With twenty days until I leave for Ethiopia, and it being my last chance before then to perform all the time consuming checks, the pace has picked up on the trip planning.
The most fundamental task was to ensure that I have all the clothing and equipment that I will need to take with me and to that end I have been purchasing bits over the past few weeks. This weekend’s task was to collect it all together and see what’s is missing – and if it is all going to fit!
When I went to Antarctica I went through the pain of having to research, and then buy, a complete cold-weather wardrobe. Now I have had to do the same for the other end of the climate scale. As with the online advice for cold-weather gear, advice for hot-weather clothing is equally diverse. In the end though I have settled upon taking the following:
- One pair hiking boots – Salomon Quest 4D GTX (plus spare laces)
- One pair hiking shoes – Salomon Ultra X
- Two Rohan “Core Silver T” base-layer T-shirts
- Two Bspoke “Epping” Coolmax base-layer T-shirts
- One Rab “MeCo 120” base-layer T-shirt
- Four pairs Rohan “Cool Silver” Trunks
- One pair Rab “MeCo 120” Trunks
- Two pair Smartwool “PHD Outdoor Ultra Light” Socks
- One Pair Icebreaker “Hike Light” Socks
- Three Craghoppers Nosilife long sleeve shirts
- Two pairs hiking trousers [TBC]
- One Berghaus Polartec 100 fleece.
- My trusty wide-brimmed hat
As you can see it is a bit of a mix: three different types of base-layer t-shirt for example. My reasoning for this is simply that when reading around the general consensus was that synthetic material doesn’t work well for some people: I didn’t want to stick to one brand or technology only to find that it didn’t work for me.
The hiking boots and shoes are both new. My trusty 18 year-old Scarpa BX boots failed in Iceland and despite being waxed began letting in water. My Merrell Moab hiking shoes finally fell apart in Israel – only just surviving due to a couple of tubes of superglue. So back in September I went in to the local GoOutdoors shop with the intent of trying them on and them buying online and went through several makes – Mendl, Scarpa, Mammut – but all slipped when I walked – a recipe for blisters. In the end the guy took one feel of the shape of my heel and ankle, disappeared and came back with the Salomon. They fit like a glove (well, a foot-glove). The whole process took 40 minutes and it was not service that should go unrewarded by then buying elsewhere. I was so impressed that I even emailed them to say how pleasantly surprised I was, and that rarely happens. The hiking shoes were bought yesterday, Salomon again due to the fit.
The other thing – which is a new experience for me – is that I’m taking only five days of clean clothes for a two week trip. For the experienced trekkers amongst you this may not seem particularly noteworthy, but for me is it a big departure from what I am used to. Well, almost. On my trips to Iceland and then Israel earlier this year, despite having sufficient clothes for a daily swap of underwear and t-shirt, I didn’t use half of them. So this is really just an extension of that although it will be much hotter than both Iceland and Israel in the Danakil Depression and so sweat will be more of an issue. As a backup I am taking a small tube of travel washing liquid although given the lack of running water and that the only bodies of water are either highly acidic, poisonous or have a higher salt concentration than the Dead Sea, I’m not altogether sure how I would get to use it.
The trousers are still to be bought as I am still stuck on the decision: I love the multiple pockets of cargo-style trousers, but I also like the idea of those which can be converted to shorts. This is a decision that needs to be finalised this week. I’ll also be buying two more pairs of lightweight hiking socks.
For the majority of the expedition we’ll be away from civilisation and in the middle of nowhere. This means no electricity, gas, running water, mobile phone coverage and no sanitary facilities. With the exception of the first night in Awash and the last night in Mek’ele, accommodation is listed as being ‘under the stars’ – a euphemistic term for sleeping on the ground. Our comfort – and more importantly health – will be dependent upon whatever we take with us.
- A Vango Sherpa 65 litre backpack
- Snugpak “jungle” sleeping bag
- Exped Ultralight inflatable pillow
- Karrimor sleeping mat
- Gas mask
- Mountain Warehouse large travel towel
- Lenser P7 LED torch
- Petzl Tikka XP head torch
- Medical kit
- Voltaic Systems’ 18W solar charging kit
- Swiss Army knife
- A funnel
- Several large plastic bags and some zip-loc bags
The pillow may seem like a luxury item but I’ve woken up with a stiff neck too many times to know that it can real pain (so to speak) to have a sore neck when you’re rushing around. And at 46g in weight, it is not exactly cumbersome.
The jungle bag – so called as it is a lightweight one season sleeping bag- is less to keep warm and more to provide protection from the little critters that will be roaming around – mosquitoes included. It has a thermal comfort rating of down to 7°C and includes a handy zip-up mosquito net over the head opening. The pillow fits in the hood nicely.
The gas mask is probably the oddest item on the list, but it is required for certain areas, especially around the crater of the volcano and the lava lake. The biggest risks here will be hydrogen sulphide and sulphur dioxide gasses, both of which have a habit of killing you if left untreated. As we’ll be around 600km from any form of medical aid, prevention is definitely better than cure in this case.
The solar panel is the luxury item. As mentioned in a previous post it is there to charge the camera batteries and the battery on my trusty MacBook Air. I could survive without the laptop – although doing of would make checking image quality tricky – and five camera batteries may be enough for the trip. In a pinch I could charge the batteries off the cigarette lighter socket in the 4WD, but there is possibility that may not be an option. Any in any event, there is nothing wrong with a bit a tech geekery!
So, the big question is: Has this weekend been a success? The answer is both yes and no.
No in the sense that I have not performed a complete test pack and checked the weight. This is only a little annoying in that it would have been nice to do, but a quick educated guess would suggest that I should be OK.
Yes in the sense that I now have a final shopping list which can be summarised as:
- Two more pairs lightweight hiking socks
- Two pairs of hiking trousers
- Medical supplies
- Sanitary and personal care supplies
- An inflatable globe
- Glucose tablets, energy bars, dried nuts and fruit.
The biggest challenge of this is the trousers simply as I need to actually go somewhere that has what I am after and try them on – a struggle given my busy work schedule and hence why this weekend was so important. By contrast the other items are easy to come by.
Including the all important inflatable globe of the World…