One of the most important pieces of equipment for any traveller heading slightly off the beaten track is a backpack. Not everyone wants or needs to carry their own gear, but a backpack is certainly a great way to maximise independence and mobility.
Buying a backpack can be quite a confusing experience. There are so many brands on the market with so many actual and hypothetical features, it can be a real challenge choosing a pack that best meets your needs. Continue reading →
As I have mentioned in a previous blog, the ‘industry’ rule of thumb is that your backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of your body weight. This statistic incites feelings of dread, guilt and failure as (without giving away the number that appears on my scales) my backpack is always almost double that figure! How could you walk so far with so little?
“How big is your pack and what is in it?” are often the first questions the uninitiated ask. My friends roll their eyes that I can get away without a hair dryer, hair straightener, extensive make-up and colour-coordinated clothes but I do just fine and blend in with all the other smelly, daggy walkers.
So here is an abbreviated packing list. I have left out a few boring things but this list is my whole world for however long I am walking.
Walking socks x 2
Wicking socks x 1
Undies x 3
Hankies x 2
Bra x 2
Walking shorts x 1
Good shorts x 1
Walking shirt x 1
Long sleeve shirt x 1
Good shirt x 1
Head torch Charger
Camera Card addtl
Water bottle x 1
Water bladder – 2l
Over door hook
Old tea towel
Moisturiser – Face
Moisturiser – Body
First aid kit
You may notice the limited underwear. The scarcity seems to generate the most interest for some reason. Yes, I only need three pairs of undies whether it be for a three-week walk or six weeks. A handy tip is to take all your all-but worn out undies and throw them out after you wear them – until you get down to your last, ‘best’ three pairs. Yes, I know I am an embarrassment to the female sex.
The same system can work for socks until you have a clean pair on and, hopefully, one clean pair in the pack.
Life becomes very simple when you only have one or two of each thing to choose from. It makes for easy decision-making and the focus quickly turns to basic cleanliness rather than stylishness.
You may have guessed by now that I am not one of those trendy walkers with all the latest gear and high profile brands. Other than my Deuter pack and Scarpa boots the rest of me is a mish-mash of beg, borrow or steal. In fact at the end of each walk I take great delight in throwing away almost all my clothes. At the end of six weeks my clothes are worn out (along with myself) and I am sick to death of the sight of them. Happily, this makes for an even lighter pack for the homeward journey.
Unlike some purists though, I do have a few necessities I simply can’t do without. A girl does have some standards:
Pyjamas: some walkers sleep in the clothes they will walk in the next day. Not me! I like to get into my PJs at the end of each day. Old habits die hard.
Journal: for better or worse I have created a daily habit of writing in my travel journal. It helps me think a little more deeply about what I have seen, as well as allowing me to record any weird and wonderful sights and experiences.
Zero/Shotz Tablets: these are electrolyte tablets that keep my muscles working and me moving.
Snacks: Yes, I am a snacker. I can’t walk on an empty stomach and need regular top-ups. I do tend to go overboard with this and realised when I started the Via de la Plata walk (2014) I was carrying nearly 2 kg of snacks! That is a little too prepared – even for me!
Water: walking is thirsty work and I carry a two litre Camelbak plus a 750 ml water bottle each day. I normally drain these before the end of the day’s walk and probably average 5.5 litres per day.
All of the above adds significant weight to my load, but these items are important to me. At least by the end of the day the water and snacks have been reduced, making the pack a little lighter – just when I need it.
I blame technology for some of the excess weight too. I take a tablet, a camera and a headlamp. These require chargers and other bits and bobs, and all take up space and add grams. I could use my tablet to take photos, or replace both table and camera with a smart phone but again, old habits die hard.
A packing list is personal and mine seems to be refined each time I walk, with a few things added and a few things removed. To me, the most important thing to include in my kit bag is a positive (and slightly insane) mindset, a fair dose of determination, and the willingness to open yourself up to the world and the people in it.