I wild camp at photography locations so I can capture the golden hours (sunset & sunrise) at those locations. I don’t drive so I rely on public transport to get me as close as I can to the locations. The rest of the way I hike, carrying all my gear on my back. Luckily I enjoy hiking and wild camping so it’s something I usually look forward to.
It’s important for me that I consider weight and performance in all my camping equipment and also my clothing. My DSLR and lenses aren’t lightweight and they add to the total weight too. Here’s my winter camping equipment load out:
- MSR Elixir 1 Tent
A recent purchase, the Elixir 1 is a one man tent with a decent sized porch and sleeping area. Not ultra lightweight but under 2kg so it works for me.
- Alpkit SkyeHigh 900 Down Filled Sleeping Bag
This sleeping bag is light and very warm! I’ve slept in sub zero temperatures and been warm throughout the night.
- Exped Downmat Lite 5
The Lite 5 weighs 700g, has down insulation and has a manufacturer’s limit temperature rating of -12°c. An insulated mat is pretty much essential for winter camps. The sleeping bag insulation you lay on is compacted under your weight so you need an insulating layer between you and the ground.
- Cooking Fuel – Primus Power Gas 230g Cylinder
I use 230g Primus Power Gas cylinders. The Primus Power Gas is rated for 4 season use. Gas cylinders can become less effective and burn less efficiently or at all in cold weather, due to the cylinders losing pressure in cold weather, so making sure the cylinders you use are rated for the temperature ranges you are expecting when camping.
- Stove & Cooking Pot – Alpkit Brukit Wolf
An all in one solution for cooking or getting a brew on, the stove and gas cylinder fit inside the cooking pot when not in use. The pot has a 1400mm capacity which is plenty for me to warm my food, boil my ration packs or to make a brew.
I carry an aluminium cup, a spoon, a scouring pad and tiny bottle of washing up liquid.
- Sawyer Mini Water Filter System
I bought this water filter so I could top up on drinking and cooking water while I’m out on location. It came with a 500ml plastic squeeze bottle, which I’ve replaced for 3 x 1 litre squeeze bottles. I use one of the bottles for the filter, to hold the dirty water, and two for the filtered clean water. They are marked so I don’t mix them up!!
- Chlorine Dioxide Water Treatment Solution
I use this in addition to filtering with the Sawyer filter as a belt and braces approach to filtering and purifying water.
- Composite Rations Main Meals
Surplus army ration packs, these are great for a quick and nutritional meal. When I’m on a one night wild camp I carry 1 main meal and one spare, just in case.
Important if the hike is a long one, to keep the energy levels up. Stuff like mixed nuts, chocolate bars, bombay mix or trail mix is great for scoffing along the way.
Nothing fancy here, a craghoppers cagoule and a pair of over trousers. They keep me dry, even in torrential rain and they are pretty lightweight too.
- Warmth Layers
I’ve usually carry or wear a fleece, with a base layer t-shirt and have a spare down filled jacket in case it gets really cold. In the coldest of weather, I wear thermal leggings and a vest under my outer clothes. I’ve got a choice of hats, from flat caps to a bear trappers hat, which I can’t wear unless it’s freezing as it’s t I usually don’t feel the cold until I start working on my photography, as that usually means standing about a lot. When I’m hiking I try to maintain a good pace and this keeps me warm even in the coldest of weather.
My all time favourite hiking/ outdoors trousers are the Fjallraven Keb. They aren’t cheap but the materials and build quality are excellent. They take some real hammer and last for ages. They have some nice little features too.
I’ve had some real problems with boots. I bought a pair of Salomon boots online and when they came I tried them on, they felt snug but I thought they would be OK. I’ve done quite some miles in them now and every single time I’ve suffered on the downhill sections. My toes were hitting the front of the boot. They were just too tight a fit. Boots aren’t cheap so I made do as long as I could. Last week I bought a new pair and they fit properly, so I’m expecting less painful hikes!! I bought a pair of Scarpa Marmolada Trek boots. I got a decent deal on them too!
- Clean Kit
I don’t carry much clean clothing but I do carry clean socks and a t-shirt so I can freshen up in the morning after the wild camp or in case the ones I’m wearing get wet. 99% of my wild camps are for 1 night, so there is no need to go overboard. As long as I have dry warmth layers and socks I’m happy.
Safety and Misc.
In addition to the basic kit above, I do carry a head torch with spare batteries, maps, a compass, a safety whistle and an emergency survival bag. I also carry a GPS unit if I’m unfamiliar with the area. In my rucksack there is always a 20m length of dyneema cord, which comes in handy, especially in an emergency situation.
And Finally, my camera equipment
Depending on what I intend to be photographing, I usually take one DSLR body, a tripod, 2 lenses and my remote shutter. Then I take my filters and cleaning equipment too, so the combined weight is considerable. On day trips I use a LowePro ProTactic 450 AW camera rucksack to lug my gear about, on the wild camps I have to try and squeeze all the camping and camera gear into a 65l rucksack. In the summer that’s a doddle as I use a synthetic camping quilt rather than the down filled sleeping bag, which saves a lot of space. In the winter though, the down bag is a necessity to keep me warm at night.
Working hard for the shots!
I regularly see people parking their cars and getting their camera gear out of the boot, then walking maybe no more than a couple of hundred feet to the spot they are working. They take their shots and then return to their cars, to move on to the next spot or head for home. This is especially so at places like Mam Tor in the Peak District, where the summit is a short walk from the road.
Sometimes I feel a hint of jealousy as I’m sweating my arse off hiking uphill with a heavy load on my back! Then when I get to the location, I know I’ve got a night in the wilderness in my tent and another hike back to the station to get home. It sounds like hard work and it is but I love it and it makes getting the shots you want that much more rewarding. Behind my Peak District shots there is proper graft spent!
You can view and purchase prints of my Peak District photos by visiting the Peak District gallery on my shop.