Thursday, December 2

What is bivouac? How to have a night of adventures without a tent | Adventure travel

When I live, I do not seek to sleep. I know I will wake up frequently, feeling restricted by my sleeping bag. Bivvying is camping at its simplest – sleeping outside without a tent and minimal equipment.

This is not a good night’s sleep. It’s about turning an adventure into a boring week; it’s about being in nature, listening to hedgehogs huffing and waking up to the chorus of dawn. It’s a short, sharp dose of escapism that has become even more restorative in the last 15 months. And although I have lived on Dartmoor, on the west coast of Scotland and somewhere in between, most of the time I have been within 10 miles of my home in Bournemouth.

Being outdoors is still the delight of every bivvy I’ve been on, but individual trips have some memorable characteristics. Once, on a clear November night, I saw shooting stars because the Leonid meteor shower was making its show. For years he had glimpsed natterjack toads during the day, but a beach bivouac displayed their shrill night croaking.

These are the tips I have learned …

What kit do I need?

Hiker bivouac on top of Knocknahillion Mountain, Maumturk Mountains, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland.
Live in the mountains. The right sleeping bag is essential. Photograph: Gareth McCormack / Alamy

A sleeping bag will keep you warm, as long as you check its rating and make sure you are using it within the recommended temperature ranges. A bivvy, or bivouac bag, is essential to keep dew out of your sleeping bag; Think of it as a miniature lightweight tent without the poles, ropes, and pegs. Hunka by Alpkit (£ 49.99) is simple but effective for a mild night without storms; Rab has bivouac bags designed to cope with harsher weather, starting at £ 135. As well as protecting you from the ground, a mat provides insulation. Sliding your sleeping mat first, then your sleeping bag into the bivouac bag prepares you for a night out in the open.

Is bivouac allowed?

In Scotland “the right to roam“Includes bivouac. It is also allowed on a large proportion of Dartmoor. Otherwise, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you must ask for the owner’s permission. Currently, illegal entry without the intention of establishing permanent residence is a civil offense, not a criminal one. If you are bivouacking and the owner asks you to leave, you should move on.

Nick Hayes, author of The Book of Trespass, says: “In all my years of sleeping, I have never been caught or asked to leave. That’s because no one has ever seen me. This is not difficult: you have to go out into the English countryside to realize how much open space there is and how many comfortable options there are for a night’s sleep. You don’t need to go near a house or private space. I prefer the woods, not only because they block out the cold and the rain, but also because few people want to walk through the woods at night. “

Why bivouac close to home?

To stay local, you don’t have to commit to living before you know the weather forecast. A mild, dry afternoon is perfect for a spontaneous adventure. It also makes it easier to navigate the bivouac tag, essentially being as unobtrusive as possible. Arriving late and leaving early gives you the night, but causes minimal inconvenience to others.

Eating dinner and breakfast at home means no need to bring food or kitchen equipment, helping you not to leave a trace. Wearing the right clothing keeps you warmer than a fire. Both fires and disposable barbecues leave marks of blackened wells and scorched earth. If you need hot water or want to cook, use a camp stove.

It’s okay to urinate outdoors, as long as you stay away from paths and places where people might sit and walk, and at least 100 feet from bodies of water. Grab a trowel to make sure the debris is buried if you need to poop (and bring the paper back).

How do I find the right place?

Sleep under the stars on an adventure trip in England.
Sleep under the stars on an adventure trip in England. Photography: Alamy

Adventurer and explorer Alastair Humphreys recommends using an Ordnance Survey map to find a bivouac spot. “In this digital age, there is nothing better than unfolding a giant paper map and dreaming big while spilling cookie crumbs and tea. Things to look for include: lots of contour lines with a little flat on top, green areas of forests, blue areas of water, walls to hide behind. Find a trail that goes off the road and leads to a quieter area. “

What if you live in a city?

If a walk or bike ride can’t take you away from the sprawl, city dwellers can take a train or bus to a place where birdsong is louder than traffic. As Humphreys says in his blog: “Nobody in the UK lives more than 15 miles from a green, beautiful and exhilarating place to spend the night.” Humphreys walked a lap on the M25 and, despite being within the most populated and densely urbanized area in England, found bivouac spaces.

Many people write about living alone: ​​do I dare to do it alone?

Phoebe Smith camping wild.
Phoebe Smith camping wild. Photography: Phoebe Smith

Some people find peace of mind when verifying that the place chosen for their bivouac has telephone reception. Using discretion to get to your bivouac can also contribute to our comfort: for example, by diverting paths to your bivouac when no people are around. Phoebe smith , author of Extreme Sleeps: Adventures of a Wild Camper, says: “I have lived alone in Britain from the mountain tops to the wooded valleys and coastal cliffs. Many think it would be scary to do it alone, but I find the opposite. When I am in a tent, I am a visitor to the landscape, but in a bivouac I become part of the landscape. The wildlife comes closer, trusting me as one of their own, the stars are there to accompany me every time I open my eyes and instead of feeling scared by the dark, I am hidden by it, no one knows that I am there. “

Can I bivvy with children?

Living locally gives you the convenience of being a short drive from home if you or your children are not enjoying it. Lucy Hawthorne of Modern Maternity Solutions had lived with friends, but going alone with her daughter to a bivouac on the Isle of Purbeck was a different experience. “Living with my eight-year-old son, I felt a great sense of responsibility. The mother and the adventurer in me were having a rather heated internal argument about whether I was doing the right thing or not. However, as we snuggled into our bivouac bags staring up at the night sky, we saw a shooting star and she whispered “Thank you for letting me come tonight, Mom,” before we rolled over and fell asleep. That moment of being a parent is one that I will treasure forever. “

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