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!

Outdoor cooking: Favorites from Abisko

Food tends to be important. In our family, this is an understatement. Simplicity, nutrition, and energy content — with an eye for gourmet dining — would be one way of summarizing what we aim for when putting together our food list for the outdoors. Here follows a short description of our feeding strategies. 

Breakfast

M&M’s favorite breakfast is also quite convenient from a cooking point of view. We make blueberry soup and serve it up in each person’s “kåsa” (“guksi” in Sami), then we add about 1 dl of oat flakes directly into the kåsa and stir it up. The end result is blueberry oatmeal. The oatmeal is complemented by a generous dollop of our homemade superspackle. Our superspackle recipe is very simple: we mix honey into peanut butter until we get a manageable spackle-like texture. We keep the superspackle in a zip-lock bag, which works great; at the relatively low temperatures expected in Lapland our spackle is fairly solid, but becomes runny when heated up. We sometimes also like to add a handful of granola or nuts to the oatmeal. This makes for a really good breakfast that gives you both a quick energy spike in the morning and also plenty of slow carbohydrates and fat to keep you going for a good while.

blueberryoatmeal

Blueberry oatmeal. This particular batch is actually made with real, freshly picked blueberries during one of our annual summer bike tours, but it’s similar to the one we make with blueberry soup.

Our breakfast procedure goes like this: we bring water to a near-boil, pour hot water into cups for those who would like some coffee or tea, then add the blueberry soup powder to the pot, stir, and pour the soup into our kåsa cups. Alternatively, we sometimes add the blueberry soup powder directy to the cups in order to minimize dishwashing.

Snacks

Gorp: Mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds. We really like to have some salted nuts in the mix, because there’s something magical about the flavor combination of sweet raisins and salted cashews or almonds.

Chocolate: Any and various types of solid chocolate. M&M’s absolute favorite from Abisko was Milka’s Triolade, which is a combination of milk, white, and dark bitter chocolate. We do not like candy bars with lots of toffee or sugary goo in them, but sometimes bring one or two as emergency instant energy to combat fatigue if somebody bonks out. 

Lunch and Dinner or Big meal and Little meal

We like to cook something warm for lunch. Depending on our hiking plans, we either have the largest meal of the day for lunch, or later when we have stopped for the night. It all depends on how far we will hike, how strenuous the hike is, and on the weather. So, it makes more sense to talk about ‘big meals’ vs ‘little meals’ rather than lunch vs dinner.

Little meal: soup + bread with salami or cheese, followed by coffee or hot chocolate + a piece of chocolate for dessert. Bread is usually cracker bread (aka ‘crispbread’) or tortillas. The former is bulky, but contains more energy/weight than you’d think. Tortillas are really easy to fit into the pack, and are also energy rich.

Soup (powdered)We usually get the type that comes in a flat envelope. The ideal is instant soup, which can be made directly in our kåsa cups. Most types that call for simmering for 5 minutes or so work just fine without simmering; we simply bring the soup to a quick boil and then wrap the pot in our evazote mat and let it sit there for 10-15 minutes.

Big meal: We make our own dried food. It is very easy and fun and the end result is usually really good! Better than most ready-made outdoor foods and very much cheaper. We don’t use a dehydrator, but simply use our hot-air convection oven. We spread the cooked dish in a thin layer on an oven tray, and dry it at 50-70 C. Every so often we open the oven to let humid air out and stir the food a bit. The food is dry after some 8-12 hours and then we weigh it out into ‘big meal for 4’ portions that go into zip-lock freezer bags and then into the freezer until we leave for out trip. Here are a few of the dishes we like: red lentils, tomatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, herbs; chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, garam masala, curry, coconut milk; green or puy lentils, bacon, red onions, shallots, garlic, herbs; chicken in green curry (thai style); minced meat, tomatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, herbs. We cook these dishes in the normal way, except that we let them go relatively dry before we put them in the oven. These dishes are combined with couscous or noodles, which we add (uncooked) directly to the same zip-lock bag.

The ‘cooking’ procedure on the trail goes like this: heat water to a boil and pour this into the zip-lock bag containing the dried dish + couscous or noodles. Stir thoroughly. Close the zip again, put the bag in the empty pot used to boil water, wrap it all up in the evazote mat, and let it sit for some 15-25 minutes.

Notes to self

Next time we absolutely must not forget to bring butter and shallots so that we can sautee mushrooms and fry fish. Butter is critical and shallots are a proven secret ingredient that enhances just about any dish, perhaps especially mushrooms and fish. A few cloves of garlic wouldn’t hurt either.

Other edibles that mother Nature offered

Cloudberries and cranberries, albeit in very small quantities (it was too early in the season, we think). Mushrooms and artic char, as already reported on this blog.

 Food-prep and eating utensils

Our cook kit for the Abisko trip has been mentioned in a previous post. Here’s a short list of our eating utensils: 4 kåsa cups (one each), 2 plastic sporks (for M&M), 2 plastic spoons (for mom & dad), 1 plastic fork, 1 plastic knife, 1 pair of wooden chopsticks, 2 plastic kid’s tumblers (from IKEA), 2 plastic thermal mugs with lids, small Wenger pocket knife (with knife blade, corkscrew, tweezers, scissors, and can opener).

Mom & dad really like to be able to enjoy warm coffee or tea for longer than 1–2 minutes. Hence the need for thermal mugs. Unfortunately, our current mugs don’t pack down very well because of the big ugly handles. The ideal thermal mug holds some 300 ml, doesn’t have a handle, is lightweight, has a good insulating lid, and just imagine if it would stack… Where can we find this? Please advise!

Philosophy

The greatest challenge for mom & dad on a multi-day trek is to make sure that everyone replenishes their energy stores at the right time, so that we avoid the dire consequences of somebody bonking out. This requires careful monitoring of everybody’s mood and strength. We distribute small ‘rewards’, like a handful of nuts or a piece of chocolate, to celebrate a peak or saddle or new vista that we’ve gained from our efforts during the last half-hour to hour, depending on how strenuous the hike is.

Family gear for Lapland

This is the follow-up to our previous post on Kids’ Kits, expanding onto mom’s and dad’s and our communal gear. First, let’s summarize what worked really well. Then, let’s look at what didn’t.

The Dialed-in bits

Shelters: M and dad sleep in the Trailstar tarp from Mountain Laurel Designs. In addition, we use bivy bags when needed to keep the mosquitos away. The Trailstar is arguably the best shelter we have ever used. It is extremely flexible and can be pitched in several different modes. It sheds wind amazingly well. We’ve had it out in some serious weather without any problems whatsoever. Some people complain that its footprint is too large, but we cannot see that this could ever be a problem unless you are camping in a dense forest or similar. As long as you have enough space to lie down, it doesn’t really matter if there are rocks or tree stubs or even bushes under the tarp. Furthermore, the Trailstar is very light, weighing in at 700 grams, including 6 Easton pegs (16 cm) and 5 aluminum skewers + cord and line-locks. Since we use trekking poles anyway, the weight of these come for free, so to speak. It is very easy to pitch, especially if you follow these guide lines.

M and mom sleep in the Tarptent Double Rainbow. This is a single-skin tent, which comes with a single flexible pole. If we experience or expect really windy conditions, then we beef up the construction with two trekking poles that insert under the “awning” at the doors. It is also possible to use trekking poles in a completely different fashion to make the tent freestanding, but we never use it in this mode, since we always peg down all four corners. The TT DR is close to ideal for M & mom, who appreciate having a mosquito-safe space to sit around in and don’t really like the idea of bivy bags. As with any single-skin shelter, condensation can become an issue, but it has never been really bad under the conditions where we’ve used it so far; sure, a few drops here and there, but so what? It is a relatively light-weight shelter at 1215 grams, including the pole and 6 Easton pegs. Super-easy to pitch.

Sleeping bags: Western Mountaineering Ultralite, Alpkit Pipedream 400, Marmot Sawtooth, TNF Cat’s Meow. The first two are awesome. The latter two are very good, but don’t make it under the 343 cut-off.

Cook kit: We have a well-functioning and compact kit, consisting of: Optimus Crux Lite canister stove, which we typically use with a 230 g canister. The Crux Lite works well, even if the clearance between the pot and the burner head seems to be a bit narrow. Makes you wonder if combustion wouldn’t be more efficient with a greater distance? Trangia aluminum pots of 1.5 and 1.75 liters, Trangia pot lifter (good old “Tage” in Swedish outdoor parlance), mini-Bic lighter, matches, aluminum foil windscreen, paperclip, single-use pie form of aluminum foil (as a pot lid, which we use for a long time before discarding it), mini-dropper bottle with detergent, small piece of scrubby. Everything, including the gas canister, goes into the 1.75 liter pot and then into a light ditty bag. Altogether, the kit weighs 505 grams in addition to the gas canister. If we pair it down to just the 1.5 liter pot and other hardware that constitutes the core cooking system, then we land on 320 grams, which is pretty decent; compare it to the Jetboil Sol Ti, which has received rave reviews, at 280 grams or so. Nothing needs to be changed, we’re happy.

Drybags: We use Alpkit Airlok drybags of different sizes for just about everything that must not get wet: 13 liter bags for our sleeping bags; 4–8 liter bags for clothing, 4 liter for the DSLR camera (which is simply wrapped in a micro-fiber cloth without any further padding; works great so far). Zip-lock bags are used for most other little things (e.g. money, credit card, driver’s license, binoculars, hygiene kit, toilet paper, repair kit, first aid kit, etc). We use the same color code for everybody’s bags: day-bag is black, night-bag is red. The former contains our extra layer, hat, and gloves. The latter contains our long merino underwear and sleep socks + extra underwear for some of us.

The Need-to-fix bits

In general, we were extremely pleased with how our gear functioned. What didn’t work so well? A few things: dad’s backpack, mom’s sleeping pad, mom’s gloves, Mattias’ shoes. Now, what about them?

GoLite Jam. This is a very good backpack in many ways and dad really likes it. The shoulder straps and hipbelt are very comfortable, the mesh back panel ventilates nicely, the compactor straps and pocket features are well designed, and the gridstop Dyneema pack body makes for a durable construction. But we learned that when dad carries food for 4–5 days for 4 people, then he is simply too heavily loaded (approaching 20 kg) and the Jam simply doesn’t cope with that kind of weight. This should be expected, as he is trying to use the pack well outside of its intended range: the maximum recommended load is 14 kg. It didn’t really matter how he packed it, the back panel still collapsed (putting the fishing net inside the pack as an internal frame was perhaps a brilliant idea on paper, and actually improved things somewhat, but didn’t fully solve the problem). He will have to “upgrade” to a pack that meets our needs better, and thinks that he has found a near-optimal one. More on this in a later post.

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Ether Elite 6. (It appears that the company POE is defunct.) This is an air mattress with synthetic fiber attached in the torso region. Mom sleeps cold, so we will upgrade to an Exped SynMat UL 7, i.e. same as dad’s. Dad being a real gentleman, he swapped pads with mom, but in the long run it will be more convenient to have two SynMats (actually, come to think of it, why not four?), since we already have an Exped Schnozzle pump bag, which is an absolutely ingenious invention. Mattias will then get the Ether Elite, which has been functioning well for us in other respects (although inflating it requires a fair bit of huffing and puffing, resulting in build-up of moisture inside). This should work out nicely, since he usually has the Exped MultiMat underneath his bivy bag in the Trailstar and thus gets a bit more insulation between the Ether Elite and the ground than mom does when using it in the Tarptent (directly on the silnylon floor). The Ether Elite is quite light (395 grams) and packs down much smaller than the Thermarest Pro that he is currently using. 

Mom’s gloves. Polartec Powerdry or merino liners are simply not enough to warm mom’s cold fingers. She suffers from a bad case of circulation problems that probably are further aggravated by Raynaud’s disease. Next time we will bring a pair of thick fleece mitts + rainproof overmitts.

Mattias’ shoes (and Myra’s and mom’s), as stated under the previous post on Kids’ Kits.

Kids’ Kits: clothing and gear for Lapland

As already reported on this blog, we went hiking in the Abisko region this summer. Here’s a short write-up on M&M’s gear. What worked and what didn’t work, etc.

BackpacksAlpkit Gourdon 25 liter for Mattias (12 years old). Simply perfect! The Gourdon is essentially a drybag with shoulder straps + a hip strap (not a hip belt). It fits M just about perfectly and carries very well. The Gourdon accommodated all of M’s personal gear: sleeping bag and pad, night-bag (sleep socks, merino longjohns) and day-bag (fleece hat, gloves, extra layer), ditty bag with sun glasses and binoculars, and Crocs; except for his raingear, which was kept in a side-pocket of mom’s backpack. M’s sleeping pad (Thermarest Pro, size regular) was folded four times and packed inside his Gourdon to serve as an extra back support, which worked very well. His night- and day-bags were both Alpkit Airlok 4 liter drybags, which is overkill, really, given that they were packed inside the Gourdon. However, the extra margin of rain protection never hurts when you are hit by the sudden urge to rummage around in your backpack during a downpour.

Upward bound towards the pass. M carries his Alpkit Gourdon with ease and comfort.

Osprey Jet 18 for Myra (9 years old). Very good, although a bit too small. M carried her sleeping bag in the main compartment, together with her day-bag containing her fleece balaclava and gloves, while her raingear went into the outer stretch pocket, her Crocs went into one of the stretch side-pockets, and a 500 ml PET bottle went into the other side-pocket. She shared her night-bag with mom, and this was packed in mom’s backpack. M’s sleeping pad, a first-generation (25+ years old) Thermarest, size short, was folded three times and packed inside mom’s backpack (GoLite Jam) to provide a bit more structure than the integral backpad does. Next year, we should probably upgrade M to a Gourdon, or perhaps a less bulky sleeping bag (see below), which would leave more room in the Jet for the rest of her kit.

Sleeping bagsAlpkit Pipedream 400 for Mattias. The PD400 was stuffed into an Alpkit Airlok 13 liter drybag and kept at the bottom of the Gourdon. The PD400 is arguably the best value for money in sleeping bags out there. Very well designed and well made, 750 grams with 400 grams of 750+ down (EU fill weight), rated to –3 ‘C. M slept very comfortably in his 200 merino baselayer down to +2-3 ‘C. He really likes the fabric, which is soft like silk to the touch. A great bag.

Mattias’ sleep system also includes an MLD Superlight bivy bag with the optional ‘all net head area’. The Thermarest Prolite goes inside the bivy bag, of course. We typically use the Exped Multimat as a torso-level ground cover under the Trailstar, while a sheet of polycryo goes under our legs.

TNF Cat’s meow for Myra, stuffed into an Alpkit Airlok 13 liter drybag. This is a nice synthetic bag that has had a strong following for many years, albeit not perhaps among lightweighters. It’s a good bag for kids (and adults), ruggedly built to handle some serious abuse (not that this is needed any longer; at age 9, M takes good care of her belongings).

Yippee! The clouds are lifting. M on her way towards the sun and the Gorsa glacier further up the valley.

Rain wear: Didrikson Tigris Junior set for both kids. The Tigris is water- and windproof, with taped seams. M & M really like their Tigris rain jackets and pants, and are now working on their second pair. Despite being relatively light (compared to most other kids’ models), the Tigris has withstood a lot of serious abuse through the years and is the kids’ go-to rain gear for everyday use throughout the year. The uppers breath well enough that they also serve as wind jackets. Very good value for money, in our opinion.

Pants: Marmot Boy’s Cruz and Girl’s Lobo’s convertible pants. These are essentially the same model, but slightly tweaked to suit boys and girls, respectively. Both were excellent. Made out of a single layer of 100% nylon, these pants dry out in no time. The leg zip-off feature came in handy when we forded streams. It is really rather surprising how relatively few good outdoor pants there are available for kids, at least in Sweden. Most are way too heavy, with multiple layers, including Cordura or other industrial-strength materials. Kevlar anyone? Yeah, right. Several manufacturers do make very good kids’ pants, but they do not seem to make their way to Sweden in any great numbers, unfortunately.

Fleece: Patagonia Synchilla Marsupial (which seems to be discontinued?) for Mattias and an old nondescript fleece hoody for Myra. Mattias also prefers a fleece hoody, but we couldn’t find any good and reasonably priced ones at the time of buying. By contrast, the Marsupial was a steal at a recent sale. Super nice and toasty, it immediately became a big favorite of M’s.

Base layers: Both M & M wear Smartwool or Icebreaker merino, typically of 200 g/m2 weight. Both kids had synthetic underwear to make sure a wet butt doesn’t stay wet for days on end, which tends to happen when you use cotton undies. As a matter of fact, cotton is essentially banned from our gear list. We are looking for merino underwear for the kids, but haven’t found any so far. Please let us know (post a comment) if you know of any!

Socks: Smartwool or Woolpower liner socks. Our entire family particularly likes the Woolpower liner socks, which is all we need, even for temperatures down to freezing, as long as we are on the go. Our sleep socks are thicker, typically of the “expedition weight” quality.

Shoes: Adidas running shoes for Mattias (a very old and ragged pair that was well worn in). Adidas gore-tex lined shoes for Myra. Neither were optimal. The insoles couldn’t be removed from Mattias shoes, which made them dry relatively slowly, despite the predominance of well-ventilating mesh on the uppers. Same thing goes for the gore-tex lined shoes, once they get wet they tend to stay wet. We will hunt around for running shoes or trail runners with removable insoles, well-ventilating mesh fabric, and without any water-impermeable barrier. Both kids also brought their Crocs, which they slipped into in camp if their shoes were wet. They also used their Crocs for planned fording of wider streams. Dad threaded some elastic cord through the holes in the Crocs and tied the cord around M & M’s ankles to make sure the Crocs didn’t sail away when we waded through the jåkks.

Gloves: Rab Polartec Powerdry for Mattias, Icebreaker merino liners for Myra + a pair of generic fleece mitts. We will probably complement these with a rainproof barrier.

Hats: Fleece balaclava (from MEC) for Myra, fleece bucket with inca-style earflaps (from REI) for Mattias. Both are old favorites and worked very well.

That’s it, that’s all we need. A few tweaks here and there, and then we have a solid system in place.

Footwear for hiking in Lapland

1 kg of weight on your feet equals 6 kg carried on your back, or so the saying goes. We believe it. And so we hike in trail runners.

Crossing Gorsajohka, M & M wore Crocs, dad wore his trail runners, with the insoles removed, and mom actually waded barefoot, carrying her Gore-tex lined shoes around her neck. Going barefoot is certainly not recommended, since your feet get so numb from the cold water that you cannot really tell if you cut yourself on sharp rocks. We need to work out a better strategy for mom. Once her beloved shoes wear out, we should replace them with a pair without any water impermeable barrier, so that she can follow dad’s strategy.

After stomping out the little water that collects in the mesh of the trail runners, dad put the insoles back in place and put on a pair of thin merino liner socks. His feet were warm after a few minutes of hiking and nearly dry after another 30 minutes or so. This system is unbeatable in dad’s opinion. And the insoles-out, socks-off procedure is not really needed at all, usually he just walks right across any waterways on the fly. Of course, it doesn’t work if you wear gore-tex lined shoes, since they trap water inside the shoe.

A perfect setup for hiking in Lapland (and elsewhere).

The details of dad’s recommended footwear system: trail running shoes, in this case Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra; Superfeet blue insoles (taking care of dad’s achilles tendonitis); and Woolpower merino liners. A pair of lightweight gaiters (MLD Superlight Gaitors) stop grit from getting into the shoes.

The ideal shoe is made of ventilating mesh fabric and has a removable insole to make the shoe dry out really fast.

If it is cold and our shoes and socks aren’t dry by the time we stop for the night, then we take off the wet stuff, dry our feet, put on our night socks (thicker merino socks) and a pair of Sealskinz over these, then step into our trail runners again with the insoles removed (to allow for the extra bulk). Perfect!

Why Ti?

Why titanium? Do you think you save weight? Yes, you do if the only viable alternative that you are comparing with is stainless steel or other high tensile metal. But for cookware, cutlery, etc. you almost certainly don’t, because aluminum or plastic or wood works just as well and is typically lighter. For a family of 4, it makes sense to carry one or two reasonably large (> 1.5 liter or so) pots, a strategy that in our opinion offers the greatest convenience and cooking efficiency. In this category, we simply haven’t found anything lighter than aluminum. We are very pleased that the two pots from our old (30+ years) Trangia set actually outperform all of the alternative and supposedly light, high-tech gear.

Here’s a comparison of the weight-per-volume of various popular cook pots:

Manufacturer, model, capacity Volume Weight Weight/Volume
Trangia, aluminum, 1.5 l 1500.00 127.00 0.085
Trangia, aluminum, 1.75 l 1750.00 149.00 0.085
Antigravitygear, 2 l aluminum non-stick pot 1900.00 167.00 0.088
Snow Peak, Trek 1400 titanium 1400.00 124.00 0.089
Evernew, UL Titanium pot 1300 ml 1300.00 140.00 0.108
Vargo, Ti-Lite, 1.3 l non-stick 1300.00 140.00 0.108
REI Ti ware non-stick, 4.0 l 4000.00 451.00 0.113
Snow Peak, Cook’n save, 2 liter titanium 2000.00 234.00 0.117
Tibetan, Titanium 1100 Pot 1100.00 136.00 0.124
Evernew, UL Titanium pot 1900 ml 1900.00 244.00 0.128
Evernew, UL Titanium pot 900 ml 900.00 117.00 0.130
MSR, Titan Kettle 850.00 118.00 0.139
Ti-Time, titanium pot 900 ml 900.00 128.00 0.142
Tibetan, Titanium 900 Pot 900.00 130.00 0.144
Primus Etapower, 2.9 l 2900.00 446.00 0.154
Trangia billy, aluminium, 2.5 l 2500.00 395.00 0.158
Primus, saucepan, stainless, 3 l 3000.00 493.00 0.164
GSI, aluminium, 1.9 l 1900.00 335.00 0.176
Snow Peak, Trek 700 titanium 700.00 126.00 0.180
Evernew, UL Titanium pot 600 ml 600.00 112.00 0.187
Primus Etapower, 2.1 l 2100.00 412.00 0.196

The result is clear. By using our old Trangia pots we save weight, money and a precious resource.

On windscreens

Aluminum foil wrapped around the pot and secured with a paperclip.

A paperclip does the trick. By mounting the windscreen directly onto the pot it actually serves the dual purpose as a windscreen and as a poor man’s heat exchanger of sorts, increasing heat transfer to the walls of the pot. We really ought to do some quasi-scientific benchmarking of the increase in performance, but based on our initial experience, this seems to be a fairly efficient way of speeding up boil times.

Update: You need to be careful with this setup if you have any plastic components on your burner, so that they do not melt! Recently, we were a bit too slack and didn’t monitor how hot the stove got, with the result that the plastic trigger on the piezo igniter melted. This overheating problem becomes more serious the lower the windscreen reaches. It goes without saying that the windscreen shouldn’t reach any lower than shown in the photo above. Since you need to be able to adjust the flame, it is kind of natural that the windscreen doesn’t go any further down that slightly above the control valve. Be careful!