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Wilderness Walking – What to Pack?

Posted on Jan 14, 2014 by Jonathan Willet

The first rule of packing is… have as light a pack as possible.

If you are doing any kind of extended walk then you will really appreciate not having a pack weighing as much as a small planet.

  • On the subject of packs don’t overfill a small one, underfill a larger one, they tend to be better padded and are more comfortable. Walking poles are very useful if you have a heavy pack.

I have met truly hardcore hikers, people who are walking north to south across Iceland in 30 days (30km each day) as they didn’t have time for a major expedition…

  • Thin sleeping bags
  • wear all your clothes at night
  • a measuring jug and a spoon for all your dehydrated food
  • If you aren’t travelling quite so far and so fast then you can take a bit more, but not that much

Clothes – the general rule is:

  • one to wash and one to wear for the essentials,
  • socks
  • pants
  • thermal top

It makes them last longer and saves burning them at the end of the trip, plus you have a change if you get soaked. All the rest can be single items. If you are travelling and you have the space you can take:

  • a non-walking clean pair of socks
  • underwear
  • trousers
  • shorts
  • swimwear
  • and shirt
  • It makes travelling far more pleasant for you and the folk beside you
Wilderness Walking – What to Pack?

One day’s worth of food

Waterproofs, broken in boots, a pair of sandals (for river crossings), gaiters, waterproof gloves, thin fleece gloves, hat, thermal jacket with synthetic insulation. Travel towel and biodegradable soap. For eating; a spoon, a sharp knife and a big mug. If you need a stove, and if you have dehydrated food you do, then make sure it works when it is windy and you have a wind break for it; also essential if travelling abroad, make sure you can get the fuel you need.

Food, hmm lots. Dehydrated food is the way to go and there are lots of good ones on the market. Again try them before you go. If you don’t like porridge for breakfast and prefer muesli then pay a weight penalty, a big mugful of muesli is 250 to 300g… it all adds up.

  • Nuts are great as they are full of fat, which have the greatest calories per unit weight. Macadamias have the most but Hazelnuts are half the price and have almost the same (over 50%).
  • Salt and other seasonings are important to take with you to spice up a meal and also to keep cramp at bay.
  • Crisps don’t weigh much and taste great, puncture the packet and reseal once all the air is out.
  • As long as you have a decent breakfast and tea, lunch can be more of a snack, oatcakes and cup-a-soup have worked well for me.
  • Dates are a great snack.
  • A squeezy tube of condensed milk makes morning and afternoon tea a sweet treat.

 

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Wilderness Walking – What to Pack?

For camping if you can share a tent then you save weight, but if you are going away in a group for a while then having your own space might be a luxury you can afford to carry. There are a few super lightweight tents about but if you are over 5 foot ten you may not be able to sit up straight in them. A sleeping bag a bit warmer than you need is a must.

In terms of water it depends on on the conditions and the water supply. Ski touring in Norway, 2 litres will usually be enough for a day, hiking on the GR20 in Corsica upto 4 litres per day. In Scotland a litre or two of water will do you as there is alway a burn to fill up from. Use your common sense and if there is lots of livestock in an area find a steep burn with plenty of flow. I like to have a hard water bottle to drink out off and a 2 litre water carrier like a Playupus. This means you can have enough water to cook with, wash up and make your tea and not have to keep trailing back and forth to a water source.

Don’t forget a toilet trowel, have some emergency toilet paper (preferably unbleached and unperfumed) but try to use moss instead, just make sure you pick any rough bits out of it first ;-)

Finally a pen and paper to keep a diary, leave notes etc. A map and compass. On a long trip I try to leave all electronics needing regular charging behind or if you can’t be apart from them don’t switch them on while you are away from electricity. A GPS is obviously very useful but only needs to be switched on when you need it. A mobile phone can be a godsend but only if you can get a signal. Kindles are great for battery life and storing lots of books… to read on the way there, back and when stormbound.

To recap:

  • one set of walking clothes
  • one set of waterproofs
  • warm layers
  • dehydrated food
  • a stove
  • fuel and two means of lighting it
  • a tent
  • a sleeping bag and thermarest
  • something to read
  • something to write with and on
  • Water
  • Camera
  • Don’t forget a few hundred ml’s of your favourite tipple, always a good ice-breaker when you meet other campers.

Pack your rucksac and go for a few two-day trips, pretty soon you’ll figure out your own perfect kit list!

If you need some help packing for a wild camping trip, check out my other article here.

Packed and ready to journey on an unforgettable walking trip in the beautiful wilderness of Scotland?  Check out our range of amazing walking holidays around the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

About the author

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Jonathan Willet

Jonathan has a wealth of experience in biodiversity, history and landscape. With degrees in zoology and ecology and 20+ years as a wildlife guide, his regular blogs are always packed full of informational gems.

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