Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Gear Review

My Tarptent Contrail requires one trekking pole (I always use two anyway). This tent is definitely on the light side for this trip, and I therefore had to take considerable care with siting my camps. However both it and I survived. 

If you have a four season tent and are prepared to carry it then your options will be wider and your comfort and safety more assured. I got some black dust in (as you will) and it was a bit cool at times, but no major issues at all. Plenty of room for one person and all my gear.

I've camped with two in this tent and its doable if a little constrained. I had no problem with rain getting in and also no problem with condensation amazingly. That must be due to all that wind!

3/4 length Thermarest UL mattress. Very comfortable and quite long enough if you are someone that sleeps a bit scrunched up.

Sleeping bag
Exped down bag rated to -1C.This was fine throughout. I wore clothes including a down jacket in it on most nights.

ULA Catalyst. It is light and comfortable and been with me now on several trips. This trip was a little hard on it and one of the pack straps started to show signs of coming loose. It is good to about 18kg, but after than you are starting to push it a little. The 11-day section is the challenge here (if you eat plenty).

Trail Designs Ti-Tri Caldera Cone burning Alcohol. There were only a couple of occasions when I could have used it with wood as there are no trees in Iceland. I bought two types of fuel of which the clear Bio-Ethanol was much the better. See Fuel

I only took one pair of shoes - La Sportiva Boulder X approach shoes. Inside were two inner soles (Noene and Superfeet Green). These worked very well and I had no major problems after the first few days. 

I had four pairs of socks (one reserved for night wear). I could have done with more pairs and maybe lighter socks. I'd tend to stick with wool, but the one pair of synthetics I tried were pretty good if a little slow to dry. This all meant that I did the river crossings in bare feet. None were too hard but all were very cold.


  • The top prize for good gear must go to my hardshell layer - OR Goretex Pro Shell jacket and pants. Absolutely essential.
  • Everyday wear 
    • Softshell pants (Sherpa brand from Nepal - brilliant)
    • Multiple layers of Icebreaker on top (200 and 260 weight long sleeved, 1 T-shirt)
    • A Sherpa softshell jacket for wind protection when it wasn't raining
  • Night time
    • Mont powerstretch long johns
    • Light merino socks
    • Mont Bell lightweight down jacket with hood
  • Extremities
    • 2 regular buffs - super useful especially for covering the face in the wind
    • 3 hats - wool, fleece and a peaked cap
    • 2 pairs of gloves (1 fingerless silk, 1 windblock)
  • Sunglasses - if only for the dust!
  • Head net - I only used this three times but each time I was very happy to have it!
Less useful
  • On advice I took my OR short stretch gaiters as these were recommended for keeping out grit. However they also kept in moisture and perversely I gave up using them just when there was the most black sand!
  • North Face running shorts which I only hiked in one day, but did use for the Hotspot
  • Two extra Icebreaker lightweight layers which I never used. I was expecting it to be colder. And even in August it might well be snowing.
Could have done with...
  • A pair of waterproof breathable over mitts would have been good.


Tom said...


Was the hardshell jacket you used something like this:


or something like this:


How did it perform?

Charlie said...

My Jacket is the Furio with three front pockets (left chest and two hands).

I have been very happy with it. It has performed extremely well in New Zealand (always a good test), in Iceland and more recently in Scotland. Being able to unzip the sides from the bottom and put it into "poncho" mode can be useful when it is a bit warmer but still wet.

I also bought the full zip Alpine trousers from OR that match this jacket. They have been good too, though have seen less use, as it has to be quite bad to wear them when hiking.

However I did use them frequently in Iceland. One thing I particularly like is having two zipper sliders (up as well as down) for the fly. Handy when you have a pack on.

I would have liked to have wear patches on the knees, but I guess that would make walking a little harder. Just need to be a little careful when putting a knee on the ground - such as when tying a lace.

On the jacket I would like to see a clear patch on the left wrist so I can see my watch. Next model maybe?