro attachments of the inner to the fly are not very secure. They come undone too easily. Condensation from top of the flysheet drips onto inner and eventually comes through. We think this is due to the shape of the fly. A "dip" in the centre cannot be stretched out.
One of the zippers is twisted making it difficult to use without two hands. This is due to the way it is sewn in. A completely freestanding tent would be much more useful.
Apart from the above complaints by E-mail to which Macpac have replied rather indifferently, the tent has proved waterproof in the rain and of excellent design for our purpose. We think it would perform better if the tent pole sleeves were on the outside of the fly instead of the inside.
Macpac have no service anywhere in the Americas.
Camp Stove. MSR Dragonfly
Highly efficient and fast, but very noisy. Difficult to hold a conversation near to the stove! It is very easy to dismantle and clean although the flame spreader could be designed easier to remove without bending the legs. A fitting using a slot to twist the spreader in would be more practical.
Buy 'O' rings for seals in a hardware store. They are much cheaper than buying a kit from a camping supply. The heat shield and reflector can be made from aluminium baking trays and aluminium drinks cans respectively. This is much cheaper. The stove works o.k. using unleaded petrol but does need more cleaning than when using white-gas or Coleman fuel. A particular problem in the USA is that Coleman fuel is rarely found in less than 1-gallon containers. In Canada it is easy to find in 1 litre cans.
Water Filter - Katydin Mini filter
Very light and compact. Slow to use but causes us no problems as it filters about 2 litres in 5 minutes. Good for building up arm muscles!
The instructions say to drain and dry in the sun after each use. We found it difficult to drain and sun drying was not always possible. Filtering a strong iodine solution was an easy way to sterilize it.
We used the ¾ length Ultralite. Absolutely indispensable! The ¾ length gave us no problems as we let our feet overhang the end. A jacket or some clothing gave our feet insulation if needed. Thermarests tended to slide if the tent was on a slope (so did we)..
Sleeping bags - REI 900g each.
We decided to buy the best available in a temperature range of 0-20c with 750 quality goose down filling to give the lowest weight and smallest pack size. Left and right zip versions enable two to be zipped together to give us both more room to move around. These have proved to be plenty warm enough even when it has been below freezing outside. Inner material is very fine and can tear or catch easily. Needs care in use.
When not in use, the double bag is packed into a waterproof stuff sac and lightly compressed sufficient to pack in a pannier.
Backpacker light (Top of range - Not roll top) Proving totally waterproof (unlike the Karrimor that Joan was using). Ours came with outside pockets. The Ortlieb Backpacker comes with plastic ferrules to adjust to 10mm carriers. These soon get lost. Other cyclists we have met have the same problems. The carrier just needs insulation tape to thicken it up. In order to pack the Backpacker easily, all the compression straps need to be used. We found that the top cover could have been bigger. There is another model, which has an adjustable top, get this if you can.
Joan has now ditched her Karrimors for a pair of Ortlieb Roll tops.
Vaude front bags.
Totally waterproof so far. We miss an outer pocket.
No major problems yet. We have kept these well-oiled and changed chains at about three thousand-mile intervals. The most frequent maintenance items are brake blocks, which need to be looked at whenever a squeal or graunching noise occurs. It has been common to have to dig out small pieces of metal from the brake blocks. We want our rims to last.
Rear derailleur jockey wheels. The top ones wear out rather quickly in bad weather. The expensive sealed bearing type lasts no longer than the cheap Shimano types.
At 5,000 miles (because it was convenient). We overhauled the front suspension. All that was needed was a clean and change of oil.
Some tips that we have found to extend the life of components are.
Use Cak guards from Hard to Find (in England) on both sides of the bottom bracket, and on the outside of the cassette cluster. These have stopped all dirt from getting in.
The Headset bearings can be completely protected by wrapping several turns of plastic insulating tape around them. A turn of the handlebars cracks the seal and they are completely waterproof.
Teflon tape wound around the pedal spindle joint and secured with an elastic band has kept the pedal bearings clean and dry.