Stephanie Boon hiking on the South West Coast Smiling at the camera.

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Sitting on the grass cooking on a camping stove.

Packing List For The South Downs Way – It’s Heavy!

Packing List For The South Downs Way – It’s Heavy is part of a series on hiking The South Downs Way, a fabulous 100-mile trail in the south of England that stretches from Winchester to Eastbourne.

Sitting in an old railway tunnel with a Soreen malt loaf on my lap and my heavy rucksack beside. I've taken my shoes off to air my feet and my shoes are also beside me.

Lunch in an old railway tunnel on the South Downs Way. Take the weight off? Don’t mind if I do – even if there’s no view!

First off, my packing list for the South Downs Way was a bit on the heavy side. Just a tad. It weighed in at 15.6kg (base weight).

Did you know that as a rule of thumb, your rucksack should weigh no more than 20% of your body weight?

And believe it or not, this base weight is significantly more than 20% of my body weight haha!

My packing list for the South Downs Way was more than a tad heavy then. I mean, hiking in the South Downs isn’t really the same as hiking the PCT is it? You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise however if you’d seen me try to pick up my rucksack. (I know why Cheryl Strayed called her sack ‘Monster‘, and mine’s now called ‘The Beast’, but I was hiking 100 miles, not 2,500.) So where did it all go wrong?

The Art Of Choosing The Right Kit For The South Downs Way (Is Not Like This!)

I'm standing with my back to the camera looking out across a meandering river to the sea. My packing list for the South Downs Way - looks so wrong! My tent and mug are hanging off the back of my rucksack and my heavy walking poles are stashed in the side pocket.

Warning! When you’re tent’s hanging on the outside of your 65L rucksack, you know you’ve got it wrong!

The art of choosing my kit for this hike went wrong right at the beginning.

You’d think that with decades of experience I’d have this packing lark sorted by now, but I find getting a kit list right for any trail is more of an art than a science. There are always the ‘big 3’ of course: shelter; cooking and sleeping, but there’s a lot of wriggle room within each category. And then there’s the other stuff: clothes; food; water; light, and of course, ahem, little ‘extras’… And never knowing what the weather will be like (so packing for all eventualities).

When I first put together my kit for the South Downs Way I tried on the rucksack then decided I needed to shed some of it. But it seemed like the only things I could cull were the things that weighed next to nothing, so what was the point? Would getting rid of the Muc-Off dry-shower, the deodorant, or a mountain cap make much difference? Well, the mountain cap went that’s for sure. (And quite a lot more of it went on my next hike, the Cotswold Way – including my sleeping bag, but that’s another story.)

So, here’s exactly what made the cut. And the whys and wherefores. (Weights are approximate.)

My Base Weight Packing List For The South Downs Way

Here’s Exactly What I Packed – Spot The Mistakes!

A view through the tent flap to fields beyond on the South Downs Way. There's a torch hanging from the inside of the tent, gloves hanging (drying in the breeze), a cooking stove, microfibre towel and walking shoes outside...it looks a bit luxurious for wild camping!

Enjoying a few ‘extras’ (read ‘extra weight!’)

Rucksack: 1.5kg

I love my Osprey rucksack. It’s on the lighter side, it’s tough and fits really well. But. It’s 65 litres and I wonder if there’s a chance that because it’s so roomy I filled it to the brim with little extras, because I could. Could this be a factor in the excess base weight? Hmmm…

Osprey Renn 65 Women’s Specific rucksack – check out all the details in my review

Shelter: 1.8kg

This is always a difficult one for me when I don’t know what the trail’s like. Shall I take a tent or a bivvy bag? Will it be warm or cold? Will there be bugs I want to hide from? Can I stealth camp if I need to…and the list goes on. And I worry that I’m going to get it wrong. So, sometimes, in the past, I’ll admit to packing a tent and a bivvy (it’s more of a waterproof sleeping bag tbf). Wtf was I thinking?! This time round I restrained myself and decided on my tent, and nothing else:

  • Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent: 1.57Kg
  • Wild Country tent footprint: 230g

I know other hikers don’t bother with the footprint to save weight, but I can’t afford to damage the tent because I can’t afford another one. You might have more flexibility (you lucky thing), but be warned: the trail can be very ‘lumpy’! (It’s chalky and flinty.)

Cooking

I invested in a lightweight stove this year – and omg is it light! But what I failed to grasp was the weight of a can of gas, especially the size I took. I reckon the two together don’t weigh any less than my Trangia and meths. It does have other advantages though: it boils up water at a rate of knots. And I don’t need one of those really heavy boxes of matches.

  • MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe Stove
  • Coleman Gas 500
  • Trangia cooking pot with lid and handle
  • Titanium spork
  • Enamel mug
  • Victorinox Swiss army knife

An enamel mug? Yes, you read that right. Time to invest in a titanium one? Probably. And oh, the Swiss army knife. Yes, here I could save about 50g because the only things I ever use on it are the scissors, the tweezers and the knife. And I’m sure there’s a smaller model without all the fancy fishing hooks that mine’s got. I’m a vegetarian.

Sleeping 2.6kg

I wish I’d had some money to invest in this lot, I really do, because I’m sure this is where I could make some major weight savings. The sleeping mat is comfortable, keeps me warm and pain-free at night, but at 716g it’s painful carrying it by day. The sleeping bag liner is amazing though and really does increase the warmth of my ancient and bulky sleeping bag. Maybe a better sleeping bag would mean I could ditch the liner?

  • Mountain Equipment sleeping mat (716g)
  • Sea To Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme sleeping bag liner (386g)
  • 18-year-old sleeping bag (almost 1.5kg in its compression sack)

Water

I needn’t have taken the water filter – there’s plenty of drinking water taps along the route. (And no other water to filter anyway.) I prefer a separate bottle and bladder because I have a habit of drinking everything in the bladder with no idea how quickly it’s disappearing. Also, it’s easier to pour water into my cooking pot from the bottle. And, in other circumstances (ie not freezing cold and blowing a gale), a separate bottle means I can add electrolytes without ‘contaminating’ all my water. Maybe another bottle would be more useful than the bladder? I think the bladder weighs less though. One to research.

  • 2l bladder
  • 750ml Camelback bottle
  • Sawyer water filter and squeeze bottle

First Aid

I needed more Compeed, plasters, and antiseptic wipes than I took: my feet were a mess and I cut my finger on barbed wire. I won’t compromise on plasters again – I used them all.

  • 1 small roll of bandage
  • 2 antiseptic wipes
  • 2 x Compeed blister plasters
  • 3 plasters
  • 1 5cm x 5cm self-adhesive dressing
  • 1 safety pin
  • Emergency foil blanket
  • Strip of Ibuprofen and Paracetamol
  • Strip of antihistamine
  • tick remover

Need some suggestions for first aid? Check out What’s In Your Outdoor First Aid Kit? for essentials and ideas

Toiletries etc

This is a tough one, isn’t it? Basically, you know you’re going to stink most of the way, which is fine, but it’s the journey home isn’t it? 6 hours or more in close proximity to other people (to myself even), ugh. This is why I often stay at a campsite close to the end of a trail, just to clean up a bit, but I ended up staying at 5 campsites on the South Downs Way. 5. Unheard of (bad weather and illness meant I didn’t have the headspace to think about where I’d sleep). Although I admit I didn’t shower at them all. Even so, when I did wash my tangled mass of hair I more than missed a squeeze of conditioner. (I challenge you to get a brush through this lot without it!).

  • Personal medication
  • Muc-Off dry shower
  • Travel shampoo
  • 2 hair ties
  • hairbrush
  • Small square flannel (cut from old microfibre towel)
  • 1/2 emery board
  • Deet insect repellent
  • suncream (travel size)
  • small piece deodorant
  • Small wet wipes (20 pack)
  • Few sheets of toilet paper and dog poo bags
  • travel toothpaste
  • 1/2 travel toothbrush
  • Small tin Vaseline
  • Microfibre towel

Clothes (Wearing)

  • North Face quick-dry trousers
  • Bridgedale hiking socks
  • Sports bra and underwear
  • Mountain Equipment t-shirt
  • Haglofs thin zip-up fleece
  • Salomon OutBound GTX walking shoes
  • Ayacucho waterproof jacket
  • Berghaus Paclight waterproof trousers
  • Lowe Alpine cap
  • FatFace headband
  • Montane gloves
  • Rab gilet

Clothes (Packed in a Sea-To-Summit Dry Bag)

  • Tesco long-sleeve active-wear top (for travel)
  • Rab Meco short-sleeve T-shirt
  • Mountain Equipment shorts (for travel – not worn)
  • Sports bra and underwear
  • 2 prs bridgedale socks
  • Webbing belt (for shorts and trousers)

Clothes for Sleeping

  • Pair of M&S merino tights (sleep)
  • 18-year-old thermal top
  • Bed socks

Electronics/Camera

  • 20,000 mAh Anker battery bank with cable and fast charger (metal casing – I drop everything)
  • Sony Experia phone/camera
  • Bluetooth remote
  • Selfie stick (also used as a tripod)
  • Fitness watch and cable

Other

  • Petzl headtorch in a case (the case turns the torch into an overhead tent light)
  • Pair of 18-year-old walking poles
  • Clear map case
  • Compass and magnifying glass (not used)
  • Cicerone guidebook and map (guidebook not used)
  • Sketchbook and chalks (304g)
  • Waist belt
  • Debit cards, train tickets, and cash (I’d like to say I didn’t use the debit cards and cash, but that’s wishful thinking)
  • Reading glasses and a pair of cheap spares (Poundland!)

Spares/Odds and Ends

  • Plastic peg
  • Plastic food bag clip
  • Pair of shoelaces (not used)
  • Binbag for tent
  • Various food bags for packing
  • Personal alarm (not used, thankfully!)
  • Webbing strap (for tent/spare)

There are some reviews of my gear here if you’re looking to buy some new kit.

Full Gross Weight

By the time I’d added food and water, my rucksack weighed around 20kg – 20 frickin kg!!!

That’s over 3 stone! I can’t stress how ridiculous this is for a 100-mile hike in Southern England, in spring. Albeit a pretty shitty spring most of the way.

Why am I smiling under all this weight? (In fact, how am I even standing?!)

Food 2kg

Oh dear oh dear oh dear! I attempted to save money by taking more or less all the food I’d need for a week. What a ridiculous decision: I bought loads of food anyway (cafes are a bit of a weakness), and came home with half of it. I’d read that resupply wasn’t easy and that was my reasoning, but there are definitely enough good stores along the way (you can find out which ones I used here). Lesson learned: 7 days or so on the South Downs Way is not 7 days in complete wilderness. haha!

Water 2 – 3kg

How Would You Make This Packing List For The South Downs Way A Wee Bit Lighter?

Here’s What I’d Change

What can I say? Almost Everything haha! These are the main things though:

  • A smaller can of gas
  • Forget the water filter
  • Forget the other things I didn’t use (other than for first aid and personal safety)
  • Reduce the number of clothes
  • Significantly reduce the quantity of food
  • Copy useful bits of the guidebook to go into my notebook – even better, just photograph them
  • Take a smaller sketchbook and change from chalks to a couple of pencils

The best way to make major weight savings though is to replace some of my gear with lighter weight alternatives

(Eg the sleeping mat or sleeping bag.) But that’s a big investment…and I’m not going to let lack of investment money stop me hiking! I’ll just have to put up with the extra weight. For now. (This is how I paid for this year’s hiking adventures, if you’re interested: Fears Laid Bear: Hiking Shit That Scares Me Every Day)

However,

If you’re just starting out, or updating your gear, it makes sense to invest in the lightest weight kit you can afford – especially for big items like your tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat

Where would you save weight? And if you’ve got any tips for the financially compromised among us, we’d definitely like to hear from you!

If You’ve enjoyed this I’d love you to share it:

Thanks for reading and

Happy hiking!

Stephie x

Where Next?

Check out my gear lists for The Cotswold Way and The Offa’s Dyke Path National Trails – did I do any better?!

Other articles on hiking The South Downs Way

Image Link: Hiking The South Downs Way: Everything You Need To Know!

5 Great Campsites on the South Downs Way

My Journal From The South Downs Way

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