My adventure gear list
Picture this. You’re all on your own in the wilderness and 7 hours walk from civilisation. Quite suddenly, last night’s dehydrated beef stroganoff tells you it’s about to make a hasty evacuation from your body. Then imagine that panicked urgency, as you’re standing there cross-legged rummaging around the bottom of your pack, beads of sweat rolling down your forehead, furiously looking for the toilet paper. It’s at that point you realise you forgot to pack any.
That’s just one of the many scenarios which plays out in my head when prepping for an adventure. Whether it’s the thought of leaving behind my rain jacket, the SD cards for my camera, or matches to light the camp stove, I’m quite the nervous packer.
Another big issue facing an adventurer is one of pack weight, which on long walks has a major influence on both comfort levels and speed. Carrying everything you need to survive on your back is one thing, but when you take photography as seriously as I do, pack weight becomes a significant burden.
For those reasons it’s fair to say I’m quite the geek when it comes to adventure planning. I operate a full check-list system and know the weight of every single item I carry, right down to my undies. The endless pursuit of ultralight has become quite the obsession!
Just the usual chaotic state of affairs when I’m prepping for an adventure
Some key things
Before we get to the details of the items I carry, here’s my overall thinking on a few key things.
Camera gear. Sometimes when I’m climbing a steep mountainside, calf muscles burning and a trail of sweat practically visible on the ground behind me, I wish I wasn’t a photographer. Carrying close to 7 kilograms of camera gear seems utterly ridiculous, and yet, there’s hardly a time after a trip I’ve ever regretted doing it. Like I say, I take it seriously. Depending on the trip there are occasions I might be tempted to leave a particular lens at home. And in the future when my budget allows I might look to get some lighter f4 lens variants. But for the timebeing, there’s not too much more I’m prepared to do here on the weight savings front. (To see a full rundown of my camera gear, follow this link.)
Clothes. It can be tempting to take a dozen pair of undies on a ‘just in case’ basis, but after many years of lessons learnt I now limit my clothing to the bare necessities. But what I do carry is of excellent quality with high thermal to weight ratios and good durability. This comes at a $$$ cost but IMHO is well worth it.
Food. I travel reasonably lightly on the food front. Usually I get pretty hungry in the first 24 hours of a trip, but soon after my body seems to adjust and get by without too much. And by then, it’s not too long to wait until that gigantic greasy feast at the end! I don’t particularly enjoy pre-packed dehydrated food (does anyone?), but it’s a necessity for reducing pack weight. I tend to go for the spicier/hot versions which helps mask the fact you’re eating cardboard and jandals.
Personal locator beacon. A distress beacon is an absolute must have. I’ve thankfully never had to activate one, but I’d still never head away on an adventure without it. I’m about to replace the battery in mine; they usually only last around five years.
Sleeping gear. I’ve recently started using ultralight gear from Sea to Summit and am very impressed. They have a sleeping bag option for every conceivable temperature point, which can be supplemented by liners which also offer various temperature boosts. I’m a reasonably warm sleeper so use a -2C degree rated bag (it compacts down to smaller than a water bottle!), which I supplement with both a liner and then layers of clothes as it gets colder. It’s certainly not a setup suitable for tenting mid-winter in the South Island; I have another warmer sleeping bag for that (which also comes with a further 1 kg weight penalty).
Tent. After much research I recently purchased an MSR Hubba Hubba NX2. At full setup it’s only 1.7kg, which is half the weight of my other 2-person tent (a Macpac Celeste). It’s lightness does mean taking a hit in both durability and temperature rating, so really it’s a three-season and fine forecast option only. As I do a lot of solo trips I was tempted to look at 1-person options, but in the end found they don’t tend to lead to significant relative weight savings. Plus I appreciate the extra space of the 2-person, which makes things both more comfortable and easier to store/manage gear.
Below is a full and current list of my adventure gear along with a summary. Cutting to the chase: it’s not unusual for me to carry something approaching 26 kilograms (57 pounds).
The base assumptions for these lists are that it’s for an adventure:
- undertaken solo (when hiking with others some items are shared and therefore weight reduced),
- of 4 days / 3 nights,
- undertaken anytime of year EXCEPT WINTER and with a fine weather window (winter and bad weather will only add weight), and
- not needing breakfast on the first day, nor lunch or dinner on the last day.
Of course, these items change from time to time. And I’m always trying to make things lighter. But currently this is my typical setup. Thankfully the mere act of completing a hike makes my pack a little lighter each day as I consume food and water.
Also important to note: this list includes the items I’ll be wearing at the time, so the total weight isn’t actually the pack weight itself. Think of it as the total weight on my feet.