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What I learnt on a shakedown

Hiking a small section of the Coast to Coast on a shakedown

What is a shakedown?

A shakedown is where you pack everything you’re planning to take on a long distance hike, and take it for a walk. As I’ll be camping, that included my tent, sleep system, fuel and stove, and plenty of food. This is a really good way to see how much your pack really weighs, whether you need to make any adjustments to any of your gear, if you’re carrying something unnecessary, or if you’ve missed something crucial. For my shakedown I picked up the Coast to Coast path as it passes close to my house and hiked to the nearest campsite to pitch up. It wasn’t a massive distance, probably about 6 miles, but it gave me a really good insight into what I need to change

The path goes THROUGH the hedge here. Without the OSMaps app I would have been very confused

What I learnt on the way

I used a guidebook with the relevant parts of OS maps, plus the Ordnance Survey app as back up. The Coast to Coast is traditionally walked from west to east, but I was heading east to west and found that signposts were patchy heading that way. The hike part of the shakedown confirmed that the guide and app worked and would definitely be needed, and also that a compass is likely to prove helpful in more remote areas. It also reinforced that I’ve got a lot more training to do to get hike fit

The spooky stile pictured below is next to something wonderful – an honesty box and a fridge full of cold drinks, assorted chocolate bars, and some fruit. I picked up a bottle of water and an apple, put what I owed plus a bit extra to show my gratitude into the box, and carried on refreshed. I was already carrying plenty of water, but used the bottle I bought to cool myself down by tipping some over my head and using some to wet my hat. It was 24c and the improvised cold shower was just what I needed

The spooky stile is famous on the Coast to Coast

My pack was comfortable but heavy, and the weight on the shoulder straps has bruised my (admittedly bony and prominent) collarbone on both sides. I clearly need to spend some time adjusting everything to make absolutely certain that my pack is the best fit it can be. It didn’t hurt at all while I was hiking, which was good, so I didn’t make any adjustments on the trail. The weight, however, was a concern and I need to look at what items I can swap out for lighter alternatives and what I could have left behind

What I learnt at the campsite

The view from my tent

I picked a campsite that was close to home, an easy hike away, and which offered a range of services for campers as well as hikers or cyclists who were passing through. As this was my first camp, I didn’t want to be without access to amenities although I did carry everything I’d need to make a hot drink or meal as I’ll need those on the full Coast to Coast. I arrived, hot and tired, at about 4pm and pitched my tent easily before heading for a much-needed shower and change of clothes. I ordered a homemade sandwich for lunch the following day, and raided the honesty tuckshop for crisps and an individually wrapped Soreen to make up a picnic. I was booked for two nights, with a second walk planned for the next day

My boots, which I’ve never been entirely sure about – see here – worn in conjunction with a pair of basic walking socks, failed me. I had some lovely blisters, and wished the merino hiking socks and liners that I’d ordered had arrived before I set off, The search for the Goldilocks boots continues, but I do now have the proper socks that I wanted. The blisters reduced my walk the following day to just a few miles, and I had my picnic lunch sitting in the porch of my tent while reading a book borrowed from the tuckshop. I also arranged to get a lift home with a friend rather than make things worse by walking back home

My sleep system also wasn’t up to scratch and that, added to getting used to the random noises of a campsite at night, means I didn’t have terribly good sleep. It was also a lot colder than I had expected, and I ended up wearing all my clothes to keep warm in bed! All of this hopefully shows why a shakedown is so important – better to discover these things now, with time to upgrade or replace them, than when I’m on the Coast to Coast proper. Once I’ve made changes I’ll head out for another shakedown, and see if I’m better equipped

What I learnt on my first shakedown

  • While I could – and did – carry my pack filled with everything I’ll need on the Coast to Coast, it was really too heavy. I need to look at everything I carried, including my luxury item of a small flask of tea, closely to see where I can drop a bit of weight
  • I must find my Goldilocks boots, and soon
  • I need a much better sleeping mat, a far superior pillow, and either a thicker sleeping bag or some thermals to wear in bed
  • Honesty fridges/tuckshops and the provision of benches show there are lovely people willing to help hikers
  • It’s a good idea to stick to terrain and distances you know you can manage, and if you’re camping for the first time pick a campsite with good facilities
  • I’m nowhere near ready for a long distance hike – but I know what I need to do in terms of training so that I will be ready eventually

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