Bare Necessities

Your equipment will make the key difference between "survival" and "exploration". Of course your own mindset, destination and its people really matter - not all that fancy and expensive material - anyhow carrying just about enough of the correct carefully selected gear - fitted to the type of trip - will be key to prolongued joy and being prepared for the unexpected. Since nothing is as frustrating as finding oneself in the middle of a forest at dusk, searching your pack for what you conveniently left in the attic, herewith my checklist, applicable for hikes early-Spring or late-Autumn throughout Northern-Europe, with focus on keeping dry, occasional storm and temperature variations between minus 1 and plus 25 degrees Celcius.

Navigation

At first I was considering to invest in a GPS - indispensible at open sea - but with a good map and compass you won't get lost (that badly) on land. Anyhow you must carry a GPS on top of all other equipment - not as a replacement - as you won't have reception everywhere, batteries can run out + you need a map anyway or otherwise the coordinates won't tell you where to go.

  • Maps - 1:50k or 1:100k + Topo-guides.
  • Card-cover - Ortlieb Waterproof.
  • Compass - Recta DP 65 Global System, I tried every type of compass, and - next to the Silva normal base-plate or Ranger - this is simply the best + as precise as needed. You can set magnetic declination, take bearnings up to 2° accurarcy + includes a clinometre (to measure slopes). Simpler versions of DP are also good, but restricted to either of the hemispheres (due to the magnetic inclination).
  • Watch - (digital) Casio G-Shock ruggedized & water-resistant including small database (phone-numbers), multiple alarms & time-zones, timer (countdown handy when you're sailing for changing course, or same purpose when walking with limited visibility) and stopwatch.
  • At home I use the Curvimetre to measure distances on the map + a Silva Protractor to plot courses (also handy sailing alternative to a Portland Plotter without the movable parts) but I don't take these instruments along.
  • Paper copies of some travel- or outdoor-related literature, which I dispose of page-by-page as I walk along.

Carry-, Camp- & Sleep-ing

In case you carry over 18 kilo's (even as a male) it's way over the top, especially if this weight doesn't include mountaineering equipment, food for 3 weeks or heavy armoury. Personally I don't use a overall raincover for my back-pack, as everything which may not get wet is stuffed individually in waterproof bags.

  • Back-pack 80 Litres - Lowe Cerro Torre 2 (Alpine Systems) + 2 x hand-straps. Can't get any better, already with me since 1987 - 1 heavy repair (carrying strap accidently bitten through by my dog).
  • Tent - Jack Wolfskin "Gossamer" tunnel 1.5 kilo's, too small to organize a party, but sufficient in case you want to keep weight to a strict minimum.
  • Sleeping-bag - Ajungilak Kompact 3-season 1550 grammes down to -1°C.
  • Sleeping-mat - RidgeRest, not the most comfortable - compared to self-inflatable alternatives - but absolutely unbreakable and minimum weight (already in my possession since 1989).
  • Trekking Poles x 2 - Leki Trekker (standard) + Rubber Tips. Have been a late adopter of these kind of utensils, but it really helps keeping your back straight and reducing weight on your feet when you're heavily loaded.
  • Gaiters - OutDoorDesigns Tundra Breathable, not only useful in the snow, but especially to protect against rain, mud and sand getting into your shoes.
  • Ortlieb x 1 - Kayak-bag, in which I store my clothes and sleeping bag. Bought in 1987, so nearly indestructible.
  • Toilet Bag .. in which I also put knitting gear + first-aid, so I don't end up with thousands of small bags.
  • Waterproof Bag .. to stow away books, journal and maps not in use.

Cooking, Food & Water

You can loose about anything else, except water (if you you've been nearly de-hydrated once you know what I am talking about). A minimum would be 1.5 litres, I got another 3.5 litres water bladder with mouth piece. Food is less of an issue - keep it dry but varied - I keep my stove on top, so I can cook soup, coffee, noodles a.o ... during the walk.

  • Water-bottle 1.5 litres - Sigg with pouch.
  • Water-bladder 1.5 litres - Fit this in between backback and top-lid.
  • Water-purifying - Hadex drops (Micropur tablets contain clorine and are not longer sold) or Katadyn water-filter (only necessary for very remote trips, where you daily pump 1.5 litres or more). In Europe I avoid drinking from wells & rivers, as we did a fair job of poluting about any drinkable water.
  • Cooking-stove - Either Edelrid Kiro Ti with Propane/Isobutane/Butane-mix which is very light or Campingaz Twist with 2 x Butane/Propane-mix "click", only handy in Europe at lower altitudes. When available, gaz is still the cheapest, most powerful and efficient.
  • Cooking-pots - SnowPeak Titanium (Japan), small outer/inner pot, ultra-light weights almost nothing.
  • Sponge or brush - To clean dishes.

Proviant

I manage to reach an autonomy of about 5 to 6 days carrying my own food.

  • Travel Biscuits.
  • Tagliatelli - Quick boil.
  • Selection of instant Soups.
  • Salt & Peper mix.
  • Tiny bottle of Olive Oil.
  • Dry Sausage & Cheese.
  • Small ready-made meals in pack.
  • Nuts & dried Fruits.
  • Selection of soups.
  • Instant Coffee + Milk - for mornings.
  • Tea - for evenings.
  • ...

Clothing

Keep to the 3-to-4 layer principle in cold, wet & windy weather. Previously I used a "poncho" against the rain, but in mountainous regions it's dangerous not to keep your hands free, so it's better to invest in a good jacket. Trousers will get wet anyway, some hikers even walk in their shorts during a storm. Also something as silly as stupid socks can determine difference between hell & heaven ...

  • Jacket - Lafuma Goretex with zipped-in polar fleece.
  • Walking Boots - Sturdy & heavy Scarpa Ladakh mountain walking machines, I am not a big fan from the newer materials for shoes, as they only last a fraction of the life-time compared to classic leather.
  • Shock-absorbant Inner Soles.
  • Spare Shoe Laces - Never forget, might get you in trouble when you can't properly tie your shoes in mountains !!!
  • Small inner Socks - Reduce movement of food in the shoe.
  • Outer/Hiking Socks - Since I invested a bit more in the high-tech socks (even difference left/right-food) I hardly ever had any problems with blisters.
  • Waterproofed Base-ball-cap or any other type of hat, which keep your brains from being grilled or frozen.
  • 1 short and 1 long trousers - Fjallraven Ash (G-1000) + REI (bought in Seatlle), both water/wind-resistant + closed at the base (so they don't drag in the mud, REI detachable legs to become shorts.
  • Thick Fleece x 1, T-shirts x 3, Underwear x 4 + Trekking-shirts x 2.

... other Small but nonetheless important Stuff

  • Camera-bag - Lowepro which I attach to the hip-belt of my back-pack for easy access, bit enough to contain all navigational equipment, head-light, camera + binoculars, completely closed with zipper, padded and waterproof.
  • Pair of Sunglasses
  • Sun and spare glasses.
  • Rope ... to keep your glasses tight on your nose.
  • Foldable Knive - Small Leatherman with blade lock & launcher + build-in carabiner.
  • Camera - To enjoy and share memories of your trip afterwards.
  • Whistle - Football-referee alike, so you can make yourself heard when getting in trouble alone.
  • Head-light - Petzl Tactic, leds white or red beam, red light won't frighten wildlife + you won't get night-blinded.
  • Matches - The water & windproof kind.
  • Needle & Thread - Black + nylon wire.
  • Minuscule can opener.
  • GSM - Not fully reliable, but better than nothing when you travel alone.
  • Tiny Lock ... to fasten your bag against the wall, pipe or a rail in a pub, shop, train or railway station (always keep your valuables on you).
  • Small List of Phone Numbers and Addresses - At least showing intention you want to keep in touch ;-)

Dog-outfit

Your dog will love you forever if he/she may adventure along ...

  • Climbing hip belt + Carabiner - So I can walk the busy dog with my hands free.
  • Small metal dog bowl.
  • Dog-pack - Ruffwear "for dogs on the go", so he can carry his own rations, water + blanket.
  • Dog-sleeping-blanket - It can be cold on the bare ground, otherwise dog will prefer to sleep on top of you, which can be uncomfortable depending on the size of the dog.
  • Dog-passport - European Pet Passport, indicating e-ID + Vaccins.
  • Spare Water-bottle x 2 - Empty plastic coke-bottles 1.5 litre, so you can carry an extra 3 litres.
  • Fat cream - To protect the dog's feet.

First-Aid

Based on my Red-Cross training:

  • Large Roller Bandage x 1- For large wounds or to immobilize joints.
  • Compression Dressing x 1 - To stop or contain heavy bleeding.
  • Sterile Gauze (10 x 10 centimetres) x 10 - To cover open wounds, blisters ...
  • Algipan ... or any other muscle cream.
  • Medical Tape x 1 Roll - To fix gauze or bandages.
  • Biogaze x 1 - To cover burning wounds (from fire or fuel stove).
  • Triangular Bandage x 1 - To immoblize broken or twisted shoulder, arm or elbow (alternatively roll up shirt or sweater and fix with safety pin).
  • Safety Pin x 2 - All kinds of applications (e.g. when button of your trousers pops off :-)
  • Assorted Adhensive Plasters - To avoid small wounds getting infected.
  • Pair of Pincers - To remove ticks, a splinter, sting from instect, ...
  • Hibidil or Hakdil - Either pink or yellow coloured disinfectant in small tubes.
  • Emergency Blanket ... only in case you don't carry a sleeping bag during ski/day-trips.

Absolute minimum quantities - to avoid having to carry an entire pharmacy - immediately replenish after use.

Load & Conclusion

Pack heaviest items in your bag as close to your back as possible to avoid tipping backward. For long-distance put load near your shoulders, when climbing put load lower for improved balance. Correctly adjust your hip-belt, as you can (relatively) comfortably put half your load on the middle of your body. Attach as little as possible to the outside of your back-pack - except for sleeping mat, coat, drinking bottles and hip-bags - if you can't fit all your items inside a bag of 80 litres, you're probably over-loaded.

References

  • "Le guide pratique du Randonneur", FFRP (Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre), www.ffrp.asso.fr.