Trails and trials of the writer who walks
As a 64-year-old female, under 9 stone (122 lbs), 5 ft 4 ins (which used to be average when I was young but they raised the bar), my back-packing has to be lightweight. For those who are interested in that kind of thing, this is my current pack list. This kit, including water and food for three days (I weigh it by stepping on the scales with the whole lot on my back) is 14 lbs. I splashed out a fair bit of money on the tent and sleeping bag, but am now in my second year of using them every few weeks.
Rucksack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa (don’t forget the rucksack has to be lightweight too!)
Tent: Terra Nova Competition Laser 1 (replaced micro pegs with normal lightweight pegs). It has a really generous porch area and has withstood some pretty violent winds.
Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering Ultralite (carried in a dry sack)
Sleeping Mat: Permarest (extra short)
Cooking gear: Primus Spider Stove. Two 100g gas canisters – these fit snugly inside my two nested saucepans along with a lighter. A spork and knife. A Platypus flexible water bladder. A mug. A micro-cloth.
Breakfast Supplies: Cereal bars, sachets of Nescafe cappuccino
Lunch Supplies: Packets of Mini-Cheddars, Baby-bel cheeses, Peperamis.
Supper Supplies: Packets of spicy cous-cous, instant pasta or rice (anything which only requires hot water to be added). I often chop up a Peperami stick to add a little extra to it.
Anytime snacks: There’s nothing nicer than stopping to make a brew if I find somewhere sheltered enough, so I keep the teabags and dried milk powder handy with the little stove which is all in a separate little waterproof bag clipped to the top of my rucksack. My favourite calorie booster is McVitie’s Hob-knob flapjack.
Other items carried:
a cheap poncho to protect coat if the rain sets in for the day, and it doubles as an extra groundsheet.
a dry sack containing night-time T-shirt and leggings, one spare base layer, a travel skirt, two pairs undies, one pair socks, a silk bag liner, packet of wet wipes, toothbrush, mini-toothpaste, mini bottle liquid soap. I no longer carry any form of towel – you can always hire one at locations that have showers.
head torch, phone, phone charger, Kindle (the one non-essential luxury!) – all in waterproof bags (freezer bags will do)
compass, glasses, paper maps (maps also downloaded to Viewranger app on phone)
money belt (money and cards) with camera bag clipped on to belt for easy access
Pair of walking poles (splashed out on lightweight this year)
Day bag: this is a small dry bag that clips on my rucksack strap so I can have easy access to things needed during the day: water, lunch food, water purifying tablets, insect repellent, phone, comb (in case I find a pub!), wet wipes, toilet tissue, nose tissues.
I wear mesh-lined waterproof trousers all the time rather than put over-trousers on (buy a size smaller). My Mountain Warehouse waterproof trousers stay comfortable even when saturated. They dry almost instantly if it stops raining, and I can wipe them down with a damp cloth when they’re very muddy (usually do this at a handy stream before visiting a pub!). If it’s warm, I can open them up and let them flap. If we’re having a (rare) heatwave, then I secure them to the side of the rucksack and wear my trekking skirt instead.
Thanks to our wonderfully unpredictable British weather, my outfit doesn’t change much, summer or winter. It’s a baselayer, a hoodie (omit this in summer), a Berghaus synthetic down jacket and a large lightweight waterproof coat. I can attach the coat to the side of my rucksack, and usually arrange the jacket around my shoulders if it’s too warm to wear it. Hoodie ties round waist, although it’s very rare that I eschew all three items!
Boots: Having struggled to find a pair that would last more than 300 miles, I may have found the answer with my rather expensive Meindl Gortex-lined shoes* that came with a two year guarantee, and I now insert a pair of insoles that are designed to prevent uneven wear and also cured an ankle problem that was developing.
*Meindl shoes managed 600 miles which worked out at 20p per mile – more expensive than driving my car! Am now logging mileage on Altberg Fremington.
On my very first attempt at sleeping on a hill, I read everyone else’s lists and took a small trowel with me. Ha ha. The ground was like iron. Left the trowel on the hill. Obviously it’s best to restrict this sort of business to pub or cafe visits, but if I have to do it wild, I find the largest boulder that I can lift from the ground. Underneath will be a perfect bum-sized hole (and a few startled wood lice). Instead of flushing, just put the boulder back where it was. I know my toilet tissue degrades rapidly because I use it at home for sowing seeds on (so I can see where they are).