Unless you are lucky enough to work in the great outdoors, did you know that on average we spend 90% of our time stuck indoors? That seems like a scarily high figure, considering how much we all love the outdoors, right? I am going to go out on a limb and guess that most people’s excuse is that they don’t have time to get out after work or on days off… Well look at it this way: the average person gets 112 days off every year. Add that to time off after work and that equals 6736 hours free every year. Now tell me that you really can't spare 12 hours to go camping…
With that excuse out of the way, lets have a look at what the next big hurdle usually is: Having the right kit.
The discussion of what you need to take camping with you can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. The thing to bare in mind are: you are not tackling Everest. Unless you’re going to be heading right into the hills then you really only need a few basics. Lets have a look at those basics now.
We have two amazing options when it comes to shelters. We have the option of the traditional tent, easy to pitch, enclosed space, great for bad weather and they keep the bugs out (most of the time!). Tents are a super option for beginners, they give you the added sense of security when it comes to being in the great outdoors. I have never really managed to be comfortable in a tent though, I feel too trapped. This led me to my second great discovery: Bivi bags and tarps. A bivi bag is an enclosure for your sleeping bag; nothing more, nothing less. It is essentially a big, breathable, waterproof sack that you crawl into. The downside? Well, it’s not for the claustrophobic. It’s a lot smaller space than a tent, meaning that you don’t have the comfort of being able to get changed inside. In fact you don’t have the comfort of being able to do anything but lay down! The upside? You can fall asleep looking up at the stars. A tarp is a sheet of fabric that you suspend above your bivi bag to keep the worst of the weather off of you. It takes some practice to get right but it allows so much more freedom on where you can camp and makes it lighter to drag along on a trek with you!
Sleeping bags come in many shapes and sizes. The two primary types are synthetically lined bags and down lined bags. Synthetic doesn’t pack as small, isn’t quite as light but is just as warm and still retains it’s heating capacity when wet. Down filled bags pack much smaller, are lighter, but usually more expensive; the other, major, downside to down bags is that when the down gets wet, it loses it’s warming capability and so it is important to keep your bag dry when you are out and about or you will have a chilly night! Fact is though, if you’re simply heading out on a one night camping trip then you don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds on a sleeping bag! £20 from your local supermarket will usually get you a great synthetic lined mummy style bag. The trick is to just take a jumper with you if you think it won’t hold up to the weather and you have just increased the capability of your sleeping bag no end! Result!
Cooking Gear & Food
Open fires are very pretty and all but they’re not ideal for making sure that the beautiful countryside that you’re visiting is left undisturbed after your visit. You generally have three options with camping stoves: Gas canister cookers, liquid fuel cookers and solid fuel cookers. Gas canister cookers are super simple: screw your stove head into the top of a camping stove and away you go - pop your cooking pot on, throw in some water and pasta and Bob’s your uncle! Liquid fuel stoves are almost the same but they require a bit more prep - you have to pressurise the fuel canister and heat the fuel before you can really get cooking. The benefit of liquid fuel over canisters? Liquid fuel is more efficient at higher altitude. Not really something we need to worry too much about in our part of the world… The last option is solid fuel. Solid fuel comes in the form of small pellet type capsules that sit in an enclosure and you simply set fire to them, pop your stove on and you’re done. The downside to this final option is that there is no cooking heat adjustment - you’re either cooking or you’re not!
Food wise, keep it simple when you’re heading out. The best, easiest option is to simply have a great meal before you leave and take some milk and cereal for breakfast! No cooking involved - result! For the more adventurous, it’s not a huge jump to being able to fry up a few sausages in a pot, put them to one side and then cook some beans in the same pot over a stove. You will be surprised at how simple it is to cook in the outdoors. The main thing to remember is to avoid high sugar foods such as chocolate and sweets - they’re great for a pick-me-up but will leave you crashing afterwards which is never fun. Keep it simple on the cooking front and it will be easier in the long run.
Summer in the England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. It’s the best time of year when it comes to getting outdoors and enjoying the beauty of this part of the world that we live in. The downside to this part of the world is that summer usually means just as much rain (just slightly less snow) than the winter months. For this reason always pack waterproofs. Something simple for your top and bottoms such as this waterproof jacket and these waterproof overtrousers will pack away into a side pocket on your backpack and you can forget about them until you need them. For the super prepared and creative, you can probably use a poncho like this (which will also cover your backpack) and then use it as a tarp at night… Nothing will make you quite as miserable as being soaked through, so be prepared!
The next layer down is usually a thermal layer. Again, you never can really trust the Summer here and so making sure that you at least have a jumper or fleece with you will keep you happy. Worst case, you can use it as a pillow when you bed down for the night! You will get cold when you least expect it, even if it has been a super warm day, by the time the sun sets you are usually left with quite a chill so make sure you have something to keep you warm.
The final layer is your base layer. The base layer is what you wear directly next to your skin - it helps to wick moisture away from your skin and to keep you dry and warm when you need it. Layers are the key when it comes to keeping warm and to flexibility. It is better to wear three thin layers than one very thick layer. When you are trekking for miles you will sweat regardless of the weather, it is always good to be able to strip back a layer or two when you need to and add them back on when you really need them.
That is a lot of information for a beginner to take in! Lets look at the basics again though:
Shelter: Tent or Bivi - keep it simple and fun.
Sleeping bag: Synthetic or Down - keep it cheap and cheerful and wear an extra jumper if you think it might be a bit chilly.
Cooking: Gas, Liquid or Solid fuel - make life easier by eating before you leave and taking food that doesn’t require cooking.
Clothing: Layers, Layers, Layers! - Base layer, warming layer, waterproof layer. In that order.
Finally… keep it simple, keep it fun! We all love the outdoors and there is little point in hiking and camping if it’s not fun. Enjoy the world! Keep exploring…