It had been on my tick list of adventures for years, ever since somebody at work told me about sleeping in a bivvy bag on a campsite. I remember being a bit gobsmacked at the time, hearing about camping without a tent. However, over time, I heard of more and more people sleeping out in some really amazing places. It seemed like the ultimate freedom – go for a walk, take the minimum of kit, sleep on the hill, wake up in an incredible setting, walk back.
I bought a lightweight tent nearly 20 years ago (probably not so lightweight these days), expecting to go off backpacking. It never made it out of a campsite.
With the growth of social media, pictures of wild camps started appearing on my phone on a regular basis and with the concept of micro adventures marketed by Alastair Humphreys it seemed like everybody was camping wild.
Eventually, earlier this year, I became the proud owner of a Alpkit bivvy bag and joint owner of a tarp. Expecting to finally tick the wild camp adventure off my imaginary list, it took me a few months and a couple of aborted attempts (the benefit of having a van to sleep in when the weather turns wet) before I finally packed up my rucksack and headed to the hills.
The forecast was for a clear night and everything just clicked into place for a night on the hills. Walking up onto the moors, the light was fading fast. Our original plan had been to sleep near the summit cairn but part way up we spied a vague path along a crumbling wall.
Luck was with us, it led to a perfect spot – set back from the main path, nestled between 2 walls, on a flat piece of ground and with a stunning view.
Sleeping and bivvy bags sorted, kettle boiled, tea brewed we made a quick meal and opened our wild camp sized bottles of wine. Top tip, a mini bottle of wine is perfect for an evening drink and not too heavy to carry. By 9pm it was pitch dark and we were tucked up in our sleeping bags.
After a less than comfortable night (I was warm enough to catch sleep but not enough to really crash out for the night), I rolled over and opened my eyes to a dawn sky on the horizon – orange peeping up over the water below.
Hot chocolate in hand, we watched the sun glowing a burnt orange as the day broke.
It was magical and everything I had wanted from my first wild camp.
It was great fun. It was ever so slightly uncomfortable. It was invigorating.
It’s whetted my appetite for more and given me some valuable experience for a future camp deeper in the hills, as part of a 2 day walk.
Here’s some of the things I learned…..
- Your sleeping mat is better outside your bivvy bag. I started with it inside to keep it dry, but it left me with no room to move (I felt constrained) plus it pulled my sleeping bag tight across me meaning no trapped warm air pockets. As soon as I moved it to the outside of my bivvy bag, I was instantly warmer and had freedom to move!
- Whilst I adore my CAC beanie, the bobble got caught every time I moved in my sleeping bag. Next time, I’ll take a regular beanie hat with no bobble.
- A mini-pillow would have been ace – clothes stuffed into a sleeping bag stuff sack work ok, until you need to wear them!
- No matter how much you try and mitigate it, by the time you have got yourself tucked up in your sleeping bag, the call of nature will scream at you and you’ll just have to wriggle out again.
- I’ll never expect to be fully warm. I can get warm enough to sleep on and off, but as somebody with a body temperature which drops as soon as I sleep, it’ll never be the cosy warmth I get in my bed at home with a hot water bottle on my feet!
- Waking up to a sunrise on the horizon is one of those magical experiences which I’ll treasure in the years to come.
- The pellets of wild rice left in the pan from dinner last night are actually mouse droppings from an inquisitive creature looking to take the left over pickings – no, we didn’t 😉
- Hot chocolate at dawn is a must.
- Be respectful of your surroundings, arrive late, leave early and ensure there’s no trace left behind after you’ve gone.
I’m glad I finally slept out under the stars, it’s left me itching to get out again and enjoying some planning with two books I bought earlier in the year:
Micro Adventures by Alastair Humphreys
Wilderness Weekends by Phoebe Smith