Nicola and I are big fans of the British countryside and on our days off and holidays we try to visit and explore as much of it as possible. This year we’ve been walking locally on the North Downs as well as going to the New Forest, Dartmoor, Jurassic Coast, South Downs and the Lake District; last year we managed to get to Pembrokeshire, the Peak District, the Lake District and the Isle of Arran! Whenever we go off walking we make sure that we’re prepared for whatever the weather might throw at us, and a few other eventualities. So this post isn’t particularly about bushcraft, but in some regards it could be classed as survival. I say this for 2 reasons:
- The most important survival skill is to not get in a survival situation in the first place, so be prepared.
- Most people who end up in a survival situation are day hikers who aren’t prepared!
You often hear people saying things like “The weather can change quickly on the hills”, and this is demonstrably true. The two photos below, of me and Nicola on Bull Crag in the Lake District, were taken minutes apart in September. In this first one, the sun was shining through the cloud, there was no wind and the temperature was a pleasant 14 or 15°C.
And then it changed to this; the wind was gusting and cold and the accompanying rain had a real bite to it (shortly after this photo, the waterproof trousers and hats went on as well). So making sure that you’re wearing the right clothing and have waterproofs with you is essential; without good waterproofs hypothermia is a very real possibility.
So anyway, here’s what we take with us when we have a day out hiking (essentially we both carry the same stuff, with a few differences that I’ll mention later).
Ordinarily when I’m in the woods I wear lots of greens and browns, but when we’re out walking we both wear bright colours (I like red, Nicola is more keen on purple), for what I hope are obvious reasons; much of our kit is similarly bright. I should also point out, we’ve invested in good quality kit, and I do mean invest, as with proper maintenance much of this will last us for years and see us in good stead for many more trips.
We both have rucksacks from Osprey; they’re expensive but mine is the most comfortable pack I’ve ever had the pleasure to carry. It moulds to your body shape and you forget that it’s there. As well as a main compartment they have side pouches, a top pouch, a front pouch and even pouches on the waist band, so ideal for organising your kit. This next photo is me and Willow at Crummock Water, with me wearing my rucksack.
In the main compartment of my rucksack I carry a 3 person bothy bag shoved down to the bottom (Nicola has an emergency bivvy bag in her rucksack). Down the side I have a folding sitting pad. Next to go in is a spare mid-layer, usually a merino wool hoody; this goes in a dry bag. Then goes my lunch (and Willow’s!). Last things in are waterproof trousers and jacket. These also go in a dry bag so that if I put them away wet they don’t get the rest of my stuff wet as well.
There’s a pocket inside the top of the rucksack and in here I carry a pair of gloves, a hat and a buff, again in a dry bag. I also have a bar of chocolate covered Kendal mint cake in this pocket.
In the front pouch I have a first aid kit in a ziploc bag containing 2 x medium wound dressings, a large absorbent pad, a roll of sticky plaster and pain killers. (Nicola has an extra large wound dressing, eye wash, eye pad, allergy tablets and steri-strips in hers.) I also have an orange folding bowl in the front pouch for Willow.
I also carry a map in the front pouch, inside a waterproof map case.
I carry two water bottles, one in each side pouch; one of them is a Water2Go so that we can refill as we go. Sometimes I’ll swap out a water bottle for a flask of coffee (we share the coffee so that Nicola still has two water bottles).
In the top pouch I carry a few bits and pieces in a dry bag: paracord, bandana, mylar blanket, lighter, torch, notebook and pencil and a spare filter for my Water2Go bottle. In the same top pouch I also have a couple of glow sticks and a monocular.
In one of the waist band pouches I carry a compass; often I have a camera in the other. I also have an emergency whistle in the strap of the rucksack. And lastly, although not in my rucksack, is an army issue jack knife that I wear on my belt (Nicola has an Opinel No.7 in her bag).
So that’s what Nicola and I carry around with us when we go for a day hike. I think we’re pretty well prepared, but let me know if you have any suggestions.
If you’re more intersted in survival, take a look at his post I wrote on survival kits.