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What to Pack for a Microadventure

howies microadventure

It’s been more than fifteen years since I began enjoying sleeping in wild and wonderful places. I guess I’ve spent about a thousand nights sleeping outdoors. Out of all those probably only about ten have been in a ‘proper’ campsite.

I’ve slept on top of England’s highest mountain on New Year’s Eve and on the northern tip of Britain in midsummer week.

I have also spent many nights without a tent -bivvying- and these are often the most magical of all. (Not always, mind!). I’ve bivvied on hill tops, seashores, even on a swimming platform out at sea and in sewage pipes (clean ones) on three continents!

So I know how easy, safe, simple, fun, rewarding and invigorating sleeping wild can be. It is one reason why I came up with the idea of microadventures to try to encourage people to give these things a try. But I completely understand how someone who has never done it might think otherwise.
Therefore I hope that this article will help encourage wild-campers to give a microadventure a try by explaining how to do it all, and answering a few common worries.

If you want to go and sleep on a hilltop this is all you need. The links will help you with buying options.

Tell somebody where you are going and when you’ll be back. And then go!

If you do head off on a microadventure, please let me know. Tag it on Twitter with the hashtag #microadventure or pop something on the new Microadventures Facebook Page.
If you’d like to come on a microadventure with me sign up here.
If you have any friends who could benefit from a microadventure, please send them this link.

What is a bivvy bag and wild camping?

A bivvy bag (bivouac bag) is a waterproof outer layer for a sleeping bag. If you live somewhere it doesn’t rain (ie Not Wales) then you don’t need one, and you can just lie out smugly in your sleeping bag. For a one-off bivvy microadventure a cheap orange survival bag is fine (your sleeping bag will get a bit damp on the outside from condensation). That’s what I used on our howies microadventure last week. A better option is one from Alpkit for about £30.

Wild camping is camping away from a proper campsite, out in the wild.

Is wild camping legal?

It’s completely legal in Scotland and, elsewhere in the world, nobody has ever complained, told me off, arrested me, or been in the slightest bit concerned. In the same way that nobody would mind you having an afternoon snooze on the beach, nobody minds wild camping, so long as you’re not on private land, near someone’s home, or otherwise being annoying.

Is it safe?

Assuming you are out in the countryside, away from people then a night out under the stars is about as safe as a night can be. I will admit to the occasional night when strange noises in the woods have spooked me a little, but that is only the fault of an over-active imagination and a youth frittered on late-night horror movies! This goes away after a couple of nights. If you’re out there with a friend it’s even easier.

Where will I sleep?

Finding spots to wild camp is an art form! It’s also all about compromise: sheltered in an old barn or under a cliff in case of rain versus a full canopy of stars out in the open if it doesn’t rain. Getting out of the wind will keep you much warmer, so if you’re bivvying on a hilltop (my very favourite place) then consider dropping just a few metres down the leeward side. If you’re sleeping on a beach sleep above the high-tide mark or else you might win a Darwin Award.

You can find safe, snug wild camping spots surprisingly close to towns and villages too. Follow a footpath just a short distance away from a road then nip behind a hedge or a clump of trees. You’ll feel very open, conspicuous and slightly silly as you lie down to sleep but you’ll soon relax and enjoy the novelty of being right out in nature.

How do I use a bivvy bag?

Shove your sleeping bag into the bivvy bag. You can, if you wish, put the sleeping mat in there as well, but I find that’s too cramped. Snuggle in and sleep. If it rains in the night just snuggle even deeper, pull the bag over your head and leave just a little hole for your mouth otherwise you end up getting way too hot!

What do I need to take on a microadventure?

The whole point of microadventures is that you do not need much time, money or specialised equipment. The trip I did with howies is a perfect example – we left their office at the end of the day’s work, rode out of town wearing small backpacks, had a great adventure, and were back at the office ready for work the next morning. Granted, not every workplace will allow you to ride your bike round the office or wear merino cycling stuff as you work, but these are minor problems! A bundled up suit makes a great pillow

Here then is an idea for a microadventure and the stuff you’ll need:

  • Leave work
  • Cycle / walk / run / paddle / swim, even drive (if you must) out of town
  • Climb a hill / go to the beach / find a lake
  • Eat
  • Relax
  • Campfire (where appropriate)
  • Sleep
  • Wake up
  • Find a lake / river / lido / ocean for a quick skinny dip.
  • Cycle / walk / run / paddle / swim, even drive (if you must) back into town
  • Greasy Spoon cafe
  • Back to work
  • Ask your colleagues if they did anything interesting last night

Basic Kit List

  • Bike
  • Rucksac
  • Sleeping bag
  • Cheap orange survival bag
  • Cheap foam sleeping mat
  • Torch
  • Rain coat
  • Wooly hat
  • Warm clothes for night (use a spare jumper as pillow)
  • Food and drink that doesn’t need cooking
  • Water bottle
  • Toothpaste with toothpaste already applied and wrapped in clingfilm
  • Matches to light a campfire
  • Notebook – even if you never write a diary this is a really good chance to jot down a few observations, thoughts, resolutions
  • Camera – for smug self portrait

Next Step Up: take all the above plus…

  • Camping Stove
  • Pan
  • Pasta and sauce / pesto, Super Noodles, Pot Noodle etc.
  • Spoon
  • Proper bivvy bag (instead of orange bag)

Luxury Additions: take all the above plus…

Even if you have never cycled or walked ten miles before, even if you have never wild camped (or even if you have never camped) I really urge you to give this a try on a nice warm, dry summer’s evening.

The very worst thing that’s likely to happen is that you get back to work the next morning a bit tired. Far more likely is that you will be thrilled to discover wildness, nature and beauty on your doorstep. You’ll probably enjoy it so much that next time you’ll take the whole office with you as well!

I’ve been working hard to encourage people to get out and try a microadventure. Microadventures are a refresh button for busy lives.

But I’m very aware that the hardest thing is getting out there for the first time. So I have produced a few infographics which hopefully will serve to give people the prod necessary to take that first step. (Thank you, Andrea, for all your hard work!)

Click on the image you prefer to open a PDF file that you can then download and keep (Right Click, Save) or share the link with any friends who need a gentle kick up the backside to get out there and do stuff! A lot of the text on the PDF infographic is clickable, leading you to relevant web entries.

Please feel free to use, distribute, print, put on your Facebook page, edit or hack as much as you wish.

Microadventure infographic

Microadventure infographic

Microadventure infographic

Microadventure infographic

If you do head off on a microadventure, please let me know. Tag it on Twitter with the hashtag #microadventure or pop something on the new Microadventures Facebook Page.
If you’d like to come on a microadventure with me sign up here.
If you have any friends who could benefit from a microadventure, please send them this link.

Read Comments

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Comments

  1. Love the photo. Great write up. Wild camping is certainly ‘the business’. Best night’s wild camping so far I’ve had is in a field in Romania. No sleeping bag, very cold but woke up to a beautiful sunrise and hitched a 1 mile ride up a hill on a horse and cart. The stuff adventures are made of!

    Reply
  2. Mark Russell Posted

    Love your writing, always so inspiring! Discovering your books all those years ago set me off on my own cross continent adventure! So many happy memories. There are moments when I just drift off into those happy memories and relive the adventure, see the people I met, taste the meals I made on the fire, feel the burn in my legs as I scaled another mountain pass. Loved it all. Off on a microadventure tomorrow to the South Coast of NSW for a few nights of sleeping wild. Needing a break from the city life!!!! The tent is patched, the bag is packed and upon rising tomorrow I am out of here! Nude ocean swims and reading on the beach…*bliss*

    Reply
  3. Just back from my first ever wild camp so this is a nice piece of synchronicity. I’ve learnt a lot, a lot about myself, a lot about wild camping.

    The biggest thing I learnt this weekend was not to mistake the map for the territory, i.e. the nice looking location you’ve spotted using Google Maps and an OS Map may well be completely different on the ground, lesson: be prepared to switch pre-planned locations quickly : )

    I could say a lot, lot more about this magical weekend but will write it all up as a post on my own blog.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  4. Inspired by the Howies trip Alastair that you wrote about last year I’m finally off in 3 weeks time for a Microadventure of my own with some pals I’ve also coerced into it.

    We’re off to Cornwall where we are going to try some Sea Kayaking and Coasteering in the morning (first-timers), then pick up our rucksacks having survived (hopefully) and hike some miles down the Cornish coastline to then wild camp overnight bivvying out under the stars.

    Then in the morning we intend to hike for around a further 17 miles south along the beautiful South West Coast Path ending up at a good watering hole!

    It’s a first Microadventure for some of the lads and a first wild camp for all of us so we’re fingers crossed for the weather. A write up will follow on my blog http://www.jameshandlon.com for anyone interested in finding out how it turns out.

    Thanks Alastair for the kick up the backside that has inspired us to do something outside of our normal suburban comfort zones. (Although I may not be so grateful after the event, especially if it continues to rain like it is out of the window at present).

    Reply
  5. That’s a great little article about gear that isn’t actually about gear. Sometimes it is too easy to get hung up on equipment and planning instead of just enjoying the experience. The best overnights I’ve had have been the ones that aren’t so planned. My favourite was when a pal came along to the top of Makara Peak in Wellington – overlooking the city and my house – with a borrowed bivvy bag and a charity shop down jacket. We had a wonderful night watching life below just pass us by.

    Reply
  6. Ooh, this was a rather more practical article than I was expecting from AlastairHumphreys.com! (Good though!)

    Reply
  7. Bhavesh Bati Posted

    I remember a night out sleeping (Wide Awake….)on the roof of a Hut surrounded by lions (Can I ever Forget this,????? NO….WAYYYY)

    You are Just awesome, buddy….

    I can’t resist laughing out loud, reading your posts…. :)))

    Come to India, Bro, I will show you wild lions…. Yeah….

    And I have had a 200km cycle ride during a day and half(my longest cycling)

    With adventure, Life becomes truelly Alive…

    way to go brother…

    Reply
  8. Great tips! I went wild camping in Norway a few summers ago and this would have been helpful then. The first night I camped in a farmer’s field, along the coast. It didn’t get dark until midnight and felt like I was on top of the world.

    I’m writing on behalf of the KEEN Recess Team because we’re inspired by your active lifestyle. Thanks for the great stories.

    Best,
    KEEN Recess Team

    Reply
  9. Love the site. Just preparing for my first microadventure of the year……walking round the M60 motorway! I had a quick question, what sleeping bag would you recommend for adventures within the uk?

    Any advice would be great!

    Reply
    • Alastair Posted

      I’m afraid there is no easy answer here. In some ways you “need” about 10 sleeping bags (down for dry weather, synthetic for weight, and various warmth levels…)
      Realistically then I’d just take whichever one you have and as many extra jumpers as you need to make that warm enough for the night. Sorry that this isn’t very helpful!
      Let me know how you get on with the M60!

      Reply
      • Cheers Alastair. Sleeping bags certainly seem to open a can of worms when looking around on forums.

        At the moment, the only sleeping bag i have is a cheap £7.99 one from Go Outdoors, so today i have ordered an Alpkit Skyehigh 600 sleeping bag. I will test it out in the back garden once it arrives along with my Zephyros 2 tent.

        The M60 will be taking place first weekend of May hopefully. Im strangely excited by the thought of it.

        Reply
  10. Hi Alistair,
    love your site, lots of helpful tips.. i’m embarking on my first micro adventure in the UK.. Have been on plenty camping trips with tents and the kitchen sink… I’m heading for kent downs with bivy bag and about 5 jumpers! and its October!! I am mad? Im trying to stay close to civilisation as a single female in case I chicken out or get freaked in the night.
    Any tips? (apart from hot toddie flask) 🙂 Anna

    Reply
  11. Favourite wild camp was on the small isles of the inner Hebrides, kept lively by sheep and nocturnal mice! Lovely heavy food which we lugged over on a flit boat as there were no shops. Terrible tiny Lichfield tent, but oooooooh the glory of each day!

    Reply
  12. Stevie O'Loughlin Posted

    Really glad I found your site, very helpful. Am planning to walk John O’groats to Lands End starting April 2016. Staying B&Bs mostly – but taking sleeping mat/bivvy to stay out, if I need to. Is that and a bivvy bag enough (north of Scotland April/May) ? Or do I def need sleeping gag too ?

    Reply

 
 

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