In water: snorkeling in Thailand

Rewind to January 2011, when we escaped the snowy winter and went to Thailand. Snorkeling in Thailand was great! Most tourists snorkel the coral reefs and so did we, but we also snorkled in the rainforest(!).

Coral reefs. We went on two trips to popular destinations in the Andaman Sea. Much too popular, we think. The first company we went with ran a terrible, large scale operation with something like 8 big boats leaving from the mainland at the same time. Arriving at the extremely busy snorkel spots, the crew immediately threw the anchor and dumped food overboard to attract fish, which both are a total no-no, of course. This first trip left us with nothing but a very sad sense of exploitation. By contrast, our second trip was absolutely great! We went with Medsye, an eco conscious and very knowledgeable operator. These guys really know their stuff, and could tell us beforehand that “at this reef, you are likely to see the following species…”, with great accuracy. They also lectured us at length about how to behave on the reef so as not to disturb its various inhabitants, about the life cycles of various life forms, etc. A really great trip with a highly recommended operator!

Here I come! M jumping into the waters of Surin Island Marine National Park.

Rainforest creeks. In addition to the coral reefs, we also enjoyed snorkeling knee-deep rainforest creeks and watching freshwater ‘aquarium’ fish in their native habitat. Both dad and M are fish nerds and spent long hours studying the environments and natural behavior of the fish in the wild. What type of eco systems do they live in? What do they feed on? What other species live here?

Cool water rainforest creek.

A half-hour trek up through the rainforest right across the road from our hotel took us to this hidden jewel, a plunge pool below a small waterfall. Really nice to snorkel in with its cool, crystal clear water. Here we found three interesting species: a cyprinid, most likely Danio kerri, blue and iridescent yellow, dashing around near submersed roots and vegetation; a golden-copper colored barb, possibly Puntius orphoides, roaming the open sandy areas; and the killi Aplocheilus panchax, hiding among roots and leaf litter near the banks of the stream. The latter had fantastic colors, blue and bright orange. Much more colorful than any aquarium strain we’ve come across back home.

Exploring the aquatic fauna in the Khao Lak – Lam Ru National Park.

Another little creek emerged from the rainforest onto a ‘secret’ beach in the Khao Lak – Lam Ru National Park. Here we found at least two Rasbora species, a Badis species, and, again, Aplocheilus panchax. M & M spent a long time snorkeling and watching the fish. We also snorkeled in the sea and saw a sizeable Moray eel among the rocks. It was big enough to make the encounter a bit scary!

Ready? You bet! Let’s go look at that moray eel again…

M & M’s UPF50 swim suits provided perfect sun protection when snorkeling, swimming and playing on the beach. M & M wore their suits pretty much all the time. Mom & dad need to get shirts like these too for our next trip. We definitely want to go back!

Lush! Can you feel the humidity?

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.

Canoeing on Immeln

We took off on a brief but exhausting and very fulfilling 2-day canoeing trip to lake Immeln. This area is sometimes called the “southernmost wilderness” of Sweden. Not quite wilderness actually, but you still get a real sense of being out there. We rented two big, clunky canoes from Immelns Kanotcenter. They were perfectly suited for beginners like us. We set out from the southernmost end of Immeln with a slight breeze on our backs. The weather was pleasant, despite the compact cloud cover and intermittent drizzle. Soft air.

M & mom paddling away northbound with a light tail wind.

In just a couple of hours worth of paddling, we reached far north (some 10 km away) with little effort. We made a few stops on islands on the way, to have lunch, to have a coffee/hot chocolate, and to just check things out, and finally landed on a small island where we set up camp for the night. Sadly, as on all of the other islands we went ashore on, there were obvious signs of frantic bushcraft with lots of trash left behind. Who are these people? What ever happened to leave-no-trace? We quickly filled a big bag with trash to bring back home. With two huge canoes and very light packs, there simply wasn’t any excuse not to pitch in and haul it out.

On the bright side of things, we also picked a cup full of golden chanterelles (Chantarellus cibarius) to supplement our dinner. The sun broke through the clouds and we all had a swim before we started cooking dinner. Wilderness or not, the water in the lake is fit to drink. Close to the shore of our little island the water was full of planktonic crustaceans (i.e. “water fleas”) that we couldn’t be bothered to sieve out, so our soup was fortified with extra protein and dietary fiber. There were also some bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), a.k.a. blueberries, to be found on the island, and M & M were busy grazing away for a good while after dinner.

Bounty! Chanterelles for dinner.

Later in the evening, a storm rolled in over the lake. We pulled the canoes high up on the shore and turned them upside down. It rained heavily throughout the night and the wind reached gale force, ripping violently through the tall pine trees on our little island. We were very comfortable in our shelters. The Trailstar and Tarptent Double rainbow both stood solidly in the strong wind and we slept well, dry and warm.

A storm is rolling in…

The next morning, the rain stopped but the wind just kept increasing. Lake Immeln frequently sees winds being channeled from south to north and this day was no exception to that rule. The strong headwind presented some problem to us. We tried to paddle as much as possible on the leeside of islands, which helped to some extent. We quickly learned a lot about how to and how not to handle a canoe in strong wind and choppy waves. Crossing open waters, we had to paddle steadily and stay exactly on course into the wind, or else our big, heavy canoes were rapidly swept away tens to hundreds of meters before we managed to get them back on course again. In retrospect, we should have rented only a single canoe; as things stood, with only one adult in each canoe, we were in for a real challenge to make it all the way back to the southernmost tip of Immeln. We had a close call in the shallows near an island, where sidewinds pressed us repeatedly towards the rocks, threatening a capsize. Finally, after a lot of struggle, we managed to steer the canoes straight into the wind and headed out onto open water, fully committing ourselves to a long crossing of continuous and hard paddling across the sound to the next peninsula. We made it, but by the time we reached the jetty where we returned the canoes, mom and dad were utterly spent. It had been a very long day of hard work and we all celebrated the completion of our great little microadventure with huge ice creams. Satisfaction certainly lies in the effort — but the attainment is pretty sweet too! We were all extremely satisfied with our first overnight canoeing trip.

Abisko 2012, part 3

We started the day by hiking the 15 km leg of Kungsleden from Abiskojaure back to the STF mountain station in Abisko to resupply. After a quick selection of dried food and various goodies, we set out again towards Cuonjavaggi, another 18 km away. We weren’t really up for a 30+ km hike in a single day, so we stopped for the night when we found a nice site on a small esker ridge (i.e. well-drained) close to the first jåkk (i.e. convenient access to water) we crossed after emerging from the birch forest. On our way up through the birch forest we had picked a bag full of orange birch boletes (Leccinum versipelle). The kids set about cleaning their “catch”. We sorely missed butter and shallots! Next time we have to remember to bring both of these near-essential ingredients. After all, one great motivation for selecting light gear is to allow ourselves some luxury here and there (and still carry light packs). Nonetheless, it was fun to supplement our diet with some fresh mushrooms.

M & M hard at work cleaning their catch of Leccinum mushrooms. Cuonjacohkka is to the left in the background, Nissoncorru to the right. Both soon to be engulfed by the approaching rain clouds.

We timed dinner well. As soon as we were done, it started raining and the rain continued all night long. The next morning it started to clear up a bit, and as we progressed up into Cuonjavaggi the weather turned really, really nice. Bright blue skies and a warming sun! Up here on the fell, we made several sightings of the Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) and frequently heard their characteristic calls. Once we reached Cuonjavaggi, we chose a nice spot for our camp on a well-drained little hill close to a big esker ridge that runs across the valley floor at the tip of Cuonjajavri. We cooked a quick lunch (soup + cracker bread + salami) and pitched the tarptent + Trailstar.

And then it was time for some fly fishing! We had noticed that the fish in Cuonjajavri were rising to feed and we were curious to see how our tenkara set-up would work on an alpine lake (950 m altitude). We rigged the Yamame rod with a traditional furled line and a dark Sakasa kebari fly. In the sunny, late afternoon, the surface of the lake was perfectly still and we could easily see the small arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus alpinus) swimming close to the shore in search of insects. It didn’t take long before we had landed our first fish. All in all, we caught 8 fish. Most of them were small and we released the 3 smallest ones. The rest nicely complemented our dinner consisting of another home-made and dried dish: southern-indian chick-peas in coconut milk + couscous. Again, since we didn’t have any butter (big regrets!), we had to poach the char (we did have a fishing license, in case ambiguity leads you to think otherwise:). Grilling was out, because up here in Cuonjavaggi, far above the tree line, we simply couldn’t find enough twigs to make a fire (besides, there’s always the leave-no-trace issue to consider).

Catching arctic char on a tenkara rod in Cuonjajavri!

Boy, this was so much fun! Tenkara is perfect for kids and novices (ie dad) in general. Light enough to carry along even if fishing is not your main objective and very easy to rig. We are learning fast. With a tenkara rod, it is quite easy to cast with precision, and you have an impressive level of control of the fly once it’s on the water too, not only when fishing lakes, but also on fast-moving streams. Now we’re psyched to get more practice!

The collapsed Tenkara USA Yamame rod rigged with a TenkaraBum hi-vis level line, tippet and fly. The entire rig is wound up on the spool and threaded over the rod, which makes for a very convenient way of carrying the rod between spots.

After dinner we went for a short hike further up the valley. We enjoyed the warm sun, but soon realized that it would turn quite cold as soon as the sun dropped behind the peaks in the west. We put on all our layers, made some hot blueberry soup, and stayed up a while longer to take in the great colors on the surrounding peaks as the sun set. Then we snuggled into our sleeping bags, cinched the hoods tight against the cold, and soon drifted off to complete silence. No wind.

After-dinner hike further into Cuonjavaggi. The peak to the left is Cuonjacohkka (c:a 1500 m).

Dad woke us up early so that we could attempt to bag the nearest peak on Nissoncorru before the weather changed. Already at 5:30 we noticed a foreboding band of clouds over the Norwegian coast. Time to pack up and move. We stashed our packs and aimed for the gentle slope of the northwestern ridge line of Nissoncorru.

Early morning in Cuonjavaggi. Nasty looking clouds over the Norwegian coastal range.

Up and up we went until we were satisfied with the views that the gain in altitude offered. We actually stopped far below the summit, but were happy that we had climbed higher than ever before (we were probably at some 1200-1300 m). The menacing clouds moved in pretty fast from the west. After a short break and some munchies, we headed back down again.

On our way down from our vantage point on the slopes of Nissoncorru. The summit across the valley is at 1372 m.

Leaving Cuonjavaggi, we traced our steps back down to Baddosdievva, a sacred place to the ancient sami people, and then forked off to the southwest towards the Nissongorsa canyon. In places, the canyon is 60 m deep and quite narrow. We followed the canyon downstream towards Abeskoeatnu. Closer to the river, the birch forest showed signs of the flood that struck in early July, when Abeskojavri reputedly rose 2 meters after heavy rains. Down here, it was sometimes hard to distinguish the trail from the many dried-out rivulets that had formed during the flood, especially since there were masses of debris. After a few kilometers, we merged onto Kungsleden and headed back to the Abisko mountain station, passing by the magnificent “marble quarry”.

Abeskoeatnu cuts through a band of dolomite. Spot M & mom in the background for a size reference!

Back down, we pitched our shelters on the assigned camp ground near the STF mountain station and then enjoyed a really long and good session in the sauna, followed by dinner, and then we called it an early night. Tomorrow we go back home. What a fantastic trip we’ve had! We are already making new plans for next year’s adventures. How about weaving together the following routes from Grundsten’s guide book: 7 (Ballinvaggi-Siellavaggi), 14 (the Mårma pass), 20 (Unna Reidavaggi), 19 (the last section to Tarfala and then down to Kebnekaise mountain station), and 25 (Laddjuvaggi out to Nikkaluokta)? That would be quite a challenge, but should be doable in a few years time.

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.