When it comes to outdoors kit, we definitely agree with what your mum says: ‘you get what you pay for’ and the good old ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. That said, you don’t want to be splashing all your hard earned spondoolies on something you’re not sure you enjoy yet. So we’ve pulled together our recommended kit list with options for ‘just giving it a bash’ and ‘keen for the long haul’. Don’t forget that borrowing is an option too!
- HEAD TORCH
Why is it useful: Setting up camp / cooking / brushing your teeth / going to the toilet (you don’t want to wee on your foot)… you get the idea. This is one piece of kit that is insanely useful. A head torch vs a hand-held torch just makes life that bit easier, and is preferable to trying to pretend you have a third hand or holding your iPhone in your mouth.
Giving it a bash: This is one item when you don’t need to go crazy on. You can just buy a cheap one from a big supermarket (Aldi for example) or cheaper outdoors shop like Decathlon for £5-£10.
What you get for more money: More lumens (no this is not some kind of disease – lumens indicate the brightness of a beam), a longer battery life and a lighter torch that sits more comfortably on your precious noggin.
2. SLEEPING MAT
Why is it useful: Being elevated from the ground will keep you that little bit warmer, as well as offer more comfort for your lady-hips and shoulders.
Keen for the long haul: Thermarest is the Rolls Royce of sleeping mats, and the go-to for those going on longer trips too – where something lightweight that packs down small is needed. Lots of pricing options.
Giving it a bash: If you’re keen to buy a fairly decent mat but not too fussed on how small it packs down, then check out Vango and the Trek 3 standard (£30). And if you’re going camping in Summer, you can just use a yoga mat or buy a £5 foam roll from a supermarket, Amazon or any outdoor store.
What you get for more money: A mat that packs downs small, will keep you warmer, and provide a more comfortable night’s sleep.
3. SLEEPING BAG
Keen for the long haul: The top-dollar for the sleeping bag, is PHD. You can either buy one off the shelf or design one to your own specs from the shape to down fill. The next level down is Marmot – great quality, packs small with summer and winter options.
Giving it a bash: Just get anything! If you have an old one at home with Transformers on it – start with that one. But just make sure you take some extra warm clothing layers. And if you need to buy a new one – this article is a great place to start. The major tip – don’t overthink it.
Limits: When looking at sleeping bags, there’ll usually be three numbers. For now, ignore the ‘limit’ and ‘extreme’ numbers, and always just look at ‘comfort temperature’ – that will guide you to buy the right one.
If you tend to get cold: Then consider getting a sleeping bag liner too. Like this Lifeventure one – it’s silk and has been treated to be antibacterial, anti-mosquito and anti-bed bug so useful if on trips where you might get mozzies. Other cheaper silk or cotton liners will do the trick too.
What you get for more money: A sleeping bag that keeps you warmer, one that packs down small and doesn’t stink to high-heaven after several uses.
4. BIVVY BAG
Ah the mythical bivvy bag!! Magical key to the wild camping kingdom.
Why is it useful: A bivvy is like a waterproof jacket (or condom?!) for your sleeping bag – so keeps you and your sleeping bag dry through the night.
Keen for the long haul: Go for the Alpkit Hunka bivvy as it’s waterproof, while being breathable and packs down small. If you’re keen to wild camp all year round, search ‘army bivvy’ on eBay and you’ll get a great waterproof, all weather bag for around £30. The choice is astounding – so check out this super-geek bivy table for a run down of some of the options.
Giving it a bash: You can find far cheaper options from outdoor stores such as Mountain Warehouse and Decathlon for £10 – £20. And if you’re really not sure, just spend £4 on a bright orange survival bag, and use that. Does the trick just dandy!
What you get for more money: A bivvy bag that packs small, keeps the water from the sky out, and lets the moisture from your sleeping bag out. The cheaper options will leave you with a slightly damp sleeping bag in the morning, but it’s no problem if you hang your bag out when you get home.
5. OTHER BITS N’ BOBS
- A hat: For snuggling down under the stars a great hat is a must – the bigger the bobble, the better. It’s a well known fact that bobbles add extra warmth.
- A buff: or some kind of neck scarfy thing. This is great for putting over your mouth/ nose to keep the breeze off. And if like me you have a perpetually cold nose, a major plus.
- A backpack: We’re a massive advocate of Osprey packs, but any old thing will do.
- Warm layers: Puffer jacket, base layers, snuggly socks (and if going in winter, take a thicker puffer jacket and/or extra layers – it’s better to have too many layers than not enough!).
- Waterproof coat: No worries on this if the weather forecast looks set for sunshine galore!
- Toiletries: No need to bring your whole bathroom cabinet – toothbrush, travel toothpaste, face wipes and toilet paper are the staples.
- Food and water: For picnics in the summer! Yaaaaayyyy!
- A plastic or paper bag to put your rubbish in. ‘Leave no trace’ is a big rule of wild camping.
- A travel pillow: If you can’t live without a pillow and your backpack won’t do the job then bring a travel/blow-up pillow. Thermarest do great foam ones. Mmmm Pillows.