Guildford Microadventure

Nearly sunrise

I had a bonus holiday day to use as I ended up working the Queen’s funeral, which was double bonus really as the rest of the family were at school / work. For a long time now I’ve been thinking that I should do another micro-adventure so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Luckily the weather forecast was good as well so it was on.

I kept this super simple, the only goal was to spend the night outdoors. Nothing else. Just to prove that I could still do this and remind myself what it was like. Also a vague idea that if I wanted to do this again, I should start easy.

From running around the area over the past year I had a good idea of where I would pitch camp, so I put the kids to bed and then headed out the front door at about 8pm.

Packing List:

  • Sleeping bag, rollmat, bivvy bag, fleece stuff sack for pillow
  • Tarp (with lines attached to corners already), poles, pegs and 2 extra lines
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Warm top
  • Flask of coffee for the morning (Zojirushi so good at keeping things warm)
  • Hipflask of whisky for the evening
  • Waterbottle
  • Tootbrush & paste
  • Headtorch

Packing was minimal, I’d planned it out during a Teams call in the afternoon so was very quick getting everything together. I used everything except the extra lines and the waterproof.

There was no moon, so it was really very dark walking up to the spot and I had to use the headtorch when I got into the woods as it was pitch black.

Really very dark…

After walking for about 35minutes I’d found the area where I planned to spend the night, and then quickly found a likely spot, just set back from the path with a small amount of cover from a hawthorn bush. My only real worry for the night was slugs – these had been awful when I camped on Exmoor and are a real downside to using a tarp rather than a tent. But it had been dry for a while and was quite cold so I was hopeful to escape them. Seemed like I wouldn’t be so lucky when I found a couple exactly where I was planning to sleep, but I dispatched these and the rest must have got the message.

It took me a little while to decide that I had a good spot and was actually going to do this, was quite tempted to just walk back home and get into my bed. This feeling passed though as I sat there looking out over the villages below, seeing the planes pass overhead and the car lights wandering through the dark. So I committed to setting up the camp at least as I could always take it down again if I chickened out. There were some noisy boy racers in the nearby carpark, and some bell-ringing practice going on somewhere but I didn’t see another person.

Getting the camp set up was straightforward and I could remember how to do the relevant knots (slippery taut-line hitch). Having the lines already attached to the tarp was super-convenient and I thanked the person I used to be for thinking of doing this a long time ago!

Can just about see my set up here

Finally I decided it was time to retire, as I was in danger of drinking too much whisky. So into bed and I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the rollmat was since it was a long time since I had used it. Also the fleece stuff sack is by far the best pillow I’ve used, having tried many different inflatable options.

I slept pretty well, better than I hoped. Woke every 90 min or so I think but found a new position and was bag asleep quite easily. Heard a lot of owls, or one very talkative one and enjoyed seeing the stars. The cloudless night meant the visibility was great, but also that a lot of condensation fell on the ground. I was grateful for having put the tarp up, and for the bivvy bag being quite waterproof.

Water was forming on the inside of the bivvy bag, but it didn’t seem to be making a difference to the sleeping bag and I was super cosy in a long-sleeve wool baselayer, walking trousers, wool socks and beanie hat. I cannot say enough about my sleeping quilt from Enlightened Equipment. One of the best buys I’ve ever made. The quilt works so well inside the bivvy bag, much more comfortable and easy to get in and out, and it’s just so warm and light. Like being enveloped in your own bubble of warmth. Was difficult to get out of this in the morning.

I was up about 6, packed up by 6.20 and then home around 7, feeling great.

Really glad I did this, and surprised myself by how simple it was. Very satisfying to know that I know how to do this and can actually do it. Something special about being awake and in nature when most people aren’t, whether that’s at night or in the early morning. It certainly makes for a richer life experience than another evening on the sofa watching Netflix.

Not sure I would change anything if I did this again, maybe some better whisky, or binoculars to get a better look at the stars. Did make me think that I’d like to do the North Downs trail, wild camping on the way. Walking back home in the morning was good, but would have been even better to have been on a journey to somewhere new. But a micro-adventure is always better than a no adventure!

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