Abisko 2014 — gear analysis

What worked really well

These are the items that worked particularly well and deserve special mention.

Shelters. Both the Tarptent Double Rainbow and the MLD Trailstar performed flawlessly. They both handled high winds and nightlong, driving rain without any problems at all. We have yet to encounter situations that these shelters cannot handle. They certainly both have their limitations and there will be situations when they fail, but so far so good! Especially the Trailstar is wonderfully storm proof in our experience.

Backpacks. M&M have the Gourdon packs from Alpkit, in 25 and 30 liter sizes. This awesome pack is really a roll-top drybag with a back panel, shoulder straps, sternum strap and waist strap. M&M have the model with a plastic window, which unfortunately is prone to getting puncture holes. Luckily, it is easy to fix the holes with a squirt of Liquisole or similar goo. If we were to acquire a Gourdon today, we would get the model without window, since it is now available in other colors besides black, which was the only non-window color option when we got ours. A black, top-loaded backpack is like a black hole: what goes in will never be found again, so we opted for a pack with a window. Anyways, the Gourdon carries weights up to maybe 10 kg amazingly well, especially considering that it weighs in at only 600-700 grams. Big M carried his Scierra fishing net on the outside of his Gourdon, keeping it fixed with a few loops of bungee cord. This way the net did double duty as a mesh pocket for Big M’s wet gear and various temporary overflow items.

Dad’s HMG 3400 Porter Pack is superb! The only problem with the Porter is that the pack leaks water, presumably at the seams along the backside. Since cuben is waterproof, this means that water collects in the bottom of the pack. We’ll give seam sealing a try. And yes, it still deserves special mention, puddles notwithstanding. Update: Dan St. Pierre of HMG just commented on the waterproofness of their packs. In his blog post, we learn exactly which seems are not sealed.

Sleeping pads, etc. A good night’s sleep cannot be overrated. All four of us now use the Exped Synmat UL 7 with the Schnozzel Pumpbag, which is super convenient. We have one pumpbag for each shelter (usually mom has one and dad has the other), so that we can rig the two sleeping quarters independently in the case of inclement weather.

Midlayers. Big M fell in love with his Patagonia R1 hoody, which was on its maiden voyage during this trip. The Polartec Power Dry breathes so well that he used it pretty much constantly over his merino baselayer, except during the warmest days. Dad has the same model, while mom uses another variation on the same theme, namely a Rab Baseline hoodie (the women’s version is no longer listed on Rab’s web-page(?) — it would be a shame if it has been discontinued!).

Shoes. Dad has found a new favorite: La Sportiva Bushido! These provide a perfect fit with a roomy toe box and tight heel cup, just the way he likes it. They have a relatively low drop of 6 mm. And the Frixion XT sole reflects the climbing heritage of La Sportiva; this company knows sticky rubber! The sole successfully combines awesome friction on hard surfaces with decent lugs and good traction on soft ground, which is a fairly rare combination. After several days across scree slopes and off-trail hiking, the Bushido shows only marginal wear. An agile shoe means that foot placement occurs with a higher precision than what’s typically the case with a heavier boot, and consequently the shoe sees less abuse. Post-hike maintenance involved strategic placement of Liquisole along the most exposed seams, in order to mitigate further wear.

Buff. Both mom and dad got a Buff for present this summer. Dad proudly wore his Buff more or less constantly during our trek. The densely woven Coolmax fabric is great for keeping the mosquitos at bay during the night, and magically seems to provide just the right amount of warmth during day time, no matter what power output you are running at.

Rain/wind-proofs. M&M used their Didriksons jackets and pants, which kept them dry during the all-day rain we experienced. The particular model they have is called Tigris, which apparently is no longer available in youth sizes(?), but looks very similar to the currently available model Main Boy’s/Girl’s Set. Lightweight, supple, breathable. Simply great!

What didn’t work so well or was missing

We realized that we really need to complement our gear with rain mitts. We had only fleece or merino gloves, and had to fight to maintain our ability to perform a pinch grip during our daylong march in the cold rain. Consequently, we now have pulled the trigger on a pair of MLD Rain Mitts for each of us.

Gear list

Finally, here is M&M’s personal kit, which they carried themselves…

  • Backpacks: Alpkit Gourdon (as detailed above)
  • Sleeping bags: Alpkit Pipedream 400; TNF Cat’s Meow
  • Sleeping pads: Exped Synmat UL size S (both)
  • Drybags: Alpkit Airlok 13 liter for sleeping bags, 8 liter for clothing (both)
  • Bivy: MLD Superlight bivy (Big M only, used under the Trailstar)
  • Merino bottom baselayer long johns/tights 200: Smartwool; Icebreaker
  • Sleep socks: Woolpower 400, Smartwool medium crew
  • Extra hiking socks: Woolpower liner socks (both)
  • Midlayer fleece: Patagonia R1 hoody; TNF microfleece hoody
  • Gloves/Mitts: Rab Polartec Power Dry gloves; generic fleece mitts
  • Headwear: REI inca-style fleece bucket with earflaps; MEC fleece balaclava
  • Extra underwear: generic (both) — we are still looking for merino underwear for kids!
  • Rain gear: Didriksons (as detailed above)

and the clothes they wore all the time…

  • Underwear: generic
  • Merino baselayer long sleeve zip tops 200: Smartwool; Icebreaker
  • Pants: Marmot Boy’s Cruz; Marmot Girl’s Lobo
  • Hiking socks: Woolpower liner socks (both)
  • Shoes: Asics running shoes; Adidas hiking shoes

…and that’s it, that’s all you need. Except for rain mitts, which we will be sure to bring next time!

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