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The Pennine Way - August/September 2004

Kirk Yetholm 4.5 miles

What I Took With Me

I knew that I was going to spend a long time regretting any unnecessary weight that I might take with me, and that was at the forefront of my mind as I decided what to pack. On the other hand, there are a few things that some people would consider unnecessary which I simply wouldn't consider leaving behind, so I was willing to carry a little bit of extra weight here and there to help to make the whole experience enjoyable, or, on the occasions when that proved impossible, at least endurable :-)

I weighed my pack when I got back, and it came out at about 15kg, or 33lb. That's probably a little too heavy, and it was actually a bit heavier at first, before I posted some things home from Hebden Bridge. Still, it's difficult for me to see how I could have cut it down much further without making compromises that wouldn't have been acceptable to me. I've no doubt it would be easier for a shorter trip.

Anyway, here's a picture I took at the Youth Hostel in Keld of what I was carrying, and details of how it was made up.

What I Carried

RUCKSACK Karrimor Cougar SA Cool Mesh, 55L + 15L (about 2.55kg)
I bought this just before I went away, and was pretty pleased with it. I like to use a flask, and don't like having to lie it on its side in the pack, so I need side pockets really. I also find them useful to avoid having to dig around inside the sack every time I want to get at anything, particularly when it's raining. Lots of packs don't seem to have them these days, but the pockets on this sack were a decent size, and worked well for me.

I also found the elasticated cords on the top (described as "flap compression bungie cord" on the Karrimor web site) very useful indeed for my little fleece and (when necessary) waterproof jacket. The small mesh pockets at the bottom of the sides were very useful for snacks.

The only significant drawback I noticed concerned the capacity. This is sold as a 55L + 15L sack, with the additional 15 litres coming from an extension to the lid. However, I found that the weatherproofed material from which the body of the sack was constructed didn't seem to extend high enough under the lid to have allowed me to use the extension in wet weather. Extending the lid would immediately have exposed the nylon (presumably) material underneath, and I'd have been afraid that everything in the sack would have got wet. Fortunately this wasn't a problem, as almost immediately I began to strap my tent to the outside of the pack, rather than trying to squeeze it in with the rest of the stuff.

TENT Hilleberg Akto (1.5kg)
I took the excellent Hilleberg Akto tent that I bought 7 or 8 years ago in Ambleside. I'd used it before, but never on a long distance walk over a period of many days. These tents are very highly regarded, and having used it extensively over the last 3 weeks it's easy for me to see why.

It's light (approximately 1.5kg), roomy, quick and easy to put up and take down, and virtually bombproof. There was only one occasion on this walk when I was confronted by very strong winds, but it soon became clear that the Akto wasn't going anywhere.

In common with some other users, I did find condensation a problem most mornings because there wasn't enough early breeze around to dry the tent off before it was time for me to pack it up. However, I found that if I wiped down the inside of the tent in the evening with a wadge of loo roll after putting it up then it was quickly restored to a perfectly dry and cosy condition, and my pre-walk concerns about being miserable in a tent which was growing damper by the day turned out to be groundless.

Before starting, I'd planned to carry my tent inside my pack because I don't really like having anything substantial hanging off the back. However, I soon changed my mind about that, partly because it was very difficult to fit the tent into the pack but largely because it seemed clear that all my other things were going to get wet if they were sharing the sack with a wet tent bag every day.

FOOTWEAR Montrail Storm Goretex boot/shoe.
I'd read on the excellent v-g walking website about new attitudes towards lightweight footwear, and that "a pound on your feet is equivalent to five on your back". I therefore decided to take a look at alternatives to my excellent but relatively heavy Mindl boots, and I eventually bought a pair of Montrail Storm Goretex shoe/boots.

Overall, I was pleased with them. I bought them a couple of weeks before the walk and wore them round the house. Although they were fairly new, I didn't get any friction blisters. Having said that, there were a couple of places where they took quite some time to adapt to the shape of my foot: longer, really, than I'd have expected in a modern boot. I did get some pretty hefty pressure blisters from carrying an unaccustomed amount of weight for 8+ hours per day, but that wasn't the fault of the boots.

The main drawback to these boots, as is always the case with Goretex lined footwear, was that they were slow to dry out once rain had seeped in down the backs of my heels. On the other hand, they did a really great job of keeping my feet dry, despite boggy ground and muddy puddles, on days when it wasn't actually raining.

Teva sandals - I took these to use in the evenings, when I first got up, in the shower etc, and they were great.

MATTRESS Thermarest Ultralight, Full Length (626g)
I took the full length Ultralight Thermarest self-inflating mattress that I bought many years ago. It was relatively light, and packed up relatively small.

The truth is that I've never been really comfortable trying to sleep on a self-inflating mattress in a tent, even in the days before I bought the lighter and thinner Ultralight version. I've always spent the night waking regularly and turning over to alternate the discomfort, as my hips poked into the ground through the mattress. I hoped that at least part of that might simply have been due to the unfamiliarity of sleeping in a tent, and also that I'd be so utterly exhausted at the end of each day on this trip that I'd fall happily into oblivion, regardless of the nature of the ground I was lying on. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. Although Thermarests are undoubtedly excellent mattresses for their weight and size, I don't think I'm ever going to be comfy sleeping on them. What did help a bit was folding the mattress back on itself, so that I had a double layer under my hips. Given even more time, I might have been able to get used to that :-)

SLEEPING BAG RAB Elite Micron 500 (1268g with stuff sack)
This was very warm and comfy - too warm, in fact, on those occasions when I used it inside, in a Youth Hostel - and it packs up pretty small and weighs just 1268g with a stuff sack. Still, things have moved on in the sleeping bag world since I bought this 7 or 8 years ago, and if money was no object then I'd like to buy one of the incredibly light and compact new ones that apparently weigh less than 0.5kg.

FLEECE Mardale "Sport Extreme" Pullover
I've had this for so long that I can't remember buying it. It's very light, and packs away to virtually nothing. I'd have taken a warmer fleece, but I was short of room in my pack. I therefore decided that if I was cold I'd supplement the fleece with my Pertex windproof jacket, and/or my waterproof. That worked fine, and in fact I only needed to add an extra layer a couple of times, as I was was usually pretty warm from all the exercise.

COOKING MSR Titanium kettle (116g) - this is great. I was only using it for boiling water, but it would be big enough to cook my meals in too, if necessary. The gas cannister fitted neatly inside it, when packed. Because they're titanium, they're very expensive over here, but I got it at approximately half the UK retail price by importing it from the USA: I found the supplier on eBay.com.

Primus Micron stove. This was very light, and packed away to virtually nothing in its own little carrying bag. It boiled water very quickly for me. The built in ignition failed once when the unit was damp, but there was no difficulty in lighting it with a lighter.

Coleman 250 gas. I didn't need to use this every day, and it lasted the whole trip for me.

WATERPROOFS Berghaus Extrem Paclite waterproof trousers: (about 185g). These are light and comfy, and pack away to virtually nothing. They're almost the only waterproof trousers I've ever found that seem to have been made the right size and shape for a woman: it's refreshing not to have them flapping around my ankles and bum!

Karrimor Paclite waterproof jacket. This is fine too. It's light, and whilst it doesn't pack away as small as the Berghaus trousers it's still very compact.

CAMERA Pentax Zoom-90-WR
This is an automatic, weatherproof camera that I've had for many years. It's pretty basic, but it's taken lots of decent pictures for me over the years. It's much heavier than my digital camera, but my digital won't take batteries so I had to take the Pentax. Ideally I'd like to replace it with a different digital, though, as it's really too large and heavy for the sort of photography I do (which is pretty basic).

BASIC CLOTHES - 4 Helly Hansen short sleeved wicking T shirts
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 2 long sleeved Helly Hansen Lifa crew tops
- 2 pairs of Tracksters
- 3 pairs of socks
- Underwear

EXTRA CLOTHING - Fleecy neck gaitor
- Pair over-boot gaitors
- Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap
- Fleecy gloves
- Waterproof over-gloves
- Pertex windproof jacket
- Buff

FOOD/DRINK I was planning to eat in pubs in the evening, so I didn't need to take much food. However, I wanted to carry emergency food, and to be able to make a flask of coffee each day, and to be able to make a drink (cuppa-soup, tea etc) after (or during) the walk, if desired. I therefore took the following.

- Large bag of mixed coffee, dried milk and sugar - 7 teaspoons = 1 flask :-)
- Enough cuppa-soups to last about a week and a half
- 1 packet of organic oatcakes
- 1 slab of yummy, organic farmhouse Cheshire cheese
- About 20 organic snacky fruit bars
- Cheese and onion pastie. This is what I like to have for lunch
- Flapjack. These are yummy with coffee for breaks throughout the day
- 1 handful of tea bags
- Quite a lot of little filter coffees - I sent them home at Hebden Bridge, as I wasn't using them.
- 1 packet of fig rolls (purchased in Marsden and carried for 200 miles...)

GUIDES/MAPS Pennine Way National Trail Guides
- Pennine Way North: Bowes to Kirk Yetholm
- Pennine Way South: Edale to Bowes

These guides are published by the Countryside Commission in combination with the Ordnance Survey. They're quite large and I wasn't planning to take them, although I've owned them for a couple of years, but when I came to pack I simply didn't have room for the 9 x 1:25k maps I'd bought to cover the route. Because these guides contain reproductions of the maps, they seemed to be the only way out. I sent Volume 1 home when I moved onto Volume 2: every little helps :-)

Everyone else I met who was doing the walk was using them, and I did get to the end so clearly they do the job. However, they don't really include any information about accommodation, and for those of us who were camping, and booking Bed and Breakfast or Youth Hostels on an 'as and when' basis, that accommodation information was very necessary. I therefore think it's also worth looking at the recently published "Pennine Way: Edale to Kirk Yetholm" by Edward de la Billiere and Keith Carter, part of the British Walking Guide Series. I bought that book a few weeks before I went away, and was very impressed. It's compact and informative, and it contains a lot of info about accommodation as well as hand-drawn maps. I now wish I'd taken it too, but I was so short of space that I left it behind in the end.

Pennine Way Accommodation Guide, published by National Trail.
I sent away for this free guide, which purports to provide reliable information about accommodation available on the route. Unfortunately, the information it contained in relation to facilities available on campsites proved to be inaccurate and unreliable, rendering it virtually useless as a means of identifying a decent place to camp. For instance, I found a midge-infested field at the bottom of a steep and slippery grass slope with no shower facilities, and an open cess-pit yards from my tent, described as having very sophisticated and extensive facilities. I was told later in the walk that sites had been included in the guide without being approached for information, which is presumably why the information is wrong.

If you're camping, I'd advise you not to rely upon this guide for anything other than identifying the possiblity of finding a place to pitch your tent. Make enquiries in advance to find out which campsites actually offer facilities that won't make your toes curl up in horror at the prospect of visiting the loo...

NAVIGATION Silva compass - I keep this fastened to the front of my pack for easy access, and used it countless times to rough check bearings etc. I wouldn't have been able to get down from Knock Fell in the right direction without it, in the total white-out that was present when I was there!

Garmin Geko 201 GPS - I don't yet know how to use this with waypoints, as I only bought it a short time before I went away, but I found it very useful indeed for taking a 6 figure grid reference from time to time, to confirm my position.

MUSIC Sharp IM-DR410H Net MD - portable minidisc player
Music is one of the things I have to take with me, in order to be able to enjoy this sort of trip. I have a great little portable MP3 player that I use for running, but it won't take more than 2 hours' music and that wasn't going to be enough. I therefore decided to buy a portable Minidisc player, and it was absolutely brilliant!

I kept it in a padded, weatherproof pocket clipped to my belt, but inevitably it got very damp on a regular basis. That was no problem at all, however, and it worked perfectly throughout. Although I used it a lot, it only used 2.5 Duracell Ultralife batteries for the entire trip (it takes 1 x AA at a time). It also weighed very little.

I also took 8 minidiscs, each containing approximately 3 albums of music.

MISC' - Thermos Shuttle Titanium Flask - I've had this for years, and love it.
- Petzl Tikka Plus head torch (80g)
- Large Sigg water bottle - wrapped in a sock, doubles as hot water bottle when necessary
- Wash kit (toothbrush/paste, shampoo/conditioner, shower gel, moisturiser, comb)
- Lifeventure Soft Fibre Trek Towel (large) - this was excellent.
- First Aid kit (Compeed blister dressings, zinc oxide tape, painkillers, anti-inflammatories)
- Nokia mobile phone
- 1 x Leki Makalu Ultralight pole - for testing the depth of muddy puddles and boggy bits.
- Sunglasses
- Midge repellent
- Mobile phone charger
- Spare camera film
- 3 spare AA batteries (for minidisc player)
- 4 spare AAA batteries (for headtorch and Garmin Geko GPS)
- Penknife
- Notebook
- Pen
- Ziplock bag of loo roll
- Pan scourer for MSR kettley thing
- A book to read. I started with 2, but sent one home to save weight.
- Purse with cash, card etc
- Running watch, with alarm for mornings

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