Trail Column, March ’08

I liked this one when I wrote it, and then as the weeks went past I forgot all about it. I read it again today in the magazine and I had a wee smile to myself. I always submit way too many words so some gets cut, but the rest is as I wrote it. And as much as folk want stick the boot into Trail for not progressing, there is stuff there that you wouldn’t expect “the orange body bags…”.

Banter fully intact once again. The slightly longer version is below.

“Lighter…Safer?”

 We like easier. When we started work we thought “Hmm, there’s a better way to do that”. We want the latest gadgets with an “i” in the title. But when it comes to the outdoors we stand there, fingers in our ears and forge on with the same kit we had in 1989. With a half full 30L pack I’ve had glares from fellow walkers with bulging 45L packs. “What’s he doing, where’s his kit? Call the safety man!”That they’re often trudging, stooped, watching each footfall intently as they conquer the contour lines with grit and determination compared to my happy demeanour seems not to register. It’s not about who carries the least kit going lightweight, it’s making your time in the hills easier, more fun. This is what we all want, and I know that safety is a concern that many have, but the idea that you’re leaving behind essentials just to save weight is wrong. The safety kit I’m carrying covers all the usual items. 

  • Torch. A Petzl Tikka XP and spare batteries. Add a Petzl e+lite for backup and the combined weight is still less than a standard headtorch.
  • Shelter. AdventureMedicalKits Thermo-Lite 2.0 bivvy sack. At 196g it’s lighter and far warmer than the orange plastic body bags that traditionalists regard as vital equipment.
  • Medical. I carry my own, with bandages, plasters, wipes, tape, water purification tablets, painkillers, digestifs and it fits in the palm of my hand.
  • Food&Drink. I still take sandwiches but I mostly carry energy foods and drinks. From beef jerky to bars from High5, SIS and Honey Stinger. They’re small, light, tasty and their ingredients are natural. You’ll feel better on the move and be revived by these more effectively than breaking your teeth on Kendal mint cake. A Nuun tablet dropped in your water bottle at every refill will keep you hydrated and fresh.
  • I always carry gloves and hat, my phone, a map and compass.

 There’s nothing missing except weight.  Moving easier I’m less fatigued and fresher at the end of the day, whether it’s at camp or back at the car.I believe these factors combined make a lightweight hill day a less risky prospect, not a more dangerous endeavour.

13 thoughts on “Trail Column, March ’08

  1. Congratulations on a fine piece of informative writing…many a true word spoken.
    Its all about peoples attitudes and mindset methinks.All too often out on the hill I see folk out for a few hours stroll looking like they are equipped for an all out winter assault on everest who have to stop for a rest every few hundred yards due to the weight that they are carrying in their huge packs.Sometimes I almost expect to see a team of sherpas following them.
    Personally light is the way for me and has been for many a year after gradually realising that half the gear I used to carry remained unused in the pack.These days I carry waterproofs,2 litres of water or energy drink in a bladder,the obligatory map and compass(most often used to direct lost gear laden bonningtons off the hill!),a couple of mars bars or fig rolls,banana hat,gloves and camera…thats about it.
    This weekends walk was interesting.There were quite a lot of people in the hills around here including a bunch of people decked out in half a gear shop each with huge packs/down jackets&trousers etc.who I met half way up the summit path to fan brycheiniog,they were all sat in a semi-circle looking completely knackered barely able to raise as much as a friendly smile in response to my cheerful hello’s as I sauntered past in a pair of light craghoppers and a mountain hardwear windstopper jacket.Further on up the path I managed to engage into a conversation with some more of the group,turns out they had walked half the distance planned and some were complaining of the cold!…maybe a few less clothes and a bit more movement might have helped in their condition…some people just dont get it.
    Anyway ordered a new sack this week,I’ve gone for the Osprey talon 33 in bright orange,its had some very positive reviews and looks great.

  2. Cheers :o)

    What you say is spot on, and it’s the whole point of what I keep banging on about.

    The most obvious benefit I’ve seen recently is back at the car when other folks drop their packs straight on the ground with a grunt, take their big winter boots off and there’s the sigh of relief accompanied by a wriggling of toes to check that they still work and a welcome return to their other shoes.

    Did that for years, not any more though.

    Let us know how you get on with the Osprey sack, that’ll be interesting. I’ve looked at them many time and I like a lot of the features.

  3. What won me over to the talon 33 was the lack of unnecessary features which add weight and bulk,the placement of the bladder pocket and the overall attention to detail.It looks like a lot of time has been taken in the design of this pack to deliver the optimum performance.
    Then theres the aesthetics….it sure is a purdy looking piece of kit!

  4. haha,yeah very orange…or spicy chilli as the advertising blurb calls it! Seeing as nearly all my hill gear is black it will make a nice contrast…now just need to convince the mrs. that the black n’ orange haglofs jacket would be a better purchase than the new washing machine!

  5. Ah, Haglofs black and orange. Have you got your eye on a Sharkfin Hood?
    Some of their colours are frightening. I like that though. When we’re out on the hill I tend to look like like a childrens TV presenter and everybody else looks like the SAS or a ninja.

    Midlife crisis or something they tell me.

  6. “everybody else looks like the SAS or a ninja”

    That’ll be me then :o)
    A glance in my wardrobe reveals a single splash of red; an Aspira Jacket. Everything else is black or green. Hell, I’ve got at least 4 Camo Buffs. I think it’s a throwback to summer holidays spent on Highland estates where a low profile was the key to a good day out :o)

  7. Oh aye, the camo Buff is king. I’ve got an Egyptian hyroglyphic one that’s shades of brown and from a certain distance is gives the impression that I’ve got a full and thick head of hair :o)

    I was trying on various cheap Paramotronica at GoOutdoors last week. The body fit is good, but my tree-swingers arms ruin it for me. Harrumph.

  8. Ah yes, sleeve length. Many times, I’ve gone up a size just to get the sleeves right. That excess volume in the body fair catches the wind. Hooray then, for Montane and their “Built For Gibbons” Air. It’s no’ easy being lanky in an average sized world. Trousers? Dinnae get me started.

    Back on topic, good article. I liked it. My kit list is awfy similar to yours although mine evolved with a fair few gaffes along the way :o)

  9. Ach, yer a gid lad.
    “mine evolved with a fair few gaffes along the way” Aye so did mine, I just don’t like to talk about it :o)

    But as you know, that’s wnat ebay is for. And on that note they appear to by stopping sellers leaving negative feedback for buyers. That’s going to stir things up a bit, blackmail for good feedback and the like without fear of retaliation?

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