What to pack for your next slow adventure
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
Do you have an adventure idea and not sure what kit to take with you? Here are a few tips!
As the quote goes:"fail to prepare, prepare to fail": I have definitely been there many times! A good amount of planning and having the right kit are crucial for the success of your slow adventure, as well as having some good improvisation skills because, no matter how good your planning is, something inevitably will go wrong (and that's where the fun starts anyway!)
Planning a new adventure idea and researching a trip are tasks that I really enjoy and for me that's also when my slow travel begins! Over the years, I have anyway learnt that there is only so much planning you can do in advance, since things will change once you hit the road so I always like to give myself a good dose of flexibility too.
Maps & useful documents and contacts
Being conscious that sense of direction is definitely not my main skill, I tend to plan my route in advance and then import it on my mobile, using maps.me to navigate. This is possibly one of the most useful apps I have ever come across, as it works offline, saving battery and data (and it's free). cycle.travel is my favourite website for cycling planning, as it automatically selects cycle ways and roads with less traffic.
I also find very handy to add all useful phone numbers (emergency, embassy, insurance, bank, etc.) directly on my mobile and keeping a copy of them on google drive together with soft copies of any important document (passport, insurance, credit card number in case I need to block it). I also find useful to print and laminate a copy of my passport and contact list, in case I have no signal or lose my phone.
Cash v Cards
Living in London, I have almost forgotten the last time I took some cash before going out. It turns out that it doesn't work like that everywhere so it is definitely useful to always have some cash with you for small expenses, local markets, etc.
Depending on what level of adventure you are planning to undertake, it is generally good practice to carry out a risk assessment. To put it in a very simple way, doing a risk assessment means basically making a list of all the potential risks and how you are going to mitigate them and deal with them in case that happens.
I personally find it a very useful exercise as it helps me thinking of ways to deal with a potential problem; then it's really up to you if you want to take any action to mitigate it or not but at least you will be aware of it.
When I was planning my walk across Sri Lanka, the main danger was likely to be traffic on the roads. My four rules to mitigate the risk were:
- avoid busy roads,
- avoid walking in the dark
- walk facing the traffic
- do not use headphones
Pretty obvious actions but, nevertheless, important to think about them in advance.
Still talking about safety, it will be really important to be able to communicate your exact location, whether you need help or just to reassure and update your family and friends about your progress: what three words does exactly that and you should definitely download the app on your mobile.
Although I only try to buy what is essential, over the years I ended up collecting quite a fair amount of gear and I still get very excited looking at what else I can add to my collection. It is however quite easy to buy the wrong type of gear or, even worse, to realize you are missing a very crucial element when you are already on your way and too far from any outdoor shop!
When it comes to what to wear, a lot of course will depend on the activity you will be doing and what the weather will be like but, as a general advise, avoid using brand new clothes (especially when it comes to shoes) and carry as little as you can: you can always wash your clothes (and after a couple of day you will stop caring that you smell a bit :) )
Zip off trousers and quick dry t-shirts and tops are a great shout!
What I will be carrying in terms of food will largely dependent on where I am going and how easy it will be to find food on the way. As a general rule, I always carry with me some sort of "emergency food" and snacks to keep me going during the day so that, even if I don't come across any shop, I know I won't risk going hungry!
Personally, I'm not a big fan of dehydrated expedition food but I do see the value in terms weight. Depending on budget, I would definitely try to eat in local restaurants as many times as I can or at least to buy local food: it is a great way to discover a country, connect with people and support the local economy (and in general a freshly cooked meal will taste much nicer than pot noodles!). Make sure you have a warm meal in the evening and reward your hard work with something you actually enjoy eating: this way you will have something to forward to during the day and keep you motivated!
First aid kit and water
You should always carry a first aid kit with you and plenty of water!
First aid kits are pretty standard and you can buy them in any outdoor shop. I also add to it some basic medicines to which you want to have immediate access in case of need. Just as a reminder, check your first aid kit before departing: medicines expire and you might forget you have used some of the products in your kit.
Depending on where you will be, a water bottle with filtration system or a uv water purifier should also be part of your kit. If you are not concerned about having access to drinking water, you can replace them with a water bladder or folding bottle as opposed to a traditional water bottle (they will be lighter and take up virtually no space when empty).
Make a kit list
I personally keep a copy of my kit list on an excel spreadsheet divided by the nature of the trip, although some items will probably always come with me. In this way, I don't need to think about what I need to take with me on my next trip: I simply refer to the list and adapt it as needed for the specific occasion. Color coded drybags (even better if they have a transparent window) are a great way to separate your kit, so that you know exactly where everything is. We all have different needs and habits of course so, for example, on my kit list I haven't added items some other people might consider essential (walking poles, for example).
To finish, some useful tips:
When it comes to buy gear, see before you buy: it's really difficult to assess weight and size just by looking at a factsheet on a website;
Try to bring items that can be used for more than one function (a drybag and a jumper can make a great pillow; a walking pole can become a pole for your tarp!)
Stay away from super-cheap gear: quality kit doesn't come cheap so, if it looks like a great bargain, there is probably a reason why and, best case scenario, it won't last long (worst case, it will break halfway through your trip);
At the same time, you also don't need overspend on your kit either: do you really need that extreme weather sleeping bag if you are going camping a couple of nights in spring in the south downs?
Buy from ethical companies: brands like Patagonia will repair or replace your kit if broken, a great way to save money in the long term and to reduce waste and resources consumption;
To enjoy slow travel you want to be as minimalist as you can (in other words, don't over-pack): carrying too much stuff with you will be uncomfortable and to this day I'm still very surprised by the amount of things I carry with me and end up not using.