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Our top tips and picks for lightweight camping

Words by Taunton Leisure

on 03/07/2020 16:27:05

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Our Top Tips and Picks for Lightweight camping

Have a read as we help you get packed up and out into the wilderness


Being able to get everything you need into a back pack and head off for a few nights in the hills is in our opinion one of the very best ways of immersing yourself in nature. Leaving your tent in the morning to take in the sunrise over a beautiful panoramic view with nobody else around couldn’t get any better and it is a privilege near solely shared by wild campers. If the hustle and bustle of a high facility campsites isn’t for you then what better way of enjoying over night stays in the outdoors then way up in the mountains and moorlands properly surrounded by natural beauty, fresh air and open space where it can feel like your own personal space is endless.

Of course this form of wonderful lightweight camping can be complicated and it can require a fair bit of self-organisation to ensure a comfortable night in whatever condition you may face, but that is why were here! In this post we’ll be giving you all sorts of great advice and tips and steering those new to lightweight camping to some great products that we’d recommend specially to get you on your way to the perfect night in nature!


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But first, a Kit list….

Seeing as we are entering the Summer months as the camping season finally begins, here is a list of all of the gear you will need when heading outdoors over night.

- Light Weight tent or other shelter such as a tarp or hammock depending on terrain and environment

- Waterproof jacket, sometimes it rains.

- Waterproof trousers, sometimes it rains really hard.

- Jumper, insulated jacket or fleece to keep you warm in the evening or at high elevations.

- Spare clothes, socks and underwear, you’ll be thankful you have them when you need them, there’s nothing worse than wet socks except for maybe wet pants.

- Sleeping bag with an appropriate warm weather comfort rating, if you are heading up to high elevation, you may need something warmer.

- Sleeping mat, either closed cell foam or inflatable, to keep you warm against the cold ground and to add padding and comfort.

- Map & compass to avoid getting lost, we recommend learning how to use these, it’s never too late to learn something new and it can be very rewarding.

- Torch, for night time navigation or simply finding your way around camp. Headtorches are best in our opinion.

- Loo roll and trowel, you never know when nature may call and it’s important to leave no trace.

- Enough food to keep you going for your planned time outdoors, this heavily effects the weight of your pack depending on the form of meals you are planning, if you want optimal light weight, dehydrated meals such as Expedition foods are best.

- Bowl for food, it also helps to have something to clean it with.

- Cutlery

- Stove & fuel, for cooking with and boiling water.

- Pot or kettle for boiling said water.

- Matches, lighter or fire starter, always worth bring some spares.

- Knife or multi-tool, incredibly useful in any survival situation, just in case.

- Sunglasses, sun hat and sun cream for protecting your main assets from the sun’s glare.

- Water bottle for hydration, one of the most important factors to work into any trek, we also recommend grabbing some water purification tablets when collecting water from streams.

- A comfortable, well adjusted backpack capable of fitting all of the above.

These are what we would strongly recommend make it into most of your multi day treks across open country, there are other items which are important for certain situations such as safety rope for trips up into the mountains for example. Other optional extras which are great to bring may not necessarily be needed are a portable charger for your phone, a camera, binoculars, a lantern for hanging in your tent, and a thermos to hold a cup of tea ready to go. If you’re happy to take the extra weight, a few comforts can really make your time outdoors that much better.

As we can see, this can all add up to a great amount of weight, it is common for hillwalkers and long distance trekkers to be carrying up to 20kg + on their backs. This does not always have to be the case though as many pieces of outdoor gear are optimised by using beautiful slim lined design and specialist materials to be as lightweight as possible whilst remaining effective and fit for purpose. If you’d like to see some products like that then see our Ultra-light Camping Gear post HERE.


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Choosing the perfect tent

In truth, there is no perfect tent for every situation. You will need to think about how many people plus gear you’ll be squeezing in and what environments and conditions you’ll be heading out in.

If you’re planning to do some intrepid winter camping, summer trekking and every condition in between, it’s important to have a tent designed and built for 4-season use as they are not only built more durably but also feature many important features that will be required in different conditions such adequate ventilation for warmer months as well as protection from heavy winter weather including snow. 4-season tents are often the choice of those lucky enough to spend much of their time traveling the world.

If winter camping isn’t for you then you can look into getting a tent designed for the warmer 3 seasons. These carry the main benefit of commonly being a little lighter than 4-season tents of the same size and are often more specialised for warmer weather with better ventilation (though there are often more expensive but excellent exceptions).

If you like your own space and would like to save weight then a solo trekking tent such as the Hilleberg Enan (a great option for warmer weather trekking) is a superb option as it is wonderfully lightweight at only 1.2kg, beautifully designed and packs down small. Its ventilation is exceptional having mesh panels at either end of the tent. Its terrific Kerlon fabric is among some of the strongest and most versatile tent fabrics in the industry. Another option is the MSR Hubba NX which is a free-standing design enabling easy pitching almost anywhere, for a tent of this design it is also very lightweight at 1.3kg and has a very generous amount of headroom allowing you to fully sit upright, a feature which many solo tents lack.

If you’re still looking to camp alone but would like a bit more room than what a solo tent offers, we would recommend going up in size to a lightweight 2-person tent such as the Vango Cairngorm 200 which certainly offers plenty of room for (and another if needs be) in an excellent value for money package.

When innovation interests you and you are looking for something very lightweight, then look no further than the inflatable Vango F10 Hydrogen Air tent, the lightest inflatable tent on the market which requires a bicycle pump to inflate, certainly a very interesting addition to the technical camping sphere. It has received much acclaim from outdoor enthusiasts.

Remember that lightweight technical tents are available for up to 4 people commonly and though a tent for more people is heavier, you can share the load with others by separating the tent's main components into different backpacks. Group tents like this are a great way of minimizing your footprint on the landscape. Many larger technical tents are perfect for intrepid families seeking unique adventures into nature. Kids love wild camping!

We carry an excellent range of technical tents online so if your looking for something new then look no further than HERE


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The best night’s sleep

Now that you’ve got your perfect tent, you’ll have to make your bed and sleep in it. Thankfully there are many products available on the market for just that, there is a fantastic range of sleeping bags and mats out there, so many that it can often be daunting to choose between them and with phrases like "R-value" for mats and "Comfort rating" for sleeping bags thrown around, things can become confusing. But don’t worry, we're here to help.

Sleeping mats

A good mat is vital for nights in the outdoors, not only are they protecting you from lumps and bumps but also one of their main roles is keeping the cold surface of the ground away keeping you warm and cosy at night. A mats R-value is a measure of thermal resistance; the higher the R-value, the more thermally resistant the material or structure of the mat is against the cold ground. R-values are also used by engineers and scientists to measure many thermal resistant products such as windows and fibre glass. It is always worth noting a mats R-value as it tells you what temperatures outdoors it has been made for. Many lighter weight mats have a lower R-value as they have less thermal resistant properties built into the structure, if your intention is lightweight summer trekking then you won’t necessarily need a high r-value if it saves weight.

The NeoAir Uberlite mat from Therm-a-Rest is an incredibly lightweight inflatable option weighing in at only 250g with an R-value of 2.3, it can be packed down small enough to fit into a mug.

Sea-2-Summit’s range of excellent mats are sturdy, lightweight, comfortable, and very effective. The Women’s ultra-light insulated mat is a brilliant choice for women as it isn’t quite as long offering more optimised lightweight potential.

Sleeping Bags

When it comes to sleeping bags, what is most important is understanding the temperature ratings. Every good quality bag will have been tested by its manufacturer so that you can have a clear idea of what temperatures they are appropriate for and how far you can push the insulation in colder conditions. You will most likely find 2 different ratings on each bag, the comfort rating, and the extreme rating.

The comfort rating refers to the optimum temperature you will feel warm and comfortable sleeping in when in a rolled-up position. When the bag is used in any temperatures below its comfort rating, the user is likely to feel cold. For example, the Rab Alpine Pro 400 bag has a comfort rating of 1 degrees c, meaning if it is any colder then that, you’ll get chilly.

The extreme rating will likely sit at a considerably colder temperature than the comfort rating and is essentially the survival temperature. Put simply, this is the very limit at which the bag will keep you alive without temperature related ailments. You should avoid regular use at this temperature. The Rab Alpine Pro 400 has an extreme rating of-23 degrees c, this is the very coldest safe temperature you could use this bag in, though we would not recommend it.

For hotter nights under the stars, you can forego a sleeping bag altogether. Camp quilts fold up small and provide superior breathability for those that run hot.

Another Sleeping bag we can recommend is the Mountain Equipment Women's Helium 400 bag for its excellent warmth to weight ratio and small pack size.

When it comes to down and synthetic insulation in sleeping bags, it is a matter of how you use it. Down is more breathable insulation which packs down small for how cushioned it can be, however, the downside of down is that when wet it can become far less effective. Synthetic Insulation keeps its insulative properties even when wet and dries considerably quicker, however, is in our opinion not as breathable and a little more clammy. Synthetically insulated bags tend to also be a little cheaper than down insulated bags.

Check out our range of excellent technical sleeping bags HERE


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Cooking through the storm

Cooking outdoors can be incredibly rewarding, food over a campfire always tastes better, however, it is not an option to cook over a fire when out in the hills, after all, it is very important to leave no trace. There is a good range of lightweight and powerful trekking stoves and cooking systems to boil water, fry bacon, and heat outdoor bagged meals. Here are some things to think about when thinking about cooking on the trail.

Stoves

Something worth considering when looking for the right stove is your gas supply, many lighter weight stoves use an iso-propane canister like the one pictured above attached the excellent MSR Windburner (A great solution for quickly boiling water for cups of tea and bag meals), these are an excellent and practical way of supplying your stove with fuel as they screw on and off without gas escaping and require very little care or maintenance, you must take your canisters with you once they’ve run out of fuel as they are not refillable but should be recycled and not left on the side of a mountain. Stoves that use iso-propane canisters tend to be excellent options for boiling water quickly and practically. See also the Pocket Rocket Deluxe, a luxurious but minimal stove that prioritises power and a lightweight hand in hand.

If you’re looking for a little more power in your cooking as well as more versatility, then a multi-fuel stove such as the MSR Whisperlite can be great as it works off many types of fuel including both iso-propane gas canisters and liquid fuels which are propelled into the stove using a pressurised pump bottle. These are more versatile as you are far more likely to find different fuels in different places and it is best to have a stove that can work with many just in case. A pressurised bottle stove is also more effective in cold weather.

Pots and Kettles

You’ll need something to sit atop your stove for water boiling and cooking. The pots and pans you have at home are likely too heavy to practically pack into your pack, but luckily there are many vessels available that are designed to be lightweight and practical to perch atop your stove. Kettles are good for quickly pouring water for beverages and bag meals as the spout makes it far easier to pour. If you’re planning on going the dehydrated meal route, bring a lightweight kettle such as the Sea-2-Summit X-set 11 which also comes with 2 collapsible mugs for hot coffees in the morning and hot chocolates before bed. If your looking for something to boil your bag meals efficiently then a great lightweight option is the Vango hard-anodised one person cook kit which weighs next to nothing and provides a generous amount of volume.

Cutlery can also be lightweight and practical with this very stylish titanium Snowpeak Spork


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Cramming it all in

A well fitted, appropriately sized pack is one of the most essential items for a long-distance trek. The right pack can make 20 miles carrying a 20kg load feel easy and a poorly fitted, uncomfortable pack can not allow you to even get a few miles. When it comes to serious treks, one of our very first ports of call is with Osprey with its innovative designs and superb reputation.

If you are looking for a do it all pack with an excellent Anti-Gravity back system, then look no further than the Osprey Atmos 65L (A great size for multi-day summer trekking) for men and Osprey Aura 65L for women. Women's specific packs are shorter in the back length, a little narrower on the shoulders, and a little wider on the hips providing excellent support for a woman’s frame.

If you are looking to prioritise lightweight and have plenty of minimal lightweight gear the Osprey Exos 58L for men and the Osprey Eja 48 for women. These pack sizes are good for weekends away or luxurious overnight stays in the wild.

To guarantee an appropriate and properly fitted pack for you, we recommend a rucksack fitting at one of our stores.


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