Rather than some lengthy gear evaluations, I’m going to use this post to make some short comments on the gear I took to the Lakes, which will, hopefully, be useful.
Shorts: I normally take shorts or zip off trousers. On this trip I didn’t and regretted it, especially on Saturday. It reinforces the message of be prepared for all weathers in the UK from freezing to heat wave!
iPhone GPS: I was really impressed with this. I was sceptical that it would work without a phone signal but it was quicker than my Garmin Gecko at signal acquisition. There are free apps to get grid references, but I used some 1:50,000 OS mapping software (Outdoors GB by Road Tour, National Parks, £14.99). It was very helpful to see where I was on the map and a combination of iPhone and compass should be enough for most situations. The ability to magnify the map for roads and paths to clarify details was also very helpful. One drawback is that using the GPS drinks the battery.
Integral Designs Hot Socks: I used these as bivi socks instead of my fleece lined ones. They are lighter, warmer and more comfortable than my fleece ones. They weigh 120g and are available at Ultralight Outdoor Gear. If you suffer from cold feet, these are well worth considering. I think they have an advantage over down as getting damp is not an issue.
Scarp 1 tent: I continue to be impressed by the Scarp. The two key features are space and stability. It’s also very easy to pitch and suffers much less from condensation than the Akto and Laser Comp.
Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus: Brilliant pack. So comfortable and flexible. Love it.
Pod compression sacks: I got these from Bob and Rose. They are excellent for minimising the bulk of sleeping bags and clothes. I may get a couple more.
Merino vs. Synthetic: For the first time in ages, I took synthetic base layers instead of Merino. I used a short and a long sleeve Xstatic top from Berghaus (uses a light Polartech fleece) and a Rohan Ultra T. While I love Merino, I have to say the Xstatic was very impressive. The advantage over Merino is that it dries so fast. While wearing it, any sweat is almost instantaneously evaporated (very good on the two hot days). As an experiment I washed the short sleeve T in Codale Tarn and pegged it on the tent. Within an hour it was dry. I used the Rohan T for sleeping. It has a lovely silky feel and was surprisingly warm. The Ultra boxers were also good. My other undies were Haglofs. Anti-smell was good on all of them, at least as good as Merino. I am now much less sure that Merino is the best for base layers.
Neo Air with silk cover: This worked brilliantly. It’s much more comfortable than without and seems to add significantly to the insulation (which is good in the first place). Interestingly, back at base camp, I used an Exped Downmat 7 and it didn’t feel as warm. The Neo Air was also great for making uneven pitches comfortable. The slight deflation during the night is still a bit disconcerting, but doesn’t affect the comfort. Extra weight is 100g.
Exped pillow: This is the new champion. At 89g, it’s almost half the weight of the Ajungilak pillow. It has a well designed inflation/deflation system (unlike the Ajungilak). It has good neck support and packs very small. Pillow problem solved.
Repackaging Real Turmat meals: If you use RT meals, it’s well worth doing this. It makes packing much easier. I was also very pleased with my pouch snug system. The base plate is a good idea as it enables more heat retention when on the ground rehydrating and also provides a handy bit of insulation under the pouch when you are eating if you are balancing it on your knees. BTW, yet again, RT proved that it is the king of dehydrated food.
Montane Marathon Jacket: Most people go for the Featherlite Smock or the Litespeed jacket, but the Marathon jacket is worth considering as an alternative. The main advantage is the vents on the sides, which stop overheating. Shame it doesn’t have a hood or a pocket.
Headtorch: It was a waste of time carrying one. I had a small keyring LCD torch anyway. In summer months I’m not going to bother with a headtorch.
Salomon XA + cap: I really like this cap. It’s got great ventilation and the removable neck flap is brilliant for sunny weather. Rarer than hen’s teeth, though!
Paramo 3rd Element jacket: It may not be the lightest Paramo, but it’s the most versatile. Yet again, this proved to be a great piece of gear. The ability to use it as a gilet lifts it above normal jackets. It’s very comfortable in a wide variety of conditions.
Salomon Fastpacker GTX boots: I know you are getting bored with me telling you how good these are but…. They are so good. Even on Saturday, when it was touching 30c, my feet didn’t overheat. Sure, they would have been more comfortable in mesh trainers, but what other Goretex lined boot could cope with those conditions? They are very secure and grippy on all ground. In high summer, trail shoes may be better, but apart from harsh winter conditions, these boots are ideal. They even take the sting out of road walking.
Haglof LIM Barrier Pull-on: Light (262g) and perfect as a warm layer. The fabric is beautifully soft. Also rarer than hen’s teeth and now discontinued.
Travel Tap: I can’t understand why anyone would bother to use anything other than a Travel Tap for water purification. It’s so simple and fail safe. I’ve tried tablets, the MSR MIOX and Steripen and they are no competition. There’s no unpleasant taste and it filters out all the nasties. It also doubles as a bottle and is virtually indestructible. I know a lot of people don’t filter water high on the fells, but I would rather be safe than sorry. I’ve seen too many dead sheep in streams. I am also getting quite wary about how hygiene conscious a lot of hill users are. I’ve not encountered this yet, but it makes you very wary.
Tea bags: I remembered to take them! I use Twinings White Tea bags (which is really green tea). I love these and you don’t have to faff around with milk powder as you take it without. White tea is not as astringent as green tea. I even had a brew on a couple of lunch stops. With these and bag meals, I’ve perfected the art of having zero washing up. I also put them in my first aid kit, as befits a tea addict.