Helly’s LifaLoft jacket – my review

Kraig Becker sent me an early prototype of a Helly Hansen LifaLoft jacket for my 2019 trip to Patagonia. I wore it non-stop for a couple of months cycling and hiking in wet, windy and sometimes cold weather.

LIFALOFT™ is not down. It’s arguably lighter and warmer.

The idea is to trap a maximum amount of air in a small space. And due to the hydrophobic properties of LIFA®, LIFALOFT™ has an inherent water repellency that should keep you warm, even when wet.

It worked for me as advertised.

Glacier Vinciguerra, Ushuaia, Argentina
Cerro Guanaco trail, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina under a rain shell

The best test came when I got caught in a surprise downpour while hiking without my shell. I was worried.

But next morning the LifaLoft looked and felt 100% perfect.

UPDATE:  I bought two more LifaLoft jackest – in different colours and sizes.  I often wear two rather than a heavier down jacket.  

I machine washed and dried one jacket.  It come out looking like new. 

Kraig sent me this to replace my FAILED Columbia OutDry down jacket. It was useless after 7 months.

The Helly Hansen is far superior. The Colombia failed — I think — because it couldn’t handle being frequently compressed into a stuff sack. The HH LifaLoft seems much more durable.

In Patagonia Helly Hansen is the go-to brand for serious sailers and outdoors-people. Developed in Norway, HH is tested under the worst weather conditions.

For future hikes in moderate weather where weight is a big consideration, I’ll be carrying the LifaLoft and just a waterproof ultra-light Frogg Toggs shell.

My NEW Trek Checkpoint ALR 4

By BestHike editor Rick McCharles.

I’m considering FUTURE trips to Iceland, Norway, northern BC and/or Yukon. Great hiking. Bad weather.

For transport to trailheads, I’ll fly with my own touring bike.

Though it wasn’t easy during the pandemic, I did locate an appropriate ride IN STOCK. For the past week I’ve been testing my 2021 Trek Checkpoint ALR 4.

So far, so good.

This gravel frame is aluminum, not steel. Base weight 10.12 kg / 22.3 lbs — though I’ve already customized it with a number of add-ons.

The fewer flats the better. SO added heavier Bontager HARD-CASE ULTIMATE tires.

Having had racks fail in the past, I added Bontager DELUXE MIK pannier racks front and back.

Good lights. Fenders and kickstand.

Click PLAY or check it out on YouTube.

I’ll use a Sportneer 7mm, 3.2ft-long, combination bike lock. Not the most secure lock available, but convenient and only 1.57 pounds.

Nitecore NU25 headlamp review 2021

I needed enough light to cycle in the dark as well as for hiking / camping.

After reading good reviews, I went with the Nitecore NU25 headlamp.

I like it.  Comfortable, adjustable headband.  

Four settings for white light.  Three for red.

In addition, a three second press of the white light sets off the well known ••• – – – ••• Morse code sequence.  

Simple design.

  • rechargeable with micro-USB (from battery or solar if necessary)
  • maximum output of 360 lumens
  • max. Beam Distance 81 m
  • indicator reports remaining battery power
  • lockout to prevent accidental activation
  • 0.99oz

Headlamps have turned on accidentally during transport in the past.  That won’t happen when you lock out this one.

It will work while charging from a portable battery, if needed for many hours.

 

Click PLAY or watch a review on YouTube.

Here are other recommended headlamps in 2020.

The NU 25’s main limitations are its short battery life (in our testing, the NU’s burn time was much shorter than listed) and the fact that it’s hard to keep the light from shining in your camping partner’s eyes due to its wide beam pattern.

Trail Runners v Hiking Boots

Cam Honan posted the best summing up I’ve read:

1. Why choose trail running shoes over boots for three-season conditions?

2. When are boots preferable to trail runners? 

3. “Wearing Your Fears” – Examining the commonly-held belief that boots provide a greater degree of protection for your ankles than low-cut footwear while backpacking.

4. “A Piece in the Puzzle – Why your choice in footwear should be considered an integral piece of an overall lightweight backpacking strategy.

5. A list of 15 of the top trail running shoes in today’s market.

Click through for Cam’s summary.

THE HIKING LIFE – Trail Runners Vs Hiking Boots:  A 30 Year Perspective

I’ve tried most everything over the years, ending up with something in-between runners and bootsapproach shoes — most often Merrell Moab2 Ventilators.  Normally without a Gortex layer.

I go with Merrell as they are available online in very wide sizes.  I have bunions.

I go with trail shoes as I like the durability.

Cam finds he can get about 800 mi (1,287 km) out of a good approach shoe; as opposed to trail runners which normally need to be retired after 500 mi (805 km).

I’m loath to suffer stubbed toes so prefer footwear with good protection up front.

Like Cam, I wear low-cut footwear as my ankles are healthy and I’m agile enough not to bash into rocks.

For something VERY rugged — K2 Base Camp, for example — I would take high tops or boots.

The downside of approach shoes is weight.  And the smell.

After a hike where my shoes get wet I need bake them in the sun.  For days.

related – Cam’s more comprehensive post – Hiking Footwear Guide

 

Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD battery

Though I’m now bikepacking with solar, to be SURE I’ve got enough juice to get my devices through a weekend hike I’ve also purchased the Anker PowerCore+ 26800 PD with 30W.

This is the largest portable battery currently allowed for airline carry-on baggage.

26800mAh of power charges most phones over 7 times, tablets at least 2 times or notebooks at least once.

There are two parts: battery and USB-C wall charger.

Charging devices from a wall socket (including the battery) is claimed to be up to 3x faster.

On longer cycling trips when I’m carrying a laptop, this unit IS powerful enough to recharge a MacBook Pro. That will help me keep up-to-date with photos, video and trip reports.

Hubba NX, UberLite & Corus Down Quilt

by BestHike editor Rick McCharles 

I updated my sleeping system for summer 2020.

  • Therm-a-Rest Corus 0C Down Quilt CAD $260 (US $186)
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite WV Sleeping Pad – Unisex CAD $254 (US $181.50)
    Hubba NX 2020 tent CAD $479 (US $342)
  • Nemo Switchback Foam Sleeping Pad – Unisex CAD $49.95 (US $35.70)

I bought everything from Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada, trying to support companies other than Amazon during COVID-19.

I’ve spent hundreds of nights in Hubba and Hubba NX tents. Never a complaint aside from pole failures.

Happily, the latest edition has new composite poles. They look stronger.  Especially the hubs.

OLD poles on top, new on the bottom

NX weight is listed at 1.29 kg (about 2.84 lbs). 

My pillow is a partially inflated Therm-a-Rest NeoAir® XLite (small) wrapped in a shirt — which I love.

In fact the XLite  is the sleeping pad I normally use so it is also my back-up in case the somewhat fragile UberLite gets punctured.

When I want to carry the extra weight (415 gm)  and bulk, I’m bringing along the orange Nemo foam pad to protect the UberLite from the ground. And to keep my tent a little cleaner.

For bikepacking I’m also using the Nemo folded as a flat platform across my rear panniers.  Happy to have it.

The Therm-a-Rest Corus is my first quilt.

Read the cleverhiker review.

 I actually am happy with sleeping bags, never feeling claustrophobic in the past.  On my recent 6 day bikepacking trip I carried both the Corus as well as a down bag.  Both were fine for me.  In fact, after the test I used both — not for warmth, but for coziness.

I’ll carry the Corus for hikes and bikepacking where weight and volume is an important factor.

Here I am setting up my previous system earlier in the spring.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Ursack Quick Release Knot

I recall being reluctant to buy an Ursack to protect my food from bears and other critters — but finally got one in 2011.

This was the first time I used it, on the Howe Sound Crest Trail out of Vancouver.

2011

I was won over instantly.

Though I own two Bear Vaults, I always carry the Ursack instead if it’s allowed where I’m hiking.

It’s much less bulky.

Though my old white one is going strong, Ursack has newer models in black . And a quicker way of tying the bag to the tree.

Ursack AllMitey bear bag

I’ll probably get the larger capacity URSACK MAJOR XL when I eventually have to replace my old white one.

On my recent cycling / hiking trip through Vancouver Island I tented 6 nights.

There are PLENTY of black bears. I’d never seen so much scat anywhere as on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, for example.

You absolutely MUST PROTECT YOUR SMELLIES in this part of the world.

For the first time I used the new recommended quick release knot to attach the Ursack to a tree.  It is a big improvement.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

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