Gear for the Land of Rain
I originally had this post as some flowy poetic thing until I realized that that is probably not what ‘the people’ (you lovelies,) come here for. We’re hikers and we’re gear nerds, so let’s get to the gear! Full disclosure here before I begin: I bought the large majority of this stuff with my own money, about 97% of it. The rest of it I received for free from my former job at an outdoor equipment store, through sales contests and some very kind brand representatives whom I am very grateful to. Within this list of gear, there are a few items which I would not usually carry, but which I must in this case because of travelling abroad. Last summer I used almost this exact set up (plus some stuff which I forgot was in the bottom of my pack,) in the Canadian Rockies and I felt like I was carrying just a particularly heavy daypack. I even hiked over some really sketchy terrain which had me cursing in fear! (I’m not so good with ledges of death.)
In speaking about my gear I will be moving left to right, top to bottom. Special thanks to my parents for letting me use the construction zone of their cabin for the photography for this post. Ahem; introducing… the base weight group!
The Base Weight Group
- OSPREY Eja 58 – First of all, we have one of the most important gear items, my backpack. I chose the Eja over the lighter Osprey Lumina due to its ability to carry more weight comfortably, due to the fact of, well, I really like food. And I like having ample space for storing everything.
- My fanny pack/belt array – most thru-hikers buy a normal fanny pack but several years ago a brand representative gave me a super comfy Arcade belt as swag, and it looked about a 1,000% more gentle to my sensitive waist than typical fanny pack belts. Therefore, I went forth and bought an Ultralight Zip Organizer from Osprey, which conveniently has loops for a wide belt like my Arcade. It also has some really great pockets, making it ideal for use as a fanny pack – it holds all of my essentials, especially my snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. I’ll show you what I keep in it later! Also part of this array is my Lowepro Tahoe camera case, which due to Scotland’s raininess, I’m contemplating treating it with some sort of spray for some water resistance (its contents being precious, after all.) Lastly in this set up is my Garmin inReach Explorer+ which I moved to my belt after I had it clipped to my backpack shoulder strap and it whacked me smartly in the face upon my leaping down an embankment. Ahh, good times. It transmits just fine from my belt, and I chose it over the more favoured inReach Mini because it was what I had access to, plus I like not having to pair it with my phone. Also, should a bear someday chose to differ with me, I can use it as a heavy blunt object (should the bear steal my trekking poles first somehow, that is.)
- THERM-A-REST Neoair Xlite – this has been my trusty backpacking mat for years now. While I am not a fan of its narrow width, it’s plenty thick enough and I never hear its crinkling when I am backpacking. (Just when I am using it to sleep on my brother’s girlfriend’s floor.)
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH Dry Compression Sack – a dry compression sack because I discovered my folly in using the regular non-waterproof version when I thru-hiked the West Highland Way; everything got soaked thanks to my soggy tent. I have two of these dry compression sacks – one for my tent, one for my sleeping bag. I believe that they are both 20 litres.
- MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Hyperlamina Flame – MHW sadly doesn’t make this fluffy glory of a lightweight synthetic sleeping bag anymore. I like it because it is brightly coloured like a tropical fish, and because it saved my ass on the West Highland Way – when most of my other gear was soaked due to a lapse in judgement (and that wet tent,) this thing stayed dry. It has a half zipper down its front, which never bothers me except when I have it zipped all the way up to my chin, then AAAAAAACK GET ME OUT! I trust this bag to have my back, anyway.
- MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Ghost UL – hidden in its dry compression sack with its poles and stakes beside it (hidden in the pole bag,) is my semi-freestanding ultralight tent. I question bringing this thing a little, because in all honesty it was not a fan of Scotland’s crazy winds last time, but it held up and I can’t really afford to buy a different tent right now. I’m just going to do my best to be very thoughtful about where I pitch it to protect it from the wind – and if all else fails and Scotland destroys it, I have a foil survival bivy to get me by until I can replace it in the UK.
- OSPREY Ultralight Stuff Duffel – one of the realities of traveling internationally is being separated from your gear. I used this little duffel last time as a way of keeping my layers (and snacks,) with me as my carry-on bag. This time, I will also be using it to carry my supply of sidekicks, PopTarts, cookies, moon cheese and instant oatmeal for my two week quarantine in London. (I plan on improving upon this dried diet once I am free.) This duffel actually also makes a great day bag, and the pocket which it stuffs into is an awesome place to stash candy!
- BLACK DIAMOND Pro-shock Trekking Poles – these are the old version of the current manifestation of this pole, and on the West Highland Way they proved to be my favourite piece of gear. They are tremendous injury/accident prevention because they keep you upright, they are something to lean on while you are trying to catch your breath, and I’ve always reasoned that in a survival situation, they’d make great (blunt) spears. According to some sciency thing which I read once, they also help regulate your breathing and heart rate. I usually just hike with one in hand and the other riding on the side of my pack until I do a stream crossing – of which there will be many on the Scottish National Trail. My safety is worth the extra ounces!
- OSPREY Airporter Medium – I know that I could just use a trash compactor bag instead of this thing which weighs a whole annoying pound to protect my pack in airplane transit, but this thing is far tougher, plus more comfortable to carry if I have to lug it around during connections (as I had to last time in Vancouver International Airport, my least favourite airport ever.) Also, I had a deal on it when I bought it, so it cost less than the $30 box of trash compactor bags which I’d never use. When it is not protecting my pack it makes a very good lightweight duffel bag.
- SEA TO SUMMIT Pack Liner 70L – I upgraded to this puppy from regular trash bags after I decided that I was returning to the Land of Rain. Theoretically, it should be better, and I hope that it does, because I might have to wade across a few of Scotland’s waterways. Fun.
- BOREAS Pack Cover – this thing came with the pack which I brought with me to Scotland last time, my beautiful Boreas Lost Coast 60 which is quite a bit heavier than my Osprey Eja 58 – thus the switch to the Eja.
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH Aspire Jacket – this piece of Gore-Tex loveliness protected me in Scotland last time and it’s going to do it again. I love it because of its unique full zip sides, which allow it to be configured in a number of different ways, from ‘batten down the hatches’ (all zips done up) to ‘massive pit zip mode’ to ‘poncho mode’ where it hangs over your backpack’s hip belt, allowing it (and anything else you have there, like your expensive camera,) to be protected from the rain. Fully open sides allow maximum ventilation then too. Also, mine is purple, my favourite colour!
- BRIDGEDALE Storm Socks – waterproof goodness which I hope will keep my feet dry on shallower stream crossings. They’ll also keep my feet drier if Scotland decides to be… well, Scotland. (Rainy as heck.)
- PACKTOWL Ultralight Face – this thing is essential for wet environments because if you have to set up your tent in a torrential downpour, it can sop up the foot of water which’ll gather in the bathtub floor while you are clumsily trying to attach the fly. I use this mainly for protecting my tent from such flooding and it’s easy to dry – you can just clip it to your pack. Also mine has designs of trees on it, yay!
- Other towel cloth thing – same use as the first; have I mentioned how wet Scotland tends to be in my admittedly limited experience? If the first towel is soaked then I have this one to dry me off, should I jump into a loch or something.
- SOL Emergency Bivy – like I said, I don’t fully trust my tent; also since this thing is made out of that fancy astronaut foil, I can use it on especially cold nights if needed to supplement my sleeping bag.
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH Waterproof Liners – pretty much the hiking gloves which I have always dreamed of. Now my hands don’t have to get all wrinkly from being rained on all day.
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH Seattle Sombrero – a Gore-Tex waterproof hat which allows full hearing and ventilation in downpours, instead of my being half-deaf from wearing the hood of my rain jacket. The cheerful yellow top reminds me of Curious George, which is sure to help me smile.
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH Aspire Pants – after my Aspire Jacket protected me so well in Scotland last time from the wind and rain, I bought the matching pants. I tested these in the Rockies last summer on an early season backpacking trip and they did a great job!
Introducing… the Regular Hiking Garb!
- ALTRA Lone Peak 4.5 – After trying another trail runner which my feet absolutely despised, I tried on these thru-hiking classics and loved them. I’ve been hiking in them since April and they have taken good care of me.
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH Thru-gaiters – yep, OR designed a gaiter specifically for us. I tested these in the Rockies and liked them; they feature cooling fabric, which is great since I tend to overheat like a steam engine.
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH Activeice Sun Gloves – I will be wearing these most of the time to protect my hands from the coating of sweat which gathers on my trekking poles, because Mother Nature ‘blessed’ me with psoriasis and my skin is basically allergic to its own sweat.
- ARC’TERYX Soltera Dress – this became my primary hiking garment last time in Scotland and so it shall be so once again. It’s comfy, extremely fast drying and honestly it feels like a pajama nightie with its soft fabric. It features a somewhat useless stealth pocket which I sometimes shove random stuff like my puny Swiss Army Knife into.
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH Ascendant Hoodie – OR no longer seems to make these, which is a shame, because it’s honestly my favourite layer. Having been originally developed for the army, this thing is very temperature regulating. I love how I can pull back the sleeves when I need more ventilation, it’s comfy hand pockets which you actually want to rest your hands in, and its cozy insulation. Also, it’s wind resistant, unlike most fleeces.
- WATUKO Neck Gaiter – for protecting my ears from the wind, and cooling me off on hot days.
- PATAGONIA Baggies – I tried these shorts out because Chaunce and Zach loved them on Backpacker Radio, and I discovered that I love them too! Also their adorable happy alligator print is gonna cheer me up on dreich (grey) days. (‘Dreich’ is a Gaelic word! Woohoo!)
- INJINJI Toe Socks – keeping my feet dry and as happy as possible is a concern for any thru-hiker. Knowing that I needed to up my sock game, I tried these socks and found that my feet were really happy in them. I can actually wear them for several days at a time, which is a big difference from other socks which my feet just feel gross in. I am bringing three pairs; they’re all assorted varieties and I will probably wear the black liner ones with my Bridgedale Storm Socks.
The Warm Stuff
- MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Ghost Whisperer Hoody – for keepin’ me cozy after I stop hiking for the day, because I tend to get cold after a long day of self-propelled forwards momentum. The pretty turquoise, teal and lime green of mine also gives me a positive mental boost when I look at them.
- ARC’TERYX Rho LT Long Sleeve Shirt – I was given this and I love it; it’s snuggly and warm. Plus on very cold days it’s great to hike in; the vivid red is the same shade as a childhood favourite sweater, inspiring more happy feelings.
- PATAGONIA Assorted Undies – they are synthetic and way more comfortable than the Icebreaker ones which I used to use – those were great until they changed the fit (then it was wedgie time all the time. Ugh.)
- MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Trekkin Skirt – weighs pretty much nothing and adds an essential layer of butt warmth. It’s synthetic. (I am disenchanted with the durability of merino wool, thus I no longer carry it. I’d rather scare some bears away with my profound hiker stench then suffer holes in an expensive shirt after only a year of wearing it. Also, my sense of smell sucks, so said stench doesn’t particularly register in my brain anyway.)
- Fluffy dollar store spa socks – they’re super breathable, cuddly and warm pajamas for my feet!
- NEMO Fillo Elite UL Backpacking Pillow – it helps me sleep; also, thanks to a recent condition of vertigo I seem to need to keep my head elevated at night, so I can’t sleep without a pillow anymore.
- PATAGONIA Capilene Midweight Leggings – I’m hoping that the tight weave will keep Scotland’s flourishing population of ticks out.
- PATAGONIA Cross Beta Sports Bra – bras are kind of a fact of life for us ladies. This one is comfortable, quick drying and seems to be well ventilated; I tend to forget that I am wearing it, which is pretty much my only criteria for what makes a bra good. This one also looks nice, and it’ll be easily mistaken for a bikini top should I wish to prance into a loch.
- MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Butter Balaclava – for nocturnal noggin warmth. If my body decides that it is too warm, this thing ends up around my neck like a neck gaiter instead of lost in the bottom of my sleeping bag somewhere. I hate it when it is covering my face but if Scotland opts to be frigid one night then I will be grateful for it!
- ARC’TERYX Nodin Jacket – this is actually part of my regular hiking garb but I forgot about it when I was photographing for that part of this post – whoops. It’s my windshell, and it will also protect my arms from the sun’s UV rays, because I am generally too distracted to remember to put sunscreen on.
- PLATYPUS Soft Bottles x2 1L – these have a variety of uses for me, from mixing up electrolytes to gathering a litre of water for cooking dinner with, to just being my water bottles on the airplane that I fill up after getting through security. Electrolytes and Emergen-C are very important with me for maintaining my health on trail, so these two bottles are important components of my kit.
- TEENY WOODEN CLOTHESPINS – for drying stuff at night in my tent.
- SAWYER Mini Filter – Sawyer products are next to impossible to acquire here in Canada; the only filter which I was able to purchase online was this one, and that was several years ago now. These days, thanks to Covid, Canadians can’t buy any Sawyer stuff online at all. Someday I will take a road trip south across the border to Washington to buy a Sawyer Squeeze or Micro, but it won’t be in time for this trip! (At the time of writing this we are at 21 days left until takeoff!)
- PLATYPUS Big Zip 3L – my trusty reservoir, which I have modded several times over the years since I bought it in 2015. I drew a paw print on mine with a sharpie ‘cus my dad owns the same one. (His has not been modified.) I have thought of replacing it but it doesn’t leak and it works as good as new, so why bother?
- Toilet Paper – ‘nough said.
- Doggy bags – for hygienic carrying of gross stuff. I have several rolls which is good because I bought these at the dollar store so their quality is probably awful.
- MCNETT GEAR AID Tenacious Tape – because duct tape is unsightly and destroys gear with its adhesive, I use this stuff instead for my gear repair needs. Fully waterproof and permanent; my roll is clear.
- NUUN Active Electrolytes – this one is grape, but I carry quite a few flavours. One tablet dissolves in half a litre of water and I personally don’t think any of them taste the greatest but I have also found electrolytes to be essential, so I treat them as medicine, drinking them anyway. They taste really good if you mix tropical flavoured ones with a packet of lemon-lime Emergen-C – just like 7-Up! I tried powdered electrolytes in packets a few years ago but I found them to be an awful mess; these are much cleaner, plus the tube which they come in is waterproof.
- DEUCE OF SPADES Poop Trowel – call it a poop trowel instead of a cat hole trowel and I guarantee you’ll find the thing significantly funnier. Exists for digging holes.
- BODYGLIDE – because I fear the dreaded chafe.
- VICTORINOX Classic Swiss Army Knife – a critical piece of equipment in a land infested with ticks. It has tweezers, a nail file, a tiny knife, a pair of scissors for cutting leukotape or tenacious tape, and a toothpick which I have never once used (occasionally I pull it out to stare at it bemusedly.) This multitool is incredibly teensy.
- LEATHERMAN Skeletool KBX – a badass little folding knife that is just a knife, despite being made by a company famous for multitools. I use it for cutting cheese and other kitcheny, food related stuff like that. I was given it as a gift.
- PICARIDEN Insect Repellent – because Scotland is full of ticks and evil, infamous bitey midges.
- COTTON SWABS – because occasionally I have really itchy ears and nothing else helps. Not recommended by your doctor or mine, but I am a fruitcake who employs them anyway.
- LEUKOTAPE – for blister and chafe prevention. If I start getting a hotspot somewhere I put this stuff on and it stays stuck on for days – far superior to moleskin. Available at medical supply stores in many colours and worth the money. Waterproof.
- VET WRAP – in case a joint needs to be wrapped for more support; weighs next to nothing.
- PETZL Actik Core – nice bright headlamp with a rechargeable battery and a handy red light mode – handy for reading in hostel dorms without waking up your exhausted roommates. (Red light does not disturb the human retina the way that white light does.)
- DEUTER Dry Bag – for carrying my toilet stuff. I clip it to my backpack so that it is always handy!
- Dollar store hairbrush/mirror – gotta keep the mane knot-free somehow, and I guess the mirror’d be helpful in a survival situation.
- SEA TO SUMMIT Bug Head Net – for keeping back the dreaded Scottish midgies. Will work best when paired with Seattle Sombrero, otherwise bugs will be able to nip at ears.
- PURRELL hand sanitizer in an old food dye bottle – for first aid purposes such as sanitizing sewing needles and thread prior to lancing blisters.
- BOIRON Arnica – for pain relief, ‘cus Vitamin I does not work on me.
- VASELINE – for first aid.
- SCOUTS CANADA Sewing Kit – intended for gear repair, but actually a really important part of my first aid kit. I use it for lancing blisters when required. I’m hoping that with my Injinji socks, my Altras and my storm socks that I won’t need it!
- UK Power Adaptors x2 – British power outlets are freakin’ huge, just saying.
- APPLE iPad Air 2019 – my sketchbook, my paint canvas, my journal and my Netflix viewer. At a pound in weight, it’s far lighter than the conventional versions of all of these things put together! Its case keeps my Apple Pencil handy so that I don’t have to resort to finger painting like a cavewoman. My iPad has an awesome battery life when I’m not using Procreate, my power-hungry art app.
- APPLE Earbuds – these become horribly uncomfortable after about an hour, so I am definitely considering replacing them with something less painful.
- GOAL ZERO Venture 30 – 7800 mAH @ 3.7 volt battery bank which is supposedly waterproof, so I will be able to charge devices with it on-trail instead of just inside of my tent. I bought it back when I thought that my thru-hike was happening a lot sooner – oh, how very wrong I turned out to be haha!
- Some random charging cord – it probably belongs to my inReach but honestly I can’t remember.
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH 10L Dry Bag – it’s where my iPad lives; it has a pretty mountain picture on it.
- Bunch o’ charging cords – gotta charge devices somehow. Some are Apple, some are Anker.
- PANASONIC Lumix DMC-ZS50 – my beloved camera, which has a messed up iris and a few wonky glitches but still works just fine. It, too, is a veteran of the West Highland Way.
- APPLE iPhone 7 – after years of spiteful Samsungs, I upgraded to this phone and I haven’t looked back since. Supposedly waterproof.
- PANASONIC Lithium Camera Batteries – I own three of these (one is in the camera,) because I hate not being able to shoot.
- SD Cards – I have three of these too; one 8 gb and two 16 gb which is hopefully enough data space to photograph my entire two-and-a-half-month trip.
- ANKER PowerPort 4 – it has four USB ports and charges my devices nice and fast!
- ANKER PowerCore 20100 – my primary battery bank; it’s heavy at 12 ounces but if the zombie apocalypse ever happens I have another nice blunt object to throw, I guess. It has two USB ports and it can charge my phone about four times, but I’ll probably be using it more for my inReach. Its protective mesh fabric bag is often home to my charging cords as well.
- APPLE SD Card Reader – allows me to post photos from my camera onto Instagram and this blog via my iPad.
The Stuff in my Fanny Pack/Pouch
- Face mask which my wonderful mom made for me – I have to wear it any time that I am remotely near an airplane or airport. I’m also going to wear it when I am in populated areas. I love the pretty fabric which my mom chose and it’s going to remind me of her.
- Climbing Salve – got it free as swag; it’s for injuries.
- BACK TO EARTH Rainforest Shampoo – this probably won’t live in my pouch, it just happened to be living there when I took these pictures.
- Nifty waterproof space pen – it also has a phone stylus on one end so that I can draw on my phone when I am bored and don’t feel like taking out my iPad or exposing its existence to creepy people in the airport. Also for writing on customs paperwork if needed.
- PURELL Hand Sanitizer – for sanitizing hands and sewing needles.
- Lip balm – scent free, so that I can use it in bear country too after I come home. I should mention here that bears – and all large wild predators which used to be there – were sadly persecuted into extinction a very long time ago in Scotland. Hopefully Scotland’s historical predator species will be reintroduced someday to restore the natural environment.)
- Sunscreen – swag I got from OR which I will use if it’s sunny enough to warrant it and if I remember to. (Hoping for some sun!)
- Meds – for sanity and safety.
- BLACK DIAMOND Trekking Pole Tip Protectors – to keep my trekking poles from impaling things like my backpack or my eye when not in use.
- NO-JETLAG Homeopathic Medicine – I took this on my long haul flight to Europe last time and I came out of that long, looong travel day feeling remarkably normal (if, unbeknownst to me, temporarily much dumber than usual.) I forgot to take it on the way back and I broke down crying in the middle of Vancouver Airport, stressed out of my mind. Therefore, I’m pretty sure the stuff works and I believe that it is worth carrying.
- Miscellaneous Cards – it’s likely that I’ll leave one of these back home, but they’re my basic cards – driver’s license, debit card and credit card.
- BACK TO EARTH Pure Hand Sanitizer – specifically for cleansing the paws. Doesn’t dry them out or mess them up like normal hand sanitizer does. Did I mention that I’m hiking in the era of Covid?
- Canadian Passport – and its RFID protector. Canadian passports look classy as heck!
They are Suncloud Cookies. The retainer strap is from a dollar store.
Kitchen Setup Which I Almost Forgot to Photograph
- OUTDOOR RESEARCH 30L Dry Bag – it’s my food bag; its print design helps it stand out from other people’s bear bags when in a public bear hang situation. (This very bizarrely did not stop a noob backpacker from grabbing it and randomly every other bear bag on the pole when I was in Skoki last fall. Stressed out from dealing with taking care of my dear sick mom back home, finding my entire store of food missing while 30 kilometres/18.75 miles in the backcountry was probably the least pleasant experience of my entire hiking career. I begged the offending group to only grab their own food bags in the future – for about fifteen terrible minutes, I genuinely thought that my food had been stolen and that I’d have to cut my trip short.)
- Silicon Ziplock – I cook my food in this!
- Some normal ziplocks – for storing food.
- DR BRONNER’S Castile Soap – for washin’ dishes. I’d use it for washing me too except my hair hates it. Scent free too, ‘cus bears.
- OPSACK Loksak Odour-proof Bags x2 – as you can see, these hold my food and keep said food unsmelled by enterprising micro bears like rats and mice which do thrive in Scotland. I’m all ready to go for my first lag of the trail!
- SEA TO SUMMIT X-Cup – cheaper and lighter than a titanium cup, plus more packable, since it collapses to stow perfectly in the bottom of my pot. The silicon that it is made out of protects my fingers from being hurt by searing hot tea or hot chocolate, which I sip whilst staring longingly at my reconstituting food.
- SNOWPEAK Trek 700 Titanium Pot – it holds 700 ml of boiling hot water. The rainbowy patina looks cool.
- MSR Pocket Rocket (VI) – my stove, which is great at boiling water, but which has been found to suck at simmering food like ramen.
- Cooking cozy which my mom helped me make – made out of a car sun visor which I butchered. Together with the silicon ziplock insert, it cooks food using just boiling water – exactly like a Mountain House! It defeats my Pocket Rocket’s lame issue with simmering. I plastered it with stickers.
- MSR Piezo Ignitor – do not get wet; otherwise works like a charm.
- BIC Lighter – my absolute last resort for lighting things on fire, because I stink at using lighters. It’s the backup for my waterproof matches, which are the backup for my piezo ignitor!
- COGHLANS Waterproof Matches – at least they’d better be waterproof, because I don’t want to have to resort to using the dumb lighter if my Piezo is wet.
- SNOWPEAK Titanium Spork – which is sitting on top of the mesh storage bag for my pot. It is blue, which makes me happy. It also has some nifty patina happening.
Good grief, I’m done writing this post at last! Now I am going to stuff myself with some tasty homemade macaroni and cheese; I really hope that you guys enjoyed this one. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I’ll do my very best to answer them. My previous career in the gear store was significantly helpful in acquiring this stuff, and it was collected over the entire five plus years that I was there. Thank you so much for reading!
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