Lightweight Kit

So some colleagues from work and I are forming a plan to do a long distance walk in aid of a charity.  I’ll not give out the full details in case it doesn’t work out, so if I say no more about it you’ll know others pulled out.

Our plan is to walk/cycle a long distance route in Scotland gaining sponsorship along the way.  Likely to be along the lines of one team walk one day another cycles the next etc. etc.  No firm plans at the minute in relation to distance or route but hopefully that’ll firm up soon

To that end I’ve looking to put more miles under my belt than my normal 5 – 6 mile walk.  In order to limit any damage the two exercise walks I’ve done have been close to home so I can check on the suitability of kit and my own fitness.  To that end I did Laggan and Trowan walk, previously described, twice which was okay not exactly massively interesting going over the same ground albeit form reverse directions.  The most recent walk combined Lovers Knock walk and Laggan Hill/Trowan.  Both walks were 11 – 11.5 miles with combined ascents of up to 430m.

For kit I’ve used my Kifaru 14’r loaded out with my possibles, water 3L, meths cooker, lunch, insulation level and goretex along with my RIBZ loadout.  This weekend I used the Osprey Levity 45 I just bought of eBay.  I got it, a 20l drybag and an Osprey hydration kit for £160.  Not a bad deal I thought.

I used to use lightweight kit all the time for walking/camping but a desire for luxury took over I opted for heavy more robust kit.  This walk idea came along at the right time.  My interest in a long distance walk has been sparked after watching a series of videos on Youtube.  An American lass, Dixie (trail name), has documented her walks of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail with some startingly good videos.  Her presentation to camera is really good and her story of the walks, the people and goodness she came across were quite inspiring.  Check out her videos here at Homemade Wanderlust.

Now I do have a non-illustrious history attempting long distance trail walking in the UK.  In 2001 with most of the UK closed due to the foot and mouth outbreak one of the few places open were the West Highland Way.  I was able to take the time of work for adventurous training and set off walking from Milngavie to Fort William.  I walked from Milngavie up to the top end of Loch Lomond in two days and was thoroughly bored with the monotony of the trip.  I was on my own but few of the people I met were interested in engaging.  Stopping at the end of day three I said bugger it and caught the bus to Glasgow.  Chatting to a bloke in the pub that night he said I should have started in Fort William walking south.  The part I had done was noted for being the most boring and most people having enjoyed the northerly piece just got their head down and finished the last bit to Milngavie.  I have been thinking of doing it again though.

So doing 11 – 11.5 mile in a day was easy enough and I felt on both occasions that I had more left in me to do additional mileage.  My walking boots, Salewa Alp Trainer, are comfortable and are not too heavy.  I don’t know if they’ll last to May when we plan to walk but I’d be happy to get another pair.  Trousers were Haglofs Rugged Mountain Pants Haglofs rugged mountain pants and on top an Alpkit Kepler Merino top.  The kit was great and comfortable particularly the clothes are great I just love any excuse to wear them.  The trousers excellent hard wearing, a little pricy, and the Kepler Merino is simply the best most comforable merino top I’ve ever had.  I’d wear it every day.

I am a self confessed gear hound and any excuse to buy kit is snapped up.  With thoughts of long distance walking I bought the Levity.  I used it for the first time yesterday and found it comfortable on the trail.

14’r next to my bivvy

I normally use Kifaru packs they’re robust and hard wearing.  Known for their comfort and abilty to carry heavy weights I’ve tried a lot of Kifaru packs settling on the 14’r.  You essentially strap yourself into the pack and forget about it, with the weight on your hips you barely notice it whilst walking.  There are two aluminum stays in the pack with great shoulder, chest and waist straps.  Even made out of 500d cordura it’s a heavy beast though.

The Osprey Levity 45L is completely different beast altogether.  Made of ultralight fabric it’s actually see through with a lightweight wire suspension system, good well ventilated shoulder straps and a decent waist strap.  Most packs I’ve had are bombproof throw them around then dust them off.  With the Levity I’m terrified of knackering the suspension system and the fabric.  Still, wearing it yesterday with a total of 9kg, of which was 3L of water, it felt comfortable and there was more than enough room for my kit.  My next trial will be to walk with it fully laden for overnights and longer camping.  I’ll do a more detailed review of it when I’ve been using it for longer.

Whilst walking for exercise I’ve been deliberately walking faster and using my poles most of the time.  My average speed was 4 – 5 kph which I was happy with and going up hill wasn’t bad but I was on established paths with, to be honest, gentle inclines.  I had an interesting encounter when a well built lady dog walker looked me up and down and loudly and rudely commented ‘good lord it’s like your going up the north face of the Eiger’.  Now my pack was only half full and even my RIBZ weren’t packed out.  I smiled and replied ‘really, well you’ve obviously never been there then.  I’m simply going out to get some exercise, nice dog, have a nice day’.  Manners eh!  Normally whilst out walking I wouldn’t listen to music or audiobook but with the thought of getting some potentially boring miles under my belt whilst walking I thought I’d see what it was like.  It was ok but in these walks I found it an unwelcome distraction.  Maybe if I’m bored whilst walking I’ll have it ready to go.  For my normal walks though, nah!  I miss the sound of nature and the detachment from modern life.

I did a short 5.5 mile walk with only water and my RIBZ for a short burst of exercise.  I did it in less than 2 hours.  A nice stretch of my legs.  All I need to do now is to keep up the miles.  Problem is work is getting busier and time away from home is geting more frequent!


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