Home / Articles / What's in my pack

What’s in my pack: Author Nic Low

Image of the December 2021 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
December 2021 Issue

Nic Low is the author of Uprising, in which he traces the first crossings of the Southern Alps by his Ngāi Tahu forebears.

“I work in seven-year blocks, swinging between being a full-time writer and artist (dirtbag), and working relatively well-paid jobs,” he says. “With income, I stock up on the expensive stuff, and when I’m writing, I improvise, hack and booty my gear.” 

Here are a few of the high-priced and ultra-budget bits of gear that helped Low cross the Alps.


I take a street-photography approach to shooting my trips with a Panasonic LUMIX LX5 slung around my neck. 

It’s got a fast wide lens and is small, light and bullet-proof. While others have nicer cameras, I often get better shots simply because the camera is always ready to go. 


In serious terrain, I use a Macpac Prophet but otherwise I use a minimalist Mountain Designs Gore-Tex Paclite jacket, a fraction too small, picked up in aMelbourne op shop for $7. 


I went through so many different pairs of gloves before I found the High Camp three-finger gloves from Outdoor Research. They’re super warm and you can still tie knots and operate zips and point at scary or exciting things.

Sleeping kit

I recently upgraded to a NeoAir Xlite. So light, compact and comfy, though I don’t quite trust its durability yet. I use a Macpac Express 400 sleeping bag most of the year (I love the warm 800-loft down).


Walking the old Ngāi Tahu trails was about research as much as getting from A to B. I moved slowly, stopping to read and write for hours at a time. I rarely made it to huts and just camped wherever I ended up each day. My Tarp-tent Stratospire 2 was my home-away-from home. It weighs 1200g and it’s huge, even for two people. It uses walking poles for supports and has done well in some decent storms.


I live mostly in Icebreaker and Mountain Designs merinos. But my favourite piece of clothing is a light poly-cotton hoodie from American Apparel inherited from a flatmate in Melbourne. It’s done years of service keeping the sun off me on climbs at Mt Arapiles or crossing glaciers in the Southern Alps. 


I used an 80l Macpac travel pack I’d bought when I was 21 for travelling around Europe. I’d cut off all the extraneous straps, zips and buckles, sewn on ice axe loops and never given it a second thought. Then, when I was writer-in-residence at Seattle’s City of Literature, 

I spotted a 60l Mountainsmith Auspex in mint condition in an op shop for $10. 

I left my old Macpac to one of the local homeless people. I’m sure it’s still being used.  


I’ve long used an MSR Whisperlite International because I don’t like the waste of fuel canisters, but have recently fallen in love with the Soto Windmaster because it weighs 85g, requires no faff, and works well in windy conditions. I eat everything with a titanium Light My Fire spork, which is the best thing I’ve ever bought.  

Down jacket

For everything except winter, I use a Kathmandu ultralight down jacket with 800 loft power. I picked it up as a second for $80 due to discoloured sleeves, but it’s so grubby now you’d never notice. 


Kobo Mini: a month’s battery life, 134g, thousands of books, and cost $40 new.