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Three things I wish I'd taken walking on the South Downs

We got back yesterday from a wonderful four day trip to the South Downs in South East England.  The trip was, in theory, an opportunity for us to check out all of the travel gear we’d been buying and to get a feel for how they performed when tested. In reality, the real driving force behind the trip was to get the three of us (Myself, Dad and Alan) out from behind our relative desks/bars, escape from the city and immerse ourselves in the wonders of the country.

Unfortunately, one of the pesky side-effects of all that wonderful outdoors is the weather.  By being outside you’re, well, outside.  And therefore you’re exposed to whatever the English weather Gods (a temperamental bunch) feel like throwing at you.  They were, it would seem, entirely on board with our plan to test out our walking gear and duly helped us to test our equipment in a multitude of weather.  Thrashing rain? Check.  Lacerating hail? Check.  Glorious sunset? Check.

Walking into the storm

To be fair to the Gods, their efforts were not in vain as we certainly have a much better idea of what our gear can put up with.  But that’s the next story.  Right now I’m going to look at the gear I didn’t take.  What prompted me to kick my soggy self for not bringing it as someone (mentioning no names – Dad) looked smugly on in contented dryness?  Here we go:

1.  Sea to Summit E-vac Dry Sacs

Sea to Summit e-vac Dry Sack

Sea to Summit e-vac Dry Sack

So you’re three hours walk from the nearest pub and the heavens open.  As you stumble along, soggy and chilly, you begin to fantasise about arriving at a warm and welcoming local pub serving excellent food and boasting a great selection of local ales.  You imagine finally getting to peel off your freezing and soaked through trousers (more on that in a moment), scrape your squelching socks off of your feet and put on something altogether warmer and dryer. But wait, your clothes weren’t packed in a Sea to Summit e-vac dry sack?  They were carelessly left unguarded in your backpack to take up more room than necessary AND help soak up some of that lovely rainwater that found it’s way into your pack?  Ok, point well made Dad.  I gotta get me some of those next time.  (I’m also eyeing up the compression sacks for transporting my snuggly yet bulky down jacket to Patagonia, stay tuned for a more in-depth gear list.)

2. Berghaus Paclite Pants

Berghaus Paclite Pants

Berghaus Paclite Pants

Oh how I wish I’d had these with me!  Bless them, my current Berghaus hiking trousers did their best, but we had some serious rain to contend with.  The kind of rain which left my cream trousers absolutely drenched through.  If the fact that they then decided to efficiently direct the rain directly into my socks and shoes wasn’t bad enough, they were rendered see-through in minutes.  Yes, really.

Mr Smug on the other hand whipped out his Berghaus Paclite Pants popped them on over his walking trousers and proceeded to stride along the path, unhampered by squelching shoes or underwear on display. Did I mention they only weight 185g and pack down into a bag little bigger than my girly-sized hands? And they’re on the ‘to buy’ list.

3. Aquapac Compact Camera Cases

Do I have any pictures of this rain storm?  Can I show you how ridiculously limited the visibility was or how silly Alan and I looked when we got all soggy?  Is there any documented proof of Mr. Smug’s purposeful non-damp stride?

Aquapac Waterproof Camera Case

Aquapac Waterproof Camera Case

No, there isn’t because I was too worried about damaging my camera.  A fair concern, given the buckets of water which were coming our way.  But I would have loved to get some photos of the experience and so I wish I’d bought the Aquapac Waterproof Compact Camera Cases which I’d been eyeing up at the Outdoor Show.  We’re off hiking in the Lake District in a couple of weeks and I fully intend to snap our happy faces mid-deluge.  Camera case here I come.

What gear do you wish you’d taken on your adventures? Have you used any of the above items?  Any advice for dealing with Mr Smug?


Photo Friday: Spring is on its way


8 Simple rules for travelling as a couple

8 simple rules for travelling as a couple…


Travelling with your partner can be absolutely amazing. (Here are 10 reasons why) You have someone to share every experience with, to support you when times are tough and to commiserate with you when the trip is over.  It could also be a nightmare.  You’re stuck 24/7 with each other and thrown into some of the most stressful situations you’re likely to have ever come across.  At some point you are likely to be hot, tired, hungry, suffering from jet-lag and/or food poisoning, unable to find anywhere to sleep, strapped to a heavy backpack and battling through throngs of locals trying to sell you yet another woven bracelet.  It is tough and there will inevitably be snappy arguments and intense sulking at some point during your trip.  But how to get your relationship to compliment your travels not ruin it? Of course, every relationship is going to be different, but these are the (sometimes unspoken) rules we use to keep our travel partnership a happy one:

1. Be friends first, a couple second

All good relationships are built on a basis of friendship.  Trust, respect and mutual enjoyment of each other’s company are vital components to any relationship but particularly to a romantic one.  The leap to something more can add extra layer of emotional depth, but also extra opportunities for hurt and arguments.  Sometimes travel is stressful enough without needing to bring in the extra complications.  Maybe the above scenario is not the best time for a “Were you checking him/her out?” or a “Where is this relationship going?” conversation.


2. I can flirt as long as it’s to get extra food

I think this is my favourite of our rules.  We’re both foodies and a sizeable chunk of our relationship has been built up over our shared love of a good meal.  And sometimes, when you’re ordering a burrito it doesn’t hurt to give the guy behind the counter a big smile as you ask if you ask if you can have extra sour cream.  And if batting your eyelids at the guy selling the Italian food gets me extra mozzarella then I’m all for it.  The point is to work out where the boundaries lie within your relationship.  Where do you stop being comfortable about the other’s behaviour?  Get those thoughts out in the open and find out about each other’s comfort zone.  Travel puts you in some new and unexpected situation so it’s worth having an idea of where you stand before it leads to an argument.

3. Learn to be able to ask for space

This rule was one we decided on after moving in together but it’s particularly helpful for the close contact living that comes with travel.  We each have to be able to ask for space from the other without explanation or the risk of upset. Sometimes it’s to cool off mid argument, but mostly it comes from a feeling of just needing to be alone for a little time to feel solitary (in a good way).  I can’t recommend this one enough as way to prevent unnecessary arguments.

4. Check you have shared expectations from the trip

Great Ocean Road

This can apply to any choice of travel partner.  Are you working on the same budget?  Are you interested in the same destinations/sites?  Will you expect to do everything together or will you occasionally go different ways?  Will you stick to private rooms or are you comfortable in dorm rooms?  Get these thoughts out in the open early enough to talk through how you’re going to approach the trip.  You’ll both have a better time as a result.

5. Make time for your relationship

In direct contrast to my first point, sometimes you need to make time to be a couple.  With all of the adventures and meeting new people it’s easy to get neglectful of your relationship.  It’s worth making the effort to spend time together.  Maybe even go on a date!

6. Don’t judge your relationship against others

You’ll meet hundreds of other couples as you travel.  Everyone does it differently; some bicker continuously, others never appear to argue.  Some choose to sleep in private rooms the whole time, others prefer the PDA opportunities of a dorm room.  Some couples are incredibly independent, often doing completely different activities while you’ll find some are joined at the hip.  Don’t let it worry you how others are doing it.  You only have each other’s expectations to live up to.  As long as you’re both happy, don’t feel the need to change a thing.

7. Don’t let money come between you

Money has got to be up there in the top 3 of argument starting topics.   Once again, talk through your budget and get those ideas out in the open (are you sensing a theme here). Decide between you what your budget is and how you’re going to keep track of it.  Will it be set daily, weekly or monthly?  Will you write everything down or type it into a trip budgeting site (the lovely chaps over at Married with Luggage use this fancy system)?  What are you allowed to splurge on?  Anticipate this issue before you become bitter about the way he keeps spending money on, say, bungee jumping.

Rottnest Island, Australia

8. Celebrate your differences and work to your strengths

This is the one that’s taken me the longest to get to grips with.  I’ve been planning for this upcoming trip for nearly two years now.  I’ve been saving my money and working towards what was, for a lot of the time, an undetermined goal.  But Alan doesn’t work like that.  He needs time pressure to get anything done.  He works best when a deadline is breathing down his neck.  His goals need to be shorter term than mine.  On the other hand he has the interest and the patience to search through thousands of websites, comparing and contrasting their deals on titanium cooking pots.  He gets excited at the opportunity to weigh up the different specs of various camping stoves.  He can be relied upon to research the ins and outs of all possible backpacking gadgets and whether or not we actually need them.  Put him in front of a flight deal comparison site though and his attention will wander quicker than you can say “angry birds”.

We have learned to appreciate and value each other for our differences.  In practice it means dividing up the jobs in a way that works for us.  Dalene over at Hecktic travels has written about how they divvy up the labour when they travel.

Every couple is going to be completely different, but we’ve found that working this way is what works for us.  How do you keep the peace when you travel?  Do you have any particular rules to keep your relationship rosy on the road?


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Lunch at my desk


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