There’s a big difference between actually living outdoors compared to spending a couple of nights camping and it definitely takes some getting used to. Here are a few tips to make extended camping trips more comfortable in the short term, and safer in the long run (we’re talking wild camping here, not a campsite with toilets, showers etc.)
1. Keep your kit clean
Your kit is the only thing looking after you when the elements close in.
Unlike a weekend’s camping, where the kit can take some abuse, then dry and air out once home until your next micro adventure, with long term camping you can’t allow your kit to become dirty, damp or damaged. When you’re using your kit back to back and depending on it still working next week (or next month/year as in my case) it’s imperative to take care of it.
I always use a sleeping bag liner that can be washed in the shower and dries fast because washing your bag is impossible until you’re back home.
2. Keep your kit in tact
This one sounds obvious, but one handy tip that often goes overlooked is to make a footprint – a footprint is something you put down under the tent to take the damage of sticks, thorns, brambles, and stones hidden under leaves.
This can be purpose bought for your tent or you can cut a shower curtain or tarp to fit. It needs to be slightly smaller than the tent to not catch water running off the fly. Most modern tents have bath tub ground sheets built into the lining which is fine for use on grass but not suitable for less well manicured terrain (which is what I’ve mostly been camping on during my world run).
I use a roll matt, it’s much thicker than plastic, offering more protection for both my tent floor and the air bed above it from punctures, and it also adds some much appreciated thermal insulation.
3. Keep dry
Not only is it miserable if your kit becomes damp, it’s also twice the weight, smelly, and downright dangerous to sleep in – hypothermia isn’t something you get to experience twice!
Use a dry bag for your sleeping bag and have this inside a larger dry bag with other kit you need to keep dry. A wet sleeping bag can kill you, so do not risk it!
4. Keep your tent ventilated
A fully zipped up tent might feel cosy and logically seems warmer but it won’t be. In fact, after a few weeks spent like this you’ll be much colder as a consequence.
Your breath and sweat evaporating in the evening form condensation, and if you’ve been active during the day then this can amount to well over half a litre of moisture. Without adequate airflow, as soon as that moisture hits the cool inside of your tent it turns to water droplets. After weeks camping in a poorly ventilated tent your kit will be much heavier and smellier.
5. Create a living space
When camping for extended periods I wholly recommend using a tarp placed above the tent and extended beyond the entrance to create a dry area for cooking, dressing, packing your tent away or putting the tent up…or anything else you’d like to do without being rained on!
A tarp above your tent keeps your tent dry, keeps the inner dry from condensation and you can sleep with the doors wide open as there is no chance of rain coming in; it’s the best way to keep the tent fully ventilated.
6. Don’t blindly follow the manufacturer’s recommendations
I recommend disregarding the manufacturer’s bags if they don’t serve your purpose. For example, do you really want to put your dry tent and a soaking wet outer into the same tent bag if you plan on using that tent again before it’s been aired out at home? I use two separate bags for tent inner and outer. The same goes for stuff sacks. Do you really want to spend the extra ten minutes every morning wrestling a sleeping bag back into its tiny pack? No! Use a compression bag or dry bag instead.
7. Don’t be afraid to DIY
If you’re short on cash, there are a lot of things that can be made yourself at home for a fraction of the cost of buying them at expensive camping stores. I mentioned the footprint already above, but there are also windshields for cooking which are nothing more than a sheet of foil, and cosies for your cooking pans.
8. Cook smart
A cosy for your pans can half your fuel requirements, cut cooking times and save you a tonne of cash as you can avoid those expensive, dehydrated meals. Instead, you can use quick cook meals from a regular supermarket rather than the specialist camping stores. These meals will be about five times cheaper than the camping store ones. The only trouble is they need boiling then simmering for seven minutes or so, which can require a lot of extra fuel being used. However, a simple pan cosy overcomes this. Instead of simmering your food once you’ve brought it to the boil, turn the stove off and place the pan in its cosy. Almost none of the heat will escape. Pasta takes seven minutes simmering but will cook through in a cosy in less than ten minutes without any extra fuel.
You also don’t have to attend the stove, it doesn’t sound like much of a deal, but it’s an extra hour to yourself each week if you add it all up! While my dinners cooking in the cosy I can inflate my air bed, get changed, send through my camping coordinates and update twitter, then my dinner is ready!
I made my pan cosy myself out of a cheap foil coated roll mat. I’ve never seen them commercially available but it takes half an hour to make your own and they’re brilliant, just look on YouTube for guidance.
Ok there are plenty more small things you pick up along the way but those are the main ones I’d recommend if you’re planning your own extended camping adventure!