The trip was planned in non-supported, lightweight style. I packed food for 8 days and didn’t plan on any town visit. I was aware that some of the road passes I’d hike along that I didn’t know previously might have some sort of services. Two of them had.

The gear selection was a slightly beefed-up (to account for the season) version of my summer list. I’ll summarize here the most relevant items and techniques that go along. This was the full list.

 Function & commentsBrand and modelWeight (gr)Weight (lbs)
Clothing & shoes
Down pulloverInsulationNunatak Skaha270
Waterproof jacketRainZPacks Cloud Cover83
Thin fleece pulloverInsulationHaglofs Solo Top187
WindshirtWind sheddingQuechua Helium series103
PantsAll purposeRab Vector437
ShirtZip neck, long sleevePatagonia Wool 2168
SkirtWaterproofNo brand37
ShirtSleeping, long sleeveWintersilks100
TightsBase layer for sleepingSmartwool160
UnderwearBoxerExOfficio100
UnderwearBriefs, backupExOfficio57
Socks (pair)MainCEP Outdoor Merino Mid Cut65
Socks (pair)SleepingBridgedale Trail Runner50
Socks (pair)SpareSmartwool Adrenaline Mini-Crew55
Kitchen wipeAll use towelUnknown23
CapSunQuechua Forclaz 10085
Beanie hatSoftshell, for the coldMEC Charge Toque47
BuffColdBuff40
Gloves (pair)3 mm NeopreneSubaqua Diving130
HoodInsulationBozeman Mountain Works Cocoon UL 6055
Trail runners (pair)Salomon Sense Mantra 2534
Subtotal2786
Shelter & sleeping
TarpWith lines and bagMLD Trailstar637
Ground clothSilnylonNo brand152
Bag coverBreathable top. In its bagBozeman Mountain Works Vapr Bivy203
StakesY-aluminum(4), Ti nails(2) & hooks(4)MSR Groundhogs & BMW nails/hooks128
QuiltDownNunatak Arc-Specialist430
PadClosed cell foam, ground insulationAltus243
Subtotal1793
Packing
PackWaterproofHML 3400 Southwest930
Subtotal930
Miscellanea
Hiking polesPair. 3 sectionLeki Makalu Ultralight Titanium540
First aid kitStandard for long distance115
FlashlightWith elastic band, night hiking worthy. With batteryZebralight H52w80
CompassWith mirrorRecta DS 4047
Stuff sacksAssorted Silnylon & Cuben. Quilt, Clothing & MiscellaneaSeveral brands74
Map caseWith elastic cordSea to Summit72
Sunglasses & case"case" is a ziplock plastic bagJulbo35
ToothbrushBaby model5
SunscreenSmall container15
Lip sunscreenSmall piece5
Alcohol gelHand sanitizer, small container15
SoapSmall piece10
Pen5
Adhesive tapeStrong15
Needle & threadRepairs3
LinesAssorted Dyneema 1.5 mm12
Maps500
Assorted paperwork & bag20
Documents, keys, money100
Subtotal1668
Kitchen, water and water treatment
Gas burnerButane/propane burnerColeman F1 Ultralight77
Gas canisterSmall size. Just the canister120
GasGas weight for a small canister125
Pot0.85 L. No lidMSR Titan Kettle90
LidAluminum sheet3
Plastic containerFood re-hydrationCut-off Platypus botle20
SpoonTitaniumSnowpeak Spork17
KnifeMulti-toolWenger22
LighterSmallBic12
MatchesEmergency2
BottlesWater. 2L & 1LPlatypus64
Drinking tubeCut shortPlatypus35
Water treatment tabletsChlorine 30 units. ClO2 20 unitsLifesystems & Micropur MP125
CozyFood re-hydration15
ZiplocksFood72
Food8 days at 870 gr/day6960
WaterUsual maximum1000
Subtotal8659
Electronics
CameraWith Lithium AA batteriesNikon Coolpix L29 + Energizer143
Altimeter watchWrist watchW Quechua 70057
SmartphoneWith charger200
Subtotal400
Total1623635719,8
Worn19014182,2
Consumables86551904
On the back1433531537,6
Base weight568012496,6

Pack

Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest

Southwest in the mountains

This was the first really serious use of this pack since I got it new a few months before. The test was actually serious: shoulder season equipment and 8 days worth of food. It’s about the average max I’d plan for this pack.

I took the chance to making myself friends with the Southwest, which is something that goes beyond technical performance: it’s about getting used to its details and idiosyncrasy.

The result was very positive. The Southwest carried well and was actually friendly to use.

With 8 days worth of food, it was heavy, yet comfortable. I’d say even surprisingly comfortable give my previous, 2 day experience with it. I was probably not as fit back then though.

I still think this pack is too big a size for me, which is obviously not a problem of the pack model or design. I still wonder if that’s actually true and how would it fit if it was the right size. As it is, I can transfer weight to the hips correctly but any weight that remains on my shoulders is badly loading my collar bones and not my muscle mass. My obvious solution is taking good care of keeping weight on my hips. After 8 days and up to 15 Kg max weight, I can say it works well enough.

I found the 3400 Southwest simple, robust and easy to use. I like the white color and I even like the now visible stains.

This trip prompted a Mid-term review of the pack where I comment on all the positive and negative aspects.

Shelter

Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar

A true star of the trail

The Trailstar did little else for me than taking the dew and providing some extra insulation. I had no rain. I set the shelter up every night though, it was important for the two reasons stated. I used it in combination with a breathable-top bag cover and a nylon ground cloth for some extra floor space.

The Trailstar worked fine. It was easy to set up and it was livable, even with heavy condensation inside, as it happened in the still nights. On the breezy nights, the difference between inside and outside was very noticeable despite the openness of the shelter. It’d be considerably colder in the breeze, given that the temps were rather low already.

I only had one really windy night. I was set in a high saddle. It was just breezy at the time of pitching with no hints of what would come later: blustery wind that would come from different directions in violent clusters.

It was my first night out on the trip, what a welcome party! The Trailstar stood fine but the central pole not so. It didn’t break, it just fell. It’d have helped if I’d had cared to get out and tensioned the shelter better, even more so if I’d lowered the pitch but I didn’t bother. It was so windy and dry that it made no difference to have any vertical space so the only thing I did was to reach out to the front pole and put it down too. The tarp would lay flat over me but the wind would still hit and squeeze in between so I felt kind of comfortable that way. Not elegant, I know.

In the morning, I did take the time to re-pitch the shelter in a low configuration. The blusters were still on. The Trailstar stood fine.

The power of the variable geometry mid

It was that kind of wind that howls like mad before you get actually hit. It feels like it will destroy everything.

I felt fine and safe with the Trailstar. It was adequate for the actual conditions. It’s a shelter I trust anyway for much harsher weather.

Clothing

I took my usual 6 layer scheme for the torso: base, active insulation, windproof, stationary insulation, waterproof and sleeping base. It comes with me every time I need maximum versatility and it makes particular sense in the shoulder seasons when conditions can get more demanding than in summer.

The properly dressed hiker

I used everything except the waterproof and the sleeping base. It was to be expected that I didn’t use them. The waterproof must come anyway as the weather is never guaranteed for an 8 day period in this locale. The sleeping base I only use if it’s my only layer under the sleeping bag (or if the active base is too wet or feels too dirty). This didn’t happen on the entire trip. I could expect it wouldn’t as the bag was sized to be supplemented with additional insulation unless warmer than expected night temps, i.e. I wasn’t expecting to go to bed with just a dirty base layer on but to add other clean-ish layers in between base and bag so no need to change into a clean base.

I still chose to still carry the sleeping base. At the very least, I’d use it in the bus ride back home. Fellow passengers would surely approve.

The only update from my typical summer list was that the base layer was a merino wool one, a Patagonia Wool 2 specimen. Among the lightest weight merino available, which is a must in my scheme of highly specialized layers.

I wore this layer 8 days (and nights) through. Didn’t ever take it off. Wool is best for this kind of use, it stays comfortable and relatively odor-free. Daytime temps would rarely go over 15C so the wool was hardly ever too warm. I had good sweats tough in some tough uphills or when fighting thick bush and the wool managed this (the sweat) correctly.

The active insulation piece, a thin fleece pullover, was hardly ever worn while active. It needs to get really cold or somehow chilly for that. I used it as stationary insulation that I wore as soon as I got to camp, during the night and right until departure in the morning.

The windproof layer, the typical, minimalist, thin nylon jacket, was my default shell. I hardly ever used it while active: only day 2 was windy and even then it was warm enough to use just the shirt. I used it in camp and during the initial 20 minutes of walking to cut the morning chill.

The stationary insulation, a lightweight down pullover, was used in camp and inside the sleeping bag during the coldest nights.

Leg wear was the also usual 3 layer approach: a sleeping base, a waterproof and the do-it-all pants.

I took the rain skirt as the waterproof. It wasn’t used.

The sleeping base was a pair of wool tights that were adequate for the temperatures, only used for sleeping.

The pants were of the super-thin softshell kind, that is, a dense nylon wave outer, windproof shell style, with a textured micro-fleece inner. This format is a great do-it-all that doesn’t work for me on the torso but it does on the legs. It is even quite tolerable in the rain.

I also took 3 pairs of wool socks: one for general use, one spare and one for sleeping. I forced the main pair 8 straight days. They were feeling noticeably dirty from day 4, as usual, but were still bearable. This route is not dusty at all and in this instance it wasn’t muddy so it was acceptable to keep using the same, unwashed socks. Washing them on the go was an option I didn’t take: it wasn’t warm enough to properly dry them and daylight was limited. And I kind of fancied the experiment of wearing the same, unwashed socks for 8 straight days and see what happened. Now I know I can do it.

I used the spares for the bus ride back home.

Shoes

I used running shoes. I wouldn’t use anything else for hiking, no matter the terrain, except in snow. The actual model is not what matters but I’ll mention it was a pair of Salomon Sense Mantra 2. The only issue I found was about this pair being near the end of its useful life and the tread rather worn out. I took a bit of extra care in rocky sections which is due anyway, being a solo hike in rather remote locations.

Comfortable performance shoes for the mountains

Take it in the context of a rough route, partly off-trail and sometimes on rock, over ridges or at the edge of the abyss. If anybody still dares to say it’s not possible, just ignore it. In my opinion, it’s not only possible but the best type of footwear for the task.

Sleeping

I took some chances based on the stable weather forecast and brought my summer quilt, a Nunatak Arc-Specialist, counting on my other insulation layers to keep me warm at night. About half of the nights I used all my insulation and was fine. The rest I didn’t need the down pullover.

Coldest temp I recorded was -4C which oddly enough happened in my lowest camp just below 1300 m

-4 and stable pressure

A clear case of the consistent high pressure conditions and temp inversion scheme. I took care to set up camp off the valley bottom that night but it didn’t help.

My insulation system was expected to be enough for such temp and a bit lower. It actually was.

Cooking

Pressurized gas is my usual choice. For 8 days of autonomy, it’s a no brainer: this length of time is around the breaking point for carried weight between gas and alcohol (as per my own options in both fields) while gas is cleaner, easier to use and less prone to accidents.

My one only dinner that was not in the dark

I used my old Coleman F1 UL burner and a small size canister. I cooked only dinner, did it 7 times and was left with more than half of the canister full.