I got the opportunity to try out a few new items of gear on our Munda Biddi trip over Easter, plus use a few of my favourite items. Here are my reviews of the highlights.
The pillowtop is a soft sleeve that your air mattress goes inside, with a foam top. I was pretty sceptical of this item initially, thinking that is was an excessive luxury item, taking up unnecessary space and weight. However, then I got to try one and I was converted – I spent the next day considering how to adjust my luggage and what I could remove so that I could pack my own pillowtop next time!
The things I loved about the pillowtop were:
- It felt just like sleeping on a real bed.
- My mattress stayed put, and didn’t slide down towards the foot of my tent.
- I could sleep comfortably on my side or back.
- I could roll over without bottoming out the mattress on the ground.
- I could roll over without making rustling air mattress noises.
- It was softer on top than an air mattress.
The 20R pillowtop (narrowest width) weighs in at 700g, and rolls down to approx 17cm diameter x 30cm long. I consider it worth packing for a good night’s sleep.
Sea to Summit Eye Shade
I am a bit of a connoisseur of eye shades, as I have a thing about not liking lights in my face when I sleep. You may think that camping out is the one time I wouldn’t need one, but actually I use it more when I’m camping than any other time. At a caravan park, there are inevitably lights left on at the ablution block or camp kitchen, and out bush there is always the moon to contend with! A tent or bivy bag doesn’t keep out much light.
I found the Sea to Summit eye shade was one of the most comfortable eye masks that I’ve used. I put it on at the start of the night and practically didn’t take it off all night. Most other eye shades, I get a bit sick of wearing them and they usually come off after a few hours. I almost forgot I was wearing this one.
Good coffee each morning is one of life’s pleasures, and not something I care to forgo when I am out bush. The Aeropress makes good coffee, and as a bonus you can pack in it a mini coffee grinder. In my case, my camp light actually fits perfectly in my Aeropress so I do it that way and pack pre-ground coffee beans (ok, so I will compromise on coffee freshness to some degree).
To make a great coffee with the Aeropress, follow these tips:
- Use good quality fresh beans, as freshly ground as you can get them. Ground that morning or the night before is great. Or if you don’t want to carry a mini grinder, you can get them ground the day before you head out and they will still brew up a tasty coffee. Make sure they are ground for an Aeropress.
- Heat the water until it is steaming but not bubbling. You are looking for around 80-90 degrees C water, not full boiling or your coffee will be bitter. You may need to experiment with how you gauge the temperature so that it is hot enough but not too hot.
- You will need a solid cup that is large enough for the Aeropress to sit on top of – not a collapsible cup.
- Bring a milk product of choice, as desired. UHT milk or condensed milk are good off-the-shelf options.
I experimented with making my own homemade non-sweetened condensed milk from milk powder for this trip, which worked really well. It lasted the four days but the remainder I had left was off by the time I got home, so four days would be the limit. The recipe is pretty simple: 1 cup of boiling water + 2 cups of milk powder. Stir over a moderate heat to remove any lumps and dissolve the milk powder. Put into sterilized leaf-proof containers. This quantity makes 1.5 cups (approx 350 mL).
I’ve ordered a few more items of gear for my next trip – trying to get more streamlined so that I can fit in my pillowtop! I’m looking forward to testing them out soon.