Mar 28, 2008 at 3:10 pm #1228036
Just found out that Andy will be doing the 200mile TGO challenge over here in the UK,amazing,would really like to know what gear he is likely to use as the lightweight movement here in the UK could do with the boost that Andy will give to the event,i was impressd with Rob Hausams crossing last year,using ultralight gear all the way across,really looking forward to how Andy fares.Mar 29, 2008 at 1:55 am #1426050
Interesting to hear. A friend and I will be submitting entries for next year's Challenge, so I'll follow Andy's progress keenly.Mar 29, 2008 at 4:15 pm #1426126
I hope Andy Skurka has a good time on the 2008 Challenge. In a recent TGO magazine he was interviewed and said what he hoped to get out of taking part. I liked Rob Hausams article and many challengers go light weight or ultralight and tarps get used by some, but I have always used a tent on the event. If you search http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk you will find podcasts about the TGO Challenge and check out its web site at http://www.tgochallenge.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk. It’s a great event run by truly dedicated and exceptional people and it’s good that people like Andy Skurka are hopefully taking part as it will raise the profile of this great backpacking event.Apr 2, 2008 at 11:03 am #1426749
Andrew SkurkaBPL Member
I've been encouraged by some of the talk about me going to the Challenge this year, and thrilled by the route that was put together for me by John Manning. But unfortunately the Challenge conflicts with a once-in-a-lifetime trip offer to South Africa, and I think I might have to attend another year. I'm still waiting on final flight confirmation , but it's pretty likely that it will happen. If it does not, however, count me in for this year.Apr 2, 2008 at 7:01 pm #1426819
@splproductionsLocale: Salt Lake City, UT
Wow! Can't beat that. (Do you think I would fit in your Jam2 – just bring me as a carry on?)Apr 3, 2008 at 12:18 pm #1426929
Simon Pemberton’s original point on this posting was about how Andy Skurka would get on with his use of ultra light equipment in Scotland with its: wet, windy, and very occasionally sunny weather. Simon wished to know what gear would Skurka chose? If he took a Tarp would he enjoy 5 days rain non stop, exposed high level camps, and any early encounters while camped with the pest that is the Scottish Midge.
Let’s hear how others have got on with two week walks in Scotland with Tarp's and single skin tents as I would like to get my pack weight lower but am not sure I would enjoy a Tarp for a two week coast to coast.Apr 3, 2008 at 2:13 pm #1426959
Martin,you covered it well there i think,i was interested to find out how Andys approach to gear would work in that situation,i know Ryan Jordan has used bivy/tarp/synthetic combos in bad weather and fared just fine,Rob Hausam did the same on last years challenge,it would also have been a shot in the arm for the lightweight scene overhere as a few folk who used ultralite gear on the challenge last year were called irresponsible by a few old hands at the event who probably had never tried lightweight equipment and the differenve it can make to your experience.Apr 3, 2008 at 3:38 pm #1426975
Simon it is interesting that the TGO magazine columnist Eddy Meechan has opened up the ultra light debate in the UK with his lightweight approach using a bivy/tarp/synthetic combo.
I have yet to talk with a Challenger personally who used a tarp. I have talked with one who used a single skin tent (Six Moon Designs). The issue he had was stability in high winds. He had to pack it up and run for cover one night from an exposed camp in a storm (and said he wished he had his Akto), yet I camped in my tent high that night fine. Lack of guying points and stability in high winds (see gear reviews posted 03/04/08) has put me of buying for example the Tarp Tent Contrail, yet its size to weight appeals to me.
The 07 TGO challenge final report mentioned the high number of completions and I wonder if this is as a result of many getting there base weights down and ultra light practitioners showing a more enjoyable way which appeals more and moreApr 4, 2008 at 5:40 am #1427063
Inaki Diaz de EturaBPL Member
@inaki-1Locale: Iberia highlands
in my limited experience with scottish weather, I find it more intimidating than anything else. The place is exposed, not many trees to offer shelter, it's often windy, rainy, dark cloudy… it feels inhospitable but I don't think there's anything there that prevents experienced ultralighters to apply the same principles and gear and be fine. If it can be done in, say, Alaska, I'm sure it can be done in Scotland.
I've been in the western highlands for a week with a tarp in late march (but I wasn't camping every night), big tarp, no bivy. The weather wasn't too bad but I had my share of wind, cold and wet. I was fine. No big deal even for a beginner ultralighter back then.
I think it's tradition that strongly drives people's likes and dislikes about gear choices in each locale. If heavyweight is the stantard, you'll have to give lots of explanations if you go lightweight but that doesn't mean it can't be done or it's not safe. It's happened to me in several other places where heavyweight is the standard, no matter how severe the weather patterns were (more or less than in Scotland, I've tried both).
Incidentally, I'll be back in Scotland late april / early may for another week in the highlands, just before the challengers get there and also in an west to east direction. I'll go lightweight but I'll take a tent this time (Stephensons 2C). It's not that I don't trust a tarp but I also appreciate the flexibility of camping wherever, which I consider an important part of the experience for this trip and I don't want my shelter to be the weak link that sends me off that magic location because it's gonna be windy. Ok, I'm a wimp ULer and Scotland feels intimidating after all :)Apr 4, 2008 at 7:31 am #1427073
@archnemesisLocale: England, UK
I think you have answered your own question.
Wind and rain is going to be a problem.
A WPB bivy bag with a tarp as a wind-break or secondary protection will not be a lot of fun. A strong single-skin tent will be much more suitable IMHO but it doesn't have to be heavy.
My current wet-n-windy weather setup that I'm trialing for this year is a MYOG single-skin tent with separate SilNylon bathtub floor, Ti pegs (and a generous quantity of them) and two carbon fibre poles.
Tent: 400g (2.5oz PU)
Pegs: 100+g (6+ skewers + 5 V stakes)
It's not the world's lightest setup (<750g) but it is a strong one.
Last year I found very small tarps to be grim and depressing when the weather was crappy.
I have used a bivy in the mountains with a very small tarp as a diamond windshield but it's not ideal for extended trips.
UL is always in the context of the conditions that you will expect. My kit for sleeping above the treeline and in mountain conditions is much, much tougher than stuff I'd use in lowland conditions.
For instance, I'd take tend to take Gas rather than Alcohol or Esbit simply because it's easier in the wind. My camping mat would be foam rather than inflatable and so on….Apr 4, 2008 at 8:52 am #1427083
I have been in reading mode only up to now, but I would like to say something about Scotland because that is where I have started and continued and refinded my own UL hiking techniques. For sure I am not one of the hard guys who can withstand any kind of severe wheather they encounter, but I think I have experienced some wheahter in Scotland that makes it hard for me to believe that you would want to go with a tarp, a torso lenght UL mat and still enjoy your hike.
And I have also made the experience of being eaten by millions of midges on a camping site in Scotland.
Neither experience would make me believe that SUL hiking under such circumstances is really enjoyable – probably it can be survivable for very experienced SUL-hikers with very good techniques and strategy at the best or for adventure racers that race in a pack with a lot of security around them and a race that lasts for 2-3 days – but enjoyable (apart from the racing idea which is an enjoyment of its own, of course)??
I am not sure whether the advantage of carrying 500g less in your pack is really so great when the rest of your equipment is perfectly optimized with regards to weight saving and hiking efficiency. 500g more with a closed environment in a tent can make all the difference between surviving and enjoying. The limit between the two is probably different for every individual. But there comes a point where I would think it is simply unreasonable to not take a tent.
We have been hiking through the Scottish highlands when paths turned into streams and rivers. The whole mountain was water, everything was so soaked that I couldn´t even imagine to pitch a proper tent anywhere. We didn´t even know where to walk. We were forced to take adventurous detours because the path lead into the undersea world of a huge lake that hadn´t been there before. No Goretex in the world was able to stop the rain from soaking you from the top to the bottom.
Thinking that in such a state I would have to lie down – completely soaked and cold – under a tarp is impossible for me. You would sink into the peat until your torso lenght UL mat and sleeping bag is an underwater sleeping gear. And the next morning will not change anything – it simply continues like that for days and days. The end of our story was that we had to go home. And we didn´t have a chance to get back on the track although we had been watching the wheather forecast for 2-3 weeks ready for hiking any minute. That was an experience that I will not forget so quickly. That is my measuring rod for hiking in northern climates like Scotland, Norway or the same. That is what I have in the back of my mind aswell when I think about UL equipment.
By the way we have experienced two other long distance hikes with wonderful wheather and no midges in the Scotish highlands and on the Shetland islands – Scotland can be a wonderful place for hiking – it´s absolutely great. As long as the wheather changes, the wheather isn´t really bad, no matter how severe the conditions are. But if it doesn´t change, you´ve had it (and if you go at the wrong time of the year – midges)!!
So, I would be very interested to learn more about good UL techniques for such harsh conditions. The question probably aims more at a goood and well balanced compromise than at the ultimate sub5 pack list, although I am surely also very much a fan of taking UL equipment to the limits.
According to what I have read and learned up to now from other user´s experience and my own it really makes a huge difference whether you can be sure about the wheather in a dry climate or whether you go on a long hike without any sure knowledge about the development of the wheather in a northern climate environment. And again, for me the aim in the end is to minimize my pack weight as far as it is ever possible AND to enjoy the hike under the circumstances that I have to deal with.
In a dry climate sub5 lists are easy to deal with – just leave nearly everything at home and enjoy nature and the night under the stars. When damp and foul wheather, remote areas with difficult resupply comes into play we are talking about a different league (the tourist guide for the Scottish higlands says that you can expect to have snow in the midst of summer – 4 seasons in August so to speak – this tends to make your gear list a bit longer and some of the equipment a bit heavier).
It would be nice to read about other people´s exeperience with UL equipment and the foul, damp, wet and cold side of wheather. This is for me the true test for UL equipment.
PhilipApr 4, 2008 at 11:02 am #1427108
Mike,my set up changes with the expected weather and the type of trip also,i use a Hilleberg soulo when camping high in the winter but at the other end of the scale i use a tarp tent contrail and a variety of tarp/bivy combos,i was just keen on peoples take on lightweight gear in not so nice conditions.Apr 4, 2008 at 11:55 am #1427116
@mikefaedundeeLocale: Under a bush in Scotland
I too am trying to go as light as possible in Scotland whilst still having some comfort! I live only 1/2 an hour or so from the hills so i will go for an UL weekend when the weather is favourable. I can put up with getting wet under a tarp for a weekend! I don't have the courage (or maybe too much sense?) to go UL for a week or more as you cannot predict the weather that far ahead. Up to now i've been using my Terra Nova Laserlite in bad weather or for extended treks. This summer i intend to try a 2 week hike with a tarp. I can't decide wether to use a 10'x10' tarp and a bug-bivvy(MLD) or a small tarp and bivvy bag. I also have a Contrail but i wouldn't like to be in it in a big blow! Great at other times. I usually manage a night or two in a bivvy-bag on its own as well. That is only because i live near the hills and can grab a weather window. I've even climbed a hill after work, slept on the top, then went into work the next day! Great stress buster! I must be getting used to the midges after 30 odd years of hiking in the Scottish highlands as they don't seem to scare me as much as they used to!
I think the point i'm trying to make is, yes you can have an enjoyable time going UL in Scotland. But you can only guarantee it if you live close enough. At other times you are playing with the weather gods. You may have to accept a degree of discomfort. You may have a great time or you may get washed out/blown away. This can also apply to tents!
Of course there is usually a bothy in the area where you can take shelter and dry out your gear.
No matter the method, the views are worth it.
My anscestors used to just lie down in the heather with a plaid wrapped round them and they survived ok!
I've read a story concerning a clan chief on a raiding party a few hundred years ago. It was in winter and a blizzard was blowing. He and his men were settling down for the night high on a mountain. The clan chief fashioned a pillow for himself out of a snowball. The story went around that he was getting soft in his old age as he needed a pillow to get to sleep!
Now you're considered soft if you need an inflatable mat!
Great fun!Apr 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm #1427168
Simon Pemberton got this discussion underway and let’s remember he was intrigued to see how a leading practitioner of ultra light hiking would fair in the hills of Scotland with his equipment choice.
I have not used a tarp in the Highlands and in reflection on just the three coast to coast walks I have done I would not have liked to have had a tarp do to poor weather. On the 07 Challenge I had 4 days rain straight with strong winds and would not have had a good time under a tarp.
I would like to see how Mike Reid gets on with a two week trip under a tarp in Scotland. Until I find a good stable single skin tent lighter than my tent ill be keeping my pack weight the sameApr 5, 2008 at 2:40 am #1427233
Didn't "Podcast" Bob Cartwright use a tarp on one of his TGO Challenges? I'm fairly certain that it has been done… although I don't know if it was done comfortably ;)
At the moment I'm seriously considering taking a tarp if I am accepted for the Challenge next year, while my hiking partner is looking into getting a Tarptent as an alternative for his Hilleberg. In my case the decision is partly driven by the fact that my old Macpac Microlight tent appears to have gone astray when I moved house. The key to using something like a tarp in Scotland is probably choosing the right route and camping spots (and having a bit of luck with the sometimes astoundingly raw weather.)Apr 5, 2008 at 10:13 am #1427263
Jon what is your experience with backpacking in Scotland and the fact it offers the biggest test to any UK hiker attempting a multi day trip there. The Challenge organisers expect you to have done some backpacking in Scotland before applying and I hope you get on next year. Don’t underestimate it over two weeks it would be a shame to ruin your crossing do to wrong kit choice. Have a plan B in the highlands.
You mention choosing the right route and camping spots. This should not be affected by a tarp. The rout you want is one that takes you where you want to go and if that’s high with long days on the tops do it, and take a tent. The point is to have a good walk and enjoy it while staying safe.Apr 5, 2008 at 11:06 am #1427274
@archnemesisLocale: England, UK
ISTR that bob mentioned using a GoLite Hut in one of his Bobcasts about the TGO kit he took.Apr 5, 2008 at 12:53 pm #1427287
Martin, most of my hiking and camping experience has been in the Peak District, Wales and Maine but I've done a few Scottish trips, including a fortnight working my way up through Skye (well, mostly up… it was too nice a place not to meander a bit!) I'm also in the lucky position of knowing someone who is both a very experienced, thoughtful hiker and a participant in multiple Challenges, so I'm not going to head off half-cocked to test a theory. At this stage nothing is set in stone, as I can't even apply until October and the Challenge itself isn't until next year, so I'm going to be doing a lot of shortish trips, including some in Scotland, over the next twelve months, to try different combinations of equipment and base my choice for the Challenge on the results. After all, there's no point spoiling a good walk just to make a point :)Apr 5, 2008 at 1:41 pm #1427295
Jon looks like you will be fine I am not on the Challenge this year I only made the reserve list this time, but hope to be back next year. It’s a great way to cross Scotland as you meet up with others who have the same goal and love of backpacking.
On ultra light Kit that works in Scotland, Dan Whalley’s postings on this site has some information on using the GoLite Hut on the West Highland Way and he said it was not so good in high winds. He has posted his kit list and is using a tarp in the UK. Hope he puts some feedback on this site showing how he is getting onApr 6, 2008 at 5:04 am #1427353
@mikefaedundeeLocale: Under a bush in Scotland
The two biggest problems i've found are both site selection related. Finding a dry spot to pitch a tarp over can be a real problem. Water run-off has to be taken seriously. The other is finding a spot that will give shelter from the wind on an exposed hillside.Apr 6, 2008 at 5:39 am #1427355
Mike really good point I have had to help a friend twice move his tent on long walks in Scotland do to the site he picked flooding with heavy rain. One spot he picked only a few feet away from mine looked fine, then I wake up 4 in the morning after the rain stopped and his tent is in a mini lake. What stopped his kit getting wet was his bath tub ground sheet. A tarp with a flat ground sheet would have been a problem.
Wild camp spots in Scotland tend to be by lochs and open glens and would in my opinion be poor tarp sites. Pitching by or in a forest out side of winter/early spring means you are in Midge territory which is not good in a tarp.Apr 7, 2008 at 2:12 am #1427447
My main experience of camping in Scotland was when I did the 30 day ending to Lands End to John O'Groats. I used a tent, but, on thinking about the places that I camped, I am certain I could have used a tarp. It was May and the weather was a mixed bag.
Midges were a real pain by Loch Lomond, otherwise the breezes kept them at bay.
I plan to be using a tarp in Scotland this May. I'll be backpacking from Dalwhinnie – taking in Ben Alder and nearby Munros. All being well I'll then head for the Grey Corries.
I agree with Mike; location, location, location.Apr 8, 2008 at 5:30 am #1427646
Gordon my hat of to you for your Lands End to John O'Groats walk. I agree Location is every thing with a tarp. I think this is a restriction on rout choice and where to stop for the night. Also needing to lower them right down in a storm and seeking wind protection like trees, to me makes wild camping cramped and less enjoyable. It always rains in the north?
This discussion needs a break until we see how you and others get on in Scotland. Simon Pemberton wanted to see how Andy Skurka got on with his kit if he did the Challenge and if this would challenge the UK way of backpacking. Have a good walk In Scotland.Apr 28, 2008 at 3:11 am #1430511
Mr E J MeechanMember
I've used ultralight gear in every type of condition that the Scottish weather could throw at me, from blizzards to dense clouds of midges, and it's performed very well in all conditions.
Anyone who is experienced in the use of such gear has nothing to fear from the vagaries of the Scottish climate. But experience is the key word. Halfway up a mountain in the Highlands is perhaps not the best place to begin experimenting with ultralight equipment.
As someone previously mentioned, in the hands of experienced ultralighters this gear has been proven to work in the Arctic, so the Scottish climate shouldn't be considered outside the realm of ultralight backpacking.
As for tarps, I prefer to use them in all weather in Scotland. In high winds tarps have the potential to be far more stable than most tents, as you can pitch them really low to present less of a surface area for the wind to tug at. You might have to slither along the ground to get under the tarp, and there won't be any room to do anything but sleep since the ridgeline will be scant inches from your face, but if you pitch a tarp low in a well chosen site it can stand up to gale-force winds. And I speak from experience on this point. These experiences taught me to always pack a pair of earplugs.
I also find it easier to locate a site on which to pitch a tarp as opposed to a site for a tent. Tarps allow a much greater versatility in the shape and size of their footprint, so you can mould the tarp to the available space. This is particularly handy in Scotland, as often the only available pitch for miles around can be a small unhelpfully shaped patch of land. Most tents allow only one pitching option, and the size of their footprint is largely unchangeable.
Even in certain Scottish winter conditions, the tarp can still outdo a tent. As Chris Townsend recently mentioned in TGO, a tarp and a snow shovel will give you a much more stable shelter than even the sturdiest of mountain tents, and at a fraction of the weight.
The one condition in which tarps are at a serious disadvantage to tents is, of course, in the middle of an air raid by Culicoides Impunctatus, or the B****** Scottish midge as it's known by those who have played host to a squadron or two of them.
I've tried the headnet, and trousers tucked into socks technique. I can report that it doesn't work against the Scottish midge. I've tried the noseeum zip panel in a bivvy technique. It works but it's awfully claustrophobic. Although full sized bug tents for tarps have been available for a number of years, they were all too heavy for me. However, in recent years a number of ultralight companies have started producing bug tents for tarps. I used a custom made bug tent (made by Moonbow Gear-200g) in Scotland last year, and it worked brilliantly. So much so that I no longer have any use for a tent in Britain at any time of year. This year I'll be trying out both the Simblissity Inner Peace Noseeum Bug Tent (as sold on this site), and the Mountain Laurel Designs Serenity Shelter. For those of you in the UK (which seems to be most of you on this thread), I'll be reviewing all three of these bug shelters in one of the summer editions of TGO.
In summary, Scotland is unlikely to present Andrew Skurka with a challenge that he hasn't already encountered and adequately dealt with somewhere else in the world. For those of you familiar with the Scottish climate and experienced in the use of ultralight gear, there really is nothing to be afraid of. The only reason that doubts about ultralight gear in Scotland keep cropping up is that so few folks have used such gear there. I'm sure that the more that backpackers use ultralight gear in Scotland, the fewer the dire warnings will be about the unsuitability of ultralight gear in Scotland.Apr 28, 2008 at 7:57 am #1430532
Chris TownsendBPL Member
@christownsendLocale: Cairngorms National Park
Ultralight in Scotland certainly works – how comfortable it is is another matter. Discomfort for a night or two may be tolerable but not for two weeks, at least not for me. I enjoy camping as well as hiking and want both to be fun. I also want a shelter that is reliable and fast to set up in bad weather or when I'm tired. I don't want to spend time adjusting a shelter or arranging gear underneath it. Setting up a tent and chucking gear inside is easy. I find this especially important on walks of more than a few days.
Tarps – or tent flysheets – are great outside the midge season. I've never had to pitch a tarp so low that I had to wriggle underneath nor would I fancy doing so. I think one of the advantages of tarps is that they can be bigger than tents for less weight – I like the extra space, especially in winter. Unlike Eddie I've found it harder to find pitches for tarps/flysheets than tents because of sodden ground – there are times when a sewn-in groundsheet with side walls is valuable. I've never had a problem finding pitches for the Hilleberg Akto – as long as there's space for me to lie down I can pitch the tent. And if there isn't space to lie down I won't be camping there!
I still find a tent essential in midge season. I like to cook and eat in the tent when the midges are biting, which means a closed porch is essential. I burn a mosquito coil in the porch, which keeps the midges out. That way I can cook and eat in comfort. When sleeping I close the inner tent. By morning the porch is full of midges so I light a midge coil in the inner tent, unzip the inner as little as possible and slip the coil into the porch. By the time I'm dressed the midges are dead. A mesh inner inside a big tarp that could be pegged to the ground all the way round would do but I prefer solid inners to mesh ones as I have found condensation can drip through the mesh onto my down sleeping bag.
I've never had problems with midges on the TGO Challenge – maybe because I usually camp high up – and don't take any particular precautions against them. This year I am debating on whether to stay with my usual Akto or whether to use the GoLite Shangri-La 1 I have been using on short trips recently.
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