What I packed for trekking Kilimanjaro in October

This is the exact list of items I packed for my most recent Kilimanjaro trek as a tour manager for The Different Travel Company for St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich on the Rongai route (12th – 21st October 2013).

Clothes and shoes:
Scarpa leather hiking boots
4x pairs trek socks (mainly Bridgedale)
1x Compression/flight socks
1x Thermal top (pyjamas)
1x Thermal bottoms (pyjamas)
TNF Boulder Penelope shirt
Trespass lightweight trek trousers
Rab Power Stretch pants
1x Altura L/S merino base layer
1x Odlo Ninja base layer
1x Striders Edge L/S full zip hoody
1x Mountain Hardwear waterproof jacket
1x Rab Neutrino Plus down jacket
1x Rab Generator primaloft jacket
1x Marmot PreCip waterproof full-zip pants
1x Trilby hat
1x Warm hat
1x Buff
1x Mittens
1x Liner gloves
1x Fingerless gloves
10x underwear
2x Shock Absorber Sports bras
Cheap emergency poncho
Work t-shirt
Sandals for Moshi
2x Dresses for Moshi
1x Pashmina
First Aid Kit:Dramamine anti-nausea medication
Sterile gloves
Antiseptic wipes
Wound dressings
Blister plasters
Antiseptic cream
Antihistamine cream
Antimalarial medication
Zinc oxide tape
Throat lozenges
Micropore tape
Tiger balm
Ibuprofen gel
Mouth ulcer gel
Off! insect repellent
Pack of kleenex
Food/Drink:2x Supreme Protein cookies n cream
Powerbar protein plus vanilla
Berry flavour Zero tablets
4x army ration ‘cherry beverage powder’
2x Asda fizzy cherry cola bottles
1x bag Milky Way Magic Stars
1x berry and cherry dried fruit
6x Mr Kipling lemon slices
Biox Aqua tablets and Steripen
1l Sigg bottle with thermal cover
Camelbak 2l
750ml water bottle
Miscellaneous:Plastic bags of various sizes
Paperwork / work manuals / Kili book
Cash and cards
Passport & copy
2x Pens
Gaffa tape roll
2x Karabiners
6x Hand warmers
1x Padlock
Toiletries:Travel size sun screen
Body spray
Panty liners
Travel sized shampoo
Travel shower gel
Antiperspirant deodorant
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Baby wipes
Hand sanitizer
Toilet paper (1.5 rolls)
Nappy bags
3x hair bands / 1x headband
Electronics:Camera, spare batteries & battery Charger
Video camera
Chest mount for GoPro
2x GoPro
Mobile phone x2 and charge wire
New Trent portable battery pack
Petzl Tikka 2 head torch
2x spare head torch batteries
Spare LED torch
Luggage:Mountain Warehouse 100l Wet & Dry bag
Small holdall for gear to leave in Moshi
35 litre Berghaus daypack
2x Exped waterproof dry bags
Sleeping:Rab Expedition 1000 sleeping bag
Snugpak Thermalon sleeping bag liner
Ear plugs and eye mask
Thermarest 40th Anniversary Edition

1393096_10151611049186467_122651395_nObviously many of the items above include things I only used in Moshi or while travelling. My final kit bag for the mountain weighed just under 10kg and there are a few things I didn’t end up using that probably account for 750g:
The protein bars, dried fruit, one pack of the fizzy cherry cola bottles and most of the Magic Stars.

For this particular trip the only thing I wish I had brought was a few more packs of beverage powder. The purification that our porters use to sterilise our water is very chemical-tasting and I didn’t have quite enough to mask the taste. Keeping hydrated is so important and being put off the taste of water is not ideal.

What I packed for the Everest Base Camp trek in October

229473_10151032303051467_1913486090_nOn 6th October 2012 I set off from Heathrow with my team of trekkers to Nepal embarking on a journey to Everest Base Camp. For some reason I have got into the habit of photographing all my kit before an expedition which has proved helpful for others who are planning similar trips and also gives me something to base my packing on the next time I return.

Here is the total list of things I took with me to Nepal for the Everest Base Camp trek and a few notes on the things I wish I had taken, and things I could have left at home. If you happen to come across this I hope it is useful for your own planning!

Hiking boots
6 pairs of Bridgedale socks
1x compression/flight socks
2x pairs trek trousers
1x pair thermal running leggings
1x pair thermal base layer bottoms (worn as pyjamas)
1x thermal base layer top (worn as pyjamas)
1x short-sleeved shirt
1x t-shirt
4x long-sleeved base layer tops
1x fleece
1x down gilet
1x waterproof jacket
1x waterproof trousers
1x warm hat
1x Buff
1x pashmina
1x mittens
1x liner gloves
1x fingerless gloves
12 x underwear
2x sports bras
Travel sized shampoo
Travel shower gel
Full size sunscreen
Antiperspirant deodorant
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Baby wipes
Hand sanitizer
Nail brush
Toilet paper
Travel towelDown sleeping bag
Thermal sleeping bag liner
Ear plugs and eye mask 
Nuun tablets
Sweets/dried fruit
Biox Aqua drops (water purification)
Sigg bottle 1l
Camelbak 2l
Mountain warehouse wet and dry bag 100l
Small holdall for gear to leave in Kathmandu
35 litre Berghaus daypack
2x waterproof dry bags
Ziplock bags
Nappy bags
LED headtorch
Notepad and pen
Spare batteries
Cash and cards
Passport & copy
Camera, spare batteries and battery charger
Video camera and battery charger
Mobile phone x2 and charger
New Trent portable battery pack
Prescription medication
Insect repellent
Paracetamol and Ibuprofen
Plasters in all sizes
Blister plasters
Rehydration salts
Antifungal foot cream
Anti-histamine cream and tablets
Tiger balm
Lip balm with SPF protection
Throat lozenges
Nail scissors and tweezers


Namche Things I wish I hadn’t brought:
-Biox Aqua drops – the bottles leaked and I lost all my water purification meaning I had to purchase bottled water which contributes to waste disposal issues in the area. I wish I had taken the tablet version of Biox Aqua.

– Base layer top – I brought four but I could have left one at home. However, it was actually quite nice to have something clean and dry to change into each night for the evenings in the teahouses, then being able to sleep in my thermals.

– So many snacks. You can buy almost EVERYTHING in Namche and virtually every teahouse sells snacks, fresh fruit, chocolate and drinks.

-Down jacket. I’m umming and ahhing about this one. I only used my down jacket twice; once for the first 30 minutes in the morning on the walk to Base Camp then again when we stopped at BC for photos and it had started to cool down.
I also used it on the night/early morning ascent of Kala Pattar – I overheated and fainted as a result.
If I returned to the EBC area I’d probably still bring my down jacket because I know it’s very warm and (it was too expensive not to get good use out of it) but I’d probably rely more on thinner layers including my Primaloft jacket (which I didn’t have at the time) with my waterproof over the top.

Things I wish I had brought:DSCF8046
– Vaseline – your face dries out in the dry high altitude environment, particularly around your nose and lips. You can buy this in Namche (which is what we did).

– Another lightweight Buff (you can buy these very cheaply in Namche) to ensure I always had one to cover my nose/mouth from the massive amount of dust. I would bring 2-3 or anything which can be used to protect your lungs from the dust.

– Dry cough medicine – I ended up with Khumbu cough and some soothing medicine would have been nice. I could have picked this up in Namche.

-More money than stuff! Along the trail you can buy tea, coffee, snacks, apple pie, clothing, medicine, gifts, maps, toiletries, water, hot showers, battery charging, internet access and lots more. I wish I had taken more cash to indulge in some of these luxuries and contribute to the local economy.

– Camp booties or slippers for inside the teahouse (or a clean pair of trainers). Apart from not wanting to trail dust and dirt around the teahouse, it’s always nicer to change your shoes in the free afternoon and evenings. For the acclimatisation afternoons wandering through the towns trainers would have been more comfortable.

Obviously packing for a trip is very personal to each individual so obviously this post is simply my personal opinion based on my single experience trekking in the Everest region in October 2012.
My husband has pointed out I may well be able to pack more gear than other people being small and slim, compared to him at 6’6 who struggled to keep within the weight limit for the Lukla flight.
Happy travels!

Striders Edge update

So not so long ago I wrote a bit of a review about some Striders Edge gear that I was given for Christmas. If you didn’t read it, check it out here. Sometime before receiving these wonderful items I had been searching the internet, sports apparel clothes shops and even keeping an eye out in charity shops for a long-sleeved, hooded base layer top that would be suitable for running in autumn/winter or cool spring days. Would you believe there was not a single one to be found that fitted the bill? I searched everywhere and eventually ended up finding a bright blue/high vis yellow loose polyester jacket from TK Maxx. The hood was enormous so fell down while I was running, it was so loosely cut that putting things in the pockets would make the bottom hem jump up and down with each stride. Long story short, it didn’t really fit the bill for running.

I was so desperate to find one that I even contacted Striders Edge via Twitter, knowing that they always replied and perhaps could consider making one for me. Of course I expected a reply (which I did get) but I had no idea that months later, this week in July 2013, they would Tweet me to let me know they had actually made one: “can you remember you once asked if we could add a hood onto our engineered climate map products? Well we did it x” And here it is…

From Striders Edge website: http://www.stridersedge.com/ec-map-hoody-crag-grey/

You can find this (crag grey) and a pink one (raspberry fuchsia) here: http://www.stridersedge.com/ec-map-hoody-crag-grey/

It’s not uncommon for companies to say “We listen to what the consumers want” but I am absolutely astounded and impressed that my humble request was listened to and acted upon. I will be placing my order soon and will be creating another blog about that once it arrives.

Striders Edge, you have a customer for life here.

Outfit of the day – Kilimanjaro Summit Night!

Here is what I wore on summit night, Kilimanjaro, Friday May 31st 2013.  The conditions from 4,600m (Barafu Camp) to summit were very windy, snow underfoot and approximately -22C with wind chill. I was toasty warm all the way up, and sweltering all the way down!DSCF9806


PRODUCT REVIEW: Striders Edge clothing

You know when you have that dream where you’re running down the street and all of a sudden you realise you’re naked and everyone is staring at you? Now I sort of know what that feels like. I’ve been going to the gym for around 6 years, and I started running in November 2011. During that time I have used various items of clothing for my workouts, most of which I haven’t had any inclination to write about… until now.

The first time I wore my Striders Edge Peak Elements tights and Engineered Climate Map Vest to go running I stepped out of the house and I was sure I had forgotten something. The fabric was so soft and fitted so well against my body that I didn’t feel like I had any clothes on at all! In honesty is a weird feeling to begin with, but then it occurred to me that this is exactly what sports apparel should feel like. You shouldn’t feel a waistband rubbing against your skin, or have to worry about those annoying itchy labels while you’re halfway through a run.

Photo taken from Striders Edge website: http://www.stridersedge.com/peak-elements-tight/

There is so much I love about Striders Edge clothing that I will write bullet points to avoid this becoming an essay:
– Exceptionally comfortable to wear (as described above!)
-Perfect number of pockets. With the Peak Elements tights and CM vest combo I have 3 really good sized pockets for keys, phone and my mini  mp3 player. Plus, I should add that despite the pockets on the tights being at the front you can’t feel anything in them while you’re running. I don’t know how they’ve managed it but it’s amazing!
– The colours of their products are lush. I am SO tired of female sportswear brands thinking it’s all about the pastel pinks and blues, lilac, white and maybe a black if you’re lucky. Striders Edge seem to actually understand that some women have a sense of style and even when they look like a sweaty mess they can also wear colours they like.
– The fabric their products use is very flattering and easy to wear, and being antibacterial and wicking I can wear them for a couple of workouts without any risk of them getting smelly (less laundry = happy me, happy earth!). The real test for the CM vest will be 7 days constant use on Kili in May as a base layer!
– The length of the vests are longer than most other brands. As someone who has a long torso but little legs having tops riding up while I’m running is a sure-fire way to distract me. The vest comes right down over my hips which is not only flattering but also prevents the top riding up.

Photo taken from Striders Edge website http://www.stridersedge.com/engineered-climate-map-vest-atmos-green/

For me, there are only a few downsides to Striders Edge, and the main one is the price. I was lucky enough to be totally spoiled at Christmas which is why I ended up with two vests and the tights – prior to that I had been desperately wanting them but couldn’t quite justify them financially. However, now I know they are worth every one of my husband’s pennies I will feel more inclined to treat myself in future. The Engineered Climate Map 1/2 Zip Base Layer in Ruby Wine is next on my list!
The other one is where the garments are made. I don’t know why (perhaps the price) but I had assumed that Striders Edge products were made in the UK. The Peak Elements tights are made ‘with love in China’ and the CM vest is made in Portugal. I was a bit sad when I learnt this but I suppose I can understand it. I just hope that the garments are made in the happy factories we all hope our clothing is produced in. I’m sure they are.

Anyway, I want to finish on a positive note because I do believe that Striders Edge are an excellent brand, made with young (and young at heart), dedicated, enthusiastic sports women firmly in mind. Getting into my sportswear is no longer a chore, and if people stare at me while I’m running or in the gym I know I’ll be looking my best (while puffing and panting, with a bright red face dripping with sweat).

Why not check them out for yourself http://www.stridersedge.com.


Last year I was fortunate  enough to get my hands on a pre-release Berghaus Bioflex Light 35 rucksack. It was an absolute delight tearing open the packaging to reveal the Atlantic Blue pack I was soon to fall in love with.

You can read the specifications and details here: http://store.berghaus.com/p/backpacks-rucksacks/mens-bioflex-light-35-rucksack/420812/

I should perhaps point out at this stage that yes, I am a female and have a ‘mens’ pack. At 5’6, I have a long torso and short legs meaning that for rucksacks I have to go for the ‘mens’ fit instead of the ‘ladies’ fit. This isn’t just specific to Berghaus but in my experience it applies to all brands of rucksack. ‘Mens’ and ‘ladies’ fit is just a label Berghaus have used instead of the gender neutral ‘medium’ or ‘small’  (but that’s a debate for another day!).

The Bioflex technology is an innovate idea focused on a free-moving hipbelt for optimum comfort and fit and I am very, very impressed. To date I have used this rucksack for three different types of activity.

1) Trek to Everest Base Camp
12 days of hiking in the stunning Everest region of Nepal was probably one of the best test runs I could do for this rucksack. I have always used Berghaus rucksacks for hiking trips and the difference between the Bioflex Light and the previous ones I have used is black and white.

– The hip belt is wide and soft and the padding feels like it moulds to your hips (almost like memory foam), which makes the free moving part of the belt incredibly comfortable even when carrying a fairly heavy load.
The Berghaus website says “The waist belt is attached to a BIOFLEX® Light pivot; this allows the pack to move with you as you walk providing a higher level of carry comfort and weight transfer.” This is no exaggeration; it is exactly what the Bioflex system does and my opinion is that this system made each step easier, particularly when hiking at altitude where carrying even a small load can feel arduous.

With this being my first major use of the rucksack I did come across some teething problems. Adjusting the shoulder straps and back system for comfort took some playing around with and at times people pointed out that the rucksack was leaning left or right where I had over tightened one or the other shoulder strap (although despite this, at no point did I feel unbalanced- possibly due to the Bioflex system).

2) A walk in the hills, Lake District

14361_10151110864281467_1342138151_nA month after returning from EBC I was out in the Lakes with some friends for a crisp winter walk (read here for the story). The Bioflex Light came with me again, this time loaded with gingerbread, hot chocolate and other essentials for the hills. By this point 12 days of hiking in Nepal had got me totally used to the feel of the rucksack and I had adjusted the system to fit me like a glove. It was like I was hiking without any kind of pack. Weightless, comfortable, cosy.

– The Bioflex Light is a 35 litre capacity and is perfect for me – I like to have plenty of room in my rucksack so it’s easy to dig around in, and to have the option to help lighten other people’s loads if required. It looks larger than 35 litres on the inside, yet smaller from the outside (I’ve managed to use it as hand baggage on multiple occasions with no problems).
One of the things I adore about the Bioxflex light are the mesh zip pockets on the hip belt. As soon as I start walking I get a runny nose so one pocket fits a pack of Kleenex and the other is the perfect size for sweets! The side pockets are roomy too, easily fitting a 1-litre bottle into each.

3) Introduction to Scottish Winter Mountaineering

Scottish WinterI love trekking and have been doing it for almost 6 years but this year it was time to take things up a notch and try my hand at mountaineering. The Bioflex Light travelled up to Scotland with me (Easyjet didn’t even question the size of it for hand baggage) and new skills were learnt in Glencoe with JCG Expeditions.
Being nimble but sure-footed in the Scottish hills in winter is essential and carrying a cumbersome rucksack would be a sure-fire way to losing balance and possibly sustaining a serious or life threatening injury. The Bioflex Light reigned supreme again, hugging my body and to a degree, keeping me warm on the chilly winter days.
-The only possible drawback I can seee to this rucksack are the two small buckle clips that close the main hood are quite fiddly to undo and clip up again. I found I had to take my gloves off to do it, which in a winter scenario is a time waster and depending on the conditions, possibly risky to your fingers (particularly if you dropped a glove in the meantime). I also wonder how robust they are, given their size. Only time will tell.


Final comments
There is a large front pocket under the bungee cord which is made of the same soft, stretchy fabric for the side pockets. There is a small hole at the seam of the side pocket where I suppose I caught it on something. This gives me some cause for concern about whether the other areas might end up with a hole and I’ll lose something from them.

Apart from the questionable fabric mentioned above, it’s great to see Berghaus returning to using good quality, water resistant (rip stop?) fabric for this rucksack. The Bioflex Light has renewed my faith in the brand, after it had previously been shaken by the quality in the Freeflow packs dropping below that which I would consider acceptable (to the point where I wrote an email of complaint to the company). I’m pleased that things are on the up and I will now consider Berghaus for gear going forwards.

As with most hydration systems, the inner pouch isn’t long enough to fit the older version of the CamelBak (Omega) without it poking out from the elasticated top. It really makes no difference to the function, weight bearing or appearance but it’s just something that bugs me. I am yet to test it with the newer version of the CamelBak (Antidote), which is shorter and fatter, but I suspect this will fit much nicer.

It’s a real pleasure to find a rucksack in my favourite colour!

The real test for this rucksack will be on Mount Kilimanjaro this May. It will be my third ascent of Kili. I used a Karrimor pack on my first trip, Berghaus Freeflow on my second and the Bioflex Light will join me on my third ascent. Being able to compare the load bearing at altitude on a trek I’ve done twice before will be when I can say for sure what I think of it.

Big thanks to Berghaus for creating, to date, the best rucksack I have ever used.

Happy travelling!

PRODUCT REVIEW: Osprey Ariel 65

I was quite excited when it arrived in the post. The first thing I noticed upon removing it from the packaging was how many straps and clips there were on it, that I hadn’t noticed on the one I tried on. I was told in one of my many shopping visits that for a good mountaineering pack you needed something that was basically a bag with shoulder straps and a hip belt – this is significantly more fussy than that.

Nonetheless, I was quick to adjust the pack and get it packed with something to test it out. I was delighted. With this being a ‘Ladies’ fit pack, I had opted for the Medium in this style because the back size extended up to 47cm in Small and from 46-52cm in the Medium. My back size is around 47cm so I thought it best to go for the Medium and adjust it down rather than take the risk of the Small being too small.

The fabric seems strong and water resistant and the size seems to be a very generous 65l (in fact, I reckoned that I could actually fit myself inside the pack – althought I haven’t tried it…yet!). The hip belt is one of the most comfortable I have experienced and the shoulder straps sit nicely where they’re supposed to without any rubbing or soreness whatsoever.

The only possible gripe is with the hip belt size. At last measurement my hips are around 33 inches and the hip belt on the Medium pack has to be tightened to its fullest extent to fit snugly on my hips. 33 inches is not that small for a female so I was quite surprised by that. I believe you can buy custom hip belts but I will need to do more research into this and the associated costs (or I’ll just have to eat a few more pies!).

I won’t list off all the features of the pack because you can find this all on the Osprey website here: http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/product/womens/ariel_65_1

So far it has already travelled with me to China and back and it held up well. In 90% humidity and 30C temperatures it wasn’t cumbersome or frustrating to carry, although it was pretty sweaty on the hip belt and back (to be expected). Not being used to using a toploader for ‘normal’ holidays took a bit of getting used to and I have discovered that either I am terrible at packing efficiently or really forgetful about where I have put X, Y and Z in my pack, so I’ll have to work on that before any major expedition as disorganisation can be life or death on big mountains.

Overall, currently I am really pleased with it and feel that the £140 I paid for it (April 2012) represents good value for what it is. There may be additional reviews as I use it for different things so keep your eyes peeled.

Happy travelling!

Trying to find a suitable rucksack

When I started university I did what most people do; find a part time job to help pay for the ‘lavish’ student lifestyle. After a failed attempt at working for Woolworth’s (I suffered through 4 shifts before handing in my notice!) I discovered Nomad Travel & Outdoors, a small travel kit store in town where I became a supervisor. It was there that I worked for 3 years, and was trained to know everything there is to know about backpacking and hiking gear from technical fabrics, rucksack fittings, hiking boots and all manner of gadgets and accessories.

Fast forward 6 years and here I am about to embark on the beginning of a journey into the unknown (to me) world of mountaineering and I have to say that I am grateful I have the kit knowledge I do, as this has been one of the most challenging purchases to date.

All I wanted was a rucksack (aka backpack, pack etc). It had to be at least 70 litres (so one I could use for load carries on Aconcagua, my next big target), it had to be sturdy and above all, it had to fit like a glove. In the outdoors world thing change quickly, technologies adapt and I was under no illusions that my previous training would have much of a bearing on what I was to experience.

First problem. I get the impression that not many women are interested in hauling themselves up mountains and as such outdoors stores stock their kit accordingly i.e. they don’t have anything to fit a small framed woman. I travelled almost an hour each way to visit a store in Hampshire, to find that despite a huge range of packs they didn’t have anything in stock that would fit me; all the packs large enough were only stocked in ‘Medium’ or ‘Large’ (my misguided fault for not calling ahead). After speaking with a staff member there and him providing me with some so-so advice that I don’t really trust I left disappointed having wasted an afternoon.

Next I took a visit to my old store, Nomad, knowing that they aren’t mountaineering specialists but at least I could try a few different brands on. It was there I fell in love with Osprey, but again, the sizes started at Medium and when fully tightened the hip belt was loose around my hips – certainly no good for 20kg load bearing. But I had a place to start.

After travelling for 5 hours to my home town of Norwich I took a visit to Cotswolds and was delighted to find that the member of staff was helpful, informative and polite (albeit it in a rough Scottish sense of humour way). They had a good selection of rucksacks in a wide variety of sizes. He actually measured my torso (apparently I am around 18.5 inches – curse my teeny tiny legs) and spent a good amount of time helping me try on the Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre 65:85 (even when adjusted perfectly it didn’t feel right) and the smaller Osprey Ariel 65 (which after a LOT of fiddling around seemed very comfortable). I explained my concerns about it being only 65l and he showed me the floating lid which probably added an extra 5-7l of space.

I left the shop with a clearer idea of what to go for but still debating whether I should continue my search. The problem was the only other place I could go to find alternatives was London and being an 80 min train journey away during the week, or 120 mins at the weekend (thanks National Rail) I felt demotivated, given my previous experiences. After a few days of thinking, and then one evening of Googling for reviews I took the plunge and ordered the Osprey Ariel 65. It will get its first road test on a two-week backpacking trip to China next week (assuming it arrives on time).

Let’s see…

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