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.

Sleeping mat

An inflatable mattress is comfortable and packs away fairly small, but is quite heavy, and has relatively poor thermal insulation. I find a cut down closed cell foam mat is ok on grass or grit - certainly lighter, if less comfortable and taking more space. I'm using a Gossamer Gear Nightlight, cut in sections, and doubled under my torso. This is lighter than a typical foam pad, and insulates better. Under my torso, this will give around twice the insulation and comfort of a typical pad. I need to test that a doubled thickness is warm enough on snow.

Sleeping system

I need some way to keep warm at night in a wide variety of settings: from around -10C to +15C, with and without wind. Moreover, bedding needs to be light, and to pack away small, and to function well even if I'm wet, or if it's raining or humid. In particular, it should be possible to go to sleep wearing damp clothes, and use my body heat to drive out residual damp.

The insulation of a down bag degrades from condensation, and when it's below zero in the shelter, condensation can freeze in any insulation. I'm planning on using a layered system at night, with a light Primaloft jacket, which works well when damp, inside a vapour barrier membrane (VBM) inside a light down quilt. Much of a sleeping bags insulation under ones body is ineffective as the down is crushed by body weight. Current thinking is that a lighter, warmer solution is to use a quilt on top, and a thicker sleeping mat.

Damp socks and other small items can be dried while sleeping by placing them in mesh pockets sewn inside the jacket. Damp mostly migrates out to the VBM, which can be shaken dry in the morning, the down remaining dry throughout. In warmer weather, I can dispense with the VBM and rely on warmth to keep the down quilt dry. I seem to sleep cold even after eating lots of food, and am a bit rubbish at suffering cold nights.