I haven’t been out on any kind of trip, local bimble or run, day trip or overnighter without using test kit since maybe October or November last year. This has had an interesting unforseen effect.
I used to really rely on certain bits of kit, be it a pair of boots, my Alpiniste 45+10, my favourite waterproof with wired hood and map pocket. Now I don’t really mind what I’m in or what I’m carrying so much as long as it does its job. If something fits and all the adjustments work I’ll happily take it away for a couple of days and not worry about it.
I went to lightweight gear to minimise the kits’ impact on my time on the hills and kit testing has furthered that. The kit I see genuinely is all good in various degrees from okay to brilliant. It’ll come down to the fit and what features you want whether you would buy it. It’s all surprisingly liberating, but I’ve still got my favourites, my “ideal kit-list”.
When I realised I didn’t have my sleepmat last week on Beinn Narnain, it wasn’t such a big issue. I just made the best of it and got on with looking at the sky and having my dinner. Years ago I would have flipped and lain on the ground all tears and snotters. The quality of the PHD down gear probably saved the day. But there was no fuss, it just worked. I had confidence in it. The gear finally has become invisible. Not because of using all the different kit, but because of the nature of the kit: lightweight, functional and minimalist on the whole.
And because of this I have the hills back, just like when I was younger and it was all fresh and I never knew what the pointy shapes were on the horizon. These days I might know what the names of all those shapes are, but my heart still swells as big when I’m standing there.
More than ever I’m convinced that well designed and well made lightweight kit is the only way to go.