Exped UL Dry Bags – A Bit Too Light For Camera Kit?

For the TJR I switched from using the extremely reliable Ortlieb Aqua Zoom (that I mentioned before) to trialling a simple Exped Fold Dry Bag UL, Small (24g) for the camera and another identical bag for the two lenses that weren’t on the camera. It was no big risk, the bags then live inside the pack liner – they’re just a second layer of waterproofing.

I carried a Canon EOS 550D attached by a little Nitize S-Biner to a length of 10mm webbing fixed to a shoulder strap on the GoLite Pinnacle pack. It very handily fits snugly into one of the side pockets of the pack. I used that technique along the GR20 and the camera survived just fine.

I also took the excellent value Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS (dubbed “Ibex lens”), the Canon EF 35mm f2.0 (“People lens” – wouldn’t be without this, it’s 56mm equivalent on the 1.6 crop body of the EOS 550D) and the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f3.5-4.5 USM (“Landscape lens” of course!) which as usual was on the 550D most of the time.

The bags were tested when new and were completely waterproof.

I was fully expecting to trash the bag I used on the camera; perhaps not during the trip but a trip soon after. These bags aren’t meant to be very strong – I accept that. This was an experiment to see how long it would last.

Trash it I did – there must have been upwards of thirty holes in it, one or two you could see daylight through and several others that wept water so fast I decided it wasn’t worth attempting to repair. I honestly didn’t expect it to fail that badly, that fast.

The bag that I kept the lenses in only got tested a few days later, just to be sure, since I fully expected it to be fine. It had only held the lenses and had mainly lived wrapped up in a fleece or waterproof in the pack. To my astonishment I found it had six weeping leaks. I really am not sure that the amount of use it has seen should result in leaks like that. It’s disappointing since I have a great deal of respect for Exped. I’ve always found their products to be very well made and more than up to the job at hand.

I know others have had bad experiences with Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks but I’ve had several and each has taken a reasonable thrashing for a couple of years before giving up. In fact the 35Ls we use for compressing and waterproofing down (sleeping bag and/or duvet jacket) at the bottom of the packs are still fine. They have seen a great deal of bashing around in the packs for many weeks since before the Iceland trip, including seven weeks on the GR5. Meaning they’ve seen three years of service for every big trip and many day walks (for down jackets).

So I’ve just taken delivery of a 4L Ultra-Sil (26g) that’s the same size as the Small Exped UL.

It will be getting a fair kicking, wrapped around the nasty pointy bits on the 550 and being shoved into the pocket around behind my back. I’ll take a while to put the two weeks of use on it that the Exped dry bags saw in Switzerland but I have an inkling it will survive better.

I’ll leave an update here when I know more!


Updated Alpine Kit List

I’ve not posted my Alpine walking kit list since we did the Haute Route in August 2007 and it’s changed a little of course. A recent comment has prompted me to run through it and note what’s changed.

But most of what we carry in the Alps in summer can be seen in the videos I posted both on hut-to-hut kit and the extra camping and photographic kit.

But for the written record, here are the changes I’ve made since the Haute Route kit posting:

Spare torch -> Photon Freedom Microlight. Sooo small and light it’s madness not to take one.

Granite Gear Vapor Trail rucksack -> GoLite Pinnacle pack. More comfortable, sheds rain better, side pocket takes a Canon EOS 550D (on a leash – in fact, see the next post!).

Silnylon rucksack rain cover -> Nothing – don’t use it anymore.

Montane Lite Speed wind proof -> Nothing – don’t use it in the Alps (more useful for more changeable weather in the UK).

Silk gloves -> Extremities Power Dry Gloves (not to be confused with the thicker, warmer Power Stretch). They stay warmer when wet and are harder wearing. One of my all time favourite bits of kit.

Emergency shelter -> A Superlite Bothy 2 rather than the standard 4 person version (half the weight).

Silk boxer shorts X3 -> Icebreaker X2. I like the fit better, and two pairs worked very well for the whole of the GR5 (washing one pair almost every night).

Integral Designs Shortie eVENT gaiters -> Only waterproof socks inside the inov8 Flyrocs in the Alps.

Sealskinz socks -> Rocky GoreTex Socks – far superior in both comfort and particularly durability (as long as you read the instructions and pull them off by pinching under the heel – else they can get torn).

Montrail Hurricane Ridge approach shoes -> Too heavy – inov8 Terrocs or Flyrocs but most of the time; Vibram Five Fingers!

Swiss Army knife -> Opinel Number 7 – very light, very sharp. Perfect for cheese and saucisson, and carving rough bark of a branch if you need a stick in a hurry… I sadly lost mine on the TJR that I’d had since I was twelve (so that’s twenty nine years, if you’re wondering).

3 packs travel tissues (in 6″X9″ Aloksak) -> Toilet roll, two sheets at a time, stacked in the Aloksak. A vital bit of kit for us westerners in remote huts where they can run out. Replenished, literally only a couple of sheets here and there only from hotels or other non-remote places that we stayed (so few that I’m quite sure they wouldn’t have minded). You can be remarkably economical with it if you try. This saw us through the whole of the GR20 (where there rarely is any in the huts!).

Re-used Indian Tonic Water bottles -> Platypus Hoser 2L. I don’t like the level of plasticisers that I’m probably ingesting, but the dehydration wasn’t good at all, as I discovered on the Haute Route.

Ortlieb Aquazoom waterproof camera case -> Sea To Summit Ultrasil 4L waterproof stuffsack… I think… that’s the next post in fact!

So What Causes A Sniffly Nose In The Cold?

Here’s a little snippet of information that I’ve imparted to many a person on the hill, who have all said “Oh – I’ve always wondered about that…” – which made me decide to share it with the Internet at large.

I wondered for years why going out in the cold gives people the sniffles and then one day I met an Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon and somehow remembered to ask him. This is what I understood of what he told me:

Taking freezing cold air into the delicate tissues of the lungs isn’t a great idea so there are structures in your sinuses which swell with nice warm blood to pre-warm it. They swell to create more surface area to get as much contact with the air as possible.

Which is great for the lungs but not so much fun for the swollen tissues doing the warming. So to protect themselves they exude more mucus. That extra mucus is what gives you the sniffles.

When you finally go in to a warm room and your nose starts to run like mad, that is because those tissues are sensing that their duty is done and they contract, suddenly leaving far less surface area for all the mucus. Imagine blowing up a balloon and painting a thin layer of honey onto it. Then let the balloon deflate; most of the honey would run off as the balloon contracted.

So, more than you ever wanted to know about sniffly noses!