I know there’s a bit of snootiness about writing about gear on blogs, but I’ve always found that feedback after trips is useful as gear is being used in the real world. The weather conditions were good, so none of the gear was tested to destruction.
Shelter and sleeping
I used my F10 Nitro Lite 200 for my shelter. The reasons for doing so were that I hadn’t used it for over a year and I fancied a bit of extra room. It’s basically the same weight as the Scarp but a lot roomier inside. The only drawback is headroom is a little low, but it’s still a great tent. My sleeping bag was my modified Rab Neutrino SL 200. For temperatures above 5c, it’s a great bag. Having a synthetic base makes it really comfortable. I can’t understand why Rab haven’t turned this mod into a production bag. I used a Thermarest XLite short sleeping mat, which was very comfortable and light at 212g. I use it with the thin end under my head, which seems to work better for me as a side sleeper than with the wide end at my head. In some ways I prefer a short mat as it doesn’t dominate the tent like a full length mat. I use it with a 150cm long 3mm thick closed cell foam pad. For a pillow I used an Exped UL inflatable covered with a Buff. This is the most comfortable combination I’ve used.
Yawn, yawn, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is a great rucksack. I used the AirBeam frame with my closed cell foam sleeping mat folded behind. It was very comfortable and saved me storing the mat externally. I also used my Laufbursche hip belt pockets. Boy, these are way better than the standard pockets and fit well on the hip belt. My Sony RX100 camera had plenty of room (with a foam pad to protect it). In the other pocket was a compass and food. I also used the OMM I-Gammy shoulder strap bottle holder. While this is great, the mesh trashes fleeces and merino base layers where your arm rubs it. I’m going to ditch it and put a water bottle in the side pocket in future. It wrecked my Montane Oryx fleece on the Challenge and my Montane Sportwool base layer started to bobble after just one day.
This was the first proper outing for my Mountain Equipment Ultratherm jacket. I’m very impressed. It has just the right enough warmth and wind resistance for mild conditions. The stretch panels add a bit of ventilation but are not too wind permeable. As an outer layer that takes the place of a fleece and a windproof in warmer months, I think it’s a good choice (although it’s difficult to find now). For sleepwear I wore Rohan Ultra long sleeve shirt and Longjohns. Very comfortable and light.
Shoes and socks
Because the weather forecast was fair, I took trail shoes, La Sportiva Raptors, which were very comfortable and grippy. I did a comparative test of socks: X Socks Outdoor socks, Hilly Mono Skin Merinos and Injini Midweight Mini Crew Wool. Of the three, I found the X Socks most comfortable. They evaporated sweat quickly. The lack of cushioning didn’t seem to be a problem. The Hillys weren’t quite as comfortable, being a little more sweaty, but they were fine. The Injinis, however, were not good. After a couple of hours I developed a hot spot in front of the ball of my foot where the material is a bit thinner. Rather than allow this to develop, I swapped to the Hilly socks. It was useful to make a side by comparison. For me the X Socks are the best.