Want to tackle your first night out in the wild under canvas? Phoebe Smith – avid wild camper and author of Wilderness Weekends – offers some hard-won advice…
1. Enjoy not endure – this has always been my motto. You want to remember your first wild camp for all the right reasons, so if the weather’s bad for your planned camp then just postpone it for another time. The wilderness will be there for another day and it’s much more fun to sleep out when it’s clear enough to see the stars.
2. Know where you are going. In the dark everything looks different, miles take longer to walk, familiar landmarks look unfamiliar and even sheep take on a sinister silhouette! So, if you can, check out your planned camp spot in the daylight first – that way, you can time how long it takes to get to it and ensure it is actually a suitable place for a tent or bivvy bag. Ideally you want somewhere away from a path, near to a water source and – of course – somewhere with a cracking view.
3. Dress for the conditions. Even if you choose to camp in summer, once the sun sets it will get cold. The key is layers. Wear a thinner, warm baselayer (one that moves sweat away from your body so definitely no cotton) that sits next to your skin. Over that, wear a mid-layer for warmth – a fleece is by far the best and cheapest option for this. Always take a waterproof jacket to protect you from rain and wind. Then, for those sitting around camp moments, remember an insulated jacket (down or synthetic) so you don’t get too cold. Always take a hat and gloves too.
4. Eat well – don’t make the mistake that some people do, skimping on supplies to lighten their pack weight, it’s just not worth it. Take a camping stove and a meal you can heat – either boil in the bag or a dehydrated – there’s nothing better than hot food when it’s cold. Also take hot drink sachets, chocolate bars/snacks, and something that’s a treat for you. And remember to take all your rubbish out with you when you leave.
5. It’s not a murderer outside your tent – your imagination has a habit of running away with you on your first wild camp, it happens to us all! But it really is a rabbit out there… or a sheep, so try to relax and sleep well.
Phoebe is author of Wilderness Weekends: Wild Adventures in Britain’s Rugged Corners (Bradt). Wanderlust members get a discount off Bradt Guides - check out the members area.
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