Along the Nordkalottleden: Gear Review

My gear list was published prior to departure on the trip, however, there were a few late additions to the pack including a book (300 gms) waterproof carry case for the camera and an extra meal, so my pack weight was closer to 17 kg when I left home. As I have stated previously I was generally happy with my gear and it enabled me to complete the walk with a minimum of hassles, but there are always times when the gear is not optimal, for others it may be a different story. I will comment on the big three as well as some other items of gear.
Aarn Mountain Magic 55l pack.
Generally I was very pleased with the pack and certainly with the ability to carry 17 kg comfortably. There is no doubt I had probably pushed the pack beyond its comfortable weight limit but given that a days food weighed about 800 gms, after a couple of days the weight was approaching what was more realistic of a pack this size. The picture below shows the pack fully loaded with only tent poles and a sleeping mat attached to the outside.

The front balance pockets were full and each contained approximately 3 kg and did inhibit leg lift, after day one I reduced the weights to about 2 kg in each and this proved to be much better. One problem I had with the pack is the attachments to the top of the balance pockets, these a shock cord and cord locks, I do not believe that this the best design as the shock cord stretches and the cord locks slip when the bungy gets wet. I tied knots into the cords to stop them from sliding but still they stretched further than I would have liked. I am now looking at replacing the bungy with either dyneema cord or webbing straps. For my next long trip I may consider using the Featherlite Freedom as it is perhaps more suited to such loads and the attachments for the balance pockets are better suited to heavier loads.
Stephensons Warmlite 2C tent

I was very pleased with this tent, as I had said in an earlier blog post I had decided to err on the side of caution when taking a shelter for the trip. The tent withstood strong winds from the back the front as well as the sides, it was spacious for one and could be erected in under 5 minutes. The shelter only requires a total of 9 pegs and can be erected with 3. There was some minor condensation at the single layer cones at each end but the mid section stayed condensation free. There are two changes I would make to the tent, one, I intended to, but did not put silicone sealer on the floor to reduce the slipperiness, it will be done before the next trip. As it was daylight all night and the tent quickly warmed in the mornings it would have been nice to have an insect free refuge with the door open, I intend to contact Stephensons to arrange for a no seeum door to be added. But these are minor annoyances more than design deficiencies, I can strongly recommend the tent. Having experienced the wonders of Lapland I now feel it is possible to use an appropriate shelter with added bug protection, such as GoLite ShangriLa 1, Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter, any of the pyramid shelters from MLD or Black Diamond as well as tarps such as the Spinntwinn from Gossamer Gear. Of course in using such shelters, care will need to be taken in adverse weather conditions.

Nunatak Arc Specialist Quilt, kept me warm and comfortable through out the trip, nothing more need to said about such a fine product.

Cooking, I used a Primus Micron ti Stove with a mini Light My Fire striker. The stove worked flawlessly and I boiled approximatey 12 litres of water over the 10 days using less than a 250 grams of gas, I estimate there were 2 days left in the canister suggesting a usage of approximately 20 grams per 1.2 litres of water. For the next trip I may consider the use of a small wood burning stove in conjunction with either Esbit or gas, when the insects or weather make the outdoors less than pleasant. Options include the Bushbuddy Ultra and the FourDog stove LT1 with the Primus stove or a Monatauk Gnat.
Clothing
Haglöffs Oz Pullover, there has already been much discussion on the blog about the pullover. My perception was that water did bead in the beginning indicating that it was repelling water, but eventually became overloaded causing a build up of moisture inside. Given that I tend to perspire a lot this may be expected. However, with the air being dry the coat did dry quickly and as it was only used a couple of days, heavy duty wet weather gear was not needed and the Oz pullover did the job. I will use the Rab Demand pullover next time, though there is a weight penalty.

I used a Montane Featherlight Smock, which was excellent and with a Tilley hat along with a Buff I saw no need for a hooded windshirt such as the Lightspeed. My water resistant pants were the Featherlite pants and whilst in continued rain they do wet through I was happy with them and would use them again, they also make great wind speed measurers.

Merino; anything made out of Merino wool performed faultlessly, though my BPL Beartooth hoody is showing some wear and tear now and I need to consider replacements. Thanks to Joe at Thunder in the Night I now have an IBEX Hooded Indie to experiment with. My Ibex Liners performed perfectly and were ideal for protecting my hands from the mossies.

Vest; I did not take a vest, and there were times I wish I had, for use when the weather is a little cool or at rest stops, if I take one I would be deciding between the Haglöffs Treble Vest and the BPL Cocoon Vest.

Salomon Quest boots, after developing Plantar Fasciitis, and the long recovery period that followed I have been using Salomon footwear and have been very happy with them. For this trip I chose boots over shoes as I felt the more rigid soles would be better on the Talus etc, and I think this was true, however, the boots had a major drawback, lining, resulting in blisters. It is for this reason that I intend to return to Innov-8 Terrocs for all my hiking in the coming months paying particular attention to the activities that can lead to Plantar Fasciitis.

Pacer Poles, aluminium alloy, excellent as usual and even with a major fall the poles continued to work, albeit with a slight bend in one of the lower sections.

Camera; Olympus E-Pen 2, I was very pleased with the camera and am still learning how to use it, I was attracted to the Micro fourthirds in an effort to reduce weight, but maintain the quality offered by a DSLR. I also found that the user interface had some similarities with my Ricoh GX100 which made the transition a little less daunting. I intend to write a longer review on this camera in due course.

This entry was posted in Aarn, Gear, Nordkalotten Trail, Olympus E-P2, Shelters, Wood Stoves. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Along the Nordkalottleden: Gear Review

  1. Tomas says:

    Nice write-up! Just to let you know that regarding this;"I am now looking at replacing the bungy with either dyneema cord or webbing strap"Dyneema cord is super slippy compared to Nylon or even Nylon/dyneema mix. It doesn't work that well with cord-locks or in prusik/bachmann knots. And obviously gets even worse when wet!

  2. The Odyssee says:

    The warmlite needs a bug door. Although i havn't used one i cannot see me getting one if there is no net.Glad it worked well.I agree, bungee cord is useless on the rucksack. I now use 12mm wide Velcro. It works in all weathers and is quick and easy.The rucksack looks tiny for 55L.

  3. I have been intrigued by front pockets for better gear balance and access. Interesting to hear about the leg lift problems. Thx – I love your site, btw.

  4. Mark Alvarez says:

    Unless things have changed, the regular door on Stephenson tents does have bug netting. It's the bigger, zip-around entrance that doesn't. I've had both and I think I prefer the regular with netting, though the bigger one allows you the option of using it as a sort of awning, which can come in handy at times.Also, you can order side windows on the 2 and the 2c. They add a little weight, but give wonderful cross-ventilation…much cooler than just using the door.Great, great tent. Tremendous volume for weight. The 2 easily accommodates 2 (amazing!) and a child (really amazing!).

  5. Joe Newton says:

    Great review Roger.Interesting to read your comments on shelters suitable for the far north. I'm still nervous about taking the SpinnTwinn into such mountainous terrain. It'll push my and the shelters limits.Similarly with your thoughts on wood stoves. The availability of suitable fuel, even in the supposedly 'treeless' environments never ceases to amaze me. I'm sure I'll change my mind after spending three days in continuous rain!As for taking an additional vest, I would go for the Treble. I find being active in any down/synthetic filled garment just too damn warm. I have used my Treble vest, as 'active' insulation in cold conditions and found that, when worn, it offers just enough warmth with less bulk and quicker-to-dry capabilities than my Rab Generator vest.

  6. Maz says:

    Just bought a Tilley TH5 for the Tour du Mont Blanc – I think wearing it at a jaunty angle is the fashionable way to go. Seriously though, it is the most effective way to protect my head from the sun, as well as keep it out of my eyes and off the back of my neck. Love them. Mrs M, however, was less than impressed when I came home wearing it with a 3-piece suit…So many people seem to love quilts but I find I get so cold when I have my head uncovered that I really prefer mummy bags, sometimes even with a hat on. Maybe in the summer – but even then I'm up above 600-700m.

  7. Thanks harttj, I hope that the information provided will allow other hikers to make informed choices about gear.Tomas and Odyssee, the use of dyneema or velcro option may not be the ideal solution and it may be that a combination of elastic and velcro to allow for some movement in the balance pockets when hiking.Thanks Philip, the balance pockets are one of the bonuses of the pack as they allow immediate access to items, something I appreciate.Mark, I chose not to have the windows in the tent, there are small mesh vents above and below the door of the tent, however, I am exploring the notion of a netting door for those warm sunny mornings when there are bugs. It will add weight but will also allow flow through ventilation.Thanks Joe, I think that a shelter that can be enclosed (eg spinnshelter or pyramid) is the way to go up north when combined with an appropriate bug shelter. This is what I am exploring for 2011. Also I am eagerly awaiting your report on the use of the Spinntwinn (a great tarp in my view). Regarding stoves, I am planning a 3 week trip without supply so I need to reduce fuel carried whilst being able to cook within a sheltered environment such as a tent. I agree about the treble vest and will take a close look at them.Maz, I used a topbag (Macpac Neve) in the early 90's and the quilt was a natural development of that. For head warmth, I use a long quilt and can bury myself in the quilt and this combined with a possum fur hat and a hoody adds warmth. I believe that a quilt combined with a hooded insulated jacket is the ideal combination.

  8. Juha Ylitalo says:

    Decision on whether you go for wood burning stove or not is of course yours to make, but at least personally, I would let the nature be as it is in Nordkalotten and restrict my cooking fuel to alcohol and/or gas.It takes ages for anything to grow up in those northern areas and when something dies, I rather let it slowly turn into soil than burn it up.

  9. Thanks Juha for your insightful comments, I have often wondered about the environmental impact of hiking gear, in particular manufacturing of the materials as well as the distance travelled before the gear gets to my front door. Your comments yet again highlight the impact we have even when we are adopting a LNT approach.

  10. Martin Rye says:

    Haven seen a 2C in action on a multi day trip I know what a fantastic shelter it is. The idea from the front pockets of your pack interests me. I remember Arren packs wear used by Chris Townsend on his Munro and tops walk. I have really seen them used in the UK. I believe the claim is due to correct posture and balance you use less energy etc and can save weight? Do you think that is true? Great write up on your kit Roger.

  11. Alan Sloman says:

    Hi RogerI like the idea of the bug mesh on the Warmlite's door – I spent an incredibly hot sweaty afternoon in the far NW of Scotland in my Wanda Warmlite 2C with clouds of midges for company outside – let me know how you do this? On another point why do you peg out the rear guys like you have in the photo? ()That's a bit weird!)All the best – still loving your blogAlan

  12. Hi Martin, I am happy to go along with the claim of better posture and balance for the Aarn packs, they work for me and in my view the ability to carry large weights comfortably is the big bonus. Apart from the obvious design features such as the front pockets, there is also the thought which has gone into the main pack structure. Such as the flexible frame and the mesh which makes the pack feel very comfortable even without the pockets, you could say it fits me like a glove. I will be writing more on this soon.Thanks Alan, you are very observant I was exploring the options in the tie outs and this was one. I will let you know on the developments of the door.

  13. i would like to do the nordkalottledencould i make a contact with you by email?thanks

  14. HiYou can contact me at northseatrail(at)hotmail(dot)com

  15. i would like to do the nordkalottledencould i make a contact with you by email?thanks

  16. Thanks harttj, I hope that the information provided will allow other hikers to make informed choices about gear.Tomas and Odyssee, the use of dyneema or velcro option may not be the ideal solution and it may be that a combination of elastic and velcro to allow for some movement in the balance pockets when hiking.Thanks Philip, the balance pockets are one of the bonuses of the pack as they allow immediate access to items, something I appreciate.Mark, I chose not to have the windows in the tent, there are small mesh vents above and below the door of the tent, however, I am exploring the notion of a netting door for those warm sunny mornings when there are bugs. It will add weight but will also allow flow through ventilation.Thanks Joe, I think that a shelter that can be enclosed (eg spinnshelter or pyramid) is the way to go up north when combined with an appropriate bug shelter. This is what I am exploring for 2011. Also I am eagerly awaiting your report on the use of the Spinntwinn (a great tarp in my view). Regarding stoves, I am planning a 3 week trip without supply so I need to reduce fuel carried whilst being able to cook within a sheltered environment such as a tent. I agree about the treble vest and will take a close look at them.Maz, I used a topbag (Macpac Neve) in the early 90's and the quilt was a natural development of that. For head warmth, I use a long quilt and can bury myself in the quilt and this combined with a possum fur hat and a hoody adds warmth. I believe that a quilt combined with a hooded insulated jacket is the ideal combination.

  17. Mark Alvarez says:

    Unless things have changed, the regular door on Stephenson tents does have bug netting. It's the bigger, zip-around entrance that doesn't. I've had both and I think I prefer the regular with netting, though the bigger one allows you the option of using it as a sort of awning, which can come in handy at times.Also, you can order side windows on the 2 and the 2c. They add a little weight, but give wonderful cross-ventilation…much cooler than just using the door.Great, great tent. Tremendous volume for weight. The 2 easily accommodates 2 (amazing!) and a child (really amazing!).

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