I wish I could talk about the inov-8 boots I wore, but they are under a strict embargo at the moment. They’ll be launched to the public soon – the first-ever boot to feature graphene in both the foam midsole and rubber outsole – and I think they’re exceptional. I’ve done over 1,000km in the same pair! Putting footwear aside, I like my clothing to be light and fast-wicking with an athletic cut – the inov-8 range hit the spot for these criteria. I kept things super simple, mostly hiking in just a pair of inov-8 Race Elite 6” Shorts 2.0 (115g) and an inov-8 Base Elite Long Sleeve Base Layer 2.0 (96g). In bad weather, I’d pull on my inov-8 Ultrashell Pro – an insanely light waterproof jacket at just 107g. It’s rather thin and flimsy (and I did accidentally rip it slightly on some brambles), but for summer hiking the impressive 20,000mm hydrostatic head kept me dry.
Zpacks Nero 38L
I am a complete convert to frameless ultralight backpacks – for minimalist loads, they are wonderfully light, comfy and streamlined. I’ll never look back. The Zpacks Nero 38L is an iconic pack amongst US thru-hikers, but little known in the UK. I managed to get my hands on one this summer and it didn’t disappoint. I’d give it a five out of five stars rating. It proved durable, weatherproof, comfy, spacious, fully-featured and – best of all – insanely light at just 375g (including the hipbelt I added). Due to a complete absence of ventilation, it did leave my back very sweaty most of the time, while the unstructured build means you have to pack the interior carefully otherwise you’ll feel lumps and bumps on your back. But, all in all, this pack was an ultralight revelation.
Gossamer Gear The One
For just 505g, I found this single-skin trekking pole tent really spacious. The two-pole structure created a high peak and near vertical walls, ensuring excellent head room and surprisingly good liveability. It kept me dry on several rainy evenings and, during a gusty night at Angle Tarn near Scafell Pike, it held up firm against strong winds. The sewn-in mesh interior was perfect for keeping the dreaded Scottish midge at bay too. The negatives? The tent was rather draughty (due to the fact it has big cut-outs in the fly and doesn’t peg down flush to the ground) and it was always sopping wet every morning (I never suffered from water ingress but a daily dry-out of the tent was necessary).
PHD M.Degree 300 K Down
This sleeping bag proved an absolute revelation: cosy, warm and unbelievably light. It weighs a remarkable 445g in the standard size, no-zip version I have. The incredible weight-to-warmth ratio is achieved through the use of the highest quality, 1000 fill power goose down. Such down is rare and, therefore, very expensive – the price-tag is somewhat eye-watering – but the quality is undoubted with a voluminous, super-fluffy loft. PHD don’t publish EN/ISO ratings, citing flaws in the system, but instead state an in-house rating of -3C. I reckon that’s overly optimistic (for me, as a cold sleeper), but certainly on this summer challenge it kept me warm enough even on colder nights.
SAXX Merino Boxer Brief
During some of my spring and summer training hikes – including the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and West Highland Way – I really struggled with chafing around (ahem) my under-carriage and intimate areas, due to friction, sweating and poorly-wicking underwear. To solve this problem I decided to try SAXX boxers and the chafing problem completely disappeared. I found the SAXX boxer briefs super-comfy (particularly the Ballpark Pouch, the brand’s key feature) and fast-wicking. I won’t hike in anything else now. My full recommendation for these.