We camped out in Ireland for over two months, surviving a
record-breaking, rainy June, and a dryer July.
I wouldn't have had it any other way - we woke up in the most beautiful
places in Counties Clare, Limerick, Kerry, and Cork, next to crumbling castles,
on the edges of spectacular cliffs, with sand dunes for our bed and the sky as
our ceiling. I'd do it again in a
second, but step it up next time - cruising in a camper with the option to tent
it, weather permitting. We learned a few
things along the way that I want to share with you.
Get a spacious tent that comfortably sleeps your party. We bought a boxed set from Dunnes in Galway -
a two-person tent, two sleeping bags, and two sleeping mats for 30 euro, a
deal. It did the job and held up for the
entire trip. We did have to be careful
with the poles, some started to split from overuse. The tent was not the most comfortable - it
was too small for my travel companion, who is a tall man. His head poked out the top, and his feet
poked out the bottom. We had barely room
to move inside. I recommend buying a
slightly larger tent - over time, you will be grateful for the extra space.
Buy a good tarp. It
is indispensable for keeping the water out of your bed. We'd pitch our tent, throw the tarp over it,
and tuck the corners of the tarp under the tent securely, to keep water from
getting in. Then we'd cinch the back of
the tarp snuggly around the tent, and stake down the front, to diminish loud
flapping noises caused by the wind. That
sound can really keep you awake. The
tarp did a decent job of keeping water out, but it was slightly too small for
our tent to keep it totally dry inside.
The tarp was 12 euro, and a totally good investment, purchased from a
Prepare for rain. It
will come, and it will go, and it will come again. It is a condition of this place, and why the
scenery is so phenomenally green. We did
okay without rain gear. We had our
thick, woolen pea coats to keep the rain off our backs.
Wear wool. Buy a good
woolen sweater. It is the best defense
against wind and cold, and Ireland is the best place to find beautiful woolen
goods. When you drive up to the edge of
a cliff and want to get out and see the scenery and the cold sea blast frightens
you back into the car - this means that you are not dressed properly. One good sweater will allow you to enjoy the
landscape to your heart's content and not freeze to death.
Buy some rubber boots - or wellies, as they're called in
Ireland. They are indispensable when
setting up camp in the rain, trooping across wet bog lands to waterfalls,
tromping through sea rivers at low tide, or cruising through a muddy forest
park. I was using my running sneakers to
explore, and they got permanently water-logged, so I had to eventually trash
them, leaving me with only two pairs of shoes: flip-flops and rubber
boots. And I did just fine,
actually. On the sunny days, I could air
out my toes in the flip-flops. On the
rainy days, I'd kept my feet well protected in the rubbers boots. These are really the only essential you need
in Ireland. Okay, with the addition of
one pair of sexy heels for going out.
Beware of midges.
Midges are tiny mosquitoes, small enough to get through screen and get
into your car - I don't know how they do the later. Midges come out just after the rains. If there's any amount of wind or rain, you
won't see midges. But when the wind
dies, and if the rain has just stopped, they come swarming, especially around
lake areas. So keep this in mind when
you're picking a spot. Keep in mind
current weather conditions, impending weather changes, and location.
Beware of ticks.
Ticks live in the grasses. They
are tough to avoid because soft grass is ideal under the body - it provides a
natural cushion to sleep on. I think a
tent does a good job of keeping out the ticks - just be careful of lazing
around in the grass all day. You might
pick up a few on your body. So inspect
your body periodically for ticks, especially after camping for a few days.
Keep breakfast in your car.
You won't regret it. After a
night under the stars, I'd always wake up starving. Muesli, soymilk or a small carton of fresh
milk purchased the night before, yogurt, and fresh fruit or baked goods are
always good. Fresh juice is good
too. It is enough to worry about packing
up the tent, dressing yourself, etc., especially when you are hungry. It is a real pain to then have to drive to
find food, especially if you are in a remote and beautiful place. Keep a box of food in the backseat, one with
fresh things you can dip into for the day's meals.
Keep plenty of water.
We carted around several big, plastic jugs and refilled them with water
from the tap - we had no issues. We then
filled our smaller, personal water bottles from these. Tap water is okay to drink in Ireland. However, Galway City was in the midst of a
contaminated water issue during our visit, so pay attention to the local news,
to hear about what is safe and unsafe to consume.
Food doesn't really need to be refrigerated. Or cooked, for that matter. We discovered that some dairy goods will keep
for up to 48 hours unrefrigerated. By
then, you'll already have consumed them.
So don't freak out about having no way to keep things cold. Just purchase smartly and in small
quantities. Two people can go through
400 grams of cheese in 1-2 days. Yogurt
is okay, as long as you eat it within one day of purchase. Milk, we would consume within 12 hours. Soy milk, consume within a day.
The same goes with cooking food. I'm not saying to buy and eat raw meat or
anything. But you don't need to cook
many foods. We discovered some very
good, fresh soups in the refrigerated sections of stores - not the canned soups
-- and we did perfectly fine eating them cold with bread. We ate raw tofu. Our diet was mainly raw, uncooked foods - raw
veggies, salads I washed in plastic bags of water and tossed roadside, fruits,
etc. We developed no food borne
illnesses. In fact, the two times my
travel companion got sick, we attribute to eating bad, cooked food in
Buy fresh food and treat your body well. We drank 100% juices each day, ate fresh
fruits and veggies, and drank lots of water.
Dairy and wheat are plentiful in Ireland, so we ate a lot of organic
yogurts, local cheeses, and fresh breads too.
By the end of the trip, though, I felt as if over-reliance on dairy and
wheat had caused my body to become lactose and wheat intolerant. So balance things out, pay attention to how
your body is feeling, and adapt and make changes as needed.
Be sanitary - it really helps in the long term. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Comb your hair. I lost my brush at a hotel in Dublin in mid
July, and didn't brush my hair for a couple weeks. It was a fun experiment to go brushless, but
I did make sure to comb my hair with my fingers, to keep up appearances.
Pack comfortable clothes - essential items that won't show
dirt. Jeans are good. A couple breathable tops. A coat.
Clean socks and underwear. A
couple towels to alternate. A pillow is
good, but you can also use rolled up clothing.
Plan out when and where you'll need to do laundry. The services in town are expensive, costing
as much as 14 euro for a bag, which is $20.
For someone who's used to spending a few quarters, we had to find other
ways to get our clothes clean. Hostels
are a good place, the laundry service is five to eight euro. Caravan and camping parks are good too, with
self-serve washers and dryers. Plan to
spend at least 5 euro washing and drying your laundry. When the weather is fine, you can line dry
it. Clean clothes are essential when
Figure out when and where you can shower. People have difference tolerances for
this. When you are ready to shower, make
sure you can - that the shower has proper water temperature and pressure. Otherwise, you'll be very pissed off. Typically, we would camp out for five to
seven nights in a row, then stay in a hostel or B&B, where we could treat
ourselves good. Cook a good dinner,
shower and get clean, do our laundry, etc.
I hope all the above helps you with your journey. Camping in Ireland can be totally fun, if you
are smart about it and do it right.
Written by Liz O'Malley - Summer of Travel 2007