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Shawn K.

Shawn K.

Midwest U.S.

Shawn K.'s Passions

Hiking & Camping
Biking
Snowshoeing
Climbing

Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on December 16, 2011

4 5

I've used mine for a few years in a variety of conditions. It's well constructed, but the shell fabric is quite thin, with little to no moisture resistance. I'm sure this was done to save weight. The shock cord around the head opening came lose on mine, but it was easy to sew back together.

It's fairly light, but I don't think it's nearly as warm as the Cat's Meow TNF bag, which has the same temp rating. If you're planning to use an Orion in sub-freezing conditions, make sure your pad is doing its job, and that the bag really will be warm enough for you. Personally, I consider it a safe bet at 30°F.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on August 11, 2011

4 5

Pros:
Very durable
Compact
Lightweight for the construction

Cons:
Weight
Fiddly handle
Price

Short of a true shovel that you can use a foot to force into the ground, I don't think you'll find a better digging tool, and it packs into a very small package. I've hacked through frozen and rocky soil that friends couldn't get through with their cheapo plastic trowels. I keep a roll of camping TP in a small Ziplok bag, and there's room for the TP and the iPood in the included stuff sack.

There are lighter options, but I don't think they're nearly as durable. The sometimes fiddly handle isn't a big problem, but it bothers some people. There are much cheaper trowel options. All of those cons are minor, and directly balanced against the pros; it's up to you to decide what's more important.

If anything, the current version is over-engineered. I think it'd be very difficult to break, even when abused. I'd like to see a metal version that's a little lighter, even if that means it's slightly less durable. Sea to Summit makes a plastic version that's a little cheaper and lighter, but I don't know how well it digs.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. posted a video about on August 10, 2011

Not my video, and it's done with the older model, but the new, green tent will pitch the same way. This demonstrates a more traditional, on-the-ground pitch, but I prefer inserting the poles while standing. Final adjustment of the Velcro pole tabs can be done after staking the body, but before staking the guy lines. I secure the lower Velcro tabs while inserting the poles to help keep the poles in the snap pockets.

Thanks to sierra14ers for the video.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on August 9, 2011

Perfect four season, alpine, solo tent
5 5

Pros:
Light
Strong
Warm
Roomy (if not too tall)
Very quick to strike

Cons:
Expensive
Somewhat awkward pitch
Must manually seal seams (maybe)
Vestibule not included
More condensation than a double wall design

I have the previous generation, made of yellow fabric. It's essentially the same tent, but very slightly smaller. The photo is from a 2009 trip to the Yellowstone NP, Electric Peak area.

I've used my HiLight in a variety of conditions, including summer and winter in the Colorado Rockies, fall in Yellowstone, spring in Grand Canyon, and hot, humid conditions in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Simply put, this is a great three pound, four season, solo solution for all but true mountain or arctic conditions. Even then, I suspect the HiLight is sturdy enough to survive where other non-mountain rated tents would fold, but I don't believe it's truly designed for serious mountain use. I'd say the HiLight is best described as a four season, alpine tent that works well in most conditions. If you want a true montaineering tent, BD's Bibler Ahwahnee Tent offers a similar configuration built to a much more rugged spec.

I'm 5' 10", 180 lbs, and with a 2.5" mattress, I have plenty of room for myself and my gear. The ends slope inward enough that mattress thickness affects actual sleeping space. The new (current) model is longer, but folks over 6' tall should check to see if the tent will work for them on their mattress. One end of the tent is slightly wider than the other. If two people squeezed in, the wider end might be a little better for two sets of shoulders. I've never tried to squeeze in a friend, but two people with two pads & bags could work if it had to. I think it would best be avoided unless you're both pretty small or very familiar. Adding the vestibule would help, but the interior of the main tent would still be cramped for two people.

Pitching a single wall tent with an interior pole design can be a challenge, but it's manageable (see my video link). I find it easiest to pitch it while standing the entire time. Without pole sleaves, it's important to keep the poles seated in their corners until finished, and I find it easier to do this standing than while flopping around on the ground. Another advantage to standing is the tent basically becomes a rain poncho if you're working in bad weather. I saw a review elsewhere that mentioned trying to use the small fabric loops as pole guides, but I think those are intended to be hang points for gear. The interior pole system makes it very easy to tuck lots of clothing up for drying. The HiLight is more difficult to pitch than the typical double wall, external pole tent, but it's not a big deal to me. The design strikes very fast, which mitigates some of the hassle of pitching it.

Sealing the seams isn't difficult, but it must be done, at least on the old model. BD used to include a tube of sealer with the tent, but I'm not sure if they still do, or if the new, green model requires manual sealing. The only time I've had any condensation to speak of was when I fell asleep without opening the vents. Fortunately, it all ran down the sides and collected in the corners, so it was easy to mop up. The new, green fabric may offer better breathability.

I mentioned that this is a warm tent, but it's still useable in hot weather. With the window flaps both open, ventilation is adequate. The advantage of being such a warm design means you may be able to pack a lighter sleeping bag than possible in a tent with some exposed mesh panels. I've seen the HiLight described as both a 3 or 4 season tent. IMO, its pole configuration makes it strong enough, and the ability to fully seal it up makes it warm enough be considered a true 4 season tent.

BD ships the tent ready to use (except possibly seam sealing), but I've enhanced my HiLight in a few ways. An XS size Sea to Summit sil-nylon compression sack can suck the tent down to a roughly 7" ball. MSR Needle Stakes are very light, rugged, and much more compact than the included BD Y stakes. MSR Blizzard Stakes work great in snow, and are likewise light and compact. I replaced the guy lines with Kelty Triptease for better strength, visibility, compactness, and lighter weight. I've been using a piece of housewrap for a footprint, but I'm ordering the BD footprint to save a little weight and bulk. I'm considering some aftermarket, carbon fiber poles to shave 6 oz, but they aren't cheap.

For me, the HiLight strikes the right balance of features at this pricepoint. I have no regrets about buying one, and I plan to use it for many years.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on August 9, 2011

5 5

I've done a few winter 14ers with the Kode and it works very well. No problems carrying snowshoes with the rear, center strap system, and the sides can handle an ice ax and trekking poles. My friends had frozen bladder hoses within a few hours, but I never had a problem with my CamelBak. In colder conditions, I'd add a chemical handwarmer to the bladder and bite valve pockets if needed.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on August 9, 2011

4 5

One of the most filling MH meals. Even better, mix in a pouch of regular chicken for a much better balance between the rice and chicken. I usually bring an even mix of this meal and MH Chicken & Mashed Potatoes, because I know how well I'll digest both. Speaking of that, I recommend people try a specific meal at home before taking it to the backcountry. Only you will know if it's appealing, and you don't want to be miles from an alternative when you find out it makes you retch.

MH would do well to offer a Chicken & Rice entree. Keep this rice mix (with a little less salt), but instead of the sparse cubed chicken, include a chicken breast like the ones in the Chicken & Mashed Potatoes meal. I know this works, because I've combined the two meals myself, and it's a better meal than the stock Rice & Chicken.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a question about on July 26, 2011

Has this been released yet?

Is there any type of suspension?

Does it come with a rubber tip cover suitable for longterm use in urban areas (not a simple protective cover)?

What's the weight?

What does the grip look like when the top is removed?

What thread is the monopod top?

What LEKI pole would this best be paired with?

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on February 19, 2011

5 5

One important point. While these can be considered waterproof, as the Sea to Summit website states: "Suitable to keep contents dry in any wet situation where the bag is not submerged." I'd feel comfortable using them in relatively calm water, but not in rapids.

The stuff sacks are light, strong, and durable. I wouldn't hesitate strapping one to the exterior of a pack if I needed the space. I own 2 M, an L, and an XL. I can stuff a men's reg TNF Orion 20°F syn-bag + bag liner in an M. A Western Mountaineering Puma MF -25°F down bag + liner + cheapo Kelty syn-fill pillow fits in a L.

Another great use is for general travel. I used the above set of stuff sacks to suck clothing for three people down to fit in three carry-on bags for air travel to Maui. I saved enough money on baggage fees from that trip to just about pay for the stuff sacks, and it made the air legs of the trip much easier.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on April 6, 2010

3 5

I used mine for a week in Grand Canyon, and it did well. If you're spending time where relatively clear water, with easy access to a depth of 6" minumum is available, a SteriPEN may be for you. That said, the SteriPEN system has some limitations.

It's easy to contaminate your just-UVed water. It doesn't take much contact with dirty water to contaminate the batch, and using the SteriPEN with its pre-filter can present several opportunities for contamination. I found the best way to keep bottle threads clean was to pour some clean water out of the bottle.

SteriPEN does little to filter particulates, even with the pre-filter. Cloudy water may get sterilized, but then you have a bottle of sterilized, cloudy water. I also wonder at the effectiveness of UV sterilization on cloudy water. It'd probably be best to allow water to settle in a separate container prior to sterilization, just like every other water treatment method.

Low water levels make collection difficult, as does difficult access to the source. I camped on Longs Peak / Boulderfield recently, and trying to fill a bottle in that area would be very difficult. A traditional filter hose reached through the boulders fine (I used my MSR Hyperflow), but a SteriPEN user would be out of luck. Also, it's difficult to get all the way down to some water sources with a bottle in hand (undercut banks, snow, etc.) and stay dry at the same time.

Some situations definitely lend themselves to SteriPEN use. A kayaking trip would be an obvious example, as would most fishing or hiking trips that followed a good, relatively clear water source. Keeping a SteriPEN on hand to deal with urban boil orders for possible water contamination would also be a good use. If you want the cleanest water drawn from the backcountry, pairing a traditional filter with a SteriPEN will deliver, and without any chemical treatment. If you don't mind the weight of that approach, there's no better way to clean up water. Otherwise, stick with a traditional filter in the backcountry.

BTW, I found that pairing a SteriPEN pre-filter with a Nalgene wide-mouth Cantene was a great way to cut down on bulk.

UPDATE: July 26, 2011
I just returned from a canoeing trip in the Boundary Waters:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_Waters

With relatively clear, plentiful, deep water everywhere, the SteriPEN was perfect for this trip. The only problem I had was dealing with the infernal continuity contacts. I believe they're designed to protect the UV bulb by not powering it up unless it's in water, probably due to overheating. Occasionally, it failed to detect the water, so I made a "jumper" from a fishing spinner to short across the contacts once it finished powering up. The SteriPEN wouldn't start up with the jumper in place, so after powering up, I used the jumper, then stated the sterilization cycle. It worked fine, then.

I'll make a better fitting jumper before the next trip. Other than this failing (and it's potentially a serious one), it worked fine. Someone suggested adding a little salt to the water to increase conductivity, and I think we're both addressing the same problem. A better design solution would've been to include a manual override function for this protective circuit.

I still think it's a decent product, but I won't take it along without a way to address this issue. For the money, I still believe a traditional filter system would be a better, more flexible water treatment solution.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a question about on April 6, 2010

The Tech Specs section says this pack doesn't carry skis or a snowboard, and that it lacks a shovel pocket, but pg. 59 of the April, 2010 issue of Backpacker magazine states that it carries skis. My guess is you can slip skis through the side, zigzag compression straps, and the external "compression pocket" looks to be a shovel pocket.

Anyone with skis or a board might want to clarify how well this pack can carry either, but I can report back on how well it carries snowshoes and an avy shovel later this week.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on September 30, 2009

5 5

I filtered for myself and allowed others to use my HyperFlow over a week in Yellowstone NP. A friend did the same with his HyperFlow, and neither one of us had any problems.

I benefited from a suggestion, though. I put an MSR SiltStopper II between the HyperFlow's pre-filter and main pump, and it definitely cut down on the need to backflush the HyperFlow. I'd guess my friend (without the SiltStopper) backflushed at least twice as much as I did during the trip. There's even enough room in the HyperFlow's included pouch to keep the pre-filter & SiltStopper in the mesh side, and the pump in the other.

I always take some Katadyn Micropur tabs as a back up, but I have no complaints with the HyperFlow.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on September 30, 2009

5 5

I bought two of these to use with two CamelBak 3L bladders for a week in Yellowstone NP. Absolutely no problems with either valve. I put a female end on both drinking hoses, one male end on a short section of hose with a bite valve, and the other male end on a section of hose I attached to my MSR HyperFlow filter. Pumping straight from the filter into the bladder was very easy, and being able to change bladders quickly on the trail was nice. I also found that I could plug the male/filter hose into a bladder for a strong stream of water, without messing with a bite valve.

After fighting to pump water into a CamelBak bladder's main opening, using the Platypus Quick-Disconnect Kit was well worth the money to me.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a review of on August 18, 2009

5 5

This shirt compares well to my old Nike DryFit UV t-shirts. There's a small, unobtrusive "Columbia Titanium" logo on the L chest area. The collar "tag" is printed on the inside of the shirt material, with a soft fabric care tag sewn to the inside, lower side seam. The fabric is silken and sheer, with lots of stretch and flat seams. Sizing is accurate or just a little large. XL weight is 210 grams.

I don't know about durability yet, but at $30, it's a good shirt; the current sale price of $15 makes it an excellent value.

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Shawn K.

Shawn K. wrote a question about on May 23, 2009

Backcountry staff: Is this a 3 or 4 season tent?

Black Diamond's site refers to the OneShot as 4 season tent, it looks like one, and one of the earlier posters said it worked fine for a buddy on a snowshoeing trip. The OneShot looks like the perfect winter tent for me, but I'd feel better knowing it was designed for that weather.

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