Call this a niche-post, because it will only interest those who ache to slip into something less comfortable and spend a frigid night alone in the woods, grinning like a loon while gnawing on crunchy mouthfuls of poorly rehydrated pasta bolognese, spending the weekend walking through country that makes your legs want to drop off. If your idea of heaven is staring into the embers of a fire you started, first try, in cold, wet weather from beneath the drape of a Tyvek tarp, then this post is for you. The rest of you go back to tweeting Bieber or whatever it is that you do with you ‘life’.
Overland Track! Only three weeks to go! Holy shit!
First, the logical thought processes behind the clothing selection business. Hitting the OLT in June is only moderately insane, as it’s right on the cusp of what you’d call a hardcore winter hike, especially when on an island notorious for killer blizzards even in mid-summer. Four seasons in one day is actually a legitimate weather forecast in Tasmania. People from down there think the Inuit are a bunch of pansy-ass wimps. Vagaries of antipodean nature aside, you gotta hope for the best and plan for the worst. I know the ambient temps min/max historically between +10ºC and -10ºC (14ºF) but it’s the wind-chill that will kill you, so my plan is to stay dry and protect myself from the breezes. As another donkey-on-the-edge once observed: it’s all about layers.
So on the upper body, I will be wearing polypro baselayers by Marmot to draw sweat away from my skin, saving a clean 200 weight merino top by Icebreaker for sleepwear. Over that goes a (red) merino shirt by Macpac for warmth. Over that I’ll wear a wind and waterproof jacket, again by Mont (not pictured) or the quilted Icebreaker merino jacket below in black — haven’t decided yet. Nothing is waterproof, per se, especially if the thing it encapsulates steams the way I do, so my ability to vent heat as I exert myself will be the difference between damp and sweaty clothes versus dry clothes. Damp and sweaty puts you at the head of the slippery slope to hypothermia. And if you think I’m plugging Mont (or any other brand) think again. Wait until I come back from the hike, I’ll let you know what gear excelled and what didn’t.
Finally, depending on how horrific the circumstances are, my final upper-body layer will be either a light Pertex shell by Outdoor Research (not pictured), or a heavier Goretex shell also by OR (blue jacket, above). I’ll carry both because the former wears easier than the latter, and weighs bugger-all. This is all about the best-worst-scenario planning: a close eye on the forecasts already show frequent (ie. almost daily) heavy rains, strong wind, and snowfalls down to 800m. About half of the OLT is above 800m. So I can expect shitty weather, sure, but not EVERY day… Some days I might get a few hours of perfect weather, and that will be the time to delaminate myself, dry out properly, take those photos and get some serious miles under me. Other days the sleet will be coming at me like flechette-rounds, so I’ll need a suit of hiking-armour to get to the safety of the next hut, where I will discrobe down to my thermal top and slip on my ridiculously warm down puffy by Montane (below).
On my bottom half, to compensate for the fact I don’t have (and will not buy) proper snow pants, I’ll be wearing a 200 weight merino base layer by Icebreaker which will double as sleepwear. Over that, a pair of close-fitting fleece pants by Mont and, finally, a pair of Goretex overpants by Outdoor Research which, I have to say, are among the more tried-and-tested pieces of gear I own, and I have absolute confidence in their ability to keep me dry and protected from the wind. Was that a plug? I guess that was a plug — OR, are you listening? Send me free stuff! Anyway, while we’re on brands, I’ll be ensconced in Sea to Summit ‘Quagmire’ gaiters, a pair of anti-blister socks by a company called Armaskin, overlaid by thick warm socks by Wigwam or Bridgedale. My midweight hiking boots, the Quest 4D II’s by Salomon, finish off the list. And Kahtoola microspikes, if and when I need them.
Yes, there are accessories, gloves (OR), ski mask (OR), beanie (OR — hmm, I’m beginning to sound like a pirate), hut booties (not OR!) and other good stuff by both reputable manufacturers of quality bushwalking gear, and not. Like anybody, I look longingly all the best gear then buy what I can afford, and over the years have had gear failures because I went cheap by necessity. I began my hiking life with an old pillowcase for a backpack, a tatty old blanket for a sleeping bag, and a $10 tent from Target. God I had some fun. Now that I’m older, I can afford to insulate my weary body against the bitter earth with a down-filled sleeping mat, but can I buy the joys of my youth, tramping through woods with only a vague idea where I was going, discovering secret places, observing wildlife, pressing my nose into the pine needles and smelling the earth?
I guess I’ll find out soon enough — only 25 sleeps to go!