8 February 2012

Polar Expedition Gear

During a long expedition such as a trek to the South Pole and back, there are always a number of items of equipment that really stand out, some good, some not so good. Here are my personal comments on some of our gear. The Great Gear Fischer Skis I have been a fan of Fischer skis for many years. Once again the skis were as great as always. We used Fischer Country skis to ski to the Pole and I used tour X-calibur to kite back. As always, they are super reliable. [caption id="attachment_253" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="Richard with Country Skis at the South Pole"][/caption] Recon GPS Goggles The Recon GPS goggles were a last minute addition to our gear. These are normal goggles with a small magnified camera-type lens (screen) just below your eye and a GPS receiver. The user carries a separate blue tooth controller, I wore it on my wrist. The different screen pages give the user latitude, longitude, speed, distance and time traveled, max speed. With a small glance downward, the user can see the information displayed on the screen. I was able to charge the battery on our solar panel. This goggles were extremely useful for navigation, particularly in bad light. I found it fun to know our speed and how far we had traveled as we skied along. They were critical for navigation while kiting in bad light. In normal light, it was simply easier to navigate with the goggles than trying to look at the compass while kiting at 30 kph! [caption id="attachment_251" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Recon GPS Goggles with Facemask"][/caption] 7Systems Endurance Supplements Our expedition food contains lots of calories, up to 7000 a day but very little nutrition. It is the second expedition that I have relied on 7Systems Endurance Supplements to keep us healthy. I can honestly say that I have felt better on these last two expeditions than on previous expeditions. Aluminum Sled & Gatineau Nordic Ski and Sled Runner Preparation Michael and I designed a new sled. The goal was to have less resistance, better glide. I think we succeeded. This 7 kg sled was the easiest sled that I have ever had to pull. The runners (and our ski bases) were prepared by Wayne Johannson of Gatineau Nordic (with great advice from the folks at Fischer). Wayne prepped both the runners and skis like cross country racing skis for cold weather. In that last few days to the Pole we made better mileage, with a less experienced (and older) team than we did in 2008. For kiting we attached two sleds side by side for increased stability at high speeds. That also worked well. [caption id="attachment_256" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="New Aluminum Sled"][/caption] Hilleberg Tent This tent, the Keron 4GT is perfect for Antarctica. It was fast to put up / take down, solid in high winds, warm in the sun. It was roomy. We had four people in the four-person tent, though it was a snug fit. Perhaps Hilleberg could make a winter version with no mosquito netting and snow flaps? We managed to break a pole but in three minutes we made a repair using the kit that comes with the tent! It is a well thought-out and well made piece of equipment. Brunton Solar Panel and Re-chargeable battery The fourteen watt Brunton solar panel and rechargeable battery work extremely well. We could charge the battery then charge our iPods, sat phone, goggles at our leisure or we could charge directly from the panel. This may sound obvious, a solar panel should charge but we had another model from another company and it didn’t work so well … it just never really seemed to charge as fast and as completely as the Brunton. It also folds into a nice neat package for transportation. Ozone 5 meter Kite This amazing kite was the back bone of the kiting portion of our expedition. We did 95% of the kiting with it. We had it on 60 and 40 meter lines in order to reach higher where there is more wind. This kite is easy for novices, like us to use but we could still reach speeds of 40 kph. Then there is gear that disappoints … Ozone Yakuza 8.3 meter kite This kite was extremely difficult to fly. While that is our fault (not be proficient enough) one of the kites would not really fly at all. Eventually, after many hours, we determined that the kite had some technical issues which made it unstable. Of course we should have tested the kite completely but still it was disappointing to receive a kite that is not functionally. Power Monkey Solar Charger We had three of these little panels. While the panels worked really well, all the connector wires broke. With no connector wires, the panels become useless. Two of these panels were the “Extreme” model supposed to be for expeditions. Lots of thought and design went into the panel and battery but the connector wires are cheap wire that freezes and breaks. Solio Bolt Solar Charger In 2008 we used a Solio Classic to charge our iPods and it worked well. This time I tried the new Solio Bolt. Useless. It would not charge in cold weather. If I hung it inside the tent then it would charge extremely slowly. I eventually gave up trying.