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The GR20 in Corsica - July 2008
Ahaaa, kit! My favourite subject :)
The things I took with me were more-or-less the things I've taken on most of my backpacking trips, both short and longer, over the last few years. Almost all of it's a matter of personal choice, but these are the things that work well for me.
I reckon my pack weighed somewhere in the region of 12 Kilos most of the time, so it was neither ultra-lightweight nor particularly heavy. It was probably heavier than that when I'd just stocked up on food, and possibly also when my 2L Platy was full of water each morning. Looking back on what I took I can see a few places in which I could have got it lighter, but I don't think I could have made any significant reduction without leaving out things I prefer to take with me.
The biggest mistake I made--and I regretted it on a daily basis--was in leaving my stove and cooking gear at home. I decided to do that in order to save weight, believing that I'd be able to eat well in the Refuges in the way I'd been able to do in the Pyrenees. That turned out not to be the case (see the Top Tips page, and daily accounts, for further info). Even if it had been true, though, I very soon realised that a significant part of the joy of camping (and it's not all joy, so we have to be careful to make the most of the good bits!) is lying in bed with a hot drink. I'll never go away again without the means to make myself a drink in the tent. Unless you're absolutely sure you won't want to do that, take a small stove (I love my Primus Micron), a mug (my MSR Mug is perfect) and some fuel (if you use gas then you can get a small adapter and use the Camping Gaz you can buy at the Refuges), and kick back with a hot chocolate or a mug of tea as you pore over your maps and write up your notes in bed :)
The second biggest mistake was taking the wrong (i.e. weak) camera batteries (my camera runs on AAs). I couldn't get hold of replacements anywhere other than Vizzavona and Bavella, and that meant I wasn't able to take many of the little films I'd been hoping to take.
The only other thing that felt like a mistake was not taking a spare mobile battery. I'd read that there isn't much reception and so I thought I wouldn't need the mobile much, but of course as soon as I got to places that did have reception I wanted to send and receive texts, and that soon wore my battery down. For the weight and bulk involved, I should definitely have taken at least one spare. It's much easier than carrying a charger.
There were quite a few things I normally take that I deliberately left behind on this trip:
I've already said that the loss of my cooking/drink-making equipment was a mistake, but I found that I didn't need any of those other things.
- Stove and cooking kit (see above)
- Waterproof trousers
- A warm jacket of some sort
- Mug and spoon
- Fuera windproof smock
- Bed socks
- Waterproof and/or thick gloves
- Map case
Anyway, here's the lowdown on what I carried. I hope it's interesting and/or helpful to somebody :)
|Osprey Atmos 50L: 1380g
I like the comfortable mesh back on this pack, and at 50L I find that it copes well with everything I need to carry. Mine's several years old now, and it's done quite a few walks. It's beginning to look a little frayed around some of the edges, but it still works well.
I bought mine before the women's version came out, btw, and I've never been aware of any sort of shape-related problem with it. If I replace it I'll get another one the same (i.e. the blokes' version).
||Terra Nova Laser Competition: 960g
I've had this tent for 2 years now, and I'm still very happy with it. Although it weighs less than 1 kilo it's tremendously stable and strong, and I find it very easy to put up and take down.
Having completed the walk, I now know that it can get very windy and extremely dusty up in the Corsican mountains, and for that reason I wouldn't want to go without a tent strong enough to keep most of the dust out on windy nights.
||Exped DownMat 7 Short: 595g
I was going to take my InsulMat but it had unaccountably developed a load of tiny punctures, and after 3 increasingly desperate sessions with it in the bath I still hadn't managed to find and fix them all. In the end I was delighted to have taken the Exped, because this was the hardest ground I've ever camped on.
||Inov-8 Roclite 315s: 630g
I've been using these for 3 years now (although not the same pair), and in most respects they're absolutely brilliant. They're so light and grippy that they were perfect for the mountains. As is often the case, everyone else was in boots and some people looked askance at my trail shoes. My feet were perfect, though, I always felt in touch with the ground I was walking on and at no stage did I slip.
My only reservation about the Roclites is that after only a few days the sole of each shoe began to peel away. Since I was on steep ground that worried me, but fortunately the problem didn't get any worse. Inov-8 said they'd solved this problem 2 years ago--they sent me a new pair when the same thing happened to the ones I wore in the Pyrenees in 2006--but unless this was a rogue pair it appears that the problem is still around. They were brand new for the trip, and I'll be sending them back and requesting a new pair.
I absolutely love these. I bought them to take to the Pyrenees last year but left them at home in the end. This time I carried them in the pocket at the back of my pack, and they were an absolute joy for my feet in the evenings. They were also perfect for wearing in the shower, in the rock pool on the day I went swimming, on the plane on the way home and basically just about everywhere. I wear them at home all the time too (I have them on now). They're simply one of the best bits of kit I've bought in years :)
||PHD Minimus: 520g
This little bag was almost perfect. The only thing I don't like about it is the very narrow cut, but since my feet weren't cold (and I didn't need to rub them) that was only a minor irritant. It's small and light, though, and it kept me warm enough without additional clothing on all but the coolest nights. On the odd occasion when I began to feel a bit chilly I supplemented it with my little Equinox Mummy Bivi bag (see below) and then I was as warm as toast.
||Equinox Mummy Bivi: 188g
I took this in case the opportunity came up to sleep out, and also to supplement my sleeping bag should that be needed. It's very small and light, and on the one night I had a chance to use it outside it was perfect (though I haven't used it in rain so don't yet know how it would perform in wet conditions).
||Pacer Poles: 650g|
I use these almost all the time now, and wouldn't want to go walking without them. They're the only poles I've ever been able to use--I don't like the handles on any of the others--and on steep descents they're just about the only things that keep me going. They're not the lightest poles available, but I find that the weight isn't an issue because I hardly ever carry them in my pack. And I also find they're quite good for toning up my arms :) Absolutely wonderful.
||Berghaus Paclite Smock: 270g
I didn't bother with trousers, and simply took this ultra-lightweight, tiny smock. I only needed it twice, and it was perfect on both occasions. It takes up hardly any space in my pack, and it's so light that I hardly know it's there. I think they've now been discontinued: I had to look quite hard for mine last year when I heard they were being phased out.
||Craghoppers fleece smock: 284g
This was the only item of warm clothing I took. It's very light, and it was perfect for evenings, and on the odd occasion where I needed something more than a T shirt during the day. I'm not sure what model or weight it is, but it was just a cheap one and any light, squishable fleece would do.
||North Face: 200g
I got these in a sale at one of the camping shops last year, simply because they're light and comfy and they fit me well. I'm not sure what they're called but they may have been an end of line, and I don't think they're very technical. They've got little velcroed side pockets on each side, though, which are useful for regularly used bits and pieces, and the ordinary pockets are deep enough to hold things safely in place. They're also not terribly long: I hate getting home from a sunny place to find that my tan stops just above my knees :)
|Base layer: 1
||Insport running T shirt: 102g
I took this because it's light and comfy, and it doesn't have any sort of sleeves. I also liked the look of it better than any of my more technical T shirts. It doesn't dry as quickly as my Montane T shirts, but it was so warm in Corsica that there was no problem getting it to dry on a rock overnight. As long as it's comfy and easy to dry, anything will do.
|Base layer: 2
||Lowe Alpine T shirt: 90g
I took this as a second walking T shirt, but next time I wouldn't bother to take two as it's so easy to rinse one out overnight and dry it on a rock. I found this a little uncomfortable around my arms (it's quite a clingy fit, and I prefer loose things), and so I only wore it once.
||Montane Terra Pants (zip-offs): 324g
Mine are the old-style Terra pants (like the ones shown in the link). The new ones are probably a better technical design, but I've had these for years and they're always comfy. I could have worn them during the day had it ever been cold enough, but I simply wore them in the evenings. It can get very cool when the sun goes down at night, but these kept me warm.
|Evening T shirt
||M&S silk T shirt: 200g
I bought this in M&S about 10 years ago, and it was fine. Next time I'd take one that has short sleeves, though, because then I mightn't have needed to bother with a fleece on some of the evenings. Ideally I should have taken something that would dry more quickly, but I didn't need to wash it because I spent very little time in it before going to bed.
|Sleeping T shirt
||Helly Hansen: 92g
I've had this for over 20 years, and it's still going strong. I always wear it in my sleeping bag, and this time I didn't need anything else. It's light, small and dries very quickly.
||Smartwool Adrenaline Light Mini Crew x 4: 36g each
These are perfect with trail shoes. I took 3 pairs for daily walking, and 1 pair for evening use (although I could have managed without that pair). They dried well on rocks overnight when weighted down with stones. You can also wear them secure in the knowledge that no sheep have been harmed in their production :)
||I took 3 pairs of knickers and 2 running bras. I keep meaning to invest in some of the wicking knickers, but I haven't got round to it yet. The ordinary ones dried fine on rocks, as did the running bras.
||I took a small, light pair of gloves just in case, and I was very glad of them on the one occasion that my hands were very cold.
||Well I couldn't possibly go anywhere without a buff :) I tend to use them round my neck here, to keep draughts out, but in Corsica I used it as a little cap a couple of times when things got windy.|
||Tilley hat, of course! It was perfect, keeping the sun off my face and (to some extent) the back of my neck, and basically just looking extremely cool :)|
||Petzl E+LITE: 27g|
This was the only torch I took, and I was very impressed. It's so tiny and light that I accidentally walked all the way down to Conca on the last day with it hanging round my neck from the night before: I didn't even notice it until I went to wash my hands and saw it in the mirror. The angle is fantastically adjustable, and perfect for reading in bed whilst lying down (which is mainly what I was using it for). It wouldn't be my only torch on any walk where I might expect to be walking in the dark, but for the GR20 in July I reckon it was perfect.
||Silva Field 7: 26g|
I didn't take a map, but I still wanted to be sure that I could check which way I was going, if need be. I normally carry something more substantial, but this was perfect. In fact, I didn't need to use it.
||Suunto Altimax: 55g|
I've had one of these for a few years now, and they're great. I didn't use it for much other than telling the time on this trip, but if I'd needed or wanted them there were lots of other functions available. The only irritating thing about it is that the alarm is so quiet that it never, ever wakes me up, but I've learned to set my mobile instead. This time I didn't bother with alarms, though, and just woke naturally in the mornings.
||Ajungilak Air Pillow: 140g
This is another brilliant little bit of kit. I don't find using clothing in a stuffsack comfy as a pillow, as the clothing compresses during the night and my ears get sore... This is tiny and light and super-comfy, though. I've had mine for several years, and sadly it died on this trip, but I'll be getting another one before I go away again.
||2 litre Platypus with hose: 120g
This worked fine, as usual. The water heats up a bit in the sun, but for me that disadvantage is heavily outweighed by the advantage of being able to drink without taking off my pack, or twisting around trying to get at a bottle in a side pocket.
||2 litre Platy: 42g
I carry a spare Platy for use at the tent. I normally need it for cooking, but this time it was useful when I wanted a drink during the night.
||Thermarest Lite Seat: 100g
This is brilliant for any sort of stop during the day. It takes seconds to inflate, and weighs next to nothing. I also use it at night for my feet if the ground is cold, when I'm carrying a 3/4 length mattress.
||GR20: Corsica-The High Level Route, by Paddy Dillon
I've got the Trailblazer guide by David Abram too, but I preferred Paddy's. It seemed to contain much more of the information I wanted (although I did regret the absence of an illustrated section on flowers). I don't tend to read the descriptive parts of guidebooks in enormous detail, but I did find it very useful to be able to look at the times and distances, and the height profile diagrams, and the info at the end of each section re: accommodation and transport was very helpful.
||I also carried the following: sunglasses, 2 reading books (in the end I only read one, as I fell asleep so quickly most nights), a small map showing the whole of Corsica (great suggestion culled from Paddy Dillon's book), first aid kit, sun tan lotion, lip salve, wash kit (Mountain Suds, toothpaste, toothbrush, face cream and ultra-light camping towel), mattress repair kit, Duck Tape, Paracetemol Extra, a few pegs for hanging clothes out, a bit of line for hanging clothes (unused), small digital camera, MP3 player (the Muvo takes 1 x AAA), spare batteries for MP3 player and camera, mobile phone, notebook and pen, Ortlieb knife (for food, mainly), French phrase book and a selection of Exped dry bags (including a pack liner) for keeping my things dry and organised. I would also have taken my Whizz, to save late night/early morning trips to the loo, but I accidentally packed it away somewhere in the process of putting my kit together, and I haven't seen it since!
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