First Bivvy

It’s asking ‘why not?’ instead of getting stuck at ‘why?’                                             By Belinda Dixon 
bivvy3In physical terms it’s nothing – all you’re doing without is a couple of millimeters of tent. All you’re moving is two paces to one side. But psychologically the first time it’s huge – to not sleep in the tent. To take your roll mat outside and lay it on the grass. It’s a step people shake their heads over, saying ‘you’re mad’ or ‘why?’

It’s something I’ve long wanted to do but have never actually done. But last weekend I ignored the internal voice that whispered: “You don’t have to bother; the tent will be easier”. So on a campsite in Cornwall I decided to try, thinking if it’s cold, wet and mice run over your face (?!), simply dive back into the tent.
bivvy2So I moved the mat outside. I wiggled the sleeping bag into the bivvy. Laid back. And suddenly saw a sky full of stars. Stars that multiplied the more I looked. The Plough at first, familiar and clear, then more and more constellations emerging around it and inside. It was magical. So I lay with my glasses on in a field in a sleeping bag in a bivvy, not wanting to take them off, because then I wouldn’t see this velvety blackness and the glinting lights.

Eventually though I had to sleep. So what was that like? Actually really comfortable. Perfectly warm, it wasn’t raining (that helps, obviously), there was a heavy dew but I didn’t get cold or wet inside the bag. It was snug, fun and cosy. I woke a few times; once squinting into the darkness and wondering what was that light? Who’d left a light on over the field? I put my glasses back on and realised it was the moon. And I smiled a lot and looked at that gleaming crescent until I fell back to sleep.
bivvy1So was it fabulous? Utterly. Would I do it again? Absolutely. Which helps answer the question: ‘why do this?’ Just to see the moon and the stars? Partly; you see them differently. But you’re also taking a step outside your comfort zone, and you realise that of course you can do it. And that the thing you thought was a big deal, isn’t really a big deal at all. It’s about asking ‘why not?’ instead of getting stuck at ‘why?’  Because it also opens up so much more. Hikes to remote places where carrying a tent is a real pain. That sense of really getting away from our day to days.

So where next? Well, a Dartmoor summer solstice bivvy might be in the offing. Some two-day cliff path hikes suddenly look like they need planning. And wherever and whenever, there’ll definitely be more sleeping out, glasses on, under the stars …

This adventure was partly inspired by Alastair Humphreys’ microadventures project. For his post on bivvying for beginners, click here.

That spirit of adventure has also been kindled by Phoebe Smith; for her article on the five things you need to know before bivvying, click here. There’s more on her books on wild nights here.

And asking ‘why not?’ also nods towards Dave Cornthwaite’s inspirational #SayYesMore campaign.

As always, I’m keen to learn: what bivvying tips would you add? Where has your bivvy bag taken you? Where might I go next …?!

Published by Belinda Dixon

I'm a travel & adventure writer (Lonely Planet), broadcaster (BBC Radio Devon & BBC Guernsey) and the British Exploring Society's media Leader on its 2016 Himalaya expedition. I write a blog that aims to inspire adventures; deliver inspiring training and record and edit powerful oral history archives.

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