A lot of my time in the US has been spent wild camping or camping on (ugh) managed sites. It’s worth recording some thoughts on decent kit from this trip, as some of it has surprised me and I want to pass on appreciation of some products.
Tents – When using my own trucks I do like the MyWay range of roof tents – these days they have been bought up by Camp Cover in South Africa. They were imported into the US by Camping Lab but I think this stopped a while ago and as far as I know their only outlet outside of South Africa (where they are not marketed well) is via MyWay UK in Brigg in Lincolnshire.
When not using a ‘vehicle tent’ and in company, I have for a long time sworn by Wild Country / Terra Nova’s ‘Quasar’, which for years has been the benchmark for mountaineering tents. My old Quasar doesn’t get out much these days, last being used by my ex and I on the shores of Loch Etive. I need to dust it off again!
I’ve also had good results with the excellent Tentsile Stingray – designed to be slung between three objects like trees or cars. Haven’t used it on a trip yet though – I intend to remedy that in ten days or so.
When ‘fly camping’ in a hurry I have used the Hennessy Hammocks Expedition model, which has been excellent, everywhere from Cambodia in the monsoon season to summer in the Alps. I almost brought it on this trip but wanted to use the Stingray instead.
However these days when in the desert I prefer not to use tents; the sunrise, sunset and the stars being too precious. When there’s no alternative I have discovered and then enjoyed the Snugpak range of compact tents and bivvis. Highland Scots winters lately have seen me in the Snugpak ‘Stratosphere’ bivvi bag, which is excellent, even at minus silly numbers, but on this trip I bought their ‘Ionosphere’, the ‘next one up’, a compact tent rather than a bivvi. It’s been very impressive.
Sleeping bags – I usually grab whatever cheap synthetic one is around, though in wild winter conditions I swear by Mountain Equipment. However on this trip, where the majority of conditions were to be in quite warm environments but some were to be very cold (high up in the Rockies) I tried an experiment and bought Snugpak’s ‘Jungle Blanket’, basically a blanket made of sleeping bag material that you can wrap round yourself as much or as little as conditions demand. For such a simple idea it’s remarkably effective, not to mention compact and lightweight. Another good buy.
Those who know me will testify that I’m a bit of a Luddite, and therefore for years I wouldn’t be budged from my old Karrimat sleeping mat, which doesn’t care about brambles, stones, thorn damage or snow and wetness. When I first tried a self-inflating mattress (a Coleman) a friendly dog in our desert camp decided to wake me with a few pints of enthusiastic slobber and her paws and claws turned the mattress into something that looked as perforated as a teabag.
So the Karrimat it remained for a while. However lately I’ve been tempted back to the sinful hedonism of inflatable mats again, and the OEX Compact 3/4 model has proved very good – comfier than the Karrimat (a little) but much smaller and lighter. However I am not keen to resubject it to the Dog Paw Test anytime soon.
My old British Army issue PLCE pattern Bergen, a de-specced copy of Berghaus’ monster Crusader expedition pack, has once more stepped up to the wicket and is here with me. For size it’s hard to beat it (about 110 litres) and of course the flexibility of the design is ideal (the side pouches zip off to make a daysack). I really should get something less military-looking but I’m very attached to it!
Boots – those who know me will testify that for years I have been wedded to desert boots – originally the old DMS pattern from the early 90s, and when they became hard to get I went for Magnum Amazons. I experimented with Meindls, but they are made with a narrower European last and for narrower European feet (Brits have big feet apparently) so I wasn’t keen on those, I next bought some Lowas, which are very tough and comfy – but whereas they are great if you spend your days carrying a rifle and booting in doors, they are less ideal for more mundane tasks which do not involve delivering the Good News to the Enemies of the Queen via 5.56mm packages. They made me walk like Robocop with piles. So back to the Magnums. However for this trip I’ve tried a pair of Danners – specifically their TFX Rough-Out model. Very similar in comfort to the Magnums – they are bulkier around the instep but both clearly have been influenced by crosstrainers in their design and this can be felt when running. Which do I prefer? The jury’s still out. The Danners are a little more water resistant, being full leather, but consequently a little heavier. Watch this space for a verdict 🙂
Stoves – the ever-faithful Jetboil has been a trooper. Headtorch – I’m still using an old Black Diamond with both ‘normal’ and LED settings. I do like my LED Lenser but it eats batteries like they are going out of style. I wanted to call in on the factory in Oregon on this trip but that’s another thing to do in that great and nebulous ‘future’ since this trip went for a Burton.
Anyway I’ve bored you enough 🙂