Yesterday, a female friend and I were discussing the subject of wild camping/cycling/hiking over multiple days, and how we typically avoid becoming overloaded, with unnecessary weight or stuff!
It seemed a great idea for a short blog piece.
The topic of how to manage basic necessities using the minimum gear, is perhaps commonsense to most seasoned walkers or cyclists. However, to a newly fledged wild camper, advice and experience can count for a lot.
None of us want to, ‘take everything but the kitchen sink’ as the saying goes! Although, Josie Dew who has written several books about her long distance cycling journeys, includes a collapsing sink bowl in the gear list!
I shall start with eating and drinking. An absolute necessity of course for everyone.
It’s surprising how useful the humble spoon is…….and a confession here…….clean fingers make up for a fork and sometimes a knife! A favourite Leatherman multi-tool knife is on hand, to tackle food that needs a sharp blade. Plates and dishes are dispensed with, eating food straight out of the saucepan is somewhat satisfying. A tiny, lightweight kettle is handy to quickly boil water for hot drinks, drunk from a precious MSR thermal mug, which has a useful lid for keeping my green tea hot. That’s the sum total of my culinary implements, apart from the obvious…..an MSR multi-fuel stove. It never fails whatever the weather, either gales, snow or rain.
Looking and feeling, squeaky clean and spotless while wild camping, is a debatable and personal subject.
Keeping a civilised level of personal hygiene, is in my opinion, only crucial if I am going to enter a town or village. If that sounds a little primitive, it probably is to a certain degree. However, after only a few days of wild camping, comes a feeling of becoming part of ones natural surroundings. Released, from the constraints of societal pressure to constantly appear well-groomed and pristine clean. Our chemical, perfume laden society, is obsessed with appearances. As a woman, it is a fantastic feeling to get back to nature, therefore letting go of the burden to look good, and smell like the cosmetic floor of Boots the Chemist!
On to practicalities;
A micro-towel of any size is perfect……lightweight, efficient and will dry extremely quickly. Carrying an organic biodegradable liquid soap for body/hair, is also useful to wash clothing with, whilst in the shower. Washing a few items in the shower, is an old trick learnt whilst travelling in Asia…..free and efficient! As for a moisturiser, a little tub of coconut oil is perfect, it can be used for cooking too.
While out in the wilds, there is often a stream or water available to gather water, for a quick dip or a wash. If not, I wait for the next body of water to come along and if necessary use any spare drinking water for hands/face. Another tip I’ve picked up, is to layer up with merino wool and as little synthetic clothing as possible. Merino doesn’t hold any stink and can be worn for days on end, keeping a fresh odour and clothes to the minimum amount needed. Woollen outdoor items, are at present having a revival thankfully…..I’m not a big synthetic fan.
My hair goes under a hat of some sorts, especially if it looks more scruffy and unkempt than usual. It’s amazing how not washing your hair for a week or more, gives it a new lease of life! I have a vivid memory, from a trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary in early February 1981. There I washed my long hair, in an ice-blue glacial fed stream. It was like being gripped around the skull by an ice vice……..not to be repeated!
Every so often whilst cycling or hiking, one will eventually reach civilisation of sorts, before too many days or weeks have passed…..
It is best when dropping into, even a small village……which has the minimum……a loo and running water…..to make the most of thoroughly scrubbing body, hair and skin……..it’s a fab feeling. A bigger town is more likely to have facilities such as showers and a launderette. The Norwegians have made fantastic provision for travellers, heated floors power showers, washing machines and dryers located in the Harbour Master buildings. Some of them have free showers.
So there you have it, the very basics of low impact, natural wild camping with a little advice on how to survive without the proverbial kitchen sink!
I doubt if I need to remind any of you to take a supply of biodegradable toilet roll………..and dispose of everything carefully. Burial is probably the best option, causing the least environmental impact.
Let go of a few standards, be spontaneous, manage with just the minimum, enjoy, revel in the freedom and release that comes from letting go………..
Here’s one basic and simple list of my equipment etc;
Liquid soap, micro towel, Comb, decanted toothpaste, travel toothbrush, coconut oil.
Spoon, cooking pan, stove, cup, tiny kettle, Leatherman multi tool knife or similar, fuel bottle, matches.
Tent, Sleeping bag, insulation mat, silk liner, a stuff bag for a pillow.
Clothes etc, are a personal choice depending on country, climate and the length of your journey. I pack mine into colour coded dry bags. So I can remember,’what is where!’
On looking at the photo above, you are probably wondering what else I have filled the panniers with?!
Food and water are extras. Along with first aid kit, bike tools, pump and two spare inner tubes, line pegs and cord.
Maps, diary, a small book, valuables, pen, snacks, spare matches and a camera all fill up the bar bag!!
Wishing you all many happy, free, unladen days and nights in the wild, or even the back garden!