Gear for GR11: Cooking, food and water

Updated 9.6.2016

Previously, I’ve been carrying 1,75 litres of water with two Nalgene bottles but for the hot GR11, I decided to extend my capacity with two ~0,5 litre water pouches. In addition to that, I’ll take with me Sawyer Mini water filter but I might leave its cleaning syringe out as I believe the need of filtering water to be rare (passing by enough good water points). For cooking nothing has changed during the years. I still use my 0,7 litre Evernew UL titanium pot, which is just enough for one person, and Primus Express stove.

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The Sawyer Mini feels perfect for water filtering needs; no pumping, no movable (brokable) parts, light and versatile. The only drawback that I’ve found so far is the slow flow rate but hey, are we so in a hurry?

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Already on GR5 I got seriously fed up with the “adventure meals”, even if I had only few of them with me, and found cheap pasta meals (knorr, maggi.. those types) from supermarkets much better value for money. Back then, I also decided to improve my trail diet in the future by taking dehydrated veggies with me. That future is now here after my tries have been succesful.

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1kg of carrots shrinks nicely to 50 grams after pre-boiling a bit and keeping in the oven (50 celcius, lid slightly open for air-flow) for plus eight hours. Zucchinis worked out the same way but no need for pre-boiling.

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A test meal of 1 dl of couscous, couple of spoons of veggies, herbs and cashews made it quite nice trail meal. Before boiling for few minutes, I kept the veggies in water for 30 minutes to regain their shape. Unfortunately, the Kupilka bowl won’t have space in the GR11 gear list and I’ll eat directly from the titanium pot.

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I’ll take at least 3kg of carrots and zucchinis with me, dehydrated into few hundred grams. The rest of my trail diet, couscous, noodles, pasta meals, instant rice, instant porridge, muesli, nuts, chocolate bars, bread, sausages, cheese etc. I believe I can find along the trail from village stores.  Some of the stuff I’ll take already from home but in general I’ll use the same strategy as on the GR5; having all the time food for 3-5 days with me, resupplying whenever possible and eating well when overnighting near restaurants.

Updated 9.6.2016

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So, my dry food bag includes 2kg of carrots (dehydrated), 1kg mix of zucchinis, champs, peppers and tomatoes (dehydrated), 8dl of fast porridge mixed with cinnamon and two big apples (dehydrated), 6 rolls of noodles, 7dl of fast rice and 6dl of couscous. Weighing 2kg in total, these will give me a feeling of security for wild camping but I prefer not to carry more food at a time. How long these will last then depend on how often I’ll be eating in a restaurant and the stores found along the trail.

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Finnish chocolate is the best, so I have to take at least something with me. Those bags of dried soup ingredients I’ll mix with the fast rice and it’ll make a tasty portion. My chocolate bag weighs 1kg in total and unfortunately, knowing my chocolate consumption, it won’t last very long. But choko bars are easy to find along the trail.

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Still missing and bought local are fresh bread, cheese, some sausage, cashews and breakfast muesli. I don’t count the calories intake but try to listen my body and follow one principle – eat as much as possible!

Gear for GR11: Electronics

First things first: I’m a relic from the past as I don’t have gps or smart phone. To find my way, I prefer to be battery-free and to rely on my navigation skills with a map, compass and guidebook. I can’t deny it would be handy to have a gps but I feel safer the old way, being more focused of my whereabouts. Of course, different type of adventures might require different type of devices. What comes to smart phones, I stand in the last front, fighting against overwhelming digital noise and a society where everything happens through a device. For me one of the great rewards of a long hike is NOT to be connected. And I’m weak, I know if having a smart phone, I would be obsessed and sucked back into depths of the internet and social media. Besides, I find smart phones clumsy, vulnerable, expensive and in general, not really trail worthy. Okay, so how does my electronics set-up look like then?

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For communication I have Nokia 215 basic phone (costs 29 eur, weighs 80 grams, gives up to 20h talk time and 50h music play). Even if listening music or podcasts for a while in the evenings and sending long and longing text messages to home, the need to recharge might not occur even once a week. Sony RX100 with one extra battery have a place of honour in my gear list and comes along without a question.

The latest addition is the Ventura Snooper PB60 power bank (10400 mAh, weighs 140 grams. Updated 14.6, as discussed in the comments, the weight the manufacturer announces might be far from truth). The five lithium-ion cells are in rubberized, weather- and shockproof casing and you can roll up the whole thing. Even the typical 70% actual capacity out of 10400 mAh gives plenty of power to charge the phone battery (1100mAh) and the camera battery (1240mAh). On GR11, I’m expecting the longest gaps between a night at a campsite (and electricity) to be 3-4 nights. I might not even need the Ventura but I think I’m gonna give a try, to see how it works and have more freedom to listen music and shoot video.

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The phone and camera charges from the power bank with a usb-cable, and the power bank from a wall with the usb-cable and wall-charger plug. Alternatively, and as a back-up option, all can be charged from a computer with the usb, but this seems more unlikely (maybe at some campsites could be possible). In this setup the need of cables is down to bare minimum.

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Suunto Core is the outdoor watch of my choice. It hasn’t been perfect but good enough. The altimeter is really handy to monitor the progress of ascents and descents on those long, never-ending mountain sides. I use the compass of the watch mainly to confirm the general directions but for more precise work, I have a real compass. The original silicon strap just got broken and when checking the prices of a new one, I decided to give a try to the do-it-yourself paracord strap. After few attemps I think I got it decent enough:)

Next post: Cooking and water

Next destination: GR11 – The Spanish Pyrenees

For long it has been clear to me that one day I would find myself standing near the border between France and Spain, at the shore of the Bay of Biscay. But instead of crowded and relatively flat road walk or coastal path towards Santiago de Compostela, my own pilgrimage would head east, to the mountains and towards the distant Mediterranean, facing whatever challenge the Pyrenees can throw against .

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But on which side of the border, that has been the main question and the answer changing every now and then. As I don’t like that much walking or scrambling on exposed ridges and summits, I quickly excluded the Haute Randonnée Pyrénees, the high route following the highest walkable route through the mountains. After hiking the GR5, walking on French side along the well-marked GR10 has felt like a safe bet, but also less exciting. At the end of this June, I’ll leave Irún behind along the Spanish GR11, hoping to complete the trek from Irún to Cap de Creus, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

The GR11 is a serious trek. Compared to the GR5 it’s longer and according to the Brian Johnson´s guide, includes in total 46km of ascent, on the drier and hotter Spanish side of the Pyrenees. But the trail offers varied landscape, from green hills to a high granite peaks, famous national parks, a visit to Andorra and most of all, magnificient wild camping opportunities.

As usual, unfortunately, I won’t be blogging while on the trail as I try to immerse myself into trail life, to escape from the digital world for a precious while (this is my personal choice and I respect great deal those who see the effort to post while hiking). I don’t posses required electronic devices either. But I hope to be able to publish something interesting before leaving and especially, afterwards.

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Now, I need to begin my transformation from a “couch potato” to a true, light-footed Alpine Ibex! No fancy tricks, just trying to Walk, Bike and Trailrun (trailrunning gives better workout for the whole legs, strengthens ankles and improves balance better than normal jogging) as much as possible, having weekly Football training and couple of Games, and most importantly, doing of ascent/descent drills at the nearby skiing hill (steep, 50m elevation). I don’t plan my training schedule much ahead but just following the progress by writing down what I’ve done. More to follow!

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