Equipment choices

The gear one takes makes a big difference to comfort and safety and general happiness, and striking a balance between utility and weight is tricky. Earlier walks in the Pyrenees and Corsica have been really helpful in finding out what works well and how much to bring along. I'm no gear nut, but I do like stuff that's simple, light and effective.

This won't be a wilderness walk, though the weather will be very variable, from -10 to +35C, and I'm choosing things based on my strengths and weaknesses. For example, I'm pretty good at keeping going, and quite quick, but also not very strong and rather frail. I keep warm while moving, but get cold afterwards. I'm comfortable with technology but likely to play it safe with key items.

As this is a walk in aid of a charity, and with sponsors, information has to get back to the UK regularly. Also I need to collect notes and photos for handbooks after the walk.

First aid

Surely an area where one can bring too much. I bring things for several purposes:

The first is equipment for protective good hygiene - what I use regularly to stop things going wrong.

That means a nail brush for cleaning lacerations, fingernails and general cleanliness, and small scissors and a nail file to keep nails under control. This helps to prevent pimples, infections and blisters. I also take a tiny scalpel blade to remove patches of hard skin from my feet. Open shoes such as flip flops help feet to dry at the end of the day.

A proper toothbrush used twice a day with bicarbonate of soda as a dentifrice works for me (Bicarbonate of soda is baking powder, and is lighter than toothpaste).

The second is what you need to keep going if something minor happens.

Small precision metal tweezers for splinter removal, soft plastic tweezers for tick removal, Lemsip tablets, painkiller tablets for muscular strains and tooth/headaches and anti-diarrhoea pills. I take a piece of cling film to protect burns, and a lipstick sized chap stick to guard against chaps and sores from cold wind.

The third is what to do if something disabling or serious happens, such as a broken bone or torn ligament. If I fall and crack a rib, it should be possible to keep going - Steve Perry did. If I break a collar bone or finger or arm, I would fashion a support or splint and try and walk out to get help. Even a full 24lb pack can be slung on one shoulder for a bit.

If one leg can't be used, I would try and splint it with a sleeping roll and compression straps from the pack, and try and walk out with walking poles, otherwise call or wait for help. Clearly it's best not to fall in the first place - so I use footwear with good treads and walking poles to help balance, and try and stay properly fed and hydrated, so my judgement isn't impaired. To reduce the likelihood of a fall causing a fracture, my preparation includes quite a bit of running to increase my bone density.