I have been asked, on more than one occasion, ‘what do you actually carry inside your backpack?’
When it comes to packing up my rucksack for a hike, there are a few items I could never leave the house without. Ticking off my checklist has become second nature to me, and although the ingredients I take on a hike very rarely change, it’s become habit to check, double check and check again before heading out. Most of these items are your usual, everyday items, which all hikers should carry with them. But here is a little insight into what this particular Cornish Rambler couldn’t be without …
Firstly, it all depends on how far I walk which can determine the size bag I take. I have two that I choose from and both suit my needs perfectly. I don’t enjoy lugging heavy rucksacks around for miles and miles, so I tend to carry the basics, especially if I’m only walking a few miles away from my house! I also suffer with an achy lower back and shoulders so for me, finding a rucksack that sits comfortably is a must.
If I’m walking further than 8 miles and the route is more arduous than a gentle stroll along the beach, then I will take my Deuter Futura 20L backpack. Designed specifically for women, the mesh back system is comfortable, flexible and has great ventilation to keep at bay those sweaty backs. With a shorter design and a lovely padded hip belt, it sits nicely on my back and hips, without hitting me in the neck and head as I walk! If the sea tempts you, there is a handy stretch pocket inside which will hold your wet clothes nicely. When the Cornish sunshine suddenly turns to a Cornish downpour, the pocket at the bottom of the backpack reveals a handy waterproof cover that stretches over the entire backpack – this has been a lifesaver on more than a few wet walks in the past!
If I decide on a shorter walk where the weather is dry, or there’s only a little Cornish mizzle on the horizon, then I’ll take my Osprey Daylite backpack. This lightweight rucksack really does live up to its name and has the ventilated spacer mesh back panel that I love and appreciate when getting my stomp on. This small daypack still holds all of my essentials, but is a perfect size for nipping out for a few miles around the coast. I also use it day to day when I’m walking to and from work. I’ve never been a handbag kinda gal, more of a satchel or backpack woman, so my Osprey is perfect for my daily on foot commutes.
So now you know what rucksacks I use, it’s time for the fun part…what goes inside them?!
- Waterproof Trousers
It’s a proven fact, according to all Cornish folk alike, that the Cornish weather is very unpredictable. One minute you could be sweating in shorts and t-shirts. The next, diving for the closest tree to duck under until the surprise monsoon subsides. So to ensure I am never left with soggy knees and a wet arse, regardless of the weather when I walk out my front door, there will be a pair of waterproof trousers rolled up at the bottom of my bag.
I found a great, relatively cheap pair, in Mountain Warehouse. They are easy to slide into, especially when you are trying to be quick. They are lightweight, waterproof and breathable with taped seams and an ankle zip, making it easy to get over any boot. Perfect!
2. Water bottle and dog bowl
As most of my Cornish Ramblers know, I never go too far without my trusty Cocker Spaniel sidekick, Purdy. Regardless of the weather or the time of day, I can rely on Purdy to be out there with me, usually at my ankles, exploring our beloved Cornwall. In my rucksack, I carry extra water and her bowl because even if we stop somewhere that provides refreshments for dogs, Purdy is used to drinking from her own private bowl with her own private water! Yes, she’s a little diva.
For me, I tend to carry either my Robens Wilderness Vacuum Flask or my beautiful matte green Chilly’s bottle – I definitely wouldn’t leave the house without either of these beauties. There is nothing worse than going for a walk, especially when it’s hot or a particularly difficult route, and you have no water to keep yourself hydrated. I am a big advocate for hydration and tend to stop regularly when out, not only by myself, but especially with my group, to ensure we are all kept well oiled. The great thing about my Chilly’s bottle is that it keeps the water ice cold for 24 hours, even if left out in the sunshine! A Chilly’s bottle is constructed from durable stainless steel and is sweat, leak and BPA free.
3. Energy snack
You can guarantee, at the bottom of my backpack, there is usually chocolate. I tend to take a protein bar or some almonds if I need an extra boost of energy, but more often than not, a square or two of sea salt & caramel Lindt dark chocolate will be my choice of energy snack. As a self-confessed chocoholic, I am never too far from a bar or three if I can help it.
When out with Cornish Ramblings, I always advise anyone who is coming along to bring a snack as we usually stop somewhere for a bite to eat. If the weather is being kind to us, the sarnies and tea will make an appearance as we perch on the nearest rock or tree stump. Or failing that and it just so happens to be piddling down, we’ll divert to the nearest pub or café, because, you know, it’s raining!
4. Compeeds blister packs
These babies have saved my feet at least six times over the last few years, and I will panic if I get low. No matter how comfy your boots are or how thick your socks might be, a blister can happen at any given moment, and when it does, you may as well throw your walking poles down and give up. Okay, I’m being a little dramatic here. But there is nothing worse than the sting and dull ache of a blister when you have 10 more miles to go. When you feel one coming on, or already have a blister from the previous weekend’s stilettos, whack a Compeed on and off you trot.
These lifesaving blister packs come in a handy (reusable!) case with a mixture of sizes, so no matter where the blister appears, you can be sure to provide relief and protection for the remainder of your walk.
5. Lip balm
There is nothing worse than dry lips! Quite a bold statement, I know. But for those of you with your head in the gutter, I mean your mouth. When you’re walking, your heart rate increases, your breathing gets faster and the moisture in your mouth seems to disappear, so you need to keep reapplying lip balm before your lips get so dry, you can no longer smile without them cracking like a mosaic. However, never fear my fellow outdoorsy addicts, for I have found the lip balm of champions.
For me, I am never far from a lip balm, whether it be in a stick, tin or skull shape format. I have them in every coat pocket, every handbag and in pretty much every room of the house. When out walking and I need a reliable lip balm to keep my lips nice and supple (for when I am talking nonstop with all my fellow ramblers), I will always choose the original Carmex stick or tube lip balm. Not only is Carmex animal friendly (yes!!), it also smells nice, moisturises deeply and comes in a bright yellow tube which makes it easy to find when you throw it in the bottom of your back pack. It may not be for everyone, but when I need to moisten my lips, Carmex is my go to brand.
6. Mobile phone and extra battery
Okay, so before you all sigh in exasperation at another millennial who is addicted to her phone, let me explain. Yes, I love using social media – it’s great for keeping in touch with my Cornish Ramblers whilst also letting them know what I am up to. Yes, I scroll through Instagram daily AND will no doubt be Tweeting (or Twatting as my dad calls it!) on a regular basis. Yes, I probably use it more than I should. But for me, there are two main reason why I won’t leave my house without my mobile phone and back up battery for extra juice when mine, inevitably, dies.
Reason one; safety. Especially when out walking by myself, I will always ensure to have my phone on me. There is nothing more panicking than getting lost (it happens often, believe me!) and not having a clue where you are, no phone to call someone or the ability to use Google Maps to get you out of the maze you’ve found yourself in. “READ A MAP!” I hear you bellow. Well unfortunately, my map reading skills are not top notch so for me, I rely heavily on an app called iWalk Cornwall for the majority of my walks, Google Maps if I need to find my car location or hand written directions for ‘just in case’ scenarios. Reading a map is on my long list of to do’s and I am starting to understand the art of map reading. But for safety reasons and to ensure I always have a way to contact someone, or to Google my way out of a sticky situation, I will be keeping my mobile close to hand.
Reason two; I like taking photographs. It’s not always easy to take my proper camera on a walk, especially if it’s raining. My iPhone takes some pretty decent snaps, so to document my adventures and have something to upload onto social media, I will take it along with me.
7. Extra clothes
Gloves, socks, hat, jumper, coat. These are all the items you’ll find rolled up in my rucksack, regardless of the weather. I like to be prepared for all eventualities and through previous experiences, it’s always handy to have these extra pieces of clothing if out for a long walk.
For me, it’s all about the layers. If it’s cold then I will start with a base layer, and gradually build the rest up to suit whatever the temperature is outside. However, the Cornish coast can be very deceiving; the sun may be shining, but if there’s a coastal breeze and the wind catches you, you can guarantee you’ll feel it to the bones.
A woolly hat has not only saved the dreaded windblown matted hair, but also headaches and ear aches, so I don’t go far without one…and I have several to choose from!! A pair of gloves and an extra set of socks has also saved my fingers and toes from dropping off when I’ve been caught out thinking it’s warmer than it actually is.
Finally, I will always carry a lightweight waterproof jacket that can be easily stored at the bottom of my rucksack, just in case I need an extra bit of protection and if it gets chilly, I bring out a jumper.
8. First aid kit & insect repellent
Bugs love me. Fact. I only have to have an ankle on show and they are there, ready to attack at any given moment. If I don’t come home from a walk without a bite or a stinging nettle rash, then something is seriously wrong. So without fail, I will always carry a mini first aid kit that includes hay fever tablets, inhaler, insect repellent, my beloved Compeeds, a few plasters and the usual first aid kit contents.
I’m first aid trained so when I’m out and about with my group, I like to make sure I have the necessities, should someone cut themselves or fall over.
So there you have it. My favourite rucksack contents in a nutshell. What do you carry in yours?
“Pack your bag with curiosity. The curiosity to explore. To explore the depths of the truths. The truths of the history, the history of the superstitions. Pack your bag with the desire to change yourself, the desire to change the world. So pack your bag now”
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