Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Gear

My airline dinner of pasta and cheese with a bit of salad and other stuff is churning in my belly and since I seem unable to sleep I might as well dive into a favorite topic of backpackers. Bear with me as their will be less precision then some of you might wish for, but still enough for you to learn from.

Shelter, backpack, and sleep system - 2.3kg
The big three components for most everyone are the backpack, shelter system, and sleeping gear. I am no exception. In 2008 I used my Bozeman Mountain Works Arctic Dry Pack, Nuntak Arc Alpinist quilt, Pacific Outdoor Equipment sleeping pad, and Henry SHires Virga Tarptent. That setup definitely tipped the scales a bit farther than this slate of gear for 2010 will. The backpack probably was a good kilogram heavier and the sleeping quilt is probably a quarter again as heavy as what I am taking this time. I am taking a small chance with my gear this time as the Gossamer Gear Mariposa may not be as comfortable as the Arctic was (I've used the Mariposa on week-long trips before and it has been OK). The quilt I am taking this time is my GoLite Ultra 20 which will definitely be more than warm enough even if the temperature drops below freezing. This time I am going with a tarp-based approach instead of the tarp tent. The total weight is probably a wash compared to the Virga but the tarp-based system, using Mountain Laurel Design's Trailstar as the shelter, is so much more roomy. I will use my old, not used in years, Adventure 16 Bug Bivy to keep the pests away during the night. This ivy pops open like a magician's top hat when unpacked and weighs about 6 ounces. It is a half-ivy but that should be enough protection. No doubt lighter options exist but I just could not bring myself to buy something new.

Kitchen - 0.5kg
Nothing special here. I will be taking an MSR 0.85 liter Titan Kettle, an Evernew 0.4 liter titanium mug, a titanium spark, Brunton Crux canister stove, and plenty of food. Every time I do a big trip I ponder trying a wood stove but then reality asserts itself and I think about finding the fuel. I recall a couple places back in 2008 where I am not at all sure I could have found the small bits of wood I would need to cook. Canbam bothy, my first night out, and the bothy at Melgarve come to mind. Perhaps someday I will give wood a proper try but I think I need to do it when with someone who has had more experience than I with a wood stove.

Clothing - (carried 1.5kg)
Given that the temperaturestio predicted for this year's Challenge are to be in the low 50s for the daytime highs and low 30s for the nighttime lows I am bringing some extra insulting clothing that I might otherwisem not bother with. During an average hiking day I find that I stay fairly warm so lightweight clothing is all I require. I'll be wearing basic hiking pants from REI (non-convertible, sad to say), a bottom-down shirt of some sort (an REI something or my Bozeman Mountain WOrks Theroware shirt). I've supplemented this base layer setup with a capilene t-shirt, Patagonia Dragonflycollec wind shirt, Bozeman Mountain Works Cocoon pullover for insulation, extra wool socks for both hiking and a dedicated pair for sleeping, and both a sun hat and fleece been. For night time use, or if the daytime temps suddenly truly plummet, I have also packed a pair of long johns. I had to mix and match as my nice My Smartwool top is not so nice anymore. I have a Duofold top and Smartwool bottoms. They'll be what I wear to bed. Finally we have the all-important rain gear. I am sure this will elicit howls from some people but I am going with a poncho and chaps approach. I'm not going to be bushwhacking through forests so their is nothing for a poncho to snag on. A poncho provides superior ventilation which I consider very important. When combined with rain chaps a limitations, like any piece of gear, most notable amongst them being that your arms can get wet while you hike with your trekking poles.

Electronics and Other Stuff - 3.8kg
My single biggest collection of gear and boy is it weighty. I've struggled long and hard to find a good long-form writing tool that would replace my trusted Apple MessagePad 2100 (the last Newton) and its external keyboard. I've written about this before so I will not rehash it now. In some ways the Apple iPad with wireless keyboard (I do want to try it with a USB foldable keyboard which would be a few ounces lighter) is clearly overkill. But it could be the new choice approach as long as I am careful about keeping the battery charged as I doubt my tiny solar charger, even under ideal conditions, could charge the iPad. The iPad and external keyboard weigh in at 1,030 grams. Yes, you could shed a third of that weight by leaving the keyboard at home but while I am confident that a normally sighted person could type fast enough on the onscreen keyboard to comfortably do a few hundred words per night I am just as sure that I could not do it anywhere near as efficiently. Perhaps, under more control circumstances I will have to run attest to see how much battery charge is drained by typing a journal entry on the onscreen keyboard versus using the external keyboard but that will have to wait for another time. The remaining gadgetry includes such things as my Canon Powershot 710IS, a Garmin Colorado GPS, extra batteries, my iPhone with a Blue Mikey microphone, and the various plugs so I can recharge devices when the opportunity presents itself. Those gadgets probably add a kilogram. I am also now carrying a McMurdo Personal Locator Beacon which hopefully I will never have to use.

That still leaves well over a kilogram to account for. The vast bulk of that extra mass is eaten up by the Ordnance Survey maps, my own notes, and the Watchful Eye waterproof carry case that holds it all. Toss in the Monocular Of Size (nearly 300 grams) and you come up with the remaining weight. It is too bad I have to carry so much paper with me, but going without the maps would be silly. Just because people probably did it ages ago doesn't mean I should.

The Rest Of It
The rest of the stuff includes all those miscellaneous items that I've not talked about yet. First aid and hygiene fall into this group. Nothing remarkable here. I will purchase small fuel canisters along the way. I think a small canister should be enough to get me to Braemar where I can definitely get another one. I am going to bring Aqua Mra for water treatment though I know a lot of Challengers do not bother. I also will have a few extra ditty bags and extra empty bags that will probably be used to hold trail trash. But the weight of that stuff is negligible.

Food - varies (initially about 8 pounds for several days)
I've packed several days worth of dinners, a whole bunch of Pro Bar energy bars, some cheese and sausage for lunches, and other foodstuffs. I still have to buy some things like pita/tortilla wraps and maybe some additional food for breakfast. All in all though I don't expect my food bag will ever weigh more than 7 pounds or so. Remember that my longest stretch between towns is just 3 days and even then I think I may pass by places I can grab a bite. I may have too much of some types of food and not enough of other types. Of course, nothing says you cannot have a dinner type meal for breakfast or vice versa.

summing Up
I have a hanging scale that I don't fully trust. It suggests that the bulk of my gear not counting food, food, and water weighs about 16.5 pounds. Moist of that is in the backpack,, perhaps 12.5 to 13 pounds. The rest is split between 2 pounds of maps and such in their case and 1.75 pounds of camera, GPS, and other items in their camera bag. Their are sone things vie not weighed so I can imagine the total rising to closer to 18 pounds. When you work it out a total weight of around 28 pounds with food, fuel,a and a liter of wTer is probably about right. Heavy. ** Ken **

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