I’ve always poo poo’d the idea of camping, which to me was the idea of spending a week in a tent in the middle of a muddy field full of hundreds of other people, queueing for the toilet block, never feeling warm and without even the usual luxury of brick walls to separate you from the noise that other people tend to generate.
I’ve walked through a number of such campsites in the past and wondered what sort of enjoyment people could get from living in that way, and in such close proximity to complete strangers. I guess its down to what you can afford – a week away in a tent in a field may be better than a week at home in front of the telly (but then probably not).
Anyone who has walked the hills in the UK will have come across the other type of camper to be found in this country; the little tent strapped to the side of a mountain complete with bearded youth boiling up his instant noodles on a little stove. When I come across these camps I have been able to appreciate the solitude and freedom they can give to the walker, but never, ever considered doing it myself… at least not until a few months ago!
I have no idea what sparked the idea, but it has taken root and germinated over the past few months into something that I felt I had to act upon or forever spend my life regretting not having tried it, not having woken up to the sun breaking over the mountains, boiling my tea with the fells as my kitchen and other equally magnificent visions. Time is short, I’m 43 in June, if I don’t act soon I’ll be too old to carry all the gear I need much further than the back garden.
As with most things I investigate, the first place I looked for inspiration was t’Internet. I stuck “wild camping uk” into google and came up with a couple of great sites:
These gave me some good ideas as to what to look at and with the aid of the gear guide in Trail I was able to start to think about what kit I would need to buy to start me along the path. This was in fact a huge inhibitor to me starting – I was going to have to spend hundreds of quid on kit that I may only use once! What if I hate it? In the end I just thought “bollocks to it”, there’s always ebay 🙂
20 years ago, when I was younger and much poorer, I would have bought the cheapest kit possible and paid the penalty in the weight department. As it is, I can afford to pay a premium for lightweight gear and the extra costs are more than outweighed by the fact that I don’t have to lug as much up the hills. So my mantra has been “lightweight or no way”.
I’ve already set some limits on myself – this camping thing is a 3 season activity at best, probably closer to 2 season. That means I don’t need to buy the top end performance gear, which will reduce both the cost and the weight of the equipment. I can’t imagine I will do much camping in the winter, I’m looking to enjoy myself, not punish myself 🙂
There are loads of lightweight backpacking sites on the Interweb. Some are at the extreme end of things, those that suggest not only cutting off most of the handle on your toothbrush, but then drilling holes in the bit that remains to further reduce weight. One site even suggested that blowing up your sleeping mat would mean that the following day you would be carrying round the moisture from your breath that was deposited in the mat!!
At the more grounded and realistic end of the spectrum are lightweight sites such as Bob Cartwright’s Backpacking Light, which can be found here:
As well as a huge range of lightweight gear, much of which can’t be found elsewhere in the UK, he has a superb series of podcasts (audio files you can play on an MP3 player) covering gear, treks and other useful stuff.
So my initial focus has been on the backpacking essentials:
- A tent
- A sleeping bag
- A sleeping mat
- A stove
- A rucksack
I worked on the principal of no more than 2kg on a tent, 1kg for a sleeping bag and 1.5kg for a rucksack. My overall pack weight target without food and water was around 7.5kg. I also had a budget of no more than £500 for everything, including all the peripheral items.