Wild Camping Strategies and Equipment
Summer and Winter
Wild Camping is a wonderful way to enjoy the hills and mountains at any time of year...
And it doesn't have to be uncomfortable. With a little bit of planning,every trip out is memorable.
For basic wild camping (away from the road,in places only accessable by foot), there is some simple requirements :-
A good place to pitch your tent,nice and flat, with good pegging points.
A little shelter from prevailing weather is desirable.
A clean and reliable drinking water source.
An area to use for cooking.
Somewhere to go to the toilet (well away from the water)
I will now break this down into specifics...
Summer Wild Camping
Wild Camping in Summer is very special. No people, only views, animals, the weather and you.
The basic equipment is:-
Your usual summer hillwalking kit
Tent suitable for the expected conditions
Sleeping bag and mat
Stove, fuel and pan/s
TENT SUITABLE FOR THE EXPECTED CONDITIONS
There is plenty of designs around,and a wide price range out there. The major consideration of a tent suitable for mountain use is one that will not fail you at 3am!
"Festival" and 2 season tents available at Supermarkets and the such are designed for valley use in benign conditions.
When shopping for a 3 season tent (£100+), the build quality, pole materials (Alloy),and a stable design (Tunnel, Semi Geodesic) are the things to look out for. I will not go into all this in too much detail here, but any good outdoor retailer will be able to help you choose the right tent for you.
SLEEPING BAG AND MAT
The sleeping bag must be rated at 2 to 3 seasons. this will keep you comfortable down to around 0C. Synthetic sleeping bag are cheap, will not absorb water, and are easy to wash. The negative is that they are bulky and heavy.
A down sleeping bag is much better in the warmth to weight ratio, packs to about the third of the size of a synthetic, but must be kept dry and are usually more than twice the price! A Down sleeping bag is a long term investment.
A sleeping mat is essential. No sleeping bag will keep you warm without one of these underneath you. A cheap foam mat will suffice for the early days, but the self inflating kind or insulated airbed types are more comfortable and pack smaller.
STOVE, FUEL AND PAN/S
Something to cook on...and brew on. lots of choice out there, and all pretty safe.
Liquid fuel stoves work well year round, but gas is cleaner and simpler to use. Make sure your pan is big enough for the food you are going to cook and watch your lips if you drink from that cooking pot!
FOOD...LOTS OF IT !
Take all your favourites. Try to pick grub that takes the minimum amount of cooking time (Saves on carrying too much fuel). Dried foods from camping shops are much better than they used to be, but pricey. Why not add stuff to one of them? My favourite additives are Naan bread ,bacon bits and grated cheese...
MY BIG TIP - ON A MULTI DAY TRIP, EAT THE HEAVY FOOD FIRST!!!
Carry a trowel, some plastic bags, and a lighter...Dig a hole well away from any water source, do your stuff in there and burn the tiolet roll off. Replace the turf. Or ideally, carry it all out in the plastic bags.
Winter Camping Strategies
Winter camping is something else...
Very enjoyable once you realise there is no need for discomfort. I must admit though, a little discipline goes a long way.
Extra kit for Winter Camping:-
Plus winter hill walking kit
Needs to be substantial enough to stand up to some pretty severe weather, and must be able to cope with snow loading. 4 season tents do come in at a premium, but as it is your first line of defence, then it is worth paying the money to give you a good night's sleep.
I can't think of anything worse than having to leave in the middle of the night because your shelter has failed.
Strong tent pegs (Hammered into frozen ground) and snow stakes are a consideration too...
Again, must be rated at 4 season, which should give you a comfort level of around -7 C. Not cheap by all means, but down is far superior for this activity. A down bag can weigh around 1200g, where as a synthetic bag of similar warmth will be double. Not only in weight but also in size!
A winter mat is significantly warmer than a summer type. Good ones are pricey, but pack very small. If you are on a budget, then use 2 summer roll mats together. Fold or roll one up and use it inside your rucksack.
The same rules apply as in summer for your camp site location, but with some subtle differences.
You must consider the avalanche risks and make sure that your tent will not be caught in one!!!!
Keep those air vents open!!!
Plan your site to be on higher ground so there is less chance of burial. Pitching in a hollow is an efficient way of getting the tent out of the brunt of the weather, but it is likely to fill up with drifting snow. I like to get on slightly higher ground, dig down to ground level if practical, and build a small wall on the windward side if necessary . All this is very quick and easy with a shovel!
Use the avalanche probe to find out how far you have to dig, and to find where the water is!
Toilet stops and food consumption is the same as Summer but remember one thing which is great and bad...
The positives of minus temperatures...
Great for carrying out toilet waste (Might be hard to dig a hole in frozen ground).
That bacon you've carried in will not go bad.
Your clothing should stay relatively dry for your trip...
Chocolate breaks you teeth!!!
TIP Take Wispa and Aero bars :)
Keep the air vents clear in your tent at all times.
Anything that needs to be kept outside, axes for instance, must be upright. Don't leave it lying on the ground, it could well be buried until the Spring!
Brush your clothes free of snow before entering your tent.
Keep everything inside your tent, especially your boots. Put them in a carrier bag inside the inner tent. They'll be slightly less frozen when you put them on in the morning.
Eat before bed time. Your body will generate heat as it digests food, warming your sleeping bag up faster.
Don't be lazy-Change any wet clothes immediately after setting up for the night (Carry a spare base layer).
Eat, eat and eat. And drink too. You stay warmer if the body is well fed and hydrated.
Go to the toilet when you need to. The body burns up loads of calories in winter. Don't waste it on keeping your pee warm...