Quick trip to the hills, until we were caught in a White-Out.
“Why do you like sleeping outdoors?!”
I have been asked this question regularly. I seriously love sleeping outdoors, regardless of all the hassle that comes with it. There are bugs, such as sand flies and mosquitoes. The sleeping pad is not as comfortable as the scientifically designed, ergonomically shaped, back supported mattress that reduces shakes from your partner (real advertisement!). I like sleeping outdoors, nevertheless. Even though the sleep is not always as good, the feeling of having spent the night under the stars with as little as possible makes up for it. Sleeping outdoors gives me the satisfaction to be one step closer to nature that we have distanced from so drastically. Unfortunately.
What about the dangers?
Many people fear sleeping outdoors because… I do not know. At times, I spend my nights on campings where you will necessarily meet people. But more often than not I do wild camping. People ask me what happens if someone comes by. In my opinion, if you are wild camping and meet somebody, you did it the wrong way. Either you set up your camp too early, packed too late, chose an unsuitable spot, or all the above. When doing free camping correctly, you will not meet anyone, and no-one will ever know you were there. If you cannot take your rubbish with you, you are not suitable to camp freely.
Recently, the urgent need to be sleeping under the stars arose again (kind of weekly to be honest). Moreover, I wanted to try my new Western Mountaineer Antelope MF Winter sleeping bag again, before the nights get too warm. The fact that I was not alone, doubled the joy. My girlfriend decided (voluntarily!) to join me. In fact, she was the one who initiated this trip.
Check local regulations whether wild camping is allowed in your country! [Switzerland]
We headed out late into the nearby mountains. Usually, I chose places that I have scouted beforehand, but this time we decided to go somewhere new. It was a spontaneous trip, so we hastily packed and headed off. The destination was a small meadow close to an outlook about two kilometres away from the car park. Although, darkness will have fallen until we get there, I was optimistic to find our way.
As we began to gain altitude during the car ride, the temperature plunged. Eventually it was minus degrees Celsius. The light drizzle had turned into snowflakes. Two turns before the car park, all of a sudden low-hanging fog reduced visibility to zero. Slowing down, we barely found the parking lot – I truly missed it by a few meters as we found out in the morning. Yes, we survived – sorry for spoiling – there was nothing to fear.
We could not see further than one meter and scouted the nearby area for a suitable camping spot. There was none. We began hiking to our initial destination, yet we were not entirely sure if we headed the right direction. Eventually, we came to a bend close to a gravel road that offered some protection from the wind. Luckily, there was enough space for the tent. Quickly setting up the tent, we hurried setting up the tent and only minutes later we snuggled in our cosy sleeping bags (she used a Exped Winterlite -6).
The following morning, we woke up early. We did not get much sleep because it was not as comfy as the previous sentence might have suggested. This was due to the other two cheap foam sleeping pads. Yet, we woke up in a fairy-tale-like Winter wonderland. Packing our stuff, we hiked to our initial destination to check it out. It would have been amazing to sleep there, though the trail was not for the faint-hearted especially in white-out conditions. It was the right decision to stay where we had slept.
We saw a fox and listened to the magnificent soundscape of the forest in the early morning. The mist was just the icing on the cake and seemed to emit the sounds. It was truly magical and made for stunning landscapes.
Shakespeare wrote in his famous play Hamlet: “brevity is the soul of wit” and he was so right. For a long time, I had been in the believe that only large-scale adventures will satisfy my need for the outdoors. However, I was wrong. Such micro-adventures provide a perfect opportunity to undertake a journey. Even if it is just a small step, it brings you closer to nature.
Regarding our gear, I rescheduled the review of the winter sleeping bag because I have not spent enough nights to build a comprehensive review about its performance. Bear with me.