18th September 2019 by Emma Mathias
Start your very own micro adventure today, because those who don't have the time are often the ones who need it the most.
So often we say we don’t have time to get out for an adventure. We have too many commitments, not enough time. But what if you could leave work at 5pm (on a school night!!) go on an adventure and be back at your desk the next day at 9am. Enter the micro adventure.
Whilst this idea might seem a little strange at first, it actually gives you the perfect fix of adventure in one tiny package. And if you’re thinking ‘I just don’t have time for that’ then that is exactly why you should be doing a micro adventure. They are designed to be small, accessible and affordable and taking time out of your busy life to appreciate the sunset and sunrise is the perfect way to reset and revitalise yourself.
Pioneered by the adventurer and speaker, Alastair Humphreys, micro adventures are your chance to have an every day adventure.
Make it happen
So what exactly does a micro adventure involve?
The idea is that after work you drive, walk, cycle, run or kayak (or whatever other mode of transport you choose) to an outdoor location, spend the night under the stars then make your way back to work in the morning. This may look different for you depending on your lifestyle, but for many of us it will be a mid week escape, a chance to step back and reset without impacting your weekend.
How far you choose to travel or how wild you go is totally up to you. But the point isn’t to go the furthest or push the hardest. The point is to find something accessible and realistic for you that gives you the chance to reconnect with nature.
So where should you be looking? Next time you go out for a walk try looking at it with fresh eyes. Is there somewhere you could camp there? Is there somewhere with amazing panoramic views or a favourite sunset viewing spot that you love to visit. It doesn’t have to be completely wild and secluded but at the same time you don’t want to be directly by a popular walking path. Although you’ll be setting up late and leaving early, dog walkers do tend to like early morning starts and being licked awake probably isn’t the nicest experience.
The most important lesson in choosing a place to sleep outside is to make sure its flat. Lie down on the spot you intend to sleep before getting any of your gear out and check that you’re happy with it. It’s far easier to feel issues with a spot rather than see them.
The kit you’ll need will very much depend on the location you’re in, the expected weather conditions, your experience and your threshold for comfort. It’s always important to operate within your level of experience and be able to look after yourself.
There are some basic things that you will definitely need. Any extras will be dependent on your specific needs.
Sleeping bag – Your main insulation. Your sleeping bag will keep you warm and snug and block any drafts from getting to you.
Sleeping mat – This acts as your insulation from the cold ground as well as a mattress to keep you comfortable.
Head torch – On your first night sleeping in the great outdoors you’re guaranteed to hear some strange noises and convince yourself of untold monsters. A head torch is the perfect tool to check your surroundings and calm those nerves. And for those late night loo trips too.
Base layers – A good set of base layers will regulate your body temperature, ensuring that you’re warm enough to sleep comfortably.
Socks and Hat – You lose most heat from your head and feet. So, no matter the season, make sure you have a dry pair of socks and a hat ready to sleep in.
Toothbrush and toothpaste – Dental hygiene is always important!
Insulated jacket – For when its going to be a chilly night, an insulating piece is a must. Plus it never hurts to have a ‘just in case’ layer.
Tent or bivvy– You have a choice of shelter depending on what you have available and how brave you’re feeling. A tent is fully enclosed so will protect you from weather, insects and animals but also stops you seeing the night sky. A bivvy bag is basically a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag. It protects your sleeping bag from condensation but you’ll be open to the night sky.
Water bottle – You need to stay hydrated. Plus, if you plan on cooking or having hot drinks then bring some extra water.
Food – Pack some food to get your through the evening. If you plan on cooking or having hot drinks then don’t forget a stove.
Advice and Tips
So, you’ve decided you want to give a micro adventure a go. So what things do you need to consider to make it happen?
- Start Small – Especially if this is your first time. You don’t need to be walking up a mountain or travelling far into the wilderness. Choose an area that is familiar to you and easy to access. You want to make this as undemanding as possible. If choosing a spot outside seems too daunting to start with then don’t be afraid to camp in the garden. Everyone starts somewhere.
- Plan your route – Make sure you plan where you will be going, how you’ll get there, the distance you need to travel and how much time you have before sunset. For your first time, you’ll want to get to your chosen sleep spot before sunset so you have time to set yourself up and enjoy the sunset. For those of you going straight to work in the morning, you’ll want to know how long the route back will take so you don’t stress about being late.
- Scope out the area beforehand – Make sure there’s somewhere flat to set up camp and livestock free.
- Check the weather forecast – The last thing you want is to be caught in a storm. Check the weather forecast so try to choose a clear night so you can do some star gazing.
- Stay safe - Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Make sure you have enough warm clothes for the expected temperatures. It’s better to have too much than too little.
- Set an alarm – If you know you’ve got to be in civilisation by a certain time then make sure you set an alarm so you have plenty of time to pack up and get back.
- Ensure your electronics are charged - You want to make sure your phone will last the night and you have a camera ready to take photos of your epic adventure.
- Take a friend – Things are always more fun with some else. Especially if you’re nervous. So rope in a friend to come along and enjoy the adventure.
9. Have clean clothes ready at work – If you’re planning on going straight into work then make sure you have clean clothes waiting for you.
10.Leave No Trace - A key part of enjoying the outdoors is Leave no trace. This is a set of principles that outdoor lovers follow to ensure the preservation of natural habitat for future generations. This includes taking all your rubbish away with you, not damaging local flora and fauna and not polluting water sources.
Rather than bringing my backpack to work, I decided to go home first as it was only a 20 minute walk back. I did a quick last minute check to make sure I had everything I needed, filled up my water bottles then threw my bag on my back and headed out. My plan was to walk the 4 miles to a local lake then follow the track around it until I found a suitable spot. I knew the area well so had a rough idea in my head where I was aiming for.
On the way I found some blackberry bushes that were in full bloom so I picked some berries for a treat later. A nice little added bonus.
By the time I reached my intended camp spot it was almost 7:30pm and I knew I didn’t have that much time until the light started to fade. I did a practice lie down but it quickly became obvious it wasn’t a good spot. The grass was long and overgrown, hiding some very uneven ground and as I turned my head to the left I saw a number of very large spiders making webs in the tall grass. I didn’t fancy those crawling over my face so walked back on myself for a few minutes to another spot right by the waters edge.
The grass was short here and flat enough to camp on so I put down my pack and started to set up my bed for the night. I’d checked the weather forecast before I’d left and there was no sign of rain. It was going to be a reasonably balmy night at 12 degrees so I decided to cowboy camp. I laid down a sheet of plastic that would act as my ground sheet, blew up my sleeping mat and shook out my sleeping bag to get some air into it. I changed into my base layers and warm jacket and put all my other clothes into the dry sack I’d bought my sleeping bag in. A perfect makeshift pillow.
I’d bought some sandwiches and snacks along as I didn’t fancy cooking, so I tucked into that as I set my stove up to make a hot chocolate. I sat in my little outdoor bed looking out over the water as the light slowly faded and appreciated the stillness and the quiet. I realised this was exactly what I had needed.
By the time I was ready to sleep it was completely dark. I snuggled down in my sleeping bag and stared up at the hundreds of stars. Suddenly a ball of fire burst into the sky, streaked along, only for a few seconds, then burnt away. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.
I woke up a number of times, having slid down my groundsheet on the not so flat ground. It’s amazing how small of an angle can have such a big impact. I had to keep shimmying up my mat which is quite a skill when your legs are pinned together!
I awoke to a lot of condensation on my sleeping bag. It hadn’t soaked through, so I was still warm but knew I’d have to make sure I dried it properly later on. The sun was just starting to rise and I lay there watching it peep above the horizon and brighten the sky around me.
Despite my broken sleep I felt refreshed and ready for the day. I packed up my things quickly and headed off at a fast walk. I’d forgotten when setting my alarm that I had planned to walk home and have a shower before heading into work, adding an extra mile on to my journey.
By the time I got in to work (on time) I felt like I’d already accomplished so much with my day. It felt amazing to know that my morning was unique and that I’d already seen so much beauty. I vowed continue with my micro adventures.