D4 Portaledge Update 9--Feedback from the field
Dear D4 Portaledge Supporters:
Happy Fourth of July Weekend (in the USA)!
Apologies for the lack of updates since May 21. An incredible amount of progress has been happening with the D4 Portaledge design.
Soon after the last update, John Middendorf travelled from Hobart, Tasmania to Durango, Colorado, where members of the former A5 team gathered: Barry Ward, Jason Brooks, and John Middendorf. Barry and John experimented with various concepts and worked out some exceptionally clever design details, such as our new corner-pocket, drawcord-less Expedition Stormfly. It now has a novel tensioning system at each corner which ensures a taught fly no matter what the angle of the wall (portaledge flys are designed with a flat vertical wall in mind, but need adjustment when on a slab or hanging from a tree). Meanwhile, Jason has been building frames to the highest of craftsmanship possible with his incredible attention to detail.
We've also been hard at work with finalising fabrics and hardware, reinforcing wear points based on field feedback, finding the best system for applying logos to the flys, and a hundred other things to ensure the best portaledge ever.
Here's a sketch of the production fly design:
We've also redesigned the two-point Shark Fin design which we feel is the best for strength, while also enabling cooking in the center with a hanging stove.
Good News: we've also begun formal production of the Kickstarter batch, with all materials ordered, and at least the first 12 portaledges are expected to be shipped out by the end of July. (the rest of the Kickstarter batch of 40 portaledges are expected to completed in the following months).
FEEDBACK FROM THE FIELD:
The D4 prototypes have been out all over the world with selected product testers. We have gotten a lot of feedback, and several issues were worked out satisfactorily with design tweaks thanks to the incoming feedback.
The D4 portaledge is an exceptionally lightweight and compact full-size two-person portaledge. As such, some design tradeoffs were during the innovation of the five major new portaledge concepts that make this ledge the finest expedition tool ever designed.
I'll go over some pros and cons of the five major innovations of the design:
PROS AND CONS OF THE D4 DESIGN:
Hybrid Diameter Tubing Design:
Pros: This engineered re-design of the tubing specifications eliminates the need for a spreader bar and adds significant rigidity and strength to the design.
Pros: Lighter than block corners, increased rigidity (especially when compared to the open block corners on competitor's ledges), smoother and snag-free flagging (PTPP flagged this ledge for over 3 weeks on his recent second ascent of Adrift, and loved the way the curved corners never snagged like block corners do).
Cons: No corner point to create 6-point syspension.
Pros: Lighter (saves over a pound compared with a six-point system). Less Microshifting of ledge with two people (the middle strap of the six-point system acts as a fulcrum point, increasing the frequency of movement during weight shifts). One person can sit in the middle of the ledge with legs hanging out in space (no centre suspension to get in the way).
Cons: Harder to adjust perfectly flat: this design seems to be more prone to "taco-ing" when not adjusted properly. But with practice and small adjustments to each appropriate strap, once it gets flat, it stays flat (as long as the bed tensioners are fully tensioned only when ledge is also flat). I will try to explain more tips in the "how-to" manual. Tipping point is about 4" closer to center of ledge than a traditional six-point system. For these reasons, the D4 ledge requires more practice in proper set up prior to experimenting on a tricky configuration. This is part of the price for lightness, but experienced wall climbers have found the adjustment straightforward (John Verbeck writes: "I really like the 4 point connection! Some people like Hummers while others prefer a Lotus--the D4 is a Lotus! Ha!").
D4 Deploy Zippered Haulsack:
Pros: Nothing but raves for this new system of packing and unpacking the portaledge. The way the fly tucks into the haulsack ready to deploy, combined with our new continuous shock cord frame, set up is super quick and simple.
Zippered Expedition StormFly:
Pros: The single zipper fly door is proving to be one of the those ideas so simple but also so effective and better than any other system, it's hard to believe no one has come up with it before (including me). See above illustration for key points. The system allows easy entrance and exit from the ledge (always stay tied into the main lead rope!), as well as allowing easy and quick full opening of the fly to air out the ledge and enjoy the clearing between storms.
In other news, we have gotten great feedback from two locations (Scotland and Tasmania) who have used the D4 in The Big Canopy Campout. Photos have been posted on the BigWallGear Facebook page at http://facebook.com/bigwallgear
There is lots more to report, and many more awesome photos and quotes from our field testers, which I will also try to post soon.
For more on the project, including the original Kickstarter and the preceding 8 updates, please visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1188459201/the-d4-portaledge/description