I started hiking the Suffolk Coast Path last week. I made it six whole miles. By then, my body hurt all over from carrying the pack, walking three miles on a shingle beach, and I’d run out of water.
Not a great start. But it gets worse. I got sick. Very sick. Puking and unable to stand-sick. By the time my house mate got to me, I was in a bad way. And all because I hadn’t planned properly and didn’t have enough water.
Lesson learnt. I tried to run before I could walk. I’m not as fit as I’d like to think I am. And my anxiety made it impossible for me to walk up to someones house and ask for help. Hell, where I finally stopped was right next to a popular car park. There were literally dozens of people right there, who would probably have helped me if I’d asked. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.
If one wants to walk a marathon, one must be able to ask for help. Definitely need to work on that anxiety.
Anyway, I’m recovered (mostly) and having to re-plan. Obviously, I have a lot of work to do, before I can manage a long distance hike. But that’s ok. This isn’t an end. It’s a lesson.
As I’m getting ready to start the first leg of my backpacking journey, I have been watching a lot of YouTube videos on what to pack, how to pack, and ways to shave off weight from the load. There’s so much information out there, and it will be different for everyone, but that being said, there seems to be some consensus over the best order to pack things, and what the basics are that you should always have covered (even for a day hike!)
I’ve done a separate post on The 10 essentials of Hiking/Backpacking, over on Distance Hiker, but it can be summarised as: Shelter, Navigation, Light, First Aid, Sun Protection, Repair Kit, Fire, Food, Water, and Clothing. As long as you have all of these categories covered, you should be good to go. Now, obviously, I’m going to be going on a long, long (loooonnnnggggg) trek, so my kit covers all of that stuff, plus some extras for comfort.
Today I’m going to cover the big three: tent, sleep system and pack. Lets get into it, shall we?
The Big 3
I have the NatureHike Cloud Up 2. Its a lovely two person tent, with plenty of room inside for me and all my kit. I can sit up in it (which I couldn’t in the first tent I got), it has a porch where I can leave my shoes, and weighs in at a impressively light 1.8kg. It comes with a separate ground sheet, guy ropes and just enough pegs to anchor it well.
It can also be set up in a couple of different ways:
Ground sheet and fly, for when you just want to be out of the weather, but don’t need the bug protection.
Ground sheet and inner: for when you want to be able to star-gaze from inside your tent and aren’t expecting rain.
Ground sheet, inner and rain fly: for when you need protection from all the bugs and the weather. (This is how I’ve used it so far, but look forward to trying it out in the other ways as I travel).
My sleep system has four parts: airbed, pillow, sleeping bag and sleeping bag liner.
Sleeping pad/airbed: When it comes to sleep, I’m a restless, toss about all night, kinda gal. Which is why I’ve just sold my Nemo Tensor Insulated sleep pad in the regular length and mummy shape. I got it last year, when I was first planning on doing some backpacking, but having done a couple of test runs with it (in the garden and one night at a campsite) I decided that I needed a different one. I’m a plus size hiker, and the mummy shape pad was just too narrow; I kept waking up on the floor of the tent, having wiggled off the narrow pad. So, I’ve replaced it with the Nemo Quasar 3D. The tensor mummy is 51cm wide, the Quasar is 64cm wide. The Quasar is slightly heavier at 958g, but is also thicker, which will hopefully lead to a better nights sleep.
Pillow: I started off with a generic unbranded inflatable pillow from Amazon. It was ok, but I had a couple issues with it. First, it was quite thin and didn’t provide a lot of neck support. Second, it kept slip sliding around. I could not get it to stay on the airbed, and ended up having to prop it against my pack to get any sleep! I have since upgraded to the Hikenture Camping Pillow with Removable Cover. I haven’t tried it in the tent yet, but I have done a floor test, and it was 100% better than the first!
Sleeping bag: I currently have a Bessport Mummy sleeping bag, that I got off of Amazon. It’s supposedly a 4 season, good to -5 celsius, and it has a synthetic filling, so weighs a bit more than a down bag would at 1.62kg. I will probably upgrade to a down bag before winter hits, and have my eye on the Big Agnes Sidewinder sleeping bag, which is designed for side sleepers.
Sleeping bag liner: On the hottest days, I sleep in the liner, on top of my sleeping bag, but I’m one of those people who can’t sleep without something covering me. I am also a cold sleeper, so expect to need it to add some extra warmth come winter. The one I have is the Sea To Summit Reactor Extreme Thermolite regular mummy. Its soft, warm and comfy, and will probably double as a blanket when sat outside star gazing.
My original pack was from Go Outdoors, and was an 85ltr pack. It was large and heavy, and I broke the clasp on the hip belt pretty early on. The replacement I got didn’t fit the strap properly and kept slipping. So, I replaced the pack before I even moved beyond training hikes!
I now have the Blaze 60 from Granite Gear. It’s a 60ltr pack, with a lovely large stretch pocket on the front, two enormous side pockets (seriously, those things stretch waaayyyy out!) and good sized pockets on the hip belt (which my original pack didn’t have at all.) The straps are all adjustable, to get the perfect fit, and the lid/brain can be removed, either to save weight, or it can be used as a chest pack, for things you need to access on the trail.
So, that’s my big 3. In the next post, I’ll share some of the smaller things that go in my pack.
Greetings hikers, backpackers and nomadic souls! Welcome to Hiking O’Hara, my name is Jen and I am a soon-to-be long distance backpacker.
I have wanted to backpack since I was 18 (20 long years ago!) but somehow never got around to it. So, now at the grand young age of 38, I’m about to start.
I have all of my kit (mostly, just need to wait for my new sleep mat to arrive), I have a start date (it will vary depending on when the new sleep mat arrives), and I have a burning desire to see the world!
My initial plan, seeing as I’ve never actually backpacked before and I’m not in the greatest of shapes, is to start slow. I live in Suffolk, so I’m going to head towards the coast at Ipswich, and then work my way North along the Suffolk Coast Way. This gives me a safety net of not being too far from home, in case it all goes pear shaped!
If everything goes to plan, I’ll keep going. My hope is to walk the entire coastline of mainland UK, with the occasional excursion inland for interesting things. There will be bumps along the road, and detours, and most likely, several breakdowns… but I am more determined than ever to actually get out there and do this. I hope that you will join my on my journey to see what amazing adventures the UK has to offer.