Tarps versus tents

Not that many years ago abackpacker who aspired to be ultralight (or even lightweight) had to use a tarp as tents were much heavier. Silnylon has made the choice a littler harder as tents have become much lighter and a decent tent weighing just over a kilo (2.2lbs) can be purchased for not much over £100. Pay more and it’s quite possible to get 700-800g tent which is hardly backbreaking.  Cuben fibre is lighter still but excruciatingly expensive. I will stick to comparing Silnylon shelters here but the argument is the same for Cuben shelters although the numbers will be different.

So, does a tarp still make sense for UL backpackers? As my other blog posts reveal I’m a great fan of the Gatewood Cape which is an enclosed tarp that offers great protection and doubles as rain gear too. It weighs about 700g with the bugproof inner. It’s my shelter of choice for three season backpacking but there is a hidden weight penalty. Once pitched, you can’t use the Cape as raingear so it is necessary to carry some sort of water-repellent jacket for pottering about camp, etc. Another shelter I’m very fond of is the TarpTent Contrail by Henry Shires. Weighing in at a tad under 800g, it is more spacious than the Gatewood and very spacious as far as one man tents go. But sometimes it’s nice to have a lot more room; waiting out a storm in an one-man tent isn’t the most rewarding of pastimes!

Turning to tarps that offer generous living spaces, I have two favourites: the Golite Cave 1 and the Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn. Although neither are no longer made the Cave is closely modelled on the Ray Jardine “Ray Way” tarp which is still available and Gossamer Gear have relaunched the SpinnTwinn with different material but is essentially the same and weighs about the same too.

The Golite Cave 1 has two “beaks” which help signicantly in keeping rain away, a plethora of tie outs and weighs 402g including the stuffsack. It offers a huge amount of space (easily enough for two hikers) and when fully pegged out offers great storm worthiness. The SpinnTwinn is a more simple, caternary-cut tarp and is cavernous while only weighing 288g including the stuffsack but it doesn’t have beaks. Both tarps will need a groundsheet and a polycro sheet of sufficient size will weigh about 50g. The Cave1 requires a maximum of 12 stakes to achieve a bomber pitch while the SpinnTwinn requires 10 stakes. I’ve not include the weight of stakes in my figures because each backpacker will use the pegs that they prefer. Provided either tarp is pitched properly on sheltered, raised ground they offer great protection for three season use.

However, no tarp is bugproof so it is necessary to carry a bugnet of some sort during the season’s when insect bites are a problem. I have a Gossamer Gear bugnet designed for the SpinnTwinn that weighs 88g and I will use that when I’m confident the weather will be reasonably fine. But tarps are inherently draughty and it’s possible to get backsplash from rain so bad weather requires some further protection. I have an Oookworks inner nest weighing 386g and a MLD Superlight Bivi weighing 224g. The Oookworks inner offers considerably more living space and is less claustrophobic than the bivi but both do the job of keeping bugs and backsplash away very well. The various combinations weigh as follows:

  • SpinnTwinn, bugnet and groundsheet = 455g
  • SpinnTwinn, MLD Bivy and Groundsheet = 564g
  • SpinnTwinn and Oookworks inner = 674g
  • Golite Cave, bugnet and groundsheet = 567g
  • Golite Cave, MLD bivvy and groundsheet = 669g
  • Golite Cave and Oookworks inner = 788g

All of these weights are pretty good but at least three combinations come within touching distance of the latest tents. It’s worth noting that, as a general rule, site selection is more critical factor for tarps than for tents. Clearly weight isn’t the factor it once was when choosing between a tarp or a tent for shelter. Yes, there may be some grams/ounces saved by using a tarp but it’s no longer a huge difference. So why do many backpackers still use tarps?

I’d like to offer the following reasons why. Firstly, the weight to liveable space ratio is far superior which makes for a more comfortable camp. Secondly, a tent is enclosed while a tarp offers the chance of great views. Thirdly, a tarp provides a camping experience more in tune with the natural surroundings. Fourthly, it is enjoyable to practice the skills of site selection, knot-tying and configuring a tarp to give optimum shelter in different conditions and sites. Fifth, and finally, it’s fun.

Here’s some pics of the Cave and SpinnTwinn taken in my back garden to show the size of the Cave and SpinnTwinn.

Golite Cave with MLD Bivvy

Underneath the Golite Cave showing the MLD Bivvy and its bathtub floor.

Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn pitched in good weather mode. The rear can be lowered in foul weather.

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Gossamer Gear Murmur 36l pack

I’ve got an old blue Murmur (2012?) but took the chance on buying the new 2016 Murmur when a friend visited the States and offered to bring it back for me thus avoiding the horrendous shipping costs to the UK.

The U.K. has a temperate maritime climate so we don’t have deserts to deal with. Nor bears or other large predator animals. Bear cans are something I have no experience with. However, we do have very variable weather and rain/winds are normal. Some form of insulation is usually needed in the evenings outside of Summer and rain gear is mandatory. My min weight for an overnighter is 4.4lbs (not counting food, water or fuel) in Summer but usually about 6.5lbs in three seasons. 

The Murmur simply cannot carry the volume for winter backing needs in the UK but for the rest of the time it’s ok volume-wise if you pack light and follow UL practices. I normally carry 1L of water while hiking and pick up any more near camp (no deserts) for which I use the platypus foldable containers. My hiking style is walk for 50-60 mins then stop and have a drink, eat a few calories then continue so I don’t access water on the go so I can’t comment about accessibility of water while walking. I always stop, remove the pack, have a few minutes break then continue. My style works for me, it might not for you.

To the 2016 version of the pack. Greatly improved top closure system over my “blue” Murmur” the hip belt pockets are very useful and welcome addition, the hip belt adds to carrying comfort and stability, the material used in the pack feels thin and weak but isn’t, the shoulder straps feel thin but are very comfortable in use, load bearing to 15lbs is absolutely fine and 20lbs is ok. Probably more but I haven’t tried to go heavier. NB: GG say 20lbs is the max weight. I don’t use the ice axe loop but my hiking poles fit perfectly in the dedicated loops. 

The mesh side pockets and the mesh pocket at the front seem tighter than on old version of the pack. As does the pocket nearest your back which hold the sleeping pad/sitlite. I’ve had to change the bottle I used for water to a supermarket lemonade bottle with the right dimensions. I gather the pockets are designed to fit SmartWater” bottles but anything will do that that’s a radius of roughly the end of the thumb to its first knuckle.

What does surprise me about both versions of the Murmur I own is how capacious it is. It helps that my full length neoair pad and the sitlite pad can fit in the external pocket nearest to my back but the Murmur seems to swallow a lot of gear. I always use a trash bag as a pack liner and the combination of the the pack and the trash liner make a very waterproof combination. There’s also the option of several lashing points using shockcord to carry other gear outside the pack.

To summarise: a very light, deceptively tough pack capable of carrying three season backpacking loads. Really well made and comfortable in use. If I were to improve it I’d make the elastic on the mesh pockets more stretchy and add shockcord and locs to close the pockets as needed as in the OMM 32 litre classic. But that’s a minor niggle; the Murmur is a great UL pack for three season conditions. I’m glad I purchased the 2016 version and I’d recommend it for UK (or anywhere else) hiking provided you can keep the weight down to 15-20lbs.

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Nite Ize CamJam: First impressions.

Winter is coming. As I wrote this the mercury is reading 0C and my thoughts are turning to getting my backpacking gear ready for when Spring comes. 

I’m a fan of tarps and poncho tarps for three season backpacking and I’ve been pondering for a while now how to make the transition from raingear to shelter quickly. The reverse too. There were two problems I wanted to solve:

  1. To attach and remove guylines quickly. Walking while wearing a poncho tarp festooned with guylines is a trip hazard so they need to be removed. It is possible to roll up the guylines and fasten them up but, in my experience, they always come undone. On the other hand, attaching guylines to your shelter that doubles as a waterproof needs to be quickly or you get soaked when it raining or cold when it’s windy. Having cold hands doubles the “fun”!
  2. It’s nice to be able to retension a tarp without leaving the comfort of your shelter. Silnylon always sags after a while and when it’s wet the sagging is worse.

I’ve dealt with the first problem by using guylines attached a mini carabiner but the retensioning has proved to be more difficult to solve. The options seemed to be either use a clove hitch at the peg end (a la Ray Jardine) or to use a lineloc (or a sliding tension knot) as a guylines tensioner. However, all these solutions mean leaving the shelter to faff about with knots or the linelocs which is not good when it’s raining.

Then I found the Nite Ize CamJam. They come in packs of two complete with 12 feet (3.7m) of reflective guyline and are very light. I’ve not tried them in anger but they appear to be incredibly strong – I can’t stress them under any load that I can put on them – so I think they will do the job of holding a tarp down in strong wind. 

The design is sheer elegance. The carabiner part clips onto the shelter’s guylines attachment points and the line runs off to the peg. Simply tie a loop knot to slip over the peg and you’re done. The guylines can then be tensioned as it passes through a simple offset cam on the carabiner. Once you’re in the shelter retensioning is easy because the cam is part of the carbiner body attached to the tarp. At most you’ll get a hand wet reaching for it. Problem number 2 solved! To release the tension all that is needed is to pull the guylines to one side. Simple, quick, easy to use and light!

A picture is worth a thousand words so here’s a picture I’ve taken from Nite Ize’s site that makes the concept very clear.

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The Pocket Stove: a review

The Pocket Stove from Backpackinglight.co.uk is a tiny stove that promises much. It is designed to work with meths burners, hexamine tablets and wood in the shape of smallish twigs. There are two versions; one in stainless steel and the other made from titanium. The titanium one comes in at 56g which, oddly enough, is also the weight of the tin.

The tin easily holds the stove and trivet while still having room for a lighter/flint, tinder and some fuel tabs. 

As Bob and Rose were offering a deal on the stove plus a titanium trivet and a pack of Hammaro imoreganated paper for the same price as just the stove I bit the bullet and bought one. Below is a picture of the stove laying in its supplied tin. As the name implies, the tin will fit in a pocket!

The stove is easily assembled into a four-sided structure with a baseplate. This is shown in the picture below with my thumb in shot to give a sense of scale.

The trivet consists of two pieces weighing a total of 7g which slot together into a X shape and then rest at the top of the stove. Without the trivet the stove feels solid but with the trivet it’s rock solid. The trivet also allows the use of many different diameter pans. The whole assembly is pictured here.

For my test burns I used a LifeAdventure titanium cup that holds 350ml of water. In the following picture it can be seen that the cup stands firmly on the trivet.

I also used a MYOG pot lid and heat trapping cone made from 0.016 ins thick aluminium foil which was obtained from a foil platter courtesy of the Pound Shop! As the can been seen it’s not the most pretty looking MYOG but it works well.

The baseplate can be set at two different heights. The lower is for burning wood and some meths burners while the higher one is for hexamine and other meths burners. I used a hexamine tablet and a Zelph Starlyte burner for my trials. No windshield other than that formed by the stove was used. I lit the stove outside on a sunny but cool day (about 4C) with winds strong enough to move branches. The water was at the ambient temperature. All in all, a fair facsimile of conditions likely to be experienced backpacking.

Firstly, I used the Starlyte placed on the lower height setting of the baseplate. I got a rolling boil in 8 minutes, 22 seconds. A reasonable time for a meths burner bearing in mind that the water was pretty cold.

For the second burn the baseplate was moved to the higher setting and another 350ml of water heated. To my surprise I found it took about 20 seconds longer to boil and the flame also briefly flared out the sides quite a distance at times – maybe 6 inches or so. Clearly the burner’s optimum position is on the lower height position. As it notes in the instructions, different burners work best at different heights.

Next I used a WebTex hexamine tablet to heat 350ml of water. The tablet had burnt out before I achieved a rolling boil although it was very hot with bubbles forming. I did notice a considerable amount of soot being produced in this burn. Easily wiped off but worth remembering.

To conclude. The Pocket Stove is a very light,  multi-fuel stove. The ability to burn wood increases the versatility of the stove. It’s simple to assemble and disassemble, easily packable and works well. Nowhere near as fast as a JetBoil but no meths/hexi stove is. Recommended if your cooking is basically boiling water and adding it to dehydrated foods.

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MLD Silnylon Pro Poncho Tarp: first impressions

I was impressed by my Mountain Laurel Designs silnylon Chaps. I’ve already posted a blog on those earlier. I was given the opportunity to get an unused, matching poncho at a bargain price and I couldn’t resist. Poncho tarps work well in the right circumstances-anyhow I like them!

The MLD poncho has a caternary cut that is supposed to make it shed wind more easily. It has several nifty features: a hood with a brim and back tensioning adjuster, gear hooks inside to hang bug nets or gear from and an innovative way of rolling up the hood when in tarp mode. The hood is along the central seam and can be rolled up and then buckled tight. No chance of a leak there.

I only got the ponch tarp yesterday but it pitches easily and there is quite a large space undercover. The MLD is 9 ft long which allows the rear to be pitched to the ground and still have plenty of room to lie under cover. I’m 5ft 10ins and I’ve got about 18 inches from the top of my head to the front of the tarp. There is good space both sides as well. I think I’ve found the poncho tarp to replace the trusty Golite poncho. You’ll find reviews of that in my blog too.

The pictures below show my first pitch and give an idea of the coverage. The sleeping mat is a full-sized one.


Front, high pitch. Large pad for scale.


Rear showing wind/rain block


View from the left-front

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Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn Tarp

I recently got a SpinnTwinn from a well-known auction site. Gossamer Gear don’t make them anymore but their new tarps are almost the same apart from the material used. The SpinnTwinn is made from Spinnaker fabric while the new ones are called the TwinnTarp and constructed from silnylon. Today was the first chance I had to try pitching it and I’m seriously impressed with it. It pitches easily, is stupid light and cavernous for a single hiker but would easily take two. Potential buyers of the TwinnTarp might be interested in this blog post as the new version is almost identical in weight and size.

Firstly, the stuffsack is nice and large so it’s easy to pack the tarp away and get it out when you need it. Once packed the stuffsack will compress to very packable size and is easy to squeeze into most spaces in a pack. It’s my bugbear to get gear with over small stuff sacks as its a fight to pack the gear back in them and hard balls of fabric eat volume in a pack. So, 10/10 to Gossamer Gear for that.

The SpinnTwinn is a caternary cut tarp rather than a flat tarp as the shape handles wind better. It also looks rather elegant with its gentle curves! There are four corner tie outs plus 3 other on each of the long sides. The ridge lines have colour-coded tabs so it’s easy to see which is the front (red) and the back (blue). There’s more than enough pegging points to hold the tarp in position and the coloured tabs are a simple work of genius. Another 10/10.

Pitching the tarp is simple. Set your trekking poles to 32 and 45 inches respectively for the back and front. Peg out the back pole and corners, move to the front and carry out a similar operation. Adjust pegging and heights to match the ground conditions and it’s done. I think it took me about 2 minutes after an initial practice go. Here’s some pictures of the normal pitch.

My cat, Millie, photo bombed some of the images! Obviously it’s possible to raise the tarp if more ventilation is required but the measurements below give an indication of the size and coverage pitched in normal mode. NB: all measurement are to the nearest whole unit:

  • Ridge 115 ins (9ft 6 ins, 292 cm)
  • Side Base lengths 101 ins (8ft 5ins, 256 cm)
  • Front height and width 46 x 73 (3ft 10ins, 117 cm) X (6ft 1ins, 185cm)
  • Rear height and width 32×70 (2ft 8ins, 81 cms) X (5ft 10ins, 178 cms)

Anyone under 7ft and 5ft across will have plenty of shelter from rain and wind! Joking aside, it’s a huge covered area with lots of room for a hiker and gear. It could easily take two hikers. With a well-behaved stove it should be fine to cook out of the elements too. Most people of normal height will be able to sit up at the front end in comfort. Size and pitching time are another 10/10.

But what if the weather turns gnarly on the hike? Luckily it’s possible to drop the foot end either by a small amount, to the floor or anywhere in between and still have room to shelter under whilst being protected from three sides. I didn’t do an especially good job of repitching it but enough to show me I could have a very stormworthy shelter inside a minute. Here’s some pictures.

There are two tabs at the ridge pole ends so it’s possible to rig up a bug bivy or even an inner tent. Alternatively, the tabs could be used to set up and internal ridge line to dry clothes on. There are also two tabs at the floor part of the front so it would be easy to make up a “door” to shelter the hiker from weather coming from the front or to give privacy. Versaltilty and storm-worthiness score another 10/10.

Weight is the bane of a backpacker’s life so what is the penalty for carrying a cavernous shelter with good weather and wind protection, the ability to cook safely out of bad weather and room to live in if the weather is really foul? A mere 280g (9.87 oz) for the tarp plus a stuffsack weighting 10g (0.35oz) including seam sealing and all the lines/linelocks.

As I wrote at the start of this post, I’m seriously impressed with my practice pitching in the garden and can’t wait to try it out in the field. I can’t see any way to make this a better ultralight shelter but proper useage will confirm that…..or dent my 10/10 rating from this afternoon’s playing with the SpinnTwinn.

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Hiking Umbrella: neat gear!

I’ve come to the conclusion that a hiking umbrella is an indespensable piece of kit for hikers. Not only do they keep rain off but they shield the hiker from ultraviolet too when the sun is out, provide welcome shade and keep you far cooler than any hat will. They can be pressed in to service as a lunch stop shelter or to block rain and wind from entering the entry of your tarp. Spectacle wearers don’t get wet lenses and maps stay dry when you read them. They can even double as an emergency tarp pole.

The obvious disadvantage to using one is that a hand is needed to hold the brolly when it’s deployed. However, some pieces of shockcord fastened to the shoulder strap of your pack solves that. The other disadvantage is using them in high winds. Not recommended! But, by and large, we hikers don’t experience high winds that much in relation to the amount of time we are in the rain so it tends not to be a problem. I always carry backup waterproofs anyway.

I was sceptical about using a brolly until I used one. Now I wouldn’t be without one as its just too useful in all kinds of weather apart from high winds. I wouldn’t use on when scrambling up mountains or walking on ridges/ near big drops so common sense is needed. Nevertheless, I can recommend using a brolly.

Mine is made by Euroschirm who, I think, made the Golite Chrome Dome. At any rate, apart from the logo it is identical to the Golite. Here is a link to the manufacturer showing the chrome one and different coloured versions too.


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A few days in Norfolk

Rather than backpack I drove my motorhome (RV to my American readers) to Norfolk for a few days of sea and sunshine. I took a leisurely drive to Cromer and found a place to pitch up. One of the joys of having a motorhome is that you drive differently; as soon as yourself sat in the driver’s seat you’re on holiday! No point in rushing so you tootle along without driving flat out but keeping at a reasonable speed. Unlike the mad commuting dashes!

Once I’d parked up and got Millie the Cat settled, I went to explore Cromer. It’s an old-fashioned seaside town with a pier, shops selling crab-catching kits, buckets and spades and other beach stuff, some interesting local shops rather than national chain stores, four or five pubs and quite a few chip shops, restaurants and cafes. It’s also surprisingly quiet at night. I like these sort of towns as there’s something about them that remind me of holidays with my parents and they are quintessentially British.

Norfolk is good hiking country too. Contrary to legend, it has some hills and fairly steep ones at that. There are several long hikes such as the Peddars Way and the Icenic Way as well as the Coastal Path that takes a good week of long days to cover. The coastal path is a delight to walk too. I walked the whole of it a few years ago as a backpacker  but this time it was just day walks. Suntan lotion is usally essential as there is a lot of UV reflected from the sea even if the day is overcast.

The county is blessed with a good bus service including a route called the Coastal Hopper which is really handy as it trundles up and down the coast at regular intervals. The fares are reasonable too.  This allows the day walker to bus out somewhere and walk back to base. Alternatively, go further afield and walk for a day then catch the bus back so it’s possible to explore the area easily. A good bus route is nice when you’re in a motorhome because you can leave it parked up with the gas and electric on while you go out and play.
If you want a simple holiday or a break for a few days I can recommend both Cromer and the county. It’s a “proper” holiday destination with simple pleasures and all the better for it. Nice beaches, lots of things to do if you’ve got kids, lots of nature and nice walking too. You can go to Norwich if you like big cities, Yarmouth if you want the full-on “bucket and spade” experience complete with amusement parks or enjoy the tranquility of Sandringham (where the Queen has a holiday castle) or just chill out in a quiet cove or wood.

 One of the things about Norfolk is that it has “big skies”. Sunsets can be spectacular if the weather is good. Stupidly, I forgot my camera but below are two shots using my camera phone of a sunset and the pier at night.

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Backpack around Anglesey: kit review.

Euroschirm Pro Trek Umbrella.  As I wrote in my previous post, I experienced really heavy rain on the first day and hot, bright sun the rest of the time. The brolly performed faultlessly throughout. It acted as a wonderfully ventilated sunshade and kept the rain off me. However, when the wind got up a lot I had to put the brolly away which is why I did get a little damp on the first day and sunburnt on the third. Overall, well worth carrying for the shelter it offered.

Gatewood Cape and Nest. There is an in-depth review of both in my blog but, as ever, it performed perfectly as a shelter. In hindsight, I didn’t need bug netting as the island seems to be midge-free. I could have got away with using a polycro groundsheet. A bit of extra weight carried! 

I didn’t use the cape as a shelter because the brolly performed well enough in conjunction with a light rain jacket.

Paramo Bora Fleece  I used this as my insulation. In conjunction with a Montane Pertex windshirt it worked well as a waterproof too. I did get a little damp where the pack straps pressed on my shoulders but, oddly, the water stayed on the outside of the fleece. Overall, I’m very pleased with it as a multifunctional top. Possibly if I had used the proper Paramo windshirt I would have remained completely dry. A test for another day! 

I think it’s a very useful solution to combine warmth and waterproofness in one package. However, I can see it being too warm on hot, rainy days. Then again, the ventilation zips on the chest/abdomen area work well and it’s very breathable. It’s fairly heavy but it’s possible to save the weight of a proper waterproof shell which mitigates the weight. In common with most Paramo garments I find the sleeves to be a little long for me. My conclusion is that I like it and it performs well in the circumstances I used it in.

Integral Design eVent Short gaiters. Kept the rain out the top of my train shoes and stones too. Useful and light piece of kit, very small pack size.

Mountain Laurel Chaps. At 47g, possibly the best waterproof leggings around. No condensation, no wind got through nor any rain.  The only problem was my Montane windshirt wasn’t quite long enough to cover the crotch area fully so I did get damp there. Not a fault of the Chaps though.

Golite Jam 50l pack  Quite an old pack nowadays but still one of the best packs in its capacity range. Carried all my gear comfortably. The hipbelt pockets are large and really useful to carry food, camera, compass and what have you in. Did get a bad thorn-induced gash which I repaired with Tenacious  Tape.

Enlighten Equipment Prodigy Quilt  I’ve got the 40F (10C) version and temperatures at night got down to about 9C. I was warm and comfortable sleeping with it just as a quilt and never needed to cinch up the footbox. Performed to specification, can’t fault it. Because it’s synthetic the volume is 8 litres which took up a fair amount of space in the pack but that’s the nature of the beast. I’m with Ray Jardine about the use of synthetics in a potentially damp climate. 

Thermarest NeoAir.  Mine is the full-length one and I’ve had it about five years. Durable, warm and blissfully comfortable. Wouldn’t be without it. Pack size is about the same as a litre bottle.

Montane Featherlite Pertex Windsmock  Light, very packable. Kept the wind off and light rain too. Worked pretty well with the Paramo Bora. Too short to use with Chaps. To my mind, an indespensable piece of kit.

Outdoor Research Baseball Cap/Kepi  Very light and versatile. I hit my neck sunburnt when it was too windy to use the brolly and I’d forgotten to clip the Kepi bit on. My fault and not the cap’s. Visor is very useful in bright sun and the Kepi really does work.

Overall I’m very pleased with the performance of my backpacking gear now. I don’t think I can get it much lighter without compromising on performance to a level I don’t want to experience.

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A backpack around the Anglesey Coastal Path(ish)

Every year a friend and I have a week-long backpacking holiday. This year we decided to do the Anglesey Coastal Path which is, depending on which source you believe, either 120 miles or 123 or 125 miles in length.

I travelled up to Nottingham to meet my friend and we caught the train to Bangor as we had planned to stay there overnight before starting the hike for real. Over the years we’ve learnt to be flexible so, after learning that we were in easy bus ride reach of Llanfair PG we thought we’d divert just to say that we’d been in the longest place name in the British Isles. Here’s a picture of the train station.

After taking a few photos and having a coffee at a cafe we set off for the coastal path. Almost immediately it started raining hard and didn’t let up all day. We had planned to camp at Malltreath but, after covering around 15 miles, we were soaked and the campsite resembled a mini lake. Being resourceful and flexible we thought “Bugger it, let’s  find a B&B and dry out” only Malltreath had none to offer us. We decided to press on to Rhosneigr which was some 12 miles away and the only place of a size large enough to have a B&B. Luckily, we caught the last bus which took us about six miles. The rest of the distance was made up of yomping in the deluge and hitchhiking.

Luckily, there was room at the inn in Rhosneigr so we booked in, started drying out our kit and went for a beer and food. Sometime during the evening we became embroiled with members of a christening party and had a great evening with a crowd of extremely drunken Welsh people. Lord knows, how they managed to get to work in the morning!

We had our own conumdrum to solve as we were now effectively a day ahead of our planned itinerary. A quick look at the map showed there were no places to wild camp between Rhosneigr and Holyhead and we knew there were no campsites either. We had planned to B&B in Holyhead after camping for two nights but that had gone out the window. After a bit of discussion we decided to B&B for two nights in Holyhead and vary our route in; the next day to be spent doing another part of the coastal path but without our backpacks.

As we wandered up the coastal path to Holyhead the sun came out with a vengeance. Absolutely perfect conditions for enjoying the sights and an incredible change from the previous day as the pictures show.

After a tedious walk over the Four Mile bridge we arrived in Holyhead and found the B&B, dumped off the packs and went out to explore. It has to be said that the town isn’t especially pretty as its a functioning port. It is also a desert if you like real ale.

After breakfast the following morning we set out to explore the North and South Stacks. Again, the day was superb. I ended up with a bit of sunburn on my neck but the views were worth it. Apparently Holyhead has the largest breakwater in the world apart from one in San Dieago and its huge!

The next day we left Holyhead to follow the coastal path to Caemas; this time equipped with much needed suntan cream. It was a beautiful walk to do but it made quite a long day. Our campsite was about a mile out of Caemas and it was very, very quiet. We share our pitch with a trio of very tame, friendly ducks. The night skies looked spectacular as the sky was clear but my phone camera couldn’t do them justice. 

The following day we should have followed the coastal path to Moelfre but we’d heard of an old copper mine that was worth seeing so we modified our route to take it in. The copper mine was basically an excavated mountain. It was sad to see the damage done to the land but it was a magnificent sight in a way. Here’s some photos of the copper mine and the view from the campsite at Moelfre.

Moelfre is a pretty, small town and we had a pleasant night there. The morning sun reflecting from the sea woke me in the morning but it soon became overcast and our final day was a mixture of hot sun and drizzle. Our plan was to walk the coastal path as far as we could then catch a bus to Bangor for our final night. That is pretty much what we did! Here’s a view of the sea from Bangor and some shots  taken on the way to it.

So, ok we didn’t do all the path due to bad weather and wanting to see other things we’d heard about. We only camped twice instead of four times.  But we really enjoyed the trip and that, not sticking slavishly to a route, is the important thing. We’d been drenched, sunburnt, scratched by thorns, ate too much, drank too much, had lots of laughs and added an extra bond to our lifelong friendship. I’ll take that!

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