Another box hit the doormat. This time courtesy of Ultralight Outdoor gear. Amazing! Ordered Sunday from the comfort of my Armchair and opened with a childish grin Wednesday Evening! They got the stuff to me quicker that I could have picked it up from my nearest high street shop (not that I could get this stuff from my high street shop).

What was in the box? Well, lots of goodies. Unfortunately not all where mine since I split the shipping costs with Willem-Maarten. I did get to have the fun of opening the box though! Before you shoot me down for cruelty, I did, after removing my own gear, tape up the box again so Willem-Maarten could have his fun! Besides there's a down side. I'm jelous of Willem-Maartens Rab Drillium overtrousers! Here's a run down of what I bought:

Three Pod Airstream light dry bags: I needed one for the camera bag and it seemed cruel to let it make the journey alone. In addition to the small for the camera bag I also purchased a medium and a large. These are heavier than the silny stuffsacks I've been using of late but, unlike those, they are fully waterproof. The e-vent base also allows air to escape making it easy to stuff large items in and then compress them on closing the roll-top. I'll be using one for my sleeping bag and spare clothes in the bottom of my pack and the other for my down jacket in the top of my pack. I figure I can dispense with pack liners and compensate for the weight gained without giving cause to worry about my down gear. Previously I've kept my sleeping bag in my bivvy bag and stuffed it loosely into the bottom of my pack. However, I now need to compress my sleeping bag to a smaller size so I can fit it in my new rucksack :-)

Golite Jam 2: I've been hovering over this pack for a year or so now. I'm really happy with my Granite Gear Vapour Trail which is the most comfortable pack I've ever used and weighs only 1kg. However, I miss pockets and the roll-closure on the vapour trail is annoying (there's masses of excess material and the over-long closure makes for difficult access and difficult packing from empty). I got around the pocket thing by hanging small dry bags from hooks inside the top of the main sack in order to create a location for all those things you need to hand, but nevertheless getting at the stuff you need to grab in a hurry was a bind. It always looked like the Jam 2 was better thought out in that respect. With pockets on the hip belt there's loads of space for all those bits and pieces and the large external pocket looks ideal for wet gear, tarps, coats, over-trousers and the like. So why did I wait? Well I wasn't sure about ditching the frame and I'd never seen one in the flesh. I was also waiting for PTC to get of his backside and review his before I took the plunge.
What made me jump? Well, since buying the Vapour Trail my kit has changed out of all recognition. My base weight is now light enough, I think, to dispense with the frame (the saving of 250g on the sack alone compounds the advantage). Furthermore, with a few recent purchase such as the NeoAir, my gear has become far less bulky and I think a slightly smaller pack is sufficient. The Vapour Trail is officially 55l but I think its nearer 60l. The Jam 2 is a slinky 51l but compromises better and has a nice split between the main sack and the front pocket which should make for neater packing when the packs getting empty towards the back end of the trip. First impressions are good. I always had an idea that the Jam 2 would feel flimsy but its actually of a pretty rugged construction. I've packed it up already and I like how my gear sits in the space. I need to practice at getting the back shape right though (the downside of frameless packs!) I'll be sticking my neck right out and using a lot of new gear in Rondane. The Jam 2 will be one of the newbies coming along for the ride. I might even get a review out before PTC for once?

Optimus Stella +: This is a more than strange purchase for me. It sticks out like a sore thumb on my gear list. Firstly, I've been using meths stoves, and only meths stoves, since I was 15 years old. Secondly it weighs a whopping 260g excluding the wind shield. Why buy a heavy gas burner then? Well, it seems to be the best option for the group trip to Norway. We'll be flying so won't be allowed to pack fuel in. Normally we'd use Willem-Maartens MSR Whisper light multi-fuel stove but we can't get the right fuel at the stepping off point. Gas canisters are available though. As is meths. We need a stove stable enough to accommodate a big pan (2.5l) in order to prepare group meals. Meths is out, my Trangias are too heavy and fuel weights would be prohibitive for the duration and meal volumes concerned. Smaller meths burners are strictly small pan affairs (although I wonder how big a pan the White Box Duo can handle?). Gas is in and there are only two suitable remote canister stoves in my opinion: the MSR windpro and the Optimus Stella +. The former is lighter but the latter looks like a better design to me. Besides, the latter was available from Ultralight Outdoor Gear and could be shipped in the same box (one lot of shipping fees!).
Now having spun the thing in my hand I have to confess I really like it. It's a genius design. A massive burner that folds down very small. The added bonus is that it'll be perfect for car camping with the family and, being a remote canister stove, it'll make a good cold weather option. It might be heavy but the maths is different for large groups. 260g split across a group of five is very light. At least, it will be if I can make a decent deal with the other four :-)

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