Spotlight - equipment views and reviews from the AK team
Kit for a summer in the alps
By Kenny Stocker
01, Aug, 2014
I have a de facto pile of gear that makes it into my duffle when heading out to the alps for summer. Here is my pick from the Alpkit range
I have a de facto pile of gear I grab from the Alpkit kit pool, it makes packing a no brainer (it is better if I am not flying!). If I have this stuff with me I have a lot of boxes ticked and I have a lot of built in flexibility should the opportunity arise to try something different. I hate taking anything that doesn't get used, and I hate even more having to buy something out there knowing I have one sitting at home!
When packing for a trip to the alps in summer I want to take everything I have, great advice huh! The weather is more reliable making it almost certain that I will be able to do all the activities I love on a bigger scale than in the UK and in better weather. An alpine route, bagging a peak, bouldering on some granite blocs, cragging below snow capped peaks, mountain biking a flowing crest, whooping down a fast flowing river or just hanging out with friends and family on a campsite. It is a long way to drive so why not cover all bases.
Top of the list is always going to be a Filo down jacket. No matter how warm it is when leaving the UK it is always the first thing I reach for. If you are in the alps you are most likely to be at 1000m in the valley, at that altitude it can get pretty chilly in the evenings but I like to sit out eat and look at the stars rather than retreat early to the tent. A down jacket just makes that experience a bit more comfortable. If you have a chance meeting and end up on a impromptu hike up a glacier you have your personal insulation covered.
A torch is essential and advances in led technology has us spoilt for choice. Torches are now more compact, give out more light and last longer than they ever have. For a couple of years my BULB did the job but I now take a Glowe. Ok the Trinity is more powerful but I find the Glowe lasts longer and the flood of light it gives is plenty enough for cooking, playing cards or reading. The flashlight feature is spot on for a dash to the loo in the middle of the night. I will also have a head torch in my rucksack or bike luggage at all times. My favourite is Gamma but Indigo is now my default spare which ironically I am starting to use more often than my Gamma! Make sure to pack spare batteries!
I have a van and I have just put blood sweat and tears into trying to convert it, so until I can afford that alpine lodge in the Italian Alps my van is my mobile home. But you cannot carry a van, so I will still book out one of our Zhota demo tents. As well as giving me the option to camp out it also gives me somewhere for van overflow if I am based on a campsite for a few days. Its large porches, big liveable space and ample pockets all over the place make it an ideal base camp.
I have to be careful with my next choice because we haven't got any, not even in the kit pool. I am talking about the mythical PD400 down sleeping bag, a bag absolutely spot on for an Alpine summer. I have had mine for about 5 years. In that time I have washed it at home several times and it is still warm and fluffy. You know sometimes I think we can over complicate our kit, fancy construction techniques, expensive tests in European test labs when all you need is a solid construction and high quality down fill. That's what PipeDream is. I will use it in the valley, in a hut or on a bivvy.
One item that will permanently live at the bottom of my rucksack will be a Hunka bivvy bag. Such is its unsung hero status that I will often forget its there and end up with a couple on the trip. I have never had to use it in an emergency yet, but it is comforting to know it is there.
It is always useful to have a do anything bag and Gourdon is mine. Whether I plan to go canoeing, climbing, walking, canyoning or mountain biking this bag does a lot of things for one bag. A dry bag with rucksack straps, it doesn't pretend to be anything more, it has that confidence.
A tarp is always handy as an extension to a van, whether to keep the rain out of the door or more optimistically as a sun shade. A Rig 7 attaches to the roof rack attachment points on my Vivaro very tidily with a couple of small clippers. Pull this away with a couple of guyed trekking poles and I have a covered area set up in a couple of minutes. If the wind is gusting a bit one side can be dropped down for added protection. If I am on a bike bivvy I will hook it over my bike to make an improvised shelter.
Where better to stash all those documents, passports or guide books than in a set of Mission bags! Some people might prefer the Apollo bags or even Orbiter pouches but I am a big fan of the Missions. I like the zip closure, it just feels more secure and they feel like document sized packs. Approaching border control or campsite checkin I know exactly where my docs are.
Even if I am not on a bouldering trip I will try to fit in a bouldering mat. I will usually come across a large rock that has rolled down a mountainside at some point during the trip, or just stop at Font to break up the journey. My preference is Mujo. Not quite as big as Project but it does pack away a lot neater and makes a better sofa!
On long evenings, between gazing up at the stunning milky way I will invariably reach for Pass the Pigs. A guaranteed ice breaker on any campsite or alpine bar.
Finally all of this stuff needs somewhere to live, and I haven't found a more reliable option than a kit bag. I grew up with a large black Eagle Creek duffle in my youth, simple and bombproof. Truth be told I still have it! Its just a duffle to keep other stuff safe, and it does that year in and year out. It ages with me, a faithful companion, in years to come I will see it there in the background of all my photos, an indelible mark on these years. I should probably be able to get away with a medium, but I play safe and take a large, after all the nieces will expect me to bring something back!