My first Bike and Bivvy

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Silbury Hill Bivi Spot

I have been threatening to do this for ages and I eventually plucked up the courage to get out and do a solo bivvy camp out.

I didn’t go far, about an hour from home and had a return home plan via the A4 if need be, which I think would take me about 30 mins.  I had no bike lights but a pretty decent torch and gorilla tape that I could use to strap it to my bike helmet or bars.

My original plan was to head for the West Woods, but my disliking of strange noises in the night got the better of me and I thought the fewer rustling trees the better. This spot in a field next to Silbury Hill was sheltered from the rain that looked likely by a large tree and was low enough to be out of the wind.  At least I thought it was!

I made the shelter by using the top of the barbed wire as support and tied the corners with guy rope.  I pinned the other end to the ground with 2 tent pegs and laid my bike on it for good measure.

Shelter Kit List:

  • Tarpaulin – approx 3m by 2m from Amazon £8.00
  • Bivvy Bag – Mountain Warehouse approx £20-25
  • Paracord/guy rope – £5
  • Tent pegs x 4 (only used 2)

The long grass provided some cushion from the remarkably bumpy ground, but also scraped and scratched against the tarp all night spooking me every few minutes.

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Cosy – Tarp Shelter

I had bivvy bag and a 2 season sleeping bag from Mountain Warehouse and was plenty warm enough at night.

My bike bag was loaded with every usual spare, tools and first aid, as well as some extra layers and clothes in case I got wet and a variety of last minute food snatched from the cupboards at home.  Baked Beans, cuppa soup, tinned soup, few biscuits, cereal and tea bags.

I had 2 litres of water specifically for boiling for tea (on top of 2 that was in my hydration bladder) and about a half a pint of milk.

My cooking set up consisted of my Alpkit Jackal Brukit and smaller Kraku stove – the idea was to have the two so I didn’t have to worry about cleaning out the cooking one to boil water in for tea.  I’ve previously done a short review of the Kraku – check the link on my Youtube channel.  The Brukit might need some treatment also soon.

Thoughts and conclusions

This was my first bivvy and by default my first solo bivvy too – so what did I think? What would I do different next time?  Would there be a next time?

In the whole I enjoyed it once I settled (or got too tired to worry about the noises), and I’d love to do this again. I am now hoping for a warm September and looking for some other spots within an hours or so from home.

Sleep – I was perfectly comfortable and warm enough maybe by the end of September I’d need a warmer sleeping bag, but for a coolish August night this was perfect.

Shelter – The tarp fixed over the fence was ideal.  Maybe I could use something to protect it from the barbed wire (some old inner tube or something), but otherwise this was perfect.  I need to try some sort of free standing shelter next, maybe some poles are required.

Food – One night is easy. I took a tin of soup, a crusty roll, some biscuits and tea for the evening. And took a portion of cereal (mixed up some granola, choco pillows and raisens) and more tea and biscuits for breakfast.  I also had a couple of bananas and cereal bars.

Clothing – As it was August and I wasn’t far from home I had my riding shorts and jersey on. And i took a spare jersey, socks and a water proof – as well as a woolly hat.

Lighting – I could do with recommendations for a night light / lamp of some sort. I had a pretty decent mini torch with me and spare battery, but could have done with some sort of lantern.

Time for some research.

I’d be keen to hear any advice on your set up.

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Stove Shield Bargain from Amazon

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You may have seen my little video a few weeks ago featuring the Alpkit Mytimug and Kraku.

Gratuitous plug of previous blog post and YouTube video.

Well it was a little breezy so i set about looking for a cheap and light shield for the stove.

I eventually found this little one on Amazon. I am sure there are a 101 similar ones available but at £5.99 I figured I couldn’t see the point in shopping around.

It flat-packs down, as small as my iPhone 6 and weighs only 120g.

The 9 detachable aluminium panels are very flimsy but this is what makes it so light. As you can see its the perfect height for the Kraku stove and is ideal for keeping the breeze off and letting the stove do its thing unhindered.

You can detach the panels if you wanted to make it smaller – I could take 2 off to make this a snug fit – and the end pins are longer allowing you to fix the shield to the ground.

So for £5.99, barely any weight and no real space needed to carry this is ideal.

Any questions, comments or if you have an experience with a similar piece of kit please let me know below.

#Microadventure Planning

Alpkit - Airlok XTra 5L
Alpkit – Airlok XTra 5L

If you have been reading my blog recently you will know how much I have been considering a bikepacking trip. I have become a little obsessed with the subject. My twitter feed, facebook likes and web searches have centered around the topic for the last month or two. Brands such as Alpkit have become faves and my wish list of their products is longer than my possible need for most of it! I am also suddenly Alastair Humphreys biggest fan. So I am making small steps in buying kit and putting it to use whenever I can.

Here’s a brief write up of this morning’s dog walk! Yes dog walk…

Breakfast - Kit List
Breakfast – Kit List

Its so easy to just go out and walk around the field with the dog, and don’t get me wrong we do this more than anything else because its convenient and easy and actually Brodie enjoys it as he has a lot of doggy friends in the area. But a couple of times a week we do something a little bigger and more interesting. This morning was one of those times.

I decided to see what I could fit in the Alpkit Airlok bag. At only 5L its not the biggest bag but I was determined to make it work. Here was my kit for breakfast:

  • 650ml MytiMug
  • Kraku Stove
  • 100gm JetBoil Fuel
  • Lighter
  • Tea Spoon
  • Tea Bag
  • Spork
  • Camping Mug
  • SIGG 600ml bottle of water
  • Bag of cereal and some biscuits
  • Milk – in a 250ml Tropicana bottle
  • Travel towel from Mountain Warehouse (I use as a small picnic rug until my Matador Pocket Blanket arrives)

The AirLok is designed for use as a handlebar pack for bikes, but the handy strap means it can be slung over the shoulder duffel bag style.

After an hour or so of walking I picked a spot with a view (and some shelter as it was windy) and unpacked.

I boil enough water for a cup of tea (keeping the tea bag), make that in my mug, then use the MytiMug for cereal. The mug takes up less space than bringing a bowl for cereal and I can’t quite get used to drinking straight from the MytiMug.

Once I have finished my cereal I give the MytiMug a quick rinse and boil the rest of the water. 600ml is just enough so the SIGG is perfect. The Tropicana orange juice bottle holds plenty of milk for two cups of tea and for cereal.

This might seem like a lot of fuss to some, and I have had my share of fun poked at me by a few buddies, but starting the day with a good walk and working up an appetite for breakfast is great. Enjoying that breakfast and fresh cup of tea, while sat on a local hillside away from the TV and the pull of my iPad, email and Facebook is such a great way to start the day.

Calstone Downs
Calstone Downs

Next stop is to purchase a bivvy bag and give it a try over night.

Here’s a quick video of this mornings very microadventure made with footage off my #GoPro Hero using #Magix Video Pro 5.

GoOutdoors Cookset

GoOutdoors cook set

It’s not all about hitting cool trails for me; yes that’s a HUGE part of why I ride a mountain bike but it’s also about enjoying the outdoors, the fresh air and occasionally the solitude. That’s why last week I bought a stove and some gas, loaded up my bike and pedalled out to make myself a cup of tea in the hills.

I am no expert on this subject matter and I know there are many specialist brands for this type of kit (Alpkit, JetBoil being two market leaders), but I went to good old reliable GoOutdoors and picked up a set of their own brand HiGear pots, a Vango stove and a JetBoil fuel can for about £35.

Mid Ride Brew Stop

The simple pleasure of a fresh brew while out doors is fantastic. It makes you stop for a bit longer than if you were taking a swig from a flask, allowing you to enjoy the moment in a whole new way.

Anyway, the stove and gas pack neatly into the pots along with a spoon, tea bag, small bottle of milk (I used an old whiskey miniature) and a lighter. Set up is a simple matter of screwing the small stove onto the gas and lighting it! I boiled about 500ml or water in about 3 mins and thanks to the stoves inbuilt windbreak the heat remains pretty constant.

This is phase one of my new outdoor adventure, next up some camping and eventually some bike-packing…

A nice cup of tea

mid ride brew stop

Anyone who knows me knows that mountain biking is much more to me than just riding a bike. Mountain biking keeps me fit, gives me time to think, provides me with the odd thrill at a bike park or on a steep hill side and it’s my socialising time with friends, friends that I have met because of mountain biking. I also like to take photos and bikes take me places I wouldn’t necessarily go on foot or can reach by car. Getting out doors and enjoying the view, nature and peace and quiet is up there possibly at the top of the list. The other benefits are bi-products of this “hobby”.

tea brewing equipment

While group or club rides are great fun, when riding on my own I can enjoy the peace and quiet at my pace, take as many photos as I like without keeping others waiting and generally slow things down if necessary. This week I took this to another level and introduced a proper cup of tea into my ride.

Some friends of mine occasionally bivvy camp and have camping and cooking gear. Bivvy camping is next on my list of biking activities but first I just had to try the #MidRideBrewStop.

A visit to GoOutdoors earlier this week and a little over £30 later and I had all I needed to make a cup of tea on trail. Now I have been known to take a flask of coffee out on long rides and it’s certainly nice to have a hot drink on a winter ride, however I had been reliably informed that making a fresh cup of tea from freshly boiled water is unbeatable.

Yesterday I rode out for a few hours trying a new 1×10 set up on my Giant and also took my tea making kit. Stopping in a sheltered spot and unpacking the stove and tea bag felt a bit silly to start with, but once the water had boiled, and a mug of tea brewed it all made sense.

Stopping and taking a few sips from a flask is ok – a little boost of caffeine, some warming liquid to take away a chill has its benefits, but taking the time to enjoy a full freshly brewed mug of tea is something else. I thought I was enjoying the sights and sounds of my surrounding countryside when I stopped for a breather at the top of a climb, or when I paused to take a photo; but sitting for 10 mins with a cup of tea is totally different.

I started hearing birds and the sounds of trees, took time to admire the views properly and had a proper time to think. Mostly my thoughts were about my new 1×10 set up and whether or not I needed to get that extender ring, but still it was a whole new experience.

GoOutdoors, JetBoil, High Gear

The kit wasn’t expensive and wasn’t the smallest I could have purchased. I was recommended some Alpkit equipment which I may well get my hands on, but this gear from GoOutdoors was cheaper and it’s larger capacity will come in handy for some summer camping with my son.

Now I will be planning some of my solo rides around “nice spot for a cuppa” locations so expect some more tea brewing stories and photos this summer.