My adventure buddy, Matt McDonald, and I went on a midweek camp-out under the stars in order to add some much needed adventure into our working lives.
A 5-9 adventure is referred to a microadventure, a phrase coined by adventurer extraordinaire, Alastair Humphreys. We left work and travelled by train to Titsey Hill on the edge of the noisy M25 motorway to spend the night in our bivvies.
While easy to arrange and fun to do it’s always worth undertaking a Microadventure with a note of caution. They could act as a gateway drug to harder adventures; one night you’re in a bivvy near Chingford, then the next minute you’re cycling across Kazakhstan in winter. For seasoned cycle tourers and polar exploring wannabes like Matt and me, they fill the void between bigger trips and help take the edge off the 9-5 slog.
While a microadventure can be had in an urban setting (I have spent the night in Primrose Hill before) they offer a great excuse to escape the hum of the city and experience the rolling, green surrounding it.
There are challenges, of course. The challenges are what make it fun, at least, they do in retrospect (type 2 fun, I call it).
The first hurdle is where to go. England is not a nation which welcomes spontaneious camping. Fear of being overun by gypsies and ravers means that the law requires permission is sought from the landowner before pitching up and everywhere in England is owned by someone, except in London where the price of land prevents even Saudi Royalty purchasing property. As it is not always feasible to write to an Omani prince it’s best to follow two simple rules:
- Become invisible like a ninja
- Leave no trace
While you could spend up to 10 years training in the secretive arts of the ninja among the mountain forests of Edo (Tokyo) it’s easier just to keep your microadventure crew to a minimum, steer clear of popular byways and camp where you won’t be seen or if you can be seen make sure you’re at least ‘I can’t be arsed to go and ask them to move’ meters away. You could wear a black onsie if you wish.
Locations are plentiful. All you need is a train ride and a patch of ground where you won’t be disturbed. A quick search of the interwebs of ‘wild camping’ + your location will reveal a suitable site near you. Matt found Titsey through a typing error while searching for something else. He used Google Maps satellite view to scope out the best places to camp.
Leaving no trace means taking ALL your rubbish back with you, not hacking down trees for a campfire and, if caught short, burying your poop. If you see any litter at all then collecting it to bin later is a most honourable act.
If the morning coffee is strong and you must make a loo trip then bury your business at least 30m away from any water source. Unfortunately you can’t bury loo paper so pack that in a ziplock bag (a really sturdy ziplock bag). Popping a teabag or some baking soda in with it might help absorb the smell. Or if you’re a bloke and ignorant of your stench then seal that sucker up and stick it in your pocket. If any of this sounds totally gross to you then the solution is just not to poop in the woods – a high protein diet is your friend here.
So, you have your location and black onsie, but what else to you need? Well, not a lot. The weather in the UK is mild for most of the year so kit can be kept to a minimum. I take a bivvy, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. I also pack waterproofs because in England you should always expect rain.
You could, if you wanted, take a stove and boil some water for an evening pot noodle or morning coffee.
Which bivvy, sleeping mat or sleeping bag to take is up to you and depends upon your microadventuring environment. My wallet and I prefer lightweight synthetic sleeping bags comfortable to 0°C because they are cheaper than down sleeping bags, dry faster and will provide some insulation if you spill your beer on them.
My bivvy is waterproof and breathable which avoids condensation forming on the inside. My sleeping mat is an inflatable one for a bit of comfort and to pack down to fit in my backpack. Here’s the list:
- Alpkit Hunka XL bivvy
- Thermarest Neo Air Xlite sleeping mat
- Montane Prism sleeping bag
Alongside my waterproofs and trusty wallet, that’s all I take.
All this sounds like fun Andy, but what about the brain eating zombies and razor-toothed squirrels? The worst that can happen is the landowner flies over from Oman to give you a telling off for flattening his grass. This has only ever happened to me once, in France. All we did then was to smile, be polite and move on as requested. I’ve never been shouted at, had poo thrown at me (while wild camping, at least) or threatened by either a rabid badger or wild-eyed axe murderer.
Wild camping is no big deal, really. It’s a bit of fun that or the novice outdoors person it can be a proof of concept, leading to more prolonged adventures. It helps me cope with working full-time. If you haven’t tried it already they pack your bags and head into the wild!
If you find a nice wild camping spot then feel free to share in the comments below.