TGO Challenge – Gear that Worked and Gear that Didn’t

Waterproofs stole the show

Wet and Cold Weather in the Highlands

I’ve backpacked across Scotland twice now in the TGO Challenge and I’m getting pretty good at figuring out what gear to bring. Still there were a few standout items on my gear list and a few bombs that I should have left at home. Tweak, live, and learn. Routes and weather conditions change every year. Gear lists should too based on environmental needs and experience.

See my 2013 TGO Challenge Gear List to see what I brought on this trip and my 2013 Challenge trip report for details and photos about our journey. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Mariposa heads for the hills

My Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack heads for the hills

Standout Performances

Waterproof and windproof layers: my Outdoor Research Versaliner Gloves, Outdoor Research Foray Jacket, and GoLite Tumalo Rain Pants did a fantastic job keeping me warm and dry. The Versaliner gloves preserved my dexterity far better than the rain mitts I wore during my 2010 Challenge hike, the torso length pit zips on the Foray Jacket let me vent heat when I was too hot, and the calf-length zippers in the legs of my rain pants made them very easy to put on and take off between rain showers. I wore all three of these garments EVERY day of the Challenge.

Rab Micro Pull-On Fleece – 100 Weight – I don’t usually wear a fleece sweater when hiking because they are so warm, but my English hiking partner was insistent that I bring a lightweight fleece jumper for extra insulation if I was cold or wet. He was absolutely right! and I wore this fleece under my waterproofs every day as an active mid-layer. Fleece is a pretty standard garment for UK hillwalkers and I now understand why.

Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 sleeping bag – I was worried I’d be too warm with this bag, but we had very cold weather and it was perfect. I’ve owned it for over 5 years and still think it’s the perfect sleeping bag for cool spring weather.

Dashpoint 20 Lowepro Camera Pocket - I’ll be doing a review of this camera pouch next week, but it attaches very securely to a backpack shoulder strap and provides excellent weather protection and access for point-and-shoot cameras. This was the first trip I’d used it on and it’s a keeper.

1.o Liter MSR Reactor Stove System – Not the lightest isobutane canister stove system out there, but certainly the fastest. I cooked meals with it under my tarp every night and like the fact that it doesn’t have an open flame like other gas burners. I think this makes it safer for use when cooking inside a shelter in foul weather, as long as you have proper ventilation to vent the carbon monoxide it gives off.

Pacer Poles – These trekking poles are great for hiking in mountainous and hillly terrain because they help you stand up straight and align your posture for optimum energy utilization and biomechanical advantage. They’re very popular among Challengers and work well with most ultralight shelter systems that can use hiking poles instead of tent poles.

Mountain Laurel Designs Cuben Fiber Duomid

Mountain Laurel Designs cuben fiber Duomid was bomber in the wind

The Bombs – Leave at Home Next Time

Dirty Girl Gaiters – a last minute addition to my gear list. These gaiters attach to your trail runners with a metal hook that slips under the laces and velcro tape that you apply to the back of your trail runners to prevent scree from entering your shoes. I’d sprayed them with Permethrin and added them to my gear list to prevent tick bites. Unfrtunately, the velcro tape came off my shoes after one day and I ended up carrying the gaiters for the whole trip but not using them. Blat!

Rocky Gore-tex Socks – I brought these as an extra thermal layer around wet socks, not because I expected them to keep my feet dry. When I put them on after a very cold stream crossing the water from my socks sloshed around inside them and was annoying. I guess the pair I’d brought on my 2010 Challenge hike had holes in them! Next time, just double up on wool liner socks if my feet get cold.

Too many spare camera batteries – I ended up using one lithium camera battery to take 1,000 photos in three weeks without needing to recharge it once. Next time, bring 1 spare battery instead of 3.

Things I wish I’d Brought

The battery portion of my PowerMonkey Extreme Solar Charger and Battery pack because it would have made it possible to recharge my phone in the field and use cell phone based mapping tools and digital recording equipment. For instance, my hiking partner Martin Rye used an app on his phone called ViewRanger which proved very useful for finding the position of paths and land rover tracks and where they were relative to our position when traversing large peat bogs. I’m afraid that my resistance to using a cell phone as a GPS has crumbled because that app provided so useful on our trip….

A bathtub floor for my Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid tarp because it would have been more comfortable for sleeping on ground covered in tussocks and mole hills and less slippery than a polycro ground sheet and bivy sack which have the tendency to slide around at night.

Other than that – all my gear was perfect!

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13 Responses to TGO Challenge – Gear that Worked and Gear that Didn’t

  1. Louis Brooks June 7, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    Thanks for the write up, it is always interesting to see what gear worked and didn’t under different circumstances. I really like my Dirty Girl gaiters but have had the same experience walking in the swampy areas around Fl. It seems to be a common complaint. I usually carry some spare Velcro in my repair kit but not sure how that would work in 3 weeks of wet walking.

    That camera pocket looks like a good idea. I usually end up with mine in a pants pocket which can get annoying after while.

    –louis

  2. Chris June 7, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    I wouldn’t give up on the DG gaiters just yet. I presume that you were wearing a pair of Inov-8s? My wife couldn’t keep her Velcro tabs on her Roc-lites during the PCT but I didn’t once have an issue. I think the 3M velcro just disagrees with the material on the back of their shoes. We reapplied her’s using super glue and that solved the problem. Most importantly — what crazy fabric pattern did you choose? Leopard print?

    • Earlylite June 7, 2013 at 8:53 am #

      Yep – Terrocs. I was going to try again with superglue on a new pair that is due to arrive today! I used a pretty tame pattern – the blue hydrate.
      http://www.dirtygirlgaiters.com/hyd.html

      • Damien Tougas June 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

        I haven’t tried Super Glue, but when I apply the velcro I usually use Seam Grip and a clamp, which has worked quite well on several pairs of Inov-8 shoes.

  3. Sean June 7, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    Hey there, curious which camera you use with the awesome battery life?

    Good write up. Thanks.

  4. Jim C June 7, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    This is one of the types of writeup that keeps me coming back here!

    Questions:

    1) I see that you have used the Versaliner gloves for one winter season (a not-long time for judging durability) … how have they held up so far?

    2) Safe to assume that the Dashpoint camera case was weatherproof enough for what sounded like early spring weather for this year’s TGO? Having lost a camera in a snowshoe pratfall I’m looking for a shoulder strap case that’s fairly weatherproof (upper midwest, not the desert southwest:-) that will allow convenient use attached with a short tether. Also, from the published dimensions of your camera and the case it seems like it was adequate but not excessive size (girthwise anyway). Still easy to get the camera out? (I’ll be using one with a similar fit in the dashpoint 10)

    • Earlylite June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

      Versaliners – so far excellent. Really an excellent find.

      Dashpoint. The DWR on the outside held up several days of continuous rain..ie. the camera never got wet inside. It also has a dual connection system vertical and horizontal that make it very secure on the shoulder strap – not short tether though. The camera is still very easy to get out too and is the reason I was able to take so many photos unhindered.

  5. romney June 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    I’ve never seen those gaiters before – look like just the thing for extending the season of use of my hiking shoes. Boots disagree with my ankles.

  6. Rob fae Craigellachie June 9, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    Phillip,

    The velcro may have come off due to poor adhesion – the “foot” logo on the heel of the shoe prevents total contact.

    Try this with DD gaitors: Use a hair dryer on hot for a few minutes to wave over the “foot” logo on the heel of your Innov-8′s. It is then very easy to remove this “foot”.

    Once you’ve done that apply the velcro to the heel of your Innov-8′s.

    That is what I do and I use Innov-8′s and DD gaitors every day of the week and have no problems. They are a good gaitor.

    Cheers,

    Rob

    • Earlylite June 9, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      Ah – that’s a fabulous trip. I will definitely have to give that a go!

  7. Rob fae Craigellachie June 9, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    I forgot to mention that when I apply the velcro I really press it hard and leave it for 48 hours before using. I had the same problem as you before trying this and since then (crossing fingers) I have had no problems.

  8. DaveC June 12, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    The key for Dirty Girl use in snow:

    -remove the stock velcro, sew on a 2″ by 2″ square
    -glue a comparably sized patch on your shoes as follows
    -clean area of shoe with soap and water
    -clean area with denatured alcohol, twice
    -apply a thin coat of seam grip to shoe and velcro patch, let cure until just a bit sticky
    -stick together and clamp overnight
    -let cure 24 hours before use
    -seam grip doesn’t stick to leather

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