Lotsafreshair Blog is Moving!

I’ve been having a blast working on what the new look for the blog should be and the great news is that it is going live THIS MONDAY!

What this means is that if you’ve subscribed via the standard WordPress Follow Me button, you will (sorry about this) need to subscribe again.

The awesome thing is, that it’s super easy to do… just follow this link!

[It is a 2 step process, but hey… nobody likes spam, eh? I certainly don’t take it hiking and I don’t like it online either.]

If you’ve subscribed by email already, you don’t need to do anything… you’ve automatically been migrated across. Isn’t my developer a smart cookie?!

Lotsafreshair.com - New Design Sneak Peek!

Lotsafreshair.com – New Design Sneak Peek!

Well, here goes team… I hope you’ll join me on all the exciting new adventures ahead in Lotsafreshair (Mark II) – see you on the other side!

Cheers

Caro

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The Mysterious Lindeman Pass

I love a good story. And the story of The Lindeman Pass in the Blue Mountains is a cracker.

Today I was reminded of this quote by Thomas Edison, which I found inside my daily Happy Pills.

Thomas Edison: A man obsessed

Thomas Edison: A man obsessed

So, Edison was obviously passionate, focussed, single-minded and one could argue,  obsessive. So too, was Charles Lindeman. A council alderman in the Blue Mountains and a man on a mission to build a walking track that would link Wentworth Falls and Katoomba, along the base of the cliff line, at the top of the Talus slope.

nb: Please tweak your YouTube playback settings to 1080p or 720p before watching this video!

If you’ve ever been to The Blue Mountains, you’ll know that one of the most popular tourist hiking tracks is the Federal Pass. It snakes along the base of the cliff line from Mt Solitary’s western flank, past the Ruined Castle and the Golden Stairs, scooting along across the Scenic Railway and into the lush Leura Forest, where it finishes abruptly at a stunning waterfall. [It’s got it’s own interesting modern history, wrapped up in coal shale mining, but that’s another story.]

Mt Solitary at the south of the Jamison Valley

Mt Solitary at the south of the Jamison Valley

Then, just to the east in the same Jamison/Kedumba Valley area, you can walk at roughly the same height along the jaw-droppingly gorgeous National Pass and Wentworth Pass, around Wentworth Falls and even link up onto Kings Tableland at the far east of the valley.

Kedumba Walls/Kings Tableland to the east (as seen from Lindeman Pass)

Kedumba Walls/Kings Tableland to the east (as seen from Lindeman Pass)

Logic and foresight is a great thing and poor old Charles Lindeman seemed to have lots of that, thinking that a track to join the east and west sections of the Federal Pass together, would make good sense. However, what he didn’t foresee was how vocal and political the Katoomba shop owners of the time would be in their lobbying of the Katoomba Council to ensure that the last 200 metres of the track were never completed. They were scared that all the Sydney tourists of the time (the trains were packed on Friday nights) would all walk away from Katoomba to Wentworth Falls and take all their custom with them. The somewhat darker side to the story is rumours of ill-feeling and anti German sentiment towards Herr Lindeman at this time prior to WWI.

Some of Lindeman's original retaining walls seen in a 'good' section.

Some of Lindeman’s original retaining walls seen in a ‘good’ section.

An article, from the Blue Mountain Echo, 5 September 1913, sums up the case succinctly. Those with an eye for place names, will recognise Dash and Copeland in this article, as they relate to Dashs Cave (see video) and Copeland Pass, being the name given to the somewhat airy pass on Sublime Point above Lindeman Pass. Again, in January 1927, another push was on to finish the track, with the journalist seeing the need for co-operation between the rival Katoomba and Wentworth Falls councils.

Beautiful waterfalls, pounding after storms. (Sadly, the old Water Board ladders are no more, so the trip isn't finished yet).

Beautiful waterfalls, pounding after storms. (Sadly, the old Water Board ladders are no more, so the trip isn’t finished yet).

Now, I’ve already said too much about this grand tale, for someone who knows so little about it. I will leave the detail and relentless research (perhaps as passionate as dear Lindeman himself), to Mr Jim Smith and his wonderful book, “Blue Mountains Mystery Track: Lindeman Pass,” who along with Wilf Hilder, worked tirelessly in the 80’s trying to get the track opened and welcomed into the family of great bushwalks of the Blue Mountains.

In all my 15 years of bushwalking, I have never seen leeches as bad as on Lindemans… epic!

In all my 15 years of bushwalking, I have never seen leeches as bad as on Lindemans… epic!

Alas, these days, after all the blood, sweat, tears and leech bites, of many passionate people, it is only the hardy and experienced navigators and route finders who can today, make their way from Wentworth Falls to Katoomba, along Lindeman’s dream.

The sign says it all - there is one of these at the east and west of the route.

The sign says it all – there is one of these at the east and west of the route.

I am sure the costs to renew the track and bring it up to a ‘manageable’ state, whereby average hikers could be able to undertake it safely, would be well over $2m. There’s simply too much to be done, not only to the track, but also cliff stabilisation above, to warrant the spend of NPWS already tight budgets. I believe that sadly, Mr Lindeman’s dream will remain just that. However, it is a dream that those passionate and experienced few, can continue on.

Encouraging signs… a small but committed work party install new signage - June 2013. [Photo credit TBC]

Encouraging signs… a small but committed work party install new signage – June 2013. [Photo credit TBC]

 

Coming Soon – Brand New Hiking How-To Videos and New Look Blog!

Yay! I’m so excited!!

You know how they say that change is as good as a holiday? Well, I guess I’m about to feel as though I’ve had one big holiday, because there’s a whole lot of ‘change’ coming very soon.

If you follow the @Lotsafreshair Instagram or Twitter, you might have seen me and the crew oot n’ aboot (a loving nod to my Canadian friends) shooting new clips for the 2nd series of the Lotsafreshair – How To Hiking videos.

The amazing crew of Mark (Big Dog), Peter and I, spent an incredibly busy day up in the Blue Mountains at the end of 2013, putting down as many tips n’ tricks as we could in the time we had.

That's a wrap!

That’s a wrap! Big Dog & Caro – Butterbox at Sunset – near Mt Hay, Leura.

Thanks to the awesome guys at National Parks, we had some amazing locations including Pulpit Rock, overlooking the Grose Valley, and the Butterbox at sunset, out near Mt Hay.

And as they say in late night TV, ‘…But that’s not all!‘ Alas, I don’t have any steak knives to give away, but I am also working on a lovely, fresh new look for the blog. Well, actually, the lovely Cath from Phase Creative is doing all the pretty stuff and I’m super happy with it.

Lotsafreshair.com - New Design Sneak Peek!

Lotsafreshair.com – New Design Sneak Peek!

I’ve been frustrated with the existing design, as I didn’t feel the design allowed enough topics and content on the screen. So we’ve been working on moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (the bloggers amongst you will know what that all means!), and using this renewed flexibility to come up with a layout and design that really works.

And another sneaky look...

And another sneaky look…

The great news is that the design phase is nearly complete, and now it’s just down to the developing and coding side of things… oh you amazing, mighty, Web Princess of the dark arts of < and >. I am not worthy!  So no launch date yet for the new blog design, but you will start seeing the new videos over the coming weeks… YAY!!!

I’d love to hear what you think about the teaser video and any thoughts on what types of videos you’d like to see in the future. Please drop me a line below to let me know!

Where’s your hiking home?

Following on from last week’s post about living in small spaces, I’ve been thinking about where I feel most at home.

I’ve always said, that ‘home should be your refuge’. It’s the place where you can go and shut the door, relax, truly be yourself and be at peace.

I kinda feel like I’ve got two homes… one indoors and one outdoors.

I know I do go on about them, so it’s no surprise that I’m pretty much at home in the Blue Mountains National Park, just west of Sydney. It’s got a great mix of tracked and managed areas, along with intensely wild, untracked wilderness, gorges and canyons. Lots of variety and being a massive 268,987 ha (664,681 acres) in size, there’s plenty of choice and opportunity to get away from civilisation.

So what about you? Where’s your wilderness home?

Leeches – That slimy, slippery, itchy, sinking feeling

Can you feel it? Nah, you probably can’t. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the first thing you feel is the damp trousers against your calf as your blue blood oozes, unrestrained, into the fresh wilderness air. Last Monday, Australia Day (Invasion Day), I set out to walk a historic, somewhat invisible, track in the Blue Mountains.

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Although the day started grey, it wasn’t long before the blue sky broke through and my companion and I were bathed in beautiful sunshine. However, down at ground level, under the lush canopy, the mystery of the disappearing track and recent downpours had the earth beneath our feet become the unmistakable home sweet home of Euhirudinea – the Leech.

Lush and ferny - a perfect home for leeches

Lush and ferny – a perfect home for leeches

Like something from Alien, the Australian version of these hermaphrodite little darlings have 2 toothy jaws, (3 in other countries) and seek out a tasty dinner which can keep them going for up to 3 months. They do this by producing a secretion called Hirudin, which stops the blood from clotting… hence the unstoppable flood of our precious, red stuff.

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

Like most people, I used to get pretty grossed out by these little critters, however, over the years I’ve come to admire their tenacity, patience and curiosity and am happy to reward them with my ample B positive. I’m no Buddhist, but find it quite unnecessary to smother them in salt, which causes them to sizzle, froth and die – surely a bit over the top. I simply get my finger nail under them and flick them off, making sure not to flick them in the direction of my friends.

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

Sure, I bleed. Big deal. And for the next 5 days I am scratching into the wee hours of the night, whilst reaching for my trusty spray of Stingose, but I kinda think of it as being part of the Circle of Life, like something from The Lion King.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Not to get too sentimental about these suckers, as they can cause infections such as cellulitis, but for me I don’t give them a second thought. Get over it… move on – oh, unless of course you’ve got one on your eyeball!

Oh and with gonads in their heads, I should probably start calling them Dickheads, instead of my usual expletive… bastard (as per the video)!

Q:  What’s your favourite method of dealing with leeches?

Mt Paralyser and other names that inspire fear

When looking over the topographic maps for the southern parts of the Blue Mountains, especially the Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness area, a virgin navigator would be forgiven for never wanting to step foot in this part of the world, due to the array of fear inducing, high blood-pressure invoking place names.

After putting off tackling Mt Paralyser all my life, I found myself there twice last year. They were both such enjoyable trips (thanks Roysta for the first one and then I led this group from Sydney Bush Walkers club there a few months later), that I wonder why I put it off for so long.

Here’s a selection of my favourite gut-wrenching, fear inducing Kanangra-Boyd place names:

  • Mt Paralyser
  • Mt Strongleg
  • Mt Despond
  • Mt Great Groaner
  • Mt Savage
  • Mt Misery
  • Mt Hopeless
  • Sombre Dome

… I wonder if I can plan a route that will take in all of them in the one trip? 🙂

What are some place names that you visit which would put off the less fearless? Please share your suggestions in the comments below!

Blue Mountains – Open for Business!

This October has been an incredibly difficult one for many people living in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.

I’ve had non-hiker friends say to me, ‘Oh, you must be so sad about your beloved Blue Mountains and the fires?’ I kind of didn’t know what to say. I don’t live there, I haven’t raised a family there, had the comfort of home and community there, been gripped by the gut wrenching fear of losing my home, physical memories and pets, let alone loved ones and friends.

Sure, I spend a lot of time there, my car can almost drive itself, but apart that, not being able to walk in the burnt or (relatively small) closed areas is only an inconvenience to me. It simply means changing my plans – not changing my life. Nearly 200 families lost everything. It’s not about me.

So what can we (those not affected by the fires) do?

  1. Donate money – Cold, hard, cash can bring warm, soft and practical outcomes! There are various charities and funds set up. Choose one that resonates with you. My pick is http://www.salvos.org.au | ph: 137 258
  2. Help a mate – Do you personally know people who are affected? Maybe a member of your bushwalking club? A colleague? Ask them what they need or just be there for them and simply listen.
  3. Encourage anyone you know who may be affected to seek help. The Salvo’s are providing a range of services from trauma counselling, practical supplies, short and  long term assistance, helping people plan for the future, financial counselling and legal advice. I mean seriously, when you’ve lost everything… where do you even start?
  4. And here’s the fun one… Visit the Blueys! – It’s bad enough that people lost homes and suffered so much during the height of the fires, but now, the lack of tourists and visitors to the region is damaging local businesses. If it continues, people could lose their jobs. What are you waiting for? Get off your toosh and get up there! Sure, you might not be able to visit some of the tracks or canyons for a while, but it’s an ideal time to see all those other attractions, canyons or tracks that you’ve, ‘always been meaning to do.’ Here’s some thoughts:
  • So often, us bushwalkers/canyoners, will leave Sydney at 6am, arrive in the mountains at 8am and head straight to the track-head. We’ll spend an awesome day out in the bush, then turn around and head back. 4 hrs in the car for 9 hrs on the P1020760track. Why not leave work a bit early on a Friday and spend a night in a local hotel/YHA/B&B, before starting out on the Saturday morning? I’ve recently become a fan of the wonderful warm hospitality at the Ivanhoe Hotel at Blackheath. If you’re on a budget (or had a few too many cooling ales with their enormous steak, salad, chips and pepper sauce after a hike – I deny all rumours to that effect!) this pub is perfect! I recently had a room upstairs, set back from the main road and slept very well. I think I paid $30 for a room with share bathroom. Good old fashioned Aussie pub accommodation and the squeaky floorboards are thrown in for free!
  • Spend a day, ‘doing all the touristy’ things. You’ve whinged about the tourists blocking the tracks in a dazed state at the bottom of the Scenic Skyway/Railway/Cableway for years… when was the last time you checked it out for yourself? Scenic World might surprise you! Oh, and the lovely staff have just put up their favourite things to do in the mountains… good tips there!
  • Whilst you’re down that way in the Jamison Valley, see what millions of tourists each year see of our Blue Mountains… look through their eyes… imagine you’re seeing it for the first time and walk the Prince Henry Clifftop walk. Then, put your adventure hat on and research the options for continuing further around the valley, above or below the clifflines.
  • P1020796And my new personal favourite… The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. The audio/visual exhibition about the Blueys World Heritage is really amazing. There’s an art gallery, shop, cafe and lovely rooftop open space. A real surprise.
  • Go for a wander up and down Katoomba Street and check out the Antique and other shops. There’s been a lot of change in the last few years and wizzing past at 7.30am, you’ve probably missed it all except Elephant Bean (my favourite Katoomba coffee) which is usually the only place open at that time.
  • Stretch your legs from Katoomba and walk through the back streets to Leura. Dream about owning one of those lovely old timber mountain cottages… maybe even buy one! That’s supporting the locals, eh?
  • Join the Sunday driver crowds in Leura and wander the main drag.
  • Drink and eat at Red Door coffee (my Leura favourite)
  • Drink and eat at Anonymous cafe (my Blackheath favourite)
  • Check out (and BUY) from the local artists at Bespoke and Found and The Nook, Leura. P1020783A great co-op of local artists and artisans. Huge variety – from edgy out there stuff, to things that even your Nanna would love. Thankfully, they’re a PFZ – potpourri free-zone.
  • And from the, ‘where have you been all my life?’ files… Mrs Peel. Deep love indeed.P1020772
  • Come to the mountains and do ALL your Christmas shopping in the Mountains.
  • Buy accommodation gift vouchers for friends and family… then they can come too!
  • Don’t just drop in to the Apple Bar for a meal/soothing ale on the way home after a canyon or walk… you Stink! Haven’t you often thought, “Geez, it would be nice to spend a P1020830weekend up here.” What could be better than a long, lazy, lunch, chowing down on one of their amazing woodfire pizzas with more than one or two shandies, and walk back to a nearby B&B? Sigh, Apple Bar… How do I love thee? I cannot count the ways.
  • How often have you P1020824driven past Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens (Now called Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens) and never actually ventured inside? It’s truly beautiful and the home to the Royal Botanic Gardens (in Sydney), cool climate plants.
  • Sick of hearing Simon Marnie talk on ABC702 about the Farm Gate Trail every Saturday morning and never actually visited any of the farms? Giving particular focus to the farms nearby the bushfire area..Stop listening… start visiting. www.hawkesburyharvest.com.au
  • Go wine tasting… not quite BLOR area, but Ebenezer not only has a couple of great wineries (especially www.tizzana.com.au), but is also home to Australia’s oldest church!
  • Do a high ropes / zip line course at Treesadventure.com.au in Yarramundi, at the junction of the Nepean and Grose Rivers. If you like being up close and personal with Blue Gums, this put you right UP in them. Oh, and someone else can do the rigging and safety for once!
  • Challenge yourself to eat the menu (or the list) at the Fat Canyoners Good Grub Guide. Awesome resource (the whole site that is, not just the food page), which outlines all the places to eat on the way to/from bushwalks and canyons. Check it out and then email the Fat Canyoner himself with some new finds!

www.visitbluemountains.com.au/events.php

www.hawkesburytourism.com.au

My advice?

Visit

Eat

Drink

Spend

Stay

Walk

Repeat

How to Convert a Tent to Fly-only

I really wanted to call this post, ‘How to Pimp Your Tent’, but seeing as there’s no fluffy dice, disco balls or shagpile carpet involved, I think How to Convert a Tent is slightly more appropriate.

There are different kinds of lightweight hikers out there. I sit somewhere in the middle between hard-core Cuban Fibre or Tyvek purists and traditional ‘smart’ packing for bushwalkers.

Before this experiment, I’ve never tried to ‘tweak the factory settings’ on any of my hiking gear. What drove me to it was being sold the footprint for my Easton Kilo 2P tent from an outdoor retailer, who assured me that with the footprint I can use the tent as fly-only. All the design cues were there in the full tent, so it made logical sense that this would be the case.

Just some of the tools needed to pimp my tent

Just some of the tools needed to pimp my tent

Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be true, so rather than return the footprint, I thought I’d try a bit of DIY handiwork after being inspired by several of my bushwalking mates who regularly tweak their gear to suit themselves. (Hello to Little Blue Walker, Melinda, Mr Mallo and many others!).

It was not altogether without dramas, as I did manage to snap the fancy-schmancy Carbon Fibre crossover pole. Thankfully, the manufacturer does include a temporary pole fix tube which held everything in place, however I did have to buy a replacement pole. (Nice work by the way to Easton for their fast customer service).

Easton Kilo 2P tent setup as Fly Only

Easton Kilo 2P tent setup as Fly Only

As each one of us has our own opinions and preferences for stuff in life, it makes sense that one size doesn’t fit all. If you ever find yourself not fully satisfied with the way something is made, maybe it is time to think about how you can tweak it to make it fit for your purpose.

Ah, now it's fit for MY purpose at <750grams.

Ah, now it’s fit for MY purpose at <720grams.

Six Foot Track Project Launch!

Ok, so you know how they always say, ‘Never start with an apology – it’s too negative.’?

Well, here I am breaking with tradition because for the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken leave of my blogging senses to concentrate on a very exciting new project that is launching this week!

For the past year, I’ve been working with the fabulous Matt McClelland (www.wildwalks.com and bushwalk.com) and Geoff Mallinson (geoffmallinson.com and Dad of danmallo.com) on a new approach to multi-day hike websites. We’re getting down to the pointy end of the work these last two weeks and we’re racing to get it all ready in time!

We all share the same aims of wanting to encourage people to get out into (and enjoy) the bush in a safe and fun way, so we pooled our collective skills into this project.

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

The Six Foot Track is one of Australia’s best known multi-day hikes and although the 45kms is usually done as a 3 day trip, it is also run during the annual Six Foot Marathon in around 5.5hrs.

The book, website and associated YouTube channel are full of information, photos, track notes, videos and an exciting new development called, ‘EmuView’ which adds a 360VR experience to the interactive maps on the site.

Guess who on the bridge?

Guess who on the bridge?

We’re launching this Thursday night with a shindig at the Hornsby RSL, so once that’s out of the way, I hope to return you to your regular weekly blog programming!

Hope you enjoy it!

Gear Review – Macpac Tasman 45


Supertramp hardness with hydration pack. Surprisingly comfy with good load distribution.

Supertramp hardness with hydration pack. Surprisingly comfy with good load distribution.

Manufacturer:  Macpac

Product:   Tasman 45

Link:  Macpac Product Info

Empty Weight: 1.1kg (size 2)

RRP: AUD$299

Test Packed Weight: 13kgs (incl 2 litres water)

Test Date: 4-6 October 2013

Location: Ettrema Wilderness, Morton National Park, NSW, Australia

Terrain:  Everything! Firetrail, tracks, off-track scrub (light to extreme including Hakea and Banksia) rock scrambling, narrow slots and cliff lines, creek crossings and bitumen roads!

Introduction

When I first started bushwalking in 1999, completely green and eager to learn, the word on the track from those with greater knowledge in my Bushwalking Club, was to buy a Macpac Esprit pack, along with a Microlight tent.

In the 14 years since, the types of gear on the market and the demands of the outdoors community has undergone enormous change.

From the early pioneering days, even before the legendary Tiger Walkers forged new ground in the Blue Mountains, (when a pack was made from an old pillowcase with two straps attached), to today, it feels as though the majority of the change has taken place in the past 5 years.

I’m wondering if this is due to the increase in new manufacturers eyeing a growing market for outdoors pursuits, the shrinking global marketplace or the influence of an ever vocal online community. With the growth of the internet, us consumers are not restricted by what our local retail outlet sells. We share ideas and experiences with people all over the world and if we are so inclined, can now research products, materials and design and hear first hand from users.

How I’ve changed

Back in 1999, what I went looking for as a consumer, was a product that was bomb proof. The thought about lightweight never crossed my mind. Without realising it, I’d entered the mysterious world of the notoriously tight-arsed bushie. This meant that I viewed my gear as an investment in this brave new world I’d entered and if I was going to spend $400 on a piece of gear, it was going to last me a lifetime. Dammit.

What Macpac were known for back then was exactly that. Bomb proof gear that would last a lifetime.

Crossing the Kowmung River on the Mittagong to Katoomba 7 day trip. My trusty first pack - Macpac Glissade - a whopping 75ltr pack.

Crossing the Kowmung River on the Mittagong to Katoomba 6 day trip in 2005. My trusty first pack – Macpac Glissade – a whopping 75ltr pack!

My first pack was a Macpac Glissade. A heavy duty 75L mother of a thing that weighs around 3kgs (6.6lbs) empty, using a traditional hardcore canvas fabric. It saw me through many adventures and I still have it, and true to its origins, it shows very little sign of wear… But to be honest, I haven’t used it in over 8 years. I feel a little guilty every time I go into my storeroom and see it hanging there on the wall… I imagine it’s voice, saying, “Pick me, pick me!”, whenever the light goes on. Sorry old friend, you’re just too heavy these days.

Nowadays, not only are outdoor consumers better informed about options, materials and products, we’re also a lot wiser about our own bodies and their limits. We know, by looking at those before us, that knee joints can wear out and that this damage can be aggravated by carrying heavy loads. For those of us who spend most weekends each month carrying a pack, then 50 years of ‘a few extra kilos’, can really take its toll.

Whatever the reason, the focus for many in the outdoors community has turned away from buying a single bomb proof piece of kit to last a lifetime – to buying a smartly designed,  lightweight, comfortable product that will give the most comfortable experience now, and for our knees… into the future.

Paul's beaten up GoLite

Paul’s beaten up GoLite

This decision comes with the knowledge that, depending on the places we hike in, it may not be so long lasting and depending how often we’re in scrubby, off-track conditions, we may need to replace it in 5 years or make running repairs along the way.

Besides, in 5 years time, design and technology may well have taken another leap and I can get a pack half the weight and twice the capacity!

My walking buddy Paul summed it up pretty well (whilst carrying his beaten up GoLite pack), “I’d much rather replace my pack, than my knees.”

The Philosophy Corner

This is a significant change to how things used to be and I can’t help but weigh up the conflicting interests of recycling, land-fill and the environmental impacts of such high turnover consumerism, for a hobby that strives to leave no trace. To over simplify it, is it personal interest (health/joints/comfort and long term ability) versus the greater good (the environment). Hmmm, all food for thought indeed and one that could make a good discussion point around the campfire/stove. I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

That’s quite a long winded way of introducing my review of the new Macpac Tasman 45L.

Joanna smiling whilst dragging packs through the narrow slot pass

Joanna smiling whilst dragging packs through the narrow slot pass – A good testing ground for a pack

The Basics

Specs measure up on the scales

Specs measure up on the scales (2.42lbs)

This seems to be Macpac’s first serious foray into the brave world of lightweight hiking gear. At the outset, it’s important to understand where this pack sits in the world of lightweight outdoors gear. It’s not down the Tyvek ie. the ultra lightweight end of things, where enthusiasts tinker on grandma’s old Singer and new micro-businesses are popping up as a result. This product sits comfortably between ultra lightweight and traditional – let’s simply call it Lightweight for now.

Everything about this pack is new and different for Macpac, although there are significant nods to design influences from other brands such as Deuter, Osprey and even Lowe Alpine, it thankfully still holds true to what I perceive the Macpac brand has always been about. Smart design, good workmanship and innovation. More than anything, it says to me that they’ve clearly done their homework and have looked at how they can apply the Macpac know-how to improve on what is already out there.

I love when I look at a product and I find myself saying, “Someone’s been thinking”. This is obvious in this pack. It feels as though every aspect and element has been well thought through, tested, pared back, simplified and then utilised. As with any lightweight design, everything is there for a reason.

Ettrema Wilderness - A perfect testing ground.

Ettrema Wilderness – A perfect testing ground.

Harness

The most obvious new feature in this pack is what they call the Supertramp harness system. In every other Macpac pack I’ve owned, their harness has always been heavily padded and a point of both balance and comfort. To be honest, this was one of my concerns about this pack and something that I was keen to test. Gone are the chunky, cushioned shoulder straps and they’ve been replaced with <1cm thick lightweight alternatives.

Reduced padding on shoulder straps

Reduced padding on shoulder straps

But the real change in this harness is what I’ve affectionately called the, “no sweaty back”, style of design, that has been seen in Deuter packs for some years and more recently, Osprey day packs.

I personally love the orange /grey colour combo!

I personally love the orange /grey colour combo!

Through utilising a curved back and strong mesh, they’ve achieved a style of harness that provides a gap between the wearers back and the pack. Whereas the Deuter pack that I’ve used in the past achieved this with a solid piece of curved plastic, Macpac have done this with two external (yes, external) frame spines.

Comfort

In wearing the pack, I was very surprised to find the harness super comfy, even without all the traditional padding.

Perhaps because of the minimal padding, the manufacturer’s guidelines give this pack a range of 6-14kg for a comfy user experience. I was testing it with 13kg (11hrs on our feet on day 1 and 8hrs on day 3) which was fine. The  45L capacity is going to mean that you need to be choosy about what you take anyway, so unless I make stupid packing decisions, I can’t see myself pushing this weight up any further.

One of the slightly unusual sensations I found though, was that when travelling along a firetrail at good pace (5.5-6km/hr), the pack seems to have a certain “bouncy” characteristic. Although this might sound a negative, after a while, I came to

Yep. That's all that's there across your back.

Yep. That’s all that’s there… the mesh against your back, then the spines behind.

actually enjoy it. The bounce didn’t come as a shock back down on the shoulders and hips with each step, rather the opposite, it actually felt like I had added momentum and a lightness of step. I know, odd.

Fabric

I’m not one of those gear gurus who spend hours researching the science behind each of the components in a piece of gear and can argue the relative pros and cons of each one. So apart from seeing how the Titan Grid™ Fabric performed in the field, I can’t really say anything about it.

“Our lightweight and durable Titan Grid fabric is a 100d high tenacity nylon The silicon outer coating and PU inner coating add weatherproofness and at only 116g/m2 it is ideal for applications where conserving weight is critical. Compared to similar weight fabrics Titan Grid offers improved durability as the grid structure and raised fibres enhance its ability to absorb abrasion.” (Source: Macpac website)

When dragged through rock slots, signs of wear show where a solid object (e.g. zipper) is behind.

When dragged through rock slots, signs of wear show where a solid object (e.g. zipper) is behind.

Please watch the video of my gear test, as you will see that I put the pack through much more than the average hiker would expect to do on a weekend trip. The fact is, not everyone likes to go off-track, which is fine. However, the shots of the wear on the zipper will make sense when you see what I put it through!

Hydration Options

With only 45L of internal space to play with, something I really liked about this pack is that it gives me the option of putting my hydration bladder on the outside, hanging securely within the gap between the mesh and the spines. The simplicity of using this option is made easier by way of an access they’ve created from the inside. There are two hooks and a robust piece of velcro to help hold your bladder in place. Yep, I was dubious about this concept at first. Wouldn’t the water get warm from my back? Will my back get wet? Is there more potential to pierce or burst the bladder?

Easy to see/feel how much water you've got left with the Hydration pack hidden inside the harness

Easy to see/feel how much water you’ve got left with the Hydration pack hidden inside the harness

Well, I can report that after a couple of hours of walking in full sun, on a day of 28 degrees, I am converted. One of the arguments against hydration systems is that you can’t see how much you’re drinking, but the handy thing with this design is that not only does it free up internal space, but I can easily feel how much I’m drinking by simply reaching around, feeling the bladder and giving it a bit of a jiggle. If this concept doesn’t work for you, they haven’t locked you into it. The pack also includes the traditional internal pocket for stowing the bladder. Both options work with a hose hole on both the left and right shoulders.

Belt pockets are a good size with my camera in one and phone/GPS in the other

Belt pockets are a good size with my camera in one and phone/GPS in the other

HOT TIP

  • It’s a good idea to pack any solid or hard objects (like a billy) deep inside the pack and surround it with soft things to minimise wear on the outside fabric, especially if you’re going to be dragging it over rocks!

WHAT I LOVE

  • Hydration bladder stowage in the harness
  • Zip pockets on the hip belt that are a good size. Perfect for camera, compass, snacks and chapstick, whilst not being so big to get in the way of big step ups and rock scrambling.
  • Lightweight at 1.1kg (2.42lbs). Yes, I independently checked this. See image.
  • Fold over edge in side stretchy pockets. Less chance of things falling out.

    Fold over edge on side pockets help stop stuff falling out

    Fold over edge on side pockets help stop stuff falling out

  • That my rain jacket fits in the outside pocket. Doesn’t get stuff inside wet.
  • Ample space in the lid pocket. 3 days of snacks, sunnies, safety glasses (for scrub) sunscreen, scrub gloves, torch, toothbrush, notepad, GPS/iPhone battery, keys… with room to move.
  • Supertramp harness. Super comfy, body hugging and bouncy.
  • It’s a frivolous thing, but I like the overall look and colours (grey/orange).
  • I can still stash my map case behind my back in the harness as I walk.

JURY’S OUT

  • Side compression straps being all in one piece. If it breaks in one spot, does this mean the whole side compression is unusable?
  • Shoulder straps couldn't really be tightened any further

    Shoulder straps couldn’t really be tightened any further

    I’m a tall gal at around 177cm (5’9″) and the size 3 pack was a good choice, although the shoulder straps were at their ‘almost’ tightest. It would be good to have some lee-way of an extra 5 cm of adjustment.

THE VERDICT

So, are my 3 days giving the Tasman 45L a workout going to change my behaviour?

Hell yeah!

As much as I still love my Pursuit 55L, it’s going to be reserved for times I need the extra space, such as longer trips. I’m moving across to the Tasman for my ‘every weekend’ type pack.

All I can say, is that if this is Macpac’s first dive into lightweight packs, I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Caro is a Macpac Ambassador and super grateful to her awesome bushwalking buddies from www.sbw.org.au, for putting up with her muttering to herself on camera in wild places. 

Ludicrously long belt straps - something I am going to cut off.

Comedically long belt straps – something I am going to cut off!