When considering you kit requirements for the Challenge have a good think about layers, even if you are using the Paramo system.
Being outside in the elements for days on end can be a very different experience than a normal walking holiday, even when the weather is dreadful. Relentless wind and rain can grind you down and really dampen the spirits. In these circumstances even and little additional insulation or protection can make a big difference.
When I first started walking the Challenge my main concern was keeping my gear list as light as possible. In many ways this is still a major consideration but a few extra garments _ weighing just a few grams — can make a real difference. Even when wearing Paramo successfully there have been times when I craved a little extra warmth. Make sure your shell layer is generous enough to allow you get some warmth protection beneath it.
Perhaps, the most obvious way to help you think is for me to run through the system I have used for a few years. Remember, you will be asking for two weeks. On somedays you may be liberally applying sun block and complaining about the heat. On other days you will think that the end of the world has come!
Let’s start with basics. Good base layers are worth their weight in gold. By far the best material here is merino wool. Merino base layers are not cheap but they do last. Merino is warm, wicks well and keeps warm when wet. Don’t ignore the wetness issue. When that Highland rain really starts pounding — or when you have hours and hours of ‘Scots Mist’ —the water will get inside your protective layers! A 200 weight base layer (XL) will weight between 200 and 250 grams.
I always carry two of these with me, one is usual a short sleeve layer and the other a long sleeve. One I can use for civilisation (when even merino can pong a bit) but in extreme situations the two can be worn together.
A Walking Shirt
I introduced this to my kit a few years ago when the weather had almost been too hot! I use a Jack Wolfskin synthetic material shirt. This is easily washed and gives a little bit of extra protection to the wind and a bit of extra wind. In warmer weather wearing this over my merino baselayer is all I need. The ‘shirt’ is also useful in civilisation! Perhaps, it makes you look less of an outdoor freak! My shirt weighs 300 grams.
My mid layer is a Rab Vapour Rise jacket. This is a very minimal micro fleece. My XL version weighs 340 grams. This is what is sometimes known as a ‘technical’ garment. It can deal with a fair amount of moisture and light rain and is relatively wind proof. In many normal TGO days this worn over a base layer will keep you warm enough. In cold weather, though, it is not often enough.
A cheaper alternative would be a fleece of some kind but getting the right weight of fleece is not easy. You should know how hot you run when walking. A full on fleece might be simply too hot for many people.
I don’t always carry one of these but this can be very useful. My wind shirt is from Montane and weighs just 100 grams. This slips on easily and really does keep the wind at bay. This can be thrown over your base layer/shirt combo, worn underneath a shell (even Paramo) and so on.
Lightweight Down Gillet
My most recent addition to the line up and a simply wonderful piece of kit. Mine is from PHD — the Ultra Vest — and weighs 160 grams. I love this as it gives a quick hit of heat. It is equally at home worn over base layers or underneath a shell.
Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that you need to go out and purchase all of this stuff for your first Challenge. What I’ve tried to do is give you an idea of the way a kit list can be both lightweight and very flexible. My shell layer can be used as a wind shirt, not least because I will always have it handy. My camp down jacket can be used to walk in if the conditions become artic like.
The collection above weighs just over 1 kilogram. A lot of flexibility for not much pain.
So, think about those layers and their flexibility. And, don’t forget a good woolly hat and gloves!