Two commonly used bits of equipment when tripping around the bush is a good knife and a good bed for a decent night’s sleep.  In this blog I’m going to give a quick review of the Jet Tent ‘Bunker’ made by OzTent, the Thermarest Neo-Air ‘Dream’ air mattress, and my favourite general-purpose cutting tool, a custom made five-inch utility knife.

img_2185Firstly, in terms of cutting implements, and I don’t mean the kitchenware, I have several in the truck ranging from the all-purpose Leatherman to a lightweight serrated folding knife, to a heavy utility knife, through to a 22-inch bush knife, not including the axe or chainsaw.  My favourite though is the utility knife.
This blade was made by Rian Doudle, a knife maker, and farrier in South Australia, who makes some fantastic blades under the name Fallen Forge.  Mostly it lives in its leather sheath, right beside the fridge on the mesh frame in the canopy or is with me if away from the truck.img_2215

The blade itself is a forged three layered design with central high carbon steel and then outer layers of tougher stainless steel.  This construction technique is referred to as ‘San Mai’ in knife making circles and has been used widely around the world for hundreds of years.

The technique creates a knife that holds its edge very well, but yet is protected by the tougher outside layers.  It does need a bit of extra care in the form of a wipe over to keep it clean and dry after use, or if not in use for a while, a wipe with a bit of oil will prevent any sort of rusting.  The San Mai styles do have a unique look and each blade comes up differently as the grinding process reveals the ‘core’.  This knife also has a grip made from PNG ebony, a tie to somewhere I grew up and later worked for many years.  It’s a very handy tool and one that gets used daily when touring.

img_2191Next up is a review on the Jet Tent ‘Bunker’ made by OzTent.  This is something I have been using now for about two years, and in general, it’s been a fantastic upgrade from the swags I’ve used since I got my first one when I turned 16.
The Bunker has done some miles now too.  I’ve used it on trips through South Australia, the Simpson, the Cape, the Gulf Country and more recently a loop through Central Queensland to Brisbane and back to Cairns.

The Bunker is easy to set up, and I can do it now without having to lay it on the ground after taking it out of the bag, which takes a bit of practice.  Oz Tent says that you can sleep in one without a mattress, and no doubt you can, however, personally, I’ve always opted for the extra comfort, and throw in my Therm-a-rest, which in combination, has so far proved really comfortable.  Being off the ground, mostly level, and not having to hunt rocks out from under the swag, are some of the biggest pluses.  Having a big airy mosquito free sleeping area is also hugely attractive.

The Bunker is nicely waterproof with the cover on, although it is bloody loud in there if you do get caught out in some decent rain.  If the weather is looking nasty, you also need to pay particular care to tension and securing the cover properly as water will pool on top of the low end if it is even slightly loose.  Pegging out the cover properly also makes air circulation a lot better and reduces condensation.  I don’t normally bother to peg it out, but if it looks like it’s raining, then it is worth the extra effort.img_2190

The four storage pockets inside are sufficient to keep items like a drink bottle, keys, wallet or torch handy and I’ve never found myself looking for more options.  If privacy is needed, getting changed in the bunker can be done, but is a bit of a challenge as you would expect.  Easier than trying to get changed in a swag though!

The fine mesh is great for keeping out midgies and mozzies and is a blessing if camped in the tropics on a hot still night.  In these times I normally use a battery-powered 12 Volt fan up against one end of the mesh which provides enough breeze for sleep.   The mesh, however, is also rather delicate, and I now have several patches of small holes in mine and I’m not entirely sure how they were caused. img_2204One possibility is that damage might occur when folding up the bunker and having it on its side on the ground when collapsing the legs.  Small sticks or sharp rocks etc. might be one reason.

Another minor issue I’ve had with mine relates to the small round tabs on the bottom of the legs. img_2206These tabs are used to secure the rain cover and they protrude slightly out from the base of the leg.  I’ve found that when the bunker is placed back into its bag, and put into the truck, that they have rubbed holes through the bag.  Now that I’ve realised, I place the bunker on its side in the bag and don’t have the problem any longer.

Packing the Bunker away is pretty simple, and could be compared to a folding camp chair, but a bit heavier.  It takes up less room in the truck than a rolled up swag, but the downside is that it is heavier (than a single swag at least) and is not available as a double.

So in summary, the Jet Tent Bunker gets a big thumbs up from me, but it does need more care than the old swag.

img_2194Finally the Thermarest Neo-Air ‘Dream’ mattress.  This is basically a standard Neo-Air mattress with a removable cover that comes with a bit of foam included.  This mattress is about 2 inches thick when blown up, and completely flat when the air is out of it.  The mattress itself can be used as a stand-alone if say you were hiking and wanted to absolutely minimise weight and bulk.  img_2201In that scenario, it rolls up into a very small package indeed, as does the whole Neo-Air range of mattresses.

With the cover zipped on over the bit of foam, it is very comfortable to sleep on.  The cover itself has a velvet feel to it, which can actually be used to sleep on directly, and is a much nicer feel than plastic.

When rolled up for packing in the truck, it is nice and compact, even when I get lazy and don’t bother with the extra fold in half as per the instructions.  img_2202

So, the pluses are that it’s compact and comfortable, which is what we all want in a mattress.  What are the downsides?

a) Price.  These aren’t cheap, but they are quality and you get what you pay for I guess.  b) Noise.  The Neo-Air is actually a noisy bloody thing to sleep on as the material sort of ‘crinkles’ (is that a word?) when you roll around or move on it.  It’s not that big of a deal once you get used to it, but my wife for one hates it and won’t use it, despite acknowledging its comfort factor. c) It is an air-bed so it needs a pump.  Not a deal-breaker, but it is a bit of a pain all the same.  I’ve got a cheap Coleman pump that uses D-cell batteries and does the job well enough.  Thermarest provides the option of using the carry bag as a big bellows-type pump, but I’ve found this to be a painful experience and one I’ll leave as a backup plan if the batteries on the pump ever go flat.  They also have their own battery pump but at around $60, I’ll stick with the Coleman for a while yet.

 

Welcome to Expedition 134

We’re excited to introduce the new Expedition 134 website, the new home for Open Sky Touring.

This change is another step in our journey to consolidate our branding and name in the marketplace.

While things might look different, the passion to make the toughest and most functional gear possible hasn’t.