What are “Flash Reviews?”
Welcome to Flash Reviews, a new column at Backpacking Light.
Flash Reviews will feature short, introductory reviews of selected products that may be new on the market, have not yet received “official” press at backpackinglight.com, or may be just outside the scope of our core product review program to warrant a full review.
This column will allow us to feature more gear than ever before in a unique context – actual user experience from a wide variety of authors. The source of the gear may come from different places – the gear may have been submitted for review by a manufacturer (either solicited or unsolicited) or purchased by the author. In any case, you’ll get our honest and sometimes frank opinions about how this gear works for us.
Flash Reviews, in all cases, will represent gear that is new to the author writing the column issue. Our hope is that the author could provide their fresh perspective on gear that is new to them, and review it in the context of their kit, how that new gear might find a place in their kit, and what the new gear might replace for them.
We hope this column provides value and interest to the reader, so please leave your feedback in the forum below as we allow you to help us evolve this column.
If you are interested in writing a Flash Reviews column, please submit your proposal via our Story Submission Form.
Issue No. 2
Deuce of Spades
In preparation for our upcoming Ultralight Potty Trowel Gear Guide, we have a number of interesting little scoopers to try. The Deuce of Spades by outdoor industry vet and designer Mike Cecot-Scherer is one of them, and a thoughtfully designed one at that. In true engineering fashion, Mike saves weight by using thinner metal (7075-T6 aluminum) and compensating for strength with a smart structural design. The weight is 0.6 oz (17 g, verified!), and offers as perhaps its most unique feature the ability to use it either right side up (wide blade down, for soft soil) or upside down (narrow handle down, for hard soil). Thin gauge metal makes for a thin blade that digs well, but at the sacrifice of some palm-of-hand discomfort when pushing down on the handle in either regular or goofy (inverted) mode. It’s an ultralight and small (2.5 in x 6.8 in) trowel; combined with its thin metal construction, don’t expect it to be suitable for heavy duty use as a root-cutter or mini-crow bar for leveraging rocks out of your poop hole. Better to spend time scouting your potty view instead. Available in your choice of five anodized colors for about twenty bucks, and targeted, as Mike says, to those who “would be damned to carry around those dorky orange plastic thingys.” Learn More: The Tent Lab
Helinox Ground Chair
Don’t you go judging me. All you sneaks. I know your type. You stuff your pockets full of gear that never registers in the pack weight column on your gear list, instead hidden behind the theological exception called “items worn or carried”. Or you guys who add that Platy full of whiskey at the trailhead “after” everyone’s hung their packs on the fish scale. Yeah, well, how about this: I’m thinking about adding a camp chair to my gear list. There. It’s out there. I’m still an ultralighter*, OK? Because let me tell you what, after a hard day of trekking, and you melt into a chair that keeps you off the wet ground, insulated from a layer of fresh snow, or supporting your back in a reclining position, you’re like … mmm … while all you’re chairless pals are like … unghhh … And you know that guy that takes two 6 inch squares of blue foam (one for each cheek) cut out of a worn out old pad and tells you “it’s totally fine” (he’ll be posting in the forums below, just you wait…)? HE’S LYING. The Helinox Chair One is a legendary chair among outdoor enthusiasts, well known for its comfort, durability, ease of setup, light weight, and portability. Unfortunately, for backpackers, it still suffers two key problems: it’s not that light (29.5 oz / 836 g), and you sit high enough off the ground that you have to bend over quite a bit to fool around with the on-the-ground-tasks we’re accustomed to performing, e.g., cooking. Enter the Helinox Ground Chair. Sitting height (from the ground surface) is reduced from 12 in (30 cm) in the Chair One to less than 5 in (12 cm) in the Ground Chair, and with the latter, it’s now quite easy to reach the ground surface with your hands without contorting. The Ground Chair weighs 21.5 oz (610 g), which puts it in the same league (within fractions of an ounce) as the Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 chair (a popular option with backpackers). The Ground Chair features a shock-corded aluminum tube frame, a mesh seat, and folds down so compact (12 in long x 3.5 in wide x 3.9 in high / 30 cm x 9 cm x 10 cm) that I can fit it into almost every overnight pack I own sideways. I’m trying out a number of chairs for an upcoming Gear Guide, and this is one I can recommend. I suffered a broken back in 2005, and have been plagued with weakness since. Back support is important to me, and the Ground Chair delivers it. Learn More: Helinox
Where to Buy Ground Sheet - Fits Chair One
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Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter vs. MSR LiteLifter
In my quest to handle pots while cooking over fire, and otherwise using pots without handles, I’ve tried a number of normal, and less-than-normal strategies for lifting pots: leather and wool gloves, cotton bandanas, silicone grabbers, and a variety of conventional pot lifters.
My needs for a pot lifter are focused primarily on handling pots in the fire, and my handle-less fry-bake on my stove.
At 0.8 oz (23 g), the Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter is just slightly lighter than the popular MSR LiteLifter (1.0 oz, 28 g), and a little less secure in its pot-gripping ability. The MSR LiteLifter has better ergonomics, which make it more comfortable for pots loaded with heavier volumes of water.
Here are the head-to-head specs, along with my highly subjective comfort ratings when paired with a light pot containing water volumes between 0.5 L and 3.0+ L:
|Weight||Material||0.5 L||1.0 L||2.0 L||3.0+ L||Cost|
|Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter||0.8 oz (23 g)||titanium||Excellent||Good||Tolerable||Use Gloves for Padding!||US$27|
|MSR LiteLifter||1.0 oz (28 g)||aluminum||Excellent||Excellent||Very Good||Good||US$15|
The Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter is light, effective for smaller pots, and an aesthetically pleasing tool to use and look at.