Getting out for a run or fast hike, with a small pack and some lightweight kit for an overnight camp, is fantastic! Here’s a description of some of the kit that I use.
Shelter – tent or tarp?
I have two options: a 1 person lightweight tent and a small tarp. The tent is the Nordisk Telemark 1 LW; the tarp is the DD Hammocks SuperLight S. Although the tarp is lighter and packs down smaller than the tent, it requires use of a bivvy bag to protect my sleeping bag from condensation (even on a breezy night the tarp can develop condensation on the underside which can drip or otherwise wet anything that it comes into contact with). I’ve got the Alpkit Hunka bivvy (as seen in the photo below.) Using a tarp also requires some form of groundsheet to protect the bivvy bag and help keep it clean. You also need a pole, unless you are going somewhere that you know you can set it up with trees. I’ve made my own pole from 3 sections of spare tent pole. I’ve also got an Alpkit Vertex Carbon pole, but I find my DIY one works fine and is easier to set up. My preferred tarp configuration is this asymmetrical set up giving more headroom at one end.
So the size and weight of the tent is pretty much the same as the tarp, pole and bivvy bag. The tent is incredibly light, less than 900g, and even lighter if you don’t use the inner. You can prop the door open to give it a tarp like feel if you don’t want to be zipped in. I will often sleep with the tent set up like this. So, tent or tarp? I like both – if the forecast is good and there are no midges it’s great to lie under a tarp and watch the night sky, then awake with the morning sun on your face . If the forecast isn’t as good or if it is midge season I’ll go with the tent.
For summer I use a very small and lightweight bag: the OMM Mountain Raid 160. Although made with PrimaLoft, not down, it packs down very small. However, I have felt cold in it so I reserve it for mid summer or boost it with a down jacket. If you are taking a down jacket anyway for sitting around in then you could sleep in it too, that way you might get away with a smaller / lighter sleeping bag.
My 3 season bag is a Rab Mythic 400. This is my luxury item! It’s a quality down bag, expensive but worth it, as it offers exceptional warmth to weight / size. Again it can be boosted with a down jacket if needed, for colder winter nights.
For deep winter camping I have an old Rab Ladakh 800 down bag. It weighs about 1.6kg so certainly isn’t a fast packing item, but it is warm!
Last time I did the OMM Mountain Marathon I used a small piece of foam and bubble wrap to sleep on. Actually I didn’t sleep, I lay there for most of the night, very cold and uncomfortable! I now use a 3/4 length mat, the Pariah Recharge S. This is insulated with an R value of 4.2 so it can cope with cold ground, yet packs away very small, barely bigger than a 500ml soft-flask. One of the advantages of being short is that I can get away with a three quarter length pad!
I have experimented with an inflatable pillow, the Alpkit Drift, but I actually find it more comfortable to put a jacket or spare clothes inside a fleece pillowcase and use that.
As previously mentioned, if using just a tarp I use a groundsheet to give some barrier from the damp and possibly dirty ground. I have two DIY groundsheet options; one is a piece of Tyvek (see tarp photo) cut to size as a footprint for my tent; the other is a lightweight emergency bivvy bag that I can peg down and lie on. I also use one of these (usually the Tyvek) with the tent just to protect the floor from sticks, stones, sharp bits of heather etc.
Unless I’m in a rush to cook or brew up (which is rarely) then I prefer using alcohol. Bioethanol and meths are both reasonably cheap and easily available in DIY stores. I have two Speedster Stoves burners, these are incredibly small, lightweight and simple. They are simply a small tin containing ceramic felt and are thus very inexpensive. There is very little to go wrong, you just pour on the alcohol and light it. They are spill proof too so unlike some meths burners such as the Trangia they won’t send a stream of burning fuel flying if accidentally kicked over. The smaller Speedster burner holds 20ml of fuel whilst the larger one holds 30ml.
My mate laughs at me as he fires up his MSR Pocket Rocket and I set up my alcohol burner and windshield. He can have almost have finished his brew before my water has boiled – but he can’t carry his stove and fuel in his pocket, and as for lugging all that extra fuel up the hill! Plus, my burner costs less than a fiver!
As a windshield I either use a Speedster Stoves combined windshield and pot-stand which can be made specifically to suit your pot dimensions. Or I use my DIY titanium “Caldera Cone” type stand / shield. I made a 2 piece one that weighs only 28g and nests inside my 650ml mug. Both of these designs are very efficient as they funnel hot gases up the sides of the pot or mug. I’ve found that 300ml of water usually boils in around 7 minutes and I’ve managed this with only 12ml of fuel on a windless day. With my DIY cone I can boil 500ml of water with just 20ml of bioethanol. I use a Soto windproof lighter as it allows you to angle the flame onto the burner whilst it is inside the windshield – and it doesn’t blow out! Underneath the burner I use a Speedster Stoves reflector / insulated ground protector. This also helps provide a flat, stable surface for the burner.
My mug is either the Titanium Alpkit Mytimug 450 if I’m only having a hot drink, or the 650ml version if I’m boiling water for both a brew and a dehydrated meal. If I’m only making a brew, I use just 15ml of fuel (I’ve re-used a 15ml eye drops bottle). I’ll use the larger burner and 25ml of fuel if I’m having a brew and noodles. For an overnight camp with a brew and dehydrated meal at night and two coffees in the morning, I take a small repurposed plastic bottle with 60ml of fuel. I sometimes take a Sea to Summit collapsible mug for my brew and eat my noodles from the 650ml MytiMug, but I often rehydrate the noodles in a Ziplock bag and eat them straight out of that with a long handled titanium spoon. That way I don’t need the collapsible mug and the Ziplock bag then acts as a rubbish bag. My burner, fuel, lighter, tea / coffee bags all nest inside either of the titanium mugs. The tea bags prevent things from rattling.
Please be very careful if using alcohol stoves in dry conditions. Always use a ground protector or cook on a stone and never leave the stove unattended.
The heaviest thing that you are likely to carry is your water. Sourcing it on the move or when at your camp spot saves you having to carry it. Unless you are in high and remote places it’s probably best to filter your water, I use a Salomon Soft-flask with filter for drinking on the go. If I need to carry more I use a Cnoc Vecto 2L bladder with a Sawyer Mini filter that screws on.
Pack choice is generally determined by which sleeping bag I use. With the OMM bag I can get all my overnight kit into an Inov-8 Race Elite 20L pack (no longer made). If I’m using the slightly larger sleeping bag then I’ll use an Inov-8 Race Pro 30L pack (again no longer available).
I’ve just got a feature-packed but very expensive CamelBack Octane 22 pack that has loads of storage. I can get just about get all my overnight kit and Mythic bag into it if I use the external mesh pockets to full capacity.
So I’ve got a range of kit, some expensive, some cheap, some homemade. I like to experiment. I’ve had some great nights out and some uncomfortable ones where I wish I’d taken more or better kit – you live and learn! It’s great to share ideas and see what other people use, then find what works for you. Happy Camping!