Backpack modification update – Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest

I’ve spent some more time with my Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack modification. I’ve redone parts a few times because it looked bad.

For those that haven’t read my previous post, I am attempting to add d-rings to the shoulder straps so that I can hang a separate camera bag.

Not to be a downer dave, but I’m a little irritated that my sewing was slightly off with some of the webbing. I also made ample mistakes that still irritate me but I think I’ve saved it :).

The bit near the d-ring isn’t complete, that’s why it looks a mess. The carbon fibre rod still needs to be trimmed and I’m probably going to add a few of those bright green things. They look cool.

It’s not yellow, the lighting in my room is bad. I took this with my phone (I’m lazy.)

Zebralight H600Fd Mk IV review incoming

I have great news :). The Zebralight H600Fd Mk IV is in stock as of this morning and I have ordered one. I’m not 100% sure when it will arrive but I’m looking forward to trying it out. It’s something I want to review, as it’s a high CRI light and it might be quite useful for photography as well as the obvious.

Sony 24-70 GMaster and Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 Review

I can’t remember if I mentioned that I bought the Sony 24-70 f/2.8 GMaster lens. When I initially planned to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (I’d still like to, perhaps in 2020 if I can find the funds), I imagined myself only taking two small, lightweight lenses.

After two visa denials, some other problems and a metaphorical kick in the face, I sort of impulse bought the Sony 24-70 GMaster lens. It’s a bit heavy than what I’d like, and I considered the Sony 16-35 f/2.8 GMaster lens but I can’t afford it. I’ve decided I’m going to bring a Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens to accompany it. The latter will stay in my backpack until evenings most likely.

I would like to write a review of the Sony 24-70 f/2.8 G Master lens but it’s likely I am going to wait until I’ve hiked the Great Divide Trail in Canada. My photography skills should increase ten fold, well, perhaps not that much, haha, and I’ll have lots of photographs to show in my review.

My first impressions of it are great though. Everything about it is pretty awesome excluding the weight. It doesn’t focus breathe much either which is a rarity for Sony.

Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack modifications and update

This year is going by quite quickly already! There’s only a few months to go until I leave to hike the Great Divide Trail in Canada :).

I’ve been busy with a few things, many mistakes have been made and hopefully you can learn from my losses, haha.

After examining my Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack, I’ve thought about various modifications. We can all pick fault in something, so don’t think of this as me saying the backpack isn’t good or something like that. As stated in a few posts now, I’ve been trying to attach a camera bag to my backpack. A camera inside a backpack on a through hike is basically a lead weight–it won’t get used.

A shopping list will be provided at the bottom of the page…

As you can see, I’ve started by sewing something near the shoulder straps at the top. The reason for this is that the webbing on the shoulder straps themselves doesn’t look super durable and I wouldn’t trust it to hold the weight of my camera (Sony a7rII and a 24-70 GM lens, plus the weight of the bag.) This camera combination is already quite heavy and I think you should forget a heavy DSLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens (the extra few hundred grams will make a huge difference and it’s much easier to put a few extra batteries in your backpack i.e. offset the weight somewhere else.) If you have the money, I’d advise getting the 16-35 f/2.8 GM lens instead (assuming you’re okay with that focal length too.) It was out of budget for me and I want to bring a Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 as well, anyway, I digress…

 

Instead of cutting long pieces of webbing and then trimming them to size, I tried to make them the right size to begin with and I ended up with barely any material to play with. I’ve never sewn anything before and I feel like a complete idiot really. It was a stupid mistake to make.

The white you see under the webbing is white velcro, and I’m going to change some of that. The loose thread is because I haven’t finished, and if you notice the overlapping webbing on the left is shorter than on the right. I will tidy that up by trimming the excess on the right, but you get the general idea. Like I said… I’m an idiot, haha. I won’t be making that mistake again. In the middle is a carbon fibre rod and then more webbing with a d-ring on the end. Something I’ve found quite useful for preventing fraying and other things is to use a soldering iron. It’ll make the soldering iron messy and obviously a heat gun is better, but it works quite well.

The theory behind this Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack modification is that it will pull weight from two points on either side. I can then attach the camera bag to these straps. The extra weight is negligible and it feels pretty comfortable.  The two pieces of webbing coming down could be a bit longer or a bit shorter. I wasn’t 100% sure where to put them or how long to make them, all I knew was that if they were the wrong length, I would risk cutting into my neck or shoulders. I think they could possibly be slightly longer… Again, I wouldn’t have had this problem if I made the webbing longer to begin with. I’d have never made this mistake with carbon fibre or metal, so I don’t know why I made this mistake with sewing. I think perhaps because I don’t have much webbing, I was afraid of using too much… Who knows.

At the moment, the carbon fibre rod is loose. One solution is to wrap some cuben fibre tape around it and then sew through the excess tape, another idea is to epoxy one piece of webbing to the carbon fibre. The webbing in the middle has to be able to rotate but equally the carbon fibre rod cannot slide through and fall out, otherwise I’ll be a little unhappy.

Sewing through tape isn’t my favourite thing to do because the glue sticks to the needle. I’ve been using a speedy stitcher sewing awl with a fine needle. The needle has to be bought separately. If you’re from the UK, I’d buy it from eBay.

In the photograph above, you can see the carbon fibre rod is a bit long, I’ll sand the excess later on. It’s certainly not my finest work, but when I finish it, tidy it up and whatnot, it should do the job quite well I think.

I’m going to stick some d-rings near the excess shoulder straps too, as well as one more, on each side, around the hip belt. This will allow room to attach lightweight items or the second points on my camera bag to prevent it from swinging everywhere.

Here is the top of the Hyperlite Mountaingear 4400 Southwest backpack, and as you can see it has a strip of 20mm velcro. In my opinion, this is probably unnecessary most of the time. It does help to get the bag lined up but it’ll probably shred a fleece or whatever. I’m uncomfortable removing it so I’m simply going to cut some extra velcro and leave it there.

Shopping list:

  • Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl
  • Speedy Stitcher Fine needle
  • Bonded Nylon #69 black thread
  • 20mm Webbing
  • 20mm White Velcro (for backpack)
  • 20mm Black Velcro (for webbing)
  • 20mm D-rings

I bought my d-rings from eBay. These are 20mm Nexus D-rings.

On a completely unrelated note…

The size 13 bushido remains to be my favourite shoe of all time, but the high arch is painful for me. Bitcoin has dropped in value, and I’ve had duplicate customs charges (one item I received was damaged.) It’s a difficult process getting a refund, and I’ve had a string of bad luck lately. I must say that ZPacks were very helpful in replacing my item.

Some other shoes I have tried… Arcteryx Norvan, Salomon XA Pro and Salomon X ultra 3. The size 13 Salomon XA Pro’s seem to fit quite well.

Zebralight lights for hiking

I’m currently researching torches (why do some people call them flashlights? They don’t flash :)) for hiking, and I’m pretty impressed with Zebralight so far.

I have a few plans in mind with the light and I’m left with a million questions… Firstly, imagine a mountain setting with a tent set up and the tent is illuminated from the inside. Do you match the colour temperature with the moon? Do you pick a daylight colour temperature? What if youwant a light during the day to act as a fill light i.e. a poor man’s flash?

I spent the whole day thinking “4000k is too warm” but then I had this eureka moment… The moon is 4000k, not 5000k. Well, it wasn’t much of a eureka moment. I’m stlil left with similar questions; do I get a 4000k or a 5000k light?

Zebralight make a few models worth considering, in my opinion. The Zebralight H600Fd IV is a high powered, 5000k high CRI (93-95 CRI) light with 1000+ lumens of power. I’m inclined to buy this model but it’s slightly heavy and really quite expensive. The light itself is 39 grams but with a battery you’re looking at 84.6 grams and a charger is another 20 grams.

Speaking of which, the Olight® Universal Magnetic USB Battery Charger looks great :).

The other model I have my eye on is the Zebralight H53c. It’s a 4000k high CRI light but it’s not half as powerful. It is lighter weight (about 55 grams with a battery) and can take AA’s (should you not wish to bring a charger, most shops sell AA’s.)

I hope that one day Zebralight will make a light the size of the Zebralight H53c with a USB-C charging port, it’ll accept a lithium battery, and it’ll have a colour temperature of 5000k :).

Unrelated sewing stuff

Lastly, an update about my previous post. I’ve found the Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl’s standard straight needle is a bit thick for what I want, so I have ordered a fine needle.

Happy new year – more travel equipment

Have a happy new year everyone :).

I’ve been buying more stuff for my trip across Canada. I was so impressed with the La Sportiva Bushido shoes I had (they were the wrong size) that I’ve decided to order a bunch of different models in a bunch of different sizes. It’ll probably cost a bomb returning them which I’m not pleased (I’m being bled dry and I haven’t even walked a mile in Canada yet), but I want to find the perfect shoe for Canada :).

I have also received more camping and hiking equipment, and I will be doing a few modifications to my backpack. I have the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 4400 Southwest. I wasn’t sure what size to buy in all honesty… For hiking in England, I’ve always just used whatever is at hand. If I didn’t have enough bag space, I’d literally carry two bags (lol.)

I think I’ve bought the right size though. It can roll up quite small, but for river crossings I can throw all my camera gear in there. I need to find a way to attach a camera bag to the side of the backpack. I’m thinking a simple piece of nylon webbing, some paracord and some creativity will allow me to have my camera at hand.

I plan to put a cuben fibre stuff sack inside of my camera bag, this should aid water resistance but I’ll probably have to pad it with something. When I’ve thought on it a bit more, I’ll start making some stuff, photograph it and show you what I mean :). At the moment, I’m just rambling because I want to get into the habit of updating my site more frequently.

Arcteryx Skyline

Best shirt ever? I really like Arcteryx–their fabrics are awesome. I bought a thermal jacket (synthetic) and I’m in-between a medium and a large (long limbs but I’m slim.) That’s a bit disappointing because the large looks baggy on me, (that’s not arcteryx’s fault per-se; it’s mine for not being fat enough or whatever.) However, the sleaveless acteryx skyline shirt fits really well in a size medium, and the fabric is amaaaaaazing. I’m really fussy about that kind of thing; it’s stretchy like a gym shirt, and it’s really soft but it’s kind of formal looking. I wish I had about ten of them, haha.

Montbell

I decided to go against people’s advice and buy the Montbell Storm Cruiser. It’s slightly heavier than the recommended Montbell Torrent flier. My logic was that I could fold the hood away (as per a YouTube review I saw) and use it in England, as a main sort of jacket. Wrong. They’ve removed the hood hide away thing, so you’re stuck with a hood.

Ironically, it’s much lighter than I thought and it’s perfect for what I want, for hiking. I’m really glad I got this model of jacket, but for slightly different reasons. The zip pockets go above my backpack belt, which was a concern, so I’m pleased about that. Again, I’ll write a review on this stuff but that’s just my initial impression of the Montbell Storm Cruiser jacket.

The Japanese site sells it a lot cheaper, but it’s out of stock and I was unable to find out when it would be in stock. Montbell was slow to respond to emails, said the price difference was “currency fluctuation” (get out of here) and I’m not sure what to make of that… The product is great so I’m pleased but I wasn’t impressed with the customer service.

ZPacks

I bought the biggest and widest ZPacks Sleeping bag, a ZPacks Altaplex tent and a few other things. They were quick to respond, posted the items quickly and they look great. I haven’t tried the tent yet but I have tried the sleeping bag.

One concern was the girth of the bag. I have wide shoulders but as I said, I’m slim. I thought 61 inches would be okay but I went for the 66 inch model, really worrying it’d be way too big. It’s just right for me, I think. I think I am about 50 inches around my chest, and they say to add 8 inches, so 58 inches. Yet for me, I wouldn’t want the smaller 61 inch model. This was pure luck on my part :).