This is the second part of our article on wild camping in winter snow.
Rest of the stuff.
I carried all the gear in the OMM Villain pack. This isn’t really big enough for this sort of trip. The sleeping bag is a bit on the bulky side, and the down mat takes up the remaining space. An Alpkit Filo jacket also took up space but I couldn’t have done without it.
As usual, Paramo Aspira jacket and trews were worn and performed well except for the poppers on the side of the trousers continually opening. For a £150 pair of trousers I expect perfection and will be looking to modifying the poppers with an actual old fashioned button. A fleece and yak wool hat from Nepal and sealskin waterproof gloves were enough to keep the cold away.
Your hands tend to get cold using poles, and the Leki Ultralight poles have given me months of loyal service but are starting to look pretty tatty as the pole length markers are all but worn off. Meindl Burma boots do the job well for this sort of walk and as it was dry didn’t freeze solid overnight like last time. Merino wool warm socks with some thinnish outer walking socks kept my feet warm enough. I don’t think trail shoes would have been wise, the ground being frozen solid meant I twisted my ankles many times during the trip and clambering over icy boulders I could stabilise myself by jamming a foot between rocks often up to my ankles.
Nothing but a decent head torch will suffice for me, and the Petzl Myo3 is a good balance of weight and performance. It’s good enough for night walking, so it’s a vital piece of hill kit for winter day walks where ending the walk in the dark is often the norm. It also takes AA batteries, which any gear I take must also take. That means I can take my camera batteries if need be and use them in my head torch or GPS. In winter I carry a set of Lithium batteries as well as they don’t get affected by the cold.
A Nokia N95 was useful as an MP3 player, radio and for a bit of web browsing. On my last wild camp I managed to post on the blog with it. I always use my Garmin GPSmap 76c to log the walk and it also gives a much quicker idea if we’re off path or not. If they don’t match up, then the map is straight out. The Fuji Finepix S9600 is bulky but I wouldn’t go on a trip like this without being able to take a decent photographic record.
What I didn’t use. Paramo mountain top – great fleece that’s also a base layer so counted as spare fleece and layer. First aid kit with whistle– few odds and sods only. Spare batteries weren’t used, but essential. Sunglasses were taken, but the sun wasn’t quite strong enough. I also had sealskin mittens and Paramo long johns that I just didn’t need, but I was glad that they were.
What I didn’t take, but wished I had? I could have done with a Complan for breakfast. I’d not been able to get to a shop to buy this over the busy holiday period and suffered a bit on the second day. One of these would have made a nice pudding in the evening as the meal left me craving something sweet but not chocolate. A windproof would have been my top of choice on the warmer second day if I’d been able to fit it in my pack!
Definitely a better set of headphones for my Nokia and a decent portable radio as the N95 has an atrociously poor battery life. I can’t replace it with an MP3 player as I’m yet to see a decent one that takes AA batteries and they all require wall sockets to charge and proclaim is as a useful feature. Other than that, I was happy that the gear did the job well and that there was minimal dead wood. The rucksack needs to be larger for a longer trip in similar conditions though. Weight wise you could drop this down a kilo or so with a lighter bag, but for a significant price. The OMM Villain isn’t the lightest pack either, but it’s comfortable and I’d stick to this rather than go completely minimal. I think if I’d have cut weight down with most of the other gear then I’d have lost comfort at best or at worst I’d have had the wrong gear for the conditions at hand and suffered badly.
A rough estimate is that the pack weight was somewhere in the region of 8 kilos without counting the camera (non-essential) or the poles (as they’re’worn’). Of course, the rest of the worn gear adds a lot of weight as does the food – but on the net pack weights are usually stated without consumables (gas, water, food) or items worn (inc boots).
The full weight of my gear would have been much higher, and this’Skin out’ weight included my waterproofs. In seeking lower weights I cannot see how any lighter gear would have performed as good as the Paramo, which at this time of year really does count as a lightweight choice. Aspira Trousers (850g) and the Jacket (840g) count as an insulation and a waterproof layer for the entire body, worn just with decent baselayers are enough for walking in this weather, you know you’ll be dry and warm.
I might have got away with lighter clothing but had the weather changed I might not (definitely on the Saturday, normal walking trews and a windproof would have been OK). So it depends how much risks you like to take! You might go up Snowdon in January with t-shirts and flip flops and survive, it doesn’t mean it was a wise course of action.