Monday, 27 December 2010

Tuff Stuff - my 'gear of the year' post


This time of year is traditionally one of reflection and, like many other outdoor bloggers, here are my thoughts on some of the better decisions I made when choosing stuff that made my all-too short and infrequent forays into the mountains more enjoyable.


Mountain Laurel Designs DuoMid shelter - Impeccable construction and design, Ron's reputation oozes from every stitch of this modern take on the pyramid tent. I know the Trailstar is everyone's 'on trend' shelter in the latter half of 2010 but I'll stick to my DuoMid. Two people or one? Bivy or InnerNet? Closed or open front? The DuoMid can do it all and despite what some people say this style of shelter can handle some pretty serious weather. And it makes me smile. The colour. The shape. The memories.

Bushbuddy Ultra wood stove - "Only dead fish follow the stream". I tried to resist. I attempted to go my own way. Against the grain (...). I tested several wood stoves this year in an effort to find an alternative to the ubiquitous and highly regarded Bushbuddy. But you wanna know why the Bushbuddy is ubiquitous and highly regarded? It's because it rocks! I finally gave in and brought one for myself. If I needed any convincing to it's sublime design and construction it was on mine and Steve's canoe trip in the summer where it rained for days leading up to the trip and for most of the time we were out too. Despite a fuel supply that was damp, at best, the Bushbuddy Ultra kept us supplied with plenty of hot water for drinks and cooking. It also provided us with a less quantifiable benefit - a focal point and task, tending a fire, that taps deep into basic human instincts.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla backpack- Strictly speaking I didn't spend my own hard earned cash on this 46 litre, 658g backpack. A slightly used test model was given to me as part of several Gossamer Gear test products for our Vålådalen trip in Sweden. I was dubious about using a pack that I hadn't tried beforehand but the Gorilla and me got on famously. Comfortable, light, versatile. The removable hip-belt, pockets, chest strap and aluminium stay means it can be stripped down to 428g for overnighters. The materials are light but durable. I like the back-pad system a lot. The mesh pockets are great too, the side ones being perfectly placed and sized for access along the trail. It sits in that magical 'invisible kit' category. It does it's job quietly and competently.


There were other gems: I finally sourced some quality mini dropper bottles and Dr Bronner's organic liquid soap which reduced my wash kit to miniscule proportions. Haglöfs Shield pants, with 100% recycled fabric, stopped me carrying softshell and rain pants in the summer months saving me a bunch of weight. Swapping my plastic or titanium mug and small Platypus bladder for a more traditional kuksa changed the way I stayed hydrated on the trail and enjoyed my morning coffee. Talking of coffee, Starbucks Via sachets ensured I could finally get a decent tasting hit of caffeine when I was miles from a coffee shop.

Well that's it for gear highlights in 2010. A whole bunch of winter-specific gear has been arriving lately and trips are planned to get out and enjoy the snow in the next few months. See you in 2011!


Martin Rye said...

Nice kit. I don't agree on the DuoMid is that good in the wind but do think it is a versatile well made and two person shelter. Top kit.

The Gorilla is a revelation. I paid for mine and wish I had got it sooner than I did. I find it amazing to admit apart from thinking of getting a Mariposa for winter when I need a bit more space the Gorilla is the only pack I want. I like packs and to be happy with one is a change for me.

Dr Bronner's organic liquid soap has been in my pack all year. Good as it gets.

Mark Roberts said...

The DuoMid and the BushBuddy are right up on the top of my list too. I'm also sticking with the DuoMid over the TrailStar, for much the same reasons. I'd add my LT4s to the list too.

Joe Newton said...

Martin - the DuoMid is not the shelter I would pick if what I mostly wanted to do was park it on exposed hill tops every weekend (typical of many UK style adventures). There are far more suitable shelters for that task. But I also believe the DuoMid is more than capable of handling a bit of 'weather' and this has been substantiated in all the reports of people taking these types of shelters on some incredible journeys. I also haven't heard reports of dozens of blown-out DuoMids which I would expect if this shelter really wasn't up to the task for which is was designed. When I'm disproved by being left wet, cold and shelter-less on a stormy night here in Norway I'll be the first to say "Right, time to order a Trailstar!" ;-)

Joe Newton said...

Mark - the Trailstar v DuoMid debate could be the new Laser v Akto! Thankfully there is plenty of choice out there for all of us and the fact that MLD produces two such highly regarded shelter is a credit to them! Hendrik proved last winter that it's perfectly ok to use ultralight open ended tarps in winter in the Finish forests but I wouldn't use one in the winter on Norwegian mountains. Horses for courses, we just have to pick the shelters that suit our particular application.

The LT4s are fantastic for '3-season' backpacking but have their limitations. I wouldn't snowshoe with them and they can be problematic to travel with.

Mark Roberts said...

Yep. My hand instinctively reaches for the DuoMid over the SpinnTwin in winter, mainly because I like to shut out the chill a little. I'd use the SpinnTwinn in the forests, but in Lapland or northern Minnesota I like the extra protection of the 'Mid.

It's true, maybe the LT4s are not best suited for winter.

Martin Rye said...

Comparing the Trailstar and DuoMid is pointless as they are very different. I did pitch in open glen and high fell. So the DuoMid was pushed to its limit for me. I got a Trailstar for my single skin shelter as I felt it better suited the conditions I backpack in. If the DuoMid suits use it. Kit selection depends on where and what you expect the conditions to be. So if I was going to camp in a lot of forest with shelter I would happily use a tarp or DuoMid but in the open moors and like I want wind resistants the most and hence Scarp and Trailstar. But carried in the rather good Gorilla pack. Now that is the kit of the year with me.

samh said...

It also provided us with a less quantifiable benefit - a focal point and task, tending a fire, that taps deep into basic human instincts.

Well put.

Hendrik Morkel said...

I know the Trailstar is everyone's 'on trend' shelter in the latter half of 2010...

Nicely put, Joe.

Bushbuddy for the win =)

Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

Nice gear and I love the first picture:).

I have to check out that Hagløfs pant, and I'll probably be bold and ask to borrow your yellow duomid sometime next year, and in return lending you my shiny, new trailstar? ;). I'm thinking it's a 50-50 chance between you answering "yes!" and "over my dead body".

Mac E said...

I can't comment on the Duomid, Trailstar or Bush Buddy but I can certainly agree with you regarding the Starbucks Via sachets, I found them myself a while back and very nice they are :-)


Anonymous said...

Can't believe you went through all that great kit but didn't give a shout-out to the hip flask of Jameson I think I can see peeping out at me from the Gorilla :)

Philip Werner said...

I like the Duomid a lot too, but if I'm hiking in forest, I prefer a flat tarp, like my MLD Grace Duo in Cuben (9.6 oz with extra long guylines). Sweet between two trees on a bed on pine needles.

Other kit I like a lot these days: the Montbell Tachyon Windshirt. 2.6 oz in an XL. Superlight with an excellent hood.

Plus the Gorilla, of course.