Before we left on this trip Josh and I spent a lot of time thinking about what we would actually need to to bring along with us to ensure that we could have a fun and safe trip. Having never been on a trip like this we could not draw on experience only to make these choices, so we turned to the net. There wasn't much info out there to be honest so I thought I would put together a couple of quick posts about what we brought with us and which products have made our lives easier while we have been on the road.
Whist Josh and I were already pretty well set up with our outdoor gear we decided to invest some money before we left on upgrading some of our gear. We chose products that we thought would either reduce the weight of our packs or simply increase our comfort during our travels.
Here are some of the products that we have found particularly handy over the last few months....
This is a pretty simple, boring, product, but it is one that we have used EVERY day over the last six months. It is the so called boring products working well that is the difference between an amazing time and going hungry! There have been times on our trip when we have been a long way from a clean water source and as such having the ability to cart large amounts of water has been essential. We took 3 collapsible water containers on this trip with us, this is our favorite. The durability of this container is faultless, it pours quickly (unlike the others we have with us) and it collapses down to a size that is easy to fit in your pack.
We also have a with us, which at first looked very promising. The tap on it is a bit slow and thus not as convenient and you have to lift it, rather than pour it, which at dinner time can call for a third hand. Other than this we really liked this product, it folded up super small compared to the Kathmandu container, BUT recently the bladder has been leaking. The water is leaking into the wall of the bladder making it look like it is still full but the water is inaccessible.
This stuff is amazing! It cleans everything! Clothes, dishes and people! You use such a small amount and it is super affective! Trying to reduce you pack weight? Trow away everything else and take this super gel away with you!
I am so glad we have this set with us! There might be lighter sets out there, but I doubt they provide as much comfort as this; this system packs up so neatly that it takes up hardly any room in your pack! Two pots, relatively non-stick, with one strainer lid and one easy to use detachable handle (lighter than pot grips and no fear of forgetting to squeeze and losing your dinner!), two deep plates/bowls and two thermos cups. The cups are the perfect balance between maintaining temperature and expelling enough heat that you can keep your hands warm on a snowy day. The whole system packs up into the 2.5L pot and weighs in under 800g! If you need to take a pot system away on a backpacking trip for 2 people, this is the one!
Did we need this? probably not...has it made our lives 1000times easier? YES! this compact little set is awesome! Included in this light weight system is everything you need to cook like you're at home while you are on the road. The grater works, as good as any I have used before! The knife is still sharp after 6months on the road! The spoon and spatula are all you need to cook with. The towel dries everything in the above pot set and is tiny! The chopping board is really solid but folds up small. And Josh's favorite bit....the scrubbing brush. We no longer use sponges, this clever little thing makes cleaning up SUPER easy! Backed on cheese is off in seconds! We left the sauce containers, salt and pepper shaker and bottle opener at home as we were trying to reduce our pack weight and these things didn't seem needed. I love this set and I am so glad we brought it along. On another note, Josh will probably never use anything else to clean dishes again.
Between Josh and I we already had 3 tents, two lightweight, high quality 2person tents and one budget, heavy, three person tent. We were torn, we certainly were not going to take the heavy tent with us, but could we live happily with each other and our packs in a 2 person tent for months at a time? We could cope, probably, but would it be a good experience, probably not. We were considering buying a cheap 3person tent while we were away and disposing of it at the end of our Europe trip, but that would add 10kgs(ish) to our already heavy packs during the time that we would be carrying them the furthest, this didnt make a lot of sense. We began looking around at what was available and in our searching found the Macpac Citadel 3 person tent. We managed to snag quite a deal on this baby (being an ex-showroom demo), however with Macpac's lifetime warranty, even at full price this would be a good investment. The tent itself is super roomy (the biggest of the 3person tents we looked at), but it is the front vestibule area that really sold us! The front vestibule is as big as the tent itself and so there is LOADS of room to store your bags, climbing gear, food boxes, bouldering pads, and pretty much anything else you have with you! Combine this with the rear vestibule and you have more storage space than you could ever need! Ever tried to get into your tent when its raining and managed to get your down sleeping bag wet in the process, its fun right...well that need never happen again, there is room in the vestibule to take of your rain shells before you get into the tent...everything stays dry!
We have TESTED this tent, 40degree days in the Gramps (yep it was hot, but everywhere was hot and this tent has loads more ventilation than most!) and -15degree nights in Magic Wood (we stayed snugly warm, no condensation dripping onto our sleeping bags in the night. It held up to the snow when lesser tents collapsed or leaked). Equally importantly, Josh and I had somewhere spacious to hide out during the relentless bad weather! Oh yeah and it only weighs 3.2kgs; put the tent and fly in a compression bag and you have a small lightweight parcel for your pack that transforms into a kingdom when you get to the camp!
Another pretty boring item, but this is another that has made a huge difference to our trip! There have been times when finding clean drinking water has been difficult, either hike it in or boil it, neither is really convenient for months on end. Before we left we invested in 150 of these little tablets. 1 tablet treats 1L of water and all you have to do is drop it in and wait 30minutes and voila, safe drinking water! There is hardly any taste caused by the tablets (you wouldn't notice any if you didn't know), certainly less than what comes out of the tap at home! The tablets are tiny and work a treat!
On a side note, we did read that they are easily crushed during travel so before we left we took them all out of the packaging and put them in a little pill container stuffed with cotton balls; none of our tablets broke.
We were given a Kathmandu Solar Shower before we left, I haven't tried a different brand shower and as such I am not so much recommending this particular shower as much as bringing a solar shower of any brand. There have been times when it has been too cold to heat up the water, but the rest of the time it is a free shower, meaning that we can shower as frequently as we like without any additional cost. Combine this with a cheap tarp hanging from trees to give shelter, a carabiner on a sling to hang it high in a tree and you have a private shower anywhere in the world! Ours is 20L, has a decent sized shower head and lasts long enough for both of us to take showers without being conscious of leaving water for the next person. Quite a few people we have met along the way have said they wish they had thought to bring one along!
There is a lot of information of the web about what size pack you should take on your trip abroad. All of them tell you the smaller the better; some say anything over 60L is excessive. None of this information considers a trip where you will be carying climbing gear, tents, sleeping bags, pots and pans, utensils, first aid kits, thermarests or the like. Yeah, if I was only taking clothes I could also pack it in a day pack, but that was relevant to our trip.
Josh and I both got the Exodus 80L Pack for this trip and we couldn't be happier. The unique BAR harness system has so much adjustability that if you are not comfortable it can only be that you have set it up wrong! The cool thing about this pack is that you can make all of the adjustments with the pack on, not comfortable? No need to stop just pull this cord. The packs came with an instructional DVD so we knew exactly how to set them up perfectly. They are not the lightest packs, but the extra padding means that when we needed to carry them for hours on end we were able to! The pack comes with a 10L day pack, the perfect size for days out in the city or the forest. It has a built in rain protector and the harness can be protected by a zippered flap for travel. Both the day pack and the 80L pack are hydration bladder compatible.
The bottom of the pack is able to be separated off, if you are carrying less than a full pack you can shut this part off and cinch it up to keep the weight where it is best tolerated (higher on your back). The pack offers top and bottom openings as well as a suitcase like opening in the middle, meaning you can easily access any part of your pack without having to pull everything out to find that one thing you are looking for! There are loads of individual pockets so its easy to keep track of the smaller things, helping you to stay organized along the journey.
We were considering getting a smaller pack, but I am so glad we didn't a year's worth of gear fits pretty snugly into this system and I wouldn't want the packs to be 1L smaller!
This monster of a pad is amazing to land on! We traveled Europe with only one pad and even in Magic Wood's granite boulder fields with its heinous landings we were happy with just this pad! Unfolded the Saturn measures a whopping 160cm x 120cm x 11cm. The foam is great to land on even if you fall from really high! The clever folding system folds the bottom of the pad inwards, no more dirty backs! The harness is actually on the top of the pad, during use it tucks neatly away under a Velcroed flap. The taco design allows you to stuff it with as much gear as you can stand to carry! Its not a small pad, it is bulky but once you take your first big fall onto it you will be glad you hauled it into the boulders!
I wanted a big pad, Josh and I are getting on some high problems and we have only one pad each. This one is awesome! It's a tri-fold pad so it folds up super slim for carrying, meaning I don't get stuck going through narrow passages, it's the same width as my shoulders! It doesn't come up above my head so high branches don't bother me. It weights only 6.5kg and it unfolds to a massive 1.06mx1.5m, try to miss that! The foam is great to land on and the tri-fold allows versatility when it comes to padding up small areas or over protruding rocks etc. The stash pockets look really small but I managed to fit, a jumper, a book, a guidebook, a pair of pants, a can of drink and some snacks in mine, so apparently looks are deceiving! The stash pocket is at the top so doesn't add any bulk when full; clip on your shoes and bucket to one of the outside handles and your good to go! As a short, not overly strong person it is great to carry a pad that doesn't threaten to blow me off of the cliff when a wind comes up and still provides a massive landing zone!
We didn't buy this specifically for this trip, we had it before, however it is still worth mentioning. This stove weighs only 400g and packs up really small, exactly what you want when your whole life is being carried on your back!
We really put this stove to the test while we were in Magic Wood. When we are at home in the Gramps, we usually cook at sea level using shellite here the stove preforms faultlessly. We thought this was bound to change at significant altitude when the best fuel we could get our hands on was petrol! But, we were wrong! This truly is a multi-fuel stove. Even with petrol we had amazing flame control and we had no issues of the stoves lines becoming clogged, fellow campers using other stoves were not quite so fortunate. If you are looking for a small, lightweight stove that really can be used with any fuel I can certainly recommend this one!
I started this trip with a pair of Columbia Hiking Boots and a pair of Columbia kayaking shoes. I had purchased the kayaking shoes because they were super lightweight and they provided loads of ventilation during summers in the Gramps. These shoes sucked! The grip was ineffective, meaning that I fell over pretty much every day, add a bit of water into the mix and rock became as slippery as ice. It didn't take long before I gave up on my hiking boots as they gave me huge blisters and hurt the balls of my feet. Once I gave these up I spent a somewhat miserable time wearing incredibly non-waterproof shoes in the snow and rain....not fun!
After one fall too many, Josh finally managed to convince me to looking into new shoes and after looking around I picked the LaSportiva Wildcat 2.0 trail runners. These shoes are SUPER GRIPPY! I have worn them on wet slabs and they don't loose traction for even a second! The female specific design is narrow enough to suit my tiny feet and the Gortex exterior keeps my feet dry regardless of the weather (a very welcomed change!)
Buying these shoes changed my trip, hikes I thought I would die if I tried were made possible and fun! Before buying these shoes I thought I slipped over loads because I was clumsy, since buying these I haven't fallen once!
I love these shoes! I came away on this trip with a pair or women's LaSportiva Miura VS shoes and I love them, but the Solutions are a welcomed addition. The Solutions made the technical footwork required for Font and Squamish's slabs so much easier, the sole is less aggressive than the Miura allowing you to open your foot and get more contact between the rock and the rubber when smearing. Additionally the rubber coated toe is amazing for toe-hooking. The heel is less sensitive that the Miura and as such normally I will turn to my Miuras for any heelhooks, however this lack of sensitivity can be a good thing on sharp crystals when you want to protect your foot a little more. I have worn mine for a few months now (most days) and they DONT STRETCH, the mid section has stretched a bit making them easier to get on and off, but the toe box is the same size! Don't buy these shoes small hoping they will stretch, if they hurt in the shop they will hurt every time you wear them!
Well that's pretty much it. Obviously this is not all of the gear we have with us, but the decision to bring these items away with us has shaped our trip for the better!