Walking is free, long distance hiking isn’t

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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

Goodnight

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

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