A Random Winter Journey – Gear Testing

Over the winter months from October to January I run a franchise selling Calendars. Come January I had built up a few new gear items that I hadn’t had chance to test out. On Saturday 10th January 2015 I decided to go and test some of these items.

I decided to run 13 miles along the canal paths from Birmingham towards Worcester and camp out then head back the next day. It had been very windy lately and storms spread over the news. To me this seemed the perfect chance to test out some of my items near by to home. So if things go wrong I had a phone with signal to call for help… or I could simply pack up and come home. With The Pennine Way in mind at 267 miles on the diary for this year I thought it wise to test my kit against the elements here first.

My pack came to about 8.5kg in total (minus 1L water I carried). The run was a nice easy pace for me at about 11:50 mins/mile.

The route was really windy in parts and I can not begin to tell you how well my new jacket held up! I was wearing the Marmot Essence Waterproof Jacket. This weighs just 168g in a medium size. It’s the best jacket I have ever worn for exercise. Many jackets I have had in the past have been piss wet through with rain on the outside and inside (even when they were “waterproof”?) and piss wet through on the inside with sweat. So the arms stick to your skin all soppy and wet and you are wondering why the hell you even bothered wearing it in the first place!? This jacket solved the problem. I also like the fact it has a supported hardback piece on the hood at the front to make it like a cap so rain doesn’t just go right in your face. The jacket also has a front zip pocket. It would have been more handy if it was horizontal. It gets covered up with my ultra bag front pouch but I did find it useful for my phone later on while pitching my tent bivvy.

I also wore my Buff multipurpose head piece to keep my head warm yet wick away sweat. This is a level 1 piece and I bought it particularly as it is synthetic. They do a lot of wool ones which I can’t use due to being Vegan.

I was running in new sneaks. I have Asics Gel Nimbus 16s which are great for road but I knew they wouldn’t hold up on wet and muddy trails. I opted for the Salomon Speedcross 3s in Grey again after extensive research. They certainly didn’t let me down! I did this run in Asics a few months ago doing the full length canal from Birmingham to Worcester over 30 miles. The Asics Gel Nimbus didn’t hold up. I was slipping and sliding everywhere on mud and it wasn’t long before my sneaks were soaked inside. The Salomon stayed dry for the whole thing in similar conditions and gave me terrific grip on the boggy muddy areas. I love the fact it has a drawstring for the laces. If you get something in your sneak you can quickly and easily take them off and get the debris out to stop getting a hot spot and ultimately a blister. With traditional lacing up systems if you do the same you quickly damage the heels on the sneaks. One thing I would note is they can get a tiny bit slippery on wet road if your running on mixed terrain. You do quickly get used to them so it’s nothing too much to worry about. Also they don’t safeguard your feet well from sharp objects like rocks. If your foot lands right by the side of a sharp rock it can touch the side of your foot. One time I got a sharp stabbing pain on mine.

The route put me perfectly where I wanted to be at mile 13 in a wooded area where I could hide. See you can hardly even see my tent. I arrived as I’d planned with about 30 mins before sunset and 55-60 mins before it got really dark. The tent is the Snugpak Lonosphere 1 man bivvy tent. I had spent a lot of time trying to work out what sleeping combo to do like  tent, bivvy, tarp etc. The big complaints I found with a lot of sleeping arrangements was condensation soaking the inside of their sleeping pad. As it happens it got dark at 5pm and I was inside my tent until around 2am (more on that later). The air was 2oC and it rained for a while too. There wasn’t a drop of condensation in the tent from what I could tell. Also my sleeping bag was completely dry (another typical complaint). It took about 8 minutes to put up which will be quicker next time. The thing that’s surprising with this is how much space you get inside it. It could easily sleep 2 people at my size slim build 5 ft 6 in. There was also plenty of room for my bag and dirty sneaks! The overall pack weight for the entire thing is 1.51kg but with modifications I brought it down to about 1.33. I didn’t need the peg bag, tent bag, pole bag, excess pegs and repair kit. I can take off another 132g by changing the pegs to 1g titanium pegs as the ones that came were 12g each!

Ultimately I want to get the  Terra Nova Laser Ultra 1. It’s overall weight being just 552g! It’s the worlds lightest 2 skin tent and stands up well to some mean weather. However with that comes price and I am now currently saving up to buy this model towards the end of 2015.

It’s been a while since I got to just enjoy a night sky. I took up the chance while I could on this occasion though. This time before it got fully dark and again later when it was pitch black and the sky was clear so I could see the stars.

Friends were telling me “your mad, you would be better to wait until summer or spring to go out camping there’s a storm”. Indeed there is and that’s why I headed out to test nearer home. Funnily though weather doesn’t scare me that often. I am more afraid of folklore creatures that lurk in the night than weather. Every once in a while I would see the Rake in my mind and start to worry a bit! Especially when I needed to go pee!

The one thing that let me down on this journey was my sleeping bag. To be fair to the bag it is a 1 season sleeping bag and I wanted to test it’s limits. I was crazy to think it would even hold up to 1-3oC! I did think with lots of layers and fleece I would at least be warm enough if the bag didn’t help me. I was wrong and although the temp stayed roughly the same at 2oC for hours…. I began to get colder. I thought I would be fine until the morning but later on I began to shiver and then I knew it was time to pack up and head back. Which I did at about 2am. That’s not all bad. I got practice running in the dark while tired. That’ll come in very useful during my endurance race events.

I would like to tell you about the sleeping bag though as I think it’s absolutely awesome! It’s the OMM Mountain Raid 1.0 Sleeping Bag. Being Vegan I struggled looking for a decent light weight non down sleeping bag. This weighs in for me at just 345g! It is also EXTREMELY compact as you can see against my Garmin Fenix 2! The fabric feels orgasmic. I couldn’t stop stroking it! I highly recommend it but as personal preference I’d say anything over 12oC  for minimum comfort. Though I have to test that so don’t take my word for it yet! feel free to try though. Everyone’s ability to maintain heat is different. There’s a new sleeping bag coming out soon that weighs just 400g and is made by Nordisk the model is called Oscar and it will be a 3 season synthetic bag! I emailed them and they said it will become available from about March 2015!

Lessons learned
• If a sleeping bag is one season(summer) don’t use it in winter!.
• Bubble wrap works really well as a sleeping pad but don’t rely on it in winter.
• Vegan Marshmallows really agree with me as a post run treat when out there.
• I need more food next time for similar journey… especially if not passing a Spar where I can buy crisps 😉
• Make sure I tip-toe stomp the area flat first. I was on a slant and kept sliding down to the side of the tent when inside. (though the space was generally good nice and hidden by these bushes).

Things to learn
• I need to work out a better system for packing my items so there’s more space. My bag was filled to capacity and I didn’t carry much food. I do think 20L is ample but more thought needed.
• I need to do some more digging about the sleeping bag issue. I think it will be the Nordisk Oscar 3 season bag but there’s no harm in having a bit more of a look around.

So it was a bit of a random outing this one but storms are random often times and I needed to seize the opportunity. Will I go out and do it again? You bet I will! I just need to make a few adjustments first. I have a few months yet before I run the Grand Union Canal National Trail.

About scottyrunner

Have you got all day? ;) View all posts by scottyrunner

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