Whilst there’s nothing wrong with planning an arbitrary journey purely to facilitate the enjoyment of “getting out there”, I really like the notion of combining outdoor activity with a sense of purpose – using the bike to replace a car journey and making an adventure of it in the process.
Last month I offered to help out my dad with a few jobs around the house and so rather than fire up the truck for the run up the motorway, I instead strapped my camping kit to my bike and set off for what turned out to be an eventful little journey…
I was off to a good start when, just as I was about to set off, the postie turned up with my new Sea to Summit insulated mat. After a chilly night with my non insulated Alpkit Numo, I was only too happy to undertake a quick repack to factor in the new and hopefully warmer mat.
Repacking done, I set off, making good progress along the trails but with my route including a bit more tarmac than is strictly desirable, I found myself arriving at the nights camp a good few hours before dusk. Squirreled away in a quiet spot I took on some calories whilst watching the sunset, not wishing to pitch too early and arouse suspicion amongst the late evening dog walkers.
As it turned out, I needn’t have worried about the dog walkers or the horse riders but perhaps should have given more consideration to the farmer! Setting up camp just as the sun was dipping below the horizon, I heard the sound of an approaching quad bike. It grew louder and louder until it stopped, only to be replaced by the sound of a gate opening. It was indeed the farmer, coming to check the sheep in the very field I was half pitched in. I considered a quick repack and bail but he clocked me before I had time to move.
Fortunately, he turned out to be a friendly and understanding chap and after I explained what I was doing (and that I was happy to leave if he wished) he said he had no issue with it as long as I didn’t leave any litter.
That’s the first time I’ve been “compromised” whilst wild camping and whilst I’m sure it could have gone a different way on another day with another farmer, I think if you are honest and upfront with landowners, can show you are respectful to the land and won’t kick off if they want you to move on (it is their property after all) then you really shouldn’t have any issues. Of course, the arrive late, leave early approach should avoid most hassles but as the days get longer approaching the summer solstice, even pitching late can still be in near daylight.
With permission to stay I had one of my better sleeps during a wild camp, free from the prospect of being rumbled at silly o’clock. The only real downside was the condensation issue of the new tent which seemed worse than on its first outing.
I had pitched in the lee of a treeline which whilst keeping me from being buffeted by a chilly North Easterly meant that perhaps ventilation wasn’t the best. I also think I could have pitched the Taga a little taughter, creating a pinch more internal space as I seemed to be brushing up against the walls of the tent all night, not great for my down sleeping bag.
Obviously condensation is an issue with any single skin shelter but I can’t help wondering if sacrificing some weight by sizing up to a two man would alleviate some of the bag-to-wall issues. I have to accept that I’m not exactly the most svelte of blokes and whilst the Taga doesn’t feel overly narrow or claustrophobic, it’s going to prove problematic dealing with the moisture on multi night trips.
On the plus side I wasn’t cold thanks to the timely arrival of the Sea to Summit insulated mat. As soon as I sat on it I could feel the difference against the non insulated Numo. It’s a little thinner but was comfy enough for me as a side sleeper with no lumps or bumps disturbing my sleep and more importantly no cold spots!
Back on the bike relatively early after striking camp, a long and steep descent from the top of the downs wasn’t the warmest of starts but I was toasty by the time I approached the outskirts of Maidstone.
I wasn’t in a rush but for some bizarre reason decided to take a direct route into Maidstone, battling against a surprising amount of impatient motorists before eventually reaching the relative tranquility of the Medway Valley path which would deliver me almost traffic free to my destination.
Door to door the entire route was only some 40ish miles, 30 before camp with the remainder completed the next morning. If I was fitter there’s no reason why I couldn’t have just knocked the trip off in one go – I’ve done it before – and if I wanted efficiency I could’ve just driven but then I guess that would have kinda missed the point.
Indeed, fitting “adventure” into life can sometimes be difficult but with a little planning and creativity, it’s entirely possible to turn even the most mundane of journeys into something a little more exciting.