I need to learn more about travelling light because if things go according to plan, I’ll be backpacking across Wales very soon. We’re just waiting to see if Harri’s employer approves his request for unpaid leave. If it’s a ‘yes’, we’ll be walking from one end of Wales to the other on one epic hike!
Surprisingly, we won’t be following the popular Offa’s Dyke Path (too many people) or the full length of the stunning Wales Coast Path (one day perhaps but at 870 miles it’s too long to do in four weeks). Neither will we be hiking Tony Drake’s Cambrian Way, 275 miles long and described as ‘Wales’ most scenically beautiful and challenging long distance trail’ (over several years, we have actually completed the majority of that high-level trail).
Instead, Harri’s plan is to devise a brand new route from the top of Anglesey in the north to Chepstow in the south-east, following sections of existing way marked paths but exploring more of the country’s valleys and lowlands. In essence, Harri wanted to create a long-distance route between the traditional ‘ends’ of Wales (O Fôn i Fynwy), which will showcase our country’s magnificent scenery and, most importantly, will be safe to walk in most weather conditions (sadly, the Cambrian Way is not). The details are still under wraps, however Harri’s route will be varied and easy-to-follow, sticking to way marked trails wherever possible. There will be lots of mountains to climb so travelling light is essential.
The anticipation is building, but I admit to being slightly apprehensive too. The thought of travelling light terrifies me. I’ve never done proper backpacking before; the closest I’ve come is three days at the end of last summer when we carried rucksacks and stopped twice at bed and breakfast establishments (the original plan was four days/three nights but we were rained off).
I think it’s fair to say that light packing doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t like being cold… or wet. I also like washing regularly… in warm water. Oh, and blow-drying my hair… wearing deodorant… and mascara.
Oh dear, with potentially four weeks away from home and lots of wild camping planned, I thought it might be a good idea to get some advice about packing from an expert. Joseph Dowdy is an outdoor type who works for Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK.com) and he offers these packing light tips to me and anyone else who’s about to start backpacking for the very first time.
And so, it’s over to Joseph:
Adventure travel embodies a number of things, from camping to overland journeys and explorations. It can be challenging to pack optimally for your adventure requirements. If you need some help getting started, you should use this article as a starting guide. It outlines some of the basic things you should consider when traveling, with the inclusion of tips that will help you pack wisely.
You should pick the lightest and most durable bag you can get your hands on. Although, you will more than likely want a spacious bag that can hold all of your essentials, remember that the airlines maximum carry-on measures 22” x 14” x 9”.
If you are smart about packing your clothing, it can eliminate a great deal of stress. It’s key to pack a few lightweight garments of clothing that will work for any kind of adventure, ranging from city touring to exploring in the wilderness. It’s important to pack clothing that is made from durable fabric. Avoid clothing made of cotton, as it tends to stain, wrinkle and dry very slowly. You should look for clothing that has breathable fabric, provides sun protection and has pockets which are great for extra storage.
(Afterthought from Tracy: avoid bamboo tee-shirts at all costs. They may have cooling properties but, as we found out, they are impossible to dry overnight in the average hotel room.)
Shoes are an important element of packing, as you are standing on your feet a great deal of the day. It’s best to pack an all-purpose shoe that can double as a casual and semi-formal shoe. If your adventure is more on the aerobic side of things, be sure to pack a performance shoe that suits your adventure; such as a cross-trainer, a tennis shoe, a great hiking boot, etc.
(Afterthought from Tracy: in the end I walked in lightweight running shoes and Brasher sandals. Taking two pairs of shoes might sound self-indulgent but it’s great to be able to switch to sandals when your feet are aching.)
No one enjoys carrying heavy food coolers and boxes while on an outdoor adventure. If you are going on a long adventure and need to plan more substantial meals, you should consider cooking your meals in bulk before travelling, freezing as much as you can and using Ziploc bags as they take up less space than bulky plastic containers. If your adventure is for a short weekend or day trip, you should look into packing some ultra-light backpacking foods. Some good suggestions for backpacking foods are trail mix, boxed macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, snickers, olive oil, canned tuna and instant drink mix powders.
(Afterthought from Tracy: unless you’re walking in the wilderness, I’d advise limiting food supplies to the first day or two, plus some nibbles like cereal bars and nuts. I took far too much food with me and it weighed me down for days.)
If you want to bring spoils back from your adventure, you can use a compression sac as a laundry bag in order to free up space for the return trip.
A bright-colored bandana can be used as an instant headband, a sweatband if sported underneath a hat or as a berry-picking pouch. It’s light-weight, inexpensive and multifunctional. It’s important to protect your skin against the sun and bugs, so be sure to pack insect repellent and sunscreen.
Ultimately, your adventure destination will determine your detailed packing list. In order to get the most out of your expedition remember to pack lightweight and multifunctional items for your next adventure travel plans!
Me again. Lots of useful information there so thank you Joseph. The two biggies for me in terms of travelling light are sticking to silk and airtex tops (of which I have loads, thanks to my running) and not bothering with cumbersome sandwich boxes. I also like the idea of a bandana rather than a sunhat… much lighter and more adaptable. I must remember the insect repellent too as I do tend to act as a beacon for the mozzies.
The real challenge will be packing a rucksack that contains everything I need but won’t be so heavy that it spoils the whole adventure.
To do that, I’ll be using some of these great tips about travelling with carry-on bags only from some seriously minimalist backpackers. Check them out at Mighty Goods.
For photographs of the highlights of the route visit The Walker’s Wife O Fôn i Fynwy board on Pinterest.
‘Never too old to backpack: O Fôn i Fynwy: a 364-mile walk through Wales’ by Tracy Burton is available from Amazon’s Kindle Store priced at £2.99.