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5 tips for the successful dirtbag

There comes a point in every young climber’s life when they decide it will be a good idea to go and “live the dream.” To free themselves of the outside world, live as cheaply as possible and chase routes not $$$. Here at iboutdoor we applaud such ventures and offer the the following hard-learnt advice:

1) Find yourself a willing dirtbag partner

Climbing partners can be found in many places. You can scour internet forums, ask at your local wall or even hang out at the crag, ever hopeful. But remember this:

A climbing partnership is closer than any other friendship.

You have each other’s lives in your hands. You’ll spend long days on the rock, enduring foul weather, stress, exhaustion and other hardships. Comfort zones will be pushed. Personal hygiene will be minimal and at some point you’ll probably end up spooning.

You’ll see each other at your worst and learn to read between the lines of what your partner is saying. “How’s it looking up there?” will become code for “hurry up, I’m freezing.” So pick somebody that you will get on with. A sane, upstanding member of the community…


Someone that shares your enthusiastic obsession for all things climbing. Somebody who’ll bounce out of bed in the morning, eager to get going on the rock…

james bivy



2) Location, location, location

The holy grail of dirtbagging is the camper van, but these require an investment of time and money. Whilst sleeping on friend’s floors and sofas is also a desirable option, they’ll come a time when you need to sleep closer to the crag. Try to get a comfortable night’s sleep, to recharge your batteries ready for another day of verticality.

3am at the ol' "Corsa Bivy" - Donegal

3am at the ol’ “Corsa Bivy” 

inside bothh

Cold, wet and “living the dream.” A night spent in a group shelter in the Lake District.

robin hoods cave

Living in a cave in the Peak District for a week.

corsa admin

Getting the admin done.


3) Never underestimate the power of food to boast your morale

A tasty, nutritious meal is just what you need after a hard day’s climbing to fuel the body and lift your spirits.

tined curry

“You can have whatever flavour you want, as long as it’s tinned.” – Henry Ford.

public toilets cooking

Getting ready to cook up a storm in a public toilet block.


Instant mashed potatoes – all the flavour and nutritious value of normal potatoes, but in an easy to prepare, lightweight package.

get some nuts

Get some nuts.

shared smash

Some things are too good not to share.

4) Embrace suffering

A good friend once told me:  “Everything in life  is either a good experience, or will make a great story.” 

james soaked

A little rain never hurt anyone


An error in judgement led to a mini epic.



stanage wet


5) Never lose sight of why you’re doing it

There’s no other way to get as much time out on the rock, without any commitments. Wake up, climb, sleep, repeat. Whether just for a week, or for much longer, every climber should be a dirtbag at some time in their life…


flying buttress

cave bivvy

james rad

Because you can’t put a price on being “Rad.” Whatever that means…

Inspired by http://semi-rad.com/


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