Exploring the Gear
When your out and about or on trail there's no doubting it the nature is a wonder whatever the weather. They say you're only as good as the gear you're in the company of though and that's true to an extent. For sure to enjoy the outdoors you need good gear to protect yourself against the elements but you also need light robust gear to care for the body and to reduce the stresses and them calories you're burning up. And this is not to mention good navigation aids. There's a fair bit to consider. Focusing primarily on the big 3 let's dive in and see what's available and needed.
Wye Retail Map
Wye Dial In Your Gear?
You want to feel confident exploring either on a day out or when out for many days. We are nature and nature is us without doubt but we don't live out there like we used to and have now evolved to limit certain natural pressures. This is why we clothe ourselves and have great technical gear to walk in or sleep on. Apart from comfort we preserve energy and boost moral.
To start with we all have different budgets. We're not high end here by any stretch of the imagination but do have one or two items that are associated with top brands that we mix up with cheaper gear. For example, a decent shelter system is essential so save up if you must then fill that in with affordable gear if you have to. Good boots or trail shoes are essential to. However, base layers, stoves, hats, gloves, headlamps, waterproofs, socks and navigation aids can all be that little bit cheaper. We can even purchase second hand or used. With regards to purchasing gear therefore dialing in means two things: coming in on budget and getting the best system for the budget at your disposal. So, let's see what we can do to dial in our outdoor gear.
The Three Big Ones
The big three essential items on a backpacking adventure such as the Wye Valley Walk or any other across the UK or world are your shelter, your sleeping arrangement and your backpack.
Many people today seek to get the weight of these 3 items down low. If you are higher than say 5,000 grams or 11-12 pounds then you are to heavy. A decent weight would be less than 1,000 grams for your tent, 1,300 grams or less for your sleeping bag and 1,200 grams and less for your sack. 3,500 grams or less is a basic light weight target although many go lighter.
The above scenario is less than 8 pounds. This is good! Our advice would be to aim for that or at least 9 pounds and under. Below we recommend some shelter options, which include tarps, tarp tents, British sleeping systems and British/US made sacks.
Below the Six Moons Lunar Solo Tarp tent. 650 Grams
The suppliers: There are no Chinese products on this page. We keep it British or with our US/European partners. We also include further down the best retail stores in the Wye region some of which are UK and world renowned. All are on the Wye Valley Walk and accessible if you need anything.
Tarps, Sleeping Bags & Bivvy
There are some decent light weight tarps. Some may consider this a little to exposed but as our friend Impala On Trail who has hiked thousands of miles in the US and in the UK will say, 'they have their advantages.' A regular user of tarps (we use them to) on his long distance hikes a typical tarp setup would include: A light weight tarp, light weight stakes, a light weight bivvy bag, ground sheet and a light weight sleeping bag and mat.
A typical lightweight tarp set up can be obtained from these suppliers. It must be stated we are not sponsored by either of them.
A Basic Tarp setup but using DPM, which is a good idea if tucking in somewhere
Trekkit/Hereford: Trekkit have an unrivaled reputation across the UK for supplying the best equipment across the range. They are pricey and are far from a budget outlet but you can pick up some good deals to. Here's there tarp setup offering. Good backpacking equipment advice can be sort from them.
Additional Thought: It has to be said that a Bivvy bag is often an essential bit of kit when using the tarp shelter system because a tarp is more exposed than a tent. Get the combination right and a tarp backpacking experience is certainly one of a kind. Light weight, quick and close to the elements this is for those who like it stripped back and basic.
Sleeping bags for your bivvy bag range from those suitable for spring/summer backpacking and even into Autumn like the decent British made Snugpak Elite 2. There are lighter but we like this company and they're affordable. The Elite 2 is fairly compact though at 1.300g. With a built in side baffle you can enlarge the bag. There are a lot of features with this bag we like.
Other bags for spring/summer and winter can be viewed via the links. Bear in mind there are a whole range of quilts today that are awesome for spring/late summer. They're worth checking out. Another Snugpack product in fact is the Snugpack Jungle blanket essentially a quilt. At 700g we've used it many times during warmer months. It's a great product. We emphasize warmer months. If you're looking for other quilts see links for sleeping bags under each supplier.
Ultralight Outdoor Gear: Ultralight Outdoor Gear have been at the forefront of lightweight backpacking and camping in the UK for some years now. Their range and knowledge is extensive so any gear or advice needed can be obtained from them. Their tarp setup offering is affordable for the most part.
Additional Thought: Via pegs and other accessories you can save on a decent bit of weight and space. Titanium pegs today weigh a fraction of what other traditional pegs weigh. Ground sheets to are very compactable and light weight. It's good to look at the system on an holistic level.
Alpkit: Alpkit are a relatively new British outdoor gear design team and manufacturer of decent lightweight gear across the range. They also take note of their environmental impact in their business practices and the processes they employ. Their tarp setup offering is affordable yet quality.
Additional Thought: Mats have come a long way from your typical roll up mat we associate with backpacking. Often they're inflatable, robust, light and comfortable. As part of the holistic whole they can make the difference to your nights rest and or sleep.
Backpackinglight UK: Backpackinglight UK have been going many years and are based out of Malvern in the English Midlands.
Additional Thought: The above are all British suppliers with good reputations. There are many more but we have kept the selection of retail outlets down to a minimum. There's all you need to get going here. They supply most top brands. Of course you can always shop Amazon for budget gear. The search terms you'll be using relate to lightweight.
The above suppliers also have a decent range of lightweight tents These have come a long way since your 2.5 KG 1 man tent. Most hover around 1,000 to 1,200 grams today meaning over half the weight has been reduced. Having said this we can go lighter. The image above and below is of a Six Moons Design Lunar Solo tarp tent, which we have used extensively. This weighs in at 600 Grams. Six Moons are a US brand honed from the trails of the states. We can recommend this product, which can be obtained from Ultralight Outdoor Gear. A word of advice: This is not for summit camping. Cheaper knockoffs are the Lanshan but these are Chinese. Choose who you support!
Other tents to look out for that are lightweight are the Nordisk Telemark, MSR Carbon Reflex, Tarp Tent (single skin), Terra Nova Laser Compact, DD Superlight Tarp Tent (single skin), Vango Helium UL 1, from the US the fantastic Zpacks, Exped VELA I EXTREME, Exped other designs/Tarps included, Robens Chaser 1, Locus Gear (US) Khufu 1 man, Khufu DCF-B,
Erection of these tents vary. Some have carbon fiber poles supplied such as the Six Moons and the Nordisk whereas others require your lightweight trekking pole. It's down to you what system you go with. Personally we don't use trekking poles so the Six Moons, tarp tent Rainbow - Scrap 1 or the likes of Nordisk Telemark 1 are a good fit for us. You choose!
Other Small Things
Your tent may need protection from the ground. We've mentioned a ground sheet for your tarp but lightweight tents are made of very thin material floor space included. They can puncture so consider a light weight footprint for your tent.
Many moons ago we always made do with just filling out our backpacks with misc gear and stuffing it up top where our heads rested. If raining it can be wet adding a little discomfort in which case we purchased a lightweight pillow. For sure they change your night time experience and are worth investing in. There are numerous brands like Exped, Sea to Summit and Thermarest that produce great pillows for backpacking. These are high end but budget brands like Lifesystems (Lifeventure here) do a good job to. Check out pillows here at: Trekkit, Ultralightoutdoorgear, Alpkit and Backpackinglight UK
The Summer: Things change in summer. You can go lighter! If you're happy with the ground purchase a silver reflector mat that weighs just 90g.
These mats are great and work well during warmer times. Why carry more when you can carry less? It's all a matter of mind. We've used these for many years - they do actually reflect heat back at you. They're not inflated so it's certainly a case of stripping back the luxury's. In winter they're good for placing underneath your main inflated mat.
Carrying your gear is one of them top 3. You need to cover the miles in as much comfort as possible to minimize stress. Your rucksack needs to be light yet strong enough to take the rigors of backpacking either uphill scrambling at times, through forest or overgrown thicket and as can be the case with us on the street. There is of course keeping your kit safe, intact and dry. Choosing a good one is essential.
4 Backpack Brands
It must be said we have some loyalty here. Osprey and Deuter were always in our camp. The latter aren't super light weight but you can purchase their decent AIRCONTACT ULTRA 50 plus litre sack at 1,210g for less than £200. It's bluesign and PFC free environmental credentials make it even more appealing. The thing about a 50 plus litre sack is getting the contents right, which includes your two other big ones. Get them light and other gear such as sleeping mats, stoves and waterpoofs etc and 50 litre should be ample.
Gregory Focal 58
Currently we've been using the Gregory Optic 58. Just over 50 plus litre it's compact and light weight. Gregory shaved this one down and it can be said that it joined the realms of ultra light backpacks nicely. Yeah, you guessed it it's not in production anymore but its contemporary the Focal 58 is. With thinner straps, 100D High Density 40% Recycled Nylon & 210D High Density 45% Recycled Nylon with PFC-Free DWR it's not only edging towards environmentally friendly, but is at 1,200g, lightweight enough to be called ultra. It's worth checking out as is Gregory's environmental efforts. .
Osprey are a favorite of ours and have been for sometime. Over the years they have gotten much lighter and the thing we've always liked about Osprey is their processes and their drive towards sustainable products. For woman they have the Eja 58, which again is shaved down to save weight and made with 100% recycled materials. Coming in at a great 1,240 grams check out the specs by clicking the link above. For men/and woman check out the Levity 60 Litre. Coming in at an awesome 868g for a 60 litre it's one for serious consideration given the stable it's coming from. Osprey say about the Levity: these packs are built for the long-distance adventures where every gram counts. For more on the specs click here. Other packs include the Exos 58 at 1,300g and the Exos 48 coming in at 1,296g. For the Osprey sustainability mission click here for more information.
Atom Packs are a small British brand that have taken off in recent years. These packs are designed for your super ultralight backpacker in mind. Think cold soaked food and you get the drift.
With years on the trail the founder Tom Gale has been on a journey to design some of the toughest ultra light packs on the market. Working out of Keswick in the Lake District they bring their designs to life. The Atom+ EP50 can carry up to 30 Ibs in weight but weighs only 675g. This is almost half the weight of some of the above. With easy access to all that you need you can remove certain elemnts to reduce the weight further. See specs by clicking the link above.
It's said by serious thru hikers and climbers that Atom Packs are super tough. With a commitment to environmental production in addition to their tough rep they are for sure a pack to check out and take out on trail with you.
What About the Body & Mind?
As stated above we have evolved to accept certain pressures so we have to observe the needs of our body. Our good old friend Lofty John Wiseman SAS survival expert concurs with this recognizing that one of the rules of survival is to preserve energy on any expedition or multi day outing. So, looking after the body is key through decent lightweight gear choices. But lightweight gear is only one way we can look after the body because there is training to. There's no guidance here on this page specifically but if you go on over to Chase Mountains an excellent Youtube channel that covers this stuff you'll get an idea of what you can do - it is advisable to train and to keep supple. This way you go for longer and you don't waste the gear you've spent good money on by stepping off trail early through injury. Yeah, there's an indirect financial cost through not being fit. Who would throw decent money away by not being prepared? Mind you it's all about the enjoyment that feeling fit and good gear combined invokes. So, think about these things as you forest bath sat on a rock next time.
There are a host of things to gather together in order to have a successful backpacking trip. Some things you wouldn't think about if new to multi-day hiking. Things like zip lock bags for food items that are singular and separate for such things as an asortment of energy bars. Zip Lock bags are ideal to keep these things in. Here, before getting into water and hydration we'll do a quick spot check on what other kit you might like to consider as you build your gear up besides that of your tent/shelter, sleeping system and backpack. The spot check includes your cook system, which itself can have a confusing array of choices attached. We keep it simple for ideas purposes.
Headlamp - mini lamp for tent - absorbent cloth for condensation in tent and for wiping down the outside after a wet night - small notebook and pen/pencil (possibly waterproof) - compass/map case /map - GPS - light weight wallet for cards/coin - glasses - whistle - waterproof trousers and lightweight waterproof jacket - light water resistant trousers or shorts - boots/trail shoes - Gaiters (light weight) - socks/spare (1 other) - spare underwear (1 other) - microfiber towel - wash kit (basic stripped back) - First Aid (small) - cap/beanie/sweat scarf (beanie for sleeping?) - lightweight sit mat - waterproof stuff sacks/various sizes - walking poles (for lightweight tent to) - Lightweight brolly (it's a luxury we carry) - pen knife (possibly placed with cook gear) and collapsible light water bottle (see below)
Cook System: Pocket rocket MSR or other, integrated canister stove, Trangia, other and liquid fuel (Choosing between gas stove, integrated or liquid fuel - here's a great blog on Clever Hiker), canister stand, lightweight pot (750ML), pot scraper, pot picker for fingers, lightweight titanium spork or long handled spoon depending on how you're eating, Sea to Summit Collapsible x plate (good bit of kit), lighter, 2l water bottle either MSR or Platypus, water filter (see below), Swedish folding mug, sponge scouring pads/cut in half, sea to summit wilderness wash soap and stuff sack or if you designed it a certain way you might like to fit your cook system in a lightweight Karrimor TRAVEL WASH BAG like we do - see picture. You can get a decent sized gas cannister in it and your 750L pot as well as other things related.
How about anti chafe ointment? Soars can be a right pain. If you suffer them then carry some anti chafe balm (environmentally friendly from Mid Wales/Builth -Wye catchment no less). Keeping your feet in good condition through good socks and treatment is vital also - the latter is true for some but not all. Here though is a decent article on foot care from the supplier of the anti chafe balm above. Let's not ignore mosquito repellent depending on where you're going. In fact, always pack a small head net - you never know about these midges or mozzies. For eco friendly/skin friendly Incognito repellent click here.
The first essential is water. Hands down this is where we need to start. The Wye Explorer is all about water and we as organic living breathing beings are made up of nearly 70% water. Water is us and we are it.
Lofty Wiseman will tell us that water needs to be treated. So, let's start with water treatment, filtration and the options available. Below L-R are some products you might like to consider. The water tablets are purifiers from Lifesystems available at Trekkit and are good for washing, cleaning teeth and drinking. Next the MSR TrailShot Pocket-Sized Water Filter is a very trekker friendly solution for filtering water as is the Katadyn BeFree available from Ultralightoutdoorgear. We do use the Sawyer Mini filter but they can be slow yet are reliable. Available from basecamp foods.
A great little product we like out on trail is this collapsible Hydrapak water bottle. It's PVC free and packs down to be stashed away neatly when not being used. Besides hydration and packing away neatly it means you don't have to use a plastic bottle or purchase a bottle of water come to think of it. When on a long sweat inducing trek just pop your electrolytes in there and your good to go.
Replacing your salts and minerals on a hike is crucial. People forget this little detail but over a long trek it will show. Forget short hikes or brief intense hill climbs replacing electrolytes is for long trails where you lose a lot of your bodies salts and minerals through consistent exertion brought about by warm conditions, the sustained weight of the pack and long distances.
Over 136 miles on the Wye Valley Walk, for example, it would be prudent to put some Electrolyte in your water to stave of the possibility of Electrolyte imbalance. Here we use High5, which is sugar free and free of calories. If you want to know how important it is to replace your salts and minerals look at the salt marks on your boots or on your t-shirt that's soaking wet after a good few hours hiking.
Wye Valley Retail
Retail On The Wye Valley Walk or Wye Basin
Sometimes you need gear on the trail. Your pack may have broken, your jacket may no longer be waterproof enough, your boots or shoes may have failed on you, perhaps your sleeping bag has punctured, maybe you fancy a brolly or picking up some fuel for your stove. Whatever it is it's good to know where you can get it. Here, we share with you the suppliers in the Wye Valley and or Wye Basin so that you can get the kit you need.
List of Retailers in the Wye Valley
Upper Middle Wye
1) Builth Wells - The Bug Out - Top rate survival and prepping outlet but with a leaning towards the outdoors. You can get tarps, cooking equipment, fuel, torches, compass and a great selection of food for camp. They're just on the edge of town.
2) Hay On Wye - Golesworthys - Family run you can get shoes, boots, clothing, jackets, socks, knives, headlamps and other equipment at this very old store.
3) Hay On Wye - Flowhay - a good quality store stocking footwear, outer clothing and some camping equipment.
4) Hay On Wye - Rohan - High end national store supplying outdoor clothing.
1) Trekkit - Renowned all over the country you can get almost anything for your trekking needs from this store in the center of the city - gas included.
2) Regatta - Everyone knows Regatta. On a budget you can get some clothing form here - base layers, socks, jackets etc.
3) Mountain Warehouse - Another budget store you can get jackets, base layers, socks and some camping equipment as well as things for your cooking.
4) Trespass - Budget again you can get items of clothing form here as well as small things you might need on the trail.
5) Ross on Wye - Escape - This is a great little store that's packed with gear. It's like a tardis inside. Very friendly to.
6) Ross On Wye - Mountain Warehouse - The budget store where you can get jackets, base layers, socks and some camping equipment as well as things for your cooking.
7) Ross On Wye - Fishers - Mainly to do with angling you can get some outdoor wear from here.
8) Ross On Wye - Forest Army Surplus - As you might expect you can get stoves and other camping gear from the store.
1) Monmouth - Mountain Warehouse - The budget store where you can get jackets, base layers, socks and some camping equipment as well as things for your cooking.
2) Monmouth - Millets - Everyone's favorite budget store where most your outdoor needs can be met.
For locations and addresses see google maps. To enlarge click box on top right.