Changing gear (1)

As this year’s TGO Challenge comes into view [only 13 weeks, apparently] I’m starting to think about whether I need to change any of my gear.  Some changes have been forced on me – my 6 year old Rohan trousers and my MSR Pocket Rocket stove both gave up the ghost on last year’s trip.

Some changes are from choice, although there’s an element of compulsion there too.  I’ve decided my GoLite Pinnacle rucksack is not comfortable enough for long backpacking trips, so it’s time to try something else.

This will be my 7th TGO Challenge and I’ve gradually changed my clothing and equipment from year to year.  The obvious thing to do is to take less stuff or, at least, take lighter stuff.  However, I now take some things that I didn’t used to take.  Maybe I now realise that the relationship between grammes carried and comfort and enjoyment is not as simple as some people will have you believe.

So, what have I changed?

Rucksack: I started with a Karrimor Jaguar 65 litre pack.  My spreadsheet says it is 1850 grammes, although there seem to be different flavours of this pack with a variety of weights.  After a couple of Challenges, I became aware of the existence of lightweight – and even Ultra-lightweight – rucksacks.  I did some research and chose a GoLite Pinnacle at half the weight of my Jaguar.

The Pinnacle has no frame of any description – just a foam pad to stiffen the back.  It also has no top pocket; the top rolls down with a clip to keep it closed.  I’ve used it for 3 or 4 Challenges and many other trips and it’s not a bad bit of kit ….. but it’s not perfect.  Last year I found I had a painful lump on my spine where, presumably, the pack was rubbing or banging against my back.  It sometimes seems like the contents of the pack are bulging Click to closetowards my back and the pack has become a very ungainly pear-shape.  This pack is fine for shorter backpacks but for a two week trip I need more support…… so I’ve bought an Osprey Exos 46.  It would appear to be the bee’s knees.  Full review to follow when I have used it.

Footwear: This was the first thing I changed after my first TGOC.  I had always worn boots, cos that’s what you do.  Everyone knows you have to wear boots when you go hill-walking; that’s the law.  So I left Lochailort wearing my Brasher Hillmaster GTXs and by Corran I was carrying them!  I walked nearly half of that year’s crossing in my Teva sandals as my boots were so uncomfortable.  What works on a day trip, or on a 2-3 day camping trip, doesn’t necessarily work on a longer trip with a heavier pack on your back.  I’ve always had a problem finding boots that fit properly and I now realise that those boots were probably too small and from a last that doesn’t suit me.

For my next couple of Challenges I wore Inov-8 Roclite shoes.  I’ve also worn Roclite boots [the Goretex version – bad choice, IMO] and now I am on Terrocs.  Yes, they don’t last long and they work out quite expensive for each mile walked – but they’re comfy and they suit me.

I don’t take my Teva sandals anymore either as I’ve found Crocs to be lighter and more comfortable for wearing in the evening.  For river crossings I either just walk through in the Terrocs or change to the Crocs; it really depends how dry my feet already are and how quickly they would dry afterwards.

Something new that I didn’t used to take is Gehwol Extra footcream.  I used to be sceptical of people who preached about how good their lightweight footwear was – but who had to carry creams and lotions to keep their feet in good order, but now I am a convert.  Maybe it is something in the Gehwol cream, or maybe it is the action of rubbing the tired tootsies, but my feet now feel relaxed and fresh at the end of a long day – even if the rest of me is falling apart.

Sleeping system: Before my first TGO Challenge, I bought a short-length Rab Quantum 400 sleeping bag to reduce the volume and weight compared with my Ajungilak Kompakt 180.  I still use the Rab bag as it packs down quite small, is warm, and has a 2-way full-length zip for ventilation.  However, it does have a few cold-spots, so I now take a pair of silk pyjama bottoms for extra warmth.  These are more practical than a silk sleeping bag liner and have the advantage of not looking out of place in a Youth Hostel dorm.

For a couple of years I have been using a Short length Neoair matress as it’s a lot lighter than my Thermarest Ultralite 3/4.  The Neoair is also a bit longer than the Ultralite, so that was a Plus that I hadn’t considered when I bought it.

A disadvantage of the Neoair is that it gives no support or insulation if you’re sitting on it whilst making your dinner; your bottom presses right through to the floor.  Partly as a result of this, I now take a cheap, thin foam sit-mat which gives me a bit of insulation whilst sitting in the tent; can be used under my feet when I’m lying on the Neoair; and makes lunch stops more comfortable if everywhere is wet.

Another additional thing I now take is a Terra Nova Moonlite sleeping bag cover.  It is a very thin bivvy bag which can be used to keep my sleeping bag clean and dry in bothies and also adds a little bit of warmth in the tent if the temperature drops below freezing.

Tent: I love my Hilleberg Akto – but I’ve been using a Terra Nova Laser Competition for a couple of years as it has a lighter pack weight.  On campsites, I have this little voice in my head that wants to shout “I’ve got an Akto, you know.  I’m not really a Laser Comp sort of person”.  I don’t know what it is, but I still feel like “an Akto person”, even though I have to admit that the Comp has cut 600g off my pack weight and there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Laser Comp – once you’ve added a few extra guys and replaced the pegs, and sealed the seams.  <Sigh> I do love my Akto though </sigh>

So there’s a list of my major bits of kit and how they’ve changed since my first TGO Challenge in 2006.  If anyone is interested I shall move onto the smaller items, like stoves, pans, soap, trousers etc in a future post.

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19 Responses to Changing gear (1)

  1. Andrew says:

    Great rucksack.
    Terrocs & Crocs here too.
    And a little sit mat, cos comfort is nice.
    I have (my mum… BDay) now PHD pants… Bliss, and saves on needing a new sleeping bag, because they add any extra togs I might need.

    Pocket rocket being replaced this year by Jet Boil. I only do boil in bag stuff from Outdoors Grub, soup and coffee. It would be useless for a bacon butty.

    There is other stuff. But Laphroaig is up there 🙂

    I am also a Gehwol foot cream convert.


  2. David says:

    Yes, Judith, more, more more. I am always fascinated by the contents of other people’s packs. It must be a form of voyeurism. Ultimately, we all have to make our own choices and what is right for one is wrong for another. I have changed from a Pinnacle to a ULA Catalyst because it is far better for my height. The Pinnacle was comfortable for me but the hip belt was too high so I couldn’t use it to take weight on my hips. The Catalyst is probably overlarge and certainly 500gr heavier but it will be far more comfortable.

    What weight do you end up carrying?


    • Judith says:

      I haven’t kept accurate records of my total pack weight over the years. Yes I have lists of individual items, but the whole pack is greater than the sum of its parts. I would say my starting weight for the Challenge is between 12 and 13 kg depending on how much food I am carrying. I always set off with between 6 and 8 OS maps (without covers) and I send them home when I’ve finished with them. I usually carry up to half a litre of water; sometimes it is 1.5 kg if it looks like water may be an issue ahead. So, between 12 and 14 kg – but usually closer to 12.5 probably.


  3. louse4 says:

    One can never have too much gear talk Judith!!

    I still do boots I’m afraid, I’ll be sporting a smart new pair of Meindl Burmas this year. We’ll see how that goes.

    My Exos is fab, I hope you like yours.

    I carried Gerwol last year but didn’t use it I was too knackered and finished each day too late. I’ll be working on a different timetable this year and have another go!

    So, now for the smaller items…


    • Judith says:

      There’s nothing wrong with boots, Louise. I’ve just developed a preference for shoes most of the time. I wore my La Sportiva Trango S Evo GTX boots in the Lake District snow a couple of weeks ago. From my perspective, these are HUGE heavy boots – rated B1 with a semi-rigid sole and I thought I would HATE them. However, I think the time spent on advice and fitting paid off as I found they were actually quite comfy – but I wouldn’t like to wear them in anything less than full winter conditions.
      As for the Gehwol cream: I know what you mean about being too tired to bother with it, but I really made the effort to stay awake an extra five minutes to look after my feet. However, thinking back to how shredded your poor feet were ……. I think it might’ve stung a bit.


      • Louise says:

        I think you could be right! Maybe if I’d made the effort before I shredded them…


      • Phil Cook says:

        Crampony boots are by nature great big clumpy things. I never enjoy the walk out along the track after conquering some snowy peak but they are needed to do the conquering. There’s a pic in Butterfield’s guide to the 3000 ft + mountains of a guy walking out from Ben Lui wearing trainers. My winter boots fit me just right, the lesser ones I use the rest of the year less so, those were a bit of a distress purchase on the way to Scotland having shredded the previous ones on a scree slope.


  4. John J says:

    Very interested in your TN Moonlight bivvy / sleeping bag cover. Perhaps have a chat about it on our next walk.


  5. Tony Bennett says:

    I love my Exos. It replaced my old Karrimor rucksack I bought in ’84 and which weighs 5lbs (whatever that is in kgs.) The Exos doesn’t get heavy when it’s wet like the Karrimor did and the big outside pocket is fab for stuffing waterproofs in as well as my sitmat aka the LBL – Little Bit of Luxury 🙂

    Akto – yes, Inov-8s – yes, neoair – yes, pocket rocket – yes. It’s just a pity I haven’t got a place on the Challenge this year – though I have an alternative cunning plan…

    I’m going to check out that foot cream 🙂


    • Judith says:

      Something I am looking forward to having again is a proper rucksack lid with a big pocket. The Pinnacle has no lid at all, but the lid pocket on the Exos is as big as the Jaguar’s. Plenty of room for all the little bits of “stuff” that seem so essential – and then there’s the vertical pocket which will take all of my maps and my packets of food. I can’t wait to get out in the hills with it.
      A cunning plan, eh? Sounds intriguing.


      • Tony Bennett says:

        I find I have to watch how much I stuff into that pocket on the lid. It expands to hold an awful lot of ‘useful’ bits and bobs* and before you know it, you’ve added half a kilo or more to the pack weight. It’s very sneaky!

        The cunning plan is to mountain bike from Ft Will to Montrose, the week after the challenge finishes. We’re girding our loins for the Corieyairack and Mt Keen – eek.

        *or ‘tranklements’ as they say in S Yorkshire – such a lovely word


  6. Alan R says:

    I don’t like wet feet at any time really and so its lightweight boots for me on multi day walks although i will wear shoes on day walks.. Neo-air not for me either. Got rid of ours and changed mine to Exped UL7 and Sheila to Karrimor. Everything else is good stuff. I like the Exos 46. I’ve never used the Gerwahl but i have used the Scholl version.
    I’m looking forward to the walk.


  7. Pingback: Changing gear (2) | Around the hills

  8. Martin R says:

    Hi Goofif
    Osprey rucksack. I had one and the aerated bit on the back acted like a cheese grater and ruined a Paramo jacket by wearing a long hole across the back. I blamed Paramo and got a free repair, but I knew it was Osprey that should have paid the cost.
    Had any problem with yours?


    • Judith says:

      Hi Martin. I’ve had no problem with the Exos; it’s really comfy. But I borrowed Peewiglet’s Atmos (I think) a few years ago and it really dug into the bottom of my back. Maybe the shape is a better fit now?


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