It’s around 02:00 on Sunday morning and I’m lying in a bag at the bottom of a soggy field. I’m cold and I feel like I’ve been awake for hours. It’s really not all that bad though, I’m gazing up at the clearest starry sky and I feel alive and free.
How did I get here and what am I doing?
Well I recently got involved with a collection of fantastically diverse dreamers; people who refuse to accept the ordinary and pledge to ‘say yes more’. They are all members of the Yes Tribe. Their leader is a guy called Dave Cornthwaite, a guy who once picked up a skateboard and skated across Australia. He is now on a mission to complete 25 human powered journeys over 1000 miles each. A few years ago he decided to see how many of his Facebook followers he could turn into real friends and organised a camp out to see who would turn up. Nineteen people did show up and the Yes Tribe was born.
Dave and the tribe have converted an old London bus into an inspiring base camp in West Sussex. It’s just the type of place that you’d expect to find 10 like-minded people who think it’s perfectly normal to sleep outside in gale force winds and driving rain, protected by nothing more than a Tarp and a Bivvy bag. They are all here to learn more about wild camping from Dave who has bedded down in some weird and wonderful places across the globe. I found several variations of the spelling for the Bivvy, but I’m gonna run with this one.
Bivvy bag: short for Bivouac. a collapsible bag made of weatherproof fabric that is used to provide shelter usually for a single person in the wilderness.
We started out in the bus at 16:30 by spending a short time introducing ourselves and learning more about why we are all there. Dave explained what a Bivvy was and introduced a basic itinery. Then we were outside for a walk around the site looking at possible sites to bed down for the night. We checked out fields, ditches, woodlands, disabled toilets, wood sheds and shipping containers, all of which have been used by our host over the years. I truly have never seen anyone get so excited about the prospect of sleeping on the floor of a disabled toilet in my life.
After some discussion about the do’s and don’ts of wild camping, interspersed with the dangers posed by foxes, wild boar, the military and ticks……. I told you this lot were dreamers; Dave demonstrated several ways of setting up a tarp and Bivvy bag and discussed the technique for getting inside and what to do with all your other kit. We then got to work setting up our camp sites. Some went for tents and others stretched their tarps over picnic benches.
I found my ideal spot between two logs at the bottom of the field. I decided to go hardcore, no tarp for me! Once set up we retreated to the upper deck of the bus to shelter from the atrocious weather and to geek out on wild camping kit; hammocks, cookers, Bivvy bags, sleeping mats, apps, mapping, GPS trackers and emergency locators were all discussed. It was great.
Tarp: a piece of material (such as durable plastic or waterproofed canvas) used especially for protecting exposed objects or areas.
After a spot of dinner, some birthday cake and a bottle of beer, we couldn’t put it off any longer. It was time to venture outside and climb into our Bivvy bags. The weather had calmed a little by this point and the torrential rain had eased to an annoying drizzle. I navigated down through the wet grass to my little camp nestled between two big logs at the bottom of the field. Here I met with my first dilemma. How was I going to get out of my wet gear and into a nice cosy sleeping bag without getting everything wet through? The answer was, with a load of wiggling, hopping and shuffling down into the bag while stripping off the wet gear as I went.
The experience of sleeping out in a bag was worse than I thought it was going to be, and I can be pretty hardcore.
The sleeping bag was pulled up to my shoulders and the Bivvy zipped over my head. Suddenly I was gripped by a wave of panic, I felt very claustrophobic and struggled to find the zipper to let some air into the bag. The night basically went on like this, a bit of sleep, waking in a panic scrabbling for the zip then settling down again once I had filled my lungs with the sweetest West Sussex air. At around 02:00 the temperature dropped to below the 80C minimum of my two season sleeping bag, again kit selection, rather than the wild camping experience had let me down. I was bloody freezing! If I managed to get my arms under my body it wasn’t too bad, but it was bloody uncomfortable. I therefore had to decide between being uncomfortable and being cold. I could have got out of the bag and put my jumper on, but that was just a step too far at this point, so I decided to just go with it. During one of these frantic attempts to get some air I stuck my head out of the bag and looked up towards that starry sky, cold and uncomfortable, but happy.
Do you know what? The experience of sleeping out in a bag was worse than I thought it was going to be, and I can be pretty hardcore. But that was largely due to lack of preparation and poor gear selection on my part. Just goes to show that if you’re intending on wild camping, it’s worth getting in touch with the Yes tribe and asking for advice. I wouldn’t have changed a thing though. I had a great time and leaned so much in a safe and reassuring environment, with a nice warm bus, log burner and a lovely cup of tea to warm me up the morning after.
So if you’re interested in wild camping get in touch with the Yes Tribe and get your Bivvy on.