Most of the gear I took to the Carneddau was old familiar favourites. However, I hadn’t used my Exped Synmat UL 7, my Rohan Windshadow jacket or my Aquapac phone case before.
Exped Synmat UL 7
I know there are a number of Synmat UL 7 fans out there and I can confirm that this is a very comfortable and warm mat. While I like the POE mats (Ether Elite and Peak Elite AC), I’ve found them a bit cool. The Exped has significantly better insulation which fills the tubes and I think it shows in the level of insulation it gives. While it’s not as warm as the Downmat, it’s significantly better than the POE or NeoAir mats.
I inflated it with the Exped shrink bag pump sack and schnozzel, which I found to be a real boon. It’s extremely easy, taking four to five sacks of air. It also prevents moisture accumulating in the mat, which has been a visible issue in the POE mats (probably also the NeoAir, except you can’t see it). Both the flat inflation and deflation valves worked fine. I think flat valves might be a bit awkward for inflation by mouth, another good reason for the pump sack.
Sleeping was very comfortable, up to Downmat standards and better than the POE mats and NeoAir. There was no problem with deflation in the night (unlike the NeoAir). The oblong shape is quite dominant in the tent. This is not really a problem in the Scarp or the OookWorks Duomid nest, but could be a consideration in a narrower tent.
The material is pleasantly warm to the touch. It is a little bit slippery, so pitching on a slope might be an issue. The oblong shape means securing a pillow with some shockcord works well (unlike the POE mats). The material seems quite delicate, so I’d be careful about guarding it from sharp objects. There is a repair kit included. For packing, it folds down to a surprisingly small size. Weight is 450g.
I liked the shrink bag pump sack, which doubles as a good sized dry bag. I had an Alpkit Pipedream 600 sleeping bag, sleeping mat, air pillow and cover in the shrink bag. By kneeling on it and opening the deflation/inflation valve, it could be crushed down into quite a small package. When deflated, the sack is still quite malleable, so putting it into the bottom of the rucksack is easy. All in all I really liked the Synmat and the shrink bag.
Rohan Windshadow jacket
Weighing 222g, the Windshadow jacket is a bit heavier than many windshirts/jackets. However, it has two significant features in its favour. Joy of joys, it has velcro adjustable cuffs. The ability to have the cuffs cinched tight or loose for ventilation significantly enhances the usability of a windshirt, in my view and makes it more comfortable over a wider range of conditions.
The second feature I like is the material. In contrast to slippery Pertex, the Windshadow uses a a matt material which is slightly stretchy and more air permeable. It’s very difficult to describe, but it feels nice against the skin. It is slightly less windproof than competitors, which may seem like a disadvantage. However, it seems to be less sweaty that the Montane windshirts I’ve used.
In terms of features, it has two zipped, waist level, mesh backed pockets. Not ideal for access on the move, but can be left open for some additional ventilation. There are two chest pockets. The external one opens to a mesh backing and can be used for ventilation. The internal mesh chest pocket doubles as a stuff sack for the jacket. The full length front zip has a draught baffle.
The hood folds away into the collar. It is elasticated and next to useless. I was going to cut it off, but I have modded it with some cord and eyelets so it is now reasonably effective. If it had a drawcord as standard it would be perfect. I’ll do a post on the mod at a later date.
I used the Windshadow in conjunction with a Mountain Hardwear MicroChill fleece (proofed with Nikwax Polar Proof). I really liked the combination. In many ways, it is better than a Paramo jacket as the combination is much more flexible and comfortable. With the MicroChill fleece (240g), it is also lighter at 462g. I also wore the Windshadow over a t-shirt (Rohan Cool Silver) and it was very comfortable.
I think I’m going to take this on the TGOC as it scores in terms of weight, flexibilty and comfort over a Paramo jacket. Although it wasn’t tested with rain, the DWR seems to be very effective if you put it under a tap. It’s a shame the hood design is so poor as it’s nearly an excellent jacket.
I didn’t take a photo of this but you can see it at the Aquapac website. Until now I’ve used a small clear Ortlieb bag. On balance I think I prefer the Aquapac bag. It seems to have better conductivity for the touch screen of my iPhone. The fit is a little tight as I use a rubber protector for the phone. The roll top is very secure although it could do with being marginally taller so rolling it down is not so tight. Being bright orange was a comfort in being able to locate the phone lying on the ground. Overall, I really liked this and it will be my waterproof phone case from now on.
Disclaimer: all gear mentioned was purchased by me. None of it was donated by manufacturers.