The new Fusion packs — 50 litres and 65 litres.
Finally, Six Moon Designs have released details of the new Fusion packs that have been co-designed by Ron Moak and Brian Frankle (the fonder of ULA Equipment).
I’ve been waiting for this launch for a while not least because both Ron and Brian have proved to be innovators in the design of lightweight backpacking gear.
These packs do seem to be genuinely innovative in their design. Ron tells me:
Their primary advantage is that they can be used without needing to factor in total pack weight when purchasing a pack. Our belief is that if the gear fits, the pack should be able carry it comfortably. This is accomplished by an advanced suspension system that can comfortably transfer a significant amount of weight to your hips. Even with the suspension, the pack is just under a kilo in weight.
There is a slightly different philosophy going on here. Ron and Brian are still concerned about the wight of their products but with the Fusion packs an equal premium seems to being placed on comfort. Long distance backpackers need to be able to walk for ten to twelve hours every day and comfort is key. After resupply a pack can be heavy, my current lightweight packs will accommodate a heavy supply load but I do look forward to the time when I have eaten a few days of food and have lightened the load!
Back to Ron:
Early in the design of the Fusion, we committed ourselves to remove weight as a factor in pack selection. This means that if you can get your gear into the pack, it should ride comfortably. No matter what! This meant designing a structure that was only marginally heavier than those already in use and support up to 5 time the weight. All without degrading the pack.
Central to the design is a new shoulder yoke and a newly designed hip belt, both of which are designed for comfort and the effective transfer of weight to the hips.
These packs are certainly different and I recommend you take a look at Ron’s blog post that describes the new packs in detail.
So, these are heavier than many backpacking packs but they are designed to carry real loads — we are not talking about weekend trips here but more demanding through hikes. It is worth checking out the philosophy of the back stay and also the system for adjusting back length.
I’m not sure when you are going to be able order these packs as they are not yet featured in the Six Moon online store, but I guess their arrival is imminent.
It’s not often we see real innovation in lightweight gear and there seems to have been a lot of imagination and thought let loose on this product.
It will be interesting to see the real world reviews as they begin to come in!
Routebuddy’s new Coast to Coast Challenge Map utilises the company’s unique screen ‘stitching’ technology to reduce a new map and add-ons that will be useful to anyone planning a coast-to-coast walk across the Scottish Highlands.
On this occasion I thought it would be more useful to you if I produced a video review, as you really have to see it in action to appreciate what this system can do. The review is in html format and should be viewable by all up-to-daye systems including tablets.
The 1:50K base map is available at a reasonable £19.99.
In addition, Routebuddy has created a number of specific 1:25 add-ons which stitch into the base map. These range in price depending on the ground covered. They start at £4.99 for part of the Torridon hills to £25 for the Cairngorms — good value for money.
Any other Routebuddy map can stitch into the base map and this review also displays a Harvey/BMC 1:40 working with the base map.
Not only can you view stitched maps on the same screen but you can print out the stitched maps on the same sheet of paper.
As we approach winter I know that a lot of hikers begin to reappraise their kit and think about new purchases for the winter or the spring. I’ve had a lot of interest in the Exodus pack. I’ve reviewed it before — Review: Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 2011 Backpack — but this ha the benefit of prolonged use.
I’ve also written this as an introduction to lightweight packs and their use in UK or cooler climate conditions.
From the world of books you could easily get the impression that treks and trail walking are things of great extremes, undertaken by athletes who suffer significantly for their art! But, of course, it does not have to be like that and the mere mortals amongst us can still enjoy the thrill of a trek albeit one that is measured in weeks rather than months, where camping is often on campsites or where gites or B&Bs are used frequently.
New technology and the internet has made small run publishing — or self publishing — very popular over the last few years. I have reviewed a number of self published books in these pages, books that I have very much enjoyed reading. At the bottom of each review I include an Amazon link. This link allows you the reader to quickly check out other reviews and, if you choose to order the book via this route, I can see how many have been sold. By far the most ordered book from this site using the Amazon system is a self published book. These books fill a real niche somewhere between a travelogue and a conventional guidebook; they can give us a good idea of life on a particular trail.
Every Day Above a New Horizon is another successful self published book which centres around a walk on the Stephenson Trail in France. A few weeks ago I reviewed Max Landsberg’s A Call of the Mountains a book which described the project of a Munro bagger; Max’s book while having a strong narrative also gave many hints and tips that will be useful to those beginning to Munro bag. In this book John Davison does much the same thing for trail walking combining a strong narrative with quite a lot of useful information about wild camping, treating water and so on.
Like John I have had the Stephenson Trail on my list of to do walks for years. The Trail has been developed to commemorate the walk undertaken by Robert Louis Stephenson from the Massif Central to the South of the Cevennes just above the Mediterranean. Stephenson wrote a short book about his trip. Travels in the Cevennes with a Donkey is often considered to be the first modern travel book.
My problem with this trail is that I never seem to be able to find the time to slip this walk into my annual schedule. I have the route planned almost completely but there it sits until, well, one day …
I was pleased to read that John has had the same experience. He too harboured the dream of walking this trail for many years. He even carried around some text from Stephenson as a poster which sat on his office wall. It sat on a number of different walls over the years before he found the time and space to walk the trail.
So, Every Day Above a New Horizon, not only focus on this walk but on those trail expeditions that led up to it. In building up to the Stephenson Trail John walked and backpacked in Derbyshire, Wiltshire and in the Highlands. He then graduated to longer trails including the West highland Way, the Great Glen Way and the East Highland Way before moving on to tackle the big one.
The really great thing about this book is that John writes well. He has a sparse and simple style and is successful in avoiding the flowery language we get from many inexperienced writers. He has a nice gentle sense of humour and a keen eye for important detail. Anyone who has regularly trailed walked will recognise many of the experiences and characters that are encountered along way. There’s the gear bore who carries massive weights and dominates every meeting at a campsite. There are walking companions who value the pubs along the route more keenly than they do the landscape and who sometimes hail down a taxi and thumb a life to get from one place to the other. There are hotels and B&Bs who, faced with a smelly and muddy trekker, suddenly decide that they are full. And there are honest pieces about the horrible nature of the early stages of the West Highland Way which is often more reminiscent of a rubbish dump than of a national trail. I agree with John’s observation that the decision to ban camping in the Loch Lomond area has been a disaster as it simply encourages improvised bivouacs which leave behind tons of debris.
The Stephenson Trail takes up the second half of a book. For me, this gives a pretty open and honest account of a first time excursion on a French Trail, including that rather touchy issue of the French and their dogs!
The Stephenson Trail is not a particularly difficult trail in itself although some of the days are long. However, John makes it clear that UK walkers need to respect the upland areas many of which are higher than any territory in the UK and which can (often) be subject to pretty dreadful weather conditions. Although this is a trail that can be broken with very comfortable evenings in lovely villages it is one which needs to be prepared for properly.
I enjoyed reading this book. It had the right air of authenticity to it. As I’ve already mentioned John writes well and this is an easy book to digest; I read it in two sessions over a Sunday afternoon and earl evening.
If you are thinking of tackling one of these trails for the first time I think you would find this book useful. If you have a lot of experience of trail walking then there is also a lot to enjoy.
I think this is only available in paper cover at the moment, but it is easily bought through Amazon.
Pieces on urban walking here always receive a lot of interest. During March Birmingham’s Still Walking Festival will be hosting a whole series of walks that allow you the opportunity to explore the city in a unique way.
During 7 days in March, 7 walks will present a week long programme of brand new walks around the city. This time Still Walking has programmed one walk a day to allow a bit of breathing space but also to offer an active alternative to time lost in after-work traffic jams. Discover a new side to the city before sundown then join Still Walking for restful refreshments!
The Still Walking outlook is that there’s a lot to discover in the city and guided tours are a great way to do this. Our programmes highlight the many layers of the city and just how differently people see their surroundings. Still Walking guides are often new to guiding – knowing your onions is what really counts.
Once again, artists rub up against urban designers, geologists, poets and more.
The full programme can be found here:
We now come to, arguably, the trickiest post in this series, the one dealing with mainstream clothing. On five of my six Challenges I have relied on Paramo systems but next time I shall probably be moving back to a more conventional layer system although I have some mainstream pieces of gear to buy, like a new jacket. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the different systems.
First of all, we need to consider that Scottish weather. The old joke that you can experience each of the four seasons in one day in the Highlands is, in reality, no joke. During the two weeks of the TGO Challenge you can experience a wider range of weather conditions including horrendous storms, snow, ice, freezing conditions. The evenings can be bitterly cold but can also be warm and balmy. It is not unusual to start off in the North West in horrible conditions but to approach the East coast in the middle of a heatwave! Most Challengers will want to be able to cope with these extremes but will not want to carry too much unnecessary weight in their packs.
Paramo on the Challenge
Use Paramo carefully and thoughtfully and it can be part of a lightweight kit list. On my first Challenge I made use of the Paramo Velez jacket to avoid bringing a mid layer with me. This worked well until I got into a cafe or pub when I found I was too cold with the jacket off and too warm with it on!
The Paramo Third Element jacket (840 grams) solved this problem using its Heath Robinson system of removable arms and hood; in civilisation the jacket simply transformed into a simple sleeveless waistcoat. I was happy using this for five or so years but the jacket has now begun to wear and I am slightly nervous on relying on so many old zips. Alas, the Third Element is no longer in mainstream production although look on eBay and you can see new garments sometimes available for purchase.
On my last Challenge, the foul weather of 2012, took its toll. For the first time I felt I was not warm enough on a couple of days. Was I to use this system again I would take a lightweight mid layer to give myself a bit more protection. Fellow Challenger Shap McDonnell used the same system and he coped by wearing the ridiculously lightweight Montane wind shirt underneath his Third Element; he told me that this system worked well.
But my biggest problem with this system was that I found that the lightweight Velez trousers (370 grams) couldn’t cope with the full on wind and rain. Look elsewhere on this blog and you will see that I also have problems with the durability of the lightweight Paramo outer material.
Plenty of Challengers rely on Paramo, usually the more hard core full weight garments but these I find to be too heavy and uncomfortable for two weeks walking — especially the Cascada trousers.
If you are using Paramo make sure you have some kind of extra coverage for very cold and windy weather.
My layer system is built on a number of pieces of gear that I have used for eight or nine years. My Montane Quickfire jacket was superb in its day; it is made of eVent and weighs only 340 grams (XL). Sadly, this jacket is now beginning to show signs of wear and is, possibly, no longer water-tight! I have yet to decide what to replace it with but I shall probably stay with eVent — the silly money being charged for new fabric garments should not be encouraged!
The Montane Featherlite Windshirt mentioned above is also an excellent and inexpensive piece of kit and mine (XL) weighs only 100 grams. There are many days in the Highlands when this is all you need over a mid layer to make walking up high comfortable.
My walking trousers are Vertec trousers from Jack Wolfskin. These are well made, have breathable stretchy panels in them and are very comfortable. At 380 grams they are also pretty light. Interestingly, these are 10 grams heavier than my Paramo two layer Velex trousers — this is perhaps why the Velex trousers are not so hot in driving wind!
Waterproof over-trousers are needed in Scotland even if you spend most of your time with them stashed in your pack. You can pay ridiculous money for over-trousers. When I bought a new pair a couple of years ago I settled on Berghaus Paclite trousers at 250 grams (XL). These may not gestate-of-the-art but they are fully waterproof and windproof and as breathable as you would ever need. They pack down into a tiny stuff sack and are easily tough enough for Scotland.
This is the tricky one and my fink choice may well depend on the weather forecast in the days running up to the start of the event.
Last August, on a trip to the Cairngorms, I relied on my Rab Vapour Rise mid layer (345 grams). This is a versatile mid layer which is made out of recycled Equilibrium fabric. The Vapour Rise can cope with quite a lot of gentle drizzle or rain. It has a well designed, built-in On the inside of the garment you will find a thin layer of fleece insulation which gives just a little bit of extra heat although not enough to over-heat you as you work hard.
During that visit the winds on the Munro tops were vicious and on a couple of days I found myself wearing the Vapour Rise, the wind shirt and the outer shell jacket just to keep warm.
One other option these days may be to use one of the new jackets that are made our of the new Polartec Alpha material. Chris Townsend reckons this is the first synthetic insulation material that breathes well enough to be worn while climbing or working hard. The Rab Strata jacket took the plaudits at the last TGO Awards.
However, for colder weather trips over the last few years I have gone back to wool, more specifically the merino/possum blend offered by Chocolate Fish. This is a little heavier of 640 grams but my is this a superb piece of kit. Possum wool provides the best natural fibre heat/weight ratio. The jumper is comfortable, warm and can cope with a surprising amount of water and wind. And, when things are getting a bit damp the natural fibres will dry out far more quickly than synthetic materials. Of course, being merino and possum wool means that the jumper is very anti pong — which can help!
I’ve worn the Chocolate Fish jumper on two trips to the Highlands, a November trip to the Monaliadth and last autumn’s coast to coast jaunt. I just love this and anyone else I know who has walked in Chocci Fish’s merino/possum garments is just as envagelical about them as I am.
I find buying gloves to be a real problem. I want gloves that are not too heavy, that are stretchy and that dry out quickly. I have had many pairs of gloves that work well most o the year but simply cannot cope with two weeks in Scotland; once you get water inside of them you can never dry them out and they become cold to wear.
The Rab Pertex Equilibrium gloves that I discovered a couple of years ago seem to have gotten over all these problems. They protect from the wind and rain and are not too warm —I find I quickly end up taking my gloves off as I get going in the mornings. Most importantly, these gloves are still easy to put on when wet and they dry out quickly, especially as you walk. The palm of the hands are protected by a synthetic leather-like material which protects gloves from walking poles. I did wonder how tough these would be but they have lasted me quite happily for two years now.
You need hats in Scotland, and generally more than one on the Challenge.
My Merino wool beanie hat from Chocplate Fish gives me just the right amount of warmth in camp and also when worn on cold days. There are. of course, other brands of merino hats and they are all good. I like the breathability of the natural fabrics.
A good wind hat is also recommended. I rely on my ancient Paramo Mountain Hat which is not too hot but which protects my ears and deals well with condensation. Mine is a little worn now but is still probably good for another Challenge.
And then you may well need a sun hat, particularly in the last week. I rely on my trusty Tilly Hat (188 grams). This copes with sun and cold equally well. I simply do not leave home without it!
Knowing How Warm You Run
When considering your layers remember there is no right or wrong kit list to take. A lot depends on how warm you run. Generally I run reasonably warm and don’t want too much heat. I do though feel the cold and I’ve found that, perhaps, my most reliable piece of kit is that Montane Windshirt.
I’ll let you know what I finally chose as my replacement jacket.
Gift Your Gear is one of the most positive outdoor industry initiatives that we have seen for some time. Gift Your Gear enables unwanted outdoor gear to be used by organisations encouraging the next generation, especially youngsters, to get outdoors.
Founded by Sarah Howcroft, Gift Your Gear was set up to encourage people to donate unwanted outdoor gear want or need. Sarah, stresses the importance of reusing outdoor gear that still has plenty of life left in it, “Most outdoor gear will last much longer than we want or need it too, its full potential is never realised”.
Children and young people need to get outdoors for their physical, and emotional well-being. The ability to pay for outdoor clothing and equipment is often cited as a reason for non-participation. It’s hard to enjoy your early experiences in the outdoors when you’re cold, wet and uncomfortable. Having the right clothing and equipment helps to ensure that outdoor experiences are safe and enjoyable.
During March you can take any of your unused gear to any Rohan Shop and donate it to Gift Your Gear — they will accept any brand and are just as keen on children’s clothing as adult gear.
As TGO Editor Emily Rodway said at the TGO Awards:
“The judging panel were unanimous in their decision to create a special award for Sarah Howcroft’s Gift Your Gear project which we feel has great potential as an initiative that encourages sustainability and enables young people to get out into the great outdoors”.
Spread the Word and Make it Happen
There are lots of ways to help promote Gift Your Gear – download our posters and flyers and put them up in your local area.
Get Gift Your Gear in the local media contact your local press, radio, tv and websites with a press release.
Use online social media like Facebook and Twitter to help spread the word. Get a well know local personality on board to help create a buzz. Don’t underestimate the importance of friends and family when it comes to spreading the word.
Download a poster or press release help to promote Gift Your Gear in your local area.
Gift Your Gear Press Release
Born to be worn not stitched to be ditched. Gift Your Gear help spread the word!
Gift Your Gear A4 Poster
Use GYG posters to help promote Gift Your Gear print and put it up in your gym, office, playgroup, school or local shops and help spread the word!
Time to consider all things feet and walking.
Let’s start with the most controversial issue for many — the trail shoe!
I started wearing trail shoes just before my first ever TGO Challenge and I haven’t gone back to boots since. If you are working in fields or in woodland/forest you probably want boots, but when you are skipping across moorland, slashing through bogs or nipping up mountain paths then trail shoes excel.
With trail shoes I don’t have to worry about getting wet feet. The shoes are designed to let the water in but, of course, they are designed to let it out just as easily. Wet feet soon dry out and unlike boots — no water gets trapped inside — there is far less a chance of getting blisters. The most popular trail shoes for hiking also have flexible soles. This might seem a little odd but I feel safer when I can feel the stony path through my shoes.
When I first got interested in trail shoes I emailed Chris Townsend. He told me he felt safer walking in lighter trail shoes and you know what — I think he was right. When you are wearing a boot, said Chris, and that boot goes into a divot your foot/ankle basically goes where your boot goes. In a flexible trail shoe you have more control. I have lost count of the times I have nearly gone over on my ankles but have been able to pull out of a fall. In big heavy boots I’d have certainly have hit the floor.
My trail shoes are Inov-8 Terrocs. The shoe has been redesigned over the last year or so and i’ve yet to try a new pair. My favourite Terrocs weigh just 750 grams and they shed water fast. The Terrocs pretty much set the all-round trail shoe standard for a long time. Now there are lots of alternatives but if you are considering a pair of trail shoes just ask yourself how quickly will they shed water? NEVER EVER buy trail shoes with Gore Tex linings — that way the water just gets stuck in the shoe.
The water thing is probably the biggest advantage of the trail shoe on the Challenge. When you come to a river you can laugh in the face of the old farts who are sitting on the bank of the river or stream, taking off their boots and donning their crocs. Us trail shoe people simply plough on through with no loss of momentum.
I find that, at the end of a hard day, my feet recover more quickly when I have been wearing trail shoes.
If this sounds a little too extreme for you then just buy a good but light pair of boots. If you are tempted but still not sure, buy a pair of trail shoes for simple day hikes and try them out. And when people try and tell you that these have no place in the backpacking world ask yourself, have these people ever tried them? Most of those who complain about lightweight gear have never tried it I have discovered!
For water permeable trail shoes I have found X Socks Trekking Lite socks to be the best match. Although synthetic these breathe wonderfully and at 53 grams a pair they are pretty light. They wash out easily and can be put on when wet — your feet soon dry as you begin to walk. You can, of course, use your favourite merino blend socks successfully with trail shoes.
I carry two other pairs of socks with me.
Firstly, I carry a pair of Smartwool merino light hiker socks (70 grams). These are warmer than the X socks and can be useful on the very few occasions when I’ve wanted a little more warmth. On the whole I use these as a spare pair or socks to wear in civilisation. But one of the keys to successful lightweight backpacking is versatility and on these grounds alone there is a place in my pack for these socks.
I also carry a pair of Sealskinz waterproof socks. I was puzzled when I bought these as I fund them to be horrible to walk in. They also provide your feet with little natural warmth. However, they come into their own as camp socks. When I stop and make camp I put these on and then put my wet trails shoes on over the top. As I mentioned before I can also slip them on over down socks which allows me to wear these outside with a little care. In civilisation I also wear them to the cafe or the put when my trail shoes are still wet. The Sealskinz weigh about the same as a pair of merino wool socks.
These can be useful with trail shoes as they can help keep small stones and sand out of your shoes. Inov-8’s own short gaiter are effective and only weight 50 grams — they do wet out and keep wet though. These days I tend to use Rab’s shorty Gaiter which weigh 70 grams — and still weight 70 grams in the wet! To use these mini gaiters effectively you need to arrange the stretch chord on them so that you have two loops through which to put your feet. One loop goes underneath the front of your shoe and the other under the heel area of your shoe — this will give you tight and waterproof fit. All of these gaiters are fragile and the biggest problem with them is the breaking of this stretchy chord. I use bungee chord for mine and carry a spare length in my pack. I have never been able to get through two weeks of hiking without breaking one of these chords but I’m probably a bit ham-fisted.
I am an avid user of walking poles. If you are not your are probably young. And fit. And strong. Poles really do take the strain off the knees, particularly when engaged in steep descents. Pacer poles work in a different way toothed poles. Some people swear by them and others deny their social qualities. I swear by them. Pacer do produce a version of their poles in carbon but I use the aluminium poles as I have to rely on them to hold up my shelter. Carbon poles can break — particularly in cold weather. My Pacers weigh 500 grams for the pair.
No I haven’t gone mad. It is worth pampering those feet of yours while on a trek. I use two creams from backpacking light.co.uk. The first is a barrier cream that you apply in the morning. This keeps the feet protected and fresh while you walk and —I believe — adds a little warmth in the process. In the evening I apply a Refresher cream. This is lanolin rich and sheer, sheer, luxury; it certainly regenerates those feet quickly. The range that bob and Rose sell also has an all purpose cream that you can use in the morning or at night but you really will want to treat yourself to some refresher cream.
So, that’s it in the feet department. No spare pair of shoes or sandals — with trail shoes you don’t need the weight. But the versatility of those three pairs of socks is useful.
Next, I shall move on to the tricky subject of clothes and waterproofs.
For this second post I will be taking a look at camping ‘kitchen’ equipment. There are many, many, different routes to go down when it comes to stoves, pots and so on and much is a personal preference. As the years role by I find myself preferring simple technology that is robust, easy to use and which doesn’t malfunction in the field.
I gave up using canister stoves some years ago and now prefer to use alcohol, esbits or — when I can — a real fire. To be fair canister stoves have come a long way in recent years especially since Jetfoil began to roll out their heat exchange technology. The Jetboil is a great piece of kit but …
Last summer I was stravaiging around the Cairngorms with Alan Callow. Alan had a Jetfoil with him. The weather was cold and the wind bitter. We sought protection in the shelter at the top of Ben MacDui. Alan whipped out his Jetboil and I couldn’t have been anything but impressed at the boil speed he obtained. Suitably rested and warmed we dropped down the hill until we found the highest possible camp spot below the summit and then we made camp. It was only an hour or so later but Alan’s Jetboil decided to give up the ghost. This struck me as more than a little annoying. If we had been camping in the cooler months I guess Alan would have been really pissed off. While this hi tec stuff really does deliver the goods it all strikes me as too fragile for me these days.
I prefer to use a simple alcohol stove with now moving parts and nothing that I can break as I crash around my tent or campsite. Alcohol takes a little time to warm ager you have made camp but I can honestly say that I have never found the short weight that frustrating. It’s quite easy to warm you fuel bottle by placing it under your arm pit or by stashing it in the pocket of a down jacket. Alcohol is also pretty cheap and many of the new stoves are very economical although in the cold Highlands I am looking for effectiveness rather than pure efficiency. There is nothing to break with an alcohol stove and the whole arrangement is rather more environmentally friendly than a canister stove.
On my last solo challenge I was happy to use a Caldera Cone beer can burner in my Honey Stove. I had my pot suspended by pegs so that the base was below the top of the Honey Stove and I found this arrangement to be just as fuel efficient as using the dedicated Caldera Cone windshield. The advantage of the Honey Stove as a windshield is that it can be easily used as a wood burner if the conditions are right. However, I was only able to burn wood on my last wild camp and at the campsite at Montrose.
Last autumn Kate and I relied on a grid and tested base system from Caldera Cone. This is the system where you buy the appropriate windshield for your pot — each windshield is cut to provide a perfect fit for the rim of your pot. I have happily used Caldera systems for years now. The system is simple and almost foolproof. The kit comes with an almost weightless beer can stove and an even lighter stove (if you can call it that) for solid fuel tablets (12 grams). The only downside of this system is that the windshield has to be protected in a rather big plastic tube — an example of the volume issue I mentioned last time out. I have two of these systems, a solo version designed to work with my Mountain Laurel pot (100 grams), and a dual pot version which works with an MSR 1.5 litre pot (158 grams).
On that autumn trip I replaced with Caldera burner with the titanium Evernew burner. This is twice the weight of the Caldera beer can stove but at 35 grams I’m really not going to complain that much! The Evernew is a great design. Two rows of jets really pump out a lot of heat and as a result this is a very fast boiling piece of kit for an alcoholic stove. It’s not cheap the Evernew but is built like a tank and should last a lifetime. The Evernew is also not as fuel efficient as some alcohol stoves but then it is efficient enough; on cold Scottish nights I am looking for speed and effectiveness over pure efficiency.
The basic Caldera Cone kits may be bulky in your pack but they are not heavy. The system for my MLD solo pot weighs 137 grams and that for my MSR pot 175 grams. The Cone systems tend to have to be imported but they are pretty affordable. The downside to them is that they have limited durability. My solo pot shield is beginning to fail now and can slip, which is a bit of a problem when you are boiling water in a vestibule!
Caldera’s design has moved on quite a bit since I bought my system. The new sidewinder system is designed so that it can wind up and be stored in a pot which obviously saves space. You can buy several options for turning the system into a wood burner. The system works very well and is very popular. I do think it is expensive though.
When I’m looking to use a multi fuel option I prefer to couple the Evernew with the Titanium Honey Stove from backpackinglight.co.uk. The Ti HS is very light and packs down flat which is very handy for your pack. I also think it is a better wood burner than the Caldera system.
Which system will I take on the Challenge? I think this depends on the weather forecast! If it looks as if we will get some dry weather I will take the Evernew and the Honey Stove. If the weather looks horrendous I’ll do what I did in the autumn and take the Caldera system as a shield to the Evernew.
I’ve already mentioned the MSR 1.5 litre pot which weighs 158 grams. This is the only pot we carry — you don’t need two! When camping solo I often just rely on a pot but when we walk as a pair I allow myself the luxury of a titanium mug from MSR (60 grams). We both carry plastic fold-up plates, Japanese designed and which can adapt to different shapes — kind of origami like. These plates are great and weigh only a few grams each. They pack flat so they can be slipped easily into your pack. These are widely available although I think the design has changed to avoid the use of poppers. I have a mug from this system which simply uses folded, intersecting, tabs to work — but I can never assemble it properly! Maybe a simply plastic plate would be a better option.
For cutlery I either use a folding titanium spork (20 grams) or a plastic spork and fork combined which is about the same weight.
I use an old fire steel to light my fuel. This weighs 30 grams although I have removed the striker which is pretty useless. I strike the steel using the blade of my swiss army knife (119 grams). I keep the fire steel attached to my removable pot handle by a piece of Dyneema chord so I that I don’t loose it!
An essential for me. The MSR Coffee mate weighs 19 grams and simply sits inside the titanium mug.
I use an old Platypus carrier (58 grams) with two handles at the top. This has taken some real wear so much so that the outer laminated layer is flaking off. This only carries the printed label on the carrier and doesn’t seem to stop it being water-tight. This will hold a couple of litres — enough for the evening and the morning. I find this to be something of an essential in Scotland as often I don’t want to be nipping out of the tent for more water!
When walking in Scotland there is no real need for expensive water purification systems as Guardia virus has not made its way here yet. I am happy carrying a simple litre mineral water bottle; these may be light but they are very strong! Otherwise, I have used a Travel Tap (103 grams) from backpackiglight.co.uk which has an optional/removable filter (77 grams). This year Kate will carry one of these. I shall probably invest in a Sawyer mini filter which will fit the screw thread of a mineral water bottle.
There’s not much more to it all than that. The decision as to whether you use canister of alcohol stoves is a matter of personal choice. The Jetboil-type stoves are very expensive and the tiny alcohol stoves can be very cheap. Personally, I just think the Jetboils are too expensive — as goods they are.
Your choice of Kitchen equipment is one of those areas where with a bit of ruthlessness you can save a lot of weight. Titanium pots and mugs are a good investment as they will last a lifetime. You only need one pot. Sporks and plastic plates are not only very light but durable.