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What you should have in your rucksack for a day walk in the uplands

Other posts by  |  Patrick Norris on Google+ |  October 26, 2012 | 0 Comments

Choosing a rucksack and what to put in it

Patrick Norris

Patrick Norris

As someone who leads walking groups in the hills and countryside in the UK, I often get asked about the kit I carry in my rucksack.  In this feature, I will describe what I carry and you can follow those ideas, adding or deleting items to suit your needs.

There is very definitely some kit you should always have and other items that you can carry at your discretion. However, it isn’t much help suddenly discovering that you need that extra warm layer, when you’re five miles from where you left it, at home or in the car. Therefore, do think and plan before you venture out; consider the weather forecast, the altitude you’ll be walking at, the time of year and past experience.  They’ll all help to make your day more enjoyable, comfortable and above all safe.

Keep your kit dry

A rucksack with a shower proof cover

A rucksack with a shower proof cover

The first thing to remember is that almost all rucksacks are not waterproof (although some more expensive models do have waterproof covers). So, if you don’t pack your gear into a waterproof inner bag, then your kit will get wet when it rains. You can buy inner bags in most outdoors stores, buy one to fit your rucksack and use it. They do make a difference and I don’t venture out without one, whether it’s sunny or raining.

A waterproof liner for a rucksack

A waterproof liner for a rucksack

As I’ve said before in this series of features, sometimes you need an edge and every little helps. For kit that mustn’t get wet such as mobile phones and cameras, use a sealed container such as a sealable food box; more bespoke waterproof containers can be purchased at outdoors stores.

Rucksacks come in all shapes and sizes and there is plenty of choice.  Think about what you want from rucksack and what you are going to put in it.  As a walk leader, I need to carry additional kit, but if you just go out for day walks and don’t carry anything extra, then that too will have a bearing on what you buy.  You may regret buying something too small, but for most people, a rucksack of between 25 and 33 litres capacity is more than sufficient.

Talon 33, by Osprey – lightweight and versatile

The Talon 33 by Osprey is Patrick Norris's rucksack of choice. It is available at Cotswolds and George Fisher Outdoors.

The Talon 33 by Osprey is Patrick Norris’s rucksack of choice. It is available at Cotswolds and George Fisher Outdoors.

For example, I use a rucksack made by Osprey. It’s the Talon 33, which is lightweight at under one Kg when empty.  This good-quality rucksack holds more than enough to meet my needs, for most day walks in the uplands as well as just about anywhere else. It is also good for light overnight trips, features pockets on the hip belt, has a lid lock and stretch woven pockets on the front and sides. For more information visit Cotswolds Outdoor website.

Contents of Patrick Norris’s rucksack

For water, I use a metal bottle, with a capacity of 0.75 or a one-litre, which I carry in a side pocket on the rucksack designed for that purpose. On cold days, I carry a 0.5  litre stainless steel flask.  I recommend the smaller sized flasks, as I doubt I could drink a litre of coffee on a walk, so why take that much.

Individual walker’s first aid kit suggestions:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Zinc oxide tape
  • Plasters to treat minor cuts and to dress blisters
  • CompeedTM blister plasters
  • A triangular bandage and a crepe bandage
  • Wound dressing x 2 (medium)
  • Aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Cleansing wipes and some hand hygiene gel
  • A plastic disposal bag for waste
  • Sun screen to suit your needs.

Store everything inside a waterproof container and replace anything you use as and when needed. You can read more about first aid kits for walkers here: Aid.

Additional clothing and kit for your back pack

plastic survival bag for walking

Plastic survival bag for walking

I suggest that you carry your waterproof jacket and trousers, an extra warm layer such as a fleece and finally a warm hat and a pair of gloves.

Somewhere in your rucksack you should have a plastic survival bag. These are normally orange, person-sized and an essential piece of kit which, hopefully, you should never have to use. It could save your life however if you ever get lost and have to stay out longer than planned, or get into very difficult weather conditions and need to get some shelter from the elements.

In my rucksack, I carry a group shelter, a modern version of the survival bag.  They come in different sizes, they are essential and as a walk leader I have to have one in my rucksack.  Again they are life savers, but they don’t really work for just one person. They are designed for two to three people and provide a great way to shelter and warm up away from the worst of any weather. For more information visit

As a walking guide Patrick Norris is required to carry a group shelter, such as this one from Outdoor Designs

As a walking guide Patrick Norris is required to carry a group shelter, such as this one from Outdoor Designs.

One item of kit that I don’t carry is walking poles, but if you use them, then most rucksacks will have the means of securing them to the outside of the bag, check before you buy.

I will always carry the relevant map, a compass, a fine tipped permanent marker pen, whistle, a hand held GPS and a head torch with spare batteries for both.  I also have a waterproof pouch for a mobile phone and my camera.  I use the OS Active maps, which are laminated and if I need to make notes, then I simply write on the map with the marker pen; it cleans off nicely with methylated spirit.

Finally, rather than have kit loose inside the rucksack, I put everything into bags, commonly known as stuff sacks. This keeps everything tidy and allows me to get to kit without it getting blown away, damaged or lost; the trick is to know which bag you put it in, but like everything else in life, that is something that you get used to.

To conclude then, there’s nothing in my rucksack that I don’t need, no emergency rations, crampons, climbing rope or such like, although I acknowledge that it is easy to get carried away. Remember, if it’s in your rucksack, then you’re the one who has to carry it. Keep it simple, light and useable and you won’t go far wrong.

Find out more about me, Patrick Norris, and my guided walks business: Footsteps – walking the beauty of Northumberland.

Footsteps – walking the beauty of Northumberland



Tel.: 07847 506399


© Patrick Norris and This is Northumberland.

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Category: Northumberland Walker's Guide

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