I like being clean, I wear make up every day and I can’t stand having greasy hair. But I don’t let any of that stop me from doing the thing I love more than almost anything else – wild camping.
The advice people usually give for big multi-day walks and camping trips is to pack light. I agree. It’s definitely best to carry minimal weight where possible, especially when you’re hiking in the hills. But for me there are some items that are worth taking, however heavy they are.
I probably don’t do myself any favours because I’m very stubborn and refuse to let Matt carry more weight than me, so we split our joint kit equally, and then I pack the extras that I want to take too. So yes, sometimes my pack has weird bulges and Matt laughs at me, but I don’t care, I know we’ll have a great night, made even more memorable by the little extras I’ve stashed away.
Of course there are some absolute essentials you have to take:
- Tent (Matt actually carries our tent and I take our cooking equipment)
- Camping stove and pan
- Sleeping bag
- Water bladder filled with water
- First aid kit
- Tea bags/coffee/hot chocolate
- Powdered milk
- Down jacket
And then there are the extras that make my wild camps so much more enjoyable, but probably don’t feature on most wild camp kit lists.
A sit mat or lightweight picnic blanket (Pacmat)
Probably the best bit of a wild camp for me is getting to lie out and watch the night sky. I’ve always love star gazing and the nature of wild camp spots means you’re pretty likely to have amazing night skies with shooting stars aplenty (weather permitting).
A wine pouch (GSI Outdoors soft-sided wine carafe)
I learnt the hard way that carrying heavy bottles of wine over multiple mountains was a bad idea. So imagine my joy when in one of my all-time favourite tiny outdoors stores, PSM Outdoors in Hay-on-Wye, I discovered a wine pouch. This is a soft-sided carafe with a secure screw cap and a capacity of 750ml – enough to decant a full bottle of wine, without the weight of the bottle. It’s basically the 21st-century equivalent of a bota bag, those old leather wineskins that Spanish shepherds used to drink from.
I’m not obsessed with booze, honestly, but a taking the occasional little nip of your favourite spirit from your hip flask throughout the evening keeps me warm and happy when wild camping.
A tasty camp meal
Dehydrated food pouches tend to be the go-to option for wild camp meals. While these will provide you with all the nutrients and energy you need to set you up for a day on the hills, they can be really unfulfilling. There’s nothing I hate more than a meal eaten literally just to fuel the body. I love food and I love cooking, so camp meals are a big deal for me.
If you really can’t carry much, then I’d recommend ‘Look what we found!’ ready meals. They do a tasty Cumbrian lamb hot pot, beef chilli con carne and chicken casserole, using produce from small regional British farmers, and they don’t take up much more room than a dehydrated pouch. We always take our trusty Jetboil Flash stove on wild camps, and (contrary to the packet instructions) the pouches can just be boiled in water to heat them through. Then you can eat them straight from the pouch so you don’t have to worry about carrying bowls – double win.
However, my favourite wild camping meals are when we take our Jetboil fry pan so we can cook up something much more exciting. A firm favourite is couscous with halloumi and chorizo, and a spicy tomato sauce. For me, I’d rather carry a little more weight and take what you’re actually going to enjoy, because there’s nothing worse than bedding down for the night after a big day in the hills and feeling like you haven’t had a real dinner.
Super warm, fluffy socks
I get cold. Really cold. Especially my hands and my feet. So having super warm socks is such a treat. Particularly if you’ve been trudging through bog or snow all day, so by the time you stop your feet are clammy and damp or entirely numb. Give them a good dry and a rub to get the circulation going, put your super warm socks on and you’ll be happy (until you inevitably need a wee and realise you’re going to have to take your toasty socks off and put your cold, wet boots back on).
Unless it’s the height of summer, I’ll most likely have thermals in my pack, for the same reasons as above. It can get very cold up at altitude and the last thing you want is to spend the whole night shivering.
Now this is definitely a luxury, but in winter and the colder months I’ll always pack our Alpkit Cloud Cover down quilt. It’s great for a bit of extra warmth in the night, but even better for lying out and watching the stars without worrying about getting your sleeping bag wet or dirty. It packs down small and doesn’t weigh much at all.
When Matt first got an inflatable pillow out of his pack on a wild camp, I laughed. Who takes a pillow wild camping? But I soon changed my mind when I actually tried it. It was so much more comfortable than a jacket. I couldn’t admit that I really wanted one though, as I’d already started referring to Matt’s as his ‘wanky pillow’ – luckily he ignored me and bought me one for Christmas and I’ve never slept better on wild camps since. Matt’s got the original Nemo Fillo and I’ve got the ultralight version, which packs even smaller.
You won’t necessarily have anywhere to wash your face, so face wipes will have to suffice. They can also be used as a body wash the morning after a wild camp so you start the day feeling a little fresher.
I always pack a small micro towel. It’s good to have something to dry your feet if they’ve got wet during the day, but it’s also great in case the opportunity arises to have a llyn/tarn/stream wash. It’s a great way to start the day, although perhaps not in winter.
Matt always tells me I shouldn’t take my make-up. But I know myself well enough to know I won’t be happy without it. I don’t have one of those naturally beautiful faces and it definitely needs enhancement, so there are four items of make-up I can’t live without, even on a wild camp when weight is at a premium. I do slim it down though – I’ll decant some liquid foundation into a small pot, take the most worn-down eyeliner I can find, pack a tester-size mascara and take my normal compact foundation, complete with mirror (which is also useful for things like putting in and taking out contact lenses – see below).
I always take a miniature deodorant, travel-sized dry shampoo, folding toothbrush and mini toothpaste. I also have the misfortune of being fairly short-sighted, so my contact lens pot, solution and glasses are always in my pack too.
It might sound obvious, but make sure you take enough pairs of pants for the number of days you are going to be away. You end up feeling grubby enough after a few nights of wild camping and hardcore hiking, but having clean pants to put on each morning goes a long way to making you feel fresher.