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Post Expedition Gear Review
So, how did all my gear hold up? Here's an idea. It's not an in depth review or comparison with the competition, but rather an honest appraisal of whether (or not) the items in question were well suited and sufficiently rugged to withstand a bit of serious expeditioning.
Camera: Olympus TG-3
This was supllied at the last minute by Olympus and lived 3 months tethered to my drysuit pocket. It got wet every day - sea water, obviously. I tried and failed to keep it sand free. I knocked it, dropped it, abused it. I took thousands of photos - in, on, and under the water - and some video (I should have taken more). I am extremely satisfied with the results and the camera is still working as new. It is still my favourite microexpedition camera. Cosmetically, the lens and casing does have a few scratches now (I don't notice any deterioration in image quality), the screws around the lens glass have a small amount of corrosion, and I have lost the ring that blanks the port for adaptor lenses. All this adds character!
On the water all operation was one-handed, often bouncing around with spray. Image quality is great. It's also very nice that all my photos are GPS tagged. Very satisfied and can highly recommend this piece of kit.
Brilliant. Nuff said. I will be using for my next expedition.
Vibram Five-finger shoes
Not suitable for my needs. I hadn't tested adequately. Stones got in shoes on launch and in conjunction with a drysuit these did not work for me. I ended up with some cheap and light flip-flops for land use.
Excellent. Initially I had issues with water ingress up legs but this was remedied by Gul sending me a correctly sized suit (medium for me @ 179cm) and the wearing of wetsuit boots to overlap the ankle seals. I had no problems once I started wearing proper wetsuit boots. The drysuit was comfortable in all conditions. Zips (back zip and relief zipper) remained easy to operate and are nicely flexible. I wore it on land a few times too for walking through the rain to a pub or local village store. On those occasions the built in hood was nice. Sailing with the hood up cuts down too much on field of vision though - or did for me. I liked that the suit looked like a jacket and trousers and the multiple pockets were very useful and all used. Highly recommended.
3mm neoprene split toe boots. Did the job great. I got through 2 pairs! No problems with feet.
Standard Horizon HX300E handheld VHF
Excellent. Small and lightweight. I protected this a bit better than I managed with my camera but it still took quite a beating. An issue I did find was that the feature that causes LEDs to flash when wet was prematurely draining the battery (it was often permanently wet). To prevent the LEDs flashing I put some glue over the metal contacts that detect water. That sorted the problem. The radio was essential when going past Dover - that turned out to be a difficult day - and in the wilds of Scotland being able to hear the coastguard weather reports was very useful and reassuring. USB charging so I didn't need to carry a specific adaptor. I would take again - without question.
Tushingham / Aeron rig gear
It all survived the full rounding. In the case of the sail: just. Mast and boom didn't let me down. We looked after each other as best we could. I would trust this gear again (not this gear - that has been retired now - the same type of gear).
ACR Personal Locator Beacon and Strobe Light
Personal Locator Beacon survived the whole trip on the shoulder strap of my backpack and is still in perfect working order (the self test function assures me). Reassuringly robust, no-nonsense safety kit.
The strobe light I unfortunately smashed and water got inside. My fault really - I should have found a safer place to store it than on the barrel rack...
Good gear. Hope to enjoy the support of ACR on future expeditions.
Mobile Solar Chargers
Solar panel and powerbank are still going strong, despite rough treatment. Powerbank in particular has good capacity and kept me topped up whilst off grid. Faster top-up of Powerbank would be a feature to look out for in an eventual replacement. Once out of the south of England I didn't see enough sun to adequately charge via the panel and I therefor look forward to a waterproof version that allows charging whilst sailing...
My rucksac performed well but initially I didn't look after it well enough and consequently the material sprung a few leaks. Be careful with stowing anything with hard or sharp edges and you will be OK. If you do get a few leaks then best use an internal drybag as a second layer of water protection. That is what I did and 100% dry with this tactic. The chest strap broke (easy to fashion a fix). The mat thing in the back is pretty useless so I ditched that and put in a hydration bladder instead. That worked brilliantly (a hydration bladder is missing from pretty much all drybags as far as I can tell). The mesh side pockets are GREAT and very strong. All in all very satisfied. Yes - there are stronger bags. But if your mission is weight critical then this is an excellent choice.
Performed flawlessly and 100% dry for minimal weight. Will be taking on next expedition.
MSR Camping Gear
Excellent and very light weight. Will be re-using.
Ritchie Kayak Compass
I mounted this on the board but must have knocked it off at some point. In any case - the numbers were too small for me to see when standing up. It was a nice compass but not really suitable for windsurfing. I bought a small field compass as a replacement and this was adequate backup in case of fog or GPS failure.