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7 min read

Our top tips for an off-grid camping adventure


The pandemic has opened our eyes to the beauty on our doorstep and given us a new found respect and appreciation of nature, which has caused a bit of a camping resurgence. It's a more sustainable holiday option than jet-setting to Barbados, it’s good for our mental health and far safer than a hotel trip in terms of COVID. All these factors have caused more people than ever to pack up their tent poles, dust off the old sleeping bag and spend a few nights under canvas.


And after a year that’s been characterised by Zoom meetings, virtual events and a lot of screen-based entertainment, I for one am chomping at the bit to disconnect and head out on an off-grid adventure.

Where are the best places to go to find your wild?

 

 

Totally wild:

Generally speaking, permission must be gained from the landowner before camping anywhere in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Wild camping is however permitted in Scotland,under certain rules, and on Dartmoor for up to two consecutive nights in the same spot provided it’s more than 100 metres from any public roads and is not within an enclosed or otherwise restricted area. Wherever you stay, please follow the Countryside Code and leave no trace!

Nearly wild:

Recently, a host of farmers in the UK have opened up their spare land to campers (over 300 already this year). These new pop-up campsites provide a new nearly-wild experience that’s as close to nature as you can get - sometimes sharing your field with goats or chickens!


Depending on how back-to-basics you want to go, some of these sites offer shower and flushing toilet facilities, washing up stations, and rubbish disposal, others just a composting loo. 


Pitchup.com has a really handy filter you can use to find farm sites:https://www.pitchup.com/campsites/-/farm/. It also has a filter for wild camping:https://www.pitchup.com/campsites/-/wild-camping/ 


You can also check out nearlywildcamping.org, which is a growing network of locations willing to host campers (tents, hammocks and campervans) who are looking for a wilder, secluded or quieter camping experience. An annual membership is £20 but it’s well worth it for the special secluded sites you gain access to.

What should you bring on your camping adventure?


First things first, you’ll need a tent!


A couple of us at Elephant Box love a larger more heavyweight canvas bell tent - opting for space and comfort over convenience where we can! But, if we’re feeling adventurous  and we're walking long distances to get to our campsite , a lightweight tarp is the perfect solution, or if your feeling really adventurous you can tuck into a bivvy bag at night with nothing between you and the night sky!


It’s worth pointing out here that it's always good to spend a little more so that you don’t have to replace your gear every 5 minutes, but this especially goes for camping equipment! No £10 tent is going to last and DEFINITELY don’t get suckered in by single lined pop-up tents, you will wake up in the middle of the night with all your clothes soaked through. Head to ebay to pick up a bargain or there are also organisations that sell reused, repaired and recycled tents, like campingrecycled.co.uk, which are as good as new.


In terms of eating and drinking kit, pretty much all the Elephant Box range handily doubles up as a food storage solution (no hungry, pesky rodent will be able to get in)  and a camp saucepan as you can use it to cook over open flames or gas fires, so is perfect for any camping trip (just bear in mind that the bottom may become slightly blackened - although that won’t impact it’s durability or usefulness at all). On top of that, pack a spork, a water bottle, a flask for hot drinks and twist & lock pots for trail mix or energy ball snacks, and you’re all set.


For your stove, Joy swears by a Whisperlight International, but she has faithful old Trangia too.


For sustainable sleeping bags and rucksacks, head to our favourite - patagonia.com. Or, again, buy second hand whenever you can. 


Some other useful items you might want to consider are water filters, if you’re going really off grid and need to drink water from a stream. Joy uses a  portable UV filter that will get rid of any bacteria, you can also get particle filters that will sort out the lumps of dirt! Solar chargers are the way forward in terms of keeping your phone charged - in case of emergencies. You’ll also want a really good head torch for those late night yahtzee tournaments!


Campfire cooking tips & recipes


If you are going to light a fire remember to check the campsite or area rules on this - you can often bring a firebowl or something that keeps the fire off the ground and stops you scorching the grass.

Keep your fire well away from your tent and make sure it’s properly out before you hit the hay.


There’s a few ways to cook on the coals or flames. Get a BBQ or a rocket stove or simply light a fire! 

If you want to cook on the embers of a wood fire then you’ll need to make yourself a good fire and have enough dry wood handy to keep it going for long enough. Make sure you use wood that hasn’t been coated with any chemicals - that’s not at all good for your food!

It’s handy to have a grill to rest the pot on. The shelf from an oven works well.


We’ll let you work out how to get the fire going but here are a few little hints and tips for the cooking bit.


Be patient. Make sure your fire is established before you rush in with your cooking pot.

Different parts of the fire are different temperatures. Ideally you’ll have a flaming bit at one side and you can push the embers to the other side of the fire for a slightly cooler more manageable cooking area. Feed sticks into the flames as needed and keep pushing the embers from that bit over to the other side for cooking on. Myself, I generally stick the kettle in the flames because the water can’t burn and I don’t care about the kettle getting black. It’s always handy to have a supply of hot water. 

Stick a couple of bricks/stones either side of the embers area with a grill on it and you’ve got yourself a lovely cooker! You can put things like corn on the cob or sausages straight onto the grill. For baked beans, fried eggs, pasta or paella get your pan/elephant box out!

If you are cooking meat cook it real slow so it’s cooked through and isn’t just burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. That’s a sure fire way of ruining your holiday!

When cooking on the fire keep checking the heat and move the cooking pot around to the right place. What you want is a medium heat - not too hot and burny, not too cold and ineffective!

Camp fire faves.


These meals can be cooked in our all time favourite - The Original Elephant Box. You can use any other Elephant Box lunchbox too but you may need to change the quantities. 

These recipes are un-fussy, filling and tasty.


Shakshuka - Serves 2 - 4

Sounds complicated but I promise it isn’t!

Fry up a finely sliced onion, red pepper and 1 or 2 cloves of garlic in some oil. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. 

Add a tin or two of tomatoes with some salt, pepper and a pinch of dried mixed herbs or zataar (middle eastern herb mix). Let it bubble away for a bit, stirring frequently. 

Then add 2,3 or 4 eggs gently into the sauce - 1 in each corner. DO NOT MIX. Put the lid on and wait for the eggs to cook. This takes a little time, 10 mins at least.

If your fire is too hot and you think the sauce is going to burn just take it off the heat for a minute or two or move it to a cooler part of the fire - the eggs will carry on cooking in the heat so long as you don’t take the lid off. Put it back onto the heat if it gets too cold. 

Add some feta cheese at the end and eat with chunks of bread. 


Veg Chili - Serves 2 - 4 

Chunky chopped veg is totally fine here. You’re going for smokey and wholesome. The only thing that you’ll want to make sure is chopped small is any carrot - or it’ll basically remain raw if it's too big.

Fry up a chopped onion and a clove of garlic for a minute or two.

Add  some chopped veg - whatever you have to hand. Carrot, courgette, aubergine, fennel…cook it off for another few minutes.

Add one or two tins of tomatoes and a tin of beans. Borlotti is my fave but any beans will work, even baked beans!

Now, crack open that sachet of chilli seasoning you remembered to bring!  Let it bubble away for 15 minutes, taste, add salt and pepper if you want.

Serve with bread or if you're feeling ravenous cook up some rice or pasta.


Dahl - Serves 2

Tasty, healthy, filling and quick!

Panch poran is a spice blend. You can buy it ready mixed or mix it up yourself. It’s equal portions of cumin seed, coriander seed, nigella seed, mustard seed and fenugreek seed.


Fry up some finely chopped onion, a clove of garlic and 2 tsp of panch poran for 4 minutes in butter or oil.

Add 2 tsp of garam masala, ¼ tsp salt and, if you are eating this with rice or pasta, 250g of red split lentils. 

If you’re eating it with just bread then use more lentils. 

I use red splits because they cook quickly. Don’t try using yellow splits or mung beans, they take way too long to cook.

Stir and add enough water to generously cover the lentils. 

Let it simmer away until cooked, adding water if it’s drying out.

Taste and add salt if you need to.

Serve with bread, rice or pasta.





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