Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

HRP Gear & Stuff

As I mentioned in my  HRP Post I thought a review of the gear used on the trip, together with a few other musing, was worthwhile.

The HRP at 5 – 6 weeks long was to be the longest backpacking trip that I’d undertaken & presented a few challenges in terms of equipment choices given the potential conditions, weather & length of trip (gear reliability), but I did have the benefit of having a selection of tried & tested equipment to choose from.

My final equipment choice was very similar to that I used on the 2014 TGO Challenge plus a few things, as it turned out it was probably a little over the top.  In retrospect I could have reduced the 7.9kg base weight by ~1kg & still travelled in relative comfort (I’m definitely not one to take roughing it to the extreme) but then I would have probably added 0.4kg by putting in ice axe.

Weight Summary

Wearing 1.61 kg
Base Pack Weight 7.91 kg
    The Basics 2.03 kg
    Toiletries etc. 0.36 kg
    Technology 0.63 kg
    Clothing Carried 2.24 kg
    Sleeping 2.23 kg
    Cooking 0.43 kg
Consumables 3.89 kg
    Food 2.82 kg
    Drink 0.53 kg
    Fuel 0.54 kg
Max Pack Weight (initial load) 11.80 kg

Wearing

Socks 52g
Shorts 138g
Craghopper 276g
OR Helios hat 75g
Ivov8 Terroc 330 660g
Axiom watch/ altimeter c/w Suunto clipper compass 55g
Fizan Compact 4 trekking poles 355g

Being from Scotland thought it best to wear a long sleeved shirt to guard against the sun; the Craghopper did just that (SPF 30) as well as being comfortable; may give it a shot in Scotland as defence against the clegs as I suspect they’ll not be able to bite through the fine weave (they can through a thin base layer).  I did wear the TNF Meridian trouser on a few days after the legs turned red but generally walked in a pair of old shorts.

Inov8 Terroc 330’s (old style) good shoes; lightweight and fast draining.  They were pretty trashed by the end of the trip, holes in both shoes & tread it pretty much gone at the ball.  I think my Salomon Aero’s would have stood up to the terrain better & despite them being slower ‘drainers’ more suitable for the trip.

The Axiom altimeter proved a great navigational tool; I did take to having the Suunto clipper compass attached to the strap which proved far easier for routine navigation than digging out the Silva from the pocket 20 times a day.

Clipper

Fizan Compact 4’s; I ended up ‘losing’ the carbide tips off both poles and ‘walking’ on the plastic which proved pretty dodgy crossing some of the long boulder fields, also managed to bend the tip of one about 5 deg.

Poles

One of the big advantages of the Compact 4’s is the packed length, only ~50cm, so it was easy to pack them for going it the aircraft hold; they do weigh a whole 10g more than the Compact 3’s but I think it’s worth it.

The Basics

Rucksack, MLD Exodus 714g
Rucksack liner bag, polythene 70g
Passport, money, cards & aloksak 100g
Spare glasses c/w clip-on’s 55g
Large aLocksaks 29g
Silva Compass 30g
Wenger Classic 14 & firesteel 83g
Notepaper, pencil & aLoksack 60g
1st Aid kit 60g
Repair Kit 39g
Maps – Paper A4 + aLoksaks – 45 299g
Headtorch – e+lite 33g
Spare AAA cells  –  2 50g
LED Tea light 15g
Trowel 33g
Katoola microspikes 360g

The MLD Exodus has been my mainstay backpack for a couple of years now, performing very well, as with any frameless pack it wasn’t too comfortable with heavy resupply loads e.g. 15kg.  The pack did pick up a bit of wear & tear on the trip; half way through the trip it looked as though the stitching at one of the shoulder straps was loosening so I spent ½ hr adding some more thread to the mix which seems to have sorted it.  Also I had to mend some small holes in the mesh on all the external pockets thanks to lots of thorny bushes/ trees along the way.

IMG_0988 (3)

The Katoola Microspikes came in very handy on the high passes where the old snow was quite hard.  I didn’t take an axe which was probably a mistake as we had to detour around some of the ‘tastier’ passes.

The A4 paper maps & guide worked out very well; I carried them in 2 large (12″ * 12″) aLoksaks, one for day use and one for carrying the bulk in the pack; I didn’t have any probably with soggy paper.

Toiletries

Toothbrush & paste 40g
Toilet paper 10g
Lip balm 10g
GEWHOL Extra Foot cream 80g
Ecover liquid soap 60g
Towel 50g
Head net + DEET spray 50g
Sunscreen 60g

Nothing magic here; used nearly the whole tube of Gehwol, maybe a bit of a luxury but it definitely kept the feet in good order & I believe the oils keep Athletes Foot at bay.  I didn’t use the DEET or head net, something I wouldn’t take again.

Technology

iPhone and Otter box 200g
iPod shuffle & earphones 28g
iPhone charger – European 38g
Solar charger/ power pack 55g
Camera, Canon Ixus 105 c/w charger 220g
GPS – Garmin Geko 89g

The iPhone was switched off most of the time but served a useful backup function; I had the maps for the French side loaded on Routebuddy & the jpegs for Spain & Andorra loaded;  also had a full scan of the Cicerone guide.

For charging of the iPhone I found a lightweight ‘F’ plug USB charger (21g) on an auction site, not Apple approved but a 1/4 of the weight.

The solar charger/ power pack never got used as there was sufficient opportunities to get plugged into the mains; usually this meant ‘camping’ out in the campsite wash room for an hour or so; don’t think I would bother carrying it again.

The GPS was worth the weight in the first week, through Basque country, lots of low cloud & some of the confusing description in the guide book meant getting a fix was very reassuring.

Clothing Carried

Under wear 60g
HH base Lifa bottoms 135g
Rab Aon Tee short 86g
Rab Aon Tee, long 100g
Socks 156g
TNF Zip offs 330g
Rab micro fleece 260g
Montane Minimus Hoodie 145g
Berghaus Paclite over trousers 201g
Terra Nova Over mitts 77g
Cumulus Incredulite jacket 325g
North Face BB cap 46g
Balaclava 42g
Polartec Windbloc gloves 66g
Karrimor liner gloves 28g
Buff * 2 66g
Dry bag, S (yellow) 74g
Food bags 40g

Used the HH LJ’s & Aon top as pyjamas supplemented with the balaclava (as a beanie) & even a buff on the colder nights.

The Montane Minimus Smock proved water tight and comfortable even in the heaviest thunderstorm, also it proved pretty breathable when I needed a wind proof.  I’m quite impressed with this jacket, very light weight (145g) and reasonably priced (I picked one up for ~£85), only time will tell how long it lasts.

The Polartec gloves, overmitts & a second buff were packed by mistake (they were in a pack pocket) & never used, 200g of useless weight.

The fleece was another item I could have dispensed with, I wore the Cumulus jacket on the chilly evenings & could have wore a base layer if it was cold during the day; really a 260g pillow case.

Sleeping

Sleeping bag – Cumulus 250 Quilt 460g
Exped Compression sack (grey) 72g
Exped UL Pillow 50g
Thermarest Noeair Xlite 237g
Polycro ground sheet 50g
MLD Trailstar 761g
Bear Paws PyraNet 410g
Karrimat, blue, 600*520*8 67g
Foam groundsheet 120g

Cumulus 250 Quilt – proved a good choice; warm enough for the coldest nights, I reckoned the lowest temperature was just above freezing, frost on the tarp.

Neoair short mat & Exped pillow – definitely not as comfortable as the Exped 7UL but I was cutting weight and a 200g saving couldn’t be ignored; still much better than sleeping on a CCF mat.  The pillow was my bit of luxury.

The MLD Trailstar – proved bomber as usual in some reasonably stiff winds (only dropped it to 110cm twice from the normal 125cm pitch) & provided luxury accommodation; we even put it up on a few occasions for a communal lunch in the rain.  It did develop a small leak at the apex in torrential rain, some seal sealing will have to be done.  Pitch space can sometimes be an issue with the TS & on a few occasions (particularly when there were 3 travelling together) sites were at a premium; I’m thinking of another small shelter for a return trip but it’s hard making a choice when using the TS as a benchmark.   The TS, like all pyramids, it needs good stakes & the 9″ Easton’s were fine 90% of the time but occasionally we hit really hard ground making it difficult to get them in; I’d taken along a couple of Vargo Ti Nails and used them for ‘pre-drilling’ holes for the Easton’s but wish I’d taken 4, the additional 15g would have saved a lot of messing around.

IMG_1296TS

Bearpaws Pyranet – Thought I’d take this along to provide a bit of comfort, on quite a few of nights I just slept on the foam footprint.  Mosquitoes were only troublesome on a couple of evenings so I wish I’d taken a bivi & saved 200g.

CCF footprint – after 35 days use it’s looking a bit battered & has a few holes but it did its job.

 Cooking

Windshield & MYO meths stove 56g
Evernew 1L Pasta pot, lid & cosy 159g
Evernew Cup + lid & insulation 67g
Alpkit Long spoon 16g
Pot scrubber, dropper & J cloth 52g
Platypus bottles (2L & 1L) 76g

My tried & tested MYO chimney stove/ two part windshield worked well.  I did take along the Zelph Starlyte (Caldera version) stove which arrived in the post a couple of days before the trip; see review HERE.  Also in addition to meths (alcohol) I did take along a pack of 4g Esbits which came in very useful in Week 4 after we failed to get any meths.

On future more leisurely backpacking trip to the Pyrenees I would definitely did consider taking the Honey stove as even in the high mountains there was plenty of fuel available, usually pine and juniper.

Food

Resupply was always known to be pretty poor but it was poorer than expected; all in all it led to a pretty standard menu.

Breakfast came down to Granola + Nestle condensed milk (tube); didn’t find any powdered milk.

Lunch/ Snacks was usually bread, cheese, saucisson/ chorizo, peanuts, dried fruit, Oreos,  & Snickers.

Dinner was usually pasta cooked in a packet soup with cheese & saucisson/ chorizo; the only soups that were generally available were chicken & veg, 9 Veg & french onion; only place we found noodles was Benasque.  I did note the quantity of pasta consumed increased from 125g (1/4 packet) to 166g (1/3 packet) during the trip, together with corresponding qualities of additives; the 1L Pasta pot proved just the right size for cooking up the industrial quantities.

I did take along a 50ml nalgene which I managed to ‘collect’ olive oil along the way which was good for making 4 day old baguette edible  as well as adding to the pasta; wish I’d taken along a larger bottle.

We did get some reasonable lunches at the Refuges, which we planned to do to save carrying a bit of weight.  It would have been nice to have done some “POSTE RESTANTE” of some of my dehydrated meals to some of the towns along the way to provide some variety as well as reducing loads; however La Poste isn’t cheap ~30Euro for a 6kg box & I wasn’t into doing much planning/ forethought before the trip.

Water

We didn’t generally have any real problems finding water along the route however there was generally the risk of livestock pollution; as a general rule if there’s grass there’ll be livestock (cattle, horses or sheep) .  I had to use chlorine pills on a few occasions  to provide drinking water, cooking water wasn’t treated; in retrospect I wish I’d packed a water filter.

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This entry was posted on September 2, 2014 by in Gear, Reviews and tagged , , , .
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