Bivvy enthusiasts have banded together in their thousands to celebrate a record-breaking International Bivvybag Day by sleeping out in solidarity with good causes.
The brainchild of Russ Moorhouse, International Bivvybag Day has become a global movement with people from over 30 countries – including America, Sweden, Canada, Slovakia, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia – sleeping under the stars on 25 February to fundraise for the UK homelessness charity, Crisis. A record-breaking number of people (2,124 to be exact) bivvied to celebrate their love of the outdoors this year, raising over £1,600 at the time of writing.
Words: Francesca Donovan | Main image: A memorable bivvy by Alport Castles in the Peak District. Credit: Richard Cole
Speaking to The Great Outdoors, Russ said, “I started International Bivvybag Day last year with the aim of getting people out in the wild to experience a night under the stars. There is no better way to see the world’s sensory truths than sleeping under the stars. You gain a perspective on what is really important in life.”
The TGO Award winner and author of Fell Asleep added, “This year we hit a new record with over 2000 people taking part from over 30 different countries. It was twenty years to the day of the Scottish Land Reform Act [which established a public right to be on land for recreational and educational purposes and a right to cross land]. We would love to see the same freedoms in England and Wales.”
Bronwen Harris from Bristol enlisted the help of her friends from the Adventure Queens women’s outdoor community – as well as her koala hot water bottle, Kev – to keep warm on this cold night in the Malvern Hills.
She told The Great Outdoors, “I was keen to be involved in the International Bivvybag Day as believe it’s important to raise awareness and support for homelessness in the UK. It was a special one this year as it also incorporated awareness for better access laws in England and Wales.”
She continued, “Our freedoms to roam are very limited compared to the likes of Scotland and, as someone who loves to be outdoors exploring, I think it’s important that we share information and awareness of the current situation in Dartmoor and encourage discussions on wider access around the UK.
“It’s definitely a cold night when you bivvy in February in the UK but mine was made much easier with the inclusion of my Koala hot water bottle, Kev!”
Jim Badman took to the mountains of Eryri/Snowdonia for his second time participating in International Bivvybag Day.
“There is no finer hotel in all the land than the million-star hotel provided by nature,” Jim told The Great Outdoors. After bivvying halfway round the Fairfield Horseshoe to celebrate and raise money last year, Jim “realised how good the simple pleasure of cooking a little meal and then sleeping under the stars was for [his] mind; to switch off away from the distractions of modern life.”
To champion that opportunity for everyone in England and Wales, Jim set his sights set on mighty Tryfan and headed up with a friend.
After a night in classic Snowdonian clag, the pair were treated to a clear sunrise scramble back down, serving as a further reminder as to why we continue to crave nights sleeping under the stars – even when it’s cloudy.
Indeed, these past weeks have seen some of the most spectacular conditions for wild camping in the UK with solar storms resulting in the strongest displays of the Aurora Borealis witnessed in Scotland for some years.
With the sky dance seen as far south as Penzance, Cornwall, displays of red and green captivated campers across the Highlands.
Elsewhere, on International Bivvybag Day, Mary Abbott of Bad Hair Adventures enjoyed a low-level riverside bivvy near home on the River Avon to avoid the February conditions on the tops.
She told The Great Outdoors, “I work in an office all week, so the opportunity to be totally immersed in nature whenever possible is a great way to reset mentally. I took part in International Bivvybag Day this year, not just as a good excuse for a solo wild camp, but because I feel very passionately that the right to sleep under the stars should be a legal right for everyone.”
Andrew Beavers from Barnsley headed high in the Yorkshire Dales for his bivvy on Great Whernside to demonstrate his belief that “the land is no one’s to own.”
He told The Great Outdoors, “I’ve been wild camping since my school days and in the Scouts. It was just a bit of fun back then but in my older years, it has become much more to me. It’s my release from the stresses of everyday life, it promotes my mental health and wellbeing resulting in a very happy Andrew… I sleep much better in the hills and mountains than I do at home. The connection I feel with my surroundings enables me to relax. I took part in International Bivvybag Day to help share the message that the outdoors is there for everyone to enjoy.”
Emma Woodhall braved gusts and rain on a South Shields beach to bivvy in solidarity, proudly holding up her code word sign.
She told The Great Outdoors, “When I first heard of International Bivvybag Day, I was so excited to be part of it. Last year was an icy night in Yorkshire, this year was a sandy night in South Shields. The sea for me is like home so sleeping with the sound of the waves was always going to be a favourite option. Sleeping under the stars is something I’d never take for granted…the beauty of nature is freedom.”
While bivvies were laid out across the globe – including pitches in the USA, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, South Africa, Slovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Australia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Luxembourg – other campers braved similar conditions across the UK in Lakeland, the Surrey Hills, and the Peak to name just a few – as well as, of course, Dartmoor.
However, Dan Jones perhaps takes the accolade of coldest camp.
He crossed Lake Alttajärvi in the Kiruna region, around 90 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, to bivvy about a mile from the shoreline in temperatures as low as -19 degrees.
Dan told The Great Outdoors, “The International Bivvybag Day campaign is a great opportunity to get people out enjoying the great outdoors. Whether it’s a bivvy in the garden or the Arctic Circle in -19, it’s all about spreading the word about wild camping and the benefits that come with sleeping under the stars while supporting great charities.”
As you can see in the proudly-held signs, the code word this year to take part in International Bivvybag Day (released by Russ at noon to verify all bivvies took place that night) was ‘Save Dartmoor‘.
It was certainly apt, chosen by Russ to demonstrate solidarity with the ongoing battle for access rights undertaken by organisations including Right to Roam and The Stars are Ours, along with the Save Dartmoor campaign.
A renewed concern over already limited access rights in England and Wales was sparked when a wealthy landowner sought to outlaw the historical right to wild camp in Dartmoor national park, potentially bringing an end to decades of outdoors education and joyful exploration held dear by backpack campers.
After peaceful protestations from the outdoors community, an agreement was struck between the landowner and the national park to permit wild camping at certain times in certain areas in exchange for a fee to be paid by the national park.
However, under scrutiny, its terms were criticised by campaigners who called it “a ransom note from landowners who will be able to revoke permission to camp at any time.”
Earlier this year, crowds of 4,000 took to Dartmoor to fight for their right to sleep under the stars.
Now, those who joined Russ Moorhouse on International Bivvybag Day have shown their solidarity in great numbers across the globe. It’s clear this is one fight for access that isn’t going to be dampened – even by the February weather forecast.