We all love gear lists, we do, it is just the way it is; but the real magic of a gear list for a long trip is when you get back: checking what worked and what didn’t, what needs replacing and what outperformed your expectations. Before going on the CWT trip, I made my gear list public for you to enjoy, and that means we can now go back to it and see how things worked. I’m not going to list all the items and I have done a more in depth gear review for some of the things I took with me so I won’t do that either. Instead, I will list the highlights of what worked really well, what have failed miserably, what was unnecessary and what was missing.
Here are the highlights of a very carefully planned gear list that I took with me on the Cape Wrath Trail:
What performed as expected – served its purpose and did it well
- Carrying system: from my Kalais backpack to the Ribz and the dry bags, everything worked well. Despite the fact that I was carrying all the food I would need for 8 days, a total of almost 17kg, carrying my gear was easy. The combination of a front pack with a backpack just works really well for weight distribution and quick access. I did pack extra dry bags just before I left and as much as those can be useful, I ended up leaving them in the bag.
- Night attire: my new set of my old hiking Merino with a balaclava hood, old cut off tights (synthetic) and knee high compression socks was great. The set was warm, light to carry, comfortable and the socks worked magic for my recovery. Actually, it was when I got back home and stopped using the socks that my leg and feet problems started.
- All my clothing: I know it is weird, but I used every piece of clothing I took and it all worked well. The gloves (including the new Prism gloves), the Atom LT, the Merino tops and the new Injinji socks – everything worked great. I was pretty comfortable at all times, maybe not when I needed to put on wet trousers, socks and underwear, but even those warmed up quickly with some jumping jacks in the morning. I don’t think I will be changing anything in my clothing; I even used the running shorts on the nights in the more social bothies (like Barisdale)!
- Hygiene and first aid: since I usually avoid injuries while hiking and my feet were doing well on this trip, I never used my big first aid bag. I did manage to keep fairly clean and I was very happy for my mini towel when showering or having a “hiker’s shower”. No real rashes or skin irritations either, thanks to a mix of foot cream and fenistil ointment to stop any rashes the moment they started.
- Emergency kit: I’m happy to say that it performed perfectly – it stayed stashed away the whole time and I had no need for it; but it was nice that I had it.
- Phone, Kindle, camera and battery: all worked well to provide me with all the entertainment, photography and communication I needed. The problem is that I didn’t really get to test the system as I ended up spending all my nights at places that had electricity: Corryholly, Barisdale, Kintail Lodge and Maol Bhuide (the only one with none) so I wasn’t really low on batteries at any point.
- M&C navigation kit: my home printed maps on the Aquascribe paper worked like a charm in the wet conditions. The funny thing is that I’ve been working on this trail and the guide that accompanies it for so long that I know the route by heart, so very little navigation was needed.
Gear that surprised me
- Delorme inReach SE: This is the first time I have ever taken a satellite communication device on a trip, but it proved to be so useful! I will be writing a full review at some point, but let me just say that the peace of mind it offers, both in terms of an emergency device and for communication with home (a worried wife and two young kids, for me), is amazing. When I had no phone reception I could update my wife on changes in plans, get updates from home or just send my love – it made a huge difference for me and will become a must-have item.
- Dirty Girl Trail Shoe Gaiters: I have used these in the past on runs, but never on a long trip and it really helps! They lessen the annoying grit in the shoes, keep the laces free from mud for easier untying at the end of the day and keep things tidier all together. Not to mention the chance to look so weird to others that they want to check you out, makes you a mini celebrity on the trail!
- Lighting: the Alpkit Glowe and the Silva Siju worked so well and were a great combination – the headlamp is pretty weak but can be used to look for things or provide ambient light while the Glowe lantern can be a hand torch when walking or a great lantern for the darker nights/early mornings. Really convenient.
- Cooking set (once I understood how to use it): I had a bit of a rocky start with my new alcohol-based cooking system, and I still want to do some adjustments for simmering, but for boiling water and cooking water-based foods it is a great system: fast, quiet, not smelly and pretty clean. I didn’t fare well with the ultralight stand as the stove had such a strong flame it started melting the plastic lip on my aluminium mug, so a solution needs to be found.
The greatest disappointments
- Altra Running Lone Peak 2.0 Shoes: it seems that every time I go on a longer trip my shoes fail in some way, and it is a different way every time. There are two problems with the Lone Peaks: 1. I took them on the CWT with about 200 miles on them and that should have been just about new for these shoes (1000+ miles shoes), but by the end of my trip the mesh was all shredded, not sure why. 2. The soles are not made for boggy UK conditions – they are made for the dry pressed trails in the USA, and just that. The soles were so bad, they were actually part of why I had to cut my trip short – I kept on slipping, getting injured, slowing down etc – a major hurdle.
- Garmin Fenix 2 GPS watch: I have had this watch for a while now and it has been performing great, including on multi day trips. After 2 hours of tracking and navigating on the CWT, it just froze! It completely stopped working until the battery drained and it rested. When I tried again, it froze again. The watch is a major part of my navigation arsenal and not having it meant slower navigation. When I got home it I learned that a software update was needed, but it is still very slow to function.
- Therm-a-Rest Neoair Mat: I am usually very happy with my mat, but on the third night something happened (despite being indoors) and on my night in Maol-Bhuidhe bothy I had to get up every 2-3 hours to re-inflate it to sleep. This is the second time I have had issues with the Neoair, though I’m not sure if it is the same one I sent to be fixed or the one that wasn’t sent over to Cascade Designs already. In any case, it is very frustrating and I think it is time I will upgrade to a more reliable mat.
Gear that could have done better
- Sea To Summit Nano Tarp/Poncho: I like the basic concept of the poncho, but there were a few structural issues. The biggest issue is that I wasn’t keen on actually sleeping under it in the conditions I encountered so I sometimes cut my days shorter to avoid it. The tarp is a bit too small for comfort in bad conditions and I think a few changes will make it much better. The worst part about the tarp/poncho is that I forgot it at Maol-Bhudhie bothy as it was drying! If you happen to stumble upon it I’d love to have it back…
- Black Diamond Distance Z Poles: I’ve been using the Z poles for a while and I like them – they have a good feel to them and they are usually light enough – but they have two set backs: 1. the set length doesn’t allow for much flexibility in use. 2. They are made of aluminium so mine are now pretty bent. Luckily I had taken another pair of poles to be tested (my own design for a new company I’m working on), so I used those.
Stuff I could have done without
- Alpkit Hunka Bivy: I didn’t end up camping at all on the trip, and might have had just one night if all went as planned. I’m not sure the 360g in the backpack were worth it on the style of trip I did. If I had camped and used the Sea to Summit tarp, a bivy would have been a necessity.
What I was missing
- Waterproof socks: this is a new idea I’ve playing with – keeping my feet dry at times. There were sections of the trail where it would have been useless to try and stay dry as water reached my knees and even my waist, but when walking in your average mid ankle depth bog, I’d like to try and stay dry. I’m on a search for Gore-Tex socks that will be wide enough for my feet now, not simple at all!
Conclusions and updating my gear list for next time
All and all my gear list proved very accurate for the conditions I needed, both in terms of which items to take and what items I needed. I’m still unsure about the best solution for shelter/rain gear as this can so easily be very heavy, but still be very functional if done well – maybe design my own?
The shoes are by far the biggest issue, which means my search for the perfect footwear continues. I am now back to Inov8 to try some of their new offers and designs as I find that their soles offer the best grip, especially in wet conditions.
Think your gear fared better on the Cape Wrath Trail? Let me know!
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