My hiking gear overview 2014

This is how it all began back in 2009, me carrying a huge backpack through the Swiss Alps for three weeks. And we didn’t even have camping or cooking gear with my friend!

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(photo by my friend mr. Wolfskin)

I am not a gear enthusiast by any means – I don’t even have a scale to measure the grams, but I have learned to appreciate right type of clothing and equipment. Within the years I have slowly updated what I have and tried to look for lighter alternatives. I’m especially happy with my Big 3 nowadays: the backpack, shelter and sleeping system, weighing 3,3 kilos in total. I know those could be still lighter, but compare that to the old monstrous backpack which was 3 kilos alone!

Here’s an overview of my hiking gear and what I usually wear on trail. I hope you’ll find some useful examples, inspiration and please feel free to recommend something better! (click the images to see them larger)

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The main difference between a summer hike and autumn/spring hike is that in colder weather I’ll wear the Rugged Mountain Pants instead of shorts. However, they are way too heavy to carry around, so I need to be sure that weather stays cool enough to wear them while walking. Otherwise I usually have pretty much the same set of clothes with me, whether going to the Alps or coast of UK. For example the shield jacket is so light and useful in windy conditions that I have it always with me.

I usually feel chilly in the evenings after a hard day of walking, when the air cools down and sun is setting. At the camp I’ll have my Rab baselayer on, fleece (taking either the micro or thicker one), down vest, rain pants and thick gore-tex shell jacket. The jacket is quite old and not very useful in the rain (too hot), so I’ve used it just when in camp. I’m dreaming of having a down jacket some day.

In West Highland Way and GR5 I used a cheap poncho as my main rain protection and despite its obvious defects, it worked well enough. But when it pours water the whole day and strong wind tests your spirit, going gets tough. So my latest gear update was to replace the poncho with a proper rain jacket and I found a good offer for that Montane Air. I recommend to check Ultra Light Ourdoor Gear that offers very good service and selection.

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Here are some small items: tiny bottle of shampoo, minimum amount of toothpaste, cut toothbrush. I found that plastic capsule for my camera charger and batteries inside of a giant choko eastern egg! 🙂

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I carry usually a small survival box with me. I have never needed to open it while on trail and hopefully no need to do so in the future either. I have customised what’s inside, not sure if everything is useful or if missing something important but it has for example a signal mirror, wire saw, sewing kit, water purification pills and painkillers, flashlight, tinderbox, money, tampon (for making fire), some gauze, glukoce pills…

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It sure looks like having lot of stuff, but my base weight still stays under 10 kilos and usually with weeks food the weight settles somewhere around 12-13 kilos.

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Vaude Power Lizard is like a palace for one person; you can easily take even the backpack inside.

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Here’s a list of my hiking gear. The weights are estimates and taken from manufacturers web sites, as some of the cut gear images.

At the moment I’m looking for walking poles as I had to leave the old ones to France. But most telescope models have clumsy and big mountaineering type of grip. For fast and light movement I want to have slimmer and similar grip than those used in cross-country skiing. (check the photo here)

Also I need to replace my loyal Lowa boots in the near future.

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And in winter?

I’m not (so far) a huge fan of winter camping and as you might have noticed I lack some proper gear (and skills) to survive in Nordic winter. Daily hikes and cross-country skiing are the best ways for me to enjoy the white and cold beauty.

GR5 – DAY 0, Advent Calendar

In July 2013 I solo hiked the most famous part of the GR5 long distance walking route, The Grand Traverse of the Alps, from Lake Geneva to Nice, roughly 600km over the beautiful French Alps. I have finally finished editing the photos so it’s time to post them here. As the amount of trail days goes almost hand in hand with the days before Xmas Eve, I’ll post every day one trail day, like an advent calendar. Don’t forget to check the one and only, true outdoor advent calendar at Hiking in Finland!

I won’t be writing much to these posts because I’m currently working with a book about my hike. So let’s save the details and some writing energy into that!

Here’s the day zero, the day of travelling to the starting point of the GR5:

 

DAY 0, HELSINKI – GENEVA – ST.GINGOLPH – LA PLANCHE

Ascent: 800 m

Descent: 0 m

Distance: 7 km

Time on trail: 15:30 – 18:00

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All my gear got nicely into my Osprey Exos 58. The most important gear being my RAB Alpine 400 down sleeping bag and Vaude Power lizard tent, both weighing about one kilo. My idea was to sleep in a tent as many nights as possible. I took dry dinner food and snacks for a week. In total the weight of the backpack was around 13 kilos, plus the water.

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I took an early morning Finnair flight to Geneva, then a bus to Evian and finally a taxi to the village of St.Gingolph at the border of France and Switzerland. Feeling confident at the beginning of the trail. I had read about a nice meadow couple of hours further on the trail…

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Hard day of travelling behind but finally began to feel relaxed between the first line of mountains. From now on it would be easy; there’s the trail, just keep walking. Heavy rain in the evening.

GEAR TALK: Osprey Exos 58 review

GR20 Osprey Exos 58

After adventuring through the Alps with a heavy Haglöfs Oxo 75 I thought please no more, there has to be a way to save some weight. It felt a bit stupid just to carry 3 kilos as an empty backpack. So I studied lighter options and this 1,1 kg Osprey pack caught my eye, and eventually my money as well at the end of 2010. Since then I have carried it in every hike, and in the beginning also for carrying groceries. I think this is a quite famous backpack as I have seen it very often on the trail too. There are also tons of reviews out there to read and Osprey’s website will give you the rest of the details:

Exos series

But here are some of my thoughts after using it in several trips:

Osprey Exos 58 review

If starting from the inside of the backpack, the light grey color really makes it easier to find things in low light. The main compartment itself is suprisingly spacious and then there are the two vertical side pockets, mesh side pockets and kind of a “kangaroo” pocket behind. So lot of room. That zipper gives you an access to the space between the trampoline mesh and the backpack itself, a place where you could place some water bags for example. I’ve never used that. Under the water symbol there’s a tiny entrance for the water hose.

When starting the GR20, I think it weighed about 17 kilos with food and water. And that started to feel like hey, we are close to the limits and one should consider sturdier backpack. But when eating away few kilos going was much smoother and the backpack was on it’s best. With heavy weight the Exos comes also a bit unstable as the trampoline mesh makes the load to be a bit further from your back. I noticed this sideway movement easily while climbing the slopes of Corsican mountains. Also, when I had to pull myself up with a quick movement, quite often the weight of the backpack jumped too in my back making me lose my balance forwards. It was not that big issue but one had to be careful with it. Hard to say how breathable the trampoline mesh is but I think it helps:)

Osprey Exos 58 review

Osprey Exos 58 review

It’s a very versatile backpack as there are lot of straps to tight things and adjust. I usually pack my 3 season sleeping back to the bottom, sideways. For water I have used one 1liter Nalgene in the other side mesh pocket, and another 1liter Nalgene inside the main compartment. To the other side of the backpack I have tighten vertically my sleeping mat. It’s then really easy to take out for breaks. With some extra straps I have placed my Crocs to hang out behind the backpack.

But the hip belt pockets are absolutely fantastic! I don’t get it why all the backpacks doesn’t have those? In Exos they are big and easy to place and take out stuff while walking. I always place my Samsung WB2000 camera to the other one and some snacks to the other. They get wet though while raining so then just to put the camera inside of your jacket for instance. In the left shoulder strap there’s a place for a mobile phone. My old Nokia N70 fits well there but I doubt that any smart phone would.

Some tiny marks of heavy using are visible but I think there’s no issue with the durability. So far the backpack has gone through 3 weeks of extensive hiking and numerous day trips and there’s not even a single big scratch or a sign of a failure. I’ve read some negative comments about the tiny hip belt giving up, but for me it has worked well so far and never opened up by itself. I have to admit that it feels a bit fragile though. In the beginning the thin bottom fabric concerned me the most but it too has lasted without any defects. One should pay attention though where to place the backpack.

Osprey Exos 58 review

Inside the top lid there’s another mesh pocket, perfect for small things.

Osprey Exos 58 review

The Osprey rain cover was not included when I bought this backpack but had to buy it separately. And it wasn’t cheap, I think close to 30 euros. But it has worked well and I’ve been using it always when raining. I haven’t tested how well the fabric of the backpack itself holds rain but it doesn’t get scared from light drizzle.

GR20

GR20

Overall I think it’s a great value for the money when you’re looking for a lighter backpack. It has filled all my needs and so far I haven’t had to regret having it.

+ versatile, light, side pockets, spacious

– the hip belt could be a bit sturdier, the backpack has started to make slightly annoying noise while walking, balance issues some times