I am guilty of writing about how wonderful my experiences are in nature. whether climbing a mountain or camping by my local river, time spent in the outdoors fuels me for the rest of my daily life, it is intrinsic to my mental and physical wellbeing. However, it is also fair to say that, although I may consider myself hardened to some of the discomforts I don’t always prefer them to the comforts of home.
A couple of weeks ago I went out for a 20km circular walk in my “local” hills, the Chilterns, with the intention of spending a peaceful night out on a hill, watching the stars and replenishing my mind and body as I often do.
The opposite happened and by midnight I was seriously contemplating finding my way back to the car and driving home!
As the warm sun began to set and the rolling hills were softened by the evening glow, I developed a migraine. It's bad enough when you have soft pillows to lay your head on but when you just have a largely empty rucksack it's horrid. It was very windy and I was awake a lot of the night. It wasn’t a cold wind but it bustled across my prostrate figure incessantly, rustling and ripping at my bivvy bag. The noise wore me down, my neck ached incessantly and the pain in my head intensified with my tiredness.
None of these images made it to social media in the end but if you were to look at my Instagram you wouldn't know I had a bit of crappy time.
Within minutes of kicking my way out of the bivvy bag everything was sopping wet.
I was feeling dehydrated and drank too much peppermint tea before turning in, which caused me to get up to answer the call(s) of nature more times than I care to remember. Around midnight there was a shower of rain and I rolled onto my side, tugging on the bivvy bag's drawstring. The really heavy rain set in around 4 am. Luckily I remained warm inside my sleeping bag and tiredness eventually got the better of my pounding head. I drifted off to sleep, until just after 7 am when a rivulet of water washed over my face. A little reservoir that had built up in the folds of my bivvy bag and emptied itself like some rudimentary alarm clock.
The rain had not relented. I hunkered down even more and contemplated what it would take to get up and go. I figured I was somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half from the car so whatever happened my feet would be wet. That doesn’t generally bother me too much, but the thought of packing up the gear was the biggest issue.
In the rain, without shelter, packing away even the few possessions required for a one-nighter is a joyless race against the clock. A race it is almost impossible to win.
The moment the sleeping bag rubs along your waterproof trousers as you plunge it into its stuff sack, it is sopping wet. The moment you accidentally drop your spare socks onto the bivvy bag when packing away clothes, they are sopping wet. The stove you left out the night before because it was warm is sopping wet. That bit of the rucksack that became uncovered when the cover was lifted by the wind is sopping wet.
Within minutes of kicking my way out of the bivvy bag everything was sopping wet. I trudged back to the car disconsolately, barely looking at my surroundings, and never was I more glad to feel the warmth of the air con, the smooth tones of a Sunday morning radio show and the thought of getting home in time for a hearty Sunday lunch and an afternoon on the sofa doing diddly-squat. But not before I had to take out half the contents of my rucksack in order to find the car keys stuck in the foot of my sleeping bag. It was one of those days that I just didn't fancy it.
have I been put off the simple life in outdoors?
Of course not, but I am getting a tarp (If you don’t know what a tarp is then you could read this article by Alex Roddie about the MLD Trailstar tarp).
I know I am late to this but in the past I have either taken a tent or slept in my Alpkit Hunka XL bivvy bag, with my rucksack cover stretched over the backpack and my head, sheltering both from the rain - usually using a couple of poles to prop it up. Now, the latter doesn’t work well in windy weather and I don’t particularly like carrying a “heavy" tent on my own.
So anyway, I have finally come around to thinking life will be better with a tarp. Is anyone out there selling a second-hand tarp?