The opportunity arose for me to field-test the Thermarest Neo-Air Voyager sleeping mat. I currently use the Thermarest Xtherm Max which has vastly improved my camping experience. I enjoyed taking a look at how the Voyager differs from the xTherm and how it compares in performance, comfort and weight.
Thermarest NeoAir Voyager sleeping mat.
Winters chill could be felt as I approached the Mourne mountains, an ideal location to try out the Voyager sleep mat. I looked forward to comparing the properties between the Voyager and Xtherm Max mat. The Voyager mat incorporates Wacecore construction and heat trapping Thermacapture technology providing heat without excess bulking. Thermacapture is a series baffles with reflective material that protects against radiative heat loss.
Thermarest wavecore technology.
Simply put, this mat reflects the bodies heat from the mat back into the person using it. I first experienced this effect trying out the Thermarest Max mat and was won over by the heat reflexing technology behind these mats. As I mentioned previously I already own the Thermarest XTherm Max mat which has changed my camping and sleeping experience. The Voyager mat I tested was 51cm wide and180cm in length, more than enough space for anyone. The voyager is available in three sizes; regular, regular wide and large. The ( R-VALUE ) of the Voyager mat is 2.2, basically this means it can be used up to temperatures of minus -7, more than suitable for Irish mountain climate. The Voyager mat is noticeable smaller that the Xtherm Max mat, something I welcomed as I found the Xtherm mat was to big to use for a bivvi.
Thermarest Voyager mat.
When inflated the Voyager mat is 6.3 cm depth, providing a air cushioned distance between you and the cold mountain ground. A welcoming difference was the noise reduction between the Voyager and Xtherm mats. The Xtherm had a crinkling sound when moving around on it, although this was not on the annoying level, you were aware of it. The Voyager mat has no such noise!
The Voyager mat is not a self inflating mat, this leaves a few choices-
– Use a Thermarest battery pump ( this inflates it nearly full )
Thermarest inflating sack ( not included in this model ) I found this a bit tricky to began with but after about 6 minutes I had the mat inflated.
Good old lung power ( 52 deep breaths to be exact ) although I have to mention that its not recommended to fill Thermarest mat with hot breath – best to avoid moisture and algae build up.
Just like the Xtherm Max the Voyager inflating valve is a twist and pull style which protrudes outwards about 2cm. I tend to sleep with my head on the valve end of mat, this allows me to adjust air pressure if necessary. It also means I can deflate the mat easier the next morning.
The Voyager mat weights ( 620 grams 1lb 5 oz regular model.) and packs down to the size of a 1 litre nalgene bottle. As with all Thermarest mats a stuff sack and repair kit are included. The Voyager mat come from Thermarests ” Trek & Travel ” range making it suitable in a range of environments . I found the Voyager mat to be very comfortable with stablished loft throughout the mat. I had no issue with loss of compression or air displacement.
voyager mat- packs down well.
The Voyager mat is made from 75D nylon . Having used my Xtherm on varied terrain I can vouch to the toughness of the material. The warmth to weight ratio the Voyager achieves makes it more than suitable for year round use in the Uk. Although targeted towards Autumn use I have used this mat in Winter conditions. I’m more than impressed with the Voyagers performance, Thermarest has created mats with cutting edge technology that reflex the heat of the body. The Voyager mat is also smaller which allows me to use it with a Bivvi bag.
pack size 80%
Quite a high score for the Voyager mat, the only slight negative thing I could find was it that it was quite hard to fit into the sack provided.
The Voyager mat offers maximum comfort, coupled with heat retention, low weight and pack size, this mat is a great choice that ticks all the boxes. The Voyager mat is easy to inflate, deflate and store making it a clear choice whether you’re experienced camper or just giving camping a go. If you like the look of this product simply click on the link below for more details about the Voyager mat.
The new Osprey Atmos is loaded with impressive features but there’s one in particular that makes it stand out among the best rucksacks available today, the Osprey “anti-gravity” system. The Atmos 65 has a “trampoline suspension system”, a large span of mesh which separates the back panel of the rucksack from your back, allowing airflow, thus stopping your back from becoming as sweaty as it would be if there was direct contact with the back panel. The trampoline suspension system has been about for a while but it’s something that’s only really been seen on small capacity day sacks. The Atmos has a maximum capacity of sixty five litres and has a fully adjustable back system providing a custom fit, this is what makes the Osprey Atmos and other larger capacity Osprey packs with the anti-gravity system something special.
Osprey Atmos 65 ag
The Atmos 65 AG has all the usual features seen on an Osprey pack, load adjusters above the shoulder straps and adjustable sternum straps with a functional emergency whistle, a fully adjustable “fit on the fly” hip belt is included and the whole back system is adjustable to provide that quality custom fit. The Osprey “Stow and Go” can be found in its usual place for quick and easy access to a walking pole along with more elasticised straps and loops for securing similar items. There are some other features on the Atmos that should be mentioned, this pack comes supplied with a rain cover and they’ve had to put a sleeve inside the main compartment for a water reservoir since the anti-gravity system doesn’t allow for an easy access back panel pocket like that seen in some of the other Osprey packs, however the space between the back panel and the trampoline mesh hasn’t been made completely redundant and can be accessed if need be and used for additional storage space. As for secondary compartments there are the usual two on the lid in addition to two either side typically seen on an Osprey pack. A sleeping bag compartment can be found on the bottom of the pack and has the usual divider on the inside separating it from the main compartment, removable straps for carrying a sleeping mat or similar bulky kit can be found on the outside of the sleeping bag compartment. Mesh pockets are located on both sides of the Atmos with entry points that allow you to reach a water bottle or such while still carrying your pack, the hip belt compartments are there too, these are sometimes considered too small for any practical use but in my opinion those found on this version of the Atmos are more than adequate as is the front mesh pocket which is large enough and ideal for storing items such as wet gear which my need accessed quickly.
Build quality 95%
There is another new innovative feature unique to the Osprey, the lid of the rucksack can be completely removed and a secondary panel called a “Flap jacket” used to cover and close the main compartment enabling you to drop weight and bulk if required.Removable top compartments are something that are not new to Osprey rucksacks, packs such as “Aether” and “Xenith” have removable lids with a small hip belt incorporated into them so they can be used as a small bumbag/fannypack style daypack.
Osprey Atmos 65 ag
Sometimes other Osprey rucksacks have a small mesh pocket located on the underside of the top compartment, there are neither of these on the Atmos 65 ,obviously this isn’t a major issue or problem with the pack but being able to use the lid of the Atmos as a daypack is an option I would love to have and having that extra mesh pocket for your wallet ,keys etc is always nice.
Atmos ag 65 – A workhorse of a rucksack.
As for actually carrying the Atmos I found what Id heard about the previous generation applied to this one as well it really hugs the contours of your body for a really close, snug fit .The anti-gravity system and the fact that the pack is the correct size and adjusted for a custom fit means it sits perfectly, on average I have been carrying around 14kg with the Atmos and it sits perfectly and if it wasn’t for the fact you can feel the weight of what your carrying in your legs you’d hardly know you were carrying that weight at all.
The Osprey Atmos 65 ag can haul a lot of kit.
Overall I found the Atmos 65 ag a superb piece of kit, it has all the quality features expected to be seen on an Osprey product and the anti-gravity system is an amazing innovation in rucksack design that I cant praise enough. It really does what its supposed to do. When first using the Atmos on a longer hikes I noticed my walking partner removing his pack which was soaked with sweat to the point where he had to change his t-shirt. I on the other hand had to do no such thing the Atmos AG had done its job and I was perfectly dry .
Osprey Atmos 65 ag anti-gravity system
The materials used in the Atmos are all of the highest standard expected in an Osprey rucksack, lightweight yet durable and strong. If you do have an incident where your Osprey pack becomes damaged, Osprey have something called “The Almighty Guarantee” which means if they are unable to perform a quality repair on your pack they will replace it with a brand new rucksack, I’ve already used this service on another Osprey rucksack and found the work done and customer services to be excellent.
The following press release is from Osprey Europe:
Osprey Europe is extremely proud to announce its continued partnership with the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA). Since 2013, Osprey has been a devoted Summit Member to EOCA and supported a number of campaigns including the very successful Bird Conservation Georgia’s project; protecting over one million raptors which migrate through the foothills of the Lesser Caucasus in Georgia each season from the threat of hunting.
Today, Osprey has donated £25,000 to the Mountain Wilderness project, which fully funds this exciting and important venture. The purpose of Mountain Wilderness (NGO) is to unite mountaineers and mountain lovers throughout the world; protecting mountain environments and preserving last mountain wilderness areas.
This Osprey funded project, “Cleaning the Alps”, has the goal of removing and dismantling obsolete constructions in the French mountains, such as barbed wire, abandoned ski stations and cables. These are a real plague and danger in the wilderness both for outdoor users and wildlife.
Catherine Savidge, Joint General Manager at EOCA said
We are thrilled this year to be able to support more conservation projects than ever before. All of the projects we work with deserve and need funding, so it is a pleasure to be able to facilitate the funding of this project with the generosity of Osprey Europe.
Since 2002, Mountain Wilderness has been working tirelessly with volunteers to remove harmful materials. Birds in the area, including bearded vultures, ospreys, owls, eagles, grouse and ptarmigans are particularly at risk from cables and wires but there is also a real danger for local inhabitants and people exploring the area. The 20 team leaders heading up the project on the ground will each be equipped with a Talon 44 and Tempest 40 backpack to aid in the day-to-day activities.
As a result of this great work, Mountain Wilderness will also communicate the success of these projects to raise awareness of the issue with mountain inhabitants, visitors, as well as politicians and decision makers. Their communications recently contributed to the development of the ‘Mountain Law’ in France (Oct 2016), requiring operators to dismantle ski lifts if they are not used for 5 years. Jonathan Petty, Head of Marketing at Osprey Europe said
We are delighted to announce our decision to put a significant amount of money into the Mountain Wilderness project, as at Osprey we are dedicated to the outdoors and a key aspect of our ongoing strategy is the protection and conservation of our natural environment.
Osprey Europe looks forward to the exciting results of this project and supporting Mountain Wilderness in their future endeavours.
This was my first time up a Munro and well you might as well do the highest when you’re there. The Ben Nevis race is steeped in history dating back far longer than some of the runners who go back year after year for more punishment. One of our team was on his 21st race and another on his 11th who still can’t get under the elusive two hour mark. Maybe next year Ricky.
Looking rather fresh faced at the start
Bunked up in our accommodation for the weekend we set off on Friday night for the first and last hot meal of the weekend in the Ben Nevis Inn. Wetherspoon chefs could do with keeping the food a few minutes longer in the microwave. Note to self ‘order a vegetarian breakfast’.
Fuelled up on square sausage and Braveheart I was ready for a day of torture. Concerned about the cut off times I knew if I kept Ricky Cowan close to me I’d make it to the Burn in under the hour. True to form I passed it in 57minutes and began the second half of the climb which is a lot more loose stone and rock. On the long slog to the summit the heat was fierce and anytime I looked at my HR it was in the 174bpm mark or so.
Somewhere past the half way point
Passing a few bewilderd looking walkers I got to the summit and took a quick selfie, looked around me briefly to take it in, passed my wristband to the marshals and stuffed a handful of liquorice allsorts into my dry mouth and swallowed a salt tablet.
Having came over to try and break three hours I took off knowing that I was going to have to pick up my pace. Luckily I can come down quicker than I can go up. Stopping for a cool off twice in streams I was having a tough time in the heat and my 750mls were nearly drank. The dreuth was wild and I was eyeing up people who looked like they’d have spare water. I asked a lady in a campervan for some but all she had was a tin of Irn Bru. I gratefully drank it then instantly regretted it but my watch was showing 2.50 so I pushed on.
I got my medal, grabbed some water and went in search of some shade from the Scottish sun. I was feeling rough but happy to get up and down the hill and I squeezed in under three hours.
Trying to look happy
The Irn Bru didn’t last too long though, I apologise to the Newcastle athletic guys for my horrific loud wretching and vomiting noises who were enjoying a coors light outside their accommodation. I seem to have history and vomiting is now quite normal.
A nice touch with the miniature whisky
Would I go back? Yes but not for a couple of years. It’s a great race to do and tick off but it’s fierce on the body.
I raised well over £600 for SANDS NI and they are a great charity. Final total still to be confirmed.
Well done to Diane Wilson from Dromore Athletics club who won the women’s race. Totally epic run and performance from a really fantastic runner. I’m in awe.
I stopped to draw my breath, my legs feeling heavier than they should have from the relatively minor incline, the weight of a full pack and soaking wet boots not aiding my cause. Whilst I gulped in a few lungfuls of fresh air, my eyes scanned my surroundings, the wonderful views providing the oxygen for my soul, and even the most weary of travellers would struggle not to be lifted by that view. On the horizon, the huge dark shark fin of the mountains on Achill island loomed large, as they pierced the blue-grey of The Atlantic. It was hot, a faint warm breeze offered scant respite, and sweat mixed with sun cream and midge repellent stung my eyes. The only sounds audible were the twittering of small birds, and off in the distance, the mournful throaty bleating of a lonely mountain sheep, calling to companions who didn’t answer.
As I panned around, taking in the huge swathes of bog and tundra encircled by the Nephin Beg mountains, I could see a portion of our group had stopped up ahead and were also taking a break to enjoy the view/catch their breath.
Looking back down the route from where we’d come, I could see the remainder of my companions approaching. The strains of Stealers Wheel’s song ‘stuck in the middle with you’ came into my head, this tickled me, and I smiled and hummed the melody, before tightening the straps of my pack, and squelching onwards up The Bangor Trail.
The Bangor Trail, situated in North Mayo, is an ancient, remote trail which winds its way from Bangor Erris to Newport through the Nephin Beg mountain range. Historians believe it may date back as far as the Iron Age, and it was used in more recent years by farmers driving their livestock to the market in Newport. I’d come across articles about it while researching walks in the Mayo area, and it seemed to be the ideal spot for a Hikers Blog outing. Months of planning and group chats about the route, gear, food and travel all came to fruition when, joined by a few friends of the blog, we made our way down to the west of Ireland. There were nine of us in total, which was the largest group we’ve had on one of our adventures.
We had agreed to rendezvous at The Robert Praeger Bothy, a beautiful little one room stone cottage, which is open and free for anyone to stay in. It’s named after the Irish naturalist who deemed this place ‘The very loneliest place in the country’. And staying there, it’s easy to see why. He made his comments in his book ‘The way that I went’ which was first published in 1937, but even in these days of mass transport and worldwide connectivity, this place has remained virtually unchanged, and as long dusk turned to night in Letterkeen, the silence was almost palpable. The group had all made the trip down safely, and when we arrived, low cloud and mizzly rain greeted us. A few of the guys had tents up, but the majority of us decided to bed down on the floor of the bothy. The weather dried up as true darkness fell, but there was no breeze to speak of, and the infamous Mayo midges appeared in their droves to feast on these new visitors to their territory. In the Bothy with the door closed we found respite from them, and a great few hours craic was had, before reluctantly calling it a night to prepare for our trek the following day.
Everyone rose early the next morning, and after some faffing about with cars etc, we all found ourselves in Bangor village, ready to get going. Everyone had availed of the hot food and drinks at the local shop as ‘second breakfasts’ as we watched Salmon anglers collecting their permits from the pub across the road to head off and fish the local river.
It was a damp and dreary morning, mist and cloud hanging around, with full blown rain at one stage. The weather started to pick up as we made the short walk out of the village, and then we were onto the Bangor Trail proper. A weather beaten sign at the start of the trail warned that the bridge across the Tarsaghaunmore River was out, and that we’d have to cross the river, warning that it might be dangerous in bad weather.
The group had a quick confab about what to do, the sign said that the bridge was due to be replaced by 2016, and here we were in summer 2017. Surely it’d have been fixed by now? We all agreed that even if it wasn’t, we’d just have to cross the river, and we’d plan what to do when we got there.
So off we went winging it, up the reasonable trail out of Bangor, boggy in places but easily negotiated. We contoured round Knocklettercuss and up, gaining height pretty easily, soon leaving the village behind, the breathtaking views laid out in front of us were truly a delight, and everything was progressing nicely. After a decent walk, which got progressively more boggy in places as we went (although thankfully some the worst areas of quagmire had handy board walkways skimming over them) we crested a small hill and began to descend. There in front of us was laid out the glittering, serpentine form of The Tarsaghaunmore River, looping and winding it’s way down from the bog to empty into Blacksod Bay. It was a wonderful view, apart from one thing. There was no bridge!
The weather had got progressively warmer as the day had gone on, and at times when the wind dropped, it was stifling. When we reached the river, it was confirmed that if we wanted to continue on the trail, then we were going to have to wade across.
The pillars of what used to be a bridge in years gone by rose out of the water where the path met the river, as if the landscape was sticking two fingers up at us, telling us we were going to get wet!
Around and between these remnants of a once safe crossing, the dark peaty waters raced and cascaded on their way to The Atlantic, as the tumbledown remains of an old cottage sat silently watching.
Everyone negotiated their way across without major incident, although me being me, took a stumble and ended up soaked to the crotch! Even though the water was relatively low, you could feel it tugging strongly at your legs as you crossed. I can imagine it’d be best avoided after a couple of days heavy rain.
After we all crossed, we took a break for a spot of lunch, dried ourselves off as best we could, and set off again. The path took us upwards from the river on a steady enough ascent, with the odd steeper section thrown in to test legs heavy from the trek through the bog. The track itself was easily navigated in the bright, clear conditions, but the conditions underfoot at times were anything but easy. At times it was a rocky trail, littered with white Quartz, gleaming like rugged pearls against the drab colours of turf and bog. More often though, it was solid bog, requiring a scramble off the trail to try and get along relatively unscathed. The inconsistency of the trail conditions made it tough going, as it was hard to get into any sort of a rhythm while walking, which added to the difficulty, but we were moving forwards and onwards to the goal of our overnight camp near Lough Avoher. We passed by the remains of old dwellings, and a small hut clad in well worn corrugated iron.
There was sign on the door, long since faded to a white board by the elements, the message it once conveyed now gone.
In places along the trail, improvements had been made by laying boards and stone steps across the worst of the mire. I’m unsure how long some of these had been in place, but the bog was already starting to grow over them in places, green fingers clutching at the edges of the timber and stone, as if to pull them in and overpower them.
My boots had begun to dry a little, but didn’t stay that way for long, a hidden hole swallowing my right leg almost to the knee, leaving my lower leg coated in foul smelling black ooze. Thank the stars for gaiters! We contoured around Nephin Beg mountain, coming across a gnarled little oak tree, hunkered down in the shelter of a hidden ravine. A beautiful little untouched spot, we paused to enjoy it, before the sheltered location led the midge to emerge in their droves, and we pressed on to evade them.
Dusk was beginning to fall as we finally reached the Adirondack shelter at Lough Avoher, our camp for the night.
This shelter was erected by the volunteers of Mountain Meitheal Ireland, and much credit to them for it, we were certainly very glad of it. A pale moon was rising above the darkening hills, as nine soggy, sunburned and tired hikers sat and enjoyed some well earned food and rest. We sat and exchanged stories of our various encounters with the boggy terrain, and the stunning beauty of this Mayo wilderness. Apart from our own party we hadn’t encountered another person the whole way along the trail. It wasn’t long before we all bedded down for the night, a few had pitched tents, while the others bivvied down in the shelter.
We arose the next morning feeling reasonably refreshed, and made our way onwards down the Bangor Trail. After a few miles on pretty decent tracks, we passed by the Bothy where we’d stayed on our first night, and apart from a couple of short off road sections, the walk was mostly on quiet back roads, a marked difference in terrain from the previous day.
There was a difference in the terrain we were walking through as well, small farms and houses dotted through the landscape as we made our way to Newport. All the while we had fabulous views over Lough Feeagh and Furnace Lough as they glittered in the bright July sunshine. We could see anglers floating on small boats, flicking and retrieving flies with precision in search of trout. Soon we reached the outskirts of Newport, and the finish of The Bangor Trail, and then it was off to the pub for some well earned grub, and some pints to celebrate the end of our trek.
When Ed asked me to review a bit of kit for the blog I was delighted to find out it was an Osprey Xenith 75 rucksack and when announced that the blog was going on an extended hike to Mayo I knew that this would be the ideal time to put this pack through its paces.
Taking the Xenith on the Bangor Trail
The Xenith 75 is an absolute beast when it comes to the sheer amount of gear that this pack can carry.
I know that the ultralighters in the community would cringe at the weight on this pack but if you are used to carrying big loads then this pack will help you do exactly that.
Packed contents for the Bangor trail – with room to spare!
It has four points of access to the main compartment which is great for grabbing items from the pack without removing the top lid and having to go in through the top access point.
The hip belt has two zippered pockets with over size toggles which can be used easily while walking along. The pockets are large enough for snacks/phone/small camera or sun cream.
Ample sized hip pockets
The pack has a removable lid which can be turned into a lumbar pack, great for taking your food and beverages down to the fireside so you don’t have lots of toing and froing from tent to fire and missing out on valuable time with your camp mates.
The bottom compartment is great for storing your sleep system. The zips are easy to operate, even when the pack is stuffed and there is a baffle around the zip.
Bottom compartment including outer stow straps
There are two mesh pockets one on each side of the pack and a stretchy mesh pocket on the front of the pack these are great for storing wet gear and extra water bottles.
The hydration sleeve is separated from the main compartment so the bladder can removed and refilled without opening the main compartment, a nice touch in my opinion.
The hip belt of the Xenith is remarkably comfortable and really hugs the hips, helping to transfer the load off the shoulders. During a full days hiking I experienced no rubbing or cutting in and I had the pack fully loaded.
The Xenith has a decently “tall and narrow” profile, although you can bulk out the back and side mesh pockets with easy to reach gear if so inclined. I kept my water-to-go bottle near to hand in the side pocket for quick access when we found a stream.
Plenty of options for easy access storage
The bioform material construction means that the belt can be moulded in a special oven available at some outdoor retailers so it can be truly moulded to your own specification. I didn’t avail of this, as the hip belt will mould to your own hip shape with use, it just takes slightly longer.
The zips and buckles are a good size and easy to operate even with gloves on.
The shoulder straps and back panel have an airscape system which allows a certain amount of airflow around the user although after walking for a full day my back and the pack actually got quite wet but it was never uncomfortable and caused no problems after a quick dry off with a towel.
After many miles of slogging this pack through blanket bog I suffered but the pack did not. It took everything I was throwing at it and wanted more.
The pack sits very nicely on the back and after a few adjustments it felt like the pack was part of me and there was very little shifting of load.
Excellent size for extended trips
Grip of the hip belt
Comfortable shoulder straps
Oversize zip toggles
Pockets on hip belt
External hydration sleeve
Four access points to main compartment
On the go stow for walking poles
No rain cover included
The 5lb 6oz weight when empty
The Xenith 75 is a powerhouse of a pack loaded with usable features that any explorer would be grateful for.
The comfort of this pack really stands out and when packed at 20kg I found that it handles very well over many miles of descent and ascent.
Osprey have put a lot of thought into this pack and have done an outstanding job in delivering a rucksack that has usability and aesthetics all in one mighty go to storage solution.
I would be glad to recommend this pack to anyone tackling extended trails and multi day wild camps when you need to pack everything an ultimate camper needs.
The Xenith 75 is available direct from Osprey Europe here
Last year I was in the market for a new tent to replace my trusty old Vango Banshee 200. The Banshee is a great tent but I’ve always felt cramped inside, I wanted something with a bit more useable room and head height, as trying to sit up in it or getting changed can be awkward.
Perfect night for a camp
Then I came across the MSR Elixir 2 and thought it looked good and ticked all the boxes for space. The people at MSR seem to be pushing the boundaries and coming up with innovative designs with every product they produce. This shows in how the poles are connected at two places with a swivel type connector. This is something I’ve never seen before so I was interested to see how it would perform.
Standing strong after one of the windiest nights I’ve had in the Elixir
The weight isn’t going to break your back at 2.6KG and the price isn’t going to break the bank at a reasonable £225. The biggest negative for me was the packed size but for that extra room I was willing to compromise so I took the plunge, made the purchase and I’m glad I did. Continue reading for a more in-depth break down.
Weight: 2.1KG (as reported by retailer) I have it weighing 2.6KG on my luggage scales.
Price (Bought at): £225
Pack size: 51 x 17cm
Internal Dimensions: 1.27m x2.13m
Highest Point: 1.02M
The Elixir can be setup with just the ground sheet and fly for fast and light trips. Or as a whole with the inner. You can also just pitch the inner on its own if you’re somewhere hot/dry and need protection from insects.
The Elixir comes with 10 pegs, 4 guy lines and a ground sheet.
Fly sheet pulled back for more ventilation.
The Elixir is an inner pitch first tent, I like this style of setup as I think it gives the tent good wind stability because the wind can flow over the material easily without catching on any raised pole sleeves. The downside is if you’re putting the tent up in a downpour the inside can get wet.
Pitching the Elixir is fairly straight forward once you get the hang of it. The double pole is colour coded and each pole fits into its corresponding colour coded corner.
Double Pole Swivel Design – This helps Maximise the internal space.
The double pole is fixed together at two places by a swivel, this helps give the tent a roomy interior. I have concerns over the swivel breaking and have noticed it has slightly cut into the poles that could cause a potential weakness over time.
Circled in blue shows where the swivel has cut into the poles!
That being said, I’ve had the tent out a few times in very windy conditions and the Elixir as shrugged the beating off without any bother.
Swivel holding the poles in place and everything is colour coded, see the Red inner clip on the Red pole
The inner is then clipped to the poles and a second short pole is fitted over the top maximising the head space. The Fly sheet is then fitted over the top, fitted to the short pole with eyelets and clipped into the corners. Each clip has a tensioner that can be pulled to tighten the fly over the poles which stops the fly from flapping about. Next the two doors are pegged out these also have the tensioners. If it’s windy or you’re expecting bad weather there are 4 guy lines that can be pegged out.
The interior of the Elixir doesn’t disappoint, it’s the roomiest 2 man tent I’ve used. There’s easily plenty of room for one person and all their gear or shared with gear stored in the porches. The sides are almost vertical and the headroom is great.
Putting the short pole across the top lifts the inner up for loads of head room and adds to the overall stability.
Being 6’2” I can sit up or kneel without any problems which is great when just chilling or packing up my gear. Spud and I, both being bigger than normal, used the Elixir during Mourne Mountain Marathon last year and found it to be cosy without being uncomfortable.
Loads of room for one
The inner material is nylon with mesh panels for plenty of ventilation. There’s pockets at each end for stowing light weight items and attachment points for an overhead gear loft (Optional Extra). Lying down I just about fit in without touching the ends and if I’m by myself I usually lie diagonally.
The Elixir 2 is a nice shape and looks great, I got the green one and find this blends in well with the surroundings. The Fly sheet fabric is 68D ripstop polyester with PU and silicone coated, Hydrostatic head 1,500mm, I’ve been out in the rain a few times now and haven’t had any leaks.
Misty morning on Eagle Mountain in the Mournes.
The two doors are easy to get in and out of and point in the same direction, I would have preferred it if the doors opened in opposite directions because I think this would give more options cooking when it’s windy. The doors have a “StayDry” rain gutter that stops the rain from running into the tent, I didn’t notice any rain running into the tent when I’ve been using it, so I guess this works.
Over looking Lough Shannagh with Doan in the distance. This was after a wet and wild night but the Elixir handled it without a problem.
With the inner being pitched first, it’s not overly obvious which way the doors will open and sometimes I have to turn the tent round because I haven’t realised I pitched the doors facing away from the view. If the doors opened in opposite directions this wouldn’t be a problem.
The floor is bathtub style and the material is 70D taffeta nylon with a Hydrostatic head: 3,000mm, I’ve always used the tent with the ground sheet as well, mainly for added protection when using my Thermarest X-therm sleeping mat.
View from the Summit of Slieve Bearnagh.
So far I’m really happy with the Elixir 2, it’s a very spacious 1 man tent and a true 2 man tent. The first setup can be a bit tricky but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. Although I have concerns about the swivel breaking I think it would take very strong winds for it to happen and I have always found the tent to be very study in windy conditions. The price is reasonable for the excellent quality you expect when buying MSR products.
Overall it’s a great tent and a joy to use.
BUY NOW FROM AMAZON!
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I’ve been a big fan of Osprey rucksacks for a few years, and have previously purchased a few, notably their Kestrel 68 which was used extensively for 5 weeks during ‘The Long Walk North’. Just a couple of months after I completed that trek, I was delighted to find out that my wife Catrióna was pregnant with our first child, and our son John arrived in May 2016. Catrióna and I share a mutual love of the outdoors, and have been keen hikers and campers for many years, and this is something we both fully intend to continue as parents.
So I was excited to learn that Osprey were bringing out a new model of their ‘Poco’ baby carrier, and delighted to learn that I was going to get a chance to put it through it’s paces! The Poco AG Premium is packed with features, including:
Adjustable child’s safety harness, seat and foot stirrups
Built in retractable sunshade with SPF 50
Fit-on-the-Fly™ adjustable hip belt
Front zippered pocket
Internal key attachment clip
Large zippered lower compartment
Removable 11L Daypack
Removable and washable ‘drool pad’
Sternum strap with emergency whistle.
So to my thoughts. Having unpacked the carrier, I gave it a quick weigh, and had it at just over 4kg, which I believe to be reasonable considering everything the Poco offers. I have come to expect Osprey packs to be easy to adjust and comfortable, and the Poco is no exception. It comes equipped with their AntiGravity™ suspension system, an easily adjustable back system, which lifts the pack off the wearers back, increasing comfort and ventilation. It’s made from a tubular aluminium frame, covered with a tough mesh, which contours to fit the back, and extends round into the hip belt. The mesh has just enough ‘give’ that it’s comfortable against the back, whilst being stiff enough to effectively do it’s job well.
There is much more airflow, especially around the lower back, and the weight of the pack and it’s passenger is spread evenly, increasing stability. This is great on long hikes, especially on warmer days.
The adjustment of the back system to suit different users is very easy, and this is invaluable if changing carriers at some point during a long days hiking for whatever reason.
The back length is fastened and unfastened with one clip, and can be simply slid to the correct length.
There’s a great range of adjustment in the back system and it will fit a range of back sizes easily. There is a compartment for a hydration system, but this seems to be designed solely for the new style Osprey bladders, as my existing older Osprey hydraulics water bladder won’t fit the narrow opening, which I did find disappointing.
The hip belt features Osprey’s Fit-on-the-Fly™ adjustment system, this offers 13cm of adjustment either side of the belt for a comfortable and secure fit. It consists of 2 stiff fabric panels with graduated markings, which slide in and out of sleeves on the belt. These are secured snugly with Velcro panels. The belt hugs the hips nicely, and is nice and wide for comfort and security. There are two zippered pockets, one of which is lightly padded to help protect more delicate items. The pockets are a decent size, and there is also a small mirror included, so you can check on your little passenger if hiking solo!
The shoulder straps are a good width and length, easily adjustable, and made of punched foam and soft mesh to reduce weight and increase breathability and comfort. I have hiked for hours with John on board, and the pack stuffed with all his supplies for a day out, and have found them to be comfortable and supportive when the Poco is fully loaded. There is also an adjustable sternum strap, the clip of which has an integrated emergency whistle. Two reassuringly tough grab handles, one at the front and one at the back of the passenger, make it easy and secure to get on and off, and to move it around whilst not wearing it.
The ‘cockpit’ of the carrier continues the theme of easy adjustment with this product. One clip allows you to lower the seat, then it’s simply a matter of pulling a handle to raise it to the correct height for the child. Your little passenger is surrounded by a stiff frame, part of which can be folded for storage and travelling. The whole area is generously padded, and the front comes fitted with a removable and washable ‘drool pad’, which is another great feature!
The adjustable child harness holds the whole body securely in the seat, and has sufficient padding without being too cumbersome, giving a nice tight fit. The buckle of the harness is easily clipped on and off, but is designed to make it harder for little escape artists to access and release, which gives peace of mind. There are also clips on the rear grab handle to keep the harness out of the way, and make it easier to get your little passenger in and out! The sides of the ‘cockpit’ are made of a durable mesh to increase airflow and comfort for the passenger, and have a couple of decent sized stretchy pockets for stowing essentials. There are also adjustable (and removable) stirrups, which will come into their own as John grows, but he already likes putting his feet in them!
Continuing the theme of storage, the Poco is extremely well equipped in his regard. In addition to the previously mentioned hip belt and pockets either side of the passenger, it also has:
A small stash pocket behind the rear grab handle, with integrated key clip.
Wide mesh pockets either side of the base, for sunscreen, snacks etc
A small stretch mesh pocket on the harness, perfect for a smartphone etc (although I would prefer this to have a clip or Velcro fastening for a bit more security)
A large compartment at the base, ideal for nappies and spare clothing.
The base compartment is cavernous, and easily takes enough supplies for changing etc. The mesh pockets at the base are wide, and stretch well to fit a range of items. The mesh pocket on the harness stretches well, and would fit a range of devices. There is also the detachable 11L daysack, which has a mesh stuff pocket on it, which is secured with a nice chunky clip to keep the contents secure.
Another excellent feature is the built in retractable sunshade (SPF 50). This is kept in it’s own zippered compartment, so when you need to deploy it, it’s always ready to go.
Unzip, pull out the shade, and secure with two simple hook fastenings. It encloses the passenger like a little pop up tent, and in about 20 seconds (with a little practice) your little one will be in the shade!
The sides of the sunshade are made of mesh, keeping the space nice and airy, whilst still providing shade.
The sunshade is great, but if like me you live in a country where the rain is never that far away, protection of a different sort is required! The Poco comes with a very handy raincover (optional on some models) which uses the frame of the sunshade. Because the cover is tailored to the frame, it slips neatly over the deployed sunshade, and stretches tightly over the carrier. It is secured with 2 nice tight toggles either side of the hip belt, and Velcro fastenings on the rear of the frame, with a stretch strap at the front, easily secured with a clip.
There are two decent sized clear panels, letting light in and allowing the your little one to enjoy the views, even on wet and windy days. It also makes a good windbreak on windy days where it isn’t raining! It packs down neatly into it’s own pocket, which then stows in the base compartment.
So, to sum up, apart from a couple of very minor points, I can safely say that we all love the Poco. It’s safe, highly functional, comfortable for carrier and passenger, and easy to use and customise for different users. John loves sitting up high and seeing the sights, and it’s great to know that he is safe and secure on my back. It’s good to be able to get out on trails where a pushchair just wouldn’t cut it, so that he can experience the outdoors, and increases the capacity for adventures with your little one even before they can even walk! Highly recommended by me (and John).
Having never used an Osprey backpack before I looked forward to seeing if they lived up to the high expectations the Osprey brand carries with it. My previous pack the Vango Nanga served me well. How would the Osprey Aether 70 compare?
Osprey Aether 70 backpack
My first impression of the Osprey Aether backpack was that the build quality looked very impressive. Throughout the Aether pack you can tell a lot of thought went into the pack’s ability to be tailored to the person using it. The Aether 70 is the second largest pack in the Aether range. Aimed towards multi-day backpacking the Aether 70 pack is full of features. The Aether 70 boasts an ergonomic design with generous padded shoulder and waist straps.
The Aether 70 uses Osprey’s Anti-gravity technology. An updated back panel system allows airflow and decreases pressure on the lumbar region of the back. Anybody who treks over multiple days understands the cumulative strains a full backpack has on the body’s frame, anything which improves comfort and ergonomics, such as the AG system is helpful for those longer treks.
Size: 33.5’’ x 15’’ x13’’ ( 85 x 38x34cm )
AG Anti-gravity suspension hip belt
Two ice axe loops
Side kit loops and straps
Large sleeping bag comparement with divider.
J-zipper access to main storage
Stretch mesh dual access side pockets
Stretch mesh front pocket.
As my fellow blogger Ed mentioned in the Atmos 65 review the firm fitting hip belt is immediately noticeable. It feels like it clamps around the contours of the hip. The hipbelt can be custom moulded for a better anatomical fit using a specialist “oven” in retail stores. Even without this, the belt will mould to your hip shape after a few trips. The hipbelt can also be removed from the main pack and attached to the lumbar pack for added support.
The harness is dual density foam with mesh which allows airflow and helps wick moisture awayfrom your body. It was clear that Osprey used as much breathable material in the design as possible, but you’re still going to sweat. The Aether uses a supension frame which holds the load away from your back. Combined with the “clamping” hipbelt this ensures good weight transfer to the hips, keeping the pack from dragging too much on the shoulders.The materials used on the pack are 210-denier double ripstop nylon and 500-denier weave. I’ve had no issue with either and found the fabric tough yet easy to clean with a damp cloth.
Osprey’s Anti-gravity system incorporates the hip belt itself has an oversized latch, which eases use. Each side of the hip belt has a generous, deep pocket with looped toggles that are ideal for items you need to grab such as trail mix, gloves or a camera. I really liked like this feature, which I’d only ever used on a smaller day sack. The IsoForm hip belt and harness are designed for individual fitting that adapts as you change the Aether to suit your needs. Another interesting feature is the removable lid, which transforms into lumbar pack, which I use for carrying smaller items once I’ve reached camp.
Secure inner mesh pocket and key fob.
I actually found it quite easy to release the removable lid and attach it to the belt loops on my hip. The removable hood on the Aether also has a large green rain cover which is stored in its own pocket on the hood. The main hood has three pockets in total, one meshed pocket is located under the hood, which is ideal for items such as a wallet, or to secure keys on the fob provided.
The removable hood.
As mentioned previously there is a rain cover pocket, which is just below the main hood pocket. The hood itself also has elasticated sides, which enables a better fit to the main body of the backpack when securing the load down. As the hood is removable Osprey have included a secondary hood with concealed buckles. The ability to swap the lid for a simple one means the pack can be simplify and it a great way to reduce weight.
Secondary hood with concealed latches.
A grab/storage handle is located to the rear of the main compartment and eases lifting the pack from the ground. The main compartment has a distinctive red strap that compresses the load to reduce bulk within the main compartment. The main front of the Aether has two upper and two lower compression straps. The upper straps draw the load inwards and the lower straps draw the load upwards.
Red compression strap allows the load to be reduced.
The Aether 70 has a meshed front pouch, which has its own compression strap. I really liked the front pouch and found it ideal for storing grab items such as waterproofs. A back panel sleeve allows for storage of up to a 3 litre hydration pack with slots on both sides for your drinking tube. The main storage area can also be accessed via a two-way frontal zip that allows you to grab kit form the main compartment without having to open the hood.
On each side of the Aether pack towards the bottom are double mesh pockets, which are ideal for stowing items, such water bottles or hats and gloves. The general thinking towards two openings on each side is that it can allow for both small and larger items, I thought this idea was well thought out. These two stowaway pockets are within easy reach while wearing the pack.
Zips, toggles and latches
I really liked the oversized aluminium zips, they pull easy and all have large reinforced pull loops that ease the use.
Just like the zips the latches are also oversized and make for easy use.
The Aether 70 weighs in at 4lbs 13 oz making it neither ultra lightweight or heavy. Given its extensive feature set the pack’s weight seems reasonable. Given that this pack has such a good suspension and weight displacement I found carrying loads up 16 kg to be very comfortable.
The main hood has two pockets, one stores the rain cover, the other is ideal for items such as maps, gloves a head torch. Each zip is oversized and is easy to use.
Build quality 100%
Value for money 90%
Having never used an Osprey rucksack before I was surprised by its versitifity for custom fiiting. The Aether 70 is jam packed with features and is ideal for carrying heavy loads with comfort. One of the most important issues for me is how the pack carries: Is it comfortable? Does it nip?, Does it transfer the load? The Aether handles well in all of these considerations. The build quality is exceptional throughout. A lot of time and thought has gone into the design of the Aether 70.
If you’re looking for a feature rich pack and don’t mind spending a little extra in terms of weight and price – the Aether 70 comes highly recommended.