These are testing times

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.


8 thoughts on “These are testing times”

  1. Does this imply development has plateaued? Are we waiting for a ‘next big step forward’ before you start seeing huge differences?

  2. That’s a good point. There seems to be a lot of refining, and honing. Evolution not revolution.

    The next big step will have to be in materilas technology I think. I’ve got bamboo and wool socks coming from the US, and I think they’re both going to be the future. Trail shoes back to being leather with coconut husk mesh? Everythinh will have to be biodegradable or recylcable.

    The gear I’m using just now is exciting when you get a hold of it, but on the hill it’s not imposing itself which I think is as it should be.

    Inovation is a precious thing and it is happening, it just takes a while for the results to surface.
    There’s few things coming later this year and early next years that will raise an eyebrow or two.

    Design wise and environmentaly wise. I know of at least one company who has changed it’s DWR finish to an environmentally safer treatment and admitting that it’s at the cost of durability and performance. That’s brave, it’s commited and sets a marker for others.

  3. I didn’t realise what the ‘pointy things’ meant to me ’til years ago I was driving to the Alps in France and I saw them for the first time that year, in the distance with white tops and the blue behind. I could not speak for a while. Nowadays, I use that as a test to check I am still alive.

    To me the kit is a great, boyish bonus!! :)


  4. The kit is great, right now the best it’s ever been maybe? Modern fabrics with a return to basic practicality.

    We’re away to see Haglofs ’09 next week and it’s like going to see Santa.

  5. De-cluttering our outdoor equipment should result in freedom to enjoy once more the hills while backpacking. Hamish Brown in the 70s wandered Scotland with a pack weight that puts many of today’s so called light weight loads to shame.

    Q. What would your personal kit be for a week’s backpack be if you had to put together a kit list?

  6. True enough Martin. My sleeping on a map escapade was a close as I’ll ever get to what these old guys did.

    Good question, ideal kit list? I’d base it around my WHW kit.

    Pack/ LIM 45 or OMM Mountain Mover
    Tent/ Lasercomp
    Mat/ Exped Airmat
    Trousers/ Haglofs Rugged Mountains
    Midlayer/ Macpac Interwool Mountain Versatile Zip
    Insulation/ Down gilet PHD/OMM/Haglofs
    Underwear/ Taranaki or Smartwool boxers and the Dale zip neck long sleeve
    Footwear/ Hmmm, Salomon XAs if the weather was looking nice, maybe Montrail Namches. Wet? Targhee mids
    Sleeping Bag/ I really don’t know, I’m amid down armageddon here at the moment
    Cooking/ Optimus Weekend Pots. Stove, maybe the Caldera Cone if it turns out well on test.

    All the other usual bits and pieces are the same all the time for me.

    Pretty much standard issue there I think.

    Anyone else got a list, either possible or wish?

  7. I like that selection. Glad you went for a tent as over a week I think they offer the best option for the UK conditions. On the Caldera Cone that caught my eye. I have one and am not sure if I’ll use it over a week. I find the wind changes the boil time, and this varies how much fuel I need (so a pain in planning). Also for porch cooking they do flare up and the flame can shoot up high. Saying that it is a good bit of kit, but a bit overrated. On down gilet’s what about the Nunatak Skaha Plus Vest. I will think about my dream set up, cant use the OMM packs due to back length which is a shame as they look good.

  8. That’s good info on the Caldera Cone.
    I’ve had a couple of remote canister stove out of retirement recently which are much more fuel efficient, I’d maybe take one of those.

    I do prefer a quick cuppa!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.