Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Osprey Hornet 32 Backpack

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I've been using one backpack in the last month almost exclusively, from skiing and snowshoeing trips to going to school and taking it food shopping, and that is the Osprey Hornet 32 backpack. It is a new fast & light backpack from a major player, so it is always good to have a look and see their take on lightweight backpacks.


Welcome to Hiking in Finland, Osprey!

For those with blazing fast internet connections, watch the underneath video to get a good idea of this new pack in action before I jump into the nitty-gritty details:


Or view it on Youtube.

The pack is 593 gram on my scale, Size M/L.

These 593 gram get you a 32 liter backpack, with a few extra liters if you count in the two lid pockets, two hipbelt pockets, the big front mesh pocket and the hydration pocket which holds reservoirs up to 3 liters, though it is most comfortable with the Osprey HydraForm 2l pack (which is awesome, btw!).


In all its glory.


The inside lid pocket, up-side-down.

Lets start on the top. The top lid pocket is covered by mesh, so keep things which need to stay dry inside the pack. But sunglasses, snacks, and waterproof packed stuff can go fine in there, as there's plenty of space. If you open the lid you find another pocket, and while this is also mesh, because it is on the inside I feel comfortable and safe carrying maps, charger or other stuff which needs to stay dry in there. You can take the lid completely off, saving you some weight, though it can't be used as a fanny pack or similar.



The two hipbelt pockets are similar to the lid pockets - one more waterproof with a solid cover, the other pure mesh. They're big enough for s few snacks or a small compact camera, but I didn't find them super easy to open and close - then again, which hipbelt pockets are? The hipbelt itself is fine, the buckle is small but easy to operate (also with woolen mitts) and to tighten the belt you pull inside - which is far superior to pulling outside, in my opinion. It carries well, and despite me having a long back and it riding a bit high when I pull the shoulder straps very tight, it is good. I only use the hipbelt when skiing in the forest, otherwise the sternum strap is sufficient for my needs.



Something which I haven't seen before was the outside reservoir pocket. It is a good idea, as in this way you can access your reservoir quick and easy - no opening your main pack, fishing the reservoir out and stuffing it back in, maybe getting your gear inside wet or dirty. A drawback I found with it is that if it is snowing, snow gets into the pocket, as it is open to the top and can not be closed. Same goes for leafs, small twigs and other stuff which finds its way in when you bushwack through the forest. But because it has a drain grommet in the bottom, at least water and snow are less of a problem.



Backpanel and one of the pockets on the shoulder straps.

The backpanel is soft and has a removable CCF pad in it, and I found it especially comfy when having the 2 l HydraForm reservoir in there as well, as it has a sort of backpanel. However, also without the reservoir it is good, and I found it perfect for skiing, snowshoeing, school and grocery shopping.

The shoulder straps have a die-cut foam in it, between two layers of mesh, with the inside having a softer mesh to add some cushioning. The pockets on the shoulder straps are nice, if you carry a small & narrow GPS or phone, or want to have your snacks close you will like these. An iPhone doesn't fit in, sorry folks!



The front pocket is good, a bit tight maybe and with the two buckles to close it, it can be a bit slow if you need something fast. But it stores a UL tarp fine, as well as snacks, extra gloves and buff with some room to spare.


The main pocket.

The main pocket is big. 32 liters is plenty for a UL summer trip, and I think that's where new lightweight and UL backpackers will take this pack. Now in winter I carry extra puffy insulation, a 1l thermos flask, binoculars, a book, papers, iPad, camera, spare socks, gloves and gaiters in it, and yes, there's still room. It is massive. Sadly it is a cinch closure, and I always find that the cords get in the way and flies around where it shouldn't, but that might just be my inability to use it correctly.

There's a buckle which goes over the cinch cord closure, and that buckle is connected to a strap which has another buckle! The 2nd buckle allows you to close the front mesh pocket and keep it tight. Over that then goes the lid... with another buckle! Lots of buckles, you see. I think here Osprey should simplify, less is sometimes more. Then there's a ice axe loop at the bottom, and plenty of cord tie-off points around the pack to put own cord through to attach gear. Add in a lifting loop and a sternum buckle with a whistle and you have a fine pack with plenty of details.


The side pockets.

The side pockets are OK. They seem a bit loose and are too small for a 1l Platy, and the side compression straps, while a good idea, are meh. The sidepockets on the Hornet 46 are the full length of the site, thus should be better to hold 1l Platys and other water bottles.

Which brings us to the conclusion. I think the major advantage of this backpack is that you can walk into any outdoor shop, load it up with about 5 kg of gear and try it. You can't do that with a cottage backpack, and there's still those people who'd like to try a backpack on before buying it (Return shipping policies in the USA might be great, but in Europe they're backwards and a lot of hassle most people don't want to bother with). You also can get it immediately and don't need to wait 8 weeks or more for it to arrive. And what better way to get into lightweight backpacking than trying something in the shop? Maybe the shops even start to understand that lighter = healthier & better, and carry more gear for our needs. Anyway. There's a lot of details on this pack, or bells & whistles, as I like to call them, maybe a tad too much for my taste - but you always can take scissors and cut these off,which is easier than taking a needle and thread and sew them on. It is comfy, carries weight up to 8 kg well, looks good and has some smart extras. I like it.

Now you're thinking if you should get this backpack. If you don't have a pack which fills this niche - lightweight rucksack for weekend and day trips - and you have a retailer near you which carries it, go and try it and decide yourself =)


On a recent Snowshoeing trip.

The Week in Review

I'm on tour. Business resumes as normally.



News & Various:

If you want to satisfy your need about new, shiny UL gear, check the "New Gear From The Cottages" I wrote last week.

I am really excited to welcome the trekking-lite-store.com on this blog, your European source for US cottage gear from the likes of Tarptent, Mountain Laurel Designs, Gossamer Gear, ZPacks and many other UL gear makers. Check them out!

Chris has a nice article on How New Is Lightweight Backpacking? on his blog, well worth a read.

Devin wrote about the Backcountry Boiler, the power of Making-Your-Own-Gear and Community Supported Development in the first ever guest post on this site. Additionally there was revealed that Backpacking Light has a limited number of Backcountry Boilers for pre-order. Yay!

If you are into winter trekking, you're well advised to check that site and tap into their knowledge.

Martin tells us how he goes about planning his TGOC route.

Mikko made his own puukko. It looks fantastic and his step-by-step guide is definitely a must-see if you wanna make your own knife.

The laser etching on the Backcountry Boiler is so fricking sweet, I'm in love.

Brawny writes on her favourite tape.

This guide to travelling hand-luggage only is useful for all those who wanna spend less time waiting for luggage to arrive.

John made a MYOG Ninja Tarp in all-black for a certain Mr. Horner. And apparently John even considers starting his own cottage in the future - awesome!

Dave writes about the interesting case surrounding Roland Fleck.

Robin made a MYOG Duomid groundsheet in an L-shape.

Phreerunner reports that Global Warming is alive and well in Timperley and hence the first spring flowers pop up.

Andy talks Dehydration: A Recap on the Basics.



Tripping in the wild:

Fraser shares a Photographic Tour of Scotland with us. He makes superb photos, so if you're not able to go out to climb Scottish hills, then this is for you.

Nick and friends got up early and did the Glen Tanar Circuit in six hours, eleven minutes. The Fast & The Furious?!

Peter and Toni went for a overnighter in Marttila, pushing bikes through knee-deep snow and making fires.

Justyna and friends went on a four day winter mountaineering course in the Polish mountains. Lovely scenery and great climbing puts Poland on the map for me and many others, I'm sure.

Joe overcame his cabin fever.

Dave discloses "The Plan".

Ken was on Tenerife in Spain and his trip to Mount Negras and the Canal had fantastic views.

Sam is on Day 41 of his trip.

Benjamin shares his Impressions of the TULFWT V.

LAUFBURSCHE repots on the trip before the TUFWT and showcases his new Laavu off in the wild.

Peter went to visit an old friend. It is good to visit old friends.

The Nepal Chronicles reach Chapter 10.



Fear, Gear, Beer:

Mr. Hotel found The Wood Worker's Snowshoes. Handmade by a local guy, they look sweet.

Mr. Kirkpatrick writes about the one mitt to rule them all. Because you have a glove & mitt fetish, you want to read it.

Mr. Bigbananafeet is cooking on ice.

Brian took the tarp plunge. Congrats on a wise choice!

Chris Townsend reviews the Finisterre Storm Track Jacket.


Weather forecast for this trip.

Backcountry Boiler: The Power of MYOG and Community Supported Development

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Today marks a Premiere on this wee blog, as that the following post is the first Guest Article on this site. I'm a huge fan and supporter of Devin Montgomery, the inventor of the first ultralight backcountry chimney kettle aka "The Backcountry Boiler". It is a fantastic project, and Devin will now set out and take you on a journey, talking about the origin of the Backcountry Boiler, the power of Making-Your-Own-Gear, Community Supported Development and ultralight backpacking.


Me hanging out with the Backcountry Boiler on a recent hike.

Origins

The story of the Backcountry Boiler really started in spring 2007. I had just returned from a 128-mile solo row down the entire length of the Monongahela River in southwestern Pennsylvania. Having enjoyed the trip so much, I looked for other ways to spend long days in the outdoors covering a great deal of distance (I was able to make about 20-25 miles per day in the boat). So I naturally turned to backpacking, but remembering the grueling slogs of a heavy pack when I was in Boy Scouts, I looked for a lighter way and came across ultralight backpacking.

In researching the field, I found that the "sacrifices" one had to make - no tent, a minimal sleeping pad, no spare clothes, a simple diet - meant little to me. What did strike me were the benefits - I could cover miles and miles in the beautiful outdoors, feeling more like I was simply taking a pleasant walk than hauling a load from point A to B.

So I took to my gear with scrutiny. One thing that had to go: my heavy MSR Whisperlite stove. Predictably, I turned to alcohol stoves and made my own out of a soda can. It was in researching designs for my stove that I first came across chimney kettles - the Kelly, the Thermette, a slew of others.

They were awesome. An ingenious design that uses almost any available fuel, aspirates combustion through something called the stack effect created by warm air flowing up through the chimney and pulling in new air through the inlet, creates a large surface area for heat transfer, and shields the fire from the wind. Oh, and heck, it could even be used as a canteen to carry water when not in use. Apparently, the perfect wood stove, really the perfect backpacking stove for those who eat a simple ultralight diet, and multi-purpose to boot!


The anatomy of a Chimney Kettle

Existing Products

The problem: the only ones available commercially were dinosaurs. They were ancient - no meaningful design changes had been made in over half a century - and they were big and heavy - the smallest and lightest one commercially available weighed 19 oz and took up around 250 ci of pack space. That's the weight I had budgeted for a three-season quilt, and even the fuel savings couldn't justify it.

I wasn't the only one who loved the idea of a chimney kettle but loathed the size and weight of those currently available. It's my understanding that Backpacking Light's Ryan Jordan even approached one of the existing manufacturers about a lighter version for his Arctic 1000 (before he worked with Bush Buddy on the Ultra), but that it was a no-go. Many of the solutions looked to either exotic, expensive metals like titanium, or ultra-low capacities for the weight savings. Others (including my initial efforts) looked to the use of existing aluminum bottles or cans hacked up and stuck together with high-temperature epoxy. But ultimately, all of these seemed unappealing approaches, and I thought there was just a better, simpler way to make to make a high-quality, smaller, lighter, but still very useful chimney kettle.

Design

So in early 2008, I very literally went back to the drawing board, starting from scratch. With the aid of what was then a relatively new, free CAD program, Google Sketchup, I stripped down the concept of a chimney kettle to its core elements: fuel, air, water. The solution had to be light, small, simple, packable, and it had to boil a reasonable amount of water in a reasonable amount of time. What I came up with had no extraneous parts or details, used simple geometric rules to minimize the amount of material needed for a given volume, and carefully balanced the interior space of the device between that allocated for combustion and that for water. Some of the aspects ended up mirroring existing products, some ended up being entirely new. The finished product was unlike anything else available.


A virtual Backcountry Boiler in the free software in which it was created.

I mocked it up out of aluminum of a thickness I considered durable enough for regular use and I came up with something remarkable: a chimney kettle that weighed 1/3 as much (under 6 oz vs. 19 oz), took up only a bit over 1/3 as much pack space (about 90 ci vs 250 ci) and boiled the same amount of water (20 oz) as the smallest, lightest other chimney kettle available! The only sacrifice was a slight increase in the amount of time it took to boil 2 cups of water. Against quotes of just 3 minutes for 2 cups with the existing product, mine took around 5 because of my intentional shrinking of the combustion chamber. A good compromise given all the benefits, I thought. Now I just had to get it made.

Seeking Manufacturing

As I discovered through my research, if you're looking to have thin-walled, deep aluminum parts made that have relatively low tooling costs and per-piece costs that diminish with scale, you have two options: metal spinning and hydro-forming. So armed with my design, I approached a number of metal spinning and hydro-forming shops around the U.S. But I was unfortunately met with bad news: none of them would provide me a quote to make the Boilers as light as I had designed them to be. The best I could get was something that was around 13-14 oz, and material thicknesses more than twice what I had determined would be mechanically sufficient through my mock-up. This was still 2008, and I was unimpressed enough with such a marginal improvement that I kept on pushing for a better solution.

Back to MYOG

Fortunately, through all of this research, I also came across more information on how metal spinning is performed. Specifically, I came across a PDF from a guy at Stanford that laid out the basics of metal spinning. Even better, I found some DVDs I could rent online, incidentally made by a guy only a few hours away from where I live, that showed how someone could make their own tools and basic parts on a wood lathe. So I rented the DVDs. Bought a lathe, grinder, drill press and some odds and ends from Harbor Freight (a discount tool supplier here in the states) for cheap. Made my own metal spinning tools. Learned how to turn wood for the forms, and tried to spin my parts. 

But the first lathe was junk, so I got a second. The second lathe was much better (actually quite good for a wood lathe), but the parts I was making were larger and more difficult than those I had seen being made, and I needed a proper metal spinning lathe. I found an antique in Arizona, not too far from where one of my sisters lives, and had her (with much appreciation) freight ship it to me. I had some work done on it, wired up a motor to run it, and in June 2009, popped off the first living, breathing Boiler (though it didn't have the name at the time). I've taken that prototype on every hike since and it has performed marvelously.


The evolution of the Backcountry Boiler pre-production.

Community Supported Development

All this time, and in true MYOG fashion, I was sharing my progress with the online community at Backpacking Light. I had come to the site in an effort to lighten my load, but came to find a great deal more. Ultralight backpacking is, in my mind and the minds of many, about a lot more than ounces and grams. It's about being analytical about how we experience the outdoors. When that way of thinking is applied to gear, it only makes sense that it should be light. You do have to carry it after all, and each comfort in camp at night has to earn its passage on you back during the day.

It is because of this analytical approach that Backpacking Light has what I would say is one of the most, if not the most, thriving MYOG communities anywhere. My project and I fit nicely into that community. The gratuitous support I received there is what kept me going on this project despite novice skill, never having a proper workshop, and developing it over the same three years as I happened to be in both law and business schools - two very rigorous programs.

It is there that I first made more of the Boiler (it had acquire the nickname "Montgomery Kettle," which I happily went with for some time) available to others for reservations in spring of 2010. At the time, I had an open summer ahead of me, and I was optimistic about turning out a bunch for my online compatriots. Fortunately for me, but unfortunately for the Boiler, I was then presented with the opportunity for some work on a very exciting, but not related to the outdoors, project I couldn't pass up. I continued work on the Boiler in the time I did have, but perhaps unsurprisingly, found it extremely difficult to mass produce a cutting edge product on my back porch in my spare time.


The entirety of the workshop where the Backcountry Boiler was prototyped.

When school started up again in the fall, I had no real choice but to put the project in the back seat until I graduated in the winter. In the middle of that last hectic semester, the Backpacking Light community found out that one person who had been posing as a customer and seeking a lot of specific details about the Boiler was now shopping around a copy he paid to have made.

Aside from what I've already said, the only thing I really have to say about that is that developing a product in the open has both benefits and costs. There have been scores of people who have found my project interesting and have offered support. One guy found it interesting and decided that he would rather be the one benefitting from it. I wouldn't take away the experience of the former to avoid the exploitation of the latter. I think people still value authenticity in the goods they buy, and I have gotten a lot of support that confirms that belief.

Local, Community Funded Manufacturing

Given that it looked like the world wouldn't wait for me to finish school, and that I certainly didn't have the time to make them all myself in the middle of the semester, I again approached a local spinning shop about having them make the Boiler. Better news came this time and the difference was that I knew what I wanted to have made was possible. I was able to show them my prototype and walk them through the process I used. Having them replicate my efforts took longer than expected, but that speaks to the great things one devoted person can accomplish. Their persistence in following though with the difficult task speaks to the value of creating personal relationships with suppliers, and how local manufacturing lends itself to those kinds of relationships. The production Boiler weighs just a bit more and has just a bit less volume than my prototypes, but the manufacturing is a lot more reliable.


A crew member of a local spinning shop working on the production version of the Boiler.

Now that I could have them made by a commercial shop, I again turned to the community for support. Because I've done this whole project while being a student and living on loans, it has always been done on a shoestring budget. The largest single capital investment that it has required, for instance, was the antique lathe I used for prototyping. In what may have been one of the most effective uses of government dollars, I paid for the lathe with an economic stimulus tax rebate issued by the US government in 2008.

But to pay for a large enough run for the Boilers to be affordable, I was going to have to order quite a large quantity - requiring more capital than I could fork out myself. So I opened up pre-orders to pay for production and response was excellent. I sold over 100 in a week, thanks in large part to efforts of friends of the project who spread the word about it on a slew of forums and blogs. As a thank you to supporters, I offered them at cost, but accepted tips of 10, 20 or 30%. More than half of those who ordered paid more than they had to out of sheer goodwill towards the project. In business lingo, this method of financing is called "crowd funding" and is a powerful tool being used to fund creative projects all over.


Google analytics report for the week pre-orders were open. Note the significant traffic from referring sites, all of which was generated by unsolicited postings by supporters of the project.

The Takeaway

What I take from this experience, what I think is even more interesting than the development of a single product, is that the playing field in outdoor product development is more level than one might think. The Backcountry Boiler lightened and shrunk the state-of-the-art in chimney kettles by about a third, with no significant decrease in capacity or performance. That level of improvement is almost unheard of, and, in my humble estimation, presents a product that has an appeal entirely new from anything that came before it. The route I have taken isn't that heavy in investment capital, but demands a lot in terms of creativity, persistence, and community engagement. But I think it's better for it. This product is just one example of how this recipe can realize innovations in a field that has been fallow for decades. And it's this kind of development to which I would look for the next bit of exciting gear.

The other thing I take away is how very powerful the online communities we build are. The Boiler simply wouldn’t have come about if it weren’t for these communities. They pull in people from all over the world, based around common interests rather than geographic location. They support good ideas and can smell a phony. All I’ve done is be myself and treat those I interact with like real people and I’ve gained a lot as a result.


The Backcountry Boiler: endless hot water anywhere all for about the same size and weight as a wide-mouthed water bottle.

What's Next

Backcountry Boiler as a product and my blog, The Boilerwerks, as a documentation project are here to stay. I'm still trying to figure out a name to incorporate under. The pre-ordered Boilers will be shipped out in a few weeks, and in the same batch are a number that will be available through Backpacking Light (just announced today!). But I'm already planning the next large group buy, which will allow more people to be involved in building this project and should provide some of the capital for me to start keeping an inventory.

There are already two improvements on the Boiler that I'm working on, but that won't be ready in time for the initial shipment. They will, however, be entirely backward compatible with the current Boilers. I don't really believe in planned obsolescence. There is at least one accessory for the Boiler that I plan on thoroughly involving the community in developing. Beyond that, I'm excited about some other concepts in stove design that I've been working on, but they're on hold until the Boiler is properly established. What I can say is that they will use fuels that I believe have been under-utilized, namely not the ubiquitous alcohol.

But again, even more than manufacturing specific products, I'm really interested in exploring the whole process of making and making available innovative outdoor gear. Personally, I want to become more proficient in the use of design software, and learn to work with some new materials. I want to continue engaging the outdoor community in what I do and see what great things we are capable of.

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Many, many thanks to Devin for this great article! I enjoyed it a lot, and look now even more forward to receiving my Backcountry Boiler!