I remember my first night out

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I remember my first night out

Post by benconnolli » Thu May 07, 2020 7:19 pm

Seeing as no unpredictable journeys with interesting plot twists are happening at the moment, but my desire for storytelling is still there, I am going to recount my first ever trip and see if the memory can rekindle my passion. Maybe it will prove a useful resource for bikepacking curious people on here yet to do theirs. Anyone else is welcome to join in.

So I started bikepacking (or maybe I was touring) before I knew that was what I was doing. I was enthused by tales from my flatmate Jack sleeping out in the woods back in Shropshire, so when hammocks and sleeping bags came up on the special buys at Aldi I swapped out my beers and snacks so the budget would stretch. I proudly returned home and told him my plans to wild camp. He reminded me that rain exists, and directed me towards bivi bags. I settled on the ex army one for £25. Ten Jaeger bombs at Halo, a Thursday taps, and two entries to fruity missed, I was equipped.

I scanned Google maps for green bits on the outskirts of Leeds and Paul's pond jumped out at me. I scribbled my directions onto a corner of revision notes;
Usual way to Adel
Keep going on the leftish path
Right at Otley road,
Left after the gardens
Wiggle to right
Find somewhere to sleep. Eeeek!

I had lots of other important serious things I needed to do, but my mind was racing with the prospect of this adventure. In true procrastinator form, I promised I would do them tomorrow with my fresh zeal for life, and set off. It was somehow daring without being dangerous, exploring without getting a plane somewhere, escaping but being in the same place. Also it was yet another excuse to put off tidying my room.

Stuffed my panniers full of apples, a loaf of bread, thermos of tea, and many jumpers. My foam mat wouldn't fit, so I tied it to the rack. It looked pleasingly like a rocket booster. There was lots of kit I didn't have, so I couldn't bring it.

I remember squealing with delight (or was it fright) as I got a bit of air and my panniers flapped like Dumbo's ears, before coming down hard with the turbulence my stuff and it wobbling me into the mud. Obviously other luggage solutions exist, but these had securely transported my shopping and uni notes for years and I had them. They were ideal.

I have to admit, despite having aspirations to be this fearless rugged adventurer, I was scared of the boogey man. What might happen to me while I was sleeping? What if? What if? This problem was solved by a field of cows. Now cows give you that look. They stare moodily and wait for you to do something. I clearly did the thing as they formed up into a group. This built up into a whirlpool of killer cows swirling around me. I was bricking it. I put my bike between me and the masses and edged towards the hedge. My shouts of "IM A VEGAN" were lost in translation as my heart pounded and pulse raced. They did that thing dogs do where they run right up to you and stop, only they weigh a tonne and have horns. The barbed wire fence inside the hedge was only waist high. I could probably dive into it and not die, better outcome than trampled by a stampede of cattle, but it did not come to this. After the longest hundred meters of my life, I finally reached the gate. The boogey man had nothing on that experience, if I was safe from cows I was safe from anything.

Lying in the hammock I grinned dumbly like a big kid on a swing. I couldn't explain what it was, and still can't, but that it was fantastic. My thoughts were going way too fast to consider sleeping. The rustles of the leaves, the smell of the leaves, the siloueittes of the leaves. All these new experiences transformed me into a gawping baby, in awe of his new world above him, being slowly rocked to sleep when he wanted nothing less.

Eventually tiredness won over, but only until the drizzle started. I woke with a wet face and grinned. This was a proper adventure now. It had drizzled and everything. I gazed up and the moonlit canopy above me directing the raindrops down a unique path of branches, to join up with others before a larger blob was sent towards my awaiting face. After half an hour of this excitement I was wet. That is the problem with bivi bags. They have a hole in them.

I rolled out of the soggy hammock onto the soggy floor. Turns out flat the flat floor was much more comfortable than my v shaped hammock. With all of my jumpers on I managed to catch some more sleep, but was disturbed again when the drizzle became deluge. The only waterproof thing I owned was the bivi bag so I lay in it until dawn and I could confirm that the boogey man was indeed fictitious.

I was that state of tired where you are inexplicably buzzed and rode this all the way home along the empty main road.

Amazingly I actually did the coursework and tidied my room that morning, before falling into a 10am nap and getting behind with some other things.

I learnt more from each of the mistakes I made on that trip, and continually on trips since, than is possible from other people's experiences or advice, however long their sage like beard may be. I can't put in words what is good about sleeping out, and it definitely is not just one thing, but having experienced it, I had now got the bug.

Concentrating on analysing that trip, I think the newness and exploration were the most significant positives, but the connectedness to nature was also there, and that is still possible in the back garden, so I will roll out that same mat and gaze lovingly at the full moon tonight.

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Re: I remember my first night out

Post by TheBrownDog » Thu May 07, 2020 8:50 pm

Jesus Ben, you know how to get folks thinking. Nice one.

My mate Warwick and I used to camp out with our BMX bikes back in ... ooooooh ... like 1980. We'd go riding the many, many trails around Mt Coo-tha outside Brisbane. Sleeping bags strapped to our bars and everything else in backpacks.

We'd stash our gear somewhere and go ride for a few hours, come back, set up camp and build a fire. This was essential as we'd usually only bring a couple of cans of beans to open and jam in the coals.

Warwick had a canvas tarp he would lug in and we'd string up if there was a chance of rain.

We never felt unsafe. I can't remember ever seeing anyone else out. Unless of course you consider the snakes, spiders, scorpions, ticks and leaches ... they scared the poop out of us.
I'm just stepping outside ...

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Re: I remember my first night out

Post by htrider » Thu May 07, 2020 9:00 pm

For me it was at the tender age of 16, on my newly acquired Raleigh Maverick, in the Yorkshire Dales. I'd bolted on a cheapo rack stolen off my brothers racer and borrowed a set of Oxford cycle panniers off a mate which were made of cheap nylon, went right over the top of the rack and had cardboard stiffeners. Into / onto these went a 4 season hollofil sleeping bag, a primus stove, a pint of paraffin in a sig bottle, tinned food, lots of spare clothes, a cheapo foam mat and an ancient phoenix phazer dome. Total load out weighed in at around 75kg but I only weighed 50kg so no worries.....

Started in Hawes went west towards Sedburgh, round the Howgill fells, back to Sedburgh, down to Barbon and up Barbon dale to pick up a track which traversed above Dentdale. Stopped along here, jumped over a wall into a field and pitched up. Fired up the stove cooked lots of food and crashed out, being awoken by a tractor in a nearby field. Had a large (tinned) cooked breakfast, packed up and got going on what turned out to be a horrendous trail which was a morass of peat bogs, puddles and burns. Eventually I gave up on this, back-tracked and clattered down a rocky track to Dentdale. Un-deterred I rejoined my original route via a humongous climb up Deepdale and thence over to Ingleton. The rain started at this point and became torrential in short order. At Ingleton I cowered in a bus shelter for a bit and then in the truest traditions of bikepacking, baled back up the road to base at Hawes.

As I still had one more nights worth of food I went out again later in the week - over the monster that is fleet moss, camped by the burn in Langstrothdale, did the Starbotton cam road over into Coverdale, the track round the north side of Penhill, then back to Hawes on the road.....

Funny really, I vowed never to camp off a bike ever again after this but in fact I had the full range of bikepacking experiences 30 years before it was invented......

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Re: I remember my first night out

Post by Bearbonesnorm » Thu May 07, 2020 9:08 pm

I can't really remember the actual first night out - it's all a bit hazy and hard to recall the correct series of events. However, I do remember a heavy rucksack, an 8" travel DH bike, the worlds smallest most condensation prone tent and a storm very early on :wink:
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Re: I remember my first night out

Post by sean_iow » Thu May 07, 2020 9:11 pm

I was a bit late to the party. I'd done plenty of camping and backpacking in my teens/20s but then had a long break.

Lazy link to my Alpkit article from my first bivi, I can't believe it was only 5 years ago, it seems much longer than that. No apologies for name dropping the Alpkit kit I had, it was a competition after all :grin:

https://alpkit.com/blogs/deeds/a-new-ye ... -night-out
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Re: I remember my first night out

Post by voodoo_simon » Fri May 08, 2020 11:48 am

February 2008

Up on Penycloddiau on the Clwydians.

Summer sleeping bag in a single skin tent, froze me bollocks off :lol: All my kit fitted in my 30l bag :-bd

I survived the night

I carried all my water for the two days
Summer bag in winter is rather stupid
Had to defrost my bike in the morning
Had a cooked breakfast in flint the next day -worst experience in my life* -never again :shock:

*As in the breakfast...
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Re: I remember my first night out

Post by voodoo_simon » Fri May 08, 2020 11:52 am

Second picture
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