I’ve been told that I carry too much stuff when I go out onto the hill. Here’s the thing though – I’ve been caught too many times with not enough of this or not enough of that. So, don’t listen to those that scoff you’re taking the kitchen sink with you – you can never carry too much. Want to know what I put in my rucksack when I go on a hill walk? Read on.
Let’s start with the rucksack
I’d recommend a 20-30l rucksack for your day walk. I often carry my 30l Osprey Tempest rucksack because it’s a really comfortable pack, with plenty of pockets, padding on the hips and space for my kit. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to carry anything in-hand so my pack needs to accommodate any layers I take off, hence the larger 30l option. I also carry a camera with me everywhere so that takes up a certain amount of room while leaving good space for everything else.
What’s in my rucksack?
- A waterproof jacket is essential to keep in your pack at all times, even if it looks like it’s going to be a nice day. Weather changes really quickly in the mountains – never forget that. Additionally, while the weather may look good you can never tell what the wind chill will be like at the top. The wind can make you really cold and waterproofs are a good way of blocking that wind out so it’s a good idea to don them while eating your lunch.
- Waterproof trousers are also good to have with you. They can help keep you nice and warm whether that’s providing shelter for the rain or from the wind. They take up next to no space and weight hardly anything so you’ll be thankful for taking them along. I love my OMM Kamlieka trousers as they’re lightweight and don’t make lots of noise when you walk in them, plus long zips up to the knee mean you don’t get mud all over them from poking your trainer or boot through.
- Water bottles or hydration bladder should always be to hand. I always fill my 3l hydration bladder up and I always finish it while out walking. I often take a flask of hot coffee or hot Ribena, too. You can see my review of my Klean Kanteen Insulated flask here.
- Map and compass should live in your rucksack. If the weather closes in you’ll need to be able to get yourself off the mountain. On that note, make sure you know where you are on the map at all times, too, as navigating your way down if you don’t know where you are is not a good position to be in.
- Extra layers are a good idea. I usually pack a down coat (thick or thin depending on the weather/season). You can see my review of my thick Adidas Terrex Agravic jacket here and of my lighter weight Rab Microlight. I will usually carry a fleece such as the Columbia Novelty Hoody, a softshell such as the Arc’teryx Atom or a gilet such as the Patagonia Nano Puff. I know it’s a lot but I feel that if I slipped and turned or broke my ankle, I would need to keep myself warm and off the ground while rescue came.
- Hats, gloves and a BUFF to keep you toasty. I usually carry a couple of pairs of gloves as one pair often gets wet very quickly. I’ve climbed Snowdon when it’s been a sunny 16 degrees celcius at the bottom and -5 at the top – this won’t be unusual in mountain environments. I personally always feel the cold on my neck and chest so usually have a BUFF or similar around my neck to keep the cold off.
- I wrap all of these up in dry bags. You don’t want all your extra layers getting wet as otherwise you’ll catch a chill. I tested out some awesome lightweight ones from Lifeventure here.
- Food, food, food! Glorious food! You get the gist… Always carry food. I often cook up a tuppaware of pasta to take with me as that’s wonderfully indulgent on a mountain. It’s important to keep your body fuelled so you don’t struggle with your walk. Regular small snacks will help to keep energy flowing. Again, always carry more than you think you’ll need just in case something happens and you’re on the mountain longer than anticipated. Whether this means an extra pack of dried fruit or jelly babies – something is better than nothing.
- First aid kit: or some small variation of at the very least – even if it’s only ibuprofen and plasters. It’s always a good idea to have something for cleaning any possible cuts and scrapes. This could also include sunscreen, if you’re heading out in snow or sun!
- Sunglasses are not always essential but they certainly make it a much more pleasant experience if you have shade from strong sun, wind or snow. They’re super handy to have stowed away, just in case. I’m going to just input a screenshot from Trail April 18 below, which features a walk I did with them onto Cross Fell and the wind was unbelievable strong. I didn’t have any eye protection with me and lets just say I was worse off for it…Yes, I was bracing to stay upright.
- Extra laces because you just never know when you’re going to snap a boot lace – and believe me, it’s really hard walking without your boot done up!
- Head torch is a good idea as darkness can close in scarily quickly sometimes. If you’ve managed to get yourself turned about you’ll want all the help you can get. A good tip is to wrap this up to keep the battery warm. The cold is notorious for draining battery life.
- Mobile phone is an essential for letting people know where you are, finding out your location via gps and for general safety. Be careful not to wear your battery down by using it as a camera or gps device though as it is primarily needed for your safety.
- Walking poles are brilliant things and strap reasonably easily onto many backpacks. If you struggle with bad knees, used properly, walking poles will save the day! They got me through 70 odd miles of the West Highland Way when I somehow managed to strain both of my achilles.
This obviously varies from season to season. Have a look at the cheesy-ass video below for when I went for a winter walk in the Lake District this winter.
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