Loading luggage for any kind of holiday requires preparation, so imagine what’s required if you’re heading to some of the planet’s most challenging places?
A true explorer, like Ed Stafford, who appears in new Discovery Channel series Left For Dead, likes to travel light – although that doesn’t mean he’d arrive ill-equipped. Ed reveals the items he always likes to have have in his armoury.
1. A top-loading backpack or rucksack
I’m not really a kit snob and can make do with whatever I have. But if you go into a shop to buy a backpack, please don’t let them sell you one that “doubles” as a suitcase with a zip opening. If you want to cover any distance on foot and you want to be comfortable, buy a “top-loader”. It takes a while to get used to packing it with the heavy stuff close to your spine, but it will last you years and is well worth the investment.
2. A decent multi-tool
This could easily have been a fixed-blade knife, but to be more usable across a variety of adventures I’ve opted for the ever-useful multitool. You get what you pay for with these things and although you might be able to pick one up at your local petrol station for £4.99, you may find it falls apart before you’ve summitted your mountain. Pliers and wire-cutters can get you out of all kinds of scrapes, so go for one with integrated pliers.
3. A hammock
These integrated units are now in fact hammocks, mosquito nets and rain tarps all in one. Weighing in at less than a kilo, they are one of the most versatile and light ways to camp. Comfier than the flattest patch of ground and not a pole in sight. My favourite brand is Hennessy Hammock – no matter which one you go for, ask for the “Hex Fly” as a replacement for the standard flysheet – its enormous and can house six people in a tropical storm.
4. An inflatable mattress
Contradictory to number three? Absolutely not. There are always occasions where you simply want something comfortable to lie on. If the last time you used a Therm-o-Rest was 2003, you may be pleased to know they have come a long way since then. My favourite brand is SeaToSummit as their mattresses are the lightest in the world and incredibly simple to inflate, and deflate in seconds. A luxury you can afford to pack now as they pack down to the size of an aeroplane can of soda.
5. A down sleeping bag
Whether it’s wet or dry, I always opt for down in a sleeping bag. Synthetic fills are heavier, bigger, and less comfy. Down is light and luxurious to sleep in and it feels like your favourite Bavarian goose-down duvet at home. Add a silk liner and you will never get the bag dirty. This will make the bag warmer and you’ll need to wash it less (which is good, because washing down is a pain and it never quite comes out the same).
6. A pair of decent hiking boots
Old faithfuls. An unsuspecting wannabe traveller might assume that Gore-Tex-lined is better than not. But you’d be wrong. Having Gore-Tex under the leather reduces the boot’s ability to cool. It’s rubbish in the jungle and it’s terrible in the desert. A simple leather boot will be far more versatile and you can always add Gore-Tex socks if you really need them. Scarpa, Lowa, and Alt-berg are my brands of choice.
7. A pair of merino boxers / knickers
Merino wool is natural and wicks moisture away from your skin, thus reducing any chafing or sores. It retains its thermal properties when wet (unlike cotton) and the best thing is, they never smell, no matter how many days they have been worn in succession! A must for anyone doing multi-day hikes or expeditions where weight is an issue.
8. A Garmin InReach Explorer+
The Gold-standard of current exploration kit. First there were GPSs, then there were EPIRBs (rescue beacons), then there were satellite phones. This new device by Garmin is all three in one. Amazing messaging capabilities, emergency rescue button, and it’s also the best GPS on the market too, with downloadable colour maps. No modern-day adventurer should be without one.
Ed Stafford: Left For Dead premieres exclusively in the UK on Discovery Channel, 9pm, Thursday, September 14.
Ed is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned.