Annapurna Circuit - Gear Review
After we returned from the Annapurna Circuit trek, each of us had some comments on some items of our gear, which we’d like to share with you here. Please note that this is not a complete list of every item each of us packed.
Merrell Men's Chameleon 4 Mid WP Hiking Boots – Cape Union Mart – R1,999
Could not be happier with them. Excellent boots, not that heavy, nice and flexible, but at the same time still very supportive. Grips on most surfaces like a Goodyear off-road tyre!
Merrell Chameleon Shift Traveler Mid Women’s hiking boot
Very comfortable fit, lightweight, dynamic, good balance between stability and mobility. Did not develop even one blister. Highly recommended.
Merrell Phaserbound – R2,300
Extremely good hiking boots. However, the inner lining around the heel is not durable enough.
Merrell Phaserbound – R2,300
The day we bought these shoes, i was not completely convinced that it would suit me, but it was as if it were moulded to my feet, and i really enjoyed our training hikes with these boots. However, over the next few months a few things happened that changed my mind. First, we found that their grip was not what we’d hoped for, when we fell down the slope of a hill eight times in a matter of minutes. Eventually, i couldn’t complete my training for the hike because i had to nurse a sprained ankle for several weeks.
Secondly, the lining around the heel was not sturdy enough. We’d bought the shoes in August, and on the third day of our trek (late October) i developed a blister on my heel due to the worn-out lining. Keep in mind that these shoes were well worn-in during many training hikes. After the trek, it continued to such an extent that we returned the shoes to the shop where we’d bought it. They returned it to the manufacturer, who sent it to their headquarters, warehouse or some such place, and after about six weeks, we were told that they’d give me a voucher at the shop where we’d bought the shoe.
Technically, that would be fine, if the shop had any hiking boots that would be a good replacement for the original pair, which unfortunately it didn’t. Eventually i had to settle for a pair of outdoor shoes which is sturdy, but not suitable for hiking, and which i don’t really need, which means that i have to fork out a whole new bundle of money to buy some new hiking boots.
First Ascent Jupiter 65 + 10 litre – Sportsman’s Warehouse – R2300
All four of us decided on the same backpack.
I was very impressed with the back pack. It sat comfortably and felt very sturdy. I also like the little snacks/sweets zip net pockets on either side of the hip belt. Very handy and not present on most back packs I noticed when I was shopping for my bag. It has zips, clips, and straps everywhere, so I really found it quite customizable for me. I did experience a bit of chafing and discomfort at times on the belt line where the bag clips round the waist, but this is simply due to underwear, thermals, trail pants with belt, and the bag clipping over all this on those tender lower love handle spots at the same time with the weight of the bags contents. Nevertheless I was still very happy with the bag and encountered no other issues with it.
I didn’t encounter any problems. All the zips and buckles behaved themselves. Many diverse compartments which were practical and made accessibility easy. Adjustable straps make the bag very comfortable and definitely assist in carrying the load comfortably.
The backpack is superb. Its weight distribution is fantastic, which means that your shoulders and back don’t bear the load, but rather your hips. Ten out of ten for this backpack!
The backpack is phenomenal. Almost everything is adjustable to the exact right place. (Here’s a suggestion to all backpack manufacturers: Women find the breast straps extremely uncomfortable. Maybe you could work on that part of the design.) It even features a front zip for the main compartment, which means that you can access whatever you need much easier than with other bags. On day four of the trek, i was dismayed to find that the clasp on my hip belt was broken, which meant it didn’t stay fastened. This is one of the most important features of a backpack, and at the start of a trek like this, it’s simply discouraging. Fortunately a friend came to the rescue with a carabiner, which solved some of my problem. Back home we contacted the store from which we’d bought the backpack, and even though the management promptly decided to replace the clasp, it took many months and several visits to the store to actually get the replacement.
K-Way Torsion '12 Ski Trouser – Cape Union Mart – R1,299
Just wore them on summit day. Kept my legs very warm, a bit too warm with long thermals on underneath as well. One could really just wear a pair of boxers on underneath. The pants are also lined with a breathable soft duvet-like padding, so sure to keep one warm, but doesn’t make one sweat either. They also have side zips, which once unzipped allow some cool air to ventilate and cool you down should you start to get a bit uncomfortably hot.
First Ascent Ice Breaker – Sportsman’s Warehouse – R3,000 (I got it on sale for R2,250)
The best and warmest sleeping bag on the market, in my opinion. Goose Down and with a -15 degrees Celsius rating. Nice and wide, quite a bit wider than most other sleeping bags. Cocoons right round to the top of one’s head and down to your eyebrows. I slept snug as a bug in this!
SLEEPING BAG LINER
First Ascent Sleeping Bag Liner – Trappers – R590
Adds 8 degrees of warmth to your sleeping bag. Also keeps your sleeping bag much cleaner for longer. Very comfortable and warm.
First Ascent Pathfinder Walking Sticks – Sportsman’s Warehouse – R700 for the pair
Very, very happy and thankful I had them. Soft comfort grips, fully telescopic, and they have built in shocks.
K-Way Kilimanjaro walking sticks – Cape Union Mart – R699
Each one weighs 245g and can extend from 67cm to 1.4m. These come in very handy when you’re need a boost uphill, or when you need help braking downhill, or when you’re just plain tired.
GOOSE DOWN JACKET
First Ascent Goose Down Jacket – Borrowed this one from Marésa
Excellent jacket. Kept me so warm, even a little too warm at times. I used this all the time when the fleece top wasn’t enough. I didn’t even feel the need to change into my water-/windproof First Ascent all-weather jacket when I had the down jacket on.
First Ascent Mogul Ski Gloves (Outers) – Sportsman’s Warehouse – R320
Only used them on summit day, but very glad I had them, as they truly did their job up there when we experienced the cold at its worst.
Cape Storm Smart Touch Gloves (Inners) – Sportsman’s Warehouse – R200
Used them all the time from day 4 through to summit day 10. Nice and comfortable with a thin rubber grip web on the palm side and smart screen finger tips for use with your smart phone.
First Ascent Thermal Bamboo Wick Long Johns – Sportsman’s Warehouse – R330
First Ascent Thermal Long Sleeve Bamboo Wick Base Layer Tops – Sportsman’s Warehouse – R450
Very happy with these. It kept me extremely warm, sometimes even too warm, but that’s their job. Will wear them each winter from now on. They have a Bamboo fiber and a special wicking quality, which does not retain moisture, but is still maintains a breathable property.
I bought a set of thermal underwear from the Sonam store in Thamel, Kathmandu. It cost around R300 for the top and another R300 for the bottom. It’s grey, which I consider a really practical colour, and even though it has excellent wicking qualities, the inside is lined with a soft, fleece-like layer, which makes you feel extra warm.
Atlasware 700ml Flasks – Kloppers – R300
I consider these the best flasks on the market, better ratings than Stanley, and best of all it’s a South African brand. It comes with plastic loop cap which one can clip to your backpack or for when you carry it, and it helped us so much on summit day. We could drink water from these bottles, but with ordinary water bottles, the water would have frozen.
It’s really difficult to find a comfortable pair of women’s fit trekking pants that sits comfortably on the top and the bottom and that is the correct length. K-way's trekking pants came the closest to the best option. Easy zip off options for the bottom part of the pants.
Capestorm fleece top: very comfortable, lightweight and warm.
We purchased Acetozolamide (10 x 250g tablets for about R12) at our local pharmacy in Kathmandu. In South Africa we would have to go to the doctor (R400 consultation fee), get a prescription and buy similar medication at our pharmacy (around R200), which would cost R588 more than in Nepal.
We considered many options, and eventually our budget decided for us. So we bought 10 x 3.5g Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate packets in Thamel for R7 a packet. One thing to remember with this option, is that you have to wait 30 minutes after adding the tablets before you can drink the water.
We also bought water at the safe drinking water stations in some villages along the route (R4 to R8 per litre).
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Annapurna Circuit - The Budget