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Next Meet

"Wild Camping"

1st - 3rd March 2013

Next Social

AGM. Portland D136.

Thursday 14th March
8.00 pm

If you don't want this for a time, please comment it-Fabian !Next Ice Climb

Manchester Indoor Ice Wall
Friday 1st December at 8:30am

If you don't want this for a time, please comment it-Fabian !Next Climb

3 principles to apply when thinking about kit

Apperantly some people actually read my thaughts about kit, reading it again Ive decided to add extra paragraph to make my meaning clearer. However the overall idea reamin the same, take responisblity for your own decessions to make sure the kit you use is right for you, not what youve been told in the pub, someone on UKC says is the best, no what fits you and what your going to use it for.

1, Reset your expectations. Unless you stay in the pub all day you’re not going to remain warm and dry, instead the goal is staying “comfortable" (i.e. damp and not cold). When walking or climbing in the mountains you will get hot and sweaty walking up hill (don’t have to many clothes on, you will only get hotter and sweatier), cold when you stop (so either don’t stop much, or quickly put on more layers such as a fleece or belay jacket), wet after a day walking through horizontal rain (See 2nd point) and many other circumstances where the definition of "comfort" will be stretched to breaking point. Think of it as a game, by adjusting the clothing you have and how you use it try and stay "comfortable" for as long as possible, if you can be “comfortable” for 75% of the day you’re doing very well.

2, Accept the limitations of Kit. There is no one piece of clothing or clothing system which is going to keep you "comfortable" all the time whatever you’ve read about it in magazines/online or what the bloke in the shop says about it. A case in point is the hype surrounding waterproofs, don’t get me wrong a high quality (Event, Gore-Tex or Paramo fabric) waterproof can make a huge difference to your "comfort" and youre ability to stay alive but they are not going to keep you dry, if the fabric doesn’t leak, if the big hole to allow your face to stick out doesn’t allow rain/snow/hail in then, then you’re own sweat is going to get you wet. As stated in point 1 adjust your expectations and then you will be less disappointed when there are not met. However by having the right kit and using it in the right way you can vastly improve you’re "comfort" and survivability, this is the ability of your kit to extend you’re comfort range into severe weather. For example, when you’re one pair of gloves get soaked on the 1st morning of a two day trip by wiping snow to see the holds on a scramble you’re comfort range is suddenly reduced and yes this has happened to me. However if I had a 2nd pair of gloves, or even better a pair of mitts (think Dachstein or Buffalo mittsscroll down here) which could have been pulled straight over the top of my gloves then my hands would have warmed up so forcing some of the moisture out of the gloves into the mitts leaving me with a dryer pair of gloves for the next day.

3, Simplicity. This not only reduces weight, bulk and cost but can make you more comfortable. So in the glove example above having a pair of mitts to quickly pull over the wet pair of gloves would have kept me more comfortable by having more insulation on my hands, not stopping to long taking on and off wet gloves (can be surprisingly difficult with tight fitting gloves and cold hands) so by not stopping to long there is less time not moving to get cold (always remember keeping moving is the easiest way to stay warm as youre body will be producing up to a 1000% more heat when moving quickly compared to when you are standing or sitting around). When looking at any piece of kit think whether each part of it is making your life easier or are they just showing off, back packs seam particular prone to this with weird length adjustment systems, odd metal clip things instead of two part plastic buckles (as above think how easy they are going to be to open with a big pair of gloves on) and new ways of strapping an ice axe to make them look techier (just stick the ice axe down the side straps).

Bringing it all together. As I said above the key to remaining comfortable (and to make sure you finish a day in the mountains before the sun goes down) is to keep moving. This means being willing to put up with a degree of discomfort at times (perhaps a bit hot when going uphill, cold when moving slowly over a scrambly section), this can be reduced by knowing how to control you’re temperature without changing any layers for example to cool down unzipping the front of a jacket to let in more air or to keep warmer pulling the sleeves of fleece/waterproof down to cover your hands to keep them warmer. So hear is the system I use though please remember this is for information not a recommendation,

Base Layer, tight fitting middle weight (Don’t get a super thick expedition weight base layers, they will be to warm) merino wool or Helly base layer top and undies (yes base layer underwear really are more comfortable)in terms of performance there is little difference between to two, merino wool is more expensive but doesn’t get as smelly, if it’s really cold add leggings either fleece or base layer.

Footware, For socks its worth getting a good Nylon/wool/polyester, thickness depending on how fit of your boots, whether you want to warm (As in winter) or cool down (summer, or running) you’re feet, get a few pairs as well so you will always have a clean/dry pair (Dirty and or wet socks can give blisters). For boots a pair of B2/B3 from any of the major boot makers (Scarpa/la Sportiva/ Boreal) will see you through many Scottish winters and Alpine summers, the only really important point is that they fit youre feet, the best way of finding a pair that fit is to go to a good climbing shop (Needlssports in the lake District,Outisde in the peak district, one of the big Ellis Brighams or Cotswolds) and try on a range of boots, if you have more unusually shaped feet (Long, Wide, very Narrow etc) then you may need to look for more obscure brands or obscure models from one of the major manufactures. For summer walking any pair of well fitting leather walking boots will work , some prefer a stiffer sole for scrambling (to give better edging) alternatively a pair of fell running shoes offer a light weight alternative. For gaiters any pair of calf length fairly tight fitting (to avoid snagging a crampon on baggy fabric) will be fine, expensive ones may be more breathable but they will get crampon holes, scrapped against rock and generally abused so be aware they will need patching up (duck tape for a quick bodge or properly done with seam selling tape).

legware, Paramo Aspira salopettes are hard to beat in winter, though they are bear to take on and off so be prepared to leave them on all day, for any winter trousers/salopettes consider how easy it is to make a toilet stop (both types) as the high cut and awkarwadly positioned zips can make it “complicated”. The Paramo salopettes are great for winter but for summer I find them to warm, instead any pair of walking trousers will do fine with a light weight pair of over trousers (Full length zips make taking these on and off much easier) work well, though a pair of soft shell trousers such as Mammut Base Jump or Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants would probably be better instead of the walking trousers.

Tops, a supper light windproof works really well even in the depths of winter when producing lots of heat moving uphill, also great for summer, the windproof together with a light fleece such as Polartech 100weight can offer a versatile set of mid layers. Above that in winter a Paramo Aspira jacket or smocks are good, though they are heavy to carry when not worn though their breathability (compared to Gore Tex/Event etc) means they can be worn for more of the time, though a windproof will always breathe better . In summer whether in Britain or the Alps a really light waterproof breathable jacket such as Haglofs LIM Ultimate is kept in my sack, I aim to use the windproof as much as possible so the waterproof it only there for when it is actually raining. For any type of jacket its worth getting one fairly tight fitting, not so tight it’s hard to put on or fit layers on underneath, but try to avoid really baggy layers which can block sight of your feet or harness if your climbing. Whatever youre outer layer is its always worth keeping some snacks (Cereal bars, Flapjack, Jelly Babies all popular choices) to keep your blood sugar levels up while moving, actually its much better to keep snacking throughout the day rather than stopping for a meal as this keeps your energy levels more consistent avoiding the post meal slump where your body is trying to digest what you’ve just eaten. This layering system is intended to keep me comfortable when moving or for short stops so the emphasis is on having enough to keep me warm when moving, for longer stops I’ve got a big Belay jacket (the now discontinued Haglofs Barrier Zone jacket, though a Rab Belay Jacket or Patagonia DAS parka would be equlivent) sized to fit over all my other layers (so now faffing around taking layers on and off). The advantage of this is that by putting your other layers at the bottom of the temperature gradient coming out from your body is that these layers (and any wet gloves in the inside pockets of the Belay jacket) will be drying, this is the main advantage of synthetic insulation (like Primaloft) instead of goose down, it retains much of its insulation value when wet whereas down just gets heavy, cold and clumps together when it dries out, so for any use where it might get wet (From rain, snow, moisture from layers drying underneath or sweat) synthetic insulation offers far more protection than down.

Handwear is a tricky one, very thin fleece gloves with windproof linings are great and wearable across much greater range of temperatures than you would imagine, for winter climbing something warmer is needed such as a pair of Ski type gloves or one of the ice climbing gloves from Marmot Black Diamond, Rab or Mammut, I don’t really see the point in waterproof linings in gloves as they will get hole worn in from the outside and get very sweaty on the inside. For this type of glove try to get them fairly tight fitting to get the most from their dexterity, also to make any windproof or waterproof layers work as well as possible. For extra warmth mitts cant be beaten, as stated above Dachesteins or Buffalo mitts are very warm for their weight and cheap , make sure they can be pulled over a pair of gloves so you don’t always need to remove the gloves beneath to put them on.

Headware A light fleece hat is a great way of adjusting how your warmth while moving (30% of heat loss is through your head), a balaclava is great when the wind gets up either fleece or base layer type material the latter obviously less warm. Goggles are often over looked, a cheap pair of “Ski” type can be picked up from Txmax or Primark type shops, with them you can look into a blizzard, and look up while belaying an ice climb without too much fear of falling ice, though they will probably mist up (Though the old bodge of rubbing the inside of a potato on the inside of the lens may improve it a bit, not the “may” in their).

Back Pack, 40-50 liter, simple, light sack such as Pod Black Ice, is the way to go, big enough to easily fit everything in without worrying about “packing”, also remember you can remove any unnecessary features off a sack or any other piece of kit mentioned here (note waterproofs are a bit more complicated but still do able).

Food and water, for food look for a mix of simple (Sugars) and complex (bread) carbhydartes, some people like protein rich foods such as continental sausages, pork pies, though these will take more effort to digest due to their high fat content, though some entirely empirical evidence suggests that high fat content can make you feel warmer. Whatever you bring make sure its easy to eat both in terms of wrappings, how fiddly it is and how easy it is to get down your throat (more of a problem with high energy activities such as running). Water is a tricky one, most of the time 1 litre is normally enough but drink plenty in the morning/evening when your off the hill, also note the effect of diuretics such as alcohol or caffeine, caffeine also contracts blood vessels so can make fingers/toes colder as they get less blood.

Frankly any part of this page could be vastly extended, but the important part to remember is to take your own decisions, listen to what people have to say but always test, adapt and if necessary discard what they tell you, so you have a system which works for you.

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Page last modified on January 19, 2010, at 11:27 AM