Saturday, March 22, 2008

Everglades Challenge 2008 gear reflections

Most things didn’t change from last year – I used the same boat, Grahame Sisson’s 5.32m Arctic Raider, with Pacific Action sail and a Lumpy Paddles
Greenland paddle (only person this year who used a GP) – and was just as pleased with all performances, if not more so re the boat and GP with the tough head wind conditions.

Sleeping system:
Even though I packed my Hennessey Hammock for a possible night on a chickee or in the mangroves, I didn’t use it, relying solely on my ever wonderful 1.8 kg single-pole Macpac Microlight tent. Bug-proof!

A big change for sleeping comfort was the replacement of a typical inflatable sleeping mat with an Exped 7 down mat. Absolute bliss. I wrote about this mat in an earlier entry, and it performed splendidly. The only slight criticism I have of it, or perhaps those camped near me may have, is that the mat’s down right noisy (bad pun) when you move around on it! I also saved a bit of room by not packing my inflatable pillow, as this year I just stuffed some spare dry clothing in the mat’s bellows bag and used that as a very comfy pillow.

Once again I used REI’s Nooksack UL +30 sleeping bag (discontinued), but the inner Primaloft Sport was superb in this year’s very sandy and salty conditions. Once home I just threw it into the washing machine and tumble dryer, and it looks brand new.

And once again, I had food left over, perhaps even a bit over half of what I took. I packed six freeze dried meals (Mountain House compact vacuum pouch), and ate only two of them on the first and second nights – and that second one I really had to force down. The rest of the time it was too late to have the energy to cook, and I just wasn’t that hungry, making sure to keep my body calorie-loaded and hydrated throughout the paddling day, normally 12 to 18 hours.

I also packed seven Ensures – those were just right for slurping down each evening as I fell into my tent, or as a liquid breakfast.

I am so over Clif bars – I said it last year, but this year I really mean it. NatureCalls recommended the Hammer Nutritional bars – not cheap, but energy packed and tasty to boot – I’ll test those over the next few months. I did have a few Larabar bars, which can be expensive (I got them on sale, and there are some good online deals), but tasted great – wish I’d had a few more of those, and I’ll probably rely on those a bit more next year.

A treat I thoroughly enjoyed are the Philippine Brand Naturally Delicious Dried Mangoes – a big bag bought from Costco and to die for. I’ll definitely take more of those next year.

But I still had two heavy bags of bars and goo left over by race end.

Cooking system:
The MSR Windpro stove still stands tops for me, primarily because it's simple to use a gas cartridge in saving boiling water time, and because the stove doesn't sit precariously atop the gas canister; but I only used it twice. And next year I think it’ll only be packed because it’s compulsory to have one.

Light sources:
For the second year, my (replacement) Princeton Tec Apex LED Headlamp gave out on me (though it was working again when I got home). When it works, it’s fabulous – especially the spotlight feature. For use inside my tent, to save the headlamp’s batteries, I used a small waterproof Pelican Mitylite 2AAA, which also tucked away inside one of my PFD pockets, with my VHF. I’d put some cord on it so I could wear it around my neck at night. I inadvertently left it on one night and drained the batteries, and had forgotten two replacement AAA batteries... My spare (dive) torch, a Pelican Recoil 2410 with photoluminescent shroud (lens ring) was a real boon. This year, I left my heavier Sunlight C8 Dive Light at home.

Cell phone:
This year I used the Aquapac flip phone case (rather than last year’s Pelican case) – only way to go.

Packing it all out:
As I promised myself this year, I did pack everything out. I used three Phillips WAG Bags, inside the privacy and safety (mosquitoes) of my tent – worked a treat, dumping them in local rubbish bins at each checkpoint. The other mornings I had the use of public loos. One tip: get rid of your used Wag Bags as soon as possible with the warmth of the Everglades…

SPOT satellite messenger:
Brilliant. Just love this new toy. I think there were about seven of us that used a SPOT – KneadingWater, NatureCalls, Pelican, ThereAndBackAgain, RunningMouth, Lumpy & Bumpy and myself. We all have stories on how well they worked. I did discover that I couldn’t have the unit on tracking and press for an OK message at the same time – red flashing lights would appear. But during the final three days when I didn’t have cell phone coverage, my spotters knew exactly where I was as I pressed OK at every turn. And then the OK messages sent to their e-mails (and cell phones) had a URL to Google Earth, also showing on that map my long/lat. Because of my SPOT signals, FliesWithKiwiBird knew that I was coming in a day early, and managed to book me a room for that night, before our room for the rest of the week came open.

Personal health:
Getting over the sleep deprivation probably takes the longest. I figured I probably got fewer than 18 hours of even slightly approaching some form of decent sleep in the entire six days of the race.

I wore gloves this year the entire race – my hands were a bit of a mess by the time I finished, being wet all of the time, but cleared up in a day or two. Taping my right hand up for the last day probably saved me. The moral here is to not feel over rushed and to take a bit more time in the mornings to tape anything up that looks even slightly dodgy.

I’m still a bit numb in one of my little toes, with a little bit of numbness on the inside of one of my wrists – nothing major there at all.

It took just over two weeks for the blister on my bottom lip to heal – not helped with the WeeOne whacking it very now and then.

A couple of weeks later, the skin’s growing back on my rear end and the deep hole on my left thigh’s slowly filling in – there’ll be a nice pink scar there to boast with – the latter caused with friction against my thigh pad. Overall, the derriere just got too wet and sandy.

Interestingly, I had none of these problems last year. I need to figure out what shorts I can wear, with dollops of Glide or the like, that are still serviceable for long hours paddling without possible shore stops, and which the sand will easily wash out of. Suggestions are welcome! Perhaps I too may have to paddle naked, sitting on sheepskin.

And now the planning starts for EC09!


Silbs said...

What an excellent synopsis of equipment. That Exped pad must be good, the site says they are all sold out.

Capt'n "O" Dark 30 & Super Boo said...

hey kiwi, nice review...

do you want me to work of flies with kiwi to get you two crazy things a year? :-)

you need a sea wind to drop andrew in. safety - comfort. or a cruiser and take the fam!!

as for skin integrity - desetin baby ointment.

also i am told that the skort skirt / short combo is becoming popular in paddling circles for women. non-pleated no seams and can be spun if the bottom side gets wet while in the seat.

Kristen said...

Yes, please, Capt'n! And thanks for the advice - should have known I should be using what we put on the WeeOne.

Steve said...

For a treat toss some dried stawberries in with the mangoes. In my area they are sold under the Ann's House brand. Great stuff.
Thanks for all the tips on gear and travelling on the water.

Steve said...

Just rec'd my spot locator beacon. Will set up my acct. in the next day or two. I plan on using a lanyard looped around my mizzen mast to keep it in place. I'll have a quick release clip on it in case I need to take it with me. My questions is just how sturdy are these things? Next to the mizzen mast on the small aft deck it will be exposed, while on a cruise, to sun, rain, salt spray, dew, etc around the clock. Can it deal with that or do I need to detach it and tuck in in a locker at night? (I would prefer to have it on deck and working all the time). Any advice would be appreciated. thanks Steve