There is a dizzying array of equipment for sale on-line and in the high-street. All proposing to be a better or cheaper way of doing some function essential for a safe and comfortable adventure. But how do you know which pack is best for you, which sleeping bag is the warmest, which stove the most suitable?
The simple answer is trial and error. On the many internet forums around camping, Bushcraft and wild adventure, you will find a million different – and often conflicting – opinions of what type or make of a particular item is ‘best’.
It is worth considering what best means in this context. For adventurers like us it probably means compact, light, reliable and preferably cheap. But often quality and cost are at odds with each other: you get what you pay for.
One of the best things to try when considering kit is to ask a community, do your research and then se if you can get a working version either from a ‘trade blanket’, Freecycle, Gumtree or even eBay. Buying second hand has it’s problems, mostly finding cheap copies of an item rather than the real thing, but if you’re careful you can save a packet on trying out a new item.
When selecting kit, it’s worth playing with a few variables to come up with a ‘usefulness scale’ fro any item: we’ve made one that you can play with [link to usefulness spreadsheet], but don’t rely on any system exclusively, trust your gut. Some useful parameters to play with are as follows:
How much pack-space does it take? What percentage of your total pack size?
How awkward is it shape-wise?
How solid or shapeable is it? Can you stuff it into a corner or does it need a special pocket?
How much does it weigh out of your total proposed load weight?
How many uses can it be put to?
How carefully does it have to be packed?
How many times can it be re-used before needing to be replaced?
How long will it last between 'charges'? enough for one adventure?
How likely is it to stop working?
How practical is this item, how useable is it in the proposed environment / climate?
How many times are you likely to need it during any given adventure, what is the chance of needing it at all?
How much comfort or sheer pleasure will this item give you on your adventure?
Don’t feel you have to ‘be a certain type’: there are many types of adventure, from the ex-military, the make-it-as-I-go, the everything with batteries adventurer, and many others. Each personality and their preferences have their own pro’s and con’s. Just try to go your own way and follow what feels right. Turn up to every adventure with a positive attitude, an open mind, and the load-out that feels right on your back, and you won’t go far wrong. Just make sure at the end of every adventure you give your kit the critical once-over: what worked, what didn’t you need, what broke and what were you missing.
Adventuring takes a lifetime to learn, and we tend to simplify as we gain experience: as out great guiding forefather John Muir said “…throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea into an old sack…”; the choice of equipment in those days was vastly simpler, and yet he had no trouble exploring and documenting huge swathes of Northern America.
Part of the fun of adventuring is experimenting and finding what works best for you: the search for the optimum load-out. Embrace it.
Because working out your load-out is such a complex job, we have developed a system – based on other people’s experience as well as our own – which we have found best to cover all the bases. In each of the following sections you will find sub-sections and eventually items that we use in Stone Circle for our adventures. We have done some review and test videos for some of the kit, and we aim to do as many as possible in the near future. Use this resource freely to add to your research, feel free to drop us a line on the Stone Circle Facebook Group and we’ll try to give you whatever insight we can.
The following areas cover the vast majority of items you will need to consider for your equipment list, but this list is not exhaustive, and we update it regularly. Click on the links under 'Area' to see more detail on the items you should consider. If you think we're missing an area, then why not let us know?
Possibly the most important consideration for every adventure: keeping dry, and at the right temperature is essential to both the safety and comfort of the adventurer. Being able to adapt your clothing to changes in weather easily and quickly is essential. Also protecting yourself from the environment is a critical factor, be it protecting your feet on a long walk or your hands from the environment. Ensuring you remain comfortable and protected will go a long way to making every adventure comfortable and enjoyable, getting it wrong can be simply unpleasant, or in the worst case result in hypothermia and possibly loss of life. Plan for the adventure, and choose your clothing wisely!
Insulating yourself from the ground or the ambient air at night is essential to ensure a good nights sleep, and sleeping well is essential to a safe and comfortable adventure. Sleep-deprived people make mistakes. Not only insulation from ‘thermal loss’, but insulation from rough ground too. Choosing the right system to sleep on can take trial-and-error of many systems, and there are a lot of systems to choose from. All carry the weight /bulk over comfort conundrum.
Sleeping in usually refers to sleeping bags, though ‘bedrolls’ feature here too. This is one area where you really do get what you pay for, and we would recommend investing in a good quality ‘four season’ system (though the definition of this is vague and not standardised). Consideration needs to be made for maintenance and washing, especially in the field, and how susceptible to water the system is.
For most of us this means a tent of one type or another, and tents are excellent, well developed pieces of equipment. However, for the more adventurous tarps and cordage offer an alternative with infinite possibilities. Whatever system you choose, you need to ensure it is able to withstand the extremes of weather given the adventure and time of year. Sudden storms can ruin the most carefully constructed tarp-shelters, and tents can be like an oven in extremely hot situations. Again, bulk and weight offset flexibility and protection.
This area is a vast array of sub-sections and potentially the biggest section of this site. Again, the old adage of ‘Pack for this adventure, not every adventure’ is true and avoid redundancy where possible, whilst ensuring you have back-ups for the most essential tools, such as your ‘field knife’. Look for tools with multiple uses, but consider that if you loose a multi-tool, you’ve lost multiple tools. Reliability and serviceability are essential variables to consider, and – as always – you pay for what you get, so better to invest more in a few good tools than a load of cheap ones.
Possibly the largest area for discussion and disagreement between adventurers, what you put your load-out in and on is as personal as your fingerprints. Different experts have different practices, from a simple ‘one cell’ back-pack through to multi-configurable Molle systems which offer huge flexibility at the cost of added weight. Once you’ve worked out your preferred system, then you have to choose which colour you want…
This area covers all the aspects of eating and drinking, from what you cook on through to what you drink out of. Diet is very important on an extended adventure, and ensuring you have access to enough water – especially if travelling long distances by foot – is extremely important.
Being and staying healthy is the key to enjoying every adventure. Be it ensuring that you remain in good shape through your adventure, or ensuring that you are able and equipped to deal with any emergencies, your load out should contain all the aspects of health and hygiene needed to keep you comfortable and safe.
Another key skill of the Adventurer is the ability to navigate, by day and by night. You should always have a suitable map and compass to hand for any adventure, and consider the equipment necessary to keep it clean and dry. Though modern GPS’s are a quick and convenient way of finding your way around, we favour the use of more traditional technologies both in vehicles and on-foot.
|Repair / Maintenance||
Having the optimum load-out is only any good if it is in working and useable condition whenever you need it. This section covers a range of tools and equipment you should have at home, in the base-camp and in your load-out, to ensure your equipment is always in good working order.
|Lighting||Most adventures rely on travel by-day and rest by-night, but many adventures call for the ability to be able to see at night, whether it be walking around the campsite, a night hike, dealing with an emergency or just additional light by which to carve and whittle. This section covers the wide array of electrical, gas and chemical powered lighting that you should consider fro your load-out, both suitable for the base-camp and beyond.|