If I offered you £1,000,000 to head to, say, Dartmoor – or any wild place you fancy – and spend tomorrow night wild camping high on the Tors, I’m sure you’d leap at the opportunity. Not just a fat pile of cash, you’d think, but cash for doing something that you would actually enjoy doing. This Humphreys fellow is an idiot!
You wouldn’t say ‘it’s a bit far, I haven’t got time’ or ‘I’ve got an important meeting next week to prepare for’ or ‘I can’t go until I’ve bought a fancy new sleeping system’. No, you’d make do with the gear you already own. You’d acknowledge that with a bit more graft and a little less Facebook you could still get your work done. And you would somehow make the time to make it happen.
Here’s the bad news: I’m not going to give you £1,000,000, not even with the fathomless wealth I earn for penning these words for Trail. Sorry.
Here’s the good news: you could still head to that hilltop you were dreaming of a moment ago. For we have established now that the barriers and obstacles that get in the way of spending more time in the hills are not as immovable as we often think. I am as guilty as anyone of this: dreaming of adventure then getting cross at all sorts of things that I prefer to blame for keeping me out of the mountains rather than acknowledging my own procrastination, laziness, and disorganisation.
Here then is a tip that has helped me to squeeze in plenty of extra happy nights star gazing from my bivvy bag. I keep a rucksack permanently packed and ready with everything I need for a night away. Not having to rummage around the garage for elusive bits of kit makes me one step more likely to seize the moment, carpe the diem, and run for the hills if the opportunity arises.
I appreciate that it is hard to juggle 21st Century lives and still enjoy time in the wild. Whatever your personal conundrums, however, rest assured that I have heard them all before in the years I have been banging the drum for spontaneous, short adventure fixes. It’s not easy. But it is possible.
So, this month, why not make it your goal to spend at least one night wild camping? Take a little time to gather the gear you’ll need to take with you, and pack it in a rucksack. Keep this bag prominently by the front door or in the boot of your car. If you happen to unexpectedly have a spare evening, or the weather is suddenly unseasonably sunny you are now ready to make the most of it.
Colder nights and shorter days are on their way so for many of us this might be the last opportunity to wild camp for many months. Autumn is a beautiful season for wild camping. The midges are gone, the 4am sunny wake-ups are gone. Instead, we have cloud inversions and beautiful misty mornings. We have glorious woodland colours and fistfuls of berries for breakfast. And adventure tastes even better when it is spontaneous and squeezed into the busy working week.
Finally, keep an eye out for the first fieldfares as they begin arriving in the UK to spend the winter with us.
This piece originally appeared in Trail Magazine.