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March 2017 Issue
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Pigeon post, March 2017

Our letter of the month correspondent wins the MH2 headlamp from Ledlenser

Letter of the month

On sleeping mats…

Is it just me, or are sleeping mats inferior to those that used to be available?

My wife and I owned two Therm-a-Rests which both survived tramping trips, and camping and boating holidays for 20 years. In the end we took them on a cycle tour in which they were used every night for almost a year before they both gave up around the same time. The material on my wife’s was so thin, it split. Mine developed what we called a baby bump which grew bigger every night until there was no space left for me.

That was four years ago. Since then we have had a succession of mattresses which have been hopeless for different reasons. One developed its own unbearable baby bump within four months. Two had good insulation qualities but were so slippery we both fell off them. On the rare occasions we managed to stay aboard, they creaked and rustled so much we kept each other awake. And they were not particularly comfortable.

In desperation, I went for a closed cell mattress. It cost next to nothing, is as light as a feather and better than being on the ground. Its downside is the space it takes up when stashed on the back of a bike or attached to a pack.

I spotted a ‘bargain’ in a sale and succumbed. It’s another state-of-the-art mattress by a well-known manufacturer. It survived a short tramping trip but we have just been away sailing in a tiny boat. I spread the mat out carefully on a smooth plywood surface each night, but on the third night it developed a leak. Needless to say ‘punctures’ are excluded under the warranty. That’s OK. As I write this I am waiting for the self adhesive patch to dry, but how long will it be before it develops another leak, or a baby bump, or I whack my elbow falling off the thing?

Oh for the good old days.

– Mike Brockie, e-mail

– Mike receives a Ledlenser MH2 headlamp worth $80 from Readers, send your letter to for a chance to win.

… and sleeping bags

I have just re-read the March 2016 issue article on sleeping bags, and I realise why I cannot find a bag to replace my Fairydown Everest Mummy, which I purchased in 1974 and still use today.

Compared to the Everest, all modern sleeping bags have two major faults. They all have side zips and are tapered over the shoulder. I cannot understand the reason for the taper other than making them a nightmare to get in and out of.

With modern bags, when you climb into them you need to unzip them and once in you have to zip them back up. Which brings you to a problem: have you ever tried using a zip running up the side of you? To use it properly, you have to hold the bag together above the zip. This might be easy for a 15-year-old who can contort their body into any shape but try it when you’re 60 when your fingers and arms don’t move as freely as they once did.

With my Everest bag, I have rarely had to undo the half-zip but because it is on the top, it is so easy to use. As the bag tapers right to the top, all you do is slide in and if it is a warm night, slide out of it, and then as the night cools down, slide back in.

Some people may think I am talking a load of garbage but having spent between 50 to 100 nights a year for the last 45 years tramping and hunting in Fiordland, Mt Aspiring and Rakiura national parks, I have spent a lot of hours sleeping in bags and I know which type of bag works best for me.

– Richard Ronald. Invercargill

Make those who made the mess tidy it

It is nice to see that there are still people out there caring about the environment and we can be grateful to those who are pulling pines (‘Wilding warriors’, January 2017). But how many pines are out there, how many seeds are produced each year – this is a losing battle!

To get some serious results we have to approach this the hard way and we have to do it now. First, we have to get it in our minds that we are not responsible for the problem at hand. Voluntary work is certainly satisfying and much appreciated but it does not get rid of the main problem. In the case of spreading conifers, go grab the CEO of the company responsible, drag him up the hill and make sure he removes all traces of his s**t!

– Hans Podlucky, e-mail

Pack review

Last year, Wilderness reviewed five multiday packs (March 2016).

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 ranked 2nd in the review, given its high contoured shape and the paraphernalia attached, which marked it down.

The reviewer’s assessment proved to be so true. My recent six-day tramp included all types of track, terrain and rivers. With a 16.5kg load to begin, the pack performed well to my expectations after sorting out (and continual adjustment) of the hip belt, shoulder, load lifter and chest straps.

The downside of the Atmos AG, as the reviewer predicted, is that it’s not suitable for bush-bashing. I spent six hours pushing through wind-blown manuka, the majority of this time on hands and knees and sometimes crawling on my belly to avoid being snagged on the high frame of the pack. Loops on the zip ends were targets for smaller branches that hooked into and opened the zip without me being aware.

But a big plus for the pack is that the fabric suffered no damage following the treatment it received on this trip.

– Roeland Pootjes, email