I’ve been postponing and postponing and postponing this gear review. First because I just didn’t have time to write. Second because o well I’m not the one to write those superlong detailed gear descriptions and reviews. So as always: Don’t expext too much details and technical information, I rather just give my opinion and thoughts. Maybe it’s useful to some, maybe it’s not :cP Anyway I still learned some things while hiking in the high Alps that I wanna share.
I pretty much took the same stuff I took on the JMT in 2013 and on my hike across Tenerife last spring.

Backpack: GoLite Pinnacle
Still going with the same old backpack. It’s heavy (well in terms of lightweight backpacking) but it’s comfortable. I of course forgot to sew the belt smaller before I left so the belt still was too big and I had to add an extra pad inbetween the belt and my hips so it would fit around my waste.
The Pinnacle has the tendency of, well how do you say, letting you know when you packed wrong or right. Mostly there’s a big gap between my backpack and my back due to the fact that I’m often too lazy to pack that thing right. Still it doesn’t carry uncomfortably and I’m still pretty happy with the Pinnacle.
Pros: I like the low pockets on both sides. I can grab my snacks or windjacket out of them without having to take off the pack. I read reviews where people say those pockets are way too small. For me they’re just right but I can understand some find them too small.  And I like the shoulderstraps. Never had problems with any pain caused by them. It handles weight well!
Cons: It’s still huge, it’s still heavy.
I’m still torn whether I should just take the Pinnacle along on the PCT or not. I’m looking into the Zpacks Arc Zip (kinda fell in love the moment John posted about it) or some Gossamer Gear backpack but really, maybe the Pinnacle will do too? It’d save me some money…

Sleepingbag: Western Mountaineering Antelope aka The Mothership!

Jep I did it again… I took that heavy (but delightful) sleepingbag into the mountains, filling up more than half of my backpack with it. But man already the first night I was happy that I did. Temperatures dropped well below zero. In any other sleepingbag I’d been freezing my ass off.
Apart from using it on the Haute Route, I kinda slept all summer in this sleepingbag (right, this is supposed to be a winder sleepingbag…oops). We’ve been living in our Hubba Bubba for over 3 months now and yes I slept in this warm bag all summer long. You guessed it right: I wasn’t freezing. But I wasn’t really sweating either.
Really I love this bag. The loft still impresses me. It’s amazing. Every morning when I wake up in the Hubba Bubba I take my hand outta my sleepingbag, rais it (I know I’m silly, so what) and let it fall down gently on my sleepingbag. You know what happens??? My hand doesn’t fall through the down and doesn’t touch my body, na a. It lays there, on the loft, like floating (you know what I mean… O man I’m sooo bad in explaning!). Now that is loft that impresses me! Hell yeah!
Pros: Everything
Cons: Bulky, heavy. (So that makes my “Pros” a lie.)
Now don’t worry. I’m not taking this bag on the PCT. It’s too heavy, too bulky and turns out I never really use the hood (I feel like I’m trapped when I close that thing). I’m gonna go with a Zpacks 10degree bag. Weighs only half of the Antelope and will hopefully keep me warm too.

Right, that’s the place to bring a warm bag :c)

Sleeping pad: Thermarest NeoAir XTherm Regular
Still standing strong, still loving the warmth, still hating the inflating, but hell what do you do right? I love this mat when I’m on tour, I love the fact that I have something soft under me when I sleep, that evens out the bumps in the ground. Still no holes, no punctures. I do always use a groundcloth or a tent footprint underneath and take away sharp stones or pinecones or such before I put the NeoAir down.
By the way I finally was able to try out an XLite in torso length. Can’t say anything about the Rvalue as I’ve tested the mat in summer but I came to the conclusion I don’t like the torso length. I have an old thin Thermarest selfinflatable, also in torso length, that I didn’t have any problems with. I think I just don’t like the combination of a rather high/thick mat and the torso length. I feel like the mat was moving all over the place and I was floating on it. I woke up with an aching back because my feet were not laying as high as my torso (and yes I even put my backpack and other stuff underneath so that the difference in height wouldn’t be too big). Anyway, I know the Xlite S works for a lot of people, it just doesn’t work for me. So it seems like I’m gonna stick with the XTherm in regular size.
Pros: Warm, soft, kinda light for the amount of comfort
Cons: Inflaaaating, I haaaate inflaaaating

My evening ritual. Big fun!

Shelter: TerraNova Tarp  + Groundcloth: Soft tyvek 1,6 x 2 m
This is the lightest shelter we currently have that is roomy enough for 2 persons. The TerraNova Tarp is made of silnylon, measures 3×2,5m and comes in at 560g. So it isn’t superduper lightweight but we didn’t wanna spend lots of money on a new shelter this summer. It did what it had to do: Keep us dry during the heavy downpours. Luckely there weren’t too many mozzies around (except for once and on that occasion I wore my supersexy headnet).
The piece of Softtyvek weighs 140g. I like the soft tyvek as a ground cloth. It’s waterproof, sturdy yet flexible.
The two combined make a 700g non-bugsafe shelter for two persons. Hm that’s kinda heavy if you have the Zpacks Hexamid duplex in mind, right!?
Anyway, we were fine with this shelter on the Haute Route. For the PCT I wanna get a Zpacks shelter. O man, Zpacks is soon gonna get a lot of my money :cP
Pros: Did what it had to do, easy to pitch with my trekking poles
Cons: No bug protection. It didn’t rain through the silnylon but it did became very soggy after all the rain we got on the Haute Route.

Shoes: Brooks Cascadia 7
Till now I’ve only written positive things about these shoes. I absolutely loved them for the JMT. I fucking bought 4 extra pair of them after I came back, just in case I’d never again find a shoe that fits me so well.
On the Haute Route I found out Cascadia + wet rocks don’t match well. More than once I slipped so I eventually felt like I couldn’t trust my shoes on those critical stretches. Hiking in the Alps ain’t like cruising. It’s bouldering and scrambling, up and down, holding on to chains to make sure you don’t slip or fall down. The Cascadias didn’t do well in such situations and often I wished I had shoes with more “gripp”.
Still I do not only have negative things to tell. I still love my Cascadias. I do. They are comfortable and that’s definitely the most important. I don’t get blisters, I can hike ages in them and not feel any pain in my feet.
Plus they did well on snow and glaciers in combination with my lightweight crampons.
Pros: Comfy, no blisters, performed well on glacier and snow
Cons: Slippery on wet rocks

Spikes: Snowline Spikes Chainsen Light
Loved these lightweight spikes (210g) in combination with my Cascadias. I was really happy to have these on the Glacier du Tour. I can imagine bringing these to Sierra next year when it’s a high snow year.
Clothes: The same as usual (so check my old gear reviews on these ;c)

  • 1 Shortsleeve synthetic Tshirt, the North Face: Still love it
  • 1 Longsleeve synthetic Tshirt, Arc’teryx: Still love it, but the smell, jee the smell….
  • 1 Running short, Arc’teryx: Still absolutely love it
  • 1 Leggins, Arc’teryx: Superduperlightweight, still love it
  • Windjacket: Patagonia Houdini: My forever favorite
  • Insulation layer: Montane Fireball Smock: Still looks like a big potato-bag (eh yeah a blue one) on me but does what it has to do.
  • Synthetic unterwear, Arc’teryx: super
  • Dirty girl gaiters: Still a big fan! Loved them on the glaciers too.
  • Socks: 1 pair of Darn Toughs and 1 pair of smartwools: Like them both
  • Exped down booties: Loved them, wore them every evening and night :c)

I brought 2 new pieces of clothes:
1. Patagonia Houdini Windpants: Love these for the fact that they are super lightweight (my size XS comes in at 80g!!!). The fabric (same as the houdinijacket) feels comfortable on the skin too. Definitely give extra warmth but they won’t keep you dry when it rains (obviously, as they are wind- and not rainpants… Yet in the end most rainpants won’t keep you dry either). One thing I have to complain about though is the length. I’d love these pants to be just a tad longer. When I sit down not all of my leg is covered. Apart from the fact that it doesn’t look very nice (o you know I don’t care too much, but still) it’s just annoying. The cold wind still get’s in and the mozzies as well. So if I could ask Patagonia for a favour: Please just add 15 cm of fabric! I’m sure it doesn’t make too much difference in weight. I guess these pants were not designed for using in camp, just for actual trailrunning or hiking (when I’m hiking, the lenght is OK, it’s just when I sit down;c)
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable
Cons: Just a little too short

Please Patagonia, just make those pants a little longer!!!

2.  Sealskinz socks: The company who sells these socks claims them to be waterproof. To put that straight right away: They are not! But they did keep my feet warm, and definitely kept them dry longer than when I wouldn’t have worn them. These are the ones I bought.
They consist of 3 layers: The outer layer is made of Polyamid and Elastane. In the middle there’s some kind of membrane, and the inner layer is made of Wool, Polyacril and Polyamid. Even though this is the “thin” version of Sealskinz, the sock still feels quite thick so you better haven’t bought your shoes too small if you wanna wear these socks in them. I was really curious how these socks would perform, if they’d be comfortable and all. And I was suprised that they actually were pretty comfortable. They were ok to wear on the glaciers, on big snow traverses and when it was raining. I can imagine though they are nothing for warm rain. But this rain in the Alps was rather cold so I was actually happy wearing these socks. As soon as the sun would come out though I was very very unpatient to take them off cause my feet would start sweating in them immediately.
Pros: Keep my feet dry for a longer time than when I wouldn’t wear them, keep my feet warm (which is a big thing to me), easier to dry after they got wet than gore-tex shoes
Cons: They don’t keep their promise! They are NOT waterproof! That was definitely not just sweat making my feet wet in the end! And they are rather heavy (80g, that’s as much as my Patagonia Pants!)

Defenitely a sexy combo: sealskinz pulled up high and dirty girl gaiters on top :cP

Raingear: Outdoor Research Helium II jacket + Trashbag Rainskirt
Ooooowwwww damn my Helium II jacket couldn’t keep up with the rain. It was absolutely soaked after only 20 to 30 minutes in persistent rain. Now I know I can’t expect this one layer – rainjacket to perform like a 3 layer – rainjacket, so I shouldn’t wine… Instead I should be wise… Next time I’m hiking in a rainy place, I’m gonna bring a decent rainjacket (not saying the OR Helium isn’t a decent rainjacket, it’s just not a rainjacket for the conditions I hiked in -long persistent rain-).
Once again I loved the trashbag. I guess for the PCT I’m gonna make myself a cuben fibre rainskirt, so it’s a bit more durable and comfortable than a trashbag (I took one of these really light, not sturdy ones).

Early in the morning. My rainjacket still soaked from the day before.

Cooksystem: MSR Pocket rocket, titanium pot, selfmade windshield
Nothing fancy about our cooksystem. In my opinion the MSR pocket rocket always performs great. No fuss. Fast. That’s all I need.
I started experimenting with dehydrating food before I left and really I must say: My home cooked meals were the best backpacking food I ever ate! Definitely gonna keep on dehydrating and making my own meals. Pasta, rice, humus, hell yes!!!

 

Hiking Poles: Komperdell Vibra Stop Voila
Ah hiking poles are so boring to write about. I still like these. I probably have written about them in my JMT gear review. So you might just wanna read about them there.
Pros: Lightweight, use them to put up my tent or tarp
Cons: A well yes, always the same shit with these twistlocks… but not enough shit that I would buy another pair.

What else? 
Right, the tiny this and that’s :c) And my watersystem… And some climbing gear… Hm…

When it comes to the tiny this and that’s: I always bring the same, so you can read about it in my JMT gear review. (Eh did I actually write about that? Hm I better go and check that ;cP

Watersystem: Platypus 2 L bladder, Sawyer squeeze, Sawyer dirtwater bag: Allright, not sure though if I wanna squeeze water all my way up the PCT. I find it sometimes a pain in the ass. But that rather is because I’m such an impatient and lazy person oops… Well we’ll see.

Climbing gear: We brought some carabiner, some slings (out of which we created lightweight harnasses…. Right, did I forget to tell climbers and mountaineers to stop reading here?) and a hemp rope (really, mountaineers should stop reading, you don’t wanna know what shit we do). We actually have several climbing ropes at home, and a mountaineering rope but we thought they were just too heavy to take with us, so we did it the oldschool way and brought 10m of hemp rope :cP

Practicing our rescue skills the evening before heading up Col du Tour
Now I’m sure I forgot to write about some stuff, so if you have any more questions, just write a comment below ;c)
AND THAT’S ABOUT IT!
Happy trails to all of you!!!
Cat
 Right and remember: It’s not about the gear, it’s about the hike! The gear just makes it a little easier to do what we love and to love what we do :cP

8 thoughts on “Gear review Haute Route

  1. As for the pain of inflating of a NeoAir pad, I found that a simple trash bag works great as an inflating bag for my NeoAir. It is faster than inflating by mouth and I am spared of dizziness associated with it. Also, when I use the trash bag I don't get moisture inside the mat which might cause damage to the metallic reflective coating inside the mat. And a trash bag is a multipurpose gear item – besides being an inflating bag it is also the main backpack liner that I use to protect the contents of my backpack from rain.

    Like

  2. Thanks for the idea Victor. The NeoAir comes with that tiny bag to inflate it, but I tried that once and it took me ages (I think I even gave up before I managed to inflate the whole mat). I thought about buying the “instaflator” but I'm not sure how long that thing will survive. How do you use the trash bag? I mean how do you connect it to your NeoAir?

    Like

  3. Yeah, my pad also came with a tiny inflation bag, which is nothing but a joke and it would take ages to inflate a pad using it. In contrast, I can inflate my pad using just one 60L trash bag in one shot without refiling the trash bag with air.

    To make an inflation bag out of trash bag you just need to one of it’s corners at the bottom. The hole should be just a little bit bigger than the the size of the inflation valve of the pad. The picture below illustrates the hole that I cut out of the bottom of a trash bag that use.

    [img]https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/3313/285150765.0/0_db76d_85fa2d73_orig[/img]

    To inflate a pad you just have to insert the valve into the hole and fasten a small piece of cord around the bag so that the rope makes the edges of the hole to tightly snug the valve. And that is it, the bag is ready to be used.

    [img]https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/3109/285150765.0/0_db76e_122a035a_orig[/img]

    The tiny inflation bag that came with your pad should have a connector (consisting of a rubber tube and a plastic tube) which is used to attach the tiny bag to the valve of your sleeping pad. If you still happen to have that tiny inflation bag, then you can simplify the above process simply by reinstalling this connector from the therm-a-rest bag to a trash bag. Just insert the plastic tube into the hole that you cut, like in the picture below.

    [img]https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/6518/285150765.0/0_db76c_fd9af0bb_orig[/img]

    In that case you use your trash bag like this tiny therm-a-rest bag.

    [img]https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/4607/285150765.0/0_db76b_5ed34b55_orig[/img]

    To use the trash bag as a backpack liner, I just twist the corner around the whole, fold it in half, and use a small piece of rope to fasten the two folded halves together. That seals the hole, so that water cannot enter through it.

    [img]https://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/2711/285150765.0/0_db76a_3d4f300e_orig[/img]

    Like

  4. Hi Werner! You're welcome! I absolutely love the snowline chainsen spikes!!! I'll be taking them into the Sierra when I hike the PCT next year. So I'm gonna share some more cool pictures for sure! Have a great outdoorsy winter season too! Cat

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s