Welcome To My World of Pedals and Paddles

An account of my Sea Kayaking and Mountain Biking exploits

Thursday, 3 October 2013

14 Days in Greenland - Kit Review

I purchased a fair bit of new equipment to use on my Greenland trip. Deciding which items to buy took many months of trolling the internet and talking to other people about what kit they use. Hopefully some of my experiences might be useful to other paddlers who are embarking on similar trips.
This kit review is written from my Greenland trip perspective, quite a few of the items have reviews on the websites where they can be purchased and I realise that these reviews are more eloquent and go in to greater detail than mine.

I have given the various items a mark out of ten, this only reflects on whether or not they did the job. You will have to decide for yourself if you wish to purchase any of it. I have also given certain items a star rating this is for the best bits I bought.

**Tent: Terra Nova Quasar Superlite.terra-nova.co.uk/superlite-quasar-tent/ I chose a lightweight tent due to the 20kg baggage allowance imposed by Iceland Air. We were penalised for excess baggage on our departure from Kulusk. This tent is extremely lightweight and more than suitable for backpacking. The website states that the tent equates to 1.25kg per person. I slept in this two man tent on my own and had plenty of space. I have reservations about the tent being too lightweight for an expedition and with hindsight I would probably buy the standard tent and pay the excess baggage charge. I have had no problems with the fabric so far but I did replace one pole before the trip due to the end of one ferrule becoming splayed. This was not cheap at £45. During one windy day the tent poles did distort quite alarmingly but the poles were more than up to the job and when I turned the tent into the wind it was fine. The porch is quite small and if you wanted to cook in the tent it would probably be best to use a cooking stove something like a Trangia. Terra Nova do sell an extended porch version of the fly sheet. I packed the fly sheet into a separate dry bag rather like a stuff sack. If the fly is wet the inner then has a chance to keep reasonably dry. The inner tent was packed into an Exped compression dry bag which made in it really compact. The poles were pushed up alongside the skeg box and the inner and fly were packed into the rear hatch up against the seat bulkhead. This arrangement worked really well. 9/10

***Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering Badgerwesternmountaineering.com       I do not like feeling restricted across the shoulders when using a sleeping bag. My previous sleeping bag was a Rab Quantum which was an excellent bag but just to tight for me. Western Mountaineering bags are manufactured in San Jose USA. The WM website allows you to choose the size of bag you would like i.e waist and shoulder width. I am not aware of any other manufacturer who allows you to do this. I was able to pick a bag suitable for my height and with a large shoulder measurement. The bag is very well made with a silky feel to the fabric. It does pack away neatly but a compression bag is needed to get it down to its smallest size. 9/10

***Sleeping Mat: Exped Symat 9LW.www.exped.com I have used Kari Mats and Thermorests but this mat beats them all hands down. It packs away smaller than a Thermorest but gives a full 90mm of padding beneath you. It is wide across the shoulders so that you do not fall off it when moving in your sleep. It is definitely as comfy as my bed at home. It is also well insulated. It is well worth reading the info on the Exped website to find out more about the thermal properties. It takes me about 4 mins to blow the mat up which I imagine would be a right pain to some but I am not going to mark it down because the effort is worth the brilliant nights sleep you get with it. I was informed that during bear watch it was apparent that I do not snore but the Synmat makes quite a large rustling noise when I fidget. 10/10

Stove: Primus Omnilite Ti. primus  Gas canisters are on sale in the supermarkets at the larger settlements in Greenland but a regular supply cannot be guaranteed. I therefore chose a multi fuel stove intending to use petrol as fuel. This one is not cheap at all but is very neat and compact. I purchased the stove from Cotswold Outdoors who had to order it in specially to the store as it was not a stock item. The first stove would not light at all due to there being no pressure when the bottle was pumped. CO exchanged it without any hassle.  I used the second stove for a couple of months but then it too would not pressurize due to the washer in the pump disintegrating. CO duly returned the stove to Primus. Six weeks later the pump came back and worked prefectly. Unfortunately someone stole the bottle on the first night of the trip so I had to revert to gas. The stove worked perfectly well on gas but rather defeated the object of buying such an expensive stove. It comes with a rather neat folding bag which packed into the kayak hatches very well. There were ten stoves in use on the trip and without doubt the one stove which outshone all the others when powered by petrol was the MSR Dragonfly. 5/10

***Dry Suit: Kokatat Expedition. We were due to paddle in fairly exposed conditions for a total of twelve consecutive days. I wanted to be as comfortable as possible so there was only one suit to buy. I spent two hours in the shop trying on various suits but this one was just in a class of its own. You get what you pay for and this is a classy bit of kit. I particularly like the overall feel to the suit which is not bulky and gives a great deal of movement. It does not restrict my paddle storkes at all. I wear thin running socks on the inside and Palm Index wet suit socks on the outside to protect the Goretex socks.  Mr Wilcox puts it far better than I ever could. I hope you do not mind the link Douglas seakayakphoto. 10/10

*Sweet Protection Onesie: sweetprotection.com/ski-and-snowboard/technical   I had been looking at this item for months but felt that I could not justify the cost. Once the warm summer weather was here the shop was going to have trouble selling the last remaining few so I asked for a deal and they came up with one. This undergarment is so comfortable that at one point I did not take it off for over four days which is a fantastic advert for this and the Kokatat Dry Suit. The onesie is three quarter length which puzzled me at first but when combined with ankle high wet suit boots it works perfectly. 10/10

*Teva Cherry Bomb 2 Wet suit boots: Another superb piece of kit. My feet stayed 100% warm all trip despite constant wet launches and landings which was not a bad effort considering the temperature of the water. I particularly liked the easy way they could be put on, the amount of ankle support and the stiff grippy sole. I bought a size one higher than my normal shoe and had no trouble fitting them into the kayak.  teva-cherry-bomb-2

Exped Dry Bags:
www.exped.com t is essential to pack your kit into many small dry bags because large bulky bags will not fit through the hatches. I have read that these bags do not keep your kit 100% dry. On the trip I did not experience any leakages at all. They are very good value for money and do the job fine. 10/10

Watershed Dry Bag: http://www.drybags.com/ One piece of kit I was determined would not get wet was my down sleeping bag. I therefore purchased a dry bag that was guaranteed to keep it dry. This bag did the job fine but it is not cheap and was quite bulky. These are the only reasons it gets marked down a bit. 8/10

Northwave Deck Bag:http://northwater.comDeckbag It has become fashionable recently to include a fourth hatch in modern sea kayaks just forward of the cockpit. Sometimes called the 'sweetie hatch'. I have one on my Cetus and it works just fine - for sweets. If you want to carry a bit more kit to hand then this is an excellent bag. It takes two food flasks with ease, one for coffee the other for soup and allows you to have a nice lunch even if you cannot land. It also helps you maintain a good paddle technique by keeping your arms up. I do not find it bulky or heavy but it is not and a dry bag so it is not waterproof. 10/10

*Beatons Midge Net: www.midgejacket.co.uk  The mosquitos and flies in Greenland are pure evil a midge net is an essential requirement at times. This net comes in the form of a jacket which is more bulky than just a head net but it allows you to eat you food under cover. 10/10

Cooking kit: - just a couple of quick reviews.

Primus Titanium pot 800ml: Very lightweight but a little small at times. Great for back packing but a slightly larger one when kayaking would work better. The box it comes in shows a gas canister fitting neatly inside which works fine but after a short time the canister wears the none stick off in the bottom and the pot shows signs of rust. Some form of padding is therefore needed to prevent this. 8/10

Titanium Spork: Not at all sure why I purchased this, the plastic ones are a tenth of the price and work just fine. Up and Under in Cardiff is an outdoor enthusiasts heaven and I got carried away. What I should have bought was a titanium fork and spoon set which you can buy in a long version. These reach the bottom of the expedition food pouches which allows you to stir in the water and eat the food without getting it all over your hands.

Trangia Mess tin: Very useful for carrying bits n bobs. Cheap as chips at £7 great for eating your Oats so Simple in the morning.

Kayaking Talk:

Boat :I was allocated a Rockpool Menai 18 Kayak. I had not paddled a Rockpool before and overall this was an excellent expedition boat. I particularly liked its general handling and stabilty, its superb manourverablity even when loaded. It was fast in a straight line and surfed like a dream. I did not particularly like the footrest and seat set up, the unpadded seat and the wayward skeg cable in the rear hatch.

Paddles: Werner Shuna, I also have Werner Corryvrekins but I find these too large for a loaded kayak. The Shunas on the other hand are a great paddle, but paddles are such a personal choice a review is probably unnecessary.

Things I should have taken:

Two small food flasks for coffee and soup afloat ( I have these now - see above)
Long fork - see above
Dry thermals for around camp, it was chilly when the sun went down.
Heavier trousers for around camp, it is tricky leaving Heathrow in the middle of a heat wave and finding yourself two days later in full winter conditions.
More food - thank goodness for the supermarkets, I would have starved otherwise. This needs a lot of work to get right. Also, there needs to me more variety and goodies Do not rely just on bars. Dried fruit, nuts and chocolate are a must together with tea coffee and hot chocolate.

I hope you find some of this useful.

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