Lightweight. It’s not a new mantra, but it has become an increasingly loud one within the outdoor community over the last few years. Whether you class yourself as someone who is looking to reduce their packweight, a lightweight backpacker, ultralightweight backpacker or supreme ultralight lightfantastic godlike backpacker, more and more people are gradually realising that the lighter your pack is, the further and longer you can walk for.
I’m not sure about you, but whereas my pack was getting lighter when solo backpacking, I found that when I was heading off with the family, I was actually taking more and more stuff. Two burner stoves with a grill that could just about cook a marshmallow. A full set of table and chairs. The solid, niche, canvas frame tent that are legends to longevity and stability. A box of toys that would put a small nursery to shame. Whereas at work I would gaze in rapt admiration of the Nemo Obi tents, at home I was looking at the portable kitchen station with space for a washing up bowl.
Click me to make me bigger.
The end result of this was that I simply could not be bothered to go camping en famille. It meant getting together a load of stuff, putting a load of stuff up, taking a load of stuff down and finally putting a load of stuff away again afterwards. So last August, me and the better half sat down and had the following plan which we called stealth camping.
Our aim was simple. Make camping as a family easier and lighter. Our new mantra was to just leave it all behind. Not to go and buy a load of lightweight gear, but instead just focus on the basics. So unless something was utterly critical, it got binned. We decided that we were not allowed to camp for a long time (weekends only) and could only decided to camp on a Thursday night, to leave Friday night. This, more than any other choice, has had the trick of really making us focus on the gear that was important.
In the end this is what we got down to, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it pretty much sums it up.
Lightweight family tent. – We’re currently having fun with the Limestone 6P, but we also have a Robbens Double Dreamer.
Trangia Stove – nothing big or fancy thanks very much
4 bowls and 4 spoons, a sharp knife and a spare plate
Cool Box 4 x sleeping bags, 3 sleeping mats and a cot.
1 outside toy for each boy. Child Carrier for Ellis
Torches, duct tape, penknife, first aid kit
Maps, compass and map case
Erm thats it I think.
We tried it out for several weekends at the end of last summer, and just had some of the best outdoor weekends we have ever had. The boys ended up going nuts outside and playing with natural stuff they found, rather than the toys they brought. We no longer stressed about what we had forgotten or not having stuff, and instead just got out and about and enjoyed ourselves. We felt free. We felt liberated. We fell in love with camping again as a family.
This does have it’s limitations, we are limited to camping realistically within a 3 hour radius of home, but hey that means we don’t cream cracker the environment. Occasionally, you may suffer the pitying looks of people who gaze at you from their portable decking with the BBQ and camping chairs, but it’s a small price to pay.
It’s a Thursday today. Nobody has said anything yet. We’re not allowed to you see, but the diary tells me I haven’t got anything on this weekend. Game on?
This post was one I previously published on the TogBlog, as usual though time is limited so in case you missed it, I’ve brought it across here. I promise I’ll try and get a bit more regular soon, it’s just that I don’t like posting until I have something good to say.
We’ve got two mini explorers on board here at jonesnow, Ifor, who is just beginning to read maps, and has morasses of energy. Then there’s young Ellis, who loves animals & has no fear of anything. Most of our outdoor time is dedicated to these guys, so I’m going to try and write more about the routes we take with them. The routes as a result are short, so I’m going to keep my posts short too you’ll be pleased to hear 🙂
Well, we had a spot of holiday last week, but the weekend before saw us head off to the gloriously titled Mackintosh Davidson woods. I’d spotted it when downloading maps of the surrounding area on Viewranger, suddenly seeing the words nature reserve just shy of West Knoyle. Curiosity piqued, I filed it away in the grey matter until we finally got the time to pop out there. The start boded well. Dorset is too posh for my liking sometimes, too many fey little villages with price tags that would make a footballer blush. The drive out to West Knoyle was different though, working farms and houses that were run down gave a more honest feel to the countryside.
We parked on the high street, (if you could really call 5 houses a high street) and headed through the gate. Woods for me offer some of the best walking, the smell of the woodland floor, trees and flowers is kept strong under the leafy canopy. The light is always special and these were no different. The last of the bluebells still gave off their fragrance as we wandered, following Ifor who charged ahead. The path danced in and out of clearings until we came out of the oaks and startled the deer grazing nearby. They took a while to get the message until both boys crashed towards them in delight and they vanished as quickly as they appeared.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no choice when walking with kids, there is a point when trying to get them to fit in with what you want them to do just won’t happen. You can either have a cruddy time trying to batter them in to walking in a straight line, or you can let them do their thing with a little prompting.
Walking on, the tone of the wood changed to silver Beech, and them to pear orchards. We stopped for a bite to eat and marvelled that the woods still remained peculiar to us, no-one else gracing the paths we travelled.
I guess all I really want to say about this walk is don’t go to the Mackintosh Davidson woods. Don’t go as no-one knows about them and we saw no-one there all morning. Don’t go, as the variety of woodland and unspoilt little trails will leave you wanting more. Don’t go if you’ve got kids as the playground at the start of the woods rocks. Don’t go if you are miserable, as these woods will undoubtedly make you smile. Don’t go if you want your kids to have a good time as they definitely will. Don’t go if you want to feel uplifted and at peace. Don’t go if you don’t like taking your son on a zip wire. Have a look at our flickr set for more reasons not to go if you don’t like beautiful blue skies and green things. Definitely don’t follow the route we stored below on Social Hiking.
I am a little slow with blogging so forgive the lack of write up from Snowdonia last weekend, it is on its way, honest.
This weekend though we have been playing with new toys. Having never been in to bikes before, we now have a seriously good collection of kids bike attachments.
Let me introduce the elusive S H A D O W alleycat, according to Retro Bike it’s vintage and possibly the first tag along. Whatever it is, Ifor loves the colour and despite not being able to reach the bottom of the pedals, it is now his “favouritist and best”
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone after a very peaceful Easter.
Bikes and trailer are out for their first proper run out, just a short ride down the train tracks from Shillingstone to Stourpaine. Ifor started out riding, and after a mile switched in to the trailer.
I’ve not has as much of a work out despite the flatness of the tracks for a while! Time for a choccy biccy and a play on the swings before we head back.
I’ve done something I haven’t done for several years this week. I walked in the hills with my wife. Doesn’t sound like much does it, but when you factor in that our eldest is now 3, thats nearly 4 years since we have been for a decent walk together, and by that I mean something over 2 miles without blackmailing / cajoling / carrying a tiny guy along as well. It’s been such a long time, it felt a little strange to start off with, but the silence soon lost it’s edge and became the comfortable companionship I had missed. I’m not sure what it is, but hill walking and car journeys always seem to be the easiest places to talk to people. The quality of conversation that you get on the path or the front seat of a long trip, seem to be head and shoulders above the conversations we normally try and fit in to our busy lives. Not having anywhere to go except the journey, the lack of internet, demands of work and everyday life result in communication that is to be cherished.
The plan wasn’t always for a wander, we woke up at Cath’s folks house and decided when looking at the heavy hoar frost that it would be a stunning day for a wander. Persuading Grandma and Grandpa was done first thing, and the boys didn’t even turn round as we bolted out the door. We needed a gentle, swift wander as we didn’t want to leave the boys all day, so we headed on over to Cutthroat bridge, just up from Ladybower reservoir to park up. We were heading off to a bit of the Peaks I had not been too before, up to Strines reservoir, before heading across to an old favourite, blackhole moor and down to Derwent edge.
It’s been a while since I have been in the hills with Cath, so Monday was a bit of a dreamy day, my memories now I am back at the PC is of the chuckle of many grouse, trying to break through ice sheets whilst giggling, the silent movement of mist and cloud across the heather, and the beauty & majesty of Peak district gritstone. We’ve just been looking at some of the photos we have taken, and it’s lovely to share a smile and memories we have had together again of the hills. Time to plan some more dates, it’s been too long.
We made the call to drive down last night to Maidstone, and a painless journey has us ready to celebrate Christmas for the first time in a while with all the Jones’. Christmas is always a family time, but as this is the first time in a while, and the kids are so small, it’s shaping up to be a bit of special one.
Searching in the understairs cupboard though has now stepped it up another gear, with the discovery of the following ;
It’s a 1962 bottle of port given to us from the cellars of New College Oxford. As the label is missing, we have no idea what it is. Having sampled a similar bottle 3 years ago (which was possibly the nicest alcohol I have had on planet Earth), I am seriously looking forward to what should be some stellar port.
The hangover as usual will be non-negotiable, but does anyone have a clue from the seal as to what sort of port this will be?
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone on the sofa drinking port.