Sunday, 1 May 2011

Lower Bann Canoe Trail, Kit Report

The kit I took with me on the canoe trip was a bit of a mixture, some old, some new, some typical solo stuff and some heavier kit.

Clothing wise there was nothing new apart from perhaps legwear. I decided on the Peter Storm Active trousers I have for review, they've been worn on my last couple of outings and have proved to be up to the task. Windproof and very fast to dry with plenty of pockets they're very good value for money. My regular summer trousers have been Columbia Omni's which I like but I think the Peter Storm are a bit more durable.

I once again wore a Uniqlo L/S Heattech T-Shirt, I've been wearing these pretty much exclusively since getting my 1st last year. They're very comfortable, not too tight fitting yet not loose, dry quickly and don't stink too much. Although I have a Merino baselayer top, and some Sub Zero F1 which is a particular favourite I don't find the performance advantage over the Heattech to justify the cost for general use.

I wasn't sure about insulation, not knowing how cool it would be at night or whether I'd need insulation during the day I took the Mountain Hardwear 100 wt fleece I got for review from Webtogs a while back. In the end I only wore at night. I also took my well used Montane Flux but again it was mainly used as a pillow. I've had it for over 2 years now and it's without doubt my most used piece of kit, the waist drawcords have been re-stitched as has the hood drawcord and one of the chest pockets has a major tear in the lining but unfortunately the zip puller broke completely when I was wearing it in camp in the morning. I really should replace it as it's got to be past it's best as far as insulation goes but maybe I'll just replace the zipper.

Wet gear consisted of my Paramo VAL and Trespass Pack-Away over trousers neither of which were worn.

Footwear was a pair of Adidas Terrex Seamless and 'Jeep' branded wool mix socks from TK Max. The Adidas have been pretty good so far regardless of the conditions, the only thing I'd say is that they definitely aren't as breathable as unlined trainers with a mesh upper, on the other hand mud etc doesn't get stuck in the fabric. I did notice that the part of the sole that extends up over the front of the shoe has started to come away on one foot probably from me having had my foot tucked under the seat. Regardless I still like them and in particular the cordlock lacing system.

I made a bit of a mistake regarding headwear in that while I took a Polar Buff to wear at night I forgot to take a hat or cap for sun protection, in the end I had to use the Polar Buff as a Shariane, pulled on like a sock with the fleece part as a headband and the fabric part as a neck shield. Although it was probably the wrong colour (black) and warmer than needed (fleece part) it was better than nothing. I also took my Black Diamond fleece gloves but didn't use them. Eye protection was in the form of a pair of Bolle Spider Flash Mirror safety (sun)glasses with a 'Croakies' retainer for security. They cost less the £10 including postage from Midland Moto on ebay, come from a respected manufacturer and are certified so why pay more.

The cooking kit was a bit of a mixture, the Trangia 27k was fine but not really suited to group use, for 1-2 person use as intended it's perfect if the weight ins't an issue which of course it wasn't being in a canoe. The non-stick frying pan I'd bought recently worked as it should but the coating is quite thin and I'm a bit careless, slicing mushrooms with a razor sharp knife when they were in the pan resulted in a some damage.

I also took the Backcountry Boiler, more for fun than anything else. I love using it as it's so efficient, again designed for solo use it didn't work well in a group of 4 but for an early morning brew up it was 1st class. I managed a 5min 30sec boil of 500ml using a bit of birch bark and whatever twigs were within reach while I was still in my sleeping bag.

The Eurohike frying pan was a useful addition, used as it was in the morning for our group breakfast, it's a bit too big for regular use but it'll replace the small normal pan we carry for family car camping.

I also took an old cafetiere that I removed the frame/handle from and added a foil bubble wrap sleeve both for protection and insulation.

Although I went through a phase of eating dehydrated meals directly from a freezer bag I'd recently reverted to using a bowl of sorts. My 'bowl' was actually a deep square plastic lunchbox but unfortunately I managed to split the bottom, I've no idea how or when it happened but I'll need to find a replacement as I much prefer eating from a bowl rather than directly from a bag regardless of the advantages of the latter. I also took the Drink-Safe-System Aquaguard Eliminator In-Line filter system but didn't need to use it.

My sleeping kit and shelter consisted of my Alpkit Rig 7 Tarp, Titanium Goat Ptarmigan bivvy bag, Snugpak Premier 1 synthetic sleeping bag and my usual Millets closed cell sleeping mat, I'd also borrowed a Hennessey Hammock complete with rainfly from Ralph.

As I mentioned I'd tried the hammock but hadn't used any insulation underneath me so ended up feeling cold and reverted to using the CCF mat/bivvy bag on the ground. I could possibly have used the CCF mat in the hammock but it seems sleeping mats and hammocks don't work quite so well together due to the way a hammock forms around the occupant (the general concensus seems to be that you use an under quilt, basically like a regular quilt but one that hangs underneath and outside of the hammock. In addition the Hennessey open up along the bottom so it isn't quite so easy to get the mat in and then get yourself in, not impossible but not something to try at 2.00am. That said I'm still keen to give a hammock another go but I'll probably get one that has a side access zipper. I didn't use the Alpkit Tarp as it didn't look like it would rain and I hadn't put it up the previouse evening as I had the Hennessey hammock with attached fly.

Finally tools/accessories, I took my Bundeswehr issue pocket knife to which I'd attached a length of paracord, my flint was attached at the other end and I carried them with the cord looped through one of the belt loops on my trousers. I also carried my Brusletto Nansen sheath knife and for chopping wood and other heavy duty tasks I carried a Martindale Golok.

There wasn't much need for navigation tools but I took a Lowerance Safari GPS receiver which was loaded with Quo mapping software and maps for Northern Ireland. I carried my regular 1st aid kit, wash kit and for lighting took an Energizer 7 LED headtorch, I made the mistake of not putting a fresh set of batteries in it though so ended up with only a red LED option. A Highlander Mosquito Headnet and pair of Barska Blackhawk 8x25 waterproof binoculars were taken but not used.

In the end everything worked and there were no unforseen problems, unsurprising as most of the kit had been used before.

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