I really don’t know how to say this, and not feel pathetic, so I think I’ll just come out with it: I’ve NEVER wild camped. No, not once. The nearest I’ve come is a deserted camp site, which I’d love to count, but don’t really think I can.
I’ve always wanted to do it, have kept my eyes open for good spots, but never quite had the bottle, as there have always been easier options available. But now that I’m running out of Wainwrights and have to face up to the Far Eastern fells, the time is approaching when I think it might actually happen.
Doing the Wainwrights without the use of a car (yes deliberately) is fine for most of the Lake District due to the sensible distribution of bus routes, camp sites and youth hostels. So I’ve never really had to face up to the issue. But the FE fells aren’t brimming over with places to stay, or bus routes, and I’m not the sort of walker that can do a 20 mile roundtrip in a day in the hills. So I need to look at staying in the middle of nowhere in order to pick off the most remote fells – and by remote I mean Tarn Crag, Grey Crag, Branstree and neighbours. Ironically these are also the nearest fells to my house, albeit over 200 miles away.
So I’ve sort of got my head around the fact I’ll need to wild camp, and I’m reasonably sure that once I’ve done it I’ll never look back – either because it’ll be great or because I’ve been eaten by sheep in the night.
For most first-timers, there are a few psychological hurdles to get over:
- What if I get caught ?
- What if I get axe-murdered ?
- Seriously, you expect me to crap behind a rock ?
- Surely the water, such as it is, will be highly dangerous ?
- Surely my tent will blow away and I’ll be exposed to the elements like Charles Haughtry in Carry on Camping ?
So here’s how I’ve tried to get my head around each of these:
1. What if I get caught ?
So what ? Given that I nearly did it once on the North Downs where you could probably expect more of this sort of trouble, this should be easy to deal with. It’s not the worst crime in the world, indeed only in some places is it actually a crime, and the worst that can happen is being asked to move. Given that I once ran naked through the streets of Exeter, this shouldn’t be too much of a worry.
2. Axe murders
Pull yourself together. Axes are heavy and only a small proportion of axe-wielding maniacs would go to the effort of climbing a couple of thousand feet on the off-chance that some hapless individual will be conveniently waiting in a tent. Ok then, I might get trampled by sheep ? Probably not, sheep have to sleep too. And how often do you see sheep crash into something – they seem to sense the closeness of things and swerve at the last minute. So, maybe best just to hope the axe murderers and/or sheep make a good clean quick job of it, if it happens.
3. Toilet humour
Actually this one doesn’t bother me that much, especially given some of the other things I’ve done. Plus rarely is there a day on the hills, when there isn’t a need for a makeshift “comfort break”. But I still plan to, ahem, “go” before setting off, hold off on the spicy food and eat plenty of doughnuts. Or as they say in Carry on Camping, “stay off the tinned food, and put plenty of paper down first” (ok, maybe actually not the last bit).
4. Lapping it up
This is the hardest one for me. I drink quite a lot of water on a walk, so know I’ll have to replenish overnight. Somehow, despite watching Bear Grylls, Ray Mears and seeing soldiers living for a week in a ditch, I’ve still not completely accepted the fact that you can get good enough water treatment equipment nowadays. Going to have to suck it and see (quite literally).
5. Gusts in the night
I think I’ve just been scared by all those videos of windy wild camps that people keep posting on YouTube (you know who you are). Or maybe they’re just trying to keep it exclusive or prove how hard they are, before sneaking down to the valley for a night in a comfy B&B. The truth is if the forecast is for high winds, I ain’t going. And although my tent has stood up to breezy nights at the camp site, it’s
quite cheap “modestly priced” and I wouldn’t want to risk it under more testing conditions. But if something does blow off, so to speak, then that’s something I’ll have to deal with at the time. And at least it would be an excuse to get an upgrade. Or to put me off such that I won’t be needing a tent again.
It’s not all doom and gloom
Of course I’ve done a fair bit of worrying about the negatives here, but there are positives – no snoring from the bunk above, no traffic noise, no late night parties to keep me up, and likelihood of seeing sunrise and having it to myself. And the chance to actually bag the summits I need.
So what’s the plan ?
For my first time, I’ve decided that it’s one night at a time, and that I won’t camp so far away from civilisation that I can’t get back to it for the next night if I’ve had enough. So the vague plan is to alternate a night in civilisation with a night with the sheep. And in the course of planning my coast to coast walk, I’ve discovered a bothy, which although it’s basically wild camping without having to actually put the tent up, has given the sense of a fallback plan if I need one.
Kit: I know that if I get into this, I’m going to want some lighter kit, but for now it’s not sensible until I know it’s worth the investment. So, yes I’m lugging my Trangia up the hill, and my 2kg tent, and my 1.4kg (but warm) sleeping bag, and in a new environment like that, it’s no bad thing to have things you’re comfortable with around you. And although I will finally get myself some water treatment, I bet I also take an emergency bottle of water with me too. And of course I mustn’t forget my shitty stick.
Now I just need to work out some good spots, and any suggestions are welcome for the bottom half of the FE fells. I’m actually starting to look forward to it.