I stumbled upon the YES Tribe Facebook Group about a month into the pandemic and what a great find it was! As with most people, when the lockdown began in March 2020, my whole life was upended. I am one of the lucky ones who contracted Covid-19 and get to tell my story having survived, but I know many did not and I can only imagine the devastation of friends and families across the country. It was due to some of this loss and a need to adjust to the restrictions of the lock down that I started to look at ways to keep a sense of hope during these trying times.
I discovered a treasure trove of YouTube videos of people from around the world who were propelled into making the most of their time and surroundings in the wake of the pandemic. The outdoors community became a thing of fascination for me, mostly because I have never been one to set out into the wild or even explore much of my local surroundings.
My work takes me to many places (I am a manager in healthcare and cover the whole of the South of England) but the most adventurous thing I would do on my long work trips is stay in an Air BnB (as these are cheaper than hotels) and if I happened to be near the South West, South East Coast or Isle of Wight; then I would walk to the beach and fly my drone. The concentration needed to fly my drone and take pictures would help me switch off from work and decompress after heavy meetings. But this was really as far as I would go to explore and enjoy my surroundings.
Fast forward to a month ago, having absorbed many hours of YouTube videos and YES Tribe posts; I felt inspired and confident enough to start planning my first solo camp. I came at this from a total novice, so the first thing I did was watch Paul Messner’s helpful video about the rules and law of camping in the United Kingdom. This was really eye opening and helped me ensure that my inexperience didn’t cause a nuisance for other travellers. I also watched countless videos on camping gear, from the most expensive and extravagant campers to more reasonably priced tents as well as clothes and cooking utensils. I feel almost embarrassed to say that it was like discovering a whole new exciting world!
I had a few doubts and fears so in June, when there were signs of the lock down gradually easing off, I spoke to my friends to see if they would be interested in a small group camping trip. My close friends mostly live in London and I am in Oxford, so it has always been a bit of an effort to match diaries and agree on activities. With the trepidation of the lockdown, agreeing on a date and where we would go became even more difficult. I decided to go it alone with the view that they can always join me next time.
With my work travel and expenses reducing significantly over the lockdown period, I was able to save a little money and saved this towards getting a:
- Comfortable backpack with compass, emergency whistle and enough room to fit my kit
- Headlamp with tilt and multiple light setting
- Insect repellent spray
- Pair of waterproof hiking boots and some thick socks
- Rain jacket that can be folded down into a palm sized bag
- Down jacket (also doable to small size) for cold nights
- Inflatable mattress and a foam mat with reflective foil surface to retain heat at night
- Inconspicuous tent with good ventilation and ability to withstand strong winds and rain
- Range of cooking gear including pot, pan, coffee mug and a gas burner with a lighter
- Small cooler bag for water, fresh food, drinks and snacks
It must have taken me about 2 months to decide what make I would purchase as my criteria was that the above had to be reasonably priced and also received (unsponsored) good reviews. Once I had all I needed, I looked for areas I could go on my first solo camping trip. Naturally North Scotland popped up on my numerous searches and it is my ambition to do the North Coast 500 route one day but I kept reminding myself to take baby steps.
So my first trip was a mere 25 minutes from my home in the Cotswolds in a patch rented out my a lovely farmer and his wife. I was lucky to get a spot near a quiet stream all to myself and used my first night camping out in my adult years to get used to the silence and occasional sounds of animals nearby. I also used the trip to try out setting up my tent which was an easy pop up with enough round for three people. I discovered the tent was way too big for one person and too dark inside (it was a black tent) and very heavy at 4.2 kg so on returning home I sold it and replaced it with a smaller and lighter tent.
Having survived my first mini expedition in July, I looked for a place I could camp that was further from home and found a place in Parracombe, North Devon which is situation just off the coast. In August, I found out about a farm which has six vast fields that it rents out to groups. I was lucky and managed to snag a last minute agreement to have one of their vast fields all to myself and an amazing view of the ocean from the vestibule of my tent. The weather also behaved itself with loads of sunshine so I was able to hike from my camping site to the near by village. It rained during the night but by that point, I had cooked and enjoyed the open pit fire before bundling into my down jacket and sleeping back for a good nights kip. I recorded most of this trip and you can view it on my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/PrC9idcn18A, which I hope will help others feel more confident to go out and explore the great outdoors too because, I can do it then you certainly can too!