This years end of march trip was again to my favorite area in Scotland.
The Kinlochewe Heights and Torridon in Wester Ross.
The trip report will follow soon. I’m currently writing on it.
For every lightweight hiker there comes an inflection point when they make the decision to turn from heavy weight “comfort” to lightweight skills.
For me this was my trip to Scotland, where I had a really heavy pack(21kg). I made only slow progress, fording took a horrible time, my tent had condensation issues, my more than expensive Rab sleeping bag failed poorly and my stove rusted away(because I picked tin foil instead of aluminum foil). To give it the crowning touch, while descending a straight stone wall during a hail storm at 900m my hiking boots lost traction which caused me to fall down. I broke my hiking sticks(790g pair) and injured my knee, because I couldn’t do much with that heavy pack. This forced my to take a 2 days break and continue with an easier, less interesting route.
So my conclusion for this trip was: Go light, go safe.
But besides these issues the trip was awesome, Scotland is a really great hiking country. And being there in April, right before the midge season was great.
Just another trip during the best time of the best season
- KS Bivy: performed very well, the quantum dries in seconds, it protects me from wind and mosquitoes. Great piece of gear. But I will use silnylon again on the bottom and back head area.
- GoLite – Jam 2: It was ok. I could carry the 14kg start weight easily, but I will go for a silnylon pack with net pockets around it. The Jam took hours to dry out and stored the rain very well
- prolite s: Worked well in the temperatures.
- KS Quilt 350: I love it
- KS MiniTarp 3×2,5×1,2: performed well. Was never wet But for more psychological protection I’ll take a tipi next time.
- Stakes: Titanium needle stakes were great!
- Rab Drillium Pants: Great breath-ability, wear it at warm days as only trousers. But it has the typical Rab quality issues: The straps around the ankles broke away.
- Haglöfs Lim: Great peace of gear, nothing bad about it
- Caldera Cone: Just great, very fast and efficient.
- Merino clothes: Stink as fast as synthetic closes.
- Headnet: need to add some sleeves for stakes, small winds blow it against your face where it sticks.
- Aldi Allzweck(Towel?!): Worked great, will never again carry anything else.
- Primaloft clothes: Very bulky but really warm and windproof. Loved them during the breaks.
- Brooks cascadia: Were great for the terrain, had always enough grip and walked on feathers. But they dry out very slow, especially the food-bed and mesh.
Yet another no-go which I had to try out.
A tarp above treeline with strong winds and rain and mosquitoes.
I basically stick to Ryan Jordans guide for tarping in extreme conditions and Collin Ibbotsons talk about tarps.
I used a homemade tarp with 4 guy-outs on each side and one on each ridge-end.
As stakes I used:
- 2 Y stakes for the ridge-line
- 4 V stakes for the corners
- 5g Titanium needles for the rest of the guy-outs.
It worked fine, I could have left the V stakes at home for the corners as the titanium stakes worked well with the Scandinavian stone ground. I always put stones on the stakes to avoid that they are removed by a gust of wind.
In the end I stayed dry and had no condensation issues.
Not a single stake got loose even with strong wind gusts.
As the wind direction changed to the complete opposite, bringing rain and wind into the front opening, I was happy that my bivy protected me from the raindrops that made it over the security boundary( I sleep 30-50cm away from the opening).
For the mosquitoes I used a homemade bivy bag made of pertex quantum and nanoseeum.
It was perfect for quilt sleeping(wind) and keeping the bugs away.
I could even change my clothes in it.
It was interesting to see that the bugs didn’t like the quantum, I could offer them my whole naked leg and they never came to the idea to puncture it through the quantum.
Things I would change on my tarp:
- Add a beak at the front, because wind and rain direction do change
- use 5 guy-out point on the sides
- use 3 guy-out points on the front opening(or beak)
Things I would change on my bivy:
- use a silnylon floor and back-head area again, as for wind changes and non-waterproof ground sheets.
On my last trip I used trail-running shoes in Lapland, which is an absolute no-go for most standard hikers.
As this trip was to try out ultralight hiking strategies under more severe conditions, I just had to try it out.
I used a pair of mesh trail runners which were in no way water resistant and had a good sole with some kind of spikes.
They were perfectly well sprung, so I walked in them as on clouds.
My prediction was: Wet shoes all the time.
I was right, and fine!
I had rain, wind, temperatures between 4 and 10 °C, rivers to walk through and a lot of mud and swamp(knee deep).
I always had warm feet, had absolutely no problem with blisters or cracked skin from the complete wetness.
I didn’t have to change my shoes the whole day. In the evening I changed the socks, used some fat creme and put on dry socks.
This brought me fine through the whole trip. It was especially nice in the morning to put on the wet shoes.
In boots I always had cold feet for the first half our, in the mesh shoes my feet were warm in about a minute.
From my point of view all the common prejudices are nonsense.
But there are definite downsides of this hiking technique (which were not mentioned by anyone):
- Mud accumulates in the shoe. After 3 days I recognized that in my socks and between the socks and the insole a lot of mud accumulated(~2mm in the sock,~4mm on the insole). This led to an uneven ground under my feet and to a possible spot to build up blisters. Therefore I had to clean the socks every evening and the insole and shoe itself(under the insole) every second day.
- They don’t dry. The often mentioned sentence that boots don’t dry on the trail but mesh shoes do might be true for warm Californian PCT sections but not for northern-European hiking conditions. As every other piece of gear, it will stay wet. Doesn’t matter how long you walk in the dry.
- They grow stiff. The continues partly dry, wet and mud conditions made the shoes stiff, you had to batter them to make them soft again. This might be a special issue of my pair of shoes…
- Socks wear out a lot faster. During this trip I completely destroyed the SmartWool socks I used.