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July 2021 Issue
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West Coast tramper and caver Neil Silverwood

Photo: Neil Silverwood

Neil Silverwood enjoys lightweight trips in the hills behind Hokitika.

“It’s a tramper’s paradise with one of the most complex networks of huts and tracks in the country,” he says. “Slowly, year by year, I’m exploring all of the river valleys and loops”. Silverwood usually disappears into the backcountry alone or with his wife for trips between two and 10 days.

I believe that the bigger the pack, the more you’ll end up taking, so smaller is better. For lightweight summer trips, I carry a 40l Macpac Pursuit. It has a simplistic but well-padded harness and is extremely durable – mine is over 20 years old! I throw in an FMC pack liner when it looks like it might rain.

In recent years, a range of new dehy meals has come on the market. I like Absolute Wilderness and Radix. Both are tasty and filling, with compact packaging. Crackers and cheese are a lunch staple and I often eat grits for breakfast – an American breakfast food made from ground corn served with butter and cheese (kind of like polenta or savoury porridge).

Emergency kit and toiletries
For safety, I always bring along my Ocean Signal RescueME PLB1, a very basic first aid kit with pain relief, antiseptic cream and a handful of bandages. I also carry a compass and printout of a Topo50 map in case my phone dies. 

The Trail Designs Ti-Tri is an ultra-lightweight and efficient meths cooker with a titanium one-litre pot. I allow about 150ml of methylated spirits a day for boiling water.

I wear merino longjohns and top with a Macpac micro-fleece and quick-dry shorts. I also carry a lightweight Lowe Alpine raincoat which offers a good compromise between weight and comfort. At nighttime, I’ll wear a Macpac Halo down jacket and fleece pants.

I use the excellent built-in GPS on a Samsung Galaxy S7 which is advertised as waterproof and I’ve had luck using it in less-than-ideal conditions. The Backcountry Navigator XE app has served me well. I also carry a battery pack for longer journeys so that I can use my phone for music, audio books and e-reading. My headlamp of choice is a Petzl Myo, but they are a bit heavy so occasionally I use the lighter Actik.

I’ve started wearing Merrell Moab 2 Vents, they’re a great wide-fit tramping shoe. I do find, though, that compared to traditional tramping boots, they don’t last as long. But they’re far cheaper. I get about 50 days tramping out of a pair.

Sleeping bag
My Exped Ultralight 700 weighs in at just under 1kg. I find it’s warm enough for three seasons and good for spring and autumn trips. In mid-summer, especially on a hut-to-hut trip, I often steal my partner’s bag, which is lighter.

Neil is the author of Caves, which is available in the Wilderness store. Subscribers get a 10 per cent discount.