|St Cyrus Beach, waving my absolutely brilliant Pacer Poles
The 'Big Three' (or Four or Five)
Many backpackers write about the 'big three' critical items of shelter, pack and sleeping bag when commenting on gear and weight carried. I would also add footwear and rain gear. To be comfortable you really need to get all these right. So I took:
Tent - My Tarptent Scarp 1. As the weather forecast was for quite a lot of wind and rain and chilliness, I decided on the Scarp 1 rather than my considerably lighter Z Packs Duplex. I am pretty confident that the latter would have done me just fine, but I have used and abused the Scarp far more, only having acquired the Duplex towards the end of last year. I also thought the Scarp would be warmer, given its double skin and lack of mesh, which helps cut down on draughts. As expected, the Scarp performed superbly. Rock steady in the squally wind, plenty of space with its two vestibules, allowing cooking undercover and storage of wet gear. If this tent was half a kg lighter I'd never want to use anything else.
|My Scarp 1 in quite strong, squally winds in the lee of Dalbeg Bothy
|ULA Catalyst on St Cyrus Beach
Trail Shoes - I wear these more and more rather than boots, and think they are brilliant for the Challenge, especially so in avoiding faffing about at river crossings. You just plunge straight in. Despite the occasional snow patches, my feet generally kept warm and after about five minutes you do not notice that they are wet most of the time. I wore the same pair as last year, the 'new' style Inov8 Terroc 330s. 'New' style, but no longer made unfortunately. They were faultless, but having done two Challenges now, plus many day walks, they have been relegated to dog walking since I got home as the uppers have worn through in places. I have no idea what I will replace them with yet. As for socks. I am a real fan of X Socks Exped socks which I find incredibly comfortable, and as in previous years I did not get any blisters, even after some fairly pro-longed road trudges. Rinsing them in a stream each night keeps them relatively fresh.
Waterproofs - I wore a Berghaus Paclite jacket. And I wore it a great deal because of the weather we experienced. Paclite is much maligned. I have been very happy with it, but this item is now about 6 years old, and it has seen its day. As for overtrousers, I wear Berghaus Paclites, too, and these really are the dog's doo dahs. I don't reckon there is anything that would better suit my needs, and they do appear to be the commonest type worn by fellow Challengers. Mine have now provided me with great service for several years. I have often worn them all day, and find them comfortable and condensation free.
Other Stuff - Most of the things that I carried were used, except for many First Aid items and my repair kit. I may lighten these for the future, dispensing with some wound dressings and some of the spare dyneema and bungee cord, but this will only save a few grams. I consciously chose to carry other things which I knew would increase weight, and could be dispensed with, but thought they would add to my overall comfort. Thus, I had the luxury of spare trousers - the incredibly light Rohan Ethers, which I highly recommend if you, too, want to carry a spare pair on trips. They only weigh about 220 gr. I also took the light weight Hi Tec Zuuk shoes for wear in B and Bs and when eating out. They do the job. In terms of other clothes I suppose you do not need to carry a spare shirt, socks or pants but it is nicer when you are in town in the evening if you do, and I particularly like my new Rohan Zipped Silver Core base layer which served as my spare. On the subject of Rohan gear, I walked every single day in my zipped, long sleeved Rohan merino base layer shirt. I also slept in it every night. I washed it after Days 6 and Day 9 and to my refined nose it never became offensive! It is is one of the best bits of basic kit I own. I wore, and needed, all my cold weather clothing, including lightweight fleece, Montane Prism gillet and Prism gloves, PHD Minimus Down Jacket, fleece beenie and buff.
As is the case almost every time I go out in the hill I used a pair of Pacer Poles which I think can not be beaten, although I wish they would make a model with flick lock closures.
I had one piece of equipment failure. This was an almost new Piezo ignition sparker thing that came with my MSR Micro Rocket stove which I purchased this spring as the pot holders on my old Optimus gas stove became rather bent. It packed up after three days. Fortunately, I carry a spare lighter. I also had a dodgy self-sealing gas cartridge which didn't self-seal very well, and gave me a couple of anxious moments. I am, partly as a result of this, thinking of taking my Trail Designs Ti Tri meths / esbit set up in future, rather than gas.
That's enough about gear. I bought the lot with my own money, of course, so the comments here are not influenced by any of it being free. Unfortunately!!!!