How to make your camping trips epic
Adventurers Nicola Hardy and James Forrest are currently climbing all 282 Munros in Scotland in a single-round. Here, Nic outlines how she makes her camping trips epic.
Believe me when I tell you I’ve had more than my fair share of camping fails in the past. I’m currently climbing all 282 Munro mountains in Scotland over the summer and not only is it important that I get enough rest overnight to tackle the next 3,000ft mountain the next day, but I want my trips to be unforgettably epic! Here are my top 5 pieces of advice to make your camping trips epic -
- The right location – Getting a good quiet pitch on a beautiful campsite in the countryside bodes for a good nights sleep in nature, but walking high up into the mountains of Scotland during a sunny summer’s evening and managing a summit camp is on another level. It’s almost guaranteed that there is nobody for miles around, you’re a long way from the nearest farm or cottage and far from a phone signal. Just find a tufty square of grass to pitch your tent and sit back and enjoy the colour changes in the sky as the sun sets. Admittedly, I’ve made it sound much easier than it is, the planets really do have to align in your favour for moments like this, the Scottish mountains are notoriously blustery and inhospitable above 1,000m, but every now and then the wind dips to a light breeze for a day or two and you can truly appreciate your surroundings. My favourite summit camps have been in the Mamores range, on the Dalamally Horseshoe and in the mountains close to the Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum.
- The right gear – A good sleep system is so important. Too hot, too cold, uncomfortable or hampered by too much heavy gear that you don’t use? – all of this will affect your enjoyment of a wild camping experience. There is so much choice out there, from lightweight backpacking tents to bivvy bags, tarps and hammocks, designed to make you feel even closer to nature. I’ve chosen to camp 44 times this year so far, and this is from the woman who used to struggle to sleep in a bedroom that didn’t have blackout blinds, the right temperature and complete silence. The more you do it, the easier it becomes, but I attribute investment in quality gear and refining my sleep system over time with my increasing enjoyment in my wild camping experiences.
- The right weather – Picking a good weather window is one of the most important decisions. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve camped in sub-zero blizzards and thoroughly enjoyed the survival challenge, but my best wild camping experiences have come from sitting outdoors at a comfortable temperature, enjoying the golden, pink, purple and orange hues change in the sky, starry nights and a light breeze (to keep the midges away)! Being able to see your surroundings, the dark green forests, the sunkissed mountains, and hear the burbling streams uninterrupted by the sounds of road noise is a real treat. Having spent many a mountain day walking through the thick clag of cloud, I appreciate a clear view more and more. If you can be flexible and schedule your camps around the weather forecast, your experiences will be richer and more memorable.
- The right company – I must say that some of my best wild camping trips have been alone, high in the mountains with not another soul for miles. There’s something very liberating about shunning the digital world, putting your phone on flight mode and enjoying everything the natural world has to offer in absolute peace. That said, I’ve completed the majority of my wild camps with my boyfriend James (the bonus being that the weight of the tent and stove is shared between the two of us). Camping up in the mountains means that you have everything you need in your rucksack, and nature will provide all the entertainment. Like the time a badger charged into our camp, heading for the dry sack containing our food supplies! Or the time we sat on a summit in the Mamores, taking in views of all the mountains we had recently climbed and feeling a great sense of achievement. Camping gives you the time you need to reflect on the journey you’ve taken so far, and the challenges still to come. Having an additional person there also means you’re more likely to get that perfect Instagram-able shot to capture the epic memory on film.
- The right fuel – I don’t know about you but I get an inordinate amount of enjoyment from food and drink, and when I’m out in the hills it’s no different. I love using food to motivate myself to get to the next milestone. “5 more kilometres and I can have a treat”. Summit To Eat meals are lightweight and pack flat into my rucksack. I collect water from a nearby stream (to avoid carrying it uphill for long distances), bring it to the boil on my stove and add it to my meal. My favourites are Macaroni Cheese, Chicken Fried Rice and Pasta Bolognese. It takes 8 minutes for the meal to cook, which is perfect because my tent takes 7 minutes to pitch while I wait. Before I know it I’m tucking into my meal and replacing the calories that I’ve burned since lunchtime. Not only that, my taste buds are getting a treat. As a positive champion for ‘leave no trace’ wild camping, respecting the environment is important to me and Summit To Eat packaging make a great sealable bag for carrying waste from the mountain when I leave.
Throw in a bit of positivity, adventurous spirit and embrace whatever nature throws your way and those tips should help lead you to your next epic camping experience. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bag, head out and share a knowing smile with the lucky few you meet on the way who also know the secret.
Follow Nic and James’s adventures on Instagram: @adventurer.nic and @jamesmichaelforrest
James’ debut book Mountain Man: 446 Mountains. Six months. One record-breaking adventure is out now