Expedition Camping (don't be me!)

Posted By: Spike Green Published: 24/05/2021

It seems to take me a lot longer to learn some common sense – I think I may have a bit by now… so here goes.

On a multiday kayak exped there’s a series of things that need to be done before you truly switch off and just relax and enjoy being where you are. So what makes a great camp beach? 

There are a few questions to ask of your campsite before any further considerations…

  • Right time of day to start looking – how much daylight is there left?
  • How tired are you?
  • Do you want afternoon sun or morning sun – dry kit/charge solar batteries?
  • Does the wind get up in the late afternoon, so you need shelter? 
  • Is the water level going to rise in the night? So you need to camp high above the water level.
  • Do you want an isolated beach or are you feeling sociable?
  • Once you’ve established these criterion you can start looking for actual beaches…
  • Is there a flat (flattenable) area big enough for the group?
  • Firewood – or a supply nearby?
  • Are there thorns (which will puncture your sleeping mat)?
  • Is there a rockfall risk from above?
  • Noisy – people/traffic?
  • Dodgy animals around – wild or domesticated?
  • Clean beach?

Once we’ve chosen just the right beach – they always seem to be just above a really hard rapid, so I spend all that night fretting about the morning! – you can start getting yourselves comfortable. The more effort you put into camp prep the better you will sleep! The day you go… ‘I can’t be bothered to do…’ will be the day you really needed to do ‘…’!

Get your kayaks up away from the waters edge – after you’ve unloaded them! I like to hang most of my kit to dry if it will. I tend to stay wearing my paddling thermals – they will dry as I prepare camp (if it’s not raining). If they are no biting bugs, I’ll usually just wear shorts and hang everything else to dry. Others will prefer to carry a complete set of camp clothes* and hang boating kit to dry – definitely a ‘comfy’ solution, but I prefer a lighter boat so usually don’t bother! I will now collect large rocks, some round (ish) and some flat (ish)… Round ones to guy the tarp down and create a fire pit… the flat ones to go by the fire as places to put ‘things’ whilst cooking (pans/spoons/lids/pan grab/etc – to stop sand sticking to the bottom, then falling off into your food!).

Next I will position the cooking fire or stove where no-one will either knock things over OR – worst crime imaginable – kick sand into the food… NEVER let anyone walk on a sandy beach upwind of food! After I’ve done these jobs the remaining tasks can be done in almost any order…

Collect a range of firewood – enough for the morning too - but not too much. Do the locals rely on this firewood too? If so I will try to ‘buy’ wood from them – or if I already know this, I’ll take a stove instead.

Flatten my sleep area

Put up the tarp/hammock and sort my sleeping bag/bivvi bag/mosinet combo. I will often keep my sleep mat out to sit on til bed.

Put kindling and some small logs under the tarp to keep dry for the morning – in case it rains in the night

Start filtering drinking/cooking water – Millbank bag, then gravity filter.

Arrange kayak/s as a windbreak to protect the tarp.

Use kayak or logs or use the sand to create a ‘sofa’ so you can sit comfortably by the fire.

Am I properly hydrated?

Collect/bury/burn any other peoples rubbish. Once darkness falls – I may well take off any clothing that I was wearing to stop sand-flies biting

Have a wash in the river (I don’t usually use soap – doesn’t ‘feel’ right somehow).

Anything still damp? This can now hang by the fire to dry, while I put on dry ‘camp’ clothes (if I’m carrying them).

*Camp clothes… (depends on temperature/rainfall and biting insects, etc.)?

  • Crocs – or similar.
  • Thin thermal/liner socks.
  • Lightweight trousers or shorts and/or thermal trousers or sarong type thingy.
  • Long sleeve t shirt/thermal or shirt
  • Fleece or super light duvet?
  • Sun hat or Baseball type cap.
  • Mosi headnet.

Prior to hitting the sack, I’ll tidy things up as best as possible – store food away from dogs (Jaguars), weight things down (sandstorms), etc. Look at the stars……ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Next morning…

  • First job is to get the fire going – whilst telling stories of the noises in the night that woke you up… (I’ll tell you my Tiger story one day!)
  • Get the water on and do breakfast.
  • Rehydrate and fill my water bottles.
  • Sort lunch/snacks.
  • Check my equipment for unwelcome guests – Scorpions for example!

Then it’s just a case of clearing up, leaving as little evidence of your presence as possible… Worst case scenario, a firepit and footprints and a bit less firewood. Obviously any human waste is buried deep and away from people and the water source/edge. I burn my TP (carefully – I’ll tell you my Himalayan cloud forest on fire story one day…).

I’ve missed out a few important things from this otherwise reasonably comprehensive list…..

Possibly the most important bits - Take time to ‘be’ where you are, breathe, laugh, love…

Spike Green is a Mountaineering & Paddlesports Instructor at Plas Y Brenin. Check out his instructor profile here: https://www.pyb.co.uk/spike-green-instructor/