Revised Packing List: What We Should Have Brought

If you have just stumbled upon 30 Ways of Walking, here’s a list of what one should pack if headed on the Coast to Coast Walk. Before our trip I posted a list of what we were brining along and some of those things proved useful and others were, well, never used. I have put as asterisk (*) next to the things that we did not have on the initial packing list. Although this might be commonsense for the typical British holiday walker, this list could be rather helpful for Americans or other international walkers.

1) Traditional Compass* (we wound up buying a regular compass in a pharmacy in Grasmere). The digital compass worked well, but we are technological immigrants, rather than natives and had difficulty trusting its power; we prefered the compass of our scouting years).

2) GPA Navigation System* My husband is an expert navigator and we were fortunate to not get lost on our trip, but the trail is not well signposted for about 2/3 of the walk through the National Parks: Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors. Were you to find yourself lost or in any sort of danger, you need to dial 999 (British 911) Mountain Rescue. The first question they are going to ask you is “What are your GPS Coordinates?” Therefore it would be helpful to have an accurate reply.

3) Cell Phone with SMS or Texting Capabilities Many stretches of the Coast to Coast do not reach a signal; however, there is usually enough of a signal to send an emergency text message should you need to contact Mountain Rescue. Text 999 with your GPS coordinates and your situation.

4)  Long Distance Route Coast to Coast Xt40 Map (West: St Bees to Keld and East: Keld to Robin Hood’s Bay). We bought these two maps ahead of time on Amazon.

5) Ordinance Map either in Paper Copy or loaded onto your GPS or both* The ordinance map is really a back-up of system for you if your want to capriciously follow a different path (something Wainwright strongly encouraged) or if you need to make alternate plans. Bulls, barbed wire, flooded roads, construction, etc. might force you to stray from Wainwright’s prescribed path.

6) Stedman’s book The Coast to Coast Path  Stedman’s Coast to Coast Path is the essential walking guide. His maps are superbly accurate and clear. IF you buy no other book; buy this one. We never once got lost because of this book. His pace might not match your own, so expect some of his time estimations to be a bit longer and his idea of “easy” terrain, might be hell. Moreover if he says “boggy”, remember that the British seem to love understatement. It is MASSIVELY BOGGY and the four or five roads before that which were marked pleasant are merely boggy.  M. Wainwright’s The Coast to Coast Walk  gives a lovely narrative overview of each day and is worth reading, but is not at all helpful on the trail. Either read before your trip or afterward to help remind your of where you have been, but don’t lug it with you. We knew well enough to leave Wainwright’s the original Coast to Coast Walk at home because there have been significant changes to the route since its publication, but we did meet some folks hopelessly trying to use it to navigate. 

7) Anti-Shock Treking Poles We almost didn’t buy these and what a fool we would have been! They are ESSENTIAL. There intended purpose is to relieve tired legs of the strain of walking and to transfer some of that energy to the muscles in your arms. We used them for this, but mostly they were used: for battling with overgrown branches,  swinging our bodies across miles of boggy or mucky or muddy (or all of the above) fields where without a Treking pole you will slip or be swallowed up whole.

8) Gaitors* There will be days where you will be covered in much and the last thing you want is for your feet to be wet-this is when you get blisters. We should have had Gaitors to protect our feet from the moisture of the muck. Instead we wound up changing our socks several times a day. This is a fine solution, but it can be time consuming.

9) Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly Take it from two people who walked over 200 miles (we extended Wainwright’s path by a bit) without a single blister between us: each night cover your feet in Vaseline and then put socks on and sleep in them all night. It’s like an instant foot spa and repairs the epidermis to prevent the minute cracking that can open you up to painful blisters and other infections.

10) Glucose tabs* These are probably just a placebo; they offer a quick burst of sugar. We used them as cranky tabs. Whenever one member of your party gets a case of the cranks or gets a little low, this is a perfect solution. Tell them to pop a glucose tab or if you are the one being unpleasant, demand a glucose tab and in a few moments all will be right with the world. Although we didn’t have these to start, we bought a pack in the Post  (in the UK the Post Office in small towns also acts as a grocery store) in St. Bees Head before our journey and are so thankful for the recommendation from the gentleman from the Bike Shop in Reeth who suggested them. It saved our marriage (j/k).

11) Packhorse Itinerary of  Bed and Breakfasts. We did not meet too many campers on our journey. Most people book a luggage transfer service, particularly if you arriving internationally, to carry your luggage to each destination. The two main organizations are Packhorse and Sherpa. As you meet people along the route, they become divided into two groups Packhorse People and Sherpa People. We were Packhorse people and I cannot say enough good things about this organization. The sense among walkers and the proprietors along the trail is that Packhorse is the more reliable organization. We did not here any explicit complaints about Sherpa, which is a much larger organization offering a range of different kinds of services, but Packhorse’s business focuses only on the Coast to Coast trail. They have really perfected their service and in my next post about our specific itinerary, I will explain why we chose to go with Packhorse over Sherpa. If you are traveling internationally, Packhorse is worth every penny.

12) DSLR Camera with UK adaptable charger I invested in a quality camera for this trip, but because there were two of us, I wish we had also brought a smaller handheld camera or camera phone, because there are smaller shots along the way that were missed opportunities because it was no convenient to stop and take the DSLR out of the pack. My husband does not normally like  taking photographs became deeply invested in taking photos on this trip and we shared the camera. Again it would have been nice to have two different types of documentation.

13) 2 Daypacks with bladder (aka Camelback  or as they say in the UK Platypus water supply). The tap water is clean, so fill these babies to the brim.

14) Rainpants and Rain Jacket

15) Waterwicking Clothes I overestimated how much clothing I would need and underestimated the accessibility of a washer/dryer. If I could have repacked, I would have brought: one pair of break away pants (the kind that can be converted to shorts with the swig of a zipper), two water wicking bras, two pairs of 16 day water wicking undies, ten pairs of merino wool sock (PHD or Smartwool), two short-sleeve merino wool (Smartwool) shirts, two long sleeve versions (one at 150 degrees coverage and one at 250 degrees coverage). Ladies clothing does not typically offer pit zips; this is why I tend to buy men’s walking clothes. The temperature variation from hour to hour varies dramatically. The pit zips can help keep you dry and relieve your body of unnecessary heat and stress.

16) Buff When my mother in law, biker extraordinaire, bought me this-I had no idea what it was; it’s essential! With the buff, you can wear it as a sweatband around your head, use it to keep midges out of your ears, keep frizzy hair at bay, cover your neck and head when the wind is unbearable. I would not have survived without it.

17) Waterproof Hiking boots Every hour spent at REI with poor Richard was worth it! Plus all of our city walks broke the boots in nicely. Commit to spending at least one afternoon to trying on hiking boots.

18) Sandwich bags and Ziplock bags for refuse

19) Hand Sanitizing Wipes and Baby Wipes (see item #18)

20) Sunblock SPF 50 Although one reader commented that this was overly optimistic given the cloudy and rainy weather, we managed to get tan and in my husband’s case, burned.

21) Brimmed Hat* (see item #20)

22) Chapstick

23) NeilMed and all other allergy medications I have lots of respiratory and allergy issues, whereas my husband is always perfectly healthy and we both has some breathing issues day to day because of unfamiliar types of pollen. If you have a rescue inhaler, make sure to bring it.

24) Emergency Kit We only used Band Aids (the British call them Plasters, if you need to look for them in a UK pharmacy, Gauze, Waterproof Tape, Advil and Tweezers. This is not to say that you shouldn’t bring other Emergency items, but it seems to be best to put together your own Emergency Kit rather than schlep some pre-arranged kit that might not have exactly what you need. We brought so many blister apparatuses, but used none. Even thought we didn’t need them, I strongly recommend bringing them along.

25) Gold Bond for gentlemanly application and needs.

 

26) Passport, State Issued ID, Travel Insurance Card, Medical Insurance Card are all necessary for international travel. Even though the NHS in the UK will treat you in a more direct and timely fashion than you might receive in the US, medical and travel insurance is a must. There are fees for things like transport and evacuation, that might not be covered by your regular health insurance; this is one of many reasons to buy travel insurance. Moreover if you’ve arranged a time sensetive schedule, one day of injury could disrupt your whole trip and the travel insurance will be well worth it. We used Travelguard for our trip insurance and it was quite reasonable for the cost of the insurance and the amount of coverage. Remember that right now the pound has significant advantage over the dollar; therefore its worth it to invest in additional coverage to insure that you are fully covered.  One million dollars does not equal one million powers and global health costs are high.

27) Credit Card I’ve written a lot about Chip and Pin. In the US we are the only country in the world without a chip and pin card (we still use the swipe system). After much arguing with the banks (a hobby of mine) I was not able to secure a chip and pin card. The banks will assure you that you will be just fine and that consumers need not worry. This is untrue. It is true that all machines in the UK are equipped with a swipe system, but many retailers are uncomfortable using this system and some are unaware of the difference between American credit cards and European credit cards. It’s important to anticipate the restaurant’s or store’s panic or discomfort before you make any purchases. Most of the folks working in some of the larger towns are seasonal student workers, who have never before seen a swipe card, unlike some of the older folks in the small towns who remember when the UK once had a swipe system of its own. To avoid the frustration of repeatedly having your card declined, politely ask to swipe your own card and bashfully explain the difference between US and European cards. My years working retail and waitressing came in handy because the machines are retail machines rather than the consumer computerized swipe machine you would see in the check out at Target or the grocery store. The former type of swipe requires a particular type of wrist action (slow swipe and then hold at the end). Remember to only bring a Mastercard or Visa card. American Express cards are a pain for small businesses. They require a separate credit machine chip, so most businesses opt for a Visa/Mastercard machine which accepts the world’s two largest creditors; this is more cost efficient for them. So leave your American Express or Discover Card at home.

28) Emergency Debit Card and British Currency Although we pre-paid most of the cost of our trip and used our credit card in most restaurants, we did exchange some money at the airport and opened a separate debit account, where we placed some emergency money. We opted to leave all of our usual bank cards and credit cards home, in case of theft. It is far better to lose a thousand pounds on your  emergency debit card then to lose your debit card with your full checking account. In case of identity theft or fraud, your debit card is far more vulnerable then your credit card. It’s safer to travel with your credit card.

29) Slow Release Energy Bars and some candy for a quick lift

30) One Good Read As voracious a reader as we are, we were only able to complete one novel a piece because we were too exhausted each night and prefered, if possible, to watch some quality BBC like Thelma’s Gypsy Girls or Manor House Rescue or Bank of Dave. Unless of course Come Dine With Me (a truly hideous show that seemed to be on at least twice a day on every channel where four people are asked to cook for one another and then rip apart one another’s cooking and hospitality) was on, then we found ourselves nestled with a book. I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild about her solo hike of the 2,663 mile Pacific Crest Trail and felt rather inadequate about any aches or pains I had on our measly 200 mile walk. Regardless of my own insecurities, a wonderful book, more uplifting and satisfying than the Happiness Project.

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About 30 Ways of Walking

Gina Liotta's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Slate, The Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, and The Healing Muse, among others. She lives, writes and teaches in New York.
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13 Responses to Revised Packing List: What We Should Have Brought

  1. seclectic says:

    Being of a gentlemanly persuasion I must google “Gold Bond” to find out what it is about. I think you might be overdoing the needs of navigational aids (compass, guidebook, maps, gps…) maybe we are more familiar with UK trails but we just preplanned and used a map and compass. I look forward to reading your posts about the trail itself.

    • Yes, my husband found GB indispensable. As for the navigational aids, we only used a compass and the Stedman and were just fine. But there were a few days when tagged along with those who had other types of navigational aids that we found helpful on those particular days. We did meet some folks, though, who really were using the wrong types of materials (original Wainwright or M. Wainwright’s narrative) and found themselves walking in circuitously frustrating paths. I offer the range of navigational aids that I think would be most useful, especially for international walkers.

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  4. sgyoung says:

    Wow that is awesome detail in your list. We are going to plan a British hike for either 2013 or 14 and C2C is a leading contender. We want to do the entire Lands End to JOGroats eventually. So happy to see you mention C Strayed book as I have become big fan. Btw she is wonderful in person at bookstore if u can find her schedule on her site: very worth the trip to hear her read in her own voice answer questions etc.

    • Yes, I saw C. Strayed in NYC a few weeks ago. A lovely person indeed. In terms of the C2C buy a copy of the Stedman and peruse it to read up on all of the details. The Stedman is much more practical then any of the updated Wainwright texts. Feel free to write-in if you have any questions or want recommendations about where to stay, etc. If you are going to use baggage transfer, packhorse is the one to use. Best of luck with your travels!

  5. mugs888 says:

    Thanks for this helpful list. I hope you don’t mind I linked to it several times on my newsly-created blog: coast2coastwalking.wordpress.com
    It was a great idea to update the packing list after the fact, after you figured out what you REALLY needed. I plan to do the same thing on my page.
    Also, thanks for the tip about the “Buff”– I bought one and have been using it on training hikes… and I love it! I owe that idea (and several others) to you.
    Thanks again!

    • Thank you for your kind words! I am at work on an essay about the experience and will post more information soon. My mother in law will be so pleased to hear that you are enjoying the Buff. Feel free to be in touch if you want to chat about the hike. It was one of the best things I have ever done.

  6. Extremely helpful list. We hope to do the C2C walk in early June coming from Australia.Will be using your guidance to pack and deciding whether to go with Packhorse or Sherpa.

  7. diane0905 says:

    This has been very helpful to us. We’re beginning our C2C walk on July 22, 2014. Unfortunately, I tweaked my calf about 10 days ago. One more week. It’s doing much better, but probably not good to head in injured. lol Thanks for sharing all this information!

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