A First Look At The Naturehike Shelter Camping Canopy Hammock

I’ve been struggling to get a good night’s sleep under the stars for a while now.

I actually made a post about it here, and on the back of a discussion with our community, concluded that I needed to try hammock camping.

Luckily for me, the lovely folks at Naturehike offered to provide me with their new lightweight backpacking hammock to try out.

I’m no novice to hammock camping, having done it for a few extended periods abroad, including sleeping in a Costa Rica jungle in a hammock, safely raised off the floor and away from the swathes of insects out to bite me.

I’ve also had the joy of hammock camping by the sea a few times, and know too well the relaxing swaying, and cradling a hammock gives you when you’re trying to sleep. It’s like nothing else.

My Naturehike hammock didn’t take long to arrive. Impressive, given it came from overseas. It was well packaged, and fit into a small drawstring sports bag – similar to what you get at JD Sports or Sports Direct. I’ve since transferred it to a stuff sack as I find it better for use outside and trekking.

I’ve since had a chance to test it out in the woods local to me, and I plan to use it on a few multi-day hikes this Autumn and into next year.

Honestly, if I can get away with it, I will use this over a tent. Why? it’s lighter, easier to pitch, and way more comfortable.

Product Specs

Size: Tent fly – 189x186cm, Hammock – 300x316cm
Tent fly fabric: 40D Nylon coated silicon plaid fabric
Hammock fabric: 75d pongee, B3 fine poly mesh
Packed Size: 26x40x12 (but can squeeze smaller in testing)

Build Quality

I extensively checked the seams, and stitch quality of the hammock and fly and was impressed with the sewing quality, and overall feel of durability across the piece despite its relatively low weight and affordable price point.

What I really liked was the metal rings sewn into the ends of the tarp reinforcing the attachment points and making it easy to rig mini-pulls to pull the cords taught.

Moreover, the fabric coverings that wrap around the top of the hammock were a nice feature to keep the bunched up fabric dry in heavy rain, which stops the soak slowly working its way down the hammock towards you.

The fabric for the fly is also an excellent choice – being durable enough but also feeling relatively lightweight.

Suitability For Long Distance Hiking

If you want to switch up your camping setup away from tents, and towards hammocks then this isn’t a bad place to start.

Let’s assume you already use a Vango Banshee 200, at 2.4kg and a pack size of 47×18, and a setup time of 7 minutes.

Now compare this to our hammock at around 1kg, and a pack size of 40×26 uncompressed and a setup time of around 5 minutes. Yes it’s marginal gains, but losing 1.4kg of weight is never a bad thing.

Suddenly you have a compelling alternative, which in all honestly is more comfortable than a tent. Better still, if you are using this in warmer summer months to wild camp you don’t even need a camping pad (but you do need one in colder conditions for insulation) saving further grams.

Yes, I agree that a hammock is not as versatile – it cant be pitched anywhere. However it can be pitched in most places as you will find trees everywhere from the edge of playing fields to small coppices of woodland or forests on route.

With enough research, you can be sure to find a number of potential hammock camping spots along most routes.

Overall I feel hammocks are well suited to long distance hiking on certain trails and make a nice alternative to sleeping under canvas.

The bad

I really didn’t like the bag it came in. For a product designed for outdoor use, I personally would have used a different bag. A compressing lightweight stuff sack, made from the same fabric as the tarp would be more fitting for the product.

The good

Initially, I was unsure whether I liked the colours. Shouldn’t a hammock be bushcraft green?? After use, I realized I love the colours. They are not discreet, so for silent camping, you may need to hide a bit further into the woods, but otherwise, the colour choice really works for me.

I’m also a big fan of the tarp and its overall size. It’s not so massive that it’s extra weight, but big enough to drop the sides down to keep you dry in sideways rain and to give you some privacy within the hammock setup.

I am a big fan of the ‘No Zipper Design’. Here’s a fact. Zips fail, always. Whether it’s a year from purchase, or 5, your zip will always fail. And on a product like a hammock where tension is put on variable parts of a hammock the zip will fail quicker.

Fortunately, Naturehike has put a ‘No Zipper Design’ entry point into the hammock which closes with gravity and can then be velcroed together.

I wasn’t sure of the velcro opening at first, but now I love it. It’s also really easy to get into as you enter the hammock centrally instead of trying to roll in over the side, which can cause you to roll out the other side.

I also really like how Naturehike offers aftersales support and replies to their emails. Many overseas companies don’t, yet Naturehike offer original products and stands behind them with good customer support.

Overall thoughts On The Naturehike Shelter Camping Canopy Hammock

I’m really impressed with the product and will be using it over my tent going forwards If I am sure that I can get away with pitching it on routes for the duration of a trip. Honestly, we have enough coppices of woodland remaining to get away with using a hammock in the UK on most long-distance trails – particularly on lower routes such as the Yorkshire Wold Way for example.

The build quality is reassuring, and although it’s not the lightest hammock on the market it’s priced very generously for what it offers.


Naturehike Shelter Camping Hammock

Reviewed by Matthew Usherwood, Editor at DistanceHiker.com


Last Thoughts

An excellent hammock at a great price. Don’t be alarmed by the lack of weight, or pack size as honestly, it’s lighter than even the lightest tents but it is heavier than some competitor hammocks.

If you want a hammock to start your hammock camping journey then this is an excellent place to start.


How to become a hiking guidebook author

Back in October, I had the pleasure of talking with Andrew McCloy, guidebook author, and self-confessed ‘ Jobbing Writer’ for major outdoor publications including TGO.

Listen to the full episode here

I’ve long wanted to get a guidebook author on the show, mainly because it selfishly interests me as an artistic exercise, but also because guidebook authors are in my opinion unsung heroes of the hiking community. It’s the inquisitive spirit behind a good guidebook that embellishes a trail with interest beyond a series of simple ‘cross the field, and turn left at the next stye’ style of instructions.

Well-written guidebooks bring the trail and its history to life in ways that most of us can be bothered to do so. Yet having a book we can pick up for a tenner, which has the back story, history and valuable inside information on a trail is a luxury. Hiking apps just don’t currently compare, and I hope that people like Andrew continue to write excellent guides.

But what does it take to become a guidebook Author?

Well, I asked Andrew, to find out what the job description entailed.

As with any profession which is not a route to riches (although I’m sure the founders of Lonely Planet disagree) enjoyment of the craft is key. But what attracts Andrew to writing guides is what he calls the ‘art form’ of writing. He explains that the attraction is in the fluent and artistic narrative, supported by “meticulous planning“. He enjoys the buzz when planning a new guidebook for a long-distance trail and enjoys the long ‘nights doing logistics’.

Essentially what underpins Andrews’s method of writing guidebook’s is not the finished result, (although I’m sure that’s wonderful) but the process itself. It’s the process that makes this profession exciting for Andrew.

If you have ever considered writing a hiking guidebook, the insights below may help you get started.

What’s the process of putting together a guidebook?

What I found interesting was the insight that guidebooks are not written in full the first time around. Instead, they are written in parts and walked in bits. Andrews’s first book, Lands End to John o Groats was put together over a number of trips, including weekends and holidays. He threaded the route together with long-distance paths, and filled the bits in between…

How does this turn into a full time career?

Ah, the 9-5 question. How do you leave your dull day job, and spend the rest of your days walking the hills while getting paid?

With enough savvy and a bit of healthy hustle most creative pursuits can be turned into a career. Andrew chucked as he shared his realisation that he could ‘scrape a living’ if he came up with enough ideas. Yet he was mindful that he always needs to be a step ahead, thinking of different slants on existing guidebooks.

He acknowledged that the Lake District for example probably is at full capacity for guidebooks, so thinking of something totally different is a must. Andrew laughed as he said, “I challenge everyone to find a new slant on a book on the Lake District“.

Opportunities for writing guidebooks exist in new and emerging gaps in the market (think how many ‘slow travel’ guides came out a few years ago), places people are talking about, or books that are going out of print.

Ultimately though Andrew shares that you should ‘not be afraid to ask people to take a chance on you’.

How do you get the detail to make it interesting?

Theres a big distinction between a boring guidebook and an interesting one. I’ve seen both.

Andrew keeps his guidebooks interesting by remaining curious and picking up clues from those he speaks with on the trail. For example, he will often stop at YHA’s and pubs to pick up parish newsletters and learn of local history groups, who are a source of valuable information.

When writing his Pennine Way book Andrew was particularly interested in Thomas Stephenson who originally walked the route. He made a point of going down to London to the archives at the London University to look for research and a deeper level of history on Thomas. This level of commitment gave life to the book.

Andrew says, “you have to put in the legwork and check the facts“. But he confessed, “When you are not sure you have to own up to it, and just tell the story anyway if it’s good”. A bit of creative bending of a story never goes too far wrong if done honestly.

What’s your view on walking apps?

I was curious to hear Andrews’s views on walking apps. After all apps and digital mediums have been seen as a threat to writing and physical mediums. Although books and records seem to have bucked that trend.

Andrew mentioned he does occasionally pick up apps and follow it, particularly for new places as it gives him confidence about where to go. However, he does come away feeling he can do better and provide better directions and clarity on the route.

How many guides have you written to date?

I’m keen to point out that Andrews’s success within his profession was not an overnight one. Success rarely is.

Andrew has written or contributed to just under 20 guides of various types. His more recent ones were a social history of the pubs in the Peak District, and of course, the book we talked about on the Podcast, Great Walks on the England Coast Path.

Kinder beer barrel challenge story

Any career highlights?

In 2015 Andrew celebrated his 50th Birthday. This nicely coincided with the Pennine Way also having its 50th anniversary that year. Andrew had “long harbored the desire to walk it all in one go“. Naturally, he wanted to follow this up with a publication – one that was personal to him.

He chose to focus on a different angle on the Pennine Way. After all, there are already a number of guides for this popular long-distance trail.

Andrews’s focus was to look at the social history, access, the history of the YHA on the route, footpath erosion, and of course his personal motivations for walking the path – using the way as a test against yourself.

Next steps

If writing a guidebook is of interest to you, my recommendation is this. Get out and write it.

Choose a suitable area. Perhaps somewhere less walked (how many walking guides exist for the Lincolnshire Wold’s for example?), or as Andrew says, find a different slant.

To help you on your way to guidebook writing glory, and a space next to Andrew and Alfred Wainwright here are some free ideas to get you going.

  • A guidebook linking up pubs from lands end to John o Groats – making the UK’s biggest pub crawl.
  • Modern pushchair hiking guides. Some exist but they are very aged now
  • Long distance trails that can be walked in a weekend
  • Themed guidebooks. For example, routes around the UK that tell a historic story of places involved in the English Civil War
  • Premium walking guides for those who want to stay in fancy hotels, and eat fancy meals. Think the Thames Path for the top 1%
  • Trail running guides – long distance walking guidebooks but designed for trail runners

You get the point. There are lots of angles for guidebooks that don’t involve writing yet another guidebook on the Hadrian’s Wall Path.

Hopefully you found this article helpful. Let us know what you think in the comments 👇

How to get a great night’s sleep when camping

There was a time when I slept great under canvas.

I actually preferred my camping mattress to my one at home.

The issue I’m now having is that I’m 10 years older, and my old mattress was rubbish. My new one is fabulous, and sadly I no longer find camping comfortable.

This is a shame, as I always put the great night’s sleep I experienced outdoors to the fresh air. Yet this no longer seems to be the case.

Since I was stuck, I reached out to our community for some advice

And as always, I was not disappointed:

Cut the light and noise

Daniel suggested using ear plug, and an eye mask to cut out any noise, and early sunlight. Those who subscribe to sticking with their circadian rhythm probably won’t appreciate this, but for light sleepers this method is essential. Ear plugs stop mid-night wake ups when the wind picks up, or the foxes start howling close to your tent, while the eye mask extends your sleep time.

Get a great sleeping bag

A few members recommended getting a great sleeping bag. Why? Because expensive sleeping bags can often be more comfortable to a) Carry (because they are lighter), and b) Have softer fabrics. A great quality sleeping bag, particularly a down filled bag will feel great to sleep in. It’s also likely to keep you at the right temperature throughout the night, which in turn will ensure you have a fabulous nights sleep.

Hammock Camping

I’ve had my best night’s sleep in a hammock. For the purpose of my good nights sleeping while camping i’ve recently got my hands on a new hammock, which I am due to try out soon.

Sleeping in a hammock puts your body in a very natural position, which is great for back pain. They are also fast to pitch, and relaxing. In addition, you get great protection from rainwater and insects, and no condensation due to the open nature of the setup.

The downside is the pitching possibilities. Obviously, hammock camping isn’t going to work so well on open moorland or mountain routes with limited tree cover.


Ok, so Beer/alchol isn’t actually proven to increase your sleep quality. Yes, it acts as a mild sedative so may help to kock you out, but your overall sleep quality will be reduced due to your body metabolising the alcohol. This can also lead to excessive daytime sleepyness and other issues.

Still, a beer or two before bed can’t hurt to much can it?

A good inflatable pillow

Pillows are not just there to make your bed look pretty

Pillows are a great tool to keep your head aligned with the neck and backbone during sleep, in which aids better sleep quality. SLeeping without a pillow leaves your head unsupported, and therefore leads to a bad night sleep.

Consider investing in a pillow for a better nights sleep

Read a good book

Reading a book before bed may be just what you need to drift off. The consistent movement of eye muscles while reading naturally makes you sleepy. However, avoid reading on your phone, as the blue light will have a counter effect and cause you to stay awake for longer.

An unconventional coastal existance

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with a few coast walkers in the past year of hosting the Distance Hiker Podcast. One question I always ask my guests, and especially those embarking on months, or years of walking is ‘how’?

How do you afford it?
How do you find the time?
How do you unwrap the complexities of life enough to afford the freedom to do this?

The answers have all been different.

Two fingers to the man, supported by a business, having a nice employer who supports a career break. Ultimately, they all need to be back home for dinner 6 months, or a year or two after departing.

The choice is never easy, but these individuals are bold enough to step into an unknown and take a leap to put one foot in front of the other. Taking each day as it comes.

I take my hat off to them.

My latest podcast guests Daniel and Charlotte are a little different.

Now, to set some context, Daniel and Charlotte are commitment-free. No kids, house, or careers on the line.

They have all the time in the world and they know it.

I asked them how long they were planning on walking for. In return I was told, three, perhaps 4 years, but they are not rushing.

Quite the opposite.

Charlotte and Daniel are living as self sufficiently as possible. They travel at a pace that suits them, living off the land where, and working for their keep or food when needed.

They have a limited, yet still untapped pot of savings. Impressive.

I spoke to them online, one evening as they were sat, huddled inside their tent on the Shetland Islands. Daniel was proud of his newfound, yet refined fishing skills, and the couple, seem undeterred by the possibility of carrying 20-30 kg on their back for the next years.

Prior to their walk, Daniel had finished in the armed forces, and again his story seemed familiar. He was angry, with difficult emotions. Losing his job was the spark that launched his new career as a full-time coast walker.

Charlotte’s entry into the story came from a different place. As an already seasoned solo traveler, this experience is nothing new. Yet Charlotte still sold all her belongings and handed in her notice for her waitressing job to join Daniel on the trip.

In November 2021, the couple were walking together and fully committed to this big adventure.

As two young people, who undoubtedly have been subjected to the normal ‘status quo enforcing beliefs throughout their lives, I’m impressed by their fortitude to remain firm in their beliefs.

Rather than following traditional career paths, buying into the 9-5, and purchasing a house together (which I must add is an entirely valid choice), they have opted to live the next 4 years on their terms.

They have no grand plan, no huge ambition, beyond perhaps raising some money for charities close to their hearts, and sharing their message with a growing base of supporters.

I only wish that more people would pursue this path in life – opting for experience, and a slow unconventional living over damaging behaviors such as hustle culture, and the ‘grind’.

Daniel and Charlotte filled me with hope.

Two charming, yet ordinary individuals, doing something extraordinary, yet managing to make it look totally normal.

These are ones to watch.

You can find the full episode with Daniel and Charlotte here.

Trail Snapshots – Yorkshire wold’s Way

Welcome to Distance Hiker Trail Snapshots, where members of our community share a Q&A snapshot of a trail they love!

The Yorkshire Wolds way travels through a stunning corner in England that has remained largely untouched for centuries.

This landscape is alive with butterflies, birds, and villages nestled into woodland dells. Between England’s most popular deserted medieval village at Wharram Percy, views across the Humbug Bridge to the towers of Lincolns Cathedral, and the quaint coastal resort of Filey, this trail offers plenty to keep you interested.

You can find Matthew, who contributed this trail snapshot on YouTube, Instagram and on his personal website.

What made you choose the Glyndŵr’s Way?

I’m walking all of the National Trails, with an immediate focus on those over Chalk landscapes – a project I’m calling “Walk the Chalk”

What were the highlights of the trail for you?

The central section between South Cave and Wharram Percy – I lost count of the secluded deep dry valleys I passed through.

Can you tell us about some great overnight spots you found, whether it’s a wild camp, B&B, or campsite.

I wild camped the whole trail, with 5 camps across 2 trips. My first two camps were nasty stealthy affairs on rubbish brambly ground, but after that I camped high overlooking dry valleys each night, totally undisturbed. I’m not telling you exact spots, but anywhere not close to a village, not in a field of crops is probably going to be ok.

Were there any parts of the trail you didn’t enjoy?

Very little. As is often to be expected, with the need to put the trailhead somewhere accessible, the start wasn’t as good as the rest, but even that was pleasant with a walk along the Humber. The penultimate day along the northern edge of the escarpment didn’t have the drama of the central bit, but for a North Downs boy like me was like being at home.

What would you do differently if you were to walk it again, and what advice would you have for anyone else looking to walk the trail?

Very little. I originally intended to thru hike it in one go, but had to return home urgently on day 2, so I had to come back to finish it off.

So I’d certainly aim to do it in one next time. For a repeat though, I would deviate from the trail to include some of the other dales to the east of the trail, linking up with other long distance trails in the area.

It’s that good, I’m actively planning to go back as soon as I can and do some more of the area.

My main advice for anyone walking it is to think about your accommodation strategy – campsites aren’t spread very well, there’s no hostels really, but there are a number of B&B’s if you’re prepared to go a mile or so off path.

The trail is in practice pretty easy to wild camp though. The biggest challenge with doing that is water though. I found one tap near Settringham Beacon, there are very few rivers to take water from (and questionable whether you’d want to anyway).

Some people take water from animal troughs (usually filtering it as well), but it was pretty nasty when I looked. I resorted to buying bottled water each day.

Where is your next long-distance hike?

I am re-walking the North Downs Way (in chunks), then off to hopefully finish the Cambrian Way (got to Mallwyd so far). In October I’m finally off to do the West Highland Way.

You can learn more about Matthew on Instagram @backpackartist

Trail Map

Would you like to be featured?

Here at Distance Hiker we are always on the lookout for great new long distance hiking content. Our Trail Snapshots are a great place to start. If you have a long distance trail you would like to share simply fill in the form linked here and email some photos to matthew@distancehiker.com.

Trail Snapshots – East Highland Way

Cover photo credit – Neil Williamson

Welcome to Distance Hiker Trail Snapshots, where members of our community share a Q&A snapshot of a trail they love!

In this article Aaron shares a snapshot of his hike along the East Highland Way which stretches from Fort William to Aviemore over 82 miles of countryside.

You can find Aarons website here and his YouTube channel here.

What made you choose the st cuthbert’s Way?

It was a long-postponed trail and also filled in a gap between the West Highland Way and the Speyside Way. A good distance (around 80 miles) for a week of Hiking.

What were the highlights of the trail for you?

Not on the trail itself, but we had a short day which gave us time to walk up to the Pictish Hill Fort at Dun-da-lamh which is in a remarkable state of preservation, and give some quite incredible views over the area.

The route from Laggan through to Newtonmore via Glen Banchor gives a real sense of being in the wild, and the route from Newtonmore to Kingussie is very special (if you are walking the new Speyside Way extension, I’d thoroughly recommend avoiding that and walking the EHW route here instead).

The route also follows the short Badenoch Way from Kingussie, which again is a delightful route.

Can you tell us about some great overnight spots you found, whether it’s a wild camp, B&B, or campsite?

A huge mention ot the Laggan Hotel, which was superb. We stayed there several nights as accommodation is sparse, and managed to arrange transfers each day.

There were a few lovely wild camp spots, but the one that sticks in my mind was at An Dubh Lochan on the Tulloch to Feagor road. It was stunning.

Not too much else to add as we stayed in B&B’s/hotels for most of it. I would recommend avoiding the Spean Bridge Hotel, however. It was overpriced and being polite, rather dilapidated.

We stayed there two nights, returning by train from Tulloch station, and getting the first train out the next morning

The beach at the western end of loch laggan. Another stunning place to wild camp

Were there any parts of the trail you didn’t enjoy?

The walk alongside Loch Laggan. Right through thick conifer plantation, which I detest with a passion.

What would you do differently if you were to walk it again, and what advice would you have for anyone else looking to walk the trail?

Don’t walk along Loch Laggan. There is a fabulous alternative (which I was persuaded to not use, against my better judgment) which is a very similar distance through the glen to the south of the loch on the other side of the hill.

It follows a shooting track next to two lochans and is a fairly obvious and easy alternative if you have a map. Don’t argue, just go that way! I wish we had!

Where is your next long-distance hike?

The Cumbria Way

You can learn more about Alex and see some of her previous hiking, travel and long distance hiking photos on her Instagram @alibongo_

Trail Map

Would you like to be featured?

Here at Distance Hiker we are always on the lookout for great new long distance hiking content. Our Trail Snapshots are a great place to start. If you have a long distance trail you would like to share simply fill in the form linked here and email some photos to matthew@distancehiker.com.

Long distance walking with a 7 year old

‘Adventure’ seems to be a word that eludes many parents.

Despite having previously been adventurous, I found myself frustrated by how limiting being a parent can feel.

It’s all in my head of course, and just a matter of re-framing what adventure looks like when you have kids. Some parents work this out straight away, and others like me, yearn for the ‘good old days’ where I could roam free and unburned by the shackles of parenthood.

Not wanting to be a parent that regrets spending too little time with my kids, I decided the best place to start, was simply by doing something about it.

I had actually been planning on finally getting my long-distance hike groove for some time now.

I spend a lot of my time talking to other long-distance hikers on the Distance Hiker Podcast, but very little time actually doing it.

So, with weeks of excitement, as the weekend got closer, I planned my route.

But, there was a catch.

I wanted to make my own trail.

As somebody who is naturally creative, the idea of making my own trail seemed exciting.

I want to make a trail, and eventually a series of trails for people like me. Busy folks, with not a load of time, who wanted to experience the joys of long distance hiking within the comfortable confines of a weekend.

On Monday, they could then return to the workplace, and gleefully tell their colleagues of their adventures.

The rules of my trail were simple.

  1. It could be no more than 15km per day, preferably less, giving time to enjoy all the trail has to offer.
  2. It had to be interesting, and prioritise interest over being the most direct route
  3. It had to be easy to navigate.
  4. There must be a choice of accommodation, from campsite to B&B.
  5. Public transport of reasonable timing and available to return to the start or access cities for convenience.

With these rules in mind, I downloaded the OS mapping software and worked out a route.

The route was to start in Hathersage, taking walkers up Stanage Edge, before dropping down into Bamford and Hope.

The second day would see walkers ascend Win Hill, before taking on the skyline above Castleton, and then descending to Edale.

It seemed simple enough, so we set off around 3 pm after my work on Friday.

Our plan worked brilliantly, with Noah, my 6 (almost 7) year old smashing through the miles, before hitting the top of Stanage and supposedly running out of steam.

With the promise of ice cream and a short break on my shoulders, I encouraged him to keep on going.

In hindsight, it would have been nice to stop on the top of Bamford moor when he told me he was tired and had enough, but I wasn’t prepared with a water filter or shovel for a spontaneous overnight camp out so we pushed into Bamford.

We cut the walk short at Bamford as Noah was tired and hungry and another hour on the trail seemed like torture to him (and me). We headed towards the train station.

At the station, we met a lady who told us of the Saturday rail strikes.


That had scuppered my plans to walk to Edale the following day, and catch the train back to Hathersage.

I needed a new plan.

At the campsite, Noah abandoned me for his new friend Ben and had found his energy again, with them both running laps of the campsite. I shared a beer with Ben’s dad, before planning my route for the next day – running back to Hathersage along the Derwent Valley Heritage Way.

I want to walk the Derwent Valley Heritage way as a 2 day challenge, so it was lovely to walk a section of it to get an idea of how this would feel.

After a rough night, mostly due to my newfound inability to get comfortable in a tent (this never used to be an issue!) we woke up, said our goodbyes to our new friends, and departed.

The walk back was blissful. Noah dragged his heels a bit, but I reminded myself there was no rush, and we stopped at several points along the river to dip our feet in, and to watch the wildlife. I pinged the location of these secret spots to my partner, for future days out when it’s hot, and the kids need a paddle.

We eventually walked back to the car, where within 5 minutes of driving, Noah was snoring in the back seat.

Mission success.


“Suddenly the cloud the caught up with me. A dense, white fog swallowed up everything around me, an advancing front of claustrophobia taking no prisoners”


That was my immediate thought as I momentarily paused my hasty decent to look back up the slope I had just scrambled down. I was performing the half run, half skid which anyone who has tried to descend a trail in pouring rain will know well.

Miniature rivers gushed around my feet as I tried to identify the stones that wouldn’t give way beneath me. Just a few metres above me, thick, white clouds were chasing me down the slope – and by my calculation, they would overtake me in a matter of minutes.

Just moments ago, I had been over two kilometres up in the sky, straddling the Slovenian-Austrian border. I had summited Mount Stol, the highest peak in the Karavank Range at over 2,200 metres. For a few minutes, I felt like I was the only person in the world, surrounded by nothing but rock, cloud and thin air.

But as I stood taking in the otherworldly views, my reward after hiking hours in the blistering heat, something in my skin tingled. It wasn’t just the awe-inspiring sea of peaks which lay before me. It was that sixth sense, that instinct possessed by any outdoors nut that it’s all about to go tits up if you don’t act fast, which was speaking to me.

And I was right. The moment I stepped down off the summit and began to descend the path leading down the exposed scree slope, clouds rolled in quicker than I have ever seen and a low cymbal crash of thunder echoed through the sky.

Alright, time to scram, I thought. Minutes later, the sky was alive with an orchestra of thunderclaps and lightning streaks, rain was pouring down and visibility was disappearing fast. And I was still a good couple of hours from the bottom.

This was not a possible situation I had presented to my university supervisor when going through the risk assessment for my undergraduate research project (and, if anyone asks, never happened). In fact, I wasn’t technically here to climb any mountains at all, but rather to research bees, wasps and other pollinators. I’m an ecology student, so when the opportunity came up to design our own year project, I thought what better way to combine some meaningful research with a mountain adventure?

My hypothesis was simple, in theory: assess whether hydropower dams affect pollinator abundance along rivers. I’ll break this down, as I realise there is perhaps more than one foreign word in that sentence to most.

We have seen a building spree of hydropower dams across Europe, built to quench the thirst for energy that comes with a rapidly developing continent. Whilst many people see them as a source of pure, green energy, what are often forgotten are the environmental consequences which come with dividing up rivers and the ecosystems which depend on them.

There has been a recent flurry of smaller dam constructions, projects which you could definitely argue do not produce enough electricity for the ecological disturbance they cause. The aim of my research is not to pass judgement (I’ll leave that to the experts), but simply to investigate whether there is an effect on entomofauna (or insect life, to me and you), and pose that this needs to be taken into consideration when planning construction.

To my knowledge, nobody has looked at any effects of dams on pollinators. We know that the habitats surrounding rivers are high in biodiversity, thanks to the rich nutrient flow from the water.

Many studies have been done on the impacts on aquatic species under the water, and we know that disturbance from dam construction affects soil composition and plant life, too. So I wanted to take it one step further and see how pollinators were faring amidst all this; after all, with such a rapidly growing human population to feed, sufficient pollination of crops and other edible plants is an ever more pressing issue.

So having convinced my tutors that this was indeed an exciting, unique bit of research to be done, I was given the green light to head out to collect data. I wanted to head outside of the UK for my research; not only in an attempt to sate my curiosity to see more of the world but also since there is already a huge amount of biodiversity data from British studies.

After reading that Slovenia was one of Europe’s biodiversity hotspots and had recently declared the honeybee a national animal, this seemed like the perfect location to spend two weeks hiking up mountains and along riverbanks. I focused my research on the River Sava, the largest tributary of the Danube, whose upper reaches in northwest Slovenia were peppered with hydropower dams of varying sizes.

So began 15 days of mountains, rivers and bug counting. For each site I had chosen, I would hike for around two hours to the location, then take transects (walking 100m and counting whichever insects you see a metre either side of you) up and downstream of a dam to compare if the number of pollinators differed. This would take another couple of hours or so, then leaving me with the rest of the afternoon and evening to go and explore.

Of course, I had factored in a few extra days in case of bad weather (bees are famously not fans of wet weather). But I was mostly blessed with full sun, so I took the odd day out to do full day hikes and summit some of the higher peaks around me, as well as my daily, smaller evening hikes.

One of the best things about hiking in Slovenia is the trail infrastructure, mainly thanks to the country’s strong mountaineering culture which has been present for the last century or so. Mount Triglav, the country’s highest peak, is considered a right of passage for any Slovenian.

I discovered that most trails are extremely well marked, meaning you can spend less time with your nose in a map (most tourist places hand out the equivalent of OS maps for free) and more time absorbing your surroundings. For someone with an occasionally questionable sense of direction, not getting lost once in two weeks was quite something.

And the surroundings are breathtaking. For the most part of my stay, I was in a campsite near Jesenice, an industrial town just south of the Austrian border lying. The town lies in the valley of Lake Bled and is surrounded by a network of incredible granite peaks rising above the Sava River.

Slovenia boasts 60% forest cover, creating a nexus of habitats for wildlife to thrive. Since I was a silent solo hiker, almost every time I went out I would encounter deer, foxes, eagles or the odd marmot. I even had one young male deer try to rut with me – quite different to the fleeting glimpses of muntjacs we’re accustomed to in the UK!

But perhaps one of the most special natural phenomena I experienced took place every evening. Just as dusk began to set in and the sky was painted deep indigo, hundreds of fireflies would appear for about an hour. I remember after one particularly long day, I misjudged the distance back to camp and was trudging wearily back along the river when I looked up to see a swirling haze of tiny, green orbs twinkling all around me. Not only is this an otherworldy experience, it also is a good indicator of how healthy the ecosystems are. If you are in Slovenia, I can’t recommend enough taking at least one evening to walk alongside a lake or river to experience this.

Wildlife aside, the people were also among the friendliest I have encountered. Especially at weekends, you would regularly be greeted by cheerful locals enjoying the trails. And multiple times after simply asking for directions, people would take an interest in what I was up to and invite me in, offering water, a cool beer or even some homemade pastries.

In fact, as a young, solo female hiker, I don’t think I have ever felt safer in any country. Hard to pinpoint why exactly, but the female travellers reading this will relate when I say you just learn to ‘read the air’ in a place. So I was more than happy to spend hours out on the trails enjoying some headspace and unspoilt nature.

And this is how I ended up scrambling down Stol in a flash storm.

Should I take cover under a tree and wait to see if it will pass? I thought. No, there’s too much lightning overhead to want to be under trees this far up and it’s going to be dark in a few hours (no long northern European summer nights here).

There wasn’t anywhere to stop anyway, the path just kept winding steeply down, zigzagging left and right apparently whenever it felt fit.

Suddenly the cloud caught up with me. A dense, white fog swallowed up everything around me, an advancing front of claustrophobia taking no prisoners. My gage of how far I had to go was totally lost and I had to intently focus just to see where I was placing my feet.

Just keep going, inch by inch, until you get down, I told myself. That’s the only thing you can do right now. So that’s what I did, displaying a magnificent array of side steps, lunges and skids, painstakingly working my way down the mountain.

It’s funny how meditative situations like this can be. One moment you’re a tiny speck in awe of the vastness of the outdoors, the next you’re in your own microcosm, only seeing what’s five feet in front of you and listening to the endless monsoon of raindrops. It was like someone had put cotton wool over my eyes and ears. Sure, I had prepared all I could, brought all the equipment I could possibly need, had sought advice from locals before heading up, but still, the mountains still take you by surprise and teach you more.

And then, after spending nearly two hours like this (I checked later since at the time I had no idea how much time had passed in my descent), I popped out below the fog, like ­­­a cork out of a bottle of fine, Slovenian wine. A stunning alpine meadow lay before me, a scene that seemed to breathe out serenity in the same manner any back garden does after rain. A sweet, damp freshness filled the air.

The landscape was slowly crawling back to life; birds were beginning to sing again and insects started buzzing around me once more.

I instantly knew where I was; I had passed this meadow a short while into my ascent, and I was only a few hundred metres from the bottom. What gushed through me was not a sense of relief, but one of gratitude; that Stol had welcomed me up its slopes, granted me its summit, then gobbled me up, chewed and spat me back out in one piece again – and this time with a little more humility and experience.

I turned around and gazed back up at where I had come from. The tip of the peak was just emerging from the mist.

“Hvala, Stol” I shouted at the top of my lungs back up to the mountain.

“Thank you, Stol.”

Long Distance Hikes that can be walked in a week or less

You have a week of leave you forgot to take, you know you want to spend it walking, but where do you go?

This is what a member of our community recently asked, and as usual, the answers from our community members came out on top, with 28 excellent suggestions.

Here are the top picks:

Cleveland Way

The Cleveland Way, is a 110 mile National Trail that crosses remote upland moors, and coastal walking from Helmsley to Files in North Yorkshire.

The Trail is really well waymarked, and also well served by a good choice of campsites, suitable wild camping spots, and accommodation.

For food and drink lovers, the Cleveland way starts near the Helmsley Brewery, with handcrafted beer.

You will also pass Rievaulx Abbey, which was one of England’s most prominent Abbeys, complete with a museum. Of course, there Is the opportunity to walk up Roseberry topping, which rewards with stunning views of the landscape.

And if that’s not enough, the pretty coastal villages of Staithes, Runswick Bay, Whitby and Robin Hoods bay should make the trail particularly appealing. 

Yorkshire Wolds Way

If you like quieter walks, with a focus on peaceful walking, away from other walkers then the Yorkshire Wold’s Way may be an excellent choice.

Often overlooked by walkers due to its neighbouring trail the Cleveland Way. The Yorkshire Wolds Way has rolling countryside, and excellent views, with good tracks and waymarks throughout.

The route starts at Humber with impressive views of the River, and stretches over 87 miles, across the Yorkshire Wolds to Files.

Expect patchwork fields, an abundance of wildflowers, butterflies and birdlife.

Overall, the Yorkshire Wolds Way is a peaceful route, with little in the way of big climbs, and can be walked year round due to the trails condition.

Snowdonia Slate trail

The Snowdonia Slate Trail is an almost circular 83 mile route, starting in Bangor, and finishing in Bethesda.

The route covers 83 miles of countyside, in the unique slate landscape – which is North Wales latest World Heritage Site, in the Snowdonia National Park.

Experience the unique slate landscape of North Wales` latest World Heritage Site and enjoy the wonders of the Snowdonia National Park.

The trail takes you through some of the less visited parts of the National Park, while also allowing you to experience the popular villages of llanberis and Betws y Coed.

The Ridgeway

Starting in Avebury, the ridgeway takes walkers 87 miles through a remote part of central England to Ivinghoe Beacon, northwest of London.

The route itself is a historic Roman road, and thus known as ‘Britain’s oldest road’ and still follows the same route, used through the centuries.

Today is makes an excellent waymarked long distance walk, and offers excellent views across rolling chalkland, and pleanty of history, such as Iron Age forts.

The Ridgeway is an accessible walk from most capitals, and particularly beautiful in the spring when the bluebells are in bloom, and the ground better underfoot.

Northumberland Coast Path

The Northumberland coast Path is a fantastic walk for a week of relaxing seaside long distance walking. The long windswept beaches of Northumberland make for a striking landscape, which is graced with history, and over 7000 years of human activity, including a good number of Castles!

The route is 62 miles in length, so one of the shorter routes here, and takes walkers from Cresswell in the South to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the North.

The path offers walkers a remarkable walking experience.

Anglesey Coast Path

Anglesey, an island just off the North of Wales has a fantastic long distance route, at 130 miles in length around its circumference. The island falls within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural beauty, which accounts for around 95% of the coastline.

The landscape is diverse, from long stretches of open beach, forest, steep cliffs and farmland.

Highlights include the impressive South Stack lighthouse, Bwa Gwyn sea arches, the Menai Suspension Bridge, and the birdlife, flora, and fauna whom inhabit the island.

(Book Extract) Adventure Dayze

The extract below is from author Wayne Mullane, who write Adventure Dayze which recalls his experience as a non-hiker to walking up Britains highest mountain – Ben Nevis.
Yet the catch is that Wayne suffers from an acute fear of heights.

The chapter below, is titled Fitness.


Before I took up hiking as a hobby, most evenings saw me pitched up in front of the TV, stuffing my face with snacks. Consequently, over the period of a few years, my belly had felt like a slowly inflating rubber ring. I knew I needed to shed a few pounds and stop myself from becoming near comatose after work every day, but dieting has always felt far too regimented to me – and, besides, I like the idea of being free to eat a pie if I want to. That left exercise as my only option.

Going out for a run or to the gym didn’t appeal as – like I’ve said – I’d become too self-conscious of exercising in front of other people. Walking, however, gave me the impetus to exercise at my own pace and in my own way; it could be done fast or slow, and over any distance I wanted. Plus, it allowed me to be out and about, exercising in the fresh air while not having to experience the pressures of looking like a flapping fish being
reeled in by an angler – which is exactly what my running style looks like.

Yes, walking suited me down to the ground. A tight exercise regime or healthy lifestyle may be necessary for some, but personally, I needed to switch off once in a while, and – more importantly – eat cake guilt-free.

During 2016 and 2017, all I did was walk (with the addition of the occasional workout for Snowdon); short distances of a few miles once or twice a week were followed by six to 10
miles with Robin on alternating weekends. At this stage, Robin had a similar approach to me, and – by the time we did Snowdon in 2017 – this approach had definitely seen us through.

However, we believed Ben Nevis needed a little something extra. Yes, we’d managed to build up ongoing levels of fitness, but now we were going higher than we’d ever been before, and we knew we needed to respect the challenge by being a little more devoted to our health goals. When we’d been preparing for Scafell Pike, Aaron had told me that if we were able to walk the equivalent of the ascent and descent on flat ground on a regular enough basis, we’d be fine. As the total round trip for Ben Nevis is about eight miles, that wouldn’t be a problem – and
there’d be no harm in gaining that extra fitness to help sustain us in our undertaking.

So, by the start of 2018, Robin had hit the gym whilst Aaron and Robert remained committed to their jogging regime. I found myself in a state of ambiguity: on the one hand I wanted to exercise, but on the other I wasn’t sure how or where. Robin had given me a pep talk about going to the gym, saying that the best way to face my fear was simply to go there, but I wasn’t so sure. I put it off, then put it off some more.

With Robin’s words going round and round in my mind, I spent some time examining precisely why gyms and jogging didn’t cut it for me, and I came to the conclusion that it was precisely a case of others judging me. The guys constantly told
me not to worry about that and to focus on myself, but I just couldn’t help it – which was particularly strange as we all used to go jogging when we lived in Slough. Similarly, if I took up
a team sport, that would open my mind to being compared to teammates. I thought it was stupid for somebody my age to be so self-conscious – especially as it’s only ever to do with sport –
and while it’s not exactly an overwhelming sensation, it’s simply how I am.

I’d always thought that, as I aged, I’d become less inhibited about doing what I wanted to do, but that just didn’t seem to be the case. This was particularly strange as walking up mountains was, in part, about me challenging my fear of heights; why couldn’t I also challenge this dread I had concerning exercising in public?

Maybe this was exactly what it was: an age-related, self-contained, contradictory point of view. Or maybe, I pondered further, it was simply because these forms of exercise didn’t appeal
to me. If you tell me I have to run a quarter of a mile, I’ll shut down; if you tell me I have to walk 15 miles, before you can say ‘physical exercise’ my boots will be on and I’ll be out the door.

So, I found myself in a quandary. As Robert and Aaron pounded the streets and parks and as Robin pumped iron down at the gym, the lure of the sofa became attractive once again, particularly as January 2018 wore on. Regular walking had slowed down due to the colder weather, and although I toyed with the idea of buying weights and doing sit-ups and press-ups at home, the idea really didn’t appeal.

No, I needed something else. I needed something low budget and enjoyable. Something I wanted to do and would actually do.

It took me the best part of January to find a solution, and I can’t remember how or why I first decided to do it, but I started working out my own fitness programme. I borrowed a few ideas from exercise videos on YouTube, and soon I had my own regime in place that I could mix up with about fifteen or so different exercises to choose from. Plus, it was free (if you ignored
my monthly broadband payment).

I started small: 15 or 20 minutes at first, building up to no more than thirty minutes at a time. Then, as the weeks went by, I added new types of exercises and took others away, eventually
buying a pair of ankle weights to boost my efforts. I used my home to suit my regime: I gripped the tops of door frames to stretch out; I did standing press-ups against the kitchen worktops; and I pranced around the living room like an uncoordinated starfish as I stepped and jumped about.

As the routines varied in duration, I could quite happily complete a five or 10-minute workout some evenings and be happy with that – the important thing was that I remained

Finally, I’d found an answer that didn’t involve being in close proximity to judging eyes as I worked up a sweat.

Roughly around the same time, Robin and I began to diet. Since hitting forty, I’d grown more outward than upwards, and now seemed as good a time as any to tackle that. Although, as I’ve said, I find it hard being restricted to tight regimens, which inevitably led me to start snacking heavily again. As February turned into March – and with our walking time being restricted by heavy downpours of snow – a new lean, mean Robin had put
himself out there, whilst a fitter-slightly-less-fatter Wayne was now on display.

I was still battling between all-out exercise and all-out eating, living some kind of half-existence as I tried to satisfy two extremes. For all the crisps, sandwiches, and chocolate I ate, I’d
attempt to make up for it by doing an ultra-workout, but soon my body started telling me I was overdoing it. I’d leave longer gaps between workouts, even though I knew my efforts were at
risk of coming undone.

I didn’t want to give up exercising, though. I really enjoyed following exercise videos on YouTube and then incorporating
them into my own routines; it engaged both my brain and my body, in all sorts of ways. Regular exercise is well known to boost mood and I was keen to benefit from that.

Robin, Robert, and Aaron had kept on exercising, battling their own fitness demons, and I knew I needed an extra incentive to get me through – at least until the snow cleared and I could commit to regular distance walking again.

‘It’s all about your mindset, you know’, Robert told me one evening as he supped his pint.

Okay,’ I replied, a little uncertainly. I’d explained my predicament to him over after-work drinks as we waited for Robin to join us one early March evening. We were in Reading again– we spend a lot of time there.

Yeah,’ Robert replied. ‘You feel guilty for eating more food, so you punish yourself with full-on exercise.’

Go on,’ I encouraged him.

Eventually, you give up, because you find that trying to satisfy two complete opposites just doesn’t work,’ he continued with a nod.

So what do I do?’

Like I said, change your mindset. You like exercising, and you also like snacks, yeah? So, exercise to snack.’

‘Exercise to snack,’ I repeated, and a moment of clarity engulfed me. As I said this over and over again in my mind, a smile began to form on my face. I could force myself through gruelling workouts with the promise of a pork pie or a fondant fancy at the end – and feel guilt-free to boot!

Snackercise!’ I exclaimed happily.

Exactly. Just accept that what you’re already doing is okay and you’ll be fine. You’ll lose weight more slowly, but that doesn’t matter – so long as you’re okay with it.’

I was certainly okay with it; in fact, I celebrated my redefined moderately healthy lifestyle with a swig of my highly calorific pint. Really, I wouldn’t be doing anything different – I’d just have a fresh approach to motivate me. Plus, having a target like Ben Nevis to focus on gave me extra incentive to keep working out. Sure, the pounds didn’t exactly drop off, but I definitely became fitter as I occasionally increased my workouts
each week to supplement all the walking.

It really is amazing how just a few simple words gave me that much-needed clarity while forcing away the indecisiveness that had been holding me back. Mindset certainly is a powerful

So, by the time the Ben Nevis weekend rolled around, I might have been a few pounds heavier than I’d planned at the start of the year, but I was fitter than I’d felt in years and more than ready for the challenge.

You can purchase Adventure Dayze from Amazon.