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Thread: Backpacking

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    Backpacking

    I'm not sure whether I've mentioned the boy backpacking but since I'm typing I'll put up a thread. He's been out along bridleways and rural footpaths and he likes it. I've carried camping gear and he likes nights out in a tent too. We're building up from there.

    Being seven he can't carry anything heavy. Experimenting, he can take 2.5 kilos with no trouble. Anything over 3 kilos seems excessive, I weigh his pack at the door to make sure 2.5 is the limit. In American that's 5.5 pounds. Getting his kit down to that has been an interesting learning curve.

    Kit gets heavier as it handles lower temperatures and wetter windier weather, it's called seasons. 1-season kit is for summer, 2-3-season kit for all but winter, 4-season handles worse. If you're going out in worse still then there's specialist kit. What people in England (I exclude Wales and Scotland from this) fail to realise is that England is a 3-season country, it has no winter worth recognizing. I prefer winter backpacking, I can stay comfortable if it's cool out. 4-season kit is overkill. I doubt I've spent even ten nights out below freezing in all my years camping and even fewer wondering whether my tent would blow off the hillside. Given all that, Jowan's pack is loaded for zero centigrade minimum and I bet his mother would say something if it even got close.

    His pack is clever, the rigidity and padding for his upper back is from his sleeping mat, part inflated, held in place with straps designed for holding it there. The combination is 700g, the mat is rated R-value 5 which will cope with freezing, it leaves 28 liters inside for his Lanshan 1 tent (760g) and Burrow Econ 40 sleeping top quilt (a short length standard width 480g which he uses with a 100g silk liner). With a spare fleece, spare wicking top and underwear and a headband torch, he's inside his weight limit so long as I carry his map, food and water. When I was a lad you'd need a compass too but orienteering has become a lost art since the introduction of wind farms and the banning of fog. He has a compass but he rarely uses it, it's a Sylva clone at a tenth of the price of the original.

    Camping law in England is strange, there's no inbuilt right of access to camp anywhere. The only area with default permission is the Dartmoor National Park and yes, I've done it, but it's a bit nose-to-tail with the entire country's Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme participants. There are, of course, designated campsites, but I've never found them much fun, I much prefer seeing and hearing nobody when I have a tent pitched. So far I've not taken Jowan onto Dartmoor but the day is fast approaching, it's only three hours by train to Ivybridge. All we need is snow to keep the school parties away.

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    Re: Backpacking

    Well, good for you. I've done a bit of walking with a pack from time to time though not recently. As I recall it, there is a sort of non-legal agreement that allows you to camp in England, at least in places like the Peak District or well walked routes like the Pennine Way: If you pitch at dusk and strike at dawn, leave no trace and don't have a campfire you'll be fine. Mind you, following those rules you'd not be noticed most of the time anyway.

    I'd be nervous about taking a 7 year old onto Dartmoor in winter, unless there was a very settled forecast. I have to assume you wouldn't be doing it unless you had the experience .
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    Re: Backpacking

    You're quite right about treating foul winter weather with respect. When I had a car, getting down from remote places in an emergency was a simpler fallback to provide and I'd take the family onto the Brecon Beacons overnight in low temperatures. Dartmoor and no car? No, I can't see me trying, there's too many unknowables. Cold soaked clothes are a disaster. With a bunkhouse and a fire it's a different matter but even then you have to get off the hill first. With the best of intentions, breaking a leg by running water with a child in tow is always a lurking possibility and the best-regulated parent can never rule it out. I recall a newspaper reporting just that some years ago in Wales in winter and the subsequent discussion on the balance of risk.

    I've never yet been asked to move on by a landowner but I aim toward discretion when I pitch up. Leave No Trace is a moral obligation.

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    Re: Backpacking

    How's the current trip going?

    I'm back home for a couple of days after three weeks cruising on the boat - it's amazing how many places in this country have no 'phone signal whatsoever, never mind those with voice only if you walk around the village searching.

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    Re: Backpacking

    We're getting on very competently, the apartment is ideally placed and we're finding our way about. What I've never managed to immediately work out from one country to another is how waste disposal is organized, it always takes me a while to discover the local equivalent of the dustbin, but other than that we have no bafflement.

    As for coverage I'm often puzzled that the periodic tales in the press of new-tech long range stations never seem to be deployed. All of Africa was at one point going to be supplied with 50km towers and it never materialized. The UK could do with some of that.

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    Re: Backpacking

    What about the lake district or wales? My understanding is wild camping is allowed in some areas there.

    I would also suggest you look at joining the likes of the camping and caravanning club the fees for members make it well worthwhile.

    As you can imagine I am more familiar with backpacking and camping in scotland where you have a right of access now enshrined in law. The youth hostels are pretty good as well with family rooms in some of them if you want to plan longer routes - long enough to be an adventure for a seven year old and camp out as well if you want but not too far from civilisation. Winter camping in scotland is a whole different ball game places like Aviemore can be minus 15-20 degrees, used to spend christmas and new year up there but in a caravan - small van big heater. On the other hand yorkshire in winter gets far more snow than we do nowadays..

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    Re: Backpacking

    He has membership at the Backpackers Club, they have a list of phone-first friendly wild camping areas which might end up useful. There's a wild camping section at Camping in the National Parks: National Parks UK which shows the state in England and Wales, I much prefer the Scottish position. He'll get to Scotland eventually but it's a big ask at that age I think. I used to ski the tops of the Cairngorms each February for a week at my birthday but in never crossed my mind to put up a tent, I rented bed and board at a bunkhouse.

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    Re: Backpacking

    I would say the Welsh mountains might be a reasonable next stage. Perhaps not Cader or Snowdon for a couple of years but maybe something like the Tryfans? Iirc there's a rocking stone up there. Also a rather scary step that might need a rope if you choose to do it. Tends to get a lot of School groups though. The SW Coast Path is excellent training as well, with those steep up and downs from cliff to beach and back as well as being lovely in its own right.


    Scotland I always think of as a much more serious prospect. That's a bit unfair because of course there is a wide variety of terrain and many safe, lower level walks and somewhere like Ben Nevis is a safe trudge in summer if you take the main route(s). I think if I was taking a 7 or 8 year old to Scotland I'd go for river walks. With the Dee as a top target. Which reminds me - I assume you've walked up the Dart with the lad? If not may I recommend it? You could even start with a steam train journey
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    Re: Backpacking

    It's also very much geared up to walking and cycling tourism nowadays, ben nevis has almost a road up to the top now which does lead to people wandering up without grasping that snow on the top means it is probably cold but there are plenty of places where you can take a seven year old and they will find it a big adventure.

    Thye cairngorms are good - take a tent and camp out on the top.

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    Re: Backpacking

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    I think it is possible to take a train up onto Rannoch Moor so no car needed. It was described in a walking magazine I subscribed to some years ago and I noted it as a pedestrian. The walk described was for reasonably fit adults but if that train still runs it means you can get directly to some fairly wild places without a car. If I remember right you came out through Glen Nevis but I may be confusing two walks at that point.


    The other thing I note is the quality of kit these days. It really has come a loooong way from what I remember as a kid when getting a complete set of waterproofs was an expedition in itself and tents were just getting carbon fibre poles which were thinner and tougher but weighed if anything, more. Now it's space age materials, lightweight, breathable, remarkably tough and very well designed (once you are buying proper kit, not cheap tat).
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