A Bit Of Preamble!
As we’ve decided to spend our summer by hiking 700 miles we thought it would be good to share with you some of our equipment and kit that we’ll be carrying with us on our three thru-hikes.
There are slight differences in our kit selection for the UK hikes and the John Muir Trail mainly due to the expected weather and length of trail time. We have approximately 7 weeks to complete the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast walks with a 25 day itinerary for the John Muir Trail (JMT). We fully expect that the UK weather will be a little more wet and rainy as it is the UK in summer! The weather along the JMT in September is generally good although the nights will be a lot colder.
A selection of clothing and kit before packing!
The Big Three
The backpack, shelter and sleep system are commonly referred to as ‘The Big Three’ generally as these are the biggest, heaviest and also the most expensive items of kit you will buy and carry on a thru-hike.
The first of our big three is the backpack. The backpack needs to have a large enough capacity to fit all the gear in whilst still being supportive and comfortable when hiking with the carried load. The pack we’ve chosen is the Osprey Exos 58 (2014 model). This is a great pack much favoured by thru-hikers. It’s light whilst still capable of carrying a decent load due to a lightweight aluminium frame.
The Exos 58 is available in Blue/Grey or Black/Green versions.
One of the more trickier selections was the shelter. The differences in climate between Northern England and the Californian Sierras in the summer is significant. We really do expect to be hit by poor, rainy weather in the UK during our 7 weeks of hiking. In the USA during the JMT there will be some rain but this will normally be limited to afternoon thunderstorms of a bit of snow towards the end of September. Another factor is the amount of time we will be spending in the shelter, with the UK part being nearly double that of the USA. We have chosen two very different tents with different designs with these reasons in mind.
The Tarptent Double Rainbow and Berghaus Snowdonia 2.1.
The ‘It’s Gonna Get Wet At Some Point’ Tent!
The Berghaus Snowdonia 2.1 is the tent we are using in the UK.
We bought this Berghaus tent a couple of years ago for a hiking trip to the Lake District. Although not particularly light at 2.5 kgs this tent makes up for that with the available space and double skin design. It has a great sized porch area that will store both our backpacks whilst still leaving room for cooking food or drying gear. The double skin and high hydrostatic head of 4000mm will also serve us well in heavy rain.
The Berghaus tent in use at Langdale NT Campsite.
I have modified the tent above slightly by changing the guys for lighter ones and also changed the pegs for a far lighter set, which has shaved nearly 500 grams off the total weight! We’d rather have a double skinned tent that was lighter than this, there are quite a few available, but we are limited by our budget. This is one item that will need an upgrade in the future but can wait for now!
The Lightweight Two-Person Tarptent
The Double Rainbow from Tarptent (USA) is a brilliant two-person tent. At just over 1 kg in weight it’s a technical marvel that served us well whilst hiking the Colca Canyon in Peru, and the ‘W’ Trek in Chile. It has great features such as double entry via the side vestibules and has a reasonable amount of space inside for two people. This is our selection for the John Muir Trail.
We like this tent but are a little unsure about it’s suitability for the UK climate. If the UK weather was guaranteed to be dry this summer then this would be the only tent we would need. But the single skin design and smaller usable space means we’re leaving this at home for our UK segment.
The Double Rainbow in the Torres del Paine National Park.
The Sleep System
A sleep system consists of a sleeping bag and pad. This is a very personal choice that depends of factors such as how you sleep (back or side sleeper), whether you sleep warm and your preferred comfort. We both use the same system that consists of a Rab Neutino 400 down sleeping bag and a Hyalite Peak Elite AC sleeping mat.
His and Hers Rab Neutrino 400s!!!
The Rab sleeping bags are lightweight (about 850 grams) and are warm down to freezing. We find the sleeping pads really comfortable and always have a great night’s kip on them. One of the features we really like about the pads is the larger outer tube that keeps you from rolling off the side in your sleep. These when rolled up are small and only weigh about 400 grams!
A brace of Peak Elite AC’s.
Other Essential & Non-Essential Items
I’m now going to show some of the other items we’re taking on our hikes. Most of these can’t necessarily be classed as essential such as a cook set as you could eat in pubs or just eat cold rations. For us these are valuable and justify their selection because they will make our hikes more enjoyable and supplement our activities.
Our Cook Set
We’ve tried to keep with the lightweight ethos when selecting our cooking equipment and have come to a dual solution for the UK and USA requirements. For all hikes we are taking the GSI Halulite Microdualist Cookset (rolls off the tongue doesn’t it!). This is a great little two person cook set that includes two bowls, two cups, pot with lid and space for your burner and small gas canister.
For the UK hiking we’re adding the GSI Crossover Kitchen Set, GSI Mini Spice Rack, Karrimor X-lite Titanium Stove and a small non-stick frying pan we picked up in Colombia of all places! The GSI products feature great design and function in a small and lightweight package. We are going overboard for the UK section, perhaps needlessly, but we want to enjoy food on the go and we can shop at local stores to get fresh ingredients, something we cannot do on the JMT!
Our cooking kit in its packed format.
Cook gear un-packed.
You can see the great design of the GSI gear once un-packed. We have utensils to cook anything we wish (on a small scale though). The spice racks and bottles are great. We have salt, pepper, cumin, chilli powder (hot), curry powder, paprika, mixed herbs, olive oil (2), hot chlli sauce (mega hot!). Also included are washing up liquid, pot scraper, cloth and scrubber. I look forward to cooking up a mean feast with this little lot!
One essential item for thru-hikes is a water filter. This will ensure that the water you get from the wild is going to be safe to drink. No-one wants to get ill at any point on the trail. Water borne diseases can have long, lingering effects that can really spoil your plans. We’re using a Sawyer Squeeze Filter System that comprises of a filter unit, squeeze pouch and small syringe for cleaning. You fill the pouch with water, attach to the filter, and squeeze the water through into your bottle. Simple as that. It’s a great device that we have already used a lot during our South America trip.
A video of the filter in use!
Along with the usual camera and phones we’re taking, we have also added a couple of gadgets to help keep those items charged on the go.
Our first item is an Anker Battery Pack, with it’s 13000mAh capacity this has the juice to recharge a smart phone over 6 times! It has dual USB outouts (1A and 2A) and this will be charging our phones and Danielle’s Lumix TZ40 camera.
Anker Astro E4 Power Pack.
With this we are also using a Goal Zero Nomad 7M solar panel. We use this to charge the power pack above, charge my camera batteries (via the 12V output), and to keep my phone juiced when using Viewranger software to record our GPS route for Social Hiking.
Goal Zero Nomad 7M (newer version has a meshed compartment on the back of centre section now).
First Aid Kit
The final essential piece of kit is our Lifesytems Light and Dry First Aid Kit. It’s not going to repair a broken leg or severed arm but it will allow us to treat minor wounds when and if we get them. It’s comprised of various plasters, sterile wipes, various dressings, medical tape and blister plasters to which we’ve added some painkillers, anti-diarrhoea tablets, tick tweezers (’tis the season to be bit), anti-septic cream and a small pack of tissues.
There are definitely places we can save weight, most notably the Berghaus tent, but as always this comes down to budget. Generally the lighter an item is, the most expensive it becomes. At the moment the budget is for our up-coming adventures and associated costs so there is no funding for new equipment, especially another tent!
Having just weighed my pack (fully loaded) it comes in at 18 kg! That’s a lot of weight to carry but it does include 3.5 kg of food (we got carried away it seems!). So in reality, for the UK hiking my pack will be at around 15 kg once we’ve eaten some food, but that also includes a full sized tripod and full large gas canister.
No doubt the Pennine Way will soon let us know the error of our ways, but this is after all a sort of training hike to prepare us for the John Muir Trail.
Just keep watching this blog and we’ll let you know how we get on regularly with updates and pictures.
See you on the trail!
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