An excuse to lie down on the job, as if I needed one.

I ventured out to Grand Anaconda Father’s Day sale last Friday night at Fyshwick. Every time I went by the sausage sizzle table, I got sorry mate just run out, be more in a few minutes. Three times this happened (bastards, it’s all a conspiracy against me).  Anyhow, been thinking about what type/sort of sleeping mat to buy for the Nullarbor trip, there so many makes and models to choose from. I was originally favouring the Synmat’s range of UL 9 and UL 7 mats but these type of items I like to actually see and feel in person to check their toughness and comfort and not be swayed by someone’s else opinion and photos and some Retail websites well their information is limited to company specifications which in some cases errs on their side.

Anyway back to my Abe Simpson type of story telling, whilst meandering around the aisles, tables and racks at Anaconda, I came to their sleeping mat area (not very big, had a total of three different brands, but only two were in stock, the 3rd was on special but no where in sight) I had narrowed my choice down to either the Black Wolf Standard (full was $179) or Standard 3/4 (was $120.99) but not on special and the ‘helpful man’ couldn’t tell when they would be on sale (head office doesn’t tell us in advance any more) or the Denali Slimline full length on sale at $72 (down from $119).

One thing in Anaconda’s favour is that each of their mats are actually on display so you compare them in real life. After much humming and harring, I went with the Denali slimline mat, due to price at the time ($62 with $10 voucher), it seemed ok to lay on in the store and the size and weight of the mat.  While the Synmat was my favourite for a while, I couldn’t justify gambling on a mat they may not be good for the job after some of the reviews I had read on them although not all reviews had the same problems. The Synmat are expensive plus add postage on top, and Thermarest mats, well their prices are outrageous no matter how their fanbois rave about them.  Even the missing 3rd brand was missing from the display area.

Haven’t slept on the Denali yet, but have unfolded it for overnight to let it inflate and what not according to their instructions and it actually rolls back up to a similar size that it was in the store. If it is deemed to be too thin, I can always buy a foam roll which weigh next to nothing and shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to carry about on the bike.

Time for some company literature on said item:

The Denali Slimline Wave Hike Mat is a lightweight self inflating mat that is perfect for your trekking or hiking adventures or crazy bicycle touring ideas! After a long day on foot all you want to do is have a lie down. This matt includes a waterproof carry bag, ensuring you’ll have a dry nights sleep even if you’ve walked around in the rain all day. It’s light and easy to carry around while on your trek or hike in the great outdoors.

  • Unique wave design for lower back support
  • Lightweight self inflating hike mat
  • Diamond TPU coated 75D rip-stop polyester top (techo jargon)
  • 75D polyester non-slip moon dot base
  • Waterproof dry sack carry bag included
  • Repair kit is provided (a whole 100 x 100mm patch and 1 tube of glue)

Specifications from the Anaconda Website:

  • Material: Diamond TPU coated 75D rip-stop polyester top, 75D polyester non-slip moon dot base
  • Fill: 19 kg/m3 foam
  • Dimensions: 180 x 57 x 4 cm
  • Stuff/ rolled size: 32 x 18 x 18 cm
  • Weight: 1.22 kg (the plastic bag states 0.990 kg)
  • Primary activity(s): Hiking or trekking
  • Warranty: 2 year

I think Denali must be an in-house brand for the Anaconda stores as I haven’t seen it in any other camping shops in Canberra, plus when I search on Denali Slimline the first ten pages are all Anaconda links.  I have no idea what TPU 75D polyester is and google doesn’t shed much light on it.

The instructions state to open the valve for the first time and leave it open for 6-8 hours to let the foam return to its natural height.  With the valve closed, the mat is a bit thin, but a few breaths and it inflates to its claimed 40mm height and is quite comfortable although I am lying on the carpeted floor inside.  After a few breaths you feel like having a lie down in any case with head spins.

When I actually roll it up again I’ll weigh it and see who is correct about the weight.  Added 25 Aug, The mat weighs in just over 1 kilo (1065 grams). Should have weighed the bag as is when I got it home after unpacking, inflating, re-rolling it back to original size. This weight is not including the carry bag (300 grams).

P.S. This model only comes in this colour

Katadyn Vario Water Filter

Water Filters.

One of the main concerns for anyone planning a bike tour across the Nullarbor or even any of the desert tracks in Australia or the world is of course water.  Without H2O you don’t go.  This is where water filters come in.

water filter
MSR mini works
water filter
Katadyn Vario

During my interweb trawling for information, I had narrowed my preferred water filter to either the Katadyn Vario or the MSR Miniworks.

While they both work and look similar, weights and size are almost identical.

Obviously going by the title I went with the Katadyn, I think it was the variable water filter settings depending on water quality at the time, longer filter life or quicker output volume.  0.1 micron difference in the filtering is not a real big deal in my eyes.

I went pricing the Katadyn in Australia but they were mostly at least 50% dearer than the rest of the world.  I ended up on Amazon and got it delivered for $105 AUD. (Believe it or not something I wanted on Amazon was actually able to be sent to Australia.)  A well known camping store in OZ wanted $150 without the delivery costs. You do the maths.  Ordered Thursday arvo was in my hand by Wednesday morning.

Below is a video by KatadynKP on youtube.





My touring accommodation

Oztrail Vertex Tent
Well that’s the manufacturer’s spiel on this tent.  I bought this tent from Camping World at Mitchell ACT. What I have found with setting this tent up in my back yard.
  • The floor IMHO is on the thin side.
  • The tent is rated as a 4 season tent.
  • The floor has a good lip on it, so no water should get in. I’ll put a measurement in here later. (approx 200mm high) See photo below.
  • There is two vents in the roof that you can unzip from inside and on the fly there is a velcro patch which allows air in or out.
  • The two entrances (one on each side) can be zipped up with the fabric door or it can just be zipped with just the mesh. Again the fabric can be unzipped from the inside.
  • There’s a clip hanging from the centre of the roof for putting any lights up and I’ll test it later to see how much of the light shines through at night or if the two fabric sheets of the tent block it.
  • The tent doesn’t need to be guy roped down, as it’s free standing.  But if putting the tent up in expected winds then there are plenty of guy rope attachments to the fly.  The fly also has a latch at each corner for quick fastening or pulling down.
  • On the inside of the fly there are 4 velcro strips for fastening the fly to the cross over poles.  These strips are directly beneath the guy rope attachment area on the outer side.
  • On the inside, on two of corners there is a small mesh pocket for putting whatever you need during the night.
The Maker’s Blurb:  The Oztrail Vertex Tent is one of the Outer Limits range of high performance, lightweight tents designed for the budget conscious but serious hiker. 
The Oztrail Outer Limits Vertex Tent will keep you comfortable and protected in any conditions and as they pack down small in size and weight, they are suitable for carrying in your backpack.
• The cross-brace design of this 2 person dome tent creates ample room inside with the bracing pole extending over both entrances.
• This design and the integrated high tensile “Durallium” alloy poles means the Vertex is a sturdy and strong yet lightweight tent.
• The floor is also lightweight but puncture resistant polyester “Taffeta DuraWeave”.
• The fly is made from 68 Denier Ripstop polyester with a water rating of 3000mm.
• Further minimising the weight the insect proof mesh is Ultra-fine 50×50 No-See-Um mesh.
• The Vertex comes in a waterproof dry sack ensuring that it remains dry 
even when you’re not.
Floor Dimensions: 230x160cm
Floor Material: Polyester Taffeta DuraWeave
Fly Canopy Material: 68 Denier Ripstop Polyester
Height At Peak: 105cm
Packed Size: 160x39cm
Pole Material: Durallium alloy
Sleeping Capacity: 2 person
Waterhead Rating: 3000mm
Weight: 2.6kg
Warranty: 1 Yr

Choosing which cookware set?

Whilst searching for any information on types of cookware I stumbled upon this site, who had a whole page dedicated to this subject.  How handy is that.

I’m leaning towards a stainless steel set myself.

Anyway below is the article from (I have spell checked it to English.)

Cookware: How to choose

Step #1: Consider the trips you have planned

The basics (per person)

  • Single pot, with a lid that can double as a plate
  • Cup
  • Basic utensils (spoon and knife)
  • Some way to pick the pot up (either a handle, bail or pot-grabber)

Step #2: Decide between a cook set or individual pieces

Collecting your cookware and utensils piece by piece gives you the freedom to choose exactly what you want.  You can use items from home, borrow pieces from friends or even raid garage sales.

But purchasing a backpacking cook set will save you space, weight and time.  Cook sets (specially designed collections of pots, pans and lids) are designed to “nest” together so the entire set takes up only the space of the largest pot.  Many are also designed so stoves (and other utensils) fit inside for even more space efficiency.  Because they’re designed specifically for outdoor uses like backpacking, most cook sets are made of lightweight, durable materials that weigh very little but last season after season.

Step #3: Consider the material options

  • Aluminium Positives: Lightweight, affordable, a good conductor of heat. Good for simmering foods without scorching.  Negatives: Breaks down slowly when exposed to acidic foods. Dents and scratches easily.
  • Stainless steel Positives: Tougher, more scratch-resistant than aluminium. Negatives: Heavier than aluminium, doesn’t conduct heat as uniformly (can cause hot spots that scorch food).
  • Titanium Positives: Super lightweight, extremely tough.  A must if weight is your number one concern.  Negatives: More expensive than other options. Conducts heat less evenly than stainless steel.
  • Non-stick coatings (available on some metal cookware) Positives: Make clean up a breeze.  Negatives: Less durable than regular metal surfaces.  Most can be scratched by metal utensils.
  • Plastic Positives: Lightweight, cheap, non-abrasive. Perfect for utensils and air-tight food containers.  Negatives: Not as durable or heat-resistant as metal. Some plastics can pick up and retain food flavours/odours.

Notes on aluminium

Some people wonder if using aluminium cookware is unhealthy.  Based on reports from the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the London-based Alzheimer’s Society, no health risks are associated with the use of aluminium pots, pans or skillets.  States the Alzheimer’s Society: “There is no conclusive medical or scientific evidence of a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease.”

An FDA report estimates that a person using uncoated aluminium pans for all cooking would ingest 3.5 mg of aluminium per day.  Meanwhile, a person consuming antacids (at about 50 mg per tablet) may accumulate up to 1,000 mg of aluminium per day.

A fact sheet published by the Alzheimer’s Society states: “Cooking in uncoated aluminium utensils can increase the amount of aluminium in certain foods such as fruits that are high in acid.  [Example: tomatoes.] Cooking foods in coated, non-stick or hard anodised aluminium pans adds almost no aluminium to food.”

While not a health concern, cooking leafy greens in aluminium cookware is not recommended since it can impact the taste and appearance of greens.  In addition, one reader wrote to us expressing a belief (based on personal experience, he tells us) that greens cooked in aluminium cookware can cause stomach distress.  Cauliflower is another vegetable to keep out of aluminium pots.  Because it has sulphur compounds, cauliflower may turn yellow when cooked in aluminium cookware.

Step #4: Focus on the important variables

  • Pot size: The largest pot in your cook set should hold about one pint per backpacker.  Smaller pots should fit snugly inside the largest one.
  • Number of pots: One pot is usually fine for 1 or 2 people (especially if the lid doubles as a plate).  A three-pot set should be enough for groups up to 5 people, unless you have complex meals planned.
  • Lids: Lids cut down on cooking time and save fuel.  They can also be used as plates or even frying pans.  Make sure your lids fit your pots snugly and that they’re easy to pick up.  You should have one lid for every pot in your set (or one that fits multiple pots).
  • Lifters: Make sure you have some way to pick up your pots and pans.  Wire bails and collapsible handles are convenient, but they can break and/or get too hot to touch.  Pot-grabbers are durable and easy to use.  But you have to remember to pack them!
  • The extras: Some cook sets come complete with “extra” pieces (cups, basic utensils, plates).  Ask yourself if you really need them, and keep in mind that many of these extras can also be purchased separately, often at a lower price.

Notes on utensils

When it comes to utensils, minimalist backpackers often make do with nothing more than a knife, spoon and a pot scrubber for clean up.  But everything from garlic presses to miniature espresso makers are available these days, if you care to treat yourself and bring them along.  The utensils and “extra” cookware you carry with you should match your tastes and your menu.  REI carries a variety of cookware extras to spice up your back-country kitchen, including:

  • Utensils: Spatulas, serving spoons, whisks
  • Extras: Frying pans, coffee/tea pots, back-country ovens, espresso makers, spice containers, squeeze bottles.