Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Talking about Gear!

I've been threatening to do this for a while, so finally here it is! These are my thoughts on kit I have been using for the North Island, and what I will continue with  Down South.

Pack. Aarn Featherlite Freedom. Simply brilliant. Yes, it takes time to 'dial it in' just right, but once you do, it carries what I want with more comfort and freedom of movement than any other pack I have used, period. A couple of wear areas, ie the hem of a elastic side pocket and the mesh of a balance pocket. It has kept my gear dry despite being submerged in rivers, estuaries and subject to hard driving rain. I now completely trust the fabric and don't use pack liners or stuff sacks. Plus I love how I organise gear in the front balance pockets. I don't need to use pockets in my shorts/trousers!
The capacity is just right for me- 65L, giving me space to carry the extra food for longer legs in the South Island. The balance pockets work! Unlike Bila, shown here, I don't end up bent over like a pretzel.

Shelter. I use a Zpacks cuben fibre tarp with dyneema cordage and a variety of stakes (V and Y aluminium, mostly). So far it's been bomb-proof, although in the middle of a mini tornado it did mist a bit with wind-driven rain being forced through, but I kinda expected that :-)
I can use it over my hammock or on the ground.

For bug protection I use my hammock bug net, or just my head net and baseball cap.

Hammock. I have switched from my Warbonnet Blackbird to a lighter Dream Hammocks Darien Ultralight. Nothing wrong with the Blackbird, it does what it is designed to do superbly, I was just looking to shed some bulk. Here is the Darien UL.
Once I have my Kifaru poncho liner UQ on it, it looks more like this:
I've since ditched the wind/rain under cover as it just made it sweaty inside the hammock (duh!).

Sleeping bag/top quilt/ground insulation. I was using a 40 degree (F) Kifaru poncho liner, which was usually enough to keep me warm especially with my sleeping clothes/layering. But with an eye on the South Island, I purchased a Mountain Laurel Designs Spirit 20 top quilt. This can be configured like a mummy sleeping bag, is toasty warm and packs down small. I use synthetic as one of my rules is my gear must still keep me warm when it gets wet. This is NZ, eventually everything gets wet! It also works well in my hammock, opening up like a traditional quilt.
For ground insulation I was using a Pacific Outdoors product,but it sprung a leak and I couldn't find the hole! I ended up using a good 'old blue thermal mat for a while as a quick and cheap replacement, but an uncomfortable night on the ground changed my tune! I have since bought on sale an Exped Synmat 7 UL (not much syn happening on this mat, I can tell you!), along with an air pillow. Not very hardcore, I know, but a good night's sleep is really important to me. Anyway, I'm happy with the weight, packed volume and comfort. And yes, I prefer them to the bed and pillow these are perched on!

Clothing. If you've been following my blog, you may know already that I have retired my Zpacks WPB jacket as I found mine didn't keep driving rain out. Of course, finding this out was less than fun and I was cold and soaked to the bone for most of the day (still walking, didn't stop to dry out). I've replaced it with an Arc'teryx jacket made with goretex paclite. It's heavier but more storm proof in my opinion. Pit zips help with ventilation, and I like the cut and ability to move freely in it. I've also gone to a slightly warmer Montbell jacket, the Thermawrap Pro. I'm still using my Icebreaker GT zip shirt, which is ripped up by brambles and gorse and wearing out around the shoulders... But despite that I love it (to bits). Unsure if it will handle extreme heat later in Summer, we shall see!

As for pants, my Macpac trousers weren't hacking it, so I ended up with some Earth Sea Sky zip offs, despite not liking the design at first. Since then I have warmed to them- they almost look like normal trousers when zipped on, and as shorts they are airy, dry quick and stretch well. In camp and for sleeping I have my Fjallraven vidda pro trousers, which are also my in-town strides. More weight perhaps, but I love 'em anyway! Here they are below- found them too warm to wear tramping in normal weather.
My sleeping/spare clothes are merino wool leggings and a green hoodie... Perfect if you want to look like one of Robin Hood's merry men!

I like hoods... For sleeping they keep me warmer, protect my pillow/hammock, and you can always try to look like a badass gangster. Or not.

I also use merino underwear for warmth and because they don't stink. Well, not as much, anyway. I'll save you and me from the embarrassment of a pic.

Footwear. Ok, this is an evolving thing. I'm still more than happy with ditching my old Miendl boots before this walk... My shoes are supportive enough and I have had no problems with ankles. Blisters, yes... But not tendons or joints. Plus I like how fast they dry, how fast I can walk in shoes. My feet don't feel as tired as they have in boots. 
My Inov8 Terrocs are on the left . No goretex, no leather uppers. I have used super feet inner soles, but prefer Formthotics for fast road marches as they are more cushioning. I accept the shoes will wear out faster. I have a spare pair shipped in my bounce box! Gaiters- I use an alpine gaiter for bush and alpine work, mostly to protect my legs, and a pair of short running gaiters for road walking. I have brushed off my goretex socks for the South Island, mainly for alpine stuff to keep my feet from freezing.
Socks? Let's just say (to paraphrase a Speights beer commercial) it's a hard road finding the perfect sock. I'm back to using sock liners, this time Smartwool merino. I don't like bulky, padded, slow-drying socks, and nor do my feet! I'll let you know how it goes.

Cooking gear. One thing I haven't changed at all! Loving my Trail Designs Ti-tri caldera and 750ml ti pasta pot. 

I cook almost always using methylated spirits (similar to/same as HEET?), but I can also use hexi or wood. I'll post later about food if anyone is interested (?).

Navigation etc. I use printed TA trail maps (great stuff, thanks Kim Olivver) and compass, plus my iPhone GPS and a couple of apps: ihikegps NZ, and Topo 50. I was using Mapapp but I was annoyed by the lack of functionality and cost compared to what others offer. I also use my iphone to blog (Blogger), play music, store trail notes, as an ebook reader, as an alarm, to conduct research (Google ;-), first aid advice, as my camera using camera + and VSCOcam, and occasionally as a phone. In an emergency I have my Delorme inreach, which I have used a few times to send texts/update FB as well. Well worth it, in my opinion. I power my iPhone using a solar recharger (PowerTraveller SolarMonkey Adventurer). All have performed to spec, but I occasionally wish I had more charged available, especially for the power-hungry iPhone 5!

Other stuff. Earlier I had gotten rid of my knife in favour of a small blade and scissors... I've since reversed that decision as I find myself wanting a decent size blade as a tool, especially for making fires. I think I will be doing more of this down South (where it is permitted, such as huts), and I've only found blunt axes or saws in the DOC huts. So believe it or not, I will be carting a mini hatchet and bush saw. I can use the hatchet in place of a knife for most tasks, and it battens wood more easily in my opinion. I am still using the same firelighting tools, a mini swissteel, mini bic lighter, and Vaseline-infused cotton balls. My headtorch is going strong- a Petzl e-lite. I still use two cheap 1 litre water bottles, and haven't carried more than 2 litres at a time since 90 Mile Beach. I rarely treat my water, but if I do I just use chlorine dioxide tablets. No issues thus far!

And that, I think, is that. Tell me if you have any specific questions, no doubt I've left something out! Happy trails everyone.


  1. Great job Pat! Enjoying reading your blogg from the wintery north (Sweden). I think we met some years ago when I was in 3AuckNth.. most likely in a bar!!
    Anyway, keep up the good work and secure the rights to this text for a book! You could well be our next Barry Crump.. well as an author anyway.. perhaps not everything else..
    Looking forward to your next post.

    Jeremy Foster
    Lt (retired)

    1. Gidday Jeremy, good to hear from you! A bar, no doubt and I remember your name!
      Thanks for the feedback, very much appreciated.

  2. Hi, what are the dimensions of the tarp you are using? Thanks Adrian

  3. Hey there. Im enjoying reading about your trip. Im heading out soon to hike the Te Araroa on the south island. You mentioned something about using a bounce box. Id like to use one myself but am having trouble finding information on how people went about doing this. If you have any info Id love to hear about it. Couldnt find your email address, but if you feel like writing me here is mine, Actually, if you have the time, any useful information you want to impart would be most appreciated. Thanks, and enjoy the rest of your tramp! Gus

  4. HI,
    I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read.I also enjoyed your journey trip .The out fit you had choose for the trip are the most valuable.thanks a lot.

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