It was a little over a year ago since I popped my wild camping cherry. As an experienced hiker and keen camper, I thought I’d have this wild camping malarkey sussed. But, like anything, your first time is a magical learning experience. Therefore I wanted to impart my knowledge and experience and give you the low-down on what I learnt from my first wild camp!
1. Good company
Your first wild camp can be quite stressful! Although generally tolerated, there is still anxiety about being asked to move in the middle of the night, coupled with a fear of the unknown. It’s safe to say, I could not have done my first wild camp alone.
For anyone who has read John Krakauer’s “Into the Wild”, Christopher McCandless aptly wrote ‘Happiness is only real when shared’. I definitely second that, making memories only feels real when you have someone else to make them with. It was also comforting knowing we were both learning the ropes together (less chance of you looking stupid).
Despite the obvious benefits of camping with someone brings, I do hope to do some solo trips. To be totally alone with oneself sounds therapeutic and mildly terrifying all at the same time.
2. Weight is important – as is fitness!
When I originally bought all my camping/hiking gear wild camping wasn’t on my agenda so I hadn’t taken into consideration the pack size or weight to my equipment. As I struggled up a long steep hill with a heavy load on my back, I suddenly realised why people are so obsessed with lightweight gear. My asthma hated me!
I had a Vango 65L rucksack, which is amazing for space but isn’t specifically designed for women. Although I don’t completely buy into equipment that is ‘specifically designed for women’, it is important to find a rucksack that feels comfortable. Being fairly petite (well short), I didn’t feel the weight was distributed as well as it could be and did feel myself swaying side to side with the weight. I have since invested in a women’s rucksack which definitely provides better support around the back and hips.
I had a Vango tempest 200 which is about 2.5kg – but shared between 2 isn’t too bad. The thing that gets you is all the overpacking. A whole litre of Gin and Tonic, more snacks than you’ll probably ever eat in a day trip, cooked pasta, spare tarp, tarp pole etc.
The usual problem is people being underprepared. I am always massively over-prepared, which isn’t always a good thing. The weight of your pack is important, especially when you are on steep, uneven ground. You need to understand your physical fitness and strength before trying to take the world up there with you.
3. Planning is important, but be flexible
Our original plan was to hike up to Gridesdale Tarn. The planned route was almost a complete vertical hike. Between my lack of fitness and my overpacked rucksack, I felt like a cow that was about to be tipped! Long story short, it seemed silly to continue, especially given that it was slippery underfoot and we would only have to come down it the next day.
Although I had meticulously planned the route, looked at google maps to find potential camping spots etc, I realised we needed a change of plan. I grabbed my map and looked at what seemed feasible, taking note of contour lines and areas away from the path which was suitable for a tent.
We finally settled on a spot, and it was absolutely spectacular. Sometimes you can get so fixated on executing a plan, you lose sight of what is the sensible and safer thing to do. Safety should always be at the top of your agenda, the mountains aren’t going anywhere. Despite taking a ‘safer’ option, we didn’t compromise on the view!
4. Enjoy it
It was undeniably stressful at times, having to change the route, trying to get the tent on a flat bit of ground! But it all added to the learning experience. Once we were set up and cracked open the gin and chocolate cake (yes, a whole chocolate cake), we just sat up watching the sunset over Derwent Water. You forget all the stress and achy legs and realise what you did it all for.
5. Check for ticks
I’ve been hiking for years and never had a tick until I went on this trip! Probably an unfortunate coincidence, but worth being aware and carrying a tick remover in your first aid kit!
6. Future trips
This trip definitely got me hooked on wild camping! Before this trip was over, we were already planning our next trip. We then went on to do both summer and winter wild camps, all of which have been stunning.
I have invested in some new gear – the lightwave T20 trail tent, Osprey women’s 60L rucksack and a DD hammock. I am now looking forward to trying out my new gear in a trip to Scotland once lockdown is eased! Hopefully, that also means I can do some gear reviews!
For anyone thinking about wild camping – my advice (aside from above) is go for it! You’ll feel better for trying than wondering what it was like!