10 Best Hikes in Europe

Europe is abundant in beautiful landscapes. It is possible to explore high-peaked mountains, magnificent coasts, or flowery meadows. In Europe, you will find practically every sort of terrain you might want, and almost all of it is accessible. Also, you can choose to go on a one-day hike or take a tour of multiple hiking destinations. Furthermore, some hiking trails are excellent in the winter, while others are ideal in the summer. Therefore, to help you choose your next hiking destination, we made a list of the ten best hikes in Europe. So prepare your hiking gear, and let’s explore the beautiful landscapes of Europe.

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

For some of the best treks in Europe, you must visit Croatia. It is a beautiful country with many fantastic places to visit that display incredible nature and history. However, the Plitvice Lakes National Park is the best spot to visit. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1979 because of its outstanding landscape features. For instance, there are 16 lakes distributed throughout 300 square kilometres, several spectacular waterfalls, and majestic woodlands. Eight hiking trails lead you throughout the region, each with a different level of difficulty and time. So pack your rucksack and head to Croatia for an unforgettable trekking experience.

Retezat Mountains, Romania

The Retezat mountains in Romania are a less popular hiking destination. The mountains are in the Retezat National Park and include 20 peaks, the tallest of which is 2,509 metres. The area is also UNESCO protected, and it is a small piece of heaven. The Peleaga summit, the tallest in the region, offers breathtaking views of the landscape below, such as glacial lakes. You don’t need a permit to trek in the Retezat mountains, but you will have to pay a small fee for entering the reservation. Also, here you will find designated camping points where you can set up your tent and mountain huts where you can spend the night. However, keep your eyes open for bears, lynx, and birds, or you might miss them.

Mount Triglav, Slovenia

Mount Triglav is close to the capital Ljubliana, and it’s one of the best hikes in Europe. The mountain’s summit is 2,864m high and accessible via two routes. One of them starts in Bled and implies going on a via Ferrata. Also, you can choose to go on this hike alone, or you can have a guide. We highly recommend having a guide if you are not an experienced mountaineer or don’t have the appropriate equipment. The paths can be pretty narrow, and the hike might take you longer than expected.

View from a mountain peak.

Triglav mountain offers some of the best hikes in Europe.

Doolin Cliff Walk, Ireland

Many must-see destinations in Ireland are worth including in our list of ten best hikes in Europe.

But, here we want to present to you the Doolin Cliff Walk. This hike is along the sharp cliff edges on a narrow path that overviews the Atlantic Ocean. It is also called the secret passageway and takes you to the Cliffs of Moher. The starting point is from the village of Doolin, and it’s the best way to reach the cliffs by avoiding the crowds. On the way, you will be able to admire stunning views for around 13 km. However, you should be careful when hiking on this trail. There can be strong winds that can make the hike a bit harder and more dangerous.

Via Dinarica, Balkans

The Balkans are the best place to experience tasty food, good music, and historical sites. And the best way to experience all of them is by going on the via Dinarica. This trail crosses through the Dinaric Alps and the Shaar Mountain range. It passes through eight Balkan countries, and it’s 1,930km long, taking you through more than 120 stages. However, if you do not want to make a longer journey by following the entire trail, you can divide it into smaller sections. For example, you can make an eight-day trip from Croatia to Bosnia. Or, you can start with the easy parts and raise the difficulty gradually.

Norwegian Fjords, Norway

The fjords of Norway are a hiker’s dream come true. There are so many beautiful scenes to be seen that you just wouldn’t believe it. For instance, you can walk through lush woods, admire glacier lakes, and view beautiful snow powdered mountains. Also, there are hikes of varying difficulties for all types of hikers. And the best part is that in Norway, people are aware that hiking can boost the quality of life and the benefits it can have on health. As a result, they have the Allemannsretten, which represents the right to walk freely on Norwegian lands. So if you want to wander around the Norwegian fjords, you can do so free of charge.

The Norwegian fjords, one of the best hikes in Europe.

Norwegians appreciate the importance of hiking and encourage people to explore the lands.

Tour du Mont Blanc, Switzerland, Italy, France

This hike is one of the most popular and best hikes in Europe. Unfortunately, it can be dangerous for those that don’t prepare for such a hike. You must have excellent navigation abilities, a high level of stamina, and a lot of tenacity. The whole tour is around 170 km, takes you through three countries, and takes about ten days to complete. You can stay overnight in mountain refuges or look for accommodations in the picturesque Alpine villages. Also, you can start the trail from any of the sides in France, Italy, or Switzerland. Wherever you choose to start from, rest assured that you will see some of the most beautiful views in Europe.

El Caminito del Rey, Spain

The King’s Little Pathway is located in Malaga’s Gaitanes Gorge and provides breathtaking views of the Andalucia area. This well-known yet risky hiking trail is located 105 metres above a river and can take up to four hours to complete. It is eight kilometres long, but you can exit at different locations to make the hike easier. After all, you will want to admire the scenery of the gorge, canyon, and river below. But, if you are afraid of heights, you might want to reconsider going on this trail. Specifically, there are two portions of the route that you should avoid. One section is made of a glass floor, while the other is a high-altitude wire suspension bridge.

Rennsteig Trail, Germany

This German trail is the most popular in the country, being walked by around 100,000 people each year. The route is 170 kilometres long and has breathtaking views. Also, the Rennsteig path is in Thuringia, which hosts the unique Thüringer Winterspiele Olympics. This German state is known for its love of outdoor activities, and the Rennsteig trail is 700 years old, being the oldest in the country. However, if you want to hike on this trail, you should prepare for a long walk uphill. You will need proper hiking boots and all the equipment for such hikes. Also, the trail will require you to have at least a moderate level of fitness.

Deer in a forest.

On the Rennsteig Trail in Germany, you have a high chance of meeting the wildlife.

The Gap of Dunloe, Ireland

This route starts in the Killarney National Park, at Kate Kearney’s Cottage. You can choose between a short 11km trek or a round trip that begins and ends at the cottage. The tour can take you up to five hours, but it will be worth your time. On the way, you will be able to admire impressive mountains, five beautiful lakes, and the famous Wishing Bridge. Legend has it that the wish you make while standing on the bridge will come true. So, even if this route takes your breath away, literally speaking, it will also reward you with beautiful views and maybe even a wish come true.

Final thoughts

If you want to have the perfect hiking experience, choose one of the ten best hikes in Europe as your destination. You will be able to have a fantastic hiking experience while passing through stunning landscapes with gorgeous flora and fauna. Good luck and remember to have fun!

Fun Camping Gift Ideas for Kids

If your children love the outdoors, it is an excellent idea to take them camping. It can be a unique way to make lasting memories and entertain the whole family. There are so many things your kids can do while camping that they might not be allowed otherwise. This is what makes the experience all the more enticing. However, if your little ones are less than thrilled by the prospect of camping, create incentives with some fun gifts. Read on to learn about fun camping gift ideas for kids that will get them super excited for outdoor adventures.

Start with the basics—the sleeping bag

What evokes the idea of camping more than a sleeping bag? Even if you have a fancy tent, a sleeping bag is still a must. There are so many to choose from nowadays. They come in child sizes and can be insulated for extra warmth and coziness. You can pick your kids’ favorite colors, cartoon characters, or pretty much any pattern that comes to mind. If they can pick it out themselves, it will be an even more thrilling experience. This way, they can get excited about the camping trip and have something they personally picked for the occasion.

One of the fun camping gift ideas for kids – a hiking backpack

Another excellent thing that they can shop for with you either online or in-store. Backpacks are kids’ favorites for any occasion. If you get them a special one for camping—they will love it. Backpacks also come in many colors and patterns.

Moreover, it is super practical to have one while camping. Your kids can store their snacks, toys, and water, which will come in handy when you are all on a hike. The backpacks will also be something they are personally responsible for, giving them a sense of importance. Also, you will not have to carry everything yourself, which is always a plus.

A tent is a great way to get your kids excited about camping

We all know camping includes tents—which is already pretty cool—but did you know that tents come in kids’ sizes too? Now that is something no child can resist. They will have their fun and privacy away from the parents, and what kid does not like that? Once you buy kids’ tents, you can practice camping in your backyard. It is a great way to prepare if your kids are not used to sleeping outside before taking the actual trip. They will know what to expect and also get to try out their new cool sleeping bags.

A boy and a girl laughing and reading in a tent

A kid-sized tent will be loads of fun for your children.

Walkie-talkies are a great gift for kids and parents

If your children do not already have walkie-talkies, you have to get them. This is one of the best camping gift ideas for kids. They can have endless fun playing with these. Test them out around the house to ensure they work properly. You will also be able to check the range this way. When you ultimately go camping, you will know what to expect and how far to let your kids wander off. The walkie-talkies are also an excellent tool for parents. You will be able to track down your kids and communicate with them easily while they are running around. For additional safety on your family camping trip, get the ones with an emergency alarm system.

Nifty camping sets for children

They come in many variations, from bug-catching sets to safari hunting and exploring. They also come in different sizes, and you would be surprised how detailed and expansive they can get for a fairly low price. Camping sets make for great gift ideas for kids as they can contain binoculars, compasses, magnifying glasses, whistles, and many more pieces. It can be a great learning experience for your children as they explore the world.   

A girl looking through a magnifying glass at red berries in nature­

One of the fun camping gift ideas for kids is a camping set that your little ones will adore.

What to do with the equipment after camping?

If all the camping gifts for kids got you excited, you might have gone a bit overboard. Remember that all those lovely things need to be put away after the camping trip is over. Your family might be a great fan of the outdoors, but it is not that easy to organize camping as frequently as you would like. In the meantime, you will need to store and take care of the equipment. This can be another excellent opportunity to get your kids involved and teach them how to take care of their things. All their items should be their responsibility so that they appreciate their value more in the future. Once you are done with your camping trip, you want to make sure to follow a few simple steps.

  1. Dry your camping equipment. Lots of pieces may go unnoticed and cause issues later on. If you folded your tents at the campsite, you might not have noticed that they were not completely dry. It is essential to take care of this as mold could form if unattended, and you might lose your precious tents.
  2. Wash your sleeping bags. They may seem clean but let’s face it—camping trips do not come with a shower. Throw them in the washer and dry them afterward. This way, they will be clean and ready to use next time you go camping. You can also buy a sleeping bag liner that will help to keep your sleeping bag clean. Simply wash the liner after use and this will stop the need to wash the sleeping bag.
  3. Store your equipment in vacuum pack bags. All those large tents and sleeping bags can fit nicely in a vacuum pack bag and you can save so much space this way.

Have a fun camping trip

Hopefully, these camping gift ideas for kids inspired you to start shopping and get ready for an adventure with your family. Remember that most camping gifts for kids can be inexpensive, and you can get plenty of fantastic equipment even if you are on a budget. Your kids will have a blast exploring the outdoors, and you will create a terrific activity for many years to come.

8 Best Navigation Apps for Hikers

Sophia Perry

Every hiker will tell you that, to have an adventure in the great outdoors, you’ll need more than just the desire to go for a hike. The modern hiking enthusiast has a wealth of technology at their disposal, so why not use it? Here are our picks for the 8 best navigation apps for hikers.

The importance of apps

Realistically, nothing can replace a compass and a traditional paper map. They never run out of batteries or glitch out when you need them the most. However, a lot can be said about the functionality and convenience of modern apps that can assist you in your travels.

Not only do smartphones have more computing power than the average user needs, but they also come equipped with a GPS, which is an enormously helpful tool for hikers. Simply put, smartphones lower the barrier of entry for beginners. However, when loaded with the right navigation apps for hikers, smartphones become an invaluable tool, which even seasoned trackers can put to good use.

Here are the 8 best navigation apps for hikers:

Woman hiker looking at phone app to help with navigation.

Ever wondered what peak is on that mountain?

1. PeakVisor

We recommend PeakVisor for those of you who are adventurous and like to make up your route as you go. If you’ve recognized yourself in that sentence, then you’ve also surely been in the situation where you have just discovered a beautiful viewpoint – only to have no idea of what is in front of you.

PeakVisor can help you identify the mountains and peaks in your vicinity. What’s best is that it can also find the hikes that take you to those peaks. You just need to make sure you are in good enough shape to make it there. Another cool feature of the app is that it can analyze pictures and then tell you about the peaks you visited in your previous travels.

2. Star Walk 2

Night owls will get a kick out of this app, as Star Walk 2 lets you map out the night sky and identify which constellations are currently above you. If you ever plan to go out and watch a comet or a meteor shower – this app can point you in the right direction. It can tell you where in the night sky you can find stars, planets, and constellations. It even includes year-round tips for what you should look out for in the night sky.

The app uses augmented reality to overlay a virtual view of space. If you have ever wanted to get into stargazing, this app is a fantastic way to start, since it can tell you precisely what you are looking at. That’s something my astronomy textbook couldn’t do.

Starry sky during a night in the woods.

The best place to look at the stars is away from the light pollution of urban areas.

3. AllTrails

AllTrails currently features 1733 different hiking trails in Ireland, so it should keep you occupied for a while. If you are the loner type who doesn’t like running into other people when you hike – you can browse trails by activity and go for the less frequented ones. Trails are also ranked by difficulty and suitability for those who plan to bring a bike, stroller, or even a wheelchair. That feature alone makes this app the perfect companion for hikers with disabilities. You can even read reviews from other users and see what their recommendations are. The app also has a lifeline feature that shares your progress with an emergency contact of your choice, because it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

4. Green tracks

When you are going off the beaten trail, you’ll want an app that functions well even without mobile data services. Unfortunately, the interface of Green tracks is a bit cumbersome and looks a little outdated, to say the least. However, if that didn’t put you off, then you are in for a treat. There is an enormous library of free offline topographic maps for you to download. You can import .gpx files and transfer them to your phone. Just be sure to test the app before hitting the road. It also features the standard live data for hikers, such as distance and elevation.

5. Google Earth

Most of the available hiking apps have 2D maps, and that’s where Google Earth stands out. Here you can choose a 3D display, which can be helpful for scouting the area you plan to trek across. Of course, there are additional features like calculating elevation and plotting out your route. There is also a nifty dice randomizer, which can select the next destination for you. Most importantly, hikers will enjoy the ability to add a hiking trail layer that can be combined with the 3D display. This allows you to superimpose your path on the realistic-looking three-dimensional terrain.

6. Gaia GPS

With Gaia GPS, you can search for nearby trails and save your favourite hikes on your phone. It features topographic maps and contour lines, so even seasoned hikers will find it useful. If you are ambitious about longer hikes that can take up the whole weekend, the app can help you find camping spots. Unfortunately, the offline maps feature requires a subscription. However, users with a connection to the net can enjoy live data while they hike, with real time speed and elevation information.

Smartphone with navigation apps for hikers on a tree stump in the forest.

Campers sometimes need help selecting the perfect spot to put up their tents; luckily, there’s an app for that!

7. Maps.me

Maps.me is a lightweight, free-to-use smartphone app. We are including it in our list because it has a fully functional offline mode. Just download the map for the country you plan to explore, and you are set. You don’t need to worry about things like Google storing maps only for a limited time and deleting your data. Honestly, sometimes even experienced hikers can get lost, and having an offline map can be a great safety net to fall back on in situations when there is no reception.

8. Pokemon Go

You might be wondering why we have a game on our list of hiking apps, especially when there are other outdoor activities that are fun and don’t require digital assistance. After all, you choose hiking to enjoy the sights and sounds that Mother Nature has to offer. Hiking is fantastic because you get to move your body, climb that faraway mountain, and breathe fresh air while doing it. Well, the truth is: some of that stuff is hard, and it can be challenging to find the right motivation. People achieve better results when they gamify any activity. As an augmented reality app, Pokemon Go will get you off the couch and hiking in order to catch all of those rare Pokemon.

The bottom line

That was our list of the 8 best navigation apps for hikers. Now it’s up to choose the right one for you. In the end, it comes down to specific needs and personal preferences. Go ahead and download your favourites and start hiking ASAP!

5 Best Training Exercises for Hiking

written by Sophia Perry

Hiking is not just a not-so-leisurely stroll through the woods. It involves scenic routes, stunning views, and an escape from the hectic buzz of the city. However, to enjoy all these perks, you have to be in shape. You have to agree that you can’t fully appreciate the beauty around you if you struggle to catch your breath and feel worried about the journey back. Many believe that training for hiking only involves, well, going on hikes. However, that’s not all it takes. While you definitely should do that, you should introduce some exercises into your routine that can help tremendously. Therefore, to help you get in shape and relish everything that nature can give you, we have prepared the 5 best training exercises for hiking. Also, we will provide you with a quick overview of what to focus on when training to become a strong hiker.

How to train for hiking

While hikes have a lot to offer, you will hardly enjoy them if you simply wake up, throw on some hiking shoes and find the nearest trail. Unless you are highly active already, you will have to prepare for a hike. 

And the reason for that is pretty evident. Hiking trails are not flat surfaces you regularly walk on. They are uneven, there is often some elevation, and you will likely encounter some obstacles. The good news is that training exercises for hiking won’t require hours at the gym. So, here is what you will have to focus on.

  • Strength. You must strengthen the major muscles hikers use. These are your leg and core muscles. If these are strong, it will be easier to support the load you carry. And you will be able to hike for longer.
  • Endurance. Hiking can take all day. Therefore, you have to build endurance in those muscle groups you use the most: legs, core muscles, shoulders, lower back. 
  • Balance. Since you will have to navigate uneven terrain, you need a more stable base.
  • Cardio. It would be best to complement your exercise plan with a form of cardio workout. Choose an aerobic exercise you enjoy, for instance, running or cycling.
Two people hiking towards a snow-capped mountain
If you want to enjoy your hikes you have to be ready and healthy.

Important tip: Before you begin training, consult your doctor and a certified trainer. It’s imperative you ensure you are in good health. Also, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can easily get hurt performing different exercises.

Training exercises for hiking

Now that you know what your focus should be when preparing to become a hiker, here are the best exercises that will help you get there. You could soon be exploring different hiking trails around the world. And believe it or not, after seeing some places, many people have decided to move. For example, New York is a popular destination for hikers, and those who live in Brooklyn often enjoy hiking tours. Besides being one of the most beautiful, it is also a very family-friendly neighborhood. So, if you decide to make Brooklyn your home, you won’t lack activities to enjoy with your family, and you will undoubtedly have many trails to tackle.

1. Goblet squats

This exercise is essential for hikers as it helps strengthen all of your major leg muscles (quads, hamstrings, and glutes). These are also the muscles you will use the most on your hikes. 

A woman performing goblet squat

Goblet squat strengthens all your leg muscles.

How to: Take a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it between your hands near your chest. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Stand so that you place your weight on your heels. Slowly start descending into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle. Also, make sure your knees don’t bow inwards but try to keep them right above your feet. Sit back into the squat so your knees don’t go over your toes. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, start going up, pushing from your heels. Once standing fully extend your hips and squeeze your glutes. As you progress, gradually increase the weight of your dumbbell or kettlebell.

2. Downhill lunges

Lunges, in general, are an excellent exercise for hikers. It strengthens your leg muscles while improving your balance. But downhill lunges do you one better. Many hikers think that going up is the challenging part. However, the descend will actually lead to pain in your quads. Thus, downhill lunges will prepare you for this, even more strengthening your balance and core.

Two girls doing lunges, one of the best training exercises for hiking

Lunges are an excellent exercise for hikers as they strengthen leg muscles and improve balance.

How to: Find a downhill. Stand keeping your upper body upright. Relax your shoulders, back, and your chin. Step forward with your leg ensuring your core is engaged and lowering your hips until your knee is at a 90-degree angle. Again, your knee must not go over your toes. Keep them right above your ankle. As you start standing up, keep your weight in your heels and step forward with your back leg, placing it next to the other leg. Then do the same with the other leg.

3. Deadlift

The deadlift is another excellent exercise for hikers as it strengthens the hamstrings. You will use these muscles a lot on your hikes. Also, it is a complex exercise that engages many muscles. 

A woman doing a kettlebell deadlift

Another excellent training exercise for hiking is the deadlift.

How to: Start with a lighter kettlebell until you are confident in your form, then begin increasing the weight. Align your feet with your hips and hold the kettlebell with both hands between your thighs. Your spine must be in a neutral position as you hinge at the hips. Stick your bottom out a little as you bend forward, paying attention to keep your back straight. Then, slowly squat until you touch the ground with the kettlebell. On your way back up, hinge at the hips and squeeze your glutes.

4. Hanging knee raises

This exercise will strengthen your core, which will help you support your heavy hiking backpack while you overcome various obstacles. 

How to: Find a bar you can safely hang from. Keep your arms fully extended and your legs straight. Slightly roll your pelvis backward. Raise your knees until they are at a 90-degree angle with your torso, and roll your pelvis up a bit. Hold for a second and slowly lower your legs back to the initial position.

5. Any form of cardio workout

A woman stretching

Stretching is an essential part of every workout plan.

You have to develop some stamina if you don’t want to be huffing and puffing your entire way up. As we have mentioned, you can do whatever you enjoy. Speed walking, jogging, swimming, and even dancing are solid options as long as they increase your heart rate. Getting your heart rate up will build your lung capacity and improve your endurance.

Don’t forget to stretch

No workout plan is complete without stretching. Stretching is a must because it reduces the chances of injury and ensures quick recovery. At the beginning of training, do some dynamic stretching to warm up (a light jog, jumping jacks, high knees, etc.). 5-10 minutes is enough to prepare you for the strength training. Once you have finished training you should do 5-10 minutes of static stretches. Static stretching implies holding one position for some time and are suitable when your body is warmed up and flexible. It will also reduce the risk of injury, speed up recovery, and improve flexibility. So, after the workout, stretch all those big muscles you have used – quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, and core. 

Now that you know what some of the best training exercises for hiking are, you can begin preparing. If you are a beginner, you will be more than ready come spring. But if you feel confident, you can enjoy some winter hiking tours. Just make sure you take some precautions, so you stay safe.

What Does a Typical Day Look Like on the Camino?

Have you ever wondered what happens on the Camino de Santiago in between walking from one town to the next? After all, most pilgrims are finished walking by early afternoon which leaves a lot of time to fill until the following morning.

In this article, I’d like to give you a better idea of what to expect on the Camino and as to whether this long distance walk might be for you or not. But let’s take a look at a quick overview of the adventure before taking a peek at everyday life on the Camino.

Walking the Camino Frances – A Quick Overview

I finished walking the Camino Frances last week. It was my second time to walk this particular route and the logistics of this adventure is one of my reasons for wanting to return. In other words, it’s easy to organize a dander on the Camino and you will meet people of all ages and shapes and sizes and pilgrims from all walks of life.

What exactly is the Camino Frances?

The Camino Frances is one of the many long distance walking paths in Spain that leads to the main Cathedral in Santiago. Just so you know, there are several other paths that lead to this same Cathedral such as the Camino del Norte or the Camino Primitivo. However, the Camino Frances is by far the most popular route with more accommodation and resupply options and a lot more fellow pilgrims too!

It stretches for 790km across the top of Spain. Some pilgrims choose to walk the Camino Frances in stages every year, while others walk the entire path in one go. It takes most people between 30 and 40 days to complete the walk. The starting point is at a town called St Jean Pied du Port on the French border. This walking path is marked with yellow arrows and travels through many villages, towns, and cities that have a long lineup of places to stay including hotels, guesthouses, and albergues (hostels). Now, let’s take a closer look at day-to-day life on the Camino… 

Guiding arrows on the Camino de Santiago

The Morning Routine and Breakfast on the Camino Frances

Pilgrims tend to rise early and start walking as soon as possible. It’s up to you of course but it gets really hot on the Camino and an early start will help you avoid walking for too long in the hottest part of the day. That being said, most pilgrims end up going to bed rather early which means it’s not such a big deal waking up at 6 am. In my own experience, I also found most pilgrims really enjoyed walking during these quiet and peaceful hours and being able to start their day with a walk at sunrise.

While some Albergues or hotels offer breakfast, some do not. I also noticed that many pilgrims prefer to start moving and wait until the next town for breakfast. This is usually within a one-hour walk (5km) from where they slept the night before. Coffee with tortilla (potato omelette), eggs on toast, or pastries are common staples for breakfast on the Camino. I sometimes carried my own which might consist of rice crackers with avocado and cheese or rice crackers with banana and peanut butter.

Summary: Every morning is a simple affair and you simply rise early and start walking until you feel hungry or reach a nice cafe in which to enjoy some coffee.

Assortment of breakfasts available on the Camino.
Assortment of breakfasts available on the Camino.

Mid Morning and the Actual Walking Itself

This part of the day goes by really quickly on the Camino. It might take a week or so to get used to walking long distances but there comes a point when you settle into the experience and process. If you like talking with other pilgrims or listening to podcasts and audiobooks as you walk, you should find this time goes by even faster. Believe it or not – walking 20km every day will eventually seem like a very normal thing to do!

Every five or ten kilometres, you will also encounter small villages and towns and these are usually equipped with albergues, cafes, shops, and a fountain to refill your water bottles. This also means that pilgrims can stop for the night if they don’t wish to walk any further – *unless they have made a booking elsewhere that day/night.

The scenery is spectacular on the Camino Frances and changes a lot as you proceed from east to west across the top of Spain. The beginning is quite lush and cool but the middle section is extremely flat, dry, and open, while the latter stages of the Camino Frances are very mountainous and green. It’s a lovely aspect of walking the Camino because you get to see these landscapes change slowly over time and this also makes it very easy to notice and appreciate the present moment.

I really enjoy talking with other pilgrims on the walk each day but I also like to spend time alone. During this time, I sometimes listen to podcasts or music or plug out entirely and drink in the scenery and spend some time alone with my own thoughts.

Either way, you should find the mornings and the walking itself to be a rather spontaneous affair with stunning scenery and interesting conversations.

*About making bookings: Some pilgrims make all their bookings before arriving on the Camino. While this ensures they will never be stuck for somewhere to stay, it also means they will be tied to a specific and rigid schedule that may not suit later on. I believe a better way to organize accommodation is to book the first few days/week and then make the rest of your bookings as you go along. This means you might make bookings just one day in advance or even that same day which will allow for more flexibility and the option of taking a day off whenever you want.

A long stretch of trail on the Camino de Santiago
A long stretch of trail on the Camino de Santiago

About Meeting Other Pilgrims on the Camino

Meeting other pilgrims is a magical part of this journey and the Camino is “a place” that makes it easy for people to connect – even the socially awkward. This often means pilgrims will strike up a conversation with you at random coffee stops or while waiting for your laundry in an albergue. There’s also a sense of openness and trust with these interactions which seems to allow for quick and easy connections between friendly people who just want to be part of one another’s journey.

If you are more introverted, like me, you might be a little concerned about this side of the experience. However, it’s just as easy to spend time alone and even avoid such interactions. I actually spend at least half of my time walking alone on the Camino and simply do this by either walking ahead or dropping back from other pilgrims. It’s perfectly okay to do this on the Camino and nobody is likely to feel offended.

Moral of the story: You can be alone or you can be with others – it’s up to you!

Pilgrims on the trail
Pilgrims on the trail

Reaching the Next Town at the End of Your Daily Walk

As enjoyable as the walk might be, it’s always a welcome relief to reach your destination each day. I like to celebrate this part of the day by going straight to the room, taking off my hiking boots and socks, and lying down for ten or fifteen minutes.

I’m also very hungry at this point and after a quick shower, I like to get straight out to the nearest restaurant for something to eat. Food is really good on the Camino Frances and there is plenty of meat, fish, and vegetarian options along the way. As a long distance walker, you might also start to notice a lack of expectations and appreciation for any kind of food that can replenish the lost calories from that day.

Dinner options on the Camino
Dinner options on the Camino

But what else is there to do?

It’s then common for pilgrims to take a short nap but I myself like to stay awake and wait for an uninterrupted sleep in the evening. You will also need to do laundry every few days and this can take an hour or two – depending on the facilities available. And then there’s time for reading or writing, chatting with other pilgrims, or enjoying a glass of wine and just putting the feet up in a quiet spot in town.

In the evening, “pilgrim meals” are arranged in many of the Albergues which is another nice aspect of the Camino. These home-cooked meals are usually very healthy and cheap and provide an opportunity for pilgrims to get to know one another. Although I do quite enjoy these occasions, they normally commence at 7/8 pm which is a little late for dinner in my opinion. For this reason, I will often have dinner much earlier and be relaxing with a book or movie on my iPad by that time instead.

After that, it’s lights out and time to prepare for repeating this process the next day!

A signpost in Camino Frances

Final Thoughts

It might seem like there’s a lot of space and time on the Camino Frances and this is true, but time goes by really quickly. After a long walk, it’s even nice to “do nothing” and the routine of shower, food, and laundry is often more than enough activity to fill your afternoon and evening. This is also another lovely thing about life on the Camino; you get to focus on the basic necessities in life. You gradually forget about the many distractions and needless thoughts that tend to occupy one’s mind back in the real world. If you feel intrigued by any of the above, I believe you will enjoy the Camino!

How to Ensure Safety During a Winter Hike

written by Sophia Perry

Hiking in the winter is not for everyone – it can get cold, wet, and very slippery. But between the snow-covered treetops, frozen lakes, and the glittering sun, the views are stunning. So start looking up the best winter trails in the area now because you don’t want to miss out on spending this beautiful season in nature. However, before you put on your hiking boots and jacket, remember that hiking in the winter is most definitely not the same as hiking in the summer. Even for experienced hikers, it can be risky. That’s why you need to learn how to ensure safety during a winter hike, or your pleasant day outside can quickly turn sour.

The importance of ensuring safety during a winter hike

Every time you go on a hike, you take a risk. Typically, this risk isn’t major – you might fall and get scraped up, you’ll probably get a few insect bites, and on rare occasions, you might twist an ankle at worst. But winter weather brings different dangers.

Hiking in the winter is very different from hiking in the summer.

Cold is the obvious one. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures can affect you physically, making it harder to breathe, move, and even think clearly. This is why a wild camping adventure should be relegated to another season – spending a few nights outside in the winter is only for the most dedicated among us. Decreased visibility and difficulties with navigation are other things you need to prepare for. Even on a clear day without snowfall, it can be hard to find tracks when they are covered in snow. This can easily lead to getting lost in the wilderness. So how do you enjoy your favorite hobby and avoid these dangers at the same time?

Tips for increasing safety during a winter hike

It is perfectly possible to minimize risks and enjoy one of Ireland’s best winter hikes safely if you know how to prepare. So follow these tips:

Get an early start

You don’t get a lot of daylight in the winter, so use it wisely. Look up must-see destinations near you, so you don’t have to travel far, pack the night before, and start your hike early in the morning. No matter how weak, the sun will make it warmer while it’s out. The visibility will be better too. So don’t wait until later – when it comes to winter hiking, the early bird gets the worm every time.

Keep it short and sweet

The longer you stay outside, the more exposure you’ll experience and the higher the risk of something going wrong. So during the winter months, plan shorter hikes. How short exactly depends on your skill level. For some experienced hikers, a whole day in the mountain is not a problem, even during the colder months. But if you’re going with a less fit or less experienced group, and particularly if the group involves children, you’ll want to contain yourself to a couple of hours of outdoor activities at most. For example, kids love to do things outside, so you may want to make hiking a family affair. That’s a great idea as long as you keep in mind that children can’t regulate body temperature as well as adults. So you’ll need to stick to shorter trails during the winter as a safety precaution.

Don’t spend too much time outside when it’s cold; short hikes are safer and can be just as satisfying.

Don’t go alone

Hiking alone means not having anyone to rely on in case something does go wrong. During the winter, this can be an especially serious problem. Even a minor issue will turn into a crisis if you end up stranded on the trail without the possibility to contact anyone as the temperatures steadily drop. So it’s best to hike with others, especially if they have more experience than you. Not only will you be safer, but you’ll also have more fun!

If you insist on going alone, alert someone of your plans. Better yet, set up a check-in system where you contact them every so often to confirm everything is okay. If they don’t hear from you in a while, they can call for help in your stead.

Stay hydrated and eat well

Poor hydration and nutrition will only make your hike physically more demanding and more dangerous. So make sure to take sips of water whenever you stop and bring some nutritional snacks to eat when you get hungry. Warm drinks like tea and coffee are not a bad idea either; just remember that they are not a replacement for regular water. A water bottle is still one of the most important things to have during a hike, regardless of the season.

Dress for the occasion

One of the best ways to protect yourself from hypothermia is to wear the right shoes and clothes. You’ll want to dress in layers so you can maintain body heat and adjust your clothing in case the weather changes. Your outer layers (including footwear) should be waterproof, while the inner layers should be something that keeps warmth close to your body, like wool such as a great quality Helly Hansen Jacket or a Trespass Fleece. Depending on the difficulty of the hike, you may need snowshoes or crampons. At the very least, however, wear boots with a good grip and use trekking poles.

Proper clothes and gear will make all the difference and ensure safety during a winter hike.

Always take emergency supplies with you

Winter hikes typically require more equipment than summer ones. With all that you need to pack and strap to your back, you may be tempted to leave behind some emergency supplies. After all, what are the odds you’re going to need them? The truth is – slim. But you should still never leave emergency supplies behind when going on a winter hike. A proper first-aid kit, navigational items, and communication tools could literally save your life if something goes wrong. Thus, find the space for them in your rucksack!

Develop the necessary skills in advance

Simply having the right gear is not enough – you need to know how to use it. So before you go on a hike, test out your abilities with the tools you’re bringing along. Take your winter gear out for a spin, make sure you know how to navigate with a compass if something happens to your technology, and brush up on your first-aid using the supplies in your kit. On the off chance that something happens, being able to use your gear quickly and without thinking can make a huge difference.

Preparing for a winter hike

Preparation is vital when it comes to hiking in the winter. Not only does it ensure safety during a winter hike, but it can also make the whole experience more pleasant by eliminating stress and uncertainties. So the night before or even the morning of your hike, make sure to read up on the trail conditions, look at the weather forecast, and check that you’ve packed everything. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into is crucial; it’ll impact how you pack, how you plan, and even whether you should take the hike at all. So keep yourself safe by being well-prepared.

Want to write a guest blog on OAS.ie? Email us at online@oas.ie.

The Ireland Way: My Struggle, Experience and Decision to Keep Walking

I’ve been walking the Ireland Way trail for the past few weeks and just recently passed the halfway point. It’s been a very challenging and interesting walk but mostly for reasons which I did not expect. That is to say, I expected this walk to be rather “easy” compared to my previous trips and largely focused on the places, landmarks and culture that I might encounter along the way. Instead, I’ve really struggled with anxiety and loneliness and the motivation to continue!

In this post, I would like to talk about some of these issues and my experience on the Ireland Way.

– My feelings at the beginning of the trip.

– some early thoughts/opinion on the Ireland Way.

– Highlights of the trip so far.

– My experience with hiking and camping gear.

– My struggle with anxiety and decision to continue walking the Ireland Way.

– Making videos, going viral and getting recognised on the walk.

How it Felt to Begin an Adventure After a Year of Uncertainty

The start of every adventure is filled with a mixture of nerves and excitement. But it’s a long time since I took a long distance trip and this left me feeling especially anxious up near the Giants Causeway. We’ve also endured an incredibly weird year of uncertainty and I did very little exercise or preparation for this walk. As a result, this did nothing to alleviate my growing sense of fear and anxiety.

However, even with 25lbs of weight on my back, I noticed a certain weight lift off my shoulders in those first few steps. It sounds rather silly but everything feels different on the move. I felt a great sense of purpose return as the sound of the ocean replaced the noise of a fast-moving world.

It stayed like this for the first week. I was still quite nervous about looking for suitable wild camping spots each night but the absence of stress and noise was notable with every passing day.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 Person Backpacking Tent

Some Thoughts from the Halfway Point of The Ireland Way

The Ireland Way connects two long distance trails that run from the top to bottom of Ireland – the Beara Breifne Way and the Ulster Way. Most hikers walk this trail from south to north but I decided to walk in the opposite direction so that I could finish in West Cork. While it’s possible to stay in guesthouses the entire way, I couldn’t afford that option and wanted to wild camp along the way.

Although the very first section (the Causeway Coast trail) was almost entirely off-road, a very large portion of the Ulster Way consists of road. I’m used to quiet country roads since my walk around Ireland two years ago. It felt like many parts of the Ulster Way were more suited to cycling as opposed to walking. Signage on the Ulster Way is also really bad and I was delighted to have the Hiiker app for company throughout this section. That said, there were several highlights including Downhill Forest, the Sperrin Mountains and Little/Big Dog in County Fermanagh. The people were lovely at every turn and the towns were nice but many shops seemed to be closed down (COVID).

After some long road sections, the Cavan Way was an absolute delight when I crossed over from Co. Fermanagh. This was followed by an equally impressive trail, the Leitrim Way, and both of these trails were mostly off-road and extremely well signposted. I also really enjoyed the Suck Valley Way but took an alternate route across Roscommon which saw me miss the hugely popular Miners Way.

And you know what I found most challenging?

Being alone with my own thoughts for so long. But more on that in a moment.

Derek Cullen Outdoors on The Ireland Way trail.

Highlights of Walking the Ireland Way (So Far)

The stretch of coastline near the Giants Causeway is truly spectacular. I genuinely believe County Antrim is one of the most underrated counties in terms of both scenery and places of interest. Dunluce Castle is an awe-inspiring sight and sandy beaches come thick and fast all along the north coast. Downhill Forest near Castlerock feels magical and the Sperrin Mountains have a kind of rugged and lonely beauty that reminds me of parts of Mayo. The lakes near Little/Big Dog in Fermanagh were a lovely surprise and the Cavan Way is one of the most interesting trails in Ireland. In fact, for whatever reasons, the trails have been much more impressive and well-maintained over the past week which leaves me hopeful for a big finish as I near the mountains in County Cork.

About My Experience with Hiking and Camping Gear

Firstly, the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2 is the best backpacking tent that I have ever come across. It’s extremely light and surprisingly durable/strong for such light fabric. It stood up reasonably well to a night of heavy wind and rain and there’s so much space inside – more than enough for two people.

I’ve been using the same socks (1000 Mile Socks) as my previous long distance walk but this was my first time to use a pair of Merrell Moab 2 GTX hiking shoes. I now understand why the Moab 2 GTX are one of the most popular hiking shoes in Ireland. They are very sturdy and watertight and not heavy like a boot which is one of the reasons I most often wear trail runners on my long walks. I got a very bad pinch blister in week two but this is due to my slightly deformed toes and not the shoe.

I’ve also been using an APG stove which is similar to the Jetboil and very impressed by its’ performance. Similarly, it’s my first time to use a Vango Cobra 400 sleeping bag which is extremely comfortable and packs down really small. I recommend carrying a sleep liner and a trespass Fleece for extra warmth.

My favourite accessory? My colourful Buff hat which you can buy here.

Wild Camping spots on the Ireland Way

Making Videos and Getting Recognised During My Walk

Making videos on the trail is one of the most challenging thing about the walk. I’ve been carrying power banks to keep everything charged but it takes a push to edit and upload videos after a long day of walking. Interestingly, these videos mean that I am sometimes recognised by locals. It’s always lovely to meet followers but if I’m honest, it’s also an incredibly bizarre experience and one that often leaves me feeling rather bewildered. I had a waiter buy me coffee in Dungiven and another lovely man give me £20 for lunch roadside in Derry. The thing that really strikes me about such interactions is that people will “give” something without expectation of receiving anything in return – even my time.

Going Viral on Facebook and a Wave of New Followers

I recently posted a video on Facebook that went viral. It was just a short morning update for my trip followers to tell them about a farmer that caught me camping on his land. There was no home/building/farm nearby and nobody around when I pitched the tent so I used this opportunity to ask permission. He was a lovely man and perfectly fine with the situation.

Anyway, this particular video received a lot of attention (1.5 million views) after the Facebook algorithm decided to pick it up. To be honest, there was a number of very abusive messages. However, I’m delighted with how this video brought thousands of really positive, like-minded people into my online community.

Staying positive on the Ireland Way Trail

My Struggle with Anxiety and Decision to Continue Walking the Ireland Way

I had what you might call a successful year for both personal and professional reasons. After all, this time last year, I was working at a supermarket and sweeping floors in a warehouse and now here I am back working as an adventurer. I also spent a lot of this time ignoring the news, reading about spirituality and planning for the future. With this in mind, I was expecting an enjoyable and worry-free walk along the Ireland Way and not the anxiety issues that encompassed week three of the walk.

I was feeling somewhat lonely and anxious at times but this anxiety became more and more apparent in the third week. It got to the point where I felt overwhelmed and decided to take a few days away from the walk. This worked and I felt great (back to normal) for three full days but then as soon as I returned to the road, I felt that same anxiety rising back to the surface. I could have stopped the trip at this point and it did cross my mind, but only for a day or so.

It’s been a crazy year for everyone. In my own instance, I either ignored or miscalculated how much this strange period has impacted on my mental health. In fact, I don’t believe I would have encountered these problems or come to this way of thinking without walking the Ireland Way. This journey has made me feel deeply uncomfortable at times and brought forward a range of suppressed feelings and thoughts from which I am easily distracted in my every day life.

As for why I decided to continue my walk, I believe that some of the hardest questions are best answered in the dark. Turning my back on this uncertain journey would be to ignore the very path that might reveal why I’m feeling this way and how I can make everything right again. I’m also privileged to be healthy and able-enough to take this walk – another reason to do anything in life.

Hiking on a Budget? Check Out this Gear by Rock N River

I’ve been trying out different types of gear lately and it strikes me that most of my hiking and camping gear comes from the same brands. But the best brands really do produce some of the best value gear. I personally like to stick with MSR and Vango for my tent and sleep system. I’ve also favoured Osprey backpacks down through the years and Black Diamond for my hiking poles on long distance trails. However, my recent review of Rock N River budget hiking gear has opened my mind to new affordable brands.

I know that not everyone can afford Osprey backpacks or a set of hiking poles by Black Diamond, Leki, or one of the other big names. With this in mind, I recently acquired some hiking gear from Rock N River with the intention of testing this gear out and then doing a giveaway with my followers on social media.

This post outlines my experience and some thoughts on budget hiking gear:

My Experience with the Budget Hiking Gear by Rock N River

Rock N River AirTrek 35 Backpack

I’m a little obsessed with backpacks and the comfort of Osprey bags in particular. For this reason, I was pleasantly surprised to find such impressive (and effective) padded straps and ventilated back system on the AirTrek 35 by Rock N River. If you have never experienced this type of back system, I can assure you that hiking with a backpack will never be the same.

The straps and hip belt fit snug to the body which is probably the first thing you’d hope to find with a hiking backpack. But the ventilated back system with mesh makes this an absolute joy to carry and noticeably different from carrying a standard backpack. The mesh pockets on each side are useful for water bottles and there are also two fixed loops on the back for hiking poles. With plenty of space inside and a pocket for a hydration bladder, it’s the ideal bag for day hiking at the very least.

It was my favourite item by Rock N River. Mostly because of the ventilation system, which I really didn’t expect for a hiking backpack in this price range!

Rock N River AirTrek 35

Rock N River Carbon Superlight Hiking Poles

Okay, I cannot recommend these hiking poles enough – they are amazing! But can I quickly tell you why I’m such a big fan and advocate for hiking poles in general?

It took me six weeks of recurring injuries on the Pacific Crest Trail to realise the importance and practicality of hiking poles. Until that time, I just didn’t believe they were necessary and that they looked rather silly! But every other hiker was using them (even the kids). These hikers were mostly without the kind of persistent injuries that I was incurring time after time. There were a lot of big climbs on that trail and I was naive in terms of the general strain and heavy load that comes with multi-day hikes. This strain is caused by the inevitable pounding of one’s feet on the ground, while the extra weight brings untold pressure on the body – especially the knees, feet, and ankles. Anyway, once I began using my Black Diamond poles, the injuries went away and every climb/descent was suddenly a lot easier.

But do you really need to invest so much money in hiking poles?

Carbon hiking poles are so much lighter and worth the money and I believe this is especially true with the Rock N River carbon super-light hiking poles.

I ended up losing my Black Diamond poles (don’t ask) and picked up a cheap replacement in Asia. It was to my surprise that my new/cheap hiking poles were just as good in terms of performance – albeit much heavier than my previous set of poles.

With all this in mind, I was amazed to find such an incredibly light and durable set of hiking poles as this set by Rock N River. I’m just as amazed with the cost, for this standard of hiking poles often comes with a hefty price tag. Aside from the cost, the poles are lighter than any of my previous hiking poles and with all the same features.

I was actually sorry to be giving them away on social media…lesson learned!

If you need a set of hiking poles for walking the Camino or any of the trails on our doorstep, I fully recommend picking up this wonderful set of super-light poles!

Rock N River Carbon Superlight Pole

Rock N River 2L Hydration Bladder

I began using hydration bladders on my year-long bicycle ride through Africa. They were the easiest means of carrying water and I never did like the idea of using one disposable bottle after another. But convenience and functionality is the main reason for using a hydration bladder. You can fill, filter and drink from a bladder much faster than a standard water bottle.

Fill – You can dunk a hydration bladder into a river easier than a bottle. I also find it easier to wash/clean the inside of a hydration bladder.

Filter – Some water filtration systems work better with a hydration bladder because you need to squeeze water through the system. It’s also somewhat easier for this process because you don’t need to stand it up or hold it still like you do with a bottle.

Drink – The Rock N River hydration bladder comes with an attachable tube which makes it really easy to drink at any time. I find this not only more convenient but also more practical because you never need to wait, stop or stretch anytime you wish to re-hydrate.

In short, there’s a lot to be said about using a hydration bladder for hiking, and the Rock N River model is just as good as any other model at a lesser cost.

Rock N River 2L Hydration Bladder

Rock N River 4+2 LED Head Torch

I have quite a few head torches at this stage and count this as an essential piece of hiking gear. It’s an emergency item that you should keep in your backpack at all times. They’re obviously useful for rustling through your backpack or hiking in the dark.

The Rock N River 4+2 LED Head Torch has everything you could really need and features four different modes. There is a flood and spotlight mode and then also two red-light options which you might use for reading maps after dark etc. I think this is best suited to anyone but especially young scouts or those who might be new to hiking.

Also, while I often suggest the Petzl Actik Core or Ledlenser MH5 to other hikers, I always recommend carrying a backup light like this nice little head torch by RnR!

Rock N River 4+2 LED Head Torch

Some Thoughts about Using Budget Gear for Hiking in Ireland

When I first got into hiking, I ran into several safety problems that could have been avoided. I also experienced the same persistent injuries (mostly knees/feet) on my long-distance trips and a general issue in terms of overall comfort while hiking.

For Example, I got heat exhaustion on a trip through Namibia and this was mostly due to not using a water hydration bladder. On my first long walk in Ireland, my gear was soaked through because I didn’t have a waterproof cover for my backpack. During my hike on the East Coast Trail, I used a rather old backpack that didn’t have the same kind of support or comfort that you find with modern backpacks. My lack of hiking poles on the Pacific Crest Trail almost brought an end to my entire hike.

I think it’s most important to buy gear that will keep you safe and warm. However, I am finding more and more affordable gear by brands that produce high-quality items. I found this to be true about both the camping and hiking gear by Rock N River this week and I regret having to give away some of these items which I actually need!

The Moral of the story: There’s a difference between cheap gear and budget hiking gear and Rock N River hasn’t sacrificed quality in their quest to offer such low prices.

Final Thoughts

I’m always happy to use budget hiking gear if it does the job. Now, that’s not to say I’m cheap (even though this might be true). But rather I look for value and try not to buy over-priced items that I might be able to get for less. If you are new to hiking or looking for some low-to-mid priced gear, I think you will notice and appreciate the quality and performance of this hiking gear by Rock N River. This is also an Irish brand that helps support and supply the scouts which can only be a good thing!

Is Budget Camping Gear Good Enough for Wild Camping in Ireland?

I went out wild camping for a couple of nights with some camping gear courtesy of Rock N River – an Irish brand that offers “high-quality products at an affordable price”. It was my first time to use any of this equipment and a long time since I slept in any other tent aside from my Vango Banshee. For the most part, I was interested to know if budget camping gear was good enough or suitable for wild camping in Ireland.

In this post, I talk about my overall experience with this gear and some thoughts on using budget tents, mattresses, and sleeping bags for wild camping in Ireland.

Quick Overview of My Experience with the Rock N River Camping Gear

I spent one night in the forest and one night in an open field with nothing except the budget camping gear on this list. It was a comfortable experience and really no different from any of my other camping trips. I mean this is the most encouraging way because I did not expect camp gear in this price range to perform so well. The tent is a strong and spacious piece of kit and the sleeping bag was warm and extremely comfortable. I used an inflatable camp pillow which packed down to the size of a fist and the head torch was practical and a nice backup headlamp at the very least.

Here’s a glance at the budget camping gear that I tested out:

Tent – Rock N River Inis 200

Sleeping Bag – Rock N River Trek 250

Sleep Mattress – Rock N River Self Inflating Mattress

Rock N River Inflatable Pillow & Headtorch

📷 @ Derek Cullen Outdoors

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty…

The Tent – Rock N River Inis 200

I was especially looking forward to testing out the Inis 200 by Rock N River. This is a dome-style tent that comfortably fits two people. It’s important to mention that many 2-person tents are not actually big enough for two people but with a 140cm x 270cm floor plan, this is certainly not the case with the Inis 200. It also weighs 3.31kg which is neither ultra-light nor heavy. To be honest, the extremely affordable price tag left me thinking that something must be wrong with it!

But that wasn’t the case. On first inspection, I was genuinely impressed by the overall design and strength of the material. It only rained a little on my nights out but the seam-taped outer looks as good as any of my other, more expensive, tents. There were plenty of guy-lines to peg the tent down properly and the green colour makes this a suitable tent for wild camping because it blends in with the environment. With so much space inside and a nice vestibule at the front to store bags/gear, this tent is especially ideal for two people and suitable for weekend or summer camping holidays.

Inis 200 📷 @ Derek Cullen Outdoors

The Sleep Mattress – Rock N River Self Inflating Mattress

The Rock N River mattress was really not much different to my current lineup of self-inflating mattresses. It’s slightly bigger which means it takes up a bit more space in the backpack but it offers the same level of comfort. The Rock+River self-inflating mattress is nice and wide which gives you more room to move around. I found this unusual in the best possible way. I’m used to sleeping on a narrow mattress which can sometimes slide out from underneath my sleeping bag during the night. Finally, I was able to inflate the mattress within two minutes and it was super easy to deflate and pack away. If you don’t want an inflatable mattress – I also recommend the *Vango Thermatrek Sleep Mat.

*This is not an inflatable mattress and does not provide the same level of comfort.

Rock N River Self-Inflating Mattress

The Sleeping Bag – Rock N River Trek 250

I was amazed by the warmth and comfort of this sleeping bag. I was probably more impressed with this item than any other on this list. My night in the forest was especially cold after midnight but I was wrapped up in the Trek 250 and feeling toasty. I should mention at this point that I often used a sleep liner with my sleeping bag. This not only keeps the inside clean but also adds to the warmth of the bag.

There was also plenty of space inside the bag and I never felt restricted or confined in any way. The bag also comes up nicely around the head area which is something I personally appreciate about any sleeping bag. Anyway, I would happily use this sleeping bag for camping during the spring and summer months. It’s not as small (for packing) or lightweight as my other sleeping bags. This should not be a concern for first-timers or those wanting a sleeping bag for the occasional night of camping.

Rock N River Trek 250

The Rock N River Inflatable Pillow

Believe it or not, I have never used a pillow on any of my long-distance trips over the years. Instead, I might use a fleece or just sleep with my head on the sleeping bag flush to the ground. That’s an unusual habit of mine and I have friends who “cannot sleep” without a camp pillow. Anyway, I slept just fine on the Rock N River inflatable pillow and appreciated how such a useful item can pack down so small. There’s really no reason not to carry one and if you want something more like a real pillow, they also have a foldaway compact pillow that is made of polyester fabric.

Rock N River Inflatable Pillow

The Rock N River 4+2 LED Head Torch

This LED headlight by Rock N River features a red LED for night vision and an ultra-bright LED for floodlight/spotlight. It’s powered by 3 x AAA batteries and suitable for any type of camping. I really cannot fault a headlamp that does exactly what you might want or need on a camping trip. And the price tag is considerably less than most headlamps. That being said, if you go hiking and camping quite a bit, I recommend picking up either the Petzl Actik Core or a Ledlenser MH5 and then keep a Rock N River head torch in your bag as a means of backup.

Rock N River 4+2 LED Headtorch

My Honest Final Thoughts on Rock N River Camping Gear

There are a few reasons I might recommend Rock N River to other campers and especially first-time campers. The most obvious reason being the price of Rock N River gear which has got to be some of the most affordable camping gear in Ireland.

More importantly, I’m convinced that Rock N River gear is designed with genuine purpose and practicality in mind. There are no flimsy materials or easy-to-break parts. It’s an Irish brand that doesn’t hide behind the anonymity of the online world. You can also see this quality without testing the gear as the overall design is more elaborate than the cheap tents you sometimes see in the aisle of a supermarket.

But none of this is surprising because this brand was set up by a former scout leader (and parent) who felt that most camping gear was either too expensive or lacking in quality. That is to say, some camping gear is designed with cheap material. No parent wants to send their child into the wild without the right gear and the same can be said for anyone that wants to go wild camping in Ireland.

Is Budget Camping Gear Good Enough for Wild Camping in Ireland?

There’s a reason I use the word budget – it’s a better way to acknowledge that not everyone can afford expensive camping gear. I suppose there are also two ways in which to interpret the word “cheap”. I’ve bought cheap camping gear in the past that fell apart after one or two trips but then I’ve also bought items that were worth more than I paid for them. In other words, some camping gear is cheap because it’s badly designed or made of poor material and then some brands produce quality gear that you will actually use and appreciate. When you consider the importance of safety for camping (especially wild camping), it’s really important to pick quality camping gear that will keep you safe and warm such as Helly Hansen clothing or Trespass Gear. With this in mind, it’s not a good idea to buy any type of gear based on price but it does make sense to look for practical gear that will perform to a high level without burning a hole in your wallet.

Ledlenser MH5 Head Torch Review by Derek Cullen Outdoors

I’ve been testing out the Ledsenser MH5 for the past couple of weeks. It is definitely one of the best head torches that I have ever used. That being said, the standard of headlamps has improved so much over the past few years. It’s unsurprising to feel impressed with a piece of gear from a reliable brand. Just so you know, I also have nothing but great things to say about the Actik Core by Petzl!

But do you even need a headlamp for hiking or camping?

The short answer is “Yes, you really do need one!”.

Why You Need a Head Torch for Hiking and Camping

Headlamps are especially important for camping because you’ll spend the night outdoors. But then a head torch also allows you to keep your hands free. This means you can pitch the tent or cook without having to re-direct a hand-torch every few minutes. It’s also so much easier to use a headlamp rather than a standard torch inside a tent. And you’ll always know exactly where to find it – on your head!

More reasons to have a head torch

A head torch is perfect for hiking in the dark because light is directed in whatever way you look. It’s not likely you will drop or misplace a headlamp unlike what can happen a lot with a hand-torch. Further, you can use a head torch to look for items inside your backpack. You simply must have one in case of an emergency after dark. I know this is one of the first items I place in my backpack on every trip.

As for the Ledlenser MH5, I would like to talk about some of my personal observations about this head torch. And why you might consider investing in this piece of gear…

Ledlenser MH5

Brief Introduction to the Ledlenser MH5

Ledlenser is a German brand and maker of one of the very fist “hybrid” head torches. Their latest model is the MH5 which is a powerful and versatile head torch that features a 400-lumen beam. The low setting beam (20 lumen) is also useful. The large button is easy to locate/use- even when wearing gloves.

There is also a hybrid power source. This means you have a rechargeable battery and the torch can take standard AA batteries as a backup. It also has the ability to switch between a flood beam to a focused beam. You simply do this by pressing the button several times. If you don’t wish to wear the torch on your head there’s a clip that enables you to attach it to your belt/sweater.

By the way, the Ledlenser MH5 is rustproof and weatherproof to IP54. This keeps out the vast majority of gunk that can clog up the inside of a standard head torch. As if that’s not enough, it comes with a 7-year warranty which should be more time than you’ll need!

I’d like to highlight some of the most important things to keep in mind with a head torch and how I believe the Ledlenser MH5 fares in each of these areas:

My Opinion on the Features and Benefits of the Ledlenser MH5

Overall Functionality

Functionality is everything with a head torch and using this type of light should be quick and easy. Many hikers/campers will also use gloves on occasion. So the buttons should be designed in such a way that you can quickly toggle between settings at all times. The Ledlenser MH5 responds to all the above. It also has a locking mechanism that stops the head torch from turning on in your backpack without you knowing.

Light Settings

The Ledlenser MH5 has variable light settings which allow you to change the lighting to suit your activity/environment. For instance, you might use the low light settings for hiking on the path or reading in your tent. You can then switch to the red light for reading a map. In case you might be asking yourself. A map is likely to reflect a white light back into your face which is not ideal in terms of “night vision”.

The Battery

Most headlamps have a decent battery life. Some of the more recent headlamps such as the Ledlenser MH5 can take both rechargeable and standard batteries. This means you can interchange batteries if one runs out and ensure you never lose power on a night out. If you carry a power bank, which you should, this means you always have another way to top-up some power to your head torch.

The Beam

It goes without saying that the actual beam is one of the main reasons to choose a particular head torch. In short, this beam should be able to focus on objects far away and then disperse when it comes to reading maps or hiking a trail. This versatility is great in terms of convenience but also a feature that you will likely appreciate without even noticing. ie. How often do you pay homage to the beam of a head torch?!

The Head Strap

The strap on a head torch should be comfortable and easy to adjust. For most activities, you sometimes need to adjust this strap and not all headlamps have a comfortable head strap. While the head strap on a Ledlenser MH5 is somewhat fidgety to adjust, it’s comfortable in use and not something you need to adjust often. Overall, it passes the test in my book and not something to put you off.

Some More Thoughts about the Design of the Ledlenser MH5

The Ledlenser MH5 has a simplistic design with just two light settings. This means it’s a rather simple headlamp that you should find easy to use. The headlamp comes with a useful belt clip and can be detached from the head-strap which might be useful on occasion. There is also a hybrid battery source. I found the battery lasted for more than 4 hours on my first outing and this was using the high light setting. You can also recharge this battery via USB or replace with a standard AA battery.

I can’t really see what else you might want or need with a head torch. It’s slightly heavy at the front but not enough to make a point about it – in my opinion. In short, I just really like the design and functionality of the Ledlenser MH5. I would happily recommend this item to a friend or family member that wants to go hiking/camping.

My Opinion on the Performance of the Ledlenser MH5

The performance of the Ledlenser MH5 is impressive. Walking through the forest, the floodlight mode created a nice circular light ahead of me. This might not make sense until you see it for yourself. The light enables you to focus much more clearly on what lies ahead. And even though you cannot dim the beam, it’s not an inconvenience and it didn’t even cross my mind until writing this review. You can also focus this beam further by twisting the lens of your head torch.

The Ledlenser MH5 also has a constant current of light and this light blinks when the battery is running low. In fact, this is the only way to know that your battery is running low with the Ledlenser MH5.

Final Thoughts – The Good, Bad and the Ugly

I’ve used many head torches over the years and it’s clear the standard has increased immensely in recent times. The Ledlenser MH5 is a good example of this evolution and I was impressed by every aspect of the light. It’s easy to use and doesn’t have too many functions. I prefer this with a headlamp as simplicity is best with certain pieces of gear. The battery seems to last a long time (I didn’t need to recharge after a couple of nights out) and the beam is both sharp and powerful.

As for the “bad and the ugly”? The headband is just a tad fidgety to adjust. I really must emphasize that all considered, this is an extremely competent piece of gear to take hiking or camping. It is one of the best headlamps I have ever had the pleasure to use.