Winter Wild Camping 1

Some have emailed asking what gear you can use for a winter wildcamp. Here’s my selection of gear. I’ve split it into two posts – one for the ‘big 3’ of shelter, sleep and cooking and the other for the rest of the stuff.

Freezing conditions were expected and the gear below kept me comfortable all night. There was a gusty wind that lasted till midnight, must have been caused by the pass between Rhinog Fach and Y Llethr as it certainly wasn’t forecast. The upside of this was that while wind chill was extremely bad, the temperature didn’t seem to drop as low as we expected.

Tent – Terra Nova Laser (1300g). Ideal weight to space ratio. The porch is just huge on this, but so is the space inside. I could put all my gear in the inner tent to keep them from frost and only kept my water and stove here. The awful carbon fibre pegs were just not up to the job of use on frozen ground and most were broken on removal. Either the copper coloured point remained in the ground on pulling, or the yellow cap on top came off making it impossible to remove. Titanium pegs I had with me were much more suitable, but prone to bend on removal. The tent does tend to be pretty flappy in the wind and despite many pitches, it can still refuse to pitch taut when the ground isn’t perfectly even.

Laser Competition on the Left, full sized Laser on the right.

Sleeping – Old Mountain Equipment Classic Dragon 750 (1400g or so), Exped Down Mat (1000g) and Rab Survival Zone bivvy (350g). The sleeping bag is my extreme weather sac and compares in weight/performance to something like the AlpKit Alpine Dream sac. Stated to be good to -12c it was up to the job if a little heavy. A pipe dream 1000 by Alpkit would be nice and light at 1150g and £150, being good to -17c (with other offerings of similar weight to temperature being much more expensive) but probably not worth the investment with the use it’d get under typical Snowdonia conditions and being only a couple of hundred grams lighter.

The Exped Down mat is heavy and bulky but provides a warm and comfortable night’s sleep. I’ve a ¾ length summer synthetic version (imported from the States and I forget the make!) that’s a paltry 450g but just not cut out for the winter unless you want your feet dangling over the end.

Finally, the bivvy bag might seem like overkill but it does provide an extra layer on the bag that must add a degree or two, and certainly protects the down from any condensation or moisture that’s present in the tent. Bit of a belt and braces approach for a one nighter, but a very wise precaution if you’re out for longer.

Food and Drink – MSR Titanium Kettle (120g), Pocket Rocket (85g) and titanium KFS set (life venture I think, and around 50g). Snow peak Ti mug at 70g and my’rice pouch’. The kettle needs little explanation, it does the job at a great weight but you pay for it. It hold’s 850ml, so has a practical volume of over 750ml. I’ve got a custom made pot cosy for mine, so you can keep the extra water hot for quite a while. The warm water was essential to keep my gas canister from freezing solid. Either I’d put the canister on top of the warm lid, or place it in the lukewarm water to defrost the canister. I reckon that a mild warming of the canister should be OK, but it’s probably one of those’don’t try it at home’ tricks and I’d not recommend it. The pocket rocket is a super piece of kit at a light weight and the KFS set I take in it’s entirety. Some people recommend just a spoon, but I’d rather eat noodles with a pair of tent pegs than try it with a spoon. The fork is usually used, and the knife is useful for spreading things onto oatcakes.

On a morning like this, it’s better to stay in the sleeping bag!

A mug is likewise a bit of a luxury – you can use the kettle for that – but I like to have a drink while my meal’s cooking. This was almost essential on this trip to help warm me up. I had 4 platypus pouches as well – that’s one for a litre of flavoured drinks and then a 1l and a 2l bladder so that I’d have enough water to last me the night. Word of warning though – don’t leave them full of water overnight as they’ll freeze and you’ll end up with 2 kilos of ice you’ll need to carry out! I filled my kettle with water instead and it only had a thin layer of ice by morning (the pot cosy helped this).

My ‘rice pouch’ cooks proper noodles a treat. I mean the egg noodles, not the nasty 9p stuff that can’t be made of anything decent for that price (add to the 9p the pack of indigestion tablets that inevitably follow and they’re not so cheap for me). These noodles were my carbs for the’look what we found’ gourmet meatballs in tomato sauce pouch. These cost £2.50 each, but are still cheaper than camping food. What surprised me was how tasty they were. I’ve had similar food eating out and you never expect that from convenience food. Compare them to a wayfarers and for a bit more money you get a complete meal, but that includes the rice/pasta. With this you get a full meal, with the addition of a dry component makes it the ideal balance between weight / palatability / calorific content. I normally take a home made curry in a freezer bag for an overnighter which also ticks all the boxes.

The rest of the edibles were chocolate (usually Green and Blacks quality stuff or Lindt if I want milk chocolate) which can be melted into instant hot chocolate for a calorie rich meal in a mug! What has to be emphasised in this weather is that calories are essential to keep you warm. If I feel cold, I drink and eat a bit more. This is the only time I tend to eat pork pies, the buffet varieties packing in 300 calories of pure fat and protein. Of course, jelly babies bolster this when you need a bit more oomph on that steep uphill.

Sugar rush…mmmm…..

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Dave Roberts

Dave 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.

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