The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


 Who? i can hear you say, Kuiu? Well as near as damn it, "Queue -You”, is how i say it.

Who are they? Without going into too much detail because all the info is available on their website and blog. They are a company that has it’s roots in the hunting fraternity in North America.
California to be exact. Not well known in the UK, yet, and so it gives me the pleasure of introducing readers to the company.

They design the gear, and have it made abroad using the best technical materials, for example, Toray Artistic fabrics and Easton carbon fibre. They have no middle men and sell it from their own showroom or on the internet. They have just opened a hub in Spain too.

They use top quality materials and have lightweight motivations in the design of all their gear.
When you consider the harsh environs of North America and Alaska the tent has to stand up to some pretty atrocious weather. It is designed to be used in high mountains and with large distances from civilisation dependability has to be a top priority.

2014 saw the first Mountain Star tent, mine is a 2015 model with some changes from the 2014 which i will go through later.
Kuiu Mountain Star 2P (2015)

It’s a 2 person tent. My previous 2 man tent was the Tarptent Scarp 2, so what ever replaces that has to be good.
2 tents had taken my eye, a) Macpac Minaret and b) Trekkertent Drift 2.

I decided the Minaret was just too heavy although reliable, and i came very very close to ordering the Drift 2.
The niggle i had in the back of my mind was that it had too much unsupported fabric and i wondered about its storm worthiness. My fears could be wrong of course.
So i decided to go with the Mountain Star 2P. 3+ season capability. Will take a snow loading but because the fly doesn’t go all the way to the floor it cannot be classed as 4 season.

I had a few questions before i clicked “Order"and sent an email to customer services. They (McCade Hunt especially) were very helpful.
I was offered free postage to UK, which was great and saved me $60. As readers will be aware, when importing product from USA we have to pay Customs duty and 20%VAT plus handling charges from Parcelforce. All together this additional bill came to £122.35.

The purchase price of the tent is $449.99 and at todays rate converts to £288.89 and for the privilege of buying in dollars, Visa also had to have their cut which cost another £7.94.
In total it has cost us £420 give or take a few pennies.

Because of International manufacture and shipping, supplies of gear can outsell demand after all the US is a big place. I was slightly worried that i would have to wait too long for delivery but i was told it would be just a few weeks. I ordered it on 8th July and received it on 23rd July. So no complaints, that’s pretty good.

Goundsheet….. 30 Denier Airtastic nylon manufactured by Toray of Japan. High bathtub floor. Seam taped. I particularly liked the height of the groundsheet sides, around 200mm. It will give good draught protection.
(Toray make high quality technical fabrics, they make the fantastic Dermizax NX shell jacket material for companies like Bergan’s of Norway, Kjus, Killy, Nordisk, Ortovox and Kuiu to name a few. It would be great to see a single skin tent made of this fabric. But i am digressing here.)

Inner tent…..15 Denier No see um mesh. Midge proof btw. Lightweight, white in colour and makes the tent interior a bright space.
The roof is micro ripstop nylon with the company logo in the centre. The logo is reflective and looks great at night.
There are four large mesh pockets, One in each corner.
This is a 2 person tent and has a zipped door on both sides and 2 vestibules (porch) large enough for a backpacking rucksack and additional gear.
Adjacent to the air vents there are inner zippers to allow closure or opening of the outer vents from the inside.
Headroom is excellent and even with an air mattress there is still a good space above our heads. (about 50mm) and the diagram below shows a good representation of space.

The inner is clipped to the fly and can be removed to give ultralight backpackers the option of having just a free standing tarp if so desired.

 High bathtub groundsheet and wide inner doors access.
 Takes two full sized air mattress’s with room to spare at sides and ends.

 Inner venting zip access and one of four corner pockets.

Roof with Logo and Clothes rail. (Rail fitted by me.)

The zippers are YKK and all have Dyneema pull cords attached.
On the inner roof there are 4 tags where a gear shelf or simple string line can be attached for wet gear and also a night light.

The fly….. Again its Toray’s Airtastic. 100% Nylon grade 4 with 10x20 denier micro ripstop. Its light, strong and tear resistant. 
The fabric is siliconised on the outside and PU on the inside. The PU coating on the inside is a better choice for companies that make tents in large numbers. It allows the seams to be proffesionally tape sealed at the factory. If it was siliconised both sides then it wouldn’t be taped at all and it would be left to the customer to do it. 

Two vents half way up the sides allow for good ventilation coupled with the mesh interior.The vents are held open by a simple folding leg. The 2014 version had vents on the top of the tent and i guess these suffered from water ingress when the rain was horizontal. The new positions are much better, as is the Siliconised outer which replaced the 2014 DWR treatment.

The double door entrances have YKK single headed zips with pull cordage attached. This was a major disappointment as the 2014 tent had double headed (Two way) zips. Why Kuiu have taken a backward step here (without advertising the fact) i can only guess at penny pinching. They need to re-instate the 2 way zip for 2016 or asap. Whoever sanctioned this change wants rollicking, it was a must have feature in my opinion.

The zips have an outer rain guard, held in place by 2 sets of velcro. It really needs 3 sets, as the upper section gets opened up in windy weather and the zips are not water resistant.
 I will add a 3rd set myself to keep the guard from flapping. But please add another strip Kuiu.

I found the pull chord on the inside of the outer door zip to be too short and not easy to grab at night. It was just too far to reach from inside the tent when the porch is full of gear, and so i have put longer reflective loops of cord onto them which made the operation far easier.

Four guylines, two either end, Dyneema with reflective mini line locks keep the tent secure to the ground. 
The set up instruction sheet suggests that the ribbon attaching the guy lines to the tent should be wrapped around the poles as per the image below.
The ribbons on the 2015 model however are too short to be able to do this and are another small difference to the 2014 model. (see photo 5 below this one) As is the deletion of the adjuster in the photo. It wasn’t needed to be honest so its no big deal.

The guy attachment on the 2014 model.

 Image to show fabric tension, guying points and vents.

 One door has a guy point but the adjoining door has no second guy point. So you don’t have the interchangeability of having one or the other door open. I will be adding a guy point so that either door can be opened separately.

With external doors fully open there is no loss of structural integrity. The roof apex is forward of the inner door so any rain drips outside.

Poles…….The tent is offered with an option. You can go with the Carbon Fibre poles or aluminium. They both have good characteristics but the choice is a personal one. I chose Carbon Fibre. The weight difference is negligible.
The carbon poles are Easton 6.3mm and they make the structure very strong and sturdy. They are an external cross over design, an exoskeleton, with a 3rd short pole acting as a roof truss. 

I really like the external pole design because there are no sleeves to push the poles through which can be awkward and time consuming if it is a wet tent. They also don’t touch the fly and cause chaffing which can lead to rapid deterioration of the waterproofing as can happen when the fly is a throw over design.
The tent is tensioned by the pole attachments with 21 Duraflex quick clips and 4 “D” shaped snap clips.
One of 4 D shaped snap clip.

I noticed when the tent was fully tensioned that the seams are stretched where the clip ribbons attach. Although the seam tapes would stop any water ingress i decided that it would be better to strengthen this area on all clips while it was still new and so i used Mcnett seam sealer to improve both strength and durability. The stitching is good otherwise, throughout the tent.

Quick clip attachment issue. - McNett seam sealer added.

Pegs or stakes…… The 2014 tent had Easton Nano pegs supplied with it and there was nothing to suggest a change has been made for the 2015 model. In fact the specification still says Nano pegs. However the tent was shipped with “Y” shaped aluminium stakes identical to the MSR mini groundhog stake. For me this was a plus as i particularly think the MSR stake is superior to the Nano.
There are ten stakes in total. For info purposes they weigh 9grams each.
Guessing…Cascade Designs have their tents made at the same factory in Vietnam and so the stake piece cost could be cheaper the more you make etc..You know it makes sense.

Aluminium “Y’ Peg or stake.

Weights….. The inner and outer tent together with bag weighs 1.065 kilos.

The Carbon fibre poles, pole repair sleeve,10 pegs and bags weighs 0.534kilo’s.

In total the tent weighs 1.599kilo’s. (1.6kg)

Set up (my version)….. This is a relatively quick and simple operation. 
  • Layout the tent and stake out the four corners.
  • Locate the 2 long poles through the “D” clips. * Note, when locating the 2 poles through the D clip make sure that the bottom pole on the LHS is also the bottom pole on the RHS.
  • Locate the short pole over the top of the long poles through the 2 “D” clips. 
  • Locate the 2 long poles into the webbing eyelets at one end.
  • Walk round to the other side and grasp the lower pole. Locate it into the eyelet and at the same time raising the tent.
  • Repeat for remaining long pole.
  • Locate the roof pole into the eyelets, front and back.
  • Press down the centre of the short pole and locate the central roof quick clip.
  • Repeat for the remaining 20 quick clips starting from the bottom.
  • Tension and stake out the 2 doors.
  • Peg out the 4 main guy lines.
  • Enjoy the coffee your mate has made whilst you have been setting up.
Set up video to follow.
The poles tension both the inner and the outer materials and so there is no need for any minor adjustment anywhere on the tent. Ideal in undulating ground as there is no flapping nylon. No faffing around either.
Time to set up is 8 minutes for 1 person. (But will get quicker with practice).

The tent is manufactured in Vietnam by Tai Chung canvas Company who trade as Camptec. They are one of the top tent manufacturers worldwide and also make tents for Cascade Designs. (MSR) To name one well known company.

All in all i am pleased with our purchase and its only real disappointment is the change to one way door zippers that has reduced my perceived perfection.
Can’t wait to get it out into the hills now.

The rigidity and strength of the structure.
The external pole design
The bright and roomy interior.
The headroom.
The quality.

The single way door zippers.
The main door zip rain guard.

I have included below, for anyone who may be interested, the video which the company released to introduce the Mountain Star in 2014. 
Its good but its 30 minutes long.

And below is the Video of the latest 2015 tents.

I will report back after field testing hopefully in 2 weeks.

The tent here was purchased by me using my own funds. All duties were paid by me.
I have no association with Kuiu in any way shape or form. They have no influence on this review whatsoever.
A further first field review can be found here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Appropriate signage

I live on what used to be a Roman Road but now is an unadopted farm track. We only have 2 seasons a year. The muddy season and the dusty season. It’s full of pot holes and occasionally in winter it is impassable.
However, Sat Nav thinks its a main road and some HGV drivers think its a short cut. They have a bit of a job turning into the lane for a start and then after a hundred yards they realise the mistake. Now they cannot turn round and have to reverse their 40 tons back. Fortunately HGV drivers are usually quite adept at reversing those huge trailers and i stand at the gate and smile at the drivers quietly whispering plonker through my teeth.
So when i saw the sign below i thought it was quite appropriate. I wonder who gets the £100? And do they pay tax on it?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Marsden to Huddersfield

This walk was planned a few weeks ago so we were very lucky that the day turned out to be a fine dry sunny day. Considering the torrential rain of the previous few day we were extremely fortunate.
Terry and i bussed into Manchester to meet Pete, a keen amateur photographer, in Victoria Railway Station where with a few minutes to spare snatched a quick but large coffee from Starbucks.

The station is undergoing a massive re-generation and they are making a fine job of it, modernising but keeping a mix of the old and new. 

One thing that puzzled me was the new ticket gates. Very similar to the London Underground. You put the ticket in, the gate opens and you pass through. So why was there only 3 gates open with a green light and about 10 closed with red lights. For each green gate there was a member of staff making sure all was ok. I watched for a few seconds and thought if they have the same amount of staff on as gates open why do they need electronic gates?


We alighted the train, which was on time, in Marsden. 

Marsden Station and Huddersfield Narrow Canal Lock 42E

At this point Pete was busy doing photography things and we had to mention that we had 7 miles to go and needed to make a start. 

Terry waiting for Pete and posing as Shades Guevara.
The Huddersfield narrow canal runs between Ashton under lyne and Huddersfield and took 17 years to build. It was opened in 1811. Our journey covers only 7 of the 20 miles.
The narrow canal is just that, very narrow with a width of only 7ft 2” at some points. In fact it looks narrower than that, but it cannot be.
 Huddersfield Narrow canal lock 41E
It wasn’t a great day for photographs as the sun was strong and the shadows too but it was ideal for walking or in our case, ambling. I’ve walked many a canal in the past but i have to say that this section of canal is wonderful. The whole 7 miles passes through stunning scenery and it was such a pleasant change to walk along what is basically   industrial heritage without litter, dog poop, graffiti and dereliction.

We were heading down hill at a fair rate and the high number of locks, The Marsden Flight as its called must be hard work for the narrow boat crews. Not many boats were seen along the route, three in total.

Soon we passed between two reservoirs. On our left was Sparth reservoir which is a water storage reservoir for the canal itself and on the right the old mill pond of Cellars Clough Mill.

The narrow boats name says it all. (Pete in the background playing catch up).
Heron fishing on Cellar Clough Mill pond. Stood on what looks like the prow of a ship.
(Are all Heron’s Male? Well you never see a Sheron) Sorry.
Cellar Clough Mill

Looking East from near Sandhill.
Looking west from near Sandhill.
The canal at the above section is quite wide, more like a river in fact and Terry informed me that it was to ensure the canal locks had enough water with the drop being so great. (He knows about canals you see)

Very pleasant walking brought us to Rotcher Lane near Slaithwaite, pronounced Slough-it. Here there is a Guillotine lock. This is a mechanical lock and has to be hand wound. The lock was installed due to the change that had to be made with the widening of Upper Mill Bridge.
 Guillotine Lock 
While we investigated the lock and waited for Pete to catch up. Did i mention he likes to take photo’s. Lots of photo’s. 
There was a very strong hoppy aroma in the air. Not dissimilar to a brewery in fact. Just around the corner from the lock we came to the Empire Brewery. Terry asked if i wanted a pint, at which i thought he was joking, only to find out later that the sign on the gate (just above his head) was advertising bottled beers for sale to the public. I completely missed it. The Upper Mill complex next door is another superb building containing a working spinning company and a bakery/cafe.
Peter had now caught us up but it didn’t take too long before the gap widened again. Fortunately Slaithwaite was only a short distance away where we stopped to admire the funeral directors that was used in the TV program Last of the summer wine.
 Slaithwaite is a pleasant village and i expect it can be a bit busy with tourists on a weekend. Today it was quiet and a pleasure to walk through.
Approaching the village of Slaithwaite. Funeral directors on the left.
The majority of villages in the Colne valley have grown around the cotton industry and Slaithwaite is no different. Just on the east side of the village we passed the SPA mill.
SPA Mill, Slaiththwaite.

Established as steam-powered woollen spinning mill in 1860s, single-storeyed weaving sheds added by 1887. Acquired in 1902 by Slaithwaite Spinning Company which had built three cotton-spinning mills in vicinity, and which in 1906-7 built large five-storeyed fireproof cotton-spinning mill on site, modelled on contemporary Lancashire designs. Low card room along one side; five-storeyed service block at one corner. Existing sheds enlarged and largely rebuilt for winding cotton. 

The mill is called Spa Mill due to its location adjacent to a spring thought to have medicinal properties. Mineral baths were built in 1825. Industrial growth however forced the closure of the baths and gardens in 1938. The spring still flows from a concrete cap in the middle of the River Colne and was tested by the Environment Agency in 1998.

Walking out of Slaithwaite towards Linthwaite the canal passes through woodland. Many birds were seen and heard including a Kingfisher, Chiffchaff and i think i spotted a Willow Warbler.

Huddersfield Narrow canal looking east towards Linthwaite.
Linthwaite stands high on the hill, its church steeple and mill chimney in view way before you get there.
One of the old mills has been re-develloped into living accommodation. Known locally as Titanic Mill.
Titanic Mill. Linthwaite. (Lowestwood Mill is the correct name)Circa 1911. Massive woollen mill. Hammer dressed stone. Triple, hipped slate roof. 6 storeys. 26 bays by 6 bays of industry casements. Corner bays of paned, round arched windows, break forward slightly and are surmounted by parapet. Other casements have shallow segmental head. On north west elevation, central 7 bays break forward slightly and are surmounted by ashlar parapet with dies. Near central square stair tower on south east side, which rises above eaves level and has triple round arched windows and is surmounted by bracketed cornice and parapet. The mill is called Titanic because it was built the same year as the ship.

Water lilies 
Many more interesting locks and bridges were passed as we approached Milnsbridge. What looks like a new build of apartments has been sympathetically constructed. The stone not looking out of place in the surroundings.
Milnsbridge canal side living.
We were getting a bit peckish at this point but we still had a bit to go before Huddersfield. We planned to have lunch in the Head of Steam pub but we hoped that we were not too late for food.
We passed Britannia Mill built 1861 and numerous other closed premises before rounding a large bend and going under the grand Longroyd railway Aqueduct. Below us was the River Colne and above us the Railway.
We new that Huddersfield was close as litter was appearing and a few bits of Graffiti was seen on walls. The church spire on the A62 road was only a few yards away. We wondered if the towpath carried on into the centre of huddersfield as it used to be a long tunnel without a path, it  did.
Much new work is undergoing along the canals northern bank, waterfront homes and more and the new Kirklees College building is quite impressive. To our left was the River Colne weir.
At the junction of the main road, the A616 we left the canal and headed up hill passed the second brewery of the day. Ossett Brewery, a family owned independent brewery opened in 1997.
The centre of Huddersfield was really busy with all the coffee shops and eateries doing well by the looks of things.
New waterfront development as we approach Kirklees College.
Kirklees College.
Our destination, The Head of Steam Pub was across town and next to the Railway Station. Huddersfield has some wonderful buildings and worth a visit. The George Hotel is next to the station in a modern st. Georges square, looked over by a statue of Harold Wilson PM. Behind him is the magnificent station building built between 1846 and 1850.
The Head of Steam was and is well worth a visit, the beer being very dangerous. Care and will power required. Lunch was had, the staff excellent and cheerful and all too soon the time came for us to get the train back to Manchester.
It was a very good walk and i am sure there will be a repeat soon.
 The George Hotel, Huddersfield
 Huddersfield Railway Station
 The Head Of Steam pub. (Back door leads directly onto Platform 1)

Thanks Terry and Pete for the company.  No i didn’t try the Blackout… This time.

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