In Summer 2015 I finally got round to fulfilling a long held ambition of mine - to walk the Pennine Way, England's first long distance trail. Although I have previously walked many parts of the Pennine Way as separate sections, I always wanted to experience it as a single journey from start to finish. As a keen photographer, and occasional wild-camper, I wanted to produce a gallery of images taken entirely on this one trip. I had not done anything independently on this scale before, so a lot of planning and research was required. Based on that research, and along with the practical experience I gained on my journey, I have come up with a list of my Top Ten Tips for Back-Packing Photographers. Hopefully others may find it useful for this, or indeed any other, back-packing trek. So here it is:
• Travel light. Enjoyment decreases as weight increases. I would suggest you aim to keep below 10 Kg (excluding water) for all your gear.
• Take enough water. If you cannot replenish on the way, you may well find yourself having to carry up to 3 litres for the day (that’s another 3Kg in weight!) Another solution is to use a water filtration system such as the Sawyer Mini - I would only use this as a supplementary/backup resource, due to the risk of potential clogging or damage.
• Camera outfit – I recommend taking one camera with one zoom lens, the lighter the better. I used a Fujifilm X-T1 with an 18-135mm lens. This covers a medium-wide to medium-telephoto range of focal lengths, and has the added advantage of being weather-resistant – a useful feature on the Pennine Way. My only accessory was a circular polarising filter, which conveniently doubles as a mild neutral density filter. A lightweight weather-proof bag, or even a dry-bag, for added protection. Combined photo kit weight: approx 1Kg.
• Take enough battery power. I took 10 – batteries are the Achilles heel of Fujifilm X series cameras and, when wild camping, you will have few opportunities to re-charge them.
• Carry only what you really need. Here's my **Essential Gear** list: 55 litre rucksack, waterproof rucksack cover, ultra-light tent, 3 season sleeping bag and silk liner, ¾ length sleeping mat, enough food to see you to your next feeding station/shop, plus one contingency meal (well, you never know...) waterproof jacket x 1, waterproof trousers x 1, warm mid-layer fleece x 1, spare merino underwear x 1, merino socks x 1, Sealskinz waterproof gloves, anti-midge head-net, dry bags x 2 (22l and 13l), basic wash-kit, toiletries and a lighter. 2.5 litre Camelbak, plus 1 litre bottle. Everything else is worn on your person so yes, very soon you will be rather fragrant! Optional extras: Ultra-light stove and kettle/cooking pot combination; mini gaiters - they may not keep out all moisture if the trails are very wet, but I recommend their ability to prevent stones and grit getting inside your footwear.
• A Smartphone is invaluable for checking the weather forecast and its GPS function is potentially a good backup to confirm your location, if you are lost and/or you need to call /text in an emergency. Keep the phone in ‘Flight Mode’ and it should last up to 7-14 days on a full charge depending on your model. A good compass and map is a prerequisite - I used the set of three Harvey Maps which cover the complete Pennine Way - these are much lighter than Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps and they are also waterproof.
• Remember to use your phone to check in periodically – it is good practice to ensure someone knows where you are each day and where you are aiming for next.
• Have a ‘weather-eye’ – many parts of the Pennine Way can be quite exposed, even in the summer months. Knowing the forecast helps you plan your day and within reason time your journey, so that you make the most of the prevailing weather conditions and especially take advantage of the best light. In summer, it is best to start early in the day and finish late into the evening - this dovetails well with wild-camping best practice where the aim is that you leave no trace of your presence. An added advantage of an early start and late finish is that you can avoid the hotter part of the day by taking a siesta, and still meet your mileage target for the day.
• Take a basic Medical and Repair Kit. This is essential for emergency repairs to tent/equipment/clothing and especially your feet! My kit: Duck tape, safety pins, a needle and tough thread, pen knife, foot oil, a blister kit comprising blister stick, moleskin and zinc oxide tape, antiseptic wipes, water purification tablets.
• Notebook and pen. For recording location details, ideas, thoughts, descriptions of the ‘here and now’. In my experience you will not remember all of this later!
The above is not an exhaustive list - but it worked well for me, and I continue to use it as a start-point for subsequent photography/wild-camping trips. A selection of the 900+ photographs I made on this trip, presented in strict chronological order can be seen here. I hope you enjoy looking at them. If you have any comments, questions or constructive criticism, please get in touch.