Tuesday, 24 November 2009

And more..

I never thought my video would generate this much interest! I'm going to continue to publish comments that deal with safety because it's important for people to look at these issues and make their own mind up. So, Martin Rye said:
Couple things and more. On a multi day route you would miss those spare clothes. Wet days on end would push the safety boundary in my view. You would be safer with spare warm clothing to get into in an emergency. Wet clothing wicks body heat away five times faster.

It seems that every time I've taken this kit out, it's been wet days on end so I've got a fair understanding of how it works. The cape/chaps combo does a good job of keeping me dry except for the ends of the arms-I've been just as wet in traditional waterproofs and I would always save my dry clothes for when I got to camp. But when I'm in camp, if I'm really soaking, I can take my wet clothes off and get into my sleeping bag and put on the down vest which will keep me warmer than a fleece or long johns and not getting into the sleeping bag. What I actually found myself doing was just wearing the clothes until they dried when I got to camp. I wear montane terra trousers and a smartwool microweight baselayer which I have found dry extremely quickly. on my feet I wore coolmax liner socks which also dry very quickly. I do run pretty warm though. I dried at night and got wet again during the day, which was similar to what I used to do which was wearing dry clothes at night and putting wet clothes on again the next day.

I like Caldera stoves but they can flare up and set fire to the ground. If your shelter burnt down what would be plan to keep the elements of you without a waterproof? Good luck to you but would it work on a five day no resupply wet Scottish route in May?
I haven't had any problem with my caldera setting fire to the ground, but if it's dry, I put it outside the tent. If it's wet, then there shouldn't be so much of a problem with the ground catching fire but should the worst come to the worst, then silnylon burns slowly. The worst should be a hole in my waterproofs. There's enough material in the cape to be able to bunch it and tie it off or even just wear it with a hole in it- I'd be generally covered. 5 days no resupply in a scottish May? I don't get the chance to get up to Scotland much unfortunately but my understanding is that I may well be encountering snow etc. I would be more likely to pack a kit that reflected the more wintery conditions and lower temperatures, but if it's cold enough to wear a micro fleece, that would be on my back and not in the pack. Wind is the real killer with the cape as a waterproof but only if you're going up high. The main change I'd make for a 5 dayer is spare socks- my socks reek after 3 days!
Also does that pack keep all the kit dry without stuff sacks? Yes!

Monday, 23 November 2009


This post is a response to podcast Bob who made some reasonable comments on my visual gearlist:
So no spare dry clothes, gloves, weather hat, camera, entertainment, book, poles and wicking insulation layer? Fine for average summer conditions and I agree with the content, however I would be interested in your choice of additional items to cover the cooler and wetter months to stay safe if you had to bed down at any time?
I thought it might be useful to add these extra comments. The list is what I carry in my pack- the basics- I'm planning to do another video with my other gear that I carry, but briefly- I carry GG lightrek 4 poles, I've got a widebrimmed hat which is weather resistant and I usually take a camera too. I don't take gloves for the summer, I found that my clothes dry quickly enough that I don't need spare clothes (I took some longjohns on my Rhinogs trip and didn't use them and that trip was plenty wet enough!)and I am fine using my windshirt and vest so that I don't need a wicking insulation layer. As the weather gets colder, I usually wear a microfleece which I don't take off and take some liner gloves and I may swap my vest for a Patagonia down sweater. For longer trips, I will take a book, but really, I don't need it, especially if I'm walking with someone else- I'd finished my book by 7pm on my second day in the Rhinogs and didn't miss it. I will adapt my kit depending on the weather reports but after using this basic kitlist for a year now, I'm pretty happy with it.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Second place is the first loser....

I've just discovered that Red Yeti has done something very similar to my kit video. Except filmed it better. In a better location. In much more detail...... Ho Hum.

A visual gearlist

This may be incredibly dull or you might be quite interested- I suspect it may be something to do with how much of a gear head you are. I am as guilty as the next man of sticking my gearlists up but whenever I look at other lists it all starts to fade into a list of products and numbers. When I saw this post on Backpacking light I thought it was a pretty good way of seeing exactly what people are packing which gave me the idea for this video. It could also function as a bit of a guide to packing a frameless pack I suppose. Have a look and see what you think! I missed out a bit of information- the windshirt folds into it's own pocket and the chaps fit into that too. The hat goes in the vest pocket and the camp shoes/plastic bags just get rolled with the sleeping bag. I also carry a tibetan long handled spoon which fits inside the cone.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The Lakes in February

I'd already published this trip report from last February on the TGO forum but I've got some video that i wasn't able to post. I thought it might be interesting for people who hadn't read it as it was one of the first times I began making conscious gear choices based on the expected conditions rather than just reducing weight or taking a lot of equipment 'just in case'.
I had been looking for the opportunity to test out all my new toys for a while and the heavy snowfalls gave me interesting conditions to test the gear. I played around with different packing configurations during the week before deciding on my kit list. I took both my sleeping bags to layer up, a five season multi-mat and a torso length section of GG eggbox foam. I had tried including a Thermarest 3/4 instead, but the weight difference made me decide on the GG despite the fact that it would have to be carried on the outside of the pack. In the event, it didn't bother me as much as I had thought it might. For warm wear I took my down sweater, some merino long johns and at the last moment threw in my minim ultra vest. Having looked at the weather I decided against taking any waterproofs and instead took pertex trousers and top-my down sweater can shrug off snow and if anything unexpected came up I could wear the Gatewood cape. The pertex was an excellent choice- I put them on, supplemented by a microfleece and they stayed on until I got back to the car the next day. On uphills the long front zip on the Rab tob vented well and every time we stopped and the cold hit, they blocked the wind fantastically. This meant a lot less removing and replacing of layers. On downhills, I added the minim vest. Shelter was the Gatewood cape and evrything was carried in my jam sack. After packing I weighed everything on my (not terribly accurate) and it came out at 6.5 kg including food, fuel, water, ice axe, crampons and 300ml of whisky (winter essential!). We set out at an ungodly hour and arrived at Wasdale at 10.30, just in time to nab the last parking space. After a bit of faffing and taking of team photos we headed towards Lord's Rake. The plan was fairly fluid but we wanted to have a crack at a bit of steep snow and the Rake had been recommended as a good introduction. We were all up to speed with our winter skills and wanted to take them a bit further. My pack felt good on, especially once I strapped on the crampons and began carrying the ice axe. The Rake was in excellent condition, and fairly untouched except for a few snowed over footsteps. There was plenty of exposure but nothing technical and we all agreed it was one of the highlights of the weekend. The original plan had been to head over to Sprinkling tarn to camp, but we had already spent longer than we thought climbing the Rake and now I made the classic mistake of looking at the objective rather than the map. I descended through the wrong gully and ended up on a short slope with a nasty looking cliff at the bottom. I was heading down to check out the possibilities and thought to myself that I'd better hold my axe in the self arrest position when I slipped and began sliding. I picked up speed remarkably quickly but managed to stop myself after a few feet. There was an anxious moment where I thought the axe wouldn't bite and was a bit shaken when I got up. Lesson learnt, we descended down the right gully and headed towards Great Moss.
It was clear that we weren't going to make it to sprinkling tarn now so we began to look for a dry spot. There was plenty of bogs and tufts but we finally found a spot on a small knoll. The wind had picked up and I was a little worried about the Gatewood cape. My brother in Law had a KWay 2 man wedge that I could have squeezed into but I wanted to test my capabilities. I rigged an extra guy at the back using my ice axe which had the benefit of giving me a bit of extra headroom and I settled down to cook my supper. I was very impressed with the cladera cone. It was the first time I had used it but despite the wind and the icy water it still boiled enough for a coffee and my meal in a very short amount of time. The wind was making the lightweight aluminium pole on the cape flex quite alarmingly. I closed the door and it improved matters but I would have been much happier with a trekking pole there instead. I still felt safe enough to leave the tent to go and hunch up in the bottom of Martyn's tent to drink whisky and munch on my homemede jerky. I don't think the other's were convinced. Ben commented that no meat should crunch!We decided to settle down at about nine, but exiting the tent we saw that the whole valley was bathed in the most incredible moonlight. I spent a few freezing minutes trying to capture the scene before getting into the bag. The wind had dropped and the thermometer in my tent registered -5.
I was warm during the night. I wore all of my day clothes and my minim vest. i used my down jacket as a pillow. Occasionally my backside got cold when i curled up so I placed my sit mat between it and the sleeping bag which worked well. I was pressed up against the side of the tent and because I was pitched on a slope I kept slding down so my feet were pressed on the bottom.You really need to sleep dead centre in the cape to avoid touching the sides. When I woke up there was some ice on the fly but not a lot, which was good because I hadn't vented the tent at all. I had kept my mouth inside the sleeping bag which may have reduced condensation. There was some ice on the foot of my bag but luckily, the night had been so dry I could just brush it off and my bag remained dry.We set off up the tongue after a relaxed breakfast. We were making time because we wanted to get driving before the predicted snow arrived. After avoiding snow patches as much as possible we finally gave in and strapped on our crampons. We saw a lot of people on the Sunday, conditions were just about perfect. After a a quick spin past Sprinkling tarn we descended back through Wasdale and returned to the car just in time to catch the first of the snow showers as we drove back.Overall on this trip I was really pleased with the weight of my kit and the way it worked. Last winter my pack weighed closer to 10kg without axe, crampons or 2 sleeping bags. I felt that each element worked together and different elements could be combined to reduce weight. I didn't use my long johns or spare socks but I was glad I had them as there was still the possibility of putting my foot through a bog and getting wet as happened to Martyn. Realistically I could have got away without the vest but it did give me a bit more flexibility. The caldera cone was great. I took 250ml of meths and only used about 1/4 of it for 2 hot meals and a few cuppas. The Gatewood cape worked really well. I would have felt safer with a trekking pole but I think that I was being a little paranoid and at 400g for a shelter it's hard to beat. Finally I was really happy with the kahtoolas combined with my hedgehog mids. I kicked a fair amount of steps in the shoes and my toes were fine. I could have done with a little pair of debris gaiters to keep the snow out.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Odds and sods

My postie has been having a pretty busy time recently. Latest delivery to drop through the door was this package from Team IO. Team IO are worth a mention because as far as I'm aware they're the only American style cottage manufacturers in Britain (Let me know if I'm wrong!). I've been using their zero g guylines on my laser comp and as a lifter guy on the Gatewood- it's called zero g because apparently it doesn't register on digital scales! The mini linelocs which go with it are super good also. More interestingly I've been using one of their cuben fibre stuff sacks as a food/stove bag. I had a real purge of my stuff sacks a while back and now I only use three-one for my food, one for my torch and medical kit and one for my tent pegs. It makes sense to me that they weigh as little as possible and at 6g, the medium stuff sack seemed just the job. Compare that to my previous food bag- a trekmates silnylon at 25g. The only problem was that when I received it it resembled little more than a crystalised fart- beautifully made with bonded seams, a light static drawcord and a tiny cordlock but way to0 fragile for my purposes. Except it wasn't. I carried +3kg of food for the Rhinogs plus my stove and pot and didn't baby it and it's still looking as good as new. I've hung it by the cord, stuffed it in my pack and sat it on the ground and I'm very pleased with it. So I've decided to replace it. Why? For the crime of being too big and heavy! You get a lot of sack for your 6g-I can fit my head in it (remember my head isn't the biggest!) and with one night's food in it it's too big. The small stuff is 4g and for an overnighter it's all the sack I need. The only problem is it might be ever so slightly too small. The final item in the pack is a set of Vargo hi vis pegs. I love my Terra Nova carbon fibre pegs but they're beginning to break with monotonous regularity. I am taking a hit on the weight though- I foolishly assumed they were the same as the superlight stakes with a bit of paint on them. Still you live and learn.
Here is the picture of the Mountain Laurel poncho as a poncho- I seem to have assumed a Meechanesque thousand yard stare but really what expression do you use to model a huge tesco carrier bag? You can see just how see through it is in this picture.
Finally apologies to all those who have made comments which I failed to reply to- I hadn't realised I needed to moderate them-doh!