The reason it is semi-final thoughts is that I am still hoping Vicky will chime in with her thoughts on the whole Challenge and any rebuttal to my comments... She is very busy you know, so we will just have to wait......
So as usual the big three, but first a little about overall impressions. I did not get to see Colin Ibbotson's Pack or even really look at the packs of Joe Valesko and the boys from ZPacks, but I can tell you it appeared we had the smallest packs on the Challenge. I left the shores of Mallaig with 8 days of food (4 for each Vicky and myself) and a liter of water and weighed in at 23 pounds. Vicky with 12 pounds including a 1/2 liter of water.
We were both using ULA-CDT packs. www.ula-equipment.com Mine was a size large. It is rated at 50 liters but that seems generous. I would say 40 liters in real packing space and at 24 oz, but I had modified both taking off unnessessary bits, for us anyway, to around 18 oz. Vicky's was a size small, which fit when I bought it for her, but through her working out, she actually got taller. Her posture improved and she should have had a medium, so it sat a little high on her waist at times. I also cut the hip belt pockets off the CDT as they are really so tiny as to be useless and replaced them with Zpacks cuben fiber hip belt pockets. This is a great pack and was bascially invisible from 23 pounds or under. When I had to take the majority of stuff out of Vicky's pack after Day 5, my pack weight went up to around 32 pounds. This is too much for the CDT and was not comfortable at all to wear. To be far the website clearly says loads under 25 pounds and they are right. In addition Chris and Rodney at ULA are as helpful and nice as anyone could want from a manufacturer and certainly put up with me asking questions and making changes. Anyone that knows me, knows that I have never been able to settle on a pack that fits me just right and I change packs like changing shirts, hoping one day to get it perfect.
Our shelter was the Mountain Laurel Design Duomid in Cuben Fiber. www.mountainlaureldesign.com
Ron at MLD has a huge following in the UK and a lot of the Challengers were using the MLD Trailstar. The Duomid worked well for us, one because I already had it for myself and just needed to get a good innernet for insects and I personally like the way it pitches and the small footprint it has compared to the Trailstar. The Duomid is only 12 oz in cuben fiber!
On our second night we pitched just before a huge rainstorm which lasted most of the night. We were pitched on the side of a hill, with a good deal of wind as well and the Duomid never even waved in the wind or rain. I was using it in the inverted V arrangement. I believe it is even more stable using the single pole in the center
My quilt is a home made. Since Vicky and I both do majority of our trips in hammocks, so our insulation is quilts (no zippers, no hoods) in this case both quilts were 20 degree quilts made with 850 fill waterproof down. All the benefits of down weight and compress-ability and works even in wet conditions.
Vicky's was made by www.hammockgear.com. Another US cottage company that is great to deal with.
This is my quilt at just 16 oz.
My trail shoes are Altra LonePeak 1.5's
popular with the running crowd in the US for their wide toebox and zero drop technology. (No slope from heel to toe). I find that the zero drop gives me a more natural heel strike and less fatigue over a long day. I also wear SOUL inserts The Red medium versions. This does give me some drop, but also gives more stone protection than the standard insert and will hold their support much longer than the standard insert. The super wide toe box and the fact that I use a 1/2 size larger to account for feet swelling mean I never had any issue with blisters or sore feet. I also use Defeet Cush 3D socks, which I really think are a great sock for hiking
Vicky used the LaSportiva womens Raptors and the same Soul inserts. Apart from not using a 1/2 size up to account for her feet swelling she only had a few blisters but nothing that couldn't be managed with a little tape! Vicky also swears by her Injinji toe socks, with gave her extra cushion between her toes.
All the accessory pockets and stuff sacks in general were made by Zpacks www.zpacks.com. Joe and Matt were on the Challenge with year as well. Joe's pictures of the event can be found here:
Joe's 2014 Challenge photos
Of course Dirty Girl Gaiters, for Vicky the Red, White and Blue patriotic versions
Rain gear was a combination of Rab, Patagonia, and Golite. all keep us dry.
Cooking was done on our Titanium 750ml pots using a canister for this trip as I normally use alchohol (meths) but was unsure as to finding it regularly in Scotland. One 250g cartridge was enough for the entire trip, but I did buy a new one half way across just to be safe.
Well speaking of food- I packed too much. I brought enough food to make sure Vicky had breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as two snacks a day. As I suspected we didn't eat anywhere near that much food. Honestly one of the best things we discovered is that the experienced Challengers preferred fresh food, sandwiches, rolls, etc.. this was a great idea, so we also went shopping when we could for fresher items to carry and left a lot of our food in hiker boxes or bunkhouses for other to have.
Well if there are any other questions, just post them and I will respond.