I’ve been looking at buying a new sleeping bag recently and found how difficult it is to find one that suits every need! I thought I’d write a quick guide to show others the best way to choose their own!
IT really comes down to what you’ll be using it for – are you just looking for something to sleep in on your mate’s sofa after a night out? Or are you defying death in the most extreme places on earth? (Let us know if you are, we’d love to hear about it!)
It’s likely that you’ll need to prioritise some qualities – and I’ve drawn up a little graphic here to illustrate it!
Now the problem is, you probably can’t get to the snowy summit of this chart and have all three, you usually have to choose just two!
Light and cheap
Now this one’s pretty easy. You can get yourself a light and cheap sleeping bag, something you would use for festivals or summer camping trips – but be aware that these won’t keep you warm during the colder months, and many don’t go below temperatures below freezing.
This means you’ll have something nice and light you can pack down small into a pack, but it’s too dangerous to use in winter, and possibly even fall or spring! Always consider safety above everything: if you can’t afford or carry a warm enough sleeping bag for your trip, don’t go camping!
Warm and cheap
Unfortunately the warmer the bag, the more it usually costs, but you can trade off some of the cost in extra weight! Modern sleeping bags are filled with a synthetic microfibre that emulates down. It’s much cheaper than a down sleeping bag, but weighs much more and often doesn’t compact as much! As I’m on a strict budget, for our Ben Nevis trip, I recently purchased the Mountain Warehouse Microlite 1400 which certainly falls into this bracket. It’s comfortable down to -4°c and only cost me £44.99! The only downside is it’s pretty heavy for hiking at 1.9kg and it packs down pretty large! It’s certainly going to go outside of my bag, as it won’t fit in.
Light and warm
This is the bracket you’re lucky to be in! If you can afford it you can go to the best sleeping bag manufacturers and have a wealth of incredible materials and technology at your disposal. For example, at the same weight as the sleeping bag I just bought, you could buy the incredible Alpkit ArticDream that would keep you comfortable at an unbelievable -48°c!! (probably not suitable for summer though!)
So where do you fit into the graphic? What’s the most important quality in a sleeping bag in your eyes? Leave a comment below!
Today I’ll discuss the matter of tripods, and how they fit with travel photography. Tripod come in a variety of shapes and sizes, made with various materials and with heads for various needs – but do we need them when travelling?
As with many things in photography – it depends!
What and where will you be shooting?
If you’re shooting street photography in Barcelona for example – you’re going to want to travel light and not draw attention to all your gear. You’ll likely want a small perhaps mirrorless camera, and a single small lens with it. And that’s all!
Personally when I’m going into cities and travelling light, I rely on just a small compact and shoot handheld (resulting in the shots above).
However you’re at the mercy of light! If it starts getting darker, your shutter time will increase, leading to blurry images! make sure you’re shooting at a high shutter speed if you want to go hand held! it really depends on your lens, and whether you have image stabilisation, but if you stick to 100th of a second you shouldn’t go wrong! As you get lower, your shot time will get higher, so think about trading it off for a higher ISO. grainy pictures are better than unusable blurry pictures any day.
Another bonus to shooting handheld is not having to worry about taking your tripod on the plane! Although these days, with newer carbon fiber technology you could buy a very small lightweight tripod for perfectly still images if you’d rather plan your shots out in advance.
If however you’re planning on taking long exposure shots or beautiful planned-out spanning landscapes at sunset – you’ll need a tripod, no matter what.You’ll need to have a higher aperture to keep everything in the image sharp, and you’ll want minimal camera shake. None at all if possible. The less light you’re dealing with – the higher likelihood you’ll want a tripod. Especially if you’re planning night shoots. But you always have to think about how possible it is! If you’re hiking for a long way you’ll need a smaller lighter tripod – but if you’re near transport and you don’t have to carry it far, a more sturdy tripod is preferred.
It’s always a trade off between stability and maneuverability. You need to pick what’s most important to you in each situation!
If you’re taking the time to travel and hike in the great outdoors, why stop there? Wild camping is legal in some of the most beautiful places on earth, (Please check before you go!) and is the best way to be ‘one with nature’. You get to experience the outdoors, and take a break from everyday life to make a small trip into an adventure!
Of course things can go wrong, so you should always plan for the worst and pack accordingly! I met someone the other day whose tent broke on day three of a seven day trip, but he said it was the most fun he’s ever had! Ideally we want to avoid anything going wrong – so here’s my list for wild camping survival!
A Good Wild Camp Tent
You don’t want to go out in the wilderness with a pop-up festival tent!
Although it might be easier to pitch and put away, not only will it be awkward to carry as you hike, but it won’t be as windproof or rainproof as you might prefer!
If you’re hiking in unpredictable weather it’s important you bring a tent that’s waterproof, and made in a way that lets wind flow over it. You don’t want to wake up with your pegs ripped up and the tent blowing down a hill whilst you’re soaked through!
You’ll also want to make sure it’s easy to carry – lighter and smaller is better, so don’t pack a tent for more people than you need!
Another important factor is that you’ll want to “leave no trace” when camping – so you may want something brown or green, to blend in with your environment – rather than bright colours that stick out like a sore thumb! (keep in mind that In some cases, a bright tent may be preferable. If you’re camping in potentially dangerous conditions it’s good to be seen!)
A Warm Sleeping Bag
It goes without saying that a good sleeping bag will be the difference between a good and a terrible night’s sleep! You may want to pack light, but trust me, you’ll be fine with extra weight if it means you’ll be warm at night! “better safe than sorry” rings true here. Make sure the sleeping bag is rated at a comfort level that reflects the conditions you’re in, and remember the extreme conditions rating is exactly that! At that point, it’s not about getting a good night’s sleep but about staying alive!
If you can afford it, you ideally want a 100% goose down sleeping bag that will keep you warm, as well as being light and packing down easily. Down is a little out of our price range, so S and I have just bought the Mountain Warehouse Microlite 1400 for our wild camp trip in scotland. Although it’s quite large, it’ll keep us warm at night. The last thing you need when camping is a lack of sleep!
A good GPS can be a godsend – they’re loaded with trail maps that show you the correct direction on the fly, so you won’t need to worry about getting lost! They’re also a nice way to track where you’ve been and keep a record of previous hikes.
Unfortunately, as much of a tech-geek as I am, I cannot recommend you rely on your GPS alone! They can run out of battery, and leave you stranded with no idea where you are! So if you’re planning on a longer hike, make sure you always take a physical map and compass, and that you know exactly how to use them! Always keep an eye on your surroundings and pay attention to landmarks so you can find your way back if you need to.
If you’re out in the wild for a while, you need to make sure you take a gas burner, to boil water and to heat food. You need to keep your energy levels high with good, warm food, and make sure you boil any water you find as well as purifying it. Starting a fire in the wild is not advised, and is often illegal so make sure you take your own source of heat!