Sunday, 8 September 2019

Midnight Sun Rifle Challenge 2019 : Kit List Pt1

'Hours of misery and fun'

There is a rifle competition I'd wanted to enter since I first saw Thomas Haugland's videos of it.
It's not the genteel 'picnic and shooting' on Bisley's green and pleasant lawns.  This time it's in Bardufoss in two valleys, both dappled in snow, washed by the midnight sun, with stages from 100-1210m, and Vikings. Real Vikings.

A sudden rush of optimism that sounded like this:
Once or twice I've actually hit targets at both extremes, missed a few in the middle, and have a lot of camping equipment. I could, 'almost', enter tomorrow. I say almost. My stalking rifle isn't going to stretch quite that far, svelte german lines and a super simple reticle, might be a thing of joy but nah. I need a dedicated PRS rifle.

There were a few moments of sober reflection, that sounded like this:
There's a fairly long walk involved, and I'm still carrying a little extra ballast, sadly not all of it in the form of my brother's smelly 25+ year old tent.

I entered and before I tell you the tale, it wouldn't be the SBW blog without a kit list.

Let the kit-tart-ism commence.

In this competition laser range-finders are banned, so are weather stations, and all ballistic electronics. With the money I've just saved by not buying the bino's and gadgets, something in a chassis with a folding stock, is now the very intersection of practicality and necessity. Anyone who says otherwise is off my Christmas list.

Received wisdom from the precision rifle crowd seemed to be 'If I was starting again I'd go 6.5mm rather than .308'  Following this advice rules out most of the secondhand fettled Remington 700's on offer in the UK. Surprisingly few of the offered examples have been screwed together by 'smiths with a reputation to up hold. Though some are in those nice Accuracy International stocks, 308 outnumbers the other calibers 10-1. If I could bear the cost of buying and then re-barreling they'd be an option. I'm not that excited by the extra cost(s), interminable wait, and frankly I've already got enough money-pits things 'in development' in my life. But all is not yet lost, there are rifles that have, out of the box, been embarrassing some very nice custom builds on both sides of the Atlantic, but we'll come back to that later.

Human Performance, then Scope, then Rifle.
The plan is weighted quite heavily towards the human performance end of things. never having been further north than the middle of Scotland I imagine the trip being like a longer version of Hill Stalking, Cold Wet Hands is the assumption, and every part of the plan needs to be about negating their affect. As the competition is over 24 hours, and judging by the pictures from previous years, the competitors are for the most part in the first flush of middle youth, so no longer that enthralled by staying up all night, there will, mercifully be a sleep. On a snow dappled hillside.

Camping in Norway! What will it be like? 

It'll be in tents. 

The unavoidable weight of; the rifle, big scope, substantial bipod, and 250 rounds of ammo combine to rule out the use of a ultralight pack. There are some really neat rifle-scabbard packs, but I've already got a tough-as-old-boots pack frame, which fits me really well, so having saved yet more money, I bought a Kifaru Mountain Rambler to replace its LongHunter bag.
A lot of companies claim to make extreme hunting packs. Kifaru actually do. The Mountain Rambler is a rifle scabbard, and day pack, with built in wrap to carry dead things or a bow. Could be a bit lighter, but Kifaru's frame puts all the weight on your hips, and it ain't going to break. Ever.
Best of all it had just been superseded, and Gucci-kit tarts being what they we are, I managed to find another collector enthusiast who just had-to-have the new model and sold his to me, unused, at a no-brainer discount. The face-saving way to do this is to advertise the item as 'bought for a trip that now isn't happening'. I shall not lie. We've all done it. Er, yes hmm. Ice fishing.

"Boots and Bed; if you're not in one, you're in the other"

"Lundhags, they're the boots aren't they. In the Falklands I demanded them for the boys, the MOD flew them out, the boys were very glad of them" - The Colonel

From the snow-blown slopes of Mount Stanley to beating on the Colonel's estate outside Eastbourne in the pissing rain, he was right. All the forces created by the terrain and the weight of your pack meet at, and will be transmitted though, your ankles. I've often been tempted by pairs of Superleggera Italian hiking boots that owe something to sports shoes, but as I side off the thousandth tussock of the morning, and my ankle doesn't twist.  I've been glad I'd saved the cash for other uses and stuck to Swedens finest. I'm still wearing the first pair I bought, still with the same laces. One day I'll buy a pair of the shoes too.

Thermarest & Pump
The sleeping mat, the difference between roughing it and relaxing. Every one I've owned has been lighter and more susceptible to puncturing than the one before it. More expensive too. Suck it up.

Jerven bag
For 30 years the Norwegian military, where frostbite is a court marshal-able offence, has issued these super blankets. They come in a waterproof bag that also contains a pair of waterproof sleeves. So its part survival blanket and part field-dressing station for gralloching beasts on.  It even comes with a signal flag, reducing the amount of time your relatives wait before putting in the insurance claim.
Whatever happens I hope having made the effort to bring the proper kit in the first place will go someway to saving face with the mountain rescue people.
I can totally imagine the look on the 23 year old Viking goddess' face as she arrives to rescue [or collect] me "well you're quite old now, [and stupid], but at least you didn't come walking in beachwear"  

Kifaru stuff sacks
Of all the clever things Patrick Smith designed for the outdoorsman, these might well be the smartest.
You'll be amazed at how much more room you've got for Tapas in your suitcase, when you squeeze the air out of your luggage. I keep telling myself they're a ridicules price and that I'll make my own. I keep buying more of them. It's either that or fight my teenage daughter to get them back.

Areopress coffee maker
Lavazza isn't a luxury, it's the minimum bid for my involvement. After Alan Adler smashed it by inventing the furthest human-thrown object, 1330 yards since you ask, he turned his attentions to making coffee and in doing so transformed my life. It's not only that I can make drama-free espresso wherever I go from jobsite to campsite, but by not buying coffees from stands in the street I save about a grand a year, to spend on gear and ammo.

Leki pole.
It's the knees again. Moving weight onto your wrists and lots of it too. Some people are saying 20%. Hiking poles only look stupid, they're actually excellent. I can't really tell the difference myself but the longterm users seem to prefer Leki and this model doubles up as a mono-pod for your camera or rifle.

In the spirit of utter self reliance that the Vikings seem to be born with, they don't fool around with gizmos that take batteries, they have these neat slide rules that calculate distances. Horrific price but they're listed in the rules, have a stage named after them, and don't weigh much.

Positive mental attitude:
One of my friends, who has done very well in the last few seasons, refused to even think about entering on the grounds that he had no chance of winning. What he didn't realise is the generous prizes are won, not from your score which gets you a plaque, but on a lottery basis. All you need to do is finish.

Just keep telling yerself:  "It's only twenty four hours"

More in Part 2 soon
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