• Rain won’t fk any half decent sleeping bag. Like ma said, even wet it will still perform to some extent. Down clumps together, is a bugger to re-loft. Hollow fibre stays in siitu. I send my down bags off for washing. I liked your idea of a tarp or bIvi for protecting any sleeping bag from the rain. I would always say buy the best you can afford that is a) big enough for you b) a bargain you can’t turn down. C) look after it.

    Theft is a big concern, your life is in your one sack. A rain cover can hide zipped pockets, pacsafe https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0…hvtargid=pla-336986965606 can let you relax when your pack is stowed in bus holds, on trains, in hostels, or when rough sleeping. I have a few and they can be found much cheaper. Don’t trust folk with your kit. Turn your back on it and it’s gone. Especially new gear. It’s a target.

    Sleeping bag Zips can fail. Draw cords can make it difficult to escape if attacked, robbed, emergency.

    Having a full length zip sleeping bag inside a bIvi is pointless.

    Years ago explorers went with canvas over wood or metal framed rucksacks and wool sleeping bags. Technology and design has ironed out many problems and yet its fashionable to strive for the latest development to gain an edge.

    Most of the gear out there, including Tesco’s own range is a far improvement on what was around and affordable 40 odd years ago. Learning what’s essential and what’s desirable is a personal journey. You have bought some good kit Butch, kit that will work for you long after your trip.

  • I need to invest in some decent socks too, I think. Alpkit dirtbag self inflating mat arrived today, with a little handwritten note which I thought was a nice touch. I've inflated it and will leave it for a night or two as directed - I guess to let it sort itself out after beingcompressed for a while?

  • I need to invest in some decent socks too, I think. Alpkit dirtbag self inflating mat arrived today, with a little handwritten note which I thought was a nice touch. I've inflated it and will leave it for a night or two as directed - I guess to let it sort itself out after beingcompressed for a while?

    the hand written note is good marketing, the advice to inflate first stops bad press when you get back from your holiday and complain on social media that the kit you invested in was crap! The nice letter gives you a false sense of obligation to address them in the same way if you find your mat has deflated when you get home from work tonight. :P

    It’s also good practice to familiarise yourself with your kit, instead of faffing around in a confined space in the dark. :thumbup:

    I just love watching glampers, when they blow up the double air bed from the car dash board. Only to struggle to get the faker through the tent door once inflated. :cursing:

  • I think Alpkit are just all round good eggs , I remember when they first started up , I think they were mainly trekking poles then they were making , but they have grown , and that says a lot for a UK based company .As I mentioned before they have a good reputation , lets hope they keep it :)

    Ethical Trading and Environmental Policies

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  • I see the advice sailed towards equipment... I can share my knowledge from my old hithhiking days. I used to do it a lot, all across Central Europe and to the West, also in Britain. Now I am giving a lift whenever I come, alas it is not popular in the UK (but since I am mostly driving in Highlands, I got a chance to give lift to people from allover Europe).

    So when it comes to equipment: you can take more than you would take on a hiking trip - after all most of the time you will be either standing on the side of the road, or in the vehicle. If you would have to walk (and you would have a lot - to find a suitable hithhiking spot), you will not be in rush (because why you? You are on hitchhiking trip, you have no plane to catch or anything, yeah?). So you can take more, and just stop few times on the way when you are tired.

    BUT: think wise about packing. If you pack a huge backpack that fits everything inside, you might find it difficult to fit it into some cars boots and stuff. I found it better to have smaller backpack, that you can attach even smaller one to it, and, for example, a tent and a karrimate on the top of that. You can do it when walking, but when you are trying to get a lift, split it, so you can fit it easier into smaller vehicles.

    Now for the hitchhiking itself. Western Europe is boring - you would spend most of your time in some Motorway Service Areas. For that, I would advise you to hold a cardboard with the destination about 200 kms ahead - not too far (as many drivers don't go that far), not too close (as not many people would like to give you a lift if they would have to stop again 10 kms further.

    Always get off at the last bigger car park before the actual junction or motorway hub on which the paths of you and your driver split. Sometimes it's worth to listen to local advice, especially for truck drivers ("if you get off the motorway with me, then I can drop you at the entrance to the big logistic hub when it will be easy to find next lift"). When it comes to car drivers, I found that most of the time it was not worth it.

    Opinions differ on the subject of approaching drivers on gas stations and asking for the lift. I was always trying to not do that (unless really desperate), as this makes some people uncomfortable, as they lack assertivness to refuse. You would be also met with some rude behaviour.

    Now, further East you will go, more non-motorway major roads you would encounter. Here, the system is different.

    Try to find a nice spot when it is easy to stop - a lay be, bus stop, entrance to some side road etc. It does not has to be always place when stopping is legal, but it will always has to be a place, when it wont' obstruct the traffic and safe.

    You will usually change your lift in towns or villages. By default, try to walk to the outskirts, in the direction you are heading. If they go into the town, try to get with them to the city centre, then walk out of it in the direction of your interest. If you allow them to drop you off at the entrance, you will have much further to walk, as nearly nobody would stop for you at the entrance to the town.

    The only difference is where there is a bypass and at the same time there is no major road junction in that place - then it is clear to everyone, that if you are on the bypass, you want to go further than this village. But most of the places will be build like a spikewheel (althouth the bypass might not be complete), so if you are at the beginning of the bypass, drivers wont' know which spike you want to leave. In that case, go with the drivers into the town - it will be closer to walk out from there, than to walk along the bypass.

    I would advice to always walk as far as to the point after the last major junction and stick your finger there, when it is clear that you are going in that direction. Even if it's miles away.

    If you are not travelling on the motorways, don't use cardboard signs with your destination, unless you are unable to communicate the basics in the local language and the knowledge of English is not common. If you don't display it, then many drivers will stop anyway to ask where you are going - and since you are going rather "in general direction" than to a particular place, then you might find, that they are able to give you a lift on the one of the alternative roads. If they go far, it is worth to go with them, even if it seems off the way, as long as you are moving closer to your destination. Also, in that case the local knowledge is invaluable, you might be given advice about some beautiful local places, accomodation, or you might be even offered a place to stay - it happen to me many times.

    Many drivers, not only truckers, will have CB radio. They might try to find you another lift - one time, I travelled from around Dover to Warsaw with (apart from the first one in Dover) only one need to stick my finger up - Eastern European truckers were organizing me the lift using the radio or chatting to each other in the traffic jams.

    There are some rules in Central and Eastern Europe, kind of hitchhiking savoir vivre. For example: if there is someone already trying to get a lift, you walk behind them and stand there - they were there first, so they deserve right to be "first to be chosen". But if someone is stopping close enough, you can always walk up and ask, if they would be willing to take you as well. For that reason it is worth to exchange information with other hitchikiers so you both know when each of you are going, then when someone stops, you can ask for them, and vice versa. But you have to remember, that it is always a driver choice - he might stop at third person in the row, and it is alright. Don't run there screaming "hey, I was here first, it's MY LIFT!" :-) 

    The exception to that rule about "first come, first served" are local people - they are easily recognized, as they don't carry backpacks or anything, and they usually just commute. If they start to stick their finger in front of you, don't worry, they would be propably gone in no time, picked up by someone local.

    Also, in some countries, mostly in Eastern Europe, payment might be expected for a lift. To avoid a confusion, you clearly state that you are looking for free lift. So if you approach a driver in Poland, say clearly that you do "autostop", in Czech Republic, Slovakia make sure they know you are doing "stopovani" and so on. It is always worth to learn at least few basic words in local language.

    Also: always have a map, open in the area you are in, and when you go to the driver, have it in your hand. Then even if you cannot communicate with each other, you can always point on the map, and they can show you where they are going.

    Always have some sweets or other treats with you, as it might happen that the driver will invite you for the meal and will refuse to let you pay for yourself. That way you can share some sweets with you to symbolically pay it back to him.

    Some drivers might have to visit some places on the way, and they will ask you to step out of the car and wait outside - do not take offence at that, after all they see you first time in their life.

    And last but not least: some safety advice: if possible, look at the cars in advice, and avoid getting to the back of two-doors cars, as you will have no chance to escape. In the "wilder" countries, you might be offered a lift on the back of the truck or van - make sure, that there is a way for you to open doors from the inside, and if there is not, in polite way decline the offer. Do not carry pepper gas or anything, as you won't be able to use it in confined space of the car anyway. Do not have a knife on display, but have something sharp for self defense: I used to carry a very sturdy metal pen in my pocket, luckily never had to use it.

    As per sleeping rough - in most European countries it is illegal to wildcamp. But you can always ask a farmer for permission to camp somewhere in the corner of his property. Sometimes it is also worth to ask local priest or pop for permission to camp in the corner of his garden or something. If you are somewhere in the middle of nowhere, it is always better to go for example deep into the forest than closer to the village, that way you wont draw attention to yourself. And if you are stuck on the motorway, there is one trick: when there is a junction, try to get inside it (you can carefully run across, but always there will be some drainage or animal crossing underneath) and if the buzz of passing cars is not bothering you, you can just place your tent somewhere in the shrubs there and be almost certain, that no random passer-by will stumble upon you :) 

    Also last but not least, I hope I don't have to tell this to you, but... NEVER EVER get into the car with a drunk driver, and take care of your hygiene: if you cannot find a shower, get a swim in a lake, or wash yourself in the washbasin in the roadside toilet. In Eastern Europe most of the bigger gas station will have showers for truckers, that you would be able to use at small charge, but I've been known to be able to have a full proper ablutions in McDonald's, including drying my (then very long) hair using hair dryier. :) 

    I keep editing is as some more advice still pops up to my head. For example: never cheat. Some people, for example, hide their luggage in the ditch, to appear as someone travelling lightly. I found that this is actually backfiring, as your luggage proves, that you are a genuine traveller who is on the journey - many drivers would prefer such people over some locals who just try to get to the next village, as they are too lazy to stop every 10 km, or simply seek for the company.

  • Ah, look at me, I went over the limit for the post lenght :) 


    This is propably no longer the case with all digital tachographs, but I used to meet hikers, who were using tacho charts instead of sticking up the thump, in order to pretend they are lorry drivers. Lorry drivers were stopping to give lift to what they thought were their collegues, but after finding that this person is a fraud, they were kicking them out, and then advertising that fact on the cb radio, so such person could be sure, that they won't get a lift from the trucker anytime soon.

    Also, speaking of truckers - many truckers use their passenger space as their living room, so you might be asked to take your shoes off and live them on the step - most bigger trucks have steps constructed in such a way, that after closing the doors, your shoes will be safe there.

    Also on trucks: make sure you know how to get in and out of the cab of Renault Magnum. This is still very popular truck in Eastern Europe, and getting into this is quite tricky, as the doors are directly above the wheels, so you need to use the ladder behind and then move sideways. It is even more important to remember that when you are getting out, unless you think that you have excessive number of front teeth :) 


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