January so far has been pretty damp and grey, so when we spotted a break in the weather we couldn’t resist. Sunny, blue skies and cold – perfect conditions for a Gower peninsula wild camping trip!
Myself, my wife, and three of my children aged 7, 9 and 20 headed off to the Rhossili end of the Gower (in South Wales) for two days of walking and wild camping. This account of our winter mini-adventure also includes a review of all the gear used.
To make the most of the weekend, we drove to the Gower on Friday night after work. We arrived at Penmaen at 11.30pm, a good spot to park for this circular walk.
We climbed for about an hour with our head torches on, aiming for the top of Cefn Bryn ridge. It is quite tricky to route find with head torches on and I had to resort to using my GPS just to find the path we needed up the hill, even though we were only meters from it. In day light it would have been much easier to spot!
The path widened once we were at the top and we were able to find a good wild camping spot. Tents were pitched quickly (it was cold!) and everyone was grateful to get into their sleeping bags.
We woke to a stunning winter’s morning with hardly a breeze, and everything frozen solid. It was a gorgeous view of Swansea and the sunrise to the east, and the bays of Oxwich and Three Cliffs to the south.
However, this weather also meant that the tents were running with condensation. We packed up knowing we would have to stop and put the tents up during the day to dry before tonight’s wild camp.
With the sun so low, the colours were amazing and it was a stunning morning’s walk towards Rhossili Down.
We dropped off the ridge and our route took us through fields and farmland. It was pretty muddy in places, even with the hard frost!
We then came across a 600-year old pack-horse bridge. You could feel the history here. The water was flowing fairly quickly and it was obvious there had been a lot of rain recently, but we were blessed with perfect hiking weather.
After a mile or so through fields and a short section of quiet road, we arrived at The Britannia Inn in Llanmadoc just as it was opening.
This is a pub we have enjoyed many times before and it was nice to be back. The staff made us feel very welcome and we stayed for a delicious lunch.
On leaving the pub we headed for the path around Hills Tor. Our route then descended to walk on the beach at Broughton Bay.
The tide was out and it was great to be walking by the sea again.
Once we were at the top of Broughton Burrows the wind picked up enough to make it worth putting our soaking wet tents up to dry a little. A perfect opportunity for the grown ups to have a coffee, and the children to have a game of hide-and-seek.
We rounded Broughton Burrows to join the world-renowned Rhossili beach, with Worms Head in full view. This part of the walk brought back memories of all the walks we’ve enjoyed around here, especially to the end of Worms Head itself.
The tide was still out so it was good walking on hard sand along this two and a half mile long beach.
The sun was setting over the sea and gave us incredible colours.
It was dark as we climbed the steep path up to Rhossili village. We had planned to have a meal at the Worm’s Head Hotel, but the kitchens were closed for refurbishment. We stopped for a drink and sit down until they finally closed at about 6pm, then sat outside and ate the emergency pasties we had in our packs!
Then we were back to walking with head torches on, carefully following the Gower Way path. We knew there was a steep drop off to our right, so again it was reassuring to have the GPS. We walked out to the start of the causeway crossing and camped beside the sea. This was Gower peninsula wild camping at its best!
It hadn’t been a perfectly flat campsite. I had been up in the night to preposition my sleep mat a few times because it was sliding down the slope. Apart from that we all slept well and woke to another glorious day. I lay awake for an hour or two in my sleeping bag and down jacket with the tent doors open, watching the sun come up and listening to the sea. A great start to the day.
We packed up the frozen tents and set off along the coast path knowing we were now on our return leg back to the car. Our route stayed by the sea all day and we had perfect walking weather.
Again the low morning sun gave us amazing colours. This part of the Wales Coast Path is simply stunning in this weather.
We all loved every step of the walk to the pub in Port Eynon. This was a busier place than we expected; it was nice to see so many people out enjoying the perfect weather. We stopped for at least an hour to enjoy lunch and a rest.
The day had finally warmed up and the ground thawed out, making for some muddy paths. Thankfully these didn’t last long and we were back to good easy ground again.
We ended the day walking along Oxwich Bay beach as the sun set. This was a simply perfect finish to an amazing Gower peninsula wild camping weekend, if you forget about the steep climb back to the car in Penmaen!
My waterproof Ulefone Armor 3W phone was used for all navigation and photographs. It was brilliant as usual and only used about 6% of its battery power the whole weekend.
The Vango F10 Helium was used by my 20 year old son and no problems with it except the usual condensation in the mornings.
The Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 was used by our 2 younger children and was perfect apart from the expected condensation. We normally only use this tent in the summer because it has a lot of mesh on the inner tent. We decided to use it on this trip so they had plenty of room, knowing they may not be warm enough. But it worked out fine and they slept well. The lack of wind overnight helped, otherwise I think they may have been chilly in these sub zero overnight temperatures.
I used the Thermarest Z-Lite Sole closed cell foam mat and Klymit Inertia O Zone air sleep mat on top. These two mats together were warm enough and comfortable. I have reviewed these previously here. I would normally have normally used the Thermarest Xtherm on a short winter hike like this as it’s lighter, warmer and more comfortable than these two mats, but I was gear testing for my Scottish National Trail walk. I’ll be carrying these two mats as if I get a puncture in the air mat, I’ll still be left with something to sleep on.
My wife used the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Womens and was just warm enough. I often use this mat myself as it’s lighter weight and warmer than the men’s version. I used it on my TGO Challenge in May 2018 with no issues.
We all carried down jackets to sleep in if it was unexpectedly cold. No one needed them to sleep in but we were all pleased to have them around camp in the cold evenings and mornings.
MSR Guardian Water Purifier Pump. There were enough rivers on this walk to allow us to filter water, but I didn’t need to use it in the end. We were able to top up our water bottles in the pubs.
I was wearing the Inov8 Roclite 370 size uk 9.5 with Inov-8 insoles and some EDZ All Climate boot socks. This worked very well and I didn’t have any problems with cold or uncomfortable feet. I returned home after about 30 miles in two days with no blisters or sore bits on my feet.
I wore the following clothes both days, only removing the Microfleece and Rab body warmer for an hour or two around mid day both days. This clothing combination was perfect for this trip in temperatures from freezing to plus 6C. If it had been colder than expected I could have added my sleep system down jacket.
EDZ merino boxers, EDZ 200gsm 100% merino zip collar long sleeve baselayer, Rab down vest, Rohan trousers, EDZ Microfleece, EDZ grip/touch screen merino gloves, EDZ – 100% merino Neck Tube, EDZ 100% merino Beanie Hat.
I like the EDZ merino wool clothes because I think they are good value for money and always fit well. I also took a Montane windproof jacket which I didn’t need much due to the light winds. We didn’t take waterproofs because we trusted the forecast.
I was using the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z – 120cm long. This is my go-to pair of walking poles, as they’re a good compromise of strength and weight. I had no problems with them.
I couldn’t think of doing any of my long distance walks with children, without my waterproof phone. I use it for navigation and safety. Read my review of the GPS and mapping here and My Ulefone Amor 3W phone review.
My review of the best tents for wild and stealth camping here.
My review of all the EDZ clothes I use here.
My Leave No Trace 11 wild camping rules
You can also follow me on Twitter @wildwalkinguk
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