Summer Nights

Sooner or later most walkers want to go further than a simple day walk will take them. Some opt for the long distance path, usually carefully planned so there are ample accommodation choices at the end of each day; but others seek the solitude of a night or two in the mountains, and there’s no better time to give this a go than in the middle of summer, when the weather’s usually at its kindest.

But backpacking is a kit-intensive business, and not everybody is going to want to empty the full contents of their bank accounts on the lightest and toughest hi-tech kit. Fortunately, they don’t need to, as there’s plenty of top-notch kit around that won’t break the bank.
Here’s a few suggestions that will help your customers choose what’s right for them.
Tent
At first glance this is the heaviest bit of kit carried, although on anything longer than a one night trip, it’s actually usually beaten to this honour by food.
Top-end tents are now incredibly light but they aren’t necessarily designed with comfort in mind and are often very delicate and probably won’t survive a good hammering weekend after weekend. For regular, typical UK high mountain use, it’s probably a better bet to pitch (pun intended!) a notch down and get a tent that’ll last a while and won’t need treating with kid gloves.
The biggest single factor to consider when buying a tent is the weather it’s likely to be subjected to. If it’s mainly for UK summer use, then there’s no need to go for an expedition-proved model and a good three-season tent will probably do the job no matter how high you’re planning on sleeping.
The next big question is size and obviously the bigger the tent, the heavier and the more expensive it will be. It’s about intended use really. If the camper is always on his own, then a one-man shelter or very small two man tent will do the job and, as he’s got to carry it all himself, he’ll appreciate the weight saving over a larger model (one man tents like the Terra Nova Laser or the Vango Helium weigh in at less than 1kg).
But if it’s going to house two people, the whole thing eases a bit. Now the weight can be shared making it less of an issue, but space is going to be at a premium instead. How much of an issue this is depends on the individuals concerned: a couple might not mind literally pressing against each other all night, whereas typical walking mates might prefer a bit more personal space – especially if the trip runs over a few nights.
Small, cosy two-man tents usually come in at less than 2.5kg each (1.25kg per person), whereas a little more shoulder room will add around another 500g (250g per person) – what price a good night’s sleep?
Sleeping Bag
Next to tent (and food) this is going to be the bulkiest and heaviest item in the pack but again, weight and bulk savings can be made by buying the right bag for the right conditions. For UK summer camping, even high up, a three-season model is all most people will ever need, and hot sleepers will probably get away with a two-season or summer bag. Although lower comfort limits can be baffling, they do provide a guideline, and as it’s highly unlikely to freeze at any altitude on a British mountain in summer, it’s equally unlikely that anyone will need a sleeping bag with a lower comfort limit of less than around 0 degrees. Synthetic bags at around this range seldom cost more than £100 (usually a fair bit less), usually weigh in at around 1kg and pack down fairly small.
Mat
This is equally as important as a sleeping bag and any part of the body in contact with the tent floor for the night will quickly get cold, even in summer. Lightest and cheapest are foam mats, and they come with the added advantage of being tough enough to carry on the outside of the pack. But self-inflating mats are so much more comfortable. The smallest and lightest of these are expensive and need careful handling. For summer camping, shorter models will suffice and a waterproof or fleece can be used to keep feet warm.
Stove
This is one of those areas where lightweight isn’t necessarily expensive and in the UK, where gas cartridges are readily available, and the cold weather won’t play havoc with the way it burns, it’s hard to beat the weight/price/boiling time combination of a small lightweight gas burner. 
Pots
Titanium is tops here – light and long-lasting; but it’s expensive, really expensive, so most people will plump for stainless steel. Most parties will carry two pots but a good weight-saving tip is to try and get away with one. A bit of careful meal planning can save 300g plus at no extra cost!
Utensils
A good three-piece (Knife/fork/spoon) combination weighs little and can cost less than a day’s parking in Ambleside! But even here weight can be saved, and depending upon menu, a single fork may be all that’s needed!
Plates/bowls/Mugs
Careful juggling with pot, mug and bowl should enable most meals to be prepared and eaten with a single bowl rather than a plate and a bowl – another weight saving. Polythene is cheap and does the job but stainless looks nicer and is easier to keep clean. Insulated mugs are also inexpensive and can, of course, be used for everyday hillwalking and travel as well as camping.
Pack
The more space you have, the more you’ll carry, so a smaller pack is definitely best as long as it’s stable, comfortable and you can get everything in. A backpacker following the tips above, and using relatively lightweight waterproofs, should be able to go out for a day or two with less than 50L on his or her back, and perhaps, with careful packing, as little as 35L. Packs in this range should also be suitable for general mountain walking and climbing so will earn their keep quite quickly.

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