Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The kit review - what worked & what didn't!

Here's a kit review at long may be of some help to this years challengers!

Backpack - Golite Quest (1355g)
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! Wonderfully light weight but still tough and comfortable. I grew very fond of this pack!

Sea to Summit pack liner (94g)
This was the lightweight (ultra-sil?) version and it was hopeless. Water got in every time it rained.

Bivi - Big Agnes 3 wire (850g)
Excellent - loads of room for both patch and myself. I'm very fond of this also now!

Tarp -MSR E-Wing (185)
Brilliant - kept the rain off and was suprisingly stable in wind. A good amount of room underneath too. It's lovely to sit under a tarp and watch the rain!

Terra Nova laser Competition (950g)
Generally good. Quick and easy to put up and take down, nice and roomy. I din't have too much confidence in high wind - largely as the outer would blow against the inner and I worried about getting sodden - although it never happened. I did have condensation problems during the last 10 days of the hike, although I'm not sure that it wasn't water seeping through the groundsheet - I have more testing to do.

(I left on the 1st June and finished on the 19th August - during this time I spent the first month using the tent to avoid midge problems in Scotland. I then spent the second month or so using the Bivvi and tarp. I used the tent again for the last 10 days as I got fed up with being stared at on campsites! During the whole jogle I spent 2 nights in a youth hostel, 3 in b&b's and 2 with friends - other than that I was always camping -except when I had days off with John in the caravan 3 times during the hike...about 8 days total I think)

Sleeping Bag - Cumulus Quantum 200 (536g)
Excellent bag. There were a few nights after leaving JOG that were pretty cold, and I did feel it - but with Patch in the bag, my down jacket on and my coat zipped up around the bottom of the bag I was comfy. For the rest of the hike it was great - warm enough and so light weight and small pack size. It developed a stitching fault at the end of the hike but it was repaired and returned to me with no bother by the manufacturer.

Sleeping Mat - Thermarest NeoAir (370g)
Brilliant. Faultless. Comfy. Lightweight and small pack size.

Big Agnes Pumphouse (46g)
Brilliant bit of kit - made light work of inflating the NeoAir mattress night after night and doubled as a dry bag for my sleeping bag. Ace

Stove - Primus Micron Ti
Initially brilliant - lightweight and user friendly, however one of the arms developed problems folding out into position and then it snapped off with a broken weld. I'm still waiting for Primus to get back to me about this (no reply to my email yet).

Cook Pot / Mug - MSR Titan (118g)
Brilliant, lightweight, reliable.

North Face Merino Wool Tops (186)
Wouldn't be without this. I feel the cold but found I didn't need a fleece with these. The clothing combination of T'shirt, merino top, waterproof coat and down jacket meant I was always comfortable in every climate.

Waterproof Coat - Bergahus Paclite (390) / Montane Adventure Jacket (420)
I started with the Montane Adventure Jacket which initially did a great job of keeping the water out, but it soon leaked so I swapped it with the Berghaus paclite...which did the same. I've come to the conclusion that all lightweight jackets will probably do the same - as long as they keep the worst of the rain out I found this to be ok. A wet back and shoulders (where my pack had been) became the norm.

Waterproof Overtrousers - Berghaus Paclite (150g)
To my suprise these did a great job - although the bottoms were trashed by the end of the hike.

Down Jacket - PHD Ultra Down Pullover (224g)
Brilliant - I loved this. It kept me warm in the evening / at night when necessary and packed to a tiny size. I'm very fond of this!

Boots - Asolo Atlantis GTX (1130) / Brasher Hillmaster (1200)/ Asics trainers (570)
The Asolo boots were comfortable but not at all waterproof - just walking through wet grass would lead to sodden feet for the day (or one point I though I was going to get trench foot...). I later changed to the Brashers which were uncomfortable and had a soft sole that wore quickly. For the last 8 days or so I finished in Asics gel trainers which were heaven! So light and comfortable! They let plenty of air to my toes which was lovely on hot days! Although I got wet feet in them (obviously not waterproof) they did dry quickly - even while wearing them (and my sock too!).

Superfeet insoles
Fab - I put these in any footwear I wear hiking

Engo patches (blister prevention)
These were great! I put one behind my heel on each boot to prevent blisters and I had no problems - until I took one off without realising I didn't have a replacement with me. I tried using a square of gaffer tape instead but it just didn't do the job the same. I immediately had blood blisters developing on my heel. As soon as a new ENGO patch was put in the boot the problem was solved. These are great - they say they will last up to 300 miles but the ones in my boots lasted 500 which I think is pretty impressive - especially as my boots were soaking wet for a large part of the time (ENGO patches stick to the inside of your boots and prevent friction).

GPS - Satmap (with GB 1:50000 memory card) (290)
Excellent - a bit heavy and often unnecessary but a good bit of kit. It did give up the ghost at one point but satmap straight away sent me a demo unit to use while they sorted mine - they were great. I later found the problem may actually have been my dead batteries that I got muddled with the good ones though - I haven't told them that! Satmap are a fab company with great customer support.

Pack Towel - MSR (ultralight) (28g for 2 I think)
Simple but so good - tiny towels but absorb loads of water and do the job nicely. Tiny and light weight. Dry quickly when hung off the pack. One for me, one for Patch!

Multi use Soap - Dr Bronner's
Did the job ok - saved lots of weight, but I looked forward to proper shampoo for my it got longer it never felt good using this! Useful though - doubled as toothpaste.

Coat - Ruffwear Cloudchaser jacket (110g)
Brilliant. It kept Patch lovely and dry - at the end of the day I would zip this off her and she would be clean and dry underneath - good for the tent! The coats belly area would be muddy but I would rub this off on some grass and leave it in the tent porch / under the tarp overnight to dry. By morning it was always dry and ready to wear again. The seams at the bottom of the front legs did start rubbing Patch so I cut them off - been fine since!

Ruffwear Grip Trex Boots + Liners (193g)
These helped Patch initially in the hike on some long days but they did rub the joints on the top of her toes so in the end I sent them home.

Vetwrap (34g)
I took this just in case for Patch but ended up using it myself when I did something to the muscle running under the outside of my foot on day two! I've only used this on horses before it it really helped my foot when I was struggling! A lightweight bandage that is so useful it should be in every 1st aid kit.

Bow Wow Butterbalm (35g) (from Collarways)
An unusual bit of luxury but it did a great job soothing Patch's feet and my chapped hands!

That's the main stuff. I have to thank quite a few fellow bloggers - particularly Gayle for helping me get the weight of my pack down and persuading me to take just one set of clothes - that's what I did and she was absolutely right - it was much more comfortable carrying a lighter load...even though I may not have felt as fresh as I could!

Happy travels!


Martin Rye said...

Well tested kit and hence good review.

Andy and Alfie the Dog said...

Hi sophie I've taken your review to heart and splashed out on a golite pursuit 51 litre pack, this will save me one whole kilo in weight for my lejog and will make up for those extra cans of dog food for Alfie!

Sophie Easterbrook said...

Hi Martin, good to hear from you. Thanks for that. I'm itching to get out again now!

Andy - good decision! I'm sure you'll find it as good as I did...Ruffwear do packs for dogs but I think that may be more useful if Alfie were a St Bernard....

Andy and Alfie the Dog said...

if he knew what one was he'd try his best i'm sure!