If you’re planning to head out on your first expedition or you’ve been off-grid before, whether for an adventure or for charity or simply to test yourself, you need to be prepared – and that means choosing the right kit to take with you.
I’ve been on many expeditions over the last 15 years or so and I’ve learned the value of every item I carry. As, on most expeditions, what you choose to take will be on your back, so it’s critical to choose well. These are my top five – although there are other items I take, these would be the ones I absolutely can’t do without.
1: Something to put your kit in
Unless you have very big pockets on all your clothes, every adventure will require you to carry some sort of bag.
A good quality duffel bag is extremely versatile and often more useful than a rucksack. Rucksacks are excellent pieces of kit and are essential if your adventure involves a lot of walking/hiking.
Depending on where you travel your bag is likely to experience some rough handling – airport carousels, tied to a top of a bus, dragged up a rock face. I have found that the many straps and plastic clips on rucksacks get easily damaged during international travel. Often, I have used my duffel bag simply as a ‘cover’ with nothing inside it except my fully packed rucksack.
I prefer the North Face brand of duffel bags. They are well manufactured and virtually indestructible. I have used my North Face duffel for over 15 years, and it should easily last me another 15 years!
2: Something to drink out of
Nalgene are the go-to water bottle manufacturers for adventurers – and have been for more than 50 years – for very good reasons. Nalgene bottles are simple, cheap, infinitely reusable – and bomb proof!
The 1 litre size has graduated measurement that make it easy to keep track of how much you drink throughout the day. The large screw top lid is easy to open, even with bulky globes on.
My tip: wrap a metre of duct tape around the bottle so that you always have another ‘essential’ to hand.
3: Something to pass the time
International travel and adventuring can involve a lot of waiting around – flights, airports, bus journeys, waiting for weather windows in base camp. A good book is always useful for passing that downtime. Travel away from the day job is also one of the few times some people have time to read for pleasure.
Some people prefer to read on an ereader and they are definitely smaller and lighter than a book – and can have several books stored on them. However, they break easily and need a power supply to recharge them, so I’d recommend leaving the electronics behind and taking a real book along.
If you’re travelling in a group, agree on a list of titles that you can swap around as you finish a book – it saves carrying a small library with you.
4: Let there be light!
Unless you’re travelling to the Arctic Circle in summer, you’ll have to deal with being in darkness at some point on your trip. There are lots of different types of torches and lights to choose from and some travellers still like to take candles or gas lanterns.
My advice is to get a decent headtorch – they’re handsfree for walking or climbing in the dark. If you’re planning any night time activities, I advise packing a backup too. I carry my backup torch on every trip – even if I haven’t planned doing much after dark. It’s all too easy for an unforeseen incident to result in you being out longer than anticipated.
My choice is the Petzl e+lite, it’s incredibly compact, but still a powerful, high quality head torch.
Things go wrong and it’s wise to be prepared. Do you know how to call for help?
If you are travelling inside the UK in relatively ‘safe’ environments normally all you need is a mobile phone call to 999. Even in the more remote parts of Scotland and Wales you are rarely more than a mile or two from mobile phone signal.
When I go climbing on my own in remote parts of the UK I also take a personal locator beacon (PLB) with me. If the worst case scenario happens and I break my leg in an area without a cell phone signal, activating a PLB sends a distress signal directly to the emergency services via satellite along with your location. It is an expensive item, but peace of mind is priceless.
International travel often requires more planning in terms of emergency rescue. The first step is to get rescue and medical insurance for the type of activity you are undertaking. ‘Normal’ travel insurance rarely covers you for anything off the beaten track. I keep a laminated card with my insurance details and emergency phone numbers on me whenever I travel to hazardous areas around the world.
Mobile phone coverage is good in most countries, but it is important to check that you are with a network/carrier that works in the country you are headed to. If you are headed to a region that likely won’t have cell phone coverage it would be worth thinking about a satellite phone. Satellite phones look and function similarly to mobile phones, but they ‘speak’ directly to the satellites overhead, meaning that they theoretically have full signal anywhere around the globe. They are expensive items to own, but they can be rented for the duration of your trip for a lower price.
There are many more items that you need to equip you for an expedition – if your group would like some advice, please get in touch.