Gear Choice & Reviews

GearChoice FactorsShort Review
Nemo Obi 1 Elite tentWeight was critical factor but I also wanted a two skin tent that didn't feel claustrophobic with a porch for storing some gear.

The Obi 1 Elite is very light at 872grams and with a completely mesh interior it feels quite spacious. It also has the access on the side, which I prefer for solo tents - they seem to be easier to get in and out of.

Its virtually free standing, which was important for this trip as the camping pitches can be very rocky and it can be difficult getting pegs into the ground.

The Obi 1 Elite has a large cutout at the front of the flysheet and I was keen to find out if this created any problems in wind or wet conditions.

The tent got a few good tests, the fourth night was wet, with a particularly heavy downpour late in the evening, the kind that has droplets bouncing of the ground - the tent coped with ease.

My last night was characterised by high winds, I tried pitching the tent back into it but the wind blustered from all directions. The longitudinal hoop was being blown out of shape but this was just an inconvenience, I rigged up a couple of additional guylines tied to the midpoint of the hoop which sorted out the problem.

Granite Gear Crown VC Rucksack with Klymit Airbeam FrameGranite Gear's Crown VC 60 is one of my favourite packs, I needed 60 Litres because I wanted to do the trek largely unsupported - so I'd need to carry 8 or 9 days food, and this takes up space.

I like the internal framesheet on this pack which effectively transfers the load to the hips, this works for loads up to about 30lbs. However Granite Gear had introduced the airbeam frame to replace the framesheet and save 100grams - making the total weight of the pack about 900grams, pretty good for a comfortable backpacking rucksack and the Crown has some excellent features aimed at keeping you organised. Granite Gear claims a more comfortable carry with the airbeam frame.

The airbeam frame had the other benefit that when deflated the pack could be folded down to cabin luggage dimensions - important for my first flight connection in Schipol where I wouldn't have to wait for baggage to be unloaded.

My total load at the beginning of the trek was just under 30lbs, the Crown carried this really well but I did feel it was less comfortable than when I'd used it with the full frame sheet, so for the future I will go back to the framesheet and suffer the extra 100grams weight.

The Crown is not described as particularly waterproof but on the day where it rained most of the day my gear inside the pack was pretty dry - sensitive gear was protected with drybags - but the outside of the drybags was dry as well. The exception was  at the base of the pack, where water did get in, presumably because It put the pack down on wet ground at various times.

The features I like about this pack aside from its comfort, are the large external pockets, ideal for stuffing a wet flysheet or other wet gear, and gear that you want during the day. It doesn't have hip belt pockets but these can be added, and the hipbelt is covered with webbing 'daisy chains' that are useful for adding camera bags etc.

Lightwave Firelight 450 Sleeping BagI've been on trips in the past where my sleeping bag wasn't warm enough and I've ended up wearing most of my clothing in order to keep warm. This is a recognised technique to keeping your weight down, however this time I wanted the luxury of a well rated sleeping bag compared to the conditions that would allow me to sleep naked or with perhaps just a baselayer on.

I reckoned a Comfort Limit of -5C would do the trick so I looked for a lightweight bag around that rating or better. There are a couple of choice but the 760gram Firelight 450 seems to tick all the boxes, by using very high quality down ratings are achieved with very low weight bags.

The bag was warm enough, even though the temperature dropped quite severely at night. I'm quite a broad person and I didn't feel particularly cramped in the sleeping bag, there's an internal shoulder baffle which works quite well as does the baffle behind the zipper.

I particularly like the zip, which is set slightly on the top f the bag rather than down the side, this seems easier to find and use. I also noted that the zip never snagged once - this was a bit of a revelation to me and on close inspection there didn't seems to be any clever reason why this should be - The zip is a smaller guage than I've found on other bags and perhaps this is the secret - there is a narrow anti-snag strip as with other quality bags.

Fire Maple 117T Gas stoveCooking on gas is the most convenient method of camp cooking - its clean, fast and the stoves are relatively maintenance free. The gas stoves we sell fit screw-in cartridges which are widely available in the UK and the US but not so in some parts of the world.

France is one country where you can't rely on them being available, however I knew from a previous visit that the Spar shop in Calenzana sells them and therefore I opted for a gas stove for this trip.

The Fire Maple FMS-117T is the lightest gas stove we do that has a remote hose to the gas canister - lighter stoves screw onto the top of a gas cartridge and can be a bit unstable and are more difficult to protect from the wind.

The FMS-117T performed faultlessly, it has a nice wide flame spreader which actually was too wide for my Titan kettle really. Flame adjustment was good and easy from the remote gas canister.

I also took a wind shield which improves the performance no-end and is easily worth its weight on trips of more than a few days.

I bought a C250 can of gas from Calenzana which has a net weight of 230grams. At the end of my six days it was still about half full (I couldn't weigh it). My daily usage was 800ml water for coffee (not quite boiled, half am, half pm), 260ml for soup, 400ml for main meal and 160ml for cous cous (lunch). The windshield played a big part in this excellent performance.

Montane Air JacketIf I'm going on a backpacking trip I generally like to take an eVent or Goretex shell jacket, even if I don't expect to use it that much. The reason is that they are now very lightweight and yet are also reasonably robust and will put up with abrasion from rucksack straps. There are lighter alternatives, such as the Montane Minimus range or the RAB Kinetic but to me these are more suited to weekend trips or adventure races where rucksack loads will be much smaller.

The Air jacket is simple with a good hood, it does the job and is very lightweight, I've used one for a few years now and have no reservations at all about it.

My one wet day was quite wet! And it rained continuously for long periods. The Air jacket is comfortable to wear and kept me dry. It was quite cold when the weather was poor and the walking wasn't strenuous, so condensation never really occurred to cause a problem.
Montane Minimus PantsMinimus pants are brilliant, quite waterproof and breathable they are extremely lightweight, if I was going away for a month to a place that didn't see too much rain I'd still probably take these, however if I was going away for a month to a wet climate - somewhere like Scandanavia I'd take a more robust and effective pair such as eVent.I wore these all day and they kept my dry, as with the shell jacket there was no problem with condensation but conditions favoured that.
RAB Strata HoodieThe RAB Strata Hoodie uses the new Polartec Alpha insulation which is breathable insulation but because of this it does not have the warmth to weight ratio as other synthetic fillings such as Primaloft. I was keen to try it out, but backed it up with a Montane Fireball Smock which gave me three options, wearing either one or both.My second to last day involved a high level crossing in high winds and low cloud, I donned the Strata Hoodie and set off on the opening climb. The route to the ridge was in the lee of the mountain and wasn't subject to the high winds on the top, and I did note that climbing up I remained dry inside, when wearing Primaloft you often get clammy inside when exerting yourself.

On the tops, in the full teeth of the winds I pulled the hood tight and pressed on. The garment was warm enough and I remained very comfortable - it was ideal conditions for this type of jacket and I was very pleased with its performance.