Thursday, 30 July 2020

Confessions of a Reluctant Camper

Do you like camping? I'll be honest, I can take or leave it. It's something to be endured as a means to an end. And if that end can be achieved by other means, like getting up earlier, or going faster and lighter, I will take it! I've never slept well in tents, and summer brings midges, so that's even more reason not to camp! Even somewhere as lovely as this...

A wild camp in the North-west Highlands:

But sometimes a night under canvas can't be avoided, either because you are heading off last minute and there's no accommodation to be had, or because you want to base yourself for a few days somewhere remote. I'd love to know your personal tips and tricks for a comfortable night's camping! Here's mine:

  1. Don't. Sleep in your own bed and set the alarm for 3am!
  2. Accept that camping is not meant to be fun, and you will be mentally prepared.
  3. If you must camp, camp in spring when it is no longer dark all day and before there are midges around.
  4. Choose your suffering. I'd rather go as light as possible, and not sleep, than carry a heavy pack and get a sore knee. I've 'slept' in the pissing rain on the Cuillin ridge covered in nothing but a foil blanket. That's taking it a bit far though, I would carry at least a sleeping bag these days.
  5. Take a blow-up airbed. My Thermarest is ridiculously expensive for a small piece of plastic, but it has transformed comfort compared to the roll-up yoga mat I used to lie on.
  6. Get a down sleeping bag. They are warmer, lighter, and pack down smaller. They usually cost hundreds of pounds, but you can get a decent one from Eurohike for £60.
  7. Wear cosy bedsocks, as warm feet help you sleep.
  8. Don't bother with cooking equipment. There's two schools of thought, one says that a hot meal or drink is a morale booster. But I will happily forego those things to save some pack weight.
  9. Don't drink anything within 2 hours of bedtime. Getting up in the middle of the night for a pee is a faff!
  10. Sleeping in your own dried sweat is uncomfortable, so find a river to swim in to wash yourself before bed. I like the 'press-up' method as it minimises contact with cold water - get naked in the river on your hands and feet, head facing upstream, and do a few press-ups to enjoy an invigorating natural shower.
  11. Have an afternoon nap to catch up on sleep because let's face it, you won't be sleeping much overnight.
  12. Camp in the windiest, most exposed spot possible! Normal advice is to do the opposite, but normal advice doesn't consider midges. If you are camping low, find some machair or dunes near a beach. There's usually fewer midges on that terrain compared to a forest or moor.
  13. Avoid high-fibre foods. It's nice if you don't need a number 2 during your camping trip. But if you do...
  14. Dig a wee hole and bury human waste under a couple of inches of topsoil and vegetation. Do your business well away from paths and running water. Choose a different spot each time. You might even consider carrying bags specially for it, and pack your waste out!

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