Announcing the Grassupthemiddle Spring Forward Bivvy Weekend on the 26/27th March…
Some of us are planning to ride out on the 26th to a location in the Peak District and spend the night under the stars then ride home on the 27th. If you fancy joining us you’ll be more than welcome or you can make your own way there, we’ll send you the location nearer the time but the photos will give you a good idea.
If you like the idea of bivvying but have never done it we are very happy to give you some advice and encouragement to get you going and try to make sure you’ll enjoy the experience.
Here’s a very brief explanation of the bear bones of bivvying, please take this as a simple guide from which to build upon as your experience grows.
First time bivvying? fancy doing a one night adventure out of your comfort zone?
Its a daunting thought, leaving the safety of your house and sleeping outside, exposed to the elements, the axe murderers and all the other dangers your imagination can drag out of your subconscious mind!
In reality its never ever that bad, the worst that can happen is that you might get a bit wet and cold, the best that can happen is that you’ll have a great time, you’ll see things that can only be seen by spending a night outside, you’ll either hate it and never do it again, or you’ll love it and become addicted to the whole experience, either way you’ll never know until you try it.
So…. what do you need to try it ?
First of all is a willingness to put yourself in some discomfort, there’s no getting away from the reality that you’re not going to get a good nights sleep, it does occasionally happen but rarely, after all you’re sleeping on the ground far far away from the central heating, there are however a few things that you can do to get somewhere between those two extremes.
There are three fundamental requirements, insulation, shelter and warmth, something to insulate you from the ground, something to shelter you from the sky, and something to keep you warm, a sleeping mat for insulation, a waterproof sheet from the sky. A sleeping bag in between these two is always helpful, those are the basics, there’s tons of additional stuff you can add to enhance your experience further depending upon your own desires for comfort and warmth, the weather conditions etc etc…
Straight away there’s money to be spent, you could spend literally spend thousands of pounds to create these barriers but there’s no need to, particularly for a first time, if you’re reading this I reckon it’s highly likely that you’ll have friends or know someone who you can borrow from, if not, the internet is awash with choices, the major consideration for those of us who travel under their own steam is weight and volume/packing size.
If you are travelling by bike there’s also the question of how to fit the equipment to your bike to consider, the new-ish idea of bikepacking with bags strapped to the bike is kind of a low weight quick and fast way of travelling whereby the overnight part of the trip is almost incidental to the riding, the older idea of fitting panniers to the bike and carrying a tent and cooking facilities, extra clothing, books, cameras, etc is more about enjoying the whole experience. Obviously these are the two extremes and invariably most people do something between the two.
Okay, there are several ways of creating insulation, a simple foam mattress is light and cheap but also bulky, an inflatable air mattress is less cheap, light and easier to pack down smaller, again bear in mind how you will carry it, once you’ve snagged a mat of some sort for insulation you now need shelter.
The simplest thing is a tarp, again cheap and light, or really expensive and light, take your pick but keep in mind that they both need to be ‘rigged’ or set up, its not difficult to do despite the multitude of ways that are demonstrated on a thousand youtube videos, there is an alternative to the tarp called a bivvy bag, simply a waterproof bag that you sleep inside of.
Unsurprisingly once again you can buy a bivvy bag from about thirty pounds upto …. well the skies the limit here, my own preference is to use a bivvy bag rather than a tarp, personally I get some subconscious sense of security from being wrapped up inside one rather than the open exposure of a tarp, in fact I’d rather use a tent than a tarp but that brings in another aspect of the bivvy experience and thats the idea of stealth camping.
Bivvying allows you to sleep and spend time in a place where you perhaps shouldn’t be, erecting a tent kind of sends out a signal that “I’m camping HERE” and alerts people to your presence, a bivvy tends to be low level (metaphorically and physically) and seems more in tune with the ‘Leave No Trace’ ethos.
Insulation and shelter now sorted, the next requirement is warmth and thats where a sleeping bag comes in, a cheap sleeping bag of some sort and maybe a blow up pillow is really all you need to add to your pile now and thats your sleeping arrangements sorted, all sounds relatively simple doesn’t it? actually it is, you can add or subtract as you see fit but essentially that’s it.
To summarise the essentials…Insulation, Shelter, Warmth.
To enhance the whole bivvying experience there are additional things that can help, food and the ability to cook it, not essential really if you’re within riding distance of a pub/town/shop, you can always get your grub before you settle in for the night, there’s good arguments for either, cooking your own food is a pleasant way to spend time before bed but of course you have to carry it and the heat source with you, a pub is a great way to get hot food and beer, the downside being that you have to at some point leave the warmth of the pub and find your bivvy spot.
Personally I’m easy with either of those choices depending upon weather, companion’s etc, however I’ll always have the ability to make a brew with me, I consider that essential, so a small meths stove and a dangle mug can be considered an enhancer.
Another enhancement for me is a book and a head torch, there is usually time to kill between setting up camp and going to bed, if I’m on my own I like to read, but consider your location, if you are somewhere that maybe you shouldn’t be then shining a head torch around may attract unwanted attention?
As stated above, don’t expect to get the best nights sleep, in fact I can almost guarantee that when you wake up you’ll have aches and pains that you’ve never experienced before but it’ll be worth it, and the next time you do it it’ll get better because you’ll have adjusted your expectations and equipment to feed your new addiction and hopefully we’ll see you out there!
Words and pictures – Steve Makin