Gearing up

Carrying a monster pack when starting an 8-day traverse of the Ariège, Pyrenees 2007

When I crossed the Pyrenees 5 years ago, my backpack had a base weight of nearly 15kg. I carried a 3kg 2-person tent all the way across the chain, used a 500g cooking pot and gas stove and took stuff like a washing basin. After resupplying and adding even more kilo’s, and sometimes carrying 2 to 3 litres of water in the dry Spanish sierra’s, the long climbs on scree and the relentless boulderfield tended to become a heavy burden. I’ve slowly tried to decrease the weight of my backpack ever since, but the purchase of my packraft last year was the real turning point. Adding 4kg of gear to my pack, I had to economize elsewhere. The result is a gear list totalizing only 11,5kg for the first (non-packrafting) part of the trip, of which just 8,1kg will be in my backpack. This will become about 12,5kg for the second part – still less than my Pyrenees pack and in a harsher climate!
The full packlist for the first part of my trip can be found here: Gear list Transscandinavia 2012. Not all items will be mentioned in the text below!

My backpack will be the ULA Epic, which goes with a 65L Big River Dry Bag to keep all my gear dry. As the mid-layers of my clothing are mainly poorly compressible polyester fleeces, 65L could become a bit small when having to carry food for over a week, but it should work out.

It will be my first long trip without a real tent. Instead, I’ll use the MLD Cricket Tent, which combines a Silnylon flysheet with a mesh inner net. I chose for this inner net because I like some comfort for reading during the evening hours and the mosquito pressure will be pretty high on some parts a the trip. I have not used my cricket tent a lot and although I feel pretty confident after having experimented a bit with the pitching possibilities, the question will be how I will behave during high-wind bivouacs. I will have to chose my bivouac spots with care and get to know my shelter better during the first few weeks of the trip. My sleeping bag will be the Alpkit Pipedream 600 again, which keeps me warm down to about -3°C; and this should be about the coldest temperatures I experience along the way. The Therm-a-rest XTherm, which yields an incredible 5.7 R-values for 420g, will be my mattress. I could have gone lighter on this item, but I have long needed a winter mat and this one will later also serve for that purpose. I’ll also take the Terra Rosa Quilt cover which I won online last year to keep my sleeping bag dry during prolonged wet periods and when sleeping under the stars.

Bivouac with the Cricket Tent (right) during an overnight packrafting trip on the Amblève (picture: Joery Truyen)

I’ve never spent a lot of money on clothing and it won’t be different for this trip. The biggest innovation compared to trips in the past is my switch to trailrunner shoes. I’ll wear the Inov8 Flyroc 310 on this trip, which I succesfully tested in the Alps last autumn. I’ll have my currect pair replaced after 3 weeks when Joris comes to join me for a while, and have a third pair send together with my packraft two months into the trip. I reinforced all seams with Seamgrip to increase the lifetime. I’ll combine the Flyroc’s with waterproof Sealskinz socks and cheap 172g gaiters. My walking socks will be the Thin Mid-lenght socks. As I will have to cross many extensive snowfields in june, I’ll take Yaktrax Pro to minimize continuous slithering, which could provoke injuries. My base layer will be either (depending on the weather) a cheap polyester shirt or an Icebreaker merino shirt. I take two polyester fleeces as mid-layers and a 4-year old Berghaus 4 Season trek as a waterproof hardshell. The latter is not in top shape and may need replacement along the way. The Fjallraven Ruaha zip-off pants should allow comfortable walking in all weather conditions I will encounter. I’ll take North Face HyVent rain pant from the start – as rain and wind protection during the first part and also for packrafting during the second part. A merino wool base layer and neoprene socks will be added to my kit for cold-weather packrafting from mid-august.

I brought down the base weight of my cooking set to less than 300g. I’ll cook on a home-made alcohol stove with 0.1mm Aluminum windscreen using the Alpkit MytiPot. Having a soup and a hot meal (either pasta or freeze-dried), I estimate I’ll need about 40-50mL of alcohol every day, which I will buy in local drug stores.

Full cooking kit (without alcohol bottle)

The only part of my gear list which weight increased is the ‘electronics’-part. I’ll take a GoPro Hero 960 sports camera for movies during walking and packrafting and for timelapses. As I want better pictures than from my previous trips, I invested in a Olympus PEN EP-L 1 camera with a 14-150mm lens, a combi weighing about 600g. I’ll carry both on my breast in a LowePro camera bag, which I can attach to the shoulder straps of my backpack with 2 minibiners. For both GoPro and camera I’ll carry one spare battery. And, as just sending Li-batteries to points along my route is way to expensive in every aspect, we come to a shitty stumbling block in my gear list… should I either take all chargers (together some 200g), and stop for hours at every electricity socket I stumble upon to charge all my batteries, or should I take a solar charger and have full flexibility and autonomy… but depend on the weather conditions? I will try the second option and take the A-solar AM-108 Solar chargerand necessary connectors which I can borrow from a friend. Together they weigh a bit less than 200g. The thing needs about 15 hours of sunlight to charge – and can charge one of my batteries during the night with this power. I expect I will need one full charge every 3 days. If the solar charger is not sufficient, I can still switch to the regular chargers when I’m joined by Joris. When days get shorter and duller from mid-august I’ll need another solution anyway.
I’ll store all my media on two 32GB memory sticks. The SPOT 2 Satellite Messenger will assure I can make contact with the emergency services should something really bad happen. Finally, I’ll have my mobile phone as a communication device, an MP3-player and a voice recorder for my diary.

Wondering what my gear list for the packrafting part will look like? You’ll have to be patient!


5 thoughts on “Gearing up

  1. Jeroen says:

    Your packlist mentions the Yaktrax twice (though at different weigths). But aren’t you fogetting food? Unless of course you’re hunting moose with that 24 gram Swiss army knive 😉 I’m a bit worried that you don’t carry any spare clothing. If you slip during a river crossing, what will you do? Hypothermia is a really bad idea…

  2. Willem says:

    You’re right about the YakTrax! I only got them last week and preliminary added the manufacturers’ weight to the list (and forgot to delete this afterwards). I wanted to give an overview of my base gear, food will of course add an extra 900g per day.
    I’m not carrying a lot of spare clothing indeed, although for the packrafting part I’ll have 2 base layers, 2 fleeces and my jacket. I’m pretty warm-blooded and even during packrafting trips in the Ardennes in winter (just-above-freezing temperatures) I only wear half of that, so I’ll have a dry clothing set available should something happen. I’ll also have a survival blanket for the second part of the trip. I’m not intending to run rivers with high flip potential by the way, and won’t take any risks when I’m packrafting solo. But you never know of course.

  3. dzjow says:

    Hi Willem,

    I’m curious how the solar charger will perform. Hopefully you may never run out of power.

    Not every item in your clothing list looks ideal from both a lightweight and durable perspective but I think you have the right amount of insulation with you. More clothing would be more then needed. Though I think you’re going to learn a lot here. For example, G1000 pants from Fjällraven, despite they are very popular among Belgian hikers for places like Scotland or Scandinavia, they are not the most comfortable and not the strongest pants for such a trip. During the years I’ve learned that lightweight nylon pants are in many ways superior for summer and 3-season use, also for wet places like Scandinavia.

    There are a few items in your gear list I would leave at home from the start if I would start your trip. Let’s see if you are going to send some things home with a friend during the hike. 😉
    Already thought about sleeping in the inner net without the cricket fly? With that list you have a nice variety of camp options. I think we may expect interesting camping photos and not always those boring camping photos with each time the same setup. 🙂

    Finally, when I read you have a drybag for storing your sleeping bag, I’m worried you’re going to store your sleeping bag in a drybag all the time or do you intend to use it only as extra security while wading rivers?

    I’m very curious how you will look back onto your list when you will have finished the trip.

    All the best!


  4. Willem says:

    Yeah, I probably wasn’t that clear about the storage of sleeping bag & pad. I’ll store my Pipedream in the Stuffsack of my pad and the pad in a drybag most of the time, but will swap both for river crossings and during packrafting on rivers for extra safety.

    I’ll certainly vary a bit with the pitching of the Cricket Tent… when the weather allows 🙂

    Will try to review some stuff once I’m back!

  5. Bart says:

    Hi Willem,

    Some detail munching over here: if you buy your alcohol at a pharmacy then you can probably specify the percentage you want. They’ll have denatured alcohol of 90%, which will be good as fuel, but if you want to use the same alcohol as disinfectant you should dilute it with water to 70% alcohol, otherwise the disinfectant won’t be so efficient. Ask your pharmacist, he/she should confirm this.

    @Dzjow, could you please give an example of those nylon trousers? (I’m in the market for a new pair :))

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