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About my gear
Choosing your hiking equipment is a set of very personal choices. Normally you have to weigh price, weight, comfort, and applicability to your way of hiking. Good gear brings some comfort to the wilderness, and makes it easier to hike longer daily trips and sleep more comfortably. Comfort can be seen both in price and weight. On the other hand, you do not need to buy everything at once. I have been buying new stuff when the old ones have been worn out, proven to be too uncomfortable or too bad. There seems to be something on the shopping list at all times... Purchasing decision depends on the price and if the old one is still good enough for now.
When selecting the backpack you need to consider the person carrying it, the load to be carried, and how long the trip will be. If you want to hike weeks without fishing, you need quite a backpack. I have been hiking about a week at a time, and I manage perfectly with a ergonomic "rosna" type of backpack. I could carry more with a framed backpack, but my Haglöfs Victor can take about 75 - 85 liters of stuff and that has proven to be enough for a week.
I feel ergonomic backpack to be more comfortable to carry. It is a bit more tricky to overpack, and in the end of the trip you can not put much to the side pockets, just to keep it in some kind of backpack-like shape. In addition to that, the lower pocket can not be used to store those often needed kettles and food, because the lowest part needs to be tightly packed for the backpack to hold it's shape.
On the other hand, you can easily reach the upper compartment, so the lower part has been holding my sleeping bag and spare clothes. Tent is in the upper part against my back. This is one more downside, because you can not pack the backpack inside the tent when it is raining. This has not proven to be a problem though, because you can pack it quite fast even in rain. Gear can wait wait wrapped to the backpack's rain cover when you are packing the backpack.
My tent is The North Face Roadrunner 2. It is a two-layered dome tent for two. Weight of that tent is about three kilos, and I think that is the maximum for one person to carry. Hilleberg has even lighter two person's tent, Nallo 2, but that tent has only one apside and the price is about twice as high.
TNF RR2 has proven to be a good choice. You can set it up and pack it even as wet, and it breathes quite well. The inner tent is mosquito net type of fabric, and the outer tent has good ventilations. There was only six spikes in the sales package, so I bought six more. You do not need to set the corner wires normally, but attaching both ends of the outer tent makes the ventilations work better and the inner tent does not get wet inside when the night is cold.
Having a two person's tent alone is first class comfort in the wilderness. During rainy weather it is nice to bring the backpack inside and have all the gear around inside the tent. When the ground is not so perfect, you can select the side you are sleeping on. And in a more roomy tent the ventilation is not such a problem.
Two person's tent is of course heavier than one person's sleeping pipe, but here I have decided to pay by weight for my comfort.
Sleeping bag and mat
When selecting a sleeping bag the most important criteria most probably is the lowest temperature you can use it. Down bags are a bit lighter than synthetic ones, but they are more prone to moisture. Down bag may be problematic when hiking in Finnish Upper Lapland, because you can not make fire and drying the bag may be problematic when the weather is rainy. Allergic persons (like me) are better off by looking only at synthetic sleeping bags. I have a synthetic sleeping bag.
How low can you go? (On your selected temperature scale...) That is a personal question. Some persons need better rated bags than others. I chose Ajungilak Kompakt, it is three season bag (from spring to autumn). In Finnish Lapland temperatures can go below zero centigrade, even in summer time. I do not recommend those summer bags to anyone hiking in Finnland (unless you really can survive with very light bag). If you sleep in a tent, a bit too warm bag is not a problem, but at lean-to-places (a Finnish hut with one open wall) those mosqitoes may be a problem if you need to zip your bag more or less open.
Warmth of my my Ajungilak bag can be adjusted surprisingly much by tightening the collar and head parts of the bag. In warm nights you can open the foot part to increase ventilation.
It is good habit to store the bag hanging open, because stuffing it to the protective bag, especially if compressed, will make it loose the warmth. Extensive washing is no good either, so remember to leave it in open air at camp side and when returning home.
Sleeping mattress affects sleeping comfort quite much. Self inflating mats are warm, comfortable and nowadays also light and they pack in very small space. Only the price is shocking. I use now Therm-A-Rest ProLite 3, which is 183 cm long, half a meter wide and 2.5 cm thick mat, weighing only 580 grams. I purchased it for hiking with my small daughter, I simply could not fit two mattresses into my backpack when there was already two sleeping bags. My daughter sleeped on the old mat though. Those foam mats are way cheaper, but beware of those 5 euro things you can find at the mall: Good mattress is hard enough not to be totally flat at any position when you sleep on it. Good mat has closed cells, cheap ones literally suck water. My old one is one of those Globetrotter Evazote ones (14 mm thick), and it is really good. It was easy to carry in a protecting bag over the backpack. But the Therm-A-Rest is ahh-so-warm and ahh-so-soft... and even lighter.
Stove and cookware
Choosing a stove is a topic for religious wars as well. I used Trangia for several years, until I purchased Mountain Safety Research's Dragonfly fuel stove. I have previous experience using gas cartridge stoves as well. Trangia isn't the most powerful stove, but it is quite reliable and you can buy denaturated alcohol almost everywhere here in Finland. Gas cartridge stoves are lightweight, but the stove does not work when temperature goes down to freezing numbers. Situation may be better with modern gas cartridges.
Good things in gasoline stove are enourmous power (mind-boggling 3 kW), power adjustability, it works in all possible conditions (my friend Jussi has used his Dragonfly below -20 centigrade, and I just poured out the water from the stove before lighting it in heavy rain shower), lightness (compared to Trangia for example) and good energy efficiency of gasoline (about twice that of alcohol). Downside is perhaps a bit complicated construction. When reading reviews in the Internet, I get every now and then the feeling some of those extreme dudes use even several sledgehammers a year... I have had no problems with reliability of the stove this far.
Dragonfly can burn even kerosine and diesel oil, but I recommend the purest gasoline one can find. Here in Finland you can find "small machine gasoline" from Neste gas stations. In that stuff there is no additives needed for cars and no oil. This stuff is pure enough, I have had no problems after the first five litres. Price is high, somewhere between four to five euros per litre (and the canister is five litres), but there is fuel for a couple of years, for me at least. Your mileage may vary again.
After using the standard aluminium Trangia cookware set for a long time, I bought MSR's BlackLite kettles. They are aluminium with some kind of non-stick finishing. You have to be careful with the non-stick finish, but it is very easy to keep clean in the wilderness. Just wipe it clean. Steal kettles are durable for those extreme dudes, and conventional aluminium kettles lightweight, but you need tools to remove the remains of the food if you happen to burn a bit something. And titanium is basically isolating, not conducting heat, so those are not the best cookware by definition. Comfort thing again, those kettles, but if you can nurse the finish it is very easy to keep clean.
When hiking in Southern part of Finland, I have boiled all drinking water. Then I was about to go hiking with my daugher, and then boiling all water would be unbearable, so I bought a small water purifier pump. Katadyn Mini is the smallest from Katadyn's offerings, it weighs only about 200 grams. You can use it to clean one person's water, if the water is quite clean. Normal a bit brown Finnish lake water (coming from swamps) will clog the filter after 1.5 litres, but cleaning is fast and convinient. Cleaning is part of using the thing, and you have to accept that. Anyway, pumping is much faster than boiling (and cooling) that amount of water, and you can save weight both in the amount of carried water (in Finland finding water is not a problem) and in the amount of carried fuel. I like that small unit very much. For any larger group (than one and a half) I recommend a larger model though.
Taste of water is not made any better by boiling it, but purifying by ceramic filter made it even taste better! Brown water tasted surprisingly good when filtered, although it was only a ceramic filter.
If you boil the water, those aluminium bottles (from SIGG, for example) are great. You can pour in boiling water (not completely full), close it (use a cotton towel or something that like to hold the hot bottle) and leave it floating in the lake to cool down. Water cools down this way quite fast.
And in Northern Finland I just drink any running water, it is very clean. You do not need to purify it in any way.
I have carried a digital camera in the wilderness. Moisture seems to be no bigger problem with digital than with any other modern camera (they use lots of electronics anyway). Of course one has to be careful, do not soak it and allow it to warm up after cold night.
Good thing in using digicam is the small size of those devices, small weight and editability of the pictures. You can not edit colour negative or slide film much. Digital "film" is also small and lightweight (and not actually sensitive to light or X-Rays), you can take hundreds of pictures to a physically small card.
Downside is the power consumption, but even that is no big problem any more. My new camera purchased 2004 can take some 300 - 400 images with one battery. In addition to that, the batteries are small, lightweight and have enormous energy density. I have not ranked pictures in the field, picking those bad ones is too complicated using that small screen. It is easier to buy enough memory and sort the images at home. I tried one of those image tanks (X'S-Drive) year 2003, but it was unreliable and heavy (about 500 grams when well packed). Now I have batteries and memory for more than 1000 images, and that is enough for me, and for a week. Your mileage may vary once more.
Digicam compares well to SLR when hiking. You can save several kilos in weight, and those small digicams have more than enough features. Being able to see the image immediately after exposure gives you that nice and cozy feel of security --instead of exposing slide film in contrasty locations. Good two megapixel camera gives you A4 prints, good five megapixel camera A3's and good eight megapixel camera even bigger ones. An SLR camera with a couple of powerful zooms and macro lens weighs much more than my digicam setup --only two kilos with all the batteries and memory cards for more than thousand images, all packed in a neat weather-proof camera bag.
Clothing and protecting from rain
My former hiking clothes were made of cotton. Despite of occasional waxing it got wet very quickly. And cotton does not dry too fast. My friend Jussi has used Gore-Tex, but according to him that is too hot and sweaty in Finnish summer.
So I bought Haglöfs' Nansen coat, and next year the pants as well. These are not Gore's materials, but more like something well breathing, wind resistant and fast drying stuff. And water resistant, to some extent, too. Anatomic backpack is actually quite warm garment, like a vest, and I used only a T-shirt when going in rain at some ten degrees centigrade. When you stop, you need the coat immediately though. This material breathes well enough for the T-shirt to dry in the evening at campside, below fleece and the shell coat. Good thing.
The main idea of layer clothing is to keep skin dry and to make the moisture go from lower layers to the upper ones, eventually evaporating away. Those clothes are terribly expensive, but you can buy the needed stuff in the long run. In my opinion, the most important thing is the base layer, the layer next to your skin. It is best to buy that layer first. I carried for some time those way too thick fleece pants, until I bought the mid layer microfleece "underwear" year 2004.
As a base layer it is good to use those sports underwear and T-shirt, when the weather is cold you can take the microfleece mid-layer too. You can use the same mid-layer when sleeping if you wake up in the night feeling cold. For me the shell pants ovet the microfleece have been enough even in the coldest moments of Finnish summer, for the upper part I have a bit thicker fleece jacket and the shell jacket. And then you need to use these clothes the right way... enough for not to be cold, and when hiking I feel like wearing one layer less than when having a break. And during night time enough for comfortable sleep, but not anything wet inside the sleeping bag. Daily clothes I hang in the ceiling of the tent, and sleep in another set of underwear.
For rainy days I have prepared in several ways. "Rain legs" is one of the best purchases. Basically pants missing the top part... Those are not as hot as pants, and I have been wearing those quite a lot. After the rain the small plants and bushes are wet for a long time, and your pants become soaking wet quickly. Rain legs keep your pants dry and it is more comfortable to go. I bought coverboots for more comfortable river crossing, I had enough of switching between sandals and hiking boots when hiking in Sarek.
In light rain I have used only those rain legs again. T-shirt is wet anyway, so I have just hiked without any upper rain protection in light rain. If it starts really to rain, my coat gives some protection and the ultimate thing in pouring rain is the rain cape. It has a "hump" for the backpack, and this makes it a bit better breathing rain garment than something between your back and your backpack. And it protects the backpack, too.
I got one of those backpack rain covers too. My backpack is basically waterproof, but after some three days the moisture starts to reach the inners of it. And it is not so nice to take that completely wet thing inside my tent. If it is not completely soaked, it dries surprisingly fast. That rain cover can be used to protect my gear too when packing or unpacking the backpack.
You need some kind of mobile phone when travelling nowadays, and my choice has been a bit bigger one, the Nokia Communicator 9500. It has long battery life, and I have packed a couple of spare batteries too. It is nice to look at the weater forecasts from the Internet, and check your email, as long as there is coverage. I have used it for writing notes too, it is just sort of easier than using pen and paper. I have used normally one to two batteries, but taken one more just for the possible emergency situation. I have switched the phone side of the device on only occasionally to receive SMS messages, make some phone calls to home base and surf the Net.
In Southern Finland the phone has worked quite well. In Norther Finland or Northern Sweden there is no network coverage after the first day, unless you keep near the main roads. You can check the coverage from the operators, but the maps are quite optimistic in Scandinavian Lapland. With those small phones and integral antennas you may not be able to call anybody. You can try to go upper in fjell, to the top of some fjell, and to different sides of the fjell, and you may find some sweet spot. Do not count on that though.
My choice here is Haglöfs' MountainPro. I used rubber boots for a long time, but those are too warm, sweaty and uncomfortable for me, and with sore feet the way is longer. They have Gore lining, which works ok until the boots are soaking wet. When the thick leather is completety wet, it does not breath, whatever lining there is below.
For the moisture to get away, you need good hiking socks as well. I have used liner socks and thick wool-based socks. Cotton socks do not feel dry against skin. Base layer needs to be synthetic at all times.
Drying the boots has proven to be a bit complicated. I have used those small candles inside boots over night, but that is actually a bit dangerous. I do not make much fires in Lapland, so boots dry best when the sun is shining. You need to dry them at all longer breaks and at the campside. I do not visit the huts normally, but that might be a good option for those folks sleeping there. Basically those wet boots are no more uncomfortable than rubber boots, but when the boots are dry, they are soo comfortable...