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Stephanie Boon wearing a headtorch and holding a mug under a night sky on a bivvy camp

Bivvy Camping For Beginners, Part 2: Where To Bivvy

Bivvy Camping For Beginners: Part 2, Where To Bivvy: How To Find The Perfect Bivvy Spot

  1. Part 1. How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
  2. Part 2. Where To Bivvy: How To Find The Perfect Spot
  3. Part 3. Bivvy Camp Safety
  4. Part 4. Easy Bivvy Camping Food

Pinterest Collage: Bivvy Camping, How To Find THe Perfect Bivvy Camp

How To Find The Perfect Bivvy Spot

So, you’ve read Part 1 in the series, you’ve got all your kit and now you want to know where to go.

Getting your kit together is exciting, but deciding where to bivvy has probably got your nerves jangling. Just a little bit.

This is normal. Most people worry about it, but there are 3 things you can do:

  1. make a plan of where to bivvy
  2. be prepared (we’ll go over that later and in part 3) and…
  3. just get on with it!

Point 3 might sound a bit rough, but sometimes we have to quell our fears, quieten the voice and go for it. Mostly though, it’s all in the planning.

 

Bivvy In Familiar Territory

When you’re planning where to bivvy for the first time stay close to home or head somewhere familiar. It’s also a good idea to camp within walking distance of a road or wherever you park your car. This is because you need somewhere easy to navigate to/from in the dark, just in case you have to abandon camp in the middle of the night (don’t worry, it’s highly unlikely – I never have!).

I’d err on the side of caution and set up your bivvy within an hour’s walk from a road or your car, and closer if possible.

 

Your Map Is The Best Guide To Help You Plan Where To Bivvy

So far you know:

  1. the general familiar area you’d like to set up camp
  2. and that the area needs to be no more than a couple of miles from your car

Now it’s time to get out your map.

There are lots of maps available but I recommend the OS 1:25000 Explorer series because of the amount of useful detail and information they provide.

Open the map to general area you plan to camp and follow the next steps:

  1. Pin point a place to park
  2. Get out a compass and pencil and use the scale at the bottom of the map to open the compass to 1.5 – 2 miles (2.5 – 3 km)
  3. Put the compass point on your parking spot then draw a circle (you’ll get used to doing this by eye after a while)
  4. Look for somewhere suitable to camp within the circle.
Planning a potential bivvy camp. Map and cup of coffee on a cafe table.

Black dots marked in a ‘circle’ on a map around a potential area to camp, with parking places nearby (indicated with a blue ‘P’ on the map). Coffee is obligatory for the planning process!

What Makes A Suitable Spot?

The map legend is your friend!

You’ll find an illustrated list of the map symbols in the bottom corner of the map and you’ll need to refer to them to find your spot

Things to consider:

  • The first consideration is level ground: look for an area where the contour lines aren’t very close together
  • Dry ground is preferable to camping in a bog, so make sure there aren’t any ‘marshy’ symbols, streams or springs in the area
  • Areas of scrub can be hard to pitch on (bracken or heather for example), so try to avoid those
  • Avoid camping near buildings or houses, vehicle tracks or too close to public rights of way
  • If you want a clear view of the sky, sunset or sunrise look for open ground (although woodland is great if you’re looking for somewhere more discreet)
  • Higher ground could mean stronger winds so you might want to find shelter from the prevailing wind – eg near the edge of a wood, rocky outcrops or a hedge/field boundary (for eg if there’s a prevailing westerly wind you could look for an area to the east of a wood or a field wall)
  • Avoid cliff edges, nature reserves, farmland, crops etc
  • beaches – make sure you know the high and low tide times

Undoubtedly compromises will have to be made, but don’t compromise on personal safety. Earmark several suitable spots so that if you get to the first and it’s not what you expected you can move on. Find somewhere at least an hour or so before you want to bed down and hang around nearby for a while to make sure all’s well.

 

Sleeping in a bivi bag tucked beside a hedge on the South West Coast Path in Cornwall, UK. Copyright Stephanie Boon, 2017

Keeping a low profile – there’s always somewhere to sleep

A Note On Permission

The only legal places to wild camp or bivvy in the UK are on parts of Dartmoor and in Scotland. However, as long as you follow etiquette it’s often accepted in upland areas (eg The Lake District and other mountainous areas) and tolerated in others. Etiquette dictates that you pitch late and leave early (after sunset and before sunrise is ideal), and spend no more than one night in the same spot.

In theory you should ask the land owner for permission, in practice it’s often extremely difficult to find out who the owner/s are. Something to look out for on your OS map are areas of Open Access, where you have the right to roam (but remember, someone still owns this land). Open Access areas are highlighted with a wide brown border around the area, and sometimes tell you who owns the land as well (The National Trust, for eg).

The beauty of a bivvy though is that it’s far more discreet than a tent, especially if you choose a subdued colour for your bivvy bag. So if you pitch up at dusk and leave early it’s unlikely you’ll bother anyone. I’ve slept under hedges, in woodland, beside farm gates, on beaches, next to footpaths…anywhere I could find enough space to lie down at the end of a day’s hike. Read the guidelines of the Leave No Trace Movement and find out more about where you can go here:

 

 

The Great British Weather!

Check The Forecast

Pink clouds over the sea at sunset

Watching the sunset at the end of a summer’s day – red sky at night shepherds’ delight?!

The weather can have a significant impact on your enjoyment and can be a major factor in deciding exactly where to bivvy, which is why I recommend getting out in the summer months. The weather’s likely to be more settled in summer, but if you’ve read the forecast and expect the wind to get up a bit in the middle of the night, you’ll know which side of the wall to sleep on! The potential for warm nights, clear skies and drier weather make summer an enticing prospect, but whatever season you go in, read the forecast first. And definitely avoid extremes, for example thunder storms, heavy rain and strong winds: don’t take unnecessary risks.

The Best Forecasts

There are a number of phone apps and websites, but these services are some of the best:

  • The Met Office for good general forecasts across the UK
  • The Mountain Information Service is ideal when you’re planning to bivvy in upland areas in National Parks and adjacent areas, and is particularly detailed for bad weather conditions

A Good Weather Read

  • Weather Lore – The Natural Navigator is a fascinating read, but probably not the best way to make an accurate forecast! However, it’s interesting to discover how useful sayings like ‘red sky at night shepherds’ delight’ really are. It also explains where the sayings come from and the science behind them. It’s definitely a good book to read before you fall asleep under the stars!

Once you’re happy the weather looks good, you know roughly where you’re going and have everything you need, you’re good to go! But when you get to your planned camp spot, there’s one more thing you need to do.

Check The Ground

When you get to your planned camp spot you need to check the general area for potential threats to your comfort and safety. Check for the possibility of falling rocks, tree branches (even trees!), holes or dips in the ground and warning signs for things like mine shafts, shooting, etc. Another thing to look out for is evidence of animal activity.

Wild Animals and Livestock

A cow chewing the cud near your head is a startling way to wake up in the morning, believe me!

Always check the area for fresh manure – and move on if there is any!

As well as cow or horse dung you should also look out for signs of wild animals, such as badger or fox poo, animal tracks in the mud or animal ‘runs’ through grass. Look for evidence of ground nesting birds in spring and burrowing insects like ants and bees (a ground sheet may give some extra protection). I once found a spot that looked comfortable and sheltered in some long grass, but after a poke around I found an exoskeleton of a snake. (I would guess a grass snake – check out my article on UK snakes for safety info.) It wasn’t a difficult decision to move on and find some short grass instead haha!

Snake exoskeleton

I found this snake’s exoskeleton in long grass, so moved on to another spot!

Midges and horseflies are some of the biggest nuisances when you’re wild camping, so take a head net and some insect repellent – just in case there’s an attack of the flies!

(Find out what you should put in your personal first aid kit here.)

Wild animals are highly unlikely to cause you any harm, but the best way to avoid this potentiality is to avoid disturbing their obvious habitat.

Summing Up

That’s a lot of information to take in and your head’s probably spinning, but most of it’s just common sense and can be summed up in a few sentences:

  • Make a plan
  • Bivvy somewhere familiar
  • Use a map to find suitable ground
  • Get permission if you can (if you need to)
  • Check the weather forecast (and tide times if appropriate)
  • Check for potential hazards and animal activity on site
  • Sleep well

Find out how to keep safe in part 3, which includes solo bivvying for women.

Happy hiking

Stephie x

Pin The Series!

 

 

Read On! Bivvy Camping For Beginners

  1. Part 1. How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
  2. Part 2. Where To Bivvy: How To Find The Perfect Spot
  3. Part 3. Bivvy Camp Safety
  4. Part 4. Easy Bivvy Camping Food

 

Comments

  • 13 August, 2019

    I always try an go for wooded areas. A, they are descrete and B, I can sling my tarp between two trees. I do not carry a sleeping mat but will gather ferns to create a soft and insulated bed. Take care xx

    reply

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