Monday, 3 August 2009

Jotunheimen Gear

Gear selection for a trip is based on many factors such as weight, fit, appropriateness, colour, whether we look good in it as we hike as well as many other factors.

The list of gear I used for this trip is given below, following are some comments on the gear used.

The "big three" used were Terra Nova Laser Competition tent, Haglöfs LIM 45 pack and Nunatak Arc Alpinist Quilt.

Terra Nova Laser Competition: A lot has been written about the tent and blogs such Blogpackinglight and backpackingbongos will provide a lot of information. My opinions of the tent are mixed, the major benefit of the tent is that it is light and can be packed small if the poles from the inner are removed. The challenges are that it can be fiddly to set up if the ground is uneven, removing the poles to make packing easier creates more hassles when setting it up. I had no problems with the tent flapping in the wind this trip, but others have reported this. I am not tall standing at about 178 cm, but using a Neo Air in the tent (with a Montbell Pillow) means that my head is close to the tent inner when laying down which could be a little claustrophobic for some. Having said that it is a good tent for its weight provides good protection from the elements.

Haglöfs LIM 45, like Holdfast I took an untried pack on this trip though I had read about the pack on PTC's site and along with actually being able to try it in a shop I decided that it would work for this trip. (Interestingly the shop, in Copenhagen, sold this pack as a large day pack) The pack is made of what appears to be light materials, though after 6 days of hiking and a few scrapes here and there the pack showed little signs of wear. The pack has an interesting design with the shoulder straps connected to the base of the pack and the frame has an interesting shape which could be best described as an inverted U shape with a narrowing around the lower back as shown here.

The adjustment for the back length comes from moving the back pad in relation to the shoulder straps using velcro. I found this system to work quite well and once set it did not move. The hip belt is a reverse pull similar to Osprey, a system I like and I found the hip belt to work quite well and the adjustments allowed the weight to be shared between the shoulders and the hips, The pack fully loaded weighed 13.5 kg, which in my view is probably about its limit, though at no time did I find it uncomfortable the shoulders, back or hips. I am a fan of roll top closures and the Haglöfs pack has perhaps the best I have used, it has a 2 cm wide strip of stiff material on each side and when folded twice and cinched down form a very secure closure, this was an aspect of the pack I really liked. Another aspect of the pack that suits my style of hiking is the side pockets and front pocket which are easily accessible and will hold a lot of gear. The front pocket I used for waterproofs, lunch etc. whilst one side pocket carried tent poles and tent groundsheet the other side pocket carried a small amount of water in a platypus and was easily accessible without removing the pack. My two niggles about the pack are there were times that I felt the straps were slipping when they were damp and I noticed some stitching on the roll top lid had come away and whilst repairable in the field ideally should not happen. I have contacted Haglöfs about this.

In summary this is a pack I will continue to use for trips up to 5 days as I like the way it carries and the usability of the pack.

Nunatak Alpinist Quilt
. My down quilt is my go to quilt and I use it on almost all trips, However, with its 340 gms of down I found it a little warm when combined with a Neo Air and the tent, got me to thinking that when considering sleep systems one should consider the shelter along with mattress and sleeping bag. In my view in a tent (such as the Laser Comp) a bag with less down may work depending on the expected night time temps, clearly when planning a trip the sleep system should be considered as a system and not just individually. I am now considering other down sleeping bags, which will work with as part of a sleep system depending on the anticipated temperatures.

Wet weather gear:
I carried a Montane Lite-Speed jacket, Montane Featherlite Pants and Haglöfs Oz pullover. And to be honest there was very little rain to test the gear. However, after reading Chris Townsends BPL (You will need to be a member) article on wet weather gear, there were times on the trip where I wore a silkbody base layer combined with the Lite-Speed and the OZ pullover on the outside. I was very impressed, the arrangement kept me comfortable, but not hot. This is an arrangement I want to explore more as it means that I carry less weight in my pack if I am not wearing them.

Salomon Fastpackers:
I have completed over 100 kms in these boots, 70 km of which were in Jotunheimen. My experience with the boots was very positive especially given the snowy conditions early in the trip. In summary I find these boots have good grip in loose gravel as well as on dry rocks, though the grip is reduced on wet rack. In extended downhill sections it may be that toe volume is compromised. There were times where I felt the more robust Alan Sloman's slippers may have been appropriate. All in all my hiking footwear for the future will be selected from Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra, Fastpackers or Quest ... depending on the expected environment.

There was no gear that I would not take on the next trip, though I may consider placing the DSLR in my pack for trips where the scenery warrants it.