July 2017 Wildcamp: Daypack Challenge
Sometimes I wonder, what is it that you really need to enjoy a comfortable night in the outdoors? I’ve pondered this question a few times and have even challenged myself on more than one occasion to strip the camping kit to the basics and see how it goes. Thus far, on each occasion, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how little you actually need to enjoy a comfortable camping trip.
Feel free to check out my first ever video below and let me know what you think.
For my July camping trip, my camping buddies and I challenged ourselves to enjoy (not endure!!) a night out in the woods using only the kit that we can squeeze into our small rucksacks (or daypacks if you’re from the military!). As always, with this challenge comes a bit of planning and preparation. One thing I always like to do is list the items I need for shelter, sleep, cooking, tools, clothing, food and then drink. I’m usually pretty good at deciding what I need to take. That is until I contemplate what I want to eat where I become incredibly indecisive right up until the night before I embark on a camping trip!
On this occasion, I knew the weather was going to be warm but with a good chance of rain. I therefore opted to take the following in my 30ltr Daypack:
Nothing too elaborate and all of it packs down relatively compact and fits in my rucksack without any problems.
The main sacrifices I made were in my cook kit as I swapped out the billy can for a steel Dutch army mug. I also left the axe at home as this is seldom a necessity in the British woodland throughout the warm and dry months. I guess the hammock is also a sacrifice as this can be quite bulky when paired up with the other paraphernalia that goes with it. All in all, I still had plenty of room left in the pack to carry 3 litres of water, lots of food (I like food!!) and even a couple of cheeky beers!
Bag packed, it was soon time to head off into my local woodland and once again breath that sigh of relief as I step away from the nearest wifi signal. It’s an up-hill walk almost all the way to camp so it was quite nice to be carrying a lighter load on the back. Indeed I almost had a bit of a skip in my step as I contemplated my plans for the day.
Mercifully the elements held off for the first few hours while my camp mates and I set-up camp but the threat of rain often felt imminent. I spent the first hour gathering wood and constructing a raised bed. Rain was forecast for the evening and I thought it would be nice to get myself off the ground and away from those pesky slugs that seem to thrive in this damp and humid weather! Slugs are by no means a danger to the human race but who wants to wake up in the morning covered with slug slime? I may once have been guilty of cooking up a slug on the barbeque and eating it (eeuuughh!!). But I was somewhat intoxicated at the time and would certainly not want them slithering all over my face while I snore myself into a stupor!
Building a raised bed is a relatively simple task if you have plenty of dead wood lying around (which I did!). In my case it was made a little more challenging by the humidity. But, I firmly believe that getting outdoors, keeping active and learning about nature is infinitely better than any kind of gym membership (I shan’t mention the calorific content of the food that was in my rucksack!!).
Having dispensed of at least a gallon of sweat! I’d finally made my bed, set-up my small tarp into a low ‘A-frame’ configuration and organised my foam mat and bivvy bag. A quick lay on the bed told me that some adjustments were needed to ensure the wooden cross-sections conformed with my curvaceous figure and that was me sorted for the night. Happily my delightful camp buddies had got the fire going which meant that it was finally time to relax and get a brew on.
The remainder of my time in camp was spent at a more leisurely pace. Maintaining the fire and whittling a couple of spoons from some green sycamore that I'd helped to fell on on a recent working party (we're working to thin out the invasive sycamore population and planting more native species of tree).
I also cooked sausages on the grill for lunch and drunk plenty more cups of tea. Sausages always taste amazing when cooked over a fire, in my mind they are a staple of almost every camping trip.
It was after lunch that the heavens decided to open. They did so with the accompaniment of a crash of thunder and a bolt of lightning. The tree canopy protected us from some of the rain but we all retreated to our shelters to sit out the storm. There aren't many sounds that are as therapeutic as the pitter patter of rain on tarp. I also managed to collect just under a litre of water by placing an empty water bottle by the corner of my tarp. Water dripped off the guy line and into my bottle earning me a few bonus brews!!
Happily the storm didn't last too long and the fire, protected by the tree canopy, continued to burn brightly. My spoon carvings were progressing nicely, it's such a relaxing pastime to be sat whittling away without a care in the world. Sadly I failed to capture any decent photos of them but might feature them in a separate blog entry once I've finished them off in the 'man cave'.
As the day progressed to night, my attention switched once more to food! I hadn't planned anything special for dinner, just a tin of chicken curry and some naan bread. I enjoy cooking, but sometimes it doesn't need to be anything elaborate. A simple meal out of a tin can be more than enough to satisfy my taste buds. I washed that down with a couple of cans of ale and spent the rest of the evening contentedly staring into the fire.
Come ten o'clock the forecasted rain returned pretty much bang on time. We judged this was as good an opportunity as any to turn in for the night. I settled down on my new bed, listened once again to the pitter patter of rain on tarp and texted my wife to enquire whether we had a spare memory foam mattress that could compliment my raised bed! Sadly not.
I won't lie, it wasn't the most comfortable nights sleep that I've had in the woods. But neither was it the worse. The rain stayed in for the night but I stayed dry, warm and was reasonably comfortable. I think I shall make some small improvements to the bed next time I visit camp, maybe even add a bedside table - it's an on going project!
Time to pack up camp, leave no trace and clear away the fire scar. We have permission to camp here so we are leaving the furniture, but that can very easily be returned to nature cometh the time that we move on to pastures new.
Thanks as always for reading. Next months camp will be a little different, I'm hitting the trails and embarking on a micro adventure!