As some of you may know, I am heading back to Spain in October 2018 to walk the Camino Ingles (English Way). I will be walking from the old landing steps at Ferrol in Northern Spain to the Cathedral in Santiago. This route walks along the coast and then through the beautiful green landscape of the Galicia region of Spain, its 110km (68 miles) and I can't wait.
If you know me well then you will know that I thrive on a challenge. This will be my fifth Camino, and even though I have not walked this particular route before I am keen to experience a different perspective. My intention is to carry my own camping gear so that I can pitch and go and perhaps catch an early morning sunrise from the comfort of my new tent. (Or that is what is in my head anyway!). I am a realist, so I know that I will end up in a few hostels along the way, but I would like to experience the wild side and tick that box! It will also give me some good learnings in preparation for my four-week hike along the South West Coastal Path next year.
Anyway, I have immersed myself into the world of lightweight backpacking for the last six months or so. I have read blogs and watched endless YouTube videos on the Appalachian Trail and the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and listened to the experts in this field. So, without further ado, here are my new items that I have recently purchased for my camping kit for the Camino and the reasons why I have chosen these items (I will create review videos for each item once I have had a chance to test them in the field, and not just the back garden!).
#1 – Backpacking tent
Blimey, there is so much choice out there for tents. Everyone in the US who is walking the famous AT or PCT tends to spend a fortune on a carbon fibre tent from Zpacks. These tents are around £600 and I was not prepared to spend that much. I loved the zpack tents as they are super lightweight (under 2lbs) and they are erected using walking poles. I walk with my Nordic poles, so this seemed like an ideal solution and a great way to save weight. I then stumbled upon a video from an English couple walking the South West Coastal Path. They were both using 3F UL Gear tents. The guy went on to explain that these tents were a copy of the Zpack tent, but you purchased them from AliExpress in China at a fraction of the cost. (£80!)
I spent hours on YouTube looking at review after review before finally clicking “buy now” on AliExpress. I had no idea how long it would take to get from China to the UK, but my little package finally arrived nearly 3 weeks after I hit the buy button, but it was worth the wait (or weight!).
3F UL Gear Lanshan 2
- 2 person tent (so loads of room for me and all my gear).
- 3/4 season double wall tent
- You can use the inner on its own without the flysheet
- I can pitch it within 7 minutes and pack it away within 5
- It has a high bathtub and the quality looks excellent
#2 – Sleeping Mat
I feel that I am now an expert on sleeping mats! I know what an R-Value means, what type of valves are best, why it is important not to blow up a sleeping mat by mouth, and why a self-inflating mat is not suitable for backpackers!
- I needed an R-value of 4+ as I am a cold sleeper (R-value is a rating for sleep mats)
- I don't like the ultralight mats as they have foil inside and are super noisy to sleep on.
- I didn't want a mummy style as I fall off!
- I also wanted a fairly wide mat as I wriggle a lot in my sleep and I'm a side sleeper.
- And I wanted something less than 800g
- I only had a budget of £100 to spend
The hunt began and to my delight, I found a fantastic mat by Exped that ticked all of these boxes and more!
After hours spent researching, and also nipping to Go Outdoors and Cotswold Outdoors to lie on a few mats to test them out (yes, I did feel a bit silly), I finally reached a decision.
Exped Downmat 5m
The DownMat Lite 5 delivers the outstanding warmth, compressibility, and light overall weight of a down filled sleeping mat at a great price. It has a cool flat value technology and a pump comes with it. The inflation took me 2 mins and it was easy to put away. I love the way the baffles are slightly higher on the outside so you feel like you are sleeping in a cradle.
- R-value of 4.1 – result!
- It is lined with duck down rather than foil, not it is super warm and not noisy.
- It is an envelope style so no falling off. Dimensions: 183 × 52 × 5 cm
- The weight of this is only 600g! another result!
- It cost £67.58
- And the best thing was that they sell them at Outdoors GB (which happens to be in my hometown, so I went and collected it the next day).
#3 – Pillow
I am not sure about you but I am not keen on the blow-up style pillows. I like a nice soft pillow that feels like a proper pillow, but obviously, I can't take my regular pillow with me to Spain. So this was my next challenge list. My trusty friend Google was very helpful and I soon found the Thermarest pillow. It is still rather bulky for a backpacking pillow, so I will see how I get on, but I think a good nights sleep is worth the extra bulkiness, don't you?
Thermarest Compressible Pillow
- Ultralight (7 ounces) compressible travel pillow
- It is built with lots of little bits of foam that expand into a 4-inch thick pillow. The loft is great once left for 10 mins.
- The design is clever as it folds into itself and has a drawstring and cord lock that keeps the pillow securely compressed when not in use
- The brushed polyester cover is soft against the skin for comfort.
- It is also machine washable, which I am sure I will do after a week in Spain.
- It comes in many colours, but I selected Adventure Geek colours (of course!).
I already have a lightweight sleeping quilt (rather than a sleeping bag) along with a sleep sheet, so I didn't need to purchase anything new here.
I have a number of weekend camping trips between now and Spain to test out my new gear. I will create some videos and give my opinion on the equipment as soon as I have had time to test everything fully. I hope I have made the right decision in the gear that I have chosen, but you never know! There are not many people who camp on the Camino (that I can find online), but I do intend to ask if I can camp in the grounds of the various Albergues on the route. Camping in the hostel grounds and paying a small fee should allow me to power up my phone and other endless gadgets and of course enjoy a hot warm shower every night. I also think I will feel safer if I am camping in hostel grounds.
Have you ever wild camped? What is it like? Do you feel guilty that you are perhaps camping on land that you don't own or have not had permission, or is it exciting? I am a bit apprehensive about doing this, so please let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.