Gear list for the Wales Coast Path

WCP Kit

Youth Hostel and Camping accommodation and approx. 45 days+, maybe with a break depending on progress.

In the backpack:

  • (1) Terra Nova Laser Photon 1 Tent – 720g – a bit snug, but this tent has served me well in Scotland and Wales on a number of long distance trails. Add footprint to protect the groundsheet.
  • (2) GoLite Jam 50 Large Backpack – 840g – no longer made but comfortable and showing no serious signs of wear.  Could do with a proper closure top.
  • (3) Feathered Friends Flicker 30 UL Sleeping Quilt/Bag – 710g – probably 200 nights spent in this bag now, protected with a JagBag silk sleeping bag liner, which is helping extend its life and adds warmth.
  • (4) Thermarest NeoLite Short Sleeping Mat – 220g – difficult to get comfortable and too small for me, but it works and is very light.  I take a section of Closed Foam mat just in case this fails.
  • Exped UL waterproof stuff sacks – colour coded and indispensable for organising you pack and kit separation (wash from non-washed, food from fuel etc..). Not as waterproof as you would like.
  • (5) OB Mobile Phone Drybag containing a Google Pixel Smartphone, plus chargers/cables and an (5) Anker 5200mAh battery pack. Good for 3 days charge when used as a camera and navigation aid with minimal browsing.
  • Plastic Squash bottle and (6) Platypus 1l bag for water. Light, compact.
  • (7) Mountain Equipment Gore-Tex Pro jacket – 560g
  • (8) Alpkit Parallax waterproof trousers
  • (9) Feather Friends Gillet; Patagonia Hoodie Fleece; spare Icebreaker Merino long sleeve
  • (10) REI Shoe gaiters; socks and nicks (pair of each); thin gloves
  • (11) Lightweight towel and micro-fleece cloth
  • (12) Toiletries – basic teeth, shave only, multi-use soap; P20 suncream (SPF50)
  • (13) First aid kit; lots of Hypafix tape; nail clippers, small knife
  • (14) Petzl e-Lite torch; headphones; glasses; sunglasses
  • (15) Notebook and biro in Ortlieb map case
  • (16) Alpkit Koro stove, thick foil windscreen, gas canister, 1l titanium pot and plastic mug.  I could have used a lighter titanium mug and the Alpkit Kraku stove, but it is a bit tall (unstable) and not as capable for cooking meals vs. just heating water.
  • Titanium spoon, lighter, wooden spatula
  • Eyeshade and earplugs (noisy campsites)
  • Wallet

Total weight 6.9kg (without food and water), so probably 9-10kg in use, which is below the lightweight backpacker baseline, but nowhere near ultra-light backpacker level of 5kg!

Clothing (worn):

  • Icebreaker Merino Wool long sleeve shirt, long service
  • Rohan shirt
  • Rohan Trailblazer convertible trousers
  • Socks and nicks
  • Brooks Cascadia 13 Trail Shoes
  • OR hat
  • Buff
  • G-Shock watch
  • Leki Carbon Poles – 415g (pair) – haven’t broken them yet. The lighter weight helps make them a natural extension to your arms and I would not walk long distances without them.  Old friends.

These boots are made for walking?

Over the years I have settled on using Meindl Burma walking boots, now superseded by Meindl Bhutan.  Both are high quality MFS (Memory Foam) walking boots, made in Germany.  I have worn through 3 pairs now.  They are comfortable, waterproof and durable.  I can walk 20+ miles in a pair right out of the box and with careful maintenance (using Nikwax) they provide excellent protection from the worse that British weather can muster.

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But for summer months and increased amounts of walking on good paths, do I really needed such a sturdy boot?  Too much walking on asphalt wears these boots out at an alarming rate and they now costs upwards of £200 a pair.

I experimented using a pair of Meindl approach shoes on the South Downs Way.  They worked well for the first 3 days, covering some 75 miles, but on the last day I was suffering from bruises and bad blisters on the balls of my feet.  Then I used Scarpa Vortex XCR approach shoes on Peddars Way and after 4 day had terrible blisters on the balls of my feet. Using these shoes for everyday walking are fine, but longer trips?  They may work for some people, but not for me so far.

I am now going to try walking the Wales Coast Path using Brooks Cascadia 13’s – a trail running shoe.  These are much lighter. The Gurkha saying is –  “a pound saved from the boot equals four pounds saved from your pack”.  They weigh 420g each compared to 1045g for the Meindl Bhutan (socks included, size 12) a figure which will be higher still when they are soaking wet.  So that’s a massive 5kg (1045-420)*2*4 equivalent in the pack!

My pack will weigh 10kg wet (water and food carried) – a light hiking setup, so not too much strain on my feet.  They cost £110 for the non-GTX version and my choice given my dislike of Gore-Tex, a membrane that just as effective as keeping water in as out.  Water will get in eventually, particularly as the shoes wear and the membrane breaks.  I prefer footwear that can dry out in-use and overnight easily.

I have often thought thru-hikers using such shoes are more athletes than ramblers and have adapted to such footwear.  I am keen to try them out as I would much prefer lighter shoes for the Wales Coast Path in 2018 and the England Coast Path in 2020.  These routes will have a high proportion of road and high quality paths.  I would definitely use Meindl boots for the Scottish National Trail, given the rough / wet terrain.

I estimate a pair of Meindl Boots last 1,500-2,000 miles and Brooks Cascadia will last 500-700 miles.  So a quick calculation:

  • Meindl boots – £200 / 1,500 = 13.3p a mile, but can be re-soled for about £90
  • Cascadia shoes – £100 / 500 = 20p a mile and a new pair needed

So this is not an exercise in lower cost walking, but comfort and the pleasure in use.  Perhaps the solution is a blend of both, Meindl’s for autumn, spring and wet conditions, and Cascadia’s for the summer.

We shall see.  I’ll take plenty of Hypafix tape to wrap up my feet.

Thoughts on the Thorn Sherpa

Now approaching it’s second birthday, my red Thorn Sherpa has carried me around the North Sea Cycle Route and the Atlantic Seaboard.  Time to reflect on the quality and performance of a dedicated touring bike after a fair amount of abuse.  I would estimate it has covered 10,000km over 100 long riding days, perhaps as much as 50% off-road.

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I purchased the bike with a few sensible modifications and added an Alpkit Frame Bag and Ortlieb panniers:

  • Thorn Sherpa Mk3 frame 600L – straight bars
  • Shimano Deore hubs, 10-speed triple chain-set (48/36/26) / cassette (11-36) with XT 9-speed rear derailleur and Dura Ace thumshifters
  • Andra 30 wheels, standard front and CSS rear, with XT V-brakes/levers, standard brake blocks front, Swiss-stop blue pads rear
  • Schwalbe Marathon Dureme 26 x 2″
  • Brookes B17 saddle
  • Shimano T780 SPD pedals
  • Thorn expedition racks front and rear and a T-bar extension for the handlebar bag
  • Ortlieb Front Loader Plus and Bike Packer Plus panniers
  • 20-year old Ortlieb front bag
  • Cateye Volt800 front and TL-1000 rear lights
  • Bordo 6000 lock

Over a period of 2 years I have changed:

  • 3 chains – replaced with Shimano HG-X 10-speed
  • 1 Marathon Dureme tyre (rear)
  • 5-6 front brake blocks
  • Shimano T780 pedals for Shimano T8000
  • Front hub outer cones and bearings
  • Complete chain-set for an XT M780 triple (42/32/24), including Bottom Bracket
  • 11-36 cassette

I was expecting greater durability from the transmission, but given the wet, gravel, cinder and off-road tracks I frequented, I am happy with the 6,000km the original set covered.  Finding HG-X chains at bike shops proved difficult, as they tended to cater for road bike transmissions.  I changed these every 3,000km.  After the major service, I replacing the entire system with lower gearing XT chain set. The 42/32/24 front chain rings gearing are my preferred my choice now – they are more durable and ideal ratios for pushing heavy loads up steep hills.

The Dura Ace thumb shifters are great and changing gear becomes second nature after a while.  Gear changes have been faultless and accurate on the whole.

The bottom bracket came loose after 2,000km due to a broken spacer shim, easily fixed.  But the bearings were a wreck shortly afterwards as water had found it’s way into the frame and bottom bracket cavity.

The tyres are superb, offering grip and durability and tackling loose gravel and heavy conditions easily.  However, the replacement pair doesn’t seem to be lasting as long, perhaps they are using a different compound.  Continue reading

Hypafix

It was a revelation when someone introduced me to Zinc Tape for blister protection and recovery.  I have been using this for many years and it has saved the day on many occasions.

Hypafix

Then someone told me about Hypafix tape.  A few youtube videos later and I realise this is used by runners and extreme athletes for blister prevention.

This stuff really works and is very easy to apply, maintain and remove.  It is useful stuff for improvised plasters – just add lint and disinfectant to a wound and seal in place with Hypafix.  If you do get a blister, you can build custom solutions with this tape quite easily.

But for me, it’s all about prevention. I tape up any part of my foot, which is beginning to feel it might blister beforehand;  usually my heels, but everyone will have their own blister hot spots.  A good covering of 1-2 layers really works wonders.

 

Just need an engine 

All the gear together, just need to tune the engine.

I’m now at the dangerous stage of adding things I don’t need and removing things I do. Pleased to see the gear weight is 13kg. Bike weighs 21kg including tools, lock, lights and fitted bags. Add another 8kg for consumables. I shan’t say what the engine weighs, but the fuel consumption is terrible.

“Hey mate! Where’s the Ski Slope?”

“Hey mate! where’s the ski slope?” is one of the more polite comments I get using walking poles on the National Trails from unenlightened bystanders. So why do I love my Leki trekking poles? My conversion to the walkers equivalent of 4 wheel drive has been a gradual process over many years. Initially, I used a only one pole on my early heavy weight backpacking trips and now use two carbon Leki poles on all my adventures.

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After a while, using the poles becomes second nature to the point where you forget you are using them, especially when they are light weight. I perhaps have 4 walking modes, depending on the terrain:

  • Level easy going – difficult to describe, but the pole placement is every 2 steps, about half my walking cadence. Emphasis is on stability. Placement is approximately level with the leading foot, driving the pole gently rearwards.
  • Uphill, easy terrain – pole placement is every step, right foot with left hand pole forward, driving purposefully up the hill with arm and leg. Placement is ahead of the leading foot.
  • Uphill, difficult terrain – pole placement is more random for optimum balance, but using my arms to pull up my weight, trying to imitate the uphill, easy terrain mode, as best I can.
  • Downhill – palms on the top of the pole, controlling my descent, usually with hands outside of the straps if the descent is very steep. Placement to give security and stability.

A Canadian skiing friend of mine Continue reading