Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Final Gear Review

After completing Te Araroa I believe I have given my gear a thorough test in a wide range of conditions.

On the whole I was very happy with my gear choices, even after looking over the gear other people were using I do not recall a single occurance when I thought "I wish I had that" when looking at other people's gear. My base weight ended up at 6,564 grams. From my original list I removed my umbrella (too windy), 1 L water bottle, and Kindle (not reading much).

Pack – Zpacks Arc Blast 60l
Rating: 9/10
Good: Light, great design, comfortable
Bad: Hip Pocket elastic attachment and zip issues, though after initial repairs still going strong
Description: The pack is 60 litres constructed from tough 2.92 oz/sqyd Cuben Hybrid fabric. This material is Cuben Fiber on the inside with a protective layer of 50 denier Polyester on the outside. The outer layer gives it even more strength, prevents fraying, and gives it a nice solid colour. The material and design can handle loads up to 30 lbs (14 kg). The seams are taped water tight and there are a variety of color choices. Flexed Arc carbon fiber frame creates an air gap against your back. The air space keeps your back cool and also provides a buffer from any lumpy items in your pack. It has roll top closure on the main pouch, side pockets, front mesh pocket and 2 hip pockets. Modifications requested; hydration port removed, stabiliser straps added, hip pocket x 2, trekking pole holders added.

Weight – 591 (includes all the extra things I ordered and heavier hip pockets due to using two sided Velcro to replace elastic during the tramp.
Durability. I was a little concerned if it would be tough enough for NZ trails, or rather lack of trails, thick bush and multitude of prickly plants. Apart from the unfortunate sewing error on the shoulder strap (see gear review posted 21 Nov, my repair held perfectly) the pack itself has survived well and has no sign of wear on the main part of the pack. I am now fully confident in the durability of this pack in New Zealand Tramping conditions which means it will last most other long distance trails easily.
The bottom of the pack picked up a couple of tiny holes which at the 2 ½ month mark effected the waterproofness when putting down on wet surfaces but applying some Cubin Fibre Repair tape fixed this. On the last river crossing on day 113 despite me crossing up to my hips and then hopping back in a few times for photos the pack stayed dry. The remainder of the pack showed no sign of wear and remained 100% waterproof even in heavy and sustained rain. I never had to worry when it rained about my gear getting wet.
The colour faded very slightly but this was only a cosmetic effect that you had to look closely to notice.
The front mesh pocket picked up one tiny tear that did not get bigger. The elasticity remained excellent and after stretching it with a big load it would spring back.
Shoulder Straps. After 3 ½ months the foam compressed a little meaning the comfort was not as great.
Hip Pockets. These were the items I had the most issue with. They are attached to the back by two elastic attachments each side and an elastic strap around the Hip Belt. The elastic strap snapped in the Richmond Ranges and I used string to support the Hip Pocket until I got to Methvin and replaced the elastic strap with Velcro (for lack of proper web strap). This repair held strongly and actually was an improvement in holding the Hip Pocket firmer against the Hip Strap. The Hip Pockets remained waterproof in all rain which was fantastic. They were not waterproof for full submersion but I didn’t expect them to be. In the very last week one of the Zips started playing up. This is the one that I kept my camera in so I opened and closed much more than usual. I estimate it was at least 2,000 times opening and closing so I am actually not surprised there was an issue. The other pocket is still going well and I estimate it was opened 1200 times.
Overall this pack was very comfortable and well designed. I loved this pack and even after comparing with the myriad of different packs other Te Araroa Trampers were using I think this was the best one. When I do another long tramp I will be using this pack and I am using it for climbing Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro in a few weeks.
Up until 3 months the shoulder straps were very comfortable despite their minimalist design. At this stage I did notice a little compression in the foam on the straps and I did notice them more than before as the weight was now distributed on the 1 inch web rather than wider foam but they were still not too uncomfortable. I considered taping some foam on them but in the end didn’t feel the need.
The Hipbelt was comfortable throughout though I should have got a smaller size as when I lost so much weight it didn’t have much room left to tighten. Several people commented that it could not possibly be comfortable as it was minimalist but I actually preferred it to the overpadded belts in many of the packs.
Weight Distribution. I found it very easy to adjust the weight between my hips and shoulders until I lost weight and for the last month I had to cinch the hip belt tighter to keep the weight off my shoulders. I would definitely recommend getting the lumbar pad which is an optional extra.
I didn’t use the mesh back panel (kept forgetting to bend the carbon frame to create the airflow gap) but found it comfortable anyway.
I loved having a frame as it made it easier to load in the mornings and I think helped with the weight distribution.
Side Pockets. Fantastic. The size was great and you would be able to fit a Nagalene Bottle comfortably if needed. I kept a variety of things in these and the pockets were easy to reach while wearing the pack. The tops of the pockets were elastic and this shrunk back to normal after being stretched for long periods.
Mesh Front Pocket. I was not sure on how useful this would be at the start but converted to loving this. Most of the time I kept my rain gear, Sun Hat and 2 litre water bottle in this. I also used it for food I did not want to get squashed. It was great having so much room available as it stretched out when I needed to stuff more things in it but was flat when empty. I was not sure of the strength of the mesh but in the end was happy putting my full 2 litre water bottle in there along with the normal things and it was fine.
Main Compartment. Good size for what I needed. Even with 10 days food I still had a little room. When carrying less the side compression string easily reduced the size. I am glad I went for the 60 litre pack and not the smaller one as it just gave more flexibility and given how similar the weights were it was nice to know I could fit more if needed. Roll Top Closure was another area I was concerned about whether I would like but it was fine. I especially came to appreciate the Velcro closure as it made rolling it easy. As I only went into my pack at lunchtime and when arriving in camp it was not an issue and it was actually easy to open and close quickly and with cold numbed hands.
Hip Pockets. I loved these and would not consider a pack without these in the future. In the left one I kept my; maps, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, wallet, camera mount and snacks. In the right one I kept my; Personal Locator Beacon (except when doing river crossings when it was around my neck), notepaper, pencil, Phone, pocket knife and camera. These were the perfect size to fit everything I needed handy without getting in the way. They never got in the way when walking with and without poles or rock climbing.

UPDATE 2017. This pack is still in excellent condition and I would be confident doing another thru hike with it. Since Te Araroa I have used this pack for Mt Kenya, Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Stanley (the hardest hike I have done in a long time), Bhutan, the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia and Dusky track in NZ.

Tent – Zpacks Solo Hexamid
Rating: 10/10
Good: Light, easy to put up, waterproof, roomy (for me 165cm tall).
Bad: Nil
Weight: 539 g (includes tent which I ordered in the thicker 0.74 oz/sqyd, stuff sack, 4 v stake pegs, 6 sheperd pegs)
Description: The outer is constructed from 0.51 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber (optional in thicker 0.74 oz/sqyd), with inner of 0.7 oz ultralight insect netting. The 8 inch (20 cm) bathtub floor is made from thicker 1.0 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber. Cuben Fiber is made from Spectra threads which do not stretch, allowing the tarp to stay taut all night. The tent uses two walking poles to erect. A Rainbow zipper allows you to get in our out the left or right side of the tent and gives you access to the vestibule area. The doorway is tall for easy entry. You can close either the left or right storm door depending on the wind and rain.
 The outer overhangs the bathtub floor by 4-5 inches (12 cm). In calm rain or under wet trees one or both doors can be left open for air flow without water dripping on the floor space. In almost all conditions at least one door can be left open for air
Outer Dimensions:
Peak Height: 48" (122 cm)                      Rear Peak Height: 32" (81 cm)
Ridgeline Width: 37" (94 cm)                 Width including vestibules: 61" (155 cm)
Front Vestibule space: 20.75" depth. (53 cm)      Length: 100" (254 cm)
Inner Dimensions:
Peak Height: 48" (122 cm)                      Rear Peak Height: 32" (81 cm)
Floor Width: 30" (76 cm)                        Floor Length: 7.5 feet (2.3 meters)
Zipper entry height: 36" (91 cm
Closed tent

Tent fully set up. 
(Note the groundsheet does not indicate the size of the vestibule, this is actually much larger in a line from the tent corner to the front guy)

Durability: Zero sign of wear, no holes, no rips, no stretching, zip perfect. (Note I did use a ground sheet).
Design: Fantastic. Of all the tents I saw I still think this is the best design. It is generous in size and easy to put up. The few times I camped with other people my tent was up in a fraction of the time it took them. Even in high winds and rain it was easy to put up without getting wet. I could put the tent up in just over 1 minute. The one issue is like all non self supporting tents you need ground that will take your pegs and once I failed to put the tent up because the ground was too hard. I carried a combination of pegs, 4 v pegs (same design as a snow stake) which used the majority of the time for the 4 main guys. I carried 6 shepherd stakes which were used for the less important guys and for the main ones in harder ground. The tent requires 6 pegs at minimum but 8 is better.
The rainbow zip in the inner was fantastic and made it easy to sit in the doorway.
The outer closure system initially had me concerned as it is clipping the two flaps to a carabina and they cross over rather than zipping. After rain and wind I was fully confident in the closure system and found it easy to use. Most of the time I kept one flap open and loved being able to look up at the stars as I lay there.
The vestibule was roomy. My pack and shoes sat on one side and the other side was used for cooking
The height of the tent was great and I was able to sit up with heaps of head room.
The width and length was perfect for me. The width allowed my mattress with about 10-15 cm either side. The length allowed me to lye fully stretched out and have all of my gear above my head. I generally fully emptied my pack every night into my tent.
Condensation. This is a single wall tent and such prone to condensation but I was pleasantly surprised how few times I got condensation. There were many times where all the other tents suffered condensation when I didn’t. This is probably due to the ventilation within the tent. The edges are 10-20 cm off the ground which allows good airflow though in really bad conditions you could drop this to ground level which I did once with one end. I prefer to camp in trees which reduces condensation issues. The bathtub floor is high enough that rain does not bounce up and wet the inside of the tent
The great thing is because cubin fibre doesn't absorb water I just wipe the tent with a cloth and it is dry.  This benefit means after rain I just shake the tent and all the water flies off.  The remaining moisture dries really quickly.  Because it does not absorb water it is not heavier to carry after rain like other tents.  Also I don't need to worry about touching the tent walls when it is raining as the water does not sink through. The final benefit is cubin fibre dies not stretch so there is no sag sitting the night or with heavy rain.
Overall I found this a fantastic tent that I had full confidence in. I loved sitting inside listening to the rain outside knowing I would stay dry. I loved how easy it was to put up and how light it was.

UPDATE 2017. This tent is still in excellent condition and I would be confident doing another thru hike with it. Since Te Araroa I have used this tent for Rwanda and Dusky track in NZ. I will probably send for the upgrade by Zpacks to change the tent flap connection to the new hooks and convert to allow the self supporting poles which they are now offering.

Groundsheet – Window Insulation Film
Rating: 10/10
Good: Light, strong, waterproof
Bad: nil
Weight: 31 g
Description: Window Insulation Film which is a clear lightweight plastic (Polycro) that is really tough and puncture resistant. Sold in New Zealand in all Hardware stores for $25-30. The length was perfect for my tent and I cut to fit the tent floor + 30 cm for the vestibule.
Comments: This is the first time I have used a groundsheet for a tent and the first time I have used Polycro. I was very impressed with how durable this material was. It looks like flimsy plastic but took a lot of abuse. I once set up in an area that had lots of old blackberry and saw the thorns trying to pierce the polycro without success. Because of my confidence in this material I was not fussy where I put my tent up and it opened a wider range of options for my campsites.
The key reason I went with a groundsheet was to be able to pack my tent up with the bottom dry and clean. This reduces abrasion on the tent floor as you are not rolling it tightly with sticks and dirt. This Window Insulation Film exceeded my expectation and I will be using it in the future. I am even taking one traveling with me as a way to keep my sleeping bag clean if forced to camp on dirty ground/mattresses or places that might have bed bugs.

UPDATE 2017. I am still using the same groundsheet and have used this while travelling when in dodgy places that I want protection from the dirt and potential bed bugs in low budget accommodation. 

Sleeping Bag – Zpacks 5’9” Medium Width 900 Water Repellent Down
Rating: 7/10
Good: Comfortable, durable, custom size
Bad: Not as warm as expected (possibly due to clumping down)
Weight: 531 g (including cubin fibre dry bag stuff sack)
Description: ZPacks 5.9" normal width -7degree 900 fill water repellent down. Outer Shell Material: Green .75 oz/sqyd (25.4 g/m2) Pertex GL Ripstop Nylon. Inner Liner Material: Black .75 oz/sqyd (25.4 g/m2) Pertex GL. Baffle Material: .34 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber. Fill Material: 900 Fill Power Premium Goose Down

Clip to stop zip opening accidentally

Comments: This was a well designed bag that I found comfortable and versatile. It had a ¾ zip which I was not 100% sure about at the start but I actually liked this. I ended up having the zip open everytime I was in my tent. I would have my feet in the bag and the bag draped over me while I slept on the mattress in my sleeping bag liner. I found this worked well when it was hot as I could easily get airflow and in the cold I could shake all the feathers over top of me and tuck the sides under the mattress.
I liked the clip at the top of the bag to stop potential zip opening during the night if I had it zipped up. The drawcord at the top was easy to use.
This bag does not have a hood which I have never been without in a sleeping bag but I never missed it. When it was hot it was nice not having the extra warmth at my head. When it was cold I was curled into a ball and had heaps of extra space to pull the bag over my head. I purchased a down hood in case it got cold but did not use it. A couple of nights I kept my hat on which was sufficient.
My only issue with the bag was it was not as warm as I thought it would be and did not loft as much as I expected. There was a couple of nights where the temperature dropped significantly and I was not warm. I had to put a top and socks on to keep at a comfortable temperature. I contacted Z Packs about this and they explained they had found the water repellent down had a tendency to clump which affects the loft of the down and they had stopped using it. I compared my bag to someone who had a non water repellent down and their bag was fantastic and really lofting. In Zpacks usual excellent customer service they offered to replace my bag and gave some options to fix the issue in the short term. I found if I shook the bag I got a little more loft and once I started thinking about down distribution I was able to move the down around to the areas I wanted it. The down did tend to collect near the zip so needed to be shaken into the middle.
Overall I was happy with the bag design and comfort but not with the lofting.

UPDATE 2017.  At the end of my TA thru hike I gave the sleeping bag a much deserved wash and it lofted much better after this. It is still in excellent condition and I would be confident doing another thru hike with it. Since Te Araroa I have used this bag for Mt Kenya, Mt Stanley (the hardest hike I have done in a long time), Mt Nyiragongo in DR Congo, Bhutan, Oman,  Turnmenistan, Azerbijan, Georgia, the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, Dusky track in NZ and Iceland.

Mattress – Thermarest Neo Air XLite Womens
Rating: 10/10
Good: Comfortable, light, roomy
Bad: Nil
Weight: 348 g
Mattress packed up

Mattress in use

Comments: I loved this mattress. I have only used a self inflating Thermarest and close cell foam pad in the past and this mattress was pure luxury compared to these. I initially inflated the mattress too much but once I learnt how much air to put in I found this mattress very comfortable. It was great not having to be too concerned with rocks or branches underneath that I missed as it was thick enough that I did not feel these.
The bag was very easy to pack away. As I was waking up I undid the valve and my bodyweight pushed the air out and it was easy to then fold lengthwise and roll up to the same small size everytime.  As I was trying to keep condensation out of the bag to extend its life I used the plastic bag method to inflate it which I found easy, especially when I was tired.
The size was perfect for me. I stuck on two loops to the top which I used to attach my pillow.

UPDATE 2017. This mattress is still in excellent condition with no sign of mold thanks to my plastic bag inflation system.I would be confident doing another thru hike with it. Since Te Araroa I have used this mattress for Mt Kenya, Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Stanley (the hardest hike I have done in a long time), Mt Nyiragongo in DR Congo, Bhutan, Oman,  Turnmenistan, Azerbijan, Georgia, the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia, Dusky track in NZ and Iceland.

Pillow – Exped UL size M
Rating: 10/10
Good: Size, ease of inflation and deflation, weight
Bad: Nil.
Weight: 48g
Description: Mouth inflated blow up Pillow made of 20 D Polyester, TPU Polyether Film Laminate, Hydrolysis resistant, Honeycomb embossed



Comments: Loved it, gave a more comfortable nights sleep. Easy to inflate, deflate and fold up. No pouch needed as I kept it in my mattress stuff sack.

UPDATE 2017. This pillowis still in excellent condition, with only slight mold discolouration and I would be confident doing another thru hike with it. Since Te Araroa I have used this pillowfor Mt Kenya, Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Stanley (the hardest hike I have done in a long time), Mt Nyiragongo in DR Congo, Bhutan, Oman,  Turnmenistan, Azerbijan, Georgia, the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia,  Dusky track in NZ and Iceland.

Hiking Poles - Black Diamond Pro Trek Women.  
Rating: 9/10
Good: Comfortable, never failed me
Bad: Wrist Strap stitching gave way.
Weight: 490g for pair
Comments: Love these poles.  They have not slipped/collapsed once and are easy to extend/retract which I do every night to get them ready for use as tent poles.  The handles are comfortable and the straps comfortable.  These are an extension of me when walking.  Going up hills they help to haul me up the hills.  Going down they take a large portion of my weight to save my knees.  On the flat they help propel me along. Without my poles I would have fallen numerous times. I was impressed with the strength. In Tongariro National Park heading to Whakapapa I slipped and started sliding/falling down a 1.5 meter bank with my legs caught up. My pole caught in a root and held my weight for the few seconds needed to get my legs underneath me and land without hurting myself. The middle section of the pole bent slightly but did not snap which I was surprised and pleased about.
They fill several uses; Walking Pole, Tent Pole, Camera Mount, back scratcher, mud/puddle depth guage, aggression defuser, dog toy (my parents puppy loved chasing the tip).

Wrist Strap at the end

The other wrist strap at the end
UPDATE 2017. These poles are still in excellent condition, less the strap which I had to sew up after TA hike and then replaced with new ones. I would be confident doing another thru hike with them. Since Te Araroa I have used this the poles for Mt Kenya, Mt Kilimanjaro, Mt Stanley (the hardest hike I have done in a long time), Mt Nyiragongo in DR Congo, Bhutan, Simien Mountains in Ethiopia and Dusky track in NZ.

 (Photo still coming of full poles)
Stove - MSR Pocket Rocket
Rating: 10/10
Good: Light, easy to use, reliable
Bad: Nil
Weight: 127 g (includes stove, lighter and container)
Stove, lighter and container
Easy to use and fast.  Love it. Very economical in gas usage. I used one gas cylinder per month but I only fully used one cylinder and the rest still had ¼ to half left but were swapped to ensure full cylinder for next section.
I really liked the Petzo  lighter that came with it. No matches needed, just click black button and the spark at the end lights the gas.

Pot - Evernew Titanium 900ml
Rating: 10/10
Good: Good size, durable, light
Bad: Pot lid fitting not perfect
Weight: 109g

Comments: Great.  Perfect size for me. Handles stable and don't heat up. Love the measurement marks. Love that you can pour water with the lid still on due to pour spout. No dents or signs of use after 4 months continuous use.

Spoon – Toaks Titanium Short Handle
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 9 g
Comments: Good, Short handle worked ok. Strong and light.

Cup - Vargo Titanium Travel Mug 450ml
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 58g
Comments: Great. Nice size for soup and tea. Handles comfortable and did not heat up with hot water in the cup.

Drybags – Zpacks Cubin Fibre size Medium
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 26g
Description: These stuff sacks are sewn "envelope" style with a taped seam down the side and across the bottom. The top of the bags roll down and clip together to keep out water. The roll top can also be used to compress the contents. Constructed from black 1.0 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber material. By comparison our regular stuff sacks are made from thinner .51 oz/sqyd material. Fully taped / waterproof seams. The top of the bags seal with stiff velcro to make closing and rolling the top easy.  Flat Dimensions: 10.5" wide x 19" tall (26.5 cm x 48 cm). Full Dimensions: roughly 6" diameter by 12" tall (15 cm x 30.5 cm). 340 cubic inches / 5.6 Liters.

Comments: These dry bags were fantastic and showed no sign of wear despite being opened and closed every day. I used one for my sleeping bag and one for my clothes. I loved the Velcro closure as this made rolling them much easier than previous roll bags I have used where I had to concentrate to make sure the top was lined up before rolling. I didn’t test the waterproofness while on the trail as my pack didn’t leak but pre trail I did some vigorous testing in tubs of water and they were waterproof.

Food Bag – Zpacks Cubin Fibre Roll Top Blast Food Bag
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 40g
(Photo courtesy of ZPacks website
Description: This stuff sack is made with thicker 1.43 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber fabric. The thicker material can stand up to the abuse of pointy food items and hanging heavy food to protect from the mice and possums. Flat Dimensions: 16" wide x 20" tall (40.5 cm x 51 cm)
Full Dimensions: 11" wide by 5.5" deep by 12.5" tall (28 cm x 14 cm x 32 cm)
750 cubic inches / 12.3 Liters

Comments: I loved this bag. It held all of my food and was plenty big enough for this. At nights I would hang this bag out of reach of the mice.

Water Filter – Sawyer Mini
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 54g
Good: Size, ease of use
Bad: Nil
Description: The Sawyer MINI Water Filter is rated to 0.1 micron absolute, weighs only 2 ounces, and filters up to 100,000 gallons. The MINI can be attached to the included collapsible drinking pouch, inline on a hydration pack, on a standard soda bottle. The MINI removes 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli; removes 99.9999% of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium

Wear on bottle used for dirty water

Dirty Water Bottle rolled up
Comments: I loved how easy this filter was to use and after reading some of the scientific tests have confidence in the filter. Simply fill up Dirty Water Bottle. I used the provided 500ml collapsible water bottle the whole time and it wasted though is starting to show some wear. Screw this to the Sawyer Filter and squeeze into clean water bottle. It took between 1 - 2 minutes to squeeze 500ml.

Water bottles – 2 x Platypus 500ml with sports top and Platypus 2 litre with normal top
Rating: 10/10
Weight: each 500ml bottle 25g, 2 litre 39g
Description: Collapsable plastic water bottle.
500 ml bottle

2 litre bottle folded up

Comments: I was surprised how durable these bottles were as I was expecting to have to replace them. I had the two 500 ml bottles attached to my shoulder straps so they were exposed to the sun, rain, bush etc. The 2 litre bottle was folded into 3 and stuffed into my front pouch until just before camping when it was filled up. It also has no sign of use.

Torch – Petzl Elite + Headtorch
Rating: 10/10
Good: Light, wide range of functions, good battery life
Bad: Nil
Weight: 29 g

Comments: I have had this torch for 9 years now and have used it in all sorts of conditions with the most brutal being during Adventure Racing. It is an LED headtorch but has a belt clip which I use to attach it to my pack when on the roads. It has a strobe function (red and white options) which I use for visibility on the roads. I use the red light at night as it reduces the glare when looking at maps and white when walking. The battery lasted the entire walk. The headband tightener is also a whistle so you don’t need to carry a separate whistle.

Phone – Samsung S3 Mini
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 112 g
Good: Reliable, easy to use
Bad: Not waterproof but the case I used was
Comments: Good phone that did everything I needed. I put a 128 gb micro SD card in so I could back up all of my photos onto my phone and had all of my files and maps. The battery lasted well though I kept it on flight mode unless using the GPS. As a backup I took 2 spare batteries.

Panasonic Image Application. Allowed me to connect to my camera by WiFi to transfer images and control my camera from a distance.
NZ Tides. Invaluable for the North Island. Does not need connection to work.
ViewRanger. Purchased NZ Topo Maps for this and loaded the TA track to overlay the maps. It was fantastic to be able to zoom into quality maps for more detail than my printed maps. Also a more recent version of maps than the TA maps. This was my GPS for the walk and while a little slower to get a fix than a dedicated GPS in the bush was fast to get a fix in the open. I compared theaccuracy by running a GPS and this side by side before I left and it was accurate. This application also let me upload my location which others could view on the ViewRanger webpage but I did need connection for this function to work.
Photoczip. Compression software that from my files let me compress 99 pictures at a time, when picture open in Gallery or unlimited numbers directly from the Photoczip application. Simple and easy to use.

Camera – Panasonic Lumix TS5 Waterproof and Shockproof
Rating: 9/10
Weight: - 214 g
Good: Tough, easy to use, good battery life, great photos, wifi to transfer photos or use mobile phone as remote.
Bad: Heavier than other cameras
Description: 16.1 MP, waterproof to 13 meters, shockproof to 2 meters
Comments: I have had this camera for a year and it has performed well in a wide range of conditions from dust storms, desert sand, mud, water, scuba diving to 11 meters. I love it as I don’t need to think about anything but point and shoot and it takes great photos. Because it is waterproof and dustproof I am able to take photos regardless of the conditions. It is easy to transfer photos to my mobile phone and a couple of times the self timer 10 seconds option was too short so I remoted the camera to my phone using the wifi option and zoomed and clicked the photo using my phone from a distance of 10 meters. All the photos you can see on this blog were taken with this camera.

UPDATE 2017. This phone is still in excellent condition and I would be confident doing another thru hike with it. Since Te Araroa I have used this as my primary camera pack while travelling in 21 countries and it still takes excellent phontos.  
 Shoes – Innov8 Rocklite 295
Rating: 9/10
Good: Light, comfortable
Bad: Not much cushioning, wearspots need protection
Description: Lightweight trail shoes. Footbed: 6mm, Drop: 6mm, Stack: Heel 13mm / Forefoot 7mm,
Inov8 Rocklite 295.  On the tracks I love these shoes.  They are light and have excellent grip in all conditions; mud, long grass, wet rocks etc.  I found them comfortable right from the start and survived 90 Mile Beach with only a tiny pre blister which I got on the last day when I didn't empty the sand from my socks after a river crossing.

I wore them for the first 600km to Auckland but made the decision to swap them as they did not have much cushioning and I knew there was a lot of roads coming up. They developed small holes as seen in this photograph.
In Palmerston North I went back to these shoes as there was less road walking. I was now using the SIDAS Innersoles and found them fine for road walking now with this increased cushioning. On arrival in Wellington 200km later there was slight holes in the same place so I took them to Bivouac and they would not replace them saying it was not normal use on TA but would send them to Innov8 for decision if I wanted full replacement. They did offer 50% discount on a new pair so I decided to use a new pair for South Island and have these as my back up. I reinforced the new and old ones in the wear spots with shoe glue and this solved their durability issues. The new pair lasted 1200 km, with some minor repairs.
I would recommend these shoes for Te Araroa with the addition of cushioned innersoles.
Holes at end of 600km in Auckland

Shoe Glue reinforcing which stopped the holes like the above photo.

Shoes – Solomon XA Pro 3D Trail Running Shoes
Rating: 5/10
Good: Comfortable
Bad: Innersoles lasted 3 days, 200 km holes appeared, 400 km upper completely ripped
Solomons prior to ripping
The start of the holes.

Comments: I purchased these shoes in Auckland as they are more cushioned and I thought they would be more comfortable for the road walking. They were comfortable and the very first day I walked 46 km with no blisters or discomfort. I did find I was scuffing my feet as they were heavier and had more heel drop. On the third day they got wet in long grass and the innersoles scrunched up and became unwearable. Holes appeared in the uppers after only 200 km which got bigger and bigger. When the holes were bigger I started to get a blister as the fit of the shoe changed. This issue with the uppers ripping is not isolated to just me. I met several other people wearing the same shoes and they all had the same issues with some of the shoes ripped across from one side to the other.
I would not recommend these shoes for Te Araroa as they are just not durable enough.

Socks – Ice Breaker Hike+ Lite Mini Merino
Rating: 8/10
Good: Anatomical fit (Left and Right socks), comfortable, quick dry, temperature regulation, no smell.
Bad: Lasted 600-1000 km
Comments: I loved these socks. They were super comfortable (as long as you put them on the right foot) and I found my feet felt dry within 5 minutes of a river crossing. My feet also did not feel hot or cold so I assume the socks did their job. The key thing is they did not stink.
They did get holes but in different places with different shoe and innersole combinations. However these socks have a lifetime warranty so I went through 4 socks for the price of 1.
(Photo still coming)
Shorts – Colombia (model unknown)
Rating: 10/10
Comments: I have had these shorts for years and they are very durable. They lasted with almost no further signs of wear except a hole in the pocket where my knife sat.

Undies – Icebreaker Merino Siren
Rating: 10/10
Comments: Fantastic undies, comfortable, quick drying, non smelly. I wore the same undies for the first 3 months until I lost so much weight they no longer fitted. They had a tiny hole picked up in a washing machine early on which never got bigger.

Bra - Icebreaker Merino Sprite Racerback
Rating: 10/10
Comments: Fantastic bra, comfortable to wear and comfortable with pack on, quick drying, non smelly. It fitted even after I lost my weight.

Gaiters - Dirty Girl
Rating: 10/10
Comments: These were fantastic. I wanted something to stop stones and leaves getting into my shoes but did not want heavy gaiters. These achieved the job. They were breathable and I barely noticed I was wearing them. They dried quickly. 
They hook onto the front of my laces and to a strip of velcro attached to the back of my shoe. The advantage of this attachment system was no string under the shoes which always seem to wear through quickly. I initially had some issues with getting the velcro on the shoe to stay attached when going through continuous water and mud so I ended up gluing it to my shoes with shoe glue and they stayed firmly for the remainder of the walk.
I liked that I was able to choose my own fabric from a huge range of patterns and they were cheap.
I strongly recommend these.

Gaiters in use

Down Jacket – Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Womens
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 180 g
Good: Light, compact, warm
Bad: nil
Comments: This was a fantastic jacket and was worn a lot. It packed down into its own pocket so I did not need to worry about losing the stuff sack. It was incredibly light and I was worried that it would not be warm enough but it was incredibly warm and I was not cold in it once it was zipped up and given a couple of minutes to finish lofting up. It uses 850 fill water resistant down and it was rained on once and the water just brushed off the outer without soaking through. I got a Mens size small as I find a lot of American female clothing is too tight across the shoulders for me and this fit was perfect. The jacket still looks brand new.

Top - Icebreaker Merino GT Flash Long Sleeved Half Zip
Rating: 10/10
Description:  Zip at collar for temperature regulation; Eyelet mesh at chest and back panels for maximum breathability; Anti-chafe free seams; Secure back stash pocket
Comments: Icebreaker Merino GT long sleeve with stand up collar (like cycling Jersey). I love this top. I initially wanted a short sleeve top but am happy I now got the long sleeve as it gives me more flexibility for temperature control.  The zip at the front helps with this too.  I like the standpoint collar for the sun protection it gives my neck.  The top dries really quickly and wicks away moisture nicely. out is also doing a good job with smell management. Unfortunately this photo does not show the colour well but just look through my other blog photos to see the colour accurately.

Thermal Top - Express Long Sleeve Half Zip  
not worn

Wet Weather Jacket – Zpacks Cubin Fibre Challenger Jacket
Rating: 8/10
Good: Light, comfortable, good ventilation
Bad: Zip Leaked slightly
Description: Constructed from 1.62 oz/sqyd Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber material. The material is a three layer laminate consisting of an eVent membrane on the inside, Spectra fibers in the center, and a thin layer of nylon on the outside. It is thick enough to withstand light brush and abrasion from your backpack. It has a full length water proof front zipper, chest pocket, adjustable elastic at the waist, cuffs, and hood. Fitted Hood with stiffened visor keeps water off your face. A small strap on the back of the hood allows you to make vertical adjustment to keep the visor out of your eyes. Packs up a little bit smaller than a soda can. Roll the jacket up and secure it with the waist elastic. No stuff sack necessary.
Weight: 165 g
Comments: I ordered this jacket with pit zips, no chest pocket, no strap on the back of the hood and requested the cinch on the wrist was moved to the outside of the wrist.
I really like this Jacket and will be sticking with it. It was super light, packed up very small and was comfortable to wear. Next time I would request it a bit longer to provide more coverage for my shorts and request a 2 way zip. This would fix the issue of it being a little tight at the bottom.
The Jacket remained waterproof except in some conditions I found my stomach and under arm were wet. This confounded me until I figured out the stomach was leaking where the waterproof zip was bent. As it was a little tight around my hips I had to fold the front up and this caused a bend in the zip. Twice it leaked a little bit on the right side at the bottom of the pitzip.
I wore this jacket in some pretty torrential rain, often where I was fighting through close vegetation. 95% of the time I remained perfectly dry and the 5% it was a small patch at my stomach and 1% of the time a small patch on my right hip. There were several days where on arrival at the hut I removed the jacket to be perfectly dry as those with heavy weight Gortex Jackets were soaking wet.
The white inside of the jacket did get discoloured at the back of the neck, where my pack shoulderstraps went and the bottom of the arm but this did not effect the waterproofness and nothing showed on the outside.
I found the jacket breathed well and the pit zips were great to allow greater ventilation.
I always wear a baseball cap in rain and the hood fitted perfectly over this when I folded the stiffer visor.
I used the jacket when it was windy and it was great as a windshield and I did not overheat when wearing it. I also used it on cold mornings and it was enough to take the chill off.
New Zealand is a wet and windy country and it rains a lot so a good Waterproof Jacket is essential. I was very happy with this jacket and will continue to use it as my main tramping jacket.

Sleeves down if it was cold. Hood always went over my hat
Most of the time I had my sleeves up.

Wet Weather Pants - ZPacks Cubin Fibre Challenger Pants
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 106g
Comments: I only used these once when doing the Tongariro Crossing in rain and wind. They were comfortable to wear and stayed waterproof the entire day which was terrible weather and heavy wind driven rain.

Wet Weather Gloves - ZPacks Cubin Fibre Challenger Rain Mitts
Rating: 4/10
Weight: 28g
Comments: I only used these twice, once in the wet and once just as wind protection. They block the wind well but leaked after 30 minutes of heavy rain.
They fitted well for my hands but a man may find them a little small. I used them with my walking poles and they were comfortable. They were easy to put on.
(Photo still coming)

Rain Skirt – Black Rubbish Sack
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 28g
Comments: This was fantastic and I wish I had used this previously when tramping. In summer it is too hot to wear wet weather pants but I don’t like wet shorts and undies. I cut the bottom of the rubbish sack off at knee length. The rain skirt can be stepped into or pulled over the head. I would pull the drawcord around my waist and tie off in a slip knot. It didn’t matter that this was not a breathable material as there was sufficient ventilation from underneath. I used the same rubbish bag the entire trip which solves the questions I had about durability. It got 2 small rips which I fixed with repair tape.
It worked fantastically keeping my shorts dry except when walking in long grass where the water would flick up wetting the bottom of my shorts.
Loving my Rain Skirt

Red Drawstring just in sight

 Camera Mount – Generic Mountain Bike Handlebar Camera Mount
Rating: 10/10
Weight: 23 g
Good: Versatile, light
Bad: Nil
Comments: I adapted a mountain bike swivel camera mount by Chipping of the strap and some of the mount.  This has left me with a very light swivel mount that I attach with Velcro.  I attach on top of my pole to use as a tripod and I can attach to the bottom of my trekking pole to take selfies.
Velcro and mount

Mount packed up

Mount fitted to trekking pole


  1. please tell us more about your plastic bag method for inflating your NeoAir mattress?

  2. Preparation. I cut a hole in the bottom corner of a kitchen tidy sack. I then put a rubber band (wound a couple of times until it is firm) over the mattress valve. I pull the hole in the plastic bag over the opened mattress valve and pull the rubber band over the plastic bag to hold it in place.
    Filling Process. Open the top of the plastic bag and flap to fill the bag full of air then pull the top together. Keeping the top together with one hand I then use my arm and the other hand to squeeze the air trapped in the bag into the mattress. Repeat until the mattress is fully inflated. I overinflated slightly as by the time I removed the plastic bag and tightened the valve it was now at the perfect pressure for me.

    1. sounds like a great idea..thanks. I will try it with my new Neo Air. I have really enjoyed your whole blog..and your posts re gear and stats....

  3. Thanks a LOT for your inspiring, encouraging and helpful blog! (Especially as TA-wiki doesn’t work for some reason, hopefully this is only temporarily technical problem and will be fixed soon.)
    I’m preparing for 2015-16 season, so some questions... I have been reading lots of TA-material but it hasn't helped. I wish you have time and patience :-)

    1. Could you clarify about your Livon8-shoes and this glue-thing, I didn’t get it: is it your recommendation that it is wise to add glue already when taking the shoes into use, before any tiny holes? That glue works as an extra protect layer on the shoe on those parts that don’t have any extra cover? I’ve never used this kind of glue to repair my shoes, so I have no idea how what will work.

    2. And as I don’t know of Inov-8 roclite shoes: many NZ-people who do long-distance, use this 295 model, right? Last summer I walked JMT with Salomon XA Pro 3D, liked them a lot, but as you said, that terrain is totally different from NZ. (In Finland where I live, the stores don’t have Inov-shoes, so I have to order on-line. It’s possible to return, but not compare them easily. I will test one pair on a short hike at home, but then the terrain is different from AT, so I’ll only know it there. I’m planning to try to hitchhike a lot when it only roads and have customized innersoles as I tend to get knee problems at some point.)

    3. One more about shoes: you have any kind of ideas what might be the places where a tramper should be ready to get new shoes? Or usually gets? Shoe sellers keep saying that paddings of running shoes start get bad after 500 km, but in practice I guess most people will run about 1000 km.
    It definitely depends on the shoe brand, your individual way of walking, load and sheer good luck, I know… So buying the shoes beforehand and then sending them to hostel/post office weeks in advance sounds like a risky puzzle to me.
    If the timing of mailing isn’t completely successful, I guess it’s a good chance that bigger towns (over 15 000 pop) will sell those shoes, as the brand is popular. As far as I have understood, many of the common re-supply places at SI are also famous tourist destinations, so they will sell hiker gear. Though the price will be higher than in Wellington, I guess. And there is always this question of the right size...

    4.About clothes: You told you did well almost without rain pants when hiking. My journey will take longer, a month at least, I estimate. At mid-late March shorts won’t do, when it rains? Just wondering if I could still take my worn rain pants or do I need to buy new one. If they can be needed for a couple of weeks, new pair is ok.

    You used your other pair of long paints only for sleeping? Not needed at days, when hiking? (I saw that item at your gear list, not on this site.)

    Is it so that you highly recommend a down jacket? I’m quite warm-blooded person and I’m wondering if is needed. Last summer in JMT I did it well in the late evenings/nights with short undershirt, fleece and wind/rain poof jacket, when most people wore this Mount Hood kind of jacket.

    5. About water purifying: if all taken together, was it necessary to purify about 1/3 of all your water consumption or less? I know it takes 10 mins of boiling to kill giardia, so all the risky water needs to be purified. I won’t be boiling my foods/teas that long…
    I’m wondering is it worth the grams and money to buy some sort of purifier or can I stick to iodine tablets or aquamira (I’ve understood that both/either can be bought in hikers stores). I don’t mind the taste of iodine and in Finland I don’t need a purifier, so after this hike that item can be worthless for me.
    Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi. I am sitting in an airport lounge waiting for my next flight so more than happy to answer your questions.

      On the shoe glue I put a thin layer on the mesh upper when the shoe is brand new. This seems to be enough to stop the abraison without affecting flexibility. Use the photos as I guide to where I put it.

      There were not many on the trail wearing Innov8 shoes as not many people have heard of them (very few kiwis on the trail) however in NZ adventure racing and trail running they are popular and have a good reputation.

      You can buy trail shoes in all cities (except Brooks Cascadia) but be aware prices in NZ are very expensive. Most people used 2-3 pairs of shoes. I would recommend buy 2 pairs where they are cheaper overseas and budget for needing a possible 3rd brought in NZ.

      If your worn rain pants are still waterproof then they should be fine. While I only wore mine once I would never consider not taking them as we can get cold snaps anytime of year and if you are going to be walking in March in the south island you will probably get some bad weather. It is more for their windproof qualities to keep you warm.

      I never wore trousers sleeping. I prefer au natural to let the bag do the work unless it is really cold. I wore my shorts all except one day on Tongariro Crossing but I was very lucky with the weather missing all the cold fronts. I carried a pair of trousers mainly for in camp and towns and a pair of thermal trousers which I never used but once again would not consider dropping. I have experienced too many cold snaps in summer to reduce this item. You could just use thermals if you dont mind tight trousers in towns.

      Down Jacket for me is a strong recommendation. I met some hardy people that had several layers on and were still wishing for a down jacket a few times. That being said as a hardy Fin you know what keeps you warm. Factor temperatures just below freezing but with significant additional windchill as it is nearly always windy. There is nothing between Antarctica and NZ with a southerly wind!

      For water filtering Aquamira or Iodine is fine and several TA trampers used this. Most of the North Island needs filtering as it goes through more farmed areas and higher population areas. Most of the south island is purer unpolluted water and doesnt need filtering.

      I hope this helps with your planning

  4. Wonderful, thanks a lot! This helps!

    I'd also like to ask that as it often will be windy, would you also perhaps recommend light wind-proof jacket that is not (at least not much) rain-proof? It seems to me that you didn't have such a thing with you. Was it (usually) warm enough with long-sleeved base layer?

    My goretex-jacket protects agains wind well, but it is still aimed for rain. I don't know how well it would last if used a lot, just for wind protection (especially shoulder parts, when carrying heavy backpack).

    1. It is often windy but not as frequently cold windy that you need to worry about wearing out your jacket. The issue will likely be getting too hot in a heavy jacket as once the wind is blocked it is not too cold most of the time.

      I used my raincoat as wind protection and adding up how frequently it was probably equivalent to 5 full days.

  5. Great gear list review.

  6. I'm considering the ZPacks Challenger Rain Jacket (and maybe pants) for my upcoming PCT thru hike and am undecided on which size to order. I an unsure if the size medium will accommodate my down UL parka. What size did you choose and were you happy with that size?


    1. Hi, sorry for delay in reply. Hi. To give an indication of size I am 165cm 65kg. The Medium Jacket was loose enough for me to put all my layers underneath and still not be tight. The only place the jacket was tight was the hips but this was below the lower edge of my down jacket so still not a problem.

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  8. Hi,

    thank you for your inspiring writings, and this gear review !
    Do you think the Zpacks Duplex's size could be a problem in NZ ? It is larger than the hexamid, so I wonder if the Duplex could be set up in the narrow camps in forests I have seen in photos.

    1. Hi. The bigger size should not be a problem. I like camping in trees so some of the places in my photos where it looks tight for the tent are my choice and there were other options. There are only a few cases where the bush is tight but it is very seldon you will not find a good camp spot, you may just have to walk another km or two to find one. It is a great tent.

  9. Really Amazing product for this price. Have a look.
    hiking backpack

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Hi Kirstine - thanks for leaving so much detail in your blog. I have referred to it many times in doing my own prep. One question about your groundsheet - what did you do to stop your second one from blowing away? I have a Duplex tent which I have just put up in my back yard for the first time this morining. It is a palace, and as light as a feather. I am not sure what is going to stop the wind from getting underneath it though and blowing it away. I guess I will find out in time. Based on what you did, I also have got some 3M window insulation film but haven't been able to figure out how to secure it. Thanks in advance. -Karen

    1. Hi Karen. I am glad you have found this blog helpful.
      For the ground sheet at each corner I folded it over and put a small piece of duct tape over the fold then used a hole punch to put a small hole. In one of these reinforced corners I tied a small bit of string and attached this to the corner guy line of my tent so it would not disappear into the distance with the wind. When I rolled up my tent I would fold the tent into thirds length wise then bring the ground sheet over it and then roll it up. This made it easier when setting the tent up as the ground sheet was already in place under the tent. When it was really windy I would put tent pegs in the groundsheet corner holes until the tent was up and stuff inside so the groundsheet did not blow around. Hope this helps.

  12. Thanks Kirstine for the explanation. It's hard to believe that something as light as the polycro could be durable enough to function as a groundsheet/footprint.

    Your blog has been fabulously helpful to the extent that my strategy for selecting gear has been to see what you did and then copy (more or less). Unfortunately though I haven't been able to replicate your base weight. I will review everything again but I am not sure I will identify anything that I can leave behind. I fully expect that this will change though soon after starting. We shall see. I think there will be as many people starting on the same day as me as you met on your entire trip.

    1. Hi Karen. Feel free to message me on facebook if you need any more advice.