Shouting from my shed

Get the latest news, updates and happenings via my shed-based newsletter.

plane kit

Adventure Kit List


If I was told to pack, with 10 minutes notice, for a mystery adventure somewhere in the world, these would be the essentials I would fling into my pack every time.

If you do not already own these items, I’d urge you to buy a quality used item on eBay rather than a new but less-good new model. Generally speaking, you get what you pay for with outdoor gear. But, even more valid than that is to be aware that it is possible to spend vast amounts of money on kit, and you really do not need to. See kit as something to be bought with the spare money you have once you have budgeted for everything else in your adventure, rather than what most people do which is buy a £400 raincoat and then lament that they now don’t have the money necessary to cycle across Europe (which you could certainly do for £350 in a £50 raincoat).

Kit Layout

  • A backpack. Take a smaller pack than you think you need, because otherwise you will fill it full of heavy superfluous items which weigh you down, physically and psychologically. Just bear in mind that you may need to add food and water so ensure you have space for that. In other words, take a bigger pack than you think you’ll need, but when you are packing try your best to pretend that it’s a small pack. Still following?!
  • Stout shoes. Is there a less-glamorous, less-exciting coupling of words in the English language? But your footwear will take a pounding, so it needs to be up to the job. As this will be your only pair of shoes, you’ll find yourself clumping up mountains in them, strutting your stuff in a random nightclub somewhere, brushing off the dirt and dust as best you can to look smart as you try to impress a visa official or attend a wedding you were spontaneously invited to.
  • Merino base layer. Warm, breathable, cosy, not-too-smelly-when-not-washed-for-weeks. Get one that will look vaguely acceptable at the aforementioned nightclub / embassy / wedding / mountain summit.
  • Zip-off trousers. Giving ‘stout shoes’ a run for their money in the ugly clothing category, I nonetheless find zip-off trousers (the legs zip off into shorts) to be phenomenally useful and versatile. It is possible, just, to find brands that do not look utterly ridiculous (be particularly cautious with the shorts).
  • A buff. Versatile as a hat, a balaclava under a helmet, a neck warmer, a sweat band, a hair band, and an eye shade for sleeping in light places. Versatility is the key criteria for a good bit of adventure gear. Always try to choose things that can serve more than one purpose.
  • Sleeping bag. Get the smallest one that will keep you alive at the coldest temperatures you will experience. Far better to have a small sleeping bag and wear all your clothes to keep warm than to lug around a vast sleeping bag you do not need. You’ll need to decide whether to take a down or a synthetic bag. Climate, weight and cost will determine your answer.
  • A tarpaulin from a Pound shop, and a couple of bungees to make a basha.
  • Silk sleeping bag liner. Adds warmth to your sleeping bag, but also useful to use on its own in hot climates. It also stops your sleeping bag from getting smelly and requiring washing.
  • Thermarest. Unless you are on an adventure that includes beds (lucky you!) or a lot of thorns / sharp rocks (in which case take a foam sleeping mat), a sleeping mat like this is light weight, low volume, and makes a giant difference to your quality of sleep. Worth the cash. Get a 3/4 length one not a full length one.
  • A raincoat. The climate and type of journey will determine what kind of jacket you take, but you’ll want some sort of waterproof layer for almost every adventure.
  • A ziplock bag to keep your passport and cash dry. Take a few different credit cards, and don’t keep all your cash, credit cards, or eggs in one place / basket.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste. Personal hygiene is not a strong priority for most adventurers. Ugly beards flecked with dinner are common. But brushing your teeth always boosts morale. Plus, nobody likes a tent mate with halitosis. If you’re really lucky it might even keep you kissable (if you can persuade someone to ignore the ugly beard, stout shoes and zip-off trousers). Consider whether you want your tent mate kissing you.
  • A beer can stove.
  • Suncream; any medicines you require.
  • Sun hat and sunglasses.
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Passport and appropriate visas
  • Credit card and cash
  • Flip flops (not necessary for polar journeys)
  • A headtorch. I’d recommend one that uses AA batteries if you’re going somewhere where AAA batteries might be hard to come by.
  • A journal and pen. If you think you are the sort of person who does not write diaries, think again. You really should jot down some thoughts and memories on the road.
  • Reading book. I recommend taking one that will last until the end of your journey, but not something so weighty (in grams or content) that you can’t be bothered with it.
  • A camera, though do not feel compelled to photograph everything and experience nothing.
  • A down jacket. Not quite essential, but if I was going anywhere cold and I had the cash to afford one, I’d pop a down jacket (or a down bodywarmer) into my pack every time. Budget and temperature will determine your choice.
  • An open mind, some patience, and a healthy sense of the ridiculous.

Other things to consider, depending on where in the world you are going:

  • Vaccinations
  • Malaria pills
  • Mosquito net
  • Water purification. Research which option works best for you – chemical, filtration, or sticking to bottled water.
  • Insurance – specific to the location you are going to and the activity you will be doing when you get there.

What else have I forgotten? What do you not agree with? Have your say in the comments below.

You might also find these posts useful

My new book, Grand Adventures, answers many questions such as this. It’s designed to help you dream big, plan quick, then go explore. There are also interviews and expertise from around 100 adventurers, plus masses of great photos to get you excited.

I would be extremely grateful if you bought a copy here today!

I would also be really thankful if you could share this link on social media with all your friends – It honestly would help me far more than you realise.

Thank you so much!

Grand Adventures Cover


Thank you to the many people who have kindly “bought me a coffee” for just £2.50 as encouragement to keep this blog going.

“Yes, I too would like to donate a couple of pounds to this site..!”


To join 33,000 wise, beautiful, heroic people who receive my occasional newsletter, simply add your email address here:

You can opt out of receiving the newsletter at any time and I will not pass your details on to any other party.

Do you have any thoughts on this article? What have I forgotten or got wrong? Please have your say in the comments below…

Drying wet kit in rare sunshine

Read Comments

You might also like

No image found On Sunday night I am excited to go back to work on Monday morning – Living Adventurously 11 Jon Barton is the founder of Vertebrate Publishing. It sits at the very heart of British adventure writing and outdoor sports. Jon says that “we publish books to inspire adventure. It’s our rule that the only books we publish are […]...
No image found Inviting you on a Winter Microadventure It’s cold. It’s dark. I’m tired. I’m busy. I’ll do it later. It’s exciting. It’s memorable. I need a break. I’m always busy so it might as well be now. We can always look at things in two ways. As […]...
No image found Putting Restrictions in Place Enforces Creativity – Living Adventurously #5 Tommy Banks was the youngest chef in the world to be awarded a Michelin star. The Black Swan at Oldstead was rated the best restaurant in the world by TripAdvisor in 2017. As a connoisseur of banana sandwiches and dehydrated […]...


  1. I like the idea of upcycling ebay items into adventure kit. I should do that more.

    It was mentioned on a twitter reply but there is no mention of a shelter/tent/bivvy? (If you want to be kissed by your tent mate, you’ll need a tent (: )

    I don’t agree with the 3/4 length mat though. The barrier/insulator from the ground no matter at what temperature is important to me. May be a personal thing and I have seen others swear by the 3/4 mat but my feet are my bodies thermostat: it they are cold/uncomfortable I don’t sleep.

    Another one would be current FCO advice depending on country.

    Cheers for sharing

  2. Gotta say I love kit lists and photos!!

  3. Peter Reilly Posted

    Baz Luhrmann: “Wear Sunscreen”

  4. I think the full length vs. 3/4 sleeping mat is a matter of personal priorities. As a tall guy who gets cold feet easily (in a literally rather than metaphorical sense, though it’s arguable) I think the extra few grams is worth it.

  5. A lightweight tarp. Wind / rain protection. Bit of a psychological security blanket if nothing else.

  6. Archie Trower Posted

    Depending on how long you are going for and where, I recommend a Kindle or other ebook as it means you can read loads of books and don’t carry much! The only problems being charging it (battery lasts a week or so) and if it breaks can be very hard to get it fixed in developing countries! But mine has been invaluable so far!

  7. A wooly hat and a lighter (and a spare lighter).

  8. I think this is a fine list, but I wonder why you include the beer can stove but no pot or cup or spoon. I think even a spoon grabbed from the kitchen drawer (or even a plastic spoon saved from a take out meal) and a reasonably sized tin can would work in a pinch, with titanium versions being the luxurious upscale versions.

  9. Lots of items I can agree with. For water I like the Sawyer which is light, small, lasts for ever and does not use any chemicals.

    As for the sleeping bag, sure it depends but almost always a synthetic for me. Rather one that is a little heavier but gives decent insulation when wet than one which is useless when wet.

    Prefer crocs to flipflops as give toe protection.

  10. Barbara Posted

    I’m fairly confident the UK does not have REI stores. I saw no mention of a towel, I’m assuming because they are very heavy. I was given a Multi Towel sold by REI, wrings out 90% of the liquid, non-abrasive ultrasoft, antibacterial, fabric remains oder-free, and is 23.5″ x 39.5″. It weights less than 16ozs, too light weigh to show up on my bathroom scale. If you need to be presentable or might have a tent mate, a towel like this would allow you to bathe if that’s possible and not have to use a clean shirt to dry yourself instead.
    You might be able to find something equivalent in the UK or order one on-line from REI.

  11. Kindle , mine holds an excessive amount of books, feel like some yeah no probs feel like something serious no worries and the battery lasts for a month
    Zrests are awesome can’t puncture , reasonable insulation and make for a handy spot to plant your bum at lunch

  12. Good writing, excellent ready. Thank you for sharing!

  13. I prefer books in a foreign language on tour. Slower reading! Afterwards I take out pages every evening to stuff my shoes.

  14. Matches, fire starter, lighter. Some way to light a candle or a stove or your campfire. Map and compass are always useful if you get lost.

  15. Daniel McDougall Posted

    I recommend an Altoids Tin with a first aid kit in it. The first aid kit can include band aids, antibiotic ointment, pain killers (Advil) and nail clippers.

  16. Hatsan Posted

    How do you keep your bivy and sleeping bag dry and what’s your drying schedule? I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors (infantry training), sleeping outdoors often below freezing temperatures. Condensation, rain, thawing snow or simply wet ground makes our outings no longer than few nights. After a week in these conditions everything becomes damp and miserable. What are your thoughts on this? I understand microadventures are short and sweet, but you have the experience doing long expeditions.

    • Alastair Posted

      There’s no secret to this, alas. Stuff gets wet from condensation and you need to dry it every couple of days. If you don’t get the chance then you get wet and miserable! This is why tents are more popular than bivvies for long trips.

  17. Barry Davidson Posted

    Duct tape is always with me..for repairing bike tires, tents, shoes, backpacks, sleeping bags. Always in my tool bag.

  18. -Good wool socks!
    -A “party bottle” for your med kit- an old prescription bottle with a mix your most used OTC pills (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, vit E gelcaps…)
    -Puffies that stuff into themselves can be justified as a pillow even if you’re not positive it’ll be too cold.

  19. Love the gear posts (and the idea about eBay). It is more of a psychological trick, but I try to pack my favorite candy bar (Snickers) on every trip. I promise myself that I won’t eat it until I absolutely need it. I end up toughing things out because I don’t want to waste the candy, and when I do eat it, I look back afterwards and say, “what I am going through right now isn’t as bad as then.” My record was one snickers that lasted 6 months with me traveling around Peru.



Post a Comment

HTML tags you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Shouting from my shed

Get the latest news, updates and happenings via my shed-based newsletter.

© Copyright 2012 – 2016 Alastair Humphreys. All rights reserved.

Site design by JSummertonBuilt by Steve Perry Creative