Certainly some of you may be interested in gear we will use. As we have no experience in this type of expeditions, we were basingmainly on the experience of other hikers We took into consideration mainly two criteria: weight and quality. If you start reading about the equipment, you will certainly find out about the idea of “ultralight”. Generally the purpose is one – to reduce the weight of what we will carry in backpack as much as possible – of course without risking your safety. Some people can go even below 3kg, but this already ain’t “ultralight”, it’s “hyperlight” (i.e. Łukasz Supergan). I think however, that not every trail will allow you to drop your base weight too low, without risking the safety, what Łukasz also keeps in mind. In turn Agnieszka Dziadek who was the first Polish person to finish Te Araroa, had in her backpack slightly more than 6kg. My base weight is close to 9,5kg (including the backpack itself), Michał’s circa 11,5kg – one of the heavier items in his sack is the camera with a tripod. Certainly one who practices “ultralight” would say, that this is quite a lot (and I thought, that I will close down in 8kg), but we will see as it goes. One of the reasons I have heavier gear is because I’m quite tall. The size of the sleeping bag, clothes and sleeping mat – part of the things is just a bit heavier – but this not the only argument.
Reduction of the weight is a difficult task especially if you don’t have too much experience (and that was our case). Some solutions aren’t easy to accept or were not tested by us, some exceed the acceptable balance between the cost and what they offer – sometimes cheaper stuff is just enough (but I admit sincerely, that no I was not very consistent with that…). Other issue was sometimes the availability of particular items, but this was a smaller problem. We were mainly basing on proposals from the American market as it is a nation, which developed the long distance hiking and outdoor culture quite well, and even if this ain’t truth, this certainly they are very present all over the Internet and they have a lot of good equipment on the market.
We had to take under consideration the fact, that during such a long hike some things will just wear out, and if not they will be exposed to damage much more than during a several days excursion. Let’s just multiply this by 3000km. Such an intense use in various conditions forces to think differently about the equipment and appropriate planning. Generally the gear had to be reliable – there are various conditions waiting for us there, both temperature and the weather. And this is not going to be a week, or two, when you may possibly “pull up” to the end with damaged equipment and then just return home. We are going to the other side of the world and all our belongings will be in our backpacks – that’s everything we will need for the time being to keep us safe and warm. It just securing the joy of the trip.
“The Big Three”: backpack, tent and sleeping bag
We got ourselves the Osprey Exos 58 packs, which are a very popular solution on the trails and therefore seem to be well tested – they weigh about 1100g. The lighter solution is ZPacks, which is made of so-called “Cubenfibre” – ultra-light and waterproof material. The price of $325 plus the need of importing it from the USA made me decide that we should go for Osprey.
We bought single-person tents for one reason: we will be together every day for several months. This is not a week-long break with your friends, after which everyone goes their own way. A 2-person tent could save us a bit of weight, but the awareness that each of us has his own “home” at the end of the day was more important. It’s just about personal comfort.
And again, we trusted the American company: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 1. The tent after packing weighs approx. 1113g. Plus additional stakes and footprint. It’s an extra sheet that protects the inner tent from abrasion and allows to set up the tent “dry”, which was important when you pitch it in bad weather – first you have to lay down the footprint, then you place the masts and the fly. Then it’s possible to hook up the inner tent from the inside while being protected from the rain. A lighter solution would be a tent without masts (using your trekking poles instead). I have never tested such a solution and I was a little afraid to go for it, especially since I use the sticks quite intensively and it may happen that they will bend or break up, what may cause a problem with pitching up the tent.
Sleeping bags and down jackets
Here, however, we took advantage of the domestic market. Robert’s Outdoor Equipment is a company founded in Gdynia by Mr. Roman Werdon. While reading about Agnieszka Dziadek’s equipment, we came across this manufacture and decided to contact Mr. Werdon. It turned out he is the father of our friend from university – the world is small. The sleeping bags and down jackets were custom made for us – it required some time and many conversations, but at we learned a lot about down, jackets and sleeping bags and various solutions. Doing business with Mr. Werdon provides some great educational value – thanks a lot for that!
For my trip to Norway, where I also wanted to test the gear for New Zealand, I ordered a warmer sleeping bag and jacket. My sleeping bag weighs 1100g, while the jacket is 420g. Michał’s sleeping bag is much lighter for two reasons – it has less down and there is no “bolero” (I went for this solution instead of the typical mummy hood). Both sleeping bags are multifunctional. They are open on both sides (they are tube-shaped with a cuff and down “plug” at the bottom) and the zip along the whole length allows you to unzip the sleeping bag and treat as a regular cover during warmer nights. Sleeping bags can also be turned on the other side, which positively affects the freshness. The chambers are in the shape of a rim and are not divided on the circumference, which allows you to set the down freely depending on the needs and thermal conditions.
This is one of the most important pieces of equipment. I have provided myself with two pairs of Altra Lone Peak 3.5 trail running shoes. Why two? Again – it’s related to the intensive use. 3000km is too much for one pair, two is the minimum. I hope I will not have to buy a third one. We discussed with Michal whether we should take low or high boots. From the very beginning I was more convinced towards light trail shoes and in the end we both agreed. What convinced us to this solution is the fact that the trail is incredibly wet and muddy and often includes river crossing. In that case the water will pour from the top. Lightweight shoes would be better, because they dry quickly and are well ventilated – decent trekking boots will dry for a long time and can increase the chances of fungus.
These are the most important elements for now. We might be willing to complete this post, or maybe we will provide more details in separate blog entries, maybe we will make a small test. However, the main point is to focus on enjoying the trip and not to monitor the equipment at all times. It has one job – to work.
It is difficult not to agree with what Piotr wrote. I will just add that investing in equipment in a way had to compensate our inexperience. The situation where reaching our goal would be limited by a wrongly matched sleeping bag or a bit heavier tent is at least ridiculous. The cost that we incurred in case of some items is one-off, while some other items will be able to serve us for the rest of their lives. This was the case of my photo gear, which I aquifer for the expedition. I realize that taking the Olympus OMD EM5 with two lenses, filters and a tripod has increased the weight of my luggage by almost 1.5 kg. This is the price that I am able to pay for the opportunity to document our trip in the best possible way. Besides, I think that our trip is the perfect time to develop your photography skills.
In addition to the properties of Osprey Exos 58, about which Piotr wrote (weight, price, availability), it is worth noting that the way the backpack is made is very well thought out. Well-chosen size will allow us to evenly distribute the weight of the equipment on the shoulders and hips. And a properly profiled frame allows for back ventilation (Exos 58 does not adhere to your back that much). This is an extremely important feature in the context of constant physical effort. To save a bit, I decided to buy an older model. So far, we do not notice major differences.
Compared to Piotr, I decided to limit the costs related to a special footprint. Which does not mean that I gave up completely. To cut the costs a bit I went to Ikea, bought 5 Frakta bags (2 PLN each), ripped them and then with a great help of my mother we combined them into the shape of the tent floor. This is not a great solution because of the weight (Piotr’s footprint is 113g, mine – 290). However, I spent 23 times less.
Sleeping bags and down jackets
We must both admit that we could definitely reduce the weight and costs related to custom made gear. Compared to Agnieszka Dziadek, our sleeping bags include larger amount of down (AD – 300g/m2, MW – 350g/m2, PZ – 400g/m2). We realize that this is a significant difference. Nevertheless, we wanted our equipment to be flexible and useful for other trips.
My choice came down to two pairs of Merrell Moab Ventilator shoes, which Łukasz Supergan recommended. I checked them in trial marches and I’m happy with them. What made me choose them was the price. The end of the collection meant that I did not spend more than 285 PLN on a pair of shoes.
On the Polish version of the website (click “Sprzęt” in the menu) you will find a detailed list of our gear along with the weight. We will provide the English translation for the table should later.