It was later October, I had 24 hours to myself and I decided to do an overnighter. Id never been to the Lake District so I decided to go there. I left around 6am and I found somewhere to sleep just as night fell. The next day I had time to watch the sun rise before I had to go back home. It was a pretty full on driving trip.
I did a whistle stop tour of the Lakes – I only managed to hit Bowness on Windermere, Windermere and Keswick really. First impressions after 20 minutes in each town was that it was like the touristy bits of Wales – like Betwys y coed, very pretty but chokka block of tourists and you could waste the whole day looking for parking that you would then pay through the nose for.
The lack of time and preparation offered by my window of opportunity worked against me as I had no idea where to go to strike out on a hike to the really scenic parts. As the night crept in I was resigned to only finding a spot to sleep, which was all I really wanted to do after driving all day. This was more of a reccy for future excursions than anything.
As per usual the problem was where to park – there aren’t that many roads in the Lakes as far as I could tell, so those that exist are well used. There are the odd off road parking spots but they are exposed and easy prey for any ne’er do wells. I had read that you can stay overnight in most car parks – you pay up till 1900hrs and then add an extra £1 on to stay overnight but you aren’t permitted to sleep in the vehicle. That seemed fair enough but i kept on pushing north while the light was with me till I reached Buttermere . There was a camp site at Syke Farm that allowed you to pitch when you arrived and pay in the morning. I seriously considered staying at the camp site but I had gone with my ground dwelling kit and didn’t have a tent. It was pretty awesome as campsites go full of interesting rock structures and some trees (where someone had pitched a hammock – along with didgeridoo) but I thought me in my bivvy bag in the middle of a field of tent dwellers would be a bit odd. Besides I had come to ‘wild camp’ not ‘boring camp’.
So I went for plan B. I left my car at the camp site and then struck off towards Lake Buttermere to sleep – telling a fellow camper that I had to leave as I had no tent – they looked at me oddly as I walked away, I got that a lot though as all the people I met where wearing £600 of brand new hi grade scientific walking gear and I was wearing £100 worth of battered wildcamping kit and army surplus – I felt like a vagrant or swag man and I liked it 🙂
There were so many places to pitch a hammock – but I had decided not to do the hammock this time. I wanted to ground dwell. I was interested in seeing what it was like (Id only done it once before at Whitby, and partially at Thrapston) and I was interested to see how little I could get away with. I’m looking for the most minimal kit configuration possible and in the spirit of the microadventure this means getting by with a bivvy only. Ultimately id like to get everything I absolutely need in a 30l rucksack or smaller. One wise sage on a bushcraft forum said you should be able to get by naked with only a knife – to which another retorted you should be able to get by naked with nothing 🙂 that’s a tad extreme for me though..
The main issue I had was finding a piece of earth that was flat! I’m spoilt with hammock camping as I can sleep anywhere! I could pitch a hammock on the side of a volcano with lava flowing underneath but finding a flat piece of earth 6 feet long and 4 feet wide is like looking for unicorn doodoo in some parts it seems.
In the end I lay my head on the shore line of the lake. I found a spot with a good view as I hoped it would be a beautiful site to wake up to (like any one night stand I suppose).
I had been inspired by Paul Kirtley’s article “bushcraft on a budget” as I consider it a bit of a go to for the ideal loadout (its missing only latrine and food) so I had arranged the following equipment;
from top left;
1. Small tarp from the pound shop as a moisture barrier
2. a PLCE molle pouch that I can put 24 hours food in. Normally this will be a couple of boil in the bag rice packets, some “look what we found” boil in the bag meals, a packet or two of beef jerky or biltong, a couple of cereal bars, some coffee sachets and my 8oz hipflask full of sourmash!
3. My modified BCB kit. I have the mk1 and mk2 kit. I decided that I dislike the Mk1 fuel crucible as its not multi-fuel, I dislike the mk2 crucible as its too big and I think it sits the Trangia burner at an inefficient distance from the cup, I like the mk2 mug size but I find that its too efficient at transferring heat so its as if it cools down as fast as it gets hot – as a consequence I’ve had times where it just wont boil, or full trangia burners run out of fuel before the water bubbles (ive never heard anyone else complain so maybe its just me). So my solution is the mk1 cup, osprey bottle and cup, the steel heavy cover lid and a bushbox folding stove with the BCB handle (which turns the mk1 cup into a billy can);
It packs small into the original PLCE size pouch and gives me the best of all worlds, its multi fuel as I can use the stove as a stick stove or with hexi tabs/gel or a Trangia burner, I can cook on embers or I can use the add on handle to hang the cup over the fire Billy can style. I have a stowaway pot and look longingly at the Swedish m40 mess kit online but I cant escape the logic of the BCB kit. Instead of carrying my canteen and cook kit as two items I carry both as one nested item. Genius.
4. A Kleen Kanteen flask. Paul Kirtley’s article advocated carrying 2 litres of water and I know how quickly one osprey bottle runs out. So another bottle is a must. I went for this item as its surgical grade stainless steel which means it wont leech into the water and I could purify the water in this bottle by boiling over the fire. Honestly if they made a stainless steel osprey bottle Id buy it in a second and the plastic one would be gone! Im aware of the pathfinder stainless steel canteen as a replacement for the osprey.. may be..one day….. The Kleen kanteen bottle is 750ml so im just under two litres here.
5. A Blacks 3 season sleeping bag. I do own the Czech army bedroll in Paul’s article but it is big! This was a sleeping bag rated to 2c for comfort and -14c for extreme. I cant remember its name but it was on sale. I keep it inside a British Army Goretex Bivvy bag and inside a 15L compression sack I bought from go outdoors. It can be a struggle to get it all in but once accomplished the compression sack works well and nearly halves the pack size.
6. Tools wrapped in a bandanna. The bandanna is used for lots of reasons including as a pre-filter for collecting water you intend to purify. I mainly use it to wrap up my Mora companion and folding pruning saw. The rational is that if I’m caught carrying an offensive weapon I hope that I can demonstrate that I’m carrying it for a useful reason and that I have made it inaccessible and therefore I’m not intending to use it as a weapon. I’m not sure how far that argument will get me.. It also contains my head torch. Its just a cheapo energizer torch. When I was camping on the lake there were some people on the other side with head torches and one of them was like a spotlight – it was illuminating the tree line on my side of the water. I’ve no idea what make it was but it was about a million lumins! I also keep a small first aid kit, a knife sharpener and some paracord in this bundle.
7. A tarp wrapped in Bungees with some paracord. Sticking with the bushcraft on a budget theme I left my basha out and went with this old tarp. I’ve wrapped it in bungees as compression straps but also to make it quick to deploy like the British army infantry (according to the ex-colleague and ex-infantry man I bought my actual basha from)
8. A vango Aero standard self inflating mat. This was my main driver for going to ground. Id originally bought it for the hammock and always regretted it. But I had guests staying and there were more guests than beds. I used this for one of them on a hard floor and they said how comfy it was. I tried it and was amazed! it was a lot more supportive than any other mat I had, including my beloved nato closed foam mat. Its more like a mattress than a mat. with any other mat I would feel the floor on my hips or shoulders if i slept on my side but not with this one. On the web site they show it being deployed direct onto spiky rocks so I guess they are saying its durable too 🙂
The only thing not shown was the tissues I took for Latrine purposes. I was going to put it all in my newest rucksack the Swedish LK35 from militarymart.co.uk
It has a metal frame and a single bucket canvas pouch. Its simple and can be heavily overfilled. Its very well designed. the weight sits on your hips and the straps are a doddle to adjust. The sinch straps on top can be used to hold a lot. Its also a great size. My British army bergen can accommodate almost anything – but the temptation it to fill the available space. I like the l35 as its a ‘sane’ amount of space. I always try to stick to myself imposed rule of strapping NOTHING to the outside. If it doesn’t fit in the bag it doesn’t go. It wasnt grade a so only cost about 12£ – it had some wear but…it was 12£!! 🙂
Having said that – I actually took a satchel with me with additional provisions – Bread, cheese, sausage and beer, classic Hobbit food.
There isn’t much to show for the evening as I got there at night fall and slept pretty quickly. I wish I had a camera that I could use at night because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. There was no moon but the valley was lit by starlight and the occasional light from cottages on the other side. The stars were reflecting in the water and I watched the great bear slowly move across the night sky while I ate bread, meat, cheese and quaffed ale. My night vision adjusted pretty well. I elected not to make a fire because I was exhausted, It was the Lakes and it seemed inappropriate. Also I was trying to stealth camp and I was sitting on a shore line (so I would have stood out for miles). I took a quick flash photo of the pitch though;
There was no rain forecast and even if it did rain – I wanted the experience of trying to get by with just the bivvy. As such I didn’t setup the tarp. This also meant I could watch the stars, which is another reason to go with as little as possible. I watch a lot of fellwanderers vids on youtube and he talks about being stuck in your bivvy if its raining. There is obvious benefit of a having additional shelter – but if you can get away with it then open sky is always the way to go. Camp like a cowboy!
It was cold but not freezing. There was no wind. The entire valley was very peaceful and still. I could hear only an owl and a distant waterfall. Pretty soon all they could hear was my snoring! That’s a bad thing about stealth camping for me. As soon as I fall asleep I sound like a Trex chewing a chainsaw! I woke quite a few times during the first part of the night was I was sleeping horizontal to the water line, as there was a slight slope to the beach I keep feeling like I was tipping or about to roll. Eventually I changed the angle so I feel like I was sliding feet first instead…….. Every time I checked my compass it was always 4c – I never saw it dip below this. And it was the temp shown on my car read out when I got to it in the morning.
Well within the comfort rating for my bag so I was nice and warm, in fact sometimes I woke as I was too hot due to the new hat I bought in Keswick at the mountain warehouse store;
I cant remember the name but I’ve wanted one for a while. Id hoped to get one in Russia but didn’t get the chance. This one was cheap as chips but worth it. Not quite a balaclava but the straps can be fastened under the chin so keep your ears warm and it acts like a scarf too.
The mat held up really well and it was very comfortable indeed. I cant see any detail about temp ratings for it so I guess I need to sleep in the garden in really cold weather to see if it can cope.
I woke at around 0730hrs and it was still pitch black but I figured it was time for a brew before I broke camp and watched the sun rise. I used the Trangia burner.
One thing I’ve learned about these burners is that when you need them most they don’t work 🙂 This is because for a device invented in Scandinavia I’m always amazed that they don’t like being cold! A trick is to put it in your pocket or hold in under your armpit for a few minutes before you try to light it. I believe it because the meths need to have vapour because its the vapour that burns not the liquid. I know they make a priming pan for cold weather but this involves heating the burner with (wait for it) ….meths which would surely have the same problem? This one lit without too much trouble, not having a lighter I did have to use my firesteel to light some cotton wool and then light a twig from this to use as a match. The meths just weren’t taking the sparks from my tiny Bear Grylls key chain firesteel. Thanks to the heavy cover lid (the most expensive part of the kit next to the extortionate bushbox!) I soon had a rolling boil. And because of the plastic osprey cup I could enjoy my hot beverage instead of having to wait for it to cool down like a metal cup (so as to avoid third degree lip burns). BCB cook kit – you know it makes sense! (just please make a stainless steel osprey bottle)
Then it was time to watch the sun come up – and it was worth the 300 hundred mile round trip I can tell you.
The way the sun rises it peaks through this crack in the mountains and sends a beam of light across a small section of the lake – its amazing!
So a real shame I didn’t actually get to do any hiking or view the landscape from one of the summits, but I was ill prepared. I was only there for five minutes and no actual bushcraft took place. It was, however, definitely worth the trip! The stillness was indescribable.
As I walked back to the camp site to get the car I could see all the campers waking up with their chairs and tables and tents and kettles and bowls and cutlery and radios and I just thought “they don’t know what they’re missing being a tramp” I drove up to the tea house the farm runs for breakfast and such, paid for my pitch and headed home.
I wonder if they heard me snoring.