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In your rucksack

What you carry in your rucksack will depend to some extent on the type and length of the route you are undertaking, and the number of people in your party.

On the one hand it is important to have enough clothing and equipment for your comfort and safety; on the other hand you don't want to weigh yourself down with unnecessary kit. So as with all things to do with hill walking, it is a matter of judgement. Some items, however, are so lightweight and useful they should be considered essential (a torch being a good example).

Here is a checklist of items you should consider putting into your rucksack (we take it for granted that you will have a map and compass!):

  • Wet weather clothing - typically a waterproof jacket and over-trousers (unless you are already wearing waterproof trousers of the type made by Paramo and others).
  • A spare insulation layer - like a wooly jumper or fleece,
  • Hat and gloves - waterproof ones are best in cold or wet weather. In summer you may want a lightweight one for protection from the sun.
  • A whistle - the international rescue signal is six long blasts over a minute, then stop for a minute to listen for a reply. If you hear a reply keep signalling as rescuers may be using the sound to locate you.
  • A torch with spare batteries - one with a strap to go on your head is best as it leaves your hands free. Newer LED torches are less likely suffer from bulb failure and the batteries last longer. Signal for help in the same way as with a whistle.
  • Mobile phone - but bear in mind you may not get a signal. Make sure it is fully charged up! There is more about using a mobile phone to call for help in the Rescue section.
  • GPS - if you have one. If it needs charging make sure it is fully charged; if it takes batteries, have spares. There is more about GPS in the Navigation section.
  • First aid kit - with any essential medication, plasters or 'second-skin' for blisters, penknife, scissors, insect repellent, sting relief, sun cream, etc.
  • Pen and paper - very useful to jot down grid references, phone numbers and other notes. If you need glasses don't forget to take them!
  • Emergency shelter - if you are on your own this could be a plastic survival bag; in a group you could carry a bothy bag. Bothy shelters are made from lightweight waterproof material and are designed to cover a seated group, with ventilation and sometimes a transparent window. If benighted or stuck out in the cold and wind, they can be a lifesaver. 
  • Food and drink - see the food and drink page for ideas on what to take.
  • Winter equipment - if the weather and terrain calls for it, you may need ice-axe, crampons, sunglasses and googles. For more information read our Snow and ice section.
  •  And, probably on your wrist rather than in the bag, a reliable watch.

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