Tag Archives: Campfire

Wild Camping

“Wild Camping” meaning camping out amongst nature away from a managed campsite, is one of the most fantastic and wild experiences you can have, without having to journey to Africa or the Arctic Circle. It’s the best way to really tune in to nature, experience the seasons changing and the wildlife around you, and for canoeing there’s no richer experience than paddling your own way along a river or lake, stopping to camp over night under the stars, and then waking up surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature before you move of on your journey the next day. But what are the rules and laws you need to know about?

When it comes to rivers, there’s an advantage in that as the river level changes it will expose the river bed, which makes it possible to have a “no-trace” wild camp. In practice you can wild camp on the shingle beaches anywhere along the navigable parts of River Wye (because landowners are so used to recreational paddlers) but this is also true on other rivers subject to local conditions. We’ve been doing it for 20 years on the Wye without ever having any problem even though technically, legally you probably need to seek permission from the landowner, but of course finding out who’s the landowner is not easy, but if you do know then of course stop to ask. Remember trespass is not an offence, only trespass causing damage.

If you can find an actual island in the river it’s case that’s counted as the river bed so no permission needed; but there’s no need to go hunting for an island, as it’s really no problem provided you always follow some basic rules:

  • no damage
  • no litter
  • no noise
  • no trace left

A Simple Wild Camp, with minimal impact.

Campfires & Firewood

Having a campfire is a key part of the experience of camping and wild-camping where it’s allowed, especially in winter to keep warm of course, and for cooking. Clearly conduct a risk assessment in terms of vegetation and fire risk and observe any local guidance. Don’t burn waste (plastic, paper wrapping, litter) – the fumes can be harmful and the residue may be impossible to clear up. Be aware when collecting firewood that deadfall wood is a key provider of nutrients to the ecosystem, via fungi and insects; don’t ‘harvest’ from one spot in woodland or on the vegetation on the riverbank – washed up driftwood is what should be used. Always burn off any logs before you go rather than leaving half-burnt wood around which lasts for years – don’t throw half-burnt logs into the river either as they’ll just float down and end up somewhere else. Don’t have a bigger fire than you need, extinguish the campfire with water, then spread and tread the ash well into the stones, until you can barely see anything, and you’re ready to go. One point: be aware that either wet stones or stones with air pockets in can explode in the heat of the fire – it’s only happened once to me in the last 10 years, but it can happen – take a first aid kit.

Water Levels

Remember water levels can change rapidly depending on weather upstream in the mountains, so be aware of whether the river is going up or down and keep an eye on the river level webcams before you go, and on the river itself and skies when you’re out. Be ready to change your plans if the weather changes significantly.

Camp Rules
Don’t fish either as you’ll be raise unnecessary and very real concerns of poaching; and don’t wild camp in an area that is clearly managed for fishing specifically, it’s not welcomed there.

Keep to no more than 3 people/boats in a group at one site, find separate sites if necessary. Use a swag or bivvy and tarp or a small natural-colour tent rather than a monstrous orange tunnel tent if possible! Best to keep a fairly simple camp and not spread all your gear around either, particularly anything that could look like litter – plastic bags, bottles etc. keep them stowed out of sight. Don’t stay more than one night in the same spot, because it’s not your land for a holiday – arrive late in the day and leave early.

Sometimes the landowner will come down to take a peek in the morning, or late at night, and if you follow the rules above you’ll get nothing more than a friendly wave or a chat about the river and the weather – they can see you are respecting the environment and their land, and just enjoying the outdoors.

(Necessary Disclaimer: we’re not legal experts so read up online yourself if you’re concerned and seek out the local knowledge in your area; publishing this guide doesn’t make us responsible in any way – enjoy the wilds of our wonderful country! Thanks.)

Tripod for Cooking – the Ray Mears Way

With some new Dutch ovens pots on there way to me via Fedex, I was interested to see Ray Mears in his Northern Wilderness series using a traditional tripod simply made from some branches found at the camp site. Ray explains how this was in fact the way the “Voyageurs” worked, saving weight by not having to carry a metal tripod. Again unlike the classic dutch oven tripod set up there’s no metal chain suspending the pots either – instead ‘Withy” or thin sampling branch twisted to make it more flexible was used by Ray in this example. Further withies were used to secure the tripod legs at the top – here’s some outtakes:
Ray Mears tripod cooking

Ray Mears cooking with tripod
We’ll be trying this method at our next camp, once I’ve properly seasoned the new dutch ovens.

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Inside a Campfire Tent…

Update: See our latest test of the Green Outdoor full size Campfire Tent.

Why does everyone want a Campfire Tent? Well I think this photo below shows why – you’re open to your surroundings, but have the warmth and life-force-enhancing glow of a campfire at the same time!

This is a set-up using a tarp (Wychwood Rogue Shelter) and canoe paddles, but it’s the same principle as any campfire tent or Baker Tent.

The View From Inside a Campfie Tent set-up....

The View From Inside a Campfie Tent set-up....

Sheltered but not Enclosed.... Campfire Tent Rig

Sheltered but not Enclosed.... Campfire Tent Rig

Re-Light My Fire: Using a FireSteel to re-start your Camp Fire

On a recent Canoe Camping trip I found myself without any dry tinder or kindling to hand in the cold early morning, and the small fire from the night before having burnt out during the night. I remembered a Ray Mears episode where he used a charred log from an old firepit and using a flint-striker he got a spark going into the blackened wood and created an ember that he blew into flames in no time at all.

So with that piece of TV-derived Bushcraft knowledge in mind I used my Swedish firesteel and tried the same thing. Ray had said that it worked best where there were white ash bits on the charred logs due to the “free radicals” which he said he thought “sounded like revolutionaries” (very droll Ray…;-)) Anyway, whatever they are I tried that and to my great delight with some focussed blwoing sure enough the spark began to glow right away and was soon building up a good deal of glowing red charcoal – shortly after that and after positioning some other twigs and and burnt stick-ends on top the fire suddenly burst into flames! We put the Kelly Kettle right on top and shortly after had hot coffee while the small fire took the chill off the early morning air in the valley.

I did some further ‘Backyard testing’ on this since and yes it’s a great technique especially when you’re staying more than one night in one place, but if you are travelling downstream each day then you can use it as I did to get your breakfast on, or simpluy take a small piece of the prievious campste’s fire with you (allow it to cool of course) and apply this technique at your next stop! Here’s some pictures of this simple technique in action:






The Wye Winter 2008 October Trip Report

Finally, after spending a lot of time putting the site together :) We can start to put some of the trip reports up! This is a few months old now but looking at the pictures ready for this report really brings it all back!

We had fantastic weather for October actually.  I recall it was the last good week of the year, very lucky.  We had T-Shirt weather as you can see in the pics, although the water was cold enough that you really wouldn’t want to be falling in :).

We set off from Hoarwithy on Saturday morning.  The river Wye was pretty high and was running quite fast (although it doesn’t look it in these pics).  We were worried about making good time to find a good camp site, because the sunset came early, but we needn’t have worried as the current really helped!  In fact it was so fast that we nearly tipped the ‘old stable’ Old Town Disco’ when beaching!  We turned into eddy just at the end of a shingle beach, but realised we were going to really struggle to fight the current.  Luckily we didn’t get wet and campsite for the first night became a shingle/pebble beach right on the bow of the river.  The moonlight was stunning, but a good campfire was essential to keep warm once the sun had gone down. 

Sunday was amazing sunshine and even warmer than Saturday – did I mention we had fantastic October weather :).  Eddying out with the full on current became second nature after the first day, and we took advantage several beaches for breaks and lunch.

The campsite for Sunday was a small pebble and sand island just in the valley of Symmonds Yat.  The scenery here is stunning!  We camped on the island to avoid any issues with land-owners.  We fully practice ‘no trace’ camping – (see here for more info) and as you will see from the photo’s we left the island pristine and like we hadn’t been there. 

Camping ‘wild’ like this means we dont carry much gear, and have a zero footprint on the environment.  Generally we will have just a ‘Swag’ and a Tarp or shelter.  We’ll be trialling a few different set-ups and making reports and recommendations on this site!

We had wild deer visit us (only seen by prints in the morning!), and were treated with Owls chorusing through the night – fantastic.  We set off late on Monday morning, around 11am and stopped in Symmonds Yat for a ‘quick drink’. 

At this point, after heading off from Symmonds Yat, we realised that the river way had been closed through the rapids section!  There was a portage sign with around a 1 mile portage!  We pulled over at the get out and checked with a couple of builders stood by.  It was then that we found out there was a very large excavator, mid river on the main through way!!  However, and luckilly for us as we didn’t have a portage trolley, we could go river right around an island and avoiding the digger, this was “If you want to risk it”. !!  Well not wanting a 1 mile carry… we risked it!  And although it was tight and fast with quite a few strainers, we made it through (with a bit of water on board)..

Finally get-out was river right at Monmouth rowing club several miles out of Symmonds Yat at about 3pm. 

A fantastic trip that had perfect weather, amazing nature and wild life, fantastic moonlight and just enough adventure and risk to finish it off 😀  Recommended!

OzTent – it ain't heavy…

Well, actually it is, and it’s bulky too The Oztent is not a tent for hiking, but if you’re overlanding in a 4×4 or on a canoe expedition this looks like a great piece of gear. A ‘traditional-style’ canvas and pole tent resembling the famous “campfire tent” of Bill Mason, or Ray Mears favourite “Baker Tent” the Oztent is designed to be pitched in 30 seconds, due to an ingenious design which partly explains the Oztent’s 1.6 metre (yes 1.6…) length when packed – but because the poles stay in place when packed it goes up superfast, with an internal locking mechanism it’s also super-stable and strong.

The Oz tent design is roomy enough to stand in and the open front, like the Baker tent, means a fire can be set outside leaving you sheltered and warmed by the fire.

You can buy the Oztent in the UK from distributor Boab.biz – see further details including Oztent accessories here: http://www.boab.biz/Pages/Oztent.

Lots of info on the Manufacturers site .