Edale ‘figure 8’ – Kit thoughts

Go Lite Shangrila/Big Agnes Bivvy Bag combo

After a couple of false starts, this was the inaugural trip for my new shelter combo. First impressions are good… I like the way it packs into two reasonably small stuff sacks as this enables me to pack my Go Lite Pinnacle more effectively, giving this minimalist pack some ‘structure’ .

Pitching was straightforward, even without the guide of the hexagonal groundsheet. I fastened my two walking poles together with the Backpacking Light pole connector (see below), and adjusted the height to mid breast bone (I’d judged this against the pole supplied with the shelter).

Then, I simply marked the centre position of the rig with a peg and measured the remainder by approximating a series of triangles, in effect (view the method here).

A bit a fiddling, and the Shangrila was drum tight.

I positioned the Big Agnes, unrolled the remainder of my sleep system and placed my stove and various bits and bobs to hand.

So, the good: The Shangrila gives great views though that large door and, if positioned correctly and the weather behaves, you can lie with the door open in rain and stay perfectly dry due to its size. The room is fantastic, and you can pack a sack in comfort if breaking down in a storm, leaving the shelter until last.

It rained quite heavily during the night along with a gusting wind, and I experienced no leaks or any problems of wind-blown rain getting through vents or under the side of the shelter. The tent dried very quickly too, even on this initially damp December day.

The bivvy bag kept everything dry and well shielded from any slight condensation drip (more of that later). The e-vent fabric is superb and it breathed very well (my down bag was completely dry in the morning) although the temperature differential between inside and outside the bag no doubt helped the fabric work to its full potential (Things may be different on a warm, muggy summer’s evening, although the bag does have a large net-protected vent).

The not so good: The Shangrila will benefit from having bungee cord attached to the mid-way points along each side to improve pegging stability and prevent ‘flapping’. Any lack of tension in the fly can get worse through the night as temperatures fall and the fabric slackens. These additional guys will help keep this in check.

The lack of a two-way zip is irksome, although now remedied on the 2010 model.

The pegs are a bit hard on the hands, although these will be replaced with a set if Ti stakes.

I believe the shelter would benefit from a half ground sheet, as supplied by backpackinglight.co.uk, for keeping kit mud free. I’ll either buy one of these or take scissors and sewing machine to the full sheet I bought with the shelter.

The shelter is cold and draughty compared to a proper two-skin tent. This is not a problem when allied to a bivvy bag, but is worth bearing in mind.

The shelter does suffer from condensation as you might expect, but most runs down the steep walls to the ground. In strong winds, though, you may get a bit of a shower inside. The extra guys will help combat this, though, and it’s not a great problem when using a bivvy.

The Big Agnes bag is fine for winter trips but I feel is overkill for the summer. The hood is designed for the supplied poles, too, and can be a bit fiddly when left ‘slack’. I’ll keep on using it but would really like to replace it with one of the Mountain Laurel Designs bags for summer use.
Backpacking Light trekking pole connector

This worked superbly! I had initial reservations as the joined poles were not particularly rigid, but the shelter held true in some pretty squally, albeit valley floor, conditions.

I demonstrated the gadget to someone on the site while breaking camp and they thought it was a genius idea!

There’s an additional bonus too… by making use of a strap on the upper walking pole when in situ, you have a handy ‘airer loft’ which holds your socks next to the tent vents. Admittedly, this is the focal point for warm, moist air leaving the tent. However, if there is a good breeze, and the vents do their work, the socks will be drier in the morning… mine certainly were, even in December.

Kalenji running tights

I’ve just started wearing these as I’ve grown weary of overly baggy trekking trousers. Without going into too much detail, I also sweat rather a lot in the summer and have struggled to find underwear that ‘manages’ this moisture and avoids a large damp patch around my backside.

Not only is this unsightly, it can be the start of friction sores etc on an extended trip.

A close-fitting set up helps considerably, if you can get over your legs being ‘on show’, as it were.

These tights are from Decathlon and, allied to their running shorts, are proving to be a great combo. The tights feature vent fabric in all the right places, which actually works, and they are long enough for me, despite having a 36-inch inside leg… happy days.

They may not wear too well, as occasional rubbing caused by the action of using walking poles is starting to take its toll on the flat seams at the hips. I do miss pockets, too, although am adjusting my habits slowly!

I think twenty quid is good value for such a thoughtfully-designed product.

North Face Hedgehogs

Just a quick update… I moved away from these last year to some HiTec boots and, although these are a great alternative, nothing seems to fit my feet better than these trail shoes.

I’ve had them for more than three years now and they leak pretty badly. I’m not too fussed, because they dry fairly quickly too.

The Virbam sole has worn really well and the EVA mid section is still providing support and cushioning.

I am thinking of going for some Prophecy shoes next, as they are essentially the Hedgehogs without a liner. This all hinges on my ability to tolerate very wet rather than damp feet year round. Perhaps the solution will be Prophecy in the summer and Hedgehogs in the winter, save for when it is really snowy.

Mountain House Freeze Dried Food

I bought a couple of these in Scotland and used one for the first time over the weekend. They are very decent, if pricey at £5 a pop. I had spag bol which rehydrated quickly in the packet and tasted good. Just shy of 800 calories too for 150g of weight. More info here.

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Got away!

Joy!

After Armageddon-esque weather for weeks, work pressures and a bout of persistent man flu, I managed an overnighter at the weekend and was lucky enough to get some sun.

Pics, prose and some kit reviews to come…

Backpackinglight.co.uk trekking pole thingumybob

When I bought my GoLite Shangrila, I asked the guys at Backpackinglight.co.uk whether it could be pitched with trekking poles.

Backpackinglight.co.uk pole extender 14mmBob mailed me back and said that it couldn’t, although ‘he was working on something’.

I then bumped into a chap in the Lakes who had taken a hacksaw to an old lower walking pole section and was using it to marry two Black Diamond FlickLock poles together to create one long support pole.

His solution was to remove the lower sections of the Black Diamonds and use the sawn pole section as a spigot.

‘Neat,’ I thought, ‘I’ll follow suit’.

However, just as I was about to order my new Black Diamonds, Bob’s ‘something’ became available.

The principle is the same as the sawn-off pole, but Bob’s solution is more elegant in that it uses an expander at either end and hence can be used with a range of twist lock poles with a 14mm diameter lower section.
Backpackinglight.co.uk pole extender 14mm, expander joint
It works really well with my old, battered Leki Makalus, and a list of compatible poles is available on BackpackingLight.co.uk

The section does come with a health warning, though. A leaflet supplied with the pole urges caution when sliding the expanders into pole sections and care is needed.

I think it’s going to be the just the ticket, though, and at £12.99, a bargain (and for all those pole posers out there, a carbon version is available, too, for another fiver).

I’m hoping to take my new shelter ‘rig’ for a test drive this weekend and will report back.

The weather looks like it’s going to be awful…

Backpackinglight.co.uk pole extender 14mm, in use