I wrote the bivvy and camping kit blog posts initially in 2006. They were posted on an old blog site called Knights of the Bivvy which was all about camping with as little stuff as possible. I thought I would share them again here for any budding wild campers who want to know more about minimalist wild camping. I used the below kit for trips to places like Snowdon (the featured blog image) in the middle of winter. Waking up alone to views like that is why I did it, there truly is no experience like it.
This blog post complements two other posts about minimalist wild-camping that I recommend you read first:
Any questions, hit me up in the comments.
Also check out my books on solo adventure travel, the first of which is out now in paperback and e-book and is called,
KIT LIST (For UK climate, any season, anywhere, 1- 3 days)
X4 Layers clothing
X1 Travel trousers
Single Layer Waterproof jacket
Gore-tex hiking boots
X1 pair of spare socks.
Retractable walking stick
1Ltr Nalgene Bottle
Black bin liners
Head Torch + spare batteries
Mag-Lite + belt pouch + spare batteries
Watch (time, temperature, compass, altimeter)
Emergency Survival Blanket (to be removed from my kit list)
Fire Lighting Kit
Compass (Map reading)
Notepad + Exercise book.
Things I don’t take:
Extra weight you don’t need, and why man invented pubs.
Just trust the bivvy
Just trust the bivvy
This isnt the arctic take your mobile instead.
Emergency Survival Blanket
Waste of space and weight, take your mobile instead and a whistle
Illegal, buy a walking stick and learn Kendo
Smell like god wanted you to until you get home
Don’t need them, the wind was made for drying you.
Because you smell like god wanted you to, and they’d rather be at home.
DETAILED EXPLANATION OF THE KIT LIST
Mine is just a bog standard thing. It has a padded back as mentioned above and though I carry less than 45ltrs, the extra space is good for losing a few clothing layers into, and also for filling with food and water on those longer hikes. I have zips on the pockets with number locks on for when I travel abroad, and also a retractable steel wire lock to loop through the lid and make that impenetrable for travel too. A knife would bypass all of them but then it’s just a deterrent for people with monkey hands.
Bivvy sack (Rab’s Survival Zone)(£50, the cheapest there is)
I am going to dedicate a post to this most magical of creations because it needs it. To the uninitiated mind the bivvy just doesn’t make sense, it isn’t believable that you can lie out in the rain and not get wet. Even the smarter ones know that it isn’t just water from the skies that is the problem, but the body too that gives off up to a pint of water per night in sweat and breathe. I have only one thing to say; Trust the bivvy, just do it, and learn. It is the closest you can get to kipping in nature and still get a good, warm, dry sleep. It is where the 21st Century meets the Ancestors. It is one of the tools we can use to build that bridge we always wanted back to being a part of nature. It is good for the soul. It isn’t fool proof, and it isn’t luxurious. You won’t spend more than 1, or at most, 2 nights in it at a go.
It also requires breaking certain mental barriers to do it right, and doing it wrong means getting cold and wet. It’s par for the course. When you finally make the grade you will feel like a Knight of the bivvy and it will bring a most satisfying sense of knowing to your spirit. Every man should do it.
-12C Goose down sleeping bag (Alpine Kit) (£105)
You need it to go down that low, I had a -5C synthetic one and it was bloody cold even in decent weather so I spent a bit more on this and have been grateful ever since. The only risk is that if you do actually get wet one night, the goose feathers will suddenly become utterly useless and clumped together so you have to be careful. If it’s a worry, then go for -12C synthetic instead. But down feather is the warmest. Also this stuffs nicely into a stuff sack and comes with a larger bag for storing it. When not in use it serves as an extra pillow on my bed.
¾ body length Therma rest (£50)
Pricey but one of the best buys I ever made. Go for the ¾ length because it is really all you need, if you have a rucksack it probably has an insulated back, use that on the lower part of your legs if the ground is sucking the heat out of them. That way you travel that bit lighter and use all you have efficiently. The Therma blows up in seconds and deflates that quickly too. Makes any place on earth comfy and warm to lie on. Also rolls and packs into a small sack.
X4 layers of clothing (no spares)
I am still in the learning process with this. I don’t take spares because there really is no need. If you get wet or cold, walk until you dry out and warm up. Or go to a bar and get drunk while you sit by their heater.
Layer one: Currently I wear an expensive body hugging, thin and light, wick drying, long sleeve, t-shirt made of some polyflouro stuff. I don’t know if it really helps much but I think it does. It doesn’t trap that stinky sweat I exude on a long hike, and seems to come off after 3 days and nights looking, feeling and smelling like it did the morning I put it on. So maybe it is a good thing, I don’t know.
The second layer for me at the moment is generally a thin wool or fleece top. This is what I strip down to if I have to return to the land of people during a trip. It generally stays clean looking, and is protected from some of the sweat by the 1st layer, so you don’t feel totally like a vagabond in the bar, hotel, or restaurant.
The third layer is the important one, the thick fleece jumper, the one you need to keep the warm in, and the cold, wind, and wet out. It needs to be quick drying, and thick, and do the job. Mine is currently actually a cheap fleece but I plan to upgrade when I learn more about fleece jumpers, they seem bloody expensive.
I admit I have a fourth layer. It’s that extra fleece top, also quick drying. I hate being cold. I think I need the fourth layer, and due to me not using a hugely expensive and thick mountain jacket (see later section), I can wear it without looking like the Michelin man. I think it is the final piece of the jigsaw for me in terms of ‘warm and dry’.
If I am on a longer trip, abroad say, then I usually add a quick dry, wick travel shirt avec collar into the equation. It serves to look a touch smarter when needed.
X1 pair quick dry, loose fit, travelling trousers (£70)
I confess to spending a stupid amount of money on a pair of North Face ones. I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t find anything that really fit right and did all I needed it to do. These have lots of pockets. Handy yet annoying when you start filling them up. But they are tough, good looking in a bar, or on the mountain, thin yet warm, can split down to shorts if in warmer climes, and they are fast drying which is probably the most important, they don’t get heavy when they get wet, and at some point they always get wet. You just don’t notice the wet in a good trouser because they dry out in minutes in a good breeze.
Single layer waterproof Kag-in-a-bag
Fancy £500 jacket with toggles, and knobs, and ring pulls, and whistles? Why bother? All it is really, is a jumped up single layer waterproof made thicker with padding that you don’t need because you buy your own in the form of a nice 4th layer fleece instead. Boaty types might disagree with me, and when I finally get over my fear of deep water maybe I will test it out mid-ships in a gale. To date the £20 Kag-in-a-bag has worked perfectly. In a deluge it starts to let water through somehow. I don’t know how, but it is a minimal amount, the fleece gets a slightly wet texture to it, maybe it is just my sweat condensation, but a fast drying fleece that is thick lets the dampness go no further and you really don’t notice it at all anyway. Using a single layer waterproof also means it is thin and so you can select your own style of 4th layer to go beneath it instead, which also keeps you warmer in bed at night. Of course if you are rich and fashion conscious you’ll be needing the latest fancy mountain jacket. Fine, but you’ll also be needing a tent to put it in at night and probably carrying a ton of other stuff too, so you’ll be stuck in the places the general public get too, and not out in the wilds. Mountain jackets are heavy and take up space when not worn; Kags do the same job and fit in a pocket.
Why not? They are light, and help keep the legs a little warmer and drier. Mine are left over from my biking days and actually are two layers including a nylon inner legging. The outer layer isn’t plastic, like my Kag, but is some other waterproof type material that is light. They dry off in the wind in minutes also, and fold away into nothing when not needed. Ideal, and kind of essential in cold and windy, wet zones.
Meindl gore-tex trainers (£100)
Without doubt the best buy I ever made. The feet are a neglected thing, take the most battering of any part of our body, and rarely do we really think about ways to make life a little easier for them. The day I bought these my camping life was changed for the better in so many ways. Not cheap, but I would spend double on footwear now just to get it right. Gore-tex keeps them dry even in a shallow river. I go for trainers because they are that little bit lighter than boots and to be honest you just don’t need a boot if you have these. Good build makes them soft to walk in, and I have yet to suffer blisters from these puppies.
X1 spare pair of socks.
It is the only spare clothing I take, and it is for getting into the sleeping bag with dry feet. Maybe if I am on a longer trip where I will be in and out of cities then I take a few spare tops to smarten up with when needed, but rarely anything more. Quick drying clothes can wash and dry in an hour or so in a hotel with a sink, a balcony and a breeze. Good walking socks won’t. I’ll look up the make and edit this post at some point because it took me a while to find the right kind of sock; thick, warm, not clammy, and generally healthy and comfy upon the foot.
You really do need this, most of our heat gets lost through the top of our head. A wool or fleece one will dry quick and be warmest and yes, you keep it on in bed.
Retractable walking stick.
A new addition to my arsenal. And I was glad I got it when I did. Coming down off Snowdon, knackered, with my right knee giving way and my mind going la-de-da, without this I would have struggled even harder. It served as a crutch to aid my steps down through rocky nonsense, and take the weight off a bit. Then it became really quite useful later when returning through London and the robbing zones. I had this awareness that as I walked towards small gangs of youths, swing my stick nonchalantly while whistling a favourite ditty, they were parting and letting me by without murmur. It dawned on me that, not only was I holding a walking stick, but I was holding a pretty handy tool. Not that I would use it, or even want to think about the trouble I would get in if I did, but as a lone traveller given to walking into places I know nothing about, there invariably comes the odd moment when the local posse looks at you in a hungry way. A retractable walking stick goes some way to giving them the option to reconsider and move along. Add it to a crazy look in the eye, and subtle growling sounds, and you have yourself the makings of a scene out of Clockwork Orange a la mountaineer styleeee. But before you go sharpening the tip, or spending the weekend in the garden shed turning it into a sword stick, bear in mind the law and the consequences of poking some reprobate in the snout with it. The only camping you can do in prison, is not the sort you would ever want to.
1 litre Nalgene bottle
I have yet to use it to be quite honest, but it was a trick I was shown by a member of the SAS, I have to say that, and it is true, but if I didn’t say it you would scoff and laugh at me and I wouldn’t blame you. For this is not for carrying drinking water. Hmmm. If you have one for carrying drinking water then put a bit of gaffer tape round this one, so you don’t get them mixed up in the dark because this one is for peeing in. It serves two purposes, peeing without leaving the sleeping bag, and then as a hot water bottle. (Ok you can laugh now) Firstly, you don’t have to get out of the sleeping bag at 5am to lose the beer you had at 8pm the previous night. The lid is large, so you undo it, bend yourself into a funny position, hope there are no lusty dogs observing you doing this, then fill the Nalgene bottle up, and if you don’t have a 2 litre bladder all should go quite well. Then cuddle up to your own piss and sleep like a baby. Hehe. For added mirth invite a friend bivvying, and when at 5am they come back from a nearby bush soaked and in need of water that they forgot to bring, kindly offer them yours to drink.
Zip lock bags (for map, book, phone and rubbish)
The simple small plastic things, bought from Iceland by the dozen for about £1 and large enough to fit a folded O/S map inside. Alternatively waste shed loads of money on just one in a hiking shop. I don’t know how they justify it being 7 quid but they do. Admittedly it is a bit fiddly to get the zips to lock when it is icy cold but then keep reminding yourself how cheap they are and you’ll be fine. Also good for holding: mobile, notebooks, dry socks, smelly fag butts (because there are no bin men in the wild), half eaten food, the snake that just bit you.
Black bin liners (for putting everything in at bed time)
Kind of needs a little explaining. Not only are these useful to put everything into before you put it into the rucksack but come bed time, when bivvying, there is a distinct lack of wardrobe space. You need two; One to hold all your personals that were in zip-lock bags in the rucksack, which is now under the leg-end of your bivvy to stop the heat draining out of your legs in the night, and one to store all your wet waterproofs and boots. They sit near you, in the wet throughout the night. Simple as that. You may of course wake up in the morning with a hundred more around you if some gypsies think you are a dumping ground.
Head torch + batteries + spare batteries
Mag-lite torch + batteries + spare batteries
Why both? Well if there is one thing I don’t want to be without it is a torch. I could probably lose one or t’other but as yet I find the option useful. Mag-lite sits permanently on the hip in a belt pouch and I can use it in the bivvy at night in an instant. The head torch serves me better when trying to get the hell off a mountain in horizontal rain and I need both hands to pick myself up off the rocks that the wind just blew me into, again. I plan to upgrade from the Mag-Lite to an LED one when next I decide to spend a month’s wages on a torch.
Watch (time, temperature, compass, altimeter)
This was something of a gimmick and a waste of money to be honest, but now I have it I use it, and it is amusing. It is rarely accurate except with the compass and the time. The temperature is usually how warm my wrist is, and the altimeter seems to just make numbers up randomly. But it is kind of fun to know roughly where you are, what direction you are facing, and how high your hill is, at any given moment. Mine was cheap, £30 quid or thereabouts. An expensive one with GPS thrown in would be actually quite useful when I consider it.
The thing about trouble is that you never think it will happen to you until it does. ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.’ And it is true. The whistle is for attracting attention the day you stray from the path and fall down a ravine but somehow manage to survive. Keep it round your neck not in your rucksack because that might end up half way up the ravine hanging snagged to a branch. You can then sit there whistling until you cause an avalanche and the ruck sacks comes to join you.
Emergency Survival Foil Wrap Blanket (Now obselete from kit list) Pointless, useless, expensive, extra weight. But you should probably carry one just to prove you are thinking about safety. It won’t protect you from heat lost into the air, or into the ground, it will reflect your heat back at you and that is it, but if your heat is disappearing into the air, or the ground, whatever is reflecting back at you isn’t going to do squat. Mind you, I haven’t had to sit shivering to death on a mountain side to test it out, so I am probably not the best person to listen to. Its main use could be in its reflective nature as you might be better spotted wrapped in foil than dark waterproofs. I personally won’t be taking it on my next venture, I hope I don’t make a fool of myself on this one.
Fire Lighting Kit
Needs a whole separate discussion about this, not really useful in England as you shouldn’t be starting fires, and shouldn’t need to, but I always carry it anyway. Certainly useable in foreign climbs but needs thought and consideration so you don’t make a mess of the land, and don’t set fire to the world either. To be discussed.
Was for my Basha but I am no longer going to be taking that either, so not sure what the rope is for, but it doesn’t take up much space, or weight, so I keep it in there for now. It just seems such a useful thing I am sure I am going to need it one day.
Lighter than binoculars but just as useful.
Proper one for map reading, if I knew how to do it.
Everyone needs some string.
Not only does it take photos but it saves your ass when you are lost and need help, or just feel lonely and need to talk to the Samaritans because it’s wet and cold on the hill, and your girlfriend left you and you think you might be mad. All providing you can get reception of course.
Because my insanity is to write, I would swap my entire kit for a pen if I had to. Just to get those last thoughts down before I died of hypothermia. Ergo, I don’t want to be without a pen ever. So I put them in most pockets before going.
Notebook + larger exercise book
Notebook for quick reminders as I move fast through the scrub and have countless moments I will never remember otherwise. Larger exercise book for spending lonesome hours, in lonesome bars, chuckling to myself as I transfer from note book to long drawn out, over romanticised, tales of woe and wonder.
I would swap my entire kit bag and my pen collection for a light of a smoke if I had to. I am an addict. To be in the wild with a smoke but without a tool to light it would be more effective upon me than dangling me into a pit of spiders by my toes while poking sticks into my side and tickling my feet. I would do anything to get one. Ergo, Lighter in every pocket before I leave.
Don’t bother cooking, you don’t need to for a 3 day trip. Eat things like: power bars, rice, smoked meat, cheese, pork pies (yuk!), flapjacks, Things high in carbohydrates for energy you will use walking. Chocolate. Again this needs discussion to get to the vitals about food and what you need to take. The less you carry the better, but then you really do need to make sure you are replacing the energy you are using. But what about coffee and tea? Well a café, or a bar is never really far away in UK wherever you are.
1ltr minimum per day in the cold, up to 6ltrs per day in proper heat. I have been known to fill up from natural springs in UK without treating or boiling water. I have to look into the safety of this as I don’t know it for sure. Again something to discuss in separate post.
Smokes (Thankfully I gave up cigarettes in 2010, but catering to addictions is important.)
Enough to last me not only the time I intend to take to return to shop world, but also the time I might be stuck out there if it goes wrong. Not that it will, but don’t die without having a smoke first, is my motto. Also I don’t like to drop my butts in the countryside, it don’t seem proper-like and this is where zip-lock bags also come in useful, because your butt smells
Keys for home + Wallet
Your doorway back to normality. DO NOT LOSE EITHER.
Don’t forget to check out my books on solo adventure travel, the first of which is out now in paperback and e-book and is called,