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Just a quick note to say I’ve just added a natty post index to the blog. Saves endless trawling.


Tidying up always feels good.


Expedition equipment kitlist

Following on from my geek-out gear-porn post on clothing, here’s a list of some of the equipment I’ll be taking on the upcoming expedition to try and climb 6000 m peaks in the Karakoram. I’m not going to list everything because I can’t be bothered, you probably won’t read it, and no one cares if I’m bringing Colgate toothpaste or Aquafresh. But, for what it matters, Aquafresh.

Exped kit on the bed; the best place for it if you've not got a lot of floor space.

Exped kit on the bed; the best place for it if you’ve not got a lot of floor space.


Tents – We looked at various options for shelter, but with 7 of us going it boils down to two 2-man tents and a 3-man tent. Terra Nova have been making bombproof expedition-spec tents forever and so are well-tested. We were lucky enough to secure a deal with them on two Quasars and Outside in Hathersage gave us a deal on a Hyperspace. Thanks guys.

Sleeping bag – Mountain Equipment Xero 550. It weighs about a kilo, is very comfortable, and is good to pretty low temperatures. I’ve slept in other ME bags (Helium 250 and 600) in -5 and -12 °C respectively (way beyond their temperature ratings) and was fine – I’m confident that at a push I’d be fine in this bag at -15 °C. It’s red too, which is obviously important and makes you feel warmer because it’s the same colour as fire. Please don’t actually think that’s true. I’m bringing a silk liner because when it’s warm you can use the sleeping bag as a quilt and the liner makes this a little bit easier, and because I don’t want the bag to require disinfecting after a month of sweating into it.

Xero 550 in use in the snowy summer Cairngorms.

Xero 550 in use in the snowy summer Cairngorms.

Sleeping mat – Thermarest Neoair XTherm and rollmat. The Neoair XTherm is absolutely great. I had a normal Thermarest for nearly a decade and loved it but as soon as I got this new guy I sold the old one, no mercy. It’s light, small, fairly tough, and unbelievably warm.

If you’re spending hundreds of quid on your sleeping bag but aren’t thinking about your mat then have a wonder about that down squashed flat underneath your back: it’s doing nothing, get yourself a decent mat.

The only problem with the Neoair is that blowing them up takes a little while, and at altitude I don’t expect this to be much fun. I blow into it with my mouth; the idea of using the stuffsack as a blower is a joke (Exped’s version for their synmats and downmats is much better). The rollmat is backup in-case the XTherm pops on some moraine-strewn camp pitch and can’t be repaired. It doesn’t weigh much and will probably survive even nuclear attack.

Technical kit

Crampons – Grivel G12s. I’ve a 7-year-old pair of G12s that are blunter than sin and have almost no front-point protrusion, and a pair of G14s that are in much better nick. The weight of the G14s made me wince so I splashed out on new G12s (Newmatics). Obviously I’ve cut the tape short and if I get round to it I’ll cut the adjustment bar short as I did on my old pair (every little helps on the weight front!).

Ice axes – DMM Cirque and Black Diamond Viper. We had loads of discussions about this. We don’t expect much technical climbing if any, but if we do get some and we’ve only got Alpine axes with us we’re going to be a bit limited. We don’t really want to be climbing anything harder than about Scottish II at 6000 m as none of us are super badass. I’ve owned the Cirque for years and it’s absolutely solid. Matching it with the Viper gives me loads of options without having to take three axes and I’ve climbed grade III with the same pair of mixed axes before; it does work. Vipers are terrible for plunging so on snow arêtes and for general mountaineering they are a bit limited. Something like a Quark or Fly would be better.

I use spring-leashes because I like to feel like Ueli Steck.

Perfect match for easy Alpinism.

The perfect match for easy Alpinism? Maybe.

Harness – Petzl Hirundos. Easy choice, this. Very light, very comfortable, space for ice screw clippers. I’ve never adjusted the leg loops on harnesses with this option so don’t see the point. Rack-wise we’re going fairly heavy considering we don’t intend to come across too much technical ground, but better have the stuff than think ‘could have got to the top if we’d had more gear’. We will probably end up leaving most of it in camp, though. For each rope team we’re taking something like a set of nuts, set of hexes, and a couple of pegs, plus a few ice screws and V-threader, and then a set of cams for the whole group just in case. We’ll also have our own personal crevasse rescue kit.

Helmet – Wild Country Roclite. Some helmets fit and others don’t. This one fits, it’s a nice colour, and it’s not heavy. In!

The Wild Country Roclite, modelled here by me and my girlfriend.

The Wild Country Roclite, modelled here by me and my girlfriend. We should get paid for this.


Aiguille Alpine Cirrus – still my favourite rucksack. It’s 850 g, very comfortable, completely bombproof, and has the features I want and nothing I don’t. It looks old-fashioned and the fabrics seriously faded, but function is form… Interesting to see how the dyes hold up to the UV at altitude; I may come back with a pink rucksack.

Millet Prolighter 60+20 – For the last few years my biggest rucksack has been 50 litres as I’ve never needed to carry more than that. This trip’s a bit different though so I had to fork out for a big one. A trip to Outside later and I’d bought the brightest-coloured rucksack on the planet.

I was completely sold on a few things: the carry, which is outstanding; the 1600 g weight, so 20 g per litre; and the expandability.

It has plenty of straps for securing stuff to the outside and the lid up/down and zip combo is great for easy packing. I don’t like the way the hipbelt is removed and I don’t think the base fabric is tough enough to last forever, but having done a couple of long weekends with the bag I’ve a new favourite ‘big bag’.

The Millet bag can compress and hide the lid to be about 50 litres and still look okay, rather than like a flacid empty spud sack. Full-size it's a titanic toddler-swallowing load-lugger.

The Millet bag can compress and hide the lid to be about 50 litres and still look okay, rather than like a flacid empty spud sack. Full-size it’s a titanic toddler-swallowing load-lugger.

Duffel bag – not one to go all maverick, I’m taking a duffel bag.

Any other matters?

When it boils down to it, our final success is probably not going to be determined by any one piece of the equipment above, but having a decent system that works is important and it makes a massive difference to enjoyment. Add to that the fun of thinking about ‘two axes or three?’ and suddenly kit chat becomes very exciting. Or at least it does to me…