As usual, I’m going to give you a quick round-up of how my gear performed over the four days I was on Dartmoor.
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 2012: this is a brilliant rucksack. The “carry” is very comfortable, with the new style, thicker hipbelt contributing significantly. I also think the aluminium U stay is an improvement over the old style carbon stays. I’m coming to appreciate the “over-the-top” closure system. Replacing the draw cord with a small karabiner worked perfectly. I like having the outer pockets made from solid material rather than the mesh of the old version. The stretch mesh on the front pockets is also an improvement. I was dubious about the small pocket on the lid, but it was very useful for maps and phone. The hip belt pockets are also good for camera and snacks. However, it would be a good idea if GG used either water resistant zips or rain protection flaps. I think this is a really excellent pack and one I’ll be using for years to come.
Exped Synmat UL: this mat has many excellent features. It’s very comfortable, gives good insulation and folds down small. However, durability is poor. On the last night, I suffered a puncture. Fortunately I always put a thin foam mat underneath, which doubles as a back pad for the rucksack. While the ground was hard, it gave me some insulation. I reckon I’ve slept about fourteen nights on it, so it’s not very impressive. I’m going to return it to the retailer for replacement. It makes me rethink whether I want to rely on air mats. While they are comfortable, they don’t appear to be very robust. If it had failed on the first night, I would have had an uncomfortable time.
Rab Neutrino SL 200 sleeping bag: I used this earlier in the summer and came away with mixed feelings. It worked better with the Exped sleeping mat (when it wasn’t deflated!) than the POE mat I used in the summer. The lowest temperature was about 8c in the tent. At that temperature I felt it was about the limit of its warmth. As usual, near dawn I needed to don and extra layer. The key to keeping warm with a top bag is to ensure the down baffles are always on top. This sounds obvious, but requires a conscious effort when you are a side sleeper and move about at night. At least with a top bag, unlike a quilt, you don’t need to worry about draughts. Although this is an excellently made bag with high quality down, I found myself wanting to go back to a conventional sleeping bag. There’s nothing wrong with the bag, but, for me, I think I’d only use it in summer. Even then, I think I might prefer my WM Highlite.
Rab Drilium overtrousers: like most walkers, I hate overtrousers. However, the Drilliums are an exception. They are the most breathable and comfortable overtrousers I’ve ever worn. I hardly sweat in them. They are almost like wearing a normal pair of trousers. The material is also quite soft and quiet, adding to the illusion. I’m really impressed with them. At 240g they are not the lightest, but they are by far and away the most comfortable and I’d be loathe to change them.
Paramo 3rd Element jacket: this is the first time this year I’ve used Paramo. While it certainly performed its function as waterproof and windproof well, for me, it doesn’t combine well with a merino base layer. On the first day, I was damp and sweaty more than I wanted. From then I used a Rohan baselayer (Cool Silver T, no longer made) and it performed better. I used a very old Arcteryx micro grid fleece jumper as a mid layer. The other annoyance was the poppers that secure the hood and arms when not used with the gilet were constantly getting under the pack straps and digging in. As I don’t intend to use the hood and sleeves on their own, I cut them off with no loss of function. I’m going to return to a windproof top, fleece, hardshell combination rather than using Paramo as I think it is more comfortable and flexible. I’ve bought a very interesting new windproof top, so watch this space.
MLD Gaiters: gaiters are another piece of gear that I don’t really like. However, in places like Dartmoor, they are very useful. The MLD eVent gaiters are a superb bit of gear. They breathe extremely well and they don’t fall down. I wore them for most of the trip and hardly knew I had them on, except for keeping water out of my boots! They only weigh 101g, so it seems stupid not to take them in case any bog trotting is needed.
PHD Minimus jacket and hood: the Minimus is a brilliant warm layer and I used it not just around camp but to supplement my sleeping bag if needed. I used the detachable hood as a sleeping bag hood, finding it more comfortable and less restricting than using the actual sleeping bag hood. It’s much warmer and more effective than a conventional sleeping bag hood.
Sawyer Squeeze water filter: an excellent bit of gear. The rapid water flow means no effort or waiting for purified water. It mates well with the Source water bladders that I use. Incidentally one of the bladders sprung a leak, which I wasn’t impressed with! I think the Sawyer Squeeze is an excellent solution to water purification. It might be a shade expensive, but it should last nearly for ever.