whatimpacking

As any hiker worth their salt will tell you “a serious journey requires serious kit”. Ultralight is the buzz word and it comes at a huge cost. Every gram matters! Everything has to be Carbon or Bamboo or Titanium. Ultralight 1 man tents costing the same as a 2 bed flat. Sleeping bags that cost the earth and resemble the crap you throw away when unpacking your new TV. Materials and fabrics that have names from Battlestar Gallactica… it’s a science so I’m approaching it like I approached my science lessons at school by simply “not going there”.

My brother spent over £18k hiking the Continental Divide Trail last year and I have to do this trip, the whole 60 days, on about 10% of that.

I’ve scrounged together the following items for this trip and I’ve done pretty well so far:

Ultralight tent

Tent – sixmoons Haven Tarp
weight – 18oz
Pros – ultralight, mozi net, no poles
Cons – no poles?
Cost – scrounged (about $210)

What was it like?
Bloody freezing during the nights in northern france! It’s not a tent, it’s a bin liner with a mosquito net under it. The wind swept right underneath the sides, essential however when I reached Spain. The cool breeze offering some of the most beautiful night of my life. The SixMoos was incredibly easy to set up and a swarm of mozzies often meant I cold complete the build in about 11 mins with only 16 bites incurred in the process. I used garden bamboo for poles and it worked a treat. It’s a 2 man tent but the extra space turned out to be a real luxury in the evenings.

Will I use it again?
ABSOLUTELY!!! I cursed it at first and now I kinda miss it. Yes, I’m sure there are better options but this served me proud. the ease of use and colour gave me the ability to set up quick and stay hidden, this is something i didn’t consider at first but turned out to be essential. Stay comfortable, stay out of sight.

Long Distance Skateboarding shoes

Merrell All Out Blaze low
Weight – ?
Pros – Great fit, highly recommended, Vibram sole for foot-breaking, breathable Goretex
Cons – make my feet sweat just wearing them round the house (so not breathable at all), MANIC static
electricity build up, look like someone that went to university.
Cost – £120 reduced to £50

So what were they like?
After drilling a few holes to create more breathability around the toes, they turned out to be amazingly comfortable and supportive throughout the entire trip. The chunky Vibram sole unit wore out quickly on my breaking shoe and I was down to the foam within the first week (learn to use different points for breaking to avoid this) but they lasted just the distance. The structure of the shoes didn’t change! They were fantastic! I received just one blister on my little toe in the full 2300km. My only reservation was the width of the central sole, great for hiking and trail running but not ideal for balancing on a board with a 20lb pack.

Would I choose them again?
With a little modification to the board foot to make the sole wider, YES! Totally. JUST ONE BLISTER!

North Face Exocet 35l

Backpack – North Face Exocet 35ltr
Weight – ?
Benefits – good size size and weight
Cons – the smell
Cost – Scrounged

So what was it like?
A great piece of kit generally. The hard wearing canvas didn’t rip when I stacked but I did spend the rest of the time wondering if I was carrying more weight than needed. It was just the right size for the contents but, at 5’11” I found the waist strap to be too high to sit on my hips properly. There was no Passport pocket! Sounds trivial but when you pack and unpack everyday, the chance of loss of essential items was always a concern for me.

Sleeping Mat

Sleeping mat – Karrimor Zig Zag SportsDirect special
Weight – ?
Pros – Bastard cheap
Cons – Bastard cheap
Cost – £20 reduced to £8.99

So what was it like?
Seriously, what the fuck was I expecting? If I knew I had 3 ruptured dicsc I would have probably spalshed out a little more (in fact, I’d have probably embarked on a short push to the hospital but hey). there are many alternative and I can only guess they are all better. I ended up scrounging foam from burnt out cars to substitute but, in my condition, I was never gonna get a great night sleep or a pain free morning.

Would I use it again?
Not on your fuckin nelly!!

713CLQbIpKL._SY355_NatureHike Mini Sleeping bag
Weight – 420g
Pros – Super tiny, light(ish), dirt cheap
Cons – it’s an £18 sleeping bag for fucks sake! the one I need is about £400

So what was it like?
Much like the tent, it’s all relative to the conditions. In the first few days of the trip I was really cold at night. It’s rated comfort zone is 9-14c but I wouldn’t look forward to a night below 12c. Perfect for the temperatures at the south of France and northern Spain but staying cool isn’t so much of a necessity when you have the ability to sleep stark bollock naked out in the wild.

Would I use it again?
They say a good nights sleep is as beneficial as a decent meal so there’s no doubt that a considerably better sleeping bag is a sensible move. I could have gone lighter and in more comfort however it’d be much cheaper to make my next trip fit the cheap equipment rather than the other way round. Why blow £200 of my budget when I could just leave a week later in better conditions. I will do a little more research next time but i’ll always be looking to spend low and compromise.

Hydration pack

Hydration pack  – Another Karrimor cheapo – 2ltr
Weight – By no means the lightest on the market
Pros – Not dying of thirst
Cons – It’s cheap so… dying of thirst
Cost – £30 reduced to £9.99….
(starting to see a pattern here eh)

So what was it like?
Really pretty great you know! AS you may know, Karrimor have been bought out by SportsDirect but thi certainly hasn’t affected the quality of this item. Not very light as I’ve mentioned but it was extremely convenient to use and held out for the entire journey. The ability to cram it into the backpack was essential but it’s can only really hold 1.5 as I always needed to fit it around other items.

Would I use it again?
The perfect scenario would be a backpack with something built in however, bang for buck, I can’t see a better solution really. This served it’s purpose and didn’t let me down. Thanks for saving me a wad Karrimor.

Powerbank

TeckNet 12000mAh
Weight – 240g
Pros – 4 full smartphone charges in my backpack
Cons – Weight
Cost – £30 reduced to £13

So what was it like?
Man these things are amazing! Phone charging in your pack whilst your skating along. Just so essential but…. 18hrs charging time at least. It saw me right for usually 4 days being ultra careful with the power usage but there were depressing moments sat in a McDonalds for a full 10 hrs waiting for it to charge. It also meant I had to find a campsite every few days and often take a day out of skating any distance at all.

Would I use it again?
Not for a trip like this. I met a guy using a similar device that had a solar panel attached to it. It was larger and at least 5 x the price but well worth the investment. I have no doubt technology in this area will have improved by next summer so i’ll be looking to reinvest and get something that doesn’t mean time out.

Cooker

Trangia Mini Cookset
Weight – 358g
Pros – Sturdy, reliable, simple
Cons – Heavy (compared to a pepsi can stove)
Cost – £23.99

So what was it like?
I decided to strip it down. A windblock can be fashioned up on the fly right? Nope, it’s there for a reason! a board really doesn’t work and you only end up wasting fuel. I’m glad I took a ready made unit as opposed to trusting my own handy work to deliver a meal every night. I dont have much experience with the alternatives but the Trangia was reliable and very reasonably priced.

Would I use it again?
Yes, absolutely! I’d make space for the full kit next time as the benefits of a decent easy meal in the evening is often the greatest part of a long days trek. Not taking the full kit meant I was huddled round a stove for 20mins some mornings just waiting for my morning coffee.

Memory

2 x 32gb 2 x 16gb SD cards
Weight – NA
Pros – taking some form of memory
Cons – pretty much my only source of memory
Cost – about £20

Shoe Goo

Essential and awesome – Shoe Goo
At the rate I’ll be burning through my left sole, I’m going to need to take
some extra rubber with me in the form of a couple of shoe shaped car tyre cut outs.
This stuff will give a secure bond overnight.
Pros – Bonds anything, watertight
Cons – Not cheap, not light
Cost – £7.99

So what was it like
I never got round to cutting the tyre sole out, I wish I had. I spent the whole trip looking for a left shoe on the side of the road and came across dozens of right ones… just no left! I ended up take only 1/4 of a tube for weigh reasons but the only real times I used it was to add a little grip to the flat soles when the terrain became dusty in southern France and Spain.

Would I use it again?
Yes. I don’t think I’d like to be caught in a situation without some available.

Longboarding helmetPredator FR7 Skate Helmet
Weight – 426g
Pros – awesome fit, comfortable, offensively orange
Cons – heavy
Cost – £30

So what was it like?
It’s not the most fashionable of fits and I was disapointed it didn’t come in purple but it was super comfortable! The weight wasn’t a problem on the head and I didn’t notice the difference when strapped to my pack. The peak was a real help in the midday sun but I did find the straps coming loose a little too often due to the mix of silky webbing and stinky sweat. Warning for those with thinning hair, don’t install the top of head pad or you’ll end up with an arrow shaped bald patch.

Would I use it again?
Granted, it’d be nice to have something with a bit of a closer fit aesthetically but the Predator was a great choice overall and there’s plenty of life in it so expect to see the clockwork orange dome on the road next time round.

Nano Spray

Nano Spray
Weight – 222g
Pros – Not telling. It’s a secret!
Cons – jailtime
Cost – £8.99

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