I’ve done it. I’ve become one of those hikers that weighs all of their stuff. I had a moment when putting my bra on the kitchen scales where I wondered if I’d crossed some sort of line, but I now think it’s an important part of preparation for any long distance hike. If you don’t know how much your stuff weighs, you can’t go about reducing it. And if you don’t think about reducing the weight of your gear, then you might not be having as much of a fun, safe and comfortable hike as you could be. It’s also remarkably satisfying and addictive trying to cut away a few grams here and there. I’ve told you I like spreadsheets, right?
I am by no means a lightweight or ultralight hiker. I believe this a process that takes time, experimenting at each hike over which areas of kit you can adapt to having lighter gear, or removing pieces altogether. It takes time to acquire the skills needed to be safe with ultralight kit. But, I will always be trying to reduce my pack weight so I can further enjoy the freedom of movement of hiking. Andrew Skurka talks about this nicely and Alex Roddie talks about the ‘controversy‘. And, after spending a bit too long getting sidetracked, I found a (nearly geriatric, in internet years) article by Jim Wood who quite rightly suggests I may well be better off looking to shed a few kilos of my own.
You could spend a lot of money getting the lightest kit, and to be honest, if I had a lot of money I probably would. Instead either I use what I already have/can borrow, buy second hand, or make some sort of compromise on weight vs price. For example, the only sleeping bag I used to have was a tiny one rated to +12°C. Clearly not suitable for outdoor use for 99% of the UK year. I could have spent £440 on a PhD K Minim 400 for a 635g to -5°C bag, but went for a £180 Alpkit Pipedream 400 for 840g to -6°C. I like Alpkit a lot.
The list below is my kit list for walking the Coast to Coast in April 2017. It’s my first backpacking camping kit list, and second hiking one – I’ve made a few changes from my Switzerland gear.
It comes to a total base weight of 10.5kg. Base weight refers to the weight of the backpack and everything in it minus any consumables (food, water, gas etc.) and anything that you are wearing/holding. At this weight, I’m on the edge between ‘traditional’ and ‘lightweight’, but labels are pretty meaningless here and it’s about what suits you.
Packing – 2.3kg
|Osprey Aura 65
|4 dry bags
|Map & phone cases
- 65 litres should be roomy for this trip – the extra space is intended for sections of the TA where I’ll need to carry many days worth of food. The Aura’s waist belt is like a crab’s claw that hugs you, very comfortable. It’s heavier than I was intending to get, but with the weight of my gear at this point on my hiking career I’ve gone for the comfort option
- I have all my gear in colour-coded dry bags inside my backpack, for back-up dryness from the rucksack rain cover, and for ease of finding stuff
- Waterproof cases for maps as it’s highly likely whilst walking in the UK I’ll need to look at a map whilst it’s raining
- Pocket handbag – really useful in the evenings and food shopping, folds into it’s own pocket (stocking present a few years ago!)
Shelter – 2.7kg
|Tarptent Scarp 1
|Thermarest NeoAir X-lite
|Alpkit Pipedream 400
- I won’t be taking the cross-poles or groundsheet for the Scarp
- I’ve swapped the pegs that come with the tent for MSR mini groundhog stakes so there is more of a purchase to loop the guyline around, and the V shape should stay rooted in softer ground
- The NeoAir X-lite packs up remarkably small, and I’ll take a patch kit
Kitchen – 0.6kg
|Alpkit Mytipot 900
|Sea to summit spork
|Sawyer mini filter
|Camelbak, Platypus, OMM
|Alpkit spark & lighter
- The 900ml pot is big enough for 1 person cooking
- I’m not expecting to use the filter much, if at all, but at that weight it can’t hurt
- Water bottles = Camelbak 750ml, Platypus 1L, OMM 500ml, plus the ~400ml pouch included in the filter, gives me a max capacity of ~2.6 litres, which should be plenty
Clothing (carried) – 2.5kg
|2 x Walking socks
|1 x Tent socks
|2 x T shirts
|Mid layer jumper
|Mountain Equipment Manaslu
|2 x pants
- New Look might not be the go-to for outdoor kit, but my espadrille-style £10 pair I got a few years ago are comfier and not much heavier than my flip flops, for campsites and as a dry alternative to my walking shoes in the evenings
- Very light tent socks so I always have something dry to put on
- 2 spare socks, shirts and pants means I have one drying from being washed and one clean set to put on at the end of the day
- Waterproof trousers with a full-leg zip are essential – no more hopping around in the mud
- I may yet cave and throw in my windshell jacket, as its so much nicer to wear when it’s just windy than my waterproof jacket
Bathroom – 1kg
|2 weeks + spare
|Glasses + case
|Compact (brush and mirror)
|Clothes wash & line
|Coghlans Backpacker Trowel
- I wear daily contact lenses – more bulk, but easier hygeine when camping
- I’m being optimistic with the sun cream…
Electronics – 1kg
|Lenser SEO 5
|Samsung A3 & case
|GoPro & spare battery
- Chargers = wall charger with micro USB cable (phone, kindle) and mini USB cable (GoPro)
- The battery pack will provide 5 full charges of my phone
- Headphones are for travel, not walking
- Kindle is perhaps a luxury but an essential one for me, particularly when solo
Misc – 0.4kg
|Cards, money, ID
|First aid kit
|Needle & thread
- First aid kit with plasters, pain killers, bandages, wipes, tweezers, antihistamine etc.
- Duct tape is wrapped around the pen
Wearing – 2.3kg
|Inov 8 roclite 325
|2 walking poles
- The first time for me not walking in traditional boots – the Roclite 325s are designed for ‘fastpacking’ and provide more stability than a trail shoe, but are much lighter and dry quicker than a boot, and shouldn’t give my ankles a nasty heat rash
- I prefer peaked hats to sunglasses; friendlier when people can see your eyes, and the peak is useful in the rain as well as sun. My hat is now set at a jaunty angle from walking with the sun on my left for two weeks (west across Switzerland), so maybe as I walk east this time it’ll straighten out!
- I wouldn’t go back to walking without poles now – they add stability and rhythm
- I’ll be taking the Cicerone guide book and associated map booklet – in pockets for quick access
I may well make a few last minute changes, and I’ll do a gear rundown after the hike to see what did and didn’t work!
Post note: see the reflections on how the gear worked here.