I thought I’d do something a little different this week. Most of the people that I talk to don’t really get the concept of Wild Camping and the one thing they all seem most concerned with is how much equipment they would need to do it. Now if you have some bush craft skills and a good tolerance for wet and cold then you can just walk off into the woods with nothing but a swiss army knife, a torch and some warm clothing but if you’re looking for a bit more comfort these basics will make your time in the countryside far more enjoyable and you won’t break your back lugging around heavy or unnecessary kit.
- Sleeping Mat – My preference is a Thermarest self-inflating mat. Super light and compact but I find it essential for both comfort, protecting you from almost any type of terrain you may find underneath you but it also has the added bonus of being air filled which it great for keeping you warm. The shape of the mat means it can be used in the smallest of bivvie’s and is even ideal in a hammock. Pro tip: Add extra air by blowing into the valve.
- Pillow – I’ve always been fine with a rolled up down jacket as a pillow but on occasion I’ve had to use the jacket as extra insulation in my hammock so instead I invested in a proper pillow. I’ve tried many different inflatable pillows over the years and have never found them comfortable but the Exped Air pillow is fantastic and its shaped ergonomically to accommodate back or side sleepers.
- Sleeping Bag – Unless you’re really battling the elements or tackling a specific expedition it’s more important to pick you bag for weight and comfort. Generally, I use my Snugpak Jungle bag due to its ultralight weight and size. I’ve used it even in coldest months in the UK and never had a problem especially in a hammock. If I know I’m looking at multiple nights in a bivvy or very cold temperatures I’ll make sure to take a good quality 3 season bag. Berghaus do a great range that are still light and not to bulky. Pro Tip: No matter how cold it gets never seal yourself in completely by pulling the bag over your head. Sleeping bags aren’t normally breathable so your breath can cause condensation which in turn can freeze. If you’re that cold, wear a hat and/or buff to cover exposes skin areas such as nose and ears.
- Bivvy – A fantastic bit of kit, they are so versatile and can be used anywhere you have space to lay down. The downside is that by laying on the ground the cold gets to you so a good sleeping mat is essential. Most people think of bivvies as the old school waterproof bags that really are not comfortable and used only in emergencies. Modern hopped bivvies are more like one-man tents, they have plenty of room and come with great features such a ventilation and built in fly nets. My personal favourite is the Aquaquest hooped bivvy. It’s ultralight and can be put up in less than a minute, it will keep you dry in any weather and if it’s not raining you can roll back the waterproof top and sleep under the stars with the protection of the bug net.
- Hammock – In my opinion you can’t beat a good night’s sleep in a hammock. The best thing is that you don’t have to spend a lot on your first hammock. They are simple to use and super light to carry. Cocoon style hammocks are ideal for any weather as your always covered but can be a little claustrophobic. Personally, I always have a tarp up for extra wind/rain protection. Pro Tip: Look up before setting up. Keep an eye out for loose branches also known as ‘Widow makers’.
- Tarp – light, weather proof and takes up very little room. Can be used as a canopy or windshield, a groundsheet or even as an extra blanket or kit cover.
- Stove – If you have a suitable camping spot and the time it’s great to dig yourself a firepit but often you won’t have the time and a compact cooking stove is the ideal solution. For the average mini adventure, I carry a Jetboil or MDSR Windburner which is great for quickly boiling water for drinks or cooking ration packs. For longer hikes where weight is really an issue a pocket stove can be a great bit of kit. As the name implies they literally fit in your pocket, a set of metal squares that can be slotted together to form a small stove with a choice of burning fuel tablets, liquid fuels or even wood.
- Bag liner– I always have a waterproof liner for my rucksack. I like to use a 70 litre bag no matter the size of my rucksack. Whilst camping overnight I often put my rucksack and excess gear inside for protection keeping everything together, dry and bug free. In an emergency, they can be used as flotation devices and I’ve even filled one with air and used it as a sofa!
- Head Torch – You just need one ok! It gets dark at night so better to have light than nettle or bramble rash. Anything will do for the odd night out but as usual if it’s for regular use or multiple night trips its worth investing. Petzl or Black Diamond would be my choice.
- Field Tool – What type of tool you carry with you depends on where you’re going and what you will need it for. There’s a huge range of options and I’ve known people to favour Swiss army knives, multitools like Gerber or Leatherman, Bush craft knives, camping axes, folding tree saws and even Parangs. (Machetes) There are obviously legal considerations here as it never looks good to be wandering around carrying a machete and let’s face it, if you’re in the UK you don’t really need it. My personal favourite taking into consideration weight and durability is a fixed blade bush craft knife. I’ve used mine to whittle items from wood, split logs and all the standard camping tasks. I’d recommend the Mora Knife which you can pick up on Amazon for less than £15. If you’re going to be needing wood for a fire I would recommend a folding tree saw. They are far lighter and arguably easier to use than axes. There are plenty of lightweight options available on Amazon under £15.