Beds are comfortable. You can get beds with lumbar support, really big beds, dense warm duvets. You can cover your bed in a goose down quilt, use blankets, you can get pillows that are pretty much clouds wrapped in material. But why sleep there when you can sleep in a sleeping bag, in a shack with a fire slowly going out beside you? Or under a fallen tree on a beach when you’re not quite sure where the high tide mark is? Or inside a glorified body bag, vomitting over yourself from altitude sickness as the wind chill forces the temperature below freezing?
You won’t necessarily sleep better if you spend the night outside, but you will have an experience. I’ve never told anyone about how good my bed is (mainly because the mattress is lumpy and uncomfortable and my duvet is crap), but I have told people about that time when I slept outside and slept with the stars above me and awoke with a frost on my chest.
The comfort zone of some people ends at a tent in an organised campsite, but don’t let that stop you. You could wild camp somewhere. In Scotland you can wild camp in most areas, and in England you can get away with camping in areas as long as you follow Leave No Trace principles, stay out of sight and move on when asked to. (It is advisable to ask the landowner first, but if that isn’t possible, just be discreet and move at early light.) Taking a tent is great if you’re happy to carry it, but if you want to truly travel fast and light whilst having an adventure, try a bivvy bag.
A bivvy bag is basically a rain coat for your sleeping bag. Waterproof and breathable, a good bivvy bag is just as comfortable as a tent, minus a roof. This means that you can fall asleep whilst watching the stars. However if it does rain you’re likely to wake up with a wet face and be a bit miserable. Get around this by taking a tarp and making a bit of a roof for yourself if you expect it’s gonna rain. In case you don’t fancy shelling out for a bivvy bag straight away, you can have a comfortable night in one of the emergency bivvy bags you’re already carrying. Be aware that it won’t be as close a fit as a proper bivvy bag, and nowehere near as breathable so you might wake up a little damp.
The good thing about bivvies is that you can roll them out anywhere that it can fit. Flat ground is a must to prevent you rolling off down a hill, but with a footprint that’s only the size of your body, you may find yourself sleeping in between boulders, atop moorland or even sheltered behind a trig point on a Munro. Taking a roll mat greatly increases your comfort levels (just like in a tent) but it can be discarded if you know you’re gonna be sleeping on some soft spongy ground. Further benefits of the humble ‘plastic bag’ is that you can sit up and cook straight away in the morning, without getting out of your sleeping bag. Fancy a brew without moving? This is the tool for you.
There are a few tiny caveats mind. Without a tent you may feel a little more ‘exposed’ in terms of safety. Of course, that’s all down to your own ideas about safety whilst camping but if you’re unsure, why not take a pal with you? Much like a tent, be sure not to lay your bag out in the middle of a game track otherwise you might be awoken by rabbits, foxes and other animals running into you in the middle of the night. And finally, usual tent rules also apply. Don’t whack it under a great big tree in a storm, make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and have a damn good time.
So, what’s stopping you? Find a group of gullible mates, tell them it’ll be fun and then be surprised when it actually is. And if it doesn’t end up being fun, at least it’ll end up being a story to tell in the pub.