Lesson 2 – There are creatures out there
I have always done more wild camping in the winter than in the summer, this has mostly been to do with training young people, but flying, biting things have also been a consideration. Ironically, although hubbie and I bought our mosquito net on our 2018 New Zealand camping trip, I didn’t feel the need to use it until a midge-filled July night in some Exmoor woods.
This just goes to show that creepy crawlies are not always where you imagine them to be. I am fastidious, for example about checking my walking boots before putting them on, and taking ant-avoidance measures with food but I had never expected to find a slug up my nose, which is exactly what happened during an August Dartmoor bivvy with my nephew.
It was Ben’s first wild camp and he had chosen bivvy bags over tents; clearly a good choice because he slept, rolled up against me, all night. I, on the other hand, did not sleep well, mainly due to a strange noise, which I presumed was Ben grinding his teeth. It just goes to show that you really should talk to sisters before you steal their children because, as it turned out, Ben doesn’t grind his teeth and what I was listening to was the sound of slugs munching their way around and apparently over me, and yes, one even munched his slimy way right up my nose!
Top outdoor sleeping tip
Develop a different set of ‘what is acceptable’ rules for the outdoors. When you are out in the wilds, your hands may not be as clean, your bed not as soft and your supper not as warm as they are at home, but you will be having an adventure and even slugs can make a good story.
Lesson 3 – Try something new
Learning is apparently good for our brains but, for me, its more important function is to keep me interested. I have no idea how many nights in total I have spent in a tent but, what with Guiding, Scout leading, DofE Expeditions, family camps and Ten Tors Challenge training, the lifetime count will be high, which is partly why I was keen, over my year of 50 Sleeps to try out a few different types of camping.
I particularly enjoyed my bivvy bag, including one back garden sleep in the snow but it was my 50th birthday present from my husband that gave me the most learning points, he gave me a camping hammock.
Successful hammocking, as it turns out, requires a fair amount of learning, for me this included finding trees the right distance apart, avoiding ‘banana’ sleeping by lying diagonally in the hammock, rigging a tarp as shelter from the rain (tricky with sideways rain) and tying knots that I could not only trust to keep me up all night but would be possible to undo with cold hands in the morning. I must have done something right because, as well as copious day ‘hangs’, I have had 5 successful camping hammock nights and I haven’t fallen out… yet!
Top outdoor sleeping tip
Don’t be afraid to seek new experiences. If a camp doesn’t work out too well, all you will lose is one night’s sleep. There is plenty of information and advice out there, both in the form of courses and on the internet but look for a source you trust, people who regularly do the activity they are giving advice about and those who aren’t afraid to tell you when they get things wrong.
So there we have it. My advice regarding outdoor challenges would be to set a challenge that you know you can achieve but will require some effort and adventures into new experiences.
My name is Fi Darby, I am middle aged and I love camping in all its forms. Who knows where I will end up sleeping in 2019!