Most of the stuff is just as usual. I’ll comment on those new or somehow relevant items.
Inov8 Terroc 330
Maybe the most comfortable shoes I’ve worn on the trail, surely the lightest and probably the less durable. The Terrocs performed well and were very gentle on my feet but barely made it to trip end. The shoe body was still ok but the soles suffered; one of them got a crack under the ball of the foot that turned into an alpine glacier crevasse exposing the midsole which eventually also cracked.
Only one of the shoes had this problem and I don’t know if it’s accountable to particular defect or just expected end of useful life. The sole on the other shoe was not broken but very worn out. The broken one made it to the end but had me wondering for two weeks and, most importantly, had an influence in my own footing as I spent those weeks taking good care of avoiding the seemingly most abrassive surfaces. Maybe more psychological than practical but a burden nonetheless.
I was happy otherwise with the Terrocs, they were very light and comfortable and proved to be all I needed to hike the mountains. I’m not sure I’ll use them again for the long distance though: I expect my shoes to last at least one full season with all the shorter hikes included along the year. The Terrocs made it only because I “forced” them to and I have another alternatives that will last longer at a little weight cost and good comfort levels.
For the Alps, I went back to the classics I trust: a modular system with a tarp, bag cover and a plastic sheet for a floor.
I would expect camping in the Alps would have a lot in common with doing it in the Pyrenees or, in general, in the mountains in western Europe: lots of human activity in the valleys, trails and camping spots in high, usually exposed areas and not many chances to camp in sheltered or forested places. The shelter of choice must be able to cope with harsh conditions which may or rather will eventually happen.
The Golite Cave 2 works for this and, just as important, I know it does. Making it work in bad conditions and exposed locations can be tricky but I know it can be done and I can do it.
The Cave 2 is big enough (the “2” means it’s a two person shelter) for one to not need a bivy or bag cover but I love the versatility it provides as a wind break, stand-alone, star-gazing shelter for fair weather nights and general protection for the sleeping bag so I took again the 205 gr. penalty.
Everything worked as expected with not much chance to tarp-less bivouacs because of the high humidity and the potential for heavy condensation. A few windy episodes but the weather was mostly gentle with me on the GR 5. A few times I retreated into huts which is often an option; I could have done it under the tarp but it’d been challenging and I welcomed the easy way out.
Literally, a last minute decision and change: ideally, I’d have taken with me my trusty, modified Granite Gear Virga that’s about my perfect pack for the long distance but it’s been already quite a few years and lots of miles and just the day before departure, while wrestling to pack everything inside, a strong pull produced a 10″ rip. Quick visit to the sewing machine and several stitches later, the damage was kind of repaired but rip location, too close to a major seam, didn’t help do a clean job and I couldn’t trust it. The solution was in the packs closet…
The Pinnacle is my winter pack. Bigger and sturdier than the broken Virga, those extra liters are needed for the high volume winter stuff and the thicker nylon body is essential for carrying the sharp stuff like skis and crampons. It’s yet an extremely simple pack, light enough to make it to the summer trips.
The Pinnacle performed well with one only problem that I obviously already know about: insufficient padding in the shoulder straps and a bit too simple waist harness make it a bit uncomfortable under heavy loads but nothing really serious. It’d be a bit of a burden only at the beginning of each stage with a big food load. I’d choose to improve those two areas at the price, I know, of a bit more weight. The front pocket is the only luxury in this otherwise spartan pack and a feature I hardly ever use and don’t really need. Take the pocket out and reinforce the shoulder padding and waist belt for a more comfortable, equally light, almost perfect pack.
Discussion not about which one but how much. Butane gas is my choice for the long distance for the great autonomy it provides and how clean and simple to use it is. So far, I had always got a mid-size, 250 gr canister for every 4 week trip knowing it’d be more than enough so I could forget about fuel ressuply but my tests insisted the small size, 125 gr canister should be enough. You can’t get much lighter than this! And the GR 5 is probably the perfect place to prove the tests right or wrong as civilization is always at hand and I’d surely not starve if I run out of gas.
The problem was with so much civilization around I didn’t use the stove every night! but after 17 dinners and 2 coffee runs, I arrived in Menton with approximately still 45 gr of gas in the canister. Bottom line: the small one is all I need for my typical summer, one month trip. It just takes a bit of discipline.
Do it yourself: the perfect purse
One of the great, known advantages of the DIY is getting the gear to your exact specifications and needs. This applies to the big stuff (tents, sleeping bags, packs) as well as to the small details, not any less interesting when trying to optimize your kit. Actually, the corporate world may address the big stuff but usually forgets about the smaller things that wouldn’t sell. And hikers do still need stuff like something to carry cash and docs.
This was still a kind of small, open issue for me. In my way of travelling it’s usual to stop in civilization for a day+ at a time so I need an arrangement that works also in town and I was tired of those ultralight, supposedly bombproof, plastic ziplocks that wouldn’t be practical to handle and would eventually fail.
I don’t know if what I needed existed but I’ve never seen it; purses tend to be more complex than I need but it couldn’t be easier to make one. Just remember the basis:
- Easy to open and close
- Water resistant
- Just the right size (for cards)
A piece of waterproof fabric, a couple seams and matching velcro strips: voilá, the perfect purse.
It bears mention I liked it so much now I use it for everyday town life too.