Pyrenean High Route 2009 - Gear Review

Sep 07, 2009

Gear Reviews

Lightwave t0 Ultra

This feels like quite a spacious tent in use, there's enough space to sit inside, and plenty of space for gear when lying down. As the inner tent is fabric its also quite a warm environment inside.

Very stable - there are lots of places where the inner tent is tied into the pole system - if you do this, and use all the guylines to fully peg the tent out, then the stability is incredible - the fly/inner gap is very well maintained.

Vestibule big enough to cookin, this causes condensation but this would be the case in all tents.

There's a short pole at the front that keeps the vent open, this slots into a sleeve at the top of the tent, its fiddly to get this pole into position - the only criticism.

RAB Quantum 250, Sea to Summit Reactor Liner, POE Ether Thermo 6, Crux Halo Top

The choice of which sleep system to choose was tricky - on the one hand the first 6 days would be walking and camping at low level (actually at Sea Level on the first night), in the first week of September the nights could be fairly warm. But on the other hand, later in the fortnight I knew I'd be camping high in the mountains and as September drew on things could get a bit chilly.

In the end the flexible combination worked very well.

On the first night I slept in the Reactor Liner only, this was ideal and I believe the claim of +5C on a sleeping bag as it was warm enough.

Most nights I slept in the Reactor plus Quantum 250 combination. Again this was warm enough but had the additional flexibility that allowed me to have the sleeping bag upto my chest with the Reactor liner keeping the draughts around my shoulders at bay.

When camping above 2000m I also wore the Crux Halo Top. This is an extremely light down top which has a superb warmth to weight ratio. It effectively uprates the bag and is also worn as a warm layer around camp.

As for the POE Ether Thermo 6, I can't praise it enough! A superbly comfortable mat and very tough. On one occasion I was forced to camp on very rough ground and it smoothed out the bumps effortlessly - I was amazed.

I am sure its thermal characteristics also contributed to a good, warm nights sleep. This started me thinking - which is better: Neo Air or Ether Thermo 6?

Ether Thermo 6 is heavier but its more thermally efficient. Compared to a full length Neo Air I think I'd prefer it - especially given the price difference.

However a torso length Neo Air is only 260g and it packs down to nothing. Conclusion? For me I'd take the short Neo Air for trips of a couple of days and for longer trips I'll take the Ether Thermo 6.

Lightwave Fastpack 50

At times I was carrying upto 30lbs when I had extra water for camping later in the day. Most of the time the weight was 20-25lbs depending on the food I carried.

The Fastpack 50 was very comfortable. Practically the mesh side pockets are great - they're very stretchy and so contain a lot of items securely. Reaching for them while wearing the pack is okay but not easy, I found that the sack compression straps interferred with access to the pockets which at times could be frustrating. I managed to hole one mesh pocket - the dreaded barbed wire - but this did not propogate and the pocket is still usable.

Much of the pack is welded rather than stitched so it's actually quite waterproof too.

I liked the hip belt - its an odd design with a double strap to each side of the QR waist buckle. It works well in transferring the weight. Tightening the waist belt is also easy and seems more intuitive than the conventional method.

A spin off benefit of the double waist belt is that I can fix my camera to one 'leg' of the belt so that when I take the pack off it is still secure. With conventional packs there is always the risk that a waist mounted camera case falls off when the waist belt is undone.

The Fastpack will carry a range of tools - the attatchment for trekking poles is simple to use and effective. It does however need a clip for a hydration hose on the shoulder straps.

In summary the Fastpack 50 is a good load carrier for upto 30lbs. Its a bit heavier than other packs but has a comfortable frame and is ruggedly made with durable materials.

Black Diamond Alpine CF Trekking Poles

The Alpine CF poles performed very well. The grip is comfortable and as ever the flick lock system is reliable and easy to use.

The length graduations on the poles also make life a lot easier, once you decide what length pole you need its a click to set them back to the correct length each morning.

I found the straps to be too easily stretched when in use which could be annoying. Solving this problem would make these and exceptional trekking pole.

Montane Dragonfly Shirt

This might be the best trekking shirt I've ever worn. Its very comfortable to wear, wicks sweat away effectively when the heat is on and provides a degree of warmth when the environment is cooler.

I wore it every day for a fortnight, only washing it occasionally, and it stayed comfortable and presentable throughout.

Its wear characteristics are also good - very slight pulling on the seams was the only damage sustained.

Inov-8 Roclite 318

I spent one night in a mountain refuge and the range of footwear on display was amazing; from the light weight (similar to Roclite 318s), right through to fully fledged mountain boots.

I was keen to find out how the 318s performed over some rather rugged terrain - see pics - and in the event they performed well. I only had the odd blister, nothing out of the ordinary, and the shoes gave good support.

There was some wear in the sole (I did well over 200 miles in these and there is probably another 100 left in them) but thats about it as far as damage goes. If I had been doing the full 42 days then I would have needed about 3 pairs - factor this into your thinking. For longer walks it may be worth looking at more conventional products.

The differences I could detect between going this light and more conventional footwear were;

  • Stiffboots allow 'edging' when moving across rocks.
  • A couple of times I dragged my foot over a rock and this hurt more than it would in a conventional boot.

Regardless of these points the Roclite 318s made enough of an impression for me to say I'd certainly choose them again!

Raidlight Sahara Cap

It did its job! The flap is removable which is a useful feature and its also very light which means in windy conditions it get blown about but doesn't irritate.

Unfortunately it didn't stay white for very long!

Outdoor Designs Micro Grid Beanie

This is the softest most comfortable 'warm' beanie I've used - great balance between comfort, warmth and weight.

Its good to sleep in when the conditions call for it too.

Recta DT200 Compass

Easy to read and use, a good staple compass.

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