Gone to the beach

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Heading towards Gullane – and lunch

Walking along the beach from North Berwick to Gullane, I felt as if I’d left something behind. When you’re used to walking with a rucksack, albeit a light one, it can feel strange to be without.

The East Lothian coast, with its rocky islands and ruined castles, makes an enjoyable and relatively undemanding change of scene from my usual haunts in the Lakeland fells.

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Looking back to Fidra, with its lighthouse

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The forested dunes at Jamie’s Neuk

Even though we walked only 6.5 miles, we felt fully entitled to a Sunday lunch of wiener schnitzel with a fried egg on top, buttery mashed potato and a beer, followed by strong coffee and a shared nut tart at the German bakery, Falko.

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Falko on Gullane Main Street

We then compounded matters by returning to North Berwick and our lovely holiday cottage, rented from the superb gonetothebeach.co.uk, on the bus. But everyone deserves a rest now and again, don’t they?

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It all started with polar blanky

Morning after with polar blanky

My introduction to fast and light wild camping was courtesy of two friends who invited me along one sunny January afternoon. There’s a clue there if you look: January. These guys had done this before but I hadn’t. I’d cycle and car camped for many years – entirely different – and my kit reflected my experience, as did theirs.

I realised it would be a cold night in the fells and looked around for the warmest gear in my limited collection. At the time, I had only a 2-degree Vango summer sleeping bag and thin ThermaRest mat. Not a good start. Then I found ‘polar blanky’. Yes, this really was a cuddly blanket decorated with polar bears – a free gift from Damart to my aged mother, one of their ‘best’ customers (or so they told her). It was a light, synthetic fleece material and proved a warm and, probably, lifesaving addition to my kit.

We woke up to tents crisp with thick frost, at what we later found out was minus 8 degrees. The tarn we were next to had frozen over and, as I had kept my lack of appropriate kit from them the night before, when they saw what I’d brought, they were astonished I was still alive. To this day, it is still talked of as the ‘polar blanky’ trip.

Thankfully, both my kit and experience have increased greatly since then but, as a badge of honour, I still have the blanket!

Building your kit, for any sport or pastime, is quite a journey, emotionally and financially. I’ve come to realise it takes time, involves mistakes, expense, disasters, light-bulb moments, reality checks, occasionally being in the dog-house, constant indecision and even the odd sleepless night.

It seems to be a process that never quite finishes, partly because manufacturers, like software companies, are always revising and upgrading their products, teasing us with something shinier, sleeker and smaller that does exactly the same as your old one but at half the weight and twice the price. Then there are the ‘trends’, which come and go with increasing regularity as wheels are re-invented.

Those of us with slightly less experience, not to mention will-power, can have a torrid time ignoring those skilful marketeers and nailing down what really works for us.

The transformation from a ‘camper’, who is just out for fun with the family, into a demented, list-making ‘gram weenie’ can be all-consuming. What I and many others who spend quality time in the outdoors have realised is that it becomes a very personal process and, because it’s personal, it can, if not checked, become obsessive.

I thought it might be useful to share my current winter backpacking list. I’ve been building up this gear for a couple of years, swapping old for new, heavier for lighter, and lighter for even lighter. I could, of course, just go into a store or online and buy all my lightweight kit in one go and be done with it. But we all know that’s not how it works.  As I said, there will always be better, lighter and smaller, just around the corner.

Winter backpacking list

Most readers who backpack will recognise things they use themselves. Perhaps there’s the odd item that interests you, some you may even laugh at, and one or two that are a surprise – hopefully, in a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ kind of way. Some items double as something else, some have multiple uses and some are there, well, just because.

This is a two-night backpacking gear list with a base weight of 13.5 lbs. It’s not meant to be an ultralight list for adventure racing, and in my next post, I’ll explain my reasons for including some of the items in my bag – and why it’s vital to have a list (even if you’re not a ‘list person’).

Tents I have known and, sometimes, loved

Wild camping with the Soulo

Hopefully, my last post got you thinking about the tents you’ve known and loved – or hated – over the years. It certainly did that to me. At least, the ones I can remember. So here goes…

Try reading the following to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas:

  • A Marechal two-person 17lb heavyweight – my first tent;
  • Numerous dome tents from the cheaper outlets, some so damaged they were left at the festivals where they stood;
  • A Wynnster four-berth family tent, made memorable by my youngest throwing up in it, missing her mother’s face by millimetres;
  • Four Vango tents of various sizes and styles including the iconic Banshee and Blade – all brilliant for those on a small budget;
  • Three Hillebergs – Nallo, Akto and Soulo (pictured above) – all superior design and quality and crazy expensive unless you’re in a position not to care about budget;
  • Numerous homemade tarps, most never used;
  • Several shop bought tarps including Go-Lite and DD;
  • A Wild Country Zephyros 1 – a very popular backpacker’s tent but too narrow for me;
  • A Luxe Hex Peak – a simple, roomy tepee tent with half-mesh inner;
  • A Trekkertent Stealth 1 with both a solid and (my next purchase) full mesh inner for midge-free summer evenings.

(Yes, I know the tune doesn’t quite work.)

From that collection, spread over many years, only four remain: the ancient Hilleberg Nallo 3GT, the Hilleberg Soulo, the Luxe Hex Peak and, my latest, the Trekkertent Stealth 1.

And my reasons for keeping these?

The Hillebergs speak for themselves. They are not cheap, and even though we all know more money does not always equal more tent, in this case it does. There’s a reason why Artic expeditions use Hillebergs, and at a recent Backpackers’ Club meet, six out of nine tents were Aktos.

Hillebergs are beautifully made, well researched with rugged Kerlon fabrics and will protect you in the foulest and coldest conditions. When I first used an Akto, my lack of experience led me to feel it was too small for my needs. Now, it would probably seem like a palace!

The only problem I’ve found, as many others have too, is Hilleberg’s overall packed weight. This probably doesn’t apply to their more recent Enan solo tent, at a packed weight of 1.1 kilos.

When I use the outer of the Soulo in the summer as a single skin, with poles, pegs and footprint, it’s still not a light option, at 1.8 kilos. Adding the inner for winter use brings it to 2.4 kilos. For this reason, I carry the Soulo only when it’s a short walk in and overnight pitch or, when I’m prepared to carry the extra weight, above the snowline.

The trusty Nallo was once the go-to shelter for the cycle tourer and backpacker. We bought the bigger 3GT (that’s a three-person version with a porch) back in 2000. Originally for tandem touring, we now use it mainly for car camping or backpacking, where we can split the weight to about 1.7 kilos each.

Even at a packed weight of 3.4 kilos, it’s a manageable and palatial tunnel shelter, which goes up in a few minutes and has withstood three-day gales and biblical rain storms.

In 2014, I bought the Luxe Hex Peak, a very simple tepee, six-sided design that uses a walking pole for the centre support. I can see why this style is very popular in Scandinavia. Unfortunately, I don’t have the strength to carry the obligatory wood burner!

The Luxe Hex Peak in high wind

The Luxe Hex Peak in high wind

A simple, but certainly not a new concept, the Hex also goes up in a few minutes, is roomy and, with the exception of gale force winds, will withstand most UK weather.

The fly can be pitched flush to the ground in foul weather, or high off the ground using a walking pole extender, in warmer conditions. The inner, which is half mesh, can be set up on its own for summer use. But the mesh can make this tent a little too draughty in winter and, because of this, I would class it as a thee-season option.

As I’m always looking to cover greater distances, I was keen to reduce the weight of the big three – tent, rucksack and sleeping bag. Rucksack at 800g and down sleeping bag at 900g are acceptable for the moment, so that only leaves the tent. (I’ll be writing about rucksacks and sleep systems in future posts.)

In January, after much research, I bought a Trekkertent Stealth 1. I’d read reviews by other bloggers (Section Hiker and Overthehills) whose comprehensive descriptions persuaded me to plump for it. It’s also good to support one of a few UK tent makers.

My version of the Stealth weighs 780g, which now includes eight titanium nail pegs and a short folding pole for the rear, as I use both my trekking poles to support the front. As for other uses, it can be a winged tarp, pitched low to cover a bivvy bag. The solid inner can be used on its own in the summer, and the mesh inner combined with a poncho tarp for a midge-free night under the stars.

Like many backpackers, trekkers and wild campers, I’ve spent the last few years looking for the perfect shelter. But what I’ve come to realise it that it’s a never-ending quest. Your perfect tent won’t necessarily be mine – and, in the end, one will never be enough. But isn’t that part of the journey?

When the correct number of tents is N+1

There's always room for one more tent

Remember your first tent? Of course, you do. Mine was a two-person Marechal ridge set up bought for me by my parents. Inner pitch first, hanging from interlocking poles forming the frame, with the outer fly pulled over the top and the poles sticking out through eyelets in the material.

I tried to find a photo but realised I probably didn’t even own a camera at the time. As the Marechal is long defunct, the nearest thing I came across online was the renowned Vango Force 10.

The Vango Force Ten Mk5

The Vango Force Ten Mk5

In hindsight, the Marechal was obviously bought to play with in the garden. In fact, my parents had planted the seed for the backpacking I do now. It had steel section poles, an orange waxed-canvas outer – which had to be reproofed every couple of months and took three days to dry – and a cream cotton inner with no vents. It did have a PVC bathtub groundsheet, which I now realise was quite advanced for the time. The whole bundle weighed a massive 17lb – 3lb heavier than my current total backpacking base weight. How far we have come…

Knowing what I know now – and even saying to myself, ‘This is the one. No need to look any further; I’ll use this for the rest of my days. Why would I possibly need anything else?’ – I accept that the shelters I own today won’t be the last.

I’m just as gullible and lacking in willpower as the next person. There is, and always will be, something out there that’s better, more technical, lighter, stronger, more innovative, even cheaper, superior quality – you get the picture.

In recent years I’ve collected a range of tents and shelters. (Yes, collected – we backpackers seem to do that, like stamps or model cars.) And all have been justified with perfectly plausible explanations: ‘I need that one for base camping, that one for wild camping, and that one for Thursdays.’

As I said, you get the picture. It’s a version of Rule 12 from Velominati’s cycling book The Rules: ‘The correct number of bikes to own is N+1, where N is the number bikes you already own.’ Just substitute tent for bike.

And if I could have just one? I genuinely don’t know. I’ll have a think about it and let you know if I come to any conclusion. In the meantime, what would you choose?

A cook system – and a spirited idea for a stove

A collection of various stoves and burners from the journey

For most of us when we’re camping, boiling speed isn’t that important – we just sit patiently and take in the view, which is exactly what we should be doing. However, it’s sometimes desirable to boil water quickly – say, for a hot drink or rehydrated meal when temperatures are close to freezing, or when you need to be on the move.

Overnight wild camping, in the peace and silence of dusk, I usually just rehydrate food in foil bags using a cosy box, so only need something to boil water in and drink from. For longer backpacking trips, arriving earlier at the pitch in daylight, I like to cook, so my pot may be slightly bigger, perhaps one with a heat exchanger, and my burner more controllable for simmering. This is when I take a slightly heavier cook system, and it’s usually gas.

Until recently, I switched indecisively between alcohol burners and ultralight canister gas stoves, depending on weather, temperature and the length of the adventure. I was never a big fan of alcohol stoves until I bought the iconic Trangia 27 back in the day. Even when I opened the packaging I thought it was rather large and cumbersome. Nevertheless, I still have my faithful Trangia. However, I use it only for car camping now, when I cook ‘proper’ meals. It’s completely faff-free and bombproof. As with their tents, those Swedes know a thing or two.

Using gas for backpacking trips, I have often felt – as they say in cycling parlance – ‘over geared’. I’ve seen and met people using alcohol stoves of every style and size and thought ‘wow, that’s so simple’.

This set me on a quest, and after some years, I now have a collection. (There’s that word again!) To date, it consists of the original Trangia and burner and several other Trangia-types, some made of tin, some made of copper, some of brass, stainless steel and even one from Japan made of uber-expensive titanium. Then there’s the pop can and cat-food tin stoves, many I’ve made myself, some I’ve bought. And some I’ve nearly burnt the house down with. (We don’t talk about those!)

Then, in a ‘eureka’ moment, on a recent trip, I discovered the perfect burner, made by Speedster. It’s basically a shallow tin filled with compacted, absorbent fibre wadding covered with a piece of fine wire mesh. Simplicity itself and very, very efficient. It’s extremely easy to fill and, provided the lid is screwed on tightly, it’s leak proof and can be left with fuel in. You can also put it in your pocket to keep the fuel warm in winter so you don’t struggle to light it.

Speedster Number 2 and simmer ring

Speedster Number 2 and simmer ring

I finally settled on the Speedster Number 2. In fact, I have two, and each burns for 20 to 25 minutes from full. Using a craft cutting compass, I made a simmer ring for one of them, which saves fuel if you need to reheat a drink that’s been left in your pot. I also take a spare 60ml bottle of fuel for peace of mind. Even though meths burns slightly hotter, I’ve been using bio-ethanol fuel, which is non-toxic (methanol-free), smokeless, longer burning and, more importantly, environmentally friendly if spilled.

So then I thought, what should I use as a pot stand? And for a windshield? And how do I protect the flame from what is, essentially, a very large candle wick? With gas, I now use a Crux folding stove with a 100ml cartridge and, sometimes, an aluminium folding windshield. I noticed four of the panels fitted exactly around my MytiMug cook pot. A ‘light bulb’ moment occurred… and after a bit of careful measuring, re-engineering and the use of a paper punch, this was the result.

The completed windshield/stand for the Alpkit MytiMug

The windshield/stand for the Alpkit MytiMug

Windshield open showing the burner

Windshield open showing the burner

The pot slides neatly inside the four panels of the windshield, held at the top by its lip, carefully measured so it hangs exactly one inch over the Number 2 Speedster – its recommended ‘sweet spot’ distance from the base of the pot*. Because the pot is completely enclosed by the stand and using a top-burning stove, the heat is maximised even though there’s some heat loss venting at the four corners. Great for warming your hands on a cold morning!

I added the holes around the base to provide air for the burner, but limited it to three on the back so as not to snuff it out when positioned into the wind. The windshield/pot stand folds away neatly into a bubble wrap bag with its foil ground protector. A Jiffy bag lined with bubble wrap protects the windshield as well as items in my pack. So this is my ‘go to’ cook set… for now.

Findings

Using bio-ethanol, in zero wind (indoors), 300ml of liquid rolls to a boil in 3 mins 45 secs. In the field, it’s anywhere from 4 to 7 minutes – still amazing for such a simple burner. If using meths (UK) or pure denatured alcohol, boil times would be slightly less.

Items and weights

  • Pot: Alpkit 650 MytiMug
  • Burner: Speedster Number 2 (available on eBay)
  • Original windshield: Cotswold Outdoor
  • Fuel: Geco Industries Fuel 4, Bio-ethanol Spirit Fuel
A simple cook system: 650ml MytiMug with HotLips, Speedster burners, fuel, lighter and bubble wrap cosy

A simple cook system: 650ml MytiMug with HotLips, Speedster burners, fuel, lighter and bubble wrap cosy

Cook system

  • Cook pot with lid containing two full burners, 60ml fuel in plastic bottle, lighter, HotLips, bubble wrap pot cosy inside a mesh bag – 275g
  • Pot stand/windshield in bag – 75g

*Recommended ‘sweet spot’ height from burner to base of pot confirmed by Gary at Speedster.

The cook system ready to go, with folded stand in Jiffy bag

The cook system ready to go, with folded stand in a Jiffy bag

Update

The Caldera cone pot stand/windshield is the obvious choice for these burners and I’ll be making one soon to fit in the pot from one of the many templates on the internet. This should be more efficient, as all the heat is directed to the pot base.

A night at minus 4 in the Trekkertent Stealth 1

The Trekkertent Stealth 1 in the snow and high wind on its first outing

The Trekkertent Stealth 1 in the snow and high wind on its first outing

I’m not sure what the overnight wind speed was on the Lakeland fell where I tried out the new Trekkertent Stealth 1, an ultralight (755g) one-person tent, but by the morning, along with the horizontal snow, it was up to a bitter 30-40mph. The Stealth, I’m pleased to say, was rock solid even in a broadside wind which, of course, had turned as I slept.

What astonished me most was the internal/external temperature difference. The reading on my watch (hanging from a temporary ridge line in the roof – see below) was 2 degrees before I opened the inner and outer door. The temperature outside, recorded five minutes later, was minus 4. This trapping of heat is the one big plus with a small sleeping area and solid fabric.

Best of all, though, there was no condensation. Not even inside the fly, with such a large temperature difference. This was partly due to the fly pitching slightly off the ground. Quite amazing.

I had been expecting good things of the Trekkertent. Marc, the proprietor, has been amazingly helpful in the production and delivery of my particular Stealth. His business, based in Perth, seems to be flourishing with a full order book and now a minimum six-week delivery on some of his tents.

What makes him special is that he listens and, more often than not, adopts some part of the suggestions made by his clients. At the time of my original order with the mesh inner, Marc was starting to get requests for a solid fabric version, to make the Stealth a four-season option – essential in the UK. After discussing production times, I decided to hold off for this one.

I’m predominantly left handed, so I asked to have the outer door switched over, and the inner to be made with two zips instead of one to open up the full triangle for better access. Don’t get me wrong, Marc is not making individual custom tents – these changes are done at his discretion and will not radically alter his production process. If you order a Stealth – you get a Stealth. However, it seems you may now get an inner door with two zips instead of one. Products evolve.

Like all new things, there are pros and cons, but for me, it’s a brilliant tent, a brilliant tarp, and in the warm, dry summer evenings, the mesh inner will be a brilliant bug-free bivvy to sleep under the stars.

Yes, the inner is a small space, but it’s no smaller than a Zephyros or even its expensive counterpart the Laser Comp. If you want a tent for living in, buy a bigger tent. If it’s just for sheltering from bad weather or to sleep in after a long day, accept what you have, adapt your gear, and you’ve cracked it!

The outer tarp

Trekkertent Stealth 1 A-frame set up

Trekking poles create an A-frame set up

I chose the slightly heavier 40D green Sil Nylon material as I felt it would be more robust. The optional extra storm guys were added to the long sides for peace of mind and Trekkertent’s innovative self-tensioners supplied as well. The door has a full two-way zip and storm flap with Velcro patches along the length of the closure. The Velcro is difficult to seal from the inside once the zip is closed, but a brush along the seam with the back of the hand does the job.

In its tarp set up, it’s very roomy, particularly if you use your poles as an A-frame. If you were to tie the front guy high up on a tree trunk or strong branch, you would have a completely open and trip-free entrance. To do this with your trekking poles, you will need an additional guy and pole for the rear. I had one made by Bear Bones Bivvy Gear. It’s a three-section folding DAC pole, which travels either rolled up in the tent or fits snugly inside your pack. I roll mine in a thin nylon groundsheet, not to protect the pole but the items in my sack.

Bear Bones Bivvy Gear rear pole

Bear Bones Bivvy Gear rear pole

The Stealth is designed to be used with two trekking poles, one at each end. There are tapes and rings sewn in to hold these in place. The rear rings, yes, there are two, allow for different thicknesses of pole points. Cleverly thought out. The tape from the rear ridge line is long enough to pull the fabric up and out, at the same time giving strength to the structure. It also keeps the pole away from the vent in the rear of the tent.

The front trekking pole sits in a ring set into a tape with a leather backing to it, inside the highest point. The backing is there to stop the pole’s tungsten tip piercing the outer fabric. Make sure this is seated properly in the ring before tightening the main guy. Attached to this ring and tape is the main guy to the door peg. Make sure you use a long ground peg for this one, as the two door panel ties attach to the same peg!

The stitching on the tarp is interesting. It’s rare to see the ridge line on a tarp being stitched. Then you realise this is done to give strength to the structure when the fabric is pulled taut. And this tent, according to Marc, is designed to be pulled very taut. Stitching overall is okay – it does the job – but remember, this is not a Hilleberg.

Some of the overlaps and edging, particularly on the bathtub corners and rear fly apex, could have been folded and joined a little neater before stitching and seam sealing, but I have no doubt this will improve as the product and its production develop.

The seam sealing, particularly on the ridgeline is excellent. All tension areas are very well sealed too and, as this is manufactured under dry conditions, there’s not a grain of dust or grit anywhere under the silicone. All guy loops are reinforced with additional fabric and sealed too. Very reassuring.

Guy lines are Dyneema, ranging from 1.5mm to 2.5mm. The four tarp corners and one front flap have 2.5mm Dyneema with plastic LineLoc tensioners. These lines could be a little longer perhaps, to allow for a very open and high tarp pitch in warmer weather.

The two end guys, which have Mini LineLoc adjusters, are a good length and robust. I will, in true ‘weenie’ style, change these guys for brighter ones for my next trip, though, as black lines are very hard to see when blundering out for a pee in the pitch dark! These were put on at my request – my error! The learning process continues…

Trekkertent Stealth 1 fly with my addition of a Dyneema cord

The fly with my addition of a Dyneema cord

To get the correct or recommended pitch for the fly, I added a length of Dyneema across the door area tied off to 1500mm, clipped to the corner guy tabs with mini karabiners. Nothing new here – most tents these days have either a pre-adjusted cord or tape sewn in. Because this outer is also designed to be set up low and wide as a tarp, this wouldn’t be appropriate.

The fabric inner

Fabrics are strange animals. Some stretch, some don’t. Some stretch one way and not the other. The midge-proof mesh inner stretches four ways and so is completely taut in every direction when hung inside the fly. The Ripstop DWR used for the solid inner, doesn’t. This is not a design fault, it’s the nature of the fabric. This is an issue of cut and volume, and is being addressed by Trekkertent.

Marc has kindly agreed to swap out my version for its next incarnation, due in the next couple of weeks. As a temporary solution, I have employed Hilleberg’s idea of an inner ridgeline string (used on our Nallo GT3 as a clothes line) to lift the fabric. A 1mm length of Dyneema sewn to each end, with a squeeze tensioner in the middle, did the trick.

My temporary Dyneema ridgeline

My temporary Dyneema ridgeline

The inner is held in place by two toggles inserted into rings attached to each end of the fly, with the 125mm bathtub corners attached to the same corner ground pegs as the outer with 2.5mm shock cord. I had to shorten the front cords to pull the foot area away from the outer – this also seemed to help re-shape the inner.

No-see-um mesh vents are sewn into the inner’s back wall and the door, which keeps the area well ventilated but didn’t appear to be too draughty. The vents correspond to the position of the eyelid and stalk vents in the fly.

Summary

I’m not going full on into this with dimensions, materials used, prices et al. I will just give you a list of the most obvious pros and cons. Please visit Trekkertent.com for more detailed information. And, I should point out, that I am not connected to, or working on behalf of Trekkertent in any way. The tent reviewed was my own purchase and at full price. I just think if you like something, it’s worth shouting about.

Price

  • Green 40D Silnylon tarp, solid inner and additional storm guys £185.
  • Grey tarp with mesh inner £150.

Pros

  • Ultralight at 755g.
  • Uses trekking poles, which you will be carrying anyway. Tarp pitches open or closed – a very flexible and adaptive design, for a closed-in winter shelter and an airy tarp in the summer.
  • Internal guy attached to door peg – potentially no guys visible to trip over.
  • Alternate external A-frame set up using both trekking poles allows a clear front area and easy access to the inner. Front apex can also be tied directly to a branch without poles, although this is not recommended in high winds.
  • Simple pitching once the door cord is in place to get the correct width.
  • Clear pitching instruction are included.
  • Perfect for all types of adventure. Will sit nicely in the top of a touring pannier too!
  • Excellent price.
  • Factory seam-sealed.
  • Fabric inner can also be set up on its own for warmer European or US climates.

Cons

  • Stitching needs a little more care, but overall a very robust construction.
  • Slightly longer guy lines on the front flap and four corners of the fly would allow higher pitch. However, this is a mod you can do yourself.

My verdict

A brilliant tent. Simple lines, with innovation based on a classic, closed tarp design. Cosy without being claustrophobic. Well ventilated and condensation free. And lighter than my backpack!

If anyone has any comments, please feel free to post.

From 30lb to 13lb, or how I cut my pack weight

Go to box

Welcome to my first post. I originally planned to write on all things ‘outdoors’, including my cycling – sport, leisure and adventure – fell walks, backpacking and wild camping trips, in the form of a diary. But I realised that, from your point of view, it will be a lot more useful – and probably less dull – if I share some of the knowledge I’ve gained about gear selection for backpacking and wild camping, to save you making the same mistakes that I have.

We’re brainwashed by advertising into thinking we need all sorts of fancy, expensive kit. In some cases this is true – in fact, you couldn’t survive without it – but there are other times when something simple and homemade, recycled, adapted and very often staring you in the face will do just as well, if not better.

Yes, there are thousands of blogs out there that touch on these topics, many written by people far more expert than me. But I aim to make this one slightly different. Some of what you read will be obvious to experienced backpackers and ultralighters, but I hope it will still provoke comment and discussion – and be helpful to anyone who chooses to drop by.

I want to start with some examples of gear I’ve built up over time, spread over several blogs – bite-sized chunks if you will.

In a recent Facebook post, Philip Werner of Sectionhiker.com put the ‘transitional threshold’ to become an ‘ultralight’ backpacker at a total pack weight of 10lb (4.5k). I’m still very much in the ‘lightweight’ category, as my base weight ranges from 13 to 16lb.

My reduction process from 20-30 plus has been a two-year journey so far, with what I expect to be many more miles to follow. Currently, I have no need to be ultralight, as I can comfortably carry 13 to 16lb all day. The TGO Challenge (the annual self-supported coast-to-coast walk across Scotland) is still on my bucket list, though, so who knows. Watch this space, as they say.

I’ve trialled, tested, built, re-built, sewed, trimmed, bought and sold and swapped many items of kit. I’ve listened to my peers, learned from my own uncomfortable and sometimes painful experiences, both physical and financial, but, above all, I’ve found the courage to accept when I got it wrong – and this is what I plan to share with you.

My biggest lesson learned is that there will always be better, lighter or smaller just round the corner – if you want it. Want and need are, of course, entirely different animals. More on that later!

Next post: Review: Trekkertent’s 2015 Stealth 1