Packing. Something that everyone who walks has to do, whether they are packing a day sack for a short walk near where they are based or packing for a week away somewhere. It’s also something which seems – at least for me – to be difficult to get the right balance, and also where I’m prone to mishaps. Packing for a camping trip – particularly a wild camp – seems to involve a whole new level of balance finding (or not) because you are carrying everything and therefore that extra weight matters quite a lot more. Winter is the same because ice axes and crampons weigh a lot but the last thing you want to do is find yourself somewhere you need them – but haven’t got them.
Something always gets forgotten. Well it seems like that anyway.
There has been more than one situation when I have realised far too late that I have forgotten to pack something which probably leads on to me packing far too much stuff (see below). On one occasion the map case and compass turned out to have been left on a shelf in the house in London – which of course I only realised when on the train to Glasgow. I’ve managed to forget the correct map, and pack the wrong one, on more than one occasion which means that I now have quite a few maps where I have duplicates. Forgetting the map (or anything else vital) usually then leads to a late start on a walk because of the need to wait until a handily situated outdoor shop is open before obtaining the replacement. Not enough socks getting packed seems to happen on a regular basis, or packing socks that are both the same colour but not actually a pair; mind you, socks seem to go astray far more than they should, leading me to suspect that a sock-eating black hole lives inside my washing machine.
Other stuff that has on occasion been forgotten has included; a towel; enough changes of underwear; pyjamas; a base layer; gloves; a beanie hat; my sandwiches; hair elastics (important if your hair is as long as mine and has a habit of going everywhere in the slightest breeze) and my waterproof mobile phone case (on a day I really needed it). Fortunately I’ve never forgotten to pack my boots, fleece or waterproof or anything else that would actually kill the trip, but the fear of eventually doing so seems to have led me to make endless lists before any trip to the hills and tick through them obsessively. Which probably leads on to issue 2… overpacking.
Too much stuff or not enough?
Some people are good at packing light for a trip to the hills. I’m not one of them.
To be fair I am probably not bad at packing my rucksack, although on the first trip into the hills each year – particularly if it’s winter – I always feel as though I have a lead weight attached to my back. I would generally prefer to have something with me and not need it than need it and not have it. I always seem to end up taking more snacks than I actually eat, but the last thing you want to do is start feeling faint when halfway up (or down) a mountain.
Packing for a weekend or week long trip is another issue. How many pairs of trousers do you need to take? It rather depends on how muddy they are going to get which depends on the route and level of bog encountered, or likelihood of ripping them by trying to down scramble using ‘five points of contact’. At this time of year, it’s also difficult to know whether to pack winter lined trousers or more lightweight ones, or whether the insulated jacket is going to be required or not. So I tend to end up erring on the side of caution and taking stuff which never gets worn. Ditto baselayers – exactly how many days can you get away with wearing one without stinking out the pub you end up in after the walk? Especially after a baking hot day or two..
With weekend breaks, or longer holidays to the hills, there’s also the issue of what non-hillwalking gear you need. Do you take jeans in case your trousers get covered in bog to the extent of not being wearable in the pub? To a certain extent this depends on the pub – somewhere like the Old Dungeon Ghyll or the Clachaig Inn that is walker friendly it is not going to be an issue.
And how many days are you likely to be walking (and need walking gear) versus not? The net result of all these logistics is usually major overpacking with the end result of having to lug an unfeasibly heavy suitcase across London earning me filthy looks on the Underground before having to then try and shove it into a luggage rack on the train or cough up for a hold bag on Easyjet. I’m even worse when I am driving, as thinking ‘well I have room to pack all that extra stuff’ tends to result in an overstuffed car, particularly when packing for a week in a self-catering cottage and needing to think about how much food to take as well. Not to mention how much wine for post walk drinks…
I’m currently packing for our first weekend trip to the Lake District this year, and crossing fingers I don’t forget something. I think I’ve managed to get everything for 2 people into 2 rucksacks, 1 smallish case and a bag with maps, energy gels and a few other essentials (books for the train, relevant guide book etc) in it. Have I forgotten something? Well I hope not, but if I have, there’s always Gaynor Sports!