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Andy Kirkpatrick

Gear 

Swag

26 January 2021

The polar ‘tent bag’, along with the Polar Swag bag (a swag is a kind of integrated bivvy system, that includes the ground mat), are two obscure pieces of vital polar kit. The tent bag is designed to work with a tunnel tent. You begin by taping all the pole sections together, apart from the centre section, insert these into the pole sleeves (you can fix on end into position if need be), and just break the pole and fold it in half, then roll the tent up, so it’s like a sausage. By rolling the tent towards the back (the wind side), when pitching in high winds you can just secure the back, then roll it out without fear of losing the tent. The whole tent roll simply fits into the long bag and this sits on your pulk. Such a simple piece of kit perhaps saved you 30 minutes a day, which if you multiply that by anything from 15 to 100 days, is quite a saving (this can also be done with mitts on, and reduces the risk of poles breaking due to partially locking sections). The swag bag is designed to fit your sleeping bag and mats (you will generally have a blow-up mat and closed-cell mat), meaning they do not need to be deflated or compressed. Just pull the bag into your tent, unzip, and you have a lofted bag and mats ready to go. In the morning, just climb out of bed, and zip it all up and you’re good to go. On extended trips, it can sometimes be very hard to get a sleeping bag back into its stuff sack, as the bag will end up being full of ice, and if you can, when you pull it out of its stuff sack, it stays like a block of frozen bread! Leaving it fully lofted in warm weather (it’s often very hot in polar regions), you stand a good chance of drying out a sleeping bag, something you will not be able to do if it’s stuffed inside your pulk. These two simple bits of kit, along with your stove bag, are one reason why the Norwegians are so much faster than everyone else, in that they try and outthink problems most people would not even recognise as problems, and so make marginal gains that once added up, can save weeks of wasted time.

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