Slackpacking gear check

Apart from being cold, this was not a strenuous gear test. With that in mind here’s some comments on the gear I took.

Adidas Terrex Fast X FM Mid GTX: I guess this is the one that you are most interested in. Bearing in mind 5.5 miles in dry weather is not a severe test, these were very comfortable. Grip is good. I only suffered a couple of minor skids going downhill. My impression is that they are not as grippy on rock as my Fastpackers, but better on grass. The speed lace system makes adjustment faster. The only downside is that the thin laces are uncomfortable if tightened too much. Indeed, I found it more comfortable to have the boots fairly loose on my feet. I used Superfeet Green footbeds. I think these are better than the ones supplied and helped stability. On hard ground the cushioning excels. It’s not that they are soft, just that they absorb the ground well. I think they are probably more comfortable in that respect than the Fastpackers. They seem a bit warmer as well, which might be to do with the higher cut. All in all, I’m very impressed and will use them on a longer walk next time I’m out.

Patagonia R1 Fleece Pullover: A fleece is a fleece, all right? Wrong. This is head and shoulders the best fleece I’ve worn. It has an uncannny knack of regulating temperature better than anything I’ve worn before. Perhaps it’s the grid pattern on the inside. At 300g, it’s slightly heavier than alternatives, but I really like it. It works well either as a mid layer or a top layer.

Outdoor Designs Fleece Liner Gloves: Originally I bought these as liners for my skiing gloves. Because they are thin, they enable better dexterity than most gloves. They also dry very quickly if they get damp. They were great to wear both when walking and in the tent.

PHD Minimus Jacket: I have the version with the M1 outer. It’s very warm and compresses to a small volume. It was a real life saver to wear around camp and in my sleeping bag. It’s the best backpacking down jacket I’ve owned by far.

Paramo Velez Adventure Light: This has overtaken the 3rd Element as my Paramo jacket of choice. The double zips give better venting than the 3rd Element and the sleeves can be rolled up to make almost a gilet. I like the roll away hood and the deep collar means you can hide your chin from cold winds. The one area of uncertainty is whether the zips are fully watertight, as I had an issue with leaks in an earlier version of the Velez. However, given that the VAL  is 200g lighter, it’s difficult to see me using my 3rd Element where weight is a consideration. However, the 3rd Element is still a great jacket.

POE Ether Elite: This is not a winter sleeping mat. I should have taken some foam underlay to insulate the mat. I’ll know next time. It’s still the most comfortable mat I’ve used, better than even the Exped Downmat. The Downmat has much better insulation though.

Cumulus Quantum 350: While I’m still very happy with this bag, it wasn’t warm enough and I should have taken my Pipedream 600. I’ll know in future!

M&S Ultrafit Active Hipsters: These are the best underwear I’ve found so far. Very comfortable.

Lightwave Ultrahike: This is the most comfortable rucksack I have. The hipbelt mod has cured the slight niggle I had. I like having a bit of extra volume so I don’t feel I’m cramming everything in. The stretch side pockets are surprisingly capacious. I found I could also access the lid pocket without taking the pack off.

I also wore my Berhaus Equilibrium trousers which were brilliant, but have been out of production for several years. Berghaus should revive these. If they had a double seat and zips on the pockets, they would be the perfect cold weather trousers.

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14 thoughts on “Slackpacking gear check”

  1. It seems that you’ve almost reached your personal gear perfection – congratulations!

    As you suggest, the POE Ether Elite isn’t a winter sleeping mat with R-values of 4 at the torso and 2 elsewhere. I prefer at least 5 for winter, something easily achieved with a bit of mat layering or use of a beefier mat. I guess you had cold spots where your hips compressed the mat (and perhaps encouraged internal convection through movement)? As a side sleeper I reckon POE need to extend the insulation towards the foot end to counteract this personally.

    1. In the past I’ve used a piece of foam tent underlay 1.5m long successfully for Thermarest mats. It only weighs 112g and I reckon it should solve the problem. I was stupid to leave it behind. At least I know the limit of the Ether Elite.

    2. The Peak Oyl Mtn is a great option for a winter mat. The R-value is much closer to that of a Winter mat, it weighs not much more than the likes of the Ether Elite and the Peak Elite AC and, if it fails, you still have the insulation of a SI mat (not a lot, but in an emergency, it’s better than nothing. I like the Peak Elite AC – it’s a great improvement on the classic Ether Elite, but for winter I think the Peak Oyl Mtn is well worth looking at. My brother in law loaned me his to test and I am not sure I’ll be giving it back! 😉

  2. nice – keep us posted re those Adidas mids. Minimus, R1 and Velez all items on my long term list, so good to hear they are performing well for you too.

    1. I found the R1 to be excellent – I was put onto it by Joe Newton and I think it’s great. Just posted a review of it as I used it all winter. It’s worth the outlay if you need a warm Winter base-layer, or a Spring/Autumn mid-layer – the real boon of the top is that it does both so well. It is also so well designed – thumb-loops in Capilene 4, long hem in the same material and the grid-system interior fleece is warm in the morning even when the outside of the top is still wet and cold. It’s odd…

  3. I’m also interested in hearing more about the Adidas mids, I had a pair of V-Lite Fasthike boots a while back which were great apart from the durability.

    Re. underlay, I bought some from B&Q for under a laminate floor, it isn’t the stuff on a roll which is quite open, this looks like CCF and comes folded up. It’s more than 1.5 times the width of a regular sleeping mat but is really long, at a guess 5m +. It would make a good tent underlay and a piece as wide as and just short of a full length mat weighs in at 65g. The full pack was about £20.

      1. Robin if you want a sleeping mat sized piece to try drop me a line and I’ll send it off FOC. I should have added it’s about 3mm thick.

  4. Hi Robin,
    Good reviews. The R1 sounds ideal.
    I wouldn’t be without the PHD Minimus, it’s wonderful although i wish it was one down tube longer in the length.
    I gave the M & S undies a severe testing this weekend with a trip up Snowdon in the mist.
    Whilst they are comfy, i found a fault that will keep me with the X-Bionics. Pushing the pace a bit for the last 500ft. I noticed a little discomfort from sweat not being wicked as fast as i would have liked.
    This resulted in me being quite cold as the sweat cooled when we reached the summit. It was a quite noticeable issue. (Thats noticeable to me not the others i was with).

    I also have done the same as MacE with the underlay.

    1. M&S undies: that’s useful to know. I’ve not really tested them yet. Perhaps I’ll get some X-bionics as well.
      PHD Minimus: I know what you mean. When I lean over my lower back is exposed.

  5. Enjoyed that read, Robin.

    Funny thing is – I made the same mistake as you on my last escapade. I packed lighter gear thinking the weather aint ‘that cold’ now – and blow me down, first night I must’ve spent about 3 hours just trying to get warm in the tent. And I had to endure that crap for another 4 nights! 😦

    Hot water bottle and down jacket saved the day, though 😉

    Thing is – I’ve been sick and tired of lugging a big pack around to accommodate my camera gear. No fun when ya hiking more than 8 miles almost every day.

    But all said and done, got the total weight of my pack down to just under 10 kilos now (inc food and camera gear) but as I say, got cold at night! LOL

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