Rucksack Readers

Rucksack Readers => Kerry Way, south-west Ireland => Topic started by: Donny68 on November 16, 2010, 08:17:56 pm

Title: Bivvying on the Kerry Way
Post by: Donny68 on November 16, 2010, 08:17:56 pm

I'm considering walking the Kerry Way in early December and I was wondering what the availability of forests or copses of trees is along the route is. I intend, if it's feasible, to either hammock camp or bivvi along the way. I was wondering if anyone has any experience or suggestions they'd be willing to share.


Title: Re: Bivvying on the Kerry Way
Post by: sandrahal on November 17, 2010, 10:13:47 am
Hi Donny
First off - we don't recommend doing the Kerry Way during winter, mainly because of the short hours of daylight and the near-certainty of some pretty wild weather - the current situation being a classic example.
A good deal of the off-road stretches of the Way are across open, exposed moorland where shelter of any sort is scarce. Elsewhere the scope for wild camping of any sort isn't great.
The woodlands in Killarney National Park are deciduous and wouldn't provide much protection at this time of the year.
There's a conifer plantation between Black Valley and Glencar, a small patch of pines near Glenbeigh, and on the inland route between Waterville and Caherdaniel;  there are also woodlands and conifers between Sneem and Kenmare.
All this adds up to a planning challenge - good luck!
Sandra Bardwell

Title: Re: Bivvying on the Kerry Way
Post by: Donny68 on November 17, 2010, 11:26:34 am
Thanks for your reply, Sandra.

Title: Re: Bivvying on the Kerry Way
Post by: EoinR on November 17, 2010, 12:35:04 pm
Hi Donny,

I haven't really done hammock camping or bivvying before so I'm not too sure what conditions you're actually looking for. What I do have experience of is walking the Kerry Way in winter, and I can vouch that the weather gets very wild! You are talking about storms coming in off the Atlantic and hitting Kerry first! Add to that the limited hours of daylight in December (8 hours at most), leaving you out in cold, dark and wet conditions for 16 hours each day. It certainly doesn't sound like my idea of fun and would not be showing the Kerry Way in its best light either! The best qualities that I think would be shown at this time of the year are the nice warm turf fires in the pubs each evening and enjoying the company of genuine locals who will have all the time to share with visitors. If you haven't already booked your flights and time off for this trip to Ireland, I would strongly suggest postponing it until March at least so you will have more light and a little bit of warmth!!

With regards to tree cover, outside of Killarney and Glencar, Kerry has very little. What you will mainly find are forestry plantations that have coniferous trees tightly packed together. I'm not sure - perhaps this is a good thing for tying a hammock to? Just looking at my maps of the area here, I should think that there is enough tree cover to suffice for each night around the Iveragh Peninsula.

Let us know how you get on!

Eoin (

Title: Re: Bivvying on the Kerry Way
Post by: Jacquetta on November 17, 2010, 01:56:16 pm
Hi Donny

Can you tell us where you are from and what your experience of winter bivvying?  I don't want to sound like your grandmother, but is there some reason you need to make it this difficult?  Have you read Sandra's guidebook (

But if you do it, please tell us how you get on.  And please take great care!

Title: Re: Bivvying on the Kerry Way
Post by: Donny68 on November 17, 2010, 04:40:00 pm
Hi, Eoin & Jacquetta,

I'm Irish, based in Dublin and I'm really just looking for a winter hiking challenge. I've done a fair few solo winter hikes over the last few years, mostly around Wicklow, as it's local. I've hammocked out to -7 degrees and was toasty, and bivvyed in as bad weather as you get in Ireland, driving sleet and storm force winds. I've also done some night hiking. I've got good nav skills, although it seems that the Way isn't too hard to follow.

As for why, it's just for the experience. Winter hiking's a different beast, but it's often well worth it. You tend to get places to yourself, and I get a certain satisfaction from solo winter hikes that I don't get in summer. Early in December is also the only time I'll be able to get enough continuous free time to do the whole thing.

What I need to hammock is a pair of trees, between three and six metres apart. I carry a big 4.5m x 3m tarp which I A-frame and then hang the hammock underneath. If the trees aren't strong enough for a hammock, I doss on the ground with a kipmat instead. Really, though, it doesn't take much of a tree to support a hammock, especially with the wide webbing straps I use. Coillte forests are usually ideal, as long as it hasn't just been felled and replanted. Coillte's ability to level a forest seemingly overnight is one of the reasons I don't want to trust maps alone and am looking for advice from those who've been there and done it. The thing about bivviing is that, although there's almost always somewhere to bivvi, since I don't use walking poles, if I can't find at least one tree or fence post, it results in a miserable night. So, although I don't need forests or even large copses, some trees are really important for comfort's sake. Eoin, your reply has made me hopeful that I won't need to buy a tent!

As for light, I'm planning on about 7h45m of daylight a day, and planning on giving myself ten walking days. At 214 km and about 4000 m of elevation gain, I figure it'll take about 55 walking hours to complete, so I might take a rest day or two very short days somewhere along the way. I'm still planning the details, although at this point I'm happy that I can do it. An average of 22 km and 400 m a day probably doesn't seem like much at all to you guys and gals who do a lot of long distance walking, but this will be my first time going over five days on the ground, so I don't want to overdo it!

Jacquetta, I haven't read Sandra's book yet, as I wasn't 100% certain I was going to go for the Kerry Way. I'm pretty much set on it now, and I've just ordered it. If it's anything like the quality of the website, it should be a bargain.

Thanks again for the advice, everyone.