By Jörgen Johansson
However, the best thing about them is that they dry out faster than you would think possible. Five minutes after fording up over your knees and they are dry, with the exception of an maybe an inch around the bottom hem. And they are unbelivably tough and hard wearing. On the Nahanni I spent at least two non-rainy days (when not wearing my dry suit) pushing my way through some of the worst underbrush I have encountered. I know of people who, without having tried thin modern materials themselves, claim that thin garments like windshirts will shred after five minutes of bush-whacking. They do not know what they are talking about. There is still not any rip on these pants, just a bit of piling on the thighs, showing that they have been used.
I have used Salomon Tech Amphibs since 2004 on almost all longer and shorter hikes I have made. I usually wear out a pair every year, since I use them in town as well. What I really like about them is that they are spacious and expandable. This means that they have room for thick pile socks and Goretex socks on top, when the going is very wet and cold. This is seldom needed. But that they also work with the thinnest nylon socks you can imagine (50 denier 'ladies socks' that I usually buy in the super market, 1 pair lasts a week).
I know people that think they are too soft around the heel and heel cup to feel stable. Yes, they are not very good at traversing steep slopes off trail. Still, how shoes work and fit is very personal and what works for one person might not work for, or fit, another. I simply know that I love my Salomon Tech Amphibs and cannot think of shoes I would rather use for anything short of skiing. This doesn't mean that they are good for every occassion and terrain. All shoes are compromises, these just happen to be the best compromises I have so far encountered.
Mountain Laurel Good Night EVA foam pad. What I liked about it was that it was full lenght (79 inches, 200 cm) and thin (1/8 inch, 3,2 mm).
Now to be fair I have to describe how I use a cell foam pad. Everytime I take a break, cook or whatever, this is what I sit on. I never use a ground sheet. At night I use in the tent, with the Neoair Short on top. This gives perfect sleeping comfort and insulates my legs and feet from the ground.
My experiences of EVA is that it is usually pretty stiff and rugged. A pad I like is the MEC Zotefoam EVA Bivy pad, which is 5 mm thick and plenty rugged ( I have yet to tear mine from 2007). The drawback is that it is only 150 cm long, I would prefer 180 cm.
The MLD was the least rugged pad I have ever used. To be fair it was also the thinnest. The EVA was very soft and pliable and tore at the drop of a hat. Step on it or sit on it when there was a rock underneath and chances were good that the rock would pop through, ripping the whole thing. The phot shows it after only a couple of days. At the end of the trip it was pitiful. It ended its days (at least in my company) in a waste basket at my hotel in Fort Simpson.
The pad was also too soft, or perhaps too thin, to stay in place at night. I often woke in the morning with it crumpled, leaving my feet and legs in the sleeping bag resting on the tent bottom. Fortunately ground and and air temperatures were usually pleasant. For less rugged uses than mine it might be allright. However, it is not that much lighter than more rugged/thicker cell foam pads so I'll stay away from it in the future.
The other pole received a kink but stayed fairly functional for a week before it also broke. As I have written in my books, when you are dependent on your poles as tent poles it is best if they do not break. You might be able to use sticks you find, unless you are above timberline, but it will still be a hassle. So if you walk a lot off trail I would not recommend the very lightest poles, be they carbon fiber or aluminium.
I was really lucky since both poles broke almost at the same place, some 10-15 centimeters (4-6 inches) above the top joint. Also, the construction of the Fizan poles is to be recommended. As can be seen on the photo the expanding mechanism (baby blue) is inserted straight into the tube without any reinforcements or cuffs on the tubing. So it was relatively easy to just discard the broken piece, stick the locking mechanism into the remaining piece and continue to use the pole as before. And luckily the lenght after breaking was (barely) sufficient to keep my tent nicely in shape. So, a very nice pole but a bit light for heavy bushwhacking. The three sections makes it easy to pack as well.
I usually bring three kinds of socks plus waterproof Goretex ones; 'warm socks', 'dry socks' and 'wet socks'. The dry socks are for sleeping only, I brought a pair of thin wool socks. The wet socks are the ones I use in my shoes all day; usually thin nylon 'ladies' ankle socks, 50-60 deniers or so. The warm socks are mostly Helly-Hansen pile socks (sometimes I use fleece socks). Those I always use when my feet tend to chill. Like when I am cooking my evening meal (above) between Rabbitkettle and Virginia Falls. Big and unwieldy, but that doesn't matter, I seldom walk much in them.
The thing with bringing any sort of messenger device along is, as I have discovered earlier as well, that people at home expect messages and get worried if they do not receive them. Quite human, I guess. So it is better not to have any messenger device than to have a malfunctioning one. This was something of my Limey friends discovered when he managed to loan a sat phone battery at Rabbitkettle and got his head chewed off by both his wife and his best friend for not having phoned them for a week.
What looks very interesting is a new device from SPOT, the Connector, which will enable you to use your smartphone as a satellite phone, sending messages etc. Soon in a store near you. Still, the battery issue has to be solved.
The downside of the charger was its charging capacity. It barely managed to help my cell phone keep up, batterywise, by adding a charge each day that did not quite match what had been consumed. However, I think this is just a matter of time. Next year or in the near future anyway, the chargers will have improved and the phones will need less juice. However, I would really prefer to be able to run my smartphone/GPS from ordinary store-bought batteries. Lighter and safer. This charger weighed 240 grams.
MPS Ursuit surfaced it seemed a good idea. It certainly was and I recommend using a dry suit if you paddle for a long time like I did. I also figured that with the dry suit as backup I could leave my rain pants at home. If it got to chilly without rain pants in the rain I could always use the dry suit.
Well, it did and I did. Bushwhacking in cold rain chilled me down very quickly, when I became wet from the groin and down. So I donned the dry suit which kept me completely dry for almost a day. Then the bushwhacking started taking its toll and it started leaking. In spite of my efforts further down the line I did not manage to seal every small hole and it kept on leaking a bit for the rest of the trip. So my dry suit became a wet suit. Still, better than nothing, but in retrospect I should have brougth 200 grams of rain pants and had a completely dry dry suit for the river part of my journey.
Photo: Gordon Barr