My Gear on the E4 - Good, Bad and Ugly

So what did I take with me on the E4 and did I make the right choices?

Well firstly it's important to reiterate that the plan was to sleep in a bed each night and that I didn't have to carry any camping or cooking equipment.  It was a long trip but soft rather than hardcore.

Wet but dry
I had somehow managed to win the "Berghaus Adventure Challenge", which meant I was just about  Berghaus man head to toe.  I took GORE-TEX® Paclite® Shell Overtrousers; Dru Stretch GORE-TEX® Paclite® Shell Jacket; 2 pairs of Terrain zip off convertible trousers; 3 T-shirts with argentium technology to prevent the smell, one with long sleeves; and one Brenta Microfleece half zip top.  I will need to keep walking until I'm about 150 if I'm going to use all my Berghaus T-shirts - I have about 10 altogether and they are indestructible.

In addition I had three pairs of woollen socks and four pairs of pants (took an extra pair by mistake!). Essentially I had a day time outfit and an evening outfit and tried to wash the day time outfit every night. Both outfits were identical which meant I wore the same colour blue T shirt for just over six months.

I went with very light Inov8 Men's Terroc 345 GORE-TEX trainers. My first pair were GORE-TEX lined 345 GTX and then, anticipating hotter weather I shifted to the non-lined  Inov8 Terroc 330s Didn't carry a spare pair but new ones arrived as the old ones fell apart. Had a pair of flip-flops which I wore in the evening.

Inov8 Terroc 345 GTX
I took an iPhone, iPad and a Panasonic Lumix TZ10 camera. All the functionally on my IPad was available on the iPhone but I didn't want to blog using the tiny iPhone screen and the IPad is much better for entertainment. Worth remembering that I didn't take any maps relying on the maps and routes I had downloaded to the iPhone. I used CompeGPS chosen because at the time it was the only one I could find which ran on an iPhone and for which you could get maps for Spain. To make sure I had enough battery power I also took 2 New Trent Iphone supplementary batteries and a New Trent battery pack (capable of recharging the IPad). I had to take two charging devices, one for the Apple gear and one for the camera. I cut and reaffixed all the cables to reduce the weight.

Other items included hat, gloves and walking sticks. Lost two hats and my first pair of walking sticks, a pair of Fizan Compact which were both relatively cheap and very light.

I carried everything in an Osprey Exos 46  bag (with a waterproof cover) and started with an Osprey 3 litre Hyproform water reservoir. Was really worried about getting stuff wet so had go a couple of fold dry bags as well, one for my clothes and one for the iPad.

Star performers for me were the waterproof jacket, the long sleeve T shirt and my Osprey Exos 46 bag.

The waterproof jacket was brilliant. Looked good, easy to put on and given the incredibly bad weather I had, totally effective. It was also tough and unlike the trousers didn't tear went you were bashing your way through undergrowth.

Calling a long sleeve T shirt a star performer seems a bit over the top but it added so much flexibility to my "wardrobe". Layers and long sleeves gave the bit of extra warmth I occasionally needed without resorting to a fleece and the dark colour meant it was a bit smarter for wearing in the evening.

I just love my ruck-sack and was so fed up when I got a small tear in the top bag climbing through a deer fence in Hungary. Really comfortable, didn't suffer any back-pains, and after 180 days the tear (and some sweaty straps) is the only sign that the bag has been used. Kept my waterproofs in the zip-up outer compartment and the top bag was big enough for the food I consumed in the day.

My Inov-8 shoes were also a success and, once my feet and ankles had toughened up, very comfortable. Because of the schedule I set myself, blisters would have been a real problem but I didn't get any. In fact the only problem I had was when I got back and for some reason my feet became very painful - they're fine now. I think it might have been a mistake not to stick with the Gore-Tex version, the weather meant my feet were often wet and sometimes very cold. On the other hand the shoes dried really quickly, when I was wearing them, and maybe, with the Gore-Tex version, drying would have been slower. Walking in trainers, particularly through Austria where everyone wears enormous boots, generated a lot of comment but it was clear from the conversations that boots were no guarantee of comfort.

I went through four pairs of shoes. After about six weeks of solid walking a hole would appear in the sole of my right shoe which progressively got larger. My last pair, which took me through Austria and Hungary, wore out faster and I think this might be because I was doing a lot more climbing in the Alps.

It might sound a bit smug from someone just back from a 5,000 kilometre walk but I think if you get fitter (and lighter) you have less problems with your feet. In my twenties I was able to run down hills but soon lost that ability, just too painful. On the walk I was running down hills again and with a bag on my back as well.

So the things that didn't work so well.

Well the GORE-TEX® Paclite® Shell Overtrousers were a bit of a failure. Two problems: firstly the material was too delicate and walking through rough stuff left holes; secondly the seams gave way around the knees. By the time I had got half way through Spain they were being held together by insulation tap I picked up along the way.

The second let-down was the Osprey 3 litre Hyproform water reservoir which failed in Spain. The reservoir comes with a sort of handle which goes the length of the bag and gives it rigidity as it empties. This handle unclips and when you clip it back into place you can catch the bag and make a hole. That's what happened to me leaving me with a wet back and more embarrassing, a wet pair of trousers.

Whether or not my maplite approach to navigation worked is a bigger question but the iPhone was essentially a success and failures were mostly down to user incompetence. The only problem I had was with the batteries towards the end of the walk which would no longer charge the phone. To be honest I have no idea whether this is a failure of the Trent batteries or whether or not my IPhone battery, after such intensive use, is starting to give up the ghost.

One final thing, while I'm at it, socks. Everyone, it seems to me, walks in woollen walking socks and I started with the same things. They wore out really quickly and were an absolute pain to wash and dry. In France I bought two pairs of Moose running socks, totally synthetic, very elasticated and thicker only where they needed to be thicker. Turned out they were just as comfortable as the woollen socks, lasted longer and best of all I was able to wash them everyday and they would usually dry overnight.


  1. Belated congratulations on your E4 trip - brilliant effort!!
    I've just returned from a month's trekking in the Italian Apennines so have been catching up on your blogs.
    I was particularly interested in the Spanish GR7 which I've been doing in stages. Am returning in a couple of weeks or so to do the stretch from Alcoy to Montanejos. A stretch with poor accommodation options, if you get any time would be interested in any more detailed info [names and telephone numbers]Is it possible to Email.
    Once again well done and enjoy your rest.

  2. Also from me a belated congratulations on the E4 trip - followed it from the beginning, a formidable achievement.

    Thanks also for the useful bits on the gear here, I am sure this will be an eye opener to some!

  3. Hi John.

    Your absolutely right, accommodation is really difficult along this stretch. Unless you want to sleep under the stars you have to leave the trail several times. After Alcoy, which is a really nice town by the way, I stayed in a Casa Rural at Benagaber but there are hotels here as well, also a lovely town. At Vallada I stayed at the Giners Apartments -, not such a nice town. Next day I walked to Casa Benali but they wouldn't open this up for one night so it was a taxi down to Engura where there is lots of accommodation. No accommodation on the trail next day either. I walked to Casa de Callodo and you really need to walk further before you hit a metalled road and in a position to get a taxi (still fairly remote). I stayed in Hotel Murphimer in Ayora, a horrible place and whatever you so don't stay there on a Saturday or any night when there might be a disco. You have a choice at Cortes to Pallas but I stayed at Hostal Casa Fortunata 962 517 026, nice town. No where on the trail next day and this is where it all went wrong for me and I slept in the forest. If I had known I was going to have a problem than I could have made El Robollar and got a lift to Requena where there is lots of accommodation, still a huge day though. Not much in Chera, the municipal Hostal looks nice but I think is only open at the weekends, I stayed above the bar near the church, found it when I was there and didn't keep the details. Next night I think stayed in the El Bar de Benagéber, very small town and again I found it when I was there. The number is 962 17 18 95. Hotel La Posada at Chelva but other places there as well - Andilla, lovely place but very small, I stayed in the Casa Muralla but don't have the number - the manager at the hotel in Chelva booked it for me. Bejis is a nice place and stayed at Had hoped to make Montanejos next day but Christine was too tired so stayed in Montan where there is one hotel, the Hostal Pilar - 964 131 094. Lots of places in Montanejos.

    I'm going to try and update the accommodation section on the blog so if you let me know how you get on that would be great.

  4. thats great = thanks for any infoprmation!
    I'll just set off and see how I do.

  5. Hi John,

    Just found your blog, great adventures and reading. I'm also a big fan of Exos, though mine is the 58 model, just super backpack. You should also hike the fantastic Via Alpine trail through the Swiss Alps:)

  6. Great stuff! I have done a few 1-3 month bike trips and am now thinking about long distance walking and looking for all the info I can get. I have my eye on the Adlerweg in Austria. In terms of your gear list I have to recommend gortex socks. Lightweight tour cyclists also carry very little- one pair of runners and flip flops -- and sometimes use booties to cover their shoes, but also use gortex socks because they are so comfy and flexible for cycling and hiking. This way you can keep the lightweight, ultra-breathable shoes that are quick-drying but also have dry feet when you need them. Not cheap but a great item:

    Cheers and happy trails

    1. Thanks for the comment and a really helpful suggestion. Have just persuaded my wife to buy a pair of ultra light trail shoes but they didn't come in GTX so your idea is perfectly timed. Walking in Austria is great and I'm going there for a month in August/September, my plans are on the blog. I did a bit of the Adlerweg as part of the E4 southern variant a couple of years ago - the local information is very good. Hope you have a head for heights!

      You might want to think about Alpine Club membership as well, saves on the huts.

      Have a great trip.

  7. John, how many miles do you think you got from the pairs of Inov-8 Terrocs you wore? I've loved them in the past, but their £/mile ratio has been poor in my experience. You've obviously used them a lot, would like to know your feelings.

    AKA Stuart

    1. Hi Stuart - great to hear from you again. They do us a soft compound rubber which is supposed to grip better but definitely wears our quickly. I completely destroyed 4 pairs - right through the rubber - so was using a pair every 800 miles. You can get the non GTX versions for about £65 - another £20 for waterproof ones so around 1p per mile (although some people would have abandoned my shoes before I did but I was always waiting for a new pair to arrive from home).

      Best wishes John

    2. Hi this is great reading thanks for writing it! I'm just amazed you can get 800 miles from the Terrocs - I love them too BTW - but mine start to disintergrate starting with holes in the mesh upper around the 250 mile mark. I've just bought the new model so we'll see how THAT lasts...