By the time of writing this post, I had expected I would be coming to the end of my fourth day backpacking along The Ridgeway National Trail…
I set off on Saturday morning. Slightly later than intended but I was on to the trail soon enough. Within the first three miles, I noticed a pain down the outside of my left leg and, even with stretching, it remained with me for the whole twenty-five miles of day one. I made it to the camp site that evening but was safely and generously ‘extracted’ on Sunday morning.
At 18kg (according to my possibly-unreliable luggage scales), my rucksack was far too heavy and it made little sense for me to press on through the pain. I’ve spent this afternoon weighing everything and taking notes, all of which I’ll share below.
Osprey Atmos AG 65
It’s worth mentioning straight away, that the rucksack I’m using is the Osprey Atmos AG 65. I bought this a year ago and was measured for the correct sizing in store. Mine is the 2017 model, which I recall being available in three different back lengths (S, M, L). I’ve now noticed that the 2018 model is only available in two sizes (M and L).
For what it’s worth, the M sizing suits me well, with the shoulder strap harness adjusted to its lowest position. I’m 6ft1in tall but, if you’re interested in a pack for yourself, I can only recommend trying them on in a store because we are all different shapes and sizes.
If I’m confident that I can save weight in any one area then it has to be in the quantity of clothes I carry with me. I didn’t use any of my waterproofs on this occasion but I think the gloves, jacket (blue) and trousers (Country Innovation) are almost essential. I’ve also got a warm hat (green) and a head net to keep the night-time midges at bay.
In the large blue dry bag (12lt), I had two pairs of trousers, a long-sleeved top and my merino wool thermals… Well, I didn’t need the thermals in June and I think one spare of trousers would’ve sufficed, in addition to the shorts I was wearing. I’m also thinking about buying zip-off trousers for the best of both worlds.
In the 8lt red bag I had four pairs of T-shirts, two spare pairs of socks and a clean pair of underwear for each day… I’ve been advised that ‘one spare set of clothes’ should be enough and so, I’m sure I can make a saving, here.
In the orange bag I had my thin gloves, a buff and spare socks. This was living in the top hood of my rucksack and I’d be happy to keep it there the next time.
If not the clothes then, the food and cooking items were going to be the heaviest on my list. In the 6lt dry bag I had all of my snacks for each day, porridge oats a spork and and small amount of washing up liquid.
I may not need the latter as I actually bought a silicone scraper tool and, well, when I’m camping anywhere, I tend to give my utensils a thorough clean once I’m home.
These porridge oat sachets came from Lidl and I imagine Aldi sell something very similar. They advise using milk, which obviously means carrying extra weight. I hoped water would’ve been a fair substitute but it wasn’t pleasant to taste or view in its consistency.
I was relying on this snacks, in addition to a home-made flapjack out of shot, to keep me going between breakfast and dinner… Yes, that is all!
I ate the flapjack mid-morning, then the fruit bake and fruit bars around lunchtime, followed by the biscuits in the late afternoon. While this diet is clearly lacking in fruit, fibre and many good things, I didn’t feel it was going to create a problem for me and I don’t generally eat a lot during a hike, anyway. I don’t think many long-distance hikers eat a lot more and, on a day where a friend has revealed she’s going on a twenty-four hours water-fast, I find myself questioning how and why we ‘need’ to eat so much food.
My evening meals are from the Firepot range; a company based in Dorset who produce the best-tasting and healthiest camping meals that I’ve experienced. I only needed four for this trip and, with the air-tight seal on the packaging, there’s no need to keep them in a dry bag.
You can also see the Jetboil Mini Mo stove. Perhaps not the most ‘ultralight’ solution available but it’s very convenient for me, even though the ignition switch has stopped working.
My hydration bladder is a 2.0lt Osprey Hydraulics model which I’ve had for a few years. It works just fine and offers a good capacity for a long day of hiking.
In addition to this, I packed and carried two (empty) bottles… On the left, the Camelbak Chute was mainly for collecting water at the camp site (or for diluting an energy tablet), while the bottle on the right is from Pure Hydration and features a built-in water filter. This one can also be squeezed, so that you can use it predominantly to fill other devices with safe water.
With this filter and, depending on where I’m walking, I can potentially carry less water on a trip and save on a the odd kilogram.
I’m still using the Vango Ultralite Pro 100, which I purchased only last summer. It’s a mummy-style two-season bag and was certainly warm enough for the time of year. I’ve been thinking about switching to a bivvy bag and sleeping bag liner combo but, I’m not convinced it would save enough weight to justify the expense.
My current sleeping mat is the Multimat Superlite 25 S. It is only three-quarters in length (about 1200mm) and inflates to 25mm thick… Although, mine doesn’t seem to self-inflate and needs a lot of encouragement. But, once it’s there, I found it to be supportive enough, if a bit slippery.
I’m sticking with the Sil Hexpeak V4A shelter that I also bought last summer. It barely weighs 1kg, when used correctly with a pair of walking poles. The outer is easy enough to erect but I still need to practice getting the tension right on the inner, so that it doesn’t end up resting on my face at night.
I packed the outer and inner separately, so that I could quickly set the outer up and scramble underneath, in the event that it would be raining as I reached the campsite.
I recently added a Tyvek sheet (known as ‘Housewrap’ across the pond) to my arsenal. It’s a tip I picked up from YouTube and didn’t cost a lot on eBay. It’s just a sheet on which I can kneel inside the tent or lay my stuff out on when the ground is wet.
This is the extender the links two walking poles together, in order to provide a central support to the Hexpeak shelter. I’ve wrapped a few metres of duct tape (Gorilla Tape) around the middle, as it’s useful to have. In practice though, this would be better positioned on my walking pole(s) as it interferes with the necessary height adjustment.
Having something to read is essential for me when on a camping trip. I’ve got the Cicerone guide to The Ridgeway, which I’ll read in the evening ahead of the next day’s walking, along with my Harvey’s waterproof map (which I used as a guide), a personal notebook for writing in and the title ‘High and Low’ from Keith Foskett, a long-distance walker who has completed The Ridgeway and many other trails.
And the Rest…
In the dark red bag is my First Aid Kit, which now includes two rolls of zinc oxide tape (great for wrapping up your feet) and Compede blister prevention. In the small green bag, my headtorch with one spare set of AA batteries. In the small red bag, my spare camera batteries, a spare SD card and USB cables for my phone and camera.
(I’ve confused myself here by switching items between taking photos, as the large green bag contains the same books you can see in the photo further up).
While sorting through all of my kit today, I put to one side several items that I didn’t once used during my abrupt backpacking trip. This includes my packaway vest/gilet, a light, my action camera and mini tripod… I’d like to keep the latter two with me in the future but I don’t think I need the light when I’ll have a headtorch with me.
That larger black bag contains all of my personal washing kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant). It is quite heavy and the bag itself is bulky. But the contents are essential, in my opinion.
Below, I’m going to publish a list of all of my kit with the weights beside them. Some will be more accurate that others, as I’ve eaten a day’s worth of snacks and several items of clothing have already been removed to be worn.
If anyone would like to recommend a more reliable and accurate set of scales than the one on the right, please do let me know!
Osprey Atmos AG 65 (M) – 2.120kg
12lt Drysack (Clothes) – 1.2kg
8lt Drysack (Clothes) – 783g
Jetboil MiniMo – 649g
6lt Drysack (Food) – 1.1kg
Mutimat Superlite 25 S – 353g
Vango Superlite Pro 100 – 930g
Books – 800g
Head Torch and batteries – 283g
Firepot meals (x3) – 506g
Waterproof jacket (Vaude Lierne) – 367g
Waterproof Trousers – 286g
First Aid Kit bag – 548g
Electronics drybag – 142g
Multimat Komfie sitmat – 36g
Spare glasses in case – 118g
Sealskinz Hat – 74g
Midge head net – 36g
Harvey’s map – 64g
Hexpeak shelter (outer) – 660g
HexPeak shelter (inner and mallet) – 1.07kg
Tyvek Ground Sheet (1.4m x 1m) – 91g
Tent Pegs – 212g
Link Pole – 55g
Waterproof Camera – 274g
Pure Hydration bottle (empty) – 132g
Camelbak Chute (empty) – 160g
Sealskinz gloves – 158g
Wallet – 230g
Total = 13.437kg
I find this very interesting because, weighing my pack again earlier with all of this inside… It was still measuring very close to 18kg. I realise I’ve not included my hydration bladder in this list (which is almost empty) but that’s not likely to add 4.5kg to anything.
14kg is the maximum weight I was hoping for all along. I need some decent digital scales.
I’ve already omitted the following items:
Action camera and tripod – 414g
Light – 123g
Packaway vest – 296g
Current saving = 833g
Of course weight is only one portion of the issue. I also need to consider how I pack my rucksack and where I’ll position the heavier loads… There is work to be done!