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Hiking with Franco
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Pedro Arvy
(PedroArvy) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne
Hiking with Franco in Australia on 12/08/2008 17:49:58 MST Print View

Last weekend I went hiking with Franco to a place called the Bluff in the Victorian Alps here in Australia. It was a pretty tough hike. The route rose 1400 meters on the first day and then descended back to our staring point on the next. Franco is the first ultra light guru I have met and I learnt quite a few things from him.

Firstly, even though I carry a lot of light gear eg 550 gram sleeping bag, BMW tarp and bivy etc, I also tend to carry quite a few items that boost my pack weight. These include fresh vegetables, steak, a personal locator beacon, reasonable first aid kit scotch, and on this trip, 6-7 kg of water. This probably took my pack weight up to 12kg which was too much for my frameless Starlite to handle. At these loads, I have always experienced some soreness in the shoulders and felt the pack was generally uncomfortable. However I persisted with it because I just had to be an ultralight hiker. After all, since my pack was lighter, I must be better off, right? Franco pointed out the source of my shoulder soreness – light weight frameless packs aren’t meant to carry these sort of loads well. This was confirmed by Mark Verber’s excellent article on packs Out of sheer lightweight obstinacy, I have stuck with my Starlite (maybe I should add the stays???) on trips when I should have been carrying something more substantial to make the trip more pleasant.

I tried on an Osprey Ariel 60 and the awfully un-ultralite Aargon after the trip and added 15kg of load to make sure I could get a decent comparison between the two packs. Without doubt the Aargon was definitely more comfortable. So it seems to me there are three packs you should own to maximise comfort:

Up to 8 kg – a frameless pack will do
8kg – 15kg – a lightweight pack with a complete frame
15kg+ - a well padded framed pack

I have owned a few alcohol stoves in my time but I have never seen them work efficiently under any wind. Franco lit his Caldera Cone on the very windy summit of the Bluff and I was amazed to see it boil a generous pot of tea. The Caldera Cone is quite incredible and is definitely the lightest stove you can carry when you are merely boiling water. Unfortunately, I am moving toward cooking such things as Béarnaise sauce and scones on the trail and probably won’t be heading in that direction.

Franco’s Contrail was also quite impressive. I am the long time owner of the first version of the Cloudburst. In fine weather, there’s nothing wrong with this shelter (or any other) but I have found the large unsupported panels to be quite poor in high wind and when it gets extremely wet the silnylon sags substantially. Franco’s Contrail pitched very tightly and looked MUCH more storm worthy. After a wet night there was virtually no sag. I would have liked to have seen its shape after a more substantial dousing but at this stage, I may consider getting one subject to his review of the Sublite which he considers stronger under high winds.

I was ruling out Tarp Tents after my experience with the original Cloudburst but I seem to haven forgotten that things evolve pretty fast in the UL world and new gear should prompt us to revisit our views.

There aren’t too many ultralighters down here in Australia so its good to get out with fellow forum posters and see what others are doing.

Edited by PedroArvy on 12/08/2008 17:54:21 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Here
Hiking with Franco on 12/08/2008 19:08:04 MST Print View

Hi Petras
Sounds great. I would like to meet that Franco...
BTW I am not and never considered myself an ultralighter, my category is "light and comfy" ...
Comment heard on the trail from a woman that was carrying a 20kg (44 lbs) pack (talking to one of her club members) " and that is why you should get into lightweight gear like me..." . She was part of a group of six bushwalking club members doing exactly the same loop as Petras and myself and had the lightest pack of her group . The rest of her party had packs going up to 27 kg (60lbs)
Petras and I met them half a way up the first steep ridge, left them after a few hundred meters of walking together and arrived at the hut more than 1 hour before them.

To clarify , I did not include the "lightweight" comment to make fun of those very experienced bushwalkers, I am sure that on any area not familiar to me they would arrive at destination well ahead of myself because I have very poor navigation skills. The point was to highlight how entrenched the "durable/strong/safe" mentality is here , hence the difficulty in selling lightweight equipment.

Edited by Franco on 12/09/2008 16:34:59 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Hiking with Franco on 12/08/2008 19:28:48 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 05/26/2014 18:27:00 MDT.

Pedro Arvy
(PedroArvy) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne
Franco - picks here on 12/08/2008 19:31:38 MST Print View

Franco, you need to put those pics up here

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Here
Hiking with Franco on 12/08/2008 20:03:12 MST Print View

Sadly when we arrived at camp Franco was too busy checking out tents and forgot to take any shots. Pity because my Contrail stood out beign the only shelter in the open whilst all the other mostly four season shelters were hiding behind rocks or next to wind bent trees....

1)Petras at lunch, his only non fried food meal... note the fresh tomato; the fresh rocket salad and similar stuff is already inside his tortilla.
2)Petras on the last bit before the descent to camp, about 50 vertical meters below past that crest.
3)The Contrail at 6:15 AM after a very humid night with no wind. The ground is wet and so are the tents, still I could bounce coins off that ridge. So much for sagging Tarptents( it was set up at about 10:30 the night before and not touched after that)
Petras at lunch
...Petras on the Bluff
Contrail by the river

Edited by Franco on 12/09/2008 16:33:55 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Hiking with Franco on 12/11/2008 08:23:30 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 05/26/2014 18:26:30 MDT.

Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re:Hiking with Franco on 12/11/2008 15:56:04 MST Print View

>Where is the snow? ;)

It is summer down under but this picture was taken few days before and not far from where Franco was walking.


Snow at Ginini

Edited by tbeasley on 12/11/2008 18:09:45 MST.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Hiking with Franco on 12/11/2008 16:17:13 MST Print View


Edited by FamilyGuy on 05/26/2014 18:31:35 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Hiking with Franco in Australia on 12/11/2008 16:47:42 MST Print View

Great trip report and pictures, thank's for posting!

So is this area all dry camping? That's a lot of water to be humping up several thousand feet!

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Here
Hiking with Franco on 12/11/2008 17:21:23 MST Print View

Note to oneself : avoid having fun with Tony....

As it turned out, because it had rained the day before there was water in the water tank at the hut but it needed to be boiled and some water was trickling down from a couple of sources. The local ranger did give the correct advice to one group but another that was walking back with some students was carrying her own.
We had a bit more water than necessary because it was a hard slog up-hill under the sun , then it turned cold up on the ridge.
As usual local knowledge would have helped.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Hiking with Franco in Australia on 12/12/2008 16:42:23 MST Print View

> So is this area all dry camping? That's a lot of water to be humping up several thousand feet!

That applies to a lot of Australian mountains and ridges, in both Victoria (Franco) and NSW (me). It is not at all uncommon for Sue and me to be carrying all the water we need for the next 18-24 hours up a mountain, to camp on top.

However, we find that 4 1.25 L PET bottles is usually enough even in mild summer for the two of us. Yes - that's 5 L for the two of us for 18 hours including overnight. It usually leaves enough for morning tea/coffee as well - about 0.6 - 0.7 L.

Really mid-summer, with temperatures over 35 C - I carry a few more litres in a wineskin bladder as well, but that does get heavy! We avoid that if possible.


Edited by rcaffin on 12/13/2008 16:54:41 MST.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Hiking with Franco in Australia on 12/13/2008 07:42:36 MST Print View

That is a reasonable amount of water for 3:00pm to 9:00am. Without "camelling" I actually prefer 3 quarts each for that time frame.

That is not a reasonable amount for 3:00am to 9:00pm. The including overnight is a very important qualifer.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Hiking with Franco on 12/21/2008 13:05:10 MST Print View

Petras, if your Starlite is, as I suspect, a Six Moon Designs Starlite, then adding back the "optional" stays should take care of the problem. I have a Six Moon Designs Comet (slightly smaller version, with internal pad pocket). Last summer I backpacked with about 37 lbs. (~17 kg) total weight. I use the stays all the time anyway, because without them the load lifters don't work too well. With that horrendous (for me) load, my shoulders, back and hips were just fine, although my knees and feet were screaming. I didn't even have a stiff pad in the pad pocket, just my insulated air mattress empty and folded up. The stays did the weight transfer very nicely.

I suggested in another recent post that, for those of you who want your ashes scattered somewhere scenic once you've gone to that great hiking trail in the sky, please be considerate of your relatives and pick somewhere not far from a trailhead. The site selected (not by me) was almost 4 days' backpack in, so in addition to the relative's ashes, which were a little over 7 lbs. (and he was a small person), I had to start with 7 days' supplies. Since that trip, I have drastically revised my funeral directions!