Tips for traveling with a tent
The three basics Other camping tools Tips to reduce weight Ways to use your tent In which countries can I camp freely?
THE THREE BASICS: TENT, SLEEPING BAG AND DESIRE TO CONNECT WITH NATURE
It all depends on where you plan to travel. You should buy a tent according to your trip. If you are going to be in cold climates it is worth to bring a better-quality tent even if it weighs more. Or, as I do, go with a light tent and a good sleeping bag. But more important than sheltering from the cold is to do it from wind and rain. You need a “house” that does not come apart and does not get wet (a good waterproof tarpaulin that usually comes with the tent is, therefore, necessary). So usually the more extreme the conditions the greater investment you will have to make for your tent and therefore the more weight you will have to carry. On the other hand, if you are going to be mostly on the beach, tropical forests or if you are in the middle of summer, any tent is worth it (even without the waterproof tarpaulin). The smaller it is the less it will weigh. A tent for two people is fine for you and your dog because you will fit well the three (backpack, dog and human). I have never traveled with a one-people tent but if you and your dog fit in it is a great idea as you would carry little luggage.
The weight is noticeable so try and get a light one (the weight of almost all the tents is indicated on the cover). For example, the ones I use usually range from 1.8 to 2.4 kg. Lately they are developing super light models, but they are very expensive. Finally, note that the care of the tent is extremely important. Take care of it because it is going to be your house!
This beautiful tent died that night... Good thing she was a good one!
Here it is very important to know where (or when) you are going to travel. If it is summer or you are going to travel in tropical places, with a summer sleeping bag should be fine. On the other hand, if you are going to travel in cold areas, especially in winter, that thin sleeping bag will be worth as much of a pillow. I almost froze when I came to the USA from Mexico with my summer sleeping bag. You need to get a good one, a winter sleeping bag. Ask in the store if you are not sure how many degrees your new potential sleeping bag can withstand.
I don't use it in summer time, but when winter comes all I want is stay inside forever!
DESIRE TO CONNECT WITH NATURE
This is the most important point. A trip more focused in nature and not so much in urban areas. If you are willing to enjoy what the open spaces offer and do without everything you will not need there (mobile, internet, baths many times, food in abundance ...) this is what you must do. Do not be afraid, explore, nothing will happen to you. The less fear you have, the more doors will open for you to know deeper and magical places. You can do a day trip or a week hiking, it all depends on you. Or maybe months if you are really into hiking and camping.
Coqui into the wild
OTHER CAMPING TOOLS
The rest are additional, that, although not essential 100 x 100, I do would take them if you are into camping. At least some of them. They will provide you with a lot of quality camping (and sleep). However, if you are only going to camp very occasionally, it is not worth it to take them.
MATTRESS OR BLANKET
In short, something to put on the floor as a mattress and insulation. There are several types, but the ones I like the most are the ones that can be inflated, due to two reasons: their comfort and insulating capacity, on the one hand; and that, once deflated, they can be folded better than others and occupy less in your backpack. On the other hand, if you do not have a mat you can always use a blanket as a base. If you travel in cold places it is quite necessary to carry something, unless you have a very good sleeping. If you camp in snow it is practically obligatory because, otherwise, you will get soaked. I have traveled a long time without a mat, but I would not do it anymore. It is really worth it traveling with one in your gear if camp a lot, even on warm “surfaces”. Even if it is just for comfort... Your back will thank you.
Something to light inside the tent always comes in handy, and it is something that does not take up space or weigh (practically). In addition, you can use it to read, write, play cards, make crafts or whatever you can think of during the night.
STOVE, GAS AND POT
If you do not want to end up sick of sandwiches, here is the solution. It is true that it is a little uncomfortable to carry (not so much for its weight as for what it occupies), but it is worth it. Especially when, after a long and hard journey in the mountain, you can have something and warm up your body. On the other hand, depending on where you are traveling, you can sometimes make bonfires and cook in them, but this depends on the regulation of the country (or zone). To give you an example, in Spain you can not make fire almost anywhere, while in Canada there are many areas that do. So, a stove always comes in handy.
My brother in the kitchen
TIPS TO REDUCE WEIGHT
Weight is the great enemy for those who dare traveling in the camper mode. In addition, some of us must add the weight of our dog’s luggage. That is to say, we have to do something so that we do not get a hernia. Once again, everything will depend on the area/climate in which you are traveling. Obviously, it is easier to remove weight when one is traveling through tropical places than through polar ones.
As we have already mentioned, the first thing is to try to reduce the weight of your own camping gear: take a tent and a sleeping bag according to your trip. If, for example, you are going to travel alone, take the smallest tent possible. On the other hand, if you are traveling with your bud, you can take a slightly larger tent and distribute the weight of the baggage (one could carry the tent, while the other takes care of the stove and food, for example). If you are in a hot place you can carry a light tent and a thin sleeping. On the other hand, if you are traveling in cold places it will be more complicated to get rid of weight in this case.
The next step would be to reduce from other sides. And here the clothes come into play. Surely you will learn soon that carrying a lot of clothes is not a good idea. The camping equipment cannot be reduced any more and now it is time to remove weight from here. The good news is that one ends up getting used to traveling with little clothes. I do not bring more than two jeans and five T-shirts in warm climates; for cold climates I add some jackets, some thermal T-shirt and little more. It is better to wash many times the little you have than carrying several extra kilos all the time.
Can you continue to remove weight? Always! From personal hygiene products, for example. There are some tricks, such as carrying a small towel, soap bars instead of cans, deodorant rollers instead of spray, travel toothpaste, etc. Everything that reduces space and weight will be welcome, you will see.
As for getting rid of carrying some things of your dog, such as food or his/her towel, you can always buy him some dog saddlebags. Personally, I do not like them much for the woods. Cocaí has her saddlebags, but she only uses them when we travel with all the gear on our backs through the city, in search of a new destination, not when we go hiking or camping. I prefer her to go free than carrying her stuff, but hey, it is an option.
Coqui contributing her bit
WAYS TO USE YOUR TENT
This would be the normal way, which includes activities such as going to regular campsites, camping in the woods for a season or make a multi-day route with the house in tow. Just a tip here: enjoy it!
EMERGENCY WHEN TRAVELING BY HITCHHIKING
This is especially important for dog backpackers, as well as for all those travelers on a budget. It involves camping for one night somewhere with the sole purpose of continuing the trip the next day. Normally it will be on the side of the road, after not having got any ride that afternoon, but if you are in a city or town by nightfall you can choose a park, a square, a gas station, etc. The latter, to be honest, is not what I like the most in the world, but sometimes there is no alternative (either because there are no accommodations nearby or because you are not allowed to enter with your dog). The first advice I can give you is to try to make sure this does not happen very often. For example, try to get on the road several hours before sunset. If, for some reason, you get stuck at the exit of the city, try to have located a safe point where you can spend the night. If it is a pet-friendly accommodation, great, but if it is an area where you can camp freely also perfect. Make sure it is fairly safe, that you do not bother anyone, set up your tent and enjoy dreaming (tomorrow will be another hard day!). If you get stuck in the middle of the road pitch your tent some meters away from the asphalt... If there is a forest somewhere over there, much better. I know it sounds a little weird if you have never done it, but I have never felt unsafe doing it. The worst thing that happened to me is that once a drunkard peed in my tent. This thing to do camping where you want, however, will not be possible in all corners of the world. In the next section we will make a brief review of the most tolerant countries and the least in terms of free camping (only the countries that I have been so far and of which I have more information).
No troubles in Canada for doing this
IN WHICH COUNTRIES CAN I CAMP FREELY?
Perhaps, this is the point that most worries many, because free camping is not allowed everywhere (and we do not want to get a ticket). You can find yourself in a place where you are not allowed in any lodging with your dog, but you cannot camp either because it is forbidden... We do not want that to happen. There are many differences between nations in terms of camp legislation. In some countries you can camp in almost any place, while in others it is strictly prohibited, and you have to stick to the camping areas. If you are not sure if you can camp in a certain place and you think you might get a ticket, you can always sleep in the outdoors just with your sleeping bag. I mean bivouac.
I cannot make an exhaustive review of every place in the world now, but I can make a summary of some of the places where Cocaí and I have traveled. I will try to develop a specific post on this topic later. Also, in the section "My Dog Experience" of each country that we have visited, you can find extra information about wild camping.
Spain. We start with my beloved Spain. Very very very difficult. Probably one of the countries that most obstacles put at the time of camping. You can do it, but you expose yourself to a considerably high fine. Although 99% of the territory does not allow free camping, there are a few spots throughout the country that do allow it (note: on the island of Fuerteventura it is apparently legal). The legislation is a bit complicated because it depends on each Community and, in turn, on each City Council in particular. You can take a look on this post from Con Alforjas (it means With Saddlebags) in which they explain the situation very well, and include a collaborative map of the legal camping sites (only in Spanish).
Europe. Generally, they are strict with the issue of free camping, with large differences between one country and another. For example, in Spain, Portugal or Italy it is strictly prohibited. On the other hand, the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, France, Poland and others tend to be more permissive. However, it is difficult to find a piece of "legal" land in general in European territory (except, perhaps, in the Scandinavian countries). Take a look at the blog of Con Alforjas, which, again, explains it quite detailed (only in Spanish).
Map showing the European countries more (in blue) and less (in red) tolerant towards free camping. Taken from Con Alforjas.
Latin America. There is much less regulation in general, which favors a very permissive situation. At least in the countries in which I have been traveling: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico. You will not have problems when camping in wild areas, and they may even leave you “settle down” in town squares, gas stations, etc. This is how we want to travel with our tent!
North America. Unlike Europe, here, where there are also too many rules everywhere, it is easy to find areas that allow camping. So much so that many times you can camp on one side of the road. Both USA and Canada are quite permissive countries when it comes to letting you pitch your tent in the woods. There are limits, such as in National Parks, where you usually must stick to official campsites (unless you are in the wilderness area, where they usually let you camp free), but generally speaking it works very well. In the USA you can camp in everything that is BLM (Bureau of Land Management), that is, lands of public domain, as well as in the National Forests. In Canada you can camp almost anywhere, either in a forest or on the side of the road. Very well the two countries in this regard.
Regardless of the restrictive regulations of some places, camping is simple. If you have never camped you will see that it is not something complex and that you do not need to do any course for it. Your backpack will give shelter to all the camping gear, as if it had always been there, and in just a few days you will be an expert “builder” of your tent, which will become your new transportable home. Under the best scenarios (you can choose them), many times with a sky full of infinite stars.