Light hiking wins in Arthurs Pass

It was one of the tramps where I was happy not to be carrying the extra weight. The track up from the Otira River to the top of Kelly Range is a bit steep — short and sharp, but a grunt nevertheless.   I was testing some new, extra-lightweight Macpac hiking gear and thought that Arthurs Pass National Park would be a perfect place for it.

Nick Allen, Kelly Range

The verdict? The gear was great. My legs weren’t burning too badly at the top, and that’s a win.

The view up there kept me transfixed: snow-capped mountains on my left, the sparkling ocean on my right, and the lonely tarns, sitting at the end of the range before me. It was the perfect place to pitch my tent and spend the night.

I reached the tarns, put my pack down, and started pulling out my gear. As the weather forecast was stable and the snow has melted, I was able to cut it down to the bare essentials. Here’s what I had with me:

Fiord 40 Pack: It was my first time trying the Fiord 40 and I was very impressed. Not only is the pack lightweight, well ventilated (by comparison to the Pursuit pack), and thoughtfully designed, it may be the most comfortable pack I’ve ever worn.  Although the pack lacks a frame, the placement of foam and compression makes it stiff enough to achieve a good transfer of load to your hips and a high level of comfort. That being said, you do need to pack it well, making sure that there are no pointy bits poking into your back. This pack is perfect for two-three day missions.

Camping on the Kelly Range

The new Duolight, pitched on the Kelly Range. Photo Credit: Nick Allen

Duolight Tent: I’d eagerly anticipated the day I’d get my hands on a Duolight — the big brother of my much-loved and much-used Sololight. While this two-person tent was unnecessarily large for my fast-and-light solo mission, I was excited to try it and didn’t mind carrying the extra weight — because there is not much of it. The Duolight, comes in at just over 2kgs, which is excellent considering the size of the tent (very roomy), the ventilation system, and the fact that it has a hard-wearing floor that eliminates the need for a footprint. On my own, the tent felt palatial.

Epic 400 Sleeping Bag: The Epic 400 is fantastic for Spring to Autumn use. It’s lightweight, flexible, and able to deal with the damp — a definite plus when you are camping. It was warm, as I fell asleep, and I had the bag unzipped. In the middle of the night, the wind came up and the temperature dropped significantly. I zipped the bag right up and drew it around my face, completely content. The bag is great in a variety of temperatures.

Warp Long Sleeve: The Warp is my staple shirt. I love both the tee and long sleeve: they are comfortable, dry quickly, and don’t smell, thanks to Polygiene’s permanent odour control technology. In fact, I wear one every morning when I walk. For this trip, I needed a shirt that was fast drying and offered a good UPF rating, particularly for the arms in summer. It was hot in the sun and I was sweating. But once the sun had set, it cooled off in the breeze and the last thing I wanted was a wet shirt giving me the chills. With the Warp, I don’t have to worry — it dries so quickly.

Nick Allen on the Kelly Range

Walking the Kelly Range. Photo Credit: Nick Allen

Prothermal Hoody: Prothermal Hoodies make great base and mid layers and always sit at the top of my pack. I love how the hoody packs into its own (tiny) pocket, delivers amazing warmth, and dries quickly. The pullover is air-permeable and highly breathable, so it does need to be managed with a shell layer. In the hut or when it is really cold, the Prothermal Hoody is awesome under a Pulsar or Supanova. When I am tramping or climbing in the cold, the Prothermal Hoody is perfect when paired with a Warp shirt and the Hightail or Prophet jackets. When it’s just a bit cool, I’ll use the Prothermal Hoody without a shell, letting the air keep me at the right temperature.

Hightail Rain Anorak: This is my most-used jacket. I love the Hightail because it is light, packs down into a tiny pocket, and is the most breathable jacket I own. While it’s not my favourite jacket when caught tramping in a howling winter storm (the more adjustable Prophet is the best for that), the Hightail is perfect when you want protection from the wind, don’t expect to be in the rain for extended periods, and want something that weighs almost nothing.

The wind was strong as I walked out. I was cold with just my Warp Tee on and so I threw my Hightail over the top, enjoyed the elements and soaked in the view.

It should be noted that this list is suitable only for summer tramps.

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Nick Allen on the Kelly Range

Enjoying the view with the Hightail Rain Anorak. Photo Credit: Nick Allen