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What’s in my pack: Author Nic Low

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December 2021 Issue

Nic Low is the author of Uprising, in which he traces the first crossings of the Southern Alps by his Ngāi Tahu forebears.

“I work in seven-year blocks, swinging between being a full-time writer and artist (dirtbag), and working relatively well-paid jobs,” he says. “With income, I stock up on the expensive stuff, and when I’m writing, I improvise, hack and booty my gear.” 

Here are a few of the high-priced and ultra-budget bits of gear that helped Low cross the Alps.

Camera

I take a street-photography approach to shooting my trips with a Panasonic LUMIX LX5 slung around my neck. 

It’s got a fast wide lens and is small, light and bullet-proof. While others have nicer cameras, I often get better shots simply because the camera is always ready to go. 

Raincoat

In serious terrain, I use a Macpac Prophet but otherwise I use a minimalist Mountain Designs Gore-Tex Paclite jacket, a fraction too small, picked up in aMelbourne op shop for $7. 

Gloves

I went through so many different pairs of gloves before I found the High Camp three-finger gloves from Outdoor Research. They’re super warm and you can still tie knots and operate zips and point at scary or exciting things.

Sleeping kit

I recently upgraded to a NeoAir Xlite. So light, compact and comfy, though I don’t quite trust its durability yet. I use a Macpac Express 400 sleeping bag most of the year (I love the warm 800-loft down).

Shelter

Walking the old Ngāi Tahu trails was about research as much as getting from A to B. I moved slowly, stopping to read and write for hours at a time. I rarely made it to huts and just camped wherever I ended up each day. My Tarp-tent Stratospire 2 was my home-away-from home. It weighs 1200g and it’s huge, even for two people. It uses walking poles for supports and has done well in some decent storms.

Clothing

I live mostly in Icebreaker and Mountain Designs merinos. But my favourite piece of clothing is a light poly-cotton hoodie from American Apparel inherited from a flatmate in Melbourne. It’s done years of service keeping the sun off me on climbs at Mt Arapiles or crossing glaciers in the Southern Alps. 

Pack

I used an 80l Macpac travel pack I’d bought when I was 21 for travelling around Europe. I’d cut off all the extraneous straps, zips and buckles, sewn on ice axe loops and never given it a second thought. Then, when I was writer-in-residence at Seattle’s City of Literature, 

I spotted a 60l Mountainsmith Auspex in mint condition in an op shop for $10. 

I left my old Macpac to one of the local homeless people. I’m sure it’s still being used.  

Cooking

I’ve long used an MSR Whisperlite International because I don’t like the waste of fuel canisters, but have recently fallen in love with the Soto Windmaster because it weighs 85g, requires no faff, and works well in windy conditions. I eat everything with a titanium Light My Fire spork, which is the best thing I’ve ever bought.  

Down jacket

For everything except winter, I use a Kathmandu ultralight down jacket with 800 loft power. I picked it up as a second for $80 due to discoloured sleeves, but it’s so grubby now you’d never notice. 

Reading

Kobo Mini: a month’s battery life, 134g, thousands of books, and cost $40 new.