The details of my kit choice is below:
Bike: Last year (and first time round the Cairngorms Loop) I rode a rigid Salsa El Mariachi. The lack of fork began to really hurt by the second day, and I wanted a single speed anyway for training, so I picked up a bargain El Mariachi 2 from Billys.co.uk and converted my existing one to SS. The difference with a suspension fork was astonishing, just really good to ride on the techy stuff without worrying as much about wheel traps. I think Fisherfield would be horrible without one, mainly because the big descent out is fantastic at speed!
Kit: Last year I went with a tent, but this year a bivi and tarp. The reasons for this were twofold – weight saving of around 200g against my TN Laser, but also the discomfort factor would make me more likely to continue in the rain than just wait it out in the tent.
Bivi – Terra Nova Moonlite Sleeping Bag Cover: I’ve since replaced this with a TN Discovery Lite as it’s not a full bivi, and I could potentially get rid of the tarp if I went for a bigger bag instead.
Tarp – Alpkit Rig 3.5, with pegs from the Argos tent. Only used the tarp once in a passing place between Kylesku and Drumbeg. It was around 11pm when I pulled in after I couldn’t get a hotel in Kylesku.
Sleeping bag – Cumulus Quantum 350 – perhaps a bit warm overall (comfort -6), but a great bag and 700g
Mat – NeoAir XTherm, full length. Without a doubt this is the one piece of kit I’ll not look to improve or change. Fantastically comfy.
Luggage: Alpkit frame bag, two Stem Cells and a top tube bag. Wildcat seat pack harness, and bar harness. Both excellent. Alpkit Airlok Xtras at both ends, 13l in the bars and 8l in the seat pack. I did consider using the double ender on the bars but then realised I never need to get into the bag in-situ anyway so there was no point.
Stove – Karrimor titanium stove, same as the Fire Maple ones but only £20. TN ti pot, no lid. This wasn’t for weight saving purposes, I forgot it! However, having only used it to boil water and a single pre-eaten boil in the bag meal, I didn’t need a lid at all.
Rucksack – TNF Megamouth (it says it holds 18l but it feels a lot smaller). No bladder
Tops – A Montane Bionic merino/synthetic blend long sleeve base layer, worn through the entire trip, washed once on the 4th night in a hotel in Ullapool. Also a Rab hooded wind shirt, worn as a mid layer.
Jackets – Montane Spektr Smock (excellent for weight but lack of zip was annoying at times), and Montane Prism jacket as my warm layer. The Prism got worn once on what I’d planned as a super quick bivi outside Kinlochleven where I decided to wear it and not use my sleeping bag. I had to descend later in the night as it was freezing so I got the sleeping bag out and slept incredibly well under a bush.
Shorts – Gore 3/4 bibs, worn throughout, again washed in Ullapool. Probably the best chamois I’ve ever used, and I think the 3/4 length helped keep my legs in shape as I didn’t suffer with lactic acid at all. Overshorts were Altura 3/4s, although I was expecting some waterproof ones that didn’t arrive in time unfortunately.
Shoes – Pearl Izumi X Alp Seek IV – these are like trainers so great for the walking section. I am unsure about them being supportive enough as every tendon in my feet hurt for the first few days after, and unclipping out the way was becoming painful towards the end. My ankles were both really swollen too, although it would be hard to attribute it to the shoes and not just the distance. I wore out a set of brand new Shimano cleats in a week, such was the amount I walked!
Food: Last year I carried too many dinners and not enough snacks. This year I changed that. I went with three Ziploc bags of porridge, two of which I used on the last night and day but they were there in reserve in case I needed it. I then stocked up on a load of oat based cereal bars, enough for a few days. I took couscous and chorizo for dinner – no ceremony or preparation, just eating half the chorizo as the couscous cooked – instant 900 calories, then another hundred on a hot chocolate. On the ride itself I stocked up in shops on the route, discovering that it’s wise to always have a can of Coke on your person as it’s a magical elixir when Mr Bonk comes along. Most of the shops en route don’t sell cereal bars, but they do sell flapjacks, so I grabbed a handful of them every time. Not all flapjacks are the same – the ones from Drumbeg stores were made with butter and brown sugar so could be knocked back with ease, whereas the ones with margarine just became horrible to eat. The Drumbeg ones were to become a godsend when Mr Bonk visited one day – it took 1400 calories in quick succession for me to feel human again.
Also snack sized pork pies were amazing, just the right mix of fat, protein, carbs and deliciousness.
My food choices:
Note the Nescafé wasn’t mine, I have standards…