By: Blonde Two
If there’s one thing that gets the outdoor community talking (and often disagreeing), it’s camping gear. Or more specifically, which kit to take backpack or wild camping. If you’re thinking about buying your first set of camping kit, there’s plenty to consider:
- How many nights will you be out for?
- How far will you be carrying your full rucksack?
- How comfortable do you like to be?
- How much do you want to spend?
Wild camping budgeting
When it comes to fixing your wild camping budget, the decisions about which gear to buy usually come down to three important factors:
- The ability of your gear to keep you warm and dry.
- The weight of your gear for carrying.
- The longevity of your gear.
Let’s use a tent as an example. You’re likely to pay more if you choose a well-made tent with a high hydrostatic head (waterproof factor). In my experience the factor that really pushes the cost of a backpacking tent up is its weight. Lightweight tents that can do the same job as heavier ones are expensive to design and make. It’s important to remember however that cutting out some of a tent’s weight can sometimes adversely affect its longevity. Longevity that of course, is a really important factor in sustainability.
The Regatta camping challenge
Whether you’re considering backpack camping for the first time or thinking about replacing worn-out kit, it can really help the decision-making process to give yourself a budget. It’s been a long time since either of us bought a whole set of camping gear so we decided to challenge the team at Regatta to kit us out with the basics of wild camping for a budget of no more than £400. We asked for:
- A two-person tent
- A sleeping bag (3-season)
- A sleeping mat
- A rucksack (65 litres)
The team at Regatta was up for our idea and it wasn’t long before I received a rather large (not too heavy) and very exciting package. Wonderful I hear you say. It was fabulous. Except that I couldn’t go camping. Not only were we in the middle of a winter lockdown, but my rather small garden was at that moment full of new shed components.
Garden sheds by the way are great for sleeping in but ridiculous for carrying on your back!
I’ve never been very good at waiting, so I opted to set up camp in the (small) lounge in front of the indoor campfire (aka wood stove). As I did I filmed my commentary on the equipment but you can read on for my written gear review. Just one point though, the prices in this review and the video were correct at the time of writing. Regatta often have some exciting sales so you might well be able to bring your budget below ours.
Regatta Montegra 2-man backpacking tent – £180
The Montegra isn’t the smallest or lightest backpacking tent ever made but it isn’t the heaviest either. For its medium pack size it gives a good sized two person tent when pitched (even in my lounge). For two people the inner would be cosy side to side (not a bad thing on chilly nights) but has plenty of length in which to store rucksacks. The porch has plenty of room for two pairs of boots and a stove, and the side door offers relatively easy entry and exit. The tent also has good head room.
I pitched it quickly, only needing to refer to the instructions once for the two outside-fitting end poles. I liked the sunny yellow inner (always a bonus on a rainy morning) and the storage pocket. With a hydrostatic head of 5000mm I would be confident that this tent would keep me as dry as some more expensive tents I have tried. It would be easy to pack and carry with the inner still attached but equally simple to split to allow two people to share the load.
For its price range I think this tent gives good value, especially for those new to wild camping. What I really liked about it was its suitability for different types of camp. I wouldn’t feel out of place in it on a campsite, and it would also make a great touring tent.
Top tent tip: practise pitching your tent at home before your camp.
Regatta Montegra 300 sleeping bag – £75
One of the best ways to reduce the sting of camping gear costs is to buy kit that offers multiple uses. This sleeping bag is going to take up more space in your rucksack than the equivalent 3-season down one, but it isn’t so expensive you won’t want to lend it to the kids for garden camps, or chuck it over your duvet on a chilly night at home. As your camping season and hiking distances extend you might want to invest more significantly (sleeping bags can be frighteningly expensive) but Regatta’s Montegra 300 would be great for starters (as long as you were careful with the rest of your packing).
It has some important extra warmth elements such as elastic close fitting, and zip and shoulder baffles, but also a two-way zip for those ‘blimey my feet are hot’ moments. Despite its size this sleeping bag has kept the weight down with a ripstop nylon outer, and a very soft, snuggly inner. The storage pocket (I might have mentioned I like those) is big enough for my phone or gloves. The only comment I would make about this sleeping bag is that it might not be suitable for the taller camper. I’m 173cm and I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any shorter.
With top of the range sleeping bags reaching prices of up to £850 (and higher) this one really is a great place to start. If you decide you like wild camping, and want to spend more money, you can always sell it on second hand or keep it for the kids, and upgrade at a later date. Whichever way, you’ll have fun trying it out.
Top sleeping bag tip: store a lightweight hat in your sleeping bag for cold night emergencies.
Regatta Napa 5 lightweight self-inflating camping mat – £60
Over the last few years, the range of choice in camping mats has become bewildering. The most important thing to remember is to make sure you take one. Even a simple foam mat will keep you far warmer than you would be sleeping on the ground. As with tents and sleeping bags, the most expensive camping mats are the ones that provide a good combination of comfort, warmth, pack size and weight. I would suggest that the Napa 5 has gone for comfort, which is particularly important if you want your wild camping adventures to continue past your first camp.
I’ve tried lots of camping mats, and they all require a bit of additional puff on top of their ‘self-inflating’ abilities. This one was no exception but that extra breath or two gave me a sleeping mat that was less squishy than a full-blown air bed, but soft enough for a decent night’s sleep. This is a big mat for carrying but that pays off in surface area. Great if, like me, you have a tendency to wriggle off your camping mat in the middle of the night.
You’ll need to strap this one to the outside of your rucksack (always waterproof all your gear) but it’s definitely a lot more comfortable than a foam mat, and less expensive than some of its lightweight equivalents.
Top camping mat tip: rolling a self-inflating mat twice can often make it smaller for packing.
Regatta Survivor III 65L rucksack – £75
I loved the size of this camping rucksack but, for the camping kit above, I would choose 75 or 85-litre one. The 65-litre is however a small rucksack with a big heart. With plenty of pockets, including two good-sized easy-reach mesh pockets, it has lots of carrying capacity for the smaller things like a stove, a torch, and that all-important food.
I particularly liked the wide hip belt and the mesh back, designed to allow some airflow as you walk. The straps, fastenings and fabric all felt strong, and the inner metal frame kept everything in shape, even with a slightly awkward load. Like all good rucksacks the Survivor comes with an integral rain cover but I would always recommend wrapping all your gear in dry bags or rubble sacks whatever the weather.
If you really wanted to go for a smaller rucksack this would be a good choice at the price but you would probably need to invest in a more compact camping map or sleeping bag.
Top rucksack tip: tighten the hip belt to take some weight off your shoulders.
Grab a Regatta bargain while you can
So there we have it. The team at Regatta rose to the challenge and supplied us with four good quality pieces of wild camping kit that would be suitable for this summer’s outdoor adventures, wherever you find yourself. The total cost of this lot was £390 at the time of writing but we’ve already noticed some great camping sale bargains, and recommend you take a look.
Two Blondes Walking have an affiliate advertising relationship with Regatta. We were sent this kit to review free of charge.