We're off on a wild camping trip to Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland tomorrow, a few days earlier than we'd planned, so I have less time to get packed than usual. Lucky I have my packing spreadsheet! I'm not actually joking - I am a total geek, and have spreadsheets for everything - very rock'n'roll, eh?
But making sure you have everything you need with you, and that you don't have too much stuff is vital to having a good adventure. In the early days, we suffered from too-much-stuff-itis. On one of our first wild camping trips to County Kerry we managed to squeeze body boards, and an inflatable canoe in to our tiny two door Hyundai Getz. We weren't so good at camp craft then either, I think we attempted to make a stir fry on a camp stove! So much hassle, so little calories!
We've been on a lot of trips since then, the spreadsheets have been on the go for a few years now, and every time we go away and I realise we didn't need something, it comes off the list for the next time. Packing has got a little trickier since Esme came along - we need more stuff, and we have less space for it, and forgetting something vital is more of a problem.. so what's in the van?
We pack as few clothes as possible; an outfit each for the adults, with a spare T-shirt, and about 4 babygrows for Esme. This is where merino wool comes in handy - t-shirts, socks, thermals and baby grows are all available in merino wool so you can bring less without getting stinky! Since we have so few clothes, it's important not to get them wet, so full waterproofs are also a must. And since most of our trips are somewhere fairly chilly, a hoody and goose down jacket are also essential. Our regular outer gear is a Rab shadow hoody, which is quite wind and rain resistant and good for either a top layer on a nice day, or a mid-layer when it's a bit colder, and a Rab Endurance goose down jacket, which is really warm, and will also repel a light shower. Now that I am carrying Esme, I need a jacket that will go around both of us, and keep us both warm and dry. There's nothing out there in terms of performance gear for this that I've found, so my work around it a Mamaway baby carrying coat, with a VivaLaMama baby carrying fleece under it. I also wear a merino wool feeding thermal top, and a feeding hoody over that, so I have two layers under the sling, and two over. With all these layers, you can see why we only have space for one outfit each!
Again, space is at a premium whether wild camping in the tent (when you have to carry all of your stuff) or in the camper (when you have one tiny area to sleep, eat, live & drive in!) We use the same gear regardless, saving us money, and meaning that we can spend a night or two in the tent when we are on a van trip. We love Rab goose down sleeping bags, for their light weight to warmth ratio, they compact down really well and they are oh-so-cosy! We have summer and winter alternatives, so that we're not packing more warmth than we need! We use Exped inflatable pillows. They are really robust, and comfortable, and when not inflated, fold up small enough to fit in your pocket.
Esme did have a Koo-di pop up bassinet when she was very tiny, but now that she's outgrown that, she's just on the front seat fully reclined back, on top of my coat, in a 3.5 tog gro-bag, and wearing a gro-suit with insulated sleeves.
This is where the spreadsheet really comes in handy, as I have a note of exactly how many grams of cereal, coffee etc we need per day. When we have a trip planned, I work out exactly how many dinners, lunches etc we need, and we only pack what we will eat, and we definitely have enough so we can go far off the beaten track without worrying about food.
We bring 20 L of water in 4 large water bottles, and fill up any opportunity we get so that we are never running too low.
We eat oats for breakfast (with powdered milk if camping) - a lot of calories without carrying bulky cereal. For lunch it's oatcakes and cheese or houmous. These don't go stale like bread, and a small packet of 6 biscuits fits in your pocket, and packs about 250 calories. For dinner, there's a bit more variety, to keep us sane. We tried to only eat couscous on a cross-country wild camping trip in Finland, because of the weight to calorie ratio as we had to drag all our supplies behind us in a sleigh (pulk) for 10 days, and neither of us have been able to eat couscous since! So now, we mix it up a bit - supernoodles, risotto packs, pouches of lentil stew, and filled pasta (tortelini) with single serve dolmio sauce. Not too exciting, but gives us 1400 calories a day with as little space and weight used up as we can get. To top up the calories, we have a LOT of snacks - crisps, biscuits, nuts.
As well as her clothes, and sleeping gear which I've already mentioned, Esme needs her sling, car seat, 6 nappies per day plus a few extra for emergencies, baby wipes, and now that she's weaning, a pouch a day of baby food. She's been exclusively breast fed, so we didn't need to worry about bottles, or sterilisation which was handy and saved us a lot of space. We also bring her bumbo so we can sit her safely in the van while we get organised cooking, or tidying up. She also gets a teddy or two, but she's pretty happy hanging out with mum and dad on the beach, so needs very little in the way of toys. All of her stuff (except bumbo and car seat) fits into one small drawer in the camper.
We're in the tent or van from pretty early in the evening in winter, as it's dark, and now that Esme goes to bed early, we're settled for the night around 7 or 8, so we need a bit of entertainment. Travel scrabble, a book each and an i-pad loaded with a few movies allows us to while away a week or two happily enough, and doesn't take up too much room!
The camper has a gas hob, so we bring a pot to cook up dinner, and a stove top perculator for coffee. If we are camping, we use a fairly compact JetBoil system for dinners and plunge coffee, which heats water up really fast, and as it's titanium, is really light. Two spoons, two forks, two collapsible bowls, and two collapsible mugs covers all we need for breakfast, dinners and coffees. We even eat out of the pot to save on washing up (and precious water!). Kitchen roll is really handy for making sure pots and bowls are really clean without hot water, or using too much water.
To allow us to camp in the tent from time to time the only other things we need to add is the tent, and roll mats. Once we add in Aaron's camera gear, the van is pretty full, but everything is tucked away in its cupboard or drawer, so the van stays tidy and we have enough for the three of us for about 2 weeks without going near a shop - well worth the geekdom!