This is basically an update of an article I wrote back in May 2015 just before I started the 75 miles National Forest Way. In that year I completed 40.75 miles of the route ending at Ticknall with 34.25 miles still to complete before the finish. Three years have now passed by but I was reignited with the idea of completing this route whilst on recent local walk. A case of wanting to explore different footpaths. After an evening planning the next day found me back at Ticknall to walk the 13.25 miles to Sence Valley. An amazing walk and 13.25 miles towards my Country Walking magazine’s #walk1000miles in 2018 challenge. Now I have only 21 miles from Sence Valley to Beacon Hill in Leicestershire to complete the National Forest Way. Hopefully I can complete this route before this year is out and perhaps I will accomplish this distance in one go as an endurance walk.
In endurance walking it is necessary to keep weight down to a minimum to aid enjoyment. Selecting equipment needs thought as when conditions dictate it maybe that you are carrying and not wearing items of clothing. Here you need to be aware that the clothing you use is not only light in weight but is compact and can be easily compressed to reduce volume when packed. Please note that the following observations are based on an endurance walk undertaken from late spring to early autumn in a low level environment close to human habitation over terrain that consists of public rights of way, paths and tracks.
The rucksack is the container for your ‘life support system’ during the trek and this is the starting point to keep weight down. Therefore, the pack does not need to be made from rock proof material or require extras like ice-ax fittings, attachment points for crampons and automatic cup holders! All these add unnecessary weight. One item of equipment I haven’t changed since May 2015 is the Black Diamond RPM rucksack. This is my go to pack for endurance walks, and indeed short rambles, in low level terrain due to being an uncomplicated design, comfortable to carry, light in weight and with a capacity of 26 litres. The latter feature is important as it limits the volume and weight I carry. Access to the main body of this pack is via a zipped lid and inside is a bladder pouch holder and a front compartment. The lid has a zipped outside pocket and a zipped inside one which includes a clip to hold your keys etc… On the exterior are two mesh pockets each capable of holding a 600ml drinks bottle plus a lunch bar. The volume of the pack can be adjusted by an external draw cord on its front face which ensures everything loaded is held tight and close to your back.
Inside the pack – clothing
Waterproof Jacket & Trousers
My latest waterproof jacket is a Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic waterproof jacket. I bought this to replace my leaking Marmot Nano AS jacket. This is again a lightweight waterproof jacket that has a chest pocket to hold my glasses when it rains hard and provides storage for my iPhone SE. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a volume adjuster for the hood which can easily accommodate a full face F1 drivers helmet if the need arises! When reading the information on the hang tag before buying I found out this jacket was made from a fabulous sounding material called Dry.Q. This, they state, is a four-way all over stretch fabric that boasts excellent performance in wet conditions. Since using this jacket I have found it provides a comfortable and effective barrier to the wind and rain with the under sleeve zips allowing ventilation when needed. In contrast the oldest item of clothing I am still using is a pair of Rohan overtrousers. I bought these maybe 25 plus years ago and Rohan’s Waterlight H2P fabric still does the business. Although they are lined they are lightweight and fold up compactly.
Warm jacket/windproof jacket
The Marmot Ether Driclime Hoody was a jacket that I felt was an ideal replacement for my Marmot Driclime Jacket until I found out that it wasn’t available in the UK. Then suddenly I found it in a local mega camping store with a high price tag! Returning a few months later it was in a sale with a third knocked off the original price and after purchase another garment found its way into my rucksack. Just like my original Driclime Jacket the Ether Driclime Hoody is a most effective and efficient garment providing warmth and an element of wind resistance in a lightweight and compact package. The latter two points being equally important when carrying the item. I have found the hood extremely useful and the full length zip provides ease in getting the garment on and off as the need and conditions require. It also has three very useful pockets all with zips which comprise of two base and one chest pocket all accessed from the outside. The outer is wind resistant nylon and the inner is a lightweight polyester fleece. Unlike my original Driclime jacket the Driclime hoody doesn’t look out of place walking through civilisation which can happen frequently on the National Forest Way. At times conditions can just be windy without the need for a jacket with thermal properties and my Patagonia lightweight jacket fits the need perfectly. It doesn’t have a hood but I have never seen the need for one on a jacket of this type and it only has a chest pocket. With any ultra lightweight design there will be compromises but I have found this jacket to be a very useful layer.
Hat & Gloves
In weather that is forecast to be changeable, which is most of the time in England, I take a warm hat and gloves. These don’t need to be full on mountaineering styles but lightweight and effective ones. My warm hat dates from the last century and is made by Patagonia from their stretch Syncilla fabric whilst my gloves are a similar vintage with thermal properties and are extremely lightweight. A recently bought Patagonia Roger That Hat baseball cap provides useful protection when the sun decides to come out.
Inside the pack – other necessities
First Aid Kit
The usual stuff: assorted plasters, antiseptic wipes, pain killers and Compeed blister plasters (I needed these on my first National Forest Way walk) are contained in a fold out pouch. Included in this pouch is a SwissCard due to having a pair of tweezers and a neat pair of scissors along with a tooth pick and nail file! An additional item from my original article is a Lifesystems Safecard Tick remover card. I decided to include one after ticks and Lyme disease were discussed on a ramble I went on last April. From late spring to early autumn the sun may be out and it is essential to take sun cream. On recommendation from my daughter, who is a snowboarder, I am taking Piz Buin Mountain Suncream with a 50+ SPF! This provides protection not only from the sun but also cold, wind and high altitudes! The latter not being a problem along the National Forest Way.
An LED Lenser P5E one AA cell torch is included in my pack. No need for a spare bulb with this torch and I will check the battery before going out. It also has a handy lanyard to secure to the outside of the pack just in case navigation becomes a night activity and I need quick access to a light source.
These essentials, the first aid kit and torch, are kept together in a Lowe Alpine U-shaped mesh bag and then placed in a waterproof bag.
Sit (Sitz) mat
A small piece of closed-cell foam is carried to ensure that when I need to sit down to eat or enjoy the view I can in relative comfort.
I will carry two 600ml plastic bottles of diluted orange drink for liquid whilst food will consist of a variety of flap jacks, fruit, snack bars and dried fruit. There is a possibility that these can be supplemented along the National Forest Way as the route passes through many villages that have shops and some have a pub but don’t count on them being open at the same time you pass through.
On a low level walk like this carry spares is not really necessary. Also it is light until late and the essence is to keep moving at a reasonable pace hence not taking the kitchen sink! However, space will be found for a length of paracord which has a multitude of uses including make-do laces.
Keeping it all Dry
Plastic bags will ensure everything is kept dry.
I have downloaded the route guides from: http://www.nationalforestway.co.uk/downloads/ and have laminated them to protect them from the elements.
The relevant Ordnance Survey Explorer 1:25,000 scale maps will be carried and used depending on the stage I am walking: 233, 245 & 246.
A Silva Expedition compass will be taken along as a ‘just in case’. On my recent National Forest Way walk I did need this to check the direction I was going in as in some cases the route had changed since the brochures I was using were printed. Plus I needed it on a path just before I entered Ashby as a new housing estate diverted the route.
I have one but as yet still debating whether it is worth carrying in this kind of environment. OK it doesn’t weigh much but every kg counts in this game.
Ordnance Survey digital maps can be accessed through OS Online and a SMART phone is a multi-use device. My main use is as a camera to record my ventures but I can send images and updates of my walk to my wife.
I hope you have found this helpful and I welcome comments.
Link to my original article published May 2015: