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Daring Deeds - real stories, expeditions, road trips and adventure

Katie Tunn’s love letter to her gear

By Alice Peyredieu
07, Nov, 2019

Taking a look at some of the kit for life in the Scottish islands

My love of Alpkit goes way back to when I was asked to create a Mountain Journal Short with Alpkiteer film maker, Dom Bush. The brand was relatively new to me and I was dead excited to be one of the first women to try out the Lotic wetsuit as we jumped into the icy waters around the North Skye coastline. Whilst the gear was seriously good, it was the ethos of 'Go Nice Places, Do Good Things' that made me really happy to become involved with the brand, so when I was asked to become an Aplkiteer recently I was chuffed to bits.

I exchanged my London life for the Isle of Skye back in 2015. I will always love the city I grew up in, but I needed to be somewhere closer to nature; near mountains and places surrounded by the sea. I think many of us have an elemental attraction to islands and that escapism is something I'm able to indulge here. Finding quiet or unusual places to get off-grid and connect with nature is the thing that makes me most happy. Spending time doing things like wildlife spotting, sleeping under the stars and foraging or building with natural materials makes me feel like a big kid and has got to be one of the most joyful ways to manage mental and physical health.

Although I was excited to be asked to be an Alpkiteer it wasn't expected. I rely on my Alpkit gear for every outing but I'm a bushcrafter rather than a boulderer. Of course, it's just as valid a way of getting outside as any sport, even though it's a bit different from the accomplishments of my fellow Alpkiteers. While I don't yet have any race medals or a world's first, there is one title that I might just be in the running for: most nights spent sleeping on an Alpkit Dozer mattress! Okay, it's hardly medal-worthy stuff but the relationships we have with our gear often plays a huge part in our outdoor experiences. I'm proud to have stuff that's been well-used, well-loved and that I've appreciated, especially in an era of cheap consumerism where so many outdoor items are considered disposable. However scuffed, burned or stained my gear is, it's worked for me and packing it up for a new trip feels a bit like revisiting old friends. Not only does my gear help keep me warm and feed me, it facilitates my dreams and adventures. We all know the kid-at-Christmas excitement of getting new gear but I'm sure we all have our trusted favourite items that we just can't bear to part with.

Aside from their reliability, they're reminders of the adventures we've had and the memories instilled in them. I can't be alone at looking at my gear and seeing stories. That Dozer mattress, for instance, was my bed while I lived in the woods for a year completely off-grid and disconnected to the outside world – no modern pressures, no work emails, no bills. The catch, of course, was that it was a reality telly project, a fickle thing, but I felt it was worth the trade-off. Upon arrival at the 600-acre compound we were issued with basic bedding. I pulled my mattress from the bag and recognised the Alpkit logo. A little bit of familiarity in a very unusual situation! Over the next twelve months, my Dozer went through more use than any other bit of outdoor gear I've ever owned. At the beginning it kept me warm when sleeping on cold, damp Scottish sand then it managed to survive the splinters of a rough handmade bed frame. By the end it had managed to keep me as comfortable as a regular indoor mattress. I slept, ate, carved, chatted and consoled on my Dozer. It was the centre of the little moss-roofed 'Hobbit House' that became my home. I'm used to expensive inflatable mattresses popping within a few nights of me using them but this hero only needed one teeny patch-up after about 7 months of being manhandled and trampled by humans and animals alike (yes, animals... did you know that goats particularly like walking on soft and bouncy things?!).

If my mattress was a person it would be one of those weathered veterans staring into the middle-distance, saying quietly, “yeah man, I've seen some stuff."

Ditto a lot of my other gear, too. During that same year, my down jacket was the piece of clothing that kept me toasty away from the luxury of central heating. I once ripped it whilst chopping wood but it's a testament to quality in that it's the one item of clothing that survived that experience and is still wearable!

A year in the woods with knives, axes, fire and brambles is the ultimate way to test kit but it's not the only story my gear has to tell. There's my big DryDock bag which holds all the kit required in case I get called out to a whale, dolphin or seal rescue. I'm a BDMLR Marine Mammal Medic in a wildlife-rich area and it's just the right size to hold my wetsuit, medical kit, warm gear and everything else that needs to be kept to hand in the back of my car. The tough, waterproof material means I can chuck it down on the rocks and seaweed without ripping it or getting the papers inside wet and I don't need to be precious with it. It's seen me through easy call-outs with good results and day-long ones with more tragic endings.

Last year I spent 38 days on an uninhabited archipelago with no human contact (my 40 day goal was scuppered after being hospitalised for concussion–long story!). Living amongst a few hundred thousand seabirds was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life but, unsurprisingly, the early spring weather was less than accommodating. On a precipitous rocky outcrop in the middle of the sea, 'April showers' feel more like standing in a mechanised car wash. I had two weeks with virtually no respite and it would have been miserable had I not been able to rely on one of my simplest bits of kit: my Airlok drybags. Everything I had with me was packed in these bags, from my journal to the flour I used to make myself bread each day. When I'd dash back into my self-built shelter, soaked from head-to-toe, the knowledge that all my stuff was protected kept my motivation high. Drybags aren't glamorous or particularly technical but I think we all know how good a pair of fresh dry socks is for keeping the spirits up!

My Airloks are in use again for my current challenge: visiting all of Great Britain's 82 Islands over 5km2. I'm bivvying, doing a beach clean and swim on each island. One of the main aims of the trip is to show how each island has a unique character and how, if we slow down and take care, we get so much more out of our stay and we're more inclined to connect with the place and want to leave no trace (LNT).

LNT is a subject that's close to my heart since every summer we see a huge influx of tourists to Skye and with that often comes the litter and campfire scorch marks from unexperienced campers. I'm a big believer that camp fires should be a luxury and that a stove is a more efficient way to cook a meal or heat water. Recently getting an Alpkit BruKit has made everything especially easy and the well-contained flame means that there's no risk of my stove leaving ugly black scorch marks on the unspoilt landscape. Plus, a quick cuppa tea is always a winner! I've also recently adopted a couple of new adventure buddies who aren't quite as used to the cold weather as I am... Chihuahuas aren't exactly the first type of dog you think of when it comes to outdoor living and for good reason as they get cold really quickly.

But it turns out that my BruKit comes in most handy when it only takes a couple of minutes to make a hot water bottle for two tiny puppers who aren't used to chilly Scottish mornings. Those mornings become fond memories and the gear that's there with us is a kind of supporting cast. Take this moment last week: waking up (on my Dozer) warm and dry (in a Hunka bivvy bag) in a beautifully russet-coloured Scottish glen, enjoying a cup of tea (BruKit) and listening to the roaring rutting stags whilst my dogs snuggle beside me on my jacket (Heiko) kept warm by a hot water bottle (Brukit again). Good kit becomes something that we're proud of, something we're happy to recommend to friends and something that we're happy to share the stories of.

Sitting in a steamy country pub, post-hill walk, with fresh pints in hand, and your friend looks at a patch on your kit and says, “mate, what happened to your jacket/gloves/trousers?” "Well...” you say.

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In pictures

4 Comments

Share your thoughts about this article.


Nashielad
My kind a lifestyle!

What an amazing life you must lead. Biving out is just amazing. I turn 50 in January and have lots of Bivi nights planned already and will document them as I go so I can look back in years to come and relive the memories as my old body begins to slow down!! Keep living the dream!

Lizard of Oz
Great that you patch, repair and keep your gear

Long live us patchers, repairers, keepers and enjoyers of good quality gear in the environment for which it was designed!

Jack
Loved Alp 'kit'

I soo get this great article.
My Heiko jacket in blue and orange is my 'goto' outside clothing jacket and after adventuring and general wear is like new after a quick wash. Please keep the blueprints for a future production run. #legendarygear smile

philip leng
Loved it

Real person doing real things - full time. No back to the studio, no back in the car and off to central heating world adventures. Great stuff and good to hear the Alpkit kit is up to the job. Thanks.

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