Updated Februari 2017
Update Review Hilleberg and Optimus Svea 123
The Svea was designed in 1920 and the technology is simple. A design that is not the best option to choose for a stove on an extended cycle trip. The Svea is currently used in Sweden and Japan for stationary use or as a working antique stove with a nice look. An Optimus Nova would have been a better choice, since that is a modern liquid fuel stove for mobile use.
Usually I cook on wood and had bought the Svea as a back-up. The Svea worked very well, indoors and outside, until inner parts start to break down. I found new spare parts but eventually more inner parts broke down and the needle stopped functioning.
I looked into making a hobo stove, but without wood it would not work. So I bought a gas cylinder, as being in the Atacama desert can not be without stove.
You can imagine my disappointment and irritation when trying to cook in the Atacama desert where there is no wood to be found, not even a tiny branch, and my stove gives up. That happened together with the derailing of the zipper of my treasured Soulo tent. Lovely, isn’t it?
I bought both 6 months ago and was very happy with my Optimus Svea stove and the sturdiness of my cozy little Soulo Hilleberg tent. I spend a lot of money on two things I thought strong and trustworthy.
Well, trustworthy they are! I reach out to the manufactures by email after the disappointment of having these important items of trying to copy a simple shepherd kind of lifestyle, broken. Hilleberg reacts immediately, in fact, they have written me back after I had a question about the zippers before they derailed.
Contacting Optimus was less straightforward, less easy. They are Katadyn now and I couldn’t find nor succeed in getting through at first. With persistence I succeeded. Then I had an excellent flow of writings with the Optimus-man as well.
Now, with both Hilleberg and Optimus as my new email companions, I can happily announce both failures are taken care for. Thank you R and S : )
am thinking to bought this stove as a back up for when I am not in the possibility to make a fire. The reason I am choosing this one is because it is more simple, less expensive and easier to use. What I disliked about the Primus Omni Fuel is the unscrewing of the hose each time I used it. What I like about this Optimus is that the gas tank is part of the whole design, so no screwing on and off. I think the Optimus is more compact too. However, I need to take a gas bottle filled with fuel as a back-up.
Extended review; about other Big Brands
I am happy with the Soulo. It is a strong tent which withstand hard wind and heavy downpours. It adds about 4 degrees warmth to cold weather condition but is rather hot in warm weather. It has a few points where my tailor-eye sees improvements and I was certainly not happy when the zipper started to derail after only 6 months, but as you can read above, this problem is solved by the great, prompt help of Hilleberg USA.
Cumulus Sleeping Bag
Perhaps the only piece of gear which has withstand since the start of my cycling life. That is about 4 years ago, I have had it refilled though. Read the extended review about it’s procedure.
MRS Titanium Cup
This cup is the best, and actually only one, I ever had. It keeps chai/coffee really warm. The rim does get hot too but since I drink straight from boiling, it doesn’t bother me.
Solar panel Solarmonkey Adventurer
After 2 years of use: still works, and that’s all that matters but it’s falling apart more and more. It hangs together with duct tape. It usual (with average sunshine) take days before the solar panel is fully charged and only powers one gadget (tablet), or two small (iPod and Samsung) ones fully.
September 2016: BROKEN! Left it behind in Bolivia…
Keen Whisper sandals
I am really fond of them, so I bought a second pair. The first lasted at least two intense years.
Changed dishwasher gloves for waterproof
They’re not cheap (over 50 euro) but really better than dishwasher gloves! I decided, after long doubting, to buy them. They have to undergo the long showers of a day full of rain but I’m positive. ‘Extremities’, bought in ski season.
As with all excellent rain gear, they keep you dry from rain but not from sweat.
Big Agnes Tent
For one person an excellent tent in summer weather. The zippers are thin/weak and easy to break so be careful with those. The tent is extremely compact and fits in a front panniers. As with such a tent, things will become a bit wet, but it is to overcome. The ground-sheet must be tucked under very secure so Big Agnes won’t collect too much water inside. For one person in moderate weather circumstances this a good choice. It is a free standing tent with much mesh. Without the outer tent you have a very good netting to spend the night. Big Agnes has stood some very windy canyon sweeps, and she is extremely bendable but also very light weight that it is really a thin layer between you and the air. It won’t keep you warm. The zipper derails quick
North Face Meso Tent
The zippers of the Meso are strong, the weight is moderate with less than 2 kg. It is a bit bulky and won’t fit in a front pannier. I had it rolled up at the back rack. It has quite some space because it is actually a two persons tent, but only if you’re lovers. It is a free standing tent but without using the guy lines the outer sheet collapses a bit. With the guy lines attached the back still touches the inner tent quickly. The inner tent has moderate netting/mesh. Only the door is provided with mesh and air doesn’t flow easily through. After I washed it, it lost much of it’s waterproof ability (I restored that with a spray), make sure the outer sheet is not touching the inner and things keep dry enough.
After 2 years of much use: the zipper eventually derailed and the hooks and Velcro to attach the outer sheet to the poles came off.
Talus 3 The North Face
Talus 3 from The North Face was a tent my (ex)partner bought after the zipper of my Meso 2 didn’t go so well anymore (simply derailed often). The weight is 2.46 kilogram (5 LBS 6 OZ) and it has plenty of space and is quite high. It might not be the most recent model, I don’t know, as we bought it in Budapest, Hungary. The zippers are not the strongest, but the two doors are really an improvement for a tent shared with two. It can be set up without the fly and doesn’t need to be staked down necessarily. It does need some more space to put it up. It is a good enough tent for moderate autumn days.
VDO Cycle Computer vs. Cateye
The VDO has completely broken down after 3 years. The mount was renewed once. Now the little press-buttons on the side started to come loose. Once they fell out I couldn’t operate the tiny cycle computer anymore. Still the temperature and altitude keeps working. The wires can break quickly, or come loose. The Cateye has no wire, no altitude nor temperature. Cateye is Japanese and I find the instruction to set it up complicated ; )
Julbo sunglasses with an inner pair of prescription glasses are lightweight and you will hardly notice them when on your head. Excellent glasses! But the downside is that because it is so lightweight and fragile, they’ll eventually brake on two pieces! Ah, what a pity, they were not cheap, yet the inner pair of glasses broke while the sunglasses themselves are full with scratches. I will try to fix is somehow… ‘One second’ glue helped before they completely cracked in two.
Map Reise Know How
The maps of Reise Know How I find the best. They are water- and rip proof. One little drawback is that some villages depictured are actually so tiny that no food can be found there. So not all places mentioned on the map are actual worth mentioning. It is more an indication than anything else, unless you like to go off the road and cycle through a tiny settlement. But you don’t need a map for that ; )
Petzl Tikka headtorch
When my orange Petzl had been stolen I was lucky enough to find another one in Iran. This Petzl has more functions, such as a little red light which is very good for reading in your tent while you don’t want to be spotted. It has 5 different kind of light options, thus makes it worth it’s price.
Go to this shop and be surprised:
An excellent mountaineer outdoor shop in Sanadaj: SHAHO, (square) medan Azadi, (street) gyaban Hassan Abbad, near to Maskan bank, 0918 3734500. It’s on a main street on the big roundabout near mosaferkhaneh Nehro
I reckon every solar panel is good to have. I bought this panel -solarmonkey adventurer- mostly for not having the weak excuse to jump into a hotel but ALWAYS rely on camping instead. It does it job well. It is not heavy either so pleasant to have and trusty. Find more info on www.powertraveller.com I used it a lot in Oman and I always had enough power. It takes long before it’s full though.
However, the outer is flimsy and start to fall apart soon, also the USB entrance is not very well protected so sand can be blown in easily. In general the solar is good, the wrapping around it not at all.
Exped Synmat UL 7 M vs. Therm-A-rest Self Inflatable
After 3 months of use the separation got loose. A big hump is now appearing, and it doesn’t lay smooth (I hope to see a new one coming my way). A pity, this bump in my bed… However, in perfect shape, the mat is a good one. I sleep deep and long on it and am fit enough to cycle long days. Nov. 2012: The whole mat is by now out of shape, a new one is send to my home address by Outdorado.
The new mat developed the same problems…
Well, the mattresses are very comfortable, I reckon the best among air mattresses. However, it takes quite some effort, for me, to inflate them. A hand pump was an extra piece to carry with not much of being a help so I send that home. Although the air mattresses are comfortable, they eventually all break down. I think they’re just not meant to be for long, rough cycle trips. After two ripped mattresses I choose an other form of bed, see below…
Therm-A-Rest Self Inflatable
This is a mattress of the same price class, about the same weight and slightly bigger in volume. The mattress is way thinner when it’s inflated, but also way easier to inflate. It doesn’t cost me much energy. After a day of cycling blowing my last breath of air into the mattress always knocked me out. Not with the Therm-A-Rest. I must admit the comfort level is lower. Every time I turn myself I wake up on this mattress, which I did not on the Exped. Anyway, I am equally rested sleeping on this mat, and this one, I reckon, doesn’t rip nor break down easily.
This mattress is a woman’s one, shaped differently. I noticed, when placed on an uneven ground, I slide down quickly. I also easily slip off it, which I did not on the Exped, because it’s thicker and the outer sides are slightly higher.
Overall, I can say the Exped is better for comfortable sleeping where the Therm-A-rest is better in quality and inflating. Could the two combine their knowledge, we’ve got the perfect mat!
2014: I am very satisfied with the Therm-A-Rest and would not go back to any other brand. Punctures are easy enough to repair.
2017: Therm-A-Rest has gathered lot’s of punctures, even rips but I have fixed them, and the mattress hold up well.
Saddle Liberator from Terry
I am not satisfied with it, although I can not say for sure if the saddle can be blamed. I suffered a lot of saddle pain, irritations, redness and the sort. I replaced it with a Brooks saddle and it feels already a lot better. It slide more, it’s harder and it seems I can sit on it without wearing the cycle shorts, which I find the most annoying thing to wear!
Beautiful textile. Fashionable, durable. After almost a year of regular wear it has only one little hole.
Very fashionable indeed, but an Indian tank-top will do too. Quality/price is not balanced for a true cycler.
Schwalbe Marathon Dureme
Bad luck. Already in Paris I had a deep puncture and it continued to attracted thorns or sharp stone, so that once in every country I got to fix the inner tube. I changed the tire for a Schwalbe Marathon Mondial. Excellent!
MSR Water Filter
Used it only 3 times and find it a lot of work. You have to clean it after every use and so it’s a bit of a maintenance when on the road. However, the water is clean!
I gave it to Oliver who in return gave it back to me and I send it back home. Hardly used it as the tap water in Africa is safe to drink and I’m never so far from civilization that there are no water pumps anymore. Besides, the little packages of water, sachets, are so cheap that no filter can match.
Roeckl Cycle Gloves
After continuous wear of 5 to 6 months I think they did fairly well. The textile is very thin and breathable and so it did get torn. The price I find very high (about € 35) and therefor I would not buy them again. I got a new pair from another brand and will see how long they last. Gloves not only protect against shaking but also prevent your hands from getting tanned (which I prefer not to be brown and wrinckly) and from getting black from the rubbery handlebars. I would not like to do without them.
Their appearance is about the same as Teva, a little better than Crocs though, yet still very anti-stylish! I had doubts whether to buy them, but did so when I found out they were with a 30% discount. All very strange reasons to get sandals; I hope they are comfortable and strong and sturdy when it comes to cycling in the hot dessert and along the African Westcoast.
The sandals promise no odor but that’s a lie. At least for my feet. They do stink and I keep them outside my room when I am in it. Dirt is collecting inside and stones easily slide between the gaps which makes it uncomfortable at times. But on the whole: they walk and cycle perfectly. I don’t care about their appearance anymore.
2014: after two years of continuous use still going strong. A bit broken here and there, but fine enough.
2015: still fine, although cycling with Adidas sneakers from India in East Europe…
2015: bought new one and they still last…
Icebreaker Igloo hood & Buff
This Igloo hood is almost a jacket but light enough to wear as a pullover. It’s from Icebreaker, so it’s made from wool. The reason why I choose Icebreaker is that I wanted it to be natural, so no synthetics. It’s quite expensive but it’s already paid it’s value for me: I wear it at work underneath my clothes and I keep ‘toasty’, as Icebreaker promised.
2014: I never go on any ride without them, whether it be India with 50 degrees or Iran with 0 degrees
2014 end: Big thin patches started to break down, then big BIG holes! Had to buy a new hoody. I find the price/quality too high. Won’t buy Icebreaker again.
2017: the Icebreaker buff is cut into two pieces and used as neck tie and head scarf against the harsh desert sun. It has many holes but still works.
For the female travelers among us, although after some months of testing this little mysterious thing, it is a very practical object for all of us, women. Our periods. I never wanted to use tampons and using pads can be a nuisance when the climate’s hot. It stinks. It shifts from right to left, front to back. The quality of sanitary napkins abroad isn’t that great and it’s relatively expensive too. I never had problems finding ‘Always’, as how I asked for them at any counter anywhere in the world, but I already think Mooncup is the best thing to use when having my periods, especially when cycling. Without doubt more reviews will come…
Mooncup is great. By accident I let it drop into the toilet (after I used it thoroughly), washed it and fine again. It holds no smells at all. I clean it once in a while by let it sit in boiling water for 20 minutes.
2015: perfect going…
2017: perfect still…
I had a Primus first, which kept my tea really warm and even hot for a long time (in summer). I bought the Stanley because of the big opening but am not sure if you should buy Stanley to keep your hot tea or hot coffee hot for very long. It doesn’t do what it says it should.
I find it very handy for the ‘salon du thé’ in Morocco where I let it fill with mint tea and drink it in the room.
Primus Eta Power Pot 1.7 ltr.
After about 3 months of intensive use the lidhandle broke off. Impossible to repair unless I would like to pack it with a non-folding standing handle. Primus directed this failure to the shop where I bought it (Outdorado). The failure is replaced by Outdorado.
2016: I am still using the pan and very content.