Deciding what items were essential, which could be helpful, and, which were prudent to include (in case of emergency or for back-up), when deciding the contents of my pack, was critical to the success of the project. It really goes without saying, but I’ve said it anyway. ‘What to take’ – and, ‘What not to take’ – were thoughts that occupied me for at least a year before actually walking. In truth, the exact composition of my pack was constantly being worked on at the back of my mind from my first thoughts of doing LEJOG some 10 years previously.
The reason why the pack and its contents are so important is that every single item added to your list adds weight. At best, a heavy pack can slow you down, at worst, it can contribute to foot or joint problems which force the abandonment of the walk or simply spoil the enjoyment of what should be a wonderful experience. Everything is incremental, no matter how light or insignificant, every single item has to justify its inclusion. When you are feeling the weight on your back, halfway through a long, hard day that extra shirt, spare bottle of water or large tube of toothpaste (bought because it was great value) doesn’t half concentrate the mind.
The experience of many years of doing Way Walks helped me to decide between what was necessary and what was a luxury. There was one crucial benefit of tackling LEJOG rather than, say, the Pennine Way. My planned route in LEJOG took me through dozens of towns and cities from Cornwall to Caithness. This meant that if I forgot anything, or ran out of something, I could easily replace it from local or specialised shops on my walk. Most Way Walks try and avoid towns so the opportunity to replenish necessities is much more limited.
I’ll provide the check-list first then follow up with background information for anyone who is interested.
FULL PACK INVENTORY:
- Rucksack (Osprey EXOS 48L)
- Rucksack Rain Cover
- Walking Boots (Brasher Hillwalker 11GTX)
- Waterproof Jacket (3-in-1, inner jacket for leisure wear)
- 2 x Pairs Brasher Walking Trousers (second pair principally for leisure wear)
- 2 x Lightweight Fleeces (one for leisure)
- 3 x Walking Socks
- 3 x Sock Liners
- 3 x Walking Shirts
- 3 x Pairs Boxers
- Waterproof (Over)Trousers
- Hi-Vis Waistcoat
- 2 x Ordinary Socks
- Pair Lightweight Trainers (Leisure)
- Wash Bag
- Small Tube Toothpaste
- Toothbrush (Shortened)
- Shampoo (Hospitality size)
- Moisturising Cream
- Travel Scissors
- Travel Pack Paper Hankies
- Washing Powder (small freezer bag)
- Water bottle
- Reading Glasses
- Phone & Charger
- Amazon Fire Notebook & Charger
- Satmap Active 20 GPS, Case & Charger
- Portable WiFi & Charger
- Back-Up Battery Bank & Charger
- 4-Way Multi-Charger (use one electrical socket to charge 4 devices using USB connections – saves carrying individual plugs)
- Map Cover
- Laminated A4 Itinerary
- Survival Bag
- Whistle (built-in to rucksack)
- Map Print-Outs
- 6 x A4 Scribble Sheets
- Freezer Bags (keep important items extra dry when packed: phone, wallet etc.)
- 2 Larger Plastic Bags (for dirty washing and shoes)
- Credit Cards & Bank Card
- Wallet & Cash
- Rail/Bus Cards
- List of User Names & Passwords for Hotel Booking Sites/Bank/OS Maps/Blog etc.
- Pyjamas (lightweight)
- Dressing Gown (very lightweight)
- Slippers (Hotel hospitality slip-ons)
- 3 x Disposable Plastic Razors
- Shaving Oil (mini)
- Travel-size face balm
- Antiseptic Cream
- Sting Relief
- Day Pack (to save carrying a full pack when the opportunity arose).
- Cereal Bars
SOME NOTES ON MY PACK CONTENTS:
- Osprey Rucksack: I must have half a dozen rucksacks already but decided to buy a modern good-quality one specifically for the walk. I researched capacity and weight, eventually picking this one which seemed to be an optimum choice. It has to be big enough to carry everything that you need, but not too big that you fill it with non-essential items. I am happy that I selected a pack that was perfect for the walk. When empty, it was as light as a feather. When packed, it had excellent weight distribution and well-designed support around the waist. It was sometimes quite full in hot weather, when I was packing my jacket rather than wearing it, but I got around that by jamming it tightly between the top flap and the main body of my rucksack. For extra security I tied it to my pack using one of the ribbons provided… unlike poor John who unfortunately lost his jacket on his first day accompanying me (Day 7, Liskeard to Tavistock).
- Osprey Rucksack Rain Cover. I planned to use an older cover from another pack but took a last-minute decision to purchase the fitted cover direct from Osprey. I think it cost me £26, which I consider a ridiculous price, but, I couldn’t risk the chance of my pack and its contents getting wet due to an ill-fitting cover. It was easy to put on, fitted snugly, did its job and was simple to roll up and store back in to the waist belt of my pack ready for drying out later.
- A new pair of Brasher Hillwalker 11GTX walking boots. You are supposed to ‘walk-in’ new boots but I must confess I only walked about town in these, for about 15 miles in total, before LEJOG. From my first Way Walk I have always been a fan of Brasher boots and was quite dismayed when the brand was taken over by Berghaus a few years back. I bought these boots not long after the takeover although they do have the Berghaus brand label. Because I was worried about wearing out my boots before the end of the walk I used an old pair from Carlisle to Milngavie, 140 miles, taking advantage of being able to use different gear while staying at home. My new boots, therefore, did 940 miles of mainly canal towpath and road-walking without ever letting water in or giving me cause for concern. Far from being worn out they look in excellent condition and have a few hundred miles of tread left.
- Waterproof Jacket. This is obviously essential. Whichever jacket you choose for walking, it has to be ‘Waterproof’ – not ‘Rainproof’, ‘Showerproof’ or any other variation of ‘Proof’. Mine is an old friend which has served me well for a number of years. It is a ‘3 in 1’, having a quilted inner jacket which is perfect for going in to town in the evening. In extreme cold – which I didn’t encounter on this walk – the 2 jackets zip together for maximum warmth.
- 2 pairs of Walking Trousers: My walking trousers usually get worn out. I treated myself to 2 new pairs of Brasher trousers for LEJOG – one pair of convertibles, where the legs can be unzipped below the knee, and one standard pair. My walking ones had the detachable legs, this allowed me to wash only the parts that got muddy, something that required attending to oftener than I would have liked. They were easy to wash and always dried perfectly overnight. The second pair were kept for leisure times with the added bonus that they could be used for walking if the need arose.
- 2 Fleeces: I bought 2 inexpensive part-zipped fleeces, one for walking and one for evening wear. Lightweight and very effective these provided warmth when needed. Although lightweight these took up a lot of room in my pack so I discarded one fleece on my first visit home.
- Waterproof (Over) Trousers: It is prudent to pack a good pair of these on any long walk. Amazingly, I only used mine on a handful of occasions along the way, but I’d rather carry them and not need them than not have them at all. They are relatively heavy compared to other clothing items – for a good pair anyway – but could be a lifesaver in extreme circumstances.
- Satmap Active 20 GPS: As I’ve noted elsewhere this ingenious piece of equipment was never out of my hand from first step to last. Even a basic GPS model is a massive improvement on map and compass, allowing almost anyone to navigate like the experts. I still made some mistakes but that’s all part of the challenge. No words can adequately describe how important an aid this was to me.
- Amazon Fire: My Notebook was a versatile friend that performed a number of important roles on an ongoing basis. Firstly, I used it to access my pre-planned routes for transposing to my GPS each evening. Secondly, it was used to record and edit my daily blog prior to forwarding this to my son, Peter, for posting. Thirdly, it allowed me to search online for accommodation and logistics, and, of course, book ahead. Again, any hand-held computer would do but I would recommend choosing as lightweight a one as you can find – you will be carrying it for over 1,000 miles. Modern mobile phones could do the same job, I suppose, but, having the luxury of viewing on a larger screen made all these tasks less cumbersome.
- Portable WiFi: Most stops had good internet connections. It made sense, however, to anticipate that sometimes I would have problems with uploading and downloading. This tiny device let me access the internet anywhere that provided a mobile phone signal…including mid-walk! My model was a Huawei but there is probably a wide choice on the market. This was very handy and an inspired addition to my pack.
- Power Bank: This small, inexpensive portable unit provided enough power to recharge any of my devices on the move, should the battery start to run low. I didn’t have to use it very often but it was reassuring to know it was on hand if required.
- Multi-Charger: Once plugged in to an electrical socket this aid allowed me to charge 4 separate devices at the same time via their USB cables, thus saving me the need to carry individual electricity plugs for all my gizmos…and having to seek out 4 individual sockets in a hotel bedroom.
- Mobile Phone: The importance of this really needs no explanation. It is the most essential of essentials. Apart from allowing you to communicate with the world at all times, it was handy, with the aid of Google Maps, for locating a specific pub or food venue in the evenings. I also used it at the end of each day’s walk to navigate to my pre-booked accommodation. Sometimes I managed to even mix this up, as happened, for example, in Tiverton (Day 10), where I did an unnecessary anti-clockwise circuit of the town at the end of a tiring walk.
- Survival Bag: This was a last-minute addition. It looks like a folded-up pack of tin foil, doesn’t weigh very much and isn’t too bulky. Again, I reasoned that it was sensible to carry something which could prevent hypothermia in an emergency situation. Thankfully, it never had to be unwrapped.
The total weight of all the items listed, including the rucksack, was 8 kilos on the morning of leaving home. This didn’t include any liquid in my water bottle but did take into account a full set of A4 pre-printed map sheets covering the route between Lands End and Carlisle (39 days walking). At an average of 4 sheets a day that is some 160 pages of maps. As I have said elsewhere, I discarded these each day as I progressed, being able to stock up for the next section once I treated myself to 2 days at home upon reaching Carlisle.
Carrying that weight on my back, even to an old-timer like me, was acceptable. Most people considering an undertaking such as this will probably be somewhat younger, stronger and fitter than I was. My inventory of essentials, at any rate, should be a valuable initial check-list for anyone contemplating this venture.
It is a good idea to have a dummy run carrying a full pack to see if it causes you any problems. I walked the 100 mile Ayrshire Coastal Path as a trial, the previous summer, with minimal discomfort.
As with every aspect of this project, I cannot stress too strongly how important planning is to its eventual success or failure. When all is said and done you will need a lot of luck to successfully complete a walk from End to End. Thoughtful planning helps stack the odds ever so slightly in your favour.