(The Gear Loop) - For some, the late June solstice is a spiritual occasion, as astronomical summer is ushered in. Others treat it as the perfect excuse to head out on a wild camping trip, making the most of the long days on the trail. It’s also the ideal time of year to tackle a famous endurance challenge in the mountains.
One famous mountain challenge has risen to legendary status here in the UK, lodging itself firmly in the consciousness of the British public. Taking on the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales – as well as a hell of a lot of driving – in one 24-hour push, it is of course, the National Three Peaks Challenge.
Here, we reveal our essential Three Peaks Challenge Kit Checklist and suggest gear to suit every budget.
You can also find in-depth guides on how to summit Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis on the links. Plus, we have full buying guides on most of the essentials listed below, so feel free to click through for more detailed analysis and advice.
The National Three Peaks Challenge Kit Checklist at a glance
- Quality hiking boots or hiking shoes (for those with confidence in their ankle strength)
- Waterproof jacket
- Waterproof overtrousers
- Base layer
- Warm midlayers
- Hiking trousers
- Backpack (between 20 and 40-litre capacity)
- Head torch
- Hiking socks
- Hiking gloves
- Warm hat
- Topographical maps and/or GPS app or handheld unit
- Water bottles or hydration bladder (around 1-litre)
- Meals and snacks
- Trekking poles
- Insect repellent
- Dry bags
- Action camera
- USB power bank
- Celebratory beverage for the top of the last peak
Our top picks for the essentials
High quality hiking boots are pivotal to your success. You’re going to be hiking on rough ground for over 23 miles over the course of the day, therefore decent ankle support is essential.
Also, look for boots that have a waterproof membrane, such as GTX in the name, which signifies GORE-TEX, or similar, as the last thing you want is wet feet at the very start of the challenge.
Some hiking boots are very heavy, designed for wintry or alpine conditions. These are not what is required here and they’ll slow you down. Look for boots that weigh less than 600g per shoe. Here are three options to suit varying budgets…
Karrimor ksb 200 Walking Boots
A great value leather boot from Karrimor, the ksb 200s feature a flexible chassis construction that supports your feet and keeps them comfortable on the trails. Crucially, they also feature proprietary Weathertite waterproofing.
Haglöfs Skuta Mid Proof Eco Hiking Boots
One for the fast and light brigade, the Skutas weigh an impressive 240g per shoe. While they may not be robust enough for alpine adventures, they’re perfect for speedy day hikes in the British hills and are fully waterproof, breathable and offer toe protection.
AKU Trekker Lite III GTX
For serious hikers who have their eyes on objectives beyond the Three Peaks, AKU’s Trekker Lite is a fully featured and robust hiking boot. Featuring a GORE-TEX waterproof membrane, grippy Vibram outsole and excellent foot protection, they’re a great fit for years of hiking adventures.
There is an argument that seasoned hikers who regularly run or hike in the mountains with lighter footwear don’t require the additional ankle support of a boot. This is because they’ve developed their ankle strength over the course of many adventures on rough terrain.
While we wouldn’t recommend those who are relatively new to hiking take this option, a hiking shoe is a lighter alternative to a fully-fledged boot. Less weight equals more speed, so if you’re someone that has confidence in your ankle strength, a shoe may be the better option. Here are three of the best in their class for their price point.
A great value hiking shoe intended for mountainous terrain and dry conditions. They’re well cushioned, lightweight and trail ready. However, if the forecast is pointing towards rain, it’s wise to consider waterproof options.
Inov-8 Roclite G 315 GTX
"Get a grip" is Lake District-based brand Inov-8’s slogan. Its lightweight Roclite hiking shoes do just that thanks to graphene-infused, 6mm claw shaped lugs, giving you unbeatable traction on a range of terrain types. You’ve also got solid toe protection and weather protection courtesy of Gore-Tex.
Danner Trail 2650 Campo GTX
These stylish premium hikers have been garnering a reputation for solid performance on the mountain trails. Boasting a sock-like fit, GORE-TEX waterproofing and a Vibram sole for traction, these are a great lightweight option for mountain days.
Possibly the most essential piece of equipment in your arsenal when it comes hillwalking. A quality waterproof outer shell not only repels the rain but also guards against wind too, thus reducing wind chill and keeping you warm on the ridges and summits. Here are three options at varying price points.
Quechua MH500 Waterproof Jacket
Featuring a three-layer waterproof membrane with a solid 15,000 mm hydrostatic head, Quechua’s MH500 guards you from the elements while protecting your bank balance too. It’s also nicely breathable, with pit vents to keep air circulation going on those uphill slogs.
Rab Kinetic Ultra Waterproof Jacket
Part of Rab’s Skyline Collection, the Kinetic is marketed primarily at trail runners, however its strong credentials make it a great fast and light outer shell for hikers too. It has plenty of handy features, like rear yolk ventilation holes and a close fitting, fully adjustable hood.
With a trio of GORE-TEX fabrics that are body mapped for performance, Berghaus’ Changtse is a premium piece of kit. With carefully thought-out venting, this is a fully waterproof shell that’s also highly breathable. The hood is also helmet compatible, making it an option for climbing and mountaineering missions too.
Unless you’re spending a pretty penny, hiking trousers aren’t generally waterproof. This is why packable, lightweight waterproof overtrousers are an essential piece of Three Peaks kit.
There’s no point having an all-singing, all-dancing waterproof jacket if you leave your legs bereft of weather protection. You also don’t want to be halfway up Ben Nevis in a deluge with streams of water pouring off your jacket onto your trousers, soaking your legs, underwear and feet in the process. Here are a couple of easily packable options that will help prevent this.
Craghoppers Ascent Overtrousers
Hewn from AquaDry ripstop polyamide, the Ascent Overtrousers are a great value, lightweight option that pack down into their own stuff sack for portability. Featuring ankle zips and an elasticated waist that enables you to whip them out and get them on quick, you’ll be glad of them when the heavens open.
Rab Downpour Eco Waterproof Pants
A superb pair of overtrousers that will guard against even the worst conditions thanks to their highly waterproof Pertex Shield technology. They’re easy and quick to put on even while wearing hiking boots, thanks to a full-length side opening, which is protected from the rain by a storm guard flap. Crucially, they also pack down small in your backpack when the sun reappears.
A moisture wicking, warm base layer is hugely important for your comfort over the course of the day. The important thing here is not to wear anything woven from cotton, as it will retain moisture.
The more layers you wear, the warmer you’ll be. Four thin layers are better than two thick ones, so it’s worth bearing that in mind when choosing a couple of mid layers. These layers are usually either insulated tops and/or hooded fleece sweaters. Hopefully, you know how hot or cold you get on hiking missions, so the number of layers you pack is really up to you. Here are a few top suggestions.
Icebreaker Merino 175 Everyday Long Sleeve Crew Thermal Top
Icebreaker’s Merino base layers are tried, tested and adored in the outdoors world. Beautifully soft, moisture wicking and comfortable, the 175 Everyday Crew also gives you thermal regulation on the trail, keeping you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s Baltic.
Another reason why it’s on our Three Peaks Challenge Checklist is that it is naturally odour-resistant, which your friends will thank you for when you’re crammed into the car on the journey between the Lakes to Snowdonia towards the end of the challenge.
Montane Spinon Hoodie
Montane’s versatile Spinon Hoodie does everything you need a mid-layer to do. It’s close fitting and comfortable, featuring thermal efficient fabrics that move with you. When worn as an outer layer, you’ve got a couple of handwarmer pockets to keep your fingers toasty and a full-length front zip for effective ventilation.
Backpack, head torch and hydration
A day pack with a capacity between 20 and 40 litres will suffice for the Three Peaks Challenge. You basically need to carry your spare clothes, water and food, as well as navigational aids, suncream and any other toiletries or medication. A lightweight model with back support and ventilation is the order of the day here.
Plus, you'll be able to safely and comfortably stow an essential head torch, for navigating at dawn or dusk, as well as hydration options.
Osprey Talon 22
Comfortable, lightweight and well-ventilated, the Talon 22 is nigh on perfect for taking on the Three Peaks Challenge. Its suspension system enables the pack to stay tight to your back, which is so important for comfort on rough terrain. There are deep, stretchy mesh pockets on either side, a zippered top pocket and a pocket on the wait harness to
Black Diamond Storm 500R
Black Diamond’s popular Storm series of head torches are compact, durable but give you plenty of light modes. The Storm 500R is their most powerful yet, giving you an impressive 500 lumens for up to 7 hours on max setting. It also features a fully USB rechargeable, integrated Lithium-Ion battery, as well as a lock out feature that ensures you don’t accidentally turn it on in your pack.
Osprey Hydraulics Soft Flask 500ml
Easily stowed, squeezed and stuffed away, a couple of these Soft Flasks from Osprey are the ideal way to carry a litre of water on the trail. The standard sports cap doesn’t leak even under substantial pressure, while you also get the option of an extension hose.