Tuesday 28 December 2010

Top Ten Favourite New Items of Gear for 2010

Looking back at the new gear I’ve tried for the first time this year a number of items stand out. Unsurprisingly many of them were used on my Pacific Northwest Trail walk over the summer.

Caldera Inferno Ti-Tri Sidewinder cook system

This is a great cooking system that I really enjoy using, especially as a wood burner. Lightweight, compact, efficient and works whatever the weather. On the PNT I used it mostly with wood for the first 6 weeks and then with alcohol most of the wet final month. It worked fine with both fuels.

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Ether Elite 6

Despite it springing a leak on the PNT this airbed became a favourite due to the comfort, light weight and low packed bulk. POE have replaced it with the Peak Elite AC. I have one on test and will be reporting on it for TGO soon.

Rab Demand Pull-On

This eVent waterproof smock kept me dry on many wet days during the last month of my PNT walk and was light and compact to carry during the first six weeks when it was rarely needed. I think it’s an ideal waterproof top for long distance backpacking.

Pod Ultralite Drysac and Lifeventure Dri-Store

These roll-top, seam-sealed, silnylon waterproof stuffsacks are superb. I don’t like pack covers and prefer to pack gear into waterproof bags inside the pack. These stuffsacks, which seem identical, are lightweight and tough. They kept my down quilt and jacket, spare clothing and other water-sensitive gear completely dry on the PNT.

Petzl Core USB Rechargeable Battery

With this unit, which fits neatly into Petzl’s Tikka, Zipka and Tikkina headlamps, the output and the battery life can be programmed and the headlamp used in regulated mode so the power remains constant. There’s some clever software so you can adjust the modes on screen. I’d have taken this on the PNT if I’d had one then.

GoLight Quest

I used this pack on the second half of the PNT and came to really like it. I’d used the Odyssey with the same back system as a winter backpacking sack for a few years so I knew it was comfortable. On the PNT I felt the Quest was an ideal combination of size, light weight and comfort with moderate loads.

Steripen Adventurer Opti

In the Scottish hills I don’t bother with water treatment. But in some places abroad it’s essential. On the PNT some sections were in ranching country where every water source had been trampled and muddied by cattle. I used this little UV light purifier to treat this water and never got sick so I guess it worked. No chemicals are involved and no complex, slow to use filtering either so when I have to treat water this is the purifier I would choose.

HTC Desire/ViewRanger

On the PNT I wanted to minimise the number of devices I carried so I took a smartphone with GPS plus ViewRanger software with US topo maps. This was a great success on the many occasions when I needed to locate my position in dense forest.

Sony NEX 5

This camera takes better quality pictures than my DSLR whilst being much lighter and more compact and so is better for backpacking. I wish I’d had it for the PNT.

Rab Infinity

I’ve been wearing this lovely, snug down jacket a fair bit this cold autumn and winter. It’s lightweight and packs small and so is ideal for cold weather backpacking. A detailed review will appear on the TGO website early in the new year.

Photo info: the Ti-Tri Inferno in use at Waterton Lakes campsite in Glacier National Park during my Pacific Northwest Trail hike. Canon 450D, Canon 18-55mm lens@28mm, 1/60@f5.6, ISO 800, raw file processed in Lightroom 3.


  1. On such a long walk kit flaws will stand out. Based on the recommendations I can see some money being spent on some new kit by me. The Demand top looks top of the list.

  2. Did you end up using the quilt? If so, how did you find it?

  3. I did use the quilt and it was fine - a little too warm in fact as temperatures weren't as low as expected. However I still prefer a sleeping bag.

  4. I agree the Ti-Tri systems are incredible. Lightweight and versatile.

  5. You surprise me Chris that you don't use a cover for the rucksack.
    I know its each to his/her own but why have a wet sack when for such little weight you can keep it dry. And you can use the cover for as a wash bag as well.

  6. I've tried covers Alan and I find them a nuisance. You have to remove them to get at the contents which can let rain in. They catch the wind. They get caught and tear on bushes and rocks (I'd have shredded several on the PNT). Packs don't absorb much water and dry quickly so I'm not bothered about getting the outside wet.

    28 December 2010 22:06

  7. It's a shame the Demand Pull-on has elasticated cuffs, otherwise I would get one.

  8. Hi, Chris. You mention using HTC Desire and Viewranger. What power backup do you use/take? And what waterproofing do you use? Pete

  9. I generally prefer adjustable cuffs. However I didn't find the elasticated cuffs on the Demand Pull-On a problem. The lack of a full-length zip, underarm zips and mesh pockets all mean ventilation is very limited. As a general purpose jacket it's limited but as a lightweight waterproof jacket for backpacking it's excellent.

    I took two spare batteries for the Desire plus a tiny Freeloader Pico solar charger. After three days on top of the pack in sunny weather the last produced enough energy to half charge the phone. However as I was in forest much of the time it wasn't actually in direct sunshine very long each day.

  10. Chris, what happened to the Golite Pinnacle? Are frameless packs not as good as made out by the ultralight community?

    Happy New Year - Peter Hughes

  11. Peter, I used the Pinnacle for the first half of the PNT but then it started to fall to pieces. This was a new one for the walk and I think it must have been a duff model as I'd previously used a Pinnacle on 3 TGO Challenges and other trips without problems. I should have taken my old one!

    Happy New Year.

  12. I thought the Petzl USB lamp was a bit of a gimmick, so it's interesting that you found it useful.

  13. Mark, yes, I really like the Petzl Core USb. I've used it a fair bit now and like the regulated beam and being able to set the power output and battery life. I like the rechargeable battery too.

  14. How did you go with Batteries with the Steripen? Did you carry many spares?

  15. I only used one set of batteries for the Steripen and they still had life in them at the end. I didn't use it much of the time however - the main use was during the two weeks of hiking in cattle country in eastern Washington. The rest of the time I only used it if water sources looked dubious, which was rare. The Steripen used the same batteries as my headlamp so I always had spare batteries I could have used.

  16. Chris I'm very interested in your comments on the Sony Nex 5. Does it have a viewfinder? If not how does it cope with bright light? I appreciate its smaller and more compact than an DSLR, but how do the pictures compare? Surely the lens quality is not as good as an DSLR? It seems much cheaper than a 450D or 550D. i've always admired your photography and nearly bought a 450D based on the fact you used one one in the wilds!!

  17. The Sony NEX 5 doesn't have a viewfinder. I hope there will be an EVF one day. I haven't had problems with the screen in bright light as I flip it upwards and hold the camera close to my chest so I'm looking down on it. This is good for stability as well as cutting out much glare.

    The images are higher quality than those from the 450D, especially at high ISOs. This is comparing raw files. I haven't checked JPEGs as I don't shoot them anyway. The NEX 5 has the same size sensor as the 450D, which is a major factor in image quality, and slightly more megapixels.

    The 18-70 NEX 5 lens, the only one I've used, is better made than the 18-50 Canon kit lens and the results are at least as good.

  18. HI Chris, re. the Pod Ultralite Drysac and Lifeventure Dri-Store roll-top stuff sacks; I'm interested to know what sizes you use and find most useful?...

  19. Hi Darren, I have a 15 litre one, which is good for sleeping bags, and 7 and 10 litre ones that I use for clothes and assorted items.