The Anatomy of a Summer Wild Camp
Do you wander what to expect on a typical Summer wild camp or just what is wild camping? Here’s the Mud and Routes breakdown of what makes an awesome summer wild camp. It’s not a ‘how to’ wild camp for beginners article, or a kit list. It’s just to give you the feel of what a wild camp is all about, and why it shouldn’t be an ordeal. We took a June wild camp on Snowdon as the perfect example of what it’s like in the summer months.
Planning / Weather
Most wild camps end up being somewhere between the extremes of spartan to luxury, with the latter usually a trip planned around the wild camp rather than the walking. It’s the luxury end we were aiming for, with the trip planned around the wild camp.
Either way, it all needs to be well planned, with the right equipment, food and route being planned before hand. View our Wild Camping section for more information on how to become an accomplished wild camper.
With the trip over a week away, it’s inevitable that we’re weather watching, and fortunately the forecast was excellent. However, the closer it got, the wetter the weather forecast became. It wasn’t until the Wednesday evening that the forecast finally came good, and the trip was finally on.
That was also when we decided on the actual location for the camp, as it depended a lot on how much kit we were going to carry as a heavy pack meant a short walk! In the end, the pack was middling in weight so a wild camp on Snowdon South Ridge at around 600m seemed like a perfect choice. We knew that there’s a small lake, a flat pitch and a view from this spot. So it has everything you need from a good wild camping spot.
The Walk in
With only 5km, but a good 5-600m of ascent, we didn’t have a long walk in. Even with the heat and a heavier pack, we would easily be setting up tent within 2 hours. So it made sense to stop off at the Snowdonia Park in Waunfawr for a spot of lunch, as it spared us the work of planning one meal. It also meant we’d start the walk in later and arrive at the camping spot at around 4 pm, which was late enough to set up camp and early enough to get some work done for the website.
We walked in with the new Mudstone boots from Salomon which we got from Millet Sports (thankfully arriving in super quick time ready for the trip). Typically for any new favourite boots of mine, they’re discontinued, so I’ll need to make the most of these as my main summer boots unless Salomon release a Mudstone II (please!). Of course, an obligatory break was needed in Bwlch Cwm Llan, even if we were nearly at our destination!
Setting up Camp
We’ll admit to sitting about for a while, enjoying an ice cold gin and tonic, surveying the area around the lake. The Shangri-la needs a large flat area to pitch perfectly, and we found just that overlooking the lake. So we collected our water, best done at the start of the evening. I’ve usually got 2 x 2l plastic bladders which I fill up, along with those any camping companions are carrying. It’s easier to tip out than to have to hunt for water first thing in the morning!
Chilling around camp
This is the whole point of getting out there. It’s essential! Usually on our wild camps, we’ve got some product shots and stuff to set up, so it’s a combination of work and play. Drinking ice cold gin and tonics is such hard work.
The first thing I ended up doing was fall asleep on the job, and I was able over the course of the evening to find the time to have at least three naps so I’d have my energy for my final sleep. This may have something to do with having three kids in the house (up from none a few months back) and anything more than six hours sleep being unknown to adults in our household. Even in the position below, I managed half an hour.
Around sunset, there were a few midges about – but only for a short while. Fortunately, there was just enough breeze to clear them for most of the evening. These can seriously spoil an evening around camp, even with a midge net. This is only Snowdonia, travel north of the border in Scotland if you want to know what real midges are made of!
Another part of chilling around camp has become the inevitable yomp to find that mobile phone signal. We didn’t have a signal at camp (mainly a good thing), but needing to ring and say goodnight to three kids made it essential to keep that promise! It was a good five minute walk to find a signal (at the furthest point which we were able to walk to without descending), though sometimes you’ll need to climb some distance. It’s best to assume you won’t have a signal available!
The main luxury we had on this trip was a Hydroflask of ice, which in the sweltering summer heat, was a great call. We coupled this with some gin and tonic to be enjoyed responsibly, obviously, and some upcycled wild camping tumblers. We were well impressed with the performance of the Hydroflask, keeping the ice perfect until sunset. We’re still upset that we forgot the slices of lime!
So far, so good, but the evening meal turned out to be an absolute disaster. The dried meal tasted of what can only be described as paint. I think that it had been pierced by the cats, who’d wrecked a load of dried meals last year and I’d thought this one had been fine. I was wrong, and ended up enjoying a whole bag of wine gums as an evening meal. Always take a spare meal, always!
Usually, you’ll have either a dried meal or something easily prepared in one pot – and it will usually taste great! Your companions’ food will also smell and look better than yours, even if you’re not tucking into a pack of wine gums! A pudding is also an essential part of the evening meal, with a favourite being the chocolate mousse by Trek ‘n Eat.
Entertainment was originally meant to be a projected movie, but the connector on the projector would no longer fit the new Pixel phone which boasts a shiny USB-C port. So it was a light bulb moment which resulted in using the tripod and smartphone mount to hold the phone into a decent enough position for two to be able to watch a full movie. While the Force Awakens, I promptly fell asleep again, waking only for the last scene.
Hopefully, you’ll be well kitted out with a tent suitable for wild camping and a well chosen sleeping bag and have a great night’s sleep. You definitely shouldn’t feel cold, unless you’ve really skimped on the bag or if the night’s unseasonably chilly. My bag was rated to 5°C, and was perfect. If it’s windy, wear headphones. Tonight on Snowdon was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had while wild camping, despite the napping!
Take note that it remains light until late this time of year, so you’ll barely use those lights around camp.
Morning Routine and Breakfast
It was only with the sun heating the tent up that I realised I’d have to get up, make a coffee. As we needed some photos to update our Camping Coffee Makers article from way back when, we had a hand held espresso maker with us. It doesn’t make a lot of coffee, but a couple of shots out of this was more than enough to get me ready for the walk down.
Breakfast can be a luxury if you want, with no reason why you can’t have a fried breakfast if you’re wiling to carry the kit in. It was a more modest pot of porridge oats for me today, unfortunately.
It’s with regret that you end up having to pack everything up, and return to civilisation. It’s vital that you Leave No Trace, and that there’s no indication you were ever there. I scoot around the site checking for pegs and bits of litter before leaving – always! There’s never an excuse to leave litter behind, which includes carrying out any food waste as well as coffee grounds. Don’t fool yourself that it’ll biodegrade, as it’ll be litter for a significant period of time before decomposing.
It’s usually a good idea on a morning like this to turn your sleeping bag inside out to air, draping on top of the tent.
Packing up the tent in fine conditions is straightforward, with no wind to whip the flysheet sail-like from your hands. Remember to give it a good shake if it has condensation on the fly, and ideally try and give it some time to dry in the sun before setting off.
Invariably asking “what it’s like on the top?” or “you set off early?”, to which you reply – “Yep, yesterday”…
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siDave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.