Although only an overnighter, there was enough time to add to some impressions of the gear I used.
As I mentioned in the trip report, I used a mixed bag of gear; some UL stuff that I bought with me from the Minneapolis, some heavier gear that I found in my storage lockup in Rovaniemi, and a few essential items that I purchased.
As I was anticipating cold weather, I took my Western Mountaineering MF Antelope with me. It's a typical WM bag: very well constructed, and accurately rated at -15C. It's fairly heavy at 1.16Kg, but it very warm. In fact, I got too warm during the night, and had strip down to base layers.
As I was sleeping in a semi-exposed laavu, I coupled the bag with my Katabatic Bristlecone bivy, which no doubt added a couple of degrees warmth to the bag.
I've been eagerly reading other people's blogs this week, paying special attention to discussions of winter gear.
were all of special interest to me as I still find sleeping bags a little frustrating.
For all the coziness afforded by wrapping oneself in a down cocoon, there are several side-effects. For example, to achieve maximum warmth, and to eliminate condensation from breath getting into the bag, it's necessary to cinch the neck and hood closed into the full mummy enclosure. But then you do that, you get two long cords flapping around inside the bag.
I have a peculiar aversion to having cords around my neck, so I find this somewhat disconcerting.
The other major hassle for me is after I've wriggled around cinching down the hood, my pillow has invariably moved to another location nowhere near my head. I then try to sneak a hand out the hood to reposition it, and end up on my face with my hand stuck twisted behind my head.
On the upside, all that energetic rolling around generates a lot of heat to keep me warm. But usually, when I eventually get the pillow into place and roll back over, everything else moves, and I begin to scream.
Incidentally, this has nothing specifically to do with the WM Antelope - it's a general sleeping bag issue. I also find, as a side-sleeper, that bags rarely turn with me. When you turn inside a fully tightened mummy bag, you are not really using it efficiently.
In my arsenal of sleeping bags I also have the
, which is rated to -7C. I'm thinking that I could use this as part of a quilt-based layering system, with some insulated clothing to give added flexibility. I'm not big on wearing lots of gear at night, but given a choice between that and being strangled to death by The Mummy, I'll take my chances.
It's something I have to look into anyway. The GoLite might not be the optimum quilt. What I'd really need is a combination of equipment that would be usable in different forms throughout the whole year. So... a UL quilt for summer that could be used with some insulated clothing for colder weather, and an additional quilt for, as
called it in a
, "Hoth conditions." Tips and suggestions are welcomed in comments.
However, getting back to the gear I used, the Antelope was very warm, and the Brsitlecone kept out the arctic wind. The Pertex Quantum material on the bivy got caught in the sleeping bag zip a couple of times, which was annoying, but entirely my fault for not being more careful.
My sleeping pad was an old McKinley self-inflating pad I found in storage. It was just about adequate. When I go next time I'll try my Multimat Adventure in combination with something else - either my Ether Elite or something warmer.
The aforementioned pillow was the classic Exped which I picked up before I left.
I bought this as an alternative to the Kooka Bay which I didn't like much. The Exped has a lovely coating on it which feels soft and pillow-like. When I got it into position it was just right. The notch in the design makes it ideal for side-sleepers and back-sleepers alike. I will have to use some shock cord to tie it to the pad though. I can't stand having a wandering pillow.
One design feature of the pillow I didn't know about until I bought it was the dual inflation/deflation valves.
Although this adds to the weight, it is a nice little feature. The inflate and deflate valves are both one-way - so when you inflate, you can stop to take a breath without all the air puffing out of the pillow. Similarly, when you deflate, you can squeeze all the air out without any sneaking in.
I like the idea. It would be great on a sleeping pad, though I wonder how it affects condensation build-up inside. Theoretically, it limits the ability of the interior to dry properly.
Airlines don't allow you to carry gas or liquid fuel stoves with you. Although these restrictions shouldn't apply to wood-burning stoves, I didn't want to risk having my BushBuddy confiscated. I opted to pick up a cheap canister-mounted stove, and found the Edelrid Kiro ST (86g, €37). I'd have preferred the titanium version, but Rovaniemi, surprisingly, is not a great place for outdoor shops (unless you are into hunting).
I don't have burn times I'm afraid, but it was pretty fast. Frankly, I don't really care about burn times: as long as it's around three to four minutes it's good enough.
It seems that Edelrid rebrand OEM gear. I'm sure I've seen the
offered by another company under a different name, for example. In use, the Kiro ST performed as expected. My only issue is with the valve. When collapsed, the valve control folds around the screw housing - but in order to do this, the valve has to be opened a little. If you forget this, when you screw it onto the cannister, you get squirted with whatever propane/butane/iso-butane mix you happen to be using. It's not ideal, but as the liquid evaporates into gas, it's fairly harmless. I put a flame to the stove to see if there was any fuel on it, but nothing burned.
It's not a stove I'd use regularly, but it did the job. My original Micron (not the Ti version) is only slightly heavier.
The Real Turmat Chicken Curry I cooked was delicious. Far better than any Mountain House or Backpacker's Pantry meals I've tasted. It's a shame they are so expensive. I look forward to trying some of the new Fuzion meals others have tested.
Along with my trusty Haglöfs trail pants, I took my
, a Marmot DriClime windshirt, a Halti down jacket and of course base layers (Haglöfs, synthetic) and waterproofs (Marmot Precip and
, both unused).
I picked up the
recently in a sale. First Ascent is Eddie Bauer's subsidiary brand for more technical clothing, and they offer some pretty good gear (their Downlight sweater got good reviews on Backpacking Light), and you can almost always get a great discount from them, making them one of the cheapest places to buy fairly decent gear.
The Hangfire is a thick microfleece mid layer, which, because of DWR treatment, you could also use as a outer layer. I've been wearing it extensively this autumn around town and in Finland. The construction is a little too overly complex for my tastes - too many seams add to the weight - but I've been very happy with it. I like the hood design, which is tight and peaked. Coupled with, say, an Ibex merino hoody it would be nice and warm in many conditions. It isn't very windproof though, and I wouldn't trust the DWR to protect me too much as it is apparently only on the torso.
On top of that I wore a
- which uses recycled materials, so it gives you a warm feeling all around. The Catalyst is a warm windshirt. It has a wicking, DriClime lining that makes it warmer (and heavier) than my usual go-to windshirt, the Montane LiteSpeed. I find that it makes a great addition to my cold weather layering system, for situations when the LiteSpeed doesn't really cut it any more. It's also water repellant, and I've been very happy with it over the last year.
As for footwear... well, I didn't want to drag extra shoes with me, so I made do with what I found in the storage room.
My Meindl Ultra Boots (OK, I don't know what they are called). Ultra big, ultra hardcore, ultra heavy (and my, how I noticed
after Inov-8s). Simply Ultra.
These are boots for mountains, fit for crampons and long treks to the north pole. They weigh a ton, but they did actually prove useful, protecting my feet on a few occasions from dips in ice-cold marsh water. I certainly wouldn't have fared well in my Inov-8 295s, but I could do with a good pair of lighter winter shoes/boots. Again, recommendations are welcomed.