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.

Atlantic Seaboard (Part 2) Wales

Cycling during a school run is never pleasant, but soon I am winding my way through the Monmouthshire country lanes towards Newport.  The NCR 4 will take me all the way to Fishguard for the ferry to Ireland in a few days, after cycling through the industrial landscape of South Wales.

Llanwern Steelworks dominates the skyline until I arrive at the wonderful Newport Transporter Bridge.  One of only 8 in the world, it is a marvel of engineering and a fantastic way to cross the River Usk.  Everyone is smiling and happy in the glorious weather.  Everywhere is beautiful on a clear sunny day.

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The castle at Caerphilly is an ideal time to stop for lunch.  The whole town centre seems to be doing the same.  All of us watching the geese nonchalantly waddling around looking for tidbits.  A good rail track leads to Pontypridd, which would not be at the top of my list for a lunchtime stop and is followed by a steep, endless climb out of the valley and into the hills.  The effort is worthwhile as the descent follows the Ogmore Valley.  I can imagine the unspoilt beauty of this part of Wales in a pre-industrial era.

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It took some effort to persuade the local campsite to let me stay.  Even though the weather is grand, the ground is sodden and have not yet opened.  It is a convenient stop, before entering Bridgend and navigating towards Port Talbot by way of the smoke stack belching from the steel works.  There are well maintained cycle paths, a result of significant investment, with dedicated bridges to keep you away from the traffic.

Continue reading

Lands End to John o’Groats (the long way round)

After 38 days of cycling and approximately 4,000km I am back home.  Cycling from Lands End to John o’Groats hugging the Atlantic Coast around England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.  I generally followed the Sustrans National cycle routes 3,4 and 780; the Wild Atlantic Way, Hebridean Way and North Coast 500 on my trusty Thorn Sherpa.  The weather was Wild and Windy, with many good clear exhilarating days.  Mostly camping, with the occasional Hostel.

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Now I have completed the North Sea Cycle Route and the Atlantic Seaboard, I am thinking of circling the Irish Sea and English Channel to complete all of the coastal options around the British Isles.

More pictures and a full write up on a rainy day.

Atlantic Seaboard

Cycling from Land’s End to John o’Groats (LEJOG) via the Wild Atlantic Way.  Google MyMaps plan completed at https://goo.gl/raAtwt

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I think I have a plan.  Follow the NCR 3 and 4 from Land’s End to Fishguard and then catch a ferry to Ireland.  Connect to the Wild Atlantic Way at Kinsale and follow the Irish coast to Ballycastle.  Ferry to Islay, Colonsay, Oban, Barra (maybe Mull), then the Hebridian Way to Stornoway.  Ferry to Ullapool and then coastal to John o’Groats.  About 4,000km I think.  Mostly Eurovelo 1, but with many diversions.

April departure, unless work gets in the way.

Finished…

…after 12 years of sneaking time off and pounding the paths, I have finally finished all 19 National Trails. Some 3,000 miles, over 150 days, perhaps 6 million steps over the most beautiful and awe-inspiring countryside in the world.

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Now, what to do?  Shall I wait for the completion of the England Coast Path and completed the Wales Coast Path first?  What about a Scottish challenge?

Actually, the plan is to cycle the North Sea Cycle Route next year, if time allows. Some 6,000km from Bergen to Shetland via Dover.  See the Cycling section as it evolves.

I even got an LDWA Diamond certificate. How sad is that?  There are only 25 odd members who have done them all.

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Martyn

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Overview

(Photographs pre-digital era, scanned film prints)

A great alternative to the SWCP, if time is limited. An excellent introduction to the pleasures of coastal walking.  Outside the holiday season the path is quiet and there are numerous remote cliffs, headlands and beaches to rival any in the British Isles. Rugged and rewarding.  Pay attention to the tide tables at Dale and the military range closures at Castlemartin, as alternative routes involve road walking.

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Completed in September 2004, my first National Trail, inspired by a journey I took when I was 15 and responsible for committing me to this life long adventure.

Time of year

Ideal times are late Spring or early Autumn, when the YHA hostels are quiet and the bird life is more pronounced.  Seal Pups can be seen seen from September and wild flowers proliferate in the Spring.   Continue reading