There's a line we often hear, and it goes something like, "jeez, those are some big bags ye're carrying around. What've you got in there?". It's not really a question people expect an answer to, but it's something we're always thinking about, and trying to improve. What is it exactly we're carrying all around the country with us, and do we really need it all?
Each time we stop, we go through our stuff and see what hasn't come out of the bag for a while, and if that means we can leave it behind. However, if you asked me to list all the things we've left behind along the way, and all the things we've changed, I'd be hard pushed to answer. I know for a fact that as I've taken something out, I've looked at it long and hard, and thrown it in the "not really needed box", all the while thinking "well I definitely won't forget leaving this essential item behind. I wonder how often I'll miss it". I wish I could remember what that item was.
And so, for the second part of Tough Soles, I'm going to write out the longest, and most comprehensive gear list I've ever put together. It's just as much for future-me as it is for you. I'm really interested to see what things stay, and what things get left behind over the coming months.
Ok! So we have a rough plan of who carries what, although it changes from time to time. Let's start with my bag. I have a Dueter ACT Lite 40+10L bag. I have the guys fit/generic version, so I have it on pretty all the smallest/shortest settings. You can see on the front right arm strap I have my Capture Clip from Peak Designs (it's were I clip my camera when I'm using it. I show how it works in this video). I started the trip with a Lowe Alpine Airzone Pro 35:45L, which just didn't work for me. I got the Deuter pack about ... 3-4 months into the trip last year and loved it instantly.
I tend to carry the electronics/things we only need occasionally, and our food. Lots of small but dense things.
Main body of bag:
- Aqua Quest padded waterproof case (and laptop peaking out)
- Laptop charger
- Keep Cup travel mug that I use to store my extra camera lens
- A DJI Mavic Pro drone, in carry bag
- A blue padded case, housing our current hard drive
We originally brought the keep cup to use as its intended purpose, a travel mug. However a couple of months into the project I got a new lens for my camera. I decided to bring both as they're quite different lenses, and wanted something fairly rigid to hold whatever lens I wasn't using, something nice and small, simple ... I couldn't find a lens case that ticked all these boxes as well as the keep cup lined with bubble wrap did. Here I am 10 months later and I've been pretty happy with the results so far!
The drone lives in the travel bag it came in from DJI, containing 3 batteries, the controller, and some extra propeller blades.
Orange Electronic's Bag:
- Lens caps
- Headphone splitter
- Phone/Camera/Drone charger, and drone adaptors
- Metal key for capture clip
- Camera batteries x3 (+1 in camera)
- Insulation tape
- Drone battery x1 (+3 more stored in drone bag)
We try and pair this down as much as possible, but it's hard. We could do this with less. However, when we do come across a charging point (usually a cafe or when we're staying indoors for a night), we want to be able to put as much as possible on to charge at once, so that we can try and get everything done by the time we're leaving again. Hence one or two extras.
Bottom half of bag/side pockets:
- Nalgene 1L bottle
- Light canvas shopping bag
- Merino buff/scarf
- The North Face Gold Kazoo sleeping bag (850g)
With both our bags we're able to close the bottom section off to create a small separate area, where we keep bulky light things (aka sleeping bags). This sleeping bag is the biggest new purchase we made before starting back this year. The Gold Kazoo is a 3 season down bag, with a comfort of 0-2°C. It's a big upgrade on the summer bag I tried to use all year round for part one!
I really love having an umbrella - when it's been raining for a long time it's great to be able to pull down your hood and breathe freely, hearing everything around you, and still be dry. Normally we've an umbrella each, but we've misplaced one recently.
I've barely been using my buff recently, so I think I might leave it behind soon as technically it should be getting warmer from now on.
- Case holding notebook and pens
- Battery bank
- Extra card holder
- Pouch holding extra SD cards
- Extra hair bobbins (I swear they breed when I'm not looking, and then band together and run away)
- Lens cloth (it's still kinda clean ...)
As much as I love physical books, kindles are one of the best inventions ever. Ever.
These SD cards should be in the orange electronics bag, but they seem to move around a bit. Putting them all in one pouch was one of my better recent ideas.
This is the only battery bank we bring - it can charge both our phones, and the two kindles more than once. We're also able to use our drone batteries as battery banks, so we're never too worried about running out of power. Finally, the notebook and pens are one of my luxury items.
Things not photographed:
My two coats - I have a Burghaus Gore-tex rain shell, and a Patagonia down insulation jacket. My current down jacket doesn't pack away into it's own pocket like my last one, and it's a feature I'm definitely missing.
Keyboard - this might sound crazy, but usually we have a small bluetooth keyboard with us. We take it in turns to edit videos, and while one person is editing on the laptop the other can then be writing blog posts using the keyboard and their phone, or whatever else. It's not 100% necessary, but it makes working so much nicer, to the point where we actually do the work instead of just thinking about it.
My Camera, which is amazing. It's also known as a Panasonic GX8. Video of me braking it slightly better, and a video of all my camera related gear.
Also, food. I'm the main food carrier usually. We eat fruit cakes, biscuits, mini multipack chocolate bars, bananas ... all the perfect ingredients for a balanced and sturdy food pyramid: they're all easily stackable!
Lastly, nearly everything in my bag would be unnecessary if we weren't creating the way we are; making videos as we go, writing, etc. I think if we weren't doing the project this way, and left all this stuff behind, our packs would be light enough to get us into the "ultralight" category.
Carl's bag is the Osprey Atmos AG 65L. He started off last year with another Ospery - one of the old designs of the Exos 46. He's loved both bags, only moving up to the Atmos as his old bag was getting a bit overstuffed.
Main body of bag:
Missing from above:
- Red dry bag (aka Laundry bag)
- Half our clothes (in the washing machine)
- Micro fibre towl x2
- MSR Hubba Hubba tent, with footprint
- blue dry bag with clean clothes
- Marmot sleeping bag
- Therm-a-rest Women's ProLite Plus (?)
- Therm-a-rest NeoAir
- Water bottles (side pockets)
The MSR Hubba Hubba has been the most amazing tent. Carl got it on sale at the most amazing price about 3 years ago, and it has been on so many adventures with us - 7 weeks through spain, mini hiking trips around Ireland, and then we lived in it for over 5 months last year. It is one of the lightest 2 person tents you can find, and you can put it up in your sleep (we have many many nights of proof). Towards the end of last year we did make a couple of tiny repairs to it, but I see this tent lasting for many more adventures.
While at least half of our clothes were missing while I took this photo (have to clean them some times!), I can list off pretty much everything we have:
Ellie: Patagonia capaline t-shirt x1 / icebreaker merino long sleeve x 1 / random t-shirt x1 / Craghoppers Kiwi stretch black pants x1 / Nike running leggings x1 / Patagonia hiking pants x1 / Patagonia R(?) fleece x1 / patagonia merino mid layer x 1 / thousand mile socks x 4 / underwear
Currently you can see I have one too many pairs of pants. The Craghoppers and the Patagonia ones are what I brought with me last year, and the Nike running leggings are a new addition. I was conflicted on whether to bring the leggings - partially I didn't want people to thinking I wasn't a "serious" hiker for wearing something less "technical". But in all honestly, they're super comfortable and dry super fast, which is all I need and look for in pants. And neither of my other two pair of pants fit me all that well. I'm going to leave one pair of them behind, probably the Patagonia ones.
Carl: Patagonia capaline t-shirts x3 / CAC t-shirt x1 / Craghoppers Kiwi stretch black pants x2 / Patagonia R2 fleece x1 / Wigwam hiker pro socks x 4 / underwear
As you can see, Carl has his wardrobe pretty much sorted. Last year he had more Merino t-shirts, but has switched to Capaline and really likes it so far. He's also been wearing Wigwam socks exclusively for about 3 years - he bought them for our trip to Spain and hasn't bought anything else since. They do seem pretty impressive. We both love our Patagonia R Fleeces, I've walked over 3,550km in mine (as well as wearing it every day at home), and I think Carl has been stitched into his.
We wouldn't bring so much clothing if we didn't live in such a wet country. On trips abroad we've definitely had less, and on short trips in Ireland we've also had very little. But when you're living in wet clothes for a week, you really want to have options as to which wet socks you pull on.
We've had these mats a while, so I think I've given them the right names, but whatever they are they're definitely the old versions at this point. When we started walking last year Carl's was the NeoAir and mine the prolite plus (both were the short versions/size small that come to about your knees in length). When it turned out to be much colder at night than I expected (-4°C) we swapped mats as the NeoAir had a higher R rating (insulation rating). Turns out we both much prefer the Prolite for comfort (too much noise when you move on the NeoAir), but I haven't been able to get him to swap back. Actually, this reminds me - the NeoAir has a very slow puncture that I need to patch ...
Carl's sleeping bag:
He's had it so long he's not sure what it is. It's probably a 3 season bag, it's definitely down filled, and the brand is Marmot.
Bag lid pocket:
- Old Irish Trails maps
- Extra phone cables
- Columbia gloves - they actually haven't really been warm enough for him
- Climber's Against Cancer Hat
The lid of Carl's bag is actually removable, if he wanted to make it smaller. I think that he wouldn't be able to overly stuff the main body of the bag if he did, and I'm not sure if the smaller flap that would be covering the top is as waterproof as the lid ... but we might try it out some time and see!
Not pictured: Carl's kindle.
The "Dumb" phone is a backup phone. When charged the battery lasts for about a month, and you can drop it down a long flight of stairs without doing any damage (*cough* not that I would be so clumsy ...*cough*).
Zip lock bags are just generally super handy. You can store food, rubbish, wet socks, anything, and know they're not contaminating anything else!
- Hive game
- First Aid Kit
- Zip lock bags
- deck of cards
- Opinel knife
- "dumb" phone
We like to have something to play while walking, and the two easiest small things we've found to bring with us are Hive, and a standard deck of cards. The only 2 player card games we know are spit and snap though, so if you have recommendations let us know! Tissues are hidden everywhere for whenever my hayfever starts, and the knife is pretty much just for cutting fruit cake.
This bag moves between the two of us, depending on overall weight.
- Mouth wash
- dry shampoo
- deep heat cream
- Yellow dry bag to carry everything
- toothbrush x2
- soap box
- pain killers and antihistamines
- Many hair bobbins tied together
The small green and blue bag is actually normally in the lid pocket of my backpack. It has all my feminine hygine things, mini hair brush, very mini toothbrush - stuff that I could discreetly take into a cafe bathroom and make myself feel more human again if we've been camping for quite a few nights in a row.
Which leads me onto dry shampoo - not always my favourite thing, but when your hair is as long as mine it does help. Just don't buy the dyed ones.. We got the wooden toothbrushes from the Little Green Shop and they have really nice soft bristles.
Not pictured - last year I had to add Athlete's Foot Cream to the pile. Thankfully it all cleared up pretty fast, but I might keep carrying the cream just as a precaution. Similarly, I've taken to carrying anti-inflammatory cream too since the foot injury. Just in case. Might leave the deep heat behind as a swap.
Things not photographed:
Carls coat - it's a Patagonia coat, but not one of their technical ones. It's probably just designed for city/day trip use. It's uses their H2-No waterproofing, and is synthetically insulated. While it's definitely starting to show lots of wear and tear marks, it's hard to part with something that's travelled so far with you. (On further googling, we think it's an old model of an Insulated Torrentshell Jkt.)
Our boots! - Currently Carl wears Merrell Moab Mid boots, and I wear Salomon Comets. We're both happy with our choices, although Carl's superfeet insoles have damaged the Gor-tex leaving him with some soggy socks...
Our cooking system:
For the first half of Tough Soles we brought a small cooking system with us, and lived on instant pasta. I don't even have to close my eyes to remember the taste, but it was calories, and most supermarkets would have it on sale. Here's me cooking with it.
However, you need to carry a lot of water if you're cooking for two people, on top of just your drinking water. We've decided for the next month or so to leave the stove behind, and see if we're still able to stick to our budget while eating dry food like fruit cake and energy bars.
- small cutlery set
- MSR pot
- Soap leaves
- MSR pocket Rocket
- Jar of coffee
Again we've gone for MSR, as we just find their products to last really well, no matter what we trow at them. We did see cheaper pocket rocket style stoves, but you can feel the difference when moving the component pieces, and when it's only maybe an extra €10 I'd rather get what I know is going to last. We've had some people wonder whether the pocket rocket would be enough for long trips and we've found it really great. Our bot balances well on it, and the temperature control is great. And all of this works so well because it all packs down into the pot! SO great.
And I think that's it! Phew! That was a lot of unpacking and repacking. Please let me know what your favourite pieces of gear are, and any card games we could play!