As i'm in the lead up to doing my Mountain Leader Assessment at Easter, I'm frantically getting into the hills to practice. These weekends away are brilliant for navigation, ropework and group skills; but they are great for fine tuning the kit you take. Over the past few years my hillwalking kit hasnt changed a whole lot, just different rucksacks and bits and bobs.
I used to use a Snugpak Chrysalis Autumn as my sleeping bag, it was great and kept me warm even when it was wet and is great to snuggle down in on a crappy night out on the Glyders. But it is massive!!! So a couple of months ago i was in Go Outdoors and saw a Marmot Atom for £69.99......its a £300 down sleeping bag!! (Although it is a summer bag and only goes to around 6celsius) So i bought it, because i had read some reviews earlier that week saying how great it is in Alpine climbing for use as a bivvy bag for nights out because its light but still warm. I knew I wouldnt be using it for winter days, but for summer
ML, where I would like to keep weight and pack size to a minimum - a sleeping bag that packs super small (in a Podsac Spider) and weighs less than a can of coke.
After using it a couple of times; once for a wild camp and once for a bothy, I can safely say that I love this bag. I always carry a Down or Primaloft Jacket in the colder months anyway, so i just wore that to sleep in as well as my clothes.....which i usually sleep in anyway.....and i wasnt cold at all. Combined with my Mountain Equipment sleeping matt, i didnt wake up all night! Unlike my friends, who's matts deflated overnight and couldnt sleep. Then come morning all I had to do was compress it back down and stick it in my Podsac Alpine 50.
I had an Osprey Mutant 38 a couple of years ago, but i didnt like it because of the tiny fiddly buckles on it and I couldnt fit everythin I wanted in it properly. So I bought a Crux AK47, a fantastic bag (when fully packed). I had never had a bag with a fixed lid, so with smaller loads I thought it looked dead weird. I also found the shape of the straps caused chafing around my arm pits which after a couple of days of walking were agony. So I asked for a Podsac Alpine 50 after my friends gave it a glowing review. And i must say, they werent wrong. This is hands down the best rucksack I have ever owned. Its light, its basic, waterproof, easy to pack and the removable lid with roll top is fantastic. Its so comfy too, the foamy straps and back pannel are great for long days and the gear loops on the hip belt were great when i took it to Scotland. I can fit everything I need in this bag and still have room left. My hat goes off to Podsac.
In the past when I did my Duke of Edinburgh, super noodles were the order of the day. They are light, tasty and filling. However, that was when pot washing wasnt an issue (being on a camp site and all) and nowadays, scraping caked on noodle flavouring off my Jetboil in the pouring rain in the mountains isnt very attractive. Tins of beans, curry, and soup really are a thing of the past; aside from the weight, the empty tins need to be removed! And i dont really want a bag of dirty tins in with my kit.
It was a simple revalation by my lecturer that has kept everyone I know from my University Outdoor Degree happy in the hills. The "Pour & Store" food bag has been the staple of our adventures for the past 3 years and we never go away without them. Theyre re-usable and they allow you to make your own boil in the bag meals as they fit perfectly in a Jetboil.
Its this stuff (right) that has been a new venture for me and I dont know why. My friend Tom suggested using Gravy granules and Smash in a bag as you'd only hvae to add boiling water and you've got a tasty filling meal. It really is fantastic, a bag of hot stodgy, gravy flouvoured heaven. And its super light so you dont have to worry about how much you take.
The theme of powdered foods is the order of the day now. Instant Porridge for breakfast with added cinnamon or choc chips provides those added calories and energy for long days on the hill. The morning Coffee is paramount too, maybe spiked with a drop from my trusty hip flask.
My friend Arran also found one of those tins of treacle pudding that you steam. It contains around 900 calories and when combined with custard, gives you a fantastic winter warming pudding. You just need to empty the tin in a pour and stour and you're good. Its slightly heavier, but worth it. Its stuff like this that makes me love getting out and about; trying new ideas and playing around with food.