My backpacking equipment
Below is a list of all the hiking equipment that I currently use.
Backpacking tents are always a trade-off of weight, size, robustness and cost. Sadly no-one has yet to invent a tent that weights next to nothing, will fit a seven-foot giant, stand up in a gale and cost tuppence ha'penny. For this reason, any purchaser has to decide what his or her own personal needs are. In my case, I generally like having room in my tent, and am willing to pay a weight penalty.
| My main tent is a Hilleberg Akto tent, purchased in the winter of 2013. This is a surprisingly lightweight one-man tent, and whilst it is neither the lightest or cheapest on the market, it has a solid reputation. Unlike my Gossamer (see below), it has a fabric rather than mesh inner, meaning it is far warmed on cold nights or in a breeze.
There are downsides to this tent; the most annoying of which are the fact it needs guy ropes to remain up, increasing the footprint considerably. On the other hand, it's light weight, robustness and large porch make it a reasonable compromise over my heavier Westwind.
| After my coastal walk I bought myself a Jack Wolfskin Gossamer tent for seventy pounds. This is far lighter than my Westwind tent which is the main reason that I bought it, but it is also less comfortable because of it. It is unusual for a lightweight tent in that I can fit my six foot two frame in it, and at a squeeze I can also fit my rucksack and all my kit in it as well. The downside of the low weight is that it has a mesh inner that allows gusts of wind that gets under the flysheet in, so this is not ideal for cold weather walking, but in summer it should be fine.
| My favourite tent is a North Face Westwind. This is slightly heavier for backpacking purposes than I would like, but is roomy enough to fit my large frame, whilst also being very rugged. After sleeping in this tent for a few nights it really begins to feel like home. It is seen here without it's flysheet. I have never once had to use the guy ropes in anger; it is truly a tank of tents.
Sadly it is showing its age after fourteen years, and I have now placed it into semi-retirement. It is also not made any more, and its successor Westwind 2 is a very different creature.
| For multi-day walks, I use a Macpac 80-litre Glissade, rucksack, purchased in June 2006 as a fill-in for the Craghoppers rucksack, which was getting long in the tooth and is no longer made. This rucksack fits all of my kit with ease, and is of a rugged construction that copes well with the rough and ready manner that I tend to treat sacks. There is a handy pocket at the front for water bottles, and it has a floating lid that should give me some extra capacity. The harness is also adjustable, which allows it to fit many different back sizes comfortably.
| A 'Craghoppers' Wild Places WP-70 70-litre rucksack with two active balance pockets. I purchased this after my old 'Outbound' rucksack disintegrated during my Pennine Way walk after many year's service. The Craghoppers rucksack is excellent, and has given me several years of sterling service. In my opinion it is the best rucksack design that I have ever seen for solo backpackers. It is seen here with the Westwnd tent packed up in it (the yellow item), and a Platypus tube trailing across the ground. Unfortunately it appears that Craghoppers no longer make this rucksack, which is a great shame.
| A 30-litre Karrimor Hotrock 30 rucksack, which has been my constant companion on day walks for over twelve years. It has proved to be rugged and substantial sack that has been on my back for well over 10,000 miles without falling to pieces.
Sleeping bags and mate
- A North Face Blue Kazoo sleeping bag, rated down to -7 degrees Celsius. This goose down bag cost £150.00, and I also bought a RAB silk liner for it (at an extortionate 45 pounds!) to help keep it clean.
- An Anjungilak Kompact Lite sleeping bag. This bag is lighter than the above sleeping bag and is perfectly good for spring, summer and autumn use.
- a Vango Nitestar 450 4-season sleeping bag. It is quite nice and very, very warm, although it does have a rather large pack size. I mainly use it when I am camping in winter with my car as it is too heavy to regularly backpack with in the UK.
- I have gone through several different types of sleeping mat in the past, from the old stalwart Thermarest roll-mat to inflatable version. My current mainstay mat is a Thermarest NeoAir, an excellent mat that is both lightweight and well insulated from the cold of the ground.
- My main stove is an MSR PocketRocket stove, which is an extremely light stove (3 ounces, or 86 grams). It uses IsoPropane gas rather than the mentholated spirits of the Trangia stoves, and boils water much faster. The only downside is that it is not very stable, and has to be positioned carefully to prevent it falling over; this can be somewhat corrected with the used of a stand, such as the Primus Canister feet. This stove is ideal for one-person use; it is lightweight and quick to set up and use. If camping with more than one person, you may want a larger burner with more stable platform.
- In my early days of camping, I used to use a full-sized trangia stove by choice. I used the standard model for many years, but this was quite heavy and overkill for one person backpacking.
- After that, I bought a mini-trangia, which is far lighter than the standard trangia and ideal for one person, but far too small for two people. It measures 150mm by 65mm, and weights only 320 grams for a 0.8-litre pan. This is mainly used when car-camping with another person.
Along with the above, I use the pan and frying pan from the mini-trangia for solo use, along with Sea-to-Summit collapsible X-Mug and X-Bowl to eat from. Whilst not the lightest bowls and cups on the market, they are small when packed up and easy to clean. For eating, I use a lightweight plastic spork, which is good enough for the foods I cook when I am out alone.
- My favourite jacket is a large Berghaus High Trails I Jacket IA, which I have used since 2004. This jacket is a snugger fit than my Foraker jacket, and it also performs better than the Foraker in wet conditions (it should be noted that my Foraker jacket is now quite old and worn, and hence this may not be a fair comparison. I use Granger's Extreme Cleaner Plus and Extreme Synthetic water-repellent spray to wash the coat.
- I have a Lowe Alpine 'Foraker' jacket. Although it is only TriplePoint Ceramic and not Goretex, I find it an acceptable alternative. This jacket has seen many years of sterling service, and is now starting to wear out. Despite this, it is still the first choice to have in the bottom of my day sack in case of rain. It is an old and trsuted friend.
Boots and trainers
- During my coastal walk, I got through five pairs of Scarpa Trek 2, size Euro 46. These were very good boots, and each pair lasted for 1,500 to 1,600 miles before the soles began to wear out unevenly due to my unusual gait.
- When Scarpa stopped manufacturing the Trek 2, I moved onto their next versions, finally ending up with the New Trek GTX. I have got through several pairs of these boots, each of which lasts about 1,500 miles before wearing out
- To protect my feet from shocks, I used to use Sorbothane insoles inside my boots - typically these lasted around 2,000 miles before wearing out, or longer than the lifetime of a pair of boots. Since then I have moved onto alternative products from Superfeet, but there is not much practical difference between the two as far as I can tell.
Over the years I have used various brands of trainers whilst road walking on long trips. Trainers are far better for many days' of walking on roads and can save your feet a great deal of pain when compared to boots. There is no advantage to my recommending any; just find a pair that fit you and suits your task.
Being a gadget-freak, I just had to get a GPS to take with me on my walks. As many people claim, they are not 100% necessary for anyone with good compass navigation skills, but they are handy for quick position fixes and as a backup to a compass. Most of all, they do not do any harm, and IMHO do not deserve the slating that some hikers give them.
- After much deliberation, I eventually picked a Magellan GPS Blazer 12, with which I had many hours of fun. This unit was very basic and had no PC download or upload capabilities, but it did what it did admirably well.
- After the above GPS finally gave up the ghost on the first day of my coastal walk, I purchased basic Garmin ETrex, which I have had few problems with, although i was a little too basic for long-term use.
- The ETrex was later replaced with an improved ETrex Vista Cx, which has USB and Micro-SD support, longer tracklogs and improved battery life. This has given me many years of sterling service and seems more or less indestructible. Sadly it has been discontinued.
Many GPS units designed for walkers now contain integrated Ordnance Survey maps. Whilst these tend to be more expensive, they can be very useful. However you should never rely alone on electronic maps and should also take a paper map. They can also feature cameras, allowing you to take geotagged pictures (which show the location as well as the time they were taken). In this way, they are becoming much more like smartphones than standalone GPS units.
- Over the years I have used a number of cameras; initially an Olympus film camera before going digitial with an Olympus C3030, then C5050, and finally an Olympus Camedia C8080Z. All these cameras saw much use, and were old friends.
- Later I used an Olympus MJU410 digital weatherproof camera, which I use as an emergency spare.
- My current main camera is a Sony Cybershot DSC-TX10, a rugged and weatherproof camera that can take images up to 16 Megapixels. I take several spare SD cards for storage, along with a spare battery and charging cable.
- I find I am increasingly taking photos on my smartphone (currently a Samsung Galaxy G2) instead of my dedicated camera. The results are not as good as on the camera, but the phone makes uploading to the web much easier.
- In the early days of walking, I would use a Psion 5 to store information and notes on walks when I am away from my main computer. This proved to be very useful over the years and was an essential part of my camping equipment. Sadly it is now many years out of date, and the brilliantly usable form of the device has not been replicated.
- I use an Olympus VN-711PC digital voice recorder to record notes that I later transcribe onto my website. This is lightweight and very efficient; I get several days of use out of a couple of AAA batteries, and it has plenty of storage.
- Trousers. I use some 'Craghoppers' trousers as my preferred walking wear. I currently am going with the Kiwi Trousers, which feature Craghopper's SolarDry fabric, which dries out quickly in the sun. I also have a pair of Kiwi trousers with zip-off legs, which can therefore be converted into shorts for summer walking. ;-) I also have a pair of Rab Treklite pants, large size, which are light (only 380 grams), but are stretchier around the legs, making the leg pocket less usable than it would otherwise be.
- Socks. I use several types of socks. The most common are 1000-mile socks, and these work perfectly well for me. Ensure you get the walkers version of these socks rather than the thinner runners version. I usually wear my socks for an hour or so before I go on a walk as it appears to help reduce blisters as the seams move to sit on the right place on my feet. Recently I have started using Meindl Air Revolution anatomical socks, which seem to be performing quite well.
- Hats. I have a couple of balaclavas that helps keep the cold out whilst camping (a thin one for spring and autumn, and a thicker one for use in winter). For general walking use I use an excellent Tilley hat. I can honestly say that this hat was a boon during the whole of my Pennine Way walk, except for the section over Laddow rocks where the wind kept on trying to blow it off, and really proved its worth on the coastal trip. This hat is manly used as a sunhat during the summer, but it is also fairly good in light rain as well. This hat has now lasted over seven years of rough walking, and is still in very good condition.
- Waterproof trousers. I currently use a pair of black Craghoppers Pakka Overtrousers, medium sized. These roll up into a convenient size in their own bag, which akes them easier to stoe in my rucksack and will hopefully protect them slightly, as I have often suffered from ripped overtrousers.
- Ruff. To keep me warm in winter, I use a Polartech Powerstretch Powertube.
- Gaiters. I use a pair of Outdoor Designs Perma GTX Gaiters, size large.
- Compass. I use a bog-standard Silva compass.
- Two Leki Malaku Classic Walking poles. Walking poles are strange creatures, you either love them or loathe them. Personally, I love them. Not only can they be used to help you up hills at the end of a long day, but (hopefully) they will prove invaluable for me if my ankle ever 'goes' when in the middle of nowhere. For more details on walking poles and their usage, click here. These poles are still in good condition after many thousands of miles of use, although I have had to get new tips for them once.
- Food. What can I say? Eat what you like and can carry. Always hide some high-energy snacks on your person for times when your energy gets low - for instance I always try to carry some Kendal Mint Cake with me.
- Water bottles. I have three main water bottles - two-1 litre and one-2 litre Platypus water bottle with a couple of drinking tubes, and one-1 litre bike bottle. The Platypus bottles really are godsends - the drinking tube system is nearly flawless and the bottles fold up to nearly nothing when empty.
- Medical kit. I carry a standard backpackers medical kit, out of which I have removed all the syringes and replaced them with more plasters and Compeeds.
So where does all this equipment lead? See here for details of my ideal hiking equipment - now, where's that spare 100,000 gbp?
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