TGO Challenge- 2016 – Gear review

This will be a review of  some of the gear I took on the TGO, I hope it is useful to others on the never ending quest for gear…

First of all here is my conclusion on kit:

My rucksack weight was 18kg at the start of the TGO, this included 6 days food. I only needed to carry 4 days food as I was resupplied after the 4th day and then again 4 days later. So I could have shed some weight by cutting down on food carried. I carried 7 pairs of socks which was over kill and only needed 2. My clothes covered a variety of scenarios and I wore them all so I wouldn’t  change what I took.

Kit that was a luxury included a LightMyFire Knife, Kindle, Port in a 350ml Nalgene flask, Ipod Nano, Galaxy S6, Garmin gpsMap, Kodak 2000 USB power bank, USB mini cable, Ipod Nano cable, Sennheiser OCX 686i Sports Earphones. As you will notice this lot would add some weight to the pack. Again I wouldn’t ditch or consolidate items, ie use the phone for music and ditch the Ipod as it worked for me. The knife was taken to tackle Scottish Brown bears and to cut chorizo…The Port was a must and loved having a swig at the end of each day.I used the GPS to verify the route and had the days plugged in so that I could follow my route if  needed. I only used it occasionally. I also took the maps for the whole crossing and these were mostly cut down. Stephen used ViewRanger on his Iphone and I was very impressed with the software (its on my kit to get list). He purchased the 1:25000 and 1:50000 maps and I like the way the software would seamlessly move between map scales when he zoomed in on the maps. http://www.viewranger.com/en-GB.

I really enjoyed reading the Kindle and when it could id get the news papers beamed to the kindle.

I don’t think I could compromise my kit to get the weight down but no doubt I will ponder my kit selection over the course of time..

Food

Breakfast was a good Starbucks coffee which came from the little coffee tin you can get. This gives you 24 cup’s. The meal was Adventure food Musli. I gave up on the Mountain House Scrambled egg, ham and crunchy potato and wayfarer bacon and beans as I couldn’t stomach them.

DSC_2507

I planned to have Mugshots for lunch each day but I soon found out that they didn’t give me enough calories for the day. Peri-Peri was the best. I ended eating a Adventurefood pasta meal for lunch in the end supplemented with a nag of chorizo and a baby bell cheese.

The adventurefood was very tasty – http://adventurefood.com/en/products/2/pasta_bolognese.html.

I can’t speak highly enough about LYO foods, very tasty – http://lyofood.com and I also recommend ExpeditionFoods – http://www.expeditionfoods.com/expedition-foods.html

Stephen took Fusionfoods and I did taste some of the meals and was impressed. I belive they struggle with supply and demand though.http://www.fuizionfreezedriedfood.com/Home.aspxt

I’d recommend taking a mixture of fresh food such as Chorizo, Primula cheese spread, wraps etc as well as dehydrated food. I also carried fresh milk for coffee.

Tent

I purchased the Hilliberg Enan last year and was impressed with its weight to space ratio. This is the updated version of the legendary Akto.

It comes in at 1.1kg.

What I like:

  • Weight
  • Large porch, bigger than the Scarp1 but possibly smaller with the two porches combined of the Scarp1
  • Ease of use, 1 minute to erect
  • Robustness, Zipps and pole sleeves to last
  • Good ventilation. I had one day were I had some condensation out of 12! (ok i was in a bnb for 2 days…)
  • Big enough for a 6.1ft male, I never felt cramped
  • Diamond storage area in the tent

What I don’t like:

  • Not as taught a pitch as the Scarp1
  • Price (at the time of purchase i had a bypass..)

IMG_0107

More details – http://gb.hilleberg.com/EN/tents/yellow-label-tents/enan/

Footware

After reading blog after blog on the benefits of trail shoes over boots I took the punt. I had to try a few on as I was conscious to get the right fit. I tried the Inov8  280’s but found the newer design was narrower.I tried Salomon X-Ultras but wasnt sure about the speed lacing remaining tight day in day out of walking. After a visit to Snow and Rock I settled on The NorthFace Ultra Endurance shoes.

https://www.thenorthface.com/shop/shoes-mens-running-training/mens-ultra-endurance-cc4b?variationId=EMB#

What I will say, all those posts about trail shoes drying out after getting them soaked is just not true. The Ultra Endurance shoes remained damp or wet after water emersion (river crossing) and even after a warm weather and long days hiking in the dry they would remain damp or wet. On the other hand they were not uncomfortable when putting them on wet and my feet never suffered from wet shoes. You can feel your feet much better in trail shoes and I was able to walk comfortably and adjust the shoes as needed. With trail shoes its is much simpler to slip them off to let your feet breath than boots, me and Steve had no reservations on doing so when we stopped. I have a feeling my sock choice also helped me as well, more to follow on that subject later.

What I like:

  • Comfort, no blisters at all on the crossing. I did have bruised small toes on both feet but do not attribute this to the shoes.
  • Good toe bumper
  • Excellent cushioning

What I don’t like:

  • Nothing, they were excellent

IMG_0132

Socks

Moving to trail shoes prompted a review of my socks. X-socks came up in blog after blog so I took the punt and bought 4 pairs for the crossing..

Through wet feet or very hot feet the X-socks did not move, loose shape or cause a problem. My feet were able to breath effectively. Taking 4 pairs was overkill, I only needed two pairs.

https://www.x-socks.com/x-socks/outdoor/trekking/trekking-extreme-light/135448/detail

I also took Seal Skin socks and I found they leaked and performed no better than the X-socks. I wouldn’t take them again. In there defence I could walk with no difficulty with the Seal skin socks. I took Inov8 Ultra Race socks and never wore them.

What I like:

  • Breathable
  • Do not loose shape or slip despite my feet being immersed in water during river crossings
  • Dry out very quickly

What I don’t like:

  • Nothing, they were excellent
  • I wouldn’t take the Seal skins again

Rucksack

Rucksacks are a fascination after stoves (more on that later). I bought the Lightwave UltraHike (60L) for this years TGO and I was drawn to its simplicity and robustness. During the TGO it was faultless.

http://www.lightwave.uk.com/products/rucksacks/ultrahike

What I like:

  • large top lid
  • Strong, robust and durable
  • Comfortable back panel
  • Great hip tensioner

What I don’t like:

  • I wasn’t overly keen on the side straps but they do function perfectly.
  • I’d like a elastic tube on one side like the Mariposa rucksacks have so that storing the tent would be easierUltrahike on the left compared to the Gossamer Gear Mariposa

    IMG_0291

Note the side storage on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa.

IMG_0305

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So how did this setup work..?

What I like:

  • Stable considering a stack design
  • The crux stove provides a stable platform to place a pot on
  • Quick set up
  • MSR gas canister stabiliser is effective

What I don’t like:

  • Slower burn time as the  tall stack of the set up make it prone to the wind
  • Wind shield provides only half a shield to the wind so not effective when cooking in the open when the wind can change
  •  A 500ml canister lasted one week. In comparison to Steve’s set up (he used the Vega)  I used more gas and was slower at boiling water

Hydration

I took a 500ml water bottle with a right angle straw, this sat in my rucksack side pouch. Water was drank straight from the burns or glens whilst we were in the mountains area. As we moved into habitation I carried water in a Nalgene collapsable bottle or filtered water.

I carried 2 Nalgene collapsable water canteens,one for water storage at camp and  the other being used as a tent pee bottle.

http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk/hydration/PD101.html

I also took a 3/4 of 350ml of Port in a Nalgene canteen.

http://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/equipment-c3/hydration-c34/water-bottles-bags-c35/cantene-wide-mouth-soft-water-bottles-p5767

For filtration I used the sawyer mini filter.

MINI Water Filtration System

What I like:

  • Everything worked, the right size and combinations for my hydration needs during the TGO
  • The Nalgene bottles do not leak

What I don’t like:

  • I should have taken a full 350ml of Port

Sleep

I took a Mammut 3 seasons sleeping bag that weighed 400gm’s and the SEA TO SUMMIT reactor sleeping bag liner that adds 8 degrees to any bag.

http://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/equipment-c3/sleeping-bags-c21/liners-c22/sea-to-summit-reactor-sleeping-bag-liner-p70

I slept on the Thermarest neoair xlite with the same pillow. The mattress worked well although I did get sore hips and had to rotate my sleeping position. The pillow is a waste of time in my view.

http://www.cascadedesigns.com/therm-a-rest/mattresses/fast-and-light/neoair-xlite/product

What I like:

  • The reactor liner is very good at adding warmth
  • The sleeping bag did the job as it wasn’t particularly cold. I did sleep in Helly Hansen thermal under wear

What I don’t like:

  • Neoair pillow is a waste of time, I used my clothes bag as a pillow. The Neoair pillow tends to move about the too much.

 

 

 

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