Hadrian’s Wall Path: preparation

Someone had the crazy idea of joining Colin on his next walk: Hadrian’s Wall Path [1]. We’d be carrying all of our stuff (as opposed to hiring people to transfer it from one site to the next), and we’d be camping at campsites along the way. This would involve a lot of preparation:

  1. making a list of the equipment needed
  2. becoming fit enough to walk around 15 miles a day
  3. becoming fit enough to carry a loaded backpack for that distance
  4. practising camping
  5. determining the route and finding suitable campsites
  6. buying Hadrian’s Wall Path Passports [2]

Making a list of the equipment needed

Colin already had most of the stuff he’d need, but I was short on a lot of stuff, what with not having done anything like this before. In amongst other things, I’d need a backpack, walking poles, walking shoes, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. We’d also need a two-person tent. Some things I already had, like waterproofs, a walking shirt and a pair of trousers with removable legs to create shorts. I have a sunhat, but it’s made of cotton, and would take ages to dry if it got rained on.

Colin goes in for lightweight backpacking, so we turned to Gossamer Gear [3] for some of the heavier and bulkier stuff, along with other items:

  • tent
  • groundsheet
  • walking poles (for me)
  • backpack (for me)
  • Kula cloth (for me)

I was left alone to make my own sleep system choices; for this I chose Sea-to-Summit [4] for my:

  • sleeping bag
  • sleeping pad
  • pillow

I turned to Amazon for less specialised things:

  • first-aid kit
  • zip-front sports bra
  • socks
  • sun/rain hat
  • cap
  • magnetic clip attachment for water-bladder bite valve
  • collapsible cup
  • titanium mug
  • spork
  • Swiss Army knife
  • glasses strap
  • vegan creamer (for tea)
  • a copy of the guide book [5]
Stedman, Henry (2020) Hadrian’s Wall Path, 6th edition. Trailblazer Publications: Surrey, UK [5]

I borrowed one of Colin’s one-litre Smart Water [6] bottles and an 850 millilitre bottle with a flip-cap that he bought in America. The diameters of the bottle and the neck are narrower than the Smart Water bottles in the UK [7], such that the American ones fit in shoulder strap pockets better and the neck fits water filters, whereas the UK ones are slightly too big. Alas, the American ones can’t even be imported into the UK from their website.

Other odds and ends I picked up in Mountain Warehouse [8]:

  • base layer
  • water bladder
  • emergency whistle
  • puffy coat

And one more item in local sportswear shops:

  • windproof jacket
  • shoes

I got us some vegan food and snacks from Tesco and Sainsbury’s:

  • instant(ish) noodles
  • instant soup
  • energy bars
  • porridge

We already had teabags.

I’ll get into the specifics about what we chose and how well or badly each item worked out in a later post.

Becoming fit enough to walk around 15 miles a day

This involved walking for longer and longer distances in the fens and one trip to visit each of the Cambridge Colleges [9], which was a surprising 16-mile walk. Alas, there are no hills around that I could practise hill-walking in, so that will have to happen on the path.

I started hiking in my Vibrams FiveFinger trail-running shoes, but it soon became obvious that I’d need more padding than barefoot shoes afford when walking long distances. I was getting up to ten miles when my feet would start aching, which caused my lower legs to ache, and it would become difficult to carry on. I needed to rethink my shoe strategy.

Becoming fit enough to carry a loaded backpack for that distance

Once I had a new pair of shoes, my mileage up and enough equipment to pack in my new backpack, I could focus on walking long distances with my backpack full of equipment and clothes and whatnot. This wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I’d turn up to parkrun on the Saturday morning with the backpack on, complete my role as finish-token giver-outerer and then head off to the train station or other starting point for a long walk, all while wearing the backpack. I often forgot it was there, especially when standing around at parkrun.

Practising camping

The last couple of times I did tenting wasn’t even proper camping. The last time was in a friend’s large back garden for a party, and the time before that was at Glastonbury in 2000. Colin hadn’t camped with a tent-mate on his previous hikes, having gone alone, so it was all new to us, especially as we had a new tent.

Colin chose a nearby campsite to stay for a weekend in. I say nearby, but it’s actually quite far to walk, whereas I’d pass it in minutes in the car. We needed to stay nearby so that we could pop in on Mr Perkins to feed, water and drug him, when we passed by on our walking training.

I’ll write up more about this in a later post.

Determining the route and finding suitable campsites

I left this all to Colin because he’s far more experienced at it than I am.

Buying Hadrian’s Wall Path Passports

This was simple: buy them online from the Trail Gift Shop [10]. You can also buy them in person at either end of the path, but it’s better to have them in advance: once less thing to worry about when you’re there.

The passport is a folded piece of card with spaces for stamps (i.e. rubber stamps with ink pads) at various points along the way to prove you completed it.

References

  1. Hadrian’s Wall Path, https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/en_GB/trails/hadrians-wall-path/
  2. Hadrian’s Wall Path Passport, https://nationaltrails.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/uploads/Passport_stamping_station_location_guide.pdf
  3. Gossamer Gear, https://www.gossamergear.com
  4. Sea-to-Summit, https://www.seatosummit.co.uk/
  5. Stedman, Henry (2020) Hadrian’s Wall Path, 6th edition. Trailblazer Publications: Surrey, UK
  6. Smart Water (USA), https://www.drinksmartwater.com/
  7. Smart Water (UK), https://www.coca-cola.co.uk/brands/glaceau-smartwater
  8. Mountain Warehouse, https://www.mountainwarehouse.com/
  9. Cambridge College A–Z list, https://map.cam.ac.uk/colleges
  10. Trail Gift Shop, Hadrian’s Wall Path Passport, https://trailgiftshop.co.uk/epages/950004035.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/950004035/Products/%22HWP%20PASSPORT%22

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