Originally written: Monday, April 1st, 2013
This section covers my kit for the Southern Upland Way. I’m carrying all my own gear for this trip, but as I’m not camping, I don’t need to worry about tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment etc. just the bare essentials to keep me comfortable in a series of B&Bs and hotels.
I’ve broken the kit down into the various dry-bags they are stored in, within my rucksack and a separate list for the clothes I wear during the day…. you’ll get the idea I’m sure. This is quite a long post, so please feel free to skip it if you don’t care about kit.
Kit List – Clothing
I liked the flexibility of my walking clothing last year. It allowed for adding layers for warmth on one or two frosty mornings and left me cool enough on the days when the sun shone and the temperature rose.
I have a choice of Merino wool baselayer vests. One is long-sleeved and is made from 200g wool, which provides a good, close-fitting vest to wear under the rest of the clothes. If it’s nice and warm as I set out I can use my 150g, short-sleeve vest, which is the same, just cooler.
Above the baselayer I will be using my Regatta Nitrus soft-shell smock, this is much lighter than a fleece and works better for me. It has a chest pocket for my phone, it’s quite wind-resistant and will stand a light shower without too many problems. This was my default choice when I was walking last year and served me well. Although it does get a bit whiffy after a few days.
In the event of a big rain shower I have the Paramo Velez Smock in my “waterproofs bag”. This is the best waterproof coat I’ve ever had and is light enough to pack away for when you need it. It’s also great for that third layer, when it’s cold, on top of the vest and Nitrus smock.
On the bottom half of my person I have some new walking underwear. I treated myself to some SUB underwear at Christmas. I bought the long version, to help prevent the chafing I often get at the tops of my legs after a few consecutive days walking. They look like cycling shorts and they are made of the same sort of material too – a sort of Lycra-type, stretchy fabric. They don’t retain moisture, so when I’m working hard, or its raining I won’t suffer from the usual problem of damp underwear rubbing against sensitive parts of my body.
Above the underwear I have some Craghopper Nosi-Life Cargo trousers. These are lightweight, quick-drying and UV protected, as well as having some sort of insect repellent capability as well, although I didn’t buy them for any of those qualities – I bought them because they fit me really well. The cargo pocket is great for my A5 map case and it has a zipped side pocket for securing coins etc.
On my feet I’m using a double sock approach. A Bridgedale Coolmax liner sock next to my skin and a regular black M&S business-type sock above that. The Bridgedale socks are silky smooth, don’t seem to smell bad even after a few hard days and they are as thin as silk, but much more resilient than that suggests. The M&S socks are quite thin and cheap to replace and keep my feet cool inside the Gore-Tex lined Salomon boots I use now.
I will be wearing my Tilley M3 hat – this is a wide-brimmed, UV protected hat that I tend to use in place of sunscreen. I’ve never liked the feeling of sun cream on my skin and I refuse to use it on my face, particularly when I’m likely to be sweating hard all day, so the hat keeps the sun off my face. I have a strip of flannel towelling that I use in the brim, on my forehead to catch the sweat and reduce the amount that runs down my face and into my eyes.
Boots / Shoes
This is another difficult decision I’m currently mulling over. Boots or Shoes? I still haven’t decided and may not until closer to the time.
I gave up on trail shoes after my last pair of Inov-8 Roclite 315s fell apart after 6 months of use. I wore away the heel cup, inside the shoe and that resulted in me getting a sore spot from my heel rubbing against the worn material. I vowed never to return to them. Since then I have been using Salomon boots (first the Mission GTX and more recently the Comet 3D GTX) and I’ve used these on the Pennine Way in 2010, Coast to Coast in 2011 and Skye Trail in 2012.
I remember thinking after the long second day on the Skye Trail though, “that ridge walk would have been much easier in trail shoes”. I probably wouldn’t have felt as physically drained as I did after that walk, if I’d been walking in much lighter and more flexible shoes.
At Christmas I found a pair of Inov-8 Roclite 315s on sale for £50 and my determination lapsed and I bought them. I’m now thinking I may use them on the Southern Upland Way. I walked the Coast to Coast in 2009 in Roclite 315s and they were brilliant. My main reason for thinking this is the amount of road walking that’s included on the Southern Upland Way and road walking is much easier on the feet when it’s done in trail shoes. On the other hand there will also be sections that are very muddy or boggy and as the Roclite 315s aren’t waterproof that will mean walking in wet, muddy feet for parts of the walk. Wet feet I don’t mind, but muddy feet can be a problem and wet, gritty socks are a recipe for blisters!
I have a brand new pair of Salomon Comet 3D GTX, provided by Salomon as a warranty replacement for my old pair that were letting in water. I don’t have any worries about breaking them in, they are instantly comfortable and I’ve never had any issues with the previous Salomon boots in that respect. I’m hoping that as they’re new they will also keep the water out on the wet and boggy sections of the walk, without the need for gaiters.
This holds all my chargers, cables, spare batteries and a small speaker for use in the evening. I’ve gone for USB charging throughout. My last minute purchase of a new digital camera meant I could select one that used USB charging, rather than the oft-employed method of providing a proprietary wall socket into which you stick the battery when it needs charging, the system used by my old TZ6.
All these USB cables plug into a 4-way USB wall charger which helps reduce the weight significantly. It also means I only need one wall socket in the B&B for charging all my equipment.
Quick Access Bag
This is a bag full of useful stuff that I will probably need at some point during the day. It lives in the big back pocket (front pocket?) on my pack and although I need to take the pack off to reach it, it’s easily accessible.
It has my cold weather gear, my GPS data logger, headphones, iPod and my wallet.
First Aid Kit
This is a fairly basic kit, but covers me for minor cuts and abrasions. I’ve only ever needed my FAK once, and that was on the Pennine Way in 2010, when I slid down a slimy tunnel and cut my hands.
As I’m walking in Scotland, the Tick Remover is coming along – in fact I’ve started carrying this more often, even when walking in the Lakes and Dales. I have an irrational distaste of ticks even though I’ve never had one attach itself to me.
There are no painkillers in this list – but I do carry them. They live in one of the hip pockets in my rucksack, as they are the sort of thing you need to hand, rather than having to remove your pack and rummage around looking for the FAK.
For a deeper investigation and heated discussion into FAKs, have a look at Alan Sloman’s blog here.
As I’m using B&Bs and hotels, rather than hostels, I don’t need to carry a towel, but everything else is pretty much standard here. I’ve been using a tiny bottle of shaving oil I bought from backpackinglight.co.uk about 5 years ago and it works really well. Not as nice as shaving foam, but tiny and very light.
I recycle the tiny hotel shampoo bottles I pick up when I’m working away and fill these with my medicated shampoo, I need about 2 bottles for the 2 week trip. I will have my hair cut short before I go, so that reduces how much I need to carry, this also eliminates the need to carry a comb.
The soap is a “just in case” item. Most B&B provides a small soap bar, but I’ve come across one or two that don’t.
Evening / Spare Clothes Bag
I need some clean clothes in the evening – but I’m not going overboard. So one pair of everything and if I need to, I’ll have it washed at some point along the way, but this sort of depends on availability of facilities.
I don’t mind wearing the same clothes every evening for two weeks, but towards the end it could be unpleasant for other guests in the same accommodation.
Next year I’m hoping to walk Land’s End to John O’Groats and this kit is a test for that walk as much as anything. I won’t be re-supplied very often on that walk, certainly not every two weeks, so I need to see how long stuff can last before it needs washing and cleaning.
The Smartwool Merino vest is a spare, in case the day is warm and I feel the long sleeve Merino will be too much.
The Sealskins socks are packed in lieu of a pair of evening shoes. They weigh a lot less than a pair of shoes, or even flip-flops and if my boots are wet at the end of the day and I need to walk to the pub, I will use the Sealskins to keep my feet dry inside the boots.
Again, my usual waterproof garments. The Paramo coat goes into the dry-bag, compressed right down to reduce space in the pack and the Rab troos have their own tiny stuff sack.
I’m still considering the role of the troos. I may not take them at all – but that does take some courage, especially in Scotland in the spring. On the other hand, I may take these instead of my Craghopper walking trousers and wear them all the time, even when it’s dry. I used them like this on the Coast to Coast in 2011 and they worked surprisingly well. As they are zipped I can vent them if it’s too warm and they are very comfortable. However, they have no pockets and no fly – so they aren’t all that practical for all day walking.
I don’t think their weight penalty is too much – I’ll probably take them as waterproofs.
The food bag will normally have lunch items and snacks for the evening, hopefully collected just before I arrive at the B&B. But I’m also carrying an Adventure meal, as there is one night where the nearest pub is a 3 mile round trip and after walking 15 miles during the day, I don’t really fancy the extra distance.
I also have a stretch of 5 days in the middle of the walk where I don’t pass a shop, so that will add considerably to the daily burden as I carry lunch items for all those days.
These are the items that hang off my pack, live in the pockets, or are loose inside the main compartment. These items don’t need to live in a dry-bag as they are either waterproof in their own right, or they have their own waterproof cover, like the phone.
My Panasonic Lumix TZ6 camera is now over 3 years old and it’s feeling its age a bit. There’s a mark on the lens, which is annoyingly obvious on some shots, so I decided to change it before this trip. I wanted to go for the Lumix TZ30, a newer, upgraded version of the TZ6, but even reconditioned units were more than I was happy to pay. I eventually stumbled across the Lumix TZ27, which is the same spec as the TZ30 but without GPS (something I was going to switch off on the TZ30 anyway, to save battery).
The TZ27 is great, it’s slightly smaller, slightly lighter, has a bigger zoom and a much enhanced video recording function, so I won’t need to carry my Flip HD recorder to capture HD video anymore. It also does panorama shots, which I’ve been doing on my phone recently. Also the TZ27 uses a USB cable to charge, rather than a bespoke wall plug attachment, so that will save a little more weight.
The maps weigh an astonishing 150 grams. That’s 220 miles of 1:25k scale mapping – a strip admittedly, but even so an impressive amount of detailed coverage for little more than the equivalent weight of a mouthful of water. I’ve printed these from Memory Map, onto A5 sheets that are placed back to back in the map case, so I can discard them at the end of each day.
I’ve bought an umbrella! A couple of years ago I bought and used a poncho for the Coast to Coast crossing. The idea being for those days when the rain is light and intermittent. Getting waterproofs on and off and on again can get a bit wearing after a while. The poncho was OK, but not ideal, so this year I’m trying an umbrella. A bit of research on Twitter and an excellent article from Robin on his blog ‘BlogPackingLight’ (which can be found here), pointed me towards the Senz range.
The Senz Mini is actually quite large and will cover me easily. The umbrella will be deployed in light showers and will also provide shelter if it’s raining while I’m taking a break. It’s supposed to be incredibly wind-resistant, so we’ll see how well it performs. I’m hoping for my usual good weather, but planning for the worst here!
Oh, yes, I forgot to add, here’s the total weight:
So quite a detailed list of kit – hope you’re still awake!
Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything please
I’ve decided to use a supply drop for this walk. There is a section in the middle where I don’t see a shop for five days. Two of those days are also 20+ mile stretches, the sort of distance where I would want two ‘lunch’ stops. Rather than have to carry several kilograms of lunch over that section I’ve gone for the supply parcel option.
This is likely to be a biscuit tin, filled with lunch items that don’t go off too quickly. I will find a suitable place to hide it, somewhere around Beattock, just off the A74(M). I’ll drop it off en-route to the start and hope it’s still there 8 days later when I walk into the village.
I’m sure some of the B&Bs will provide packed lunch, on the basis that they know there are no shops to buy provisions, but to be honest I don’t want to rely on that possibility.