Packing for The Ridgeway: Days 2 and 3

Hopefully you’ve already seen that I’m now two-thirds of the way along with my walk of The Ridgeway National Trail. Days two and three were tackled with a considerably lighter pack-load, as I would be staying overnight at a youth hostel in between.

In this post, I’ll share some of the essentials (and non-essentials) I carried with me.

Let’s start with the backpack itself. Rucksack? Whichever you prefer:

It’s the Lowe Alpine Airzone Trek+ 35:45.

I bought this in late December and it’s been my go-to pack for many adventures, short and long. It weighs about 1.5kg when empty and this is around 900g less than the 65 litre Osprey pack I suffered with on day one.

Inside the “sleeping bag compartment” (I don’t believe you could get a two-season bag in there), I had my storm shelter, a roll of duct tape, my waterproof jacket and I managed to stuff my waterproof trousers in there as well.

…None of which I used, of course! I would always carry waterproofs but the storm shelter was there just to maintain a decent load on my back, as I know that I’ll need full camping kit for my final two days on the trail. Ideally, I can now substitute the shelter for a sleeping mat. I also now keep a few metres of duct tape wrapped around my walking poles.

Experience has taught me that it’s not a great idea to pack lots of weight in to this compartment, so low down on the pack. In future, I aim to keep the mass weight in here to 1kg.

In the front mesh pocket (I do like these, on a pack), I had my folding sit-mat, the Cicerone guide book and Harvey’s waterproof map, which spent most of its time in my hand or shorts pocket. In wet weather, I would’ve looked to store the book in a dry bag.

I kept my Cullman Alpha 380 mini tripod in the left-hand pocket… Which didn’t get used once. I sometimes use it for timelapses (I did some filming on this trip) but instead, favoured the convenience of the attachment on my walking poles (or, the nearest fence post).

In the right-hand mesh pocket, I had my sole water bottle (a Camelbak Chute, 0.75 litre). With a 2 litre water bladder deeper inside the pack and facilities at the hostel, you could argue I didn’t need it. Although it was convenient for drinking from water taps.

There are two pockets in the lid or ‘floating hood’. In the top pocket, I had a merino Buff, a pair of thin gloves (again, I used neither of these) and I used the clip to hold my keys. On each day, I also carried a banana in here. But I’ve also learnt it’s important to keep the weight of this area right down.

On the underside of that is another zip, where I kept my ‘more valuable’ items, such as my wallet, ice card, a small notebook (unused) and paracetamol tablets.

Interestingly, my larger Osprey pack doesn’t have this ‘secure’ pocket on the underside. Instead, it has two pockets on the top; one of which houses the waterproof cover and a hook for your keys.

My waterproof trousers were in the dark stuffsack and, as I mentioned earlier; these were packed in to the lower compartment. In the bright-coloured dry-bag, I had my head torch and spare batteries (also unused and unnecessary). Two-days’ worth of food lived in the 6 litre orange bag, along with a bag of pasta and stir-in sauce tub for my evening meal.

In the read bag, with a capacity of 8 litres, I had a spare set of clothes, including two T-shirts (one to sleep in), a long-sleeved top, a change of underwear, spare socks and the legs of my zip-off trousers. No thermals, no spare trousers other than my waterproofs. I was really pleased to be able to pack considerably less than the last time.

That dark Muc-Off bag contains my wash kit. On its own, the bag weighs about 100g… I had ordered a 30g dry sack but it didn’t arrive in time. I’ve reduced the weight and contents of the pack slightly and further improvements will be made.

I had sandwiches and flapjacks for two days in the tin, while the orange bag contained my book, which I didn’t read.

My first aid kit (again, I’ve stripped this down a bit) lives in the dark red bag, while I had camera accessories and cables in the one at the front. I also had my action camera and waterproof housing in there, which I didn’t use once and probably won’t carry on my final days.

What I Left Behind

Along with a stack of clothes, I left my water filter bottle behind as I had faith in the tap water. My insulated vest seemed unnecessary in this heat, while the hat and gloves are waterproof.

With the changes I’ve made so far, I’ve found that I no longer require my 12 litre (blue) dry bag, which previously contained my clothes, or the 7 litre (green) bag, which had five-days’ worth of snacks.

The smaller orange sack (3 litres) is my lightweight late-arrival upgrade for my hygiene and wash kit. I was hoping to buying a mesh bag in this size but couldn’t find one in stock.

Future Improvements?

First thing I’d like to say is that I carried all of this – weighing 10.8kg with 2 litres of water in the bladder inside – while the pack was set at its standard 35 litre capacity. There was room to expand this by a further 10 litres; to which, I imagine I could contain most, if not all, of my camping kit (stove, sleeping bag, tent…).

With this in mind, I feel more confident in the idea of replacing my 65 litre rucksack with a 50 litre model. A shortlist has already been created!!

I do wonder about my sleeping bag. It’s the Vango Ultralite Pro 100; a two-season bag that packs down to almost half the size of my three-season bag but still weighs 900g.

I’ve had thoughts about buying a sleeping bag liner and using only that. This would further reduce the pack size and slash the weight of the item by half. If I was to find it cold at night, I could throw an inexpensive thermal blanket on top – at least, that’s how I imagine it.

I’m reluctant to spend any money while I’m out of work but I think it’s a viable option for most summer hikes. Especially with the heatwave we’re experiencing. If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear from you.

Sometime soon, I aim to be back out there walking my final two days of The Ridgeway. I’ll take the big Osprey pack for its final ride, just because I started with it and it seems only far, as a means of saying farewell.

Thanks for reading.

Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in Weston-super-Mare, close to the Mendip Hills in Somerset and I enjoy time spent outdoors, whether that's walking, camping or backpacking. My day job involved making furniture from recycled wood (I'm a furniture maker and carpenter by trade). I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Walks With Olly (walking, camping and kit) You can also find me on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. My second YouTube channel is titled 'Walks with Olly'.

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