Sarek, Aug 2023: Gear Analysis

Equipment Used on the Trail

Jesse Harrison


August 27, 2023

This post accompanies a four-part photo story of a hiking trip to Sarek National Park in August 2023. See here for the first part of the story.

Gear analysis

See here for my lighterpack gear list for this trip. My starting weight including food and water was about 11.5 kg, with a base weight of around 6.4 kg.

While an item-by-item analysis would seem like a major effort (and also of limited interest), below are some thoughts on individual pieces of gear I brought along. Note that these are personal views, I have received zero gear sponsorship and am merely writing this as someone with a life-long love for hiking.

If you’d like to chat about any other gear that’s on my pack list but not mentioned below, just reach out. You can get a hold of me through both Instagram or email, always happy to talk!

Carry gear

The ZPacks Arc Haul Ultra 60 felt like the right choice for trip. This rucksack is very comfortable for carrying slightly heavier loads. My only negative experience so far is that I’ve had to reinforce some of the seams (e.g. near the stitching of the outer mesh) with some DCF repair patches. These clearly stood out as weak points even before starting to use the pack, but with some care have held up well.

It is challenging to find another rucksack with a frame and load lifters at this weight point (~600 g). I have opted for some extra features (extra padding on the lower back, waist and shoulder strap pouches) that bring the total weight to 690 g. The additions have seemed like a good way to go.

Durston X-Mid Pro 2 tent (2022 version)

Despite its low (~600g) weight, this single-layer DCF tent held well when faced with storm-force winds and seemingly endless heavy rain on Ruohtesvágge. In bad conditions, extra stakes and a good pitch are necessary. Laying rocks over the stakes also made for some extra confidence (important for a decent night’s sleep!). For my next Sarek trip I may nevertheless consider a smaller one-person tent.

Condensation control was excellent with everything considered, it was enough to give the walls a light wipe before packing away the tent. It never felt like condensation was a problem. The DCF walls are remarkably good at keeping water out.

The two-person version of this tent makes for a roomy feeling when solo camping and the extra space came in handy for drying wet gear. Tent spots were usually easy to find on this route, even for this larger tent. The only exception was on the mountains overlooking Rapadalen after crossing Lulep Vássjájågåsj. There the ground is very rocky and I ended up sleeping on some quite sloped ground.

I’m one of those overly careful people who prefer to use a separate groundsheet, for this I used a MYOG Tyvek sheet made of the softer 1443R variant.

As with all X-Mid models, this tent needs two poles to pitch. It packs down into a small space and fits well inside the Arc Haul.

Astral TR1 Mesh trainers

I was looking for something that would handle constantly wet conditions well and these trainers definitely delivered on that front. Paired with Darn Tough Micro Crew UL running socks, water drained very quickly from the feet after stream and river crossings, and my feet stayed in good condition despite being wet for practically the entire duration of the trip. The thin mesh construction means these trainers dry very fast. Another plus to mention is the very good traction, even when going up and down boulder fields. The shoes fit true to size, although they start off feeling a bit tight and require wearing-in before being put to real use.

Just a few downsides, the first being that these shoes are hard to find in Europe. I ended up ordering them from outside the EU and therefore had to pay a customs fee. On sandy terrain the lugholes on the front let in small debris. In most of Sarek this is not a problem, but e.g. after fording glacier streams it was necessary to give the shoes a rinse to remove any gravel that entered. Another issue is that the lack of ankle support may be problematic on some routes. The last two days of this trip involved some ascending and descenging over quite steep scree and my ankles ended up swelling a bit as a result, despite having worn barefoot shoes for years.

Sarek took a bit of a toll on these shoes, but in my experience they are of quite good durability. Some of the gluing on the front lip came loose, nothing a bit of shoe glue can’t fix. The mesh material on the outside had a good few scrapes against sharp scree and boulders, but did not rip. Some wear and tear, but still functional.

All in all, great trainers, clearly designed to handle wet terrain. I can see these becoming a staple item on future trips, including further visits to Sarek. I would not wear Gore-Tex footwear to Sarek, as they do not drain water well or dry quickly enough.

Rain equipment

For this trip, I brought along two pieces of rain gear: a waterproof shell jacket (Inov-8 Raceshell Pro) and a DCF rain kilt by Gear Swifts. Both performed well and pack into almost nothing. Under this category I’d be tempted to add that the combination of running tights and shorts was ideal for Sarek and at times this combination of legwear would dry so quickly in the wind that I ended up questioning the need for a separate rain kilt. However, the kilt did save me from wet underpants on a couple of occasions, which made for extra comfort.

I have replaced the original attachments that came with the rain kilt with a solution of my own (that seems somehow easier to use), but can easily recommend both pieces of rain gear.

A quick word about the jacket still: at the time of writing the price seems to vary between outlets, if you’re not in a rush it’s worth spending some time hunting for deals.

Warm-up gear

A synthetic puffy jacket (Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex) was much appreciated on this journey, particularly during the nights when huddled up in my tent and when having a wander around campsites. The jacket also made for a comfortable pillow when it was warm enough to sleep without the jacket on. I have toyed with the idea of substituting the puffy with a couple of Polartec Alpha layers for a small weight saving, but so far have not tried this. If anyone has experiences of this, I’d be interested in hearing them.

Wearing the puffy underneath a G1000 overshirt feels incredibly wind-proof and warm. I used this combination to do some brief climbs up to mountain ledges after setting camp.

A merino net shirt (Aclima Woolnet Light) was an ideal underlayer for this trip. Warm when it needed to be, not overheating when the sun was out, quick-drying.

I have become a big fan of Polartec Alpha as a mid-layer, so breathable and warm. This fabric needs a lot of babying, however (it will easily catch on e.g. velcro or vegetation). It is a must to combine it with a tough outer layer for any bushwhacking sections, such as in the Rapadalen, otherwise any clothing made of this delicate fabric would quickly become damaged.

Having a separate, “sleep only” fleece beanie was a good idea for times when it was necessary to pitch a tent in the pouring rain. This made it possible to leave my wet hat drying on the outside and pull out a dry one once inside the tent. Sometimes I wondered how necessary this was, but on very wet nights it always made life easier.

Unused gear

Ice axe and microspikes

I brought these items along as a just-in-case, in the event of choosing to cross the high-elevation Luohttoláhko plateau or any larger snow fields. As a decision was made to take the route through Snávvávágge and Rapadalen instead, this gear was not needed. However, given the relatively light weight of the Petzl Ride ice axe and Black Diamond Blitz microspikes (365g in total), this was not much of a bother. In case there is any possibility that the hike might involve walking over extensive snow fields, I’d rather accept the weight penalty over regretting the absence of safety gear.

Head torch

I took this along despite knowing that I’d very likely not use it, given that early to mid-August in North Sweden is light enough to make do without one. Somehow the darker evenings in South Finland ended up playing with my mind … not next time! Although I would still take one along for trips starting later in August or in September.

Waterproof mittens

My OMM Core fleece mitts stayed warm enough even when wet to be worn without their accompanying waterproof shells (OMM Kamleika), despite the rain, wind and cold. Nevertheless, the Kamleikas only weigh some 30g, so there was little reason to leave them home. Under colder conditions they could also provide extra warmth for summit trips or time spent in the tent.

Wrapping up

Planning the gear list for this trip took several months. While some items could have been left home to further reduce the weight, I never felt my pack weight was excessive (even with the additional mountain gear included). Nevertheless, I got some useful fine-tuning ideas for future trips, including further visits to Sarek.

Thanks for reading, hope you found the contents useful!