By Jörgen Johansson
The gear and techniques used by myself and Joe Newton on Finnmarksvidda has mostly been described in several articles last year here at Fjaderlatt:
The Rulk Rebooted
I see no need to rehash this since I tend to repeat myself unconsciously enough as it is. What I will focus on here are the things that differed.
If we look at what was worn, two things were different on Finnmarksvidda. The thin fleece gloves were lost last summer and replaced by a pair of synthetic running gloves from Craft (35 grams). I had a hard time finding something suitable since I was looking for really thin gloves.
The reason is that you have the gloves on almost all the time, day and night, when it is cold, and you need to be able to do almost all things with them on. Also, when you are skiing and exerting yourself, even thin fleece gloves will keep your hands warm. If they do not, I simply pull my old pile mitts on top of the gloves. I do not like wool/merino gloves because they wear out too fast (1-2 days might be enough for your fingers to poke through in places. Also the good qualities of wool are in my opinion more or less wasted on your hands.
Fleece is excellent and dries fast, which is paramount. Also, I have yet to use a fleece glove with any kind of membrane that is not extremely difficult to dry out. So I stay away from those like the plague. Thin, hardwearing and quickdrying is what works for me.
The Craft gloves I did not like. They were not durable, threads ripping all the time and they felt clammy and un-dry even when they were reasonably dry. Joe was using thin RAB Power Dry Gloves and they seem great. I will buy a pair shortly.
The second thing worn that was different was the sunglasses. I left the extremely light Sporteyz (10 grams) at home and used a pair of Polaroid Fitovers instead (40 grams). They do fit better and cover the sides as well. And I do not want to be called a gram weanie...
The gas canisters were not Primus but Beaver gas, since we both flew in and had to buy the gas in Alta. There was no choice of different brands. We brought two canisters with 230 grams gas each, plus 1 backup. I used the Micron stove and Joe the Primus Spider.
I know that I use 75 grams gas per day in winter (25 grams in summer) for the kind of cooking I do. Primus gas that is. I did not feel that Beaver gas was considerably less functional, but have a hunch that the propane fraction got used up a bit faster. But this could be due to temperatures and a number of factors, so I cannot say anything more definite. It could simply be prejudice. We had a bit of gas left in all canisters and quite a bit in one.
From this it is obvious that we used all canisters because on occasion they were lacking in zap when they got low. If you had used the Spider at all times with the canister inverted this would likely not have happened. However, I certainly would not use a Spider inside my tent with an inverted canister because of the risk that it flares up, so I am all with him on that one. We did keep our canisters in our sleeping bags at night and in our 'pelican pockets' all day, except when using them of course. I see no need for any other type of stove for ordinary winter use than a top mounted canister, but if you want to play it absolutely safe, go for a Spider or some other stove that will let you invert the canister.
The BPL Windscreen in titanium foil has gone to meet it's maker. Still the best windscreen I have used. If anyone knows where I can find something similar please let me know. Instead I used a slightly heavier homemade alumininium screen (35 grams). Most cooking was done in the tents, so the windscreen did not see much use. It was usually also shielded by the Snow Claw and the rulk when cooking outdoors.
The titanium spoon I found to be too cold for comfort when eating at minus -15-20 C last year, and luckily I found my old homemade wooden spoon (also around 10 grams). I find wooden spoons best on all counts. Plastic ages and breaks for no apparent reason sooner or later, and titanium is a bit overkill and uses a lot of resources in manufacturing. If you are hard pressed you can use your wooden spoon to light a fire :-)
Instead of Stil woolies (210 grams) I used a pair of micro fleece long johns (225 grams). They are thicker and warmer and I do not feel that the wonderful capacities of wool are as useful on the legs as on the torso. I believe that the micro fleece long johns that I put on after my brief visit in the Mattis river worked better than the woolies would have done underneath my soaked Paramo trousers.
My old, if not ancient, Woolpower undershirt (260 grams) was replaced by a Peak Performance Lite Micro (210 grams). Stock photo above, mine was grey. This might seem a bit odd considering my ravings about wool on the torso. There was however a thought behind it. Summer and winter I use a thin merino shirt as a base layer. In winter it is the BPL hoody, which is a perfect piece of garment in my opinion. Before turning in for the night, and sometimes a bit earlier in the evening, I switch to a dry baselayer. Last year it was the Woolpower, this year it was the Peak Performance. I cannot honestly say that I noted any difference, which I did not expect since I do not exert myself nor sweat much while sleeping. Hence, wool is not really that necessary.
The night shirt is also my extra baselayer. Usually, even when it is pretty cold, I ski only in the BPL hoody and my Paramo Velez smock. But sometimes when it is cold and/or windy I need an extra layer on top of the hoody. For this purpose I suspected the micro fleece to be less prone to get damp from the outside and less compressible, offering a better, or at least equal protection compared to the Woolpower.
The PP performed as expected, but I cannot honestly say that it was better or worse in any way than the Woolpower would have been. It was 50 grams lighter however, but would not have been as good as a true baselayer while skiing. However, considering that I fell into a river and got my BPL merino partly wet/damp and still saw no need to change it (I could have put the PP as a baselayer and dried the merino on top after my swim, but was sufficiently confident in the merino not to do this) it is difficult to imagine a situation when I would have been forced to use the extra baselayer as a ... true baselayer.
This year I did not bring the homemade snow anchors simply because I forgot them. I thought they were attached to the tent and forgot to check. They were not needed, since I could use the rulk and skis as extra anchors, and had the lines used to attach the pack to the rulk as extra guylines. I guess it also says something about the capacity of the Firstlight tents even without the extra guylines.
Not brought was the Garmin Geko, which stopped functioning a week before we left. I considered buying a new GPS, but wanted to try a software with my phone instead. This took some doing on the day before we left, but I managed to find a freeware for geocaching where I could enter some waypoints. So my HTC phone doubled as GPS receiver.
Also new this year was a cover for my skis. Usually I travel by train, use no cover and tie my skis together with duct tape that I re-use after the trip. But plane travel made a ski cover necessary. We had planned to leave some stuff at a locker in Alta airport, which we did, so the ski cover stayed there. But in case I had to bring it on the Vidda I made a very light cover from scraps of cuben fiber and silnylon. 42 grams is pretty light. It picked up a small hole or two in flight, but nothing serious. I can use it again a couple of times before patching.
Before putting my skis into the cover at Alta I plundered the waste bin for long strips of bagage claim stickers that I twisted and use as a sort of rope to tie the skis together. Ultralight?
That is about it. I'm beginning to feel pretty confident in this type of gear for winter trips now, and also feel that I have proven that I do not need 30 kilos worth of gear. Neither did Joe, so I guess it is not only me.