It was just as well I delayed setting off for the walk by a day, caused by a final flurry of work issues, as it took most of yesterday to get it all together.
This was going to be a post on the final preparations for the walk, but in truth apart from booking the train tickets and deciding on gear there wasn’t much else to do. And everything fits in with the gear theme anyway. So here goes:
Two things largely determine what kit to take – my overnighting plan and the weather.
Overnighting: I looked at my original schedule in light of my wintry Lakes trip last month and couldn’t help but think it was on the optimistic side. So I’ve gone for a plan that doesn’t tie me to specific places and dates. The aim is to wildcamp most nights but have a night under a roof every 3-4 days. This will allow for drying out, washing and importantly recharging of gadgets. I’m going to simply take what I find, but based largely on the youth hostels along the way, for which I’ve made a note of how availability looked just before setting off, as well as their contact details.
Wildcamping once I get past Abergavenny doesn’t concern me because that’s largely mountain and moorland. But before that there’s a swathe of low level ridge and valley walking weaving between towns and villages, somewhat reminiscent of the North Downs. It doesn’t make for obvious and confident wildcamping, and a certain amount of stealth may be required. So I’ve brought the Rab Ridge Raider bivvy with me which is lower profile, a less conspicuous colour and more suitable for, say, a woodland pitch. For the rest of the camps I’m using Monica and will either post home the bivvy or keep it with me if whim takes me in that direction.
Weather: the forecast is for fine, bright and sunny conditions with the odd shower, a bit of a breeze up top and quite cold at night. Recent walks in cooler conditions have helped a lot in my judgement of how to take as little clothing as possible whilst still being sufficiently warm at night. Essentially this means I’m wearing a lighter softshell but retaining my full winter sleep system.
So with these things in mind here are the major gear choices:
Shelter – as already mentioned, Monica (my Tarptent Scarp 1) once I get to the wilder terrain and given the number of days I’m out and hence uncertainty over the longer term weather forecast, the crossing poles found their way into my pack. The Rab Ridge Raider bivvy will be used before Abergavenny and then be sent home.
Pack – once again after some toing and froing I’m using the Lowe Alpine Khumbu 65:80 because of comfort and bulk. Attempts to fit everything in the ULA Epic once again failed.
Sleep system – my full winter sleep system as used in the Lakes in March, so Cumulus Quantum 350, Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme liner, POE Ether Thermo 6 inflatable mat and a fleecy blanket. To this I’ve added a Karrimor Expedition Marrimat to deal with the problem I had with cold rising from the ground and which will also act as backup if my POE mat gives up the ghost entirely. This karrimat caused no end of problems attaching to my pack until I chopped it in half – this gives enough mat to provide more insulation for my core which was where i had the nocturnal cold issue before. At a pinch, I can use the bivvy bag to provide additional heat retention if required.
Cooking – a no brainer this one. Trangia 27 as on a long trip I want something that won’t get on my tits like the Caldera Cone does after a few days. It also gives more flexibility for coping with the randomness of out of the way village shops – so I’m not restricting myself to just dehydrated or boil in the bag food. Because I don’t expect to be able to refill meths after Abergavenny, I’m bringing the full size fuel bottle too.
Food – this has been about striking a balance between covering the uncertain timing and quality of resupply between Abergavenny and Llandovery, and trying to carry as little as possible. I’ve got about 4 days full rations consisting of BeWell Expedition Foods dehdrated meals (800 cals for 180g size) and a selection of snacks, desserts and hot drinks. And after the success of these in the Lakes, a pack of digestive biscuits as an all purpose foodstuff (2000 cals for 400g). I plan to take advantage of eateries along the way and conserve my rations for other times. Obviously the downside of this is that I’m carrying more of the weight for longer.
Drinking – my now usual system of a platypus rollupable bottle for untreated water, a Travel Tap to filter and drink from on the go, and a new-fangled squashable and rollupable platypus sports bottle for drinking safe water from.
Clothes – in the cold Lakes I wore a light merino baselayer, a trek shirt and a winter softshell and was warm all day. As it’s now mych warmer I’ve simply swapped the softshell for a lighter one. If I need it, I have a spare thicker baselayer which is loose enough to use as a mid layer. For night I also have a Uniqlo down jacket, which i could obviously wear if cold in the daytime too.
Gadgetry – my usual stuff. Geonaute Keymaze 500 gps watch (from Decathlon) to monitor distance, altitude and pace ans provide key decision making info. Spot Connect to track progress on Social Hiking and to message home when no mobile phone signal. An Olympus SZ-30MR for pictures and a Kindle as my luxury item. I then have two battery packs having given up on solar charging – a Powertraveller Minigorilla and a TeckNet. Two nights in proper accommodation properly spaced out will ensure I never run out of power.
Bathroom – the usual stuff. But after getting a lobster look on a walk around Canvey Island the other day, I have packed sun cream.
Toolbox – spare batteries, tent repair patch, foil survival blanket, first aid kit, spare laces, multitool, duct tape, clothes peg and probably loads of other things I’ve forgotten about.
Navigation – OS 1:25000 maps printed onto Toughprint waterproof paper with some sheets of OS 1:50000 printed at smaller scale to give context and overview. I have a routecard made up of about 60 key waypoints, being the 14 official checkpoints, major summits, towns, villages and points where I may want to make decisions about detours.
So that’s the key gear for this trip, and I’ll report back on the success or otherwise in due course. Now to sit back and enjoy the view of Swindon from the train.
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