One evening when I was visiting home a few weekends ago, my dad produced a bivvy bag from the bottom of his wardrobe. “I bought it ten years ago,” he told me, “and it’s never been used.” I immediately knew that it was my duty to liberate this bivvy bag, to let it feel the ground beneath it and save it from a decade of confinement.
On Tuesday of this week Dave Cornthwaite tweeted, “Join me for a little one night wild camping adventure this Friday near London.” A few emails later and my bivvy’s first outing was arranged. I headed off to work on Friday morning with my backpack on, ready for a night of adventure.
I made the 18.32 train from Marylebone with three seconds to spare. Everybody who had actually arrived on time was together towards the front of the train but, unable to manoeuvre my way through the busy carriage, I began the adventure alone with a terrible (read: fantastic) playlist for company.
Just 43 minutes later we arrived in Wendover. I stepped down onto the platform and headed to find the others. I saw a group of people with backpacks and roll mats and a couple of faces that looked familiar from the internet. Here were the strangers I was about to spend my Friday night with. We hugged, shook hands, bumped sleeping bags and began the walk to the woods, stopping via Budgens for camping essentials (sausages, wine and cake, of course).
At the heart of the microadventure movement is one simple idea: sleep on a hill. I had forgotten that this involved actually walking up the hill. Half an hour later we arrived at the top to a pretty astounding view of Buckinghamshire. Distinctly sweatier than we had been at the bottom and wishing I hadn’t brought two litres of water to carry, we huddled together for a group photo.
The first task of the night was to set up camp. For me, this was pretty simple. I shook out my bivvy bag, slid my sleeping mat and bag inside and I was done. Already, I was sold. I helped a couple of others erect their tents and found that I wasn’t jealous at all of their canvas roofs. Dave had brought along a Tentsile though (have a look here – basically a tent suspended between trees) and I have to admit I was a little jealous of that. A seriously cool piece of kit.
The barbecue was lit and and we headed through the trees to enjoy the sunset. Filming the next morning, one of the reasons given as to why the trip was awesome was “sunrise, sunset”. It’s a simple thing but watching the sun dip down behind the horizon, framed by trees, from the top of a hill… well, it’s hard not to enjoy that.
We returned to camp where the fire was crackling and sausages were sizzling. We began to pull on extra layers of clothing and poured plastic cups of wine, both of which had an equally positive effect on our body temperature on what was an unusually chilly June evening.
We gathered around the barbecue and introduced ourselves properly; names again, why we were there, what projects and dreams we were working on. From a weekend volunteering to an entire career change to an amazing adventure, every single person had something ridiculously interesting going on. It’s easy to forget sometimes – in fact, I’m only just beginning to realise – but people really are awesome, almost overwhelmingly so.
The rest of the evening was passed eating sausages, toasting marshmallows and talking about all the good things that were happening amongst that group of twenty people. When eventually it was time to say good night, I crawled into my bivvy bag feeling as happy as I can ever really remember feeling. I awoke with a jolt at 5am, confused as to why I could feel a breeze on my face, but sank happily back to sleep once I realised.
By 8am I had eaten four types of cake for breakfast and if that’s not a success, then I don’t know what is. The group began to disperse but some lingered and chatted and waited for the coffee shop to open. I tried out a wind up phone charger (the “crank monkey”) and managed to get a full upper body work out whilst gain 4% battery. Result! After a much appreciated coffee we began the walk back towards the train station, ready to journey into the chaos of Central London once more.
My first night of bivvying and wild camping can only be described as a roaring success. It’s definitely something I want to do again – and soon! – so hopefully my bivvy bag enjoyed its liberation as much as I did. I had a mind-bogglingly wonderful evening with a group of people who were strangers once but hopefully aren’t now and all for the same price as three pints in central London.
Get outside, do something different, say yes more.