This is going to be a short post in response to Ed’s request for a post about what I’m finding works and what doesn’t.
Broadly speaking, over the past year I’ve tested out everything I’m using to (just before) breaking point, and so what I still have with me is the stuff which works. However I thought it would be best to do a top 5 (in no particular order) of things which work fantastically, and a top 5 of things which failed badly (though I’m struggling to think of stuff for that one). Hopefully that will keep it interesting (and short) and not too dry
So first, the awesome stuff. Honourable mentions go to my Tilley Hat, which is indestructible, my general Rab clothing, which has kept going very well all year (one exception, see below), my Olympus TG3 camera, which has proved perfect for my travelling needs being totally bomb (and water) proof (though occasionally I would love to have my SLR, however it wouldn’t have survived 2 weeks of what I’d have put it through), and my Scarpa Cyclone boots, which would have knocked my torch off the list if they hadn’t disintegrated last week (though credit where credit’s due, they’re very comfortable and the boot glue I got seems to have done the job nicely!). Oh, and honourable mention goes to my Casio f-91 watch, which is cheap, indestructible, and has everything a watch needs… But it got stolen in Australia (yes, someone stole a £6 watch!). Anyway, on to the finalists (in no particular order).
1. Montane Terra Pants (trousers)
I bought these back when I was working in an outdoor shop in the UK. I was told they were tough, light, cool, and comfortable, and at least 3 other guys in the shop wore them, which is always a good advert (people who get staff discounts generally wear the best stuff available). I’ve now worn them for every (single) day of volunteering in Australia (we’re talking harsh use through tough terrain and spikey vegetation for the vast majority of 9 months) as well as most of the non-volunteering days too, and a month of extremely harsh use in New Zealand, and they have so far had one rip (about an inch) and one seam started to come apart (both of which were simple jobs to fix up, even for me). They’re also the single most comfortable pair of trousers I’ve ever owned. Therefore they are the first thing to get Dave’s “beyond the call of duty” award.
2. Google nexus 7 tablet
Rather than bringing a laptop, I decided a tablet would be better for size etc, and it hasn’t let me down. I use it for everything from blogging, emails, reading (good old Kindle app), maps, Skype… And everything else. It just works brilliantly. I even smashed the screen a bit at the start of New Zealand, and, though it now has an area of dead space in one corner, it still just keeps on going. For me, this is a must have (I like to stay connected), and highly recommended for size, functionality, and general flexibility. Again, winner of a “beyond the call of duty” award.
A buff is basically just a tubular piece of material with no seams. I have 2, and they are used for anything and everything. Usually I have one round my neck (either to keep it warm, or keep the sun off), but I’ve also used them as an extra hat for freezing cold nighttime surveys in Scotia, a dishcloth, a tea towel, a towel towel, a blindfold (for camping in bright areas), and various other random uses around camp. A very handy item to have around.
4. Osprey bags
I suspect I’ve preached on the subject of rucksacks before, but let me do it again anyway. I’m a person who has owned many many bags. I’ve tried tons of brands, tons of styles, and tons of everything. Since getting my first Osprey bag, I don’t think I’ll go elsewhere, and have recommended them to many people. The build quality is fantastic, the attention to detail is amazing, the functionality is great. They’re bags designed and made by people who use bags. I started out with a Talon 22 (22 litre) which is still my favourite bag ever. Super comfortable, very strong, fits like a glove, perfect. Unfortunately, when I needed to get a tent and sleeping bag to work in the Northern Territory, 22 litres was just too small. I therefore sent that bag (full of other superfluous items) back home, and got myself an Exos 48 (48 litre). The Exos range are built for absolute lightweightness (is that a word?), but don’t lose any of the robustness or build quality in that. All in all, I’m thoroughly impressed, and highly recommend them to everyone (well worth the extra money over other brands, seriously, WELL WORTH IT).
5. Petzl Tikkina
This is “just” my head torch. It “just” lights the way while I walk or camp. It has been doing so for about 8 years now, and still shows no sign of wear. The batteries last forever, it’s just awesome. While I’ve often considered getting a torch with a spotlight function, I just haven’t needed to yet, and when I do, it certainly won’t be because this one has died. Petzl are definitely my torch company of choice, though I hear LED lenser, Coleman, and Black Diamond are also good… I’ve just never found out because my little Petzl just keeps going.
Then the bad stuff… If I can think of anything (in absolutely no order whatsoever).
1. Rab Meco shirt
This was a shirt made from Merino wool (very breathable) with a small percentage coconut husk woven into it, which apparently is designed to reduce “unwanted odours”. First I found it exceptionally hot, and not very breathable. This may have simply been me using it in the wrong climate, but that doesn’t excuse the second problem. It started to reek. I mean smell really REALLY badly of damp. No amount of washing, drying, re-washing and re-drying would rectify it. Indeed it is the first piece of clothing I have ever had to throw out because of the scent. Very disappointing (particularly considering the price of it). Please note though, I use a lot of Rab clothing, and this is the ONLY piece which has let me down. The rest is incredible.
I started out with a kindle (just the basic model) which I’d had for a few years. This was great for reading (don’t need to carry books etc) but the screen started to die from one corner out in an inexorable demise. This was a shame, but fortunately the mighty Nexus 7 came to the rescue with the kindle app, and so now I basically just have one less gadget to carry… Good old Nexus 7.
I honestly can’t think of anything else which has even vaguely let me down. Some stuff has worn out (my waterproof is looking sorry for itself), but generally that’s from tough use, which I wouldn’t expect it to survive. Long story short, I find if you buy good quality stuff and look after it, it looks after you. As I recently read in a shop window, “quality is remembered long after price has been forgotten”.
I hope that was beneficial to someone (did it answer your question Ed?), and if anyone has more questions, feel free to ask.
Until next time