Gear Highlight is a series of posts counting down to our Hardangervidda ski crossing in January 2019. Each post we will present a different category of gear we will be bringing on our trip. See all Gear Highlight posts.
Polar exploration isn’t all about skiing for hours on end. We will spend the majority of our time inside or around our tent. Getting our camp routine and equipment right is just as important as being a capable skier. This gear highlight is going to be a big one. We are going to go over the majority of kit we need when we’re not on the move: the tent and tent equipment, sleeping gear, cooking equipment and food and drink.
Helsport Spitsbergen X-Trem and a ton of Spare stuff
When stopped, the tent is our first and foremost protection from the elements. It keeps out the wind and provides a warmth bubble for us. Without a doubt, it is one of the most critical pieces of equipment we are carrying. We chose to go with the Helsport Spitsbergen X-Trem Camp. We used that one on our Arctic Expedition Training, and Helsport Tents are endorsed by none other than Børge Ousland, so we felt this was a safe choice.
This tent isn’t just called extreme, it is purpose-built for the harshest conditions on earth. I have never used any tent that felt so well designed. It’s a tunnel tent which allows us to double up on the tent poles to reinforce it against brutal winds. It has vestibules on each side, one small and one larger one, both of which have an entry. The larger one is perfect to dig our porch in the snow for cooking. We are bringing a lot of spares and repair equipment, most of which you can buy from Helsport directly.
The regular tent pegs won’t cut it in the snow. We need snow pegs. Luckily, Helsport has us covered in that area as well. We are bringing the 50cm pegs since they provide that little bit of extra strength. For very loose or shallow snow, we are bringing some Swiss Piranha Snow Anchors. They worked exceptionally well on our training trip, and if we don’t detect any issues, we may replace the majority of snow pegs with them, because they are a lot lighter.
When camping in the snow, we need to move that pesky white stuff around for various reasons. We need to dig a porch inside the tent. We need to collect snow to melt. And we need to cover the storm flaps with a solid layer of snow, to create a nice warmth bubble inside. All of this is easier when using snow shovels than our bare hands. When talking about Hardangervidda, we are also carrying them for avalanche safety, an application we hope we’ll never have to try out in real life. When looking for a shovel, make sure to get one with a grip that can comfortably be used with thick mitts.
Small Travel Towels
After a night inside the tent, the inside will be covered with condensed water. If it is not entirely frozen, we use a small towel to wipe off the worst of it. It’s also useful to clean up any kind of other spills.
Fairy Lights transform a cold night in stormy winds into a magical experience. A constant and warm source of light is just so much better than using a head torch permanently. A must have for all our camping trips.
Everything you require for personal hygiene. Toothbrush, medications, those things. You get the idea.
On Hardangervidda, temperatures can drop to below -30°C at night. We are bringing Arctic Dream 1400 sleeping bags from Alpkit. Though not the lightest available, it is still relatively light for a -36°C Comfort bag and offers exceptional value for money. You could also use a lighter bag with a separate liner here.
We are sleeping on two closed cell foam sleeping mats each. The Ridgerest SoLites are a bit bulkier than inflatable mats, but inflatables break easily, and losing your insulation at night can be a huge problem. The SoLites are also lighter than most inflatables.
Primus Omnifuel Stove and Tray
We are using a stove to melt snow and heat water. The Omnifuel – as the name implies – is a stove that runs on pretty much anything combustible (EDIT: as it turned out, that is not exactly the case). In the summer we would usually use gas, but that is not reliable in the extreme cold, so we are using unleaded petrol. We are bringing about half a litre per day for both of us.
The stove will usually be in the porch area of our tent. We built a plastic tray with magnets and bungee cords, so we can quickly move the stove and fuel bottle around as one unit. It also helps balance the stove better in uneven snow. The Omnifuel does not have a built-in lighter, so you have to bring matches yourself.
5l fuel canister
5l Pot with Lid
A simple 5l pot with a lid to melt snow. A handle or pot-gripper is also nice, so you can pour out the heated water more easily. You can obviously take a bigger or smaller pot, but we found that 5l is a size that works well for our needs.
Spoon or Spork
A spoon or spork to eat our food. Thorsten is using a rubber spoon from expedition foods, Lauren uses the Alpkit Lhfoon. We’d not recommend using a plastic one, because it turns out plastic becomes brittle in the cold and breaks easily, and you will find yourself eating with your multi-tool quickly.
A plastic Tupperware bowl. You can eat your food out of it if you don’t want to eat out of the bag. It is also handy to scrape any ice off the inside of the tent in the mornings.
This massive flask keeps our water hot day and night. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to carry enough warm water to last a day of skiing. In the mornings and evenings, we melt enough snow to fill our flasks up again after we used some for breakfast or dinner. We also reheat the water that’s left in the flasks. We are bringing one each.
I have a tendency to spill things in the tent, which is not great in the cold. That’s why I got this handy lockable mug. If you are more careful than me, you can probably take a lighter cup, but I’d recommend insulation nonetheless.
I’m also clumsy, and can’t be trusted with liquids in the tent, so I’m bringing my trusty hydroflask, which does an amazing job of insulating coffee, and has a nice clip down cover.
We will have three types of meals: breakfast, dinner, and snacks while we are skiing. For the dinners, we are bringing freeze-dried meals from Expedition Foods, who were kind enough to support our crossing. There is a wide range of suppliers for freeze-dried meals, but we like Expedition Foods for various reasons you can read about in our review. For breakfast, we also take some freeze-dried meals mixed with our own porridge recipe. Our snacks for the day vary widely and are pretty specific to our personal taste. Basically, anything you fancy above 400 kcal per 100 g is snack-worthy, as long as you keep a nice balance of fat, carbs, and proteins. Some examples we take are chocolate, salami, hard cheese, Haribos, nut mixes, breakfast bars, and protein snacks. We’re also bringing some miso and tomato soup sachets to mix with water on our snack breaks, as this is a nice way to get a few calories in while you drink, and gives you a break from plain water. How much you need to bring depends on how hard you’ll be working. Historically polar expeditions have planned for between 4000 and 8000 kcal per day, depending on the circumstances. This number is totally specific to your habits and your body, though, so please take the time and find something that works for you instead of just taking my word for it.
That’s it for our tent, sleeping, and cooking equipment. The next post will be the last gear highlight, dealing with our safety equipment.
Keen hiker and ÖAV trekking and hiking guide, in love with Nansen. Owner of the most walk-averse rescue dog ever. Ice cream lover, kit junkie, runner and mad software genius.