How to: Microadventure
Editor's Note: Our friend Alastair Humphreys is one of the most inspiring guys we know, and it's not because he's walked 1,000 miles across the Empty Quarter desert or rowed the Atlantic. It's because of his belief in microadventures — "a refresh button for everyday lives" — which inspired us to launch the Huckberry Explorer's Grants.
As an authority on all things microadventure-related, Alastair recently released a book appropriately titled, Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, which we had the pleasure of reading. Below you'll find some of our favorite excerpts from the book — all written by the adventure-mensch himself.
Adventure is a loose word that means different things to different people. It is a state of mind, a spirit of trying something new and leaving your comfort zone. Adventure is about enthusiasm, ambition, open-mindedness and curiosity. Most people enjoy adventure and would love to have more of it in their lives, but most people don’t have the time to cycle round the world. But adventure should not only be for ‘Adventurers’. So I realised that what I wanted to do was to break down the barriers to adventure. And thus the microadventure was born.
A microadventure has the spirit (and therefore the benefits) of a big adventure; it’s just all condensed into a weekend away, or even a midweek escape from the office. Even people living in big cities are not very far away from small pockets of wilderness. Adventure is all around us, at all times, even during hard financial times such as these; times when getting out into the wild is more invigorating and important than ever. If you are too busy, too stressed, too broke, too tired or too unfit for an adventure, then you definitely would benefit from a microadventure. Climb a hill, jump in a river, sleep under the stars. Try it. What’s the worst that could happen?
1. Rucksack – as a rough guide, a 30-liter pack is probably big enough for your first venture. Line it with a bin bag to keep all your gear waterproof.
2. Sleeping Bag – don’t buy anything special. If you worry that your sleeping bag might not keep you warm enough then just pack as many extra jumpers as necessary.
3. Orange Survival Bag – use a bivvy bag to protect you from wet weather. Buy these online or at any camping shop for a few pounds and put your sleeping bag inside.
4. Foam Sleeping Mat – essential for getting a half-decent sleep. Put it outside your sleeping bag and inside the orange survival bag.
5. Torch (Flashlight)
6. Rain Coat (even in the summer)
7. Wool Hat (even in the summer)
8. Warm Clothes
9. Food that doesn’t need cooking. Or eat breakfast before you go. Have breakfast when you get back home.
10. Water (2 liters should be plenty)
PICKING WHERE TO CAMP
Once you have worked out roughly where you are going for your first 5-to-9 microadventure, you might need a few tips to help you find the perfect wild camping spot.
Things to look for on your map to identify a delightful sleeping spot include lots of contour lines (a hill) with a flat bit at the top, green areas of woodland, blue areas of water, or even walls to shelter behind in areas of fields away from homes. Look for a footpath leading off the road into quieter areas. Stroll down a path like that for half a mile or so and you’re virtually guaranteed to find a nice place to lay your head.
GETTING A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP
Make sure you have a sleeping mat. A good one is worth the money. The nights I have not bothered with one, in the name of traveling light / minimalism / testing myself / giving it to a girl to impress her, have all been a miserable disaster. An inflatable pillow could be a good investment, otherwise use some spare clothes bundled up in a dry bag. The nights where I have had to use my shoes or a can of beer for a pillow have always been unpleasant.
Take some time to find a flat bit of ground to sleep on. Small lumps grow demonically large in the night. Ditto for gradients.
If you wake up cold in the middle of the night, don’t just lie there shivering. Force yourself to get up and put on more clothes. It’s easier said than done but it is so worthwhile! Five minutes of hassle and shiver is worth it for being warm through the rest of the night. I have mastered this art, at long last, and it really is invaluable.
DOCUMENTING YOUR ADVENTURE
1. Take a camera with you. And don’t just take a camera: actually take it out of your bag and begin using it! This sounds obvious, but it makes all the difference. Even if it’s just the camera on your phone, get into the habit of taking regular photos, whatever the weather. The times when you really can’t be bothered to take photos are probably the times you should be shooting.
2. Although you probably are using a digital camera, try to imagine that it is a film camera. In other words, think that every picture you take will cost you 50p. This should help you make a little more effort with your photography. Pause, think, compose, and only then press the shutter. It amazes me how often I see people taking photographs whilst actually still walking, like Arnold Schwarzenegger shooting from the hip on the move.
3. If you have a DSLR camera then learn how to use the different modes. You’re on a spectacular hilltop. It’s getting dark but there is a lovely late, soft light. Your bivvy bag and rucksack lie heroically in the foreground. You decide to take a photo. It will be a great shot.“*FLASH* goes the camera, on automatic mode. The result? A pitch-black background and some dazzles from the reflective bits on your bags. The simple solution for a decent exposure? Just open the aperture or slow the shutter speed. Even my phone now has an app for shooting at slower shutter speeds.
For more outdoor tips and micro trips pick up your own copy of Alastair's book, here
Images ©: Alastair Humphreys