Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Gear That Worked and Gear That Didn't III

Plenty of old and trusted gear, mixed with some new gear, and also some mandatory and traditional pieces of gear, here's the packlist of my trip to Russia and my evaluation of it. Get ready for some Geartalk!

As in previous discussions in the article here, I use Skin-out as the boundary. That puts me 365 g over the Lightweight limit, OMG!

Backpack: A bigger version of the LAUFBURSCHE huckePACK, made from Dyneema X Grid. 49 l with up to 10 liters more, it was big enough to carry all my gear and ten days of food - comfortably! I had by far the smallest and most compact backpack, something I find, if walking off-trail in forests an enormous benefit - it means less whiplashes for the people behind me and less get tangled up in trees and shrubbery.

Shelter: The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo I Tarp & Beak were my home at night in Russia. Light and roomy and giving plenty of protection for me and my gear, it was a great shelter which will see more use in the coming months. Theoretically I wouldn't have needed the shelter at all, as it didn't rain - but then I already brought it, and just using a bivy might have been too "extreme" in terms of me using other gear than the rest of the group and standing out even more wasn't necessary. Detailed review forthcoming.

Sleeping: A MLD Alpine bivy with a Dyneema X Grid bottom and eVent 2L top, purchased from a BPL member, was the extra protection against wind and rain (well, moistness from underneath as it didn't rain). The decision for the MLD Alpine was made after reading how happy Dave was with his, as well as expecting more rain. The Exped Groundmat was a present from Jonas and I am glad I took it. The ground was moist and mossy at most campsites, so having a mat on which to lay out gear was welcome.

That I love quilts should be well known to the regular reader by now, and my GoLite Ultra 20 performed well yet again and kept me nice and warm. The Artiach Skin Micro-Lite was a new try on how comfy and warm self inflating pads can be, and I wasn't disappointed. A more detailed review will come in the future.

Kitchen: I carried the Bushcooker LT III as common gear for my food partner and me, but as we were able to make a fire each day it wasn't needed. The SnowPeak 1400 was perfect and will be my go-to pot for the coming months, offering plenty of space to melt snow and also to make bannock and pancakes. The Alpkit Lhoon is affordable and perfect for my type of cooking, and service from Alpkit is outstanding. A new drinking vessel is my Kupilka 21 kuksa, lighter than my wooden one and a bit bigger - just right for a cup of coffee or tea. A more detailed review on Kupilka crockery and cutlery is coming, so stay tuned.

Clothing - Worn: Woolpower for underneath. Rab Drillium pants as usual - I expected rain, remember? - though I switched to a Rab Demand Pull-On this time around. Splendid smock, it breaths fantastic, is light and the one pocket is much more to my liking than two. Detailed Review forthcoming.

Finisterre Zephyr Merino Boxer Shorts for that next-to-skin comfyness, warm, non-smelly, looks good. Wouldn't take anything else anymore when I go backpacking, be it one night or two weeks.

Inov-8 OROC 280 on my feet, perfect grip on any surface and so much lighter and more comfortable than the rubber boots the rest was wearing. Detailed review forthcoming.

SnowPeak 1400, Inov-8 OROC 280, Woolpower 200 socks.

MLD gaiters = great, Suunto Core = detailed review in the future, but I can say that I liked it a lot (first watch I'm wearing in twenty years!) and also the GG LT4s were excellent. Only one member of the group used trekking poles, and while I myself am only a recent convert I found them very beneficial. On super swamp day they allowed me to probe the ground, on summit day they made the climb up and down simpler, and in the evening they were used to pitch my tarp. I think they're a good investment for people with joint and back problems, as they seem (so others tell me) to take some of the stress of them. More on them in detail as well.

Clothing - Carried: Klättermusen Loke is awesome, detailed review coming after using it for over a year. The PLQ pants and pullover from Integral Designs were with me in case it would have got cold and also as wet weather insulation. I wore the PLQ pullover every day, the pants twice. If I would have known that it wouldn't rain I would not have taken either, as the Loke could have taken the duty. Extra socks were a recommendation, though taking both the 600 and 800 was overkill and the 600 would have been enough.

The MLD eVent rain mitts I yet have to wear when it rains. It seems they're my good weather charm, and if I need to carry 36 g for it to stay dry then that ain't too bad, me thinks. The Cyclone Buff is excellent and was worn during the summit day, where it was so windy that if I would have jumped up in the air I likely would have flown a couple of meters with the wind! Trekmates GoreTex socks for camp, as usual.

Photography: I carried a new test camera on this trip, sans spare battery - so all photos from this trip - nearly thousand - were taken with the Panasonic Lumix G2. I'll not lose much words on the camera now as I'll write a more detailed review on it in the future; though the photos already can give you an idea of it.

So, where should I go?

Various: Puukko as my trusted knife & also a mandatory item. Recta DT 220 compass, used twice: On the day I was guiding and on the last night, because it is easy to get lost in the dark if you camp on top of a ridge! Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe as mandatory group gear, a very nice axe which I used quite a few times. Sharp, well balanced and practical if you need to split wood for a fire or cut down a dead tree to make a pole for your tarp. Detailed Review forthcoming.

Suunto Comet, my small compass & thermometer, always handy but with the Recta compass and my Suunto Core maybe not necessary anymore. Baby powder was a last minute buy for footcare, in order to keep feet in good health after walking through swamps. As I used only 11 g in nine days the whole package was unnecessarily big, need to refill it for future trips in appropriate portions. The iPhone was dead weight, and I also had not enough time to read so both book and phone could have stayed in the car. Princeton Tec Remix headlamp was just perfect for this time of the year, the red light is so much more comfortable on the eyes when walking in the dark as it doesn't kill the natural night vision of the human eye (white light does).

Personal First Aid kit wasn't needed, also not the fixing stuff. Hygiene, I could have taken less soap (should have taken a Mini Dropper bottle!), everything else was ok. Maybe I should have cut my toothbrush shorter to safe some extra weight?

Conclusion: All gear worked excellent, though some was too much - I think I could have taken a few pieces less and still have been as comfortable as I was now. In comparison with the other students I think I was just as well-equipped and comfortable (if not better, oh my!), but given that I carried less weight on my back in a more compact pack I believe I had a better experience. Less weight means less stress on joints and back, it is easier to navigate in difficult terrain, one can carry less food and overall can enjoy the walking part more as ypu don't need to just watch your steps. Not being able to have a blazing fire in front of my cuben tarp was the only shortcoming of my UL gear, though I can life with that. So that was the Russia gear extravaganza. Comment away if you have questions, comments or observations =)

The Week in Review

Please take your seat, fasten your seatbelt and remain seated while we prepare for take-off. This is an lightweight flight, and we kindly remind you to not carry more than a ten kilogram baseweight.

Lets start with Nerd stuff this week. I still think Flattr is great, and I finally managed to install the dynamic buttons for each post. Very helpful was this Flattr plugin for blogspot guide so if you're on blogspot and want a Flattr button under each post, check it out. Oh yeah, and you're allowed to Flattr me as well =)

Sven from the Freiluft Blog tells us about re-impregnating your high-tech clothes while Philip the sectionhiker enlightens us on how to wash your down sleeping bag.

Angelo looks at Halkett boat, a forerunner of modern packrafts.

How about ultralight cycling?

Basti liks to keep it strictly simple when in the outdoors.

The Jolly Green Giant went camping with his three year old son, a very nice tradition in a beautiful area.

If the JGG inspired you to take your kids camping, have a look at Gustav's gear list for kids in the mountains, a recommended read for parents.

Perkunas, fellow blogger from Tampere, is writing about the first holiday ads appearing and the hassle which is about to start, and his gift suggestions are excellent (I want Grandfather's saw!)

Graham realized it is autumn!

Grannygear likes a cocoon with a roof when he sees a storm brewing up over a mountain. Who wouldn't?

Mark lets us know some tips on getting and staying Hill Fit.

Sam was backpacking the Spanish Peaks of the Madison Range

James went from on a backpack from Rhandirmwyn onwards.

The Husky Hiker delivers a trip report of his 13 mile Stratton Mountain hike.

Chris and his partner thru-hiked the Art Loeb trail.

Part 3 of PCT's Four to Doomsday has fantastic photos and is well written, so go have a look!

Rio went on a small walk through the Heide, showing that it not always needs to be a ten month expedition in a fa away country.

Sharkey went to Pen-Y-Ghent, passing by ruins, canyons and mountain tops.

Another kind of trip report is Steven's Skiddaw post, worth checking out if you plan to walk with others.

Sabine reached the big white ice on Greenland, and with ten days left she has an idea...

Don Karlo ran from Langedale to Pillar Rock in a day, with his mate, and a good 7500 ft of climbing.

Eth went to Marsco on the Isle of Skye, splendid weather and scenery to be seen.

Adam presents part three and four of his Video diary of Fastpacking the PCT.

Nibe went on a weekend walk from Zutphen to Olst in the Netherlands.

Beeston Regis to Cromer is Mike's trip report of a nice walk along the coast in the UK.

Roger went from Hörlinge gård to Vittsjö and the varied scenery is stunning in its autumn dress.

Royal Wulff visited heaven aka Owens Basin and West Mancos trails of the western La Plata range. Autumn glory, beautiful photos.

David wonders if he's still in London.

Blogger Zed does Beinn Bhan.

Finally, From Russia With Love is my much discussed trip report to the eastern neighbour of Finland, and you're well advised to check it out if you haven't yet.

Dave discusses the most sexy topic in backpacking.

Baz is having a first look at the Exped AirPillow.

Robin reviews the Lightwave Ultrahike and Fuizion Food.

Fraser is wondering which snowshoes to buy so please go and help him out, will ya?

Joe reviews the Ibex Indie hooded merino baselayer (with thumbloops).

MYOG folks, cottage manufacturers, take notice of Dave's treatise on pack design (Video).

The Shed Dweller muses on cooking gear.

Maz, on the other hand, think more about Winter and Alpine Hillwalking and Mountaineering Kit.

Food, an important part of any backpacking trip. Food For Thought is my detailed Menu of the trip to Russia, including my Müsli recipe (in the comments!).

Another take on lightweight and cheap backpacking food is found on Wood Trekkers blog, always good to see different options so have a look.

Alastair Humphreys' Iceland kit list is interesting, even if it doesn't include weights.

Food for Thought II

The food plan was one of the tasks which the planning group needed to carry out. We got a suggestion of meals, complete with calorie values et al. and it was aimed at a budget of about 6€/ day. I followed it only in part (we had two mandatory meals for the rest days, Borscht soup and Chili), but for the most part I sticked what I knew worked for me. The calorie recommendation was 3500 kcal/ day, which is far too much for me (I'm 175 cm tall, about 64 kg light) - especially given that we only walked between four and eight kilometers a day. Here's the food I took on the trip:

Ten days menu.

The food was more than enough, I actually had at the end 1731 g over (that includes the spare day of 604 g) and on the trail was dealing out snacks to classmates. Let me tell you what was good and what wasn't:

Breakfast; own Müsli vs TravelLunch Müsli. My own mixed Müsli wins, hands down. Not only in respect to taste, but also in calories. The TravelLunch Energy Müsli is terrible, I threw away most of it as I couldn't get it down. The Choco müsli was better, but still far away from my own creation. So own müsli in the future. Starbucks Via, which Phil bought for me, was my morning & lunch coffee. Very tasty stuff, super lightweight (a satchel is what, two or three grams?) and oh so convenient. Will need to order more for upcoming trips! The Bannock was good, the Travellunch egg powder wasn't. I'll try more Bannock in the future, especially on rest days a nice start into the day, easy and tasty.

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The whole days meal packed up.

Lunch: Ramen vs own Spaghetti: I dehydrated ready-made spaghetti sauce, one pot Arabica and one pot Gorgonzola, which was enough for six meals. I used Corn and Full grain spaghettis, broken into smaller sizes to fit in a Ziplock bag, where I added salt. Now, the Ramen noodles are fast and easy and have decent calorie values, but I much preferred my own creation, even if it took longer to prepare them. Instead of the recommended 1 l of water for 100 g of spaghetti, I only used about 300 ml and poured the whole content of a Ziploc bag in my pot and had it boil/ simmer for ten minutes, until the noodles were al dente. I then ate it as it was, without pouring away any water, which was super tasty. This was inspired by Ray Jardine, and it worked great. I think I might still use Ramen in the future, but my own spaghetti creation definitely will become a staple.

Blueberries and Lingonberries, a healthy and tasty addition to my diet on the trail.

Dinners: I was waiting for an order from Outdoor Foodshop, but because I was late it didn't arrive in time. So it was TravelLunch this trip, as my local outdoor shop decided to take Real Turmat out of the programme (bloody morons, those folks - taking the best meal out of the line-up, wtf?). I love the convenience of pouring boiling water in a bag, let it sit for five to ten minutes and ten munch without needing to do the dishes - that's perfect & simple. The meals all were tasty, my favourite is definitely the Peasoup, it is less a soup and more a potato mash with veggies, but I really love it. The other meals all were fine, the Meatballs was a 2-Person portion and was a bit too much for me, but otherwise good. But definitely looking forward to trying the meals from the Outdoor Foodshop on the next trips!

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Snacks: Energy Oatsnacks rock! Super, super tasty and so much energy, these are a staple for me already. Many different tastes, from Yoghurt-Strawberry over Latte Macchiato to Cherry-Cocoa, I find them all very delicious and they have plenty of energy for their weight (67 g including packaging).

I found a new version of Sesame snacks, which come in plain, coconut and chocolate, the latter two are excellent and I never get tired of them, these are a staple on each trip. Add in a bag of Van Houten Chocolate as a night cap, and that rounds out my Menu.

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The mandatory meals we split up, me doing the Borscht and my food partner doing the Chili. Both were tasty, and not that much more heavy as a freeze-dried meal (I think the Borscht, which I carried, came down to about 180 g/ person and that was a massive portion). The Soya meal which I made on the first night was tasty as well, but with a preparation time of close to 45 minutes it takes far too long - something for rest days, maybe?

Add in the berries I found - Cranberries, Blueberries and Lingonberries - and which were consumed en route, it was a good and tasty trip. I remember walking the Karhunkierros back in 2008, with nothing but Supermarket Pasta meals for dinner, and they came out of my ears already on the third evening - dinner and lunch wasn't something we looked forward to, so in my opinion a healthy and tasty menu makes the outdoor experience much more worthwhile!

So this was my Russian diet. Fairly lightweight for an autumn expedition, I think - it could have been a bit lighter, but I ate very well and looked forward to each meal every day, which is a good sign in my opinion, thus I didn't mind the bit of extra weight (parmesan & olive oil). In future I might try, even if I like them a lot, a trip without snacks and only with nuts & dried fruits. Figuring out what is the right amount will then be paramount, I tend towards 75g/ day at the moment for spring till autumn, and around 125 g for winter? Also, dehydrating and mixing your own meals, while a bit of extra work, saves money and is good fun. With a dehydrator at my dispossable, I definitly will make good use of it for the next couple of trips.