TGOC 13 – What’s on my back and in my pack

by backpackingbongos

It is traditional for male outdoor bloggers of a certain age to share gear spreadsheets every now and then.  However I would find doing so a form of purgatory.  Spreadsheets are for using at work, even then I do them so badly that someone else will volunteer to take over.  I will save the gear spreadsheet for when I’m finally placed on some form of medical spectrum.

Instead, just incase readers are interested I thought that I would do a quick run through of what I’ll be taking on this years Great Outdoors Challenge.  For me it’s about getting a balance between weight and comfort.  There is no point in trying to save weight if its going to make me miserable.  I’m not the sort of person who finds joy in backpacking for two weeks with one pair of underpants and socks for example.  Anyway, here goes.  Feel free to pick holes in my logic, I’ll simply ignore you anyway and take what I want to take.


Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody – This is probably my favourite item of clothing.  A synthetic filled jacket which I find just as good for sitting around camp as walking the hills in cooler weather.  Not as warm as a down jacket but more versatile, especially if conditions turn out damp.

Haglofs Essens Down Vest – This packs down to nothing and weighs in at 180 grammes.  Purchased on an impulse yesterday, this will boost the Atom Hoody when in camp or provide extra warmth for sleeping.

Smartwool baselayer – I really rate Merino for long backpacks.  This one is warm, does not itch and I can wear it for days without it stinking.  The only downside is that it is yellow and does not suit my comedy belly.

Rab Aeon Tee – I am taking both the long and short-sleeved versions.  Together they weigh pretty much nothing and are soft and silky smooth.  I’m wearing the long-sleeved one as I type this as it is so comfortable.

Rab Cirrus windshirt – Great for keeping those breezes at bay when it is too warm for a jacket.  Mine is the special venting edition as it is falling apart and full of holes.

Montane Terra Pack Pants – These are the lightweight versions of the popular Terra Pants, which I find too warm outside of winter.  I’ll be wearing a pair and will have a spare in my pack.  I’m sure that many will think this is overkill but I like to have a complete set of spare clothing on a long backpack.  When staying in b&b / hotels I can wash out the ones I have been wearing and then hit the pub in a clean pair whilst they dry.  This will save me having a well-earned meal and pint in my underpants.

Finisterre Zephyr Boxers – These Merino boxers are soft and comfy, they also can be worn for a while without getting too stinky.  I’ll be taking two pairs.

Inov-8 Flyroc 310 – I did the 2011 Challenge in these shoes and they worked really well.  That pair have long since been retired so I have recently purchased the updated version.  A backpack and two long days walks and they are nicely broken in.

X-socks Trekking Expedition Short – I have found these to be the best socks to wear with trailshoes.  They are lightweight but have a bit of merino for warmth.  They are shaped for each individual foot and dry really quickly when wet.  I’ll be taking three pairs.

M&S leggins – Lightweight cotton numbers for sleeping in.  Keeps the bag clean.

Extremities Polartec hat – For keeping my noggin warm, works well under the hood of the Atom Hoody.

Berghaus fleece liner gloves – I have unusually warm hands when trekking and these are the only gloves I used during this past winter.  Light and dry quickly.


Rab Neoshell Myriad jacket – A new purchase from my lovely wife for my birthday.  It has yet to see any rain but I have high hopes for this jacket which is new on the market.  I have heard good things about the Neoshell fabric, should keep me dry and comfy in typical Challenge conditions.

Rab Drillium eVENT trousers – They served me well on the last Challenge so will be coming again.  Light and very breathable.

Integral Designs Shortie eVENT Gaiters – Come to just above my ankles, more to keep crud out of my shoes than to keep my trousers clean.

Sleeping and Shelter:

Tarptent Scarp1 – My favourite tent, ever.  It’s roomy, has two porches and is stable in bad weather.  A joy to crawl into at the end of a long day.  Heavier than the MLD Trailstar but I feel it is nicer to live in for two weeks.

Exped Synmat UL 7 – I was going to take my trusty Neoair but I have now decided it is no longer so trusty as it slowly deflates during the night.  I received the Synmat a couple of weeks ago and it is untested out in the field.  On the spare room floor however, it is very comfy indeed.

PHD Hispar 500 – Even in May the night time temperatures can plummet well below freezing in the Highlands.  A few extra grammes is worth carrying for a good nights sleep.


ULA Catalyst – This has been on all of my backpacks for nearly four years now and has served me faultlessly.  It is a good combination of weight versus supportiveness.  It has a large enough capacity to carry food and gear for a two week trek, yet its volume is easily reduced for those final days.  It’s looking a bit rough round the edges now so fingers crossed it will get across in one piece.


Jetboil Sol Aluminium – I love this little stove and find that I stop and make a hot lunch when backpacking because of it.  Also when in camp I find myself drinking more hot drinks.  There is not the same level of faff that I used to have when using a meths stove.  I will take one 230g canister of Primus power gas.  This should last me until near the half way point where I’ll buy another in Kingussie.


Sawyer Squeeze filter – The easiest water filter that I have used.  Most of time I will probably not bother when deep in the hills.  Good for when nearer civilisation.

Pacerpoles  Carbon – With my creaking knees I feel that poles are essential for when backpacking.  Pacerpoles are the best that I have ever used.  They improve my posture and give my upper body a bit of a workout as well.  Highly recommended.

Kindle – One of the joys of backpacking is to spend the evening engrossed in a good book.  I am currently reading IQ84 by Haruki Murakami, a hefty tome that would be impractical to take in book form.

Satmap GPS – This will be switched off most of the time and will only be used to confirm my location in poor visibility.  My crossing of the Monadhliath is particularly navigationally challenging as it goes across the grain of the land.  Good to have ‘just incase’.

First aid – containing all the essentials as well as anti-chaffing cream and a whole host of medication to keep my rebellious body going.

Tikka XP 2 – It’s a torch and will help me see in the dark.  That’s what torches are for.

There are a few more odds and sods in the pile in the spare room but I’ll stop now before I bore you to death.  I have no idea what the total weight is yet.  I will be starting off with enough food for three days.  I’ll weigh the sack when finally packed.

After all of this gear talk I think that I should provide a bit of balance by showing a few wild camping photos from my last Challenge.  In the end it is all about getting out in the hills for a couple of weeks.  For me wild camping is the best bit.






16 Responses to “TGOC 13 – What’s on my back and in my pack”

  1. I’m pleased to see you’re taking two pairs of merino boxers – didn’t you just have the one pair in Sweden with you last year and turn them inside out half-way through the trek?

  2. Pretty similar to what I carry. I always have a spare set of clothes. Whatever I do, base weight always seems to be 9-10kg, which is a reasonable carry. Like you, the Scarp is the best tent I’ve used and great for walks like the Challenge. Easy to put up and robust, you don’t need to worry about where to pitch and not being able to sleep. Have a great time. I’ve just tweaked my back, so in a way I’m glad I’m not going. Next year 🙂

    • I find spare clothes essential on a long backpack, although I don’t bother for a night or two. I find that there is a pyscological benefit just knowing they are in your pack if needs be.

      Hope your back gets better soon, I tweaked mine a while back and know how painful it can be.

      • The one thing I agree with Tracksterman on is a spare set of dry clothes is essential if you are going anywhere remote. However, the 14 pairs of (ladies) underpants that Jeremy Burrows carries does seem a trifle excessive 😉

        This is the third time I’ve tweaked my back in two years, so I think I’d better get some medical advice. It’s not serious and is a muscle/nerve issue, not spine, so hopefully some exercises will cure it.

      • The first long backpack I ever did was the West Highland Way Robin. On that I took a pair of pants, socks and a tshirt for every day. My pack weighed a ton!

  3. Question. I love my Synmat, love it! But I feel it’s vulnerable so I tend to carry a thin mat to put underneath. Do you do something similar (or did you with your Neoair, I know the Synmat is new to you)? I’m wondering if I’m being over cautious…

    • Hi Louise I have never taken anything to put under my Neoair, although I do make sure nothing sharp is under my tent. I would hope that the Synmat is designed not to have to carry another mat?

  4. That looks a very sensible gear list James and serves as a good comparison to my own list (in detailed spreadsheet form!) I too am in the spare pair of underwear camp for a two weeker! I haven’t decided about spare troos and things though – can I get away with going to the pub in my waterproofs??

    To answer Louise from my perspective: I’ve been using a Synmat UL7 for the last year now (total of about twenty nights) and haven’t ever put anything under it (nor do I put anything under my tent’s inner). I’ve never really felt that it is vulnerable (that outer material is definitely Exped tough) but I do always give my pitch a check for sharp stones, twigs etc before setting up the tent.

    • Thanks Nick, that’s very reassuring. I too am always very careful about clearing my pitch. Excellent, now I can be sure of a comfy night. See you in Plockton!

    • A detailed spreadsheet Nick? Careful as the next step is sitting in bus stations noting down bus registration numbers………………

      I reckon you could get away with spare trousers and sit in the pub in your waterproofs, all down to personal choice at the end of the day. For me its the psychological boost of knowing that I have spare clothing that is just as important as actually wearing them.

  5. Think you left out an essential. One postcard sized photograph of rich to place by sleeping bag to watch over me whilst I sleep.

  6. Lovely! But what is “faff”, as in “level of faff”?


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