The vintage Lowe Alpine pack, in day-glo nineties colours, sits in the corner of the bedroom.
Ringed around it are bits of kit; our MSR mosquito-weight stove (‘Have you checked that it’s working?’ ‘No. It’ll work.’), an REI three season bag (‘Won’t it get colder than 13?’ ‘Yeah, but I’m always hot.’), an inflatable pad (‘Do you want me to get something a bit better?’ ‘Why? These work fine.’), the RAB Storm bivvy bag (‘Do you think you should try it out in the garden?’ Dismissive glance.), a small torch (‘Have you got an extra bulb? Extra battery?’ Sigh. ‘It’s NEW.’), the solar phone charger I insisted upon (‘If you don’t take your phone, I’ll pretend to be sick so that you can’t go.’ ‘Oh, allright, then.’), and various other bits and pieces (‘You’ll need some waterproof trousers. Proper ones.’ ‘You got me some last big camping trip…don’t you remember? They’ve still got the tags on.’ ‘Oh.’).
He wants to keep his bag under 30lbs.
He’ll carry a few packets of food, but really, it’s not like he’s heading off into the wilderness… The Ridgeway National Trail passes through several villages and towns. He’ll be within reach of a shop every day…and that goes for tap water, as well. I got him a two-litre ‘hydration system’ (‘I have a hydration system. It’s called a bottle.’), but he’ll use lots of fluid walking so many hours a day. And he’s a caffeine addict…I seriously can’t imagine Andy starting the day without boiling up a cup of tea and have seen him go through great lengths to do so…so he’ll need the water. I imagine during his shopping trips a few biscuits will find their ways into his hands, as will a latte or two.
Andy says that if the trail was a climb, or if he had to take more gear, he probably couldn’t do it without some serious training. But because it’s relatively flat (he keeps calling it ‘a stroll’) and he’s not carrying too much, he’ll be fine.
He probably will be absolutely fine, that’s the irritating part of it. Because of Andy’s athletic youth, he has a great deal of what they call ‘residual fitness’. He has large muscles and well-cushioned joints. He has incredible physical and mental endurance. But he’s also got soft little white feet that have, for the last ten years, only worn hiking boots when it snows.
Which is why I’ve also insisted he carry quite a few special blister plasters and an anti-blister film stick.