Trail, July ’08

This months column is pretty simple, the basics of lightweight cooking and eating on short trips. There really is no need for carrying a lot of heavy shite unless you’re away for ages or going really high up and have to use liquid fuel. Simplicity and quick cuppas are where it’s at.

There’s plenty other stuff as well this time. That bloody photie on the contents page for example. Tom Bailey was snapping away as I’m staring down into the bivy perhaps trying to appraise the comfort of my man parts, I put my head up and laughed out loud “Ha! Ye cannae use that wan!”. No they used the next one of me saying that. Still, no metal fillings in there.

The “First Time…Lightweight” feature was what I was down in the lakes for last month. We camped near Angle Tarn, East and 500-odd meters above Patterdale. It turned out I knew the subject of the article from the LFTO forums: Dave AKA Snowman1. After a detached phone and email relationship with the magazine it was nice to see how tall people are. I felt it all went well, and the trip is pretty well explained in the article. What of course gets missed out is the hours of hanging about, shooting the breeze and learning about new people. GT and I didn’t fight about trail shoes, Claire tuned into my Scottishisms very well, poor Tom was the only one who did any work and Dave was bouyant throughout. Day Two’s plan of High Street was curtailed and we walked down in the pissing rain and went back to Ambleside where we ate a hearty cooked breakfast.

Reading through, I can’t really fault or disagree with the content. I maybe come out as a bit lairy and extreme in some of my perfectly pedestrian notions, but it’s all relative. I was well within in my comfort zone, had the best nights sleep and my socks were dry by the time my kettle had boiled. I could have carried less, but I didn’t know what destination to pack for so went for “Munro top camp”, and all the weights mentioned include water, fuel, food and actually everything we weren’t wearing at the start.

It was interesting, good fun and for me it was good to break out of the column format. Talking about the gear is important, but actually doing it (with a big bloody grin) is what it’s all about.

19 thoughts on “Trail, July ’08

  1. Shame there were no gear lists to show us the differences in what you all were carrying. GT was carrying slightly more than I did in the Cairngorms. Looks like his first aid kit is way too large!

  2. It was indeed. They were all quite interested in the AdeventureMedicalKits #3 one I was carrying.

    GTs sleeping bag was lighter than mine, I had the heaviest cooking pot, but my bivy bag was the lightest shelter.

    If we’d used all the lightest items from the three of us in one pack it would have been mighty light. But not necessarily comfy. GT did have a cold night, Dave got a sleepless one and I snored a lot :o)

  3. In one of the pull out boxes it recommends the Aplkit Pipedream 400, which is a fabulous sleeping bag, especially for the price. I can’t see why anyone would bother the the ME Xero 350.

  4. Way before we went to the Lakes, GT and I made up lists of various kit for Dave to try and we both listed the Xero 350 as one the ideal sleeping bags.
    The Xero’s really are fantastic and highly recommended.
    I’ve used both Pipedream’s and Xero’s a lot, the Xero’s feel warmer, they’re more comfortable, better drawcords and hood and they’re what I’d pick every time.
    The Xero 250 is a marvel, although they cut the length down a bit to lose some extra grams.

    I’ve said this a few times, but right now is the time to buying a quality down bag, everybody has raised their game design wise, and prices are going to shoot up next year.

  5. A great article, I hope to see more of this type in Trail from yourself instead of the column type. Specifific personal kit lists would have been interesting to see the differences.

    I like the PD 600 but have no experience of the ME bags. What bag would you pick for summer munro tops PTC? (not a top bag though unless I can get Wee Airic in it)

  6. For me the PD600 is too warm and heavy outside of winter, the latest I’ve used one is early April and at 900m I was roasting at night.
    It’s a very personal thing a sleeping bag, and very hard to get right until you’ve built up a databank of experiences with being hot and cold in a tent.

    On the trip last week I used the MontBell UL SS #4, I slept at 1008m, kept some clothes on and was plenty warm. The #4 has 230g of down in it which is very light indeed. But I knew I’d be fine and I had a Primaloft top as well in case it did get very cold.

    A PD400 is good starting point, the new version is much improved. Alpkit stuff is good, but other stuff is better. The price is what sways folk, and if that means folk can get kitted up and get into the hills then that’s a victory in my book.

    So it does all come down to budget. You can spend £110 on a PD400, £200 on a Rab Quantum 400, £180 on a ME Xero 350 or £230 on a Mont Bell UL SS #3. They’re all similar weights of down fill, and that’s a good starting point. The amount of down is where the insulation is and looking at a range of bags with a similar fill weight and seeing what features you prefer will set you on your way.
    All will work, but weight, packability, usability, fit and quality all vary. Then it’s all down to how much you pay for the features.

    Does that make any sense!?

  7. Yeah it does makes sense, cheers. Its a new version PD 600 (it was the price that swayed me) Ive got and yes I agree its far too hot for it now.

    Might look at the PD 400 or the ME range. I was actually worried that the PD 400 would be even to hot though.

  8. It might well be too hot, and that’s the thing. You can keep clotes on in a lighter bag, but you can’t take a few handfuls of down out of a heavier bag :o)

    Right now I’m using the MontBell #4, the ME Xero 250, the Rab top bag and a Big Agnes PitchPine is on it’s way. That’ll be me until September/October. Then it’s back to 900g winter bags!

  9. If you’re on the lookout for a top-notch lightweight down bag, don’t forget PHD. Last weekend I got away with my sub-400g Pigolo, although the Minimus is more sure to be warm enough spring to autumn. A Minim 300 takes me to and from the coldest months, and a 670g Minim 400 sees me through the winter. I’m only tempted to add a Combi Bag now to combine with any of those for inumerable sub-sub-sub-zero options…. :)

    If you’ve got a hefty budget take a look now. If not then keep an eye out as they usually do a summer sale with some absolute barains available.

  10. Still, no metal fillings in there.
    I’m convinced Tom Bailey is a stringer for “Open Wide”, the monthly publication for Dentists.
    I went to read the article last night but crashed oot due to the day’s high mileage. Looks interesting tho. Nice one.

  11. Picked the mag up yesterday,really enjoyed reading the article,lots of informative and well reasoned arguments in there to convert the unbelievers!
    What never gets mentioned though is the way in which you pack your sack,I always try to get an even balance and distribution of weight,nothing worse than a pack with all the weight on one side.The talon 33 is coping really well,easily swallowing up all my overnight kit and still remaining super comfy,definately my best buy this year so far.
    Been looking at sleeping bags with low weights and pack size recently…and its a minefield out there it seems,I particularly like the look of the Rab top bag and also some of the alpkit bags.My old ME bag is about due for replacement and I ‘m looking for something in the £150-200 range.

  12. I’d hate to single out one bag, there really is too many good ones out there at the moment.
    I’ve asked Alpkit and PHD for some test samples, so that’ll either help or hinder the choice even more.

    Interesting about the Talon, that Gregory Z35 I’ve got is very similar indeed to an Osprey sack. I’m going on a backpack with it next week and it’ll be very interesting to see how I get on with it.

  13. Ah yes – managed to get logged on at last.

    BTW – Good blog Pete, one of the few worth reading on matters outdoors.

    In terms of PHD test samples, you should try and get your hands on one the new Hispar bags with the 900 fill down. if PHD’s typical operating temperature are near the mark, they could well blow eveything else out of the water in terms of warmth for weight (a 700g, 400g fill bag rated at -9, for example!). very expensive though, but maybe worth it for a 700g winter bag..

    Rather annoyingly, PHD launched them two weeks after I had ordered a Design Your Own bag (hours of fun for all the family) , but as luck would have it, it was sitting waiting to be filled when I phoned and they were happy to fill it with 900 down instead.

    I am now the happy owner of a ‘long’ sized, mountain cut (roomy rather than narrow) bag with a ‘typical operating temperature’ – PHD reckon – of -4 to -5, which weighs 760g on the kitchen scales (790g in its stuff sac). I haven’t had the chance to try it in anger yet , but if the rating is any where near on the money, then I should be able to use it at least 8 or 9 months of the year.

  14. Bless you kind Sir :o)

    PHD do get a lot of kind words from users, but precious little exposure.
    I like the idea of conservative temperature ratings, but even more I like the idea of talking to the guy sitting at the sewing machine making the thing.

    I had a look through their website and they’ve got an 87g hooded windshirt as well. A lot of good looking kit on there in fact.

  15. PHD remind me of one of those 10-bloke companies that make high performance sports cars out of the back of a shed, somewhere in the Cotswolds, and I love their gear all the more for it.

    The sleeping bags don’t look especially technical or ‘clever’ at first glance, but they are flippin’ warm

    I noticed the windshirts – 87g for stealth black or 130g for highly water resistent drishell in not-very-stealth gold.

  16. It’s the essence of proper lightweight that. Cut off the extraneous features and hone what’s left to do the best job it can.
    Like where karrimor was going in the mid 90s with it’s elite and alpiniste kit, but don’t get me started on that again…

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