TGOC 2015-Part 2-Gear-Help-Fitness

In the last blog I detailed my route. The other two key areas for my attention between now and May are gear and fitness

Gear

As soon as the decision to enter the TGOC is made your mind starts to focus on your gear, kit, equipment whatever you call it.What have I got that will be fine on the trip, what will need replacing and what else do I need? Any comments from your OH relating to the fact that you are not sure of a place are deemed irrelevant as if you do not get in this year the organisers pretty much guarantee you a place the following year in this statement “We try to ensure that no-one is unlucky two years running.” So bearing that in mind and factoring in that well known equation Want = Need a complete gear review needs to be undertaken. So lets start with the key items first.

Pack

I have an Exped Lightening 60L which suits me fine. It may not be the very best on the market but I think I need to save my £s for other items.

Shelter

As i mentioned in the previous post we have a Scarp 2 which is spacious for two and a ballroom for one. I have used it on a solo overnight backpack but at 1.8kg its a bit heavy to carry across Scotland.

Scarp 2 on a solo outing in Black Mountain area of the Brecon Beacons NP
Scarp 2 on a solo outing in Black Mountain area of the Brecon Beacons NP

So the search was on for a new shelter. I was looking for something light, easy to set up, good in the wind, roomy with plenty of porch space. The roomy porch space was something I was particularly keen on so that I would have room to cook and store stuff in the rain. After a lot of research and talking to people on twitter, and watching videos I decided to go for an MLD Cuben Fibre Duomid. Its 8ft 8in  long and 5ft wide, so plenty of space and weighs in at just over 350g before you add the guys.

Next decision is what inner to go for. MLD do a inner net but I decided to go for an Oookworks nest instead. There are two reasons I did. Firstly I prefer a ripstop fabric inner compare to a net, and secondly it has a T zip construction instead of the J zip on the MDL inner. It took quite a while to get my Oookworks inner but worth the wait in the end. All in all the inner, shelter, guylines and pegs come in just over a kilo. There is an excellent video of a Duomid being set up with an Oookworks inner here.

The Duomid on its first outing on Caudale Moor in September
The Duomid on its first outing on Caudale Moor in September
Duomid with Oookworks inner. Loads of room.
Duomid with Oookworks inner. Loads of room.

Sleeping Mat.

Last year I changed my Thermarest Prolite for an Exped Synmat UL7 The main reason for the change is that I like to sleep on my side and with the thermarest I found my hip touching the ground but this does not happen with the 7cm thick Exped.

Other bits and pieces.

The following will also be making the crossing, Sawyer Mini Filter, Pacer Poles and MSR Micro Rocket (just ordered) plus I have it on good authority that Santa will be bringing an MSR Titan Kettle. Before anyone asks all of these products have been paid for with my own money or obtained as presents from the family.Thats not to say that I will not accept any gear items for testing!

Help needed.

There are several, expensive, items of gear that I need to get or replace. One word connects them all down. Firstly I need a down sleeping bag. Preferably with a comfort rating of zero degrees and obviously not too heavy. Then I need a down jacket and some down trousers. PHD stuff all looks good but not cheap. Any recommendations welcome.

Update

I’ve now ordered a sleeping bag. Thanks for all the advice here and on twitter and especially Gordon, @aktovate1, for pointing out the Minim 300 in the PHD sale. I went for the short zip option as well.

So just the down jacket and trousers to go so if you see a bargain please give me a shout.

Fitness

If I remain healthy and reasonably injury free then this should be the easy bit. I’m retired and live in the Lake District so I average three days a week on the fells. As long as in the New Year I make sure I do some longer walks and of course some backpacks I should be OK. My experience of multi day walks suggests that as long as you start with a good fitness base you will get fitter as the days pass. As I said if I remain healthy and relatively injury fee.

However is one are I do need to improve. I’m doing everything I can to get my pack weight down now I need to get my weight down. I recently got weighed and decided one and a half stone needs to go. So far four pounds has gone. Watch this space I will keep you informed.

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21 thoughts on “TGOC 2015-Part 2-Gear-Help-Fitness”

  1. On this year’s Challenge, my fitness training from Feb onwards was Hillfit exercises, two 2 hour walks a week in Epping Forest, plus two pre Challenge trips. I’m not ultra fit, but that was fine for me. If you’re doing three hill walks a week, you’ll be more than fit enough as long as your route is not overly ambitious.

    If you’re looking for good value down gear, PHD normally have a sale in the New Year, which is good value. Also post Christmas sales are worth a look. If you look at places like OutdoorsMagic, there’s often second hand gear for sale. I bought a Western Mountainnering Ultralite sleeping bag for £180, which is a bargain.

    Scotland in May is a lottery for weather. This year, apart from the first three days, was excellent. My strategy is to think of every kind of weather and ask the question: how would I cope with that? Cold, heat, rain, sun, wind. I also build in a comfort factor and some doubling of small items like hats.

    For me a good rule of thumb is so base weight of between 8-10 kg. I could get it to 7kg by leaving out some items like a lightweight umbrella, but, for me, an umbrella turns a horrible rainy road walk into a minor inconvenience (day 3 on this year’s Challenge). That’s my choice. My advice is take what suits you and don’t worry what others say.

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  2. Hi Paul,

    Interesting gear. All gear is interesting!

    Love the smell of cuben in the morning. The Duomid looks very spacious. I’ll have my Tramplite cuben special in January.

    PHD have the Minim 300 in the sale. It’s my go-to bag all year round – supplemented with down: hat, jacket, trousers, socks. Down socks are worth their weight in saffron. As Tucas do some great gear – worth a look – synthetic trews look interesting and Marco does down socks cheaper than PHD. (As a complete outside – I have a PHD Minim 400 rated to minus 5c – it’s long with a full length zip and weighs a little over 900 grms.In VG condition. Down to £220 incl postage.) Probably too heavy. The Minim 300 would be my bet – with no zip, my long weighs 700 grms.

    I’ve yet to use a water filter in Scotland. You may need one further east, but, I’ve not found getting liquid a problem.

    Gear lists are always good to trawl through to pick up further ideas. I’m sure there will be plenty before May.

    Only six months to go. Enjoy the run up to this great event!

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    1. Hi Gordon,

      Thanks for your comments. The Minim 300 looks a very good buy. I’ll sleep on it and may order one tomorrow, I think I will go for the short zip option.The sawyer filter is a nice bit of kit at only 65g. Really came into its own on The Howgills in the summer when the only water sources had become dirty puddles.
      It will be interesting sometime to see the Tramplite cuben special, ive seen photos on his blog.

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  3. Some good suggestions already. We’ve used a Rab Neurino 400 bag for the last year. It’s been great for me down to 0 and a little lower. I sleep with thermals and silk liner when I need to boost warmth.

    Fitness will come on the trail. We hiked every other day before we started the PW for about 10 miles. The biggest factor we found was critical was to ensure your feet/footwear are looked after each day. We had a routine of wash/massage/treat our feet. It helped in making them feel good for the next day.

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  4. Hi Paul, really difficult choosing gear for the Challenge.
    Last year, I had 1 frosty night, but mainly it was quite mild and dry after the first 2 days when it was pretty wet.
    Plus we all feel the cold to a lesser or greater degree., and some of us will put up with fewer luxuries for a lighter pack.
    Then there’s route choice..lighter pack = easy to climb the hills…if you go for a lower crossing weight I feel is less of an issue.
    My blogpost on my gear for last year is here…the only changes I made (at the last minute) were slightly heavier waterproofs (I should have stuck to my original thoughts!)
    My selection was arrived at after many long distance backpacking trips both in Scotland and abroad.
    The only items I didn’t use (other than 1st aid kit) where my insulative layer (Berghaus Infinity Light) and 1 Buff!
    the post is here…http://alsoutdoorworld.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/tgo-challengemy-gear-list.html perhaps it may be some help!
    There’s lots of advice out there, and lots of greta gear… it doesn’t make it any easier!
    There’s no Right and no Wrong…just differing opinions
    Good luck…..
    Alistair

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  5. The PHD bag is superb. I also would look at the ME Xero 300 as I should have got that over my superb Marmot Plasma 30 looking back – as the EXL feature makes it very thermally efficient. I noted a bit of dead cold air pockets in my wide bag last trip. But 300g of down is ideal 3 season weight of insulation. PHD bag would be great. I would not get a zip as I used an old ME Sleeping bag long a time back that had no zip and I was fine on TGOC 2006 using it.

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  6. Thanks Martin. I’m thinking the PHD at about £200 looks too good a combination of price and quality to turn down. There are two reasons why I’m thinking of going with the short zip. Firstly I have a dodgy shoulder and I am concerned about getting in and out of the bag without tweeking it. Secondly I would like the flexibility of opening it if it’s a bit warm.

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  7. Hi, I used the Duomid on last years challenge and it was brilliant. One thing which you may or may not know already is that you can attach the Oookworks inner to the corners of the outer using the shock cord that Sean uses as guys. This enables the inner and outer to be perfectly pitched in one go together and also means that no pegs are needed for inner at all. The inner kind of floats.
    I never had any problems with this method of pitching..

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    1. Thanks Alan, I’ve only put the Duomid up once with the Oookworks inner but I did wonder about doing the corners as you suggest, will give it a go. Do you leave the inner attached? Ive had one person say they do with no problems

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  8. Hi Paul. I tend to walk hot but cool off quite quickly and for me I probably got the kit balance a bit out last year. I went lightweight on the sleeping bag, only taking a 1-season Golite bag, and suffered on a couple of nights. The weather was really quite mild and kind, so in fact I was lucky I didn’t have even more cold nights. I Don’t generally carry much spare clothing as I’ve found in the past that some of it gets carried and never sees the light of day. Even the most remote crossing of Scotland will bring you numerous opportunities to wash kit. I carry a featherweight down jacket (200g) and just layer up for colder weather, so for me the old routine of plenty of thin layers works well.
    Things I wont bother taking this next time will be a radio (I got absolutely no signal for the entire 2 weeks), or a solar charger (I found plenty of opportunity to charge from a socket, and an external power pack would have been simpler).
    The main piece of kit I may consider swapping for this next crossing if the shelter. I took a Trailstar this year and absolutely loved the stability, space and simplicity. But next year I’ll probably take my duomid. I have a feeling that part of the reason I was cold a couple of nights was the lack of a door and the inability to maintain a bit of temperature inside.

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    1. I’m the same, dont often get cold when walking but soon cool down. Thats the reason I did not go for the trailstar despite many glowing recommendations. Well pleased with my Duomid although only been out once but without an inner.

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      1. Have you considered a pair of Montane Prism pants as an alternative to down pants. They layer up well and if the weather turns nasty they’re equally good for walking in. Pack down small and weight very little.

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