It is getting closer to the start of the 2013 TGO Challenge.
I don't write up every trip that I do nowadays - especially my training trips to Cannock Chase or the wilds of Edale and Kinder.
However, what I've been musing on is the way my gear works for me and how it gets me across Scotland - in all conditions - in comfort.
OK, nothing new here, but, a few bits on tried and tested stuff that works.
One of the problems that people find when they go backpacking is that they get too hot.
My solution to this is to cut down what I wear to the basics:
Base layer is a long sleeved merino zipped top - my favourite is my Arcteryx which I've had for years.
This is comfortable to wear even if it is hot. The sleeves roll up easily too.
Mid layer is a Marmot Dri-clime vest.
A lot of folk go for a long sleeved mid layer, but I find that as long as I keep my core body warm and cut out the wind from my arms, I can be comfortable in temperatures that get down below zero.
Windshirt is one of a number. The Montane Litespeed is very good. My current choice is my PHD Drishell which is a basic smock with a hood.
No pockets. It is a good size for a large and will easily fit over my PHD Ultra Down pullover. More on this later.
Waterproof is my PHD Alpamayo smock.
Mine's the original version - in black. The main difference is the the new version has fully waterproof zips and weighs 425 grms. It is also more expensive than the original. Both use the same HS3 material which is excellent. At 435 grms it is a full 4 season waterproof and will fit a tall person, ie me, properly. No scrimping of the length to reduce the weight. It is the best waterproof I've ever had.
Legware is less of an issue to me. I love my old TNF trousers and my even older Lowe Alpine trousers. I also have Montane Terra pants and some limited edition Montanes. I currently favour my Lowe Alpine trousers, if only because they are off white instead of black.
Waterproof legware is my old Berghaus Paclites. These have lasted me well and are well up to the job.
Mix and Match.
For warm days or freezing cold days I have found that a mix and match combination of these four (upper body) items will keep me comfortable. I have been in whiteouts and I've been in heatwaves - in Scotland! and have never been found wishing for any different tops.
The missing piece? ..........is a belay top.
Here there are two ways to deal with having a break ............ and ensuring that I keep warm.
Firstly, if it is freezing and raining I will not stop. No cooling down and no need for a belay top.
Secondly, if it is freezing and dry I have the option of pulling on my PHD Ultra down pullover.
This is essential for warmth around camp, but, in practice, I rarely use it for rest breaks when otherwise on the move.
Head/Hands/Feet. On the move I have a Montane featherlite cap. My hands are looked after by a pair of Extremities fleece gloves and a pair of Extremities Tuff Bags. My footware varies, but I always have wool socks, eg Smartwool, and I wear Integral Designs short gaiters to keep bits out of my foot wear.
My prefered footware for last year on the TGO was my Keen Targee IIs, and they are ready to do their bit this year. But, I have just bought a pair of La Sportiva Wildcat IIs and if these prove comfortable, they will be worn this year. If so, I will ditch the Crocs that would otherwise be in my pack. A move to trail shoes for me will be a big change.
The stuff I use for sleeping in has remained stable for many years, now.
The base layer by day is sleepware by night: Arcteryx long sleeved merino top. If it is really warm I do have an Icebreaker light merino short sleeved top.
If it is cold then other stuff goes on before I enter my sleeping bag.
This will be a mix and match set of gear.
Headwear is a Black Rock down hat.
Legware is a pair of PHD Minimus down trousers.
Footware is a pair of PHD Down socks.
These are super cosy and I wear them with a pair of liner socks.
The PHD Ultra down Pullover ensures that I can be wrapped in down from head to feet - and warm and comfortable. Even with a 300 fill sleeping bag!
Sleeping Bag is a PHD Minim 300. Long with no zip, it weighs 700 grms. I got this some years ago and it was only available in the PHD sale, which is usually twice a year. It has become my mainstay sleeping bag ever since. I rarely have the hood up over my head, but, in the long version, this is possible - especially if it gets very cold. PHD have got a 250 fill sleeping bag in their latest sale and this would be my choice, if I didn't already have the Minim 300 (and a ME Helium 250).
Bivy Bag is a Titanium Goat Ptarmigan which I've had for years.
It has a built in headnet. I prefer to sleep with my head outside either my sleeping bag or the bivy bag, but, the cover does cut any draughts and adds a few degrees to the bag rating.
I've been down to well below minus 5c with this set of sleeping gear.
Here's my Trailstar after a cold night: coverd in frost - inside and outside.
Groundcover is Wickes secondary glazing.
Insulation is something I've arrived at by trial and error. I still have an old, self inflating, Thermorest which has never let me down. It weighs a ton!
I tried Neo-air when it first came out. It was one that did stay up, but I couldn't trust it. To me, all gear must work and be trustworthy and comfortable. I could not be comfortable with the Neo-air. I went back to an old Ridgerest and found that I could sleep comfortably on it. It just needed cutting down to size.
So, my insulation is an old piece of cut down Ridgerest which weighs in at 200 grms. This works for me - on my upper body.
I used to use bits of old thin solid foam mats for my lower body (legs). Now I use a piece of radiator insulation. It weighs very little and it works.
So, nothing new, but a few bits of musing on wearing and sleeping and what works for me.
I guess I'm getting excited about TGO 2013. 37 days and counting .................