Trek preparations and the banning of Tilley hats

It’s almost time for the first practice trek, which by happy coincidence totals almost exactly 42 miles.  The weather forecast suggests rain, so at least part of it is an authentic replication of the 4 days in Wales and 22 days in Scotland.

Tilley Hats - even dinosaur adventurers used them!

Tilley Hats - somewhat necessary for an adventure.

I have a rather inflamed knee. My kneecap is what can best be described as wobbly. Given that my shoulders are also considerably crunchy, I’m not entirely looking forward to this first trip. I’m going to be eating ibuprofen like candy next week to help manage the inflammation. I’m inflammable.

It’s my first time in a tent on a campsite in the last ten years. That’s going to be a little bit weird. I’m far more used to being up a hill and under the stars. A tent is going to be necessary, so I better get used to it.

We’ve almost nailed down the route and the kitlist. It’s now just a case of making sure it all makes sense.

The route is looking likely to take us an extra day, 22 instead of 21, and an extra 30 miles, pushing us up to 380 miles. That extra time and distance gives us a walk around Glencoe, up Ben Nevis, and around Cawdor and Dunnottar castles. Those were bits we were keen to see, and I doubt we are likely to repeat this trek, so we’re taking the time out to do the interesting touristy stuff along the way.

The current kit-weight for two people (excluding food and water) is 20 kg. I’m hoping that we manage to cut that down to 18 kg, partly because I like food, and the less we take the more food we can carry.

I still need to get myself a sunhat. I have no hair and even a hint of sun turns my skin crimson. I was, however, completely and totally banned from ever owning a Tilley Hat. I feel as though I have been robbed of a lifelong dream. It wasn’t even just Heley who banned me from wearing one. Daphne, my girlfriend, supported the ban and I’m pretty sure that Hatty, my little sister, only wanted me to get one so that she could mock me once I was wearing it.

How can this be a proper adventure without a Tilley Hat?

Image courtesy of Binaryape

Receiving advice about camping equipment

I’ve been asking around for advice on what camping equipment to take. I already had a good idea of what I wanted, but still have areas where the load could be lightened. I’ve sent e-mails off in all directions, but the first two companies to get back to me are The North Face and

I asked The North Face about whether there was any tent re-sealer that they would recommend. They sent me a very polite “copy and paste” e-mail in reply apologising for the trouble I’ve had with my tent and outlining their warranty coverage. They go on to discuss how I should get in contact with my dealer… etc., etc.

My question was how best to re-seal a North Face tent. Ahh well.

I had a distinctly different response from the very helpful people at Backpackinglight. Not only do they have hundreds of hours of podcasts that I’m downloading and listening to, but they quickly replied to a series of questions I had about their gear.

After their advice to use meths, rather than gas, I have to have a quick rethink of the food strategy. The problem with gas is getting hold of it, or carrying enough canisters to last 3 weeks. A lot of smaller camping shops have closed; however, hardware shops and some petrol stations sell meths. I’m not used to cooking with meths. It’s not as simple as gas; you can’t just turn the meths off and pour it back in the bottle. Heley and I have plenty of time to work out exactly how much meths we need to boil enough water for two cups of tea though!

For filtering water we’re also looking at the Travel Tap, or Aquapure Traveller, both are much lighter than my MSR Water filter, and it sounds like either are suitable for use in highland streams. It helps that we can take 2 of them for less weight than the MSR Water filter.

We had been thinking about sharing one set of walking poles; however, at Backpackinglight they are really keen on the use of walking poles. They claim that “using poles will reduce the accumulated stress on the feet, legs, knees and back by an estimated 8,877+ kg (31,500+ lb) per mile.”  Given the state of my knee I think I’ll probably be using two poles then!

Our shared kit list and my personal kit list are now pretty much complete; we just need to buy the kit. Heley still has some way to go organising her clothes etc. It’s all a little heavier than I’d like, although it is possible to save a fair bit.

So far the shared kit is around 9.5 kg. I’ve got 5.5 kg of personal kit, so we are already up to 15 kg before taking into account spare batteries, food or water. Replacing the tent and not taking the water filter would save 1 kg. There are some luxuries that can be cut if we want to save another 1 kg. After that it’s looking a little more difficult to cut without spending money.

You can have a look at some of the kit we’d ideally have over here.

Tarps and Leaky Tents

Yesterday we tested our The North Face Tadpole 23 tent with a hosepipe. It survived pretty well, apart from at the seams, which were quite happy to let water through into the tent. Not to worry, we still have plenty of time to get things fixed.

Actually, we are looking at two options:

  • Re-sealing the tent.
  • Selling it and buying a new tent.

For a new tent we’re looking at either the MSR Hubba Hubba HP or the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2. The reason for looking at a new tent is that either of the new tents would be over 500 grams lighter and have 2 doors.

The North Face Tadpole is a great little tent. It has slightly more headroom (looking at the measurements) than most tents, it seems robust, and it will be waterproof again soon.

The main problem is that it only has one door. With two of us getting in and out of the tent it may be a bit awkward, particularly in bad weather. The other issue is that being very narrow at one end, it is perhaps a little cosy for two people sharing for three weeks. That said, two of us fitted quite comfortably in there, and we did manage to squeeze a third in for a laugh. It helped that none of us could be described as chunky.

Whether we replace the tent is likely to be a decision we make after testing it in the field. A hosepipe and one sunny afternoon are hardly comparable with wet, windy weather in the Highlands.