Friday, May 22, 2015

Packing for the Coast to Coast Hike - Backpack

Every trip I take, I try to pack lighter. I'm not very successful at this! I am gradually trying to lighten my gear, because this seems easier than packing less stuff! I started weighing what I have, and realized just how heavy a pair of gaiters are. Yikes. Given the rainy weather in England, the focus is on rain gear.

 Clockwise from top left

Insulating Layer: Patagonia Nanopuff
This is my second nanopuff I've owned. Nice insulating layer. I wanted to bring my super lightweight down layer, but down is less practical in the rain.

I think I only used this once. Normally I didn't have it in my pack (my pack was stuffed). There were a few days with freezing rain and high winds where it could have been useful, but usually I was warm enough without it. Could have left at home.

Rain Pants: Isis
Full zip pants. These are a lot heavier when compared to some that I saw at ZPacks which were not full zip. However, I have hiked in Scotland before with non full zip pants. It rained every day we were there - on and off showers. I remember putting on and taking off the pants multiple times a day. When it wasn't raining they could be uncomfortably warm to wear. I didn't have full zip pants at the time. And it was always a struggle to pull them on over muddy boots. So, full zips it is.

In the book, they suggested you might not need rain pants unless you tend to get cold easily. We definitely did need rain pants. With the strong winds & freezing rain, they were essential. We had wind gusts up to 50 mph I believe, and when you have freezing rain coming down, that just makes for some ugly weather. I underestimated how windy it would be, and these also offer wind protection.

Trekking Poles:
I trip a lot and I sometimes get sore knees when there is a lot of descent. So these are a must have for me. I've heard that they will also be useful for crossing bogs in England.

I used these for steep descents and on days when we had tricky footing. And yes, they were also useful in boggy areas - to test the ground before you stepped. There were a lot of sections where the ground was boggy and you could sink it deeper than your boots.

Backpack: Osprey
I've had this pack for around a year. This is my second Osprey, this one a bit smaller than my last one. I have NOT tried to see if everything fits in my pack. This is more than I usually carry for a hike at home. From a fit perspective it works. I am able to reach a bottle in the side pockets, though do wish they were a little deeper. The stow and go system for trekking poles is a feature I love. I do wish the hip belt pockets were slightly bigger.

I think my pack is a 22 liter pack. I could have used a slightly larger pack, just to make it easier to pull thinks out.

Hydration Bladder: Platypus 2 liter soft bottle
I've started playing around with how to carry water this year. I used to use a traditional bladder with a tube. I'm not very good about emptying out my water bladder immediately after hiking, and they can get icky. I hate cleaning them. So, now I'm playing with using this, and only putting water in it. No Nuun tablets! But still - with a small opening, how can you clean this? I played around with Smart Water bottles (strong & lightweight) in my Osprey, but if I lean over, they just fall out. This "bottle" can be rolled up when empty.

Kind of a pain. I hate the hydration pocket in my Osprey - its just hard to get things in and out of. I think next time I'd just bring a spare 1 liter bottle.

Trash Compacter Bag: Glad
Used for lining the inside of my pack to keep everything dry. This is new for me. We don't hike tons in the rain. But, I've heard using one is much more effective than a pack cover. Since we are expecting to hike in the rain a lot, we are giving this a shot. These bags are tough and a box should last a lifetime.

I think this needs some refining. The bag was huge (I didn't trim it) for my pack. It felt like the bag took up a lot of room in my pack. Also, I think I need to have dry bags for contents in my pack anyways. When you have wet muddy rain pants that you are trying to put back in your pack, it would be nice to have a bag to put them in.

Guidebook: Steadman's Coast to Coast Guide
I don't know if I'll actually carry this in my pack. I actually photocopied maps in the book, cut them out, taped them together on another piece of paper, and then photocopied those. This allows us to have only 2-3 pages a day of photocopies to use. These maps are hand drawn, and super detailed, so I imagine we will need to be looking at them a lot during the day. Given the rain, we figured it would be easier than walking with a book.

Loved this book. Everyone we met was using it. I think I was the only one who made photocopies - and that made our lives so much easier. Other people kept their whole book in their map case. We didn't carry the book in our packs either. We relied on the book for 95% of our navigation.

Sea to Summit Map Case (not pictured)
Something else that is new to us. These are designed for kayakers. Apparently carrying map cases is very common in England. I have very rarely seen anyone in the U.S. use one. We decided to try them due to the rain. Personally, they seem like they will be annoying. We haven't played around with how to attach it to ourselves. Oh, and the map case is practically impossible to open. Yes, it is waterproof, but I need Glen to open the thing for me! Ack. I hate it already.

I still can't open this, however we did use it. We put our current day's maps in it each day. I didn't carry it around my neck (we saw many people who do this). Instead, we just rolled up the case & held it in a hand or put it in a backpack pocket. We had to refer to the maps often, and yes we did get a few days of rain, so this was very useful.

Water Bottle: Camelback Nalgene
These are relatively heavy. But I like them. I use them all of the time. I use only 1 (since they are heavy), and unfortunately that makes my pack heavier on one side. To the point it can bother my shoulders. Again, I'm still playing around with water systems. I DO use Nuun tablets in these, and just make sure to wash them every week. The bottles themselves are super easy to clean. The mouthpieces can get icky, but I bought replacement mouthpieces - perfect!

Two negatives - mouthpiece got moldy looking by the end. You also have to be careful when you put your pack down. There is sheep poop everywhere, and you don't want to get the mouthpiece contaminated.

Rain hat: Outdoor Research
I have had this for a few years, but I can't remember the last time I used it. We don't hike in rain much. I figure I could use it for sunny days too (I'm being optimistic). I'm wondering if this is an item I should leave at home.

Never used.

Always in my pack, no matter where I hike. We have only purposely night hiked locally in places where we are very familiar with where we are. But, we have had to use it before on a hike that went wrong. And, we often are finishing hikes around sunset, so it makes us much more comfortable.

Never used. I suppose still good for safety. But really - it was light out from around 4am to 10pm.

Always in my pack. I'm nowhere near as good a navigator as Glen, but I'm working on improving.

We normally didn't need, but used it occasionally when lost.

Gaiters: Outdoor Research
I ordered lighter weight gaiters from ZPacks, and they have shipped, but have not arrived in time for our trip. I'm sad that I won't get to try them. My gaiters are more appropriate for winter hiking. I wore gaiters when we hiked in Scotland, but I can't remember if these are the same ones I had then.

Never used. Other people used short gaiters (they were hiking with trail runners).

Maps: Coast to Coast Harvey Strip Maps
Some people get more detailed OS Maps, but you will need many more. These can be bad if you leave the area covered by the strips. But we plan not to do that :) No getting lost!

Many people use these. However, I looked at the Ordinance Survey maps and they are much better. There is even a book of the Ordinance Survey maps for the Coast to Coast hike. If I did this again, I'd get that buck. I believe the Harvey maps are 1:40 and the OS maps are 1:25. It would be much easier to do compass navigation with the OS maps. We also saw some trails that were missing from the Harvey maps. And not all areas are covered by the Harvey maps - i.e. if the town you are staying in is not on the Coast to Coast route, it probably isn't on the Harvey map. This is okay if you follow the standard directions into town - however we were often given "shortcuts" back to the route. It's hard to navigate on those shortcuts when you have no map of the trails.

Very lightweight gloves that I use all of the time in the fall, winter, and early spring. I also ordered water proof mitts from ZPacks, but they aren't arriving in time. After hiking in Switzerland in cold rain and sleet with wet gloves, I decided I wanted a pair of these. Sad that I won't be able to try them out.

My gloves were insufficient. I had a few days of very cold hands. Hand warmers are not so good with gloves. These gloves were fine when it was just cold & dry (which it often was). But when it was cold & wet, they became soaked & my hands were very cold. They were the coldest part of my body. Ideally you should bring waterproof mitts.

Wallet: Amphipod
Normally when I hike, my wallet is a ziplock bag that I stick in my pack. I wanted something a little more for this trip, for the evenings. So, I'm trying this. I know fanny packs are uncool. And it is small enough to not look like one. Except that the pocket stretches tons. So you put lots in it. And then it just ends up looking like a fanny pack. Sigh. I will be un-cool. But it doesn't weigh much :) I bought this actually for walks when I need more than a pocket and less than a pack. It fits an IPhone.

Didn't use. Just put all of my $ and cards in a zipper pocket in my pants.

Raincoat: EMS
Decent raincoat that does the job. Has pit zips. The zipper is hard to get started, but otherwise I have no complaints about it.

Worked fine. Used whenever it rained - kept me dry.

Insulating Hat:
Fleece hat. Use this all of the time in winter. We aren't hiking in England in the winter, but a fleece hat is recommended, especially for the Lake District.

Used much more than I expected. In the Lake District I used it a lot. It even kept my head warm by itself when it was raining.

Wind jacket: Patagonia Houdini
The piece of gear you don't know you need. We are converts. This is probably Glen's favorite piece of gear. Super light weight, and works great on those days where you will sweat too much wearing another layer, but are too chilled with the wind.

Used a lot. When it wasn't raining, it provided wind protection. Also used for very light rain.

First Aid kit:
Bandaids, tape, blister supplies, pepto bismal, cough drop, antiseptic wipe. All in a zip lock bag. Not pictured - toilet paper, individual moist wipe packs & zip lock bags.

Not a single blister! Only taped up my feet once to prevent blisters. Could have used more zip lock bags - useful for so may things.

Emergency Bivy Sack: SOL
Recommended for the Lake District of the hike. We also bring along for more strenuous hikes and winter hikes around here.

Never used, but glad I had. After reading Mountain Rescue reports, you realize how important it is to be prepared for an emergency.

GPS: Garmin Oregon (not pictured)
Love it. It has a simple UI that I can understand. Our previous GPS was an Etrex, and the UI drove me nuts. We use for navigation, as well as tracking our distance, elevation gain, and speed.

We used mostly when we were unsure of our location or when we got lost. Made me more comfortable. There are large portions of the Coast to Coast with no trail markings. Navigation is much more difficult here than the U.S.

GPS Map: Coast to Coast (not pictured)
This was an expensive purchase for a single trip. But I don't like getting lost. From reading blogs, getting lost on the coast to coast is quite common. It is not a national trail, and thus many sections of the trail are not marked. So, this will be a backup for our Steadman guide and Harvey Strip maps. In addition, you can download waypoints that are marked in the Steadman guide maps. Nice!

Expensive. Maps were so/so. Next time I'd probably try to download the Ordinance Survey maps onto my GPS. Also, I forgot to download the Steadman waypoints onto my GPS. Bummer. They would have been helpful in a few places.

Camera: Luminex (not pictured)
We bought a new camera after our rainy hiking trip in Switzerland. I had a Canon Powershot before that didn't play well with the rain. I thought my camera was ruined on that trip. So, this camera is designed to be waterproof. It's a little heaver than the Canon, but still a small camera that will fit in a hip belt pocket.

Worked fine. Wifi download onto my phone - can only figure out how to download 1 photo at a time, so never ended up backing up photos during the trip. Too slow.

Knife: (not pictured)
Useful for cutting moleskin, etc. We WILL remember not to carry it in our backpacks when traveling. We had one confiscated last year. Bummer!

Used a few times- mostly for food.

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