Last night I slept in the back garden. No, I wasn't thrown out there by a wronged lover, with my clothes following in a black bag. I didn't go to look at the flowers then get locked out. I went out there on purpose, in order to become familiar with the mechanics and sensations of sleeping outdoors.
On my big run from Rome to London, I will be camping for approximately a third of the time (possibly a half, depending on my ability to actually cover the distances each day and reach the planned stopping points). While chatting with an expedition-experienced friend recently, he said, "When did you last camp out?" and my sheepish answer was "When I was a kid."
It became obvious, then, that there was more to planning this run than simply running around with a backpack on and chattering incessantly about how excited I am about it. I needed to get camping. A visit to my wonderfully generous brother resulted in a bivy bag and an inflatable camping mat. A free evening, a garden and the following day off work was the perfect combo to put myself to the camping test.
While there was still some light, I took out the bivy bag, with no idea what I was really doing. Thankfully, there was only two bits, the bivy bag and the pole to prop up the head end so my inexperience didn't hamper me too much. Once erected and pegged to the ground, I went back inside to dress in the running clothes I'll probably be sleeping in on the run. Darkness fell and I headed back out for my mini adventure.
I got in, tucked myself up with a torch and a book and made a little video. In it I can hear myself saying, thankfully, "I've not been attacked by wolves... or bears... It's quite toasty... I was sure it was going to be too cold but it's not." There I lay, waiting for sleep to arrive, tucked up listening to the opening and closing of doors in houses nearby and cars on the roads. I waited and waited. I turned this way and that. At one point, I felt a bit unnecessarily breathy and couldn't work out why. I'm clueless as to whether I actually dropped off or not but at 2:10am I made another video.
"It must be the different sensation of the sleeping mat and the unfamiliarity of being outside," I reasoned out, while waiting for sleep to arrive.
Again, I've no idea if I slept or not but at 4:40am, something didn't feel right. Things felt... wet. I ran a hand through my hair, kind of damp and cold. Then I grabbed for my phone, it was cold and wet too. Hmmm. I touched the inside of the bivy bag and it was covered in droplets of cold water! This was actually unworkable. Could I be expected to spend the rest of the night in here getting internally rained on?! It was clear that there was more to this camping outdoors thing than just putting up a bivy bag and getting into it. I traipsed back indoors and headed up to my normal bed, falling asleep promptly. Operation Fail.
It is clear that I am a fool. And a rather breathy one at that (it was surely condensation from my breath that was creating the droplets on the inside, do we think?). How does one usually breathe inside a tent, I ask you? Was I supposed to leave the zips open a bit? There's a mesh panel near the head so it is ventilated. Am I the first person to have camped when it is cold and had this problem? What is the answer, fellow campers?