It was S’s last day of work as she’s going freelance, so we decided to celebrate by taking a weekend trip to go wild camping on Dartmoor! One of the only places in England where wild camping is permitted! The sun was out, and we were excited to get going! This was going to be both a fun getaway, and a trial run for our week in Ben Nevis that’s coming up next month!
As we packed, we quickly found we’d have to be as economic as possible to save space and make sure we only take what’s absolutely necessary. We have a 30 and a 45 Litre bag, so with a weekend of clothes (and emergency rain gear!), two of our 2kg sleeping bags, two self-inflating roll mats, a kelly kettle and a tent – it was a hard squeeze to fit it all without strapping everything to the outside and toppling over from the weight!
When we were finally packed and satisfied with our efforts, we started our drive – about 2 hours including a quick stop to get fresh water and some tinned food. Not bad for a break from civilisation!
We hadn’t really planned out where to go! Although we’d planned this trip for a while, we hadn’t really planned much more than “Camp in the wild, and see pretty things!”
As soon as you get to Dartmoor, you’re met by cattle grids and vast expanses of land all around you! An area of beautiful moorland left entirely to nature! It’s not long before you see all the wildlife too! Sheep EVERYWHERE! and because it’s spring, this meant hundreds of adorable baby lambs! Both gob-smacked by the landscape so close to our home, and by the cute little fuzzy white things beside (and often lying in) the road we were driving pretty slow and had to let a few people pass us so we could appreciate our surroundings!
As we drove we saw some woods in the distance, and S said: “I want to go there!” With the Google and OS map apps, we planned a route to reach them.
And reach them we did!
As we walked with all our gear, the light grew dim and the temperature started dropping – we had a couple of great spots, but unfortunately – being woods – there were many roots and branches in the way that we either couldn’t or didn’t want to disturb! We were very concerned with not leaving a trace of our trip! eventually, we found a spot – not perfectly level, but clear of any debris and situated in a clearing!
Up goes the tent!
With little wind and no rain, the conditions were perfect for a night under the stars. The tent wasn’t huge (and can barely fit my 6ft height) but we managed to squeeze us both in, with the sleeping gear and our ‘luggage’! The priority now was food!!
Using our incredible Kelly Kettle, we gathered some dry fuel and a flat rock base (to keep the area safe) and boiled a tin of stew we had bought earlier! We’d forgotten to bring cutlery, though! So slices of bread were used to pry the food out of the tiny travel pan. Full and exhausted from our somewhat unplanned trip we packed everything up, wrapped our waste in the bread bag (to guard against any creatures sniffing us out in hunger!) and set ourselves to bed. This is where we first realised just how much of a slope we had set the tent on! it doesn’t look like much in the image above, but with our self-inflating mats and our sleeping bags, we were constantly sliding down towards the back! we positioned bags to prop our feet up, and clothes under our head, and eventually fell into a slumber. I awoke a few times uncomfortably squished up in the tent – it’s one I bought for a festival some years ago and isn’t really cut out for heavy camping. I originally used it myself, and lay diagonally quite comfortably! I now realise that with S next to me, and with both our bags, that it’s impossible! My head and feet constantly touched the sides of the tent, so I either woke up shivering or woke up squashed! S, however, seemed to sleep quite soundly with the advantage of being smaller than myself!
After a few false starts, I awoke properly – I could hear birds chirping and red-tinted light shone all around me. I was warm, I was awake and I was restless! I threw on some warm clothes (quietly, so as not to wake S) and went for a quick walk to explore the area – it’s so peaceful there. All you can hear is birds and the wind in the trees. No people, no traffic, no sirens. Just peace! It’s so relaxing being ‘in nature’ for a change, instead of being surrounded by buildings and a man-made environment. I think everyone should ‘escape’ and immerse themselves in the natural world as often as possible, and appreciate the little things.
By the time I’d explored and arrived back at the tent, S was stirring and we prepared for another day – this time on the moors!
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!
We awoke bright and early, and after a good croissant breakfast and a warm shower, we were ready to conquer snowdon. I couldn’t wait to get back out into snowdonia and explore it’s beauty, let alone it’s highest peak!
As we made our way along the 45 minute drive from penmachno village, we watched as the landscape turned more and more epic, opening out to the peaks surrounding snowdon!
Excited to start, we pushed on as I snapped out the car window!
We arrived at the car park, even the view from here was stunning, with valleys down below, and road winding around the edges. I found it incredible that people created all this in such a difficult environment!
As we got to the parking machine, we realised we had no change! It takes notes, so make sure you have some with you. Luckily we were able to get change from the nearby restaurant and continue on our journey.
This is where it really started!
We decided to take the Pyg track up to the summit, and come back on the miner’s trail. I’d spoken to friends who had been before and they all advised that as a first timer, this would be the easiest and most enjoyable way to go. After actually doing the trails I think I agree with them and we’d decided on the best route for the day.
When we arrived at the very start of the trail (go right at the car park for pyg) we came across this sign:
“Snow showers above 400m, wind upto 45mph, Snow above 500m, Recommended to carry ice axe and crampons. “
Oh no! We don’t have ice axes or crampons!
We decided we’ll keep heading up, and stop if we feel it’s getting too difficult, or we can’t find safe footing. I think we made the right choice, but please do consider this before you head off. There were some people we met on the way up, who had decided it was too dangerous and they were heading back. The climb would have been much easier had we packed proper snow equipment, but it never reached a point we considered dangerous to ourselves.
We also saw many signs around the start warning NOT to climb the closest peak you see in front of you. It isn’t snowdon! It’s a very difficult climb named crib goch, and should not be attempted unless you’re very experienced. It looks extremely difficult even from the bottom, and we didn’t even attempt it! It certainly wouldn’t have been safe in these conditions.
As we walk up the stone steps, the sheer size already sets in. You’re really climbing a mountain! With crib goch out ahead, and giant valleys spanning to the right and behind you, it’s difficult not to stop and marvel at the landscape!
That last pic is crib goch looming overhead.
So as we continued on, I realised I was getting tired much too quickly. I had packed on the layers and was wearing a giant pea coat over everything. I realise now this was stupid – but I just didn’t have the gear I needed. The coat went into the bag and I continued on – my body heat was more than enough and kept me warm without that huge thing. I wish I’d left it in the car, but it became extra weight on my back!
As you continue up the stone step, you eventually reach a bend, and get to peer down at the beautiful reservoirs below. It serves as a good indication of how high you’ve climbed already!
It’s absolutely stunning, and S wanted to visit just this incredible view alone!
We pushed further onward and up, slowly getting higher and higher, into the snow and wind! It was a bit worrying without ice axes and crampons, but luckily I have the karrimor snowfur boots I bought for our norway trip – they kept my feet nice and toasty!
We met a few people travelling in both directions, we stropped for a chat to everyone on the way down to ask how they managed. Most said it was possible without snow equipment, and seemed confident we could continue! Great news!
Because of the snow, it got a little difficult to find the trail sometimes! We even ended up climbing a treacherous face that we didn’t need to, because we went off track!
As we got to the top stone steps, things got much more slippery, and we had to hang on to the fencing to keep our balance. This was the only part of the trip I felt was risky without Crampons – but we continued on slowly, being very careful of our footing and making sure we kept holding ourselves up! Although, as the point in the picture above, we stopped for a bite to eat, and S’s glove flew down to the bottom! Unbelievably we found it on the way back down!
The very top of the pyg track, where it meets the railway, was the hardest part of the climb – It became extremely slippery and steep, and we had to crawl upwards, being careful not to slide at all. It’s difficult to show in pictures just how steep this section was. As we reached the top of this short section, we were pleased to see flat ground and the top marker! It was incredible to see how the extreme winds and cold had made icicles that stuck sideways to everything around us!
I wish I could say that the view from the summit was the best I’d ever seen – but the cloud cover was too great! We were left with this!
We had no shelter up here – S’s hair was literally freezing, with bits of ice in it, and the wind was very fast, so we decided to keep moving and head back down before we warmed up!
It was an absolutely incredible journey, and it’s got us hooked – next stop Ben Nevis! It’s already booked for mid June!
Sometimes when you’re stuck in a rut, going to work everyday and sitting at home indoors every evening you feel like you need an adventure. That’s why S and I planned a trip for her birthday: to climb one of the highest Peaks in the UK, Mount Snowdon. Other than brown willy in sunny Cornwall we haven’t really Had experience with climbing and especially not in the winter So it was going to be interesting whether it went well or not!!
We set off early in the morning with a car packed full of bags (and camera gear!) ready for our stay in an amazing cottage that we found on airbnb last minute.
The seven hour drive went reasonably fast, even though we had to take a detour from the motorway. Although this just meant we got to see even more of the beautiful welsh countryside. As we drove on, and the mountains came into sight I was stunned by just how beautiful North wales and the National Park of Snowdonia was, and had a hard job keeping my eyes on the road with such incredible vistas around me! I even had to get out of the car to take some snaps!
On the way we stopped off at supermarket can get some food and provisions for the climb and the couple of nights stay, including some birthday treats for S! Steak for dinner tomorrow! By the time we reached the Cottage we were under the cover of night and had to rush through the rain to get all of our bags indoors – The weather didn’t look great for the climb! Once in, we were pleased to see a giant log burner aga fireplace, and didn’t take long to get it set up and make ourselves a tea. We didn’t stay up long as we had a mountain to climb tomorrow!
So it’s confirmed! My girlfriend and I have booked our trip to Ben Nevis in June! We’ve managed to get the cheapest possible trip from Cornwall to Scotland via 2 megabuses and renting a car in Glasgow for a week!
We’re planning on camping on the highest UK peak and try to spend a week out in the wild, walking and camping and generally enjoying the amazing Scottish highlands! It’s not only climbing the highest peak in Scotland (which is obviously an exciting thought!) but the surrounding area looks incredible!
Even something simple like a boat grounded on Caol Beach looks surreal against the rugged landscape.
Just like when we visited Snowdon – I think the Landscape will be a massive change from the relatively flat cornish hills, and leave us stunned at every turn!
Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to be visiting in the snow and ice, but I think that’s wise for our first camp at Ben Nevis – I doubt it’s the kind of thing we can just jump into unprepared and we certainly don’t have the equipment to deal with ice climbing… So don’t expect anything this extreme just yet!
I really can’t wait to fall asleep under the stars and wake up to the sun peeking over the horizon! I’m certainly looking forward to running a timelapse or two! I can imagine the stars will look incredible spinning over the peaks of the mountains that surround us!
I’m excited for every part of the journey. I’ve never been on a sleeper bus before so that’ll be interesting, and then I’ve never seen Glasgow, where we’ll be renting a small car and spending the first and final days of our journey. A beautiful city in its own right, and one I’ve always wanted to visit. I hope to get some interesting cityscape shots here.
And then we travel north to get to Ben Nevis – which means going up through Loch Lomond. A place I visited for a single night whilst working over 10 years ago! I don’t remember much, but do remember the area was outstandingly beautiful!
And then we go even further north, through Glencoe! I’ve never been here – but again, It’s an area of the world that looks amazing, with green rolling hills everywhere you look. It looks as if it may be very similar to Snowdonia, and I can’t wait to see it in real life. I wonder if we can set up camp here one night.
As you can see, everything looks incredible, and I’m extremely excited to get going! We set off on June 18th!
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!
Recently S and I have had an obsession with cold countries and harsh climates – there’s something about the rush of a mountain in the snow that really makes you feel alive, and the beauty is breathtaking!
So here’s a list (in no particular order) of places that have taken our breath away recently:
From the incredible Perito Moreno Glacier, shown above, to the famous Torres Del Paine below, Patagonia is a place so incredible that an outdoor activity company use the name! I don’t think we’ll be short of mountains to climb and photos to take when S and I eventually save up to go! The landscape looks so beautiful, untouched and savage – I can’t wait!
Another South American destination, Peru is the home of the Andes. Combining Towering peaks with hauntingly bleak high altitude deserts, I’ve always been drawn to peru’s beautiful landscapes and stretching shorelines.
Perhaps not anyone’s ‘normal’ break away, but for adventure, it doesn’t get much better than the arctic climate of Greenland. I recently watched ‘Chasing Ice’ on netflix and couldn’t help but marvel over the amazing sculptures created by nature, as far as the eye can see. One day I want to be delivered to the middle of a glacier by helicopter just to document this beauty!
The home of Everest, and a no-brainer for mountain lovers! There’s so much to see here other than the World’s highest point. I’d love to explore nature and get stuck into climbing here, chasing that perfect image in a place where peaks are everywhere!
A little more relaxed for the end of the list, I’d always wanted to stay in thailand for a while and just.. chill! Who am I kidding – I’d definitely bring my camera and go north to Chiang Mai to check out the incredible national parks in the area. But this time, I’d like to stay warm!