What’s in your bag?

After,  “are we there yet?”, the things we get asked about most concern what we carry and what we wear on our feet. So I thought I’d give you an idea of what we bring along on a Summer day hike and our preferred footwear. We don’t get any free kit, so any that I talk about has made it here on merit.

In the Bag



1 – Firstly, the bag itself. I carry a 30ltr rucksack, which gives plenty of room for all my gear. This one’s a Montane Medusa, (which is actually 32ltr). There’s side stash pockets for walking poles or water bottles. A good size zipped lid pocket and an internal zipped lid pocket for valuables. On the outside it also has a neat ice tool carry system. Obviously not an essential for everybody. The hip belt is easily adjusted and has a zipped pocket. Good for snacks and things like hankies.

2– Shell jacket. This one is a Rab Neo Guide hard shell. Excellent if there’s any precipitation in the forecast and packs down well. In the summer I carry a soft shell instead, which is much lighter and gives good protection from the wind. There’s also a pair of waterproof pants here. In the winter I’d be wearing some hard shell ones, but in the summer these ultra light weight ones from Alpkit have proved great.

3 – Sunglasses and cap. Always have these, summer and winter.

4 – Water bottle. I use a 1tr Sigg bottle. It’s metal, refillable and resists pressure change as you get higher and takes a lot of knocks. This one is about 15yrs old, so much better than plastic bottles. You can also put hot water in it, wrap it in a sock and it’s a great hot water bottle. I also carry a water filter in case I’m not happy with a water source.

5 – A warm hat and gloves. Don’t get caught out when you reach a peak or pass. If the wind starts blowing you will be glad of these. Even in the Pirin during August.

6 –  Compass, whistle, pace counters and GPS. Not much to say about these. Hopefully the weather will be kind and I won’t need them.

7 – Headtorch. Even if I’m not planning on being out late or starting very early. I always have one in the bag, just in case.

8 – Spares and repairs. Batteries, gaffer tape, zip ties and a spare pair of laces.

9 –  First Aid kit. This is the one I use with groups, so it has lots of stuff,  from sticking plasters to wound dressings. I could devote a whole post to the contents, but for personal use, think, looking after No 1. So take plasters, painkillers, a small wound dressing, some antiseptic cream, and any meds you’ll need on the day or the next as a, just in case.

10 – Group shelter. Great for getting out of the wind or rain when you have something to eat. Not a great view though…  and of course to keep warm if someone’s injured.

11 – A paper map. Don’t rely on smart phones and or GPS. They’re good but not the best. Maps don’t need power and if you drop them, don’t ususlly break.

On our feet


On the Djamdjiev Ridge en route to Vihren peak


Of course, what you wear on your feet is down to a lot of things, boots or shoes? , do you want a waterproof membrane? How much suppport? You could go on. So what I’m going to do is tell you what we wear, why and how they perform. Most brands have their own versions.

I like to wear shoes when hiking with a day sack or even something slightly bigger for an overnighter. I like ankle flexibility. The pair I’ve just retired are, Scarpa Zodiacs  (the ones on the left in the pic above).

They are a leather upper and stiff soled. They have good toe box protection and plenty of midsole shock absorption. This is particularly good in the Pirin when you’re in the boulder fields. The outsole is heavily lugged, good grip, but is prone to being cut when your in the quartz, so prevelant in the Pirin (see below).



The Zodiacs have been a very comfortable, hard wearing pair of shoes. Worn trekking in Bulgaria and Nepal. They are probably best described  as the closest thing to a boot you’ll get from a shoe.

Jacqui likes her boots, her La Sportiva Trango’s to be more precise, (on the right in the first pic).  These are the second pair she’s owned. The first gasped their last in Nepal having been thoroughly used in the U.K. Alaska and Bulgaria as well.

The boots are a fabric upper and give great support to the ankle, give good grip in anything from mud to sandy conditions. The midsole provides great support and hock absorption. They have a good rockered walking action in the sole and from the rubber rand around them there’s good protection to the fabric.

All in all these are a light, robust boot. Which come in small, female specific sizing.

I hope this post has given you some ideas of what to pack on a day hike and what works well for us. Remember, this is in the summer. Winter is a whole post on its own…

Thanks for reading – Peter

A Walk in the Park

We’ve been coming to “the Park”, the Pirin National Park that is, for over 10 years now. We’ve explored the Alpine meadows and Mountain peaks that make up this beautiful environment.

Donchovi karauli (2633m)

The Pirin was given National Park status in 1962, when Bulgaria was still under communist rule. The government developed a network of trails, criss crossing the country and a series of huts and shelters along their length.

Today, mountain walking and visitor numbers are buoyant. Although it could be considered as the gateway to the Pirin, with regard to the outdoor enthusiast, Bansko is in no way developed in the same way as say, Keswick in England or Chamonix in France. There is no glut of retailers selling the latest brands, nor the associated clad hoardes.

The Pirin is a place of exploration. The mapping is not as prescribed as the Ordnance survey, so beloved by us Brits. The guide books are limited and there are certainly no lists of peaks to be ticked off.


Summer storms at Bezbog

Going into the mountains is an exillerating experience. Even in summer there can be violent electrical storms. It is no coincidence that the area is named after Perun, the Slav god of thunder.

The trails can require a significant amount of Boulder hopping and some of the summits are only achieveable via a narrow ridge.

In return for your efforts, the views and relative solitude of the area are just reward.  Not to mention the flora, fauna and topography. But that’s a whole other story…


Summer Walks

We’ve had a busy spring in the UK. Once again working with Hexham Youth Initiative and providing their Duke of Edinburgh Award Bronze and Silver expeditions.

It’s now time to think about the summer. From early July until mid September we’ll be in Bansko, Bulgaria.

This year, we’ll once again be leading walks to support Trailsystem, a not for profit organisation in Bulgaria, who work with the Pirin National Park to promote mountain biking, running and hiking.

We’re also going to run a number of pre planned walks throughout July and August. This is a great opportunity to join like minded people, in a small friendly atmosphere. There’ll be a max of 8 people on each walk.

We’ve put together a programme of walks of varying levels, in different parts of the Pirin. Take a look at them, using this link  for the where, when, how difficult, how much etc.

Hope to see you on one of the walks.