6.13.2009

Gear List Rondane: Part 1


Not another gear list I hear you say. Well if you think you've seen enough gear lists you should come round here. I've got gear lists coming out of my ears right now. I've spreadsheeted all my gear and gear weights for a long time. Everything neat and tidy, accurately recorded and ready to hand. The idea is to just spend an evening running over it, putting ticks in the boxes and, hey presto, a gear list tailored for my next trip. In reality its never that simple though. Firstly there's the weather. As the forecast slips and slides in the run up to a trip the gear list changes in response. A bit more down to deal with the frost, a fleece more or less, a short sleeved baselayer perhaps? The weather alone is enough to instill a dynamic in any kit list, however, add to that uncertainties as to the plan, the terrain and a real desire to get it just right whilst minimising weight carried and changes occur on a daily basis. In my case, even worse, my insatiable appetite for new gear leads to a growing arsenal of kit that's just begging to be given a run out. Whats the worst that can happen if you get it wrong? A cold wet night and an early bail out? At least I tell myself that's the worst that can happen.

I've been wrestling with Rondane for some time now. At some stage you've just got to bite down, make a choice and run with it. My definitive kit list (well most probably definitive for Rondane can be found here: Gear List Rondane. The list includes everything thats in, or sometimes in, the 'sack. In addition I'll be wearing Merino baselayer (Icebreaker 200 long sleeve top and underpants), Falke trekking socks under Goretex lined Hanwag Banks lightweight (but full height) boots and Haglofs Ray trousers.
So what's are the main results of all the deliberation? The following paragraphs describe the reasoning behind the list:
Insulation: The main choice here was between the super-light Mont-Bell down inner and the PHD ultra. The weather reports are showing temperatures in Rondane swinging anywhere between 25 and -3 degrees. That's a hard situation to deal with adequately. I got it wrong once in Colorado and was punished with a cold night. Add to the swings in temperature the likelihood that we'll Bivvy high (without a tent) and the need for some extra insulation around camp is clear. I used the Mont-Bell inner in Switzerland last year. We bivvied high there too and temperatures sank to just a couple of degrees above freezing. The down inner was just right, and I mean JUST right, any lower and I would have been uncomfortable. I'll give the Ultra a run out this time to be certain I can deal with the wintry end of the scale. It has twice the loft of the down inner and should get me down to about -5 degrees but brings an extra 80g to the party. What about the summery end? Well, unless something very strange is going on that's when I'll be on the move. For that I'll be using a microfleece pullover, a microfleece gilet and a pertex windshirt giving me plenty of layering options over the baselayer.

Rainshell: On the top, I'm sticking my neck out and going with the Haglofs Oz Pullover. I've got my reservations about this but hey, going light is about pushing our boundaries rght? At least that's what Eddy Meechan says. I guess there's only one way to really get to know this piece of clothing and that's to use it in anger. Rondane is I believe the driest mountain region in Norway? The Oz may even get to spend a lot of time in my pack and that's where I expect it will perform best. On the bottom I'll be using a very cheap and very scuzzy pair of waterproof overtrousers from Regatta. There's a story behind these (I'll try and keep it short). I bought them in a mad rush on the day of departure for Switzerland last year. I decided at the last minute that the 500g of my old Berghaus Gore-tex trousers was excessive. I never liked them anyway. I ran out to the local camping store (more caravans than tarps) and bought these for 6€ (yes I said SIX). They're just 200g and I figured they where fine for emergencies and round camp. Besides, it hardly rains in the alps in Summer right? Wrong! We got Borrowdale weather on the first day (its been following me around all my life!). To my surprise the overtrousers, cheap and nasty as they are, performed great. We walked a long way in heavy rain that day and I didn't get wet. Neither from falling rain nor from rising crotch vapours. It should be stressed that we didn't gain a lot of height that day so I wasn't working too hard which might have helped in the sweat department. They're not ideal. They have no leg zips so are hard to get on over boots. However, at 6€ a shot you can just resort to violence and risk a blown seam. I almost replaced them this year with a hundred Euros worth of e-Vent but decided against it. I'm going to continue my mad cheap gear experiment in Norway.

Sleeping: There was no choice to be made here. I only have one down bag which I now consider light enough for Summer backpacking, the Cumulus Quantum 200. It's rated to zero degrees (according to the Leeds rating). For me I guess it's more like 5 degrees but that's still pretty amazing at 568g. I get away with such a light bag by considering my down jacket as part of my sleeping system. I'm also forced to carry long-johns to boost the insulation on my legs. This is part of my kit that I may revisit. My guess is that the 166g of my long-johns, which I only use while sleeping and are otherwise redundant) could be better converted into extra down. However, the price of down bags puts me off buying another. At least for the moment ;-). This year I will of course stretching out on a NeoAir Short in a fetching shade of budgie green (as will all discerning backpackers in the 2009 Summer season). I hope it stays inflated. A tiny length of foam may sneak into the pack for under the legs and for just in case.

Shelter: Twin tarps are the order of the day. A Grace Duo and a Monk Microtarp. Both from MLD. Both are tried and tested and favourite bits of kit. Why two? Well, its extra weight for me but it's the best solution for the group. With the combination (either pitched separately or with the Monk used as a dodger to close one end of the Grace) they can accommodate three. Considering the gear available to the group as a whole its the best choice. I will still be under 12kg on the walk in and my tarp mates will have a fighting chance of staying under 13kg.
That's all we've got time for folks. You'll have to wait for another instalment if you want to see the outcome of the great Gas/Meths debate, outdoor kitchen utensils for the fashionable, painful deliberations over camera gear, my take on footwear and some other bits and pieces!

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