A fair few people have asked me what my best kit was or how many pairs of boots I wore out. Previous walkers seem to have worn out anything from four to thirteen pairs. Thirteen? I think he must have eaten them or sold them on eBay. I only wore out three pairs.
I had some truly great kit all round, the majority of which had a British label, even if it might have been made in China. So if it helps anyone plan a decent trek, that’ll please me. By the way – I wasn’t sponsored by anyone other than ViewRanger so the thoughts and opinions are all my own.
LINKS UPDATED 20th January 2017.
- Boots: Salomon Quest 4D GTX: Truly great for comfort, grip and sole durability but not perfect in terms of their ability to keep out water. I often walked with wet feet and found that one boot would start leaking after about 400 miles of wear. With Salomon’s two-year warranty I was half tempted to send them back but with soles worn through completely I thought I might be pushing my luck. NB – I believe these have now been replaced by Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX
- Socks: 1000 Mile Mens Fusion: An excellent lined sock and supposedly guaranteed blister free. Well that’s not something I truly expected but I certainly didn’t have many blisters for 5000+ miles. They were a bit of a struggle to put on sometimes and needed to be adjusted perfectly to get them to sit just right over the toes, but I wouldn’t wear anything else now. Watch out, they take ages to dry.
- Socks: Sealskinz Waterproof: For when the going gets really boggy and wet feet are unavoidable. Not for day-to-day wear though as they were too sweaty and thus feet still get wet inside.
- Base Layer: Rab AL Pull-On: I used this as my all year round base or mid layer, just adding one thin layer underneath for when the weather really chilled down. It was superb and wicked sweat away perfectly, drying in minutes when it needed to. I just rolled the sleeves up when it got too hot.
- Base Layer: Rab MeCo 120 Short Sleeve or Rab MeCo 160 Long Sleeve: A Merino wool mix perfect for colder days underneath the AL Pull-On. Also used the short sleeve version on its own for about three days when scorching weather hit, a rareity though.
- Base Layer: Rab MeCo 120 Underwear: Very comfy indeed and perfect throughout. They did wear out a bit fast though and are expensive. Chafing was a genuine rarity.
- Windshirt: Buffalo Classic: Probably my biggest success and a truly great piece of kit. Not fully waterproof by any means, but light, thin, strong and worn over the top of my AL Pull-On for 90% of the journey. When the rain fell as more than a brief shower I just added waterproofs over the top. But keeping the wind out is a huge way of keeping the cold out. Great big front pocket was always in use. British made too.
- Trousers: Montane Terra Stretch: These were my first choice throughout and were incredibly comfy, remarkably warm without getting hot and would dry in minutes after a rain. I wore these nearly every day even when it was super hot. I didn’t want to wear shorts for fear of sunburn and ticks. With the long side zip vents I didn’t really need shorts at all. In very cold weather I just added thermal long johns underneath.
- Trousers: Rab Vector: Only worn in truly cold weather and to be honest – my second choice as they are mid-weight and once I warmed up I found them a bit sweaty if the temperature rose a tad. In saying that – if you are stopping regularly to take in the view, they might be a better bet as you can cool down very very quickly if it is windy and / or wet.
- Gloves: ProClimate Pro-Stretch Touchscreen: Great for general three season wear but not for winter. Not great when they got wet and the touchscreen bit doesn’t seem to be reliable enough to work all the time.
- Gloves: Sealskinz Activity Glove: My hands stayed warm in very wet and windy weather with these on. However, take them off for a minute, to check GPS, and I challenge anyone to get them back on again with damp hands as the liner just gets knotted and with quickly numbing fingers, these things created a few tantrums. Waterproof they claim but they do seem to soak it up like a sponge rather than repel and it takes days for them to dry out properly again.
- Hat: Thinsulate Polar Fleece Beanie: Cheap, cheerful and pretty much perfect except in heavy rain when it would sag over my eyes.
- Waterproofs: Montane Minimus: These were truly excellent – though not cheap. Very light, easily packed away and didn’t have that irritating rustle when worn. Not too bad on condensation or sweat build up at all, but not perfect as the trousers did get a bit claggy. One day someone will make a pair that can vent properly to cure this. The trousers were also a little tight over the boots for putting on and taking off. But I still can’t find anything better.
- Camera: Fujifilm X20 (now discontinued) – Super little quality camera with many SLR features, separate eyepiece and manual zoom. Carried in a Lifeventure Accessory Case (small) and again inside a sandwich bag if conditions very wet. NB – This has now been replaced by the Fujifilm X30.
- Comms & Navigation – Samsung Galaxy S4 Active (now the S8 or S8+) with Otter Box case and wrapped again in a polythene bag if seriously wet. Viewranger mapping app with premium OS 1:25,000 maps were invaluable (A huge thanks to Viewranger for the maps). This was a brilliant heavily researched piece of kit that would last all day on one battery charge as long as all other apps were shut down. I always carried a fully charged spare battery just in case though. Pick your network well for good phone signal, I found EE to be by far and away the best, but you don’t need a phone signal for the GPS to still work fine. With unlimited data, texts and high minutes contract – you won’t get a shock on your bill. IMPORTANT NOTE: Please use a PREMIUM MAP and know how to read it and use it properly. The freebie maps are NOT detailed enough for navigating in wilder places. If you are not fully competent using a paper map and a compass it really isn’t wise to jump up to becoming wholly reliant upon technology. Remember – technology can fail!
- Rucksack Day: Montane Cobra 25: Incredibly versatile with accessible stretch side pockets and zipped hip pocket for stowing things on the go. All I added was a small camera case to the waist belt and everything I needed was to hand. With a good two litre hydration pack slot it was just bang on even if it didn’t have a waterproof cover to fit – I just put my stuff inside dry bags.
- 1 x Walking Pole: Trekmates Trail Lite: I got through two of these but only ever used one at a time – my choice as I like one spare hand. Don’t lock your hand in the strap, particularly when going downhill. If you slip when one of these is planted you could give your shoulder a nasty rip.
- Hydration Pack: Osprey 2 litre: Used every drop when the going was tough but more than enough for level walking. Perfect size, but make sure you sterilise it with Milton regularly (twice a week). Keep a small stock of replacement mouth pieces for when they eventually split.
- Lunch Box: Sistema Lunch Cube: Nice, cheap and great for keeping Marmite and Dairylea sandwiches in perfect condition whilst separating them from my pork pie.
- First Aid Kit: Lifesystems Light & Dry: Only used once but essential and I did add some Compeed blister plasters to the pack.
- Corn Wraps: Profoot: Once I had discovered them, these were my absolute saviour and I then wore them over the fourth toe of both feet every day to stop toes rubbing together. They saved many blisters.
- Bivvy Bag: Glad not to have used this but essential safety kit to carry at all times.
- Head Torch: LED Lenser H5: Carried when the days got short and brilliantly powerful.
- Spare Clothes: One base layer set (top and underwear), One pair of socks
- Toilet Roll: Errrrr essential
- Ibuprofen: Coated tablets. Don’t bother with expensive brands, it’s all the same.
- Suncream: Carried when I thought I needed it.
- Boots Laces: Spare set but I only ever needed to replace one.
- Sunglasses: I didn’t bother with these in the end as they just got on my nerves.
LONG HAUL KIT (in addition to daily kit excl. rucksack)
- Rucksack – up to 3 days: Osprey Kestrel 38: Yes I managed to pack everything – just – for two nights away into a 38 litre “day sack”. For me this sack was too big to use as a day sack but with lightweight gear and good packing I was able to keep the weight of the rucksack down too by using this as opposed to a giant.
- Rucksack – long haul: Osprey Aether 70: Not used on this trip but I do have it for the longer trips where one can be a little more relaxed about packing.
- Tent: Vaude Taurus SUL XP 2P: Great super lightweight, all in one rapid pitch, very waterproof, semi-geodesic, tough. Not really two-man more for one man, kit and maybe a dog. Technically a 3 season tent but would do more I’m sure.
- Tent Footprint: For Vaude Taurus and to protect the tent floor from getting damaged.
- Sleeping Bag: Sea to Summit Trek TKII An Aussie brand that I bought online from New Zealand & even with shipping it was still cheaper than buying it in the UK. If, like me, you don’t like the constrictive nature of mummy sleeping bags then the entire Trek range are top notch.
- Sleep Mat: Exped Downmat UL7 LW Super expensive and top quality. One down mark is that it still took me ages to inflate (though that might have been my ineptitude)
- Pillow: Freedom Trail Flannel Pillow Lightweight, small pack and much more comfortable than clothes stuffed in a dry bag. Worth a bit of luxury to get a decent night.
- Towel: Lifeventure Soft Fibre Towel
- Cooker: OEX XT-3 Inferno Gas Stove: What a tremendous cheap piece of folding kit this is. It used to be known as the Hi-Gear Inferno Stove (a Go-Outdoors brand). I couldn’t find anything better for the money as many stoves seem so ridiculously overpriced.
- Pans & Utensils: Hi Gear Backpack 4 Cook Set (no longer sold) Very cheap and I cut it down to one pan and a kettle. One sharp knife, titanium cutlery, small scissors, pan scraper, small microfibre cloth, lighter / waxed matches.
- Water Purifying Tablets
- Mug: Cheapo tin one
- Wash Kit: Toothbrush and paste, nail clippers, wet wipes, lip balm, soap, disposable razor, microfibre cloth and of course toilet roll / small pack tissues.
- Repairs Kit: Needles, thread etc
- Change of Clothes
- Food: Dried packs and loads of snacks (Frusli Bars and assorted chocolate)
- Mini Trowel
- Dry Bags: Assorted sizes to put all kit in
OTHER ESSENTIALS KEPT FOR BASE
- Foot Moisturiser: I didn’t carry this every day but I did make sure I moisturised my feet at least once per week. They stayed in very good nick. I found a good manly Norwegian brand too.
- Skin Cream: Hands and face will get battered if outdoors in all weathers. Again – a manly brand from Boots for me.
- Athletes Foot Powder / Cream: If you get wet feet or chafing….this will stop any bacterial infection quickly before it becomes a problem.
- Medicated Body Powder: Prevents chafing and soothes. I used Lanacane.
- Anti-inflammatory Cream: For local application. Voltarol is expensive but pretty good.
AND WHAT ABOUT SNICKERS?
- 1 x Lunar Champ A541 2005: It did everything that was asked of it and the layout was perfect. The full-sized double and adult bunks were firm, incredibly comfortable and gave everyone enough separation and privacy. With a table always available, captains chairs, oven, grill, hob, shower and toilet – it had everything we needed. Storage was grand and though tight with any more than 3 people, it did sleep 5 once. When I started it only had 20,000 miles on the clock and drove better the more miles driven. It was never driven in and ended up doing 10,000 miles more around Britain. It also had an incredibly tight turning circle for its size. Some of the fixtures and fittings were a bit naff and had a tendency to fall off or break in your hand, but they were usually minor trim bits – except the damn kitchen tap. It is sadly now sold.