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.


My shelter must keep me dry and cope with a fair amount of wind (35mph gusts). It's not essential (though handy) that it be storm proof, as I can usually descend or look for a natural windbreak if there is bad weather. Nor does it have to be insect proof; I'm happy to choose my camp-site in the wind, and away from lakes and streams to avoid bugs. That means a single-skin tent can be ok, if my sleeping bag is covered with something to keep drips off.

There needs to be enough space to change my clothes under cover, and enough ventilation to minimise condensation. Cooking under cover will happen rarely, as the stove can stay outside in most winds with a windshield. The shelter and groundsheet need to be as light as possible, but also durable enough to last 160 pitches. I'm generally ok continuing to a spot where there is grass, so don't need a self-supporting tent with a small footprint, such as a geodesic tent.

My Hilleberg Akto has worked well and certainly resists Force 8 gales, but it could be lighter (1.6kg in double skin). I've got to work and cut its weight by lightening fittings, poles and pegs and got the weight down to 830g (no groundsheet or inner tent). In the UK, a single-skin Akto gets a fair amount of condensation, however I find less problem with condensation in the mountains because there is more wind.

I'm also trialling a Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter, which uses trekking poles for supports. This is a tarp tent with end closures so that it can be made weatherproof in heavy rain, or can be pitched with the sides lifted for ventilation. This weighs 340g (inc. lines, pegs, no groundsheet). I need to be sure this will not rip, flap or distort in at least a 25mph wind (Force 5).