Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Wed 23 May, 2018 10:21 am

johnw wrote:Just curious how you find your Naturehike tent?

My Naturehike Cloud Up 2 tent is fabulous, but it's not for extreme conditions. The ventilation is excellent, and I've never had any condensation inside the inner, although the vestibule sometimes gets condensation. However, the main ventilation panels are at the head and feet (the parts of my body where I feel the cold) so I wouldn't use this tent if expecting temperatures much below zero. Also it gets pretty breezy inside with winds above say 40km/h. The tent is really well sized and shaped, e.g. you can sit straight up from the sleeping position and your head is right at the high point - no shuffling needed, and there's plenty of height. I've spent 45 nights in it now, mostly solo but including three nights sharing with another person, and it has performed well every time. I don't use the included footprint, and there is no visible wear on the floor except for two tiny thorn-pinpricks gained on the Larapinta. The only "problem" I've found is that I need to use two hands to open the zip on the outer, otherwise the little rain-flap sometimes catches in the zip. First-world problems, eh? The inner unzips single-handed.

My on-the-track weight including all pegs and guylines is 1310 grams. The star pegs are the best pegs I've ever used, by far. Easy to insert, sharp enough to pierce rock if you bang them in, easy to remove with the cord loop, notched to stop the guylines from slipping (on all three sides, not just one, so you can insert them any way). The trim is super-reflectorised and you will easily find your tent in the dark. The quality of manufacture is excellent, despite the low price.

You have to pitch the inner first, but the tent is a quick and easy pitch once you get the hang of it. The inner always pitches taut, but you need to tweak the pegs and guys to get the outer totally taut. If you don't do that, the vestibule door makes a rippling noise when the wind catches it.

You mention freestanding. Be aware that this tent is only semi-freestanding. The poles make 3 points of contact with the ground, not 4. So you can pitch it freestanding on a rock platform and sleep in it just fine, but the foot end will drape over your feet unless you push something (like a food bag or clothing bag) into the two corners at the foot end. Apart from that you get the benefits of freestanding - you can easily move the tent around without re-pitching, and the next morning you can open the door, pick up the whole tent and shake the dust out.

Would I buy it again? Possibly not, because I find the end-entry a bit awkward. If I could find a side-entry tent for the same weight, I would go for that instead. However, side-entry tents are generally a little heavier...
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Wed 23 May, 2018 10:36 am

Some further thoughts on the tent, johnw, since you mentioned your Terra Nova.

My wife has the Terra Nova Laser Comp 1 (pre-2017 model), which she uses for mountain marathons in the UK. I'd say the Terra Nova is better for use in strong winds. It has a lower profile, and that arcane and fiddly ventilation system can close down the ventilation when necessary (the Naturehike has fixed ventilation).

Apart from the use in strong winds, I prefer the Naturehike. The shape and space is just so much more usable.

Oh, if you order the Naturehike, make sure you choose the grey colour option. That colour uses the light silicone-coated nylon; the other colours are a heavier fabric.

An incidental side-comment - when I saw the advertising saying that the Naturehike had "self-assembling poles", I dismissed it as a mis-translation from Chinese. However, it really works. Just hold the hub. shake it around, and the elastic cord snaps the pole segments into place.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby north-north-west » Wed 23 May, 2018 5:23 pm

After an iced chocolate at the cafe, I filled up with water and set out on the Pound Walk, which I thought was fairly nondescript.


At last - someone else who finds Ormiston underwhelming.

But you missed something if you didn't take the opportunity to go up beyond the lower dam from the Serpentine Chalet Dam campsite. It's gorgeous up there.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Wed 23 May, 2018 10:33 pm

north-north-west wrote:
After an iced chocolate at the cafe, I filled up with water and set out on the Pound Walk, which I thought was fairly nondescript.

At last - someone else who finds Ormiston underwhelming.

That's not quite what I said, NNW :)

Ormiston Gorge is great! Ormiston Creek is great! It's the Pound Walk specifically, that I found underwhelming. The Pound Walk (done in the recommended anti-clockwise direction) starts off on a dusty stony track, before climbing tediously through fairly featureless country until it reaches a saddle (at which point there's a side-track to a lookout which is very worthwhile). The Pound Walk track then descends circuitously, in a way that serves no obvious purpose, until it reaches Ormiston Creek. Instead of following this attractive creek past its interesting waterholes, the track cuts across the bends of the creek to take the hiker through pointless spinifex country, until the track FINALLY enters the gorge for the short remaining distance back to the starting point.

But ... instead ... start your walk by following Ormiston Creek through the Gorge and directly out into the Pound and it's lovely country. The Red Walls cliffs, the Bluff above Ormiston Gorge, the Heavitree Range melting into the distance westwards, the massif of Mt Giles (run your eyes over its contours until you identify the best way up), the open plain cut through by the two branches of Ormiston Creek with their frequent rocky bits and waterholes, the contorted ghost gums, Bowmans Gap ... Yea, verily, Ormiston Pound does not disappoint.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Wed 23 May, 2018 10:35 pm

north-north-west wrote:you missed something if you didn't take the opportunity to go up beyond the lower dam from the Serpentine Chalet Dam campsite. It's gorgeous up there.

I didn't realize there was any reason to swim through or climb past the dam. So I did miss that, but it should still be there next time I'm in the area.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby johnw » Thu 24 May, 2018 12:36 am

Thank you ribuck, I really appreciate your taking the time to provide such detailed feedback on the Naturehike tent. All of your comments make sense and the limitations mentioned shouldn't be showstoppers for most conditions that I'm likely to subject it to. So it definitely remains a contender, particularly for good quality at such a low price. I already own a Naturehike pillow and the quality of that is excellent. I had noticed by accident that the grey tent is lighter (both weight and colour :)). Some of the things you mentioned I had wondered about, such as inner pitch first, but the online info I had found was somewhat unclear about that. Ideally I'd prefer integral pitch like the Laser Comp, or outer first, but I've owned inner first tents and they haven't been a significant problem. Just have to be quick if it rains. Good to know about the semi freestanding aspect. Again I can live with that, it's more important that I can move it if needed. I'm particularly keen on more usable space and headroom, which the Laser Comp lacks.

ribuck wrote:My wife has the Terra Nova Laser Comp 1 (pre-2017 model), which she uses for mountain marathons in the UK. I'd say the Terra Nova is better for use in strong winds. It has a lower profile, and that arcane and fiddly ventilation system can close down the ventilation when necessary (the Naturehike has fixed ventilation).
Your wife must be very fit. I've run a number of road marathons, but trail running those distances is another science. As I understand it the Laser Comp 1 was designed originally for that exact application. I have a love/hate affair with that tent. It's so light to carry and compact to stow, and mostly easy to erect and pack up, but I hate that stupid fiddly pole cover and the condensation in the morning, and getting the fly taut is sometimes fiddly. Last trip I did it was mild enough that I left the outer door wide open which minimised the condensation.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Thu 24 May, 2018 3:33 pm

johnw wrote:Your wife must be very fit...

For sure. I couldn't possibly do the events that she does. Incidentally, mountain marathons don't have to be marathon distance, but they more than make up for it with cumulative climb, which sometimes exceeds the height of Mt Everest.

I content myself knowing that I have bushcraft skills that she doesn't, and that bushwalking with its intrinsic pleasures is way more satisfying than competitive events with their extrinsic trinkets :)
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Thu 24 May, 2018 11:05 pm

Next morning I headed cross-country towards the branch of Ormiston Creek that drains from Bowmans Gap. Cross-country means alternating between runs of stone and runs of spinifex, but it's faster than following the creeks. I didn't make it to Bowmans Gap, for when I reached the creek I turned left and headed back through Ormiston Gorge to camp. I wanted to get to the cafe for the last hot food orders at 3.30, which I managed.

Overnight, I had the Larapinta campsite to myself. A group of six through-walkers had arrived from Redbank, but they had mistakenly set up camp in the Coach Camping area and weren't planning to move unless a coach arrived. One of their party was carrying a 3/4-size guitar along the trail, slung on his front so that he could strum it as he walked along. The others in his party were joking about how long it would be before the guitar was reduced to plywood smithereens. Perhaps it will end its life as firewood in the communal firepit at Ellery Creek. Anyway it was nice to hear it being played while they were at camp.

I was in no hurry the next morning, as I was waiting for the cafe to open for breakfast, so I washed some clothes then had a leisurely "Ormiston Breakfast" brunch and set off for Finke River. The official timing said 4 hours, but I got there in two and a quarter hours, which seemed too early to finish - even on a day with a 10:45am start. So I pitched my tent in the riverbed and headed out on a side trip to Glen Helen. I'm glad I did. There's much more water along the way, at the 4WD campsite, and at Glen Helen Gorge than I have encountered elsewhere. Lakes that seem big enough to sail a yacht on - or at least that's how they look to eyes that are used to seeing little waterholes. Plenty of fish too. I found Glen Helen waterhole too cold for swimming, which is a pity because swimming it gives access to the infrequently-visited country beyond. One can see that it's lovely beyond the waterhole, and the Organ Pipes rock feature is down that way too.

The Glen Helen pub has a reputation for its evening meals, so I lingered. The food was decent enough, but not cheap, and a few more vegetables wouldn't have gone astray. I made my way back to camp, doing the first 2km to the rock tunnel by twilight, and the remaining 2.5km by torchlight.
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Salt contours on the rocks
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The roots of the ghost gums grow through cracks in the cliffs to eventually reach creek level
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A traditionally built drystone culvert on the Pound Walk
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Tunnel between Finke River and Glen Helen
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Cliffs of Glen Helen
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Fri 25 May, 2018 3:33 pm

Over the past few days I've developed some dental pain, and am now restricting chewing to the left-hand-side of my mouth. Hopefully it won't worsen until after I finish the trip. Also, I got some grit into my shoe yesterday, and some of my toes are tender as a result of the friction, so today I'm extra careful to get every grain of grit and sand out of my shoes before putting them on, and I applied a "toe-cap dressing" to my worst-affected toe.

I made my way across to Davenport Creek with its attractive waterhole, before ascending to the high ground on the way to Hill Top Lookout, where some parties camp so that they can see Mt Sonder in the soft dawn light. But I have a 35km day planned for the following day, so I'm continuing to Rocky Bar Gap. To my surprise and pleasure, the view from the north end of Rocky Bar Gap is almost as good as from Hill Top Lookout. The water and toilets are at the south end of the gap so I make my way there and back, before selecting a tent site that will allow me to watch the sunrise from the warmth of my sleeping bag. The weather has definitely turned cold and windy, and the last few days have started cold enough that I've enjoyed having breakfast in bed.

Sunrise the following morning didn't disappoint.

At Rocky Bar Gap south end there is CCTV surveillance. My best guess is that they're trying to work out why the water tank is emptying out, but to me it's obvious: the tap handle has so much play that the tap can still trickle when the handle is properly latched closed. A new handle would fix the problem immediately. I would have explained it in the logbook, but there wasn't a pen, and I have a feeling that my explanation would have fallen on deaf ears - anyone who would put up a CCTV camera next to the water tap (without a cursory glance at the water tap) isn't going to "take my comment on board".
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Mt Sonder, from a tent site at Hill Top Lookout
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Mt Sonder at first light, from Rocky Bar Gap north end
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Mt Sonder after sunrise, from Rocky Bar Gap north end
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Big Brother is watching you at Rocky Bar Gap south end
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sat 26 May, 2018 2:29 pm

The next morning it was an easy walk to Redbank Gorge, where walkers can camp in the riverbed. Nevertheless, I walked a few km to and from the two car camps, just in case either of them had a shower block (they don't). Next up, a trip to the gorge and back. In the 1980s I paddled the gorge on a lilo, it would have been nice to do that this time, but a NeoAir just isn't going to cut it.

Just before 4pm, I donned a packable daypack (118 grams, which I had carried from the Ormiston food drop) and headed up Mt Sonder for sunset. It was pretty spectacular, but the wind was so strong at the summit that I could barely stand, and it was really cold. For the first time in 16 days I was filled with a little bit of foreboding, and wrote this in the logbook: "Awesome sunset. Now for the long, hard, cold, windy, dark and lonely walk back down by torchlight". But actually it was a better experience than the walk up. I did the first half hour by twilight, enjoying the spectacular afterglow in the west, which looked like the cover of a science fiction paperback about an alien world. Then the wind dropped, I switched on my head torch, and headed down easily and comfortably. I was aware that if the battery ran flat on my rechargeable head torch it would switch off with zero warning, so I took it a little slower down the part with the steep steps.

The next day I packed up and washed as best I could. Larapinta Trail Trek Support turned up on time for my transport back to Alice Springs. Zack, the driver, asked what footwear I used, so I told him about my KT26s and how well they had worked. He was skeptical, and said "Okay, but what was your other footwear?", so I assured him that my KT26s were all I had worn on the trail (I also had a pair of thongs for around camp). Zack then turned to the other two hikers in the van (Steve and Kate from New Zealand), and they chatted about the problems they had encountered with their boots, and how to manage blisters, tinea, sweating, etc. Go figure!
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Sonder's shadow creeps across the land, having already caused sunset for those at Hill Top Lookout
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The anguished, screaming, rock face on Sonder
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Alien world
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KT26s after 16 days, showing wear at the heel and toe
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby north-north-west » Sat 26 May, 2018 2:47 pm

I think shoes vs boots on the Larapinta is more about knowing how to walk over rough ground than anything else. My Merrell Moabs still looked almost brand new after I'd washed off all the dust.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sat 26 May, 2018 3:05 pm

Final tally:

307.5km, including many side trips

Total ascent 8625 metres (Mt Everest from sea level is 8848 metres, so maybe I should have climbed Mt Sonder twice)

Animals: 2 rock wallabies, 3 euro wallabies, 2 dingoes, many fish, many lizards, many birds, a black bull, white and brown cows, one snake, plenty of spiders but no scorpions.

Water consumed: 66.5 litres, plus one beer, two smoothies, one iced chocolate, one alcohol-free beer, and 3 cappuccinos. Let's say 70 litres of liquid altogether, of which I boiled 22 litres, using almost 400g of gas (4 100g gas cylinders, one per food drop, with a little left over).

Earliest walking start was 6.40am, latest walking start was 9.35am (apart from when I waited for the Ormiston Cafe to open).

513461 steps taken (as recorded by Google Fit).

193984 kilojoules burned (daily minimum 6698, maximum 17445, and average 12124 kJ). As recorded by Google Fit, these will be underestimates because Google doesn't know that I'm carrying a pack. I took 10000 kJ of food per day, so based on these figures I would expect to have lost about 1.36kg of body mass. I certainly did lose a little weight, and had to tighten my pack's belt towards the end of the trip. But it just shows how much exercise it takes to lose weight. I ate all the food I brought, but never felt hungry after a meal.

I camped alone on 8 of the 16 nights. The other 8 nights there was another person or people camped nearby, never right next to me but between 50m and 100m away, except for Ellery Creek where the closest car campers were 20m away. On three nights I had to carry water to camp, and on one night I collected water from a waterhole. The other nights were tank or tap water. I used trail toilets except four times when I dug a hole.

I slept on a trailhead platform three times, grass once, stony ground twice, dirt 6 times, a sandbank once, and a sandy riverbed 3 times.

Thing I could have not done without: my Sea to Summit fly net. As well as stopping me breathing in flies, it held my hat on atop windy ridges! Thing I could have done without: next time I will remove the wrist straps from my hiking poles before the trip, because the terrain is rarely level enough for wrist straps to be useful (or even safe).

I used all my gear except for some first aid items and emergency equipment like my PLB. The solar panel worked well for charging my phone and headtorch, although it was quite an effort to avoid getting it scratched.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby Flo-w » Sat 26 May, 2018 6:50 pm

Thank you so much for this great report! I came back every day to continue reading. Great photos too.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sat 26 May, 2018 8:11 pm

Thanks Flo-w and everyone else who posted such supportive comments.

I forgot to mention that between Ormiston and the Finke River I passed a Canadian couple. A few seconds later they called back excitedly. They had recognised me from the first photo in this thread. They had been reading bushwalk.com from Canada before they flew out. Then, when they saw my white hat, red pack and solar panel it only took them a few seconds to make the connection. Cool!
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ChrisJHC » Sat 26 May, 2018 11:49 pm

Great report!

Do you have your itinerary in a table somewhere you can share?


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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sun 27 May, 2018 12:59 am

ChrisJHC wrote:Do you have your itinerary in a table somewhere you can share?

Sure thing, Chris. Here's a screenshot of my original plan.

I did not end up staying at Rocky Gully, instead I carried water from Hugh Gorge Camp and stayed between Ghost Gum Flat and Rocky Gully. I didn't stay at Serpentine Chalet Dam but continued to Waterfall Gorge on Day 11, then to Ormiston Pound on Day 12, then to Ormiston Gorge on Day 13. I did the Mt Sonder ascent on Day 16 sunset, rather than Day 17 sunrise before my pickup. Side trips (e.g. to Glen Helen Gorge) were not planned in advance and do not appear in the table. I spent the first few days following the plan methodically, then once I gained the measure of the country I started playing with the itinerary and did whatever I felt like on the day.

In the meal section, the comment "heavy" means that I carried a "wet" meal. Since I was carrying water to Brinkley Bluff, I could take a wet meal and carry correspondingly less water, for the same total weight. The comment "Redbank Gorge Sites" means I hadn't decided whether to stay at the car camp or the walkers camp. In the absence of a shower block at the car camp, staying at the walkers camp was the obvious choice (and is free).
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby deadwood » Sun 27 May, 2018 10:14 am

Thanks for the detail ribuck. There's a few good Larapinta descriptions on here now. Great resource for planning and motivating. On the shoes vs boots topic, there seems to be no right answer, people just find different things comfortable. My Scarpa Delta boots are hot walking around Queensland, but I've never had a blister and they let me kick rocks without getting bruised.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sun 27 May, 2018 12:41 pm

deadwood wrote:My Scarpa Delta boots ... let me kick rocks without getting bruised.

No-one should attempt the Larapinta in lightweight footwear unless they've developed the habit of not kicking rocks. There are more rocks on the Larapinta than most people see in a lifetime.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby north-north-west » Sun 27 May, 2018 3:46 pm

ribuck wrote:
north-north-west wrote:
After an iced chocolate at the cafe, I filled up with water and set out on the Pound Walk, which I thought was fairly nondescript.

At last - someone else who finds Ormiston underwhelming.

That's not quite what I said, NNW :)

Ormiston Gorge is great! Ormiston Creek is great! It's the Pound Walk specifically, that I found underwhelming. The Pound Walk (done in the recommended anti-clockwise direction) starts off on a dusty stony track, before climbing tediously through fairly featureless country until it reaches a saddle (at which point there's a side-track to a lookout which is very worthwhile). The Pound Walk track then descends circuitously, in a way that serves no obvious purpose, until it reaches Ormiston Creek. Instead of following this attractive creek past its interesting waterholes, the track cuts across the bends of the creek to take the hiker through pointless spinifex country, until the track FINALLY enters the gorge for the short remaining distance back to the starting point.


Maybe I found the Pound walk so overwhelmingly underwhelming that I could never get any enthusiasm for exploring further. I still think Ormiston sucks.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby Lizzy » Sun 27 May, 2018 3:53 pm

Wow- very thorough report! Will have to get out there some day....
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ChrisJHC » Sun 27 May, 2018 6:05 pm

ribuck wrote:
ChrisJHC wrote:Do you have your itinerary in a table somewhere you can share?

Sure thing, Chris. Here's a screenshot of my original plan.


Thanks, Ribuck!

I have to shave one day off my planned itinerary but this is a great starting point.


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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby Flo-w » Sat 02 Jun, 2018 8:48 pm

Hey Ribuck,

how happy were you with your solar panel? Which one do you have, what did you charge?

Cheers,
Flow
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Sun 03 Jun, 2018 3:06 am

Flo-w wrote:how happy were you with your solar panel?

Hi Flow,

The solar panel was great! I used it to charge my phone (which I used a lot) and also my head torch. It's so sunny on the Larapinta that I had enough charge by lunchtime on every day except one.

The big downside is that the panel is very exposed to scuffs and scratches, and you need to be very careful when putting down or opening the backpack. It's quite a fiddle to unattach the panel and put it away, and although I would have done that if it rained it was not something I'd want to do frequently. The panel is advertised as waterproof, but the fine print excludes the USB socket.

The panel is connected to this Anker 3350mAh battery pack:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005QILJ74/
The battery pack is quite small at 78 grams, and I have it in a plastic bag inside the lid of my pack, connected by a USB lead which is just 10cm long and weighs 10 grams. The panel itself weighs 162 grams, and a waterproof envelope to store it in adds another 20 grams.

The panel is this one:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01D9MCBQQ/
The substrate is quite a solid rigid plastic. I passed another party who were using a similar panel on a cardboard substrate, which was lighter but I guess you'd have to be very careful about moisture with that one.

I have also used this panel for the Great North Walk. Mostly it was OK, but the weather included three consecutive cloudy/rainy days, plus a few days that were largely in the shade of the tree cover. As a result, I had to ration my phone usage on some days. On the second-last day of that trip, the cable failed due to moisture-induced corrosion.

In this forum thread:
viewtopic.php?f=21&t=24317
several people reported good results from this panel:
https://www.fasttech.com/p/6739701
which appears to be the same panel mine, under different branding.

I have also tried this panel:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01CHFVBX0/
which has double the output power, and comes in a nice zip-up container with a pocket for the battery and USB lead, but it's more than double the weight so I didn't take it on the Larapinta.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby Flo-w » Sun 03 Jun, 2018 9:44 pm

Thank you so much for the detailed answer!
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby katcal » Tue 12 Jun, 2018 9:55 pm

ribuck wrote:
north-north-west wrote:They confirmed my suspicions that there will be no water at Waterfall Gorge, and that the water at Fringe Lily Camp will be dubious at best. It has been a dry summer, and there has been no heavy rain for over a year.


Hi Ribuck,

Thanks for the report! I'm heading off on the trail on Saturday, just wondering about the water at Fringe Lily Creek in the end?
I am walking west to east, and planning to camp at Fringe Lily Camp, should I top up at the waterhole you mention at the top of Hugh Gorge Junction before walking into camp ?

Cheers
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby ribuck » Wed 13 Jun, 2018 5:30 am

katcal wrote:I am walking west to east, and planning to camp at Fringe Lily Camp, should I top up at the waterhole you mention at the top of Hugh Gorge Junction before walking into camp ?

Hi katcal,

There was no water near Fringe Lily Camp when I went through a month ago. The waterhole at the top of Hugh Gorge is permanent - it is fed by seepage through the rock even during extreme drought. It's 25 minutes or so each way from Hugh Gorge Junction, but it's an interesting walk and you can leave your backpack at the junction. At the waterhole, scramble along the left bank and climb out onto the fallen log so that you can collect cleaner water from the deeper part.

If you don't want to do the side trip to the permanent waterhole, there will almost certainly be water elsewhere in Hugh Gorge, but it might not be of such good quality. Your call.

Have a great trip! I wish I was back out there.
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Re: Larapinta Trail report May 1-16 2018

Postby katcal » Wed 13 Jun, 2018 6:42 pm

Awesome - thanks for that info!
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