Extreme Travel | Adventure Sports

How to… go lightweight camping

Lightening the load
Lizzy Hawker © Damiano Levati

One of the real joys about camping and exploring any wilderness – from the Yorkshire Dales to the Rocky Mountains – is the freedom you get. A common temptation, however, is to load up on enough kit to start a small settlement, which can really limit how much ground you can cover. Here WideWorld presents top tips from experts who know how to travel fast and light.

Leave my airbed behind, why would I want to do that?

“If you have thought and planned carefully then you will have just enough with you to keep you safe and healthy for whatever your adventure is,” advises Lizzy Hawker, ultra-distance runner with adventure brand The Northface. “There is a certain attraction to having less – less to carry, less to worry about – when you are stripped of the normal luxuries of our modern lives.

“It allows you to focus entirely on where you are and why you are there.  Simplicity is very often the luxury we forget to allow ourselves.”

Don’t leave without…

Lizzy has only two requirements when comes to hitting the trail: “A good book, and a pair of running shoes”.

Matt Moore, head of sales with adventure equipment specialists Terra Nova, swears by the following:

“I always make sure I stay warm, get a good night’s sleep and eat well enough so a down jacket, good sleeping bag and plenty of (lightweight) food would be my suggestions.

“The list can go on; hat, headtorch, drop of whisky, but the most important element to a great trip is the people you go with, you have to get on well with each other and have a good laugh even if things don’t work out the way you wanted.”

Work it out, talk about it

The real key to lightweight camping is ruthlessly evaluating what you need and what’s dead weight.

“It depends so much on the individual expedition or adventure – and what I will be doing, ie. running or climbing or ski mountaineering, or all of them,” says Lizzy, “but I try to limit my kit to the essentials and exactly what I need to keep me safe and healthy.

“For me one of the attractions of going on an expedition or adventure is to take really only what I need, and to be fully there in the nature,” she says. “This means that you really appreciate a hot shower, music and varied food when you come back.  That said – my luxury is a book.”

Matt agrees with Lizzy that “it is important on longer trips, no matter how light you travel, to include a few luxuries- make sure you enjoy the experience and don’t end up suffering too much.”

His selection method is to “list the absolute bare minimum kit required for a trip and build from there” and “to discuss what to take with the guys you are going away with.

“A perfect example of this is a day out running in the mountains, you travel fast, cover big distances and all I take is a drink, some gels, a windproof shell and the survival basics (headtorch, compass & map, survival bag) packed into a small bumbag. You don’t need anything else.”

Trial and error

Once you’ve got your list Lizzie suggests “plan, prepare and give yourself enough time to ‘think’ when you are packing” and then repack everything.

“This can only come from experience,” says Matt. If you’re bit of a novice then talk to those who know; “you need to listen to good advice from people with experience.

“If you are buying new kit to take with you on a big trip always make sure you have used it and tested it before you to go to make sure it does what it needs to do,” he adds.

“There is plenty of new technology and super-light kit out there but it has to stand up to use in the real world so while being light and fast is great don’t push it too far. Having been bivying at minus 18 it was great to carry a light load and move fast but was one of the coldest nights I’ve spent out in the mountains, a warmer sleeping bag and a lightweight tent shared between two or three is a little heavier but offers much more comfort.

The key behind a successful lightweight camping expedition is preparation. Prepare to be ruthless in not taking all the kit you normally would, prepare to pack and repack your bag to get it right, and prepare to enjoy a little discomfort. Also prepare to have the most mobile and exciting camping trips of your life.