Dartmoor daunder gear roundup

DSC01272One reason for going to Dartmoor was to firm up what gear to take on the TGO Challenge. The major items under consideration were shelter system and sleeping system.

Let’s start with the shelter. I took my Trailstar and OookStar nest. In many ways, the conditions were ideal for a real test, high winds and heavy rain. Overall, the TS and OS passed with flying colours. I had a small amount of leakage near the apex of the TS, where I hadn’t sealed properly, which dripped onto the OS. I was glad of having a solid inner, as it cut down draughts significantly.

Having said that, it was definitely colder than a true tent, because of the open door. That’s not a criticism, but just a fact of the design. Once you get the hang of it, erecting the Trailstar is quite easy, although it needs a bit of fiddling around to get totally right. What was pleasing is that it is easier to erect in high winds and to take down than I thought it might.

There is a lot of room inside, but the true liveable room is really around the pole. There’s plenty of storage room, but headroom is quickly restricted near the shelter walls. This was OK for me, but I could see why taller people have problems. The porch groundsheet was a great success, both for storing things on and for sitting on to get in and out.

DSC01230Karabiner and cord mod

I’ve made two modifications to the TS/OS. I’ve added an Alpkit karabiner at the apex of the TS to make clipping on the OS much easier. I’ve also added a small length of cord at the apex of the OS so I can secure it to the handle of the trekking pole. This tensions the fabric of the OS better.

I found I was ducking, twisting and turning more than in my other shelters, which made my back a bit sore. I think I need to be a bit more careful in future. Overall, I like the TS/OS. However, I’m not taking it on the Challenge. I’m going to revert to what I know and trust: the Scarp.

I just like the Scarp. All the space is usable. It has great headroom and is definitely warmer. More or less, it doesn’t matter what direction the wind is coming from or if it changes direction. It has a smaller footprint, which can be useful in some circumstances. If you factor in more (and heavier pegs), heavier flicklock poles and the porch groundsheet, then the weight differential with the Scarp is extremely modest at around 60g. So, on balance, I’m going to take the Scarp, although I will be using the Trailstar again.

The other major decision was about sleeping bag and sleeping mat. In the Monadhliath, I chickened out and took my Alpkit Pipedream 400. Dartmoor was an ideal opportunity to test my modified Rab Neutrino SL 200. I was really pleased with its performance.

The addition of Climashield APEX 167 insulation into the underside panel, where there was no insulation before, has transformed the bag. Insulation is virtually on a par with the Pipedream 400 and the bag is 75g lighter overall. The Climashield is noticeably warmer than down on the underside.

Despite the additional insulation, it still compresses into the original Rab stuff sack, significantly smaller than the Pipedream. The addition of a down collar was a success as well. Coupled with the As Tucas Sestrals balaclava, it is now a decent three season sleeping bag. I will be taking this bag on the Challenge.

Mountain Equipment are now making a hybrid bag, the Matrix 1, but it is a lot heavier (915g vs. 665g) and has less down (175g vs. 200g), so I think my modified Neutrino is a bit of a winner.

For a sleeping mat I used my Nemo Zor short. I was generally comfortable and warm, even without using the silk sleeping mat cover that I usually. However, I think I’m going to take my Thermarest X-lite as it’s even more comfortable and probably kinder to my back. It also has a higher insulation rating.

IMG_0917Air Beam frame

I used the Air Beam frame in my Mariposa in the Monadhliath, but it didn’t seem quite right. I was determined to give it a proper trial. This time I used it properly with no foam pad behind. Much, much better! It was very comfortable and moulded to my back much better. Compared with a foam pad, it ventilates a lot better and makes the pack sits better on my hips For the sake of around 100g, I think it’s a worthwhile improvement for comfort. I’ve no idea how robust it is, but it seems OK. I also used it as a sleeping mat extension under my pillow in my tent.

DSC01274Air Beam as mat extension

In terms of clothing, I had hoped to try a pair of Marmot Essence overtrousers but they didn’t arrive in time. Instead I took a pair of Montane Atomic (Entrant DT) overtrousers. This was the first time I’d used them in serious rain. I’m sorry to say they failed and were damp around my backside. I think it was more likely to be lack of breathability rather than failure. I wished I’d taken my Rab Drilliums, which are still the benchmark for me. This version of the Atomics is no longer made. I threw them in the bin when I returned. The Drilliums will be going on the Challenge.

On a slightly arcane note, I was very pleased to have an umbrella and waders. Both will be going on the Challenge. Little things can make huge difference. I’m finalising my Challenge gear list and will share soon. It’s about 9kg, which is about what I expected.


32 thoughts on “Dartmoor daunder gear roundup”

    1. The porch one is spinnaker from Team IO who are no longer in business, 75g. The OookStar has a chikara groundsheet.

  1. i purchased a a mountain equipment xero 250 a few years back if temp gets near freezing i just sleep in a extra insulated top seems to work.
    i use a neo air mat a lot more comfortable than thermareast.
    Yes if going to Scotland i agree take the Trailstar.
    From what ive seen they look bombproof

  2. Hi Robin, I have the Atomic overtrousers.I sent the first pair back the second pair haven’t been fully tested yet,I have always thought the Berghaus Paclites the best.

    Sent from my iPad

  3. You threw your Atomics away? Noooooo! I would have happily have taken them off your hands (not to use as overtrousers, but to re-use the material for something where breathability isn’t so important).

    1. Sorry. Dustman took them today. Enjoying your blog by the way. Haven’t commented because Blogger hates iPads. Comments disappear. Rarely use my PC these days. Hope to see you on the Challenge.

  4. The shelter is always a big decision. I have yet to sample the delights of a tarp, but I can’t help but feel that the scarp will be a lot more robust in poor weather – and for me that is what counts πŸ™‚

  5. Interesting post Robin. I had a similar experience with the Atomics. Lashing down with rain all day when walking in NW Scotland. I was wetter inside than out. This was solved however the next day after leaving the over trousers behind by mistake after hanging them up to dry. Solved the issue! and then i bought Drilliums.

    1. The Drilliums work remarkably well. They are the only overtrousers I’ve felt totally comfortable in. Shame they’ve stopped making them.

  6. Take your DuoMid, warmer sleeping bag and a light bivy/groundsheet. But if not the Scarp is top choice. I don’t get inners for the TS. A warmer sleeping bag and bivy offers more, for less weight under it. DuoMid 360 protection, hight, space. Why not use that? Smaller footprint too.

    RAB Drilliums – cant fault, and good choice (love mine, used lots and on 2013 TGOC). Mariposa Is a fantastic pack (Yes I’m biased and support GG) and perfect for the Challenge. Like the reasoning always Robin and your needs and choice decisions.

    1. The weight saving of a bivy system over a nest is very modest. For example, a basic bivy bag weighs c.200g (e.g. Rab Survival Zone Lite). A light groundsheet is another 100-150g. For me a heavier sleeping bag means the Pipedream 600, which is 200g heavier than the PD 400 and 275g heavier than the Neutrino SL.

      My Duomid inner is 315g, comparable with a bivy system. My OookStar is 432g, a max of 132g heavier. If you factor in that nests are warmer than a bivy system, which may need a warmer sleeping bag (or warmer clothes), then the weight advantage disappears or even reverses. The advantage of a nest system is comfort, protection against draughts, insects and condensation spray in windy conditions. For me, a nest is preferable in most circumstances. Others will have different preferences.

      As to not taking the Duomid, the cuben Duomid would save some weight but as the expense of storm worthiness. That’s not to say it wouldn’t survive a severe storm, just that I’m more likely to get a good night’s sleep in the Scarp or TS than the Duomid. One reason for taking the Scarp is that I have total confidence in it under all conditions, so it’s one less thing to worry about.

    2. The Rab Drilliums are great but they don’t last very long. My second pair have recently fallen apart, neither pair lasted more than a year of use. Shame that kit is not really designed for repeated and extended use. Recently replaced with these which were cheaper, hopefully longer lasting too http://www.outside.co.uk/shop/Xiom+Pants

      1. Mine are still fine. I’ll remember to treat them carefully πŸ™‚

        I hope 3 layer Pertex shield is better than two layer!

  7. Must admit I’ve been wavering again over the last few days about what shelter to take. Spent this evening trying to sew together a windbreak/ door from some nylon salvaged from an old beach windbreak. But all these mods and extra bits of kit really bring the weight close to my lighter tents. All that lovely space comes at a price, the cost of body heat being lost trying to heat it up.

    1. You’re thinking along the same lines as me! When you tot up the total weight difference between a Trailstar, even using a groundsheet and a decent bivy and a tent like the Scarp (or even Akto), the weight difference is quite small. Any weight saving has to be set against a higher level of comfort and protection. I have a cunning idea for a TS door but it will have to wait until after the Challenge.

      1. The trick is going to making something where you can change the dimensions depending on the set-up of the TS, and still be able to use it without needing additional pegs. I made a template from Tyvek based on the dimensions of the Oookworks door, and it’s fine so long as the TS is pitched a certain height with the bottom of the door a certain width. So I’m now trying to make one where I can alter the width at the bottom.

  8. I used my Trailstar last weekend on Dartmoor – bivvy no inner. (Friday and Saturday night). And I have decided to take the Scarp on the TGO too! It was fine in 2011 – I camped out all those windy nights in it.

    I just find the TS sloping sides too restrictive for extended wet weather use – ok for the odd night or 2, but not for 14 days. (or if you are short maybe!). I really like the wind shedding ability, but it has other disadvantages. Scarp pitches in a fraction of the time and has an inner!

  9. Robin,
    Do you know if Henry has incorporated any of your suggested
    improvements as suggested in your long term review of the Scarp ?
    I note from his reply on your blog that he would consider some of those.

    1. It doesn’t look like the Mk2 Scarp has made it to production. I might email Henry when I get back from the Challenge.

  10. Robin – I’m Starting Lochailort, heading S from Glenfinnan to Mamores then through Ben Alder to Dalwhinnie then To Braemar. Weather will dictate….

  11. Good Luck yourself. Am due Tarfside on the Tuesday but maybe Monday if weather is bad early on and I make time on the FWAs…

  12. Hi
    You know my view on the TS – very similar to Mole’s – those sloping sides eat in to the space and the only decent height is immediately adjacent to the centre trekking pole. No good for us lankies. As for over trousers, I see you have the Berghaus Paclites, too. I have these and have used mine for several years now and I really think they are excellent. Paclite is much maligned by some. I have a Berghaus Paclite jacket as well. I have never really had any problem with it. It must be at least 4 years old now and whilst that desire to get new stuff makes me think about changing it this is not really necessary, and would be wasteful. I Nixwax Tech Wash it about once a year and redo the DWR at the same time with Nixwax Wash In. It works for me.

    1. While it’s ok for people of average height like me, I think it only works for taller people as a tarp. Paclite overtrousers are good ( not as good as Drilliums though). I found my paclite smock could suddenly get overwhelmed. However, if it works for you, why change it?

  13. Post script. I’m keeping the TS for expeditions with the dog, though. Slightly nervous about how he will get on sleeping next to me as he’s a hyper border colie but will try to take him of for an overnighter after the Challenge.

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