By: Blonde Two

I imagine most outdoor leaders will relate to the ‘I might wish I had it one day’ method of rucksack packing. When you are responsible for a group of people, no matter what age, you want to be sure that you can cover all possible emergencies with the knowledge in your head and the gear in your rucksack, and that of course is how the weight of a rucksack can build up over time. But what about a leader who is on a day walk, responsible for no-one but herself and wanting to walk a bit further than she comfortably can with her usual heavy rucksack? Putting the ‘always on duty’ argument aside, is it possible for her to pack a small, lightweight rucksack with enough gear to ensure that she is safe and comfortable for a day on the hills? I recently did an experiment.

I had been given a lovely Osprey Hikelite 26 litre day sack and felt that this would be the perfect backpack for my experiment. Weighing in at a mere 740 grams, this lightweight beauty (I love orange) has surprised me a couple of times with its ability to absorb a fair amount of outdoor kit. It took me a while to decide what to take (and, with more difficulty, what to leave) but in the end, for my summer day (good forecast) with Blonde One on Dartmoor, I packed:

  • A full 2-litre water bladder
  • Lunch and snacks (one sandwich, various nibbles and an apple)
  • My Rohan merino base layer
  • My Paramo Velez Light Adventure Smock (amazing piece of kit)
  • A first aid kit (including medication, purification tablets and tick remover)
  • Towel and swimsuit (not my usual packing but we were passing a pool and a river)
  • My Sigg Hot and Cold flask full of tea and with my small folding army cup
  • Toilet kit (but not a trowel)
  • My expedition purse (every girl should have one)
  • Sunglasses and suncream
  • Smidge insect repellent
  • Torch
  • Two walking poles (which I really should use instead of carry)

Reading it back, that looks like quite a list and possibly more than most people would have had with them on Dartmoor that day. It helped my knees enormously and turned out to be adequate (although I did run out of food). However, I spent most of the day feeling acutely aware of the items I had left at home. Items that would have been useful or even vital if we had had a delay or emergency. These included:

  • My waterproof trousers – should really have been packed as they give warmth as well as waterproofing
  • Spare torch batteries – would have been required for a long delay and a night nav off the hill
  • My survival bag – this one was a ‘forget’ rather than a ‘decide’ as mine lives at the bottom of my usual rucksack
  • Emergency rations (I was lost without my 8-year old malt loaf)

I haven’t decided yet whether or not I will repeat the lightweight rucksack experiment. Definitely not in the depths of winter or when I am leading other people. But for the odd day walk? Well we will have to wait and see. The temptation of a non-limping morning the next day is strong… but then so is the desire to know I am capable of dealing with whatever the outdoors throws at me. Watch this space!


PS On a girly note… I have noticed from these images that a smaller rucksack perhaps doesn’t balance out a girl’s silhouette as well as a larger one… does my bum look big in this rucksack?!?