We’ve been wild camping once or twice and therefore we’ve got loads of useful inside knowledge to share with you about which branded mug is best, the lightest chair you can carry and how to drink puddles safely.
Not long ago we headed off into the Peaks for a special edition of our Highly Desirable Items series, where we wear-tested a bunch of wild camping items – including essentials and accessories.
For this feature, we’ve been thinking long and hard about what we’re good at, and we’ve arrived at one striking conclusion: we’re aren’t exactly Camping.net. This isn’t Go Outdoor’s blog. In life, you have to play to your strengths. So we’ve put together a list of some really fun and – what we think are, anyway – cool bits that might be useful out in the great outdoors, as you’re attempting your annual wild camp and are now faced with the prospects of having to feed yourself, keeping yourself warm, and getting a pic for Instagram. Don’t worry about that last part, though, because every cool brand this last year has printed their logo onto a mug so you can just snap a picture of that and call it quits.
Saying that, we do actually know a thing or two, and although we like to hide behind cloaks of humour, poignant and useful information does bubble to the surface from time to time. Proper Magazine’s first zine was released in 2006, after all, and since then we’ve been preaching the virtues of an outdoor-enthused lifestyle, sharing information about Gore-Tex lined coats, and getting annoyed at people appropriating gorpcore.
What we’re saying in a roundabout way is go buy yourself some waterproofs, some thermals, some thick socks, a warm woolly hat, read about geodesic tents elsewhere, then head back here where we’ll take you on a non-extensive tour of some items that are fun, some that are extremely useful and some that are extremely useless but very cool.
Pull yer self a pew
Yeah, you can sick on piles of sticks, and there’s nothing more satisfying than finding the perfect arse-shaped tree trunk, the one whose ample shape implies the grace of thousands of arses past. But really, you want a seat, one you can properly sit back in, recline, relax.
Helinox’s Chair Zero might be the best out there. It’s the entire opposite of those dismal camping chairs you buy from a petrol station on the way to a festival before it’s promptly nicked, and then you, too, have to nick someone else’s. What a horrible cycle. Although you might want to avoid taking Helinox’s Chair Zero to a festival for the aforementioned theft-worry, as it breaches a hundred quid, but it does fold up into the same size as a sleeping bag, meaning you can hide it pretty well. Oh, and it’s as light as a bag of sugar, so when you’re trekking long distances, you’ll barely notice it.
Set some stuff on fire
So you’ve sat down on your favourite arse-cushion and now you’re thinking about settling into the evening’s activities. You’re gonna need a fire, and the National Trust really hate it when you make them on the bare ground, or worse, in the remains of a medieval building at Lawrence Field Quarry (I am speaking from experience, here. Sorry National Trust. Sorry anthropology in general).
UCO’s Flatpack grill folds into the same dimensions as a medium-sized book and is as easy to set up as a laptop is to open. With minimal unnecessary parts, no tough-to-reach angles and a lightweight stainless steel frame, you can probably get away with cleaning it with a clump of moss.
Get dinner ready
The fire is lit. Your heat source of choice is burning away slowly, and the wild this-might-be-an-oyster-mushroom-but-I’m-not-sure is glaring at you. What next? Opinel’s Nomad Cooking set, complete with a sufficiently sized chopping board, is an essential companion for all outdoor excursions. Opinel’s knives are so handy and discreet that a 10cm fold-out Opinel No.10 sat in my bag for so long that I accidentally brought it to an airport. I think I would’ve been arrested if it wasn’t for the corkscrew attachment.
In other eating news, while you can always stab things with a really sharp knife and put them in your mouth that way, society invented civilised utensils for a reason. And then Snow Peak branded them and put them in a cute canvas case. Fork and spoon, chopsticks, a plate. And I actually wish I was joking when I say that Snow Peak even has an outdoor-ready toasty maker. Stick a sandwich in it and throw it on the fire. Job done.
But of course, no dinner is complete without a branded mug or bottle, is it? Sure, you could just bring a ceramic mug from home, but you’ll really feel like one if you tag a hiking Instagram account in a picture of your heavy Sports Direct pint-mug and they air you.
Top of the range mugs include And Wander (complete with carabiner – cute eyes emoji), Snow Peak (of course), and Yeti. To be fair, the Yeti one is the most functional, with insulation and a removable lid.
First Ascent’s LifeStraw genuinely revolutionised the game in 1994, after being developed to eliminate the Guinea Worm in infected drinking water. Ten years later the technology resulted in a personal-sized and portable Lifestraw that can transform drinking water the world over. Twenty years after that we took the straw to Bamford Edge and drank from puddles with it. It’s tiny and you can drink 4000 litres of water through it. Honestly, if you buy one thing from this article, it really should be this (and the Snow Peak chopsticks).
Feel the touch of fresh grass on yer feet
This isn’t the part where we talk about Vibram soles and compare the ruggedness of different hiking boots. Right now, we’re wild camping, we’re relaxing. You’ve just grilled a potentially poisonous mushroom on a fire, remember, made a Snow Peak cheese toasty, washed it down with a glug from a Yeti mug, and drank from a puddle. You’ve done enough.
What you need now is one of two pairs of shoes, and potentially both. (Definitely both.) Firstly, and this might be more of a morning thing, as you stretch your legs and try not to stand on any sharp sticks: Merell’s Hydro Mocs. They’re technically amphibious, and they look like Crocs from the future, like if instead of attaching laser beams onto the head of a shark in Austin Powers, Dr Evil decided to make a proto-Japanese robotic crocodile.
But before you stick a pair of Hydro Mocs on, you’ll want to take a pair of The North Face Thermoball V Traction Mules off. Down-filled coats are all the rage and now so are down-filled shoes, and none are as good at TNF’s. Technically, they aren’t down (no animals were plucked in the making), and that’s great. They’re the cosiest shoes around. There’s a tiny bit of grip for outside wear, but I wouldn’t get about for extended periods of time in them – I’ve heard many anecdotal reports of the grip wearing out relatively quickly.
A morning’s reflection
Since this is a sort-of-serious piece on wild camping products, here are some extras. Carhartt has made a fold-up mattress that is as brazen as it is camouflaged. Don’t ask me about transport – throw it in the boot of a car and grab it when you need it. It is pretty cool though, and functions as a mattress as well as a soft table/footrest/camouflage crash mat.
Lastly, no wild camping expedition is complete without a windproof balaclava, and we recommend grabbing a recycled one from our mates Wawwa. Get about in the woods wearing one, however, and you’ll channel some rather precarious energy, that may or may not be acceptable in our current climate. Oh, and go cop one of these Ukrainian support t-shirts from Pleasures.