Any Seepage Colin?

Before Scotland I thought I had a pretty good idea of the state of lightweight hiking. But in the company of Phil and Colin I realised I was simply a rank amateur. These two know every ultra lightweight product no matter how obscure and spend hours talking about the furthest and darkest reaches of the internet.

For real gear geeks only.

Most backpacker will recognise that a two or three day trip with a couple of mates is a good excuse for a good old natter about gear. But after only a few hours I was completely ‘geared out’ by these two. Still, even after giving up with the gear talk, there’s quite a lot to talk about here.


Colin is, of course, not only a lightweight hiker but a mad keen MYOG — make your own gear — person. On this trip he had his 2010 tarp (a new design each year), one of his new Skins packs and a number of other things that i”ll come to in a moment or two.

2010 Tarp

Colin’s new tarp follows the design that he’s adopted over the last year or so. It is catenary cut tarp with extra guy our points on both the front and rear panels of the tarp; these mean that Colin’s tarp is rigid in even the highest winds. Go to the Colin Ibbotson pages on this blog and you can find Colin talking about his tarp philosophy.

The new tarp is made out of Kerlon 1200. This is the fabric that Hilleberg use on the Akto and the Nallo tents. Not only is Kerlon very light but it is incredibly strong, many times stronger than normal sinylon.

Colin has got his tarp use down to a fine art now. Already he is beginning to think about the next tarp.

Skins Pack

This was the first time I have seen one of the Skins packs — again you can see details of this on the Colin Ibbotson pages on this site. In the flesh this design is even more impressive. The pack is based around a foam mat structure which holds the pack contents tightly. The ‘skin’ is the fabric cover which is mainly in place to provide protection from the elements. Colin’s idea is that the ‘skin’ could be changed to support different walking conditions. You could, for example, have a cuben fibre skin, which would be exceptionally light. Or, if you need something a little more robust for scrambling on exposed rock, you could use a more durable dyneema skin. Colin seems to be moving from prototype to prototype at a fair pace and this elegant design is being refined all the time.

The Skin design has a hip belt option and this is ingenious as well. The hip belt is a home made belt that is just a little wider than a belt you would find with a pair of normal walking trousers. A small upright ‘pocket’ allows two exceptional lightweight aluminium rods to connect from the pack to the belt providing some weight transfer to the hips. The rods, though, are connected in such a way as to give incredible flexibility to the pack so that it moves independently of the body as you walk. I’ve seen a number of hideously expensive back systems that claim to do something similar but none seem to work as effectively as Colin’s design. I suppose Colin being an aeronautical engineer might have something to do with it.

The Skins pack was recently featured in TGO magazine where Colin talked about his sharing philosophy — he’s happy to provide details of his designs online so that others can follow in his footsteps. Now, there is a very outside possibility that some skins packs could become available for sale. If they ever do they’ll knock the socks of ultra-lightweight hikers everywhere. However, the file in the CI pages will show you how to construct something similar if you are into making your own gear. The workmanship in these Skins packs was superb.

Paramo Trousers at only 160 grams!

Colin — like me — is a great fan of Paramo waterproofs when hiking here in the UK during the cooler months. His latest venture is a take on Paramo trousers. He has removed the outer layer of the trouser and replaced it with a very light Pertex — the stuff used in my Montane windproofs. The Paramo pump liner remains intact.

We were walking in glorious sunshine but Colin was wanting rain, so that he could test his trousers properly. Apparently, he’d wandered around under the shower “but it’s not the same”.

On day three a lot of rain fell. Every few minutes Phil and I would enquire “any seepage yet Colin? Apparently the Ibbotson/Paramo mashup worked exceptionally well. At 160 grams the Colin trousers are half the weight of the new lightweight Paramo Velez trousers.

Colin, Phil and I all walk these days using the Third Element Jacket, a full waterproof Paramo jacket which has a removable hood and arms (converting it to a gilet). Colin has his eyes set on making a jacket based on this trouser philosophy. It will be fascinating to see how light he can make a Paramo jacket.


While not being in the same league a Colin when it comes to MYOG, Phil was by no means upstaged. He was carrying a number of kit items that I was seeing in the flesh for the first time.

Z Packs — Cuben Fibre Pack

Very interesting this, again, the first time I had actually seen one of these.

Designed and manufactured by a thru-hiker from the USA the Z pack is a beltless pack made of blue cuben fibre. I’m not sure what the weight was but it was light, very light.

Cuben is a very tough material but it is susceptible to wear through abrasion. This stuff looked very strong though. One of the bid advantages of cuben is that it is effectively re-enforced plastic and so is completely waterproof.

I’ve been wondering about buying a cuben sack from Mountain Laurel Designs and seeing Phil’s pack made up my mind for me. I returned to find that Ron Bell at MLD had stopped selling his cuben pack as it has such low demand although there is the possibility of a new product appearing in time for nexy year’s Challenge.

I could have a look at the Z Pack I suppose but its maker has been away on the trail for months and will almost certainly face a backlog of orders when he returns. I also suspect that the smaller Z Pack is just a little too small for UK use where as the MLD Revelation seemed perfect. Just my luck that it has gone out of production just when I wanted one!

The Pole

Phil was also carrying something which I don’t know the name of, but which I will call ‘the pole’. With a bit of luck Phil will come along and tells us more about it.

This ‘pole’ is a light, carbon fibre construction. Phil walked with it like a staff — kind of John the Baptist in the Cairngorms. But it is when the pole is broken down into sections that it becomes really intriguing.

There were several demonstrations of this thing in various configurations and — to be honest — I couldn’t understand any of them except one. One end opens up to reveal an exceptionally sharp tip. This converts the pole into, basically, a spear. Indeed, on several occasions Phil demonstrated the spear effect with the pole sticking dramatically into the ground. This could be quite a weapon. Apparently it has been designed to ward away pigs and wild boar. I suppose it is useful to be carrying an implement with which you could despatch a pig. Trouble is the pole is probably not strong enough to spit roast one on!

This pole contraption is apparently made “in Texans by real Texans”. You’re probably as worried about this as I am. The designer of all of this is apparently part of a campaign for Texan independence!

New Balance Shoes

Phil’s next shocking item were his shoes. He’s left behind the Inov-8s he used on the Challenge and replaced them with a pair of New Balance trail shoes that he found discounted in Kendall. The reason for the discount is immediately obvious. These shoes are multi coloured in bright, primary colours — reds, yellows, greens and so on. Apparently they were comfortable and drained water well. I think they were New Balance 1100 shoes. We suspected the 1100 stood for the luminosity of the shoes.

These were very bright. Sometimes, the mud covered them up a bit but each time we walked through water Phil’s shoes emerged as radiant as before! I’ve never seen these anywhere but I think Phil has hight hopes of these becoming standard TGO Challenge wear. Alan Sloman ought to be interested, mind you what he would make of them after a night in the Fife Arms is anybody’s guess!

Pack rafting comes to the UK

I could go on but frankly I think I’ve missed much of the stuff the two of them were talking about. However, both Colin and Phil have thrown themselves into the new sensation from the US wilderness — pack rafting!

Colin was first to order his pack raft but Phil has followed close behind. I can see why these might be essential in, say, Alaska, but here in the UK? Colin’s idea is to walk the Speyside Way from the coast, get to Aviemore, inflate his pack raft and simply let the fast flowing water drift him back home again.

I know there have been a lot of people in the UK who have been interested in pack rafting but concerned that there were no local users with any experience of them. All of this is about to change.

Anyhow, there’s a little about gear. Both Phil and Colin have email addresses that you’ll find by following links in the side bar. You can follow this up there.

I’m still puzzled by why you need to deal with wild pigs here!


  1. Ahhhh.. ‘the pole’. It’s a “LuxuryLite Survival Stik”, I’ve written a bit about it over on my blog –
    here – the pointy bit is marketed as a pig poker on the manufacturers site (sorry Shirl) and I’m certainly going to be grinding it down as it really is unnecessarily sharp for non-poking purposes.

    The pack requires a bit of a write up really – the problem is, it’s just so simple. It’s a cuben duffel bag with straps basically. This is the beauty of it, and why it’s 121g at around 43 litres capacity.

    The shoes. Indeed the New Balance 1100 MDS, and I really really like them! Fit my wide feet nicely and they’re only 390grams compared to the 310g of the Terrocs. The photo on the
    New Balance website doesn’t really do them justice, though in the spirit of multi-use gear they’d make a great signalling device…..

  2. I also have the Luxury Lite walking staff complete with pig sticker point! I have been experimenting with this pole for use with a tarp tent and with a few tweaks it might work. it is certainly really very strong

  3. Don’t worry Phil — I have some photos of the shoes that will certainly do them justice!

  4. Dave,

    Do you also have a problem with killer pigs?

    Perhaps, this is a danger that I’ve been blind to in the past. Should I be worrying about it?


  5. Nice post, Andy. I saw Phil’s tweet that he got a Packraft, which will be nice to see how it does in the UK. Packrafting in Finland is a very great option, I got plenty of rivers and lakes to go around. Was thinking yesterday about some possible routes…

  6. A haj, concerning the Luxury Lite stick, as I don’t like poles I can see me using this. Because you can break it down into pieces, you can use it for a shelter. Imagine if Luxury Lite would make a paddle attachment for the stick, now that would be serious multiuse!

  7. Hendrik – I know!!! I’ve asked Bruce from LuxuryLite if he’d look into this, but he didn’t reply. I discussed this with Colin and we came to the conclusion that the risk of the sections parting company is too great. The ultralight paddle we’ve got has a locking mechanism to prevent this. Using the paddle to support a shelter on the other hand….

    Dave – it works brilliantly with the DuoMid, I’ve got an additonal small section that allows for a different height pitch, but it seems to work best unadulterated with just the rubber top cap thingy. I like it.

  8. Hendrik – I know!!! I’ve asked Bruce from LuxuryLite if he’d look into this, but he didn’t reply. I discussed this with Colin and we came to the conclusion that the risk of the sections parting company is too great. The ultralight paddle we’ve got has a locking mechanism to prevent this. Using the paddle to support a shelter on the other hand….

    Dave – it works brilliantly with the DuoMid, I’ve got an additonal small section that allows for a different height pitch, but it seems to work best unadulterated with just the rubber top cap thingy. I like it.
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  9. I got Roman Dials book on packrafting a while back and it appeals a lot to me. You have only to see his blog and the videos to see why. I will wait to see how others get on with them and then decide.

  10. Colin Ibbotson says

    Martin my packraft has arrived in Perth today before heading further north to Inverness. I just happen to be in Perth so will see if I can grab it! Very exciting!! How did you get on with the DuoMid?

  11. So far so good Colin. It is a new style of backpacking for me and a good learning curve. Good to push on and learn something new. Romans book on Packrafting is a eye-opening book and I would give it a go as well. It is the possibilities that can be had on trips. Maybe not up to Alaska and Andy Skurka with his last walk and the incredible places he packrafted into, but Scotland with it rivers and lochs would be just adventure with a capitol A. Safe learning with it and have fun.

  12. Good on you Martin. There’s no going back now …

  13. I’m still puzzled by why you need to deal with wild pigs here!

  14. Oops!

    I’m still puzzled by why you need to deal with wild pigs here!

    Here’s why…

  15. Oh, bugger. I give up!


    Click here to see why!

  16. I promise I’m going now, but after making all that effort to enlighten you… zip across to my blog to see why!

    *pours self stiff G&T*

  17. Bob Andrews says

    It will be interesting to see how the packrafting goes. No access probs in Scotland but may find some south of the border. However the more that want that access will help gain the access that we all desire.

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