It might not be an obvious choice to camp or bivvy out with your family in the cold and dark of a Scottish winter but it can be done, even with just a small amount of organisation. It may or may not be fun but it’s certainly an experience! If you’re thinking of trying it yourself I’ve come up with a few tips that I’ve found useful to get you started.
1. Pair up with another enthusiastic family. It helps both morale and sticking to your plan if invite another family along and prevents any ‘oh it looks a bit wet/cold/dark tonight, let’s do it another time’ thinking.
2. Stay close to home. There’s no need to head far to have an adventure, especially in winter. Any location feels different in the dark so it’s still exciting for kids even if you go no further than the back garden (or a neighbours’ garden). This requires a lot less organisation and preparation, makes it easier to go back and forth if you forget something and means that if anyone ends up really miserable they can just pop back home.
3. Hot water bottles. If you’re close to home take advantage of it and issue everyone with a hot water bottle or two. Especially good at keeping toes warm.
4. Take a bin bag. You can keep everyone’s things together, including extra clothes if you need to put more layers on during the night and it’s a good idea to keep your boots undercover so they won’t get wet if it rains or snows in the night.
5. If you’re bivvying close to home arrange for someone to bring you a cup of tea in ‘bed’ in the morning! What a way to wake up!
6. As well as plenty of warm thermal layers, wear a buff and hat (and even gloves) to keep otherwise exposed places warm though the night. Finn always pushes off his hat after about 20 minutes asleep but on our January bivvy he still didn’t notice it was snowing until he woke up in the morning. I wonder if a balaclava would work?
7. Make an evening of it. Go on a star gazing night walk before settling down, make a fire or drink hot chocolate while tucked up in your sleeping bags telling stories…
8. …Or, if you’re pressed for time or less organised (as we were for our February microadventure), stay inside doing whatever else you’d be doing for the evening then grab your things and head out last minute ready to bed down and sleep.
9. Accept that you’re probably not going to have the best night’s sleep of your life. I find my son wakes a lot more when bivvying and in my mother protector role I’m always half awake checking that he’s not out of his sleeping bag or suffocating in it, that he’s not too cold, that he’s still breathing etc. etc. It helps if you can schedule an early night for everyone the following night. Then just think how much you’ll appreiciate a warm cosy night in a proper bed!
10. Make a commitment, tell others about it (so it’s more difficult to back out) and just give it a go! If anyone gets too cold, wet or miserable though the night you can just pop back home and wait until summer (but then you’ll have midges to contend with!)
You’ll need a bit of kit to comfortably sleep out in the winter but if you’re going no further than the garden the essentials are;
- Something to sleep on such as a foam or inflating camping mat (you’ll want to use a couple together unless they’re winter-specific mats)
- Something to sleep in. As warm as possible. (Use two lighter weight sleeping bags together if you don’t have a super warm sleeping bag)
- Lots of warm clothes, including a hat. (For our February microadventure I wore a couple of pairs of warm trousers, a vest, long sleeved thermal top, a fleece, an insulated jacket, a buff, hat, thick socks and my slippers.
- A bivvy bag or orange survival bag
- Fluffy pillows and hot water bottles!
A more detailed year round kit list can be found here