The 10 Essentials of Hiking/Backpacking

Whether you’re going on a day hike or a thru-hike there are some things that should always be in your pack. These are known as the Ten Essentials, and was originally complied in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organisation for climbers and outdoor adventurers, to help people be prepared for emergency situations in the outdoors.

These days the original list has expanded in to categories, rather than specific items, and everyone has their own preferences for each item. So, want to know what you should be taking with you when you venture into the great outdoors?

Here’s my take on what the essentials should be:

Shelter

You should always ensure that you have a shelter of some kind, incase you get stuck out in the wilds or caught in horrible weather. For a backpacker this will be your tent/tarp/hammock, but for a day hiker this could be a lightweight bivvy sack.

What I have: NatureHike Cloup UP 2

My NatureHike Cloud UP 2

Navigation

Kinda goes without saying, but getting lost is a bad idea. Carrying a paper map and compass (and knowing how to use them) could save your life, and is an essential backup to the electronic navigation options. Most people will have a smart phone, and there are some great apps out there for finding trails (Alltrails, Gaia, Hiiker, OS maps are all great options!), but even these will only work if you have battery and phone signal. The next step up, would be a personal locator beacon, like the Garmin InReach. I don’t have one of these yet, because they generally require a monthly subscription, but it’s definitely on my ‘to get’ list.

What I have: Paper OS map and compass, Komoot app, Hiiker app

Light

A head torch is the go-to for most on the trail, simply because it leaves your hands free. Essential if you’ll be doing any portion of your hike in the dark, or setting up camp after sunset. I also have a small backup torch, and of course, my phone has a torch option (but remember, if you are using your phone for navigation, that you have limited battery life).

What I have: Cheap head torch from Aldi, pocket torch and phone.

First aid

Always carry a basic first aid kit. Plasters, anti-septic cream, insect repellent. When walking for miles, you need to take care of your feet! If you’re a larger person, like me, anti-chafe powder or cream could make a huge difference in your enjoyment of the trek. I also keep a silver foil ‘space blanket’ in my kit.

What I have: Plasters (various sizes and types), anti-septic cream, roll of leukotape, safety pins, paracetamol, ibuprofen, anti-histamines, gloves.

Sun protection

Kinda self-explanatory, but getting sunburn (or heat stroke) would be an unpleasant way to remember your hike. Sun protection isn’t just sunscreen, it can also be a hat, sunglasses and UPV protective clothing. Most importantly, don’t forget to reapply often!

What I have: SPF 50 sunscreen, baseball cap, hiking shirt with UPV protection

Repair kit

Having a way to repair kit is extremely important, especially on longer treks! Your kit could include patches for tent repair or to patch punctures in your inflatable air bed/pillow. Duct tape for repairing pretty much anything. A small sewing kit for torn clothing. A knife or wire-saw to be able to prep wood for a fire. Safety pins. It’s up to you, but take a look at your kit and try to think of how it could break, and what you would need to patch it up long enough to get a replacement.

What I have: duck tape (small amount wrapped around a straw), patch kit for my airbed and tent, sewing kit, small Swiss army knife.

Fire

Having a way to start a fire, for warmth/light/protection, can be the difference between life and death in an emergency. I always carry at least two different ways of started a fire, normally a ferro rod and a lighter. But waterproof matches, tinder and/or a stove, are also good options.

What I have: Ferro rod, lighter and cook stove.

Food

It goes without saying, but walking for miles is hungry business. Always carry more food than you expect to need. Even if its just an extra backpacking meal, or a couple additional chocolate bars.

What I have: I always have an extra ration and snacks.

Water

Water is heavy. So it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to carry enough for a multi-day trip in your pack. But even on a day hike, it’s a good idea to have a way to purify water in the event of an emergency. If you drop your one and only water bottle and spill its contents, you need to be able to safely refill it from a stream/river/pond. There are lots of options for making water safe, from a life-straw, Sawyer water filters, to tablets, always have at least one method with you.

What I have: I have a Sawyer filter, and I also keep sterilisation tablets in my emergency kit.

Clothes

 At the least, always carry a spare pair of socks. Your feet take a beating, and having something warm and dry to put on when you stop can be a life saver. Hats, gloves, bandanas, waterproof jacket and trousers, buffs. Anything that might add a bit of extra warmth and keep the weather off. Hypothermia is never a joke, and can happen even in the summer months. (I’d recommend learning the signs and symptoms of hypothermia, so that you can spot it in the early stages.)

What I have: a full change of clothes, separate sleep clothes and at least one extra pair of socks.

So that’s it. The essentials. Whether you carry them all on a short day hike is up to you. But definitely make sure you have something for each category on a multi-day trek. The worst time to realise you need something is in an emergency, so plan ahead and stay safe out there!

What else do you carry that you consider essential?

UK Long Distance Hiking Pack Survey

UK Long Distance Hiking Pack Survey

A few weeks back I asked the UK Long Distance Hiking community to fill out a survey all about the type of hiking pack they use. 

I’m not talking about packs for day hikes here. 

Instead, I was interested in discovering what packs, including brands, sizes and packing tips the community used for trips spanning multiple days where all kit was carried on the back.

So if your gig is luggage transfer (which we cover in other articles), then this post may not be for you. But If you would like to find out which packs to choose, based on the collective experience of this group, keep on reading.

Forenotes

Before I get into things too much I wanted to let you know something. I’m certainly not going to be recommending the top 10 packs to buy, or selling you anything here. The information which comes below is quite simply the collective knowledge kindly offered from UK Long Distance Hiking. 

What Brand Of packs are used?

I was really surprised to see a vast difference of packs used for this survey. We had 33 responses, with 24 different options selected. However without a doubt, and rather unsprisingly Osprey came in first at 39.4%.

Honestly Osprey is a great pack brand, and has a very strong hold on the UK market. They also produce some great packs to suit most budgets, including some lightweight offerings too.

What I didn’t do, and quite intentionally was ask for the make, and model of the pack used. I felt this would be information overload, and honestly I would rather new long distance hikers visit an outfitter to find out which type of pack they need by trying some on. 

What size pack do you use?

I have to admit, upon writing this question I had a personal interest here as I was on the market for a pack. The brand I was going to choose wasn’t the issue, just the size. 

Interestingly, 46-50L came in as the most popular pack size.

I think if you had asked this same question 5 – 10 years back the answer would have been somewhere between 50-60L but with lighter kit we can all pack easier. Goodbye to the days of long distance hiking with a huge load on our backs! And good riddence. 

18.2% of participants did however travel with a 61-65L capacity.

Kudos to those who travel with 31-35L  bags. You must have packing down to an art, and some seriously lightweight kit.

It’s pretty clear to me that most long distance hikers will be perfectly comfortable with a 50L backpack. Unless you are using budget gear which doesn’t pack down small (I’m talking tunnel tent with 3 sets of poles, and a heavy cooking system), you should be able to get all you need in 50L worth of pack.

Would you consider yourself to be a lightweight long distance hiker?

Lightweight long distance hiking or thru hiking can be a race to the bottom.

To the person carrying a 25L pack with only 4kg worth of weight, a fellow hiker carrying a 35L pack with 7kg worth of weight is not a lightweight hiker, but has packed too much.

What i’m getting to here is that there are no rules, or definitions about what exactly makes one a lightweight hiker. 

However for the purpose of trying to define this I’m going to assume its anyone carrying a bag size up to 45L, and 9kg. 

If you are less than that- at 4kg, I guess that makes you an ultralight backpacker?

I’m sure there is some generally agreed boundaries online somewhere. 

Either way, 72.7% of the respondents identified as lightweight backpackers, while 27.3% did not. 

My take away here is this: You don’t need the lightest kit, and the smallest back to be a lightweight backpacker. If you bag does not feel like a burdensome pack, which will suck out every inch of your soul then you are probably in the right place.

If however you put your pack on and wonder why its so heavy, contemplating the miserable days ahead with 15-20kg strapped to your sweats back, I advise you possibly assess what your taking. 

I’ve done those days – they are not fun.

Are there any brands (who sell bags) who you would recommend avoiding?

I’ll start here, before going into the responses.

Yes there are lots of brands, or shops who sell bags who I would recommend avoiding.

Anything by the following retailers – Sports Direct, Trespass, Mountain Warehouse and any other budget retailer or supermarket. Also be cautious of Decathlon.

Broken packs on the trail are no fun. Believe me.

And you will regret not spending an extra bit of money when you will only need to pay it out when your bag breaks mid West Highland Way. 

Here are some replies:

“Trespass or mountain warehouse”

“Oex, mountain warehouse”

“Not really. Karrimore is not as good anymore but for many people a really cheap “first” pack to try and figuring out what you want before buying a pricey one”

“Mountain warehouse”

“No, but I go for simple designs without masses of compartments etc”

“None really. Use your judgement. You get what you pay for”

“Any of the cheap poorly made ones people end up throwing away, it’s just a waste”

In short, buy cheap, buy twice. 

What advice do you have for first time long distance hikers?

These replies were amazing. I certainly learned a thing or two from this list of wisdom. The big take away is this. Pack less, much less than you need. 

  • Try a few local walks and camps first with your kit and get rid of everything you don’t need.
  • Ditch the non essentials and embrace the himer trash smell
  • Weigh everything. Distribute the weight. Try the fully loaded pack on a short hike.
  • Leave half of it at home
  • Have often used kit accessible first.
  • Check, prioritise, check again
  • You only need half of what you think you might need.
  • Sleeping bag at the bottom clothes and anything not used during the day in the middle. Heavy items at the top. Ten poles down the side. Pegs on the outside pocket. Tent at the top. Snacks and water in outside pocket. Map case round neck with compass and whistle.
  • Take the bare essentials, plan well in advance so you know what you can buy on the way if needed. A filter water bottle is worth it, (again check the path and map, plenty on SWCP barely any on NDW etc). After every hiking trip unpack your bag, what did you not need and can you leave it out?
  • Do a fully loaded practice hike to understand how the weight feels. It makes losing the ‘just in case’ items a lot easier.
  • Pack your rucksack, weigh it, unpack it, then pack it again with a target of 50% of the original weight.
  • Abandon personal standards! One set of hiking gear, one dry change, plus extra socks & undies. Quick dry is the answer. It’s really worth investing in quick dry kit. Only carry enough food to get to your next supply stop/town/shop. Your tent, sleeping bag & mat are your rest & recuperation. Buy the best & lightest you can afford.
  • Take flip flops or light sandals for evenings (& night visits to the loo, & showers 
  • Gauge the likely conditions & whether you’ll REALLY need gaiters etc.
  • Take a shorter shakedown trip to see what you need and what you can leave
  • Don’t struggle with the weight, lose some stuff you don’t need.
  • Make sure you are warm at night
  • Keep as light as possible
  • Do a 2 day local trip and then remove kit you know you won’t use.
  • Keep your waterproofs light, and handy. Small packing mac in a sac and the like are seriously underused. Make a list and ask someone experienced to look it over. If you don’t know anyone, post it in an online forum. Lighterpack.com is a useful way to do this. All my earliest hikes were failed due to over packing: keep minimalism in mind from the get go. Take only what you really need. That being said, there’s no need to be obsessive about it or spend thousands of pounds.
  • Use colour coded dry bags for different types of stuff. Don’t carry loads of spare clothes, if you’re wild camping nobody cares and if you’re not then you can wash things in your accommodation. I know it’s obvious, but stuff you won’t need while you are actually walking goes in the bottom.
  • You never need as much as you think.
  • Set it all out so you can see it all, then remove half of it. In particular clothing. You only need one spare of anything. Every thing can be washed on the hike or just wear smelly. No one cares about your hygiene except you.
  • Post unwanted kit home.
  • Fit bag correctly weight in centre minimise and then minimise again
  • When you return from a hike divide your kit into emergency items, items used frequently, and items used not at all. Next time take items from the first two piles, and only a few from the third. Reoeat after each hike
  • Lay your kit out on the floor and try to reduce by 50%. Don’t forget to ensure you have a inner bag to protect contents from getting wet.
  • Reduce weight.
  • Lay your kit out and ask 2 questions of each item. 1 – Is there something else I carry which will do the same job, if so then ditch it. 2 – Try and halve the weight of every single item… get rid of straps, buckles, liners, cases that aren’t being used.
  • Pack & unpack a few times before leaving, get to know what you need and can leave out, get familiar with where in you bag your kit is so you can get to it quickly and easily. Adjust the fit of your back to maximise comfort, always check zips, straps & clips are done up. Don’t stress about it, if it’s too heavy you will adapt and get used to it quicker than you think. Enjoy it, if it’s not enjoyable you’re doing it wrong
  • Looks for bags with wide padded shoulder straps
  • Research, and buy better second hand gear to get value for money
  • Try a 1/2 day/night walk with full pack first to check comfortable with weight & content

What mistakes did you make when first packing for long distance hikes?

Ok, ok sorry. This question, and the previous one were pretty similar. 

Well at least the responses I received were. Basically, most of you packed too much.

Your bags were too heavy, filled with everything from way too much water, to CDs, books, and with the weight being at the top of your bag. 

Almost every reply was the same.

The take away, if you are just starting out is this…

DON’T PACK TOO MUCH!

Naturally, 90.9% of hikers who responded aimed to carry less on their next long distance hike.

Final Notes

I really enjoyed putting this together, with the help of the wonderful UK Long Distance Hiking community. You may be wondering why I have not recommended a pack. Here is why. 

There is not a single pack which suits all. They have different shoulder widths, hip widths, support systems, entry points, and attachments. One persons lightweight pack which allows for ultralight hiking heaven, is hell to somebody who values the support of a slightly heavier pack. 

I strongly suggest visiting an reputable outdoor shop who will help you find the right pack for your needs.

Thank you to everyone who took part, including assistance from the following websites:

Summit.up.ni

Wildyorkshireway.co.uk

Trailman.co.uk

Thecoastwalker.com

Chrisandmoose.co.uk  

The Best Daypacks For Long Distance Hiking

Many of us now choose to have our bags moved along Britains finest long distance routes. This leaves us with the advantage of traveling light, without the need for a heavy 50L bag on our back, carring everything we need to enjoy our holiday and adventure.

Osprey Hikelite 26 Rucksack

Design

The Hikelite features a slender narrow and minimalist design with everything a pack needs and nothing more. It's nothing we have not seen before but it stands up the test of time.

Durability

The pack is constructed with 100 denier fabric. That's tough for a pack that only weighs 0.7kg

Functionality

The pack features a large front mesh pocket, internal storage, two generous water bottle pockets and two compression sacks.

Price

For £80.00, this pack isn't the cheapest, but you get the Osprey Guarantee to back up your purchase.

Technical Specifications

Weight

455g

Volume

25L

Dimensions

48 x 28 x 28

Denier

100

Back System

Wire frame with foam

our verdict

The Osprey Hikelite 26 is a well featured and durable day pack. It features a striking design in its Shiitake Grey as show, but also features 6 colours in total. 

The pack features a vented back panel, which really helps with mosture movement/less sweat when your taking on the harder climbs. 

For the size some may find the single corded waist strap to be too narrow and cutting but the pack isn’t designed to be a weight carrier so this generally shouldn’t be an issue.

The little featured here make a real difference such as the scratch free sunglasses and electronics pocket, and the internal key attachments plus the choice to remove the hip-belt.  

Overall, this is an excellent, lightweight hiking pack and an ideal choice if Osprey is on your radar. 

our ratings

dESIGN

4.5/5

DURABILITY

5/5

FUNCTIONALITY

5/5

PRICE

4/5

total rating

4.7/5

Montane Halogen 25 Daypack

Design

The Montane Halogen 25 L day pack embraces a timeless design, using tough ripstop grid style fabric, and minimal features.

Durability

With well made durable plastic buckles, backed up by a 210 denier ripstop fabric, you can throw this pack around with little issue.

Functionality

Being a technical mountain use pack, this is a highly functional pack. Day hiking scratches the surface of what this pack can do.

Price

The Montane Halogen 25 has an RRP of £85.00.

Technical Specifications

Weight

871g

Volume

25L

Dimensions

51 x 28 x 20

Denier

210

Back System

Open Mesh

our verdict

The Montane Halogen pack has been designed as a technical mountain pack but I included it as I feel these often make for the best day packs for long distance hiking.  Why? Well if a pack is comfortable enough for a long day in the mountains, its certainly good enough for a long day on your long distance trail.

The pack is constructed with RAPTOR Geo fabric, which is marketing linguo for a tough 210 denier ripstop fabric. The pack features two generous hip belts, and an open mesh back system. Honestly I’m not a huge fan of open mesh systems as they are prone to collecting dirt and don’t clean down as easy but it does allow for reasonable airflow. 

Being a technical mountaineering pack, the profile of the pack is slim, with its compression straps, thin and descreet so to avoid too many flapping parts when your walking. Everything tucks away neatly. Walking poles can be securely attached using the same sysem designed to attach ice axes. That’s a pretty standard feature for this type of pack, but its’ good its not been missed.

Overall, the Montane Halogen 25 

our ratings

dESIGN

4.5/5

DURABILITY

5/5

FUNCTIONALITY

5/5

PRICE

4/5

total rating

4.6/5

Lowe Alpine Aeon 27

Design

This is a generously sized yet slim profile pack designed for moving light in the hills.

Durability

Like previous models the pack features a 210 denier outer fabric but is fronted with a thin stretchy mesh which will snag easily.

Functionality

The Lowe Alpine Aeon 27L is a remarkably well featured pack designed for a number of uses from mountain biking to hiking.

Price

This pack is the most expensive of the bunch at £90.00 but also has the biggest volume at 27L.

Technical Specifications

Weight

0.854 kg

Volume

27L

Dimensions

52 x 25 x 22 (medium)

Denier

210

Back System

Velcro Adjustable open grid

our verdict

The Lowe Alpine Aeon 27 has been marketed as a true all-rounder pack. Designed for everything from mountaineering use to a lightweight overnighter. This generously sized back has a huge entry zip, along with two generous side pockets, a large front mesh pocket, two more mesh hip belt pockets and a top pocket. 

It features Lowe Alpines ‘Air Contour’ back system which creates an anatomically shaped back system which moulds to the shape of the users back when pulled tight. This creates a very stable pack, even when used for fast-paced activities. 

The hip belts are also generously sized and enable lots of movement. 

Naturally, the pack features pole grippers, large zip pulls and a hydration pouch. 

This is not the lightest pack, but it features the most comfortable back system of the range shown here. 

our ratings

dESIGN

5/5

DURABILITY

4.5/5

FUNCTIONALITY

5/5

PRICE

4.5/5

total rating

4.7/5

Berghaus 24/7

Design

The Berghaus 24/7 has been designed to suit hikers, and commuters alike. Nothing to 'techical' here.

Durability

Like previous models the pack features a 210 denier outer fabric but is fronted with a thin stretchy mesh which will snag easily.

Functionality

The Lowe Alpine Aeon 27L is a remarkably well featured pack designed for a number of uses from mountain biking to hiking.

Price

At £40.00 you cannot go too far wrong for your money. It's not feature heavy, but it's definitely worth your attention.

Technical Specifications

Weight

455g

Volume

25L

Dimensions

50 x 28 x 20

Denier

600

Back System

Foam and Air Mesh

our verdict

This pack was not really designed for a specific use. Opposed to previous packs, which were made for a range of uses, the Berghaus was very much designed as simple daypack for anything you fancy using it for. Think of it as an entry level bag. 

That being said, it’s made of strong stuff, with a 600 (yes 600!) denier fabric. It does have walking pole loops, a waist cord, and hydration pouch.

I’m a little unsure of how useful the crab is on the outside but I am sure if you hike with a dog that would make a useful poo bag clip…

Overall, this is a competitively prices pack, which will be great for shorter day hikes. If you were to load it up to 25L with water, spare clothes and a good lunch you will not find it overly comfortable. But for most short summer hikes it’s perfectly adequate. 

And it looks nice too. 

our ratings

dESIGN

3.5/5

DURABILITY

5/5

FUNCTIONALITY

4/5

PRICE

5/5

total rating

4.3/5

Vivobarefoot Tracker FG Review

This article contains affiliate links. 

Vivobarefoot Tracker FG Walking Boot

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with walking boots, only finding one pair in my entire walking life that I enjoyed. My old pair of Asolo Powermatics are now reduced to gardening duties but they were in my opinion the best boots I had owned.

Upon searching for new hiking boots I tried on several pairs and nothing seemed to work well for me, that was until I decided to give the marketing hype of Vivobarefoot a look. 

Initially I was a sceptic of barefoot style shoes, feeling that I really needed that foot support, but after spending several months in their everyday barefoot  trainers, I noticed my bad posture and back problems vanished. I no longer walked on the inside of me feet and my toes actually widened as apparently they should.

SO it was time to give their boots a go. Can you go barefoot in the great outdoors? Well apparently you can. 

Our impressions

Lets take a look at these shoes. The Vivobarefoot Tracker FG is a full leather ankle height boot, which at first glance looks just like a normal boot. It’s waterproof throughout, as shown in the photo below. It features a simple hook and loop lace system, with a thick, durable red lace along with comfortable soft padding around the shoe.

Being a barefoot shoe, there is more space in the boot, and therefore less stability on fine edges as you may find in a normal boot, but honestly, the sole is not as soft and bendy as other shoes in the range. You don’t generally  tend to feel smaller stones under your feet, and the insole (optional) does a fine job at providing some padding. I have kept the insole in as I cannot go the full mile to really reduce these down to true barefoot shoes. 

The sole is a bendy, sticky shallow lugged design, which does not have a heel step, but instead a singular shape throughout. The luggs have not worn down as of yet which is encouraging for overall durability.

What we loved

I love the overall design, weight and look of the shoe. They feel really nice on. 

Because to boots are spacious inside, they don’t get too hot either. This is an issue I have had with all other boots but not with these shoes. 

Finally, I’m really impressed with how supportive they feel. Despite the fact that the shoes are ‘barefoot’ they don’t feel floppy and lacking foot support. Instead my ankle is held in place, with minimal heel slip. 

what we would improve

There is quite a big cut out at the back of the boot to allow for movement when walking but its a little too deep in my opinion. Water came in via the top of the boot at this entry point when submerged. 

Moreover, the laces can be a little fiddly as they are only hook and loop. For the price, I would have liked to see roller laces for ease of use. 

Finally, I have found that the sole has peele of just on the inside bend of the boot. I kind of see why this has happened, but I would expect there to be a design consideration here so this doesn’t happen as dirt has now worked its way into this gap. 

Technical Specifications

Weight

269g

Size Range

UK 6 - UK 14

Sole

Vivos own patented sole

Material

Leather outer

Waterproof

Vivos own 360 fabric

Performance

Fit 8/10
Comfort 10/10
Durability 6/10

Design

Quality of Materials 8/10
Features 7/10
Overall Look & Feel 10/10

Brand

Value for Money 8/10
Brand Ethics 10/10
Warranty 9/10
Brand Experience 10/10

Long Distance Hiker Suitability

I am confident to recommend this for long distance hiking use. I do have some long term durability worries regarding the sole coming away from the shoe where it meets the bend of the foot, but I cannot see that escalating further than it has. 

Overall, this is a great boot for year round hiking on hills, morrlands and some higher ground. You will need to get used to the ‘barefoot’ style of walking. It does take a little while for your feet to re-adjust to walking without conventional shoes but once you adjust, it feels great. 

Total Score 9/10

We just wanted to let you know that this article includes affiliate links. These help to keep the lights on, and allow BookMyTrail to continue to make great content. You don’t need to click on them, but if you do, and you make a purchase, we get a small cut of that. Thanks for your support!

Do I Need A Raincover For My Backpack?

You may have noticed the small zip pocket at the bottom or side of your new backpack which contains a large, shaped tarpaulin, designed to strap around your bag. This ladies and gentleman is your raincover. It also serves a number of other purposes, such as making a fantastic ground mat when sitting on wet ground for lunch but for the purpose of this article, it’s your rain cover. I hope that if you are scratching your head as to whether it’s something you need you will in about 5 minutes have a better understanding of whether to use it. 

Reasons for having a raincover

Using a raincover is honestly down to personal choice, and experience will determine whether you end up using one of not. I personally prefer not to use one. I’ll get to that in a bit, but here are reasons why you may want to use a raincover:

1. Its raining hard, and you have items attached to the outside of your bag

Yes, for longer backpacking trips there is a good chance that you may have a tent and roll matt attached to the outside of your bag. Any good bag manufacturer will have made you a raincover with extra room to compensate for these extras and you will be glad that you had a raincover handy. Also, if you decide to stop, and want to put your heavy pack down, without the bottom getting wet, the raincover makes a fantastic waterproof ground cover to stop your straps from getting wet.

2. Prolonging the life if your expensive bag

You may also decide to use a raincover if you want to prolong the life of your pack. Your rucksack is exposed to a lot of rubbish when hiking, and honestly, after some time exposed to these conditions, it will start to wear down the fabric, and look dirty. Now this isn’t a bad thing if you don’t mind the dirtbag backpacker look, but some of us like to keep our kit clean and new for as long as possible. A raincover will really help to protect the bag. Moreover, it will offer an additional layer of protection from sharp brambles, and barbed wire fences, which have a particular knack for ripping holes in bags.

3. River crossings!

If you are fortunate, or unfortunate perhaps to have to cross a river, a raincover will help to keep your pack dry, especially if you really keep the harness above water. This is a pretty niche example of this type of accessory being helpful but in shallower water, it can be done.

4. Not being shot

A bright raincover is very helpful when walking through areas during the shooting season. Sure it may make you a target for an over-zealous hunter who wants your head as a trophy on his mantle, but it will make you instantly recognizable to other hunters who may otherwise have not seen you. It’s an unlikely benefit, but worth the inclusion.

Reasons Against Having a Raincover

Those reasons aside, there are plenty of hikers who opt to not use raincovers. Here is why.

1. They are additional weight and faff

A raincover, in a situation where every gram counts are just extra weight. For this reason, alone many hikers, especially long distance ultralight hikers opt not to use them.

2. They don’t always keep the rain out

Honestly, rain covers are better at keeping the kit on the outside of your bag dry than the kit inside. You will find that after long term prolonged use, a raincover will not stop water entering your bag from the back straps, hydration hole etc. After all, it will always leave some exposed gaps. And when it works its way into the bag you will get wet kit, despite your efforts.

3. They make great parachutes

Some bag manufacturers like to make awful raincovers which don’t fit well with the bag and act like parachutes in high winds. High winds and big bags are always hard work to walk through but when you have a big puffed up, air-filled raincover behind you walking just got so much harder. And when it’s raining hard, and blowing harder, your raincover is doing more harm than good.

4. They make quick access to kit hard

I like to access my kit quickly and keep moving. A raincover limits my ability to do that, for that reason alone I don’t like them. Removing the raincover, then accessing my kit, only to have to re-attach it is an annoyance. This is made worse with high winds. 

Whats the answer then?

Well, in my opinion, I think you will decide for yourself whether you need one or not. Make use of it, carry it with you, and eventually, you will make up your mind. However, what I suggest is using either a large waterproof rucksack liner, which guarantees dry kit, or a few smaller drybags which can be labeled so you know exactly what’s in each. That way, you can get easy access to your kit, while it remains dry.

I hope you have found this article helpful. Feel free to ask any questions or offer your opinion in the comments

What Are The Best Walking Boots For Long Distance Hiking

If you are looking for the very best walking boot for long distance hiking you have probably come to the wrong place.

Heres why:

I’m not going to suggest which boot you should buy. 10 different walking boot models will not be compared, with the suggestion that you purchase one with the promise that they are the best boot.

Those articles are helpful, but not in this context.

In this article, I would like to set the record straight. Over the last few weeks on my Facebook group UK Long Distance Hiking i’ve noticed a few posts about walking boots with members of our community asking for advice on the best walking boots.

It’s a good idea to ask these things. After all, if you were buying a kettle, you’d want to know the best kettle, the same goes for a new car.

They are items of a fixed use. A car gets you from A-B, and really it boils down to size, reliability, and how swanky you want to look in front of your mates (I love my Toyota unapologetically).

And kettles boil water, some faster than others, but the outcome is the same.

But boots are a different purchase. Yes they go on your feet and allow you to walk comfortably but I like to think of them like a mattress.

There’s a lot of choice from a soft bed, or a firm bed, a pocket sprung, memory foam, a double, king, super king, or just a single. The truth is, every individual will have a different set of conditions for mattress and the type of mattress will be subjective based on a whole array of variables. For example some users may have back pain, and will need a firm, but supportive mattress. Others may like sleeping on their side, and therefore benefit from a memory foam.

Therefore, would you take a matress recommendation from somebody before going to buy one? No, you would want to visit dreams, and lie on every single mattress in store to work out which one feels best.

You would likely go online and look at some reviews, before visiting benson for beds to give another load of mattresses a go.

Walking boots are a similar buying experience.

We have hikers with low arches, high arches, bunions, wide feet, slender feet – the list goes on.

So much like buying a mattress, one type of boot just won’t cut it.
Here is how to find the best walking boots for long distance hiking

My best recommendation for buying walking boots is this. Try loads on.

Don’t go to Go Outdoors. The staff there mostly know nothing about fitting boots.

The same goes for most larger retailers. Instead stick with smaller independently owned, or small chains of outdoor shops who sell high quality clothing. Ask if they have anyone qualified to fit walking boots.

About the qualified shoe fitters – although retail staff qualified in fitting walking boots won’t have any actual qualifications, its likely they will have been trained by a qualified podiatrist.

Make sure that the store selling walking boots has invested in the training for staff to find the ones which fit.
If they have not, walk away.

But which brands of boot do I recommend?

I’m happy to talk about brand. Lets start with a few to avoid.

Karrimore, Peter Storm, Quechua, anything sold through sports direct (apart from Solomon). They just don’t last. They are cheap for a reason – poor workmanship, often made in huge numbers in China. Thats not always a bad thing, but when the materials used are cheap then I would avoid them like a bad smell.

Instead opt for a good quality boot brand. Altberg, Mendil, Scarpa, La Sportiva, Asolo are a few examples.

Some have slim fits – such as Asolo. Some are known to be slightly wider such as Mendil. However most boot makers tend to have a variety of styles which fit different foot shapes within their ranges now. Therefore, this goes back to what I was saying before – find a boot which fits YOU!

One final bit I want to add is this.

Barefoot shoes.

Although not suitable for winter mountaineering and those with really obvious foot injuries or issues who clearly beneefit from a great deal of support – I suggest looking at barefoot shoes.

I’ve been using a pair of barefoot walking boots for a while now and I’ll probably struggle to try anything else, at least for upland walking and anything easier than that.

I didin’t need to find the right fit as my foot is allowed to sit naturally in the boot. That being said, depending on your foot shape, and the type of shoe you can get some ankle lift in the boot which when excessive usually turns into a blister.

I hope this helps you in your quest to find a walking boot that fits.

The Best Places To Buy Used Outdoor Gear For Long Distance Hiking

It used to be the case that if you wanted to buy used outdoor gear you would need to head over to eBay and start bidding on a tatty down jacket being sold by WonderSteve65. The jacket would arrive in a bin bag wrapped up in copious amounts of tape and a barely legible address label leaving you scratching your head how it managed to reach you.

Yes, we have all received one of those before. But what if you don’t want to buy from eBay? Sure, it’s a great website for buying used gear, but there are other options out there. 

Lets take a look at your alternatives. 

Facebook Marketplace

I’ll be surprised if you don’t know what the Facebook Marketplace is. But did you know, if you look in the right place you can get used outdoor gear? 

One group, with endless buy and sell listings for outdoor gear is Outdoor Gear Exchange.

Now be warned, if you join this group, you are likely to want to mute it until you need to rummage through and look for something as your feed will be full of endless used items for sale. 

Also, the bargains go very quickly, especially with big ticket branded items such as Patagonia jackets.

That being said, its definately worth looking at for buying used outdoor gear.  

Sportpursuit

Sportpursuit is an excellent place to go for gear bargains. They don’t sell second hand, but they do sell cheap.

How do they do this? Well, it’s quite simple. Sportpursuit buys big quantities of clearance items from outdoor brands. I’m talking boxes and boxes of goods which the brands cannot sell elsewhere due to the issue of diluting new in-season styles with a flood of discounted items.

Sportspursit does an excellent job of then selling those onto their ‘members’. 

Expect half price of RRP deals on all sorts of goods. Shipping can be slow though but the price is often worth it.

Revivo

Revivo is probably my new favourite website. 

I’ve raved about Vivobarefoot shoes for a while now after owning 3 pairs, which have outlasted any big brand shoes i’ve ever owned. As somebody who can burn through a pair of vans in 4 months, this is quite an achievement. 

Vivobarefoot have recently released a new store, selling refurbished shoes. 

Customers can send back their shoes, which will be repaired, refurbished and sold on again via revivo. It’s a wonderful idea, and allows you to pickup some hiking boots at a good discount. 

 

Asos Marketplace

With ASOS Marketplace you are more likely to find fashionable bargains, over functional ones. By this I mean, expect a lot of lightweight down jackets, stylised outdoor fleeces and generally more stuff designed for looking good, over being functional. However ASOS marketplace should certainly be on your radar when looking for used outdoor it, as the prices are often competitive, and you have the security of buying through a reputable outdoor store. It’s also popular for ‘vintage’ outdoor items, such as Patagonia classics.

USA!

If you are lucky (or unlucky??) enough to live in the States, you are in for a treat, but much of the above won’t apply to you. Many big brands now have their own stores where they sell their own used/returned gear. Arc’teryx, Patagonia and even REI are examples of these stores.

The price is still high with many of these refurbished items, but compared to the full RRP, it knocks a good amount of money off the total and outfits you with quality kit for a fraction of the price. 

 

Vinted

Unlike Gumtree, which I have not included here as I feel its days are numbered (Facebook Marketplace), Vinted focus on used clothes rather than everything under the sun. 

After searching it, its noticeable that people selling on there do price higher than what you may find on other marketplaces, but the quality of descriptions, and photos are good. What I like about Vinted is that you get to buy goods with ‘buyer protection’, paying Vinted, who then pay the seller. 

It makes it more like a shop, reducing the risk. 

GoreTex -The Breathable Fabric, But How Does It Work?

GoreTex – That miracle fabric which almost every outdoor brand uses to make their kit waterproof.

And for good reason. It’s lightweight, breathes well, and it’s durable. Better still its backed up by a guarantee, which is always a good sign.

Why would you want anything else?

Well there are reasons. PFCs are one. And honestly, do you even need a breathable waterproof in the first instance? But those are topics for more discussions.

For now I’m going to go out and say it. Plastic based waterproof coats, regardless of brand are not the miracle solution to your staying dry needs you thought they were.

And why is that? Well its quite simple. All plastic based waterproof coats work on the concept of their DWR coating working.

So how does GoreTex work? Let me explain and remove the jargon and mystery.

The basics of how gore tex works

In most plastic based waterproof jackets you have three layers of fabric (Diagram 1)

The soft inner layer – which sits next to your skin on the inside

The GoreTex Layer – this is the GoreTex or similar fabric

The Ripstop Outer Layer – This creates the durability, and is a ripstop fabric

Diagram 1

That silver fabric you see on the inside of your coat is not Goretex. Its the backing layer. Goretex membrane is a very thin piece of fabric, and if worn next to your skin, it would get damaged quickly.

The three layers are then bonded together using heat to stick them to one another.

Now in a lab environment, if you wanted to test the air transfer (how well it breathes) of this garment you would find it performs very well. Moisture would pass through effortlessly (Diagram 1). Perfect, sew it up into a coat and you have a happy customer.

But life isn't a lab

But what when it rains? You know, the very thing you purchased the coat for in the first instance!

Well here is where it gets interesting.

When it rains the following happens.

Water absorbs into the ripstop fabic. Spreading itself over its surface area and saturating the ripstop fabric. It doesn’t go through the GoreTex, as that does its job very well. But the vapour which is passing through the fabric hits this barrier of water and has no place to go (diagram 2).

After a short while your sweat starts backing up and soaks you from the inside. This would feel like the jacket has leaked, but in reality is hasn’t.

Bummer.

Diagram 2

Along comes the DWR Coating!

Diagram 3


But fear not. Durable Water Repellency to the rescue (DWR for short).

This coating is like a coating sprayed on at the point of manufacture. It allows water to bead off, but air to pass through. 

Problem solved.

So you thought.

Well why has your waterproof jacket started to leak?

One of two reasons:

Your DWR coating has become dirty. Once dirty, the DWR coating gets flattened.

Reasons your jacket is leaking

Your DWR is dirty

When your DWR coating gets dirty, with body oils, mud, engine oil – waterever you have managed to get on it ,which isn’t rain water, it will stop performing. A few patches of DWR here and there are not an issue, but if your jacket isn’t beading, its not breathing. Therefore its time to give it a wash.

Your DWR has worn off

Your DWR will eventually wear off. DWR treatments generalls have a wash out rate of 20/80. That means, after 20 washes, 80% of the DWR coating remains in place on your jacket.

After  a high amount of wear, re-coating is helpful. However after some years there will be a point where no amount of re-proofing works. The shop purchased re-proofers never really achieve the same result as the consistency applied in factory. 

Wrapping it up

I really hope this has helped to explain GoreTex and DWR coatings in a simple and concise manner. It’s really quite a simple idea, but the technology of GoreTex only works on outdoor jackets if it’s combined with DWR coatings. Peversely, DWR coatings are also harmful to the environment and wear away after time leaving you with great technology, that performs poorly without its essential sidekick (DWR).

However, when it comes to waterproof fabrics, there isn’t much choice if you want to buy a breathable, waterproof jacket. And anyway, most people will never use a waterproof enough for it to wear down quickly. 

Brand Guide – Buffalo UK

Buffalo, or Buffalo Systems Ltd, at a small, but well known made in the UK outdoor brand who sell a small range of activewear for outdoor use.

In this brand profile we will be taking a look at Buffalo, the products they sell, and their suitability for long distance walking.

The History of Buffalo

Buffalo was started by Hamish Hamilton in the late 1970’s. Many other outdoor brands were starting around this time (North Face, late 60s, and Patagonia, early 70s). However Hamish was discontented with the gear he had been using in the Scottish winter.

He has an interest in how the Inuit kept warm using animal hide and fur. They reversed the hide so the fur was in close contact with the skin. This air trapped between the fur and the hides outer skin warmed up as the body warmed, yet it was able to circle and escape through the porus skin.

However skin, which is also hydrophobic remained dry in wet conditions, making animal fur an excellent, yet heavy insulating and waterproof layer.

Hamish at the time had been working with pile fabrics, and was impressed with their performance. However to achieve the same effect as animal fur, he needed a shell fabric.

Pertex was born. A breathable, woven fabric. Pertex was developed at Perseverance Mills in Padiham, Lancashire and became the shell of choice for the first Buffalo Products – the pile sleeping bags.

A small workshop was established in Sheffield, and Hamish began to pionieer his sleeping bag system. This modular sleeping bag worked by adding and removing layers, which could make the bag adapt for different conditions – from casual camping, to Scottish winter.

The sleeping bags, designed without down, as many competitor bags were, were ideal for wet conditions.

Eventually as Buffalo grew in popularity, the applications of the product range grew. This lead to clothing products to cater for a range of pursuits.

The brand continues on today, with manufacturing still done in Sheffield, UK. While many other brands have moved their manufacturing overseas, Buffalo maintains, “We are proud of our workshop in Sheffield. And are happy to keep alive the heritage of British manufacturing. The reason we only produce here is simple, we can constantly control and refine our processes ensuring our production is superior.”

Buffalo Clothing for Long Distance Hiking

Buffalo don’t make the lightest clothing, especially when it comes to insulated clothing – which is the forte of this company. The lack of down in the range is the reason for this, but as mentioned above, Buffalos founder, Hamish Hamilton found another way to keep users warm in dry conditions.

The classic Buffalo piece is the Buffalo Mountain shirt, mens, and ladies, which for the ladies style is slightly longer.

You will notice with Buffalo clothing that the construction is slightly ‘blocky’ rather than the smooth, and somewhat space-age styles you see with many brands now.

The Mountain Smocks are good pieces for hikers who are less concerned about weight, but rather would have durability. The benefit of a smock is this. With a lightweight down jacket, if you get a rip, your fillings come out – unless you have some repair tape on hand. With buffalo, theres nothing to come out, and the jacket will keep going.

This style, trapped in time, rests on its laurels – its durable, reliable, and it works. So why change it?

Moving away from smocks, which weigh in at around 6-700g, Buffalo also offer a lighter weight shirt with a similar technology.

The Buffalo Techlite shirt, in mens, and ladies styles which also come in full zip, are designed with a low pile inner liner.

Like other buffalo layers, this garment works particularly well when worn next to the skin.

A note about waterproofing

Most outdoor brands, even Paramo, produce waterproof clothing. By waterproof, I mean garments with a certified Hydrostatic Head (HH) which keeps x amount of water at bay, measured over the course of 24 hours.

The minimum a fabric needs to be considered waterproof is 4000g

Buffalo garments are not waterproof. However they do very well when wet simply because, unlike down, the loft of the garment (the bit which keeps the air trapped, and therefore warm) isn’t lost when wet.

It may take some getting used to, using a garment which isn’t waterproof in wet condtions, but bear with me here. The system works.

The water which will get into the garment is drawn away from your skin by the pile, which in turn keeps you feeling dry even if the item is wet.

Ever taken a fleece out a washing machine and wondered why it almost feels dry? Thats my point, its a wonderful fabric.

It may also feel strange wearing layers direct to the skin, rather than using a traditional ‘layering’ system. However what this allows is for your skin to work with a single garment which allows you both to breathe (by breathe, I mean having moisture pulled away from your skin), and remain warm.

Extra layers actually reduce the effectiveness of the buffalo system as they create a moisture trap between your skin and the buffalo system.

Final Thoughts

Picking good quality clothing for long distance hiking is often tricky. One of the requirmeents is that the garments you use must hold up to rigerous use, day in, day out.

They must be made to a high quality, and perform in a range of environments.

Buffalo jackets achieve this in spades.

Sure, they are not the lightest garments. They also don’t use the latest and greatest technology, but they are tried and tested.

Really, you cannot go too far wrong with investing in a piece of outerwear from Buffalo.