Monica has a lot to answer for. It’s all because of her that I’ve spent so much money on gear this year…
For anyone who doesn’t know, Monica is my tent, a Scarp 1 from Tarptent. Ever since she came to stay, sometime in March, two trends have been happening. The first is that the walking trips I’m planning involve more camping – naturally enough as I need to get my money’s worth out of her! But it’s not just camping, it’s wild camping. Two nights wild and 1 night tame in May kicked things off, and if I like the look of the forecast this time next week, a 5 nighter in the emptiness of the Lakes Far Eastern Fells. Not to mention my much more ambitious plan to do a coast to coast walk later in the year, and to wild camp a good chunk of it.
The main effect of this increased focus on camping wild is that I’m able to leave trips to the last minute to decide whether I’m going – no accommodation to book, just train tickets, and the ability to weigh up the weather rather than commit to a date and take whatever weather is on offer. But the second effect is financial: I’ve almost completely removed the single biggest item of expenditure on a trip – the cost of the night’s sleep. This of course means more trips, in theory, but also more money available for gear.
The second trend is an increased desire for lighter and better gear, and with the financials favourable I’ve invested in a few pieces. So I currently have a lot of new items on probation.
Monica herself, has just about passed her probation, but the sign-off form does have a few action points. I’ve used the crossing poles twice and on neither occasion did I get much in the way of condensation on the inner. In contrast two nights without the crossing poles have both had wet patches on the inner the following morning. I may not have seen much benefit in terms of stability, but the poles do seem to help in holding the outer away from the inner. With a new down sleeping bag to look after, I clearly want to keep wet at bay as much as possible. The one thing with the crossing poles though, is that they do seem like a massive faff to put on – they take longer than putting the tent up itself and seem to involve several circuits of the tent to get them right (which I’ve not yet achieved to my satisfaction).
Robin’s arch pole tensioning system seems to be working pretty well too. I installed this before my may trip and Monica certainly does seem stiffer.
I bought myself a Golite Jam as I was finding I needed a bag that fitted somewhere between my old Berghaus Freeflow III 35+8 and my Lowe Alpine Khumbu 65:80, and I also wanted to cut the weight at the same time. Size-wise the bag has been brilliant, and as a result the Berghaus has been completely retired, as the Jam covers the entire range of my needs apart from local daywalks and really long backpacking trips.
It’s not been without its own minor niggle though. I found the removable foam pad has buckled and is now in an “S” shape. I think this is because I overloaded the bag in weight terms and also didn’t distribute the weight well. I’m sure it’ll be fine once I’ve straightened it out. I’ve also managed to get a small rip in the front pocket. But the pack’s everything I wanted it to be.
My first night in Monica in the garden revealed another pressing gear issue – my sleeping bag isn’t up to the job. I’ve always got away with relatively warm weather camping and the only cold nights have been times where I’ve had the benefit of additional covers etc. But I was actually cold that first night and as I lay there I knew another purchase was on the cards. There’s no point in having a decent tent and being able to go wild camping if I can only do so in high summer. A lot of research later, I got myself a Cumulus Quantum 350, and it looks good as well as being over 600g lighter than my old bag. I can’t wait to try it in anger.
Sat on my Amazon wishlist for months now has been the Caldera Cone, and I’ve been looking at it so much that I finally snapped and bought one. And a new pot to fit it – opting for the new Evernew 1L Pasta Pot. Both of these arrived today and I’m astounded at both how light they are and their sheer size – when set up getting on for a similar size to my Trangia, but at much less than half the weight. I reckon this swap has saved me 600g for no significant difference in cooking capability.
My Travel Tap hasn’t really been used enough yet for it to have properly bedded-in and it’s still quite stiff when squeezing it. It clearly filters quite well, but I’m hoping that it loosens up a bit so that I use it rather than just take the chance because it’s too much like hard work. It should get some use on the upcoming trip that will help it settle in.
This week I also treated myself to some new socks, as all of mine seem to be be wearing out at the same time. So a couple of pairs of Smartwool socks also need a test. These really aren’t a concern – after all I’ve used socks before.
So it’s been an expensive few weeks due to all of the new gear, but this is all money that I would have spent on accommodation otherwise, and I reckon the payback period is going to be about a year, in terms of accommodation savings. I reckon I’ve also lowered my base weight by 2.5kg which is most welcome. I just need to be sensible about how much food I take (too much) and I’m going to be getting close to a pack weight that’s not crippling and the ability to use the Jam for all but the longest trips. Which will be nice.