Those little essential extras!
These aren’t as interesting or obvious as the rest of the gear, but just as important. These are the little things that if overlooked can cause more hassle than you’d imagine. Get these sorted and then you’re about ready. Of course, you’ll need all the stuff you take on a day walk in the area remembering that it gets colder at night, plus a few items of spare clothing. I usually take a spare base layer, pants and socks but you might want to double up on these, and just my waterproofs, ultralight windproof, a fleece and a down top. A hat of some sort is useful all year round, and gloves for all but the warmer evenings.
Anything with batteries will need spares. Lithium batteries are lighter than conventional ones and are the best option in the cold when other batteries will die of cold. You may consider a solar charger for your mobile, mp3 player or to recharge batteries.
First aid/repair kit. You’ll need a few bandages and plasters, but don’t take a load of stuff unless you know what it’s for! I find that some painkillers and antacid tablets useful as well (and unlike the plasters, likely to be used). Some cream for bites is useful as is a bag of talc that you can fit your foot into. After a long walk when your feet are sore and hot, you’ll understand! Depending on time of year, a midge net is light but essential. Antibacterial gel is useful and can save you from a dodgy stomach, not pleasant in the wilds. Spare laces might be useful, or some spare guyline. Finally some needle and strong thread, gaffer/duck tape and a few assorted cable ties mean that you’ll be more inventive than McGyver. Some basic toiletries – soap, toothbrush and toothpaste should be enough, depending how long you’re going to be in the wilds. A small microfibre towel is worth carrying as well. You’re probably better off growing a beard rather than taking shaving stuff, and that goes for the men too.
You’ll also need a torch (for obvious reasons) and some sort of entertainment won’t go amiss. I take a tiny MP3 player that lasts for days on end. Audio books are useful, real books too heavy but a luxury you might want. You can use a mobile for all these functions if you don’t want to carry too much stuff. A camera is an option, but surely an essential? If not, your mobile is again an option.
Dry Bags and stuff sacs. In order to organise all your stuff these are invaluable. Anything you don’t want to get wet you put in a dry bag (money, phone, etc) and all else in a stuff sac in order that you’ll find it later (repair kits). You can also get giant dry bags that fill the rucksack in order to protect everything. I use one of those and individual bags to be safe. It really wouldn’t be overkill if you put a pack cover as well, it all helps keep water out.
WHERE and how TO CAMP?
I’m intentionally leaving this one up to you. Have you seen a nice flat grassy spot on one of your walks? Is it in the wilds? Is it sheltered, or will you need to go in decent weather? Is there a decent view? Is there water near by or do you need to lug it up, usually the case for summit camps. Have a search online in the area you want to go and you’ll certainly come up with plenty of ideas.
If you do find somewhere to wild camp, follow some sensible rules that ensure you leave no trace. This may seem common sense, even down right patronising, but if you visit some of the popular wild camping spots and see the mess that’s been left by irresponsible individuals and groups (who are, thankfully, in a minority) you’d understand why.
You will need to be aware of the laws and un-written rules of wild camping. It is technically illegal to wild-camp without the land owner’s permission. Unfortunately, the Right to Roam act failed to provide the common sense access laws that Scotland have, where wild camping is now legal within reasonable limits. However, it is tolerated in most upland areas provided that people observe some common sense. That said; remember that you could still in theory be asked to move along by the landowner.
Camp high, not in a field full of grazing cows next to the farmhouse.
Camp late and leave camp early.
Leave no trace. Your site should not be an obvious campsite the next day. Take all your litter out.
Fires are generally a no-no. You might be ok on a shore where the signs will be washed away, but dont light one if in doubt.
In dry spells, you’ll need to be extra careful with your cooking stove in case you start a grass or heather fire. In exteremely dry conditions you might need to avoid such areas.
Human waste should be deposited 200m away from water and solids buried. Paper should be burned (but beware the fire risk), or if you use wet wipe tissues, then you can double bag them out. Yes, this sounds disgusting, but you will have a rubbish bag anyway, so they’d be in that too (triple bagged). I’ve not had problems yet. Better still, use sphagnum moss!
That out of the way, you can really get to grips with the mountains when you can stay there after everyone else has gone home. It will often be just you and the hill. You need a water supply (or at a pinch, a decent single malt), a dry and flat place to pitch, out of sight of buildings and ideally with a cracking view.