Walking the HR: Gear that worked

Walker’s Haute Route 07 - Trient Glacier  

Almost all the gear generally performed very, very well indeed but there are a few things that deserve special mention.

The Icebreaker merino wool t-shirts really did resist the smell well. I essentially only wore one and rinsed it out every couple of days or three. Also, despite being worn every one of the sixteen days we were away and for around ten days of wild camping before that, it shows no sign of “pilling” or wear of any kind. The second one I reserved for evenings, whilst the first was drying, and for the flight home. Meaning that for the first time ever I wasn’t unpleasant to sit next to on a return journey.

The approach shoes were very comfy and with the Smartwool socks meant no blisters and a surprising lack of tired feet. However my Montrails let me down in other ways. More on that later.

The Sealskins worked very well to keep my feet dry and were even comfy enough to justify wearing the morning following a wet day when the shoes were still wet.

The hair-bands around the Superfeet as Hut Sandals trick worked well. Just had to beware of tripping over the toe of the insoles if you dragged your feet. Something I’ll be using again.

The Vapor Trail pack was extremely comfy. Even with 14 kilos (my kit, LB’s kit, camera kit, several lunches + our water). The pocket formed between the pack and the foam back stiffener is useful for jamming a map into but the guidebook was too heavy to remain at the top and slid down inside each time meaning a sort of All Creatures Great And Small moment as someone reached inside it up to their elbow (“I can feel the head Mr Herriot!”).

Chris turned up with a 20 litre, 5 kilo base weight pack that worked out well with careful packing. And a waist-bag for some food-related over-spill. It was comfier than I expected when I tried it on but I’d still rather have more weight off my shoulders and onto my hips.

The second phone battery was required and only just got us through. I’d be inclined to take a third next time. Sharing the headphones with an ear plug in our “spare” ears was a little fiddly but worked out fine. Overall the weight saving on books for LB and I was quite large when compared to the extra battery and headphones and was well worth the effort of recording the CDs to the phone as MP3s.

We used up 1.75 tubes of Care Plus alcohol based sunblock between the two of us (head, neck and arms + my lower legs). I reckon we needed it on about ten days, with double applications on three of those days. But note that I’m careful with it, preferring to get an even covering by putting on lots of small dots and spreading. Rather than squirting out one huge handful and trying to bulldoze that around, which I find means too much in one place and too little in others.

LB’s jumbo SealSkinz sock worked perfectly to protect the cast from getting wet but now we have a pair of size 12-14UK (~46-49 EU) socks that we’re not sure what to do with!

The SportEyz sunglasses that Lighthiker found were great and took being bashed about inside a mini Integral designs stuffsac clipped to the side of the pack without any damage or scratches (even when the pack was put down on top of them!). LB and Rachel both now plan to get some.

The silk boxer shorts worked fine in the end. No problems from the seams that had concerned me.

If I had to pick one bit of gear that really stood out, it would be the Tilley Hat. It kept me cool in the baking sun and kept the rain off my head when it rained (with some trickles from the mesh in the top!). Allowing me to see the mountains without squinting at sun or rain drops. It also kept me warm enough that I could avoid putting on the Gecko microfleece (which was also excellent) as we set off in the shadow of the mountain on several mornings. Meaning less faffing. On a really hot day it was a fantastic feeling to dip the hat in a glacial river and feel the drips running down all over your head.

Overall it provided a huge degree of temperature range comfort that I’d not really expected. LB found just the same. In fact a couple of the others with cheaper wide brimmed hats are now thinking of getting a Tilley. One niggly thing was that the size I’ve gone for is very slightly too small. I’ve written my name in it now so I’m stuck with it unless I fork out for another…

And Rob kindly carried the binoculars (since I was carrying some of LB’s kit) and they were very handy for marmot watching!

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