WaterTribe's Everglades Challenge: 300+ miles over six to seven days of sea kayaking or sailing, from Florida, Tampa's Fort De Soto to Key Largo, via the Everglades' Wilderness Waterway. As the rules state (p22): "you may DIE".
In many ways, this gear reflections section is the bit that excites me the most of any Everglades Challenge--gear used, and what worked and didn't.
First, a big thank you to my sponsor BAD GIRL: Be Adventurous and Daring: Get Into Real Life, a subset of BUBBA GIRL. For four years BUBBA GIRL has supported my race entry, for which I am hugely grateful. If one woman, at whatever age, reads these tales and feels motivated to go for a hike, a paddle or a bike ride, I'll be happy.
The boat remained the same: Graham Sisson's Arctic Raider. Not a flawless boat this year: half-an-hour into the race, testing the foot pump, the strut across the boat broke, which severely compromised use of the rudder bar sitting above it. Hours later at Venice Inlet I spied a three foot sandbank, and dragging the bow of the boat up on that and leaning the hull on its side, I managed to squeeze myself inside and strap the joint with a zip tie. (Zip ties and duct tape: never leave home without them.) The one zip tie lasted the entire week.
Greenland paddle: Still using a GP for the race, and loving it. Once again I used a paddle made by previous EC challenger StripBuilder--a beautifully laminated stick.
Pacific Action Sail: This year I could test the Glowfast Luminous Sailtape I'd added to each side of the V of my sail, covered in a previous post. According to any paddling buddy around me at night, it didn't glow as "bright" as I'd anticipated. No body hit me: perhaps that as good as it gets. More testing to come on this one. As every year, or with any kayak outing, I can't imagine doing an EC without the sail--adds far too much fun.
Sleep system: Thankgoodness I bought an REI lightweight mummy fleece liner the night before we left for Florida. With that in my 1C (30F) sleeping bag, I achieved another 12C (10F) of warmth, plus all my sacrosscant dry clothes on the first two days of the race. It was FREEZING! FliesWithKiwiBird had insisted I also take along a stash of handwarmers. Thankgoodness I listened: those first two nights, after 17 or so hours paddling non-stop, with white blocks for feet, I tucked one each in my socks as I hit my pit. Bliss. Thankfully, the evenings warmed as Florida recovered from its coldest winter on record and we drifted further south. With the cooler temperatures, the Exped DownMat 7 came into its own, and even when warmer. I can't sleep comfortably on anything else now: age. One big lesson learned this year though, courtesy of Floatsome, is that you need another layer between the bottom of your Exped and the floor of your tent. Whenever shifting position, the noise has been driving me and my fellow tenters mad for a few years now, and we finally clicked as to what the problem was. So I tucked the Exped into my sleeping bag liner, and voila! quiet a a lamb.
Tent: As always, my Macpac Microlight, which, as not free-standing, I can now string quite happily on a chickee. At 1.8kg, heaps of solo room, and the inner pitches with the fly, I'll use no other.
Hydration system: The new no hassle drinking system (left) worked perfectly! Check this previous blog post for details.
Food: Even after four ECs, I'm still trying to get it right. Once again I loaded too many energy bars, but at least this year I wasn't gagging over a primary base of Clif or Larabars. I mixed seven daily ziplocks with ten bars and a couple of goos each; I had four full bags left at the end of the race. The bars were a mixture of non-fruit Larabars (the acidity of the fruit very quickly attacks my gums, but banana flavour's okay), Luna Bars and Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey Crucnhy Granola Bar, which are my favourites (bought bulk from Costco). Varied with dry mango and Trader Joe peanut butter pretzels, I had more than enough energy every day. I even managed to cook up three meals late in the evening. Coupled with a high-cal Ensure for breakfast (with a few dried apricots and chocolate biscuits) and another for the evening, I was a lean mean paddling machine for the week. Lost five pounds, in fact--all the poundage put on since Christmas ;)
Clothing: With the cooler temperatures experienced this year, my stalwart upper clothing was an Icebreaker Crew 150. Even with the spray flying, this kept me warm. As the cool evenings set in, for the first time I used my Reed Chill Cheater Coverall Cag Deck--great piece of made-to-measure kit, and fits quickly over the top of one's PDF.
Overall health: No problems this year. Two pressure spots on each thumb after day 3, which were remedied with a new wrap of waterproof tape each morning. Using for the first time Hydropel Sports Ointment every few hours or so really appeared to do the trick--never used gloves at all this year. A must for future long paddles. As always, I religiously used my SunPaws, from Hydraulics--anything to cut down the sun on the back of the hands. Over a week later, the tip of my right forefinger is still very numb, just like the last few years. Once again, I still ended up with a rash on my derriere after a few days, but nothing as bad as previous years. For the first time I wore a pair of Mysterioso part-neoprene close fitting shorts. Seemed to do the trick, but I'm still looking for those perfect pair of long distance kayaking shorts for women.
Most of the rest of the gear remains the same as in previous ECs. You can find those here, for 2007, 2008 and 2009. If I haven't covered anything in particular, let me know.
Next: The EC itself.