Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Gear

He took
In his Knapsack
A Book
Full of vowels
And a shirt
With some towels -
A slight cap
For night cap -
A hair brush,
Comb ditto,
New Stockings
For old ones
Would split O!


Someone might say: "Gear! What for? Is not walking an innate human function?" Indeed it is! But, if you are going to stay a week away from home, walking 6 or 7 hours per day in a weather which might shift from definitely hot to heavy rain or chilling north gale and lunching in the fields, you cannot be attired as though you went for an hour walk in the local park.

As it was my first experience of long distance walking I didn't know how to choose the gear. I learned mainly through Internet though I have realized that nothing is worth as much as personal experience.
Eventually, the gear I set up revealed, in the use, not fully ideal. So, I am now going to deal with the main issues which came up in the long run.


I had reached the conviction that, given the considerable length of the daily walking, the footwear should be, above all, comfortable and light.
I knew that Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path is a rather smooth trail without irregular or abrupt stretches as one usually finds in mountain tracks.
Besides, I have always got a "steady foot".
Ankle distortion risks being rather limited, I deemed I could manage without high boots gaining thus in comfort and lightness.

I had discovered that New Balance made a line of boots expressly for "country walking", often sold in orthopedic items stores. So I imagined they should be a good choice for my purpose.
In the beginning I couldn't find in my home area any NB985: the waterproof model of the "Country walking" line.
Later, I found a pair of NB643: a light model of the "Country walking" line. As they were on cut-rate sale I bought them even though non-waterproof (suede and mesh upper). I wanted to try the line and, besides, they would be useful in hot climate like Italy.
Even in the long run, they actually proved to be so comfortable that I have been wearing them almost everyday since.
So, I got convinced that the waterproof model would be OK. Eventually, in the late spring of this year I got a pair of NB985. After a little use I realized that, even though they had the same soles of the NB643, they were not in the least so comfortable.
And, sadly, during the 150 km hike, the NB985 boots proved to be even worse than they had firstly appeared:
  • top of foot pain (particularly due to thick tongue seams and to the eyelets and hooks);

  • heaviness;

  • poor breathability;

  • blistering.
To avoid the pain to the top of the feet I was obliged to lace very loosely and when I stopped for resting my first impulse was to take off shoes and socks for relieving my feet from a constant oppressing sensation.

Moreover, I soon got a toe blister which tormented me during all the trip. Unfortunately I had forgotten the plaster and I could get one only the fourth day, when the blister was now too inflamed for getting a benefit quickly enough.

Planning the next long distance walk in England, I am wondering whether light common outdoor shoes - provided they were waterproof - could fit.
Of course, I could have some troubles in crossing marshy stretches but I think the trade-off would be worthwhile.


Beside the footwear, this is the other vital item for the long distance walker.
I must confess that I was too hasty in choosing the rucksack. I bought "Forclaz 40 air" from Decathlon, a 42 liters rucksack, with adjustable shoulder straps, high ventilation back and integrated rain cover.
It is a rather cheap (€ 50) item but, in the long run, I am not happy with it. Firstly it is too heavy (1,8 kg) and, anyway, I don't feel comfortable with. Probably it doesn't fit my size so, the weight is not aligned with my barycenter.
I am weighing whether to by another one. But firstly I have to try how it works with less weight.
But, see next section.

Other items

The following table displays all the items I carried in the rucksack and in my pockets as well.

Gear table
ItemN. in rucksackN. in pocketsWeightTotal weight in pocketsTotal weight in rucksack
Accommodation guide19898
Accommodation sheet155
Bus timetables11010
Camera battery charger1144144
Canteen + 1l water110311031
Cell phone
Cell phone battery charger16363
Dried apricots2260520
Emergency blanket1201201
Heavy fleece1551551
Light fleece1318318
Map sleeve11515
Power adapter13939
Rice cakes2159318
Sesame bars4120480
Sewing kit144
Spare spectacles16767
Sun hat16969
Tooth brush, paste and floss1109
Walking trousers1374374
Waterproof jacket1560560
Total (in grams)9298065

As you can see from the previous table, I walked the trail backpacking about 8 kg.

Although, before setting out, that seemed to me a rather easy weight to carry through, in the long run, it revealed by far too heavy for me.

It could partly depend on the rucksack (see above) but, at least given my age and my fitness, I need to further reduce the weight, if I want that my next hike should be pleasanter.

As a matter of a fact, stimulated by the burden of my backpack and relying on the lessons lerned, I have carefully weighed which items are absolutely necessary. So, I have made up my mind to suppress the following items or reduce their quantity.


As a novice, I silly started the journey carrying the food for all the seven lunches I had before me. The experience taught me that this weight can be spared. In fact it is not necessary to bring the food for all the journey days - at least in most trails. Given the richness of English brekfasts, even if a daily stretch doesn't touch any village, actually, a very light snack is largely sufficient and, usually, in most overnight stay places there is a shop where a sandwich or whatever can be got before setting out in the morning.

So, if you look to the table above, dropping the food saves roughly 1 kg (1.318 kg minus the daily lunch weight, i.e. a sandwich or whatever).


I brought a quantity of socks and pants sufficient for a daily change. During the trip I learned that, even in accomodations without drying facility, it is always possible to get the wash (in one's room lavabo) dried overnight if one uses the trick of wringing it out in a towel.

So, even the underwear weight can be reduced. In the next trip I am going to bring only 3 pair of socks and pants - one put on, one to be washed in the evening and a spare one. This can save about 200 grams.


An other item I am going to drop in the next trip is the pedometer. Actually, with good maps one can calculate the covered distance even more precisely than by a pedometer. So, 30 additional grams can be spared.

A last item I am still considering whether to drop is the pyjama. Why not to sleep with the clean underwear?


I may resume what precedes by saying that, in the next trip, I am going to spare more than 1 kg. It might seem derisory but, at least for me, it will boost the comfort. Furthermore, I am going to search for a lighter and confortable footwear.

I beg my gentle reader's pardon fo this rather boring post but, I think that it might be of some interest for long distance walkers.

In the next post I am going to start recounting the very journey.

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