When I first started going wild camping I probably read numerous articles in magazines and on websites, all telling me to go for lightweight, minimalist gear, and only pack the utter essentials. Having now spent quite a bit of time in a tent, alone on a hill in the middle of nowhere, I’ve come to appreciate those little things that are nine times out of ten overlooked. Here are five things to bear in mind about multi-day backpacking in the hills.
1. Your tent is your new house!
When out on a multi-day trip, particularly in bad weather the comfort of a tent at night will be the thing to look forward to at the end of the day. Make it worthwhile. Weight isn’t everything. Carrying a slightly lighter load in the day, can mean you’re uncomfortable at night. Sleeping in the fetal position with condensation dripping on your face, is a rather unpleasant experience.
When buying a tent as well as weight, consider things such as: ventilation (i.e single or two wall), sitting up space (often a worthwhile luxury) and porch area (for wet gear and cooking). No matter how bad my day is, I know that I’ll be warm, dry and therefor happy by the end of it. Job’s a gooden.
2. Enjoy your food
Dehydrated camping meals work for many people, but I must say they aren’t one of my favourite dishes. Along with their expense and lack of flavour, many don’t offer a suitable amount of calories. Things like pasta, rice, powdered soup, porridge and semolina are all lightweight and inexpensive. If you plan in advance and have basic kitchen abilities you should be able to get a filling, tasty meal inside you.
In the day time things like flapjack are great. Along with being a nice treat, flapjack offers both quick releasing and long lasting energy. And unlike pre made sandwiches, it doesn’t mangle up in your rucksack, or disintegrate in the rain. Make a big batch at home before you go. And if on your first day out, you realise you’ve made too much and the weight is killing you, then I guess you’ll just have to pig out and eat it.
3. Warmth is Morale – make the effort
Morale is the be all and end all when it comes to spending days out (particularly alone) in the hill. The whole process of multi-day backpacking is a constant fight to keep your spirit levels up. Us human beings like our warmth. A drop in motivation can be the first sign that you’re getting cold. Popping a hat on could bring a smile to your face. And don’t wait until you’re shivering before you get that extra layer out of your rucksack. It’s much easier to maintain warmth, than gain warmth, and out here there really are no prizes for getting cold. Take a few pairs of gloves (they do get wet) and keep them (along with a hat) in your waterproofs pocket, close to hand. Also remember that your extremities often get cold, because your core is trying to retain heat and therefor hogging all your blood.
4. Chill out time
Time in your tent needs to be enjoyable. If your day has just not gone to plan, you need to be able to switch off in the evening, and wake up the next day feeling refreshed and ready. Make this time as good as possible. Make sure you have a pair of dry thermals just for your tent and be bothered to put waterproofs on if venturing out into the midnight rain. And surely an Ipod/mp3 player is worth it’s weight – a few tunes in the evening can be good company. Also getting stuck into a good book before bed is something to consider. You’ll be making a lot of important decisions throughout your day. Your mind will be racing. Even if it is just for half an hour, leave your own adventure and jump into someone else’s.
5. Put the Kettle on!
I understand it can feel like an effort at the end of the day, but brew up. Quite likely you weren’t drinking enough throughout the day, and you’ll need to top up your fluids. If you organise your trips to get water, you shouldn’t be needing to run back and forth from your tent all evening. Fill up your water bottle, along with your pot/stove and that should do you for the night.
These are just five of the many things I’ve learned through experience. Ultimately you need to go out and learn what works best for you. It is all a balance between comfort and weight. And how far you’re willing to go at either end of that spectrum. Developing your own tricks and routines will make life easier and more enjoyable when heading for the hills.
If you’re wanting to find out more about wild camping in the UK hills then these articles by Dan Bailey, editor of UKHillwalking, are both entertaining and informative.
Ten top tips for wild camping:
Ten top tips for a better bivvy:
Wild camping and the law:
Thanks for reading,
As always comments are welcome. What are your tips for heading out in the hills overnight?