For the most part, the gear I used to cross the Bob this year worked well. This is the sixth trip in as many years I’ve done through similar terrain around this time of year, so if I haven’t yet found a good system yet I’m just not paying attention. The same basic complement of clothing, a floorless shelter, and ~25 degree sleeping bag are reliable options. My packs have evolved considerably, with a different homemade one used each year. That will be the subject of a later post, along with details on the bag I used this year, but the basic details are that a good frame of some kind and waterproof fabric are both highly recommended. As can be seen my newest pack has a lid, which I found quite handy.
I used Black Diamond Liquid Point Goretex pants, which work well once I replaced the stock waistband, which does a very poor job of holding them up. I’ve suffered by without rain pants plenty on the past, but they’re really nice to have in wet brush, to say nothing of packrafting, and the Liquid Points have a nice tough fabric, and legs zips which both make putting them on easy and allow you to vent on the go (just zip them back up before deep stream crossings). BD is having fit issues with their first generations of clothing, but once they sort those out the great fabrics and features should really shine.
Altra Olympus 1.5 shoes were another newish piece of gear which performed well, albeit with reservations. They’re “maximalist” zero drop jobs, with over 3cm of cushion and stack height. Most importantly, they have the Altra last, which I find absolutely perfect. No blisters proves that. The extra cushion certainly seemed to fight fatigue well, but the extra height gives irregular ground surface extra leverage against your ankles, which is not welcome side hilling off trail or while slogging softer snow. My ankles and lower legs suffered a bit of extra fatigue as a result, but overall they were at least energy neutral, and probably a net benefit. The Lone Peaks remain a more versatile option, while the Olympus is a good trail shoe. Most significantly, the Olympus 1.5 upper is both faster draining and more durable than the Lone Peak 1.5, providing hope that sooner than later Altra will get their shit together and push their altogether good shoes into the realm of excellent.
I broke one of my Gossamer Gear poles around noon on the first day, when it punched two feet deep into the snow and jammed against a buried log. Not really the poles fault, so much as proof that I should have brought my much heavier and more durable alu poles. Having only one pole for the next four snowy passes did suck, as my attempt the first night to carve a wood shim didn’t work out.
I only packrafted 12ish miles out of approximately 105, which made the 7 pounds of rafting gear a poor investment, enjoyable though those miles were. I continue to want something between my Scout, which is of very limited utility in cold conditions, and my heavy and bulky Yukon Yak. Putting my own deck on a Curiyak is not a project I relish, but until Alpacka comes out with a new model or Roman sells off his custom I may have to do it, one of these days. Paddling lakes is absolutely more efficient than hiking around them, especially given how much faster and better against a headwind the 10″ tubed, non-rockered Scout is.
My food was fine, and I had enough, but I always find it logistically challenging to keep on top of consistent calorie intake. Using sports drinks for these things is something I need to take more seriously in the future.
Lastly, while my fitness was fine and what I expected it to be, I would not have minded being so close to my limit for so much of the trip. As I age, and with the kid due shortly, it is clear that my old approach of primarily letting fun stuff serve as de facto training is not going to get the job done. I may have to re-take up running.
Until next time.