Saturday, 24 December 2016

Gear-y Christmas

This is the inevitable phase in any hike planning. Gear talk. The weight and bulk of gear. And quite possibly the excruciating need to update it.

As a middle-aged, rheumatoid arthritis ridden gal I'd rather go on treks where I have sherpas carrying my equipment, leaving me practically skipping along the paths and off of them with just a tiny little pack on my person. I have never done that, though. I have always carried my own belongings, as I also enjoy the wonderful feeling of being completely free, in charge of my own route and pace, carrying everything I will need in a week's time on my back. That and the fact that I couldn't afford a sherpa.

I have tried to keep the weight of my pack down without giving up the sense of security and reasonable comfort, having succeeded in my efforts quite nicely. I'm not saying that it is a particularly lovely sensation to haul a 12 to 14 kg pack over the hills all day, but it is at least tolerable. What wouldn't be is being cold and hungry, wet and miserable after a day of walking with a much lighter pack. The more comfortable, the more uncomfortable, as the saying goes. I always choose the after walk comfort, without going overboard with luxury items.

A typical kit for a week long hike, from a few years back (some of the gear has since been replaced).
Among the Absolute Essentials note the Pringles can on the right. Never leave home without it!
Since I've done this hiking thing for years, I've created quite a functional kit to draw from for all kinds of treks. And yet I find myself at loss when preparing for the Challenge, as it is the longest trek I've ever done, both in duration and distance, and I need to be sure that whatever I take with me will work for me in those conditions. Which is a bit of a challenge (pun intended), considering I've never been to the Highlands before. Judging by all the stories and photographs in the internet I have been able to deduct that hiking in Scotland will likely be reasonably close to hiking in Lapland - windy, boggy and wet, that is, so I am going to plan accordingly.

So far I have only been able to decide on a few items, and the rest is all a big, fuzzy jumble of ideas and need-to-buy-new things kind of a mess. 

Definitely coming with:
Sleeping bag: Therm-A-Rest Mira HD 
Sleeping pad: Therm-A-Rest Neoair medium

Probably coming with:
Backpack: Osprey Aura 50
I'm tempted to update to a Aura AG, although it's heavier, but supposedly even more comfortable to carry. Also, I've been repairing the current pack with Tear-Aid here and there, and would not want it to burst to smithereens in the middle of Scotland.

Stove: Primus Eta Solo. Not the lightest portable kitchen possible, but the weight to gas consumption ratio is the best I've yet encountered. I've typically gone 7-8 days with just one 110 g cas canister. Admittedly, my hiking pals have been quite fed up with me taking my sweet time making tea or coffee on the last day, waiting for the precious last grams of gas finding their way out of the bottle. I might consider a new stove and a titanium pot, but the gas consumption worries me. I really don't want to carry any extra canisters. Since I'll probably be spending at least a third of my nights in hostels or B&B's and having tea and/or lunches in pubs and cafes on the way, I might be able to take just one 110 g canister with the Eta Solo.

Trying to decide between:
Tent: borrowing a Fjällräven Abisko Lite 1 for free or buying a Hilleberg Enan. The former would be a no-brainer if it wasn't 700 grams heavier than the latter. And don't even start with all the dapper UL shelter thingies they have over the pond (in the Americas, that is. The Tarptents and MLD:s and whatnot).

Boots - my trustworthy Hanwag Tatras or a new pair of lighter boots. Tatras have never ever given me any trouble, no matter the terrain or weather. I even walked along the Cornish coastal path in them quite happily, even though they are a bit heavy and stiff. I bought a pair of lighter boots for the Fjällräven Classic Denmark last summer and nearly couldn't finish in them, as all the hot weather road walking and not being able to cool my feet off in streams and ponds and lakes, caused my feet to swell so badly the boots felt like three sizes too small. I also got my first proper blister that was the size of Canada. So I'm really tempted to trust the good old Tatras even if they would be a bit overkill for all the roadwalking (not so much for the boggy terrain though).

Insulated jacket: down or synthetic? With or without a hood? I've got perfect candidates for each option. Not sure if the hood is worth the extra weight, or if the obviously lighter down is a good choice if the weather is really wet (they all fit under the shell jacket though).

Definitely going to have to buy:
New trousers. The current ones have downsized themselves in the closet!

All this and the route planning (which has progressed to "starting from Mallaig, probably, or from Lochailort, or possibly from Morar, and walking to the east coast!"), what a way to spend Christmas. And I haven't even started on planning food parcels and the like. I have a feeling that May can not approach too slowly...

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