Gear Diary - Montane Cobra 25 litre Rucksack

This is a review for the Cobra backpack, which I've had on test from Go Outdoors since spring 2013.  It's sized somewhere between a day sack and a summer overnighter, which makes it about right for Scottish winter/late shoulder season walking, or slightly too big for solo summertime/day-only use, or slightly on the small size for the Alps, where it was my day bag this summer.  Otherwise, I've used it on most of my day trips for the last 7 months, and it's proved durable and versatile, albeit with a couple of small niggles.

I'll spare you the technical low down, which you can glean from the links above, and just get to the more interesting (to me) features and how it fares in practice.  There's a hydration sleeve (only tested as a map/book sleeve, in which capacity it performs flawlessly), two side pockets made from very stretchy material that take a 1ltr nalgene or 2 ltr platy no problem, an volumous internal pocket (upwards facing zip) which sensibly includes a keyring clip, and an external top pocket (with a not-so-sensible downwards facing zip).  As already hinted at - there's alot of volume in the main body of the bag - it feels like a very roomy 25litres.  There's also a grab hoop on the front of the bag, which has proved very useful when moving the pack around when off the shoulders and on more technical rests and belays.  DWR so far seems good and the pack doesn't soak up too much water and dries fairly quickly.  I don't expect any pack to be waterproof but this certainly keeps the lions share off and means I can get away with my regular drybags inside for insulation layers and other kit I need to keep dry.

As you can see, there's one of the newer pole/axe storage systems on the pack, which despite my mix of curiosity and skepticism worked very well indeed and has proved very secure for both poles and axe.  One thing to note is that the shaft of either pole or axe is held in place by a strap on either side of the bag, which if you want to open up the main section of the pack fully, will need to be undone.  I found this to be a little irritating at first, but I have grown used to it, and the system overall is super stable and secure, keeping your sharps tightly fastened to even a partially loaded bag, which is certainly more important.

Side compression/tool straps.

There's also a hip belt, which is a comfortable but slightly complex affair featuring a snack/compass pocket on the right hip, and a rack loop on the left.  The complexity comes from the strap system, which double back on themselves and then clip in, a setup which I think Montane refer to as 'double tension'.  I'm not sure if there is any more tension than I experience on other bags, and there are both advantages and disadvantages: it keeps the straps tidy and out of the way when climbing and scrambling, but I find them tricky to adjust after adding or shedding a layer.  It's a clever system but I'd prefer something a little less fussy, or simply less spare length to start with.  There's also a sternum strap complete with thumb-pull which makes releasing the strap with mitts a doddle, but closing it much harder than it should be for a grown up!  These are all fairly minor issues, and not critical to the bag's overall performance.  One last thing - this bag has a zipper and not a lid, so you can't put a rope under it.  I have carried rope in the traditional slung-over-the-top manner, tucked into the side compression straps along with a quick draw attached to the top load handle and that does the job fine. You can see all the features explained in full detail on video here

Outer pocket, with zip facing down - designed to be accessed by climbing buddy

Useful, large inner pocket

Now to the big question - how does it carry?  In short, very well indeed... but best when fully loaded.  The shoulder straps and back-pad itself are ergonically invisible - when it's on, I mostly forget it's there, which (to my mind) is how it should be.  This bag was rammed to the gunnels on our climbs in the Swiss Alps this year - with axe, crampons, insulation, food (and for the walk in) a harness, glacier rescue gear and 60ms of rope - and it's performance on that trip won me over.  Even when worn with the harness, the hip belt remained in play, and those waist straps which I find a little fussy otherwise did prove their own, minimising clutter in this context.  Admittedly the bag in this Alpine role was a bit too full, but the 10kg+ load stayed close to the back and centered - the same when cycling.  On rock climbs or when moving through trees the narrow profile means no snagging, and the side pockets have become a real favourite, made of densely woven but very elastic fabric that have resisted any abrasion or tearing so far.  In fact, all the material on the bag feels really tough, and apart from a little bike oil it's still as good as new - not even any fraying, so far.

When I'm carrying less, I'm slightly less sure about this bag, and that I think is mainly down to the hip belt.  Gear loops on backpacks I've always wondered about (I'm no expert, but shouldn't that rack be on my harness?  What happens if I'm separated from my pack...?) and if there's less weight, I find the hip belt can rise up under my ribcage.  It's an easy thing to tuck the belt behind your back, which is what I've taken to doing with this bag and others like it when the load is lighter, and it carries fine like this - it's still perfectly comfortable.  This is always going to be the case with fixed back length on rucksacks - they can't make one size to fit all equally.  The issue goes away completely when the bag is more fully loaded, but I'm not exactly the tallest, so if you're considering a purchase, it might be worth trying one on for size.

Overall though, this bag has proven its worth, and despite a few small niggles, now has a firm place in my kit cupboard.  Small items have a habit of falling out of the front 'buddy' pocket if opened at an angle, access to the main compartment is a little restricted by those pole/axe/compression straps... but the  materials used are durable and fit for purpose, the axe carry system is 'bomber', and the internal pocket and grab handle are great - really practical touches.  It's a little on the fussy side for me personally - the hip belt strap system in particular I personally think is a touch over-designed - but under load that same system transfers weight very comfortably and is extremely stable on technical ground - so my reservations feel like splitting hairs now, after a good half year of faithful service from the bag.

The Cobra 25 is a generalist - part winter mountaineer, part climber, and part day tripper on foot or by bike, and whilst it might not do any of these perfectly it does all of them more than well enough for me to want to hold on to it.  I'm looking forward to taking it out more this winter, and trying it on a 3 season overnighter next year.  Montane provide a manufacturing statement here, which includes supply chain and animal rights information - I struggled to find information about their recycling processes but will happily amend if it's available.

Gear Diary - Berghaus Mount Asgard Jacket

the full body shot, after a butt kicking in Arran.  Nice n dry though.

I don't do gear posts often.  I'm still amazed at some of the offers made by PR agents to test products not remotely relevant to this little blog, and that's the best of it.  Other crazy fools want me to insert their links, ads and keywords, just for money.  Nope.  Then, Berghaus offered a trial on the mark 1 version Mount Asgard Jacket.  I cautiously accepted.  It seemed like a genuine offer - try it out, tell people what you think.  Err, ok.  I can do that.  So here goes.
a casual, off the cuff pose from your favourite male model

The Asgard is made of Gore Tex, a material which has obviously grown up a bit since the last time I wore one of these, in 2007-8.  The 'Pro Shell' variant is apparently at the more robust end of the spectrum, and I've no qualms about it's durability - the Asgard is made of tough stuff.  Over the past few months, it's been shoved into tiny gaps in soggy rucksacks, dragged along rocks, snow and ice, dunked in mud and skidded along grass (it's not impossible to fall over out there, you know), and has had no trouble fending off any of it.  No fraying on the sleeves from scrambling, no abrasion wear under rucksack straps.  Still good as new, after about 20 days of use (by which I mean days worn, not days out).

Waterproof?  Yes, well you'd hope so, it is £270 retail.  Absolutely no complaints here. Over the back end of winter and into the usual mixed 3 season conditions north of the border, it beads very well and the hood keeps out the weather.  This jacket pretty much laughs in the face of wind and water.

waterproof at the waterline

Breathability? This is the crux for me, usually. I'm not alone in not liking waterproofs for this reason - I'd rather be wet than too hot.  The Asgard does well, but it is a stiffly laminated '5 season' high altitude mountain jacket, so don't expect it to breathe like 3 season eVent.  I'm directly comparing it to my previous rain jacket here, which isn't really fair - I don't think it's as breathable, but then again I'm not convinced that eVent always stands up to backpacking - I think the Asgard will.  Anyway, this impacts in both directions on how I'd use it.  I wore it in the Cairngorms in alpine conditions at Easter, and would have preferred softshell.  At other times, in gusty squalls on Rum and Skye, some truly filthy weather on Arran, and packrafting for the first time recently in Inverpolly, it really came into it's own.  Horses for courses...?

where's the sweets?

Whilst we're on breathability, I should mention the vents.  These are placed above the hipbelt line on the ribcage - there are 2 vents only, 1 on each flank.  It's much more sensible to have them here, rather than in the armpit (which only function properly if you climb, or walk with your arms above your head) and it's easy to fine tune temperature control.  These vents are also used to access the pockets, which are mesh, but a little small for my liking.  One more thing - the zip is offset on the bias, so important to close it with both hands, or you end up with a small gap at the top that could theoretically let water in.  This hasn't happened yet, and the gap is concealed under a storm flap, but is worth noting.   

OK, Dave, do it again, but this time, look more epic

I've only briefly mentioned the hood.  It's pretty obvious that the whole jacket has been built around it, and it works well.  There are 2 volume adjusters, one for the head and one for the face.  The clasps for these are concealed inside the hood ring, at the nape of the neck, which stops them taking your eye out in a stiff breeze.  I couldn't get the hang of this at first, but after a faff, I tried adjusting without mitts, and it's been easy enough to fix and forget.  The hood is helmet compatible, which means there's a bit of excess here if you're not climbing, but that's a niggle really.  Conversely, the extra material means total coverage and the whole lot moves with the head, so visibility is not compromised at all, even when the weather's in.  Chin guard is the best I've used yet, and adds to the feeling of protection from the elements.

the backpacker's 'mince'

What about the rest of the fit?  I chose a large, based on an Argentium top I have, and to tell the truth the Asgard is probably a little big on me.  This means extra fabric in the body where I don't need it (it's just not possible for me to eat any more cheese than I do already).  But it's a good length that doesn't ride up with a backpack.  The cuffs have velcro fasteners which can cinch tight, and the zip is monster sized and will probably outlive the mountains, let alone me or the jacket.  On my scales (accurate to 5grams) the jacket is 355gms, and it packs down to the size of a grapefruit in it's own little 'climber's chalk' style bag (an additional 25gms). 

Canna get a witness?

In conclusion, this is a bullet proof mountain jacket with just enough features and no more.   I'd prefer bigger internal pockets, maybe a slightly leaner cut in the body, and there maybe more breathable offerings out there (which in turn will be less durable) but otherwise, when I need the big guns for high tops or nasty weather, this is coming with me.

Gear Diary (1) - on the TGOC

This marks the start of a new occasional feature called gear diary.  Calling it a diary means it isn't written in stone - this info is of (at best) temporary usefulness.  Also, if I say it fast enough it sounds like I'm wearing false teeth.  Please bear both these things in mind at all times when reading what follows.

I won't pretend to offer the technical low-down, spreadsheet gymnastics or early-adopter shenanigans - there are many better places for that.  But whilst I don't have the patience to write about gear at length, I do have an opinion based on use.  In the past few months my work-life balance has shifted,  I'm out alot more, so I get a more of a chance to live with the things we use to get by and be comfortable outdoors.  They are tools - not more, and not less.  That means it's as much about us as it is about the object of desire itself - probably more.  I'm especially interested in simplicity, and reliability, which I think go hand in hand as complimentary features in a good outdoors product design.  Simplicity is how you make something lightweight that functions on task and lasts (i.e is reliable), as well as dovetailing with the nature experience many of us seek.  So, I hope this occasional series will be sporadic, sometimes flippant, have an opinion, not too long, shot from the hip-flask of experience and viewed through the rheumy eyes of doubt, context, time and date.  In short, subjective with a capital S.  If that's not your thing, look away now.

Right then, that's the 'excuse me' out of the way.  Oh, by the way, this is my new gear store - before this I just had plastic bags in the loft - how great is this!  I like it anyway, makes life alot easier - ergonomics, not features.

This post is about gear I used on the TGO Challenge, a 270km coast to coast crossing in high winds, lots of rain and sun, days of snow and temperatures from around -3 to +30 degrees C.  Quite mixed then.  I also used much of it in the months before the crossing, in order to work out if it was OK to take.  That makes this a review of shoulder season equipment, gear that might or might not fit in the awkward spring/autumn transitional seasons.  It's not a complete list, it's things that stood out one way or another.  The date is MAY 2012.

Warning: Before you write something like this for a high profile US blog, please make sure your shelter is recently seam sealed before embarking on a Scottish coast to coast trip.  Or else get caught with your trousers down.  I love the Trailstar and that's no secret, and it behaved impeccably as always in all conditions, but it did leak.  I had to re seam seal in an emergency - damp camp, something to be avoided unless you enjoy spending a whole afternoon peeling off strips of glue before doing the job properly again.   A surprise on this trip was how well the TS dealt with snow.  I had thought it would panic and fold, but it gently bowed and then shed the white stuff instead.  On the worst night I went out and cleared the lion's share off about 3am, but really - this shelter continues to excel in everything I can throw at it.

Ideally we would have used bivy bags under the Trailstar, since we had so much wet gear to store, but we were testing the 2Oookstar for Sean, and I think that's been useful for developing the product further.  It's off back to him for the mark ii redesign this week.  I'm not going to spill the beans about what we have planned, but I am excited now, its getting good.  Even as was, it was very comfortable and kept us quite alot warmer than just bivi's despite the mesh only sides, but occasionally blown/shaken water from the outer was a mild issue.  My ageing seam seal was at fault really.  The warmth thing was a surprise, I hadn't expected that at all, but useful.

By all means, get yourself a pair of these La Sportiva Raptor jobbies.  They look ridiculous unless you are 9 ft and compete in the high jump, but grip like nothing I've ever worn in all conditions on most surfaces, and are a little more sturdy than inov8's in the toe bump department.  Hey, I've kicked steps in these on the last two backpacks I've done, which tells you something about the rand and toe protection.  As a consequence they drain slower than inov8 trail shoes, and I'd suggest seam sealing the seams to increase the longevity, but mine have done around 400km now and are still going strong.  Well, I say strong, they don't look like the picture below anymore but they still work.  By now you all know to pack a needle and some dental floss for long trips so a touch of DiY is not out of the question should the need arise.

On the other limb, please avoid like the plague anything foot shaped made by Salomon.  My girlfriend has a pair of exit aero's which have proved unremittingly rubbish as soon as purchased last year.  No grip, not waterproof despite the goretex branding, but despite leaking like a sieve on the way in, didn't dry out at all.  Ever.  In some ways I have to admire just how bad they were on every front - at least Salomon did a thorough job on making these completely impractical torture instruments. That takes genuine 360 degree incompetence, not just an accidental oversight or two.  These shoes destroyed T's feet on the TGOC.  Achilles heel problems and blisters on blisters, these are not a few of her favourite things.  I think maybe they make nice trainers for around town, but not serious footwear, sorry.  I think she maybe ready for some nice comfy trail shoes, at last.  There goes that sponsorship deal, then.  Bye......

The above photo also shows a new pair of Keela Scuffer softshell trousers, which have done about the same mileage now.  Good for colder temperatures where they are the only trouser, and for day hikes for sure, but I am not 100% convinced for backpacking.  I possibly could have got away with Montane Terra converts as usual with merino leggings that I wore for bed to warm them up, plus waterproof trews.  They are bulky to pack if not in use, and the material can rub a little along the waist band when in contact with a rucksack, but to be fair I wore them on the nasty days on the Challenge and they performed well overall.  A good inexpensive option, but jury still out for thru-hiking.

Talking trews, Go Lite Tumalo.  Yea, lightweight is all well 'n good 'n that, except when it doesn't work, in which case its 200 and whatever grams of HEAVY and UNNECESSARY emperor's new clothes until I can find a bin to burn it in.  The thing with waterproof trousers, is they are supposed to keep your legs and kegs dry.  These would be really great and soooo stylish, except that the ultralight-ultracool-design-feature-leg-pocket-thingy lets in water.  Take away this silly thigh pocket, which is useless anyway (like I'm gonna put loose change in a pocket near my knee...) and you have something that might work.  That's what I mean about simplicity, and reliability.  At least Go Lite make gear I can recycle - but it would be better if they made trousers that functioned well enough that I didn't have to ditch them before the end of their natural...

Waterproof top was the Rab Momentum:  I loved this jacket, I wanted to tell you great things, really I did.  I bought a replacement when I left my first one on a train overhead storage last autumn.  But it has let itself down, let me down and let you down.  OK, beading is great, it keeps you dry - well as dry as any jacket I've ever had, or better.  Hood is the business and hoods matter outdoors.  But - durability is in question - after about 5 short trips, and then about a week of constant wear and tear under a rucksack on the Challenge, the left armpit is showing signs of rucksack strap burn.  The picture above clearly (I hope) shows fraying in the underarm area on the seam, and there is more off to the right (and more off camera too).  I will reproof it and hold onto it until it dies, but this is quite probably the beginning of the end.  At least its not on the top of the shoulder...yet.

I like Rab gear, as another review at the end of this post shows - its usually really well thought out, even if the fit is sometimes a little strange.  And, given that this is a 'lightweight' eVent garment, I don't expect it to last for decades.  But I do expect it to last for more than a total of about 12 days rain use with a lightweight backpacking rucksack.  Naturally, if Rab contact me about this, you'll hear it here first... over to you, Mr. Carrington.

I subscribe firmly to the look-after-your-hands-feet-and-head-and-the-rest-will-look-after-itself school of thought.  Since the forecast was not so fragrant for the Challenge, I took the variety pack...

Hats:  3 used - a £6 Gelert sun boonie, a thinsulate beanie (found on a rock in Spain) and my Lowe Alpine goretex mountain cap (pictured), all because the lady loves kick ass wet and cold.  Please excuse the silly picture...but rest assured, this old skool bonnet is the business for Scottish weather in winter, spring and autumn.  I own the large, which means even for my big head I can get the beanie underneath to add extra warmth at camp.  I'm the dosy one on the right, by the way, although both models pictured have excellent DWR.

This photo also features probably my most favourite-est bit of hill clobber ever - the Montane Horizon jacket.  Its sort of a technical fleece: elements of softshell performance (quite wind and vaguely water resistant, super breathable) with enough warmth for me to keep the chill away whilst not sweating too much if active.  I wear this almost every time I go out further than the supermarket, have done for 3 years, its still as good as new.  This time I spilt egg down it at Loch Callater Bothy, much to Croydon's amusement.  Of course, its discontinued...

Gloves:  Again, 3.  I've started using synthetic liner gloves and have 2 pairs - trek mates and seal skin - so far the seal skin ones are more robust and a fraction warmer, I took those on the Challenge.  For a tenner or less you have something which is extremely functional and means you can keep warm and light a stove/put up a tent/do your lippy etc.  The point here is a little coverage when anything chunkier would be too much.  Its also just good policy to have 2 pairs of hand warmers when the weather's iffy, as it's next to impossible to keep gloves dry unless you're down the pub instead of up the hill.  I also carry ME windstoppers and Tuff Mitts, both of which work great but make me run hot unless we are well below zero or its truly vile (see: 'Hurricane Sunday').  Photo shows trek mates and some fraying after only a few trips.

New this season!  Pacerpoles.  OK, I won't go on.  I got the aluminum ones in the end, purely because there seems to be a question mark over how recyclable carbon fibre is at the moment.  They function well on the flat and downhill, about the same as a conventional pole IMHO, but uphill these things are the bomb - you can really dig in and power yourself along.  They are bloody heavy though - You get a sea container's worth of LT4's for one pair of these!  The Challenge also saw my Carbon Fibre Mountain King Expedition's retired after 4 years - T has started using two poles and had taken these on, but the stress fractures had got so bad that they froze up several times this trip.  Not safe to take out now, replacing with BD Trail compacts, again aluminum.

Cooking with gas:
Yes, we did.  I don't usually, but the ETA Spider Express was great for this trip.  Wet, cold, long days - no fuss, plenty stable and no problem to light.  Fuel is plentiful in major towns.  We used 2.3 230gm canisters over 2 weeks for 2 people, averaging about 4 litres boil a day.  It was great to make a lunchtime brew to fend off the cold, something I might not bother with if using meths. I love the caldera system, but for the Challenge this time, gas was perfect.  My GF is more confident with it too, which meant I could pitch whilst she got the water on, saved alot of time. 

Food: I've read some fairly ill thought out comments about people shipping food for the Challenge, which seem to suggest that nobody is thinking about their impact on local economies.  I found this to be far from the truth.  People I met on the Challenge went out of their way to spend both generously and locally whenever they could, sharing information about local cafes, bars, outdoors shops - all non chain places.  In some small villages the Challenge is a major player in the local economy - food, drink, bed and board, and kit.  Truth is food is not always guaranteed in places where you need it.  The other truth is that the UK consumer sold out to supermarket chains years ago.  Maybe that's a generalisation, but for packaged food at least, it's often the reality in the Highlands.  Should we buy local, or buy independent?  Ideally both, but sometimes we can't.  We shipped two lots of food and with hindsight I would do one more drop, but to different places, packing less and smarter to fill the gaps the local/chain supermarkets can't offer.

Where there's a choice though, maybe the critics have a point - the Tesco breakfast in Montrose is a minimum wage disgrace and nobody with an ounce of nouse should be in there.  Fair trade, my arse.  I'll know for next time. 

Rab Boreas:
Concerned about the cold I bought this mid new a day before I left.  It has so far been fantastic.  It's a synthetic hoody, basically, a bit wind and rain resistant but not much, has a really good hood on it which is great for covering up and keeping warm under a hat or two, and gave my Horizon a boost on the really hanging days when it was cold.  The fit is loose-ish and the sleeves wide enough not to cut off the circulation to your arms - I think alot of climbers value it for all these reasons.

I didn't wear it next to the skin until the last day or two and it didn't seem to stink too much that I needed to wash it.  So it adds a bit of warmth and some wind resistance, mainly because the hood is so good and it's another layer.  However, where this really excels is in the heat.  Next to the skin in temperatures pushing into the low 30's (c), I remained cool, calm and collected, the hood came down low so as my ears and forehead didn't burn, with the neck undone for a good amount of venting.  It's a bit confusing putting a hood up in broiling sunshine, counter intuitive - but if you need sun protection, the Boreas will stop you cooking.  This may well become my go-to summer hiking top...  Here's another zoolander pose, just because I loved how practical this was - it's light, packs small, can be layered or worn solo, covers a whole range of seasons and uses, it's rare to get this much functionality in something well under £50:

What else?

Undies, socks and tops are all smartwool merino, no news there.  Merino boxers seem to get trashed quite fast, leading to rubbing in delicate places in hot weather.  I should have taken my beyond excellent (and orange!) Montane Sonic 2.0 running short, which solves that issue in a mesh.

I took my increasingly knackered Montane anti freeze jacket, which I grow to love more and more the more tired it becomes.  Mmm, the smell of stale mac n' cheese.  Down was probably not a great fit for this trip, and I wonder what I'll replace it with when the time comes.  PHD's always look good, but down jackets, in Scotland?  My GF took her still fairly new Haglof's Barrier which is turning out to be the best £100 spent for a long time.  Its purple, very warm and has a brilliant hood.  The odd bit of rain doesn't seem to bother it at all.  Maybe they do a mens version... 
MLD snow gaiters:
Great for snow repulsion so a good fit for this trip, but not so good at keeping the heather and grit out of trail shoes.  I have inov8 gaiters which do this well, but 'the one' gaiter to rule them all remains elusive.  I noticed a certain very stylish challenger was modelling OR puttees, which I may have to investigate further.

Sleeping mats:
Spare me.  We use Multimat 8mm, and a half Z lite in combination with our rucksacks for under the legs - one, other or both depending on the time of year.  They don't burst, leak, or develop bubbly tumors where your spine or hips go.  They are cheap and reliable.  Airbeds belong in the 1970's, or for weekend trips on a campsite a few times a year.  Please don't try to convince me otherwise, or I'll start shouting at you.

No, no and no.  Learn to read a map and use a compass with some degree of accuracy, or half learn and get away with it, like the rest of us.  DO NOT rely on tech that you don't know how to fix when the machines finally take over and EMP your ass.  I'm being half serious.  The other half thinks maybe I should get some UK maps on my viewranger account, just to be on the safe side.  It's nice to have that security in the bottom of the pack, but I don't like how we all learn to rely on tech and forget good skills.

I think that's mostly what was new or different covered.  I won't be doing these that often, so the half baked cod philosophy and photos will resume shortly I'm sure. 

Review - BPLUK Honey Stove

This is a small review of the Honey Stove, which BPLUK design, manufacture and sell.
  I should say that I've only used this in its wood burning configuration, although it can be used as a pot support and a stove support for a huge variety of different cookers and also for esbit - there's loads of details on Bob's website here.  I had a mind to use this as a pot support for our whitebox stove, but our pan (for 2) is too big to sit inside the perimeter and pressurise the stove properly.  It would theoretically work in this way, you just need a smaller diameter pot than our old 1.7ltr AGG.  In the end I ended up with a DIY solution to the wobbly whitebox issue.

Bob has good reason to be proud of this, it is designed brilliantly and manufactured in the UK as well, a rare thing.  It comes in a black cordura flat bag, there are 6 sides and a number of middle plates, and the fact that it packs very flat is worth talking about - I slipped it down the back of my pack, along with a quiche silver foil tray to protect the ground, and since its close to your back it helps to mediate some of the weight.  It weighs somewhere in the region of 340gms, though I only used 1 middle plate which brought that down a fair bit.  If you use it to support a trangia for example, its going to weigh less than half that. 

So weight is not everything:  the stove itself is a lovely piece of engineering.  The first time I put it together it seemed fiddly and the metal really tight, but by the end of the trip it was a no brainer - the fixings loosen up a little and the slot design makes sense.  No moving parts = good camp efficiency.  Once its up, the next thing to say is how completely stable this design is.  After using a whitebox exclusively for a year or 2, this was a dream.  Its so solid, and our 2 person pot isn't going anywhere at all.  This is pretty important, in the blustery climes of northern Europe especially I think - we have a huge variety of conditions, high winds and uneven ground to deal with, and this device provides a really firm footing for our precious dinner.  Picking partially cooked food from the floor is not the best. 

The fire itself is really easy to get going with a bit of tinder and then takes only a handful or 2 of wood to bring water to a boil.  It is really efficient, much more so than a regular camp fire, and more than I expected. The fire is completely sheltered from the wind but obviously draws enough air to get very, very hot. Hopefully the picture above shows you just how groovy it is from that point of view.  Its also nice to be able to control the heat: as opposed to a meths stove, you can feed this and make it flamey, or keep it low and efficient and just for cooking.

I have to say I really liked this stove, and I didn't necessarily expect to.  Its absolutely rock solid, and in my clumsy world that counts for quite alot.  It packs flat and is incredibly fuel efficient.  Food does taste better over wood, of course it does, that's why everyone loves a bar-b-q.  It has 'real fire' cache - its big enough so you can get a proper burn going on and do marshmallows (i don't like 'em myself but you go ahead!) and stare into the flames until your eyes glaze over.  You can even dry your socks and shoes off a bit (careful now...)  In comparison, these things aren't so easy to do with the Trail Designs Ti Tri - that's a much more enclosed wood burner, and maybe a tad less luxurious because of that.  I've only used an old Bushbuddy type stove for a few days (borrowed) but found it to be too small for a 2 person pot - it took forever to boil, not a problem with the Honey stove.  But, all the above are a genuine advantage to using the Honey Stove and really add to the camping experience, a reward for your hard days walking.

I probably wouldn't take it for camping solo that often, because the weight puts me off, but for 2 or more that's easily mitigated, especially over a long weekend or more.  I kicked myself for not taking it on the soaking wet weekend around Pumlumon I did with a friend - it would have been great to have had a real fire to help dry us off and give a little comfort, and we had forest campsites for 2 nights where we could possibly have found enough dry twigs to start a fire.  And, to be completely honest I expected the weight to be more noticeable than it was - it more than paid T and I back in luxurious camp fire vibe (lightweight glamping anyone?), volcano hot food and meths weight saving over a 10 day trip for 2 in the Lakes at Easter.  It will definitely be coming out again with us in the future.  I can't wait to use it on a last minute dash to the New Forest, its born to go there!  Now, if only Bob would make a titanium one....