I should confess that I am something of a kit fanatic. I once spent four hours in an outdoor store in America putting up tents until I found the one that I thought was perfect. That was 12 years ago. I still have and use that tent and I love it. However, in the Ultra Lightweight world, at just over 2kg, this tent – along with much of my other kit – is now considered relatively heavy. So I tried the following – with mostly positive results.
Hubba Hubba NX2 tent
I wanted a two-man tent, because my dog Teg deserves space, too. I like a tent with two doors and two vestibules. A tent that feels roomy inside, that I can sit up in without having my head pressed against the roof. One that is easy to put up on my own and equally easy to put away.
This tent met all those requirements and weighs just 1.72kg. Not only that, the design of the poles meant that when erected this tent is more rectangular than dome, so there is loads of headspace inside AND – so simple, but so rarely done – it is a light grey colour, as is the optional-to-use rainfly, so instead of crawling into a dark cave-like space, it is light and bright. Seriously, I could live in this tent for months.
Featherlite Sleeping Bag
Light it certainly is, and packs down small in its stuff sack. It’s also a very comfortable sleeping bag to be in. Mummy-shaped with a hood, it has a PERTEX outer shell, so it is tough and breathable (so you don’t get that slightly sweaty experience you get in some sleeping bags) and a down filling makes it feel luxurious. Clever zips glow in the dark, which is a great and properly useful innovation. But the comfort rating – the lowest temperature at which you ought to feel comfortable – is 9C. That’s a bit optimistic for a British summer – and I just didn’t find it warm enough.
Sea to Summit, £90
What a find! Some inflatable sleeping mats can be exhausting to inflate, even worse to deflate and impossible to get back into their stuff sacks. This mat was a revelation. It has a two-way valve which makes it very easy to inflate with just four or five puffs, and it deflates instantly too. It’s a mummy-shaped mat, a good full length so you can have both head and feet on it. When inflated it looks like the bottom of an egg carton – the surface is not flat but a collection of ‘Air Sprung Cells’. Incredibly comfortable, it never deflated during the night and super-easy to pack away. I’ll never use anything else now.
Maven 65 rucksack
There are lighter packs on the market, but I went for this one, partly because I wanted a the space (a generous 65 litres – I had stuff for the dog as well as me) but mainly because I wanted a more robust pack that was fully adjustable (which this one is) and more padded (and therefore comfortable) than some of the super-stripped down packs. It was a good decision. This pack has plenty of ways of tweaking it so it fits really well and feels stable and secure. It has one big main compartment, that can be separated into two, small pockets on the hip belt – useful for insect repellent or sun cream; I put my little camera in one. There are adjustable pockets at the side and two in the lid, making it easy to keep stuff I wanted during the day easily accessible. There is also a little day-sack packed neatly away inside. Well designed, comfortable, it ticked all my boxes.
Eta Lite+ stove
This all-in-one stove is neat and cleverly designed. It takes the form of a large mug, with an insulating jacket and a lid and when you’re not using it, the gas burner can be stored inside, so it all packs up very small. It comes with a stand which a gas bottle can clip into to keep it stable on uneven ground, or you can also hang it up (which I never needed to try). It boils water incredibly quickly (quicker than my kettle at home!), but the burner is so powerful when I made porridge in the morning I couldn’t stir quick enough to stop it sticking to the bottom! So it is better for heating than cooking, but ideal if you are living off freeze dried meals and tea. The only quibble I have is the ignition didn’t work. I checked this out before I left and it seems to be a common complaint, but I wouldn’t let that put you off. This is an excellent lightweight, easy-to use and practical stove. Just don’t forget your matches.
Go Water Filter Bottle
If you are going lightweight, you don’t want to be carrying loads of water. This bottle has a built-in water filter, so you can literally fill it up from a stream and drink the water straight away through the mouthpiece. No chemicals, no waiting, genius. I did that for nine days and didn’t get ill, so I can safely say it worked for me.
Air pillow UL L
I wouldn’t normally bother with a pillow, and just use some bundled up clothes instead, but this inflatable pillow weighs just 60g. It was absolutely worth carrying that extra 60g.
Alpha Lite Cutlery
Sea to Summit, £18
A super-light knife, fork and spoon made of tough aluminium, held together with a carabiner.
Light and Dry Micro First Aid Kit
A good, comprehensive kit that had everything I needed – blister plasters (although I needed more!), regular plasters, safety pins, ibuprofen.
Adventure Food dried meal
Anyone who has eaten expedition-ready meals knows they can be everything from truly disgusting to just about OK, depending on how hungry you are. This was horrible – a chicken curry that resembled wallpaper paste and didn’t taste any better than that.
Cotswold Outdoor, from £5.50
Infinitely better – a salmon and potato dish and the macaroni cheese were both pretty good.
Firepot Dehydrated Meals
Outdoorfood.com, from £6.50
Won hands down. Really good flavour, but also texture, so the porcini risotto and the orzo Bolognese not only tasted good, but somehow managed not to be reduced to a stodgy mush in the rehydration process.
KATE ALSO TRIED….
Abisko Trail T-shirt
Made from a cool-feeling fabric comprising nylon and 15% wool.
Amfibie II shorts
Stretchy, tough, quick-drying and stylish.
Bamboo walking socks
These comfortable socks naturally stay fresh for longer.
Women’s Trail Shaker Short Sleeve Shirt
Made from a soft fabric designed to wick sweat away from your skin.