I recently went for an impromptu camp out between two days of work in the Peak District, and with it being the type of adventure a lot of my clients do regularly I thought it might be fun to share some photos and compare notes.
Specifically, although I don't strive to be hyper lightweight in my camping gear, I was packing for a light and simple setup as we'd be arriving after dark: so an outfit that would handle cooking a simple meal, minus 5 celsius overnight and fit into a day-pack that I usually carry. As such I had in a pack a few items I always have, and adding the extra's I'd need to be comfortable camping at this time of year.
- Robens Starlight 2 Tent
- Sleeping Bag
- Warm bits: wool hat, gloves, socks, buff
- Inflatable sleeping mat
- 1 Litre Thermos
- Wash kit
- Survival Bivi
- Mors Pot with food stored inside
- British Army Mug and 1 Litre bottle, plus spoon
- Bahco Saw
- Olight torch and spare battery
- Head torch and spare battery, plus some paracord
- Toilet Kit
- Thick foam sit mat
- 37 Litre rucksack by Tasmanian Tiger
- Superlight Tarp
- First Aid Kit
- Keela Belay Jacket in a stuff sack
Some points straight off the bat then:
- I'd opted to sleep in a tent for a couple of reason, firstly it's a new tent which I'm planning to use during our upcoming expeditions so I've been trailing it as much as possible in different conditions. Also, as we're were simply camping overnight I wanted an option I could pitch and take down in just a minute or two, without having to scan a woodland in the dark for the trees for a tarp setup. In taking a tent it could then afford to take a small 3 season sleeping as the tent would add a few degrees of warmth onto the rating.
- Which brings me onto the next point: in looking to save weight and bulk in your kit the first place you should look is your sleeping bag. A good quality three season bag should be comfortable on the plus side of zero degrees, add to that a good merino baselayer saved purely to sleep in to ensure its dry and a decent insulating mat and you can experiment with taking it in colder conditions (again the tent helps with this). Here I've used a Snugpak Chrysalis 2 sleeping bag, which comfort rating bottoms out at +2 degrees. We got down to about minus 5 in the night, so to increase the insulation I follow the simple rule: it is the air you're able to trap around you, not the materials themselves, that keep you warm; this air must be dry. Often the impulse when you wake up cold in the night is to put on extra clothing, a much better option is to simple pull extra clothing on over the top of your sleeping bag. Wearing lots of clothes to sleep in will trap moisture, and that will wick your body heat away from you faster; the best advice I've found is to wear a wool base-layer top along with underwear and fresh wool socks inside the sleeping bag, with extra layers ready to pull on top of the sleeping bag should you need(the keela belay jacket is excellent for this).
- A final tip for a warm nights sleep: I carry a heavy duty plastic water bottle when camping which I fill at the end of the night with hot water. This I place in my sleeping while I'm getting ready for bed, it warms the sleeping bag and provides drinking water for the morning, and by hugging the bottle by my torso my whole body is quickly re-warmed after getting undressed for bed. I prefer a plastic bottle for this as it can be filled with very hot water yet still be held next to the skin without being too hot, and as such it also cools more slowly.
Clothing for this time of year is often a worry for clients when joining a course, whether they have enough warm layers and what works best is something I'm regularly. On a course it's easy as you can simply bring plenty of clothing and leave spares in the car however when backpacking your often limited to what you can carry in your pack. For this overnight trip a adopted a layering system I use often: a thin base layer with a medium weight mid layer, and an option for a third thick layer in the pack. I then observe my body temperature as I go and adjust accordingly: as I'm about to head up hill I know I'll be working hard and heating up, so I'll ventilate or drop a layer and when I stop and cool off I'll add a layer. Taking care to not sweat too heavily into your clothes is key here, once wet you'll get cold much quicker.
For this outing I took:
- 200g merino baselayer
- Montane Extreme Smock
- Keela Belay Jacket in a stuff sack
- Pinewoods Extreme Laplander Trousers
The Montane Smock is excellent for active use as it features side zips for venting hot air when working hard and the pile lining wicks moisture away from you quickly whilst keeping you warm too. My love of Keela's Belay Jacket is well known to my colleagues now, it's a great day to day jacket and excels as a outer warm layer worn over everything else when stopping for a break (it also packs down to a very small size!)
I've been trailing the Pinewood Extreme Laplander Trousers for a while now and I have to admit I've been very impressed: their waterproof lining breathes well (unless you're working very hard) and adds a level of heat retention which is very welcome during the damp cold of the UK winter. Unlike waterproof outers you've still got access to your pockets, and the polycotton outer layer is a more durable and quieter too. As I’ll be doing a good amount of canoeing this winter and spring though, I was looking for a waterproof pair that give me the same features as my typical outdoor trousers but more protection from occasional splash and wave on the river. I don’t typically enjoy wearing the usual waterproof trousers you get for hiking, or the rubbery drysuit trousers my colleagues wear for canoeing so these seemed like a good fit...so far very good! My only niggle with them is the adjustable cuff at the bottom, which holds well but if you want to adjust it during the day it's a bit fiddly.
Dinner we kept
It being dark when we set up I didn't get photos of the evening meal we cooked, but this is a simple setup I use often. I stout stick pointed and driven into the ground with a notch carved for hanging a pot. This was made using a small folding knife, the only knife I brought with me as I wouldn't need anything more substantial.
In here we cooked mushroom rice, with lamb steaks cooked in the embers below. A very quick and filling meal with minimal prep and cleaning up.
- I'd taken hot water in the flask which I used first to boil the rice, thus cutting the cooking time in half as we didn't have to wait for the water to come up to boiling.
- I topped up the flask from a nearby spring by filtering the water through a milbank bag into the billy can, this was boiled at the end of the evening to provide a full flask of hot water for the morning plus the above mentioned hot water for the water bottle sleeping bag heater.
- In this way we didn't need a fire in the morning as we had hot water for drinks and for mixing oats for porridge.
- The evenings fire we tidied back to leave no trace, with plenty of water from the spring going into the ground around the fire site.
All in all a nice little wild camp in the Peak District, I hope this article highlights that camping at this time of year can be quite simple without needing a whole host of specialist winter equipement. It is worth noting that we knew the area very well, and have camped with this gear many times to test its effectiveness. Winter camping does expose you to much more demanding weather and as such you're skills in fire-lighting and knowledge of how you personally respond to the cold is vital. A good tip if you've never done it before is to go somewhere close to your car or home, so if you do underestimate the cold you can simply escape and try again another day.
I hope you find this useful, I'd love to hear any tips you have for keeping warm on a winter camp out in the comments below.
All the best