Over the past few years, it has become a bit of a tradition in our house that we choose one or more nights to sleep outside – no tent, simply us and our bedding. Some of our friends completely understand and in fact I’d go so far as to say they are quite envious; others are absolutely horrified at the thought of being away from their familiar and comfortable (indoor) beds and facilities.
Why do we enjoy it so much? The answers are many, but it’s worth listing a few.
Firstly, it’s a chance to do something different: an old friend once told me that ‘everyday life is no life at all’, which obviously extends to nights too. The fun in seeking out a new patch in the fields or the woods – we usually do this some weeks or days in advance – makes the whole process one of exploration and this adds to the sense of doing something out of the ordinary.
Secondly, it’s the chance to reconnect with nature, and the choice of location for the overnight ‘bivvy’* will dictate what you hear and see through the evening, night and into the next morning. Do you want to be immersed in the sights and sounds of the woods? Would you prefer the open skies that gives you a full view of the stars as they move their position – and possibly the skimming lights of a meteor shower? Or perhaps the aim is to look down from a lofty perch in the mountains on a cloud-filled valley and watch the sun rise? All are incredible experiences and mean that you can be connected to your world in a wholly different way.
Thirdly, the escape to the outdoors takes you away from the always available, device-driven world of electronics and connectivity. Just a few hours being stimulated by natural shapes, light and sounds has a proven beneficial effect on wellbeing which is one of the reasons wild camping and nights out under the stars has become so important to so many over the past 18 months. Even the simple process of falling asleep as it darkens (assuming you don’t take torches or have a fire) and walking as it becomes light puts you back into a natural balance with nature. This may be a short-lived experience at the time but will nevertheless give a longer lasting benefit.
Having chosen your spot, which should be as discreet as possible, whether in the woods or up a mountain, you then need to consider what you take to make sure you actually get a good night’s sleep.
*A bivvy bag (also known as a bivouac, bivi or bivvy) allows you to go camping without a tent. It’s basically a thin, lightweight, waterproof sack that slides over your sleeping bag. It can also significantly improve the warmth of your sleeping bag.