As Tucas Sestrals 2 Pants

  

For the past few years, for warm legwear in my shelter or to supplement my sleeping bag, I’ve used a pair of lightweight running tights (Lowe Alpine or Arctery’x) coupled with a pair of wind trousers (Montane Fetherlight or latterly, As Tucas Millaris). These combos have worked well, weighing in total somewhere between 210g to 240g. 

Whenever I’ve looked at insulated trousers they’ve looked a bit too warm and heavy. I’m not so keen on down trousers as down compresses when you are sitting or lying down. Also damp could potentially be an issue if the weather is inclement and you need to nip outside. 

When Marco revamped the Sestrals Pants using some high tech Schoeller fabric, I thought I’d give them a go. The picture above doesn’t really do them justice. They are superbly made. The fit is trim without being tight. I bought a Medium and I’m a 34″ waist and 30″ inside leg. For me, the fit is perfect. 

They are very light at 186g. Wearing them inside, they feel pretty warm, certainly warmer than the running tights/windproof combo. The material has a soft feel with a slight sheen. The hems have some poppers do you can cinch them in to keep out draughts. 

I’m looking forward to taking these on the Challenge. They’ll add a bit of warm and luxury at the end of the day when I’m in my tent. They’ll also be good to extend the temperature range of my sleeping bag. I was thinking of taking my WM Ultralite, but now I’ll stick with my Rab Neutrino SL 200. I’ll give some further feedback after the Challenge. 

Daunder gear

I know there’s a bit of snootiness about writing about gear on blogs, but I’ve always found that feedback after trips is useful as gear is being used in the real world. The weather conditions were good, so none of the gear was tested to destruction.

DSC00137

Shelter and sleeping

I used my F10 Nitro Lite 200 for my shelter. The reasons for doing so were that I hadn’t used it for over a year and I fancied a bit of extra room. It’s basically the same weight as the Scarp but a lot roomier inside. The only drawback is headroom is a little low, but it’s still a great tent. My sleeping bag was my modified Rab Neutrino SL 200. For temperatures above 5c, it’s a great bag. Having a synthetic base makes it really comfortable. I can’t understand why Rab haven’t turned this mod into a production bag. I used a Thermarest XLite short sleeping mat, which was very comfortable and light at 212g. I use it with the thin end under my head, which seems to work better for me as a side sleeper than with the wide end at my head. In some ways I prefer a short mat as it doesn’t dominate the tent like a full length mat. I use it with a 150cm long 3mm thick closed cell foam pad. For a pillow I used an Exped UL inflatable covered with a Buff. This is the most comfortable combination I’ve used.

Carrying

Yawn, yawn, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is a great rucksack. I used the AirBeam frame with my closed cell foam sleeping mat folded behind. It was very comfortable and saved me storing the mat externally. I also used my Laufbursche hip belt pockets. Boy, these are way better than the standard pockets and fit well on the hip belt. My Sony RX100 camera had plenty of room (with a foam pad to protect it). In the other pocket was a compass and food. I also used the OMM I-Gammy shoulder strap bottle holder. While this is great, the mesh trashes fleeces and merino base layers where your arm rubs it. I’m going to ditch it and put a water bottle in the side pocket in future. It wrecked my Montane Oryx fleece on the Challenge and my Montane Sportwool base layer started to bobble after just one day.

Clothes

This was the first proper outing for my Mountain Equipment Ultratherm jacket. I’m very impressed. It has just the right enough warmth and wind resistance for mild conditions. The stretch panels add a bit of ventilation but are not too wind permeable. As an outer layer that takes the place of a fleece and a windproof in warmer months, I think it’s a good choice (although it’s difficult to find now). For sleepwear I wore Rohan Ultra long sleeve shirt and Longjohns. Very comfortable and light.

Shoes and socks

Because the weather forecast was fair, I took trail shoes, La Sportiva Raptors, which were very comfortable and grippy. I did a comparative test of socks: X Socks Outdoor socks, Hilly Mono Skin Merinos and Injini Midweight Mini Crew Wool. Of the three, I found the X Socks most comfortable. They evaporated sweat quickly. The lack of cushioning didn’t seem to be a problem. The Hillys weren’t quite as comfortable, being a little more sweaty, but they were fine. The Injinis, however, were not good. After a couple of hours I developed a hot spot in front of the ball of my foot where the material is a bit thinner. Rather than allow this to develop, I swapped to the Hilly socks. It was useful to make a side by comparison. For me the X Socks are the best.

Daunder 2015 part three

DSC00139Although it rained a bit overnight, the next day dawned sunny and bright. By around 8:30 we were all packed and ready for the off.

DSC00140We picked up the Swan’s Way and headed along a broad track past fields …

DSC00142..and cheap council houses.

DSC00143At Swyncombe Downs, we paused for a rest, making use of some cross country jumps for horses as seats.

DSC00144So far, it had been a very pleasant morning’s walk. However, soon, we emerged onto the minor road that led back to the camp site at Crowmarsh Gifford. Unfortunately, it was very busy with traffic including heavy lorries.

DSC00145It was an unavoidable trudge until we picked up a footpath just outside Crowmarsh.

DSC00146Not long after, we were back at the camp site. Phil decided that he should get home, but the rest of us went to the pub for lunch. I had some very fine sausages. All too soon, it was time to say our farewells. All in all, it was a very pleasant two and half days walking, in good company. Thanks to Alan for organising it. Below is a map of the route we took.

PWD 2015 OVERVIEW MAP

Daunder 2015 part two

Henley has one big draw back as a place to camp: it’s under the Heathrow flight path. At around six o’clock in the morning, the planes start coming in. While not deafening, they are certainly noticeable. After an hour or so of trying to ignore the aircraft noise, I gave up and got out of my sleeping bag.

DSC00077Swiss Farm camp site has a restaurant, so it would have been rude not to have breakfast there! I was sorely tempted to have a second plate of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. We really know how to rough it. Suitably fortified, we had to resume this horrible walking nonsense.

DSC00079A group of us left Phil back at the camp site on his phone to sort out some problems with his impending house move. After a short pull up the hill, through a stretch of woods, we emerged into some open parkland.

DSC00081At the end of the grassy track there was a huge cedar tree.

DSC00085Mick decided it was so lovely, he gave it a hug.

DSC00086Further on, we saw a rather lovely house.

DSC00090And a spooky tree.

DSC00091We also saw some fine-looking horses.

DSC00092Soon, the views began to look like the Shire in Lord of the Rings.

DSC00094Amazingly, Alan and Phil were dissuaded from going into a pub (it was only 10:30).

DSC00097This road sign caused much hilarity.

DSC00099After a rest break at a derelict church, it was onward and upward for a serious climb, accompanied by yet more moaning by Phil.

DSC00101Soon we were walking through a field of yellow rape.

DSC00104Over some rolling downland.

DSC00110Past a pretty church.

DSC00113To a pub in the amusingly named village of Pishill.

DSC00118Food and drink was consumed. After an hour or so, it was time to heft our packs again to resume our journey through some delightful woods with a floor of bluebells.

DSC00122We wended our way through more fields.

DSC00123And woods.

DSC00124To the next pub. Some of us had a cream tea, others didn’t.

DSC00126After sheltering from a spot of rain, we walked to Watlington Hill for a fine view over Watlington and beyond.

DSC00132At the bottom of the hill was our camp site for the night.

DSC00137We had a fine meal in The Chequers in Watlington (our third pub of the day). To round off a perfect day, the rain held off until we were safely tucked up in our tents.

Daunder 2015 part one

Well that was fun! The 2015 Pre-Walk Daunder was successfully completed with no mishaps, revolutions or tantrums. The weather was fine and a jolly time was had by all. Thanks to Alan Sloman for his impeccable organisation.

DSC00040The intrepid Daunderers gathered in dribs an drabs at the appointed camp site in Crowmarsh Gifford. The camp site authorities had obviously been warned that we are a bunch of hooligans because we had a discrete area of the camp site all to ourselves, well away from the more genteel caravanners.

DSC00042Despite a night of debauchery at one of Wallingford’s less salubrious hostelries, the merry band was up bright and early to face the daunting route that Alan had planned for the day. Phil was a bit photo shy and pretended to adjust his hip belt every time someone tried to take a group photo.

DSC00043After a bit of coaxing, we were off through some fields with the promise of lunch at a pub somewhere.

DSC00045Soon, we turned east to follow the Ridgeway along Grim’s Ditch.

DSC00047Along the way there was some lovely woodland with a carpet of bluebells.

DSC00049Before long, Gerry decided that we were going too fast and that we needed a break to reduce our average speed to a more sensible level. JJ decided to entertain us with his Larry Grayson impersonation (well, maybe not).

DSC00052It was all going terribly well, until we encountered some uphill bits. This precipitated a bout of extended moaning from Phil about Alan’s route planning abilities.

DSC00055As we climbed higher, splendid views opened up, including one of Didcot power station, which will soon be required to export electricity to Scotland to keep their lights on when they get rid of their last coal-fired power station. DSC00059All around we  were surrounded by picture postcard loveliness.

DSC00061Before we could reach our lunch time oasis, there was a killer hill to climb.

DSC00063Fortunately no one was injured or lost on the arduous ascent of Witheridge Hill. Miraculously, just over the brow of the hill, The Rising Sun pub came into view.

DSC00065The pub appeared just in time to quell a mutiny amongst the troops. Food and drink calmed tempers and soothed discontent.

DSC00066Suitably refreshed, it was onward and upward, with Captain Sloman leading from the rear.

DSC00068Our path led us through some beautiful woodland. Navigator Sloman decided that the arrows painted on the trees were misleading, so we followed a more novel and circuitous route.

DSC00072There was considerable confusion when a breakaway group decided to take a different route. However, order was restored with another tea break when the rebels re-joined the main party.

DSC00073Alan’s tactic of leading from the rear backfired on the outskirts of Henley. Instead of descending along a ridge, the leading group continued along a path which opened onto the roughest part of Henley. We barely survived.

DSC00075Fortunately, it wasn’t far to the camp site. For some reason, Mick decided that he wanted to follow JJ’s lead and do a Larry Grayson impersonation. Most of the group decided to go on the razzle in Henley, but I was suffering from a heat induced migraine and had an early night.

Will I survive?

I’m off this afternoon on a two and a half day pre-Challenge walk around the Chilterns with Alan Sloman and some other Challenge ne’er-do-wells. I’m not sure why I let myself in for this. It could go horribly wrong. At least the weather forecast is good. Perhaps we should move the TGO Challenge to the South of England. 

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