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lucyshepherd

My Top Kit Picks for the Cold

My Top Kit Picks for the Cold

We spend so much money and time trying to get the perfect kit to try and make a hard expedition that little bit easier or those photos a little more trendier.

Here's a couple of my top picks from my recent Denali expedition. 

Rab 1200 Expedition Sleeping Bag. Rating: -35C (RRP: £770)

A pretty penny indeed but this bag became my safety net. At first glance it seems over bulky but this is a brilliantly thought about feature. It's not heavy for the warmth it provides; weighing in at 1850g. 

Made for cold weather, it works best when wearing clothes otherwise there is too much empty space and in those temperatures you simply can't warm up. It has enough space for a full down suit just in case the temperatures get wildly life threatening. On a few EXTREMELY COLD nights on Denali and when up in the high Arctic in January, I had to wear my Rab Expedition down jacket inside it for the entire night. The combo worked together brilliantly and probably saved my life. The foot compartment is spacious enough to not only allow for big down booties to be worn inside but also so that you are able to fit the many objects you need to stop from freezing during the night. I put gas canisters, my liner boots, socks, gloves, water bottle, suncream, toothpaste, batteries and pee bottle inside. Somehow the bag's space means that you can still sleep comfortable even when sleeping amongst so many uncomfortable objects!! Other great features include the awesome hood (you can pull the cord so that only your mouth is exposed to the cold air) and the fact that because it is hydrophobic down, it drys quickly.

Every morning on Denali I would wake up with ice all over the area around my mouth on the bag and once the cooker is on this ice melts and wets the bag. However time has gone by and you've packed up for the day ahead the bag has pretty much dried itself so thankfully no packing away wet. Pretty neat. 

Páramo Torres Medio Insulated Jacket (RRP: £210)

For temperatures as cold as the Arctic or high altitude mountains, this jacket acted more of a mid layer than an outer layer which is what it is ultimately designer for. I didn't take this jacket off on Denali. I slept and climbed in it. It is surprisingly breathable considering it only has the main front zip for venting. At first I wasn't sure on the fit of it as it isn't exactly athletically fitted like it's competitor jackets but instead has a long, wider cut. This actually proved very practical because when climbing with hands above my head or pulling my sled, it wouldn't ride up meaning my torso was always kept warm. The hood is great at keeping the elements out and the feel of the jacket is very cosy and comfortable providing a little bit of luxury for hard environments.

I definitely recommend this jacket but just remember to take extra layers if you are going in temperatures below -5C and for temperatures lower than -15C never forget your expedition down jacket as that is when they come into their own.

Note: It looks like the women's version of this is no longer available.

Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre 65:85 (or 75:100) Rucksack (RRP: £200)

On cold expeditions your bag needs to be able to fit a lot inside it. Usually if you're in the Arctic, Antarctic or on an Alaskan expedition you'll also have a sled behind you too but the bag will be just as important. I use this bag because of it's simplicity and comfort. It's heavier than some bags of the same size (the 65:85 comes in at 2.75kg) but this weight is due to the structure it provides. When packed well the weight is piled high rather than side to side making for more balanced weight distribution. It has a useful extendable front lid for when you are filling it to it's max but will also pack down small for lighter trips. It has two sizeable side pockets, a hip pocket on both hip straps and a front pocket which is big enough to put a map in. 

MSR Reactor with 2.5L Pot (RRP: £180)

Everyone thinks that gas doesn't work in cold temperatures and high altitudes. However if it is looked after it can out perform liquid fuel. The Reactor is so efficient that no heat is lost (a down side if you are looking to heat up the tent whilst cooking but great for saving fuel). You do need to keep the current gas warm when you are not using it so that would mean keeping it in your sleeping bag at night and wrapping it in a jumper in your bag during the day. It's a fragile stove so when not using always pack away. Even though this sounds like a lot of faff compared to liquid fuel it really isn't when you consider with liquid fuel you have to pump it, clean it and avoid getting fuel all over the tent and fingers. The Reactor us so light and fits easily in a pot. As a back up, always take another stove e.g a Pocket Rocket. 

The Fog

The Fog

It's incredibly foggy today. Not 'weather-foggy' but politically foggy. As individuals in the modern world we are weighed down by unnecessary things. Social media, political issues, media, public transport, schedules, meetings etc. 

I say this today because today we all woke up with an uncertain future. As we watch what is happening in the states, we feel helpless and disappointed with the choices of some and the fog in our heads gets thicker.

Going on expeditions clears that fog. All that useless worrying doesn't matter when you're out in the wild. To be honest, it doesn't do a lot of good worrying when in civilisation either. 

Now I have my concerns for the future, one of my biggest is the fear of stepping backwards with our progress in tackling climate change and embracing electric cars, (three hip- hip hoorays for Elon Musk) green energy like solar (again, Horray Musk) and educating people about it. However worrying won't help me, it's all about actions now. So I urge you to be rational and problem solve the things you are worrying about and to not let the modern day fog get in the way of the things that matter. Get outside into the hills and the mind will be foggy no more.

Scared of failure

Scared of failure

I am downright terrified. It's now less than two weeks until I fly out to do the Patagonia Expedition Race and I can't quite come to terms with it. It's not the race I'm nervous about. No, it's the possibility of failure, of letting my team mates down, of not going fast enough to make the check point times.

I know I can do it, I can go on and on in pain and suffering but it's whether I can do that at a pace that will get us through each round. My team are incredible and I feel honoured to have them but I do feel a huge responsibility to go much faster than my legs would like. They all seem to have an immunity when it comes to speed and endurance that I so envy.

To be honest, I'd be happy to go faster but lately, especially on the bike, I reach a point on hills where I simply cannot get the bike to move any quicker as my thighs burn to the point of exhaustion. All I can hope for is that as long as I push through, we will make the time and complete the race. My gosh, I want to complete it. All I can do is try my very best and believe in my mind as much as possible that finishing will happen and that I will achieve the impossible.

A more upbeat blog will come shortly, I just needed a little panic time.

The Trials and Tribulations of planning a trip

The Trials and Tribulations of planning a trip

Last night I had a dream that I was with Ranulph Fiennes having a long chat about what a mission in itself planning an expedition is. This chat I had with him in my dream, isn't that far fetched from when I met him the other day. Within a few short seconds of meeting Ran (in real life) he was giving me advice on life in general  and also expeditions.

If Ran still finds planning an expedition hard work even after all these years, I thought it would be something to make a point of here in this blog. Especially as most people just assume you buy some kit then get up and go. Sadly, it's not that simple.

For Patagonia, despite the actual race being organised, there has still been a surprising amount of logistics to work out. Other than the obvious, personal kit and flights, it's been quite a puzzle.

Being the Captain means I am responsible for making sure things run smoothly right up until the start line (then it's all for one and one for all). There is so much paper work that I have to get from every team member which includes medical certificates, first aid qualifications, kayaking certificates, insurance details  and more. Trying to organise that with four very busy people can be quite time consuming.

On top of that, you've got the biggest kit list I have ever seen. Now, I used to think that the Arctic was bad for kit, but at least that was one, maybe two disciplines rather than four like this one. Patagonia is a mixture of hiking, climbing, sea kayaking and mountain biking. Then there's the safety equipment e.g. sat phones and radios. The only way you can do this affordably is to hire the expensive items like sat phones, call in favours and figure out deals for specialised items like the bikes. We are lucky enough to be working with Beacon bikes who are designing our brand new bikes for us - Thanks Beacon!

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Sometimes with the really important gear you just have to bite the bullet and spend the money. At the end of the day, it's worth going for the jacket that you know will be 100% waterproof but is £100 more than another or, you're holding off buying items because you might (just might) be able to get them at a discounted rate... When it really comes down to it, the gear is what could save your life and in order to know that the gear works, you have to test the hell out of it, so don't wait around too long.

Luggage is a pain too. It's the little things that add up and cost money. We have a lot of gear and will have to book more bags on the flight. As well as this, the complicated bit comes after the race.. Myself and another team member are staying on to explore more of Chile and then Argentina with a little mountaineering in there too. Yet we'll need to ship race bags back to the UK... All things to consider when planning adventures.

Getting the word out is something to take note of too. For the last three months, I've been meeting with various well known explorers to let them know about the trip and about our team. The Royal Geographical Society have been wonderful too. A big shout out to Shane Winser for helping us with stalls at the Explore 2015 weekend (a great event that anyone interested in adventure, expeditions and fieldwork should go to). The benefit of doing all of this is really so that when we return, we will have a take off point and be able to take what we learnt from the trip, further.

So there's a snap shot of logistic planning for this trip.. I do spend a surprising amount of time at my laptop when in pre-expedition mode. Yet, as any 'adventurer' will tell you, it's all part of the fun and gets the excitement going!

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