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Camping Practicalities of camping – safety, cooking, washing, loos, etc.

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
Thought I would start a new thread about the practicalities of camping rather than add to the excellent info already posted in the tents thread. Here are my thoughts...

Safety
This is such a personal thing. I think this gets easier the more you do it because you get used to it and there are fewer unknowns but camping, especially if you don’t have permission, is not for everyone. I’m much happier in a closed tent. I feel too exposed in a bivy or a net tent. If something feels wrong move on. The more remote I am the happier I feel. I cycled with a chap who had camped in parks and town squares all the way from Belgium but I would not feel comfortable doing that. Or you could do as David says and take a dog :)

Toilets
If there are no facilities then you have to go outside. If you can use a squat toilet you can cope. If your legs don’t bend (and many people’s don’t at the end of the day) things will be a bit tricky! You need to take things to clean up after yourself. If you camp just outside a village you can probably hold on until you get a morning coffee and use the facilities there.

Cooking
I’m not sure why you would cook on the CF unless trying to cut costs to a minimum. There are loads of places to eat and there’s almost always somewhere to get coffee in the morning. Bread, wine, olives, salami, tomatoes, and cheese makes a pretty good no-cook meal. Carrying a kitchen knife and a lightweight lunch box to store food in is super useful. If wild camping it’s not only the cooking gear and the food you’ll need to carry but the water for cooking too which could be quite a load. See Dave’s info about Jetboil type systems. I can’t imagine many people will do 30 days of camping/cooking but if you do, you’ll need to plan on purchasing fuel somewhere. The fancier your fuel the fewer options you’ll have. As Jeff says you can get the alcohol for Trangia type stoves pretty much anywhere. I like eating a menu del dia in the afternoon and having a beer/small snack in the evening but doing this is quite isolating.

Isolation
Definitely something to think about. Camping, especially wild camping, will be solitary bliss for some and miss the whole point of the camino for others!

Water
If wild camping you need to bear in mind how far you’ll be from a water supply. Don’t go overboard here, it’s the CF so you’re never that far from civilisation but you might need to carry a bit more to get you through the night/early morning.

Washing yourself
I think this is the big difference between a camino and a long distance hike. Long distance hikers are often pretty smelly because there are no facilities until they hit the next refueling/refreshing place. On the camino you’re in and out of towns every day and people are, on the whole, very clean. If there are no facilities wet wipes do a great job as a whole body wash, if that’s too astringent try makeup remover wipes. Public toilets can be very useful to clean up in. Obviously if the place you’re staying has facilities it’s not a problem.

Washing your clothes
Stop at a place with facilities! Not cool to put soapy suds in the local stream/river.

Bike safety
Standing your bike upright makes it more obvious, lying it down means that it might be in the grass and the saddle can get very wet with dew. Not everywhere has places to securely lock a bike but many places are so small you probably won’t worry about this too much or you’ll worry more about kids taking it to play with that it being stolen.

Evening walking
For me, this is one of the joys of camping. The camino is a different place in the early evening and wonderfully peaceful but this is not for everyone and may not fit with going to mass in the evening.

Pitch race
Can’t help thinking that with so many people wanting to camp to stay isolated there’s going to be a pitch race rather than a bed race…

Sure others have much to add...
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
@Helen1 , thank you for so many considerations, all very thoughtful.

Sometimes camping is a necessity.

In April and May 2016 I carried a tent at all times from Le Puy-en-Velay to Burgos, where I retired hurt, without pitching it once.

In July that year I walked from Thames source to Windsor pitching my tent each of the 10 days but one.

And in August I walked for a week from Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral, this time tenting every second night.

In September 2018 I walked from Canterbury Cathedral towards the Basilica of Saint Peter, Rome for three weeks. On this journey / adventure I tented about one third of the time.

My factors include:

Convenience
Away from the well-trod routes to Compostela hostels are not frequent. My criteria is less than 1 km from the route and easy to find.

Cost of alternatives away from Spain
In the UK it will normally be a Bed and Breakfast (B&B). The most common rate I noted in 2016 was GBP 80: compared to an albergue this is ginormous. And often there will be the house rules, such as breakfast about 2 hours after sunrise. So, when finished, the best part of the day is lost. For all these reasons I never used a B&B in England and only once (shared with my son) in Scotland on a four night trip.
In France it will normally be an hotel. The most common rate for me in 2018 was EUR 70, often with early breakfast.

Suitable sites
When tenting is reasonably certain I start prospecting from about mid-afternoon. My criteria included:
a) flat land
b) grassed
c) protection from any wind (hedge, coppice or trees)
d) protection from rain - under trees, for example
e) out of sight of housing, work areas and roads
f) nearby place to dig a small hole with my plastic trowel
g) how close were facilities such as food (grocery, eat-in, take-out) and toilets.
I would nearly always have to compromise on one or more of these.

Most commonly used site
For me this was churchyards. In England the churchyard is commonly also the burial ground. So my selection needed to be respectful. When prospecting in a churchyard I would talk silently to those buried there, telling them what I was intending. This time of quiet reflection gave me time to look around for an area that did not seem to have graves.
Next most common was a field - pasture land.
Last was campsites. Mainly because they did not often occur along my route in the mid to late afternoon.

Pitching the tent
If "wild" tenting, I would begin to put up my tent about 30 minutes or less before sunset. The intention was to eliminate, or at least minimise, drawing attention to myself and my otherwise benign activities. This could mean spending time in the pub, cafe restaurant from arrival until just before sunset.
Otherwise as soon as I had reached agreement with the site owner.

Phones and battery use
This is a very practical issue, for me especially. I carry a 10" tablet with phone capability as well as WiFi. My biggest use is way finding. In my experience, on just about every route (other than the Frances in Spain) signposting is usually non-existent or, at best, very occasional. So battery use can be quite heavy.
When stopping for lunch or dinner I would look for a place that had hot points visible. And if not I would ask (a bit like using toilets where you buy food or drink).
But that would normally only go so far.
So, every third or second night a hostel or whatever was required.

That all from me at present

Kia kaha tatou (you all take care, be strong, get going when you can)

Edited 30 May to add "every" in the sentence beginning "And in August ... "
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (14), Portuguese (15), Le Puy (17), Ingles (17), VDLP (18), Lana (18), Madrid (19) + more
I'll add a bit more. :)

Wet Gear

If you've had a rainy night, your tent and gear may be wet with condensation. Pack up wet, then take the time during the day to stop when it is sunny to dry out your gear. A damp sleeping bag will not hold as much warmth and will be uncomfortable at night. If everything is soaking wet - and cold, rainy weather is ahead, consider sleeping indoors and drying everything overnight.

Phone and Battery Use: part 2

I suggest bringing an external battery bank. It is much safer to leave your battery bank charging in public than an expensive cellphone. Your battery bank can then be used to charge all your electronic devices. The model I use can charge my iPhone three times. It also give you the advantage of being able to use wifi at a restaurant if the open wall plug is located in an inconvenient place (eg. right beside the slot machine!).

Outdoor Dining

Please take care to clean up all food if eating at the tentsite. Popular tenting spots can be also become popular with the wildlife. Wayward nuts and crumbs are treats for critters like field mice. These critters may chew into your tent, or anything salty like trekking pole handles.
 

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
Phones and Battery Use
Great points made above. External battery pack that does multiple charges is an essential for me too. Heavy but essential.

Tents and hand luggage
Not sure I want to open up a 'can I take a tent as hand luggage' debate but if you're camping and flying on a budget airline I suspect you'll have to check your bag and carrying fuel for a stove on the plane will be a definite no.
 

peregrino_tom

Member
Camino(s) past & future
.
Tents and hand luggage
Not sure I want to open up a 'can I take a tent as hand luggage' debate but if you're camping and flying on a budget airline I suspect you'll have to check your bag and carrying fuel for a stove on the plane will be a definite no.
The actual tent shouldn't be a problem if you can fold it into your bag within the permitted dimensions. However metal tent pegs are not allowed as hand luggage. I sourced some yellow plastic ones when in Spain and had no problem bringing them back in hand luggage - but they have their limitations as pegs.
Yes, no gas canisters allowed at all and fully cleaned alcohol burners usually get confiscated, even from hold luggage. Adding cooking gear really needs some careful planning. I think if I was going to try again, I'd make an alcohol burner out of a drinks can (plenty of examples on youtube) when i got to my start point, and burn methylated spirits, which is typically available at hardware stores.
EDIT - Actually you could probably make something like this before you left home and either the checkers wouldn't recognise it as a potential cooker or if they did, you've lost very little
https://andrewskurka.com/how-to-make-a-fancy-feast-alcohol-stove/
 
Last edited:

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
please see signature
I suspect you'll have to check your bag ...
This was something I had to work through for my first foray in 2016.

Because of both the tent poles, pegs and trekking poles I knew it would not be carry-on. And because of the frame and so on I thought of damage from handling. So, I my pack manufacturer made a roll-top liner sack that was also big enough to cover the pack. They added a carry handle. ☺ I also take a purple webbing strap (20 g) as another pick-up point and to aid identification. With the pack being waterproof and the waterproof liner sack I am very confident about weather for the pack (for me is another story).

When walking I have a front pouch slung between the shoulder straps into which goes my tablet (including phone), gloves, lightweight merino beanie and a carry strap. Before check-in that comes off the pack and, with the carry strap, goes over my shoulder.

For that first foray I went directly from home to my start point. Now I am a bit more experienced, I pass through London to leave a carry-on suitcase (with street clothes etc) with rellies before moving onto my then current start point.

Kia kaha
 
D

Deleted member 67185

Guest
I'll add a bit more. :)

Wet Gear

If you've had a rainy night, your tent and gear may be wet with condensation. Pack up wet, then take the time during the day to stop when it is sunny to dry out your gear. A damp sleeping bag will not hold as much warmth and will be uncomfortable at night. If everything is soaking wet - and cold, rainy weather is ahead, consider sleeping indoors and drying everything overnight.
I also carry a small, microfiber, water-absorbing 'chamois' cloth with me. A small, thing that is mere grams in weight when dry. But it drinks water like a camel, and is quick to wring out dry to accommodate more absorption.

After I deflate my mattress (while still lying down and waking up, of course), I roll up the sleeping bag and mattress to set aside. I'll gather up any loose stuff and get them into the backpack, along with the sleeping bag and mattress.

If it's raining out, I'll prepare breakfast in the tent vestibule. After that's done, I'll stuff my eating/cooking mug in one of the backpack's pockets temporarily.

Then, just before vacating the tent, I take the chamois cloth and do a quick wipe of the tent walls. Takes about two minutes. Any condensation is pretty much absorbed, if there is any. Then I stick my legs out the door, put on my shoes, and go out to take the tent down.

On the kinds of days Sara mentions, I will do what she does. . . use one of my long breaks to pick a spot with places to lay out my sleeping quilt, and turn my tent inside out (sort of) to let it air and do more drying.

It is really nice when there are low bushes or shrubs that you can lay stuff on in the sun. Especially near shady spots with a smooth rock or tree fall branch just the right sitting height. With cold water flowing nearby. Perhaps near an off trail hot spring. Oh, and it would really be great if there were Magnum Ice Cream Bar trees growing nearby, and, and, , ,
 

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