Monday, 27 December 2010

Gear for my walk

Now that 2011 is just around the corner and I have some money to spend, I've started to think a bit more about what I'll take with me on my walk. I've already got a lot of stuff but I want to refine my kit a bit to improve comfort and effectiveness and reduce weight where possible.

There are lots of hikers out there who go to the extremes to reduce weight and do things like cutting the handle off their toothbrushes. Sounds daft but if it reduces the weight by half that's not bad. If you could do that with everything it would make a heck of a difference. I'm not that desperate although I do want to reduce weight where I can. Here is a basic list of what I'll be taking with me:
  • Rucksack - Golite Jam2. I wore out my last Golite pack and loved it to bits. They are very light and very strong and if I'm honest I probably loaded far more than was recommended into my last one which was why it started to fall apart. I know that not everyone gets on with Golite because of the lack of frame and padding on the hipbelt but I've always found them very comfy. Let's face it though - I've got a fair bit of padding of my own so maybe by the time July comes and I've lost some weight I may change my mind.

    • Tent - Vango Apex200 as detailed in previous blog
    • Sleeping bag - Mountain Equipment Dewline - this is the sleeping bag that I bought for walking the John Muir trail several years ago. It is a down bag and only weighs 650 grams. They save weight by not having a zip and not having any down filling on the underside. After all, if you are lying on down you are compressing it and so it's useless for insulation. The bag is slightly elasticated on the top to keep it close to your body and avoid cold spots. It is rated to minus 5 degrees and so should see me comfortably through my walk. I always tend to sleep cold and I generally use a silk liner with it but probably won't bother with that this time. I am trying to get out of the habit of taking stuff 'just in case'!
    • Mattress - thermarest self inflating. I am never comfortable sleeping in a tent but the thermarest makes it at least bearable. I have two - a full length one and a three quarter length one which is thicker and so probably weighs about the same as the full length one (around 950grams) I also use it for padding my backpack - of which more later!
    • Stove - Jetboil. Again, over the years we have acquired and tried out several different kinds from gas canisters to white gas to fuel tablets. I like the jetboil because it's easy to light, reliable, compact and relatively lightweight.

      • Food - Whenever we are in the states, we try to stock up of food from a company called Trailfoods. They make the best and most easily prepared backpacking food that we have ever tried. They don't export to the UK yet but when I contacted them they kindly said that they would send me some over for the walk. Now that's what I call service!
      • GPS unit - we have between us (I bought it for Roy but I use it more than him) a Satmap Active 10 GPS. It is the rolls royce of GPS units with a price tag to match but the beauty is that it uses ordnance survey mapping so the maps are very familiar. I can't say that I've mastered it but every time I go out I practice and learn a little more. It is a bit like the controls of the starship enterprise but I will get there. After all it's no use taking it if I don't know how to use it properly. I have bought the mapcard that has the entire Pennine Way on it at 1:25000 so am going to have to think hard about what actual paper maps to take with me. I can't imagine setting off without an OS map in my pocket so we'll see.
      Satmap Active 10 GPS
      The fabulous thing about Satmap is that they are a very customer oriented company and are extremely helpful with any queries. I had a problem downloading and installing an upgrade to the Satmap software and they worked with me step by step to help me fix the problem. the problem wasn't even theirs, it was with the Windows setup on my laptop. They would have been quite within their rights to say 'get microsoft to sort it out' but no - Ben Randall from their IT department corresponded with me over several weeks to help me sort it out. Now that's what I call above an beyond the call of duty. I can't praise Satmap highly enough.
      • Pillow - I am on a continual quest for the perfect camping pillow. I absolutely have to have a pillow if I want to get any sleep at all but have never found anything that really works. I've tried stuffing clothes in a stuff sack but that only works if you aren't wearing all of them cos you're cold. I've tried inflatable ones but they are often quite heavy, quite rigid and prone to leaks. I've tried so called packable pillows but they aren't packable enough and are quite big.Today I was perusing the REI website as I always find that the Americans are way ahead of us when it comes to backpacking and I found a pillow that everyone raves about. It's called the Exped air pillow and it's inflatable but it looks as if it might do the job. Well designed and sturdy but only weighs 85 grams. It's on my shopping list.
      Exped Air Pillow
      •  Hiking poles - I've always used walking poles because of the extra stability they give - I find it a bit like the difference between having an ordinary car and a 4 wheel drive. I can't imagine not having poles with me but mine were quite cheap when I bought them 10 years ago and so I thought that I would get some new ones. I read a review that Chris Townsend had written about a new design called PacerPoles and took a look. They have shaped handles and you use them in a slightly different action to ordinary poles. 
      PacerPoles unique handgrip design
      Frankly - if they're good enough for Chris Townsend and Cameron McNeish, then they're good enough for me. They're on my shopping list.
      • Clothes - I tend to prefer natural fabrics like merino wool and so Icebreaker garments are top of my list. I'll be acquiring some more of these. They have the added advantage of not smelling after several days on the trail
      • Headtorch - petzl. Indispensable. How did I ever manage without one???
      • First aid kit - just the basics really as I'll never be that far from civilisation
      • Emergency kit - I always carry a space blanket, a whistle, spare headtorch battery and some other bits and pieces that I don't like to be without like thermarest repair patches.
      • Compass
      • Platypus water bladder - just love these and the way that the drinking tube is always there just ready to be slurped on. If I had a water bottle I know I wouldn't stop often enough and so I'd dehydrate really quickly.
      • Water filter - we have a filter that we bought in the states that works perfectly well but it is reasonably bulky so I've looked for something else (I wouldn't contemplate purification tablets - yuck) I follow Terrybnd on twitter and he found an inline filter that fits into your platypus hose and you suck water through it. Great idea. Light, small, effective and not ridiculously expensive. It's called the Drinksafe Aquagard Inline Hydration Filter 

      Of course there'll be other stuff to take as well and I'll have to try really hard to avoid taking the kitchen sink with me too but as I complete my training walks I'll refine my kit and decide what I can do without. Can't wait to get going - wish the weather was on the John Muir Trail

      Me on the descent from Donoghue pass from Yosemite into the Ansel Adams Wildernes

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