My love of Alpkit goes way back to when I was asked to create a Mountain Journal Short withAlpkiteer film maker, Dom Bush. The brand was relatively new to me and I was dead excited to be one of the first womento try out the Lotic wetsuit as we jumped into the icy waters around the North Skye coastline.Whilst the gear was seriously good, it was the ethos of 'Go Nice Places, Do Good Things' that made me really happy to become involved with the brand, so when I was asked to become an Aplkiteer recently I was chuffed to bits.
I exchanged my London life for the Isle of Skye back in 2015.I will always love the city I grew up in, but I needed to be somewhere closer to nature; nearmountains and places surrounded by the sea. I think many of us have an elemental attraction to islands and that escapism is something I'm able to indulge here.Finding quiet or unusual places to get off-grid and connect with nature is the thing that makes memost happy. Spending time doing things like wildlife spotting, sleeping under the stars and foraging or building with natural materials makes me feel like a big kid and has got to be one of the mostjoyful ways to manage mental and physical health.
Although I was excited to be asked to be an Alpkiteer it wasn't expected.I rely on my Alpkit gear for every outing but I'm a bushcrafter rather than a boulderer. Of course, it's just as valid a way of getting outside as any sport, even though it's a bit different from the accomplishments of my fellow Alpkiteers.While I don't yet haveany race medals or aworld's first, there isone title that I might just be in the running for:most nights spent sleeping on an AlpkitDozer mattress! Okay, it's hardly medal-worthy stuff but the relationships we have with our gear often plays a hugepart in our outdoor experiences. I'm proud to have stuff that's been well-used, well-loved and that I've appreciated, especially in anera of cheap consumerism where so many outdoor items are considered disposable.Howeverscuffed, burned or stained my gear is, it's worked for me and packing it up for a new trip feels a bit likerevisiting old friends. Not only does my gear help keep mewarm andfeed me, it facilitates my dreams and adventures. We all know the kid-at-Christmas excitement of getting new gear but I'm sure we all have ourtrusted favourite items that we just can't bear to part with.
Aside from their reliability, they're reminders of the adventures we've had and the memoriesinstilled in them. I can't be alone at looking at my gear and seeing stories. That Dozer mattress, for instance, was my bed while I lived in the woods for a year completely off-grid and disconnected to the outside world – no modern pressures, no work emails, no bills. The catch, of course, was that it was a reality telly project, a fickle thing, but I felt it was worth thetrade-off. Upon arrival at the 600-acre compound we were issued with basic bedding. I pulled my mattressfrom the bag and recognised the Alpkit logo. A little bit of familiarity in a very unusual situation! Over the next twelve months, my Dozer went through more use than any other bit of outdoor gearI've ever owned. At the beginning it kept me warm when sleeping on cold, damp Scottish sand then it managed tosurvive the splinters of a rough handmade bed frame. By the end it had managed to keep me ascomfortable as a regular indoor mattress. I slept, ate, carved, chatted and consoledon my Dozer.It was the centre of the little moss-roofed 'Hobbit House' that became my home. I'm used to expensive inflatable mattresses popping within a few nights of me using thembut this hero only needed one teeny patch-up after about 7months of being manhandled and trampled by humans and animals alike (yes, animals... did you know that goats particularly like walking on soft and bouncy things?!).
If my mattress was a person it would be one of those weathered veterans staring into the middle-distance, saying quietly, “yeah man, I've seen some stuff."
Ditto alot of my other gear, too. During that same year, my down jacket was the piece ofclothing that kept me toasty away from the luxury of central heating. I once ripped it whilst chopping wood but it's a testament to quality in that it's the one item of clothingthat survived that experience and is still wearable!
A year in the woods with knives, axes, fire and brambles is the ultimate way to test kit but it's notthe only story my gear has to tell. There's my big DryDock bag which holds all the kit required in case I get called out to a whale,dolphin or seal rescue. I'm a BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic in a wildlife-rich area and it's just the right size to hold mywetsuit, medical kit, warm gear and everything else that needs to be kept to hand in the back of mycar. The tough, waterproof material means I can chuck it down on the rocks and seaweed withoutripping it or getting the papers inside wet and I don't need to be precious with it. It's seen methrough easy call-outs with good results and day-long ones with more tragic endings.
Last year I spent 38 days on an uninhabited archipelago with no human contact (my 40 day goalwas scuppered after being hospitalised for concussion–long story!). Living amongst a few hundred thousand seabirds was one of the most extraordinary experiences ofmy life but, unsurprisingly, the early spring weather was less than accommodating. On a precipitous rocky outcrop in the middle of the sea, 'April showers' feel more like standing in a mechanised carwash. I had two weeks with virtually no respite and it would have been miserable had I not been able torely on one of my simplest bits of kit: my Airlok drybags. Everything I had with me was packed in these bags, from my journal to the flour I used to makemyself bread each day. When I'd dash back into my self-built shelter, soaked from head-to-toe, theknowledge that all my stuff was protected kept my motivation high.Drybags aren't glamorous or particularly technical but I think we all know how good a pair of freshdry socks is for keeping the spirits up!
My Airloks are in use again for my current challenge: visiting all of Great Britain's82 Islands over 5km2. I'm bivvying, doing a beach clean and swimon each island.One of the main aims of the trip is to show how each island has a unique character and how, if weslow down and take care, we get so much more out of our stay and we're more inclined to connectwith the place and want to leave no trace (LNT).
LNT is a subject that's close to my heart since every summer we see a huge influx of tourists toSkye and with that often comes the litter and campfire scorch marks from unexperienced campers.I'm a big believer that camp fires should be a luxury and that a stove is a more efficient way to cook a meal or heat water. Recently getting an Alpkit BruKit has made everything especially easy andthe well-contained flame means that there's no risk of my stove leaving ugly black scorch marks onthe unspoilt landscape. Plus, a quick cuppa tea is always a winner! I've also recently adopted a couple of new adventure buddies who aren't quite as used to the coldweather as I am... Chihuahuas aren't exactly the first type of dog you think of when it comes tooutdoor living and for good reason as they get cold really quickly.
But it turns out that myBruKit comes in most handy when it only takes a couple of minutes to make a hot water bottle fortwo tiny puppers who aren't used to chilly Scottish mornings. Those mornings become fond memories and the gear that's there with us is a kind of supportingcast. Take this moment last week: waking up (on myDozer) warm and dry (in a Hunka bivvy bag) in a beautifully russet-colouredScottish glen, enjoying a cup of tea (BruKit) and listening to the roaring rutting stags whilst my dogs snuggle besideme on my jacket (Heiko) kept warm by a hot water bottle (Brukit again).Good kit becomes something that we're proud of, something we're happy to recommend tofriends and something that we're happy to share the stories of.
Sitting in a steamy country pub, post-hill walk, with fresh pints in hand, and your friend looks at a patch on your kit and says,“mate, what happened to your jacket/gloves/trousers?” "Well...” you say.