It can be a laborious process; sifting through the never-ending selection of outdoors kit for sale; to find something more clarifying than just advertising hyperbole. I find online forums, blogs (ahem) and youtube tutorials are the best way to cut the crap in the search for a future purchase. It is also worth bearing in mind that generally, with outdoors gear you get what you pay for. That £20 pop up tent you bought from Aldi just wont cut the mustard in the mountains I'm afraid!
But before I decide, what features do I look for from an item?
- Weight - How light is it?
- Durability - How tough is it?
- Reliability - Is it quick and easy to use?
- Suitability - Could it withstand 4 seasons in a day? Will it keep me alive?
Achieving an equilibrium of these 4 criteria should hopefully allow for some degree of comfort in the outdoors, no matter what the conditions are. If you are warm, well fed and rested then your brain (and I cant always vouch for this) should work to its full capacity!
So what are my favourite pieces of kit? You'll find my top ten below; all tried and tested in the worst conditions and the loneliest locations of the UK and New Zealand.
1. Tent - Hilleberg Akto + Footprint
1600g + 240g/£555 + £65
Ive had my fair share of bivvying in the mountains and lets just say that it isn't always roses and sunshine. Being awoken by rain to the face or the friendly bites of a midge swarm can lose its novelty pretty quickly, especially when travelling solo. This is where the Hilleberg Akto comes into its own as a high quality, sturdy one man tunnel-tent; capable of many a wind, rain and even snow filled night. The guy line tensioners and zips are easily operated with gloves and the vents at each end provide air circulation; helping to stop the build up of condensation on the tent outer. The porch area also provides ample space for kit and the footprint keeps your kit dry (Scotland dry, not actual dry). Note: The price of this tent is made all the more bearable if you divide it by how many nights you've spent in it. Im currently on £1.93 per night!
Caring for your Hilleberg
2. Sleeping Bag - Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark
This 3-season sleeping bag ticks all the boxes for me. Its lightweight, synthetic and has a brilliant warmth to weight ratio (1C comfort limit for 737g). The synthetic fill will retain heat even when wet meaning that the maritime climate of the UK need not overly bother me. After getting my down bag soaked in Snowdonia last year I was reluctant to use down again for an exped with wet weather forecast. The central zip is also a nice touch for those of you who sleep on your side. No more zip to the hip!
3. Sleeping Mat - Thermarest NeoAir Xlite
A sleeping mat is one of the most appreciated pieces of kit for anyone who spends a night out on the hill. Its a little bit of comfort far from home. The NeoAir Xlite fits down to the size of a 1L drinks bottle, is tougher than it looks and is super super lightweight. Need i say anymore?
4. Pan - MSR Titan Kettle
Heres one for the ultralight gearheads out there! A simplistic design; this titanium pan can boil up enough water for dinner and a hot drink. It also fits a 230g gas canister neatly inside when not in use. I've used it on both my gas stove and straight over the campfire; a welcome piece of kit when your cold and wet at the end of the day.
5. Camera - Gopro Hero 3+
125g/£280 (4 years ago)
The rigours of trekking in this unpredictable landscape don't make it the most camera friendly environment. Gopro changed this with its range of fully submergible cameras; useful for skiing, climbing, hiking, scuba diving, kayaking.. the list goes on. An abundance of add ons to change the POV gives you immersive imagery that other cameras can only dream of! It fits in your pocket. It can shoot 1080p. Its tough as nails. Welcome to the future of adventure videography!
6. Compass - Silva Expedition 4 Compass
I've never been much a fan of GPS navigation. I disapprove of a careless over reliance upon technology in the outdoors and besides, what is better than connecting with the landscape through map and compass? One benefit of working on your navigation skills is being able to keep your shit together when that claggy rain and wind kicks in, and it will at some point here. Its a very rewarding feeling to know that you and you alone got yourself off that mountain!
7. Personal Locater Beacon - Mcmurdo Fastfind 220 PLB
It feels ridiculous to spend nearly £200 on something you hope to never use; yet after a series of near misses in New Zealand this became a must have item for me, and it was one that made my Nan very happy! It offers the solo walker a certain peace of mind whilst in the mountains; with mountain rescue a single button press away.
8. Waterproof - Mountain Equipment Janak
The essential. That balmy summer day can quickly become a stormy test of the elements; and for these inevitable scenarios this solid Gore-Tex Pro jacket offers ample protection. The 80D fabric used throughout is tough enough to take the wear of a heavy pack and the rigours of scrambling and climbing on both rock and ice. A synch-able, peaked-hood, waist and velcro wrist cuffs seal the deal, creating an airtight cocoon of warmth around your core. And if that gets too much for you the pit zips can be opened to regulate your body temperature. A solid waterproof for both winter and summer conditions.
9. Baselayer - Rab Merino+ 120 Short Sleeve Tee
Rab's range of merino base layers are a 65:35 blend of merino wool and polyester; creating a more durable fibre than the 100% merino blends. Gone are the days of sewing on the trail! I find the shirt, underwear and pants great for walking and sleeping in year round, such is the versatility of merino (it is incredibly warm yet breathable). The odourless (within reason) benefits of merino are everpresent in these baselayers meaning that theres still a chance to make friends on the trail.
10. Walking Trousers - Montane Terra Pants
These are my go to mountain trousers. Ive bushwacked in Taranaki, walked in 40C heat in the Aussie outback and scrambled on the Cuillins in them. They've been worn extensively for the last 2 years, yet still show very little wear thanks to the tough fabric and cordura reinforcements on the bum, knee and inner ankle. They dry extremely quickly, have thigh vents for hot conditions and also boast a stretchy waistline which is great if your a skinny bastard like me!