Learning what to bring on a trip, or: evolution of my gear

Hiking in northern Spain, 2011 style.

Learning what to bring on a trip

or

Evolution of my gear

As I happen to frequently take pictures of all the gear I bring on a trip, I have an overview over how my setup has changed. I haven’t been into serious hiking for all too long, but my gear, what kind of clothes and food I bring, has already changed a lot.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of my gear on the Camino de Santiago I walked in 2011, 2012 and winter 2014. I absolutely don’t remember what I brought back then but it would be interesting to know. The only picture I have is the one below, of my cotton packpack ready for the Caminho Português in 2011. It’s a 50 liter pack and I hiked in summer… my sleeping bag was way too warm and big. I mean, it doesn’t even fit into the pack!
Caminho Português 2011
But to be honest, I had no money at all back then and buying a second sleeping bag just because my other one is too big and warm, was not really an option. What else I remember from that trip was that I had long cotton pants that I didn’t use a single time, also I walked in a heavy skirt, H&M cardigan and with tennis shoes on. Unsurprisingly I was sweating a lot in my clothes and I had aweful blisters from day one of the trip. It never occured to me though that it was because of my clothes, I just accepted it as it was.
What else would you wear on a 120km hike? Blundering in september 2011.
In 2012 hiking for me was all about wearing Nike running gear from head to toe. Way better than H&M cotton.
I know that there’s different opinions about this, but I don’t think (anymore) that Fjällräven cotton clothes are optimal for glacier hiking, or any hiking really. Too heavy, too bulky, too warm. Sold all of that stuff.
February 2014, Solheimarjokull, Iceland.
Some years later I finally discovered the existance of hiking gear and clothes that need less than three days to dry after they become sweaty. Still there was a quite limited perspective on what was available, but I think that’s perfectly natural when you are just getting in to a new hobby. At first it’s always hard to see what you really need, what products are just useless and which are your personal favorites. It’s a process of buying, trying it out, selling stuff second hand and starting over.
Here’s two pictures of my first Kungsleden in summer 2014. Since then I have changed basically everything you can see in this picture. The sleeping bag was colder than sleeping naked, the hiking poles broke right after this trip, the compression bag was incredible heavy and bulky, the water bladder leaked and got permanently green on the inside (blergh…). The gas stove is not bad but very sensitive to wind and quite slow. Why I brought several meters thick rope and a headlamp (midnight sun) is still a mistery to me…
I still have the gore-tex jacket though and it’s still awesome, same for the Lifestraw water filter (that you don’t need in Lappland though) and my compass. I also still use the first aid kit which I restock accordingly to the trip I’m on.

 

Taking a look at the food I brought… it’s actually not too bad. It just lacks some fresh stuff and there’s definitely too little proteins and fat in the picture. I remember that I was dreaming about cheese, fries and oily stuff. Nowadays I would be bringing a salami, a little bottle of olive oil (I’m not a big fan of butter) and more canned fish. If I had space maybe also some fruit or veggies for the first days.

Here’s what I brought on a snowy trip in Jämtland in the end of September 2014. I finally got better hiking poles and a better sleeping bag and sleeping pad. If your sleeping equipment is bigger than your backpack and heavy as a stone, it just can’t work out. I also got some durable, light metal cutlery, which I’m still very fond of.
I still use most of these clothes, besides the gaiters that were not breathable at all and made my legs sweat that much, I could have stepped as well in any puddle around. After this trip I swapped out my drinking bottle for a Nalgene. The aluminum bottle from Sigg was freezing every night and ended up leaking all over my sleeping matress which willingly sucked up half a liter of water. Not so nice in a cold night…
In March 2015 I went skiing on Kungsleden and spent a week in Abisko. I didn’t camp though, so my packing doesn’t include a kitchen or a sleeping pad. I still think that this is quite a good setup and I would bring basically the same on a similar trip. Of course I also brought skiing boots, they’re just not in the picture. The sneakers I brought are a bit too heavy and in the meanwhile I got some secondary shoes that I can wear indoors or just for going to the outhouse that are less than half the weight of these. I sold some of my sweaters and ski underwear on a flea market in summer and substituted them by merino wool products. Wool is just the warmest and most comfortable material.
The sleeping bag felt a bit too heavy for me, with 1,6kg. I recently sold it and ordered a new one from Roberts.pl that will be only about 800 grams while having the same comfort temperature.
In June 2015 I went for a two week camping trip in Lappland again. There was so much snow left that we went on snowshoes, it was actually not that different from March…
I try to bring all my socks and underwear in wool and go lightweight. The Smart Wool socks are so warm, fast drying and never start smelling, that it’s enough to bring two pairs for the whole trip. One pair that I wear during the day and one pair for the evening and night.
The crampons and the Therm-a-rest didn’t make the cut and I left them at home.
A look into the Trangia kitchen. The idea is to fill out all small spaces and bring just as much as needed. There’s no need to bring more detergent or more than half a sponge for washing the dishes.
Around the cooking pot you can see all other kinds of stuff I brought. I don’t save on lighters, matches and a fire steel.
I’m being realistic though and know that in a couple of years I will look back at these pictures and think ‘was I crazy?’. Or just imagine how it will be, looking back twenty years from now!?
Picking gear and equipment, improving it, changing it,… is really just one of my hobbies and I think it’s a lot of fun. I’m not regretting any of the “poor” choices I’ve made in the past, all of the blisters I got from Lidl socks and pain I had from my too heavy backbacks. I think it’s interesting to evolve and be able to look back to see where you’ve come from.
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