Gear Reviews 3


 

Shoei Neotec 8/10 (August 4th 2016) – Review by Janette – This is my first flip front helmet and it’s very comfortable to wear, easy to flip open for drinking and talking. The integral sunshield is just brilliant and I can’t imagine having a helmet without one of these. The ventilation could be better as it’s not possible to detect when the vents are either opened or closed. The lining and pads are easy to remove for washing but due to one of the clips holding one of the cheek pads in place refitting is not so straight forward, that’s what I have a husband for :-). There’s a rubber shield on the buckle which split a couple of months ago but this has not distracted from either the function or comfort of the helmet. The painted finish is holding up well with little sign of wear and tear. Although this helmet was more expensive than Steve’s Shark it is clearly a step ahead in materials used and quality of finish.

Keeping us safe


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Garmin Zumo 660 (added 4th August 2016) – 3/10 – We use this GPS a LOT. I use open source maps which are generally pretty good, although they don’t always know about one-way streets in towns and cities, and we use the “track log” function to record where we’ve been and to subsequently create maps of our journey. So, I hear you ask, why only 3 out of ten? Well, for me, this unit has one major flaw and one major irritation related to the unit. Garmin claim that these devices are “Designed by Bikers for Bikers” but personally I just can’t see it, literally. In bright sunlight it’s impossible to see the screen which for me is a major flaw. Having to shade the unit with my hand is far from ideal, or safe, and I can’t believe that the designers thought that this was OK. Secondly, the Basecamp software that complements the unit is pretty poor and far from intuitive. The user interface is atrocious and harks back to software you’d be used to seeing maybe 10 or 15 years ago. There’s a great online community where you can get help but it would have been much better if Garmin updated the software and dragged it into the 21st century. The unit has been robust, waterproof and reliable and for these reasons I can give it a score of three.

40,000 miles


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Shark Evoline 3 Crash Helmet (added 1st February 2015, updated 4th August 2016) – 7/10. Review by Steve. This helmet has the potential to be absolutely brilliant but is let down in a few areas. The overall design, concept and build quality is great, the idea that it can be worn as a full face or an open face helmet by simply rotating the chin bar to the back of the helmet is really convenient. This is the first time I’ve owned a “flip” helmet and it’s the perfect choice for this kind of trip. It’s easy to stop and take photos, have a drink, strike up a conversation, talk to the army at check points or just flow some more air to stay cooler all without having to remove the helmet. The integral sun shield is brilliant and negates the need to stop and put on/remove sunglasses as light levels change. I can’t imagine ever having a helmet without an integral sun shield again. I’ve not found the helmet to be too heavy which initially was a concern. Flip helmets tend to be a bit heavier than conventional full face helmets but this just has not been an issue for me.

Steve and Tigger on the Dalton Highway

This is the third version of this helmet from Shark and they really need to address some of the issues I have with it. I know they claim to have sorted many of these in this version but in my experience there is still room for improvement. These are the areas which, IMHO, need addressing.

The vents are pretty ineffective, I can’t really tell the difference between them being open or closed. 

When it rains the visor leaks, a better sealing mechanism is required. I’ve kept the visor and its seal clean and lubricated with silicone but it still leaks. In strong side winds I can sometimes also feel drafts from the side of the visor which have led to me getting “watery” eyes and needing to stop. As of August 2016 the seal has now started to disintegrate along its top edge. Hoping that this can be replaced with a spare from Shark.

The helmet is noisier than any other helmet I’ve recently owned. I wear ear plugs all the time but it’s still a noisy helmet.

This is probably one of the worst helmets I’ve had for misting up when it rains or is foggy. Slightly opening the visor helps in such conditions but that then just exacerbates the issue of rain leaking in!

That all sounds like a pretty serious list of issues but I would buy one of these again. The benefits of the overall design, for me, outweigh the negatives.


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Exped Venus III Tent 8/10 (August 2016 Update) – the zips are definitely better on our replacement tent, far larger and more robust. We certainly don’t anticipate any further zip issues. We’ve used this new one far less than we used the original but can report the same great functionality and waterproofness as before. We’ve uprated the review score to an 8/10 and will review again once we’ve used the tent in some strong winds to see if we suffer further pole damage.


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ExpedVenus3Exped Venus III Tent 5/10 (November 2014) – bit of a saga this one. But a few days into the trip (in Alaska) we had issues with one, then both, of the zips on the inner tent failing in different ways. We don’t carry receipts for stuff we purchased in the UK and the business we purchased the tent from has now ceased trading as the owner has retired. I therefore wasn’t hopeful when I sent email to the UK distributors expressing disappointment in their premium product. My mail was promptly forwarded to the Exped mother ship in Switzerland who promptly forwarded it to the importers in Seattle asking them to help. Without hesitation we were offered a replacement inner tent which we collected a number of weeks later when we reached Seattle. Result, or so we thought. The replacement inner tent was exactly the same design as the one which failed and yep, this one failed too. We also experienced a bent pole in Death Valley as a result of 35MPH winds. The zips themselves are, in our opinion, not strong enough for the daily use we put them to and there are “tight” spots when the tent is erected which endeavour to pull the teeth apart. Another mail back to the chaps in Seattle saw our third inner tent despatched when we were staying in Loomis, California. This one duly turned up and the design is exactly the same L. On closer inspection we notice there are 2 teeth missing and some poor stitching of the zip into its body. With the tent pitched the zip sticks where the teeth are missing and there are some really tight spots almost preventing closure of the zip. All this before we’ve even used it. Another mail with accompanying photos off to the chaps in Seattle, they must be getting fed up with us by now, and a response comes back stating that they have a batch of new tents in with a revised zip design, maybe we’re not the only ones experiencing issues, and that they will send us a completely new tent. OK, let’s see how this one goes. Fundamentally we believe this is a great tent. The 3 man size is great and it packs down relatively small. We just hope this new one lives up to expectations. We’ll leave the review score at 5/10 until we are able to fully put the new tent to the test.


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Exped Venus III Footprint 10/10 (as of August 2016) – an essential piece of kit to help extend the life of your tent. This seemingly thin and flimsy material has been used in woods, sand, stones, mud and pretty much any other type of ground known to camping kind and has come back for more. Amazingly it’s worn really well and cleans up to look almost like new and dries out really quickly, a bonus when breaking camp in the morning. Janette told me not to tell everyone that she recommends a motel bath for cleaning your footprint.


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Exped team SeattleExped Customer Service 10/10 – given the issues we’ve had with the tent we’re mighty glad to have purchased an Exped product. They’re not cheap but we have not been able to fault the after sales service we’ve had from Exped. They’ve exceeded our expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ortlieb Washing Up BowlOrtlieb 10 Litre washing up bowl 10/10 (as of August 2016) – one of the most useful, multi-functional pieces of kit we carry. These are sold as washing up bowls but we’ve used it as a camp tidy, water carrier, clothes washing bowl, laundry carrier, wash and shave bowl and a hat (just kidding on that last one J). Once you’ve mastered how to fold the thing up (there are even videos on Youtube) it takes up little space and it easily earns its space in our pannier. When camping, which is most of the time, this thing gets used every day and shows no real signs of wear and tear. We anticipate it will be used for many years to come. As of August 2016 this is still going strong and continues to fulfil a multitude of functions 🙂


 

 

 

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Ortlieb 89 Litre Rack Pack 10/10 (true as of August 2016) – cavernous, hard wearing and totally waterproof. What more can you say. I’m sure there are cheaper alternatives out there but Ortlieb is a trusted brand and we need stuff we can rely on.

Between El Chol and Rabinal

Grey Ortlieb 89L RackPack strapped to Tigger

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HelinoxHelinox Chairs 8/10 (still going strong in August 2016) – these lose 2 marks on a couple of counts. Firstly they are damned expensive and secondly the feet sink into soft surfaces, sand being a great example, meaning they can be a little unstable on some surfaces. Having said that these things are great. They are comfortable, not too low so that they are difficult to get out of and it’s possible to pick up your beer from the ground without having to do anything other than loosely swing an arm to the position you last left your drink, no need to even bend over J. They pack up really small, there are very few other chairs that we could carry on a trip like this, and they are probably one of the most admired pieces of kit we carry, even prompting other motorcycle travellers we’ve met to rush out and buy some for themselves. We should be on commission.

 


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Exped DownMat 7 9/10 (still great after all this time, August 2016) – You realise how good these down filled mats are when you get a puncture in one and end up effectively sleeping on the hard, cold ground. They are comfortable, insulate you well from the ground and can be packed up small enough that they are easy for us to carry. They are also relatively easy to inflate using the integrated pump. Janette practises her CPR rhythm when pumping them up. We gave these 9/10 due to the fact that one of the mats developed a leak adjacent to the deflate valve. The valves are quite tight to undo and repeated use resulted in a leak where the valve is bonded to the main mat material. The included repair kit meant that the problem was easily solved and we have taken to applying a very thin smear of silicon grease to the valves to help prevent this issue in the future. For the record, we’ve also experienced a puncture in one of the mats in Alaska which once found (eagle eyed Janette to the rescue) was easily repaired with the included repair kit and is still holding 5 months later. Just remember to be patient when waiting for the adhesive to fully cure.


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Exped Dry Bags, various sizes 10/10 (still no idea how many we have but they are all still doing well in August 2016) – we’re not even sure how many of these we have and can’t be bothered to count them to be honest. We bought these to organise all our “stuff” and help keep it dry. They do exactly that, are wearing well and come in pretty colours. What’s not to like.


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Exped 19 Litre compression bag 10/10 (as of August 2016) – a waterproof 19L compression sack that does exactly what it says on the tin. We use it for compressible stuff to reduce pack size. The valve helps to expel any trapped air, the straps compress stuff and the rolltop helps to reduce pack length. Again, as with other Exped valves, we would recommend a light smear of silicon grease to aid opening and closing.


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Exped Pillow 8/10 (see August 2016 update below) – not really given these much thought on our travels so far which means they have been trouble free. The pack size is small, they inflate and deflate easily and pressure is easily adjusted for your personal preference. Janette finds them comfortable, Steve slightly less so, hence the lost review mark. One tip, smear a small amount of silicon grease around the valves to make them easier to open and close. Update for August 2016. One of these has come unstuck internally and now just inflates like a balloon rather than maintaining its designed scalloped shape. For this reason we’ve reduced our review score from 9 to 8/10.


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Exped Drypack Pro 25 (rucksack) 9/10 (still going strong and keeping out the water as of August 2016) – we use this daypack pretty much on a daily basis. It’s very simple in its design having only a single interior storage space meaning things can sometimes be difficult to locate. The carry straps can be adjusted for comfort and they spread any load really well. So far it has proven to be waterproof.


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Exped Summit Lite 25 (rucksack) 8/10 (still not changed our minds on this one as of August 2016) – we were kindly given this by the chaps at Exped in Tukwila, near Seattle to test. It’s the same size as the Drypack Pro 25 but has storage dividers and a zip inside to help you organise your stuff. On the outside there’s a drinks bottle holder. For us there are a couple of issues with this pack. Firstly it’s not waterproof but it’s not designed to be and secondly the drinks bottle holder needs a mechanism to stop your drink from falling out of the holder which happens quite easily, especially if the pack is only partially full. What we want are the best bits from the Drypack Pro 25 and Summit Lite 25 in one do it all pack. Maybe a Drypack Summit Lite pro 25 🙂

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Pukka kit :-)

Pukka kit 🙂

Primus Omnifuel stove 10/10 (a pukka piece of kit as of August 2016) – there are nearly as many views on which is the best stove as there are motorcyclists, travellers and campers etc. We settled on the Primus Omnifuel. A number of things sold us on the Omnifuel: its multifuel giving full flexibility on what we burn in it, it has a reasonable simmer function meaning not all our food is black, the pump is primarily made of metal as opposed to plastic with other brands and there’s a great service kit available separately. We’re amazed by how efficient it is, we burn unleaded fuel and maybe fill it up once a week and we do use it a LOT. The only fly in the ointment is that it’s less than partial to fuel that has ethanol added. Why America adds ethanol to its fuel is a whole debate in itself although everyone we’ve spoken to about it thinks it’s a bad idea. Whatever your views, the fact that our little Omnifuel doesn’t like ethanol is not its fault. Regular cleaning of the jet will ensure ongoing efficient operation.


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3 thoughts on “Gear Reviews

    • stevedouglas@hotmail.co.uk Post author

      Hi Logan, we have a brand new replacement tent from Exped now. The zips that were causing us issues have had a major upgrade so hopefully all will be well now. Thanks for the heads up on NEMO tents, not heard of them before but maybe an option when we finally do need a replacement.