Monday, May 25

Lake District: 3 Tarns Wildcamp: Wash-Up

The Stats:

Day 1: GRAMSERE - ALCOCK TARN; Distance -1.5mile; Ascent - 377m; Average Speed - 2.3mph; Wildcamp @ 337m;

Day 2: ALCOCK TARN - HARD TARN; Distance - 6mile; Ascent - 865m; Average Speed - 2.1mph; Wildcamp @ 677m;

Day 3: HARD TARN - RAINSBORROW TARN; Distance - 8 mile; Ascent - 650m; Average Speed - 2.6mph; Wildcamp @ 632m;

Day 4: RAINSBORROW TARN - AMBLESIDE YHA; Distance - 6.5 mile; Average Speed - 2.8mph;

TOTAL: Distance - 22 mile; Average Speed - 2.25 mph

Summing Up:

A deliberate decision to base this trip around a series of wildcamps at off the beaten track Tarns was a change from the usual walk/stop approach. I tried to avoid covering old ground which proved difficult as most of the spots I wanted to visit were lifted from past trip notes - which meant revisiting familiar areas.

This year I've found the wildcamping, especially joining together a number of nights, more attractive than the walking between them. One or two nights is good, but for me it's only night three and beyond that things really start to settle into a much deeper enjoyment of the whole experience.

I may not have covered much distance on this outing, but despite the atrocious weather (because of it?) I returned refreshed, relaxed & more confident in my solo outdoor trips. I found new ideas were spontaneously welling up and with them a rising urge to get straight back out again for an extended period as soon possible.

On that basis a beneficial approach well worth repeating. And not even June and the warm weather yet!

Lessons learnt, Tips & Tricks:




Mountain Equipment Xero 350 sleeping bag performed faultlessly providing warmth and comfort during damp and difficult circumstances. The slightly larger pack-down size wasn't noticeable at all.

As a true 3 season bag I'd thoroughly recommend it, based on some extreme weather.

Similarly the
Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock finally had the sort of weather I'd wanted for a true test. I'd found an old stuff sack that once contained a pair of Regatta waterproof trousers, which was ample enough to pack it down very small. Once I'd got used to the smock style fit it I wore it in wet weather, but also in windy conditions, making occasional use of the excellent side vent zips as necessary.

Effectively it totally replaced my favourite piece of kit the

Montane Featherlight windshirt something I wouldn't have thought possible before this trip.

If I had to make any criticism (and I'm trying hard here) the wrist cuffs feel a little 'skimpy' with their simple velcro/band closure. They work, but perhaps its me getting used to the minimalist approach.

On the plus side this provides a quick release to pull the sleeves up high on the arms as it starts to warm up. The main trick, which I'd anticipated, was to treat this is a specialist and tailored piece of kit. As a result it wasn't a case of just throw it on and go; A few extra few seconds were required to ensure correct fit. Principally this meant pulling down the smock's tail, after putting on the backpack, which tended to ride up slightly during the usual pack onto back manoeuvres.

A very minor point mentioned to illustrate the adaption process required for tailored gear.

Basically I grew to love it very very quickly, especially in the foul conditions I encountered.


After my recent experience on Dartmoor I measured all water prior to heating. One EPIGAS 100g container lasted from Day 1 until the penultimate brew on Monday morning – a 3 day use. As I brewed up more than normal on Sunday, tent bound during the bad weather, it may have even lasted through to a 4th night.


I loaded new Lithium AAA batteries in the GPS before I left. They were replaced as a matter of course when I got back home. No spares were required. This time I saved the tracklogs following a query from

Geoff. (Stage 1 - GPX; Stage 2 - GPX)

(Let me know if they work?)

After many years of using my no-name old faithful I took a harder look at how I approached loading it. There is a zipped partition two thirds of the way down the pack, which I'd always used to keep the tent/waterproofs separate from the main pack. I'm still on the lookout for a lighter replacement, offering the same load flexibility/packing system which works for me. Hence pack size had been a critical question.

Mine is labelled as 60+, and at trip start, fully loaded with walking boots stowed away for safer public transport travel. So I'd reckon thats 60-65 litre capacity.

By trip end I've reduced pack volume down to the lower of its two drawstring collars, - around the 50 litre mark at a guess. So a 55-60 litre pack is the likely best fit for me.

As an experiment I finally unzipped the panel and suddenly found a spare 10 litre capacity as a result!

That suggested whilst the upper section was packing down tight up until now I have inadvertently been losing carry capacity at the cost of the pack looking more streamline in the lower section.

Needless to say the partition will not be brought back into use.

(I finally got my hands on a Exos 46 in Ambleside, in lieu of my current wish-list pack the Exos 58, which still seems to be as rare as hen's teeth in the flesh. I wasn't that impressed with the 46 – it looked a little flimsy around the loading/shoulder straps, but I can't fault the general design. The 58 model remains on my preference list, but I'll need to take a very hard look at it. I don't collect gear that doesn't pay its way)

I have nothing but total admiration for my Hilleberg Akto tent.

The more I use it the more I've come to appreciate the design and robustness. It's certainly not the lightest kit on the market, and the design has changed little since its original appearance a decade ago. The reason - it works so well.

The only persistent niggle is my tendency to trap the flysheet zip in the rain protection cover when unzipping from inside the tent.

I picked up Hilleberg's catalogue in another gear shop (a great read BTW, not the usual dry product marketing bumph) They suggest placing a finger ahead of the zipper to avoid catching the tent fabric. I'll try it next time I'm out, but its always been one of those quirks that has me mildly cursing each time it happens, but I've still not had that brainwave as to how to modify it.

Tent pegs

If I was to say that this is the only

replacement gear where I've actually added weight, you may appreciate how highly I rate them.

Its ok to use short titanium stubs for low level camping, but in bad conditions the peg and guy rope configuration are key to tent performance.

Lying storm bound and buffeted inside the tent I blessed the fact I'd upgraded the pegs. They bite into the ground, and stay exactly where placed. Job done.

I spotted a similar design from Hilleberg in Ambleside's Field and Trek – and its something now offered as standard with some of the Hilleberg range (Y peg groundpeg). A very sensible upgrade.

Harvey's Lakeland Central 1:25,000 – great map & very readable. But why only print on side of the sheet? Either half the paper size, or provide a wider coverage.

Skylarks, sheep, weasel, sheep, deer, sheep.

Did I mention the sheep?

After the success of pitta bread on my last outing I picked up on feedback and tried tortillas, cut down for easier packing. They felt heavier but are far tastier, and possibly slightly more nutritious?

In bad weather I was able to make a fresh lunchtime snack by laying a few slices of salami onto half a wrap and then rolling it up, to be eaten alongside Baby-Bel cheese.

A boost to the spirit, as well as the stomach, during some of the harder sections.

The direct Bournemouth-Manchester train runs hourly during the times I required it, which made my trip planning much more flexible.

Tying it to the direct Manchester- Oxenholme train clinches the deal for future trips.


Good one, John. I'm not a fan of the standard pegs and went for the Alpkit design. After some muddy ground and windy weather in Glen Nevis, I've added a couple of 'nail' style pegs instead.

Exos 58litre bag being delivered tomorrow (I hope).
Hi John,
Sounds as though you had a great time going solo. Have to say that solo suits me best.
Strangely enough you found the same time span effect as I experience - by night three things are beginning to slot together.
The Velez will pack into its outside front pocket saving you the weight of a stuff sac. Jon Quirk.
The GPX files work fine, thanks very much. They make it so much easier to follow the report.

I've often wondered about setting off on a backpack entirely on public transport, right from the house. You have to carry whatever items you might need during the travelling as well as the actual backpack. Still, I suppose you work out a strategy that suits, but is this the reason for your prediction of a 55-60l pack?. Now that I have the incredibly small NeoAir mattress, I could do a week easily (in summer) with my 49l LiteSpeed pack with room to spare, driving to the start point.
Files loaded into Tracklogs fine. Maybe some erroneous points N of Grisedale Tarn, or did you go up Tarn Crag, Falcon Crag and Spout Crag? How do you carry the Geko? I carry mine in a Berghaus multi-tool case on the rucksack shoulder strap and find this works well, keeping the front face pointing up, which gives the best signal from patch antennas.
Usually in the summer months I can manage to travel lighter. However, as a user of public transport I do carry a complete change of clothing, including footwear and trousers, or in summer, skirt. My normal summer rucksack is the Osprey Atmos 50ltre. It can manage a weeks food and fuel, tent etc. My winter sack is a heavy lump that needs replacing, a Macpac 60 ltre and so I shall be watching with interest to see how the new Osprey performs. My intial reaction is that the appear a little flimsy for hard winter use and even harder abuse on the National Express coaches. Well done John, good write up as per norm. Dawn
By the by, the Lakes sheep are pretty, I am sure you will agree with me on that John!
Aktoman - be interested in your Exos 58 feedback at some point

Jon - cheers for the reminder, I'd forgotten about the chest pouch; The route up to Hard Tarn was G Tarn down to Ruthwaite Lodge and then W following the water upwards. My GPS is in an Ortleib neoprene case face up on my shoulder strap so its sat view is usually very good.

GeoffC - most of my walks are just public transport these days - the local train station is about 3 mile away across SSSI meadows. I get a lift for the start point, but thereafter its all public conveyance. As you say - pack size is partly down to security on the train (all hidden away from opportunists) Alongside the extra stuff I take for sharing a stuffy carriage, its mainly a change of shoes (XCR Hegehog which double as day-off/camp wear) + 1 set of spare clothes. Although whether I change into them depends on how badly I think I smell! And the sort of crowd on the train

Dawn - I might recheck the Atmos 50 if you reckon it works ok for you.
As for the sheep ... I thought you'd prmised to stay quiet about that little 'incident'
John - taking it for a walk this weekend. Bought a "Tiger Paws" tonight as a 2ndary tent for my pal. There'll be photos.
Good kit you took on the trip John. It is the basis of a good set up for any short or long trip. I reckon you could be warm and comfy on the Challenge for example with all that good kit.
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