Wet weather wildcamping. My first sleep in the wilderness

Back in July 2022, my four friends (Aaron, Robin, Pete and Robert) and I visited the Old Man Of Coniston for our annual mountain trip. This was to be the smallest mountain we’d trek – we’d hiked the highest points in the UK and Ireland with a few others thrown in to this point – but we weren’t going to underestimate this ascent in any way. Plus, this trip had the added bonus of us wildcamping for the first time.In order to prepare for our adventure, we’d taken advice from experienced wildcampers and watched a number of YouTube videos. My friends’ shelters included a tent and bivvy sacks. I decided on a poncho tarp latched to a hiking pole secured by tent pegs and bungee cord for my shelter; I felt that this would be lightweight and adequate enough. I practiced building my shelter a few times in my back garden, so by the time we hit Cumbria I was reasonably confident I’d be okay.

As there was a small gang of us making the journey, it was easy for us to spread our collective load between us. What’s App group chats saw us comparing weights of camping stoves and torches to gain a good understanding of the lightest items to carry. This meant that we had room to take a few little extras for the big sleep outside: the idea to waking up to sizzling bacon on a mountainside was appealing!


So, come the big day, we piled our rucksacks into the car, having made sure we’d done one final itinerary check beforehand. We left our base camp at a mobile home park in Millom around midday as the lure of the mountains called to us once again. And after a hefty, long Sunday lunch at The Ship Inn just outside of Coniston, the hike began at 3pm.

We started along a B-road before beginning to climb up through farm fields. Aaron was our navigator for the day with his trusted compass skills, and before long he’d led us to the main path that’d take us to the mountain peak. If it had been down to me to set our direction, I think I’d have taken us to Carlisle!

I liked this trek a lot: for the most part, the valley rose up alongside the path, so there were hardly any steep drops that would send my head in a spin. You see, I have a fear of heights, and I never know how I’m going to be on a mountain until I get there; on Scafell Pike in 2016, for instance, I’d turned up full of beans, only for my head to give out halfway up as I feared for my life looking down on the valley below. So, to be leading from the front and engaging in banter most of the way up the Old Man was a joy to me.


One of our pre-hike worries had been the weight of our packs slowing us down. Yet, we reached the peak of the mountain with only a few minor mumbles and strap adjustments. The weather had also been favourable despite the threat of rain. Mind you, the pints that had been downed in the pub prior to the footslog were beginning to take their toll on a few members of our group at this point.

The map was spread out as we hunted out our sleep spot : Blind Tarn. This leg of the journey involved descending the Old Man on its other side, bounding across boggy fields and a rushing river before taking on more boggy fields and a final ascent to our destination.

After becoming lost a few times, we’d made it. By now, it was 9pm, and energy levels were sapping. I whipped off my boots and socks, and enjoyed the cool waters of the tarn soothing my aching feet. Taking in the scenery and the isolation, we all cooed in unison as to the rugged beauty of the location.

Then, it was time to build the shelter once more. We ate quickly and soon bedded down, too zapped of energy to talk much.


Blind Tarn is framed by steep rock faces on three sides, so we thought we had adequate enough protection from the elements As rain crept in at 1am, we were stirred from our slumbers. By 1.30am, I was having to hastily reconstruct my build amid a howling gale. The bungee cord had twanged off in a random direction causing the hiking pole to collapse. With the help of my friends, we were able to secure my tarp with more tent pegs and rocks by all four corners before it got blown away like an unwanted rag.

I slid between the tarp and the ground sheet, and huddled under my sleeping bag. By 3am, and unable to sleep, I heard Robin’s teeth chattering; he declared that he’d had enough. I called it time too as, by now, water had flooded my sleeping bag via the gap in the poncho tarp for the hood. Reluctantly, and feeling extremely gutted and soaked, Robin and I packed hastily, and headed back to the car.

Still, at least we got to see a sunrise before reaching the warmth of the car. Aaron, Pete and Robert joined us a few hours later having battled the night out, and returned my missing bungee cord to me!


In her book Extreme Sleeps, Phoebe Smith shows how a bad first experience wildcamping should never put you off. In fact, the author is so adept at wildcamping by the end of the book that it’s almost a way of live for her.

On the way back to the car that morning, Robin and I were reflective in this vain rather than dismissive of future wildcamping adventures. We want to stick at it to gain more experience of immersing ourselves in nature in this way.

And we know one way to make our next sleep in the wilderness much better: TO USE A BLINKING TENT!!!!

Walking the Pennine Way In 9 Days

The Pennine Way (PW) starts in Edale, Derbyshire and finishes in Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders, it covers a total of 268 miles and follows what is often referred to as the Spine of the UK.

It winds its way up and over mountains, follows valleys and rivers, crisscrosses reservoirs, plows through farmland (get what I did there 😉), passes through forest, and of course traverses what it is most known for I would say is the sometimes bleak, beautiful and mesmerizing moorlands. All the while making its way Northward.

The Pennine way is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and challenging long-distance trails in the UK, it can be very exposed and it can make you feel like you are completely alone out there thousands of miles away from civilisation, which is amazing right?

My Plan

My original plan was to head to Wales but logistical issues the night before scuppered that idea.

Instead, I opted to hit the PW nobo, I had a goal of finishing it within the Easter break but was happy if that didn’t pan out.

I had aimed to take it steady covering 15-20 miles a day, but in retrospect should have known I would just lie to myself.

Day 1

I started the trail in Edale, the official start point at about 09:30 after scoring some pasties from the café next to the train station. I headed out, passing by a fair few people and getting chatting to them along the way. I soon found myself facing Jacob’s ladder where I knew I was in for the first tough climb of the trail and it’s a corker too.

I chilled at the bottom near the river, airing my feet out and eating some sausage rolls (they’re a re-occurring theme on this trail :D). Some of the people I had passed along the way caught me up and began their ascent up the notorious steps.

I decided on taking the Pony track as it isn’t as steep to start with and soon caught them up at the intersection. I got chatting to a couple who were doing the trail in 3 sections, with this one finishing in Horton. It was great speaking with them, and we soon parted ways as I headed to Kinder Downfall. 

The wind was relentless up on the plateau and I really struggled to walk a straight line which meant no rest too. I refilled water at Kinder Downfall and cruised on along the ridge before dropping down and back up Mill hill and over to Snake Pass. I quickly made my way over Bleaklow which was still quite boggy. I always forget how bleak, Bleaklow is on the summit, it’s like being on the moon. 

Anyway, I scoffed some food up there and cruised on down Torside Clough remembering I camped here last time in 2020, but not today. I was still feeling fresh and knew I had a few more miles in the tank so kept on slaying the miles which came thick and fast.

I cruised along Torside reservoir before heading back into the hilly moors and over Laddow rocks and man was it windy up there. I nearly took the plunge a few times but managed to keep cruising.

I soon found myself at Black Hill which is where I met a couple in 2020 who I’m still friends with now, so the nostalgia was awesome. The weather quickly closed in though and it soon became a hailstorm up there which in shorts was pretty pants. I kept on cruising though and found myself at Wessenden head reservoir where I found a nice spot all cut and fresh so opted to spend the night here. 

27 miles walked

Day 2

I woke up nice and early, packed up, and got to cruising, the wind was pretty bad, and it was foggy so visibility was poor. I soon passed by reservoirs and over the moorland where I got speaking to some guys doing a marathon along the PW.

I thought it would be the first and last I would see of them but as I cruised over Standedge I somehow caught them up. From there we played relay up to White Hill which they said was the halfway point so we’re headed back now.

We parted ways and I kept cruising towards the M62, unfortunately, the little café nearby was closed as they were doing a refurb, so I was unlucky (it is however open now). I cruised on over the bridge and followed the moors, but the weather quickly became very bad, and I soon found myself walking through driving wind and rain with some hail thrown in for good measure.

I found myself debating sacking it off at this point as I was cold, wet, and miserable. However, this is all part of the fun and I cruised along to the White House pub and scored some hot food and a drink. I decided to see if the weather would chill which it did a little bit.

I kept on going making my way past Blackstone edge reservoir and towards Hebden Bridge in the rain. As I got near Todmorden the weather chilled out and the wind dropped which was an absolute godsend.

I reached Studley Pike and was awed by the scale of it like I am every time I’ve been there. I decided to head into the woods for the night as I knew it would be a little warmer and less wet in the dense canopy.

17 miles walked

Day 3

I woke around 0400 and packed down my gear before heading down into the steep valley where Hebden Bridge sits. I waited for the post office to open and had some breakfast before posting some gear home (my cooker and a jacket). I quickly followed the old PW and up into Heptonstall which I highly recommend as an alternative as it’s so beautiful there. It really does have the feel of an old medieval village still. 

I soon found myself at Mays’s shop where I raided her pastry collection and had a drink and chat with her. Mays shop really is something special and is the place to be on the PW, it’s amazing and May is super cool too.

I set off again following the trail towards Gorple reservoir before swerving a right and heading on over to Walshaw Dean reservoirs which looked to be quite low considering it was winter not long ago. I was being chased by the weather at this point and made a beeline for High Withens at the speed of a thousand gazelles, fuelled by Mays sausage rolls.

I soon found myself at the old farmhouse where I scored some shelter (could be a good place for a night if the weather was bad), I chilled chatted to a lady, and then hit the trail again in the rain.

I soon passed by Ponden reservoir and began the ascent into Ikornshaw moors which I remember were very boggy. I bog hopped for this section playing flagstone roulette at the points where they existed. Amazingly, I managed to keep dry feet and didn’t fall in any of the mud.

I stopped at one of the hunting lodges to air my feet and eat some food before heading down into Cowling where I considered sacking it off for the day.

The weather gods were kind to me though as it became bright sunshine which spurred me on for bigger miles and I cruised over the landscape which I noticed had changed from the Peak district moors to more managed farmland which marks the beginning of the Yorkshire Dales.

I soon found myself in Lothersdale and scored some hot food and a quick recharge of the power bank and phone. I decided at that point Gargrave would be the end of my day which was still a fair distance away.

I kept on walking over the endless farmer’s fields and stiles eventually hitting the canal where I stopped for a little while. When I set off again my right foot was hurting pretty badly, and I was soon limping along and debating whether I was badly injured or not. 

Within a couple of miles, I could barely load bare, the churned-up fields didn’t help and my feet were soon drenched which made me even more miserable. I kept on plodding forward though and decided to stop for a pint where I got chatting to some cool older dude who offered his front garden for the night. I snapped his hand off at the offer and he even squared me a shower. 

I tried getting to sleep around 9pm but the pain in my foot kept me tossing and turning for about 2-3 hours before I drifted off…

32 miles walked

Day 4

I woke up and immediately packed up and felt my foot, it was a little bit swollen along the top and still painful to walk fast. I opted for a short day with a finish at Malham cove where I planned to spend the night. 

I made my way over the farmland and soon found myself walking next to the river slowly winding my way to Malham. I stopped to rest my foot and decided the cold water would do it good so went for a dip (it was freezing).

I chilled at the riverside for an hour or so and checked my foot again which appeared to be bruised, I guess the cold water must have brought it to the surface. It did however feel a little better, so I pushed onwards.

I soon found myself in the beautiful village of Malham where I scored some breakfast and a quick recharge of batteries before making my way towards the cove. It was pretty busy around the cove, and I found myself wondering if I could push further. I climbed to the top and chilled for a bit drying out my tent and any gear that was damp or wet.

After a couple of hours, I thought I might as well try and get a few more miles in and carried on cruising down the PW. I spoke to a couple who asked which way Gordale was, I was happy to help and gave them directions before watching them walk off in the complete opposite direction which I found baffling.

I found myself lost in a crowd of walkers before Malham tarn and spoke to a few of them along the way before heading up onto the hill so I could pass by.

Once at Malham tarn I scored some food and chilled with my feet In the water for a little bit before heading down the trail once more.

I soon realized I had no choice but to hit Fountains Fell as places to pitch were few and far between, so I made my steadily up to the summit where I had a look down some of the open mine shafts up there. I think Fountains fell is one of the most underrated places in the Dales and is so beautiful. I debated walking to the tarn at the top and spending the night there but decided to head on over to Pen-Y-Ghent where that would be the end of the day.

I made my way down, being careful not to aggravate my foot, and met a cool guy who was chilling from his bike journey, I spoke with him for a few minutes before heading on to my destination.

I always find Pen-Y-Ghent looks a lot more intimidating than what it is and once I had begun my climb, I was at the top within 20 minutes and eating a sausage roll. I found a place to pitch just off the summit and watched the sunset before retiring into the tent for the night to deal with the aches and pains my body was starting to pay me back with.

19 miles walked

Day 5

I woke early doors and got to see the beautiful sunrise coming up over the summit of Great Whernside in the distance. I quickly packed my gear down whilst watching it before gobbling down a 500-calorie flapjack.

I soon cruised down from Pen-Y-Ghent and into the rolling hills following the Y3P route for a little bit. After a while, I parted ways with this and carried on towards Dodd fell and the North.

The miles came quick and fast, and any aches and pains of the previous days were left behind as my foot felt much better. I cruised on over Dodd fell keeping pace with a guy on a bike through the ascent before being outpaced on the flat.

Pretty soon I found myself sat watching the clouds overlooking the valleys around Hawes and the stunning views they brought with them until the peace was disturbed by the sounds of Motorbikes coming up the mountain, I watched them cruise by before wondering what the days would bring.

I decided to head into Hawes and score some much-needed food and to stock up the hoard on pastry and snacks for the trail. I chilled outside a pub and wangled a charge for my power bank before hitting the trail again towards Hardraw.

I was tempted to visit Hardraw force for a shower and wash but decided to keep cruising as the miles were flying by today. Before I knew it, I was winding my way up Great Shunner Fell and got chatting to people along the way.

The path was steady, and the weather was good with a nice, chilled breeze to make the miles flow faster. I soon summited and sat at the marker on top hiding from the wind and eating some pastry, chocolate, and flapjacks arguing with myself over whether to pitch here or not.

I opted for the ‘not’ and found myself gliding down to Thwaite and over the top to Keld and to Swaledale waterfall. It was around 7pm by this point and I stunk so had a look around and couldn’t see anyone.

So thought hell yeah. Shower and bath time in the river, a waterfall which I savored, unfortunately, a group of young adults was making their way down so I quickly got out and was in the process of getting dressed before I heard them laughing and telling their mates to look at the half-naked guy. Thankfully they weren’t too mean 😀 😀 😀 and my pride was left intact for the most part. 

I decided to head on up to Tann Hill as I was feeling strong still and hoped it wouldn’t be too busy up there (I know insane right?).

The moors between Keld and Tann Hill are exquisitely beautiful, and you feel like you are genuinely light-years from anywhere which is an amazing feeling.

I quickly came into view of the pub and my god was it busy, there must have been a hundred camper vans around there and the carpark was heaving. I was a bit gutted as I doubted being able to spend the night there. As I got closer, I could hear the noise and thought to myself that most nightclubs would be envious of these numbers.

I made it to Tann Hill, sat for a minute and thought I’ll get a drink and head out, but when I popped inside people were packed out to the door and there was no way I was scoring a drink ☹. 

Anyway, I thought I could hit a good mile day today so headed down into Bowes fell.

My god was this a mistake and the path quickly disappeared along with the light. I found myself dodging bogs trying in vain to keep my feet dry and considered just sleeping chest-deep in water and becoming a bog witch.

I kept hearing voices whilst traversing the challenging terrain and thought I was being stalked which made me reckless in my bog traversing.

I was praying to the moon Goddess hoping she would light my way which amazingly she did, this made me happy, and I was buzzing that the moon goddess was guiding me through the darkness.

Eventually, I found a raised wooden bridge and decided to chill there and thought I could sleep here if desperate enough, but I would still have to get out of the bog tomorrow so opted to carry on.

I made my way slowly through the terrain and eventually came to the track, which was a godsend at this point, a quick check of my watch put me at 2 am and I decided to find a place to sleep. I found a spot quickly right next to the track and pitched. 

38 miles walked

Day 6

I woke up around 5 am in thick fog and wet, my kit was pretty damp as well and I thought this needs to clear as it’s going to get grim if I can’t dry it all.

Luckily, I was meeting John from Robustours to crush some miles in the morrow, so I only had a short day to Middleton today. I soon found myself at the bridge of the Gods and the A66 crossing where if you pay attention someone has written on the little sign that this is the official halfway point.

I kept on going with visibility being poor and soon ended up with wet feet, but with it being a short day I wasn’t too bothered and headed on towards Middleton. I watched some Guys at the reservoir fishing and wondered if they were cold sat there barely moving before eating some more food and carrying on.

I spoke to another guy in the moors somewhere (or it might have been a mirage at this point) who was going SOBO, and he said I wasn’t far off Middleton now. This spurred me on, and I just about made Middleton as the clouds broke and the weather cleared, almost like the trail Gods were guiding me.

I headed into Middleton and scored a hotel room which was huge, and I took full advantage of doing some much-needed gear cleaning and admin before scoring some resupplies and then heading to the pub for a pint. I met another PW walker there who was staying nearby with her friend, they were doing a section and it was great speaking to them before they headed on back to their air B&B.

The day passed quickly, and I soon found myself laying in a soft comfy bed drifting off before being woken by the Sun.

13 miles walked

Day 7

I was up dead early and was out of the hotel before 7am, I scored some breakfast and headed to the river where the PW crosses through and the place I was waiting for John.

I spoke to a few people who passed through whilst I was waiting, and some were doing either section of the PW or the whole thing which is soo cool.

I love hearing people’s stories and the adventures and trials they have faced along the way, it’s what makes thru-hiking special…. well apart from the beautiful things you see I mean.

John arrived around 0930 and his personality shone through straight away, he is so upbeat it’s impossible to be miserable around him. We headed on up the river Tees where John filled me in on all the local stuff and best places to get shots, history of sites, and whatnot.

He’s very knowledgeable which is amazing and runs his own outdoors business so if you want a quality ML who will take you to new heights, he is the man (Robustours)

The miles rolled by, and we soon found ourselves chilling at High force waterfall and devouring some calories, I can say firsthand that corned beef and cheese wraps are not a nice combo. Trust me on this one!

We chatted and made our way over the hills and through the valleys with John’s knowledge made following the trail seamless. We soon found ourselves traversing the little boulder field before Cauldron Snout waterfall.

We chilled at the bottom of the waterfall watching people scramble up and down and eating more food 😀 before making our way up to the top and to Cow Green reservoir where John said his goodbyes as he had a long walk back. It was amazing having him join me for the day and I was buzzing from the company. 

I quickly annihilated some miles across the back of Warcop ranges towards High Cup Nick and made it there in no time. It was quite windy looking out across the huge glacial valley, but my god is this place stunning. It is just such an awe-inspiring place it’s hard to even comprehend in words. If you haven’t visited, you need to. No ifs or buts, just do it as it will blow your mind.

I sat chilling and eating more pastry whilst chatting to some people before heading along the PW. I knew what was next and that was Cross fell. The toughest part fo the trail as the climb is just savage and never-ending. I was hoping I would win at flagstone roulette up there as it is notoriously boggy.

I slowly made my way over to Knock Fell and chilled there for a while until my legs recovered a bit before heading on. I was quite nice up here and the weather was kind, and I was indeed winning at the roulette…so far.

I made my way to Great Dun Fell and found myself trying to catch up to the people in front who stopped at the top. I looked at the Golf center for a while (I know it’s not a golf centre) and then headed down to Little Dun Fell where I lost all my chips at the roulette and got my feet soaked.

Eventually, I hit Cross Fell which is the highest point of the trail and cruised on down to Gregg’s hut which is an absolute lifesaver.

Unfortunately, the people doing the Pw in front of me had left all the candles burnt out, and not bothered taking rubbish with them or sweeping the floor so I opted to do this even though I was dying.

After about an hour I heard the door go and wondered if it was the Cross Fell demons and ghosts coming for me, but it was a cool dude named Rob. Turns out Rob had started in Middleton as well that morning and ran all the way there, he was planning to run to House steads in the morning and was training for Junes Spine race which is amazing.

We chatted and told each other our stories before retiring for bed before the sun was down. It gets cold in Gregg’s hut on the night too 😀 and I was pretty chilly, so I imagine Rob was in bits, poor guy.

Anyway, I was feeling the pain when I laid down and it was like knives been twisted in my joints all over my body so it took a couple hours before I drifted off into dreamland.

31 miles walked

Day 8

I woke up in pain and needed to get moving, unfortunately, the weather was poor up there and it soon started raining. I said my goodbyes to Rob knowing he would fly by me in a few minutes.

I headed on towards Alston in the rain and as I said Rob cruised on by, I tried upping the pace for a while to keep him in my sights, but he was too quick and was soon gone. I flowed down the track towards Garrigill and noticed my feet were feeling tender now. I knew my body was under strain at this point and cracks would start showing.

I crossed the fields and the river before heading into Alston where I sorted my feet out by cutting the blisters that had formed and wrapping them up. It took a few miles of pain before I was into the groove again, but I kept going towards Hadrian’s wall. 

The weather cleared by mid-morning, and I was glad for the sun, I followed the Pw and noticed that the path was getting less signposted and a lot wilder now that I was heading into Northumberland which meant with my added tiredness I was making errors and getting off track.

Eventually, I cruised through Slaggyford and kept heading North with the intention of sleeping at Hadrian’s wall. The wall never seemed to get any closer though and the track became quite wild with bog city going on around Greenhead area.

I was charging my phone on the power bank and somehow managed to break the charging cable, which I was gutted about. John offered to drop me one out (what a legend, its miles out of his way) which pays testament to his character, but I said I should be fine as I’d drop off and get a new one as the trail always provides.

I made it to Hadrian’s wall and thought I could sleep near Walltown which is where I had pitched when doing Hadrian’s Wall trail last year and chilled at the pond airing my feet for an hour.

I felt refreshed after the rest and thought, this could be a good mile day, so I cruised on along Hadrian’s wall enjoying the roman battlements or remains of anyway. I fantasized about being a centurion on the wall and wondered how tough they must have been back then. Pretty soon I was nearing the end of the wall and got to enjoy a beautiful sunset as I headed north into Kielder.

I plodded along the trail up to Kielder in darkness managing to avoid any bogs and keep my feet dry, I was in a fair bit of pain by the time I reached Haughtongreen bothy and was glad for the shelter.

I walked in to see a guy sat in complete darkness with no lights on barring the fire which was closed making it pitch black. I absolutely shat myself when he spoke 😀 but he was cool enough and even lent me a charging cable, the trail always provides!

We chatted for a little bit before I retired for sleep which did not come easy. I was in utter agony, and it took me around 3 hours to drift off, I was almost crying at one point from the pains in my joints, feet and body. Eventually I drifted off into slumber town.

38 miles walked

Day 9

I woke up before the sun and knew I only had a short time left before my body gave out, so I headed on out towards Bellingham knowing I needed to make it to the Cheviots today.

I cruised along the bogs and even kept dry feet through Kielder which is almost unheard of. I hit the small diversion where some trees are still collapsed along the trail, I couldn’t face the extra miles so dived on through. It turned out it’s literally like 20-30 metres of felled trees and that’s it, so it was a good choice. I made my way over the hills and fields before hitting the Pit stop which is amazing.

I scored a drink, some nice conversation where we swapped stories and recognized ‘Impalas’ sticker on the fridge 😀 before heading on out to Bellingham where I needed some supplies.

Once in Bellingham I scored some medical gear for my blisters, and some alcohol to clean the wounds I was nursing. Next was to stock back up on some much-needed food which was to the bakeries horror as I wiped them out of most of it :D.

I sorted my feet out and headed on over the fields and hills towards the forest above Byrness and the Forest View Inn. I had been speaking with Ollie who runs the place and he had said to pop on by so that was my aim for now. I ended up with wet feet which by this point were in pain as were my legs which were covered in weird bruises like the blood vessels had burst as well as blisters from the Sun.

I cruised on over the vast undulating landscape before the weather closed in and it started absolutely belting it down for about 3 hours. This did nothing for views or my mood and made the journey slower.

Eventually, the weather broke which was amazing and I could enjoy the lush forest track to Byrness. Or enjoy it for a while anyway before I started wondering if I was gonna be walking this forever.

I debated giving the Forest view a miss but a message from Ollie made me drop in and I was soo glad I did. I met a lady who was gonna be finishing the same day as me which was proper cool. On top of that Ollie squared me away big time, he offered me food, drink, recharged my phone and even offered me a place to kip along with medical tape for my feet. So the place to be on the PW is the Forest View Inn in Byrness.

After a while chilling, I opted to head to the first mountain hut in the cheviots as I knew I didn’t have long left until my body failed. We said our goodbyes and I cruised on up the steep hill out of Byrness before coming into the beautiful Cheviot Hills which are amazing.

I made my way over the hills and soon found myself walking in the dark which was cool and is always a completely different experience. I eventually made it to the mountain hut and laid down for the night before crying myself to sleep through the pain in my body.

35 miles walked

Final Day

I woke up knowing I would be finished soon and that spurred me on through any issues I was having with my failing body. One thing that is worth noting is that water is sparce on the Cheviots so make sure you carry enough from Byrness. 

I soon found myself climbing into the mountains proper and sat in the cairn shelter atop Windy Gyle which weirdly enough was pretty darn windy. I ate most of the remaining food here and headed towards the Cheviot not knowing if I would take the detour and ascend. As I neared, I decided I didn’t have the energy for it and took the very very steep descent to the second mountain hut where I had a little rest.

I was soon back out loving the views, but the heat was punishing up there. I carried on regardless using my buff as a bandage on my leg to keep the sun off the scorched flesh. Eventually I found myself cruising out of the hills and towards Kirk Yetholm which made me kind of sad as I knew my trip was nearing its end.

I chilled a the bottom for a while before growing the courage to face the last mile or so down the road. the walk along the road was quite simply brutal, all the other climbs descents, challenges were nothing in the face of this minor road and slight hill. I think the residents and council know this too as there are numerous benches along this small section and I am not afraid to say I used them all.

I eventually dropped into the town proper and scored my certificate and half a pint at the Border Hotel.

All thoughts of regret about the trial finished when I saw Charmaine and Elyas as they had both travelled up to meet me at the trails end which was the most emotional and beautiful thing I had seen on the trail.

18 miles walked


I started the trail at 0930 11th April – 1315 20th April total time of 9 days 3 hours and 45 minutes which was never my intention and is the toughest thing I have done on the trail so far. The range of things you see along the PW is truly amazing, the hills, fields, forests, people, and weather all vary massively, and it truly is one of Britains toughest, best and most beautiful trails.

A special thanks to:

I’d like to thank all the people who I met along the way, people I spent time with on the trail and the ones I spoke to via social media. Without you Guyz I don’t think I would have finished and your support and advice were amazing.

Thank you to Montane for squaring me with some gear for the trip it was all amazing. Although I think I may have ruined some of it :D.

Thank you to Hiiker for having an amazing mapping system on their app as it made logistics and route finding so much easier meaning more miles per day.

And most of all thank you to Charmaine for coming up to meet me at the end with Elyas, this was the most special thing I could have hoped for.

What’s Next 

My next challenge will be the Wainright round in August where I am attempting all 214 Wainrights in 18 days which consists of 326 miles and 111k of ascent. 

Thank you everyone and happy trails

Peace out



Turns out, I’m not a winter walker.

Hibernation isn’t good for getting hike fit, but the shorter days and colder weather make inside much more appealing than outside. With the solstice behind me and a New Year started, I’m ready to get back out there – but with new gear. And what better time to buy new stuff than in the sales?

First stop, a down jacket. That was a mission in itself as I wanted room to fit a fleece underneath and my waterproof coat over the top, but I managed to pick one up in the sales that will do the job

Next up, boots. My Merrell boots are fine until it’s wet underfoot, when they become downright dangerous as they don’t offer any grip. That’s the kind of thing you can’t find out til you’re out walking, so they’ve been relegated until we have better weather and in their place some shiny new Scarpa boots which were a whopping half price in the sale

While I was at it I upgraded my cook set to an Alpkit BruKit, and picked up their Hippo mini water filter at the same time. Not that I’ll need either of these while I’m walking round my local area, but because I’m doing the Cleveland Way later this year – guidebooks/maps were also purchased, including a 1990s Paul Hannon from a charity shop – and I can’t resist a sale

So that’s where we’re at – still middle aged and unfit, but all kitted out and full of enthusiasm. Hike fit will hopefully follow, not the super athletic kind but the not needing mountain rescue or dying on a hill kind

Walking The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way

The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way was first established in 2000 and is often known as ‘Scotland in 57 miles’ it covers beautiful coastline, some amazing heritage, some beautiful views of mountains along with woodlands and moors.

Running from Portavadie along the Cowal peninsula it heads North-Easterly finishing in Inveruglas on the shores of Loch Lomond. I began the Loch Lomond and Cowal way on the 15th of August 2021 and finished it the following day on the 16th of August 2021, I flipped the trail and started at Inveruglas heading South to finish in Portavadie and then head straight into the Kintyre way (see my Kintyre Way blog to read my adventure on the Kintyre peninsula).

Day 1

I began by parking my car at a campsite in Succoth and hitching a lift back to Inveruglas (mainly because I hadn’t booked a permit to park in the carpark at Inveruglas). From there I followed the road for a couple of hundred meters before heading up a forestry road and into the hills. There wasn’t too much ascent, and the trail began following a river before crossing over it and heading through a valley in between two steep hills. The views were already epic with mountains looming all around like something from a Lord of the Rings movie.

After a few miles, I arrived at Succoth where I had left my car, scored a burger at the campsite and carried on along the water’s edge before heading up into the hills once more. The views were absolutely amazing at this point and I was mesmerized looking across the water towards Tullich hill on the other side.

I carried on a Southerly course hiking through amazing forestry with some slight inclines along the way. I soon came out of the forested sections though and entered open moorland with a steep ascent around the North side of Cnoc Coinnich. The moors felt very remote and the views were stunning, next was a steep ascent through some woodland where I took a few tumbles on the slippery ground before heading into Lochgoilhead where I scored a can of cola and chilled next to the Loch.

Upon leaving Lochgoilhead the skies opened up in traditional Scottish fashion and I was soaked through to the bone before I could even get my waterproofs out.

I decided to just crack on regardless soaking wet through and up in the hills once more. After following a logger’s path for a few miles it ends and you find the path very exposed and not very well-trodden. There is a steep ascent up the side of a series of waterfalls here and it was definitely slippy going due to the onslaught of rain.

After ascending I managed to get some sunshine and chilled at the edge of the waterfall looking out across the beautiful Scottish hills for a while.

I planned on stopping near Curra Lochain but it was still a bit early and I felt fresh so cracked on along the water’s edge and back into forest (most has been logged but it’s still beautiful).

Following the forest paths and around the outside of Beinn Lagan and towards Glenbranter. I found an amazing spot about half a mile past the little village and pitched up in the woods next to a river. I managed to find a lull in the fast-flowing river and decided to take a dip and wash my already stinking clothes. I had basically just lied to myself at this point and hammered 26 miles instead of the 15 I had promised to myself, so I was almost at the halfway point already.

Day 2

I woke up nice and early, packed up my gear, and started crushing the miles ready for a big mile day as I had told myself I may as well just get it finished today.

The trail carried on slowly ascending the Western side of Creag Tharsuinn continuing along its South-Westerly vector before dropping down and following what in my opinion the worst section of trail I have ever come across. It was at least 15 miles of road walking with little in terms of views due to the trees,

If there was a bus, taxi or even cars I would have attempted to ditch the trail and get to Kames via those options.

Alas, there wasn’t and I plodded along for what felt like a year before being met with some rather treacherous cliff paths along the loch before Tighnabruaich.

Once I reached Tighnabruaich I feasted like a demon and treat my feet to a dip in the loch to cool them before powering on through Kames and across the moors towards Portavadie.

I reached Portavadie around 5pm and sat chilling watching the waves roll across the shores in a kind of stupor that I had finished the 57-mile journey so fast and feeling fresh as a daisy really.

Check out my blog on the Kintyre Way for the next part of my journey across remote Scotland.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and my rant about road walking hasn’t put anybody off from the beautiful Loch Lomond and Cowal Way. Peace Out.

Thanks to Hiiker for providing the amazing mapping to do this trail. If you want your hiking needs taken care of defo give their app a download.

Post Trail Blues

Everyone talks about the mental health benefits of hiking and outdoor activities and what’s not to fall in love with, it’s been proven to improve mental health and give a more positive outlook on the world.

When living in the outdoors for long periods we feel free, it’s like a nomadic calling to nature, perhaps it’s in our genes as it’s only relatively recently that we have changed our way of living and become fixed in one place inside cities and the like.

Unfortunately though there is the other side of the feeling of euphoria one experiences when out on the trail that any thru hiker and most multi-day hikers feel.

The Post Trail Blues! I’ve always found that the further from my day to day life of routine, stress and responsibility, the happier I feel but this is accompanied with a sense of impending doom that increases the closer I get to the finish line. That is to say the closer I get to having to return to all the stresses that modern day life brings. This leads to a depression in my life which sometimes lasts weeks, making me quite often anxious and feeling lost.

After speaking with many hikers over the years, I thought it might initially have been something going on with my own mental health but lots of others experience the same dread and the same anxieties of going back to our ‘normal’ lives.

I believe fundamentally that this feeling when finishing a trail and returning to ‘normality’ is because deep down we are meant to be nomadic as a species and we are meant to wander and explore our surrounding. We are adventurers at our hearts, hunters and gatherers and should be free at our very roots. Unfortunately in our lives we are most often none of these things. This leads to the depression hikers feel known as the ‘post trail blues’.

I’ve tried many ways to combat it, but found that the only real way is to slowly transition my way back into my life when I finish a trail and that involves going out after work and slaying some miles, spending much of my first week or two back at home walking, lounging in the garden or other outdoor spaces and convincing myself that it won’t be long until I’m back out. Some outdoor retail therapy helps too 😂.

I hope you enjoyed this short read and if you suffer from the post trail blues, don’t worry you are definitely not alone and it will pass within a short period of time and you’ll be back to feeling amazing.

If you do however suffer with depression, anxieties and other mental health conditions in normal day to day living. It may be worth consulting a professional to investigate the route cause of the problems.

peace Out.

Walking The Kintyre Way

The Kintyre way is a 100 mile thru hike starting from Tarbet on the Northern end of the Peninsula and zig zagging through beautiful scenery between the East and Western sides of the peninsula. It does this whilst ever heading in a southerly direction and finishing in Macrihanish in the South-West.

The Kintyre way has a very varied landscape with sections of road walking, huge pine plantations, open moors, and coastal paths. It offers remoteness for large sections of the walk but also has settlements every day or two (depending on distances covered).

I started the Kintyre way on the 17th August 2021 and finished it on my birthday the 20th August 2021. It took me around 3.5 days in total and I hiked from Macrihanish back up to Tarbet as it made more sense logistically for me.

Day 1

My first day started at around 1800 as it took me a while to travel down to my starting point and so I only covered about 3 miles into the open moorland on the South-West side of the peninsula.

Arriving in Macrihanish I was met with some strong wind which one would expect with the Atlantic Ocean directly in front. The next body of land if you look directly out from Macrihanish would most certainly be Greenland which is amazing when you think about it and daunting at the same time.

After a short walk down the beach and along the town’s main road, I headed up into the fog and my visibility became very limited. It’s a steady climb updawards along the road as you pass some of the working farms in the area and head into the untouched moorland of the Kintyre peninsula. There are signs along the way warning hikers not to underestimate these moors and once up there in bad weather I can tell you it is 100% savage up there.

Once you pass Ballygroggan the road finishes and it becomes pure moorland with the Kintyre way markers been very hard to spot in thick fog. The trail at this point appears to see very little use and is overgrown, boggy and the markers are mostly rotting adding to the isolation you feel up there.

After about 3 miles and just past ballygroggan I found a small wall on top of a hill that offered some shelter from the brutal onslaught of wind and rain, it was here that I decided to spend the night.

Day 2

My second day on the Kintyre way started very poorly in all honesty, the wind and rain had increased and it was practically gale force at this point. I managed to pack away my soaking gear and head out along the remains of the track.

My second day on the Kintyre way started very poorly in all honesty, the wind and rain had increased and it was practically gale force at this point. I managed to pack away my soaking gear and head out along the remains of the track.

After about 20m my feet were soaked through (I only really hike in trainers and shorts, so wet feet are part and parcel once its wet) and my legs were cold. Luckily my waterproof jacket is the bomb (Mountain Equipment Lhotse, for those who want a bombproof waterproof). The moorland was truly beautiful though and whilst I was miserable at the time due to the bad weather I look back with fondness and wish I was up there still. The weather really did hammer me throughout the next 4 miles of moorland, and I only covered a few miles in 4 hours. I hit a section where I was quite high up and could hear the Ocean hitting the cliffs that were close by, but I never once got a view of it due to low visibility.

After about 20m my feet were soaked through (I only really hike in trainers and shorts, so wet feet are part and parcel once its wet) and my legs were cold. Luckily my waterproof jacket is the bomb (Mountain Equipment Lhotse, for those who want a bombproof waterproof). The moorland was truly beautiful though and whilst I was miserable at the time due to the bad weather I look back with fondness and wish I was up there still. The weather really did hammer me throughout the next 4 miles of moorland, and I only covered a few miles in 4 hours. I hit a section where I was quite high up and could hear the Ocean hitting the cliffs that were close by, but I never once got a view of it due to low visibility.

Whilst on the moors the trail become barely visible at sections with no signage, and it was easily lost (which happened to me numerous times). I would recommend retracing your steps if you do the trail and lose the trail instead of trying to plough ahead like I did. The undergrowth is treacherous, and I nearly had some nasty accidents whilst making my way through the untouched wilderness.

After Hitting the summit of Amod hill the path becomes easier with the area being used as a working farm so it is easily identifiable, and you begin to head down into farm-land. Once out of the moors the trail follows roads to the coast. Once at the coast its worth a visit to see Kiel cave and St Columbus footprint as well as the ancient well. Its practically on the path.

This area is beautiful and the views out to sea are phenomenal (the weather cleared up once I was off the moors too, typical isn’t it). It’s worth looking back towards the moors that have just been traversed too as they offer some amazing views. Hiking along the road towards Dunaverty and Southend you can spot seals on the rocks chilling in the Sun.

This area is beautiful and the views out to sea are phenomenal (the weather cleared up once I was off the moors too, typical isn’t it). It’s worth looking back towards the moors that have just been traversed too as they offer some amazing views. Hiking along the road towards Dunaverty and Southend you can spot seals on the rocks chilling in the Sun.

Southend is a small village but does have a shop to stock up on some essentials, after this you continue along roads towards kilmashenachan where you head cross country again and can hike next to the sea. This section of the walk was an absolute foot breaker as all the way to Cambelltown is road walking (I hate road walking). Luckily the views are fantastic and looking out to sea is amazing. There are a few steep ascents along the road with one next to a hill apty named ‘the Bastard’ and it really is.

There are a couple of good spots just above the tide line off the road to pitch up for the night, but I felt fresh at this point and planned to power on past Cambelltown. Once I hit Cambelltown I sourced some food and headed back up into the hills chasing my biggest mile day ever.

Unfortunately, I was for the most part more road walking before heading into a large forest plantation around Lussa Loch. It was dark for me at this point, and I had to keep hiking to find a place to pitch. I managed to find somewhere right next to the trail and what a pitch it was. Perfectly flat with a bench and table and a note (that for some reason I didn’t take a picture of) saying ‘Don’t give up’. It was here that I pitched my tent and spent the night.

Also, I had covered a whopping 43 miles that day! Which beats my PB by 5 miles and considering the strain on my body, I felt fine.

Day 3

I woke up nice and early feeling fresh and packed up my gear, headed down the forest road that wound its way through the plantation, I noticed a caravan probably 500m from where I pitched. I assume its used by the loggers as a break room, it was open too! Seriously wish I had slept in there the night before.

I hiked through the forest for quite a few miles and the views of trees, hills and sometimes the coast were amazing. I love the forest and it’s my favourite place to crush miles. Eventually I headed down into Bridgend and found a post office where I could score some food for the next day or so. There’s a cheeky little café too which I waited to open and had a nice sausage sandwich.

The next section was totally amazing as I spent a lot of the day in the forest hiking along the forest trails and from Bridgend, I made my way North-West through them towards the West side of the Peninsula. The forests were so cool, and the miles literally flew by. Before I knew it, I was on the West coast again. The weather was pretty poor, and the wind and rain hammered me all day but because of it been big forests I wasn’t too wet or bothered as I was in my element.

Once at the coast I hiked along the beach for a little while in the rain before I made the decision to skip miles of road walking down the A83. So, I hopped on a bus and jumped back on the trail at Clachan and heading back into the hills. I had a couple of hours rest near Loch Ciaran and then continued on through some more forest and moorland where I could make out the Isle of Arran if the clouds broke enough. This was largely good hiking trail with some forest tracks and moorland walking.

Eventually I came back to the East coast of Kintyre and decided to crack on to Skipness and find a spot along the beach. After hiking down the beach road for a while I was beginning to think there wouldn’t be any good spots as campervans were literally everywhere. Luckily, I happened upon a spot and chilled out watching the sun go down. It was an amazing night there and I could see across to Arran whilst listening to the waves lap the shore.

Day 4

It was an amazing day this day, not only had I crushed the miles and was 11 miles of finishing. It was also my birthday so double points. I packed my gear and scored some water from a river before heading back up into the moors towards the finish line of Tarbet.

The weather was kind to me, and it was nice and warm with sunshine throughout. The moors were beautiful with the purple heather everywhere before they turned into a huge plantation for most of the remaining trail. It was amazing and the trail was laid out well too, so I could just relax, slay miles and enjoy the scenery.

Once I started the descent to Tarbet I was treated with amazing views across to Portavadie (where I had come from after finishing the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way) and could see for miles.

Before hitting the finish line, I made sure to have a look around Tarbet castle as recommended by a guy called Chris (he is walking the entire coastline his Instagram is @christhecoastwalker and he has a website by the same name, so check him out) I met about 10 minutes before. It is well worth having a look around and offers some amazing views.

Once I hit Tarbet I knew I had finished so the emotions came thick and fast, with the regret that I had completed too fast and that I wished I was still out on the trail.

I hope you enjoyed the read and its inspired you to hit the Kintyre way. Peace out

Base weight bias

If you ever show your fellow hikers online what you’re packing for a trip, two things are pretty much guaranteed to happen – someone will tell you that your base weight is too high, and someone else will tell you not to carry more than 20% of your body weight

My base weight items -not including the poles. I’ll detail what I carry in a future post

What is base weight?

Base weight is the weight of everything you’ll be carrying, minus food, water, fuel, and trekking poles – although these can be included if you think you’ll be stowing them for long periods. I quickly learned that lots of light things add up to one big heavy thing, so weigh up – literally! – how much you need an item or whether you could find a lighter alternative. Pack everything you’re planning to take into your rucksack, and pop it on the scales. That’s your base weight

Packed and ready for weigh in

What about the 20% rule?

Rules are made to be broken. I don’t base anything on my body weight, and that includes how much I’m carrying. I definitely wouldn’t recommend someone who weighs twice as much as I carries a pack that’s twice as heavy! Conversely, if you’re very petite then you’d need to go super ultralight to stay below 20% of your weight. Carry a weight you can manage comfortably day after day, and tear up the rule book

My base weight is 8.6kg

What’s my base weight?

My base weight is 8.6kg, which includes my full gas canister – I know, I’m not meant to include it but it’ll be a while before it gets noticeably lighter – but doesn’t include a map/guide, compass, sunblock, or the hoodie I usually start out wearing. This base weight is an improvement on what I took on my shakedown hike/camp, as I’ve upgraded to lighter kit and cut back on things I found I didn’t use. If you’re packing things just in case, those are the first things to look at if you’re trying to reduce your base weight, but if you’re certain everything you’re carrying is essential then it might be time to do what I did and look for lighter alternatives or see if you can find multi-use items

My power bank, one of three luxury items

Luxury items

My base weight would be lower if I dropped my luxury items – a small insulated flask, an old mobile phone, and a larger than strictly necessary power bank. All these things add weight, especially the power bank, but they also add happiness and peace of mind and you can’t put a weight on that. The flask means I can stop for a hot drink without needing to get my cooking gear out, which will be especially handy when the weather is wet or windy; the old mobile gives me access to an e-reader and audiobooks, and the power bank will charge my phone six times, so I know I’ll always be able to navigate with GPS if needed and can keep in touch with family and friends when I have signal or access to Wi-Fi

What I learnt about base weights

  • Base weight is as personal as body weight – carry a weight you can manage, and ignore other people. They aren’t the ones carrying it
  • The 20% rule is there to be ignored
  • Say yes to luxury items that make you happy, but be sensible
  • Weigh everything individually and consider a lighter or multipurpose alternative
  • Remember your base weight doesn’t include food, water, fuel, or poles
  • A litre of water weighs 1kg, and even with a filter you’ll need to carry enough to get you to the next water source. While water isn’t included in your base weight, it’s essential that you bear that in mind and make sure you’re able to carry as much as – ideally a bit more than – you need
  • You’re the one carrying your pack and using the contents. It needs to be right for you, not someone else

First time folly

My first backpacking trip didn’t go as planned. In fact, it barely ‘went’ at all. I made it a grand total of six miles, before having to bail. I thought I would share my story, so hopefully, you’ll be better prepared than I was!

So, the morning of my departure, I decided to change my starting location. I was originally planning on starting on the south end of Felixstowe promenade, which would have added about 4 miles to the Suffolk Coast Path. But that would have meant a long walk before having anywhere to camp, plus a ferry trip across the river. So, I decided to get dropped off at the ferry terminus, thus eliminating a six mile stretch, the ferry ride, and the need to refill water so soon.

Want to know my first mistake? I didn’t research the route the path takes well enough. The first three miles was literally along the shingle beach. Ever tried walking three miles on shingle? It’s hard, exhausting and feels like twice the distance. Add in a complete lack of shade, a boiling hot day, and not nearly enough water, and it was a recipe for disaster.

By the time I hit the six mile mark, I was out of water, with no-where to refill it. There was plenty of sea, but no fresh water, and no shops or cafe’s either. I started with about 2 litres of water, and it was no where near enough. I had a water filter, but that’s no use if there’s nothing to filter.

By the time I reached Shingle Street, I was feeling rough. It was a hot day, the first in a week with no rain (which would’ve given me some water at least!), I had drunk all my water, and due to my social anxiety, couldn’t bring myself to ask for help, or knock on someones door to ask to refill my water.

At Shingle Street, I found a patch of shade, collapsed and texted my house mate to ask if she could collect me. As she had a life outside of me, it took nearly 4 hours before she arrived. By which point my condition had gotten worse. Folks, heat exhaustion is no joke. I was light headed, headache, nauseous, stomach cramps, and by the time she reached me, I’d been sick and could barely stand.

It’s been four days since then, and I still don’t feel right. I started hydrating as soon as she reached me, the angel bought me a bottle of water. And once home, she got me another one with a electrolyte tablet in it. I barely ate that evening, just some buttered toast, and the following day wasn’t much better. The headache took three days to subside, and I’ve been easily exhausted since.

Learn from my mistake folks. Study your route so you know what you’re getting into. Make sure you have enough water, know where you can refill, and don’t let anxiety stop you from asking for help. If she’d been any later, I may have ended up in hospital.

Another thing, invest in a personal locator beacon. By the time help arrived, my phone battery was dead. I had battery packs with me, but somewhere along the way lost the charger cable. So I had no way to actually charge my phone. If she hadn’t known the car park I’d collapsed at, I’d have been in a lot more trouble.

So, what have I learnt from this experience? I’m not as fit as I’d like to think I am. I need to ACTUALLY train, and ACTUALLY plan my route. Am I going to be able to hike the coastline of the UK? Maybe, but not this year. I need to start slowly, far more slowly than I’d like. But each journey starts with a single step, and this one started with six miles of them… Now I just need to do better.

What I learnt on a shakedown

Hiking a small section of the Coast to Coast on a shakedown

What is a shakedown?

A shakedown is where you pack everything you’re planning to take on a long distance hike, and take it for a walk. As I’ll be camping, that included my tent, sleep system, fuel and stove, and plenty of food. This is a really good way to see how much your pack really weighs, whether you need to make any adjustments to any of your gear, if you’re carrying something unnecessary, or if you’ve missed something crucial. For my shakedown I picked up the Coast to Coast path as it passes close to my house and hiked to the nearest campsite to pitch up. It wasn’t a massive distance, probably about 6 miles, but it gave me a really good insight into what I need to change

The path goes THROUGH the hedge here. Without the OSMaps app I would have been very confused

What I learnt on the way

I used a guidebook with the relevant parts of OS maps, plus the Ordnance Survey app as back up. The Coast to Coast is traditionally walked from west to east, but I was heading east to west and found that signposts were patchy heading that way. The hike part of the shakedown confirmed that the guide and app worked and would definitely be needed, and also that a compass is likely to prove helpful in more remote areas. It also reinforced that I’ve got a lot more training to do to get hike fit

The spooky stile pictured below is next to something wonderful – an honesty box and a fridge full of cold drinks, assorted chocolate bars, and some fruit. I picked up a bottle of water and an apple, put what I owed plus a bit extra to show my gratitude into the box, and carried on refreshed. I was already carrying plenty of water, but used the bottle I bought to cool myself down by tipping some over my head and using some to wet my hat. It was 24c and the improvised cold shower was just what I needed

The spooky stile is famous on the Coast to Coast

My pack was comfortable but heavy, and the weight on the shoulder straps has bruised my (admittedly bony and prominent) collarbone on both sides. I clearly need to spend some time adjusting everything to make absolutely certain that my pack is the best fit it can be. It didn’t hurt at all while I was hiking, which was good, so I didn’t make any adjustments on the trail. The weight, however, was a concern and I need to look at what items I can swap out for lighter alternatives and what I could have left behind

What I learnt at the campsite

The view from my tent

I picked a campsite that was close to home, an easy hike away, and which offered a range of services for campers as well as hikers or cyclists who were passing through. As this was my first camp, I didn’t want to be without access to amenities although I did carry everything I’d need to make a hot drink or meal as I’ll need those on the full Coast to Coast. I arrived, hot and tired, at about 4pm and pitched my tent easily before heading for a much-needed shower and change of clothes. I ordered a homemade sandwich for lunch the following day, and raided the honesty tuckshop for crisps and an individually wrapped Soreen to make up a picnic. I was booked for two nights, with a second walk planned for the next day

My boots, which I’ve never been entirely sure about – see here – worn in conjunction with a pair of basic walking socks, failed me. I had some lovely blisters, and wished the merino hiking socks and liners that I’d ordered had arrived before I set off, The search for the Goldilocks boots continues, but I do now have the proper socks that I wanted. The blisters reduced my walk the following day to just a few miles, and I had my picnic lunch sitting in the porch of my tent while reading a book borrowed from the tuckshop. I also arranged to get a lift home with a friend rather than make things worse by walking back home

My sleep system also wasn’t up to scratch and that, added to getting used to the random noises of a campsite at night, means I didn’t have terribly good sleep. It was also a lot colder than I had expected, and I ended up wearing all my clothes to keep warm in bed! All of this hopefully shows why a shakedown is so important – better to discover these things now, with time to upgrade or replace them, than when I’m on the Coast to Coast proper. Once I’ve made changes I’ll head out for another shakedown, and see if I’m better equipped

What I learnt on my first shakedown

  • While I could – and did – carry my pack filled with everything I’ll need on the Coast to Coast, it was really too heavy. I need to look at everything I carried, including my luxury item of a small flask of tea, closely to see where I can drop a bit of weight
  • I must find my Goldilocks boots, and soon
  • I need a much better sleeping mat, a far superior pillow, and either a thicker sleeping bag or some thermals to wear in bed
  • Honesty fridges/tuckshops and the provision of benches show there are lovely people willing to help hikers
  • It’s a good idea to stick to terrain and distances you know you can manage, and if you’re camping for the first time pick a campsite with good facilities
  • I’m nowhere near ready for a long distance hike – but I know what I need to do in terms of training so that I will be ready eventually

Walking is free, long distance hiking isn’t

The bit of the Coast to Coast nearest my house

To do the Coast to Coast, or presumably any long distance hike, in comfort – staying in hotels/pubs/B&Bs, and using a baggage transfer company so you only need to carry a daypack – is, probably not unsurprisingly, expensive. Add to the basic costs the fact that a lot of places charge a single person supplement, and the Coast to Coast inches it’s way out of my budget

Staying in B&B accommodation and/or using baggage transfer also, obviously, means you have to walk a set distance on each given day, either to get to your bed for the night or to meet up with your belongings. That just doesn’t appeal to me

Be more snail

With no time constraints, a limited budget, and no way to predict my fitness levels, it made sense to look at camping. I’ve never been in a tent before, but the more I looked at photos of people camping (either wild or on sites) the more appealing it became. With a tent I could be a lot more flexible – it would be unlikely that I wouldn’t be able to find a campsite willing to squeeze me in but if I couldn’t then I could pitch up in a secluded spot, I could take rest days when I wanted, dodge walking on particularly wet or hot days, and stop when I was ready to, still with the option of booking a night somewhere as and when the need arose. I could hike at my own pace – probably a snail’s pace – and, also like a snail, have everything I’d need on my back. The benefits seemed to outweigh the extra kit I’d need to buy and carry. In terms of cost there would obviously be the initial outlay, which probably won’t be far off what it would cos to stay in accommodation along the Coast to Coast, but everything can and will be reused rather than spent on one holiday

Never thought I’d own a tent

Positive intent, in tent

For a while, my YouTube and search history were nothing but tents – videos, reviews, sizes, weights. I asked for advice in Facebook groups too, and the main takeaway was to get one person more than you needed, to allow room for your rucksack etc to be inside with you. I eventually settled on the OEX Bobcat 1 which appeared to fit the bill – not ultralight but not one of the heavier options, easy to pitch, enough room for me (I’m only 5’4”) to sit up in, and towards to bottom of my budget. Despite the recommendation to get one person bigger than you need, I went for the Bobcat 1 because of the porch area, which has plenty of space for my pack and boots. I like that you pitch outer first because it rains a lot in my corner of England and that you can – apparently, I haven’t tried yet – pitch both outer and inner together. I might decided to upgrade to a more expensive and/or lighter option in future, but this one fits my needs at the moment. I didn’t follow my own advice (see below) of trying them in store, because we don’t have anywhere that I can get to to do that – still cursing my inability to travel – but I just made sure to do even more research to make certain my choice was going to be the right one. Of course, I didn’t stop at just a tent, but I’ll run you through my basic kit in a future post

Trying it out with my pack in the porch area

Testing, testing

One thing I’ve learnt while researching tents is that it’s really important to do a test pitch or several. The more you practice the easier and quicker it becomes – I know this because I’d never put a tent up before and my first attempt took far too long and featured several mistakes. You’ll thank yourself for practicing when it’s raining, you’re exhausted, and you just want to crawl into your temporary shelter. My tent pitching has got better and quicker each time, until I’m fairly positive that I won’t embarrass myself on a camp site or wake up entombed in a collapsed tent

Back to the pack

All of a sudden, that Osprey Renn 65 rucksack- click here for my post about that – stopped being too big. I needed that space now, to pack my newly acquired tent and all the things that go with it. Had I gone for a smaller rucksack I’d have had to carefully cram things in to make sure everything fitted, but there’s plenty of room for everything I need and even a bit of space leftover. I’ll give you a detailed look at what I’m packing where and why in a future post

A room with a brew

One luxury I won’t give up is a nice cup of tea – but how to do that when a lot of campsites offer only minimal amenities, and wild camping comes with none? Suffice to say that my YouTube and search history are now full of camping stoves so I can always make a brew. Everything, even a wet tent that needs packing, looks better over a cuppa


What I learnt about buying a tent

• Do your research carefully. Read reviews and watch videos. Ask for advice and recommendations from experienced campers and in any Facebook groups you’re in, including ours

• Decide what sort of tent you want. Consider when and where you’ll be using it, how you want to be able to pitch it and take it down, how much room you want in both height and width, and the weight

• If you can, go and look at tents in a store. Get in the display tents, and check how easy it is to get in and out, whether you have room to sit up if you want to, will you be able to get into and out of nightwear, whether you want a porch area for keeping your pack and/or boots or for cooking. Pick up a packed tent and feel just how heavy it is. Imagine yourself after a day of hiking, how tired will you be, do you think you’ll be able to pitch and be comfortable in the tent

• Always check the hydrostatic head – this is how waterproof your tent is. The higher the number, the more rain it will keep out

• Be prepared for the extra spending that comes with camping. As an absolute minimum, you’ll probably want something to sleep on and under, and a torch of some description