Innevitable isnt it?
Here we are at the end of the year and time to reflect on what worked well during my camping and walking trips over the past 12 months. Some of these are new and some are older. I seem to be getting less and less new gear as time passes and some of this is due to finances and yet some in equal measure to “settling down” in working out what works really well and sticking with it. That doesnt mean to say I dont still enjoy buying new kit but I am FAR more selective these days and much less prone to impulse (and disappointment) buying.
Ok, so in no particular order or merit, the 1o items I have selected for my roll call of honour in 2011 are:
1. Hilleberg Unna.
This is a class tent. Often overlooked in favour of the Soulo, it is relatively unknown in the UK. These days the prices of Hilleberg are so “ouch” that speculative buying of their tents is really out of the window! I bought mine after long research and a hankering after a bullet-proof 1 man tent (I still regret getting rid of the Soulo by the way!). It is flexible (can be used as an outer only tarp tent or the full monty), heavy duty, easy to pitch and well suited to UK conditions. Not well known but a classic 1 man mountain tent
2. Montrail CTC approach shoes.
On my third pair currently. Alas likely to be my last as they are discontinued now. They are the comfiest walking shoes I have ever owned (hence the 3rd pair) and although not the best on wet rock and mud, they really work and are a good balanced of durability, weight and breathability. No other shoe for me has come close
3. Caldera cone, MSR pot and “pepsi can” alcohol stove set up.
This is now battered and bruised through constant use. It still delights me to take this fantastic cooking combo out with me. I have now added the caldera caddy to add a durable cover and optional drinking/eating pots. It works even in the stiffest breeze and in fact can be difficult to put it out after I’ve finished cooking. Just looking at the Trail Designs website and the “system” has succeeded, grown and expanded beyond all concept in recent years. A pleasure to use and hopefully still many years of use to come.
4. MSR firesteel.
An old bit of kit but perfect for that “look I made fire” moment. Enjoy using this for lighting fires as well as my stove. It is a bit more difficult to light denatured alcohol using a firesteel but it is FUN. Nothing to go wrong with it either, it just works. A timeless, if slightly retro, bit of kit.
5. Ronhill tracksters.
Ok, I admit it, these are really one of my favourite items and I have worn them to death this year. In fact I now have 4 pairs all slightly different designs. I have also hit upon a neat little idea (nothing new I am sure) for winter walking. Recently, instead of buying winter lined troos, I decided to double up on wearing two pairs of thin technical tracksters for really cold days. It blummin well works a treat! The stretchiness and thinness of the fabric allows for a comfy fit whilst wearing 2 pairs. Its warm, virtually windproof and if you get too hot, voila, take a pair off. Very very comfy indeed. Add a light waterproof over troo and you have a very versatile layer system for the winter. Works for me!
6. Bridgedale light hiker socks.
Yep, hands up. I like Bridgedale socks but I dont own a bobble hat! The light hiker socks are for me the perfect balance of warmth, durability, lightness, comfort and ease of drying in the wet. I have used these socks almost exclusively for the past 5 years and still love them. They work for me even when wringing wet (and they have been on many occasions!).
7. Buffalo shirt.
This was given to me by James over at http://backpackingbongos.wordpress.com/ some time ago. Its big, comfy, warm and purple! I used to be a Paramo only winter walker but have found that I now prefer the instant warmth of the Buffalo shirt. Yes it has its downsides. The hood is warm but fairly shapeless (no wire peak) and the shirt is a sometimes a pig to put on (being a smock) but I really like it. I also really appreciate the crotch strap on the shirt as this keeps it in place and snug. Thanks James! Also another thank you to “Mike fae Dundee” for donating the hood for free too!
8. ULA Conduit rucksack.
A new piece of kit for 2011 (although bought second hand from another archetypal gear-hoarder Ed Hyatt 🙂 ), this has been a very worthy successor to the Golite Jam I used to own. Bought purely for long trips or winter weekends, this has been a superb buy. The fit is very reminiscent of the Jam and just as well because of my slightly over-kinked back I cant wear any framed packs of any type. The material is tough, the pack light and it is huge in terms of what it can carry. Features I particularly like are the hipbelt pockets, the roll top closure and the deep back and side mesh pockets (a la Gossamer Gear packs). Have used it recently for a December weekend camp in The Black Mountains and it swallowed all the extra luxuries normally reserved for winter camping (including, ahem, some decent cider to drink around the campfire 🙂 )
9. Rab powerstretch gloves.
Bought because I forgot to pack the right gloves for the above trip, I nipped into Crickhowell Adventure and bought these for £14. They are not full on winter gloves by any stretch (no pun intended) of the imagination, but they are warm, versatile, cheap and very comfy. They allow dextrous tasks to be performed such as tying laces, using a mobile phone etc without too much bother. They are wind proof and feel luxurious to wear. The only downside is that they are not waterproof and do lose a little warmth when wet. As a lightweight, cheap glove for use 90% of the time they are a massive hit for me.
10. Black Diamond Spot Headtorch.
I must admit I really have a weakness for headtorches, well any kind of torches…. I didnt need one but was looking for a replacement for my aging Tikka Plus and found the Spot at a very reasonable price. It has 75lumens, can project 75metres and lasts for days on 3 AAA batteries. Light and well made, it is not the best headtorch money can buy but for the money I spent, it was pretty damn good!
Ok, so that’s it for kit in 2011. There were many other bits and bobs that I liked and used this year but for me the above were the best. 2012 promises to be another change in direction for me personally (job changes are in the air) and hopefully I will get to write lots and lots about all the kit I used time and again during the year.
Here’s to 2012