Wild Walking UK

LEJOG Walk February 2019: my full gear review

Here’s my LEJOG 2019 full gear review. In February 2019 I set off from Land’s End, with the aim of finding out whether it was possible to walk to John O’Groats, wild camping all the way. You can read my blog of the walk, which included the summits of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, here.

Me at Land’s End…

My gear list for the walk is here. This blog post reviews each item in turn, reflecting whether it was worth the weight in my pack!

I took some new and untested things on my LEJOG trip, and had packed for temperatures of -8 or so which were likely during February and March. However, I was lucky and only experienced freezing temperatures on Snowdon and a relatively few days, mostly nights and early mornings. Due to the length of the trip (two months), I chose things that would last and be comfortable over this extended period, instead of just the lightest-weight items.

I will run through all the gear and give you my opinion on how well it worked and whether it lasted the trip.

….and me two months later at John O’Groats!

Rucksack – ULA Catalyst

I have used this pack many times before and it is comfortable with a heavy load and spacious, so I’ve room to spare.

The maximum weight I carried was about 16kgs when I had food for a number of days or it was a warm day (meaning most of my clothes were in the pack). Usually I carried between 10 and 12kgs, which was very comfortable. This is a 75 litre pack and I regularly filled it to the brim when restocking the food for a few days.

I was surprised that the zip failed on the left hipbelt pocket (possibly due to stuffing too much stuff in it over the years), and a number of bungee attachment points failed. However, neither of these issues caused too much of a problem. If I was walking this during the summer I could have used a smaller lighter pack. I would happily take it again; I cannot think of a better choice of pack.

Rucksack waterproof liner – Sea to Summit (Small)

The liner was essential as I do not use a pack cover. I also pack the things that must be kept dry in dry bags as well, for double protection. The Sea to Summit liner was just the right size for everything that needed to be in it and has no signs of wear. I would take it again.

Shelter – Nordisk Telemark 1 Carbon ULW

I love this tent as it is so quick to put up and take down. The flysheet and inner go up together in only a couple of minutes. I often put it up on a lunch break to dry it as it was so easy – I doubt I would have bothered to do this with a tent that was more complex to pitch

The Nordisk Telemark inspires confidence in bad weather because it is so well made and stable in strong winds. I spent a long time in it due to the long nights this time of year, and it had the perfect amount of space for me. I was able to sit up, cook, change clothes, unpack and pack my rucksack inside when it was raining.

Camped by Loch Lomond

I did have trouble with condensation on the inner of the tent, but that’s the trouble with camping in early spring. It’s always a compromise between a ‘solid’ inner for warmth (i.e. little mesh), or a full mesh inner for more breathability. I chose the warmth. It was difficult not to touch the sides if it was heavy with condensation, but just possible if I was careful.

I always felt safe in this tent when the weather was bad and it was small enough that I could usually find a pitch for it easily. It has no signs of wear and I would happily take it again. I cannot think of a better choice for this time of year, but I would consider a tent with a full mesh inner in warmer weather.

Tent Pegs

The tent only needs 4 (ideally 6) pegs. I found I used the largest of the 4 pegs most of the time, even though the smaller ones would have done the job fine, just because I was often camping on rough tall grass and they were just easier to get hold of and find. They were perfect for very wet ground too. There were a few occasions when the ground was hard and I needed to use the smaller pegs instead.

I carried more pegs than I really needed just in case I lost some during the trip (15), but I was so organised that I didn’t lose a single one. They have all lasted well with no broken or bent ones. They have all cleaned up like new again now I’m home, and I would happily use them again. I cannot think of a better choice.

Sleeping Bag – PHD  Hispar 400 K

There is an argument here for taking a synthetic bag this time of year. It probably would have been wise to if I had been unlucky with the weather and unable to dry my down bag – I might have been forced into using accommodation just so I could dry it. I considered this risk beforehand, and decided it was a risk worth taking because of the weight saving with a down sleeping bag compared to a synthetic one.

I love this sleeping bag. It has been on many trips with me and I trust it, so I couldn’t imagine leaving it behind. This is true for most of my PHD gear, actually.

My sleeping bag often got damp from condensation but I could usually dry it during the day. A few nights it was still damp and not keeping as warm, but I just slept in more clothes. I am a cold sleeper and much below freezing I tend to add my down jacket or Icebreaker vest to my usual sleep wear but these were rarely needed this trip. This is my trusty sleeping bag and I can’t imagine a long-distance trip without it.

Neo Air Pump Sack

I always used the Neo air pump sack to blow up my Thermarest to minimise moisture getting into the Thermarest from my breath, and it worked well.

It was also plenty big enough to store my sleeping bag in. I don’t like to pack my sleeping bag as small as possible, as I try to protect the down as much as I can. With this sack, I could put it into my rucksack with the sleeping bag loosely in it, then push all the air out. This meant it fit the space in the pack. It worked really well and I would definitely take it again.

Down Socks – PHD Wafer Down

I wore my down socks every night with liner socks and never had cold feet. This is impressive for me, as I suffer with poor circulation and my feet are usually freezing.

I would take them again because they are so light weight for the warmth.

Pants – Rohan

These were worn for the first few days of my LEJOG. While changing in the car in Perranporth (where I said goodbye to my family, who had walked with me for the first few days), I forgot to put them back in my pack as spares. Oops.

From previous experience, I know that they wear well, dry quickly and rarely smell. I would take them again as lightweight spares. As long as I remember to pack them.

Pants – EDZ – merino

The EDZ pants were brand new and untested before my LEJOG. I had planned on wearing these when it was cold and relying on my tested Rohan pants most of the time, but having left the Rohan pants in the car I found myself with these as my only pants.

I intended to buy some more pants but I am a bit fussy, so by the time I finally passed a Rohan store (a long way up the country) I had fallen for these. I was able to wash them, wring them out and, if I had to, put them straight back on wet. Being merino wool they felt comfortable and warm within minutes of putting them on – I would forget they were wet and before I knew it they were dry.

I never slept in the pants as that is what my leggings were for, but I wore them every day for nearly two months. They never smelt too bad, changed shape or became uncomfortable.

They would be too warm to use in summer, but they were perfect for this trip. Unbelievably, they show no signs of wear and I will be using them again and buying some more. I am extremely impressed with them. Highly recommended. Just take more than one pair…

Top – L/S Helly Hansen (100% merino wool)

This was new and a surprise as I slept in it every night. It was warm and never seemed to smell. I would happily take it again on a another trip, but it would be too warm for summer use.

Leggings – Rab merino+ 120   

These were also new and warmer than I expected. They did the job well but did smell and need washing every few days. Luckily, they dried fairly quickly.

They are good but I would only take them if I was expecting freezing temperatures every night. Otherwise I would take a thin synthetic pair or a silt sleeping bag liner.

Trousers – PHD Sigma

I normally sleep in these when its extra cold, but I sent them home at the first opportunity because the Rab leggings were warmer than I expected them to be, and the nights weren’t that cold on my trip.

Down Jacket – PHD Yukon K  

I love this jacket as it is so warm and cosy for its weight. It’s rare that I don’t carry it. It is so soft that I can sleep in it if it’s extra cold, and I carry it as an emergency layer too. I would definitely take again and cannot think of anything that would do the job better for the weight.

Balaclava – OR 

The balaclava was great to sleep in when it was extra cold but I only needed it a few times.

I like to wear a balaclava at night to protect my down sleeping bag from sweat and dirt. It was nice to have, invaluable on the few days I did need it and I would take it again.

Sleeping Bag Cover – PHD

This was new and untested before leaving home, and I sent it home at first opportunity.

It seemed to trap condensation inside and make my sleeping bag damp, probably due to the temperatures being higher than expected. I think it needs more air flow around it to work properly and would be best used more like a bivi bag under a tarp.

Mats – Thermarest NeoAir Small and Exped closed cell foam shaped

I was going to take my Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm sleeping mat, but at the last minute changed to the above mats. They added up to a similar total weight, but not quite so good insulation value.

I did this because the small NeoAir is easier to blow up in a small space inside the tent. It is also quicker to inflate and deflate which matters when you’re having to do it so often. The Exped mat is very tough and resists damage, protecting the inflatable mat from punctures. This meant I still had some comfort and insulation if it did go down.

This decision was a good one as I was camping on rough ground every night and the two together smoothed stony and bumpy ground out well, giving me a lot more choices for pitching the tent. The NeoAir mat seemed to deflate slightly some nights, but I am yet to find a puncture in it. The Exped mat is the toughest closed cell foam I’ve used but it has got a few marks from being carried on the outside of my pack.

I found that the Neoair and Exped mat combination stayed in place better when I was camped on a slope. Neither slipped down hill in the night. Which can be a problem when the Neoair mat is used on its own on the nylon ground sheet as both materials are so smooth.

I would happily take this combination again, but I would also consider just taking a full size Thermarest. This would be more comfortable to sleep on and would save having a roll mat strapped to the outside of my pack. However, I would need be more careful where I camped.

Pillow – Sea to Summit 

I used this pillow because it is slightly larger and more comfortable than the lightest weight pillows available, but during the trip it started going down and needed blowing up during the night 2 or 3 times.

I took it a seam had failed but on returning home, I found a puncture in it. I haven’t a clue how this happened, I should have checked while I was away as I could have repaired it and had a better night’s sleep.

Cooking Equipment

Stove – Vargo Titanium Triad multi fuel (meths)

I have used this little stove a lot, as it is so light weight and simple. It still amuses me that it will heat the water on so little meths. You do need to be careful with it though, especially if using inside a tent, as the flame can get fairly high if its windy or you’ve over filled it. Pouring the left over meths back into the bottle can be tricky, but that’s a small price to pay for such great stove. I would take it again.

Windbreak and alloy base

The stove windbreak worked well and folded up easily to fit inside my pot. The alloy base was essential to stop the stove or any meths spillage setting fire to the undergrowth. I would take them again.


Pot + Lid – Evernew 600ml

This was only used for heating water in and was the perfect size. It was used everyday and has worn well. I like the rubber on the handles as it saves burning your fingers. I would take them again.

Can opener

Sent home unused.

Knife – Deejo Naked pocket knife

This little knife was quite handy and surprisingly sharp. I mainly used it for opening tough food packaging. I would take again.

Knife – Sea to Summit

I didn’t use it much and I could have done without it. I wouldn’t take it again.

Spoon – Sea to Summit

Essential and lasted well, really strong for its weight. I would take it again.


Gas Lighter/Matches

I didn’t need the matches as the lighter never failed me. I would take them again, though, as an emergency back up.

Socks 

I wear liner socks to help stop blisters, but the boots were so good that the liner socks were not really needed.

I also took a variety of socks to test and change regularly, limiting blisters. The Rohan socks were thicker around the heel and toes and seemed to fill the boots too much, jamming my toes together. This caused blisters after a few hundred miles, as my feet spread. I sent these home when I realised.

The Teko socks were good and lasted well, but after they had done around 400 miles they felt a little rough underneath so I binned them, purchasing a pair of Bridgedale Hikers instead. These did not last as well as I had expected and started looking rough within a few hundred miles.

The Darn Tough socks are by far the best socks I have ever used. I walked over 600 miles in them and as long as they are rinsed out regularly they still feel soft and comfortable. I have washed them twice at home and will happily wear them on another walk as they still feel and look in really good condition. The socks with merino wool in felt better when wet than the synthetic socks and I didn’t notice a difference in drying times, but all the socks smelt really bad really quickly. The boots staying so smooth inside are the reason the socks lasted so long. I will definitely take Darn Tough socks again; I am seriously impressed with them.

Darn tough socks at top (after 600 miles); Bridgedale at the bottom (after 200 miles). Darn Tough are in better condition.

Gloves/Mitts

The PHD Mitts were only really needed on Snowdon and were carried as an emergency/spare pair. The Rab Xenon mitts were new and untested but a lot warmer than expected. I kept these as my only gloves after Inverness because they were so light weight for their warmth.

The Rab windbloc convertible mitts were great and I wore them every morning, sometimes all day, until I sent them home at Inverness to save weight. There is no sign of wear on them and I am very impressed as they were gripping walking poles most of the time.

I would take all these again. I could have done without the PHD Mitts, but that’s a risk if I had lost or soaked the others or if it had been colder.

Vest – Icebreaker Descender – merino wool

This was warm, comfortable, not washed once in the 2 months but never smelt bad. I sometimes slept in it but mainly it was carried as an emergency or spare layer. I would take it again.

Vest/Bodywarmer – PHD – Down

The PHD bodywarmer was nice to have on cold mornings and when I stopped for a break. I mainly used it for laying over my sleeping bag, on my legs, on cold nights. It was nice to have and I would take it again.

Jacket – windproof/warm Jack Wolfskin AirLoch (L)

I took this to wear to protect  my waterproof jacket from unnecessary wear, so keeping it waterproof for longer. The Airloch jacket also breathes a lot better, keeping me less sweaty. I am a medium size but I got this in a large so it fits over everything if it was extra cold. It was new and untested but I could have done without it, or possibly used this instead of my softshell jacket which I did after Inverness, when I sent the softshell jacket home saving a lot of weight.

I am not sure it would have lasted very well if used for the whole trip as it is made from light weight materials. However, it did come in handy for covering the bottom of my sleeping bag and protecting it from condensation, as the sleeping bag was often up against the inner. I would take it again. 

Jacket – Softshell – Rab Sawtooth

I had this on nearly all the time as it is the perfect outer layer in the cold. It is comfortable, tough, water resistant, windproof but breathable. I loved the massive pockets which always had my convertible mitts, hat, head band, buff and phone in the pockets, always to hand if I needed them. I also often had food in the pockets so I didn’t need to stop for breakfast etc, so I could eat while on the move.

It is a great jacket and was perfect during the blizzards I had, as I was able to pull the hood in tight around my face. I would happily take it again if I was likely to be wearing it most of the time, but it is heavy and I did notice the weight added to the pack when it was being carried. So now knowing it wasn’t as cold as expected I would take a light weight windproof jacket instead.

Top – Rab Polartec power stretch hoody

This is a really warm, comfortable and breathable top and in the temperatures I had wasn’t worn for too long. I put it on most mornings and within an hour was taking it off because I was sweating. It spent most of its time in my pack and because it is reasonably weighty I would have been better not taking it and making more use of the down vest/bodywarmer.

It is better used as a base layer rather than the mid layer that I was using it for. It did smell quite quickly and took its time to dry. I would take it again if I was taking a windproof jacket instead of the Rab softshell jacket, otherwise a microfleece top would probably have been fine instead.

Top – Inov8 AT/C long sleeve merino

I am new to merino wool. I would normally wear synthetic base layers (and will continue to in the summer as I sweat quickly), but in the colder weather I had on LEJOG this top was perfect. When I got wet or if I had just washed it I could wear it to dry it, as it never felt cold even if it was soaked. It never seemed to smell too bad either, even after a number of days without washing it. I wore it every day and it has held its shape well but it has faded quite a bit from the sun. I would definitely take it again.

Trousers – Montane Terra

These were old and well used when I started. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the zip on the pocket failed mid way, which was a pain as the pockets are mesh and it created a cold draught. The belt also broke and being integral to the trousers I couldn’t put a new belt on them, causing obvious problems. I also found they stuck to my legs when I was sweating and climbing steeply.

I know most people swear by these trousers but I am not a massive fan; possibly the newer ones are better. On a positive note, they are surprisingly warm for their thickness, extremely hard wearing, and wind and water resistant. The vent zips on both legs work very well too. I would not take again as I prefer stretchy, softshell-type trousers.

Leggings – Rab Polartec power stretch

I like these because they are so comfortable and warm. I was expecting to wear them under the Terra trousers but due to the weather being better than expected, I sent them home at the first opportunity to save weight. I would take them again if I was not taking the PHD insulated trousers.

Trousers – PHD Sigma

These synthetic insulated trouser were taken to sleep in if it got extra cold, but I sent them home at first opportunity to save weight. I initially regretted that decision after a few cold nights but ended up laying my down vest/bodywarmer over the sleeping bag which solved that.

Walking boots – Inov8 Roclite 345 GTX


size UK 9 – I never expected them to last that long and still got tread on after 1200 miles, amazing. I have done a full review of these here

Insoles

I found that after a few hundred miles, the insoles supplied with the boots felt thin and I could feel the rough ground. (This may have just been my feet getting sore due to the mileage.) I changed them for my Superfeet insoles and they lasted well and felt more comfortable. I did start having trouble with sore toes and the odd blister for a while at about this time and the Gore-tex lining in the boots also failed. I am not sure if any of this is related. The original insoles look fine but more research is needed on this. I would take spare insoles again.

Gaiters – Rab – eVent

Tough and breathable, kept my trousers clean and dry and dirt/snow out of my boots well, but I often had them hanging on my pack because it was so warm. Because of the large amount of surfaced paths, tracks and roads that I walked on I didn’t need them that often and could have possibly done without them to save weight. I wouldn’t take them again but would possibly take mini gaiters next time.

Hat – Rohanwide brim waterproof

I could have done without it but it was nice to have instead of having my hood up. It was also useful for keep the sun out of my eyes, as I didn’t have sun glasses.

Buff – Rohan – merino

Worn a lot of the time but I found it didn’t fit tight enough around my neck so I would take a normal Buff next time.

Head Band – Extremities fleece

I like it, it weighs next to nothing, it goes on all trips, that’s final. I hate having cold ears.

Walking Poles – Helinox Passport TL

Left in the car at Perranporth after breaking one slipping over. So I used my Black Diamond Trail trekking poles instead, which were good and apart from the inevitable scratches, are still in perfect condition. They did the job well but are 200g heavier than the Helinox poles, which is noticeable when they are strapped to the pack. This is why I was taking the lighter ones originally.

The extra weight didn’t cause as much trouble as expected, though, because I ended up using them a lot more than I thought I would. I would take them again but would prefer a lighter weight pair. I find walking poles essential on most of my walks; they take so much stress off my knees when descending and using my arms helps a lot climbing with a full pack, meaning I walk further in a day.

I also find I can walk faster on slippery or uneven ground with poles, it’s a lot easier to keep balanced and it takes some weight off my feet so there’s less chance of slipping.

Solar Panel and Flip 10

Luckily I had good weather and a lot of sunshine so the solar panel worked well charging everything. I also charged up in the pubs and cafes as well, so I had no problems with shortage of power or anything going flat.

If I hadn’t had full sun or if I was staying in accommodation regularly it would have been a waste of time carrying the solar panel. The Flip 10 was the ideal size and weight to take. I would probably save the weight and not take the solar panel next time – I’d take the Flip 10 or 20 and 2 or 3 USB plugs and charge them.

Head torch – Petzl Bindi – rechargable

I had no trouble with my head torch at all. It never went flat and the lowest light setting was fine to walk with, on reasonably safe paths. It gave an ideal amount of light inside the tent, where it was used most early on, when the nights were so long. It is light weight, tough and comfortable to wear. I would take it again.

Sunglasses

On the gear list but somehow left at home.

First Aid Kit + Mirror

Luckily I only needed a few sore throat sweets and plasters. I also used the small Savlon tub and had to buy another. I found this worked really well repairing my feet overnight. Wouldn’t change anything.


Repair Kit 

I only needed the sewing kit but would take it all again.

Wash Kit

Not needed….. No. All worked as intended and especially pleased with the soap leaves.

Water filter – MSR Guardian Water Purifier Pump

Yes it’s heavy, but it’s quick and easy to filter safe drinking water. This is the only water filter that I know of that filters all the potential nasties out of the water. I have had it for years and always carry it. I justify the weight because I rarely need to carry much water (which is heavy). I just carry a 500ml drinks bottle and filter water as it’s needed. That only works in the wet UK where we are never that far from water – don’t try this abroad! I would definitely take it again and I cannot think of a better choice.

Gear lists.

5 thoughts on “LEJOG Walk February 2019: my full gear review

  1. Really enjoyed following your trip, and interesting to have the details of your kit here. There are a few things there that I might think of adopting myself, so thank you. Obviously we all make our own choices, but I was just struck by your water filter. I can see that a filter like the MSR Guardian is good when the whole family is with you, and I might think of getting something similar for our own family trips, but for solo use I really would think about trying something like a Sawyer Mini – I’m sure it’s a bit slower than the Guardian, but for 500mls at a time I don’t think you’d notice it, and it looks to me as though it weighs about a tenth as much. It’s certainly become my goto filter over the past few years – its small enough and light enough that it sits at the bottom of a side pocket of my daysack even for short walks. Just a thought, and thanks again for the inspiring account of your walk.

    1. Hello Patrick
      I use the MSR Gaurdian Filter because it is the only filter that removes all viruses. With all the sheep, cattle and deer around every where, I don’t take any chances. It also gives me a lot more choices of water sources I am able to use, I am not always out in the wilds.
      Thank you for your advice and interest. I am glad its been worth while writing these blogs. I am currently working on a comparison of 5 tents that I could have used on the LEJOG. Telemark 1 and 2, Terra Nova: Laser Pulse, Photon and Competition 1. I have just put them up in the garden to photograph when a cloud came over and it started to rain… fun
      Thanks again
      Mark

  2. My two main hiking tents are the Telemark 1 ULW carbon and a Laser Comp 1.
    On my Pennine Way trip five years ago I started with the Telemark, but finished with the Laser – the Telemark broke! I was concerned when you started as to whether the tent would last.
    The problem is the tight pole sleeve on the Telemark, on two occasions pitching a wet fly in strong winds I had pole separation resulting in pole breaking (carbon) and punctured pole sleeve (alloy)! I note that you changed the supplied titanium v pegs for skewers – I’ve done the same (I broke the titanium v-pegs). I agree that condensation is a problem with the Telemark.
    Its best feature is the quicker pitching since it only needs 4 pegs.
    The Laser is undoubtedly a tougher & drier tent – but it is heavier and colder.

    I use a Travel Tap for my water – its filter is built into the bottle top. Just scoop up the water in the bottle and filter as you use it. Quick and easy. I believe they are issued to the Army when deployed abroad.

    You don’t say what make and model your solar panel is – I’ve used several and have never been completely happy with any!

    I enjoyed your blog – it’s encouraged me to do some more wild camping (I normally only do about 1 night in seven) – but then I must cook breakfast – I’m dead without it!

    Stuart

    1. Hello Stuart
      Thank you for your message. I agree with you on the tents, I like them both for different reasons. I have had no problems with either tent. I have used the Competition 1 a lot, including on the Cape Wrath trail but I do like the Telemark 1 because its so easy to pitch. You may have just been unlucky with a badly manufactured poll as mines been fine. I must have put it up nearly 100 times now.
      The Solar Panel is the Goalzero Nomad7+ I was very lucky with having a lot of sunshine or it would have been useless, as it only works when facing into full sun.
      I have to eat well too. I found it make a massive difference to my mood and the distance I walked in a day, that’s why I ate out so much on my LEJOG walk. I like the dehydrated breakfasts meals, 1000kcal ones are available but are too much for me, I find 600kcal enough for me.
      I like to wild camp because of the freedom it allows with nothing booked and I don’t earn much so it saves a lot of money. I could’t have done the LEJOG if I had to pay for accommodation.
      Thanks again
      Mark

      1. I like the Telemark – I just wish it was quite so fragile. Nordisk wanted £250 for a replacement pole! They wouldn’t supply a single section as replacement, so I switched to the alloy pole at <£100 and only 28g heavier. I certainly have more confidence in it. I find it significant that Terra Nova, despite their passion for weight reduction, don't use carbon fibre for any of their hoops.
        I camp for the same reasons as you – accommodation for a single hiker is stupidly expensive, and I like to vary my route on the fly as it were.

        Stuart

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