Arriving home after my practice expedition for Silver Duke of Edinburgh, I dumped my rucksack on the floor and climbed into bed. The next morning, I emptied out my bag. I then sorted each of the items into two piles: Used and Not Used. The latter pile was far too big for my liking and here’s my chance to make sure you guys don’t make the same mistake.
This is something that everyone always overpacks. Remember you will be wearing clothes when you arrive, so that counts as one outfit. Our expedition was only three days long, in which case you’ll need one change of clothes at the most, just in case it rains. Take a waterproof jacket and plenty of hiking socks, but really limit yourself when it comes to tops and bottoms. Pyjamas are optional and as long as you have a decent sleeping bag, you should be cosy enough (this depends what the weather is like where you live).
Obviously, you need to bring food with you. The issue is what you pack it in. Absolutely no tins or jars allowed – they take up too much room and can burst, leaving you with a very sticky situation. Pack food into plastic containers and ziplock bags (preferable) and plan your menu carefully. Make sure you have the right quantities of food, don’t bring luxuries like ketchup or salt, and eat the heaviest food the first day. Always have some emergency food on you – mint cakes or jelly work well.
You should have a phone on you at all times, and designate someone back at home to be your emergency contact. Keep the phone off or at least on airplane mode (if you want to take pictures) to conserve the battery. If you want to record anything, bring a separate cheap digital camera that has a long battery life. Don’t bother with tablets – it’s not worth the risk of water damage. If you’re looking for entertainment, cards are your best option. Hours of fun, minimal weight, and can be used in the rain.
This takes up the most space in your bag and so you want to be conservative. A map and a compass are necessary for any hike, even if you think you know the route. For cooking purposes, get a compact trangia stove set. These come packed up with several pots, a frying pan, and you can also put some things inside like matches, washing up liquid, and a tea towel. The only thing that needs to be carried separately is the gas. Don’t bring plates or bowls. Use a mess tin instead which doubles as both and can be used to pack toiletries inside. Finally, buy a camelback or platypus. These are lifesavers and can carry 2 litres or more of water – plenty for a day’s hike. They also save you the trouble of getting a bottle out every time you need a drink.
This is my final tip. For any hike, no matter what the length, you shouldn’t be doing it with strangers. You need to make sure the people you’re hiking with know what they are doing. If they make stupid decisions, like not bringing enough food or water, this puts your life at risk. You’ll need to designate a first aider, who brings a proper first aid kit, not just some plasters and paracetamol. And, for the sake of your sanity, make sure you all get along really really well. You’ll be surprise how much people change after walking for miles.
Enjoy your hike. Stay safe, guys.