TGO Challenge 2013 Gear report

As Promised 🙂

My kit list has been honed over many hikes and there are a number of items that have been with me for some time so they might not get the detailed attention they deserve. I’ll try and focus more on any kit changes in this post.

The Kit List can be seen here: TGO Challenge 2013 Gear List

The Trailstar performed admirably, even taking into account my relative inexperience in pitching it. I had only put it up half a dozen times before the Challenge and had never actually slept in it. Apart from seam sealing it, the only mod I made was to add a MSR Blizzard stake to the kit which I used for the windward stake on the basis that it is the most critical of the lot. The only future mod I will make to the TrailStar is to change the colour of the windward guyline, and to carry an extra length of guy for the occasion of having to reposition the doorway if the wind changes direction and starts blowing into the door. It did this once on the whole challenge, and I have to say that half the faffing about was switching the longer doorway guy to another point on the tarp.

The Oookstar. First, let me say that the design and construction of the Oookstar is brilliant. The combination of the TrailStar and OookStar makes for an excellent all weather shelter. The thought that went into the attachment points make pitching a breeze. I can’t think of a negative thing to say about it. The only downside was that Sean got swamped with TGO orders and unfortunately, it did not arrive in time for the start. I’m not sure how many hours sleep Sean got in May, but suffice it to say that the inner arrived after a couple of days and replaced a hastily procured bivvy bag I had found locally once the OookStar predicament was apparent. While we’re at it, the Bivvy bag was a Rab ‘Ascent’ event model and it performed well, even if it’s weight (~600g) was more than I would have liked. There were no issues with condensation and it packed reasonably small but not as small as the OookStar. I can see uses for the bivvi so will keep it now that I have it.

I carried the Thermarest Lite Seat and it was really useful. I used it at lunch when I was in rocky terrain or on very wet ground. Not only did it keep me dry, but it insulated me from the ground. In camp, it gave me somewhere comfortable to sit whilst cooking or arranging gear, taking off or putting on boots without getting a cold, wet behind. Not a lot of weight in it, easy to deploy. Recommended.

WM Ultralite performed as usual, warm, comfortable and reasonably light for it’s thermal performance. Even on the coldest night up at Loch Etchachan I was not cold in that bag. I had made a fleece cover for the Exped Pillow, and this is now my favorite outdoors pillow, very comfortable. Most nights, rather than use the sleeping bag hood, I used the Black Rock down hat. I find the sleeping bag hoods restricting and somewhat annoying and only use them if the temperatures are getting really low.

Cooking and Food:
Jetboil Sol Ti was as good as ever. I had trouble getting JetBoil gas but the Primus gas sold locally performed well. I used less than a single 100g container for the whole challenge, but bear in mind that I had several nights in accomodation.

Food: I bought a mixture of grub from OutDoors Grub, both Real Turmat and ‘Bla Band‘ which is a product made by Bla Band in Sweden. Bla Band is owned by Campbell Soup Sweden! Maybe Campbell will bring them to Australia? I found the Bla Band to be good, but not as consistently appetising as Real Turmat. The advantage is in price, they are about 60% of the price for equivalent kcal.

Breakfasts were Muesli (pre-prepared in resealable bags with skim milk powder, just add water). If it was cold, I used hot water, otherwise cold water mix was fine. Lunches were various pitta/mountain breads and usually tuna or chicken consumed ravenously. Trail snacks were Outdoors Grub Trail Mix and a selection of Nakd all natural fruit and Trek bars which were quite yummy but I have yet to see them here unfortunately.

After the failure of my Paramo Adventure Light trousers prior to leaving Australia, I had to adjust my kit to include waterproof trousers. I took my Mont Austral Overpants to wear over the Montane Terra Pants. Uncertainty set in over the Paramo Jacket, and I caved in and bought a Rab Neo Stretch Polartec Neoshell Jacket in the UK. The Neoshell was a bit of a revelation, I never got wet, and I could wear it walking in the wind and rain without getting hot and sweaty.

I made a mistake with the Possum Gloves. They got wet, stayed wet and cold. I replaced them after a couple of days with some Black Diamond fleece gloves which worked well. They still got wet but dried faster and were not as cold.

Footwear worn was the excellent Salomon X Ultra Mids with my custom orthotics. Anyone who has walked long distances with zero footwear and feet issues will know what I mean when I say I am very happy with these boots. They didn’t leak, my feet didn’t hurt, I got no blisters. For gaiters I used the Integral Designs Event shortie gaiters and they worked with the Salomons brilliantly, keeping out the occasional splashes and all of those little stones that usually find their way in.

Warmwear worked well. I routinely wore Kathmandu Ultracore thermals and when stopped I donned the Fireball Smock. At night during camp and before hopping into bed I added the PHD Minimus jacket as the temperature dropped to maintain core temps and comfort.

Pack and camera storage:
The Mariposa performed well and carried the load with comfort. It was never overloaded and always had somewhere to stuff extra gear. The replacement of mesh with cloth on the new model was a definite improvement. I packed food and overnight water-resistant gear at the bottom of the pack, then inserted a large sil-nylon drybag into which the sleeping bag and dry clothes etc were stuffed and the drybag sealed. Then on top were added day rations, toiletries etc. This meant that minimal unpacking was required until the next camp. Loose packing of the sleeping bag in the drybag meant that the down was not compressed as much resulting in quicker loft at camp.

The BlackRapid SnapR10 camera bag performed well, acting as a weather protector and tether for the camera. At all times the camera was only a velcro flap away from access and many photos were taken. Only in heavy rain did I remove the camera and store it in the drybag kept in my jacket pocket.

Navigation and Communication
The Garmin Etrex20 performed as expected with really good battery life. Along side the GPS was the invaluable Suunto M3 Global Compass and paper maps printed out from Grough Route where my trip planning had been mapped previously.

My iPhone was stored in a drybag for most of the trip, and the Delorme InReach logged my trip without error to the fantastic service provided by Phil at Social Hiking. A log of the completed trip showing plan vs actual can be viewed at the Social Hiking web site.

Disclaimer: Any gear mentioned has been purchased with my own funds.