I love computers. There really can’t be any argument about that, if you’ve followed me for any length of time! However, I have a massive appreciation for nature and the natural world. I grew up in rural Scotland, and so there’s a huge streak of woodsiness that lives in me, which I rarely exercise most days - and a streak that I neither truly understood or appreciated when I first moved out to a city, itching to learn and meet new people and start my career. So, what do you do when you feel an uneven yearning for the wilds? You go camping! And what better time to go camping, than in late April?
Amateur Hour 😅
Let me first preface this by saying that I am by no means an expert (or even experienced) camper in the slightest. I am a total beginner! I did do some basic orienteering in my childhood and I know how to start and safely keep a fire, but my total time spent under the stars before this trip ran to slightly less than 9 hours. The last time I camped, I was about 12 years old and I camped about four feet from the front door of the house and still managed to feel homesick. It did also rain on my little pop-tent, which leaked and made my sleeping bag damp and my comic book soggy.
On the other hand, my girlfriend went camping with her family fairly regularly throughout her childhood and teens, using a large trailer tent. So, she has a bit more worldly experience under her belt as far as the realities of camping are concerned, and together we make a pretty determined camping team! We wanted to get a feel for camping again without spending a huge amount of money, while also satisfying some realistic goals:
- At least 2 days/nights consecutively outside.
- Have a campfire.
- Cook at least 2 meals outside.
With that all decided, it was time to buy gear..!
Equipment and Gear 🍳
We decided to go fairly minimal with our equipment, at least on this first venture. After all, as mentioned, we wanted to keep a small budget. Luckily, the camping shops nearby were having sales to commemorate the beginning of the camping season, and so we managed to get some nice bargains!
We went with the Eurohike Ribble 2 for our tent. Cheap and cheerful, it had decent reviews and seemed the ideal size for us to carry on the train, and seemed to be the perfect tent for a couple of days of low-intensity camping in mid-Spring. We also brought spare tent pegs, just in case.
Both of us already had a sleeping bag each from our student days. One smooth, reflective-material bag rated to 10C, and one unrated thick quilted type. We reasoned these would be appropriate, plus a couple of thermally insulated mats. However, we had some shipping issues with getting the thermal mats, and instead used plain foam mats, plus pillows for comfort. Stay tuned to find out how that went..!
One word: Trangia. A wonderful little pack-up cooking set, that has remained unchanged in its basic form for over 50 years. It uses a simple alcohol burner as its primary heat source (although it can be adapted to use gas), and this helps it maintain an exceedingly small profile and carry weight. Both of us were immediately enamoured with the set (especially its tiny little kettle) when we first laid eyes on it. A few YouTube cooking videos featuring the set later, and we couldn’t help ourselves but buy one and give it a try. Probably the best bit of our kit!
Being the coffee lovers that we are, we also made sure to keep room to bring our AeroPress along..! Can’t be without that good good coffee.
As far as water supplies went, we had two 1L reusable water bottles with tight-fitting screw tops and carrying straps. We didn’t bring water filters or capturing devices - don’t panic! You’ll understand why shortly.
A box of safety matches never really lets you down, to be honest. The weather was projected to be dry, and I knew that the location we were going had plenty of dry firewood storage. Tinder was not a concern, because the region we were going camping in had decent pinewood nearby, and pinecones wrapped with bundles of dry grasses make excellent firestarters.
Light and Electronics
We bought ourselves a rechargeable LED lantern that also had a USB-C battery bank inside it, allowing it to do double duty as a light source and a way for us to recharge our devices as required. We also brought one small AAA-battery powered LED torch, and an additional smaller battery bank as an emergency backup.
Lowering the Stakes 🌄
As mentioned previously, I am no expert when it comes to camping. Plus, we had a bunch of untested gear. So, in order to ensure our survival, happiness, and overall ensure our stress levels were at a minimum, we went camping at my parents home, in the exact rural landscape I grew up. No, not right outside the front door this time! Instead, we were down a hill in a dip in the landscape nearby, near some youngish trees that had been planted by my folks many years ago. A shady spot adjoined on both sides by fields, mown short by the small clusters of cattle that roamed them. Peaceful, quiet, and reasonably close to some familiar faces and facilities!
Pitching Up ⛺
Setup was simple. We managed to get our tent up and staked out in no time at all, barring a little bit of struggle with the ring-and-pin system at the end of the tentpoles (that we later discovered was entirely unnecessary with better technique).
It was comfortable and roomy inside!
A Frosty Night ❄
As the first night slowly came on, we felt the wind starting to bite a little. It was, after all, mid-Spring in northeast Scotland. So, we wrapped up warm in the tent, and settled in to see how we would do. And, well… it was cold. It was very cold! Luckily, not so cold that our water bottles froze or anything, but we did become quite uncomfortable around 5am, when the sun had been down for many hours. So, I ran up to the house and fetched us some hot water bottles, and we borrowed an additional couple of layers for the next night.
We also got to experience Nature, as a fox noisily assassinated a small bird about one foot from the tent.
First Light 🥓
We woke up later to a misty sort of morning, that the sun eventually broke through. With that, it was time to get cooking..! We unpacked and set up the Trangia, and tried it out for the first time. It was magical! The invisible alcohol flame struck up without any issue, and before long we were cooking lorne sausage, bacon, and black pudding for a traditional fryup breakfast - along with some AeroPress-brewed coffee. Glorious.
We then spent a wonderful day walking around in the fresh air, away from our phones, the hustle and bustle of our daily lives far behind us. Listening to the birds, the movements of the cows, the distant trickling of the stream nearby. Resting, and healing.
Keeping Cosy 🔥
With night number two approaching, we didn’t want a repeat of the previous night’s chills, so I set about building a campfire and getting it going. At the same time we also got some delicious curry cooking on the Trangia, truly earning its place in my good books.
We kept warm, as we hoped. And, as an added bonus, the fire kept the ever-present threat of midges (small biting insects native to Scotland) away!
The Final Day
And so, with another day and night outside completed, another breakfast and coffee cooked and eaten, we took down our camp. We managed to get everything back where it should’ve been, without any issue fitting things back into their respective bags. We cleaned up our site, and left satisfied, having checked off all of our goals. There were definitely some gaps in our equipment list (e.g, the sleeping mats and sleeping bags were just not warm enough) that we plan to correct for next time, but ultimately we had a great time and it was a huge success. We spent one more day with my folks, exchanging stories and having fun catching up, before we were back on the trains the following morning, heading towards the everyday sights, sounds, and smells of the city. A perfect holiday. I can’t wait to do it all again sometime soon - and this time, perhaps, closer to the wilderness!