These days, while I’m not rich enough to own ultralight everything and not dedicated enough to cut my toothbrush handle off to save weight, I’ve definitely come around to the pack less, pack lighter/less weight, more fun way of thinking. I know there were reasons back in 2009 for taking a pair of jeans and a third shirt (evenings and days off), a laptop (I was obsessively committed to keeping in touch), eight pairs of undies/socks (one a day and a spare for washing day) and a huge first aid kit (just in case), but in hindsight it seems ridiculous. We still use the same packs as we did in 2009, so for our walk across Wales I was interested to see if we could take everything we needed - now including sleeping gear, a shelter and a good amount of food - while staying under our 2009 pack weight.
The morning we set off from Aberystwyth, we weighed our bags on our Airbnb hosts’ bathroom scales. My pack was 9.8kg and Dan’s was 10.4kg (both before adding water). This is hardly ultralight, but it’s an improvement. As we replace gear over the years, our pack weights may decrease further. And you never know, maybe I will become a gram weenie.
“So, what was in your packs?” I hear up to three people ask with mild curiosity. Well, wonder no more, my friends. Here follows an exhaustive kit list. Things marked (J) were carried by me, things marked (D) were carried by Dan. We carried our own set of everything else.
Walk across Wales kit list
- Backpack, rain cover, plastic bags
- Walking poles
- Clothes - shirts x 2, jumper, leggings, shorts, underwear x 3, bed socks x 1, waterproof jacket, walking boots, thongs/flip flops, sun hat, beanie
- Walking socks (D x 3, J x 2)
- PJs (D full - J trousers only)
- Merino thermal t-shirt (J)
- Tarp, pegs and cord (J)
- Sleeping gear - bivvi bag, sleeping bag, inflatable mat
- Sleeping bag liner (J)
- Pillow (D)
- Water bottles (J x 1, D x 2)
- Cooking gear - beer can stove and case, fuel, lighter, saucepan, cups x 2, forks x 2, knife (D)
- Food - instant noodles, porridge, soup, tea bags, soy cream, water purification drops, cordial concentrate (D)
- Toiletries - toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, hand sanitiser, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, micro towel, flannel/facewasher, sunscreen, insect repellent, paw paw ointment, deodorant, toilet paper/tissues, laundry detergent (J)
- First aid - plasters/bandaids, bandage, sterile dressings x 2, non-latex gloves, painkillers, decongestant tablets, antiseptic cream, safety pins, needle and thread, key-ring Swiss army knife with scissors, tweezers, etc. (J)
- Phone, phone charger, camera charger (D)
- Camera, head torch, journal, pencil and sudoku sheets, printed itinerary and emergency contacts, maps (J)
- Trowel (D)
- Card holder - rail cards and tickets, debit cards, ID cards
- Shoulder bag (J)
- Piece of Material (J)
- Zip lock bags x 70,838,491
Thoughts on our gear
What did we appreciate most? The tarp was great. Pitching using walking poles was fine and we were glad we hadn’t relied solely on bivvi bags as we (and our gear) would have got very, very wet on a couple of nights. It was really nice to have a flannel for washing - a very minor luxury that made a big difference to me! The squirty cordial concentrate was a welcome flavour addition to our long days. Although the maps were heavy and bulky, I enjoyed using them and they worked nicely as groundsheets on damp grass. My Piece of Material worked its magic as usual. The Piece of Material is a sarong or small tablecloth sized piece of patterned cotton I found in a charity shop years and years ago. It’s very versatile - I can use it as a towel, scarf, sarong, sheet, curtain, picnic blanket, pillowcase, washing bag or superhero cape - and I’m always glad when I bring it on trips.
What did we miss? We probably would have appreciated an extra pair of socks/undies each, though we did OK with what we had. I would have used insect bite soothing lotion if we'd had it. I got sick of instant noodles as our only hot, savoury meal. I even - and this is unheard of for me - considered buying couscous. We figured out on the way that I preferred noodles for breakfast and porridge for dinner, and since the walk I’ve decided that instant noodles are better if you only use half the flavour sachet.
What did we not take and not miss? Trousers, scarf and gloves (it didn’t get that cold), thermos/flask (we boiled water when we wanted tea), a full first aid kit (we took a sensible amount based on my knowledge and first aid training), my phone (we had Dan’s), reading book (I bought one to read on our semi-rest day), my inflatable pillow (replaced with other bits and pieces that worked well enough), waterproof trousers (it hardly rained on us while we were walking) and another water bottle (we usually walked within a few minutes of flowing water and we had treatment drops to take the stress out of drinking it).