Given that I design, manufacture, and sell outdoor clothing and equipment for a living I often get asked what gear I use when I’m out on the hills.
So, I decided to go through a list of the main gear and clothing that I use when I’m out and about. I’ve broken it down into section, purely because this will be a quite extensive piece, and the reader may with to digest it in sections, or look for specific information.
Where I have dropped links to items through this piece, they are either to where the best price can be found or, if they are pretty much universally priced, an Amazon Affiliate link. A bloke has to earn a living…
I am a big fan of modularisation and scalability. I want one bag that I can tailor to my needs. I also want something that has a good strong frame and an adjustable back. I also am not a fan of bright colours for my gear. When I’m out and about I prefer to blend in somewhat rather than stick out like a sore thumb. Finally, I like to be able to attach some useful items to my waistbelt.
I opted to go for the Karrimor SF Predator 80-130. The first thing to note is that Karrimor SF is not the same company as Karrimor sold by Sports Direct. They were the same at one point but the “civilian” side of the business was sold to Sports Direct and the “military” side became Karrimor SF.
The Predator is a “military” oriented pack, in that it is covered with PALS loops so that MOLLE pouches can be attached to it. I opted for this, over the Sabre (identical pack, but no PALS loops), because I wanted to be able to manage my gear dependant on my activity. For example, if I am through hiking, I will have several pouches on the outside of the pack with things I need to have to hand, like waterproofs and a puffy jacket. If I am using a basecamp and doing day hikes then I will attach my daysack to the outside. If I am bushcrafting, then I can attach pouches for my saw, my spade and my axe.
In terms of what I can carry, this bag is a beast. It starts off at 80 litres, that can be expanded to 130 by unzipping the sides, and it can go out to 155 litres if you add the side pouches. There are nice long compression straps on the sides to manage the load and to attach things like tents. There are also pockets on the base at each side so that you can stow things like walking poles without them slipping through and out. Finally, it has a built-in rain cover.
In terms of what is attached to the outside, I will have; my daysack, a Karrimor SF Predator 30 (although I will be upgrading this to a Karrimor SF Sabre 45 in the near future); or, 3 large Kifaru Belt Pouches; and/or a 3 litre Hydration System; and/or side pouches. If I am carrying a tent, I will strap it to the side and my hammock setup goes into a side pouch. On the belt I have a Water Bottle Pouch, and a small Utility Pouch for my boo boo kit and other small items I want to hand.
This is again dependant on what I am doing. If I am through-hiking, I will carry a lightweight tent. If I am using a basecamp, I will use either my hammock set up or a heavier and roomier tent.
My lightweight tent is a Vango Scafell 200. I chose this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, for the porch. It gives me a covered space to do things like cooking or to leave wet gear outside the sleeping area. Secondly, its weight at 2.5 KG. Finally, its ease of pitching. It only takes 5 minutes to set up and has a couple of pitching options. I can set it up with the outer first, or outer only which lets me have a really lightweight option; or I can set up the outer and inner together. This is important to me because I don’t want the inner getting wet if I’m pitching in the rain.
My bigger tent is a Freedom Trail Toco 4LX. This tent is an outer first tent and has 2 sleeping pods inside. I can either use it with one pod and have a larger admin area, or I can have both pods up to share with a bit of space for 2 people. I have happily camped for a week at a time in this tent.
For me, a sleeping system is made up of three parts. Sleeping mat/pad, sleeping bag, and Bivi bag.
In terms of sleeping pads I am a huge fan of Klymit’s products. I have four pads that I use regularly.
For through hiking, I use the Klymit Inertia X frame. This is a super-lightweight, skeleton air mattress. It has cut-outs which allow your sleeping bag to loft underneath you adding to your bottom insulation. It blows up in 3-4 breaths and is about the size of a fizzy pop can when it’s deflated and rolled into its stuff sack. It is a trifle narrow and some people might find that an issue, especially if you move a lot in your sleep.
If I am going to be at a static camp, I will use the Klymit Static V. This is a bit bigger than the X Frame, being about the size of a wine bottle without the neck. This is a great full-length and full width pad.
When I hammock camp, I use Klymit’s Hammock V sleeping pad. This is basically a Static V with some “wings” added to the side so that it stays in place in your hammock.
For family camping I use the Klymit Double V. This is basically a double version of the Static V.
Carinthia Defence 4 all day, every day! I absolutely love this sleeping bag. It is billed as a 3-season sleeping bag but has a comfort raring of -15⁰C. The outer layer is loose on the fill to provide an extra air layer for insulation, as well as being water resistant. It has a central zip, which makes it much easier to get in and out of, especially in a hammock. It is roomy at the shoulders, without being too big so you get cold. The only thing it is missing is a couple of internal pockets so you can keep items like your phone inside the sleeping bag.
I use a bivi bag for a couple of reasons. First is that it provides an extra air layer around the body adding to your insulation. Next is to stop my sleeping bag getting wet. We’ve all at some point managed to touch the side of our tent when we’re sleeping, especially when sharing a small hike tent. Finally, it waterproofs my sleeping bag in my rucksack and allows me to more loosely stuff my sleeping bag into my rucksack, filling space better than if it is in a compression sack or canoe sack.
I use a British Military surplus bivi bag. You can get these for a very reasonable price on eBay, and they are made of Gore-Tex.
Sleeping System Extras
There are a couple of additional Items I have for my sleeping system that I’ll use in the coldest of conditions.
First up are the Snugpak Insulated Tent Boots. These are great for sitting around in the tent in the evening. You can take your boots off and keep your feet warm. They are also great in the winter when your feet feel like little blocks of ice in the bottom of your sleeping bag.
If it is particularly cold, then I will wear a merino beany hat to ward off any draughts getting into my sleeping bag.
I try not to carry a large water bladder unless water is not readily available to me. We are very lucky in the UK that most of our wild places have plenty of streams running through them. You can usually make sure that you are camped by a good water supply and find plenty of places to top off a water bottle along the way.
I do have a 3-litre bladder from Karrimor SF. I got it because it is designed to attach to my rucksack. Mostly though, I’ll use a 1-litre, stainless steel, Nalgene bottle with a Nalgene OTF lid. The wide mouth of the Nalgene makes for easy filling, but messy drinking… The OTF lid makes it much more useable. I chose stainless steel purely for looks, although it could be used to boil water if I need to.
I never drink straight from a wild water source. It might look nice and clear, but you may miss seeing that dead sheep a few metres upstream. I don’t like purification tablets, because of the chemical taste you are left with.
My water filter of choice is the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System. I love it because it is really compact, low maintenance, low cost, and one filter will treat 1000,000 gallons of water. The whole kit fits into a pencil case. It is designed so that it can attach directly to the neck of any ordinary drinks bottle, so is perfect for any travel where you don’t quite trust the water.
You can use it with the squeeze pouch to drink direct or fill a water bottle; use the straw to drink direct from your water source; attach it to a standard water bottle; or, put it inline on your drinking hose from your water bladder. The only real weakness to the system is its vulnerability to freezing in very cold weather. If I am out and it’s that cold it lives inside a pack and comes into my sleeping bag at night.
Cooking & Eating
I love my Jetboil! The clue is in the name… Very rapid boiling of water. Great for an on the fly brew or for rapidly heating a boil-in-the-bag scoff. It is somewhat bulky, but I’m prepared to trade that off against the convenience of the unit.
I keep it in a padded stuffsack I bought from HM Supplies. It is also well worth buying one of the fold up stands which clip to the gas bottle. They only cost a couple of quid and will happily fit inside your Jetboil.
I will either use boil-in the-bag meals like Wayfarer, or I will use dehydrated meals like Summit to Eat. Given how expensive hiking meals are, I have started making my own dehydrated meals. It’s actually a lot easier than you would think. I bought a bunch of resealable silicone bags which I use to carry them in and to rehydrate and eat out of. The biggest cost to this is the dehydrator, but you soon get a return on your investment when you look at the difference in cost from the commercially produced meals. REI have a great YouTube Playlist of backpacking recipes to get you started https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7tqTAgUK4UxPYmeuI3Tz-QHkQcsY2i9q. I will be covering food in more detail in another post/video.
Of course, I also carry a brew kit. I can’t be without my morning coffee, and a hot brew during the day is a real pick-me-up when the weather’s not great. Everything lives in pots so it stays dry. I have Coffee Bags, Tea bags (redbush), Sugar and Milk sticks (usually stolen from MacDonalds on the way to the start point).
Eating & Drinking
One of my affectations is to carry an enamel mug for a brew. I love to be able to warm my hands on it as I’m sat watching the sunrise or sunset. It is a little extra weight, but there is something about the nostalgia of it that I really like.
On the go, I have a Stanley One Hand 6440-001 Classic Mug. It keeps a brew nice and hot for a good while and is built like a battleship!
My only other piece of eating gear is my spork. I have a long-handled titanium spork so that I can reach the bottom of a meal pouch without getting my fingers covered in food.
I organise my food into daily “ration packs” rather than just chucking it all into one bag. It makes sure that I keep an eye on my calorie intake, and is less faff at meal times. I keep each day’s food and snacks in individual canoe sacks. This way I can leave the bulk of my food inside my pack and have the stuff I want today at hand, either in an external pouch, or in the bottom section of my rucksack.
I use a layering system. It lets me manage my clothing to my activity level and climatic conditions.
This is the layer that is next to the skin. I love me some merino! Apart from my socks, all my baselayers come from Decathlon. Their clothing products are really high-quality material and well made.
First up are the Forclaz Men’s Mountain Trekking Merino Boxer. They have a good length on the legs to prevent thigh rub, fit snugly everywhere you want them to and are very comfortable.
Next is the Solognac 900 Long Sleeve Merino Wool Hunting T-Shirt. I really rate these tops. Great length, feel good on, and a very keen price compared to the competition. I highly recommend these.
For trousers, we’re back at Decathlon. I’m a big fan of the Solognac Light and Breathable 500 Trousers. They are a European fit, that is to say somewhat tighter in the leg and higher into the crotch. I personally find this more comfortable as it pretty much eliminates any rubbing anywhere I don’t want it. They are a stretch fabric, so have a really good range of movement in them. I never wear shorts. I simply prefer to keep my legs protected from the elements and anything like gorse and rocks.
Outer Layer (Warm/Waterproof)
My main warm jacket, if I’m not using one of our prototypes, is a Dutch Army surplus jacket. It is a version of the Snugpak Sleeka Jacket that has been a British Forces favourite for so many years. I prefer a synthetic fill over down for reasons of practicality. A synthetic fill does not lose its loft after having been compressed as much as down does. Down also tends to settle in its channels in the jacket after a while and that creates cold “stripes”. Down is greatly affected by moisture, which causes clumping and diminishes its effectiveness. Down is also completely compromised when it is wet, whereas a synthetic can maintain up to 80% of its effectiveness. For these reasons I am content to pay the penalty in weight and bulk for something that won’t let me down (no pun intended) when I need it most.
When it’s really cold I will carry a set of Softie Salopettes. These are only for use in camp or in a bothy. They are VERY warm and I wouldn’t want to hike anywhere in them.
I have two pairs of gloves that I like to use. A lightweight pair and a set of mittens. I use the lightweight pair to cut the wind so my hands don’t freeze on my trekking poles, but when it isn’t cold enough for serious gloves. When it’s really cold out come the mittens. I prefer mittens over gloves with fingers because they are warmer. I don’t need the dexterity most of the time, and if I do, I have my lightweight gloves on inside as liners. I use Sealskinz because gloves are not good if they are wet, and all their products are totally waterproof.
One of the best ways I have found of feeling warm is to keep your neck warm. It is really surprising how effective wearing a simple neck gaiter actually is. I have a very warm and compact merino wool Buff that I use.
I have a great set of waterproofs that came from Decathlon. They no longer sell the specific models that I have, but they still have really high-quality waterproofs that are just as effective as “big brands” at a significantly lower price. I would recommend checking out their offering before you go courting any “big brands”.
I have three main things I look for in waterproofs. Hydrostatic head – this is how much rain can be thrown at it before it gives up the ghost. This is tied to the second feature, breathability. If you want your jacket to breathe it will at some point let water through. Modern waterproof fabrics are a fine balance between hydrostatic head and breathability. Next is length. I like a long jacket so that when I bend over or reach up, I don’t expose waist areas to the rain and wet. For my trousers I look for the same in terms of breathability and hydrostatic head, but I like trousers with braces. I find that trousers with a simple drawcord always sag down and feel restrictive on movements. A set with braces stays in place and you don’t get saggy crotch making walking uncomfortable.
Depending on the terrain or weather I may also carry gaiters. Normally only for long grass/gorse or for snow. I use Army Surplus green gaiters. They are really tough, breathable, and they have a steel cable that goes under your boot. That cable means that you won’t ever wear through the tie under your boot and have to faff about trying to replace it in the field.
I have different hats for different weather and different activities. I tend to run quite hot when I’m out so most of my headwear is pretty lightweight.
My normal go-to is our Timmy Hat. I love this hat for all the reasons we shout about on the website. It’s lightweight, comfortable, has a good length peak, and is designed specifically to keep your head cool.
If I’m moving and it’s cold, I have a couple of options I go with. I’ll either use a fleece headband, just to stop the tips of my ears from stinging in the cold; or, I’ll wear my merino beany that I also wear in bed.
In camp or if it’s cold and wet I use the Sealskinz Waterproof Extreme Cold Weather Hat. It has to be cold for this hat though as it is very effective and can get too hot if you are really active. Like all of Sealskinz’s products it is totally waterproof, which is why it tends to only come out when it’s wet.
There are a number of other items I carry along the way, which I will detail below.
Personal hygiene is really important, especially if you are out for a protracted period of time. You don’t need a lot of gear for this though. I carry:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Baby wipes.
- Anti-fungal foot powder (used prophylactically to prevent athletes’ foot).
- Alcohol hand gel.
- Loo roll (in a waterproof bag).
- Milton Wipes (to clean eating utensils)
Generally, your walking day will end fairly early, i.e. while it’s still light, because setting up in the dark sucks. This means that you will be left with some time on your hands before you are ready to sleep. I have a couple of things I usually throw into my bag to deal with this.
Reading is my standard go-to if I am in my own. Given how fast I read paper books are not really an option for me on a longer trip. That’s why I rock the Kindle! Battery lasts for ages; it has a built-in light and I can store multiple books on it.
Mobile phone. I carry this for the obvious need to have some form of emergency contact (if I can get a signal), but it spends most of its time in airplane mode to save battery. I use it for filming and photos, and also for podcasts and audiobooks. There’s something really cool bout striding through the mountains listening to Tolkien describing the Misty Mountains! My phone lives in a clear waterproof bag unless I’m taking a picture.
The phone and the Kindle need occasional charging, along with the Earpods I use for camera work or general listening to music and podcasts. So I carry a nice big Power Bank. I can charge my phone fully about 9 times from this. I have a nifty little case for it that takes the Power Bank and any charging cables I need.
A head torch is a pretty much essential item for hiking, mostly for its utility. Most are pretty underpowered for use walking at night and there seems to be a trend towards internal, rechargeable batteries. I’m not a fan of this because Murphy says it’s going to run out of battery right when you don’t want it to most, and you can’t plug it into a tree! Personally, I want a headtorch that can light up a large area if I have to navigate in the dark. It’s really easy to miss a track junction when your perception of the world is no further than 6 feet from your face. My final issue with a lot of headtorches is that they aren’t actually waterproof. Why on earth something intended for outdoor use should be this vulnerable I do not understand. I use the Silva MR350 Militaire Headtorch. It will run at 350 lumens for 40 hours off of 3 AAA batteries (the same batteries as my GPS takes). It has 3 brightnesses of white light; red light for preserving night vision; orange light, also for preserving night vision, but allows you to see contours on a map; a battery health LED that gives you a traffic light colour to show how much power is left in your batteries; and is certified waterproof to the IPX7 Standard. It also comes with a white drawstring bag for storage that you can hang in a tent for ambient light. All this and it only weighs 53g! All that is why I decided we had to sell it.
The other light I use is the OmniTorch. This is a great little lamp. It’s a one-inch metal cube with 5 different attachment methods and throws out a respectable 60 lumens. I have one permanently clipped into my tent inner, and another on the ridgeline of my hammock. I just roll them away with the shelter and they’re in place right when I need them. Another item I knew I had to stock once I found it!
Given that I am usually Mr Earth Tones, I tend not to stand out. This can be a disadvantage, if I had to walk along a road for example. So, I have a Marker Panel attached to my pack for when I need to announce my presence. I usually hold it in place with a couple of Grimloc Clips.
On rough or steep ground, I will use Trekking Poles. These are not an affectation; they serve very well to aid you with maintaining balance and also take pressure off of your knees.
I do have a more comprehensive safety kit, but that lives in my chest pack, and will be the subject of another post. This kit also differs slightly when I am away from my rucksack, or if I am escorting Scouts on a hike.
I have 3 main items of maintenance kit. A boot care kit, a hussif and other gear repair.
My boot kit consists of spare laces and boot polish & brushes. I’m old school, I will polish my boots while I’m out on the hills. It adds wax to the leather, keeping it waterproof and supple. After spending £250 on boots I want to make sure they last! All of this sits in a handy little pouch that I got years ago as a gift.
My Hussif, or sewing kit, has some sewing needles, thread and spare buttons in it. Just enough to do some on-the-fly clothing repairs, should I need to.
In terms of repairing other gear I carry a roll of Tenacious Tape for outer layers and shelter damage. I also carry some spare ladder locks, side-release buckles, and zip-ties in case I manage to break something of that ilk. Carrying a 30kg rucksack on one shoulder isn’t fun!
I carry two first aid kits. In my belt pouch I have my boo boo kit which has plasters (Star Was of course!), Compeed blister plasters, and paracetamol etc. All the things for minor issues.
I carry a more comprehensive/group 1st aid kit in my rucksack. This is to deal with things like lost fillings or more serious injuries.
I will go through both of those in more detail in another post/video.
There are three other items I will carry dependant on my need.
The first of these is a camera tripod. If I want to do some talk-to-camera or some filming, or I want a selfie that catches a whole view I will drag out the tripod. Currently I have this simply strapped to the side of my rucksack. However, I am thinking about getting a custom pouch made so that I can keep it somewhat more waterproof.
Next is a pair of 10×42 binoculars. These aren’t expensive glass by any means, but they are pretty good. They can be really worth while to carry. In May, in the Galloway Forest I saw Eagles! They are also very handy for checking your route. Nobody wants to climb down a steep hill just to find it is a bog at the bottom and then have to climb back out again!
Finally, is a set of TRC Outdoors Quick Clips. This is a simple bungee assemblage with a clip at one end. They have literally 1001 uses. I have used them to replace a tent peg loop, to strap bulky items to my rucksack, to hold someone’s rucksack closed after a buckle broke, and many more things besides! I wouldn’t be without a set of these, they are so useful. They quite happily sit in my bag out of the way until I need them.
I hope that this magnum opus is of interest, and will generate some good discussion. You may have noted that I am by no means an ounce counter, I am happy to take on a bit of extra bulk if it means having something that is high quality.
This will be the first of a number of posts and videos. I will probably also make a video of this too, to give a more general overview of what I’m carrying.