I’m still grounded as a result of this dreadful lurgy that is going around the West Midlands. Fortunately mine hasn’t turned into bronchitis as it has with some people; the damn thing keeps coming back. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out for a walk later this week but in the meantime it has offered me a chance to catch up with people I haven’t spoken to for a while, including Colin Ibbotson. I’m always being asked what Colin is up to.
Since finishing the Pacific Crest Trail last autumn Colin has been hard at work with his Tramplite Gear. Colin’s gear is not mainstream and is expensive but it is full performance stuff that is properly proved over thousands of miles.
The Tramplite Pack
New for this year is the Tramplite Pack which looks really interesting and is packed full of innovative features. Last May a number of us TGO Challengers have the foresight to pencil in orders in advance and now the final testing is being done for what should prove to be a fascinating product.
The pack — made from Dyneema — will be available in two sizes, 50 litres and 40 litres (the quotes for the main compartment only). Colin tells me that most lightweight hikers will be happy with 49 litres. During winter testing the 40 litre pack has carried Colin’s winter gear and five days of food. The 50 litre pack is described as ‘gigantic’ and is basically aimed at people who have to carry bear canisters. (Mind you this is Colin saying Gigantic!).
Colin is currently preparing the publicity material for his website (I’ll let you all know when this is up and running). However, here are some sneak previews of some key features:
- The pack opens at both the top and the bottom (and an optional pack liner also has two openings);
- The packs are bladder compatible;
- New contoured shoulder straps are extra wide and include 10mm foam that can be replaced by the user — a really nice feature that;
- Straps and hip belt seem to have an ingenious adjustable design to avoid slipping;
- Large and adjustable side pockets;
- A very large front mesh pocket;
- Packs custom sized to the user;
- Side pockets are ice axe compatible (and there are the conventional loops on the base of the pack).
Innovative Back System
However, the most interesting feature of the new pack is the new back system. This is built around an internal, tensioned, carbon fibre frame. This is what Colin says in his own words:
New for this year is an internal tensioned carbon fibre frame. It sounds fancy but it’s just a carbon rod held in an arc by a length of cord. This frame is unique to Tramplite packs and allows the pack to form to the users back shape while being adjustable and really stiff. Packs are custom sized to the user but the arc cord is adjustable and allows some variation in pack back length and shape. More importantly each shoulder can be adjusted individually so if you have one shoulder/ hipbone higher then the other then you will appreciate this! Back length/shoulder adjustments can be made, on trail, without emptying the pack. The curved back panel doesn’t usually touch the lower back to allow for ventilation, the upper of the pack is in contact with the back but is covered in 3D mesh for comfort (removable on request). In addition there are 4 horizontal carbon rods on the back panel that keep the pack shape, help vent the lower back, and transfer the load to the hipbelt. The hipbelt is sewn directly to back panel and is not swappable. Frames are 4 or 6mm carbon fibre and are interchangeable. The 6mm frame is super stiff and probably the stiffest frame available on any lightweight pack today, great for carrying big loads. 4mm is much less stiff but lighter, your choice.
A carbon fibre ‘hoop’ has been used in the Brian Frankle designed URA packs in the past (and has received good review). But this seems an altogether more advanced and flexible solution. The flexible nature of Colin’s arc not only allows you to match the system to your back but also enable the adjustment of the arrangement to cope better with heavy or lighter loads. Those who have tried Colin’s existing prototypes describe them as the most comfortable load carrying systems they have used so I expect this will be not only practical but a very fine system indeed.
Weight are not yet finalised but the 50 litre should be about 800 to 850 grams (this can be lightened by the user). A fuller-production of the 40 litre has not been made at the time of writing but it is already clear that both of these packs will be very competitive in terms of weight, durability and functionality. And you’ll have to wait for photos until the official website is up and running. But this looks a very fine piece of design. Those who know Colin won’t be surprised.
The hip belt has two clips for accessories. Colin currently uses two. The first is a 4 litre water bag for desert crossings. A ‘bear bag’ also clips to the hip belt and this increases capacity to carry another 5 to 7 days of food.
Carrying heavy items, like 4ltr water, up front has a number of advantages in balance and space saving and whatever you carry up front, when attached directly to the hipbelt, will not be felt on your shoulders. Many of you may not need these accessories but you could carry a packraft or heavy camera system here. Hipbelts do not have any pockets, as they would interfere with this accessory facility, but most 3rd party pockets should fit.
Finally, there’s another typical Colin innovation — a conversation to allow the pack to be used as a backrest on breaks. You’ll have to wait for the official pictures here but this made me laugh a lot; it is ingenious.
The Tramplite Shelters
Finally, the Tramplite shelters continue to be made. There are a number of new options for the shelters which are new since I received mine (which I think was Production Model No.1) including a door thing that gives more privacy (not really needed in my view) and an even taughter back system (into the wind).
The fall in the Pound is making cuben fibre even more expensive to import so prices will be rising to reflect this. Nevertheless, while this is an expensive shelter is an incredibly high performance one.
See Tramplite Gear for more details, and for contact information