Monday, 26 July 2010

Review : Terra Nova Laser 20L pack

The laser 20L has been in my possession for a couple months now and has became my go-to pack for days out and the odd overnighter. Here's some of my thoughts, they be my opinion and you may disagree, that's cool. The gear we choose, just like anything is personal and what works for me may not work for you, please bear that in mind.

Rear view

Weighing in at 325 grams for a total of 20 litres you might expect the Laser to be short on features, but the opposite is true and Terra Nova have done a good job of creating a feature rich pack with a minuscule weight penalty. It is aimed squarely at adventure racers and other fast paced outdoor activities, and as a result has a lot of the features I look for in a pack, specifically quick access to on the go items.

Although exceptionally light, the pack oozes quality and doesn't feel like its going to fall apart any time soon, in fact it could probably take some abuse. Obviously lightweight materials are used throughout; the main material being a lime green sil-nylon with a thicker black nylon in use for high ware areas and black foam backed mesh for the shoulder and waist straps as well as part of the back. Water resistant zips are used on all the openings, with dyneema cord and small grips on the pulls, light gauge mesh is used for the on the go pockets, 2mm elastic is deployed for volume adjusting and bottle holding duties and small reflective print is utilised for branding and to aid night time visibility.

For just over 300 grams you get a main compartment, a small "change" pocket in the main compartment, reinforced base, hip belt pockets with a key clip, bottle holders, side stow mesh pockets, elastic compression straps, internal bladder sleeve with two exit ports, reflective tape and light attatchment and the usual whistle buckle on the sternum strap.

Front view

Unlike most conventional packs the main compartment is accessed via one long zip, minimising both bulk and weight and giving quick access to nearly all items when packed, saving on fuss factor. Their is a zip garage at the top and webbing pull at the bottom, and with most water resistant zips, is quite stiff to pull.

Not one to use bladders, bottle holders on a pack are now a pre-requisite for me and those on the Laser are some of the best I've used. Attached to the hip belt for easier access to your bottles on the go, even those less flexible should not find too much trouble using them. The elastic on the bottle pockets is only housed at 3 points and as a result can some times be a bit tricky, but still manageable with one hand.

Bottle holder and hip pockets, including key clip.

As a result of the bottle holders being placed on the hip belt, the hip pockets have suffered a bit of a downsize, and are smaller than some may expect. Still, they are more than usable and can carry any small quick to hand items you desire, with a clip in one ready to take care of your keys. One pocket can easily hold my I phone, head torch and two cereal bars.

The mesh side pockets are also accessible without taking the pack off (well for me any ways) and can hold a lightweight waterproof or a good bit of food for an on the go chow down. The elastic volume adjusters can help keep items in place if they are a bit too big, and also help keep movement of items down if the pack is empty.

Branding on carry handle, I like little touches like these.

Except for some foam backed mesh in places, padding on the back is pretty much non existent as one should expect from a light, frameless pack. A bit of foam into the bladder sleeve would solve this, otherwise you need to just take this into consideration while packing to stop things digging into you while walking or running. An external bladder/sit mat sleeve instead of the internal one fitted would help access to both items, or make it easier for it to be discarded for the gram counters. Why rucksack manufactures/designers continue to place these sleeves inside a pack I don't know; if I'm going to carry a bladder or sit mat I want it to be close to hand and not have to unpack everything in my pack to get access to it!

The pack easily swallows kit for a lightweight overnighter, however low bulk items have to be on the bill.

Overnighter Kit

Packing list :
TN Laser Comp
Rab quantum topbag
2 x 500ml water
GSI solo cookset (inc brew kit, gas & firesteel)
PHD Down vest
Hat and gloves
Golite paclite Jkt
Montane fleece
TN Laser 20l sack
(Big Agnes clearview is missing but would easily fit in)

Ready to rock.

The pack hugs the body making for a stable carry. When all the straps are done up their is minimal movement and this makes it one of the most comfortable packs I've worn while running. Although minimal padding is included, the shoulder straps remain comfortable, and even at the end of the Mourne Way Marathon the pack was still comfortable on my back, this is probably down to their width and shape.

As you may have guessed by now, I'm well impressed with this little pack. At just over 300 grams it can carry everything I need for a days walking or a summer night in the hills, while keeping anything that I need close to hand. It carries well as long as you take time to pack it with consideration of its lack of padding, and although it may not survive being dragged over rocks, either will I.

Vital statistics

Weight: 325 grams
Volume: 20 Litres
Price: RRP £55 (but can be found for £37)

Friday, 23 July 2010

Walk NI Walking guides

Anybody thats thinking of taking a walk in Northern Ireland any time soon should take a look over at Walk NI for their various suggested walks and also pick up two new guides which are actually very good! Theres two on offering coverage of the Mournes and another for the Causeway Coast & Glens of Antrim, both are certainly worth the download!

Oh aye, and THEY'RE FREE

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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Just arrived: Vibram Five Fingers

Courtesy of FitnessFootwear, I have just received (obviously not literally as the Royal Mail don't deliver at 22:00 hrs) a pair of Vibram Five Fingers UK KSO's to test drive and give my thoughts upon.

I think they look pretty sweet, the separation between toes feels a bit strange and I'm quite impressed to see that Vibram have varied the depth of the sole for high/low wear areas, rather than just a thicker depth throughout. More on these later, when I've actually had a chance to leave the house in them! Hopefully I'll get them out onto the Mournes this weekend to see how they get on in the hills, however they might be relegated to camp footwear until my feet toughen to the whole barefoot thing.

Differing profiles of the Vibram Five Fingers KSO sole

Nothing much else to add at this time other than to thank Adam and FitnessFootwear for a pleasant exchange and the chance to review the five fingers.

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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Song for the Week

The NATIONAL - Fake Empire, taken from their 2007 Album, Boxer.

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Monday, 5 July 2010

Simon and Matthew are walking the Ulster Way

Good luck to Simon and Matthew who set off on the Ulster Way on 28th June and are raising money for Headway a British based brain injury charity. Simon contacted me before they set off looking for a bit of advice on the Ulster Way which I was more than happy to give, and hopefully will serve them well on their journey.

It's a long way round, and I hope they enjoy it!

They have a justgiving page set up HERE if you would like to sponser their just cause.

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