When you first start out hill walking you may find that the lure of wild camping will shortly follow. It did in my case and I found it an absolute mind field, what tent, sleeping bag will I buy and how will I cook my food etc. Luckily I had some experienced friends over on ScottishHills.com who helped get me started. So the purpose of this blog is to pass on those tips to anybody looking to do their first wild camp.
My first wild camp was by the Narnain boulders on the way up to the Cobbler, I borrowed my Dad’s old 60 litre Tiso rucksack and I used a tent more suited to the festival than the hills. I even carried in 2 litres of water! I toiled up the path, my pack was way too heavy and I thought I wasn’t cut out for wild camping.
To go lightweight isn’t cheap, but a good tent will last a lifetime if properly looked after. So to begin with you want to build your gear around a decent tent and sleeping bag. There are lots of tents on the market these days, as light as 1kg such as the Terra Nova Laser Competition 2. I went for something slightly heavier with the Hilleberg Akto, at 1.6kg, it’s about 600g heavier than the Laser Competition 2 but it’s good robust tent that’s been well tested over the years.
Assuming most of your camping will be during Spring, summer and Autumn you can get away with taking a lightweight goose down sleeping bag. Again, sleeping bags can be quite expensive, Rab’s range of down sleeping bags get good reviews. But Alpkit do excellent value bags, but they seem to be discontinued or have a huge waiting list, so I opted for this Ultralight 350 sleeping bag that has a comfort rating of -3 and under £200.
So if you’ve got your tent and sleeping sorted. You’ll need a light weight sleeping mat too. I got myself a Thermarest Neoair in the sale for £80, it packs up nicely to the size of a 1lt bottle of water.
Whilst out in the hills overnight, I like to keep cooking simple so I use freeze dried or boil in the bag army style ration packs for my dinner and Oat So Simple porridge, just add boiling water sachets so I don’t have to wash my pot. My cooking set up is:
MSR Alpinist 2 pot (£35rrp)
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove (£40rrp)
Primus Lightweight 3 Leg Footrest (£6rrp)
Primus 4 Season Power gas 100g (£4rrp)
Sea to Summit 3 Piece spoon, knife and fork set (£18rrp)
Sea to Summit x bowl (£10rrp)
Enamel mug (£2rrp)
Primus jet lighter (£14rrp)
I’m very happy with the above items, as everything bar the cutlery and mug stows away in the pot whilst I’m on the move. There is more expensive/lighter stuff out there but it works for me and it took a while to fine tune what I took out with me.
Okay, so we have a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and cooking utensils sorted out. What else do you need? Pretty much what you’d carry on hill on a day trip.
Spare hat and gloves
Insulated jacket (Primaloft or down) for the evening
Map and compass
Additional food for your dinner and breakfast
Small first aid kit
Small shovel for toilet stops
Spare batteries (for head torch & GPS)
Mobile phone (optional)
This list isn’t exhaustive, but you don’t want to take too much and end up bogged down with too much gear. A couple of small luxuries for the evening may be tempting. Could be a small hip flask of whisky or an MP3 for some music. You may even fancy a pillow but I stuff my insulated jacket into a stuff sack for a pillow.
I also carry two water bottles and collect from streams and rivers whilst on the hill. I have a travel tap to filter water in case I cant find a decent source and a Sigg bottle for carrying water for cooking later.
Now the beauty of it all, if you have a lightweight tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat you will get this into most day rucksacks of about 30 to 35 litres. I fit all my gear in my Osprey Talon 33 pack. I get a lot surprised looks when I say all my camping gear is in there.
I’ve made a quick 3 minute video on Youtube which shows how I comfortably get all my gear in my rucksack. Click here to view.
Once out on the hills, try pick a pitch near water so you don’t have to carry your water too far. But you don’t want to be too close because if it was to rain during the night the stream could flood your tent. Pick a nice flat grassy spot if possible. If the ground is dry you can even lie down and find a level as possible spot. Feel around for sharp stones or rock on the ground that may damage the ground sheet of your tent. Face the tent’s entrance out of the wind.
Of course you may have studied a map beforehand and have a good idea where streams or rivers run and found flatter spots to set up camp for the night.
Last but not least, remember this quote when wild camping: “Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints”.
I hope I’ve covered just about everything, but if not please feel free to leave a comment below or visit my Wildcamping Facebook page here.