Plus 113g

I forgot to include my Personal Locator Beacon in my gear list, weighing a hefty 113g. I probably don’t need it as the only time I’m a bit off piste I will be with others. Still, I’ve got it so I might as well take it. I see Garmin have launched a smaller version of the InReach which looks very interesting. I’ll let others be early adopters and see how they get on, but it does look attractive, especially if you go solo.


Not the TGO Challenge: Gear

Click to enlarge

Because I’ve got to carry seven days food, I started thinking seriously about my gear selection a couple of weeks ago. After a test packing, it became clear that the volume of food would be at the outer limit for the capacity of my new Tramplite pack. Although it fitted, it was a bit of a squeeze, so I felt it was more sensible to go with my Lightwave Ultrahike pack, which has slightly more volume using the Exped Flash external pocket. Incidentally, the Flash pocket has enhanced the utility of the Ultrahike considerably. The flip side of using the Ultrahike is that it weighs considerably more.

With a reversed belt pack (Inov-8 Race Elite 3), needed because the Ultrahike has no hip belt pockets, it weighs nearly half a kilo more. This meant compensating elsewhere, so I decided to take my lightest shelter (Tramplite) rather than the Scarp 1 which I had pencilled in. Just doing this saved me around 0.7kg, more than compensating for a heavier rucksack. I’ve also been more stringent on clothes, where I’ve saved about 0.8kg from my original list.

I’ve also left out my beloved umbrella as the forecast looks pretty good and I think I can manage without it. I toyed with the idea of leaving out my waders and Sony RX100 camera (using my iPhone instead) but there are going to be at least three river crossings and the iPhone is not as good as the RX100 for photos. If I had done so, my base weight would be well under 8kg. As it is, it’s only marginally over 8kg.

Food is 5.4kg (including packing cells and rolltop bag) and fuel is 535g (one 250 cartridge and a half full 125 cartridge as emergency back up). Miscellaneous bits include anti-chafing creme, sun tan lotion, insect repellent, foot care stuff, tissues and some other odds and ends. Consumables come to 6.5kg to make a grand total of 14.5kg, which is not too bad for a seven-day trip. This is well within the scope of the Ultrahike pack which is one of the most comfortable packs I own regardless of load.

Most of the gear is tried and trusted, but I am carrying some new stuff. While packing a waterproof jacket in addition to wearing Paramo is not strictly necessary, it’s something I often do on longer trips to guard against failure. This time I’m taking the Alpkit Gravitas which is incredibly lightweight and can double up as a wind jacket. I may not have an opportunity to use it but I’d like to see how it performs. If I’d left it out, as I had originally intended, I would’ve been below 8kg base weight but I want to test it and I feel more comfortable having a hardshell as well as Paramo.

I’ve also got a Helley Hansen Lifa long sleeve polo shirt which will double as a sleeping shirt, an extra layer and a smart going home shirt. It will be interesting to how smell resistant (or not) Lifa is now. I’ve also been given an Olight Nova H1 head torch to review. This looks like a really nice unit combining the form and most of the functionality of a Zebralight, but is lighter than a Petzl Tikka XP. I will do an in-depth review when I get back, but I’m very impressed with it.

Not the TGO Challenge route

Loch Chiarain early morning, TGO Challenge 2012

Here’s a quick summary of my route next week:

Monday: Ft William to Loch Eilde Mor 26.1km
Tuesday: Corrour Lodge 23.7km
Wednesday: Loch Ericht 16.0km
Thursday: Saunich 15.8km
Friday: Stronphadruig Lodge 26.4km
Saturday: Glen Feshie 24.2km
Sunday: Aviemore 27.0km

Weather forecast at the moment looks like it’s going cool rather than cold and showery. Looks like ideal walking weather.

I’ve been sorting out gear and will do a quick summary in a couple of days.


Food, food, food

For next week’s trip to Scotland, I’m carrying the most food I’ve ever had to carry on a backpacking trip: 6 breakfasts, 6 evening meals and 7 lunch/day time snacks. For three or four days, it’s pretty easy to sling together some food and add in a bit extra just in case. This time I’ve had to be a bit more disciplined. It’s not just the weight that’s an issue, it’s the volume too.

The total weight for food, including packing cells and dry bag is 5.4kg, which I’m reasonably happy with. Here’s a breakdown of items and weights:

Breakfasts: 6 Summit to Eat freeze-dried scrambled eggs meals, Biltong, 6 granola bars

Evening meals: 6 Fuizion Foods/Blå Band/ Food on the Move freeze-dried meals, dried fruit (dates, mandarins)

Lunches/snacks: Tracker bars, Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers, Nakd fruit bars, sesame seed snaps, brazil/macadamia/almond nuts, salted peanuts and cashews, banana chips/berry mix.

Tea bags (green and English breakfast).

Recently at home, I’ve been having porridge followed by poached egg and smoked salmon for breakfast. I’ve found that having a good amount of protein in the morning helps my energy levels, hence I’ve tried to replicate that for backpacking. The StE scrambled eggs are reasonable and adding a bit of Biltong (dried beef) adds a kick.

For lunches, I decided it was easiest to just have snack bars and supplement them with nuts and dried fruit. At home, I’ve cut out biscuits and cake and now snack on nuts or fruit. It seems to work for me.

Evening meals are pretty much what I always do: a freeze-dried meal followed by dried fruit. On this trip I will be using the last of my Fuizion Food freeze dried meals, which is a bit sad. I might add some Biltong to the Blå Band pasta meals as they have minuscule pieces of meat in.

I’ve made sure I have plenty of tea bags as I don’t want to run out and give myself the migraine from hell, like I did a few years ago. I’ve not calculated calories, but I suspect it might be a bit light, but that’s not a huge issue for one week.

In case you are wondering about the missing breakfast and evening meal, I’m taking the sleeper up to Fort William and will have some breakfast on the train and pick up something from a supermarket from the station. At Aviemore, I’ll arrive late afternoon and have dinner before catching the sleeper back home.

Test packing for Scotland

Next Sunday evening I will be heading to Scotland to walk from Fort William to Aviemore. As you are probably aware, I couldn’t do the Challenge this year, so this is some compensation. Along the way I will be walking for three days with some of the guys from the Lakes Daunder.

I will be walking for seven days without re-supply, so I’m going to be carrying about 5kg of food. This is the first time I’ve had to carry more than five days of food. In the past I’ve not always taken a particularly organised approach to trail food, but this has forced me to be a little more disciplined.

As much as the weight, the big issue is the volume. It’s surprising how bulky food is. In the light of this, I decided to do a test pack to see whether it would all fit in (there’s still a couple of things I need to buy).

Totting up the weights on a spreadsheet I decided to be rather more aggressive on weight saving, especially on clothes where I reduced carried clothes by just over 1kg to 1.7kg. I did a test pack of my Tramplite pack. While everything fitted in, it was a bit of a squeeze.

I dug out my Lightwave Ultrahike 60 pack and tried that. The slightly higher volume meant that it coped better with the volume. My spreadsheet says a total load (no water but everything else) is 14.2kg, while my luggage scale says 14.8kg. Food, fuel and other consumables comes to just over 6kg.

The Ultrahike is about 400g heavier than the Tramplite pack, so I negated some of the weight savings from clothes. However, the Ultrahike is a more comfortable pack with heavier loads thanks to the unique hipbelt, so I think it’s likely that I will go with the Ultrahike.

Originally, I was going to take my Scarp, but the weight of the food has pushed me to go for my lightest shelter, the Tramplite, which is about half the weight of the Scarp. I liked using my Paramo 3rd Element jacket so much on the Daunder, that I’m going to take it to Scotland. Normally, I take a lightweight hard shell jacket too, but I’m going to chance it and only take the 3rd Element.

I’ll do separate posts on route, gear and food before I go.

Lakes Daunder 2018 gear thoughts

Some gear feedback from our Lakes Daunder.

Tramplite 50L pack

This was the first proper outing for my Tramplite pack. I’m very pleased with it. I can see myself using it a lot and it’s a more than worthy replacement for my somewhat knackered Mariposa. It’s a very comfortable carry. The hipbelt is excellent with great pockets and I like the wide shoulder straps. It’s more like a 60L pack than 50L. I used the Tramplite shelter which fitted nicely into a side pocket. It swallowed all my gear with room to spare. When I go to Scotland in two weeks time, I need to carry seven days food, so I’ll have to see whether the Tramplite or the Lightwave Ultrahike is best. I’m probably going to take my Scarp, so I could be packing 16-17kg with food at the start. The quality of workmanship is excellent. A great pack, well designed.

Rab Interval t-shirt

I’ve been looking for a similar base layer to my Rohan Ultra T’s, both of which are getting a bit worn. The Interval is marginally heavier at 80g (Large). It is made of a similar lightweight silky polyester fabric. It has a slight grid pattern and has a polygiene anti-odour treatment. It wicked away sweat really quickly, probably better than the Ultra T which may be down to the grid pattern. We had two hot days which meant a fair amount of sweat. However, there was very little smell even after three days. I think it’s also slightly more robust than the Ultra T. I’m a big convert to thin base layers for conditions other than when it’s cold. They seem to regulate body temperature better, wick well, evaporate sweat quicker and are very comfortable under a fleece. Even in hot weather you can wear them under a fleece and not overheat. I liked the Interval so much, I’ve bought a second one.

Paramo 3rd Element jacket

Ok, this is quite old and no longer made. It’s a while since I’ve used it, and I’d forgotten how good it is. The flexibility of using it as a gilet or as a jacket was great. It was also very comfortable in the heavy rain. I did get a small damp patch at the bottom of one pocket, but I think that was because I had a handkerchief that got damp in it. It’s a great jacket and very flexible. I’ll probably be taking it to Scotland too. It’s a shame that Paramo don’t make them anymore.

Berghaus Men’s Light Hike Hydroshell Overtrousers

I think Berghaus have stopped making these but there are still some on sale on Amazon. They were only £65. I was impressed. They seemed to be pretty breathable. They are slightly heavier (244g L) than the Paclite overtrousers but seem more robust. The 3/4 length zips mean they are easy to put on and take off. The zips also allow for decent ventilation and access to trouser pockets. At least for the moment, the DWR coating is very effective. I like them and they will be going to Scotland too.

The rest of my gear was all stuff I’ve used before, so not much to report.

Lakes Daunder 2018 part 2

Although it was a clear night, the temperature, according my thermometer didn’t get below 9c in the tent. An early start was demanded by Obergruppenführer Sloman, so just to be sure that I would be ready by eight o’clock, I was up by 5.45. There were no clouds in the sky and it looked like it was going to be another glorious day.

Amazingly, we were all ready almost on time. We climbed Water Crag, a mighty 305m high, although it felt rather more. Yet again we were greeted by glorious views all around.  After a short wait to allow everyone to catch up, it was on to Rough Crag and a group photo opportunity.

(photo courtesy of Alan Sloman)

From here it was downhill all the way for our proposed lunch stop at the Woolpack Inn. We ambled down some country lanes and then diverted to have a look at Stanley Force. What an amazing hidden gem! From the top there’s a spectacular sheer cliff from which to view the waterfall. Then there’s a wonderful path down into a ravine, very reminiscent of a Chinese landscape with rhododendrons and wooden bridges. I’m afraid my photos don’t do justice (partly because the camera was on the wrong setting, whoops!).

Alan was the only member of our party who had decided not to visit the waterfall and we were supposed to meet him at the car park. However, the path had changed and we ended up on the north bank of the Esk. In true Daunder spirit, we decided to carry on without him.

It was a lovely walk along the Esk, some of which I’d done before. We arrived at the Woolpack for lunch just before it got busy. Who should be standing on the doorstep but Alan holding a pint of beer. Over lunch, four of us decided to revive another Daunder tradition: the schism. I suggested that the original route looked a bit dull and the camp spot at Sampson’s Stones might be a bit iffy. The alternative was to walk up the Esk via Throstle Garth and Scar Lathing to a lovely spot to camp in the bend of the Esk opposite Sampson’s Stones. This was enthusiastically embraced by some, so I explained to our leader, Phil, that we were ditching his lovingly planned route. Phil, Alan and Any decided they would stick to the original plan.

It’s impossible to capture in words what a wonderful walk this is, so I’ll just give you a load of pictures. If you’ve never done it, you really must. It’s one of the best walks in the Lakes.

By the time we reached Throstle Garth, there were some high clouds forming, suggesting the weather was on the change. We eschewed a lovely place to camp below Scar Lathing, and pushed on to the spot where I had camped before.

It is a spectacular place to camp. For some reason, I didn’t take many photos. About half an hour after we arrived, our schism started to be healed. First Andy appeared with tales of how rough and pathless his route had been. Then Phil and Alan were spotted picking their way down the slope. Soon our happy(!) band were reunited. All the time the cloud was thickening. Just after I turned in for the night, the thunder and lightning started. Fortunately, it skirted our camp spot but not before there was a very heavy rain/hail shower. There were a few rumbles of thunder during the rest of the night, but nothing serious.

The next day, amazingly, we were all packed in good time. The weather looked threatening, but stayed dry as we walked up the Esk towards Esk Hause. There were some remarkable ripples in the clouds.

Ascending the slope to the gully, Andy decided to veer off left to climb the evocatively named Knotts of Tongue. While Andy took a direct route that involved some scrambling, I branched left to avoid the rocks, then spotted David behind me and decided to wait for him. As we ascended the weather deteriorated and the rain and mist came in. We knew Judith was behind us so, like the gentlemen we are, we waited for her.

At the top there was a strong wind and driving rain, but when we rounded Great End it abated somewhat. I managed to take a couple of pictures at Sprinkling Tarn, but from there on my camera stayed in its plastic bag. It was windy and wet as we picked our way down to Sty Head and then into Wasdale. By this time Judith was some way behind, but she’s an experience backpacker so we weren’t worried. Carefully we wended our way down to the Wasdale Head Inn, where Andy was waiting for us. Judith followed a little later.

After about half an hour the rest of the pack arrived. After some food and liquid refreshment, it was time for me to go back to my camper van and for the rest to drive home. Judith saved me a little walk by kindly giving me a lift back to the campsite. A great time was had by all (I think). Thanks to Phil for organising a great weekend.

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