Saturday 13 April 2013

TGO 2013 La Sportiva Wildcat 2 & Terra Nova Quasar 45 Backpack


For years I was sceptical about using trail running shoes for backpacking.

This dispite all the stuff I had read about saving weight on footware.

Then I read a post on the TGO Notice Board about the La Sportiva Wildcat 2s.

I decided to bite the bullet.

Over the last couple of days they were walking over from Hathersage to Edale, via various lumpy bits, and back.

There was snow, there was mud, there was stones, big and small, there was heather, there was roads, rough steep ups and downs - a good variety of conditions to try them out in.

From the box they were comfortable.

In the real world they were like carpet slippers and were able to walk me through the variety of underfoot conditions that I could expect to find anywhere, including on the Challenge.

The main, counter-intuative, issue to overcome was walking with wet feet.

Any hint of water and my feet were wet.

I deliberately walked through little streams to make sure my feet were soaked.

But, within a few minutes of walking the wet feeling was replaced by a warm feeling and a surprisingly comfortable warm feeling.

And, in reality, this was no different to getting any boots or mids wet. But, the big plus was that the Wildcats dry out more readily than boots. 

So, I am converted to trail running shoes.

For the upcoming TGOC this means that I can ditch the Crocs too.


My favourite pack for a few years now has been my Osprey Talon 44.

It had all the right bits in all the right places. And, it held my gear comfortably. It really is a superb pack.

I didn't need to replace it, but I've been thinking about and reading about lighter packs for ages.

I had a mad impulse and decided to bite the bullet with the Terra Nova Quasar 45.

I had looked at some of the US lightweight packs, like the Z Packs and HMG stuff, but wasn't too sure.

The Quasar seemed to combine lightness and toughness with the combination of  cuben and dyneema. It weighs in at around 600 grms - with the pole attachment bits removed.

When it arrived I was unsure. Had I made the right decision?
The pack had very thin belt straps and the length didn't seem right - looking at the empty pack. It didn't seem that robust. Then I tried packing it. I was not happy.
Would this really stand up to the stresses and strains of a long backpacking trip?
And, it was overlooked for a couple of trips. The Talon 44 got the ticket.
Then, I thought, sod it. My Terra Nova Quasar tent has lasted me over 12 years. It is tough and well made. So too with my Terra Nova Solar 2 which is even older. And, what was the point of buying the Quasar 45 if it wasn't going to be used?
So, I decided to trust the Terra Nova blurb about how tough it was - and how well constructed it was. The feel of it is a bit counter-intuative too.....................
I packed it and took it out for a couple of days and was just a little surprised ...... and, relieved!!
The lenght was OK - I'm 6'2" - and the belt straps were comfortable - taking the weight of the pack well. The full pack, with food weighed in at around 8k.
The little pockets on the belt straps held my headtourch, whistle, toilet paper, hand cleanser, etc. They were not the same as the Talon 44 (obviously) and the layout and positioning of gear took a bit of thinking through.
The side pockets are little and large. A bit weird. The little one took my Trailstar - with some bungee cord to ensure it stayed put. It also held the MSR Blizzard stake (aka toilet trowel).
The other pocket easliy held the stakes, the ground cover and a 500 mls water bottle.
The lid is huge. It took my hat/gloves/gps/glasses/keys/food for the day etc with ease. A good match for the Talon lid.
The main pack swallowed all my gear without getting anywhere near full capacity. The two pulls at the top sinched the closure to a small size and the floating lid sat neatly on top.
My roll of Ridgerest and radiator insulation was attached to the lower gear attachment points.
I took off the pole attachment bits as I would be carrying my poles at all times.
And, I didn't treat the Quasar 45 with kid gloves.
It was comfortable, it was able to take my gear with ease, it was sufficiently robust to be thrown around without any problems. It was up to the job - thank goodness. I knew I should have trusted Terra Nova gear.

It's a good, innovative, pack.
So, a move to trail shoes, for backpacking, at last. One thing that was very evident was how my feet were really dirty at the end of the days. But a pair of dry liner socks and down socks were a welcome feet treat, whether or not I got a chance to wash my feet.
And, a new back friend, who was almost given up on, before even getting a chance to prove itself - but, who will be crossing Scotland next month, as planned.
Smiles all round.


  1. Happy days and trail shoes at last. Be warned as some report tearing ankles in those. Mind you it was remote Alaska. Not long now. See you in Torridon.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Just for the record - I will not, ever, do reviews for anyone.

    What I post on gear are my personal thoughts on my gear.

  4. Well said Gordon and nice to meet you. Based on your feedback on the Wildcats I am looking into them. Cracking time out of Torridon and enjoyed sharing some miles with you.

    1. Thanks, Martin.

      It was great to meet you, too.

      I'll be starting soon on my write up, but, yes, that first day and night with Philip and the rest coming over from Torridon was magic.

      In fact, as the years go by the experience of being on the Challenge just feels better and better.