Friday, 22 October 2010

Lakes trip:gear review and brief trip report

Having only pitched it once in the garden, it was easy enough to pitch it in the dark after a few pints. Me and Martyn sat in it and had a beer, there was plenty of room, but there were a bunch of bugs battering around which were a little annoying. We could probably have both squeezed into the serenity net tent, but I had my bivvy. Once I was in the bivvy I had no problem as there’s a net on it. The real surprise was how tight I could get the Trailstar. Tapping the fly produced the sound that the phrase ‘as tight as a drum’ would suggest. I did find that the gaps at the bottom of the tarp allowed a fair bit of wind through- I need to experiment with getting it lower. I would also like to find a pitch which allows for more of a view out of the door when the wind drops. A real success though.

Caldera cone
Worked excellently, same as my old one but a lot more convenient to carry. It is a bit more of a pain to set up because of threading the pegs through. My beer can pot lid was a significant upgrade from a plain piece of foil.

New Balance shoes
I loved these. My only real concern with the actual shoe is that there isn’t a lot of toe bump protection, but that isn’t a problem as long as you don’t kick anything which I didn’t! Wet sock wise, I didn’t ever actually use my Gore-tex socks. If the weather had been worse, I probably would have, but the worst I got was a bit of dampness from boggy ground. They dried very quickly and I was able to wear my socks to bed. They’re fantastically light- I felt like running quite a bit of the time and did a bit of downhill running for kicks. I did need to look where I stepped more than a goretex boot would require of me but this didn’t bother me. They stuck wherever I needed them to- rocks, scree and grass. I didn’t have any problem with stones in my shoes and didn’t wear my Mountain Laurel gaiters. I may well still wear my Hedgehogs for Winter.

Zpacks zero pack
I spent quite a bit of time with the waist belt undone, my pack was really comfortable with the weight I was carrying. The back length is too short for me. I’ve been in discussion with Joe from Zpacks and apparently 18” is the longest you can get with the Zero, which is my actual back measurement- this pack is just the standard Zero length. If you want, Joe can add extra length to the top of the pack to allow a longer back length (At the expense of extra volume and weight). A lot of daysacks have very short backs, the assumption being that you don’t need the support aspect of the belt. I was stretching the capacity of the sack at first. After the first night I removed a bunch of stuff and took a summer kit list with me- no waterproofs or windproof trousers, no pack liner, no microfleece, no gloves, no down trousers. Even though the capacity was tight with the full load on the first day, I would still use this sack into the autumn- it’s a really nice carry. I was very careful how I set it down on rough rocks but otherwise treated it the same as any other pack. A Zero will be my standard weekender pack from now on.

How did my gear list work out?
For this weekend, it was perfect. I stretched the capacity of my gear to keep me warm ever so slightly on the second night- hanging around in the evening: I was cold and would have used my down trousers but instead got into my bivvy and sleeping bag and was toasty. In the night I got a little chilly and would have ideally had a little section of mat for my legs, but overall slept really well. On the Sunday morning my hands were cold and I would have liked some gloves, but it wasn’t desperate. I hiked in my baselayer and windshirt. I prefer to hike myself warm rather than have to remove clothes once I’ve got into the rhythm of walking. We ran into a few people who were camping out, typically carrying 70-80l packs and still strapping stuff to the outside. I’m not an ultralight evangelist but I was certainly glad I wasn’t carrying their packs. (Okay, so I felt a little smug)

The trip:
We managed to arrive at the Wasdale Head Inn just in time for last orders. The staff seemed fairly keen for us to leave so we didn’t hang around. After a quick wander we pitched the tent in a field with a river running through it. We sat in the Trailstar and chatted and had another beer.
In the morning I felt a little hungover. It was a beautiful morning though and I hung around for a while making coffee and looking at the views. There was a fair bit of wind and I lost my meths measuring cup and my new Caldera cone to the river. We managed to set out at about 9am and wandered up to Piers Gill. It’s certainly a great route and not to difficult. After a short while, we reached the summit of Scafell Pike. It was at this point that it occurred to me that I had never been to the Lakes in decent weather. There were hordes of people and I realised when I thought the area had been busy before, it was nothing compared to actual numbers. There were fantastic views from the top and people doing all kinds of interesting things like throwing their walking poles to their friends 50m down the mountain in a high wind. We ate some lunch in a shelter (Homemade ‘sun’ dried tomatoes plus cheese and crackers, very nice) and vacated the area as soon as possible.

It was only 2.30 when we reached Sprinkling Tarn. Martyn mentioned he’s always wanted to camp on the promontory and we wandered over to have a look. It was an ideal camp spot so we pitched and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking, chatting and dozing in the sun.

It’s very rare that I get the weather to do this as all my trips seem to happen in the Winter. It was certainly a busy spot- there were at least 4 other tents dotted about but everyone kept themselves to themselves. We were settled down by 7.30 and were up and walking by 7am.
All in all, a pretty relaxing trip in what was essentially summer weather and a nice opportunity to test the gear that’s been lying idle in my cupboard. Next trip I do want to go somewhere a little wilder though.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Shorts, in the Lakes, in October....

What fantastic weather! All the gear worked a treat-fuller report and video to follow...

Monday, 4 October 2010

The Trailstar lands

And I only had to pay £18 in import costs (sigh). I whipped it up in the garden on Saturday during a lucky break in the rain and seam sealed it. No photos, but my Serenity net tent fits in very nicely- the side tie outs to improve head room clip to the bivvy hooks in the Trailstar and at least two of the groundsheet tie outs will attach to existing pegs. I'll probably use the bivvy for winter, but for a summer shelter in an environment such as Scotland, it should be ideal. Also in the package were some new gaiters and some Aqua Mira tablets. I liked using the Aqua Mira drops but the tablets will be much easier and lighter.
I also got the chance to road test the new goretex socks and my New balance shoes. On a 'Barefoot walk'. I'd been wearing them for comfort testing purposes on a day out when I spotted the walk. The course had been reduced to ankle deep water and thick clay and thankfully, both the shoes and socks performed impeccably. The shoes and the Trailstar will both be accompanying me on the weekend. Currently the forecast is for gale force winds. Nice.