“Present fears are less than horrible imaginings”
Sleeping in a tent is great. I love it. But for a quick, cheap, single night microadventure a bivvy bag is brilliant. Granted, if it pours with rain you won’t have the nicest night of your life. But on a clear, dry night when you can stare at the stars until you fall asleep and then wake with the first rays of sunrise on your face, there’s nothing better.
As well as beautiful camping spots such as those above, I have also spent more than my fair share of nights sleeping wild in built-up areas. It’s easier than you might imagine:
One of the main concerns that stop people heading off to sleep on hilltops is the legality and safety of wild camping. Here then are a few pointers to try to set your mind at ease.
- Even after all the nights I have slept wild, I still feel more exposed and vulnerable in a bivvy bag than in a tent. It’s a normal way to feel. It adds to the child-like sense of excitement. The imaginings of ghosts and giant snakes never entirely go away!
- The reality though is that you are more inconspicuous without a tent (though perhaps not to ghosts / vampires…). You are also far safer than you feel. Consider the pictures above. Many people would feel uneasy camping next to a motorway on the outskirts of Dubai, or in a drainage pipe beneath a busy road. But nobody knew we were there. There were no pedestrians. Nobody could or would do us any harm. It was safe. It was also amusing, which is always important!
- There are no giant snakes / scorpions in the UK. Relax!
- There are, however, farmers and early morning dog-walkers. Not many are likely to stumble across you in your slumbers between dusk and dawn. And if they do they are overwhelmingly more likely to be amused / curious than angry or threatening. However, just to be on the safe side I try to sleep where I can’t be seen. This may mean hopping over a gate away from a footpath, retreating a few metres into a wood or heading to the far end of the beach.
- If you are particularly nervous (perhaps it’s your first time or you are in a quite built-up place) then try this. Find a nice spot to sleep. Then move away from it – to a cafe or comfy clump of trees – and relax until nightfall. Once it is dark you can return to the spot you scouted out. With this method you can sleep, safely, just about anywhere in the world.
- Wild camping is legal in Scotland (except, recently, around Loch Lomond), but not in the rest of the UK (much of Dartmoor is more or less fine). All over the world though nobody nobody has ever complained, told me off, arrested me, or been in the slightest bit concerned. I suppose really there are two answers about where you can sleep wild: the theoretical, legal one is “almost nowhere” and the practical one is “almost anywhere”. 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 blatantly on private land, near someone’s home, or otherwise being annoying.
- A lot of countryside is privately-owned. If you want to sleep on private land it is polite to ask the landowner’s permission. Or don’t get caught. Or, more specifically, don’t get caught in the night because it’s really annoying having to move on and find somewhere else to sleep. If you get caught in the morning you can just apologise politely and leave. Use your discretion as to whether your camp spot is appropriate. Whilst my legal disclaimer is that you must always ask permission, there’s a big difference between sticking your tent up in the middle of a corn field right next to a farmhouse and lighting a massive fire versus discreetly tucking your bivvy bag behind a hedge a mile or two from a village and heading on your way nice and early in the morning.
- In this spirit make sure you always take your litter with you. Bury your poo. Leave no trace. The only trace I would ever leave are the marks from a campfire. And so I only light a fire in places where this is not a problem. Here are a few more tips on courteous wild camping.
In conclusion: sleeping in a bivvy bag for the first time is certainly a slightly un-nerving experience, particularly if you are not in a very wild place. But it is also incredibly simple, cheap, fun, memorable and liberating. You just need to try it once or twice to reassure yourself how incredibly simple it is. Remember, you are acting far more illegally and dangerously every time you break the speed limit in a car. I honestly would not worry too much about the theoretical legal aspects of sleeping in a bivvy. If you act with common sense and courtesy you will be fine. Ghosts are another matter though…
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.
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Some Other Useful Microadventure Posts
- What is a microadventure?
- Some microadventure ideas to try
- Your year of Microadventure
- Microadventure kit list
- What is a Bivvy Bag, and why do I need one?
- How to find a location for an overnight microadventure
- Sleeping Wild: is it legal? Is it safe?!
- Microadventure advice for women (written by women)
- 7-step solution to a microadventure. It’s as simple as this.
- Microadventure videos
I’mve been working hard to encourage people to get out and try a microadventure. Microadventures are a refresh button for busy lives.
But I’mm 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.
Thank you to the many people who have kindly “bought me a coffee” for just £2.50 as encouragement to keep this blog going.
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