Monday, 24 February 2014

TGO 2014 - "....there goes a complete looney tunes ....."

Just as a follow up to my gear post: it occured to me that there was one essential missing.

It costs nothing!

If you read my account of 2011 TGO Challenge you'll get where I'm coming from.

In 2011, I think I'm right in saying that it rained every day for the crossing.

My second, very stormy, night was in a high bealach above Glen Etive:

"But despite this all and no sleep, the shelter stayed up and I remained in good spirits."

Later, I developed sore toes and a magnetism for heather.

Before decending to Spital of Glenshee I had sat down and twisted the water out of my

socks and then put them back on with my wet boots.

I was tired and had to be careful picking my way down the path but, as I wrote:

"So, there goes a complete looney tunes singing 10 green bottles"

The missing essential is nothing new or revolutionary, but without it any backpacking trip is

going to be prone to be an uncomfortable experience at best, and, result in failure, at worst.

It's attitude.

Forget the gear and the weight of it. Without this free essential you risk having a memorable

experience. Bad memories are not like good ones.

(Nothing new or original about this type of post but without the right attitude things that seem bad can seem much worse)

Saturday, 8 February 2014

TGO 2014 MY Planned Gear

Last year I posted: TGO 2013 MY Planned Gear.

More people have read this post than any other I've written.

So, this year I'm following that post on gear for TGO 2013 with this, my planned gear for TGO 2014.

I'll start by stating the same as last year: gear lists are personal. 

Any choice of gear is determined by a number of factors: planned use, experience, safety, cost, wants and needs.

What some want, may not be what others need and vica versa.

What some want may be too expensive.

 Compromise is important.

Much of what I have has been built up over years of trial and error.

This will be my 5th TGO Challenge.

I've had some foul weather and some more foul weather...........and some not so foul.

But, it is Scotland and it is a superb land to walk across.

So, here is the gear: much will be  a repeat of last year - I'll put a "X" by something new.

Shelter and sleeping

MLD Trailstar - just a classic shelter, more than capable with coping in strormy weather.
Oookworks door - just gives some privacy and stops wind blown rain getting on bivy.
Clamcleat Tornadoes - X - and Ti pins better than MSR Groundhogs IMO.
Wickes secondary glazing film - cheap, tough, light ground cover
Borah Gear Side zip bivy - X - easier to get in and out of. Custom finish to netting.
PHD Minim 300 - No zip, long, 700 grms my go to bag winter or summer
Cut down Thermorest - I find this comfy, others may not. It's puncture proof too.
Radiator Insulation - cheap, light and, surprisingly, it really does work.
Dry bags -  for the sleeping bag and down gear.


Montane trousers - X - special edition, light and they take a good bit of rain.
Integral Designs Short Gaiters - keeps stones out of footwear.
Rohan Pants - had these years, light, quick drying, comfy.
Smartwool socks - classic footware.
La Sportiva Raptors - X - my other La Sportivas fell apart eventually.
Marmot Dri-clime Vest -  a favourite because it keeps core warm and I rarely overheat.
Arcteryx LS Merino base - had this years. Its so comfy. Only need this one base layer.


Terra Nova Quasar 45 Pack - light and comfortable, worth the cost IMO.
Pack Liner - X - extra protection from rain. Adds reassurance
Extremities Tuff Bags - these work well and stuff inside smock sleeves
Extremities Fleece Gloves - combined with Tuff Bags hands rarely get soaked.
PHD Alpamayo Smock - original, with storm flap. I love it. Best waterproof I've ever had.
Berghaus Paclites - another classic they've lasted years and work well.
OMM Beanie - X - 30grms; in preference to waterproof cap. Keeps head warm.
Smartwool Socks - spare pair.
Bed socks - a pair of sock liners.
PHD Drishell Windsmock - this works very well and will cope with light showers.
PHD Ultra Pullover - light warm around camp and in sleeping bag. Love it.
PHD Minim Down Trousers - light warm around camp and in sleeping bag.
SS Merino Base - if it gets too hot. Rarely worn.
Spare Rohan pants - for wash and change. A bit of a luxury, but, it is a holiday.
Hi Tec Zuuks - X - not neccessary,  but so light and comfy they are worth carrying/wearing.
PHD Down Socks - work their weight in saffron. Really add warmth in sleeping bag.
Compass - Silva Type 4. A classic.
Maps - cut down and thrown once used.
MSR Blizzard Stake - toilet trowel and can be used as a stake too
Kitchen Roll - toilet paper; toilet paper goes mushy, kitchen roll doesn't.
Petzl E-Lite - all thats required as it stay light until very late.
Pen  - for any notes. I use the Route Sheets for notes.
Route Sheets - to remind me where I go to get lost.
Camera - Ixus 220HS in a light case which goes round my neck.
Tool Card - a handy little gadget.
Credit cards and Rail Pass - just 1 debit and 1 credit card. rail pass for over 60's
Reading Glasses & Case - to enable me to read. I can read maps outside without them.
First Aid kit - essential stuff
Pama Charger + Lead + Plug - holds two recharges of phone.
Phone - HTC One + Lead + Plug + Headphones. Music and communications in HTC One.
Dr Bronners liquid soap - a small amount; wash and toothpaste and does pants too.
Small Towel - very small, but I've had a shower and used just this to dry off.
Black Diamond Poles - essential for Trailstar and poking off inquisative cows, or, Haggis.
ETrex GPS - for when the map doesn't know where I am. Rarely used.
Sunscreen - optimistic inclusion; very little.
Rail tickets - for return journey.
Money - for spending.
PHD Down hat - X - I used a Black Rock one last year, but now PHD head to toes!


Evernew DX Stove and Stand and trivet - my favourite. Works well; never let me down.
Tibetan 900 Pot - holds DX and matches.
Matches and lighter - a couple in case of failure by one.
Kitchen Roll - to wipe out pot. Can be used as loo paper too. Only after wiping out pot.
Meths bottles and Meths - 100cc bottles; max 3 carried. The rest posted on.
Platypus 2L  - water pouch
Spoon - plastic

So, there it is.

I am not posting weights this time. Suffice to say it's pretty light.

29 April - weight   Well, I had to do it! Pack with 3 days fuel but,no food/whisky is 8k
Food and drink is extra.

This is personal.

24 April - an update.

1) I've broken my "take nothing that will let you down" approach by getting a Neoair Xlite which will replace the cut down Ridgerest and radiator insulation. My original Neoair was suspect, but, I've read such good reviews on the Neoair Xlite that I decided to take a leap of faith.

2) I love my Arc'teryx merino top, but, I've come across an innovative Spanish Company, As Tucas (well worth a look) and have a Cabietos Hoody on order. I'll wear this on the TGO instead.

3) My Rab Boreas combined with my Driclime Vest was a surprise hit on a recent trip and I will now take this instead of my PHD windshirt. With the Boreas/Driclime set up - I was so comfortable wearing them all day, every day. No on/off with a windshirt.

4) ......... and 2 minor omissions: Nalgene Cantene pee bottle (cut the plastic top retainer off or it gets .... messy ....and wet) and a Lifesystems Headnet

5) I took my Osprey Tallon 44 on my last trip. With all my gear and 4 days food/fuel etc it had plenty of room. The fit is definately better than the Terra Nova Quasar 45 so this gets the call instead of the Quasar.

That's it folks.

Have a fantastic TGO 2014 ; if you're on it.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

PHD Alpamayo Smock - long term comments

I bought my PHD Alpamayo Smock in April 2011.

Mine was the first version of PHD's Alpamayo Smock and used HS3 - a 3 layer laminate and this has proved to be a superb waterproof and breathable material.

I bought the smock version for a very simple reason: less chance of any water ingress.

To deal with any chance of water getting in via the short zip there was a storm flap.

Behind this was a full sized map pocket and inside the smock was a small zipped pocket.

The hood adjustment ties were neatly teathered to the sides of the zipped opening.

Here is the opening showing the features around the zipped opening.

When I first got the PHD Alpamayo Smock I was full of praise for the design, and the fact that it was a proper 4 season smock. Here is my original piece on it:

I followed this up with a further post on the new version:

This later version, a year after I bought my original, was slightly lighter and had YKK Aquaseal zips. It used the same HS3 material.

There has been a lot of comment on Twitter recently about storm flaps.

My own personal preference is to have a smock with storm flaps, but, I have had no experience with YKK Aquaseal zips and can only guess that they do their job well. Otherwise, why do away with the storm flaps?

My PHD Alpamayo will soon be 3 years old.

When I first bought it I was impressed, but, the smock was untested.

I took it up to backpack around Kinder, that April and it didn't rain! In fact on one day I was dehydrated due to the very warm day and lack of water!


I've just re-read my 2011 TGO Challenge account. This trip more than tested gear and those taking part. On this crossing it rained every day for near on 2 weeks.

The Alpamayo proved more than able to cope with the deluges and I never noticed any problems with breathability.

Here is that account:

I believe it says a lot about a waterproof in that it was just there and did it's job superbly.

It was so good, I just accepted that it would not let me down, whatever the weather threw at me.

I've used the PHD Alpamayo on many more wet trips, day trips and backpacking, and still would say it's the best waterproof I've ever owned.

On the 2012 TGO Challenge the stormy Sunday saw folk coping with high winds and driving rain. I never had any issues with the Alpamayo coping with these conditions and keeping me comfortable. I've never noticed any ingress of water - ever. And, I've never noticed any wetting up inside.

Having said this I wear a little as I can get away with under the Alpamayo.

A long sleeve base, light -eg driclime - vest, and windshirt have been my mainstays for backpacking in cold wet conditions.

This excellent piece on waterproofs, which I read years ago, guided my approach to what I wore.

So, three years on what do I think of it?

It is still, in my opinion, one of the best.

I'll be wearing it on the 2014 TGO Challenge.

It's been well used and abused and shows no obvious signs of wear. I've washed it in Nikwax a few times and the fabric still performs extreamely well.

Would I buy the new version?

Without hesitation!

My original was bought because I had a passion for PHD gear. To be honest, it was buying gear that I had not read any reports on. It was a leap of faith that has more than repayed the investment.

I would rationalise that the YKK Aquaseal zips work. So, unless I see reports to the contrary, I would definately buy the latest version.

Of course, this is highly theoretical, as I still have my original which has never let me down -and it has that little piece of material that gives extra peace of mind - a storm flap.

Here is the latest version which also has pit zips as an option.