In June 2020, as soon as lockdown #1 restrictions allowed, I set off from Dover to walk and wild camp the length of Great Britain. 53 days later I ended up at Cape Wrath. You can read my account of the walk on this blog, starting here.
This gear review post reflects on each item I took with me on this walk in turn, and whether it was worth the weight in my pack. You can read my complete gear list here.
My wife met up with me every week or so, meaning that I was able to take the minimum amount of gear and change things as I went. I knew I only had a week or so to wait if I’d got it wrong or something failed.
This walk is going to be different to last years Lands End to John O’Groats walk. Covid-19 changed things quite a bit as many places I could have stopped in to eat or resupply were not open. I also wanted to stay as self-sufficient as possible, as this felt a safer option for me and everyone else. As a result I often needed to carry a week’s worth of food.
My biggest issue by far, especially down south, was water. I had long stretches without any water at all, so on occassions I was carrying up to 3kgs of water as well.
Footwear gear review
Inov-8 Roclite G 275 shoes
I used the Inov-8 Roclite G 345 GTX boots last year when I walked 1,200 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I got on well with them, even though the uppers were shredded by the end. However, they are a waterproof boot and I walked LEJOG in February.
I was walking from Dover to Cape Wrath in the summer. In the (hopefully) warmer and drier weather, I wanted more breathable footwear. So I set off in the Inov-8 Roclite G 275 shoes.
The Inov-8 Roclite G 275 shoes were great in the heat. Even when they got wet, they pumped the water out and my socks dried fairly quickly.
The soles were still in really good condition by the time I reached Scotland, with plenty of tread depth left. However, just as with the Roclite 345s on my LEJOG walk, holes had started to form in the mesh on the uppers. They had been perfect for the lowland part of the walk though, and I probably could have completed the walk in them. But changed them because I wanted more ankle support on the steeper slopes in Scotland.
Salomon X Ultra mid 3 Aero
For that reason, I changed into the Salomon X Ultra mid 3 Aero walking boots as I joined the much rougher Cape Wrath Trail. These Salomon boots were comfortable from day one and I hadn’t even needed to wear them in. They are breathable boots with no waterproof liner, so my feet stayed drier from sweat in the heat.
I would happily do the whole walk again in either of these, but I’m glad I was able to change from the shoes to the boots in Scotland. It worked really well having fresh new boots with full deep tread walking the rougher parts of Scotland. If I had to walk it in just one pair of footwear, in summer, I would wear the new Inov-8 RocFly G 390 walking boots.
My choice to walk the whole route in breathable footwear paid off and I am very pleased with my choice. It was great walking in the heat and not having sweaty feet. I also had very little issue with blisters or problems with my feet during the walk.
A note of warning, though: breathable footwear can let small grit and dirt in. This can wear socks out faster. I found that after walking along Sandwood beach, I had to tip the sand out of my boots because so much had got through the breathable mesh.
Insoles gear review
I found that the insoles supplied with my Inov-8 shoes started to feel thin after about 300 hundred miles. So I changed them for Superfeet insoles that I had used on my LEJOG walk last year. They felt much more comfortable and lasted the rest of the walk and more.
I also used the Superfeet insoles in my Salomon boots. The Salomon insoles were comfortable, but I found that when the boots got soaked the insoles rucked up under my feet and became very uncomfortable.
I would take green Superfeet insoles again. I would probably wear them from the start in the Salomon boots but the insoles supplied with the Inov-8 shoes were fine for the first few hundred miles.
Rucksacks gear review
I set off from Dover with the AtomPacks Prospector 60L rucksack. The Prospector is good and only weighs 1kg, but I was pushing its maximum comfortable weight of around 15kgs. I found that I was overloading it too often so I changed my rucksack a number of times during the walk. I wanted a pack that was designed for heavier loads, with more shoulder and hip belt padding.
I first used the AtomPacks Prospector 60L rucksack walking across Scotland in 2018 on the TGO Challenge. This is a great rucksack for light weight hiking but I found that my shoulders were hurting with all the weight. I was having to carry a lot more water than expected and at least a weeks food. This was a lot more weight than the rucksack was designed for.
I decided to change the AtomPacks Prospector for a Gregory Optic 58L rucksack (62L in the long back version) at my first resupply point. The Gregory was definitely more comfortable with 15kg or more in it, due to the extra padding in the hip belt and shoulder straps. The compromise was the heavier weight of the pack itself, 1.3kg, but it was well worth it in comfort.
I really liked the Gregory pack, it’s got great features for such a lightweight and is a well-priced pack. Unfortunately, though, the hip belt seam started to come apart (they did repair it for free). I replaced it with my trusty 10-year old ULA Catalyst rucksack.
I had used the ULA Catalyst last year on my 1200 mile LEJOG walk and many others in the last 9 years. It’s got fairly tatty and a hip belt pocket zip is broken, so I hadn’t intended using it for long distance hiking anymore. But it carried the weight well and finished the walk with me again, with no issues at all. I have now replaced the ULA Catalyst with a Granite Gear Blaze 60L pack for winter hiking and when I need to carry heavier loads. I would have happily purchased another ULA Catalyst but they are now just too expensive in the UK for me.
Tent gear review
I used the new updated Tarptent Notch Li and loved it. I can’t fault it in any way.
It was great having two porches, so whichever way the wind was blowing I could always have one side open out of the wind. I could store all my gear in one side and there was still room to cook, leaving the other side clear for get in and out of the tent. Being dyneema, it’s extremely light weight for its size too.
The Notch Li stood up well to strong winds and was extremely quick and easy to put up or take down. However I did find that I used bigger pegs than I do with other tents. As the Notch has so few pegging points, it has more pressure on each peg when it’s windy.
The tent allowed good air flow through it, which meant it was really good at controlling condensation. I rarely had to put it up during the day to dry it, like I’ve had to do with previous tents. It was also possible to fold the tent up if the outside of the flysheet was wet and keep the inner tent dry, The nature of the dyneema material means that it doesn’t soak through to to the inner while it’s packed.
I would probably take the Tarptent Notch Li again, it did the job well but is quite delicate and expensive.
Tent pegs gear review
The Notch Li only needs 4 pegs to pitch it securely, and 2 more pegs for the guylines when it’s windy or you want the porches fully open. I mostly used all 6 pegs and pegged the guylines out every time, mainly so I could open all the doors if I wanted to for maximum ventilation and views. (Although the midges in Scotland often had different ideas…)
I found I mostly used the largest of the pegs I had, the 9″ long MSR core pegs. I was often camping on rough tall grass and they were just easier to get hold of and find.
I didn’t use the titanium pegs once, mainly because the ground was reasonably soft and the MSR pegs have a nice red cap on so they are easier to push into the ground and find amongst the long grass in the morning. They have been on many trips and are still as good as new. I would definitely take these again.
Sleep system gear review
Sleeping Bag and Liner
I used a 392g summer sleeping bag +8C and a 282g merino wool liner. The liner kept my sleeping bag clean and stopped my body sweat soaking into the down. This combination worked well and was often all I slept in. Occasionally I added my Inov-8 at/c merino hoody if I needed a bit more warmth.
The Cocoon merino wool sleeping bag liner was very cosy and nice to sleep in. It also seemed to control my body temperature really well. I didn’t wash it at all during the two-month walk and it didn’t smell too bad by the end. The Cocoon merino wool weighs 282 grams and heavier than a silk one would have been. But it was warmer, meaning I didn’t need to carry the weight of sleep clothes, so this mitigated the weight. I liked sleeping in it a lot and I’ll never go back to using a silk sleeping bag liner again. I would definitely take it again.
Roll Mats (yes, plural)
On multi-night hiking trips I use two sleeping mats. Then if one fails, I still have something to sleep on. On this trip I used a Klymit Inertia O Zone (inc. pillow) and a Klymit Inertia X Lite small.
One of the sleeping mats on its own is not especially comfortable, but I have found putting both together is much better.
I liked the system and I slept well on them. They didn’t weigh too much or take up much space in my pack. They were very quick to blow up, so it was easy to make camp every night. This really matters when you’re doing it every night for nearly two months!
If I walked it again I would happily take them both, or go back to my heavier system of the Thermarest Neoair Xlite and a closed cell foam mat. This worked well as a ground sheet, protecting the blow up mattress from punctures.
Cooking equipment gear review
I always use the Vargo Triad titanium multi fuel stove, with methylated spirits.
This little stove has been on all my wild camping trips in the last 4 years. It’s very light weight, with no technical parts that can fail and is very economical.
It can be a little slow boiling water and tricky to use, especially if it’s windy. You do need to be careful with it, especially if used inside a tent (not recommended). The flame can get fairly high if the methylated spirits gets over hot or its windy. Also pouring any unburnt meths back into the bottle can be tricky too, but that’s a small price to pay for such a light weight stove.
I would definitely take the Vargo Triad multifuel stove again. It’s a great little stove for no stress simplicity and light weight.
Pot + Lid
I only used the 600ml Evernew titanium pot for heating water. It holds just enough water for the dehydrated meals I was using and heating up water for making coffee. It’s the perfect size for one person and also fits the Vargo Triad stove perfectly.
I particularly like the rubber on the handles and lid as it saves burning my fingers. It’s expensive but really light weight and tough. I’ve been using it for about 4 years and it’s got a couple of small dents in it now, but looks like it’ll last for ever. I would definitely take this again.
Stove windscreen and alloy base
The Vargo windscreen worked well and folded up easily to fit inside my 600ml Evernew pot. The alloy base was essential to stop the stove or any meths spillage setting fire to the undergrowth. It was taken from my MSR Windscreen set.
I could have taken the complete set instead of my Vargo aluminium windscreen. It’s bigger and would have protected the stove from the wind better, but I was happy with the Vargo windscreen. This was mainly because it packed so easily inside my pot with a lighter and I could keep everything together.
I used the 18g Esbit long handled spoon for the whole trip. It’s not the lightest weight long handle spoon available – for example, I’ve used the 12g Sea to Summit long handle spoon on previous trips. However, I like the Esbit spoon because it’s got a larger head,. This makes it quicker to eat the food in dehydrated bags before it goes cold. The Esbit spoon also has a smoother head than the Sea to Summit spoon, making it nicer to eat with.
The Esbit spoon has holes in the handles to keep it light weight, but I found I had to be careful with it or it would bend. I didn’t have this issue with the Sea to Summit spoons.
I’m not sure that I would take it again. The Sea to Summit one would be fine and I would happily us that one instead.
I’ve been using a titanium 400ml mug for a few years now. It’s lasting really well and only weighs 62g. I could save weight and drink from the Evernew pan, but I like to have a coffee while I’m heating more water up in the pan for my meal. The mug is also nicer to drink from when I’ve managed to refill the platypreserve with wine or sloe gin.
Water bottles gear review
Platypus hydration reservoir and tube
I started the walk using a 103g Platypus hydration reservoir and tube. After a few hundred miles, I replaced this with 35g old Lucozade bottle for drinking from. I did this for a number of reasons: to save weight, because it was a bit of a pain to keep getting the Platypus back into a full rucksack, but mainly because water was in short supply. With the Platypus, I never knew how much I had left and when I was going to run out.
2-litre Evernew reservoir
With the Lucozade bottle, I could easily tell how much I had left and refill it from my 2L Evernew reservoir. I had been carrying the Evernew reservoir anyway, just for filling up before camping for the night.
Platypreserve wine carrier
I carried a Platypreserve for wine the whole way. I know this was a real luxury, but it made my walk really enjoyable. I refilled it nearly every time I resupplied, then enjoyed a mug or two of wine the following evenings. This was a real pleasure after a long day’s hiking, and meant I spent less time in pubs (a bonus in this time of Covid -19).
Water filter gear review
I use the MSR Gaurdian water purifier pump. Yes, I know it’s heavy and expensive but I love it.
I can filter water safely from nearly any source and it’s so quick and easy to use. This is the only water filter I know of that filters all the potential nasties out of the water (except chemicals).
I wasn’t able to us it as much as I would have liked lower down the country because it was summer and there were very few water sources running well enough to filter from. So I could have got away with not carrying it for the first few hundred miles of the walk, and just purchased water from shops or asked to refill my bottle in pubs.
However, I used it a lot from the Pennine Way onwards. This meant I didn’t need to carry much water most of the time; I just filtered it as and when I needed it. Water is heavy and that saved me the weight of the filter.
I would definitely take the MSR Gaurdian water purifier pump again. I cannot think of a better choice.
Midge head net gear review
The midge head net was absolutely essential for walking in Scotland in the summer. I was also surprised to need it at the northern end of the Pennine Way.
I used the net a lot in last couple of weeks in Scotland. If I hadn’t had the head net with me at this point, I would have not been able to finish the walk. The midges were terrible and drove me mad even with the head net on.
I would definitely take Smidge head net with me anytime I’m anywhere near Scotland between May and October.
Walking poles gear review
I set off with a pair of 354g Fizan Compact hiking poles because I expected to be carrying them a lot. However, I quickly found I was using them more than expected, so I changed to a pair of 527g Black Diamond Trail Pro poles.
The main reason for switching was because the Black Diamond poles were easier to adjust. I’d found that I needed to adjust the poles a few times when putting the tent up to get it to pitch right. I used the Fizan poles on the Cape Wrath Trail in 2017 and they’ve lasted well, but I only tend to use them if they’re likely to be carried for part of the walk because they are so lightweight.
I find the lever locks on the Black Diamond poles easier than the twist locks on the Fizan poles. It made it easier as I often fiddled around with the length of the poles to perfect the height of the Notch Li, depending on the ground conditions and how much ventilation I wanted under it.
The Black Diamond Trail Pro poles were good and apart from the inevitable scratches, are still in perfect condition. I find walking poles essential on most of my walks; they take so much stress off my knees when descending. Using my arms helps a lot climbing with a full pack, and means I can 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. I was happy with these poles and would take them again.
Technology gear review
I used my Ulefone Armor rugged smart phone for navigation, as a camera, phone and GPS.
I also download the OS 1/50,000 mapping for the whole of the UK onto the phone. That way I wasn’t reliant on getting a phone signal for navigation. It was the only mapping I had for route finding until I reached Scotland. Then I carried actual maps that I printed off with the Scottish National Trail route highlighted on, as I didn’t want to risk getting stuck with a flat phone battery.
However, I still relied on the phone most of the time, because it was more convenient. Whenever I looked at the map, the GPS would also show me where I was and because I’d stopped, I would often take some pictures at the same time. The phone had 3,886 pictures stored on it by the time I returned home, and still had space for more.
It is fairly heavy at 341grams, but I’ve found the battery life is worth the weight. It saves the need to carry a power pack to keep recharging the phone. I can usually hike for about 2 weeks between charges, and that’s using the phone all the time for map reading and photography. It’s often on flight mode to save power, so it’s not looking for a signal all the time though.
The Ulefone Armor rugged smart phone is ideal for long distance hiking and wild camping trips, because it’s pretty tough and waterproof. It’s great to have just one thing to do various jobs. I’ve found it gives me the confidence to do trips that I probably wouldn’t have done without it.
I would definitely take the Ulefone Armor rugged smart phone again. I love it and wouldn’t feel safe hiking without it.
Head torch gear review
I had no trouble with my rechargeable Petzl Bindi head torch at all. It never went flat and the lowest light setting was fine to walk with, on reasonably safe paths.
The torch gave an ideal amount of light inside the tent, which is where I used it most early on (when the nights were longest). It is lightweight, tough and comfortable to wear. I would take it again.
First Aid Kit gear review
Luckily I only needed a few plasters and a small amount of the Savlon out of this. I always carry a mirror in my first aid kit, in case I get something in my eye and mainly to check myself for ticks etc.
During the walk I used a few plasters to give a blister time to repair and used the Savlon on my feet, which worked really well repairing my feet overnight. I wouldn’t add, remove or change anything in the kit.
Repair kit gear review
Luckily I didn’t need to repair anything, but wouldn’t change it because I’d rather err on the safe side just in case. This is an area I could possibly save some weight, but who knows what I’ll need and when. So I would take it all again.
Wash kit gear review
This doesn’t weigh much and all worked perfectly. I really like the light weight Soap Leaves and as long as I keep them dry, they work really well. I used disposable antibacterial wet wipes every day for main hygiene. I carry a small towel and it did the job well.
I didn’t find it easy to find places to wash in, partly because of toilet blocks being closed due to Covid-19. It was also hard to find rivers to wash in because there were so many people around. This was mainly due to the long daylight hours and the route following a lot of canals, which I don’t feel are flowing fast enough and clean enough to wash in. to I wouldn’t change anything in the wash kit, I just need to use it more often…
Sit mat gear review
I carried a Thermarest Z-Seat to sit on when the ground was hard or wet. This was a luxury I could have done without, but it only weighed 57g. It was also handy to kneel on when setting up everything inside the tent when the ground was wet or muddy.
It’s another luxury item but I would take definitely it again.
Clothing gear review
My wife was meeting up and resupplying me every week to ten days. This meant I was often changing clothes, either because they needed washing or because of a change in weather or terrain.
Socks – Darn Tough
I ended up wearing the Darn Tough Light Hiker socks most of the time. They were just right for the hot weather, worn inside the Inov-8 Roclite G 275 shoes. When I reached Scotland and changed to the Salomon X Ultra mid 3 Aero walking boots, I used the thicker Darn Tough Hiker socks as well.
Darn Tough socks are great. They stay comfortable when wet and last a lot longer than any other socks I’ve ever used. They don’t smell too bad after days of wear and are reasonably warm when wet. I would definitely take them again.
Socks – Sealskinz
I also carried some Sealskinz waterproof socks which came in handy on a few wet sections of the walk. They were comfortable and kept my feet dry and warm. However, when worn all day I did find they got quite damp inside from sweat. They also smelt bad pretty quickly.
The waterproof socks are not so nice to wear. They are heavy and stay in my pack most of the time, but I find they are nearly essential with non-waterproof boots. If I had a long period of wet weather they protect me from getting trench foot. In cold weather, the waterproof socks do keep my feet a lot warmer. So I would reluctantly take them again. Update; I’ve found EDZ merino lined waterproof socks suit a lot better.
I haven’t caught up with modern trends and still wear briefs most of the time.
It was very hot when I set off from Dover, so I started the walk wearing Rohan’s Alpha Silver Briefs. They were comfortable in the summer heat, breathed extremely well, were easy to wash and dried really quickly. I alternated a number of pairs of these, and also tried the Icebreaker Anatomica seamless boxers. These were very comfortable and being 40% merino, didn’t smell even after a number of days without washing them.
Once I got onto the Pennine Way, the weather became wetter. I changed to my EDZ merino wool briefs and EDZ merino wool boxers. I was going longer between resupplies here, so I was wearing the briefs for longer. These merino briefs are warm even when wet through and don’t smell, even when I wore them for a week. They were perfect for the rest of the walk to Cape Wrath.
All the underwear was good and worked well in the conditions I wore them. If I hadn’t been able to keep changing them and had to use just one pair for the whole walk, I would choose the EDZ merino Briefs. I think they are the best all-round compromise for long distance hiking.
I found the Rohan shirt to be best at keeping me cool in the heat and quickest to dry when it had got wet from the rain or washing. It was a really good shirt and I could wear it for 3 or 4 days before it started to smell.
The Icebreaker shirt was slightly more comfortable to wear, but a little too warm for really hot weather. It came into its own when it was raining. I often didn’t bother putting a coat on when it started raining because the shirt could get wet and still keep me warm. Also being merino wool, it didn’t need washing much during the week and never smelt too bad. For the last week or so, I used my trusty old Inov-8 AT/C long-sleeved merino base layer which I had used walking from Lands End to John O’Groats last year.
The shirts worked well but I would probably take the Inov-8 AT/C L/S merino base layer next time because it’s cool in the heat, warm when wet and doesn’t smell if I’m unable to wash it. The only down side is it fades in the sunshine.
I set off with two mid layers: the EDZ full zip micro fleece and the Icebreaker Hybrid Merino Vest.
The fleece was a nice extra layer when I was a little chilly and worked very well. Having the full length zip meant I could adjust my temperature and keep it on for longer.
The Icebreaker vest was even more flexible. It was warm and the windproof element on the front was very handy. I could wear it over the fleece for extra warmth but more often I used it on its own as a base layer. Because it’s merino wool, it was comfortable and controlled my body temperature really well on hot days. It was a great all-round top and I would definitely take it again.
When I reached Scotland, I swapped both the EDZ Fleece and Icebreaker Vest to save weight because I had changed my waterproofs. I needed to carry my Paramo Bentu Fleece instead, to make the Paramo Bentu windproof fully waterproof.
I set off wearing my Montane windproof jacket which was ideal in the hot weather because it was so light weight. It was often in my pack, but it really made a difference in keeping me warm when I did need it. I used it a lot and was very glad I had it.
I also carried a lightweight Montane Minimus waterproof jacket, which was a good decision as it was it my rucksack most of the time. Being such a lightweight jacket, it won’t stay waterproof very long when worn under a heavy rucksack, so I’m glad I didn’t need to wear it too often.
I also carried the Mountain Warehouse Ghost Whisperer down jacket for most of the walk. It was carried as an emergency layer if I ever got soaked through (e.g. fall in a river), or to sleep in if I was cold. I never used it to walk in. It’s a great lightweight jacket and I’d carry it again.
When I reached Scotland, it was a bit cooler and there was a lot of rain forecast, so I changed my windproof and waterproof jackets for a Paramo Bentu windproof. This is more or less waterproof when used with the Paramo Bentu fleece, so it meant I didn’t need both jackets. The Bentu windproof is heavy and would have been too warm earlier in the walk. I’ve written a review of the Paramo clothes here. I also swapped the Ghost Whisperer jacket for my slightly heavier OMM Mountain Raid jacket on this wetter section of the walk. It’s got Primoloft gold synthetic insulation in it, so I was able to wear it during the day at stops. It stayed warmer than the down jacket would have done when it was wet.
Let me start by saying that I don’t use shorts in summer because that means carrying and applying sun cream. I always walk in long trousers.
I set off wearing Rohan’s GR Explorer trousers which were perfect for summer, and used the EDZ Innershell windproof leggings over them when it was raining. These aren’t fully waterproof, but do keep the worst of the rain off. They worked really well keeping me dry in the odd shower I had, and because they breathe so well, I could wear them all day without getting too hot or wet from condensation inside them. I did push them past their limit in a full morning of rain over Pen-y-ghent though. I was soaked through.
So I changed to Paramo Cascada II trousers in Scotland, when wet weather was forecast. I love walking in these because they are breathable and waterproof. This means I can wear them all day without having to keep taking over-trousers off and on between showers. They were too warm for summer use though. I had to walk with the leg zips fully open most of the time to stop me getting heat rash. This was sometimes a problem when walking through tall undergrowth, as bits would get in my trousers and irritate.
If I walked it again, a thin pair of walking trousers and waterproof over-trousers would probably be best if I couldn’t keep swapping at resupply points. But if I was expecting a lot of wet or cooler weather, I would definitely use the Paramo Cascada II trousers. It just keeps life simple not having to keep stopping and putting on over-trousers every time it rains. I’ve reviewed the Paramo trousers here.
Hat and Head Band
I took my Rohan wide-brim sun hat and a Buff Coolnet UV+ head band. The hat was used nearly all the time to keep the sun off, so I didn’t need to carry the weight of sun cream. The head band was handy to keep my ears warm when it was windy but wasn’t needed much.
I would take both again.
A note about hiking gear
Hiking gear and clothing is a personal thing, and one person’s gear list is not the be all and end all for a specific walk. People use things in different ways and require varying comfort levels. I feel the cold and like comfort over lightweight on long distance hikes.
So enjoy experimenting with various pieces of gear and make up your own gear list with things that suit you. Don’t worry too much about what other people carry. I’ve had a number of people tell me my water filter is too heavy but I love mine and I’ll keep using it because it suits me. I’ve also had someone tell me that I couldn’t wild camp around London but I did it anyway. No one’s always right and if you’re like me, your gear list will be forever changing. I hope this gear review has given you some ideas and things to perhaps think about, but I am sure you will want to make some changes for your own comfort and priorities.
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