The shopping begins

This weekend was the first S-Day – Shopping – having looked around London last weekend, and browsed through Ellis Brigham, Snow+Rock, Field & Trek, Blacks, and a few other smaller stores, we had a good idea of the kind of gear we wanted to get first. The key item is of course the rucksack. These are all measured in “Litres” – which is a measure of how much gear you’ll get into them. Last time we went travelling (10 years ago, 2 years round the world, and just the 2 of us) we had one pack each – Sarah’s was 35L (basically what categorises as a day pack now) and mine was 55L (basically a small rucksack for week long trips). We’d managed to do this through our drive to carry as little as possible, and make do with what we have (something we still do today when we go on holiday – four people, two weeks holiday – one suitcase!). Anyway I digress. We did our research and decided that Sarah will use my 55L pack from last time (needs a good wash!) and I’d get a new 75L pack. Lots of questions, trying etc led us to the Osprey Packs rucksacks. We also looked at sleeping bags.

Another Digression: Last time we sold our sleeping bags in Delhi before coming home, to two Israeli’s who were heading to Tibet. It was 41C in Delhi, and they were heading up below zero. We knew our bags weren’t great at that temperature, but they’d do – the Israeli’s were just fixated on getting the cheapest bags possible. They tested the bags by getting in to them, and they thought they we warm enough (should have been – the room was 36C!) and so we parted with two sleeping bags and we got $60. (I bet they were cold in Tibet though!)

For sleeping bags we wanted them to be lightweight, pack up small (because there’s going to be four of them split between two rucksacks), and be warm enough for summer use (basically, when it’s cold we’re going to be staying in hostels, so they won’t have to cope with mega-cold temperatures). We ended up going for Mountain Equipment Firewalker Ultralites, because they packed down smaller than anything we’d seen (26x18cm)

We also considered all of the different shops and decided that we would buy from Ellis Brigham. We were also going to get a pack for Charlotte, so wanted her to come along with us this weekend. We ended up at the Ellis Brigham shop in Milton Keynes, which is in the Xscape building. We’d never been there before – it was a wow for the outdoor stuff – some great clothes shops for outdoor gear, a climbing wall that Charlotte’s keen to try, and a of course the SnowDome.

In the shop one of the sales assistants did the usual “Can I help you“, and off we went – a rucksack for Charlotte, a rucksack for me, a daypack for me (which clips onto the rucksack), Sigg water bottles for the kids and us, 4 sleeping bags, some PacSafe security stuff (to keep the rucksack safe, plus the laptop), Motorola two-way radios (for keeping tabs on the kids when we’re out and about, or they’re playing around a campsite), LED torches (much, much better than the Maglites we used to use – they seemed to eat batteries too quickly, which meant they were always flat when you wanted them), travel towels (smaller, lighter & quicker drying), etc etc etc. The sales assistant was brilliant – it turned out to be Simon, one of the managers, and he kept up a steady flow of really good advice, gave us loads of options and useful advice from his own experience. We looked at clothes (but didn’t buy any), and I also looked at the shoe/boot options (we’re all going to have a single pair of shoes + a single pair of flip-flops) because I want something I can comfortably wear all year, and that won’t give up on me, and don’t look totally like I’ve just hiked in from the mountains. (No joy – something for the future). In the end we spent 2 1/2 hours there, got some great advice, spent £500 and went away very happy. Top marks to Simon!