Writing about the events I’ve attended is something I like to do. Splodz Blogz has always been an experience-based blog on which I natter about my bucket list, road trips and adventures, and random Saturday morning shenanigans. But this one is a bit different because the Outdoor Bloggers Spring Camp is an event I co-organised with good friend Jenni. I guess I might come across as either biased in favour of what we got up to, or indeed overly critical of the choices we made. Instead, I want to tell you what happens when a small group from a primarily online community comes together.
Jenni and I set up Outdoor Bloggers to help create a community for those who love to get outdoors and then blog about it. We now have well over 300 members, most of them here in the UK, and have lots of fun and great discussion online. We have an active (closed) facebook group for members to chat about the outdoors and blogging, run monthly twitter chats for members and the wider outdoors community, put bloggers and outdoor brands together to collaborate on reviews and other partnerships, and share advice with each other to help encourage, motivate and develop.
I love our online community. As an introvert, social media has allowed me a very important platform to make friends, share my thoughts, and “meet” with other people. I’ve met people online through Outdoor Bloggers I would never have come across in everyday life, been inspired and encouraged to go on particular adventures, and have learnt a great deal. But even though I love online life, there is sometimes nothing nicer than meeting up with people for real, and putting faces and voices to the online personas. The highlight of my Outdoor Blogging year has to therefore be our annual camp; and this year we headed to Cheddar.
We held this year’s camp in Cheddar because that’s where our members said they wanted to go. For the last three years we’ve been pretty far north for our events; we’ve spent time in Edale, Snowdonia, Dalby Forest, Rivington, and Horton in Ribbblesdale. We knew we wanted to be a bit further south – although not so far south that it becomes inaccessible to our northern friends, and in a poll it was the Mendips that came out on top. Certainly a good choice, it’s an area I’ve explored before, and one that certainly deserves some attention from anyone who loves to spend time outside.
Jenni and I were joined by 13 other bloggers (and a plus one) for the two-night camp. It might not sound like many people, but Outdoor Bloggers members are a busy bunch of people and events are notoriously difficult to get people to actually come along to – especially when you don’t charge anything to put it on meaning there is no financial commitment. Jenni and I put on Outdoor Bloggers events for free in the main because they are designed to be community activities rather than expensive adventures; we want to be as inclusive as possible. Members book and pay for their own camping, bring along their own gear and food, and we put on a bunch of optional activities for them to join in with. 16 people was a pretty great number – enough for me anyway!
The group, as always, was a varied bunch of people who publish blogs and other online musings on all kinds of topics related to the outdoors, bringing with them all kinds of gear and ideas and personalities. Take a look at this bunch…
Seanna, who blogs over at Seanna’s World and loves to chat on Instagram stories, is a lovely soul who enjoys all kinds of adventure, using it to demonstrate how the outdoors can help overcome adversity. She’s currently on a two-year bushcraft course and is in the midst of converting a boat into a tiny home, which is the coolest thing!
Allysse is one of our original members, joining Jenni and I for our first meetup in Edale a few years back. And she’s still coming to our camps! She publishes her words, photographs and sounds on her self-titled blog and is one half of the Queer Out Here audio zine team. Check out her photography – always a different camera, but always a beautiful style.
Emma blogs over at Hip2Trek, so named because she started blogging about using the outdoors to recover from hip surgery. She loves a challenge – has hiked the Yorkshire Three Peaks and Great Wall of China – and despite being in loads of pain for our Cheddar Gorge hike had a hugely inspiring level of determination and motivation. One of the strongest ladies I know.
Katy often claims she’s not really a blogger because she hardly posts anything, but you’ll find her occasional words over at Katyish – I love the name of her blog. By day she’s a software developer, but in her “spare time” enjoys all the outdoors activities – she’s a skier, cyclist, runner, hiker, kayaker, and occasional climber. Not much, then.
Leanne is the lovely lady behind Pine & Peak, but you’ve probably also read her words on Thryve and in several other places. She loves to get away from everything by walking, and I completely understand that passion – there is nothing better than using nature and travel to discover the world and your own happiness.
Olly loves to have hiking adventures close to home – and we reckon we helped him as the Mendips are his back yard. He shares stories of his favourite (and not so favourite) walks over at Olly Outdoors, including his recent completion of the South Downs Way. A quiet soul with so many hiking stories, it was a pleasure to chat to Olly.
Jonathan is the other half of the Queer Out Here audio zine team with Allysse above, and blogs over at In Which I, in which he does things and then writes about them… So much fun to have around, Jonathan has a lot of knowledge about all kinds of things and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his stories. He and Allysse presented their scavenger hunt entries as sound clips which brought a whole different take on the game to the rest of us.
Giles is otherwise known as The Active Photographer, having made outdoors photography his life and his business. A hammock loving wild camper, Giles has all the stories to tell, and loves to share with and encourage others. If you’re looking for photography help and advice, Giles is your man. He also loves to put kit through its paces – his reviews are thorough!
Daniela and Cristian are the pair behind Go Straight Ahead, and you’ll probably find them most often over on Instagram. London based but always travelling, their photographs tell the stories of their outdoors adventures. And when it comes to camp food, this couple put us all to shame – I have never seen so many fresh ingredients in a backpack-camping set up.
Becky decided to come to the Outdoor Bloggers camp just a few hours before it started, and I love her for that. Blogging over at Becky the Traveller, she is a full time blogger and adventurer, and is currently on a three-ish-month hike taking in 800+ miles from the East to the West of the UK – if you want to follow that adventure then you need to be following her on instagram.
And I must mention Jenni, my good friend and adventure buddy, who set up Outdoor Bloggers with me a few years back. How do I describe Jenni? She lives in a cabin in the woods, collects skulls, and is in the process of setting up her Umm for an African adventure. You’ll find her at The Thrifty Magpies Nest and here on instagram.
Choosing the site is always important, and this year we based ourselves at Petruth Paddocks in Cheddar for two nights. We generally look for pretty basic sites that allow groups to camp together and have campfires, and this one provided us with lots of space and the extra benefit of a handy group booking system that worked a treat. The location was especially convenient, being within Cheddar itself, and the price was pretty decent too. It was a very relaxed site with good facilities within walking distance of everything we needed, including Cheddar Gorge. I have to admit that two loos for all the ladies on the site (four other cubicles were closed) was a bit low in my opinion, but I’d still go back.
Organising activities for a bunch of people you don’t know who will almost certainly blog and share on social media about what they did and didn’t like about the weekend is pretty daunting, but I think we pitched our Spring Camp activities pretty well this year. We had our annual campfire quiz, hiked the Cheddar Gorge walk and to Velvet Bottom (because I thought it sounded interesting), explored Cheddar itself, heard a couple of talks from attending members featuring the Ordnance Survey GetOutside campaign and the Queer Out Here audio zine, enjoyed a couple of campfires, had a wander around Cheddar Reservoir, did a really fun scavenger hunt which caused much hilarity during the tiebreaker, and finished up with a spot of climbing up Cheddar Gorge itself. I’ll write up about the hike and climb another day. We don’t over schedule and are very relaxed about things, but it’s good to have at least some idea of what we will do – we were all there to have a bit of fun outdoors after all.
But the best bit, by far, is what happens alongside the (semi) organised activities. Or in the downtime between things. Or when we’re waiting patiently for the water to boil. This is when we chat, ask, learn, and get to know each other. It’s when we discuss our favourite places, provide tips on our favourite activities, and recommend our favourite gear. It’s when we get excited about our hobbies, come up with new ideas, agree to take part in adventures, and laugh – a lot.
What I love about these meetups is how they confirm to me just how inclusive and happy the outdoors community can be. I know it isn’t always this way, you only have to scroll through twitter for a minute or two to find trolling, sarcasm, and sheer nastiness. It is easy to think that the outdoors world – and the blogging world – is a pretentious, opinionated, and arrogant place to spend time. But not here. I can very happily say I have never not got on with someone who’s come to an Outdoor Bloggers camp, and it’s such a great way to widen my own community by meeting new people, pooling resources, and coming up with fun ideas.
The Gift Bags
Each year Jenni and I put together a goody bag of outdoors related bits and bobs, courtesy of some lovely brands who we like to work with, and this year was no different. It’s not the reason to come along to one of our campouts, but it is hugely fun to put together and even more fun to share with those who attend. I happen to think that this year’s gift bag was one of the best yet, and so I am very happy to include a big thank you to all the companies who got involved here on Splodz Blogz.
The bag itself is a 20l hiking pack with a hydration bladder by Hi-Tec. Well you can’t have a gift bag without a bag, can you?!
I was especially pleased to be able to include a good few bits and bobs aimed at encouraging bloggers to ditch single use plastic. We had a reusable water bottle from SIGG and a steel tumbler from Klean Kanteen, both of which have already had loads of use, having become part of my favourite camping kit. We were also each gifted an expedition meal in the new compostable packaging by Firepot, which is a huge step up in this kind of product, and a bottle of Active Gear Wash and Reproof in new plastic free packaging by Storm. I love to celebrate companies that are doing their bit to help with the issue of plastic in the outdoors industry.
Other food and drink bits included a couple of bags of protein balls from The Protein Ball Co, which have made their way into my regular hiking lunch box, a couple of noodle pots from Mr Lee’s (the Hong Kong Street Beef is my favourite!), some turmeric tea by Joe’s Tea, and a coffee pouch and drip set from Adams and Russell (not pictured).
There were a few other bits too – GP Batteries provided each of us with a head torch and a battery charger, we received a Helly Hansen glasses string from Marine Super Store, and, possibly the simplest yet most useful freebie I’ve ever had, there was a Vango long handled spoon perfect for eating out of expedition meal pouches (and getting mayonnaise out of the bottom of the jar) from Outdoor World Direct. We were also all given a three month subscription to OS Maps by Ordnance Survey, which should give us plenty of inspiration for routes this summer.
We also had three giveaways during the weekend, which are always a lot of fun and bring out the best in the attending bloggers… The campfire quiz prize was a couple of maps from Ordnance Survey, there was a photo competition to win a pair of hiking boots courtesy of KEEN, and we gave our scavenger hunt winner a SafeHydrate Water Filter Bottle thanks to Pyramid Products. I am genuinely very grateful to all the brands who got involved – I’ve linked to their instagram feeds here but I’m happy to share links to products if you like, just ask.
Meeting and getting to know like minding people isn’t always easy, and I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is that, through Outdoor Bloggers, I have had the absolute pleasure of being able to do just that. The annual camp is always a highlight of my year, and, despite the fact that it is utterly exhausting organising such an event, it’s absolutely worth the time and effort.
Thanks so much to all the bloggers who came along to the Outdoor Bloggers Spring Camp this year, and for allowing me to not-lead your weekend in Cheddar with Jenni. I hope you got as much out of it as I did.
If you are reading this thinking “but I blog about the outdoors, I want in”, be sure to sign up at OutdoorBloggers.co.uk. And if you’re not a writer but prefer to read, the links above should keep you going for a while.