Kate Humble's Ultralight Backpacking Kit

Hiking with all your camping gear is a lot more fun if it weighs next to nothing – as television presenter Kate Humble found on her trek down the River Wye

26th September 2017
Kate walks the Wye with her dog Teg
Kate's kit
Kate's kit for the Wye walk

I should confess that I am something of a kit fanatic. I once spent four hours in an outdoor store in America putting up tents until I found the one that I thought was perfect. That was 12 years ago. I still have and use that tent and I love it. However, in the Ultra Lightweight world, at just over 2kg, this tent – along with much of my other kit – is now considered relatively heavy. So I tried the following – with mostly positive results.

 

MSR's Hubba Hubba NX 2 backpacking tent
MSR's Hubba Hubba NX2 backpacking tent
Hubba Hubba NX2 tent

MSR, £390

Weight: 1.72kg

I wanted a two-man tent, because my dog Teg deserves space, too. I like a tent with two doors and two vestibules. A tent that feels roomy inside, that I can sit up in without having my head pressed against the roof. One that is easy to put up on my own and equally easy to put away.

The tent plan shows vestibules on either side
The tent plan shows vestibules on either side

This tent met all those requirements and weighs just 1.72kg. Not only that, the design of the poles meant that when erected this tent is more rectangular than dome, so there is loads of headspace inside AND – so simple, but so rarely done – it is a light grey colour, as is the optional-to-use rainfly, so instead of crawling into a dark cave-like space, it is light and bright. Seriously, I could live in this tent for months.

 

Montain's Featherlite sleeping bag
Montain's Featherlite sleeping bag
Featherlite Sleeping Bag

Montane, £200

Weight: 860g

Light it certainly is, and packs down small in its stuff sack. It's also a very comfortable sleeping bag to be in. Mummy-shaped with a hood, it has a PERTEX outer shell, so it is tough and breathable (so you don't get that slightly sweaty experience you get in some sleeping bags) and a down filling makes it feel luxurious. Clever zips glow in the dark, which is a great and properly useful innovation. But the comfort rating – the lowest temperature at which you ought to feel comfortable – is 9C. That's a bit optimistic for a British summer – and I just didn't find it warm enough.

Ultralight mat by Sea to Summit
Ultralight mat by Sea to Summit
Ultralight Mat

Sea to Summit, £90

Weight: 395g

What a find! Some inflatable sleeping mats can be exhausting to inflate, even worse to deflate and impossible to get back into their stuff sacks. This mat was a revelation. It has a two-way valve which makes it very easy to inflate with just four or five puffs, and it deflates instantly too. It’s a mummy-shaped mat, a good full length so you can have both head and feet on it. When inflated it looks like the bottom of an egg carton – the surface is not flat but a collection of ‘Air Sprung Cells’. Incredibly comfortable, it never deflated during the night and super-easy to pack away. I'll never use anything else now.

 

Gregory's Maven 65 rucksack
Gregory's Maven 65 rucksack
Maven 65 rucksack

Gregory, £175

Weight: 1.56kg

There are lighter packs on the market, but I went for this one, partly because I wanted a the space (a generous 65 litres – I had stuff for the dog as well as me) but mainly because I wanted a more robust pack that was fully adjustable (which this one is) and more padded (and therefore comfortable) than some of the super-stripped down packs. It was a good decision. This pack has plenty of ways of tweaking it so it fits really well and feels stable and secure. It has one big main compartment, that can be separated into two, small pockets on the hip belt – useful for insect repellent or sun cream; I put my little camera in one. There are adjustable pockets at the side and two in the lid, making it easy to keep stuff I wanted during the day easily accessible. There is also a little day-sack packed neatly away inside. Well designed, comfortable, it ticked all my boxes.

 

Eta lite+ stove from Primus
Eta Lite+ stove from Primus
Eta Lite+ stove

Primus, £90

Weight: 390g

This all-in-one stove is neat and cleverly designed. It takes the form of a large mug, with an insulating jacket and a lid and when you're not using it, the gas burner can be stored inside, so it all packs up very small. It comes with a stand which a gas bottle can clip into to keep it stable on uneven ground, or you can also hang it up (which I never needed to try). It boils water incredibly quickly (quicker than my kettle at home!), but the burner is so powerful when I made porridge in the morning I couldn't stir quick enough to stop it sticking to the bottom! So it is better for heating than cooking, but ideal if you are living off freeze dried meals and tea. The only quibble I have is the ignition didn't work. I checked this out before I left and it seems to be a common complaint, but I wouldn't let that put you off. This is an excellent lightweight, easy-to use and practical stove. Just don't forget your matches.

 

Lifestraw bottle
The Go Water Filter Bottle has a charcoal filter traps harmful bacteria
Go Water Filter Bottle

LifeStraw, £35

Weight: 168g

If you are going lightweight, you don't want to be carrying loads of water. This bottle has a built-in water filter, so you can literally fill it up from a stream and drink the water straight away through the mouthpiece. No chemicals, no waiting, genius. I did that for nine days and didn't get ill, so I can safely say it worked for me.

 

Aipillow from Exped
The Air Pillow UL L (ultralight, large) from Exped
Air pillow UL L

Exped, £30

60g

I wouldn't normally bother with a pillow, and just use some bundled up clothes instead, but this inflatable pillow weighs just 60g. It was absolutely worth carrying that extra 60g.

 

Sea to Summit's Alpha Lite Cutlery Set
Sea to Summit's Alpha Lite Cutlery Set
Alpha Lite Cutlery

Sea to Summit, £18

22g  

A super-light knife, fork and spoon made of tough aluminium, held together with a carabiner.

 

 

Light and Dry Micro First Aid Kit

Lifesystems, £16.99

135g.

A good, comprehensive kit that had everything I needed – blister plasters (although I needed more!), regular plasters, safety pins, ibuprofen.

 

Adventure Food dried meal
Adventure Food dried meal

 

Adventure Food dried meal

www.adventurefood.com, £5.50

Anyone who has eaten expedition-ready meals knows they can be everything from truly disgusting to just about OK, depending on how hungry you are. This was horrible – a chicken curry that resembled wallpaper paste and didn't taste any better than that.

 

Mountain House dried meal
Mountain House dried meal
Mountain House

Cotswold Outdoor, from £5.50

100g

Infinitely better – a salmon and potato dish and the macaroni cheese were both pretty good.

 

Firepot dehydrated food
Firepot dehydrated food
Firepot Dehydrated Meals

Outdoorfood.com, from £6.50

Won hands down. Really good flavour, but also texture, so the porcini risotto and the orzo Bolognese not only tasted good, but somehow managed not to be reduced to a stodgy mush in the rehydration process.

 

 

KATE ALSO TRIED….

 

Fjallraven Abisko Trail T Shirt

Abisko Trail T-shirt

Fjallraven, £45

Made from a cool-feeling fabric comprising nylon and 15% wool.

 

Amfibie shorts from Haglofs
Amfibie shorts from Haglofs


Amfibie II shorts

Haglofs, £70

Stretchy, tough, quick-drying and stylish.

 

Bam's walking socks are made from a fibre derived from bamboo
Bam's walking socks are made from a fibre derived from bamboo

Bamboo walking socks

Bam, £15

These comfortable socks naturally stay fresh for longer.

 

Columbia Women's Trail Shaker T shirt
Columbia's Trail Shaker T-shirt

Women's Trail Shaker Short Sleeve Shirt

Columbia, £25

Made from a soft fabric designed to wick sweat away from your skin.

 

READ THE FULL STORY...

of Kate Humble's Wye walk in BBC Countryfile Magazine's Special Issue 2017, on sale between 29 September and 26 October.

• FIND OUT where to buy.

 

 

You are currently reading: Kate Humble's Ultralight Backpacking Kit - 26th September
Get your first 5 issues for just £5 when you subscribe to BBC Countryfile magazine!

Subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine today and you can enjoy generous savings from the shop price plus, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.

Countryfile Magazine - Current Issue