Viajar a pie

"Viajar a pie" is Spanish for "Travelling on foot"

Author: Viajarapie (Page 1 of 11)

Newfoundland IAT Highlights

This is an initial, quick summary of what this trip has meant for me.

Hiking in Newfoundland

  • Adaptability & Focus

Getting all my luggage lost while flying in, waiting for it for a few days to eventually take action to save the trip by building a whole new kit from scratch based on the limited resources of a small Newfoundland town. Reproduce the work of months in a few hours’ buying frenzy.

  • Gear is just a tool

Setting out in a very demanding project with low-end gear that I’d be using for the first time and feeling fine about it. When the whole trip seemed to be at stake, all the rest (gear, colour of my nail polish…) wouldn’t matter. Anything would work.

  • Being truly alone on the trail

I have only met other hikers in the final 2 days of the trip, when I was travelling along the mildly popular Long Range Traverse. I have spent a grand total of 5 full days without seeing another human being.

  • Off the (beaten) path

The core of this trip was through trail-less wilderness. I’d only hike on a trail for short access sections or over dirt/tarmac to link different areas.

  • Impromptu paperless navigation

The only paper maps I could get locally to replace those in my lost pack where too wide scale and not suitable for proper navigation. I needed to promote my smartphone to the role of primary navigation tool.

  • Big time wildlife

Moose are all over the place, I’d spot some almost daily. Caribou would come over to check what I was before deciding they’d rather leave quietly. Hoof prints would be a constant presence. It was great to share time and space with such beautiful animals.

Caribou

  • Sense of connection with myself

Being on my own, over very rough terrain, with little hope of anyone else passing by and no means of calling out for help (my beacon was lost with my luggage) provided the need for a deep sense of what I was doing.

Pay attention to what you’re doing

  • Real wilderness

In Newfoundland, Wilderness is not just a name or an adjective, wild areas are not tamed by human activity. Wilderness is what the place is.

  • Heavyweight backpacking

A 3 kg tent and a 1+ kg bag: packing heavy, old school gear was for me a lost art that I needed to recall. It did feel heavy and it did the job. I still need to weight everything to be fully aware of the extent of my great feat.

This is what a heavy pack looks like

  • Mindset is everything

As if I didn’t know already but it’s always reassuring to get further proof and I found it in the maddening, impenetrable Newfoundland bush: I had a really bad time when I tried to hurry it, it went surprisingly smooth when I took it easy. Get frustrated by the slow progress or just simply do progress, your choice.

Hike through this

  • Physically close, emotionally far away land

Newfoundland is as close as North America gets to Europe, yet it feels much farther away than it really is. Newfoundlanders themselves feel that way.

  • Newfoundland hospitality

I’ve found great, hospitable people everywhere I’ve been in the world but Newfoundland takes this some step further. It does so naturally, it’s just the way it is.

  • Walking over geologically unique land

Wide areas of the Lewis Hills, Blow-me-Down, North Arm & Tablelands come straight out of the earth’s mantle. Feel like hiking in Mars.

Hiking in Mars

  • 20 km/day is the new marathon pace

2 km/h was about average most of the time, down to 1 km/h if there was lots of bush walking involved. No amount of swearing seemed to help.

Newfoundland IAT Gear Preview

I’ll be hiking in Newfoundland in the summer of 2017. If you’d ever wonder which gear a lightweight, long distance backpacker would take to a place like Newfoundland, you can see my version here.

Shelter

Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar

TrailStar of the mountains

Conditions may be challenging in the Newfoundland highlands with any kind of weather mix possible adding to the remote location and difficult access. The shelter of choice must be reliable.

The MLD TrailStar puts some responsibility on the user to make it work, it’s not as straightforward as a fixed-geometry, framed tent but I trust its weather resistance when properly pitched to meet the conditions. With the addition of a wide area floor, it should also be a very livable shelter.

I won’t be using an inner tent or mesh nest. My memories of the Newfoundland backcountry are not particularly buggy and I plan to keep hiking until I drop every day so a buggy camp wouldn’t be a show-stopper. I’ll have a headnet to supplement my quilt so in a worst case scenario I can at least sleep well.

Pack

HMG 3400 Southwest

Despite a few minor shortcomings (that I listed in the short and mid-term reviews) as well as being a bigger size than I’d need (my own fault), the 3400 Southwest is my current thru-hiking pack. It’s a very solid pack.

Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest

The pack fabric won’t absorb much water in case of rain but the pack is far from being waterproof in my experience. I won’t use a cover with this pack but I’m still considering adding a liner. Otherwise, I’ll rely on the waterproofness / resistance of the stuff sacks inside.

I’ll be adding one hipbelt pocket that’s bigger and better placed than the stock ones. I expect to carry my photo camera in this additional pocket. It wouldn’t fit in the stock pockets.

HMG Stock pocket on the side, much bigger, extra pocket on the front

It’s the very same fabric so no aesthetics issue.

Quilt

Nunatak Arc-Specialist

I’ve been using this quilt for more than a decade, it needs no further comment, it’s mentioned here for no other than filling the big three. Night temps in Newfoundland shouldn’t be too low.

Stove

BRS 3000T

I thought I’d be using my old Coleman F1 UL for ever, I wouldn’t be updating for a handful of grams but this BRS toy is lighter enough to make updating worth it. I’d expect that it just works.

Tiny stove

Water treatment

Water is plentiful and pristine in Newfoundland. I plan to drink most of it without treatment and I’ll have chemicals as a backup for the odd case where quality is dubious. I don’t see the need for a filter and I won’t be taking one along.

Assorted pils

I just updated my smartphone to one as backcountry worthy as possible. I’ll be using a Crosscall Trekker M1 Core together with the AlpineQuest application which offers free, decent quality topo maps for Newfoundland.

It might have been the time for going paperless: paper topo maps for Newfoundland belong to national grid topo series and this means, among other things:

  • They’re printed in rather thick, heavy, non-water resistant paper.
  • They come in a bold grid that may match one’s itinerary poorly.
  • The set needed for a long distance route is heavy and very expensive.

I don’t want to go paperless yet. I don’t know if I ever will. I’ve severed the sections I don’t need to bring mapset weight down to reasonable and I’ll bring along a map case that’ll be hanging from my pack’s hipbelt. I love map reading.

The compass will be the same Recta DS-40 I’ve been using for years. It’s simple and it works. I hardly ever use the mirror for taking bearings but the compass frame turns out into a good case for an item that I’d need anyway. Once deployed, the DS-40 has a long base, which makes it easier to work with the map.

My altimeter will be less key to navigation in Newfoundland than it’d be in a truly mountain environment but it’s a wristwatch I routinely wear when I’m hiking anyway.

Navigation set

Power

I used to favor AA or other over-the-counter batteries for all or as many of my electronics as possible but the technology tsunami washed that approach away. For this trip, both smartphone and photo camera use internal, rechargeable batteries so my power strategy needs an update.

I’ll carry a spare camera battery. I won’t carry a spare smartphone battery because this one is not replaceable. I’ll top everything off with an external battery, namely an Anker Astro E1 that holds 5200 mAh. The Anker is a no frills power pack with a compact shape better suited to backpacking than the slim designs currently in vogue.

Batteries, charger and cables

Recharging is not a trivial issue anymore. I’ll have 4 batteries to recharge (smartphone, external and 2 camera ones) with up to 3 possible concurrently charging devices and I might not be in town for as long as needed to recharge them in series but I don’t want to multiply the recharging means anyway. I’ll carry 1 single north american wall plug with 2 USB output ports and 2 micro-USB cables so I can recharge two devices at a time.

I miss the time when power was a non-issue.

Poles

Black Diamond Trail Pro

I mention these because they’re new to long distance hiking for me. I needed to replace a lost pair and these are what I got. They’re beautiful poles, very similar to what I’ve been using for many years except for the locking system which is clamp instead of twist.

Solid metal

I’ll take the baskets off, don’t need them. I’ll keep the wrist straps on, I like using them. It’s worn, not carried weight so it doesn’t impact my figures.

Clothing

I’ll stick to the Strict Layering paradigm: high number of narrow spectrum layers for a wide spectrum, highly adaptable set.

I’ll also stick to wool for my hiking top, the Newfoundland environment goes well with it. At this stage, I’m not sure whether I use wool because it goes on well with the place or I choose the place because it has wool-friendly hiking weather.

Shoes

Merrel Allout Terra Trail

There’s nothing in the Newfoundland wilderness that would prevent the use of lightweight hiking shoes. I’ll need to cross marshes, ford streams, climb steep rock and traverse dense vegetation. Lightweight shoes are best for all that.

I’ve used these shoes already for a multi-week trip. The soles are rather worn but the rest is in good condition. The’ll make it through this trip with no problem.

Delta

Where I come from

My previous trip of similar commitment was to Iceland. The gear delta from that trip is only partly due to location, partly to the evolution of the human race. These are the main updates:

Shelter

The TrailStar will save me about a pound and will provide a more comfortable and elegant solution to the sheltering conundrum at the cost of more responsibility on the user. I didn’t take it to Iceland due to the potential for sandstorms and the difficult anchoring. It should be no problem to find good staking ground in Newfoundland. There’ll be storms but no sand.

Electronics

I shifted from a small smartphone, a spare battery and a tiny camera powered by AAs to a bigger phone, a bigger camera and a battery pack to feed it all. I’ll have a more reliable navigational backup and better quality pics in return.

Maps

Compared to the previous trip, this one is longer with more complex topography and more trail-less terrain so it requires more maps and with more detail. Part of them could be considered as consumables and I might actually send some home after use but I think it’s more realistic to keep them as part of the base weight.

List

No gear summary is complete without a proper list. This one is bound to be the heaviest I’ve packed in years at almost 6.5 kg base weight.

TrailStar floor, the making

A groundsheet is a relatively simple project. Getting the geometry right and sewing good quality seams is not as critical as with a tarp because there’ll be no tension applied and it won’t need to stand to any wind force. Just get the dimensions about right and sew away.

DIY TrailStar floor

Fabric

I used 2.3 oz/sq yd, 70 denier silnylon. It’s an old batch of fabric I got in the early days of ultralight when 30 denier silnylon was still watched with caution. Back then I’d see a place for this heavier and thicker silnylon, particularly for groundsheets. It’s well known that 30 denier silnylon is not that waterproof when under pressure as it happens when you sit down or kneel with saturated ground on the other side.

I had run out of 30 denier silnylon and didn’t have time to order a new batch so decided to put the 70 denier to use. I had never used it so far, It’s the first item I sew out of it. I’ll see how it performs.

Raw fabric

The 70 denier silnylon feels thicker and sturdier than common 30 denier. It’s just as slick.

Measuring & Cutting

Measuring is always tricky for the DIY at home folk. It takes me some furniture removal to find real state but I found the perfect synergy by using said furniture as impromptu straight edge.

Find a long straight edge

The 70 denier silnylon came in a roll about 1.60 m wide. For this project, I cut two lengths, 190 cm long each that I later cut farther to shape, then joined alongside.

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Sewing

Silnylon is very slippery, this makes it awkward to sew. My strategy has always been to use lots of pins. It’s tedious but every time I’ve tried using less or no pins, I’ve regretted it.

Lots of pins

This time I made quite a floppy job at sewing. My flat seams turned out a bit bulgy at times. Good seams may be critical for a fly but shouldn’t matter for a groundsheet.

The actual star in this story

Bathtub

The bathtub has no structure, it’s implemented by just folding inwards and sewing a short, vertical seam at every corner. It needs vertical support to stand up. The idea is to add a short line to the provided loop and hang from the matching attachment point in the TrailStar.

Bathtub wall

Specs summary

Fabric2 oz/sq yd, 70 denier Silnylon
Fabric length needed3.80 m
Work Time10 hours
Max Length1.66 m
Max Width2.54 m
Final Weight310 gr

 

Final weight is for the groundsheet alone, no lines or stakes considered.

TrailStar Floor, background and design

Floor for the TrailStar

I’ve been paring the TrailStar with generic ground cloths that I’d been using with other tarps / floor-less shelter systems over the years. This scheme works well and it’s very adaptable:

  • You can sleep on the back area or on either one of the sides.
  • You can bring along ground clothing worthy of as much ground area as you want to meet the expected conditions.
  • You can use a bivy bag or a net shelter as part of your ground clothing system.

I’ve used such systems for many years while enjoying all the advantages listed. I’ve found this works very well for me when the ground itself is mostly valid as part of the sheltered, living area, where “valid” means that it’s dry and reasonably clean. I say “mostly” so the idea is not ruled out by the occasional wet/odd campsite.

At the same time, I’ve realized over the years how much I like to have a seamless ground cloth area. This is particularly true in consistently wet conditions or ground that’s somehow odd to use as it is: bumpy Scottish moorland grass, Icelandic fine gravel or Mordor swamps. But not only: as much as I appreciate the simplicity, openness and sense of connection with the land that a tarp shelter system provides, I’ve also come to realize that I like my seamless ground cloth area. It probably has a psychological as much as a physical value.

The TrailStar is a bit of a tricky case for seamless ground-clothing because it is a variable geometry shelter where the footprint is one of the variables. You can use an equally variable geometry footprint (too complex for little gain) or one big enough for only the smallest print configuration. In any case, as soon as the ground cloth is wide area and has a fixed fit within the TrailStar, you’re bound to lose part of the flexibility this shelter system allows.

Design

I decided to go with the following design features:

  • Fixed-location floor.
  • Footprint small enough to fit inside the narrowest TrailStar setup plus a drip & splash buffer.
  • A sleep area plus an overflow area where I can move around: sit outside of the sleeping bag, change cloths, leave stuff…

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The splash buffer must be big enough to account for the big door size. This leaves a huge (sort of) vestibule space at the front that’s very useful for all things vestibules are useful for.

Computer Unassisted Design

This design is meant for sleeping at the back of the TrailStar, behind the vertical support, opposite the entrance. There is a floored area on the other, door side of the supporting pole. This floored strip is key to my comfort. Without it I tend to feel constricted by the space in the sleeping area limited to fit the sleeping bag and little else. In the non-sleeping area I can sit down comfortably just where the TrailStar offers more vertical space and I can sit down with my feet off the ground cloth but still under cover, which is very useful if you don’t want to take off your shoes yet. It is also useful as a “dirty” staying area where I can sit down with wet/muddy clothing still on, knowing that my mat and sleeping bag will always sit somewhere else. It really helps operations when changing into dry, clean clothes.

Bathtub

A bathtub is a common feature for shelter floors. I very hardly ever use it and prefer to rely exclusively on campsite location and a splash buffer. I take the bathtub as a non-essential, yet nice to have feature that offers one last resource if everything else fails.

I’ve implemented a bathtub for this TrailStar floor. It is very minimal at just 7 cm high. It needs a set of 5 lengths of cord to hang each corner from the TrailStar provided ridge inner side attachment points.

7 cm, massive wall

Such a short wall height is good for avoiding running water overflowing the floor and little else.

Anchoring

The floor has 5 anchor points, one per corner, each provided with a webbing loop. They can be staked down or provided with cord to reach out to the TrailStar own stakes. Such lines would be reasonably short for the 3 anchor points at the back, rather long for the 2 front ones.

Staked down corner

Credits

I took the measures from the similar product by Oookworks. I could have taken measures myself and would have probably got to the same result but saved me this step by taking from the work of others.

I actually tried buying from Oookworks but lead times would not meet an upcoming trip so I decided to go DIY. I still expect to buy from them if I like the result and I see the convenience of a different fabric I don’t have easy access to.

The Outdoor Smartphone

You know the story: smartphones became mini-computers with a wireless connection to several networks, GPS among them and this is when things got interesting for outdoor route finding. Smartphones became a valid alternative to the dedicated GPS devices.

This is evolution

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Newfoundland 2017 Route Plan

My intended route will be based on the International Appalachian Trail / Sentier International des Appalaches (IAT/SIA) as it goes along the western flank of Newfoundland all the way from Port aux Basques in the south to L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of the western Peninsula. I plan to take the high level alternative wherever there is one as well as some other highland traverses that are not part of the IAT/SIA official selection.

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Newfoundland 2017

During the summer of 2017 I’ll be hiking in Newfoundland over the International Appalachian Trail (IAT) starting from the southern end in Port Aux Basques and going as far north as I can.

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2016 in 19 pictures

Chronological highlights of the year while travelling by human power.

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Pack Smart: Sunglasses

This is one of those small things that matter from a packing efficiency perspective. It is actually a very silly, common sense little topic but where market trends may easily lead us to the dark side.

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Emstrur to Skogar

Distance covered: 27 miles

Today there’s two distinct sections: first I need to finish the Laugavegur, a mostly downhill affaire to the coastal valley of Thorsmork. Then, the steepest, longest climb of the trip to go over the Fimmvorduhals pass and down to trip end in Skogar. The potential for trouble lies in this second half with a pass above 1000 metres and a stormy forecast.

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This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Iceland North to South

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