Sunday, 15 July 2007

Kit Review

There will be those out there in the ether who will want to know how the kit coped with a long journey, so this posting is for you! This section covers gear carried. I will deal with gear worn in another post.

Kit is a very personal thing - some go for ultra lightweight solutions, then there are the lightweights and then the chaps who just stuff it in the sack because they want it and if it weighs a lot then no matter, they'll just carry it.

I am not sure where I fit in these categories.

Rucksack Choice:
I decided that it would be a jolly good idea to carry a light a load as possible, whilst not scrimping on the comfort. I deliberately chose a small capacity rucksack so that I could not fall into the trap of the third category, so went for an Osprey Atmos 53 litre pack. It weighs about 1.5 kg - so moderately light but not the lightest possible by a long way. I was particularly attracted to it as it was incredibly well made, thoughtfully designed with its pocket arrangements and came in grey and black - my colour scheme of choice! It has a very comfortable back system that ensures your back never gets wet and sweaty - a wonderful design.

Verdict: Under normal loads on the walk it performed really well and was very comfortable. However, when loaded up with six days of food, the hip belt wasn't up to it and so a lot of load was taken on the shoulders and the harness is not designed for it. However, this only happened on two or three occasions and so I stuffed a buff under the straps and it was comfortable. I would give the pack "Nine out of Ten - excellent!"

Tent Choice:
I went with a Stephensons Warmlite 2C tent; all up weight in its bag after seam-sealing at 1205 grams. (you needed to know about those 5 last grams, didn't you?) This was an inspired choice. I had not seen one before and my previous tent of 12 years was a Hilleberg Akto at 1570 grams. I loved my Akto, but there was not a lot of room in it with all the kit and I needed room to sit and blog. Wanda was an absolute star - outperforming the Akto in every respect - Bomb-proof stability, lots of room and 365 grams lighter.

Verdict: Excellent in every respect: Ten out of ten.

Sleeping Bag:
I chose a custom designed job from PHD. I went with a full length zip, quantum outer with a dri-shell coating 450 grams of 800+ fill power down, shoulder baffles. It weighed in at 970 grams in its stuff sac.

Verdict: Excellent - I needed the dri-shell coating as I was camping for long periods in Scotland and could not afford a damp bag. 10/10 - Excellent.

There are those out there who would scratch their heads at this item - and this is where i departed from the lightweight brigade: In the past I have owned a number of Thermarests - and have never ever found them comfortable. Now, on a walk of a week or so perhaps this is okay - but for a big one like this I decided I needed some comfort, as a succession of poor nights sleep would eventually have taken its toll and I needed as much quality rest as possible on this walk. I went with an Exped 7 Down mattress, weighing in at about 900 grams.

Verdict: Yes, very heavy, I know, but superbly comfortable. A little tricky to pump up in the tent, but well worth the effort. When the first mattress developed a problem (one of the internal walls split away from the outer cover, Lyon Equipment immediately arranged for a new one to be sent to me - superb customer service.) I have to give this bit of kit two ratings: Performance ;10/10, and weight; 5/10

A Peak Ignition Titanium stove bought from 116grams in its case. It has its own Pietzo igniter and it never missed a beat on the entire trip.

Verdict: There are lighter stoves on the market, but I wanted one with an igniter for ease of use and I wanted a gas cartridge stove for the same reason. Excellent: 10/10

Pots & pans:
Titanium cup and kettle: Both from MSR - Excellent.

Food: Real Expedition Food: Norwegian scoff at £5 a pop - Just boil water and add to the tough bag it comes in - First class - Excellent - had a huge variety of choice of meals and always tasty. You need to look forward to your evening meals and I always did. 10/10 again!

Walking Poles: Leki Titanium poles, no shock absorbers. I thought these were the lightest / strongest available at the time of purchase, until I met Colin Ibbotson who had an amazing pair of poles that I shall certainly hunt down! However the Poles never let me down , though did get jammed a few times - probably because I had not looked after them very well for a while, but they were fixable easily and survived the incredible Flow Country bogs where they were tested to the limit! Verdict: 8/10 (only because I know there are sexier ones around!)


  1. Hello Alan, congratulations on finishing your walk really enjoyed the blog and meeting you was a highlight of the TGO challenge for me. The poles I used are Gossamer Gear Lightrek 06 which come in at 90g each and other than having to re-glue the end on one of them (thanks for the glue!) have performed brilliantly over the last 12 months. Ian at Winwood Outdoor should be able to get them for you but also look at the ones made by a company called Titanium Goat which are similar in weight but fully adjustable in length.

  2. Hi Allan,

    I've also used the Exped Down Air Mattrass 7 for the first time this year. But heavy ? I used to use an oldfashioned Thermarest Staytek Long that weighs 1300 grams. You'll understand I am very happy with less weight and much more comfort.


  3. Hi Alan

    Glad to see you decided to do a review of your LEJOG gear. Anything that can stand up to a prolonged trip like that must be worth knowing about!

    All the best,

    David Albon

  4. Hi Alan,

    The Warmlite sounds a great tent, though from their website they do appear to have an odd notion of marketing. I notice there was no review of Whisky carried I take it this will be reviewed separately.

    Ian C.

  5. Hello Colin, Theo, David and Ian!

    I am really crap at getting back to people on the comments - so thank you for staying with me.

    Colin - Those Titanium Goat Poles are now on my Christmas present list! Cheers!

    Theo - A comfy sleep is worth an extra three miles a day. Well done Sir!

    David - Kit is so personal - but there are one or two items in my list that I don't see on the Challenge that often, so it may give a few people some ideas for their own Christmas Lists!

    Ian - an '83 Port Ellen was carried this year (at collossal expense!). It was mostly GORGEOUS!


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