Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Along the Nordkalottleden: Gear Review

My gear list was published prior to departure on the trip, however, there were a few late additions to the pack including a book (300 gms) waterproof carry case for the camera and an extra meal, so my pack weight was closer to 17 kg when I left home. As I have stated previously I was generally happy with my gear and it enabled me to complete the walk with a minimum of hassles, but there are always times when the gear is not optimal, for others it may be a different story. I will comment on the big three as well as some other items of gear.
Aarn Mountain Magic 55l pack.
Generally I was very pleased with the pack and certainly with the ability to carry 17 kg comfortably. There is no doubt I had probably pushed the pack beyond its comfortable weight limit but given that a days food weighed about 800 gms, after a couple of days the weight was approaching what was more realistic of a pack this size. The picture below shows the pack fully loaded with only tent poles and a sleeping mat attached to the outside.

The front balance pockets were full and each contained approximately 3 kg and did inhibit leg lift, after day one I reduced the weights to about 2 kg in each and this proved to be much better. One problem I had with the pack is the attachments to the top of the balance pockets, these a shock cord and cord locks, I do not believe that this the best design as the shock cord stretches and the cord locks slip when the bungy gets wet. I tied knots into the cords to stop them from sliding but still they stretched further than I would have liked. I am now looking at replacing the bungy with either dyneema cord or webbing straps. For my next long trip I may consider using the Featherlite Freedom as it is perhaps more suited to such loads and the attachments for the balance pockets are better suited to heavier loads.
Stephensons Warmlite 2C tent

I was very pleased with this tent, as I had said in an earlier blog post I had decided to err on the side of caution when taking a shelter for the trip. The tent withstood strong winds from the back the front as well as the sides, it was spacious for one and could be erected in under 5 minutes. The shelter only requires a total of 9 pegs and can be erected with 3. There was some minor condensation at the single layer cones at each end but the mid section stayed condensation free. There are two changes I would make to the tent, one, I intended to, but did not put silicone sealer on the floor to reduce the slipperiness, it will be done before the next trip. As it was daylight all night and the tent quickly warmed in the mornings it would have been nice to have an insect free refuge with the door open, I intend to contact Stephensons to arrange for a no seeum door to be added. But these are minor annoyances more than design deficiencies, I can strongly recommend the tent. Having experienced the wonders of Lapland I now feel it is possible to use an appropriate shelter with added bug protection, such as GoLite ShangriLa 1, Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter, any of the pyramid shelters from MLD or Black Diamond as well as tarps such as the Spinntwinn from Gossamer Gear. Of course in using such shelters, care will need to be taken in adverse weather conditions.

Nunatak Arc Specialist Quilt, kept me warm and comfortable through out the trip, nothing more need to said about such a fine product.

Cooking, I used a Primus Micron ti Stove with a mini Light My Fire striker. The stove worked flawlessly and I boiled approximatey 12 litres of water over the 10 days using less than a 250 grams of gas, I estimate there were 2 days left in the canister suggesting a usage of approximately 20 grams per 1.2 litres of water. For the next trip I may consider the use of a small wood burning stove in conjunction with either Esbit or gas, when the insects or weather make the outdoors less than pleasant. Options include the Bushbuddy Ultra and the FourDog stove LT1 with the Primus stove or a Monatauk Gnat.
Haglöffs Oz Pullover, there has already been much discussion on the blog about the pullover. My perception was that water did bead in the beginning indicating that it was repelling water, but eventually became overloaded causing a build up of moisture inside. Given that I tend to perspire a lot this may be expected. However, with the air being dry the coat did dry quickly and as it was only used a couple of days, heavy duty wet weather gear was not needed and the Oz pullover did the job. I will use the Rab Demand pullover next time, though there is a weight penalty.

I used a Montane Featherlight Smock, which was excellent and with a Tilley hat along with a Buff I saw no need for a hooded windshirt such as the Lightspeed. My water resistant pants were the Featherlite pants and whilst in continued rain they do wet through I was happy with them and would use them again, they also make great wind speed measurers.

Merino; anything made out of Merino wool performed faultlessly, though my BPL Beartooth hoody is showing some wear and tear now and I need to consider replacements. Thanks to Joe at Thunder in the Night I now have an IBEX Hooded Indie to experiment with. My Ibex Liners performed perfectly and were ideal for protecting my hands from the mossies.

Vest; I did not take a vest, and there were times I wish I had, for use when the weather is a little cool or at rest stops, if I take one I would be deciding between the Haglöffs Treble Vest and the BPL Cocoon Vest.

Salomon Quest boots, after developing Plantar Fasciitis, and the long recovery period that followed I have been using Salomon footwear and have been very happy with them. For this trip I chose boots over shoes as I felt the more rigid soles would be better on the Talus etc, and I think this was true, however, the boots had a major drawback, lining, resulting in blisters. It is for this reason that I intend to return to Innov-8 Terrocs for all my hiking in the coming months paying particular attention to the activities that can lead to Plantar Fasciitis.

Pacer Poles, aluminium alloy, excellent as usual and even with a major fall the poles continued to work, albeit with a slight bend in one of the lower sections.

Camera; Olympus E-Pen 2, I was very pleased with the camera and am still learning how to use it, I was attracted to the Micro fourthirds in an effort to reduce weight, but maintain the quality offered by a DSLR. I also found that the user interface had some similarities with my Ricoh GX100 which made the transition a little less daunting. I intend to write a longer review on this camera in due course.