Pilgrimpace's Blog

kit list

I am fascinated by Patrick Leigh Fermor’s kit list from Between the Woods and the Water once he was into his stride on his very long walk through Europe in the mid 1930’s:

My kit seemed in as good repair as the first day.  The ammunition boots from Millets in the Strand, crunching along on their only slightly blunted hobnails, were still good for unlimited miles.  The old breeches were soft with much wear and cleaning, and every stitch was intact; only the grey puttees had suffered minor damage, but nothing showed when I had snipped off the ragged edges where snow and rain had frayed them.  A grey shirt with sleeves rolled up completed this marching gear.  (I was darkening to the hue of a teak sideboard, with hair correspondingly bleached by the sun.)  I blessed my stars that my first rucksack, with its complex framework and straps, heavy waterproof sleeping bag and White Knight superfluity of gear had been stolen in Munich; the one my Baltic Russian friends had bestowed was smaller but held all I needed; to wit: a pair of dark flannel bags and another light canvas pair; a thin, decent-looking tweed jacket; several shirts; two ties, gym shoes, lots of socks and jerseys, pyjamas, the length of coloured braid Angela had given me; a dozen new hankerchiefs (as we know) and a sponge-bag, a compass, a jack-knife, two candles, matches, a pipe – falling into disuse – tobacco, cigarettes and – a new accomplishment – papers for rolling them, and a flask filled in turn, as the countries changed, with whisky, Bols, schnapps, barack, tzuica, slivovitz, arak and tziporo.  In one of the side pockets there was a five shilling Ingersoll watch that kept perfect time when I remembered to take it out and wind it up.  The only awkward item was the soldier’s greatcoat; I hadn’t worn it for months, but felt reluctant to get rid of it.  (Luckily.  It was perfect for sleeping out, and folded into a tight sausage and tied around the top of the rucksack, scarcely visible.)  I still had the Hungarian walking-stick, intricately carved as a medieval crosier, the second replacement for the original ninepenny ashplant from the tobacconists off Sloane Square.  Apart from my sketch-book, pencils and disintegrating maps, there was my notebook journal and my passport.  (Dog-eared and faded, these sole survivors are both within reach at this moment).  There was ‘Hungarian’ and ‘Rumanian Self-Taught’ (little progress in the one, hesitant first steps in the other); I was re-reading ‘Antic Hay’; and there was Schlegel and Tieck’s ‘Hamlet, Prinz von Danemark’, bought in Cologne; also, give by the same kind hand as the rucksack, and carefully wrapped up, the beautiful little seventeenth-century duodecimo Horace from Amsterdam.  It was bound in stiff, grass-green leather; the text had long s’s, mezzotint vignettes of Tibur, Lucretilis and the Bandusian spring, a scarlet silk marker, the giver’s bookplate and a skeleton-leaf from his Estonian woods.

If I were to read this without reading the accompanying journey, how much of it would I know?  It is also interesting to guess the weight and compare it against the modern concern for lightweight backpacking (and to speculate as to how much the stolen bag contained!).

And the best news of all is that the third volume of Leigh Fermor’s account, The Broken Road, should be published in a year …


4 Comments so far
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I can almost feel my knees buckle just reading that list!

Comment by karin

He walked from England to Munich with the original much heavier kit. This one took him on to Istanbul. He enjoyed himself.

I’m thinking through kit for an overnight without camping and a reasonable weather forecast. Luxury!

Comment by pilgrimpace

While he was a tremendous writer, he was also a tremendous fibber. I wouldn’t believe a word he says as being what happened. Obviously he wasn’t carrying that lot. I strongly suspect that a vast amount is simply made up (cf Laurie Lee).

Comment by Kish Logan

yes … but it’s such a good corrective to too much ultralite obsessiveness! And brilliantly written.

Welcome to the blog,


Comment by pilgrimpace

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