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.
I 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.
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.