Putting together an adventure travel kit list

It’s a familiar story (though hopefully not too familiar). Your bags are all packed, you’ve put your passport and e-tickets somewhere accessible and you’re heading to the airport when a sudden thought strikes you.

“Shit, I’ve forgotten to pack my walking boots!”

There’s no time to go back home and cram them in with everything else, so you’ll just have to pick something up to replace them when you get to your destination. But if you’ve forgotten to pack something as important as walking boots, what other essentials have you neglected, and what if you don’t discover you haven’t got them until you’re camping out in the wilderness somewhere and you really need them?

Typical pack for a backpacking trip, preferably not more than about 15-16kg
Typical pack for a backpacking trip, preferably not more than about 15-16kg

Having a kit list for adventure travel before you start packing is absolutely essential, but where do you start? I’ve been on a few adventures now and my kit list has grown over time, and thanks to it I very rarely forget to pack anything important, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Of course, what kit to pack depends on what sort of activity you’ll be doing, so mine doesn’t apply to everyone, but hopefully it will be of help to some of you. When travelling abroad I mostly do climbing and mountaineering trips these days, but I’ve also enjoyed many organised treks and what you might call ‘discovery’ holidays – ie. travelling about from place to place sightseeing, including a certain amount of wildlife watching. Back in the UK I nearly always go walking; mostly I will be camping and sometimes this involves backpacking, where I will be carrying all my kit for a few days with me.

Another consideration is what kind of support you will be getting from others while away. Although there are exceptions, when abroad I will mostly be on an organised group trip where communal equipment such as tents will be provided; when climbing I will always be guided, in which case the guide nearly always provides the rope. When out walking in the UK I’m nearly always on my own and unsupported, so navigational equipment is more important.

The key to the kit list is that you don’t have to take along every item on it (and usually you won’t), but it does need to include everything you might conceivably require. That way it’s there to remind you as you go through it when you pack, and you can skip over anything you don’t need. If you’re not camping then you can leave your pee bottle behind (unless you’re a bit weird).

Try to avoid carrying as much as this man!
Try to avoid carrying as much as this man!

It also doesn’t need to be particularly descriptive, as long as the item is there on the list to remind you. The phrase ‘trekking clothes’ should suffice to tell me that I need X base layers, Y pairs of trousers, Z pairs of socks and a single pair of underpants I can turn inside out after a few days, depending on how long I’ll be away for (that last bit isn’t true by the way, but whatever works for you).

I frequently update the list as I gain experience and technologies change. For instance, there was once upon a time when I revelled in the fact that I’d be out of contact from the outside world for weeks, so phone, charger and solar panel were unnecessary, but these days a quick blog or status update when I’m on the road has come to be expected. I can also see a time in the future when I might leave behind my trusty fleeces and replace them with Primaloft. And of course, will I one day be exchanging my books for a Kindle?

I divide my list into three – one for trekking, one for climbing, and one for backpacking – and pick and choose from each. To keep it concise I don’t duplicate between lists, but make sure I go through all three lists when I’m packing, irrespective of what activity I’ll be doing, to ensure that I don’t forget anything. For example, I obviously need my 65L pack and walking boots when I’m backpacking, but as both these items are on the previous lists I don’t include it on the camping list as well.

So here are the lists, and I welcome any comments, suggestions and recommendations.

Trekking and discovery

  • Passport and visas
  • Travel insurance
  • E-tickets
  • Camera, spare batteries and memory cards
  • Tripod
  • Phone and charger
  • Travel adaptor
  • Solar panel
  • Casual clothes
  • Trekking clothes
  • Sun hat and buff
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves and mitts
  • Fleeces
  • Waterproof/windproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Warm/fleece trousers
  • Down jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Trainers or approach shoes
  • Walking boots
  • Sandals
  • Down booties
  • Trekking poles
  • Gaiters
  • Day pack (35L)
  • Small travel pack (10L)
  • Dry bags
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • First aid kit
  • Malaria tablets
  • Water bottles
  • Water purification
  • Pee bottle
  • Toilet paper and matches
  • Head torch and spare batteries
  • Sit mat
  • Travel wash, washing line and plug
  • Gaffer tape
  • Trek towel
  • Swimming trunks
  • Pen knife
  • Padlocks
  • Binoculars
  • Sun cream
  • Insect repellant
  • Wet wipes
  • Handwash
  • Moisturiser
  • Ear plugs
  • Sewing kit
  • Books
  • Diary and pens
  • Playing cards

Climbing and mountaineering

  • Ice axe
  • Crampons
  • Mountaineering boots
  • Helmet
  • Harness
  • Carabiners
  • Snow shoes
  • Jumar/ascender
  • Abseil device/descender
  • Snow goggles
  • Prussics
  • Slings
  • Rope
  • Ice screw
  • Big pack (65L)
  • Down suit
  • Down salopettes
  • Down mitts
  • Balaclava

Camping and backpacking

  • Tent
  • Compass and GPS
  • Maps and map case
  • Whistle
  • Stove
  • Fuel
  • Matches and lighter
  • Dry clothes
  • Thermos flask
  • Mug and bowl
  • Knife, fork and spoon

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