The idea of a hiking and camping holiday can sound idyllic. You’ll be out in the wilderness sampling bucolic rural nights (as long as it doesn’t rain), and getting in touch with nature.
But wait, there’s one thing a lot of people forget when they consider walking and camping holidays – they have to carry all that gear on their backs. Unless you’re careful, that can mean being exhausted and aching by the end of a day’s walking. You need to think long and hard before you start about what you really need.
What Are The Essentials?
What do you absolutely need to take along on your hiking and camping trip? There’s a tent, of course, which should be the smallest and lightest you can manage, along with pegs and mallet. You’ll also need a sleeping bag and sleeping mat, food (along with utensils, including pan, plates, cups and cutlery), stove, water, clothes, toilet gear, first aid kit, and finally a waterproof cover for your pack.
If that sounds like a lot, it is, but that’s stripped to the bone, and the longer your holiday, the more of some things, like food, you’ll need with you. Not only does it all have to fit in or on your backpack, you also have to be able to walk comfortably with it strapped on. So balance and weight are vital factors.
The Things You Need
It’s vital that you have a good backpack, big enough for your needs, but which adjusts easily and straps both across the stomach and chest, which will keep it steady and make walking much easier. You’ll have enough on your back without your pack slipping around.
Take the minimum of clothing you can, but don’t skimp on the hiking socks. They’re not a luxury, they’re a necessity when you’re walking all day. It can even be worth the extra weight of a small can of talcum powder to indulge them before you head out each morning.
For food, you really don’t want to be lugging heavy tins around with you. It might not be the cheapest option, but freeze-dried meals weigh little, cook easily, and don’t take up much space. Make sure you’re carrying ample snacks to eat on the way to keep up your energy levels, and have water bottles filled – don’t try and take enough water for the whole trip if you’re going for a few days, but find somewhere to refill along the way (although be careful of water from streams, you really don’t know what’s in it).
For your utensils and stove, select something small, but in the case of the stove, easy to use and reliable. Also, carry a lighter – you never know when you might need it. The same applies to good maps and a compass (even if you have a GPS unit – they can break or fail).
Practise packing your back pack before you go to ensure a good weight distribution. If your pack doesn’t have a frame, set things up so things aren’t poking into your back. Walk a couple of miles at home to become used to the weight, and make adjustments if necessary, until it feels comfortable and you can walk easily.
On The Trail
Each morning you should repack carefully (taking your litter with you), trying to replicate the arrangement that worked for you initially. If you’ve built a fire, make sure it’s properly extinguished. Don’t try and cover too much ground each day. Set sensible goals and take regular breaks. If you’re feeling tired, then stop early for the day, if there’s suitable ground.
Remember, the aim is to enjoy yourself, to commune with those natural surroundings. So don’t overdo it, take your time, and look after your back.