Gear that worked (or didn’t) on Shackleton’s Traverse – camping and sleeping

At the end of a mountaineering trip (especially one as remote and challenging as the Shackleton Traverse) it’s always a good idea to consider what worked and what didn’t. This post looks at how well some of the camping and sleeping gear we used on the expedition worked.

Camping and sleeping

Expedition camp on Trident Col (Shackleton's Traverse, South Georgia). Skis standing on end as tent poles. (Chiz Dakin)The NorthFace VE25 tent (Provided by Oceanwide) was really good, but it needs to be pitched well to survive a strong breeze (F10-11). It also benefits greatly from the addition of snowflaps in glacial environments. It’s very roomy for two, (though a squash for the middle person of three) and when well pitched it’s rock solid even in strong winds. But snowstakes, iceaxes and rocks were also very handy for helping to pitch it securely (and skis and skipoles far less secure!)

The Exped Synmat 7 (mine) was much warmer than my usual thermarest, which was great on the ice. But, it wasn’t the quickest or easiest to pump up. It also felt a little saggy (lacking in air) on the first night, but I understand this is something that improves with the first few uses and seemed to improve on the 2nd and 3rd nights.

The Carinthia Sleeping bag system (provided by Oceanwide) was fantastic. Although I’m a real fan of down sleeping bags, it was a definite no-no on this trip (my summer-weight Dreamcatcher stayed deep in its drybag, very scared of the very damp conditions!). Being able to get fully clothed (all bar the outers of my ski-boots) into the Carinthia outer sleeping bag, and not have to worry that it was getting wet was really amazing. On the down side, it’s not the smallest or lightest (and did take up a lot of space in or on the pulkas), but for very damp and cold but “just-above-freezing” conditions it’s the best I’ve ever used. And it dried remarkably quickly in the warm dry hold of the ship too!

More gear reviews from the trip coming – cooking and eating next.