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Gear - Bushbuddy Ultra

Stove – Bushbuddy Ultra (148g)

Oliver and Piia’s rating: ★★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

This is a remarkable piece of equipment. We spent a lot of time considering which stove to bring, and I don't think we’d find anything else that would please us as much as this stove did.

The Bushbuddy is a wood-burning stove with a double walled design, which allows for secondary combustion of wood gases emitted in the primary combustion chamber. Simply put, throw some small twigs in the chamber, get a fire going, and within a minute or two, a lovely little halo of flame sprouts from the top of the chamber, as gases are sucked from the bottom of the chamber, heated as they rise, and ignited at the top of the stove. Combustion is slow and efficient, meaning we could cook using surprisingly little fuel, and with very little smoke.

Choosing a wood-burning stove meant we had the advantage of carrying no fuel. While we were concerned we might find ourselves in areas (e.g. high alpine) where we had no access to wood, this was never the case – the stove used so little fuel, that even a small handful of dead twigs from prostrate shrubs was enough to cook supper. We carried an empty cat food tin, to fit inside the stove and be used to burn alcohol, but we never used it. I don’t know why, but we ended up carrying that tin on the whole trail, well after we knew we wouldn’t need it. Ridiculous.

Playing with fire.

There were a couple of unexpected benefits of choosing this stove. Firstly, it burns silently – evenings in camp were never interrupted by the hiss of gas fuel, and we could easily carry on a conversation while one of us cooked. Secondly, there was something comfortably homey about tending a wood fire, even a tiny and contained one. It was a relaxing job, that we’d both end up wanting to do at the end of the day.

On a couple of soggy occasions, access to dry fuel was tough, and starting a fire took a little while. We solved this by carefully searching for the driest tinder, and using Vaseline and plastic food wrappers to help get damp wood going. Once we had a fire running, though, even wet twigs would burn well.

Compared to liquid or gas-fueled stoves, this wasn’t one you could turn on and then leave alone. While the design does slow combustion, we did have to be attentive, and feed the fire rather constantly to keep it going. It was worth collecting up the handful of twigs you needed ahead of time, rather than having to scurry around and look for more while the fire died.

Boil time was also slower than for liquid- or gas-fueled stoves. While we never timed it, from lighting the fire to having 1l of water at a boil was probably 12 – 15min. We never found that was something that bothered us.

The stove fit well inside our 1.4l pot. Together with the rest of our cooking kit (lighter, bandana, spoons, mesh bag, stupid cat food tin), this made a nice compact bundle.

After a month and a half of daily use, the stove looks used, but no less functional. Unless we somehow squash it, I suspect we’ll be using this for a long time to come.

Bamboo is terrific tinder.

Gear - Snowpeak 1.4

Pot – Snowpeak 1.4 (+ SeaToSummit mesh bag) (136g)

Oliver and Piia’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

Spoon – Snowpeak (17g)

Piia's rating: ★★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

The titanium pot was already a few years old and had gone through plenty of meals and teas before we started the GPT. Still it never failed to provide us a warm supper. It's big enough to cook a hearty pasta meal for two people and is very light and durable. It's also very easy to clean, and the size is perfect for fitting our whole cooking kit.

If this pot has a downside, it's the twin handles. Oliver often thought they weren't practical, as they swivel against the sides of the pot making it hard to grab the pot from the stove, especially when you have flames hugging it. We solved it by using the bandana to cover our hands.

I like the Snowpeak spoon, not only because it's so light, but because it's longer than a regular spork, making it easy to scrape the last bits of food from the bottom of the pot. Some nights it felt essential. 

Gear - Leatherman Juice S2
Gear - Swiss Army Classic

Knife – Leatherman Juice S2 (125g)

Piia’s rating: ★★

Bring it again?: No

There are two ways to review the knife: whether it is a good knife in general, and whether it is useful for GPT.

It has 12 tools in it, all of which I've used at some point and generally thought they worked well. It's not a light knife assembly, but has a durable feel to it. And I also like the orange colour which often helps locating it on the ground.

I had the knife for several years as my go-to knife on all of my hikes and it was an automatic choice for the GPT, too. During most of my trips I mainly use the knife, scissors and pliers. Besides these, surprisingly, the can opener became essential tool on GPT. As protein deficiency settled in our bodies we were seeking extra supplies from the occasional tiny stores along the route, and noticed that cans of mackerel nicely supplemented our pasta suppers.

I've grown to trust Leatherman knives to a high degree and was surprised to see my Juice S2 to break down a couple of weeks after the hike. I would have expected more from a not-so-affordable tool and was, to be honest, very disappointed. Also, it's way too heavy for a hike like GPT, where you mostly need basics.

I'm searching for a new one to be my new go-to knife tool, but I'm not sure where to look.

Knife – Swiss Army Classic (23g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

A tiny, useful knife, with all the tools I wanted and none that I didn’t. Well, okay, I seldom used the nail file. I didn’t see sense in bringing anything heavier, and didn’t miss having a larger blade.

Gear - Cheap PET bottles

Water bottles – 2 x cheap 1.5l PET (70g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes (but use Platypus bag for filtering with Sawyer Squeeze)

Cheap, readily available, light and durable, I’m sold on using recyclable pop or water bottles for trail hydration. We replaced these every section.

As part of our water treatment system, I’d mark one bottle for dirty water, and use it to squeeze water through our Sawyer Squeeze into the other bottle, which I reserved for filtered water only. This was a bit of a pain, though – these bottles are awkward to squeeze – and doing it again I’d bring a 1l water bag (Sawyer, Platypus or similar) for that job.

When water sources were far between (a rare case, in our experience), I’d carry 3l of water by filling one bottle with filtered water, then carrying unfiltered water in the dirty water bottle. Once the filtered water was drunk, I’d use the empty bottle to filter more water into.

On a few drier sections, I replaced one 1.5l bottle with a 3l pop bottle, for extra water-carrying capacity.

We never managed to make a hole in a bottle (though the cap threads started to wear out after a while).

Gear - Sawyer Squeeze

Water treatment – Sawyer Squeeze + syringe (92g)

Oliver’s rating: ★★★★

Bring it again?: Yes

We used a Sawyer Squeeze for water treatment, and carried a Sawyer Mini as backup. Given the Squeeze’s much higher flow rate, we found we never used the Mini (though we were happy to have it as backup). The Squeeze was easy enough to use that we never resorted to our backup-backup Aquatabs.

We liked the combination of size and ease-of-use of the Squeeze. We found it easy to clean, too – when it started to get gummed up, backflushing with a 30ml syringe blew out the accumulated gunk and brought it back to working order. We seldom had trouble finding clear water sources, and so didn’t have to backflush as frequently as users encountering murkier waters.

We will admit some frustration at how slowly the Squeeze filtered. Filtering a full load (3l for Piia and 3l for Oliver) sometimes felt interminable. Carrying a water bag to squeeze from, rather than a water bottle, would help with this. Given how frequently we encountered water sources, though, we seldom stopped for a full fill, tailoring the amount of water we filtered and carried to how long we thought we’d walk before encountering another source. Jan’s trail files were invaluable for this kind of planning.

An advantage of mechanical filters such as the Squeeze is there’s no off flavor from chemical treatments (and no sustained chemical loading to ourselves over the course of the hike).

Oliver lost a small part of the Squeeze early in the hike – it wasn’t critical, but it did mean that a rubber gasket on the dirty water end often fell out or got stuck in the neck of the squeezing bottle. This meant keeping a very close eye on the gasket, as the Squeeze would have been useless without it.

We notice the current design of the Squeeze has changed, and seems to eliminate the troublesome gasket. That’s probably for the best.

Sawyer squeezing.

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