Sunday, 31 May 2015

Into the wilds.

How long can I go unsupported into the wilds?

Is a question I've been pondering lately. Over the last couple of years I've been thinking of a long trip in Arctic Sweden and this question is going to be key. Last year I did a trip through Knoydart over nine days, I actually only walked for seven but carried everything for nine. That made a pack of 17kg (37.5lbs) which included a litre of water and my walking poles. I've tweaked my kit a bit since I got back, to loose some weight and update some stuff. This year I'm planning on taking two weeks (15 days) food and gas which comes to 7kg. If everything else comes to 8.5 to 9kg then the final weight shouldn't be much different from last year.

Trouble is I've little room for trimming any more weight, the only thing I can see is changing my tent for a lighter one. I could go for a Hilleberg Akto at 1.7kg ( a saving of 200g) but at a cost of just under £500. Or, the Terra Nova Lazar competition 1, at 790g (a saving of 1.11kg) at £250. The Akto is a more robust constructed tent than the Lazar, At least as good as the Macpac I'm using at the moment, I'm not convinced the Lazar is as good. Both the Atko and the Lazar have a single hooped pole across the body of the tent and smaller poles at each end to hold the inner tent up. In the Akto there are two small poles at each end and the Lazar there's just one at each end. The inner tent of the Lazar is very close to the face when your laying down, something I think I would find very irritating.

Another consideration is which pack to use, my new Lightwave pack weighs 1kg and is really comfortable to carry, but at 60lts it's full with two weeks food and kit. I still have a huge Low Alpine pack which would carry everything with easy but it weighs 2.5kg so any savings I could make on the tent would be swallowed and more by using this pack.

I like using gas stoves to cook with (I'll really only be boiling water) I like their simplicity, their small size, light weight and their fuel efficiency. I can make a 250 canister last seven days, I'm taking a 500 canister with me this year, which I hope will last me fifteen days (I'm taking a 100 canister as back up). But, I think at fifteen days I've reached the point where the weight of metal in the canisters is out weighing the saving of using a simple gas burner. In the past I've used petrol stoves, the burner units are heavier than the gas ones and there's also the weight of the pump unit, but the fuel can be carried in lighter bottles. For solo use I've never found them all that efficient, if anything they produce too much heat a lot of which is lots around your small pan. I've also tried meths stoves, the full sized 25 and 27 model Tranga's are quite fuel efficient as the wind shield holds the heat in and the wind out but they're too heavy for solo use. The mini tranga is lighter as there's no wind shield but this makes it very fuel inefficient, the wind blows the flame all over the place and most of the heat misses the pan. There are on some of the ultra-lightweight backpacking websites some very lightweight if very flimsy looking meths stoves which might be worth looking at.

Finally, how much can I carry? The 17kg I carried last year wasn't too bad, I felt I was keep up quite a comfortable pace climbing munro's in Knoydart and Kintail. In the dim and distant past I've carried heavier packs both climbing in the Andes and in the military but that was 30+ years ago and I can't say it was all that much fun.

Then there's getting there, not many flights for under £400 and the ones that do go that way don't seem to connect. So there's always a long lay over in Stockholm or Copenhagen and the whole journey takes about three day each way.     

Everything for two weeks in the wilds.