Having just completed the full thrity-mile long Mendip Challenge walk for the seventh year, I thought it might be worthwhile to write about some of the items and pack and carry with me, having already written about this walk itself.
What Size Is My Pack?
Lowe Alpine Aeon 35 – my go-to for many walks.
I’m not very good at packing light and my go-to backpack or rucksack for your average day-long walk has a 35 litre capacity. But you do not need a backpack of this size to go on a thirty-mile fundraising or challenge walk. Many people on the Mendip Challenge (and other routes I’ve tackled) carry, I would say, an average of between 15 and 25 litres.
Someone will carry even less (or nothing at all). But I would certainly recommend carrying something. Even if you’re a runner.
Keep Dry, We’re In Britain!
My kit is fairly lightweight, although it’s taken me a few years of steady investment to reach this point. For the summer months(!), some won’t mind getting wet but I’d certainly recommend a lighweight jacket for keeping the wind off on higher ground. Trousers and gloves may be more beneficial in a colder season.
I like to use small dry bags to keep my kit and items organised inside the pack. These have the added benefit of keeping the contents dry during foul weather.
From left to right above, we have my First Aid Kit, my wallet and the spare clothing you’ll find below.
Warm layers are always worthwhile for those moments when you pause and refuel. Or when the sun dips down before the end. Thinner layers work well for me in the summer. I tend to wear zip-off trousers on the day, keeping the lower legs in a dry bag, along with a thin long-sleeved T-shirt to go over the short sleeves I’m walking in.
This year, I packed spare walking socks (inner and normal) as rain had been forecast for the day… It never came to anything but my feet did get wet in the morning, ploughing through long grass. This almost led to blisters by the end, as I didn’t bother to change my socks during the dry afternoon. Even on a dry day, our feet can got hot, sweaty and a build up of moisture can cause discomfort.
I also carry the following ‘layers’ for added insulation; a beanie hat (this one’s also waterproof), a Buff or neckwarmer, liner gloves and fingerless gloves (none of which I used on Sunday, I might add). Above the gloves, you can also see my phone case that does an excellent job of keeping my phone dry and functional.
Most charity walks will offer some form of refreshment (even during a pandemic) at various checkpoints, if not all of them. I still prefer to be as self-sufficient as I can, even though it means carrying the extra weight.
On the Mendip Challenge, I packed a 1.5 litre hydration bladder and this was filled up to the 1.25 litre mark. In addition to this, I had a stainless steel flash with around 600ml of tea inside – all of which equates to around 1.8kg in weight!
Anyone who’s used a water bladder will know that they’re not always that practical to refill on-the-go, as it were. Two years ago, the organisers of the Mendip Challenge offered participants a free plastic bottle that could be used for water refills along the way. I’ve kept mine ever since. I carried it with me on Sunday and, even with a pack on board, I don’t have to carry a full load of liquid.
Whatever the brand may be, I’d strongly recommend carrying a reusable bottle.
I also carry my own food and snacks for the day (apologies to those who despise bananas). Checkpoints will rarely offer anything more than a handful of sweets or a chocolate bar and, if you’re towards the tail-end of a busy walk, there’s always the danger of others picking the best bits ahead of you.
A sandwich, couple of chocolate bars, home-made flapjack, breakfast bar, two portions of fruit… I’m not a dietician but that offers some idea (and I didn’t eat all of it; some was for reserve).
I also carry a tube of electrolyte tablets. Several different brands produce these and you can add one of these to a fresh fill of water to keep your levels up.
Suncream may only be required under rare circumstances in the UK… I carried it for about twenty miles on Sunday before I needed to apply any.
Hand sanitiser is probably more important today than it’s ever been. I’ve been carrying a bottle with me for several years now – personal hygiene doesn’t cost much at all.
A compass is unlikely to be required on a lowland or coastal challenge walk. But when you’re heading up on to the moors or mountains and you’re printed route guide talks about degrees and distances… You may well get stuck without one.
Something to sit on is very important to me (I’m not one of those nutters who prefers to ‘eat while the walk’ on some non-stop pilgrimage). In the plastic bag is a basic survival bag – one you would climb in to from an unfortunate situation; like a very badly drawn sleeping bag. I’ve never had to use it but, if I did need to call the on-duty First Aiders or Search and Rescue to attend, I’d be able to keep the rain and wind away from someone in need (and these are a bit lighter and easier to pack than an emergency bothy-style shelter.
My base weight (without food or liquid), comes in at just under 4kg… For me, not being a “lightweight” packer, that is a very good achievement.
By no means would I ask or expect anyone attending a 20 or 30 mile walk to carry all of the items I’ve listed above. But hopefully, this offers some food for thought on what you might need in order to prepare for your own outing, wherever it may be.
Thanks for reading and please do feel free to leave a comment below.