My Complete Hadrian’s Wall Trail Packing List

In July 2017, I spent six days walking the length of the Hadrian’s Wall Trail, in northern England. From Wallsend in the Newcastle suburbs, to Bowness on the Solway estuary, the trail follows the path of a 2000-year-old Roman wall for 84 miles across the country.

I’ve put together a separate guide to walking Hadrian’s Wall, but wanted to devote one post solely to the gear I took. Even though the trail is relatively short by the standards of long-distance hikes, the weather in that part of the world can make it tricky to know exactly what to take.

Here’s what I packed, what I left behind, and how well those choices worked over the course of my week in the English countryside. This wasn’t a camping trip — I stayed mainly in bunkhouses, and ate at pubs and cafes along the route — so the gear list reflects that.

Note that this post is broken it up into several sections — if you’re only interested in a particular part, you can skip straight to it.



 

Backpack

Dave with backpack, Hadrian's Wall Trail

I’ve used a few different backpacks for long-distance hikes over the years, but hadn’t been fully satisfied with any of them. For this walk, then, I bought something new: the Osprey Talon 44.

Small enough to use as carry-on with most airlines (even Easyjet had no problem with it), it’s a mid-sized, top-loading hiking pack with a 44 litre capacity. The internal frame added much-needed stability, yet the pack was still light enough at 1.1kg (2 lbs 7 oz) that it didn’t feel like a burden before I started putting gear in it.

I’ll be writing up a full review soon, but in short, I grew to love this pack over the course of the walk. While I didn’t need the full capacity, since I wasn’t carrying a sleeping bag or other camping gear, the spare room made packing a breeze each morning.

The side mesh pockets were ideal for things like a water bottle and guide book that I’d need throughout the day, and I used the larger pocket on the back to stow my long-sleeved top when the weather warmed up, or my wet poncho when the rain stopped. Snacks lived in the top lid, which meant I could quickly grab them without having to open up the main part of the bag.

The harness was comfortable even after walking for several hours, and after a bit of readjustment at the start of the second day, the waist straps were too. Crucially, there was enough airflow between my body and the pack to prevent back sweat.

With compression straps to secure larger loads, and a bunch of hooks and attachment points for things like hiking poles, plus larger items like tents and sleeping mats, I’d have no problem using the pack for short camping trips either.

Many walkers stay in campsites along this trail, and I saw several people carrying large (80+ liter) packs full of food and equipment. For those not camping — and especially, not self-catering — though, something like the Talon holds more than enough gear for a hike like this. Mine was two-thirds full at best, and it made for a much easier walk.

It turned out to be a great pack for this kind of trail, and I’ll be using it for many more long walks in the future.

 

Clothing

When it comes to clothing, picking the right shoes and socks is vital, and as I’ve discovered from painful experience in the past, underwear matters too. In terms of other clothes, I took three sets, along with things to protect me from hot, cold and wet weather, and it was the right amount.

 

Shoes

Camino shoes

I’ve used Merrell’s Vertis Ventialor hiking shoes for all of my long walks over the last few years, purchased from Decathlon in Spain. Very similar to Merrell’s Moab Ventilator range elsewhere in the world, this was my second pair, and they were well-worn to say the least. Probably too much so, really — the soles had lost some of their padding over time, which likely contributed to the blister and foot abrasions I picked up after a long first day on pavement.

In general, though, I like these shoes a lot. The soles have plenty of grip even on slippery surfaces, and are comfortable even after hour of walking. They were water-resistant enough to keep out puddles and light rain, yet sufficiently breathable for my feet to not get too sweaty on hot days.

Not being fully waterproof, though, they did start letting the rain in after several hours of bad weather on my third day. That was a price I was happy to pay — I’m not a fan of waterproof shoes unless I know I’ll be walking in cold, wet conditions a lot, as my feet don’t enjoy the lack of airflow that comes with them.

Unless you really need the ankle support, there’s no need for hiking boots on Hadrian’s Wall Trail. Much of the walking is on flat grass or dirt trails, and while there’s a bit of rocky uphill and downhill in the middle sections, it’s rarely very steep — and steps have been cut into the rocks if so. I had no problems in these shoes, and my feet appreciated the lighter footwear on hot days.

I also took a pair of flip-flops that I wore in the evening. After walking 25-30km most days, I had no interest in putting my hiking shoes back on again until I absolutely had to. Comfortable alternatives were a must.

 

Shirts

T-shirts

I kept things simple with my shirts, buying a couple of quick-dry versions on sale from Nike and Salomon a while back. They looked more like normal t-shirts than dedicated running gear, giving the option of wearing them at night without feeling liked I’d just stepped off the trail. This isn’t the exact same shirt, but it’s pretty close.

I also packed a soft cotton t-shirt, that only got put on after a shower in the evenings. Nicer to wear (and especially, to sleep it) than quick-dry gear, I appreciated it a lot. On a short walk like this, with cool conditions at night, I didn’t need to wash it — handy, since cotton takes a lot longer to dry.

 

Socks

Camino socks

I knew that good socks were crucial for avoiding blisters, so I took my usual three pairs of Icebreaker merino wool hiking socks, and two pairs of cotton ankle-length socks. I always wore two pairs — the cotton socks as an inner layer, and a merino pair on the outside.

The merino socks, as always, were great. They were very comfortable, and kept my feet warm on cold days, cool on hot ones. They do take a little longer to dry than you might expect, but since most of the bunkhouses had heated drying rooms, I just hung them up in there overnight. Even after the rainy day that soaked right through my footwear, they were bone dry in the morning.

I’d highly recommend merino wool socks for any long walk. They’re not cheap, but you only have one pair of feet to get you through, and blisters can quickly ruin the experience.

 

Underwear

Packing list - underwear

Having learned my lesson about chafing on previous walks, I’d invested in three pairs of Under Armour boxer briefs, with a 6″ inseam.

The company also makes a 3″ inseam version, but for me at least, those have been more prone to riding up and causing chafing after a few hours on the trail in the past. These longer ones were much better, and I had no problems at all. They also dried super-fast, even after hand-washing in a sink. Definitely recommended.

 

Shorts and Pants

Shorts and pants

I took a pair of good hiking shorts, an ’emergency’ pair of running shorts, and some quick-dry long pants, and that was all I needed.

Around a year ago, I picked up a pair of Eider quick-dry shorts very similar to this, and they’ve performed well on all my hikes since. They’re comfortable, with an inbuilt, adjustable belt, and plenty of pockets for stuffing little bits and pieces during the day. The back pocket was wide and deep enough to hold my guidebook for this hike, which I definitely appreciated.

If it’s hard to find Eider gear where you are, Columbia has also been making good hiking shorts for years.

The running shorts were only for emergency use in case I ripped or lost my main pair, and I thankfully never had to wear them. On all my other hikes, I’ve worn quick-dry long pants at night, but I was spoiled on Hadrian’s Wall. Because we were travelling throughout the UK before and after the hike, we needed to ship a bag of non-hiking gear from place to place so we’d have it at the end. As a result, I had the luxury of a pair of jeans in the evening instead. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty nice.

I still carried the quick-dry pants each day, though, in case it got particularly cold while hiking. There were a couple of mornings where I toyed with starting out with them on, but in the end didn’t need to. My pair don’t convert to shorts, which is fine, but it’s something I’ll consider when buying their replacements. Mine is a cheap pair from Decathlon, but again, Columbia makes good ones.

 

Long-Sleeved Top

Dave at Limestone corner, Hadrian's Wall Trail

I picked up a long-sleeved Icebreaker merino wool top several years ago, and have taken it on every hike since. It’s thin but warm, weighs hardly anything, and despite all the abuse it’s received, is still going strong.

I started out most mornings with it on, over top of a t-shirt. On warmer days, it was soon stowed in a backpack pocket, but on cooler ones, I wore it for much or all of the walk.

The Icebreaker range comes in different styles and designs — try to pick something that’s not entirely ugly, so you can wear it out to dinner if the weather isn’t great.

 

Cap

Dave - cap, pack and guidebook, Hadrian's Wall

As I’ve discovered in the UK in the past, it’s surprisingly easy to get burned when the sun makes an appearance. It’s a particular problem for me, since I shave my head, so some form of protection for my head is vital.

I bought an Quecha-brand cap from Decathlon, which had a normal brim, but mesh strips down the sides to let in some air. I grew to really like that feature — my head often gets too hot inside a cap, but with the breeze coming in, it was far less of a problem.

Caps like these are also useful when the rain sets in. My poncho has a hood, but if I put the cap on my head first, it helps keep most of the rain off my face. Sure, it looks stupid, but I’d rather be drier and look silly than soaked and slightly-more stylish.

 

Sunglasses

Dave - sunglasses, Hadrian's Wall

I used an old pair of Oakley sunglasses on this walk — I wouldn’t have wanted to lose or break them, but they’re scratched enough that it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I had. They worked well, and the thin stems meant I didn’t have the half-inch tan line on either side of my face that I’ve ended up with on previous walks.

Whichever glasses you wear, I’d suggest taking a decent hard case for them as well. When the sun isn’t shining, it makes sense to keep the glasses in your pack, but that’s also the perfect place to squash or break them if they’re unprotected.

 

Poncho

Camino poncho

When it comes to staying dry, most long-distance walkers use one of two approaches: a poncho that covers them and their backpack, or a pack cover and rain jacket combo (plus sometimes, rain pants). My pack didn’t come with a rain cover, and a poncho requires less messing around getting set up as you’re being rained on, so that’s what I went with.

The Arpenaz model I bought from Decathlon is sturdier than other cheap ponchos, which means it won’t rip or tear easily, and doesn’t flap around unless the wind is really howling. It’s a bit heavier, sure, but staying dry is worth the extra 290 grams to me.

Even though this poncho is intended for a 40 litre pack, it fitted over my 44 litre model just fine, and still covered my body down to the bottom of my shorts. Even with the several hours of wind and rain we got on our third day, neither my pack nor any part of me covered by the poncho ever got even slightly damp.

If you don’t live near a Decathlon store, pick up something like this instead.

 

Stuff Sack

Camino stuff sack

To organise my clothes, I used this Hoboroll stuff sack. It has five compartments inside, which I used to separate clean and dirty items. Even though I didn’t really need to use the compression straps to fit everything inside my pack on this walk, they still help keep the bundle nice and small.

Having all my clothes in one place made packing and unpacking easier, especially if I needed to grab something at the bottom of my bag. I could just lift the Hoboroll straight out, grab what I wanted, and put it back again in a few seconds.

 

Sleeping

Packing list - sleeping

All of the places we stayed were able to supply bedding, so there was no need to pack a sleeping bag. I did take my silk liner, just in case I needed the extra warmth or there was a mix-up with linen hire, but in the end I didn’t need to use it.

One thing I learned about the north of England, though, is that in summer, the sun rises early. Like, starts-getting-light-before-5am early. Combine that with thin or non-existent curtains in bunkhouses, and you’ve got a recipe for not much sleep.

The same applies even more so to noise. While we were extremely lucky not to have anyone else in our bunkrooms during our walk, that’s highly unusual — and even so, I was still woken up one night by the sound of someone snoring from the room next door.

 

Silk Liner

My silk liner is the oldest piece of travel gear I own. I’ve had it around two decades, but it’s still going strong. I lost the proper bag for it years ago, but a ziploc works just fine.

Good silk liners aren’t cheap, so if you don’t know you’ll have a need for one on this walk or another, save your money for something else. If you do drop the cash on a quality one, though, you’ll likely find it lasts forever. When the time eventually comes to replace mine, it’ll be with one like this.

 

Earplugs

I always travel with earplugs like these, and I wouldn’t sleep in shared accommodation without them They’re designed for use around car races and heavy machinery, which in my experience, is enough to drown out all but the most extreme snorers.

 

Eye Mask

Given how early the sun rose, an eye mask was essential if I wanted a full night’s sleep. I got mine from an airline toiletry pack years ago, but they’re cheap to buy if you don’t already have one.

 

Food and Water

Hadrian's Wall Trail, bacon baguette

With hearty breakfasts the norm, and since you’re rarely more than a couple of hours from a cafe or pub while walking Hadrian’s Wall, there’s no need to carry much in the way of food. Only once did I get a packed lunch from my accommodation, since I suspected the only pub between me and my destination would be closed that day (it was).

I typically ate breakfast at my accommodation — either it was included, or available for a small fee — and it was usually of the large, artery-clogging ‘Full English’ variety. Lunches and dinners were in pubs, cafes and (in the cities) restaurants along the way. As I mention in my main guide, it’s worth checking opening and food serving hours ahead of time, though. Pubs, especially, don’t usually do hot food all day, and many close one day a week.

Water fountains are available in some villages along the way, but I just asked cafe or pub owners to fill my bottle when I stopped in for a drink or food.

 

Water Bottle

While I usually use a one litre Camelbak Chute water bottle on my hikes, I didn’t have space for it in my carry-on for this trip. Instead, I just bought a standard 1.5 litre bottle of water from the supermarket, and recycled it at the end. It was nowhere near as durable, but for a week-long walk, it was fine.

 

Roll-Up Water Container

Roll-up water bottle

I also had this tiny roll-up water container as a backup, which holds 700mls when unfurled. I didn’t expect to need it, but it was so small and light, I was happy to take it with me. As expected, it stayed in the bottom of my bag the entire time.

 

Snack Bars

Camino snack bars

I picked up a six-pack of snack bars from Tesco the day before the walk, along with a large pack of peanuts, so I’d always have something to eat if necessary. I got through most of it by the end, and it was good to have that little energy boost when I started to flag at the end of long days.

 

First Aid Kit

First-aid kit

With pharmacies in the cities at either end of the walk, plus basic first-aid supplies available elsewhere along the way, I carried only what I considered the bare minimum of first-aid equipment. For anything serious, it would never have been hard to get off the trail and take a taxi to the nearest doctor or hospital.

 

Ibuprofen

I took a pack of ten 600mg Ibuprofen tablets in case of swelling or blisters. While I didn’t use any of them, Lauren took a couple when her feet started giving her a hard time. I bought them in Spain, where 600mg is a standard strength, but that’s higher than you’ll find in many other countries. Maybe take a few extra tablets if that’s the case in your part of the world.

 

Immodium

Just in case I ate or drank something that violently disagreed with me, I took a few tabs of Immodium to help me get to the next bathroom. Thankfully, I didn’t need to use them.

 

Multi-Purpose Ointment

I picked up this multi-purpose ointment in Australia a few years ago. It’s a combination antiseptic and pain relief, for treating insect bites, minor wounds, and burst blisters. We didn’t use it on this walk, but I’d always hike with it regardless.

 

Bandaids

Bandaids were most useful for putting over blisters and abrasions, and we got through plenty of them. I picked up a multi-size pack from a Boots pharmacy ahead of time, but any pack that has an assortment of waterproof ones is fine. The waterproofing is definitely useful, as otherwise the bandaids will just slip off when your feet get wet from rain or sweat.

 

Tweezers and Safety Pin

I packed a pair of tweezers for removing splinters or thorns, and a safety pin in case I needed to pop a blister or something equally gross. Luckily, neither had to come out of their bag.

 

Container

The plastic container used to live in my kitchen drawer. Its main claims to fame are that it’s small, and the lid closes tightly enough to keep water out. That’s it.

 

Toiletries

Packing list - toiletries

I kept toiletries to a minimum, while still being able to walk into a pub without everyone turning around to see where the smell was coming from.

 

Lush Soap

Most of the bunkhouses and hotels supplied shower gel, but when they didn’t, I used a bar of this Lush soap instead. This stuff smells good and lasts forever, and the company also sells a small metal box to keep it in — much better than dropping damp soap in your toilet bag!

 

Roll-On Deodorant

Since roll-on deodorant is smaller and lasts longer than spray or stick, that’s what I took.

 

Toothbrush and Toothpaste

I bought a standard toothbrush, with a little plastic cover to make it slightly less gross in my toilet bag. The toothpaste had a screw-on lid, so it wouldn’t go everywhere in my bag.

 

Laundry Liquid

While some bunkhouses had washing machines and dryers available, hand-washing clothes was part of my routine most days. I used Dr Beckmann travel wash to do it with, and was impressed — it did a better job than other brands I’ve tried.

 

Sunscreen

The sunscreen I took was small, light and had an SPF of 50, so I never got burned even when I was out in the sun for several hours.

 

Safety Razor

I didn’t plan to shave during this walk, but took a razor just in case my beard got too itchy. It didn’t.

 

Toiletry Bag

My usual travel toilet bag was fine for Hadrian’s Wall. Almost any type would do, so long as it has a fabric loop or plastic hook to hang it up in bunkroom showers. Having a hook on the bag is useful — I sometimes needed to hang it over the cubicle door, as there was no other way to keep it off the floor.

 

Technology

Packing list - technology

When it came to tech, I wanted to take as little as possible, both to help appreciate the experience more, and to keep the weight down. Here’s how it worked out.

 

4-Way USB Charger

A four-way USB charger like this makes you pretty popular in shared accommodation. It has adapters for all major socket types, including the UK, and lets several people charge their phone, Kindle or other USB gadgets from a single socket. I like mine a lot.

 

Fitbit

I used my Fitbit to roughly track how far I walked each day, as well as tell the time and set a silent (ie, vibrating) alarm. Since it doesn’t use GPS, the distances were only estimates — but when combined with a map, they were close enough to get a good idea of how far it was to the nearest town or food stop.

 

Portable Battery

On other long walks I’ve done, there was always pressure on power sockets, so I took a portable battery to make sure I could charge my phone each night. Since there was nobody else in our bunkhouses, I didn’t have the same problem on Hadrian’s Wall.

Even so, I’d recommend taking one of these gadgets with you. They’re small, light and cheap enough now to justify the peace of mind they provide.

 

Smartphone

My Google Nexus 5x was my  camera, map and entertainment rolled into one, although I used it far more for taking photos than anything else. My Portuguese SIM card gave me calls, texts and data almost everywhere I checked it along the route (yay for free EU roaming!), and you can buy a prepaid UK SIM in Newcastle or Carlisle if you do need one. That said, there was Wi-fi in every hotel and bunkhouse I stayed in, along with most pubs.

Keeping the phone in flight mode whenever I was walking meant there was little chance of running out of battery during the day, and I was very happy with the photos I took.

 

Cables

I took an extra-long USB-C cable, which I greatly appreciated whenever the power socket was halfway up a wall or miles away from my bed. The other small cables were for charging the Fitbit and battery if they needed it. Wouldn’t it be nice if they all used the same plug type?

 

Noise-Isolating Earphones

I didn’t have as much time to relax in the evening as on previous long walks, mainly because I was starting out later in the day. Still, when I did have a bit of spare time, I’d dig out my Shure earphones, block out the world, and relax on the bed with music or podcasts for a while.

 

Miscellaneous

Packing list - misc

I tried not to get too carried away with “extras”, as they all took up space and added weight. Here’s what made the cut.

 

Guide Book

We used the “Hadrian’s Wall Path” guide by Trailblazer, and it was excellent. It’s a very useful size (as mentioned, it fitted in my back pocket), with cute large scale, hand-drawn maps that made it almost impossible to get lost.

There was plenty of information about the towns and villages we passed through, and the history of the wall and its surroundings. The latest edition had just come out when I bought it, so prices and other details were highly accurate, and it was written in an accessible, lighthearted tone.

It’s the first time I’ve used a Trailblazer guide, but as the company publishes several similar walking and trekking books for the UK and around the world, I suspect it won’t be the last.

 

Travel Towel

While towels were provided in hotels, most bunkhouses tended to charge for them. As a result, I used my travel towel around half the time, and was glad I packed it. You can get quick-dry microfiber travel towels of various sizes — I opted for this smallish one, that had a piece of elastic sewn in to help compress it into a small ball.

Although it wasn’t big enough to wrap around my waist, it was more than ample to quickly dry myself after a shower. When I hung it up on the line or over the end of the bed, the towel itself was dry inside an hour.

 

Toilet Paper

I took a half-roll of toilet paper in a ziploc bag, in case I got caught short somewhere there was no paper (or toilet, for that matter). I didn’t need to use it, but it was a nice insurance policy.

 

Ziploc Bags

I bought a pack of medium sized (3 litre) ziploc bags before I left, to store things like my snacks and passport. Since I had a few left over, I took them with me. I’d have put my journal and electronics in them if I’d really got caught in nasty weather, but things never got anywhere near that bad.

 

Journal and Pens

I had a Moleskine journal already, and took it and a couple of pens along to record a daily diary.

 

Clothes Line and Pegs

Rather than buying an expensive travel clothesline, a couple of years ago I found a place that sold climbing rope by length, and bought about six feet of it. I only needed to use it once, to make an impromptu clothesline between a couple of bunks to finish drying some damp socks.

I used the pegs more often, to hang wet laundry on existing clotheslines at bunkhouses. For some reason, pegs always seemed to be in short supply — and with the persistent wind, my clothes would likely have ended up back in Newcastle if I hadn’t pinned them down.

 

But What About The…?

I’m not going to go into every possible thing I could have taken but chose not to — this post is long enough already — but there are three items worth mentioning.

 

Dry Bag

I’ve taken dry bags on long hikes in the past, and never used them. I was concerned about the higher chance of rain on this walk, but had faith in my poncho to keep my pack — and everything in it — safe even if the heavens opened. When the inevitable rain came, my socks were soaking by the end of the day, but everything in my bag was bone dry.

 

Walking Poles

I’m not a huge believer in walking poles, although I’ve used them on occasion when I’ve had minor knee problems before starting a hike. Unless I’m walking a particularly up-and-down route, or recovering from an injury, the benefit rarely outweighs the hassle. They’re just one more thing to carry, set up, and try not to leave behind after lunch!

Around half of the other walkers I saw on the trail were carrying poles, but I didn’t miss mine. The route was generally flat, and the few steep sections were short, almost always with stone steps. For me, at least, leaving the pole at home was the right choice.

 

Camera

My camera isn’t particularly large, but it’s too big to fit in a pocket, which means there’s no easy way to keep it accessible without buying yet more dedicated gear. It’s something else to charge and protect from damage, plus the combined weight of the camera, charger and cable is noticeable in my bag.

Since my phone takes surprisingly good landscape shots, that’s what I’ve used on all my long walks so far. I haven’t regretted it yet.

 

So What Did I Learn From All of This?

As with many other things in life, when it comes to packing for the Hadrian’s Wall Trail, less is more. Especially if you’re not camping or self-catering, you’ll find that beyond a bare minimum of stuff, the smaller and lighter your backpack is, the more enjoyable your walk will be.

While the path is generally soft and flat, there are some long stretches on pavement, especially if you’re planning to walk the trail in less than a week. Your back and shoulders will be much happier if you’ve got a good backpack, and if you only put a few kilos of stuff in it, your feet will be thrilled as well.

With the next town or village never more than a few hours away, most things can be purchased when and if you need them. Take smaller amounts of the “essentials”, and leave all the “maybes” at home.

You don’t need much in the way of technical gear to walk this trail. A good pair of walking shoes, woolen socks and quick-dry underwear and shirts, a lightweight, supportive backpack, and solid protection from rain, cold and sunshine, are pretty much it. Everything else you need or want, you’re likely to already have around the house, or be able to pick up at your local supermarket.

So, the final word. Do your research, pick your equipment and buy whatever you need — but don’t obsess over it, and know you don’t need to look like a walking outdoor catalogue to finish and enjoy your Hadrian’s Wall experience. It’s a relatively short and straightforward walk, and with a little planning and basic equipment, you’ll complete it safe, sound and happy.

Good luck!

 

If you’ve got any comments or questions about gear for walking the Hadrian’s Wall Trail, leave them below — I’m happy to answer anything I can.

Also, if you found this useful and would like to help me out, please consider using the links in this post when purchasing from Amazon. You’ll pay the same price, and I’ll get a few dollars to put towards my next long walk!

 

Enjoyed this post? Pin it on Pinterest!

My Complete Hadrian's Wall Trail Packing List

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *