For various reasons, I hadn’t been able to get out for a wild camp all winter…either real life commitments had forced me to cancel plans or the seemingly constant stream of storms passing over the UK made bricks and mortar the only sensible shelter. This has been even more frustrating because I’d spent a lot of time upgrading my kit, so was itching to get out and test it all.

Finally a window of opportunity opened on the 27th Feb when my mate Paul said he was going out. I was initially going to be very tight for time due to family commitments but I was determined to make it happen. A quick search on the OS maps for somewhere to leave my car, allowing the shortest possible walk in,
and I was good to go. My initial timings suggested that i wouldn’t get up to the Peak District until around 3:30 pm which meant a very quick dash before sunset. However for once, family plans changed in my favour and I was set free a lot earlier than expected!

Arriving at the parking spot at around 1:30, I met up with Paul soon after and we headed for the hills…passing a very inviting looking pub along the way. We called in for “a quick pint” thinking that it would be very rude not to…I mean the landlord had opened the door and lit the fire, so it was the least we could do in return. Well the pub was lovely and the ale was really good, so we ditched the quick pint and decided to use our extra time to enjoy a few slow pints and put the world to rights in the process!

Warmed by the fire and relaxed by the beer, we set off for Back Tor on Derwent Edge. I’ve heard lots of people say that this is a good spot to camp and having walked around there many times, I could see the potential. So the gentle climb up Foulstone Road passing some guys burning heather on the grouse moor saw us on the Edge in well under an hour. Very little wind but some light snowfall and rapidly dropping temperatures spurred us on to get pitched and get some food on the go.

Choosing a sheltered spot, tight under a crag, we benefited from the well flattened ground, no doubt created by decades of footfall from climbers. Trailstar went up quickly although not in the orthodox way…maybe the cold or the beer was fogging my memory but my pitching routine went a bit wonky! Nevertheless I soon had shelter and it was time to get on with the first bit of new kit. I had been using the inner nest from my Luxe Mini Peak II which worked well but was far from perfect. Now I had something a whole lot neater in the form of a Pyranet 1 from Bear Paw Wilderness Designs in the US. This is a great addition to the Trailstar…it fits perfectly and offers a lot more space. The only slight issue is that the SilNylon floor is VERY slippery and my sleepmat needed constant re-positioning throughout the night! For future use, I’ll sort this with a few dots of silicone.

The above mentioned sleepmat is a newly aquired Klymit Insulated Static V. I had been tempted by one of these for a long time, loving the distinctive design and also great value for money but tonight was going to be its first test. Other than slipping out from under me a few times due to the floor, I have to say it performed really well. I was warm and comfortable all night with the substantial “side bars” keeping me well centered in its ample width. So another good purchase. I also have the lighter, non insulated version for warmer weather so I’m hoping to try that soon!
My other major upgrade is my Rab Ascent 900 sleeping bag and again, I’m very impressed. Up to now I’ve been using a synthetic Snugpak Elite 4 which was great but also very heavy and bulky. So the step up to hydrophobic down makes a big difference being over half a kilo lighter and packing down much smaller. It kept me very warm all night and outside temps were probably down to about -10 degrees C. The only small gripe was the zip baffle…it’s quite narrow and as I moved around inside the bag, it felt like it was lifting and allowing a small draught to get through. Certainly nothing major but noticeable all the same.

Anyway, after getting sorted and settled, the Evernew was lit and water boiled to re-hydrate my home made pasta meal…I can’t see me going back to anything other than dehydrated food now. So easy to make at home and simple to prepare in camp with the added benefit of only needing to wash up a single spork…or in my case the Alpkit Lhfoon! Food devoured quickly and kit stowed and tidied a little, I had everything ready for the night. Hoping to do some star photography if the skies cleared but I thought that I’d better have a quick lie down to check that my sleep system was all in order…

Next thing I knew, it was gone 11pm so I guess that it must have been comfortable! I went outside into the chill to have a look around. Still the odd flake of snow falling from the cloud covered sky, only a slight breeze but that was enough to enhance the cold. So I decided to call it a night and return to the cosiness of my shelter. Had it not been for a call of nature at around 3am and occasional bouts of wrestling with a slip sliding sleep mat, I’d have had a solid night’s kip!

A prior engagement the following day meant an early start. Clearing a heavy build up of frost from the Trailstar, I was soon packed up and saying farewell to Paul before heading back to the car. The ground was frozen solid but snow had stopped falling and there was almost no wind, so it was a really good walk under a rising sun.

So it had been a great trip and one that was very long overdue. It’s always good to test out new gear and to verify the money I’ve spent and to do so in great conditions and with good company just adds to the experience. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m out again…possibly with a new cook system to try out!