Saturday, February 15, 2014

A winter hike through Southern Europe: Gear

As this was a hike through fall and winter I had to make some adjustments to my normal gearlist.

This concerned mainly two items: Quilt and sleeping pad. In order to avoid logistical problems I used the same "winter" gear for the whole trip. That means I carried a regular size Prolite Plus and a Enlightened Equipment Prodigy 20 F quilt the whole time. In hindsight this was not ideal and a gear change after two months would have been better. I was sweating in the winter quilt from the beginning of the hike in end of August to October and did not need such a warm sleeping pad either. In fact I think that a normal Prolite sleeping pad would have been enough. The synthetic EE Prodigy 20 F quilt was ideal once it got colder. I was not cold a single night. Although I have used the quilt for almost 300 nights now I don't notice any significant loft degradation.

Also these two items were so much bulkier than my usual summer quilt and pad that I had a volume problem in my Gossamer Gear G4 backpack. The seams started ripping right from the start because I shoved too much bulk into the backpack. I had to store my tent in the outside mesh pocket of my backpack to have more space inside and then the ripping stopped. Still bulk was a huge problem on this hike. Luckily I could resupply very often and did not have to carry more than 5 days worth of food. There was absolutely no capacity left for more food and a slightly bigger backpack would have been better.

I don't believe in expensive Goretex and eVent anymore and just carried a cheap set of Marmot Precip jacket and pants. They worked as good or bad as any other more expensive rain gear. This was the first time I have added an umbrella. Nothing fancy, I just bought a cheap umbrella for 6 EUR in a supermarket and ditched it when the weather got better. Hiking with an umbrella worked pretty well on the Spanish GR's because the terrain was not difficult and I did not need the trekking poles. I would use an umbrella again although I would not carry one the whole time but just „buy-as-you-go“.

I also discovered that sock quality varies tremendously from brand to brand. I usually use Wigwam hiking socks and they last half a year. I had not been able to get them in Germany and had to switch to Smartwool socks. These did not even last two months! No matter what brand of other trekking socks I bought along the trail they would only last a couple of months or even shorter.

I carried Acquamira for water treatment and hardly ever used it. I was almost always using tap water or water from piped springs that did not need treatment. I dozen of Micropur tablets would have been enough for the whole trip.

I had various problems with my Garmin Etrex 30. Firstly there seems to be a software bug that causes problems when you want to display several tracks at the same. Secondly there is a hardware problem that prevents tracks and/or maps to be read from the micro SD card. The tiny metal fixture that holds the microSD card in place is apparently not strong enough. This can easily be fixed by switching off the GPS and inserting the micro SD again. Unfortunately this happened so often that eventually I left the GPS just turned on all the time – and went through a lot of batteries. I had also made the stupid mistake to use tracks longer than 10,000 track points – the tracks get truncated after that. Unfortunately there had not been any error message when I sent the tracks to the device and I discovered my mistake only on the trail – when it was too late. 

As I was hiking through hunting season I wore a neon orange cap all the time. You won't win a beauty contest with it but I felt a lot safer with it! 

1 comment:

frank revelo said...

Be sure to update the Etrex 30 firmware. They definitely had some problems early on that have been resolved since. I also occasionally have the problem with the micro-SD card not being recognized. Happened twice in 90 days for me, but I can see that this could be worse depending on manufacturing tolerances.