Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Lakes SUL trip - a few thoughts.

Well what can I say about this trip, the main thing was that Seth, Tom and I had a cracking time despite the football. The weather was fantastic, mid 20's, not a drop of rain, quite a few midges, but you don't want to hear all that guff - let's talk kit!

First off I didn't manage SUL status and I don't care (I bloody well do care!).  This was down to a couple of things. The first was that my DIY pack that I was intending to take failed as I was getting it out of the car. I'm happy to report it was the only bit I hadn't made. It was the chest strap assembly from the Alpkit pack that fell to bits. The trusty golite jam was bought into service adding 350g or so. Secondly I've been using an inflatable pillow from the pound shop, this has now died but it made a huge difference to how I slept. I couldn't find another one so I got hold of ajunguk (spelling?) air pillow. I've not weighed it yet but what a revelation! Best nights sleep ever. So with this luxury and the change in pack I settled for being a UL backpacker for the weekend with a base weight of just under 3kg.

I didn't use the waterproofs but they always have to be taken. I wore a very lightweight Rohan long sleeved merino top and a windshirt on occasion, Ron Hill trackster copies, two pairs of socks - a thin synthetic Bridgedale liner sock and some thick Rofan merino ones and inov8 roclite boots.

I loosely packed the PHD Piqolo bag in the Rab Survival Zone Bivi along with the pillow. The home made torso pad slotted down the back of the pack. Stove, pot, cozy combination and waterproof in the main part of the pack. The tarp and groundsheet were contained in a small sandwich bag in the front pocket along with the bits and bobs bag.  This contained a petzl e+lite, sun tan cream, Bronners soap, tooth brush and a small first aid kit.

The filter came into its own.  I've never seen the lakes so dry.  Most of the minor streams on the side of the fells were completely dry.  The rivers in the valleys were down to standing puddles in places with a trickle or two between them.  A lot of the water was taken from tarns and the lakes themselves.  Stuff I wouldn't touch without a filter.

The tarp is just so small it's difficult to comprehend its tiny packsize.  It did a great job of keeping the slight breeze off, although it was never tested in adverse weather I have no doubt it will hold up well.

So what's the point of trying to go SUL?  When I was first into backpacking I'd never considered light weight gear.  When I was younger it was all 80l backpacks, full trangia cookesets and a change of clothing for every day on the trail.  I can safely say with every lightweight bit of kit, or technique I've tried I've always been dubious of its merits.  I thought the same of trying to go SUL but what a difference it made.  The weekend was short on milage but high on ascent and the 3kg (plus food and water) pack was a revelation.  I usually have between 5kg-7kg as a baseweight.  I couldn't see the point of loosing an extra few kg - now I can.  It may seem a pretty obvious conclusion but it makes all the difference.  On the last day when most of the food was gone it was amazing.  I don't think I'm ever going to be a SUL hiker - not in this country.  This trip was sunny, warm and dry - not a usual occurance for a four day trip in the British Isles.  I'll try and stick to UL (less than 10lb, 4.5kg) I will in future be more ruthless with the kit I leave behind.  I missed nothing and gained everything.

Tom and Seth, whom I'm trying to convince to do the TGO next year were finally converted too.  They left their packs behind on the last day (to pick up in the car later) as they were suffering slightly with weight they were carrying, mainly due to massive amounts of food rather than the kit.  Seth had a home made nylon tarp (one of mine) which weights less than 300g and Tom was using the Hex3 as you can see from our lakeside camp below.

They've 10 months to lighten the load - no doubt I'll pester them to use kit I've made to test it in the field.


The Weekend Dude said...

Lighter is always better I reckon. Although comfort is nice, you do sacrfice miles for the pleasure. Just a shame we don't have the weather to be able to do it year round. The amount of layers we need to contend with winter conditions makes it so tough to keep the weight down. Well done though you've obviously got your packing and kit down to a fine art!

Shed Dweller said...

I agree, lightweight or SUL or even UL backpacking in winter I'd find impossible. Because of the weather and the new air pillow this trip was as comfortable as any I've ever done. I nearly forgot the midges - a head net would have been a good idea, they weren't too bad just a bit annoying. I will be doing a North York Moors overnighter in SUL mode very soon and I promise to do another video.

Laura said...

My problem is keeping things lightweight when I have to use a synthetic sleeping bag
(feathers and down are just not for me) - and it's not just weight - it's bulk too!

Hendrik Morkel said...

Nice to read your thoughts on (S)UL.

I think it is possible to go lightweight or even UL in winter, at least here in the north. That is because the water that might come down will be frozen and thus less of a problem (OK, there are severe differences in the type of snow, but lets say it is -15°C and thus the snow will be nice dry and crisp). So one could go UL if the whole setup is build around that. I reckon in the UK your winters are more rain than snow, and thus it is not possible?!

Anonymous said...

Great inspiration to be more ruthless in my ounces counting, cheers!

Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

Nice read, thanks!

Shed Dweller said...

Thanks for all the comments! Laura, for the summer I reckon you'd get away a lightish synthetic bag, the bulk can be a problem, but my bag for this trip was stored uncompressed in the bivi. Lightweight packs don't get much heavier the bigger they get. In winter though you may struggle as would I, I think.

Hendrick I agree with you about our weather we do have a lot of rain, but have over the last couple of years had extended periods of snow but I just see snow as snow, not sure about the different types! I always pack for cold wet stuff. I'd use the Hex3 at around 850g and my 1.6kg down bag but most of the other stuff would be similar + lots more clothes of course. I'll have a go this winter and see how I get on.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Reading this is certainly food for thought. It'll be interesting to chat to you about the kit you make and see what you bring along if I'm able to make it this weekend with Steven and Phil to the Mosedale.
I'm still very much old school in terms of what I've got but the brain is making the adjustment, but the kit hasn't caught up yet - but it will!
Great post.