An Autumn Microadventure – Wild Camping on a hill in Wales

October 24, 2014

Mid-October is not a time of year many families go camping, let alone camping without a tent and on a remote hill in Wales. But if you don’t, you’re missing out…

Autumn MicroAdventure

squeeze in a small adventure at the weekend

With all the day-to-day busy-ness of schools, work, after-school clubs, homework, etc., it can be hard to find time time to take your kids on adventures. However, you can sometimes squeeze in a small adventure at the weekend. That’s the spirit behind Microadventures.

Do something different, and do it within the time you have available.

A one night doesn’t diminish the experience, as you’ll see…

An Autumn Microadventure

Here’s a little video we made of our adventure.

Our MicroAdventure Diary

14:00 – Assemble Our Kit

Ideally we would have got our kit together ahead of time, but the busy-ness of day-to-day life got in the way (as usual). Fortunately we already had the kit; it was just a matter of getting all together. Click here for a run-down on the kit we took.

I was going to have this microadventure with our youngest, or ‘Bear Grylls Junior’. He had been really exited about the weekend, and was going dressed in his Bear Grylls clothes, taking some of the Bear Grylls Dangerous Den Kit. The plan was a Bear Grylls themed microadventure, but the adventure turned out more than that…

I had to essentially carry the equipment for two people, which presented a few challenges, though BG Junior was carrying as much as he could in his backpack (plus insisted on taking his ‘army’ water bottle).

16:30 – Arrive at Location

We set off on our microadventure
Much later than planned, we arrived at our location, which was just over the border in Wales.

With our feet sinking into the mud we set off on our hike.

17:30 – Sun Starts Setting (already!)

The views were amazing. We were quite high and on the distant horizon were the mountains of Snowdonia.

storm clouds parted and the sun’s rays lit up the countryside

The storm clouds parted and the sun’s rays lit up the countryside.

It was spectacular.

Storm clouds part

The sun was getting low in the sky. Time to head off to where we were spending the night.

18:00 – Making Camp

Technically wild camping is illegal in most parts of the UK (Scotland and Dartmoor are exceptions), though there are some places where it is tolerated if you abide by some simple rules.

We knew the land owners who had kindly gave us permission for us to wild camp on their land.

Our evening camp and shelter for the night

We decided to take a spot higher up the hill where we could take in the views. This turned out to be a good decision, but did mean there were no trees to attach our tarp shelter to.

We secured the tarp against the slope of the hill on one side, and used walking poles to hold up the tarp at the front. Now we would be protected from any rain showers.

18:30 – Sunset

Who wouldn’t want to sit and take in a view like this?

We were treated to a glorious sunset. Who wouldn’t want to sit and take in a view like this?

A camp with a view

Sunsets are not just for summer

18:40 – First Aid

Somehow I had managed to slice the end of my finger when setting up the Trangia. Fortunately we always carry an emergency kit with a basic first aid set.

BG Junior knew what to do and helped tape my finger up.

18:50 – Time to Eat

As part of his ‘army’ experience, I’d bought some mess tins with a little hexi stove.

Sausages and Beans on Hexi Stove

sausages and beans in the mess tins

Although you can get a wide variety of foods for backpacking, we kept things simple and heated some tins of sausages and beans in the mess tins.

We also to the simple meal approach with the Trangia and cooked up pasta and sauce from a ‘just add water’ pack.

19:30 – You know it’s cold when…

You know it’s cold when the chocolate bar you brought makes and audible crunch when you bite it

…the chocolate bar you brought makes and audible crunch when you bite it – just as if it had be left in a cold fridge.

A clear night was forecast with temperatures a few degrees above freezing (plus we were up a hill). We had dressed well with appropriate layers, including some good base layers.

As the temperature dropped, the BG shell jacket was swapped for the thick Kozi Kidz fleece. This is a great outer layer when it is cold but dry, and kept our BG Junior snug.

20:00 – Milky Way

Not the chocolate bar but the galaxy (again, not that chocolate bar).

The Milky Way right above our head, just 25 minutes drive from home

You may have seen in books, the internet, and TV pictures of people camping with the sky lit up by millions of stars, and a big cluster of them that stretches across the sky. That’s the Milky Way, and it was right above our head, just 25 minutes drive from home.

transported from being on a hill side to flying through space

I tried capturing it on camera, but failed and only managed to get a few stars. A good picture, but just does not show what we saw. We had been transported from being on a hill side in Wales to flying through space. Evening the opening titles of Star Wars doesn’t show anywhere near the number of stars we saw.

Night time above our wild camp

giving your kids moments like this is what it’s all about

Although that wasn’t the only impressive sight in our microadventure, our little lad said that seeing all those stars was the best bit. It’s giving your kids moments like this, is what it’s all about.

20:30 – Bed – Slide – Bed

The area we were sleeping in was flat…for a hill.

As soon as our sleeping bags went on the self-inflating mats, we slid down the hill, and even poked outside the end of our shelter.

So after a bit of repositioning ourselves, we eventually found a position where we didn’t slide – so much. A number of times in the night I had to lift BG Junior back up to his bed.

21:30 – What’s that noise?

Just how many different noises can owls make?

05:00 – Very cold

It’s always coldest before dawn and I started to feel the cold creeping in.

I wasn’t properly cold, but I could feel it starting to bite through the sleeping bag, and my face sticking out of the mummy sleeping bag felt the same as when it freezes in winter.

I’d been checking our little lad throughout the night. That Kozi Kidz fleece worked really well. Even when he left his hands sticking outside the sleeping bag, they remained warm.

Extremities like hands and feet are the first to feel the cold as your body tries to keep the warm blood flow at its core. As his hands were warm, I knew he was warm. Mine were cold.

07:30 – Wow!

I had been laying in bed not wanting to wake our BG junior.

This is what we woke up to

When he did wake, he looked out of our shelter and said “Wow!”

This is what we woke up to.

Islands in the Sea of Fog

islands in the Sea of Fog

The cold damp air had settled in the valleys below leaving the hills looking like islands in the Sea of Fog.

07:45 – Breakfast

First brew of the day

First brew of the day. Coffee, porridge, and more chocolate for BG Junior (at least he wasn’t taking this BG thing too far and trying to eat the bugs!).

First brew of the day

08:15 – Everything is wet

Porridge Coffee and Smarties breakfast
The problem is when camping out this time of year is that the cold damp air makes everything wet. Our sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and of course, the tarp shelter.

Fortunately this was only a one night camp, so I could pack things up sufficiently for our hike out, and clean and dry things when we get home.


It was Cold & Wet but Utterly Fantastic

If you take the right gear, you can handle cold and wet. The cold and wet is soon forgotten.

What won’t be forgotten so readily, especially for my little lad, was sleeping out in the wilderness (like ‘Bear Grylls’), seeing the sky filled with millions of stars, and waking up to find ourselves looking down on islands in a sea of fog.

Now it’s your turn

You might not be prepared to sleep out during mid-October but don’t dismiss doing something like this. Make a mental note, and when next summer comes around, why don’t you take your kids on your own microadventure.

If you think you need a lot of kit for a microadventure, think again. In the next article we go through some of the kit we took, what worked well, and what worked less well. It includes a little check list of things to take that you can use as a basis for your own microadventure.

Part 2: The Microadventure Kit List >>


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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. This is brill! My micro adventures have not been quite so adventurous to date, 2 kids and 2 dogs make it hard to pack so light. And usually involve a bit more cooking, over bonfires or a firepit, and also with my trusty Trangia. But we’re with you in spirit!

    • Thanks Genevieve. Yes, I think micro adventures with kids is a bit more of challenge than just a single adults doing microadventures as you have to take all the kid’s stuff, as well as making sure they stay safe and enjoy it.

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