Tarn Hows

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It’s been a while since my last bivvy and not only was the wanderlust getting too strong to withstand but the weather had been far too good to resist.

It’s amazing how a change in circumstances can kick start a love affair with something that is in your very core.

I was thrown a massive curveball recently; feeling you’re invincible is checked somewhat as you hit 40-years-old but in my head I was always in my mid 20s anyway and I thought my body was too.

People who know me would be surprised to read that – I have an odd taste in music (alternative country…) and like whisky for one.

But things change, road blocks and potholes (hmmm, potholes) come from nowhere and every set back is a chance to reflect and think about what lies ahead.

I know these are clichés but I’m working through some alterations in how I perceive myself and readdressing my values going forward.

Getting outside is always a chance to reconnect and when I sleep under the stars, I feel very privileged to be part of something that is bigger than day to day life.

Tarn Hows was the ‘venue’ of choice this time round – it’s near Ambleside in the Lakes (check it out for yourself). After having a couple of beers in the Drunken Duck Inn, myself and my mate Johnny headed down to the Tarn and went around 400 metres (anti-clockwise) until a spot was found near the ‘shore’.

Eerily quiet, camp was set up under the trees and food cooked on my trusty Alpkit Brukit – finished off using the ultra-lite Kraku.

Bats circled overhead as ducks and other wildfowl serenely crossed the water in front of us. We then spent probably 20 minutes or so, in silence, just watching the light fade and taking in the scene. Meditation.

It’s probably the most relaxed I have been on a bivvy and had a superb night’s sleep as a result. I’d inhaled the landscape and it had peacefully brought me back down to base and soil. The perfect medicine.

Next morning was warm and after packing up we took a walk around the tarn before Johnny indulged himself in a bit of wild swimming.

I’d not seen Mr Hartnell do this before and I have to admit I was jealous. I’m not a swimmer, and far to self-conscious to get my gigs off in public, but watching him off his in own world brought home just what nature can do for you.


I used some of his footage in the video below to give you a flavour of what it is all about.

Back in the car we were both pretty quiet – very unusual for Johnny as it happens – but it seemed that this was the perfect bivvy and we were both trying to digest it.

A reset button for the soul.


People ask me why I bivvy, walk mountains and go caving… it’s probably pretty obvious from my blog posts.

I’ve had some shocking nights under the stars – this Silverdale trip for one – but the walk back from that camp was worth the pain alone.

Caving takes you to places not many people go… and it’s NEW. On each trip you feel you are the first person to scramble along those passages. It’s exploration in its purest sense. Off the map, off the grid.

Bivvying is all about travelling light. Getting set up and then getting away in the morning. It is also closer to the earth, water and air. Tents are great but you cannot get the connection to the land as you do with a bivvy.


Kit is simpler too. A stove, sleeping bag, bivvy bag, sleeping mat and off you go.

I talk about Alpkit a lot in my posts too and they are an ideal starting point if you want to go and bivvy.

Most of my gear is from them – the Numo, Brukit (my version is now discontinued), Kraku, Kelvin, Hunka XL are superb additions to my kit list.

They are light, practical and affordable.

My sleeping bag is a Vango Ultralite and it all packs into a Berghaus Torridon backpack.

I’m aiming to upgrade my bag at some point but for now it does the trick.

There’s other things I carry too – water in a Nalgene Bottle (great for hot water to use as a water bottle on a cold night), Sawyer water filter, Rab Silk Liner for my sleeping bag, inflatable pillow, various pieces of clothing, Alpkit head torch, hip-flask and a first aid kit.

Food wise it’s simple. Can of Tuna and some Pasta Mug Shots. Coffee sachet and porridge for the morning.

Then I have all my photography gear including Manfrotto tripod and GoPro.

Some of the above will be overkill for true ultralite specialists, other bits are essential…

I’ll blog further about my gear in future articles.