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Lightweight gear information

The Ray-Way Fly

Instead of a heavy, bulky and expensive top-range tent, with easily broken poles and a fixed “footprint”, my fly is light and versatile.


Made of 1.1oz silicone nylon, the fly weighs 500 g with packed dimensions of 25cm x 15cm x 15cm, open dimensions of 3m x 2.5m, a cost of $100 and construction time of 1 day.

Pitching methods vary according to the terrain:
– High up if there is no wind and its warm
– A-frame to the ground if it is cold (the most common method I use in NZ)
– Low down if it is windy

Guy lines are tied to trees in the bush. If pitched above the bush line I grab some sticks to use as poles. Once pitched I lay down a groundsheet made from a $6 2m x 3m Miter 10 plastic tarpaulin with the grommets and folded seams cut off from around the edges.

The fly has:
– “Beaks” to cover the ends
– Side lifters to pull the sides of the fly out

Good things:
– Can fit the fly almost anywhere – over top of small shrubs, curved around tree trunks
– Very strong and light. Has been tested in strong gales on the tops.
– Huge area covered. Plenty of space for packs, cooking underneath, packing etc
– Fast to pitch eg lunchtime in the rain

Bad things:
– Rain drops hit the roof and knock condensation spray onto inhabitants
– Some drips run down the center ridge
– Needs careful pitching to avoid rubbing against sharp sticks or bush lawyer
– Havent tested in the snow yet

The Ray-Way Net Tent

Hangs underneath the fly as an inner to keep out sand flies and mozzies. Excessive for New Zealand, I made this for cycle touring in places where there are heaps of mosquitoes.

Its far easier to sleep wearing a head mesh.

Good things:
– Easy to put up and adjust
– Keeps things out
Bad things:
– Cuts down on living area a lot
– Open flap could still let in leeches and ants (havent tested that yet). Might add Velcro or a zip.

Ray-Way Synthetic Quilt

I bought the “Alpine” quilt kit from Ray-Way, with 2 layers of 1 inch thick polar guard 3d insulation. This was way too warm for my tramping and too bulky, so I removed one layer of insulation. The 1 inch thick bag is a great lightweight summer bag, slightly chilly in winter. At $80 and 1 day construction time, it is way cheaper than hi-tec commercial synthetic bags.

Lying in a sleeping bag, the insulation underneath is crushed and is useless. The quilt is open on the bottom, and you just tuck it in underneath you and lie on your foam pad (I cut mine to 3/4 length which can be a pain if water puddles on top of the groundsheet). Synthetic is inferior to down, but I prefer synthetic bags as they still work when they are wet.

Matt has used Ray-Ways two person quilt. The idea is by sharing a quilt a party of two saves weight. He says that the two people need to roll over at the same time, and takes some getting used to! Now he is trialling his vapor-barrier sleeping bag/jacket combo (300g down baffled tube with drawstring at the foot end, to be worn with a synthetic jacket. Inner is waterproof silicone nylon.)

Nylon Shell – the “Sandfly suit”


Ray is really big on shells, and after testing them out I am too! Shells are made from (non-waterproof) breathable 1.9oz nylon ripstop fabric, with a full length zip top and cuff fasteners. Fast drying and light.

Such a simple outfit has so many uses:
– Sandfly suit with head mesh, mittens and booties
– Bush bashing jacket when its not raining hard
– Wind stopping pants for tops travel, beach etc
– Sun protection
– Putting on after washing or swimming
– Sleeping in
– Warmth in cool conditions by trapping air

Normally I put on the shell after stopping walking for the day and washing, wear it round camp, then sleep in the suit.

Homemade Cordura Backpack

I have made three packs- a daypack (30 litre), medium sized (70 liter) and “jumbo” (100 litre). The main advantage of a home made pack is that it is almost weightless, versus 2.5kg for my (empty) Macpac Torre.

All are simple sacks made from one length of waterproof ripstop cordura folded in a curve, with side panels and a harness. The key dimension is the distance between the shoulder attachment point and the lower attachment of the harness.

Straps are stuffed with bedroll foam and webbing, buckles and drawstring attached. The top features a “sphincter” with nylon that you twist up to keep water out. The seams are not sealed so I added a lid and drainholes in the bottom.

There is no waist belt as these are not necessary. The theory is that your pack should be so light that a waist belt is not needed. However on the start of a big trip my pack can easily weigh 15kg, making me lean forward slightly. However as I eat my way through food wieght soon diminishes. On a recent 2 week trip I could lift my pack with my little finger after a week.

It doesnt take long to get used to not having a waist belt and I find that walking feels far more natural without having the pack lashed on to your body. Now I walk up behind people wearing normal packs and feel sorry for their encumbered lumbering! The worst part of a normal pack is the “chest strap” which cuts off your lungs fully inflating.

Beer can meths cooker

Google up the instructions for making this stove by searching for “Pepsi can stove”. I made two at once and it does pay to get a production line going, as it takes some attempts to get them right. Making the stove takes some time, but is simple enough and the only cost is a packet of needles and $7 Selley’s Metallic Cement which is enough to make 4 stoves.

I can boil a liter of water in a few minutes, balancing the billy on a pot stand made out of stiff metal mesh. A windshield is made out of an aluminum baking tray. This stove is weightless. I doubt I will ever use my MSR cooker again unless at high altitude.

A one week trip will require 750ml meths which I carry in a “Pump” water bottle as the open/close nozzle allows careful measurement of meths.


Synthetic vest and bomber hat

Made from polar guard 3d insulation sandwiched between nylon layers, I sleep in the vest and hat for added warmth as well as wearing them around camp.

Malden 2000 vest and balaclava

An experiment with an unknown fabric, I made the vest as an attempt to solve my problem of keeping warm when totally wet. Up to 5 polypros and a thin fleece didn’t seem to do it, so I made a tight fitting vest from a weird kind of fabric. Like a thin, fleece lined wet suit it works well as a waterproof, vapor barrier to keep me toasty.

Goretex raincoat

I am hugely skeptical of Goretex. Once the coating of brand new Goretex has worn off the outside, the magic of marketing doesnt seem to meet reality. I made my own coat to save the $300 to $600 that ridiculous outdoor shops charge. Mine cost $90 and works well so far. Its is a joy to be warm instead of wet and saturated

Time will tell how it ages as I research into appropriate care techniques:
– Wash without enzymes
– Cool iron

Matt’s theory of Goretex

“The original Goretex was a teflon fabric with tiny holes to let water pass. The holes filed up with dirt so Gore added a polyurethane layer to stop this. Most breathable raincoats are made from polyurethane so Goretex is little different to anything else. Polyurethane is hydrophilic, the theory being that moisture from the skin will be attracted and pass through the coat to be evaporated on the outside surface.

For evaporation to happen the outer coating has a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating, which allows liquid water to roll off easily. This is the layer which is regenerated by ironing (or spraying on more), and can wear off over time. Once the DWR is lost (about a week of use) water can not bead off any more so the evaporative quality of the coat is lost, and instead of water wicking OUT of the coat, water will wick IN!

Goretex is great in alpine environments where liquid water does not occur and the bodies moisture can evaporate easily. However in New Zealand bush Goretex is no better than anything else and over time is practically useless.”


Comment from louis
Time: March 31, 2008, 11:01 am

I aggree with Matt on Gor-tex, it is very nice for the first week or so. It does become increasingly useless. I currently wear a nylon, totally waterproof, non breatherable kayaking spray jacket when instructing in the rain, with a leaking heavy staff gor-tex over the top for show mostly!

Comment from John
Time: March 2, 2009, 1:33 pm

Tristan, You are an Outdoor Professor and I am your student. Your website is awesome. I am taking it all in. So much useful info – thanks so much for sharing. The first thing I will make is the fly. Can you please tell me more about the beak on the fly.
Cheers John

Comment from Ewan
Time: March 24, 2009, 6:23 am

Trist, your website grows and grows… it’s looking great! Very inspirationaln and informative on the lightweight gear tip and wonderful photos. Keep up the good work!

Comment from Devon
Time: November 3, 2009, 3:01 pm

Hi Tristan
Can you tell me whether you have been able to source the cordura from which you made your packs, or any other useful outdoor sewing materials in New Zealand? It used to be pretty easy to make your own stuff from local materials, but it is getting harder and harder to find good stuff.

Comment from Rob McKay
Time: March 28, 2010, 8:09 pm

Thanks for the tips re Dragons Teeth today – Just checking out your blog – I must find the time to start one (I have a work related one) as I am a light weight gear freak!
Re your tarp – I have Oware Cat tarp and biv – also a bug shelter (serenity – from Mt Laurel Designs).
I really like the SpinnTwinn from Gossamer Gear
I will touch base after we come back from the “Teeth” – fingers crossed that we get good weather to do the high route – Cheers Rob
PS – best light weight packs are from ULA out of Utah – I have the Conduit and the Curcuit
Best light weight sleeping bags from Western Mountaineering
PPS – Re rainwear – if not bushbashing – check-out Driducks – great, soooooo light and really waterproof

Comment from Bryan Dudley
Time: August 19, 2010, 10:54 am

Hi Again
I have a lightweight pack with a waist belt. I prefer this as I have a stuffed back and the strap can take most of the weight if my back is bad.

This is not to debate the matter but to stress that lightweight tramping gives a lot of options, there is no right way but a number of options that you can choose depending on your circumstances and the trip.
Regards Bryan Dudley

Comment from Rob McKay
Time: September 24, 2010, 7:03 pm

Tristan – I think I have gotcha on the tarp – just ordered the new Hexamid from Joe a Zpack – 3.2ozs – Cuban Fiber.
Joe is modifying the beak for me to suit NZ conditions.
I have just built my new blog – see address above – love you to follow me – I have added your site to my blog roll. What have you got planned trip wise in the near future?

Comment from Brett
Time: December 12, 2010, 2:00 pm

Very good hints on your blog/site.

I have been making adaptive flys or 10 years now. These are very light (a three person one 800gms), and two people can set it up with treking poles in less than 40 seconds -proven!!!; the ends form beaks by shifting the poles (you can use sticks as well). And, the whole thing will stand some serious wind. To make the weather end more proof -we put our packs there. This arrangment has worked very well in Fiordland, Stewart Island and Lewis pass. The thing took a day to make, and cost $40 !

Comment from Honora
Time: June 1, 2013, 12:21 am

Great information. Gobsmacked to read about that trail you stumbled upon on the Tin Range down to Doughboy. That will make a great circuit which we will be doing next easter thanks to your post. We did the masochistic version from near Mt Allen down to Doughboy on compass bearings quite a bit and taking 36 hours.

I’ve adapted my square fly to enable it to be optionally pitched diagonally after seeing this in a book on lightweight tramping. It’s called the bombproof pitch and has some advantages over the A-frame pitch e.g. pitched closer to a fire in the lee. I’ve often wondered about just having a mosquito netting skirt extension on a fly…

I’ve got the dri-ducks which are frail so I wear them under my waterproof breathable shell as a back up. I’ve also ordered in a tyvek labcoat and trousers to see what they’re like. They cost about $US9 for the set. Freight is pricey but it’s an experiment. If it works out to be a good idea, I’ll put the word out.

I dream of doing the high route of the Anatoki but have to find someone brave enough to give it a shot with!

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