Ok, here’s a quick roundup of some of the clothing and equipment I used on this year’s TGO Challenge
For me, the real star of the Challenge was my As Tucas Sestrals 2 insulated trousers. At 185g, they provide an amazing amount of warmth and wind protection. They were wonderful to put on at the end of each day when I was camping. The new Schoeller material is like silk and lovely against your legs. They are thin enough that you don’t overheat but plenty warm enough, even in cold and windy conditions like we had for the Cheese & Wine party. The snaps at the hem mean you can cinch them at the ankle to keep warmth in. They also have a good DWR coating so they shrug off light rain. For wearing around camp in cool or cold conditions they are brilliant. I also used them on a couple of nights in my sleeping bag for some extra warmth. Highly recommended.
The Challenge was the first prolonged test for my Marmot Essence waterproof jacket and trousers. At just under 170g each, they are astonishingly light. I wore the overtrousers more than the jacket. The jacket was used extensively on two days, once over my Paramo Velez Light and once on its own. I was very pleased with the breathability. It doesn’t feel quite as good as three layer eVent, but I think that’s down to being a 2.5 layer rather than 3 layer jacket, where the moisture is “hidden” by the inner fabric. The material is certainly waterproof and the DWR effective with no wetting out. The thinness of the material makes the garments cooler than more substantial waterproofs. They are also quite delicate, so I’ve had to patch a cut on both the jacket and overtrousers. If you want a good value, very breathable lightweight shell, the Essence jacket and overtrousers are worth considering. The jacket is quite a trim cut, so if I were buying again, I’d go a size up. Also don’t expect them to put up with rough treatment as the material is quite delicate.
The two other things to report on are the Outdoor Research Sunrunner cap and Spectrum Sunsleeves. I liked the Sunrunner cap a lot. The vents make it more comfortable when warm and I like the detachable neck screen. I also used OR Spectrum Sun Sleeves. These convert a short-sleeved T shirt into a long-sleeved one. They have a SPF of 50 and can be pulled over the back of your hands. At 38g, they weigh nothing, but are brilliant for using on sunny days instead of sun screen. They are also quite cool (as in temperature, not looks). I really liked them.
Virtually all the equipment I used as the same as last year. Given the wind and some poor weather, I was glad I took my Scarp 1. Talking to Bob and Rose, about the evening that we were camped in Glen Markie, they couldn’t cook inside their Vaude Power Lizard because it was flapping so much. I had no problems in my Scarp. I love being confident that it can handle anything. It also has a compact footprint and goes up in a jiffy. I used my GG Mariposa rucksack. My only criticism is that one of the shoulder straps slips and has to be tightened regularly and the material is not very water-resistant. Other than that, it’s a great rucksack.
My sleeping bag was my modified Rab Neutrino SL 200. It’s just right for the Challenge. Most nights it was fine on its own. On a couple of nights I had to supplement it with my PHD Minimus down jacket and As Tucas Sestrals 2 insulated trousers. I used my Thermarest Xlite short sleeping mat, which was very comfortable and had no issues with deflation.
My boots were Ecco Biom Hike Mids, which were perfect. Very comfortable and robust. They also were very waterproof. Sure I was occasionally a bit sweaty and I wished I’d taken an extra pair of socks, but I had no blisters. It’s a shame they’ve stopped making them.
In the end I took my umbrella and waders. I was really glad I took my umbrella. I used it for most of the day on two days. On the day to the Water of Allachy, I even rigged it so it was hands free. It made two of the days of heavy rain much more bearable. The waders were useful as well, particularly on one day when I had to wade a river when it was raining hard. If I was being super-Spartan though, I’d leave them behind.
I had no failures. The only disappointment was the new style Rohan Ultra T, which doesn’t seem to be as smell resistant as the old style. As a result, I wore my Montane Sportwool Terra T (polyester/merino wool blend) most of the time, which was impressively smell resistant. I might get another merino/synthetic combo base layer as they seem to combine smell resistance with fast drying.
DIsclaimer: all items mentioned were purchased with my own money.