TGO Challenge 2014 Gear : Trials, tribulations and the art of cloning


Almost there with my final gear choice for the TGO this year, but one or two items have been giving the grey cells a bit of a work out, not least of which is which shelter and boots to take. And in my search for a couple of items I’ve noticed a bit of gear cloning creeping in from the Far East, some of which potentially offer some budget options.


Over the years I’ve amassed a tent collection which would rival a branch of Cotswalds, partly because like most men I hate to throw things out.

ImageI still have the twin hoop Phoenix Phoxhole which I lived in for two months when I backpacked Lands End to John O’Groats almost 30 years ago, and still in great condition. Needless to say spending multiple nights in a 50cm high coffin is not my first choice these days.





So I’d boiled my choice of shelter for the TGO down to 4 from my arsenal;

  • Hilleberg Akto                             – bomb proof, secure, warm, one of the best solo tents ever to grace a patch of grass
  • Wild Country Zephyros Lite      – used quite a lot last year, saves 300g on the Akto, but 5-10 cm short on head room
  • TarpTent Notch                          – love this tent, ridiculously light, two porches, but not proven in bad weather
  • MLD Trailstar                              – still getting used to this, but love the space

The TarpTent Notch had been my first choice for the TGO simply because it only weighs 790g all in, but a couple of overnighters during spring and Autumn have shown that in moderate wind it flaps about like a chicken on speed. Nothing disastrous, but I’d like to see a few more optional pegging points and a fly that comes down to the ground for UK weather. The inner is also quite cramped, not the place to be holed up or trying to pack in the rain. I still may take it.

But I’m toying with the Trailstar which would be a leap of faith for me as I’ve only done single overnights with it currently. I’ll take it with me to the Berwyns in Wales over the next couple of days and see how we get along. On the few occasions I’ve used it I’ve been noticeably colder. It’s amazing how much warmth a bit of inner tent nylon can retain.

Sleeping Mat

When it comes to potential leaks and punctures, air mattresses and self inflating mats are probably equally prone, especially when you’re talking about lightweight versions. I have a Synmat UL which is great, but I’ve decided to take a combo which should give some comfort and be a bit more robust.


So I’ll be using a Multimat Superlite Air along with a full length reflective CCF mat. The mat protects the air mat from the ground, gives a bit more warmth and in the event of a puncture still gives something to sleep on.  At £9 and weighing only 90g they’re an absolute bargain (Highlander or Gelert). Together with the Multimat Air the total weight is still only 410g for a full length and comfy set up.

Here’s where the cloning starts to come in. Karrimor now do a simple inflatable mat that looks identical to the Multimat Superlite Air, called the Karrimor X Lite Inflatable Air Mattress. Currently available for £23, and weighing just 300g.


In had planned to take my Evernew DX alcohol stove, but I’ll be honest and say that as much as I like the simplicity and silence of the stove (and it’s quite a fierce little beast), I just like the convenience of gas. I had a couple of nights out recently after long hard days when all I wanted was a quick hot brew and I messed up with the amount of fuel and had to allow the burner to cool, refill and relight. School boy error, but frustrating when your cold and wet.

So I’ll be taking a Fire Maple 117t remote gas stove. Great little burner, wide pan support, very stable and a reasonable 95g. Over multiple days when I’m bound to use a full gas canister, there’s probably not much in the total weight of stove & fuel between gas and meths.

Yet again, a quick spin through the Karrimor website reveals this….spot the difference.

In fact if the weights are similar, then the Karrimor version also gives you the benefit of a gas pre-heating tube. and at £16, would have been worth a  punt if I didn’t already have the Fire Maple !


The saga continues. If you’ve read my other posts you will know that I’ve been having a hard time trying to find a replacement for a defunct pair which bit the dust during the winter. Karrimor boots have always fitted my feet great so I always hope in vein that they will relive their former days.  But the faded glory of the company often leaves me wondering what happened to the great old KSB’s of the past.

I tried a pair of Karrimor KSB Trek-Lite at the start of the year but returned them for a refund after they leaked more than a Tetley tea bag. I then tried a pair of HiTec Maine for a month which have dubious looks (aka Herman Munster), but fitted great and didn’t let a spot of water in even through the Pennines best bog and mire. Alas they had all the grip of a pair of in-line ice skates and after only 100 miles the stitching had started to part across the forefoot. They were also returned for a refund.

Which brings me to my final clone. Knowing that Lowa Renegade fit me well but often baulking at the price, I spotted these at considerably less. So I thought I’d give them a chance. On current record if they fail to live up to expectations I can always return them for a refund.

Granted, there’s enough differences to keep the patent people calm, but enough similarity to get me intrigued. I’ve been wearing the KSB Brecons over the past couple of weekends and they are super comfy straight out of the box, really nice soft nubuck . Also a perfect fit for my feet … so far so good. Let’s see how they cope with a couple of days in the bracken and bog of the Berwyns.

So boots and shelter still to confirm, otherwise were all set.


Disclaimer : I know that this may start to look like a sneaky advertorial, but be assured that I am a humble backpacker who purchases all his own gear and has no allegiance to any manufacturer. It’s much simpler than that….I have a medical condition which renders me helpless in the face of something that would fit a gap in my gear room. 

12 thoughts on “TGO Challenge 2014 Gear : Trials, tribulations and the art of cloning

  1. If you want light in your shelter choice take the Trailstar and get a bivy too use under it. If you want comfort and proven to you, then it’s the Akto. Trailstars are proven on the Challenge, and won’t let you down. But will it will let in the cold.

    As for that stove choice….well here is my view anyway not long to go. Happy last minute planning.

    • Cheers Martin. I probably will go with the Trailstar in the end, the shear amount of space for weight sells it. If it’s not too cold, it’s an enjoyable space to be holed up under.

      Hadn’t spotted the 118t when I bought the 117t so didn’t know they did a version with a pre-heater tube. Probably just as well after reading your review. So far the 117 has worked OK.

    • TS and bivy worked fine for me in 2011. I sold my TS as I like a door and more of a fixed hight, but nothing touches it for the weight Vs performance in the wind – top kit (I means top, top kit), and if you contact Bearpawed Designs you might still get a inner made, and shipped to the Uk for it in time. I would suggest an Oookworks off the shelf in stock groundsheet if you could not get a inner, as that will keep you away from damp ground more. Just some thoughts.

      Footwear wise i’m a trail shoe guy, but I put it to you like this. I along with lots of trail shoe guys got some blisters in 2013 on the Challenge, yet Alan in his old faithful boots did not (he is a boots zen master I tell you and never gets blisters) 😦 Saying that i’ve not done a long walk in boots since 2007 – and my feet where fine on other Challenge walks in trail shoes.

      There is a lot of kit list going online this week from Challengers and I like them. All helps to see and learn of each other. Sure we have a bit ribbing and fun over Wickes supplies trade quality DIY products making it into the lists, but its all good sharing, and helpful to some who are starting out.

      • Great minds think alike Martin. I wasn’t joking about an overstocked gear room, I already have a Pyranet 1 from Bearpaw (netting only version), a TiGoat Ptarmigan bivi, and an OookTub for the Trailstar. More combinations than a safe cracker could handle. I was determined not to turn the TS into another tent, I’d rather it offered a different experience. If I miss anything, it’s a door to cut out draft.

        I tend to stick to boots for almost all my treks apart from a couple which I’ve done in Teva sandals. Great for coastal routes.

  2. Echoing Martin’s comment, a Trailstar without an inner will be a lot colder and draughtier, so you’ll need to be sure that it suits you. A bivy and groundsheet are essential as a single skin shelter. I’m always surprised at how cold Scotland is in May, so factor that in. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Personally, I’d go with the Akto as the inner provides warmth and excludes draughts. At the end of a tiring day, you want somewhere to crash out. I’m 99% sure I’m taking a Trailstar, but I’m using an OookNest as well. In the end, take whatever suits you and the trade off between comfort and weight that is right for you.

    • Cheers Robin. I have a few combinations I can use; OookTub & TiGoat Bivi, or BearPaw Pyranet (though a full net version so doesn’t cut the draft out). Anybody know if the midges are going to make an earlier than usual appearance due to the wild weather ?

      • On our Monadhliath trip at the beginning of April, there were a few midges about but not biting. The midge forecast suggests there will be more than normal because of the mild winter. Generally, they don’t start to bite before the end of May, but a wise man takes precautions.

  3. We love a good Challenge kit list we do.

    I am having the same internal debate as you – almost. Trailstar or Tarptent Scarp 1? Like you I haven’t used my TS that much and, spookily like you, I am thinking of heading off to the Berwyns with it this week or next, if I can create the time. My issue is that the TS and Oookstar nest is a bit limited for lanky people like me, although it is great for overall space and lighter than the Scarp. I shall be risking my Neoair, as I did last year, and also prefer the speed of gas when I’m knackered and need a brew. I will be wearing trail shoes, though, which are light, and I found them great for river crossings last year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t replace them with the same type (La Sportiva Raptors) and am not as confident with my new pair which are the new model Inov8 Terrocs

    My over heavy kit list (it has already been reduced) is on my blog:

    • Second time to the Berwyns this year for you isn’t it, do you live close by ? It’s one of my go to area’s for Bank Holiday weekends, somewhere you can pretty much guarantee solitude in the hills. Also not a bad test for Scotland with the heather and rough ground. Just got back in fact and had a real mix of weather, a sunburnt neck one day, and then freezing cold wind and thick mist back over the tops the next. Fantastic area.

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