So we are now two weeks in so I thought it would be fun to review what I have brought on the trip: what has been essential, what I could happily jettison and what I wish I had (and may still get!).
So first what has proved to be essential?
The paper map. Sat Navs are all very well but they like direct routes and don’t function at all when there is no signal (if you use Google maps as I do). A good, old fashioned paper map gives hours of pleasure: planning routes, checking routes, getting back to the right route! Mine is already getting dog eared and has pages falling out but as long as it lasts the trip I don’t care too much!).
The dog guard behind the seats. A last minute addition (it is actually a panel from a sturdy puppy pen), this slots just behind the front seats. It will slide fully back to open up the gangway and can be secured in place with bungees. Not only does it keep Martha secure in the back while we are driving, but it allows me to separate off the front in the evening and overnight. Works brilliantly.
Microfibre towels and tea towels. These I was in two minds about but they have proved to be brilliant. Compact but absorbent and very quick drying. I would say for the human towels get ribbed ones – they feel much more like “real” towels than the smooth ones. My smooth ones have been relegated to hand towels and bath mats!
Bungee cords. You cannot have too many. They keep my bedding in order during the day, act as internal washing lines, stop things falling off shelves and generally hold things in place.
The inverter. This gives you 13 amp sockets from a 12v supply and is invaluable for those chargers that run from 13 amp as well as the fairy lights. You can’t run heat appliances from it but it is still a very useful piece of kit that I have used a lot.
Multiple dog leads. This was controversial but I am glad I stuck to it. I have three leads for Otter (who needs to be on more often) – a light normal length “town” lead for visiting places where she has to stay close, a 3 metre webbing lead for walks like on the moors where she can have a bit more freedom but not too much because of sheep, and her biothane long line for the beach. Martha only has the one but she is off whenever it is safe. I could happily have a 3 metre one for her too for walks where there may be sheep!
Grinders of seasonings. I picked these up in Aldi of all places before I left – different blends of seasoning – Garlic and Tomato, Fish Seasoning etc. They are great! Add flavour to meals without needing a whole spice rack.
The water filler cap. This is a godsend when trying to fill water on your own. You just screw it on, attach the hose and turn on the tap. No trying to hold the hose in while running round to the tap and having water spray everywhere. This is an essential bit of kit when travelling alone.
Levellers. Essential if you are parking somewhere not completely flat. Have used them several times already!
My Doris and Fred notebooks. I have two notebooks: one a daily travel log, the other a record of sites and overnight spots. They are customised and have a page for every day. I complete these religiously each evening so I have a record of key things: where we went, what we did, where we stayed, as well as mileage, prices etc. Really helpful record and very manageable.
Skin So Soft. Coming into its own as we hit midge country. Officially the best thing to keep them (and probably almost anyone else) at bay!
What about the things I have yet to use?
Most of the tech I brought. I brought loads: lights, tripods, mics, cameras. I thought I would be doing a lot more stuff (I guess I still might?). But I am generally using two iPhones for photography (my current one and an old one which does well as a dash cam) with occasional use of the Osmo Pocket. I ditched the Go Pro after the first couple of days as the quality is so poor and I have barely used my digital SLR as it is so big. Similarly have yet to use a tripod (though it would probably improve some shots!) and the drone has stayed in its box (nowhere quiet enough to try it out even up here). This may change later on but at the moment I could clear a whole cupboard by stripping down tech and not miss it.
Herbs. I started off with the bright idea of having fresh herb plants in the van and got some cheery coloured pots to put them in. I started with fresh basil and had a plan to buy those pots that supermarkets sell but I kept decapitating the basil as I climbed past and it was looking sorry for itself so I have ditched it and the herb plan. However the colourful plant pots I have hanging up are really useful for keeping odds and sods handy: change for the washing machines, my glasses, the fly swat, chargers and the odd mini tripod in case I need it!
The personal table. This was so that I could work on things without taking the bed down but it was so awkward trying to do everything sitting on the bed that, after the first night, I have taken the bed down every morning and made it up again each night. It is not anything like as onerous as I expected it to be and having a proper table and place to sit has been essential. Martha is fine on the side bench or a single bench – and she often travels on the floor anyway. This was something that surprised me but it is now part of our morning and evening routine. The personal table, lovely though it is, has stayed in the cupboard.
Half the clothes I have brought. Useful I guess to know I have 10 days worth of clothes but the reality is that storing 10 days worth of dirty washing is tricky. So I am doing a wash every 5 or 6 days and reusing the same clothes. So I could probably ditch a few!
Things I wish I had (and may still get):
A longer water hose. Have two water hoses but have still had a couple of occasions where they are too short to reach the available tap. An expanding long hose is on my shopping list.
A small gas burner. The current issue with the spare gas bottle makes me feel that some kind of independent gas burner would be a good emergency measure. It would mean that it was always possible to boil a kettle no matter what! (Have since picked one up).