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Do you dream of spending a night under the stars? Find out everything you need to know to prepare your future weekends!
Whether you're setting off on a 2 day-long trek, or just escaping for the evening, it's important to prepare the right equipment to ensure you enjoy your experience!
It might be that you have to prioritise lightweight equipment that's easy to carry. Or perhaps you can afford to allow yourself more comfort
The first essential item is obviously your sleeping bag! Select it according to the outside temperature in which you will be sleeping. This depends on the season but also the altitude and humidity of the place where you are going to sleep, inform yourself beforehand! Nights are cool in the mountains and especially given the altitude we recommend a sleeping bag with a comfort temperature of at least 0°C, it's better to be too hot than too cold!
Tip: in order to withstand moisture and dew think about equipping yourself with a sleeping bag with water-repellent fabric or else an outer bag. And to ensure your sleeping bag lasts as long as possible, and to stop it getting smelly, we advise you to opt for a sleeping bag sheet so that you can wash the inside of your bag.
Inseparable from the sleeping bag, a mattress will keep you well-insulated from the cold and moisture of the ground.
If you have to carry it, opt for a foam mattress or a self-inflating mattress. A foam mattress is very light, but not very compact. Conversely, the self-inflating mattress can be stored more easily in a bag but is often a little heavier.
If you don't have to carry it for very long and are travelling to your camp by car you can afford to bring an inflatable mattress, pump and pillow for maximum comfort.~
In winter, we advise you to use an additional insulating foam mat to insulate your mattress from the floor.
Also think about taking a click-type lamp or head torch with you to light up your camp or if you get up during the night.
A large plastic bag or waterproof cover will protect your things from moisture during the night. They will also enable you to keep any food away from animals! Bread, biscuits and cakes, which marmots and other ungulates appreciate very much are not easily digested by them. The yeasts contained in these foods can cause serious complications in their digestive systems.
We recommend that you locate the place where you will sleep beforehand. Don't forget to take a map and survival blanket with you and consult the weather forecast carefully before setting off. Ideally, make a "plan B" in case of bad weather: a night in a shelter, a tent or at least a tarp.~
Be ready to postpone your trip if the weather is inclement and you have no back-up plan.
The ideal site for bivouacking is characterised by a few very simple criteria:
- running water nearby is important. This limits the amount of drinking water you have to carry and to make the mountain water drinkable all you need is a few purifying tablets. However, don't set up camp too close to it to avoid the risk of rising damp, or being eaten by mosquitoes.
- A flat and dry area, as sheltered from the wind as possible (below a peak or a pass, if possible, backed by a rocky ridge). Flatness is quite a relative concept, a very slight slope of 2 or 3% might be worth considering for your head to be slightly higher than your feet
- A lovely west or east facing aspect. This is a matter of personal choice: you either prefer the sunset to take advantage of this beautiful light during your evening meal or you prefer the rising sun for the obvious reasons of warmer temperatures in the early morning! If you choose the "rising sun" option, it is logical to have the tent entrance facing east.
Camping in the forest or a clearing is very pleasant (the air temperature in a forest environment is generally more than 1 to 3°C higher) but on the other hand, in a forest of conifers (fir, spruce, Arolla pine, Scots pine etc.) ants love the acidity of the soil! Check there are no anthills within 100 metres. On the other hand in the forest you can hang up your backpacks so they are not accessible to rodents and other small animals such as foxes or weasels who would feast on your trekking provisions!
- On a pass or immediately below it for the obvious reasons of the venturi effect (the wind speed increases due to the terrain) and because of the chance of lightning strikes. This is also the case under a large isolated tree;
- In a peat bog (an old glacial lake filled with sediment), because as well as trampling on fragile flora, these flat areas, which are certainly soft, are usually very humid. Your pressure on the ground would be proof of this in the morning!
- Close to an area where a flock of sheep or goats are sleeping. Your presence will disturb them, you may attract the attention of guard dogs and this increases the chances of ticks and possible droppings.
- Near a cultivated field (farm vehicles might be active at dawn, damage to the crops).
A local council may prohibit camping on its land by local government decree (find out about the regulations in force at the town hall or the tourist office). However, bivouacking is often tolerated (this is the case in some national and mountain parks). Bivouacking consists of pitching up in the evening and leaving the next morning. In National Parks, bivouacking is prohibited unless you set up more than an hour's walk from a refuge or the park perimeter. This is of course conditional upon respecting nature and leaving the place as clean as it was when you arrived.
If you had planned to just escape for the evening, why not enjoy the view for a bit longer with breakfast and dinner at your pitch?~
Take a look at our 7 special camping recipes, both easy and delicious.. And don't forget water if you don't have a stream nearby!
A small campfire is lovely both for the late-night atmosphere and to keep away small prowling animals (even once it's gone out, the smell of burning wood keeps them away for hours).~
Before you leave, check you've carried out basic safety procedures to make sure you don't risk starting a fire. Are you feeling adventurous? The recommendations we provide in "Campfires: instructions" will also teach you how to light a fire using a firestone... A new challenge for you!
Tip: if you opt for a stove, slide your gas cartridge into your sleeping bag, to avoid the risk of finding it frozen at dawn!