As I indicated in my post on Röstånga to Klövahallar, part of my plan for this trip was to try some new gear, which is always a good reason (if you need one) to go hiking.
I used the Aarn Natural Balance for this trip, it is a 83 litre pack in size large and was way too big for this trip, but it enabled me to dial in the fit as well as carry surplus gear (including a second pair of boots). As always I find the fit of the Aarn packs ideal for me and while they are heavy by UL/lightweight standards, for my planned load in Lapland of about 23 kg a robust and comfortable pack is critical.
The shelter used was a Black Diamond Betalight combined with an MLD SOLO InnerNet, the inner net was not needed for this trip, but a mosquito free haven will be required in July in Lapland. I have been using a Betalight since 2005 when we first took one to Rondane NP in Norway. On that occasion we experienced driving rain strong winds and the Betalight withstood it all, normally we use the Black Diamond bug inner, but weighing in at 825 gms it is a little too heavy for one, thus I wanted to try using a SOLO InnerNet inside. The innernet weighs in at 260 gms and combined with the Betalight at 580 grams gives a total shelter weight of 840 grams providing a bug free environment along with a vast vestibule which as Dondo has indicated is ideal for spreading out gear and cooking if needed. I was very happy with arrangement, I like the concept of side entry and there was ample space for gear etc. To set the innernet up inside the Betalight I ran some 2mm Dyneema cord between the poles and suspended the innernet from that, the beauty is that the location of the innernet is independent of the shelter and thus can be moved forward or backwards within the shelter.
Betalight and MLD Solo InnerNet Pros and Cons:
Ample vestibule space
No need for a ground sheet when using the innernet
Bug free environment, once the innernet is closed
Betalight is a proven shelter
Low volume when packed
Betalight can be erected independently of inner net
Innernet only needs to be deployed in "buggy" locations
Betalight only requires 7 pegs (or stakes).
When using a mat such as POE Ether Elite AC in the inner net the head is close to or touching the netting
When Betalight is fully closed there is limited ventilation and thus condensation is more likely
Innernet maybe too confining for large hikers
Wind driven rain may impact on sleeping area
The door of the Betalight does not have a two way zip.
So this combination (total weight 840 gms) and the MLD Speed mid with perimeter netting (total weight 650 gms) are fighting it out for a tour of Lapland in 2011. Though Mark at Backpackingnorth, a Lapland local currently residing in the USA, has questioned the viability of perimeter netting in some contexts such as Lapland in summer. For those interested in this approach you may also want to consider the GoLite Shangri La 2 and the Six Moon Designs Serenity Net Tent
As I have already mentioned I took 2 pair of boots, one worn the others carried. The pair carried were my old trusty Inov-8 Roclite 390 GTX boots, which I find very comfortable and have a good cushioned sole for walking on hard rocky trails. However, they have one drawback, a goretex (gtx) lining, for a while Inov-8 produced a non gtx version the Inov-8 Roclite 370 boots, sadly now out of production, but being fortunate enough to have big feet there are still a few pairs available on the internet at very good prices so I picked up a pair to try for this trip. I was very impressed and thus the 390's remained in my pack. They are slightly softer in the sole than the 390's but in all other respects are the same as the 390's. The critical difference however, is no gtx which I was quickly reminded of when I placed my foot into a puddle. They are cooler than the 390's and worn with Teko Light Hiker socks and Smartwool Adrenalines they worked just fine, I will be using them in Lapland. Hopefully Inov-8 will decide to produce a non gtx equivalent of the 390 whether it be a shoe or boot.
There has been a lot of interest in the Pacific Outdoors Equipment Elite AC mat, I was fortunate to be able to obtain a regular size mat from Bob and Rose I was interested in the mat mainly because as others have commented the design of the Neoair with its horizontal tubes versus vertical tubes is less comfortable and makes the mat feel narrower. I have been happy with my NeoAir but as most hikers do, I feel the need to find the perfect mattress for the perfect nights sleep. In my view the tubes the length of the mat are a far better option and more conducive to a good nights sleep and my nights on the POE mattress confirmed this. I will take a mattress with lengthwise tubes and whilst it maybe the POE mattress I am also interested in the Exped Synmat UL7 which whilst heavier has a better valve system in my view. I had trouble with the closure of the valve on the POE mat requiring me to re inflate the mattress twice on the first night. Dondo has provided an informative review of the Synmat UL7.
Underneath the POE mat I used an MLD Good Night EVA UL Foam Pad, I used the 3mm version as an insulator as well as a protector from sharp objects penetrating the base of the innernet. The pad itself is ideal for such uses and I believe every hiker should have one in their gear closet, with the real fanatics sleeping on the 3 mm pad without extra padding.
I used the Boilerwerks Back Country Boiler this trip and was pleasantly surprised with its effectiveness. However, with the boiler weighing in at 273 grams and then requiring the addition of a cup of some form the carry weight will be over 300 grams. If you want to do more than boil water for a meal then the backcountry boiler may not be for you. Having said that once the boiler is lit it quickly boils water and can be easily kept burning for as long as is required. The boiler is a work of art and I am glad to have one and it will form part of my cooking options for many years to come.