What We Carry

For those interested in the bits of kit we use, here are some details. Pictures will follow.

Sleeping:

Down sleeping bag- We have all chosen to take with us a good quality down bag. The advantages of down over synthetic filling are that it will give much greater warmth to weight ratio and will also take up less space once packed. The disadvantage is that down tends to be rendered useless once it has become wet, on the other hand a synthetic bag will still offer some warmth when wet. Ginger has got a bag which is covered with a waterproof outer, made by Marmot. Ed has a P.H.D. sleeping bag, which is extremely lightweight and warm, and Will is experimenting with a Blacks High Street bag, which may or may not be the perfect bag.

Silk liner- A liner for the sleeping bag serves two main purposes; to make a convenient washable layer between you and the sleeping bag and also to add a little extra insulation. A very lightweight, and well worthwhile piece of kit in our opinion.
Bivy bag- A bivy is basically a waterproof bag that fits over your sleeping bag and seals over the head to protect you from the elements. We have come from simple bivy bags to now all having bags with hoops over the head to give room at the top of the bag. Having been tempted by tents, we feel that the advantages of being able to have your head in the open air, with your eyes star-ward, outweigh the confined comforts of a tent.

Poncho/tarp- When it rains hard or is looking like it might, then a poncho strung up to the trees to make a basher/shelter is very useful to keep us and our bags protected from the wet. The poncho can also be used in foul weather, as an additional layer of walking protection. So it’s a house and a jacket, all for under 300 grams.

Sleeping mat- On a chilly night the most technically advanced sleeping bag is useless without a good ground mat. Most learn this the hard way; we certainly did. Having tried the therma-rest inflatable type mats we have gone back to the good old closed-cell foam roll-mat. Although they are bulky, they offer reassuring warmth from the ground-frosts, they don’t absorb much water, and they are nearly indestructible, with no parts to go wrong. Will left his in someone’s garden for two nights, and their cat had had a good go at ripping it apart. But it still works very well, and is now a few grams lighter for the scars.

Clothing:

Merino wool base layers- The layer of clothing worn next to the skin is to be carefully considered for many reasons. It needs to function as a comfortable, breathable, warm layer. We have chosen merino wool which comes from the merino sheep, which I believe are mostly in New Zealand. It is very soft and has better insulative properties than other wool. It also wicks moisture away from the skin, stays fairly warm when wet and does not get smelly too quickly. There are numerous synthetic options available but even though they can be purchased a little cheaper they do not offer nearly the same performance.

Ventile trousers- Ventile is essentially cotton, but with a difference. It is made from finest quality cotton woven in a very tight weave that makes it highly water-repellant, wind proof and extremely durable. Our trousers were tailored to our own specifications for us by Victoria Alwin, with whom we are discovering and experimenting with tailored outdoor clothing using natural materials.

Wool shirts/jackets- As with the base layer, wool is also a good outer layer as it is extremely warm and sheds the water well. While it is a little on the heavy side we think the safe, reassured feeling that wool provides is well worth the extra bulk.

Leather waistcoat- Leather is extremely durable and very comforting to wear. It is very water resistant. Ed has made himself a leather waistcoat as a practical over-garment with pockets in which he can keep things that need to be easily accessible.

Cooking and eating:

Gasifier stoves- Being dissatisfied with the prospect of carrying and using gas canisters or alcohol to fuel a stove we have opted to cook over wood fire. Ginger has designed and built some small cooking stoves that burn twigs. They are very efficient in terms of fuel used and produce almost no smoke as the gas given off by the wood is re-ignited above the fire. A litre of water can be boiled in around 10 minutes from the strike of a match making it very easy to stop for a quick cup of tea when walking. The stoves are small, light weight, and fit neatly in the pans that we carry.

Titanium and stainless pans- Will and Ginger both carry titanium pans which are incredibly tough and  light as a feather. Ed is sticking to his old trusty stainless pan which is a fair bit heavier, but if it ain’t broke……

Condiments-We usually have a small supply of things like salt and oil, some spices etc. the small luxuries that turn food into meals.

Ingredients- Anything we come across that is worthy of the pot we use with respect. By this I mean leaves, roots, berries and so on. Our knowledge is growing ever wider in this area but we do not consider ourselves experts. If we are passing through a town it is not rare for us to buy some porridge or some dried fruit for example, to supplement what we find along the way. We have learned quickly, however, that food in itself is a heavy burden if carried over a long stretch, so it is necessary to be fairly strategic with what foods we choose and how much we should carry.

Spoon- As carving spoons is a favourite pastime of ours we all carry a small wooden spoon for the purposes of eating and cooking. It is a great pleasure using things that we have crafted ourselves or have been crafted for us.

Tools:

Multi tool/swiss army knife- A pocket knife with various functions proves invaluable in many circumstances. Ed carries a simple swiss army ‘huntsman’ which has a good selection of tools such as knife, saw, scissors, leather punch, saw etc. Ginger also carries a swiss army knife but in a multi-tool form with pliers. Will carries a somewhat over the top ‘swiss champ’ with a wide range of functions, some useful, others useless. We were given this knife by a young lad in Wallingford while we were walking from Oxford to Glastonbury. He thought we would have more use for it than himself, thankyou.

Sheath knife- There are certain tasks where a pocket knife will not suffice. For instance making feather sticks for fire lighting or sharpening sticks for making pegs or pot stands and the like. This is why we each carry a 3-4 inch sheath knife which is a solid non-folding knife which fits into a sheath. At certain times this is our most needed piece of equipment.

Axe- This is something of a luxury. We could fairly easily be without an axe but it makes a great deal of difference when splitting wood for a fire or preparing branches to make a shelter, so we have decide to carry a small axe between us, a gransfors bruks wildlife hatchet.

Saw- Much the same as the axe, we could do without a saw but it makes life a lot easier. We use a small folding saw called a ‘laplander’. A very nice little saw that cuts on both the push and pull action.

Crook knife- A crook knife has a handle and a crescent curved blade which is used for carving spoons or anything that needs hollowing. Ginger has made a few crook knives using oak handles and blades made by shaping old cutlery. We find that a carved spoon makes for a simple but lovely present.

Draw knife- Ginger also carries a draw knife that he has made by the same means as the crook knife. A draw knife  has two handles either side of a blade that is drawn towards you. It is used for whittling down wood.

Mending kit- occasionally it is necessary to mend our clothes and equipment. We carry a needle and thread for fixing garments and various leather tools for making and repairing clothing or pouches, something that Ed is particularly interested in.

Rainy weather garments:

Ventile- Ed wears a ventile smock to protect from rain and wind. It is a very effective option which has the added bonus of being made from natural fibres. There are a few draw backs however, one being it’s heaviness and the other it’s tendency to become very stiff when it gets very wet.

Gore-tex- Ginger wears a mountain equipment gore-tex jacket that is effective in the very worst weather. Its disadvantage is the highly synthetic fabric, but to its advantage is light and packable, and extremely waterproof.

Triplepoint- Will wears a lowe alpine triple-point fabric jacket. He got hold of one at the last minute, at a sale in a shop where his friend worked. It was a mysterious technology, this triplepoint, but it proved effective. The jacket was massively oversized, thus compensating for its lack of breathability. He always believed it a sketchy jacket, till an old fellow in a Cornish camping shop, when Will was walking alone, told him “Oh, that’s Triplepoint, yeah, that’s the job. A old mate of mine wore his for years on Dartmooor, and never got wet. They don’t make it anymore. Shame, that.” This small anecdote transformed Will’s belief in the garment, and he began to trust it.
This first jacket is now, alas, lost, but an brief scouring ebay has secured him another lowe alpine jacket. This is not brand-loyalty; he always tries to black over the logo with a permanent marker.

Gloves- Woolen fingerless gloves are useful for warmth whilst still being able to use fingers. We also carry water proof gloves for more severe weather. Ginger has a pair of seal-skinz gloves, which he found in a charity shop in Penzance. Ed has rabbit skin gloves. Ed and Will carried socks made from this, which are completely waterproof, and not entirely horrible to wear, an intriguing mix. Ed set up a flooded festival in a pair of these and open shoes, and they kept his feet astonishingly dry, for about 24 hours.

First aid: Our first aid kits, of which we each carry one, consists of various plasters, cotton bandages and dressings, along with a range of herbal medicine:

Myrrh Tincture – Myrrh is one of the finest natural disinfectants, making it a fine gift for the baby Jesus. A few drops should be applied externally to any wounds, bites or skin breaks. Store the liquid in a glass dropper bottle.

Myrrh Powder – With similar qualities to the above tincture this can be sprinkled on wounds or combined with Cayenne Pepper and hot water for an antiseptic wash. It may be added to a tea for common colds. Store in a small sealy bag.

Calendula lotion –  for ailments of the skin. Rub into grazes, sores and rashes.

Cayenne Pepper – gets the blood circulating to warm you up, strengthens the heart and can be rubbed on freezing hands and feet for warmth.

Ginger Powder – Ticks don’t like ginger, so if you sprinkle some powder on them they release their hold.
Internally, ginger tea is warming to the body and helps circulation.
If you have a sprained muscle, mix the powder with warm water and rub into the affected area.

Lavender Essential Oil/Lavender Herb – Rub oil into the temples for headaches and depressed states, also to promote natural sleep. A tea made with the herb helps you with exhaustion, relaxing the nerves, and easing aches and pains. You’ll find an abundance growing in front gardens.

Charcoal tablets – for reducing water in the stomach, helps an upset tummy and diarrhoea.

Water:

Bladder/reservoir- Each of us carries our own water reservoir, which is a strong flexible plastic container, with a large filling cap and a long tube from which to drink. We can carry 2.5 litres in each of these, which makes water our heaviest commodity, but by far the most essential.

Filters- When clean water is not available a good water purifier/filter comes into it’s own. It gives us the ability to collect water from dubious looking sources, and turn it drinkable. Ed uses a pump style filter with an inlet which is placed in the dirty water source and an outlet for your reservoir. Ginger uses an in-line filter that attaches to the reservoir tube, he has a dirty reservoir that hangs in a tree which filters by gravity into the clean one.

Maps and books:

Os maps- We carry with us the relevant ordinance survey landranger or explorer maps for the area we are in. This is an expensive luxury, but we far prefer the paper that unfolds in our hands to the computerized equivalents.

Having tried walking without detailed maps, we have found it a very different experience. Being able to know how far we are from the next bit of woodland, or where the next village lies, or how to get in and out of a town by the best and most beautiful route, is an incredible blessing. It is the secret of telling the future, of knowing what we might find around the next corner. We would ideally like to be able to carry the Orange OS maps, because they tell you where to find springs. But we carry the pink OS maps instead, because their scale is smaller, and they are better value for their weight.

Writing books- A few writing books are essential for different purposes. We use them for writing a journal, collecting song lyrics, noting down information we find interesting, recording names and addresses, drawing our day’s map, practicing calligraphy, doodling, recording dreams, and a number of other purposes.

Books (reference and fiction)- We all have fond memories of sitting by the fire at night taking it in turns to read aloud the tales of Robin Hood. Sometimes the extra weight of a good book can lend wings to the mind, while the feet compliantly trudge. We also scour second-hand bookshops for rarities and delights. We carry books on trees, wild plants and herbs, birds and other interesting guides to the things we see and find.

Leather pouches- Ed has made a system of leather pouches and bags to spread the weight away from his back. These have lasted a few years, can be mended and amended easily and show no sign of wearing out. Ed thinks they are pretty cool.

4 Responses to “What We Carry”

  1. Adam says:

    Hello there. I love the design of the website and I have immensely enjoyed reading stories of your travels and watching you talk and sing with your fine and joyous voices via youtube videos. I have a question to Ed though, if he would mind answering it for me. You say you wear Ventile trousers and a ventile jacket, are these from a specific manufacturer and if so, what was it like to use them both? I am planning a lengthy trip of own around the UK next year, working my way around the country by foot in a fashion not too dissimilar to your own, and I welcome your opinions.

    Many Thanks,

    Adam

  2. Robert says:

    Hello,

    Great website. I enjoyed reading your kit list and have quite a few of the items you list. I wonder if you have come across a contraption called a kelly kettle yet? A thing of beauty and will always make you forget your aches and pains after a hard day’s walking. Basically, it’s a woodburning kettle which boils water very quickly but you can also use the firebase to cook on too. It’s entirely contrary to the cult of ultra-lite backpacking but having read your various blogs I feel that will be a plus point. I’m trying to use the kelly as a complete cooking system when camping. It’s a system which needs a little perfecting but I’m quite sure it can be done with a little persistence.

    If you are looking for another song for your collection I enjoying singing a song called Rambling Rover by Andy M Stewart who sang with a Scottish band called Silly Wizard.A very suitable song for those journeying through Britain. There is a version here but I’m sure you lads could do a better version:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn32iyvqJn0

    Here’s the chorus:

    Oh, there’re sober men and plenty,
    and drunkards barely twenty,
    There are men of over ninety
    who have never yet kissed a girl.
    But give me a ramblin’ rover,
    from Orkney down to Dover.
    We will roam the country over
    and together we’ll face the world.

    Have fun on your travels.

  3. Ken Lambert says:

    Best of luck on your travels. Can’t wait till you get into Warwickshire. I do like your attitude about equipment. As my old Dad used to say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
    Keep it up.

    Ken

  4. jane says:

    HI

    Loving reading about your journey – you are passing nearby to the CUbe in Bristol – have a one year old son so dont know if I will make it but I respect your journeying and like your anecdotal style of recording. I have a piece of land on which you have helped me to identify lots of chickweed. Look out for young sorrel too – its coming up now and is very tasty and lemony. You identify it by its similarity in leaf shape to an arrow head. Where the leaf meets the stalk there are two points. Happy walking, eating and singing!
    jane

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