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Way back in the December 2003 issue of The Great Outdoors, Gear Editor Chris Townsend to list the kit – real or not – that he’d like to see in his stocking on Christmas morning


When our dear editor asked me what I’d like for Christmas (anything but a pay rise) I took him at his word. A few fantasy principles apply to everything on my list- it should weigh nothing, take up no room and work perfectly!

Windproof stove

A stove that wont blow out in any wind without needing to fit a windshield or surround it with boots, foam pad or whatever. It should only weigh a few ounces and heat water in a gale. Quickly.

Refillable stove cartridges

I always hate throwing away those neat little gas cartridges, still shiny and new looking, after only a few hours’ use. Surely there must be a way of refilling them- preferably again and again.

Boots with built in crampons

Putting on and taking off crampons is a faff and carrying them is awkward. I’d like a pair of boots with crampons hidden in the sole, ready to pop out when needed. They’d be made of titanium and activated by pressing a button on the boot tongue with an ice axe spike so I didn’t have to bend down.

Pack flotation device

Ultralight backpacking is all very well but it does mean reducing comfort a little and leaving behind gear. Rather than cutting the weight of my load I’d like a pack, perhaps filled with helium, that floated so that most of the weight wasn’t felt. Then you could take what you wanted! Indeed, there might well be a minimum weight that had to be carried to stop the pack rising into the air with you dangling from it. Conversations with backpackers would change drastically. “I’m having a real problem getting my pack weight up to 40lb. I guess I’ll have to chuck in some extra clothes and that candle lantern I don’t need…”

Load confining pack

Half-full packs can be unstable and uncomfortable, over stuffed ones difficult to access and very uncomfortable. I’d like a pack that moulds round any load, from 10 litres to 100+ litres. The pack would always be full but access to gear always easy.

Waterproof paperback books

Do you read when walking? I do. Usually on long and boring road slogs. But if it rains I cant and get fed up. Some waterproof Edward Abbey, Colin Fletcher, John Henry or Henry David Thoreau would ease the dullness…

Midge repellent

I mean REAL midge repellent. Not just one that stops them biting- they are available already- but one that actually drives them away. I’d just like midges to come no closer than, say, five metres.