As I type this I'm buzzing with something approaching excitement, and it takes a lot to excite me these days, at what I accomplished but the story of the two days and one night on Dartmoor is quite different. It is a mix of emotional contentment.
I set off for my first ever wild camp with a heavy heart. Walking along the track towards the stream at the foot of Brat Tor was very emotional and my voice was broken as I tried to say a few words into my phone for the start of a video of the trip.
I knew it would be emotionally tough and my thought was accurate. It was well worth the effort. I'm very glad I went. I will camp again. The weather was perfect. The sun and rainless trip made for a physically easy passage into wild camping.
I headed towards Sourton Tor and then the bridge that crosses West Okement River. Between to two was a tiny stream.
I carried 500ml of water in a Nalgene bottle marked up to 400ml, but it takes more than that! That's less than I've ever carried before. I think in warmer weather I'd need back up that amount despite regular top ups. I topped up about three times, the first at this little stream, using premixed Aqua Mira drops that I'd dispensed into small dropper bottles. Top up, treat and move on. It was very quick and efficient! I'd used Aqua Mira before but never in this efficient way!
From here I headed for Yes Tor and then straight down to another small stream for my second top up. Following the main army road over a small bridge and a third top up and onwards to Okement hill I then crossed a flat but very boggy and somewhat tussocky plateau towards Black Hill, passing Cranmere Pool which seemed devoid of water following the valley around to Little Kneeset.
It was here that I had preplanned my camp. Last September I had pitched the Scarp. I have no idea why I took the heavier Staika, I think I just fancied it, and why not.
If it had been raining I may very well have considered abandoning the camp. It was warmish, sunnyish, and with a deep breath I unpacked tent, pegs and poles from my pack.
(If any one is wondering where all the emotional stuff comes from – I won’t go into it here and now – please just follow your nose around my gallery).
A slight concern to me at that moment was the exposed nature of that small hill.
I measured the wind, 15+mph when I got there and I thought hope tent will be ok! A tent designed for serious mountain usage! OK, a silly thought!
I took ages to get the pitch just right. I think I was bodily moving it an inch this way and that for half an hour until I got it perfect. I was trying to avoid little bumps under the ground sheet! I put it side into the wind. Felt that was ok with the Hilleberg Staika due to shape. It also would have prevented the fly pressing against where my head would have been if the wind picked up. I was on slight slope, very very minor but it dictated where head had to go.
Shortly after even the breeze subsided, then stopped. It really was perfect conditions. I think someone was looking after me.
I unloaded my pack, zipped up tent and walked down the hill to fill my three water containers. I had 6L of water now. I used half between myself and Bess.
Once back at the tent I puffed up my SynMat air bed and took out my sleeping bag. I was rather lost mentally at this point, in fact the whole time from reaching camp at 3.30pm until about 7pm was emotionally tough, though the time did fly. I sort of sorted my gear, but it was a bit of a jumble.
I took my wet shoes and wet socks off. Dried my feet, put on waterproof socks and then down booties. Thankfully I had remembered and planned in two bread bags for my feet and these were invaluable for nipping out for a pee. I didn't feel the need to use my pee bottle. It wasn’t raining nor was it bitterly cold.
Once feet sorted I changed my dirty trousers for woolly leggings, put a layer (Switchback shirt) between my base layer and shirt, then put on a woolly hoody. Took my day coat off and put on my down pullover coat. I was very comfortable. Despite the -2c my hands left bare never chilled! In fact, at one point doing another video I look at the temperature, and that was genuine surprise in my voice at the low temperature.
I had a few private tweets with a friend and these were very reassuring.
By 7 pm I nearly just gave up and thought about laying back and hoping morning would arrive! But the private messages and my stomach kept me reasonably positive. There were tears on occasion.
It was also at this time I needed a pee, so I left the tent for this rather than use my bottle. I'd completely forgotten about the outside despite the door being open. I think I had been in my own little world! It was a perfectly timed pee stop as the sun was just going down. I got my phone and did a short video of the sunset, which was beautiful.
The hours from 7pm to 5.30am flew by. That I take as a good sign!
At 7pm, maybe due to being dark, I settled for the first time. I felt genuine relief being there. I'd not even had a tea yet. I put the kettle on an MLD 850 pot in a custom Caldera Cone Ti Tri. I needed that tea, badly! I didn't half enjoy it.
I then got a boil in bag meal going, adding boiling water to my smash potato. It was delicious. I ate sitting up in sleeping bag. I cooked in sleeping bag. It's surprisingly easy and enjoyable.
I tried to Tweet that I was camping but my signal was diabolical to say the least, but there was a signal, at least. I don’t think I finally got a proper Tweet out until nearer 9pm to let the “world” know.
I settled back, tweeting and listening to music totally at peace. The sky was clear and full of stars. I saw a shooting star and two planes lights high above.
The clouds moved in but I left the door open. Thinking if it rained, none was forecast, I'd be able to close the door. I was well wrapped up in bed. I wore four layers in sleeping bag. This meant I didn’t need to pull the sleeping draw cords around me. So that worked well. I never once felt constricted nor any panic attacks. I had deliberately ordered a custom made sleeping bag by PHD in X Large (width) so I would not be constricted inside the sleeping bag.
I settled to a relaxing sleep at 11pm and woke at 5.30am to see the famous Dartmoor mists out my still open door. My stove was next to me. So once I had come to a bit I put my stove to use for a tea, just as a strong feeling that it was time to get up and make my way back hit me. Bit of a shame as didn't really get to enjoy the morning fully. I did boil more water for my premixed porridge. I have to admit by this time thoughts of the car, home and Gizzy the kitten, were well and truly planted in my head so I only just managed to eat breakfast. I gave the last bit to Bess.
I was impressed with my tent, the inner gave protection to my back, I definitely chose the right tent first up.
I was very torn between wanting to stay in sleeping bag a bit longer but the emotional urge to get up was to powerful. I got up and then tried to sort my kit to pack away. I think it went in the pack in a less organised way that when I packed it at home as it took up just as much room if not more!, despite some food being eaten!
I nearly took the tent down without a morning video, I think I sort of wanted to just get going, but then I was also sad to be packing up, sad to be leaving, letting go.
I headed out for Green tor, Great Links Tor, saw some youths there, swearing away the morning, thanks guys, don’t really want f this and f that at 10 in the morning!
I then headed for Brat Tor and the car.
What a fabulous couple of days! I am very glad I did it.
What are my thoughts a week later? I have no idea, they change by the hour! But, I will be back for another wild camp in the not to distant future.
Kit used / not used!
Goes without saying my pack, tent and sleep system was all used. Didn't use poncho. No rain. Thank goodness! Used Blizzard stake but not as a stake!
Used all cook kit and it worked well (didn’t use lighter). Small pot for porridge.
Scrubber maybe not best thing for cleaning as it got porridge stuck on it! Small cloth better option perhaps. I only used less than one bottle of meths. I forgot to keep it warm for first use at 7pm and could not light it with my fire steel. I warmed it in palm of hand and breathing on it. Lit it ok with fire steel once warmed it a bit.
I ate and drank less food and tea expected. But when I'm nervous et al my appetite does drop so that needs to be considered before reducing amounts next time.
Of my list of individual equipment items all were used except sun glasses and SteriPEN and spare guyline. All of which I'd carry in any event.
Didn't need anything from first aid Pod bag.
Used only AAA torch a bit and bread bags from repairs pack.
Forgot about toothbrush pack and never used towels or hankies.
Never read my book. But my book is non negotiable! Must admit didn't write in journal but hopefully will in future!
Gloss over lavatory department!
The only clothing items not used were Arcteryx wind jacket and most gloves, esp didn't use down mitts and wasn’t wet so didn't use spare pants or for the Americans, briefs. I used the rest of my clothing items at one time or other.
Didn't use tripod.
Didn't use my two hot chocolates.
Food. I ate my 4 rolls during day. Didn't touch bars. Reminder, I had 2 Weetabix at home and big bowl Shreddies at car park! That’s my norm!
Of my evening meal I ate the Fellside beef by Look What We Found and one portion of Smash. I'd expected to eat the second meal but found it "easier" to simply make my porridge which was really an emergency ration. I ate two bars.
Breakfast, sort of ate one porridge. Then munched on bars walking to car and on drive home.
I put a credit card and a ten pound note in a aLocSak along with driving license.
Bess used most of her gear. I gave her most of her food. Pardon the pun, but I fed her by gut instinct, so I had a little left over. I used a few of the pegs I gave her, the polycro sheet briefly and her OookWorks BessBed with Highlands bed. I didn't feel the need to use her K9 coat for night, keeping her dry day coat on. I did use her towel to partly dry her legs and belly and as a extra layer to lie on, I hung it to dry first, I think it helped keep her bed dry. Never used the Tyvek sheet. As I was able to put BessBed in vestibule I didn't need it to protect inner tent floor.
Data. Total distance = 31.4km (24 km ish first day). Total time 10 hours. Max speed 10kph! Don’t recollect that speed!
Thank you for reading :-)
NB - the food, first figure is grams the second figure are kcals. PBase doesn't display it all very well, but you get the jist!
SynMat LW 7 842
PHD Sleep Bag 350/900 MLD dry bag. 991
Exped Pillow m. No stuff sack (5g) 79
MultiMat 3' cut off. 79
Sub Total 1991
MLD 850ml ti pot inc string pouch 106
MLD 450ml ti pot 37
Evernew 300ml Ti mug 44
Cascade Designs MLD 850 Ti Tri cone 48
Cascade Designs 10-12 burner 15
Pot scrubber 4
Light My Fire / Fire steel 28
Foil (aluminium) 10
Measure pots (3) 4
Candles (2) 26
Cascade Designs Caddy 89
LifeVenture Lexan spoon 14
Spoon - MLD 16
Bottle (3) for meths 175/175/100 = 450ml 374
Sub Total 831
Nalgene Cantene 1.5L big top / soft bottle 65
Nalgene 400ml 90
Map / case 140
Petzl XP Core head light 83
Compass Silva Type 4/54 38
Silva ADC Pro 65
Phone / aLokSak 142
SatMap No case. Goes in one MLD pouch. 230
Oakley Half Jacket Glasses / bullet case 119
SteriPen Adventure Opti Water Purifier + case 128
Aqua Mira (empty 8g) 35 drops. 10
Hand gel 23
Suncream pot 7g 22
Surgical Gloves 12
Two 2L Platypus containers 36g 72
Spare Guyline (for Poncho). MLD line (thin). 25
First Aid kit in Ziplok bag. 140
Leatherman CS Style Knife 41
Petzl e+Lite 47
Body Glide Anti Chaff 5
Pod First Aid Dry Bag (Emergency items) 25
MagLite Solitaire AAA 24
Waterproof matches 12. 8
Shock Cord 24" 6
40' Dynema Cord 1mm Emergency only. 8
Duct tape 26
Seam Grip 10
Exped Textile Glue 7
Rubber bands 4
SynMat patches 4
Ear plugs 0
Plastic / Freezer bags for Shoes / Feet 19
Ace Bandage 52
Spare cuben material 0
Exped Dry Bag XX Small Green for repairs. 27
Power Monkey Extreme Bat Pack lead/ends 279
Spare phone bat / aLokSak 36
MLD cuben stuff bag 6
Toothpaste pot 8
Towel Vaude 20
Towel LifeVenture + aLocSak 74
Hankies 8 Kit Roll in aLocSak 38
MLD cuben stuff bag 6
Alwynch Book Lined writing pad 130
Pen Inka 16
Ear Phones for phone 14
ZipLoc bag 12
Robinsons bottle P 58
Toilet paper 26
Waste Pod stuff sack inc 6g plastic bag 66
Sub Total 2980
PHD Down Pullover inc. stuff sack. 355
MLD Cuben dry bag Medium 19
Outdoor Designs Bora gloves medium Windpro 86
Liner Gloves Icebreaker 22
Seal Skinz socks 97
Buff scarf 37
Arcteryx Squamish Hoody wind 135
ChocFish Beanie 25
Rohan cap 52
MLD Cuben dry bag Medium 19
Berhause Paclite trousers 198
MLD Mitts eVent 42
Sub Total 1087
Spare Clothing / Emergency / Night
ChocFish Hoody 375
ChocFish Long johns 200
PHD Booties No stuff sack. 104
PHD Mitts No stuff sack. 178
Arcterxy Switchback shirt 211
Smartwool Light Hiker 69
Rohan pants 49
ChocFish Possum gloves 46
Exped Red Dry Bag Large 53
Sub Total 1285
Base Total 13818
Camera NEX 7, paracord & 18-55mm + hood. 562
Aquapac Medium waterproof camera bag 103