Honest, guv, I wasn’t going to write about gear for the TGO Challenge until nearer the the event. However, Darren made me do it. I see Andy Howell has been at it as well!
While I do have a preliminary gear list on a spreadsheet, it will probably change a bit so I won’t publish anything until May. I thought it might be useful to look at some of the options that I’m thinking about as well as some of the things I’m almost definitely taking. At the moment the base weight (weight carried excluding clothes worn and consumables) is 8.53kg. Definites:
Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack – my favourite pack and I can’t see any reason to use another. I will try out the airbeam frame on my next trip and will probably use it for the Challenge.
Snow Peak GST 100 stove, Evernew pot, MSR Titanium mug – for me, this has proved to be the best cooking combination. I’m sticking with gas, although I’ll have an experiment with Fuel4 later in the year. Gas is convenient and quick. I can probably make a 250 canister last all trip, but I’ll pick up a 100 canister at Aviemore as a backup.
Footwear – As most readers will know, I prefer to wear lightweight mid boots most of the time. The choice is between Salomon X Ultras and Ecco Biom Hike mids. I love the X Ultras and they are lighter, but they are fabric and likely to wet out sometimes. I didn’t find this a major problem with my Fastpackers but it does mean they can get a bit sweaty. The Biom Hikes, on the other hand, are leather and do cope better in wet conditions as I found on Dartmoor. They are also very comfortable and flexible, so I shall probably use the Biom Hikes. Sorry, trail shoe fans, but I like dry feet!
Shelter – The choice is between Scarp 1, F10 Nitro Lite or Trailstar/OookStar. I’m going to try the Trailstar in the Cairngorms. If I like it, then I’ll probably use it on the Challenge. It is about 300g lighter than the other two. As well as being very stormworthy, the large vestibule area gives a lot of flexibility in bad weather. The only real drawback is the large footprint, but that should be manageable. I might take a spare section of trekking pole as a contingency in case I break or bend one. Although it’s extremely unlikely, you are a bit scuppered if you break a pole.
Sleeping – The Exped UL pillow and Nemo Zor short sleeping mat are definites. The Zor is excellent. The choice in sleeping bags is between the Alpkit Pipedream 400 and my modified Rab Neutrino SL 200. The Rab obviates the need for a sleeping mat cover as it has synthetic filling on the underside, as well as being lighter. I’m hoping that the Neutrino is as warm as the Pipedream but won’t know until I’ve tried it out. The only drawback of the Neutrino is the half zip, which makes it slightly less comfortable and flexible compared with the Pipedream. I don’t think it’s a deal breaker, but it is a consideration.
Clothing – I always find selecting the right combination of clothes difficult. I do like to carry at least one change of clothes and have some options for different weather conditions. The main choice is whether to use a Paramo jacket (3rd Element or Vasco), or to use a fleece, gilet, windproof combination. Either way, I will carry a hard shell (OMM Cypher Smock) as I don’t trust Paramo in extreme conditions. That said, I think Paramo is a superb soft shell and very comfortable to backpack in most conditions. At the moment I’m thinking of using my Vasco jacket, which I think is the best jacket Paramo has ever made. I will do a more detailed post on clothing nearer the time.
I will be taking some items that will appear on very few gear lists.
Waders: I have a pair of waders (Wiggy’s) that I imported from the US a while ago. They are quite lightweight (260g after removing some superfluous straps) and are full leg. They have a non-slip rubber sole and the main fabric is PU coated nylon with taped seams. They are totally brilliant for crossing rivers. Sure, I could use crocs, but waders keep you dry and, just as importantly, warm. They are easy and quick to put on and take off. I think they are well worth the weight.
Umbrella: I am a convert to backpacking with an umbrella. Obviously it can’t be used all the time, but you’d be surprised how often it can be used. In a shower, you don’t need to stop to put on waterproofs. On the 2012 Challenge, it protected me from some unpleasant hail storms. It’s just so much more civilised than just using waterproofs. You don’t get as wet and you don’t have to wear a hood so you can regulate your body temperature more easily, avoiding sweating too much. The choice is between an M&S Ultralite (216g) and the more robust Senz (286g).
Mardale bivy boots: These are no longer made, but are very useful. They are not as light as down booties, weighing 162g, but they are fleece meaning they are less affected by damp. In particular you can put them over damp socks and they draw the moisture away so you can dry your socks effectively, even in damp/cold conditions. Of course, they keep your feet warm as well!
So, that’s some thoughts, by no means exhaustive. I will do another post in May with my final selection together with a full list of gear and weights.