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Challenge Gear List – Spring, 2010

TGO Challenge Gear List

With just 4 weeks to go, I've been very busy this weekend pulling all of my gear and resupply packages together for a 2 week unsupported hike across Scotland in the 2010 TGO Challenge. That includes finalizing my gear list, which I've listed below.

At 14.18 lbs, this load is a bit more than I planned for, but I then again, I didn't expect to have to deal with winter conditions on the Scottish summits this late in the year. If you look closely, I'm bringing along extra traction (microspikes) and some additional insulation in case it's very windy at elevation which is the norm in Scotland. I decided against bringing an ice axe and will forgo any peaks that require one to ascend safely because I'm hiking solo on this trip.

In addition to winter gear, I'll be carrying over 1 lb of maps, which I will be able to send home as I move eastward.

There's still a chance that I'll shave another 10 oz off this list by taking a down quilt instead of a sleeping bag. I'll be testing that option next weekend on a warm up section hike in Connecticut on the Appalachian Trail. Hopefully we'll have cold rainy weather, so I can get some good testing in.

If you have any suggestions about this gear list, please leave a comment below.

Zpacks Cuben Fiber Pack10.9
GG Nightlight pad 1/3 as framesheet
GG Backpack Liner1.8
Plastic Whistle0.1
REI Mini Thermometer0.3
Victoronix Classic Swiss Army Knife0.7
Sleep System 
MLD Duomid and Spintex Stuff sack13.8
5 x 9" Ti Stakes,  4 X UL Ti Stakes4.6
Thermarest Neo Sleeping Pad + Stuff Sack14.4
8L Sea-to-Summit Waterproof Sack1.2
Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 Sleeping Bag29.6
MLD Sprectralite Stuff sack (bivy size)0.2
MLD Superlight Bivy Bag with head net6.8
Gossamer Gear Polycro Footprint4.6
Extra Clothing 
Sea-to-Summit Waterproof Sack1.2
Patagonia Capilene 1 Bottom Long Underwear5.9
Patagonia Capilene 1 Long Sleeve Jersey6.5
2 pr Smartwool Merino Sock Liners2.6
Rocky Gore-Tex socks2.6
Montbell Thermawrap Jacket + Stuff Sack10.5
MLD Event Rain Mitts1.5
OR Windproof balaclava2.0
Golite Reed Rain Pants6.4
Black Rock Down Hat0.9
REI polypro glove liners1.4
Mountain Hardware polypro hat0.8
Katoolha Microspikes12.5
2 x Protec ITB Strap2.0
2 x 2L Platypus Bladders2.4
90 x Katadyn Micropur Chlorine Dioxide Tablets2.1
First Aid, Gear Repair, Hygiene 
Mesh Stuff sack0.3
Drugs, Duct Tape, Fire Starter, Shoelace, etc.7.6
Toob Toothbrush/paste1.5
MLD Food Bag1
OR Mesh Sack1
REI TiWare 1.3 L non-Stick Pot5.6
Snow Peak Titanium Stove3.8
Plastic Spoon0.4
MSR Packlight Wash Cloth0.7
Navigation and Electronics 
6 X Ordnance Survey (OS) Paper Maps16.4
Hillwalking Scotland Map0.7
Losack Plastic Bag (Map Case)1.1
Suuno A-10 compass0.9
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp3
Spot II Sattellite GPS Messenger4.1
Garmin Gecko GPS with Batteries3.3
Digital Voice Recorder2.2
6 X Lithium Batteries1.5
Blackberry Curve3.9
Panasonic Lumix LX3 Digital Camera9.4
Tiffen 46 mm UV Filter0.4
Panasonic Polarized Filter + Case1.8
Panasonic Lens Extension 0.8
2 x 16 GB Memory Cards + Case0.3
2 extra Lumix Lithium Batteries1.9
Jobby Tripod1.6
Weight in Oz226.9
Weight in Lbs14.18
Inov-8 Roclte 320 Trail Shoes25
1 Smartwool Merino Sock Liner1.3
Railrider Eco Mesh Pant with Insect Shield11.9
under armour heat gear boxer jocks3.3
EMS Techwick Short sleeve shirt5.6
MLD eVent Gaiters1.3
Patagonia R1 Pullover12
Rab Momentum eVent Jacket12.0
Marmot Billed Cap1.9
Weight in Oz74.3
Weight in Lbs4.64


  1. Looks like a very good list for the changeable conditions you're likely to encounter Phil.

    Personally I'd be tempted to leave the balaclava behind (you have two other hats and the close fitting hood on the R1). I could live without the polycro footprint too.

    I'd also think about leaving one of the electronic devices behind. Is there a GPS or mapping app available for the Blackberry? Then you could leave the Garmin behind (you're already carrying a pound of maps).

    I'd also be tempted to leave the Microspikes behind but I'm unsure of the conditions you'll face on your chosen route so I'll let someone with TGO Challenge experience air their views on that one!

    Good luck. I'll be following your trip with interest.

  2. Actually this R1 Pullover doesn't have a hood, so the balaclava does double duty as neck warmer on climbs and when I sleep. The reason I have so many hats (hats are cheap) is that I tend to sweat them out quickly, but they can take a long time to dry.

    The polycro is along because the ground is expected to be very wet. This is the boggy patch of scotland. However, I did spy an even lighter mylar-like groundcloth at MLD yesterday and hope to receive it before the Challenge.

    Thanks for the comments!

  3. Good Luck Phil! I cant wait to see how you do.

  4. Even in a bog, your bivy should be waterproof enough to not need a groundcloth. If it isn't, why take it?

  5. Hi, Earlylite.

    I've just come back from two weeks in Scotland, day walking. The first week was foul with new snow, rain, wind etc. The second was glorious – Scotland at its best. There is a huge amount of snow left over 2500 feet but it is melting fast. I spent most of my time on Corbetts (between 2500' and 3000') and was happy with NB RX Terrain fell running shoes. The occasional, small snow patches were soft at the levels I was reaching. Enthusiatic Munro baggers told me that life was hard work on the Cairngorm Munros. They did a lot of post holing, so the snow was soft there too.

    On my last night, in Braemar, it froze in town. Two thousand feet further up, freeze-thaw must be in full effect.

    As far as camping is concerned, I saw many cracking pitches with dry ground, but anywhere below a snow patch was soggy. I am pretty surprised by how dry the ground is in many areas as we have had a lot of precipitation. Road edges were dusty with lorries – sorry, trucks – swirling up clouds of the stuff. Of course, heavy rain would melt the snow and fill the burns. There is a pleasant thought.

    I imagine that you are getting updates on the conditions from mission control and from the bulletin board.

    As far as the microspikes (which I have never tried) are concerned, if you encounter an iron hard snow patch, it will be steep and immediately above a big drop so for five minutes you will be very glad of them.

    I never unshipped my ice axe and, once committed to the Corbetts, left it in the car. Which is hardly a backpacker's option.

    If you get the kind of weather we are having now, you will have an unbelievable time, probably deviating from your planned route to bag a hatful of peaks. I hope you are fortunate. It is back to work for me and I am envious.

    Have a great hike.

  6. Ditch the balaclava. A buff is super light and can be used for head ware and made into a balaclava. Down hat is not needed (be not as multi functional as fleece). Take a normal fleece one to use walking if cold as it will add more warmth than a spare layer as most heat escapes through your head. (I would only take a hooded fleece and buff. Do all you need and the then use the warm jacket in camp) you could lose the NeoAir and pad to use as a frame for the pack. Cut a Zrest in to a eight long section length. Will fold flat and be comfortable to sleep on and be frame pack inside the pack. Be 228g if my scales are right.

    You are wearing one pair socks so only need one spare. Hamish brown would only take one spare sock and rotate them. He is one of my backpacking heroes.

    Gaiters are light so why not take them. I like them and rate them as good for the UK. Will be taking mine this weekend. The maps you need to make sure the attached card cover is removed (unless you printed them?). Don’t post them ahead as they might not be there. I have seen that happen on the Challenge. The groundsheet is a must in my view as ground water is an issue you will face. Colon Ibbotson commented on this when I raised it before. It will give you additional dry space to use. GPS is OK but Joe has a point. Then the phone will never be as good.

  7. Can't the Blackberry Curve act as a digital voice recorder?

  8. The curve has no other purpose than to let me call my wife periodically or a taxi or to book a room in the next town. It's battery life on standby is at best 2 days. I'm not going to use it as a gps or a voice recorder because my GPS and digital voice recorder are both optimized for that purpose and have great battery lives. If I could, I'd leave the Blackberry behind, but mostly it will be off. The GPS will be mostly off too. It really is just for a position fix if I need it, especially on a peak in a cloud.

  9. John – thanks for the weather update. Sounds like you had a fantastic trip. As for bad weather, they say a bad weather day outdoors is better than a work day.

  10. bderwest – the ground sheet is to provide some additional dry surface beyond the reach of the bivy. A convenience yes, but one I've been advised to bring by other scottish hikers (see martin's comment).

  11. Martin – the whole hat thing is admittedly still up in the air, depending on whether I bring a sleeping bag or a quilt. The truth is, I am a bit of a hat fiend. Can't bring too many.

  12. I always use a groundsheet beneath my Bozeman bivvybag because our turf is tussocky with some stiff shrubs mixed in and my bivvybag cost a heck of a lot. And is polycryo too heavy? Of course not. Strongly support your decision in this area.

    As for hats, speaking as a slaphead, I would take a warm hat (very light, Arcterryx lambswool beanie) and a sunhat (light, cheap thing which encompasses my large cranium). A garment with a collar makes a Buff unnecessary. But the only time I tried a Buff, it irritated my neck, so I may be biased.

    Are you looking towards Iceland?

  13. Iceland…well let's hope it doesn't interfere with my commute. Regardless, I think I'll probably go hiking somewhere for two weeks if I can't make it to the UK. I'll just go to NY/CT border AT and hike south on the AT for a few hundred miles.

  14. Relax. The EU is under so much pressure to compromise on safety, they'll fly you over whether the engines seize up or not.

  15. Your gear list is interesting to me. I bet you could write a little essay on each item, and why it is essential to you. So I don't have much of any constructive criticism, but a few questions.

    1. Have you seen the Leatherman Squirt PS4? Not perfect, but a blade, shears, wire cutter, and the all important pliers in 2oz. I don't go anywhere without pliers, cuz you never know when you'll need to torture someone.

    2. The mini tripod seems odd. Are there no substantial rocks in Scotland? Or is this part of a plan to make HDR exposures? Fun fact: Hiking sticks are banned in Carlsbad Caverns, but monopods are fine.

    3. High gaiters + rain pants? Just asking. A couple of safety pins are nice if you want to loosen up the gaiter tops, or your slippery overpants start slipping.

    4. Let's just keep this Spot II GSP gizmo between us. If word gets out, I'll get handcuffed to one.

    5. Printed media is so last century. With 18oz of map gear, you could store all that as images on a spare memory card and let the Lumix pay its own freight.

    6. 3 tops + 2 jackets. I'm surprised to see a thermal jacket instead of a half-the-wieght vest, given the 2 long-sleeved under layers.

    7. You can't ever have enough hats. An ounce of protection on the head is worth a pound on the body.

  16. 1. Haven't seen the new Squirt. I have an old one with the scissors. That's why I like my swiss army knife – need to cut open packets of chlorine dioxide tables and immodium.

    2. The tripod is a photography thing. They say it will give me better photos in low light, plus I need it for self portraits.

    3. The gaiters are for hiking when it's not raining. Very boggy.

    4. The price of love.

    5. The maps are only available on paper. I actually like maps, but wish they were tyvek. That's why they call it the old world.

    6. I would normally carry a 1/2 vest, but the peaks will probably be snow covered and windy. The montbell is very lightweight and compressible.

    7. Agree on the hat thing, although I may drop the balaclava.

  17. Martin on his blog Postcard from Timperley just posted it is snowing again in Scotland. He is up wildcamping there tonight. Snow, wet and cold. Take a warm jacket and that ground sheet. Some wont take one and just have a bivy. Come the days of rain you will be thankful for all that extra dry space to have in the DuoMid for a few grams more.

  18. I'm listening to you. Hey – I seam sealed the duomid with seam sealer over the weekend cut with paint thinner using your method. Beautiful job.

  19. Nice gear list. I just got back from an 8 day trip in the rainforest in Chile and the gortex sock/trail runner combo rocked! Thanks for all your work on this list, it is awesome.

    Have your food list yet?

  20. Glad to hear about the gore-tex socks.

    Food list is on order from Packit Gourmet – my official food sponsor! Tuscan beef stew, pasta putanesca, ramen helper, the famous PG chicken salad, banana pudding, and trifle. Some good eats.

  21. Where's the food menu (and weight)?

  22. Good look on the challenge. I walked across Scotland in November and would offer the following tips.

    Plan for wet feet during the day. I've tried Sealkin socks, they lasted 3 days before they leaked. Gaitors definitely, I used the Inov8 ankle gaiters with calf length waterproof socks and the combo worked well, apart from the leak.

    If you can read maps, ditch the Garmin and embrace the adventure. Maps maybe 'last century', but they can't break down. If you want to go digital, Satmap is a GPS that has all the OS maps for your route at 1:50000. Battery life is good, but you would need to carry spares if using it fulltime for navigation.

    The Spot is very good insurance. Assume your mobile phone won't get a signal most of the time.

    Check out the Mountain Bothies association website and get the grid refs for all the bothies on your route. They offer great shelter (being stone-built huts in remote places). They are free and open to all. Just follow the use code and you will meet other challengers at these sites. Share the 'craic' with them. Good luck !

  23. I can read maps – the Garmin is just a little extra insurance. I am already a MB member, but will probably stay under my tarp unless the weather is completely impossible. Of course I will socialize in the bothies and share some good craic!

  24. "5. The maps are only available on paper…. the old world."

    ~Yes, that's tragic. If only there were some kind of optical device that would allow you to create high resolution digital image files and store them on a memory card.

    ~The only reason I'm willing to get this silly is that there is 18 ounces at stake. Just last night I spent another $100/pound of weight reduction on a nice clip-on LED that is 2oz lighter than my beloved headlight. And under the sink, I found a new ChamWow that beats the MSR ultralight towel. But that's another story.

    "Maps maybe ‘last century’, but they can’t break down."

    ~Of course maps are timeless, PH. It's the flimsy paper they are displayed on that is obsolete. Where does the mythos of indestructible paper come from? It gets shredded from normal use. The ink bleeds when wet. And the wind can simply blow it away like a lost kite. That's failure.

    ~OTOH, a digital file stored on solid-state media is nearly as durable as anything chiseled into stone. I've dropped cameras until they broke into pieces, but over a decade never had one fail to display stored images.

    ~But let's say that a camera with critical data does fail on the trail. Then you get a new camera in town. This is just my personal opinion—I wouldn't take one step on a trip if I couldn't take pictures. The last time that happened was in Kartchner Caverns Arizona State Park, and I'm still sore about.

    ~So we are always going to have cameras with us on hikes, whether we use them as multi-taskers or not. And digital media are always going to be more durable than paper media. And infinitely lighter. It's just a matter of letting go of something ancient and comfortable, to open the mind to better 21st century technology. And isn't mind expansion the sole benefit of hiking anyway?

  25. Helen,

    I agree with the sentiment in your last para. It's just that the batteries on my GPS ran out a couple of days before the end of my walk around Jura, and I was very thankful for the good old paper versions of the landscape I was in. You could say, know the limitaions of your power source and plan accordingly, but the real appeal of paper maps is the need to interpret the data and the uncertainty associated with that process; call it adventure. Using a GPS you know exactly where you are, so perhaps far from opening your mind, you are closing it to the need to make judgements for yourself?

  26. ~ Great comment, with several useful insights, Phil.

    ~ I am definitely closed-minded on many issues. For example, I wouldn't consider keeping a home without electricity or indoor plumbing as my ancestors did traditionally. But it gets worse: At restaurants, I don't make *any* judgements for myself. I prefer to have the chef or my dining partner order my meal for me.

    ~ You have also identified an obscure but key benefit of paper maps. For many hikers, they serve as a source of amusement as well as navigation data. That makes them multi-taskers and provides additional justification for their weight. Also, the tactile element of handling and folding them can serve as a comfort in stressful circumstances.

    ~ Paper maps can be used as tinder too.

    ~ However, the theme of UL innovation permeates this site. I feel it is appropriate to fully explore every opportunity for base load reductions in all of these discussions. Some of us simply can't bear the weight. Others may prefer to use their 'luxury load' for pleasures other than paper fondling. Soon you'll have a chance to rip my gear list, so let's not make this discussion about me.

    ~ I agree that we must question how digital data works in the Worst Case Scenario. Nothing, including our own mind, is perfectly reliable in a disaster. So even when a hiker choses to carry paper-displayed data for pleasure, it is only reasonable to copy that data into camera memory for security. Yet this easy, zero-cost, zero-load UL enhancement is never mentioned. Maybe UL enthusiasts don't like photography. More likely it is the inertial energy of traditional thinking.

    ~ My only point was that our modern age gives us wonderful new choices. We can now have all the use (or secure redundancy) of pounds of paper maps, guide books, notes, and GPS without adding a gram to our packs. That is far, far too valuable to dismiss. Tradition is the enemy of innovation in general, and UL backpacking in particular.

  27. Helen,

    I had never considered the concept of photographing my maps, it’s a great idea. The weight saving is enticing but I have difficulty in seeing what’s on my camera screen in bright light, and I had to switch off the screen after seven days on my last trip to conserve battery power. Like you, I get very precious about the pics I take along the way, and the prospect of travelling through beautiful country without a functioning camera would be so frustrating

    Someone once said something like ‘the lightest equipment you can carry is in your head’., and I like that concept. I’m fascinated by the fact that up a few hundred years ago people travelled vast distances without the benefit of maps. We prescribe our lives with deadlines and timetables and a kind of precision that I don’t think applied in the past. A direction of travel might suffice, and whether you arrived via one valley system or another was not so important?

    The UL revolution has been fired by technical innovation. But I think the next advances will be gained from the traditions (skills) of the past. The reducing base load will experience the law of diminishing returns. The smaller the base load becomes, the harder it is to effect any radical reductions. Something like the bushbuddy stove brings us full circle, to the use of fuel around your camp. So maybe learning some tips from our ancestors might be the way to go?

  28. Again, you bring a lot to the discussion, Phil. I'm a reluctant to branch out too far, because we should be beating down Earlylite's gear list here. But he's going to Scotland, so the heck with him.

    ~ Yes, we can do better in our contrived adventures if we look at how our ancestors traveled. One of mine walked 900 miles out of Acadia (with 8 children) after her husband was executed in the 1750's. There's a thought, as we ponder plastic vs. titanium spoons.

    ~ A *big* sunhat helps for reading the camera screen. This summer I'll be on the trail for 3 to 4 weeks, trying to make 2000 exposures. It will take a lot of camera juice, so I'll need to forage for electricity just like food and water.

    ~ Nobody talks about this. If only I could put a propellor on top of my pack to charge the camera batteries. A big part of my trip planning is spent on finding sources of electricity along the way. Now my map is marked with 8 recharging stations, all within 1 mile of the trail.

    ~ That's how our ancestors got along. We simply need to bring vessels to span the gaps between support. Batteries or bladders, these vessels have always defined the limits of travel.

    ~ Good thing you brought up the concept of diminishing returns. There isn't enough discussion about eliminating weight without sacrificing functionality. Last night I added a column in my gear list spreadsheet to tabulate how much weight I could cut without sacrificing safety. It would be easy to go from a 12 pound base load to 7 pounds for a death march. But what would that get me—2 miles closer to nowhere?

    ~ It would take 90% of the comfort and pleasure out of my hike. Yuck. The point of my trip is to spend more time and have more fun on the trail, instead of racing to finish. I'd rather cache my food at shorter intervals to reduce my maximum load. I want to linger at the great vistas and swim spots. Strangely for me, UL backpacking means having more and going slower.

  29. Helen – the swimming holes on the LT are on the trail itself (they're 20 yards long mud puddles). The trail is a stream in many places especially after a rain. I think the best places to swim would be the creeks and streams, in the deep pools, but you don't need to carry an extra bathing suit…just use the one you were born with. The northern parts of the LT aren't as crowded as the part that overlaps with the AT.

  30. Ahh – Helen's gear list airs on May 6th. Bring yer popcorn.

  31. "you don’t need to carry an extra bathing suit …"

    ~ Thanks for the contemporaneous advice. From the 1970's. I was around then, yanno. Fortunately being brought up on the farm, so I escaped that period without any persistent emotional scaring. Mother called it my 'liberal education.' These days, I know about as much about Vermont swimming holes as anyone alive, but leave the mating rituals to the young.

    "Bring yer popcorn."

    ~ Well, I always endeavor to be amusing. Perhaps this is your way of hinting that my gear list is a triumph of science and industry?

    ~ Just for the record, a clingy greasy Capilene 1 outfit has been substituted for the nice cotton jammies. I'm not happy about this on so many levels. However, I like to routinely rinse out my underthings, and that can't happen with cotton on the trail.

  32. Helen,

    sorry if I have drifted off the subject of this thread, I'm new to these discussion things. Your reply holds some inciteful thoughts on the old and the new; and I agree entirely with what you say. (maybe that's not too good for a discussion though).

    Re. your comment on sacrificing comfort in pursuit of lightening-up, I agree. Maybe this is just a reflection of our age? However, when planning a trip I think along the lines of a 'usefulness to weight ratio'. For example, I carry a sit mat that weighs about 40g. This little piece of closed cell foam can cushion my butt on hard rocks, save my knees when entering the tent, and provide a dry seat when all around is soggy. So I commend it to the TGO gearlist !

    Still snow on the tops in Scotland. And a wind from the north is holding the temps down at present.

    Excuse my ignorance, but what is the LT ?

  33. The LT is the Long Trail, a 270 mile mud puddle and bouldering route than runs from the Massachusetts/Vermont border to the Vermont/Canadian Border. Helen is thru-hiking it this year and she'll never be the same after it. It's unspeakably magestic and humbling.

  34. "she’ll never be the same"

    ~ Philosophically speaking, we can never take the same step twice. On a more practical level, there is some concern that I'll need to be kept in a kennel outside when I get home.

    ~ Not sure if this is a coincidence for you, but the LT was a conception of the British ambassador to the US. It was directly inspired by the highland trails of Scotland. So you're really rocking the theme.

    "maybe [agreement is] not too good for a discussion"

    Synthetic discussion has fallen out of favor, but I still believe in it.

    ~ I like your idea of a sit mat. My butt is not bony (yet), and that would have been great for our day hike luncheons. Fans of Z-Lite pads talk about this.

    "I’m new to these discussion things."

    ~ I've been around the shire, and you're doing fine. Some insecure and inexperienced hosts are over-sensitive about topic drift. That's not our worry. This place is driven by wanderlust.

  35. and an LRT is a land rover track (Jeep track)

    By the way I am a "challenger" …have done it 6 times so far. all different routes, and well

    recommend it!

  36. Have a blast next year – I am planning on coming back to do a high route in 2013.

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