Inside Alpkit - Whats New For 2015 - Part One
Last week we headed down to Alpkit to check out what's new from the internet only outdoor gear specialist for 2015 and in short, as you may have noticed, the answer is quite a bit.
Highlights include the return of the brand's temporarily absent sleeping bags and mats, new sleeping bag models too including a synthetic one, lightweight tents, a synthetically-filled belay jacket, new headtorches and a bunch more including, in the longer terms, Alpkit bikes and packs. And breathe...
So what's behind the apparent product boom? Turns out that after a slightly flat year or so when the brand seemed to have relatively frequent stock issues after selling out of popular products plus the complete absence of bags and mats, the addition of a new CEO with wide industry experience has smoothed out the admin side of the business and given the original Alpkit founders, the opportunity to focus on what they do best, designing and sourcing good kit.
To put it all in perspective, Alpkit's gone from being four guys in a small industrial unit, to employing around 20 people in a much larger building where they also have a showroom and manufacture bouldering mats and bike luggage in the UK. Sometimes you get the feeling that the surviving Alpkitties Col, Nick and Kenny are still a little bemused by the change.
So what's new? We're not going to go into massive detail, but here's a quick run through of some of the recent, imminent and future additions to the range. You can find full specs and details for all of them on Alpkit's website.
Folk with good memories might recall Alpkit's prototype lightweight backpacking tent project which never quite worked out. That's still somewhere on a well-hidden back burner, but earlier this year the brand introduced the Ordos 2 and 3 and the Jaran 2 and 3, a pair of lightweight tents with a US bent that are actually rebadged GoLite models.
The story goes that when lightweight brand GoLite filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in late 2014, it's Asian tent factory was left with a serious glut of GoLite tents. Alpkit helped both themselves and the factory by buying up that stock - in fact, if you look at the fly on the Jaran models, you can see the panel where the GoLite logo was removed and an Alpkit one added.
They are, reckon the guys, very decent tents and future tweaks may include stuff like the capability to pitch them fly-sheet first to cope with UK conditions, plus possibly a rationalisation of the high-mesh inners, though that would also increase weights. As things stand, the tents are decently light, good quality shelters using components like DAC poles. YKK zips and high spec fabrics with taped seams.
Note that Alpkit's own mountain tents, the Kangri, Zhota and Heksa will be back in due course.
Double Bivi Shelter
Also on the shelter front, suspended between two of the prototype Alpkit bikes was a limited edition Wide Horizon two-person eVent double divvy bag complete with hanging loops and a big zipped opening. The upper of the bag is highly breathable event with taped seams, the lower where breathability doesn't really matter is 320D Taslan TPU fabric.
The total weight is 1150g, so you're looking at around 550g per person with added benefits from shared body heat and lots of versatility. Would make a viable emergency shelter too we reckon. And of course, you can hang it between two bikes...
We're not going to go on about Alpkit's mooted bikes here, we've already done that, but if you missed them first time round, they're coming later in the year and there are three versions planned: an alloy, 650b trail hardtail with some nice tube shapes and neat details, a titanium drop-barred gravel cruiser / cross bike / all-rounder and finally, a rare titanium 650b+ rigid frame with a ti fork. Think of 650b+ as halfway to being a fat bike.
The idea is to appeal to the folk who've invested in Alpkit's home-built range of bike-packing luggage to give them something to hang their bags on. They look ace, a little bit different in the case of the two ti frames and bob on for the brand.
We already previewed these, but they're in the early stages of development and will be based on thermoformed backs, straps and belts which will be sourced in the Far East with the rest of the pack being manufactured in sunny Nottingham. More when we have it.
If you want an Alpkit pack right now, the Lite Pak is a super lightweight sil-nylon bag plus the Gourdon 30 now has mesh side stash pockets like the Gourdon 20. Who knew?
Sleeping bags were one of Alpkit's cornerstone products so it's great to see them back, with more to follow. The lightweight Pipedream gets reincarnated, currently in a stitch-through version to save weight. There's a 250 version (£130) weighing 651g and with a comfort limit rating of -1.5˚C and the 400 (£170), total weight 850g and a rating of -4.5˚C.
They both, from the look of it, use the same basic casing and 750+ fill power Chinese white goose down and use side zips. As an aside we asked Alpkit about the their down and the response was that they work with a carefully chosen supplier who they trust implicitly and are confident that the down is ethically sourced.
New Synthetic Mountain Ghost
Alongside the Pipedream and in a distinctly similar format is the new synthetically filled Mountain Ghost (£90) which uses an 80g/m2 fill with a weight of around 1000g and a limit of comfort temperature of around -0.8˚C with the fill housed in synthetic baffles.
There's more too: the SkyeHigh 700 (£180) and 900 (£200) are also back, wider cut, all-round bags filled with 650+ goose down, weights of 1500g and 1700g respectively and limit temperatures of -8˚ and -13˚C respectively, both use box-wall baffles.
Full-on Expedition Bags
Finally, available to pre-order (STOP PRESS: now in) is the Arctic Dream, a humdinger of an expedition bag in 1000, 1200 and 1400 versions rated to -18, -13 and -48˚C respectively in box wall with 750+ white goose down inside. They have an über-insulated hood and have been designed to work in ultra-cold environments. Priced from £285 to £375.
That's part one of our round-up, part two to follow featuring clothing, duffles and headtorches.